There's something about the words "Hall Of Fame" that bring out passionate responses in fans, regardless of the genre. Ask any serious music fan about the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and chances are you will get a rant about how an artist has been overlooked, or an undeserving star that "isn't even rock n' roll" got inducted. Regardless of the actual legitimacy of the "honor" involved, just using the words "Hall Of Fame" get the blood boiling. When it comes to professional wrestling, there are numerous "Halls Of Fame" but none are a popular, and scrutinized, as the one run by World Wrestling Entertainment.
Every year, WWE inducts a handful of stars into their Hall Of Fame, and while diehard fans know the criteria for induction (being on good terms with WWE is key, and having a suitable "headliner" for the ceremony is key) is no more legitimate than the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, it still invokes the same passion and debate. The discussions seem to go on year round amongst fans... who belongs in... who will get in... who doesn't belong in... who needs to be added for the Hall Of Fame to seem "legitimate" in their eyes. It never ends, and probably never will.
I was recently asked by a friend on my Facebook page who I think "belongs" in the WWE Hall Of Fame, that isn't already inducted. However, he threw in an interesting condition for my response. He wanted people that deserved to be in the Hall Of Fame for their contributions to WWE (formerly WWF, formerly WWWF). This makes a huge difference, as WWE has made a habit of inducting individuals who had little or no connection to WWE, but had a impact on the industry (Verne Gagne, Abdullah The Butcher, etc.). He also stated he didn't want anyone who was "still wrestling in an active or semi-active role with the company" so that rules out The Undertaker, The Rock and Chris Jericho (for now).
So, here is my list of the ten stars that belong in the WWE Hall Of Fame, that have a meaningful connection to the company. So, you won't be seeing the Great Muta, Mitsuharu Misawa or Japanese stars here. Nor will you be seeing Lucha Libre icons such as El Santo or El Canek. Those who were big stars in North America, but had little to no success in WWE (WWF) are not being counted, so that takes out the Rock N' Roll Express, Fabulous Freebirds and others who only had a handful of actual appearances in the company.
1. Vince McMahon - He is often disregarded in Hall Of Fame conversations because he "owns the joint" but is anyone more deserving? Pre-Vince, professional wrestling uses television as a promotional tool to drive the primary revenue stream, live events. Post-Vince, sports entertainment derives revenue from television rights and advertising, Pay-per-view revenue, merchandising, licensing... oh, and live events. He didn't just change the business model, he created a new one. And yes, I know there is a chance he could always wrestling again, but I'd hardly call him an "active" in-ring performer.
2. Randy Savage - There's always one name that sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to a Hall Of Fame. For baseball, it is Pete Rose. For Rock & Roll, it is KISS. For WWE, it is Randy Savage. There has been speculation, rumors, discussion and endless dissection over why Randy Savage is not in the Hall Of Fame. The latest being that, since WWE didn't induct him while he was alive, it would seem cheap to induct him now that he has passed away. Whatever. He belongs in, period.
3. The Ultimate Warrior - There's been more and more hints in recent years that Warrior could end up in the Hall Of Fame. His often strained relationship with the company has probably kept him out, but he is easily one of the most recognizable stars in the history of the company, even decades after his prime. Sure, he wasn't able to supplant Hulk Hogan in the hearts of fans, but seriously, who could? For a short period, Warrior was the top star in the company, and the fans still remember that.
4. Jake "The Snake" Roberts - Roberts is probably the most well known WWF/E star to never hold a championship during his time in the company. As a heel during an era when everyone yelled and screamed, his steady, deliberate promos stood out and he was a "cool bad guy" long before Steve Austin and the term "tweener" was coined by diehard fans. Is there a list of "Match Of The Year" candidates on his resume? No, but you would be hard pressed to find a character as well remembered.
5. The British Bulldogs - Do you put Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith in together, or separately? Certainly, Davey Boy had the more celebrated solo career following their breakup, but Dynamite was far more influential. Smith headlined, and was the main draw, for the biggest WWF show ever outside of North America. Kid was an athletic wrestler in an era of musclebound showman. I'm sure WWE fears what a Kid acceptance speech might be like, but that doesn't take away that the Bulldogs should be in.
6. Elizabeth - Forget about the term "Diva" that WWE has become obsessed with. Elizabeth represented a change in philosophy for the company. Up until her debut, females were either wrestlers, or pretty (yet underhanded) valets who regularly interfered in matches. Elizabeth was neither. She was this classy presence accompanying the maniacal Randy Savage to the ring, and although she rarely spoke during her initial WWF run, she somehow connected with the audience as much as her larger and louder colleagues.
7. Rick Rude - The Ravishing One was, without question, one of the best pure heels in the business. He was a master at inciting a crowd, and was the type of performer that could make a weak opponent look good, a good opponent look great, and if you put him in with another top flight worker, you were guaranteed a classic. His actual WWF run was short in comparison with the body of work he assembled elsewhere, but the impact is still enough to get him in.
8. Demolition - Perception is everything in this industry, and the perception of Demolition as "Road Warrior ripoffs" forever haunts the team. Yes, they definitely took their look from the Legion Of Doom. However, over time Demolition carved out their own place as a respected, and eventually incredibly popular, tag team. Then, the WWF signed Hawk & Animal, turned Demolition heel and quickly buried their own creation. Years later, history has made Demolition forever underrated and under appreciated.
9. Rick Martel - Martel had a nice successful run with Tony Garea as tag champions, then another run years later with Tito Santana after the original plans to push Martel and Tom Zenk as a team fell apart. Martel then had his most memorable run as "The Model" and reinvented himself as a heel after years of being a "fired up babyface" that played to the fans. Never a top star for WWF to the level he was in the AWA or Canada, but always reliable and a track record that certainly tops many stars currently in the Hall Of Fame.
10. This where it gets tough. There are a lot of performers that played big parts for short periods (Ivan Koloff, Bam Bam Bigelow, King Kong Bundy) or were solid semi-main eventers (Brutus Beefcake, Honky Tonk Man) or were just big crowd favorites (Hillbilly Jim New Age Outlaws). Owen Hart is a name that often comes up, and he did headline major shows, and had a long run with the company, so I will give him the nod for this last spot.