To a lot of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame voters, Holy Demon Army are one of the most obvious candidates on the ballot.
Easily recognized by having a collection of the most outstanding tag team matches in wrestling history, and for being decorated in titles, the team of Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue are the peak of tag team wrestling for fans that worship 90s AJPW.
Everything about the team screams a Hall of Fame group.
They were an outstanding team that had ten different five-star matches throughout their career. They have an absurd 9.94 rating as a team on Cagematch (105 people rated them a 10 out of 10, and 1 person rated them an 8). As far as drawing is concerned, they consistently main evented successful shows during the peak of AJPW’s popularity. They blew away two of three main criteria for the Hall of Fame and maintained longevity as a unit.
HDA meet the parameters of the Hall of Fame, but they shouldn’t get your vote. A new rule established by Dave Meltzer this year has allowed HDA to appear on the ballot for the first time, and that has created a controversial system for voting and changed the way candidates can now be evaluated, and there is perhaps no more obvious example than HDA.
In the past, HDA has not appeared on the ballot despite being such obvious candidates because Meltzer did not want to elect a performer twice to the Hall of Fame. Since Kawada was inducted in 1997, HDA could never appear on the ballot. For years, Akira Taue has appeared on the ballot as an individual wrestler. This year, Meltzer has ruled that the Hall of Fame needs more tag teams, and so a collection of famous teams that comprised one inducted wrestler and one non-inducted wrestler have been added on to the ballots, and so HDA is on the ballot this year, and Taue as an individual is off the ballot.
When it comes to evaluating tag teams, the voter is supposed to only consider the accomplishments of the team while they were teaming up, not the entire careers of the individuals. This is different than when evaluating individual candidates, who have their entire careers evaluated, including anything they did as part of a tag team.
This is where the obvious issues begin for a team like HDA.
Taue has been on the ballot for years and failed to get in. The general consensus among voters that do not vote for Taue seems to be that while Taue has many great matches in his career and main evented many successful shows; he did so because he happened to be working with incredible talents like Kawada, Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa. The knock on Taue has always been that if you strip away his work that doesn’t involve those three outstanding performers, he doesn’t have a particularly strong case. Some voters might disagree with that assessment and be staunch Taue voters each year, but the fact is that so far, he has yet to reach the needed percentage for induction.
By removing Taue from the ballot as an individual and having him on the ballot as a member of HDA, it creates a weird dynamic where realistically, Taue’s candidacy should be weaker because it is now stripping him of anything he did as a singles performer and focused solely on him as a tag team wrestler with Kawada. However, practically speaking it has enhanced his candidacy, since now his case for induction is even more directly tied to Kawada’s performances than it was previously. Now, if you don’t want to vote for Taue, you have to say no to HDA getting in, which sounds blasphemous to most voters.
The reality is that HDA are already recognized in the Hall of Fame, they were recognized in 1997 when Kawada went in. All of the tag teams that are on the ballot this year that contain one Hall of Fame member have been recognized in the Hall of Fame when that member was inducted. What we are doing with these new teams on the ballot is asking voters if the lesser tag team partners in great teams deserve to be recognized, but masquerading it as a vote for the tag team, which ties their candidacy to the careers of the great, Hall of Fame member on the team.
For someone like Taue, who has always struggled to gain acclaim for his work outside of working with the other four pillars, it feels especially suspect to vote him in now simply because his case has been reduced to his career highlight. HDA on the ballot this year is just a referendum on whether or not Taue should get inducted, but instead of voting for him as an individual star (which would include his work with HDA as part of the evaluation) voters are now voting for Taue AND Kawada, and a lot more voters are going to end up voting for him because of that.
It simply does not feel right.
Another tag team on the ballot, Antonio Rocca and Miguel Perez, are in a very similar situation. On paper, they are one of the greatest drawing tag teams in the history of wrestling, selling out Madison Square Garden on multiple occasions in the 1950s as a main event act. By that measure, they are obvious Hall of Fame choices.
However, it is obvious that they drew so much money on top because Rocca was a legend in the city by that time and is one of the biggest attendance draws in the history of wrestling. Perez complemented the act nicely as the young understudy to the great Rocca, but Rocca was the reason those houses were so big. Rocca is an original inductee in the Hall of Fame, the work of that tag team has been recognized in the Hall of Fame. Now voters are being asked to induct Perez, who after Rocca left New York was an undercard wrestler in the city, simply because he happened to team with Rocca for a few years.
This is all being done under the guise of Meltzer wanting more tag teams inducted into the Hall of Fame, which doesn’t really seem necessary. Yes, there are only a handful of true tag teams that are in the Hall of Fame, but plenty of teams are recognized by the Hall of Fame when individuals who were in notable teams are inducted. If it was truly about just getting more teams in the hall, why not put teams where both members are already Hall of Fame members, like Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, Misawa and Kobashi, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, etc. on the ballot as well?
The new rule this year is not a good way to evaluate these tag teams, and complicates the voting standards and practices that have been used over the years. The concept of getting more tag teams into the Hall of Fame feels like it has just boiled down to a semantic discussion about what counts as recognition by the Hall of Fame, not on if individual candidates actually have strong enough cases to warrant induction or not.
On the latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@JesseCollings) talks with Adam Berger (@adam_bomb5150) and they discuss the most intriguing candidates on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame ballot. A wide-ranging discussion that ranges from the Holy Demon Army and The Von Erichs, to CM Punk and Roman Reigns.