Right off the bat we need to be aware that the WWE Hall of Fame is a gimmick with no real purpose beyond selling tickets to a show on WrestleMania weekend. Maybe, once upon a time, it was meant to be a genuine showcase of great talent from yesteryear, but today it’s just a cheap show. I mean “cheap” for WWE. The tickets we have to buy are stupidly priced. I’ve been twice. Never again. Nevertheless, being a WWE event, it’s the biggest and most note-worthy Hall of Fame in Pro Wrestling. Since WWE owns 90% of the history of North American pro graps, I feel they have a responsibility to showcase and induct important figures that maybe had nothing to do with Vince or Vince Sr.’s wrestling empires. WWE can’t make it all about them and their revisionist history.
Well…it’d be nice anyway. The company has done a good job ensuring all the important big names are in, as well has highlighting some of the lesser acts that left an indelible impression on the industry. And also Jeff Jarrett for some reason. That being said there are several names that have yet to be added. There are so many, in fact, that it’d be impossible to name them all. Instead, let’s put a spotlight on four who not only should be in, but should have been in years ago. Disclaimer: We’re leaving out some of the more notable names that come up whenever this subject is broached. Guys like Vince McMahon (won’t go in till he’s dead, as per his orders), Triple H (no rush), The Rock (waiting for the right time; he’s the biggest name left), Undertaker (same as the Rock), William Regal (still active in an on screen role), Goldust (AEW), and Kane (still semi-active).
So, not counting any of those names, who is left?
Owen’s omission feels like there’s more going on behind the scenes than simple negligence. He certainly had a Hall of Fame-level career, and I mean that even beyond the hilariously low
Koko B. Ware Jeff Jarrett bar that has to be hurdled to be good enough to enter the WWEHOF.
Owen Hart was a masterful worker, a fantastic personality, able to be a beloved babyface and a loathsome heel. That’s basically all Vince needs in a performer. Owen had charisma in spades and was adored by fans and peers alike. The fact that he died so young and so tragically would normally be all the motivation Vince needed to capitalize and sell tickets to his induction.
So what’s the hold-up?
Probably it was the circumstances of his death. Dying in the ring due to negligence from multiple parties, and the ensuing lawsuit from his family makes it a minefield to maneuver whenever Owen is mentioned in any capacity. I’d imagine devoting half an hour to his life and (necessarily) his death might not be worth the trouble for Vince. That’s cynical but…well there you go.
The British Bulldog
Speaking of non-American greats of the 80’s and 90’s who have a connection to the Hart Family, the British Bulldog was a staple of WWF programming for several years and even though he never won the top championship, he was an IC Champ at a time when that meant something, and famously won the title in the main-event of SummerSlam inside Wembley Stadium. The largest crowd in WWF/E history was on hand to watch that show (WWE will say WrestleMania 32 was bigger but they’re lying). He’s also the company’s first European Champion, which doesn’t mean much but it’s a factoid for the vignette. Nine times out of ten there’s enough material to fill a three minute tribute vignette, and that’s really all WWE needs to put someone in the Hall of Fame. The rest is handled by the guy doing the induction.
So what’s the hold-up?
Well, the only plausible guy to do the induction is Bret Hart and I just don’t know how many more times Vince wants to go back to that well. He’s already had Bret for his own induction, he’s had him again to be inducted as part of the Hart Foundation tag team. Going off what was said about Owen, at some point it’s going to be an elephant in the room situation if you keep having Bret back to induct all these people EXCEPT Owen Hart.
You can argue all you want that British Bulldog should be in, and you’re right, but if inductions were based on kayfabe success and not Vince’s capricious whims, then he’d already be in.
Christian not only should be in the Hall of Fame, he should be in twice-over. He had a Hall of Fame tag team career with Edge, being the duo that walked out of the first two TLC matches (as well as its predecessor, the “Triangle Ladder Match”) as champions. Those three matches alone were enough to put all six men in the Hall of Fame. Incidentally, only three of them are in, but two of the three still out continue to wrestle (Matt and Jeff Hardy). The Dudleys are in. Edge is in. Christian isn’t.
What’s the hold-up?
Vince McMahon’s septuagenarian capricious whims; that’s the hold-up. The old man never saw Christian as a top singles star. Sure, Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship, but that was the era where the belt was held by such superstars as Jack Swagger, the Great Khali, even Dolph Ziggler held it. It was a joke title in those days. He competed for a decade as a major singles competitor, winning multiple championships and working many memorable feuds. Nevertheless, Vince wouldn’t have dreamed of pushing Christian to the level of the real championship, and that same dismissive approach is why he’s not in the Hall of Fame.
Now here’s where you say “but Koko B. Ware!” or “but Jeff Jarrett!” After all, those guys weren’t top singles stars and they’re in. And you’d be right, except Koko B. Ware was never pushed by anyone as a singles star, was never thought of by anyone as a singles star, and didn’t go into the Hall of Fame as a singles star (he went in as a gimmick). Christian, however, has people constantly pushing for him to get into the Hall of Fame, and the more you push Vince to do something he doesn’t want to do, the more he pushes back, regardless of how much sense it makes.
The shriveled old, watery-eyed fart who once said Christian’s face could be replaced with a big blue dot and it wouldn’t make a difference doesn’t want him honored in his pretend Hall of Fame. That’s it. That’s your reason.
This one makes me mad.
Vader is an absolute legend. He’s a Hall of Famer in Japan. He’s a Hall of Famer in WCW. And even though his WWF career was kind of a dud (thanks to Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon never really “getting” him), either of his careers in Japan or WCW are enough to put him in the Hall of Fame. Even if you just take his WCW career, the history of which WWE owns, by the way, there’s still more than enough to put him in the Hall.
So what’s the hold-up?
Fans were begging for him to go in all throughout 2017 and early 2018. Had he been inducted during the weekend of WrestleMania 34, he could have given a proper goodbye. Instead he was passed over, once again, all because he failed to do anything when he worked for Vince so Vince assumes he was never anything special in the first place.
Now he’s dead.
He died in the summer of 2018, never being honored as he should have been. Hillbilly Jim went in that year. Kid Rock went in that year. Jeff Jarrett went in that year.
But they couldn’t make room for Big Van Vader. Why? Because he went to work for Vince, who decided he shouldn’t be Vader anymore (one of the most feared competitors in the history of Japan), he should be something called The Mastodon. When that petered out so too did Vince’s respect for him. After Shawn Michaels ran him down in ’95 he was dead in the water with the WWF. Vince never “got him” so he assumed no one else cared, either.
Vader belongs in any pro wrestling Hall of Fame.