The WWE Hall of Fame: the greatest collection of wrestlers, managers, and celebrities who haven’t burned bridges with Vince McMahon. Since its inception in 1993, shortly after the death of Andre the Giant, the Hall has been growing in metaphorical size and actual popularity. Over the past decade it has become another must-see part of WrestleMania weekend, where Legends and Superstars unite to honor those who came before. Here, the Wrestling panelists at AiPT! weigh in on some of the burning questions about the future of the HoF and who should be in it.
1) What retired/deceased person or team isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame who should be?
Jason: I’ll avoid the guys that will likely never be in there (the Benoits, the Punks, etc.), so one of the most deserving guys who hasn’t gone in the Hall of Fame yet has to be William Regal. Whether he’s serving as a talent scout and trainer at NXT, the King of the Ring commissioner, or the AMAZING theme song he debuted with, William Regal’s influence on the business is incalculable. He shaped talents like Daniel Bryan, gave Goldberg the best match of his WCW career and somehow managed to get Eugene over. Eugene! Dude’s been a tag, European and IC champ, and is a stalwart company man. It’s more a matter of when, than if.
Patrick: The easy answer is The Rock. It’s such a surprise that he’s not in there yet that a lot of people just assume he is. Conventional wisdom said that he’d be inducted before WrestleMania 28 since it was in his hometown of Miami, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. It’s clearly just a matter of time, though, and WWE will likely wait until they feel like the publicity of inducting one of the most well known and beloved actors in Hollywood will be the most beneficial, but any wrestling hall of fame without the most electrifying man in sports all of entertainment is lacking.
JJ: Two words: The Undertaker. I believe that’s enough justification for wrestling fans. For those of you who aren’t as familiar, I’ll make it quick and to the point. The Undertaker is undoubtedly the greatest character in wrestling history. Vince McMahon doesn’t give out praise lightly and has repeatedly put Undertaker over as being one of the most loyal, committed and extraordinary talents the wrestling world has ever seen. No one commands more respect from the WWE locker room and I doubt anyone will ever eclipse that.
Nathaniel: Here comes the Ax! Here comes the Smasher! Demolition should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. In an era of long title reigns, Demolition’s still stood out. From their debut in 1987 until the addition of Crush in 1990, Ax and Smash were THE team to beat in the then WWF. Three years does not sound like a long time, but when you think of the teams that were there at the time you really begin to respect their run. The Rockers, Brain Busters, Hart Foundation, and Bushwhackers were all defeated by the Demos. Demolition may have started as Road Warriors rip offs, but when their peak run was over they were arguably just as successful. (And talk about amazing theme songs.)
Brian: Owen Hart is my pick. Out of all the Harts, Owen was the best in every way. The best part about Owen was how universally loved he was. The RAW after he was tragically killed was one of the most emotional and sincere moments the wrestling industry has ever had. While I empathize with Owen’s family and I understand some of the objections they have, keeping Owen from the current generation of fans is a monumental disservice to his legacy.
2) Barring the obvious choices of John Cena, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Kane, and Brock Lesnar, what current WWE Superstar is a lock for the Hall of Fame?
Patrick: The Miz. He’s got all the accolades: former WWE Champion, one of the winningest Intercontinental Champions ever (behind only Chris Jericho), United States Champion, Tag Team Champion, WrestleMania main eventer. In addition, he’s a company guy through and through and represents the brand with respect and an admirable work ethic. While it seems like Miz appreciation has finally caught up to his work in the past year or so, dude’s been quietly amassing a hall of fame career all along.
Jason: It’ll probably be as part of the New Day, but Kofi Kingston is definitely Hall of Fame material. He is a four-time Intercontinental Champ, three-time US Champ, and six-time Tag Champ, with one of those turns being the longest tag title reign of all time. He has the most cumulative days as Tag Team Champion, and is a great ambassador for the brand. His speech would poke fun as his original Jamaican gimmick, have a ton of catch phrases to pad the time, and (hopefully) include SOS, his best theme song from his surely Hall of Fame career.
JJ: AJ Styles. The man has held 26 total championships between WWE, NJPW, ROH and TNA. Basically every top wrestling promotion in the world. Everywhere he goes he’s become world champion, shown he has the “it” factor and rapidly climbed to the top of the pecking order. AJ’s debut at the Royal Rumble stands out in my mind as one of the top “holy shit” moments of the last several years in wrestling. If you had told me before he debuted that his theme song would be rap combined with southern gospel music, I’d have shaken my head and laughed at the absurdity. But like everything else about AJ, it works so well. The man is 40 years old, is without question one of the best in-ring talents in wrestling today and shows no signs of slowing down. I hope Vince is around long enough to slip that Hall of Fame ring onto AJ’s finger.
Nathaniel: The Big Show. He beat the Immortal Hulk Hogan in his first match to win the WCW World Championship. It should have been all downhill from there. Over two decades later, Show can say he is a former WWE World Champion, Intercontinental Champion, United States Heavyweight Champion, WWE Tag Team Champion and WCW Tag Team Champion. He won World War 3 and the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. And he is still in main event angles. Most importantly, he is responsible for more rings collapsing due to a superplex than anybody. It is not so much a question of if Big Show will get in, but who will induct him?
Brian: Charlotte Flair. While she was hyped from jump street, she has stepped up into every role she has been given. She is far and away the best all-around package in this generation of women and is the right person to spearhead the Women’s Revolution. Like her father, she has both a talented team and game opponents keeping her at the top of her game, but I believe she will be up there with Trish Stratus, Lita, Madusa, and Mae Young as one of the all-time greats.
3) What current WWE Superstar is a dark horse Hall of Famer?
Patrick: Though I suppose he’s only a WWE Superstar in the most tangential of ways, WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne has all the tools to be an absolute megastar. It remains to be seen what they are actually doing with the UK roster they’ve amassed, but if and when the Bruiserweight gets a chance to show the world what he can do on a more regular basis, the sky’s the limit.
Jason: I think Neville has a good shot at being a Hall of Famer. His run as the King of the Cruiserweights has made him a star, and highlighted that he’s so much more than a spectacular move set. The man can do it all, but the relative low profile of the Cruiserweight division (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s done away with within the next two years), and his forgettable face run may make him a somewhat low-priority honoree.
JJ: Although he’s extremely green and new to the world of singles wrestling, I think Chad Gable has incredible potential. His ameatur wrestling background and Olympic competition leave zero doubt that he’s an exceptional athlete. American Alpha quickly rose through NXT to become tag teams champions and fan favorites. This trend continued over to the main roster, where the team gained tag team glory once again on Smackdown. Gable’s natural athleticism and goofy charisma was a big contributor to the team’s success. I’m excited to see what he can do on his own and I have high hopes for his future.
Nathaniel: I know he is not currently on the roster, but the answer is CM Punk. It was that long ago that everyone was saying that Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior would never get in.
Sticking to the question, I would say Sheamus. I am not sure if “dark horse” is the best term to describe Sheamus, but I have never thought “Hall of Famer” when I have seen him. Sheamus has been in and out of the main event scene over the years. If he is not in the World Title picture, then Sheamus is challenging for another title. Quietly, Sheamus has won the World Championship, United States Championship, and Tag Team Championship. He has won the Royal Rumble, and Money in the Bank. Definitely a Hall of Fame resume to be sure, but it would not surprise me to see Sheamus not get inducted.
Brian: I think my dark horse pick is Bray Wyatt. I don’t think he’s permanently flawed as a character and has the skills in the ring and with his character to make it to the Hall. He’s just got to get beyond the “I’m weird and will lose to your favorites” thing he’s been doing since forever. Another few runs with the title and a great feud in the future with Finn Bálor (not this current one, a future one where they can both really run with it) and maybe an eventual face turn somewhere and he can make it.
4) The Long Game: What current NXT Superstar will make it to the Hall of Fame?
Patrick: If she ever makes it to the main roster (and maybe even if she doesn’t), Asuka. She’s easily the most dominant female in WWE history, and one of the most unique to boot. It’s absolutely baffling she hasn’t gotten a chance to shine on the main roster just yet, but I’d wager even her NXT dominance alone puts her in the conversation.
Jason: She hasn’t really done anything to get there yet, but I think there’s a lot of potential in Ruby Riot. She has the punk aesthetic, which is something that has helped bridge the gap between performers and the outside world in the past. She’s pretty good in the ring, cuts a decent promo, and at only 26, she still has time to learn and hone her craft. Of course, I could be WAY off the mark here.
JJ: There are so many great talents in NXT, but I’d be crazy not to pick Asuka. The main roster hasn’t been gifted by her presence yet and she’s already a guaranteed lock for the Hall of Fame in my eyes. I can’t think of a more dominant female wrestler to have ever entered the squared circle. As of yet not a single competitor has come across as a serious threat to the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion. The main roster should be happy she hasn’t been called up yet, because when she does they’re in some serious trouble. Asuka may be the best worker in WWE period.
Nathaniel: A few years back, the easy answer was Kassius Ohno. Ohno then decided he would prefer to be a hero on the indy scene. Kyle O’Reilly is the currently the best shot to make the Hall of Fame. O’Reilly is technically sound. His style may be a little more methodical than what current crowds prefer, but it may be hard hitting and innovative enough to get over. The only thing that may hold O’Reilly back are promo skills. But with the right gimmick, O’Reilly can be around for a long time.
Brian: This one is tough due to the constant changes happening in the Performance Center. I’m going to avoid the wrestlers brought in from the indies and go with a homegrown talent: Drew McIntyre. Before you yell at me, I know Drew Galloway kicked ass around the world after he got dropped from WWE after 3MB hit the skids. I believe that Drew has come into the greatness that he was hyped with at the beginning and now has the fire to take it all the way. Within the year he’ll most likely be NXT champion and I’ll bet he picks up a secondary title on the main roster, most likely reclaiming the IC belt he won as a younger man. Within five years he’ll have a top title and be on his way to the Hall.