Monday, September 17, 2012

MY WRESTLING OBSERVER HALL OF FAME PICKS FOR 2012

NOW that voting this year’s Hall of Fame has closed, I thought it’d be interesting to write about my selections.


This was the first year that I was sent a ballot and I was thrilled to be included in the list of judges. I’d like to think that my 25+ years as a wrestling journalist and writer had something to do with it, but I strongly suspect it was more because there’s an under-representation of judges in the Australia/Pacific region. Whatever the reason, I was honoured to be a part of this prestigious event and I want to thank Observer editor Dave Meltzer for asking me.

Dave keeps every judge’s choices private, although you have the freedom to discuss your selections if you so wish. It seems like the perfect time to do just that. For my first year, I’ve chosen TEN candidates who I think are worthy of entry into the Hall of Fame.

Here are my reasons why:

1. John Cena

A no-brainer. The biggest star in WWE for the past 10 years and, thereby, the biggest star in the world. He main-events all of WWE’s PPVs (whether he holds the world title or not), sells a ton of merchandise, and makes a real difference in TV ratings. He’s so essential to the ratings that it’s hurt several angles over the years where Cena’s absence from RAW (even for just a week or two) might have actually helped an angle over the long term. No matter, Cena is THE MAN.

2. Brock Lesnar

Amateur wrestling superstar who became a pro-wrestling superstar, then parlayed that wrestling fame to elevate UFC upon his arrival and become an MMA superstar. He’s again a major player in WWE. Another no-brainer.

3. Rock’n’Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)

They transformed tag team wrestling into an art form in the 1980s. More importantly, they made smaller guys viable as draws at the top. Ricky parlayed his tag team fame to main event with Ric Flair for the NWA world title. They influenced a ton of copycat teams like The Rockers (and you can argue that without the R’nRs paving the way, there would have been no Shawn Michaels). I would also argue that Jim Cornette and his various Midnight Express incarnations would never have scaled the heights they did without Ricky and Robert as their perfect babyface foils. Simply put, a mightily influential team.

4. Sting

One can argue that Sting meant little as a PPV and live show draw (except for 18 months or so during the late 90s when he first had that “Crow” persona), but I’d contend that by the time Sting became a major player in WCW, TV ratings were the main thing that counted for Ted Turner’s promotion. To that end, he was a major part of WCW’s strong ratings over the years, particularly during the Monday Night Wars. He had a ton of great matches over his long career, and he wasn’t always being led by the likes of Flair. Frankly, he was the No. 1 guy in WCW for many years. Even today in TNA, the US’s No. 2 promotion, he’s watched by millions of people worldwide and is still a top guy. I think you could argue that Sting wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer under the criteria of 10-15 years ago, but times change and now I think he’s a clear choice.

5. Blue Panther

My one dodgy choice on this list as I haven’t seen a lot of his matches. But from everything I’ve seen and read, Panther’s been consistently great in the ring for decades, has worked on top (or near the top) forever and made a lot of money for promoters. If El Hijo De Santo is in the hall, then Panther should be there, too.

6. Big Daddy

A controversial pick for some, but an easy selection for me. Big Daddy was a top TV star in the UK and transcended it to become a cultural icon. Hell, I even knew about him in Australia and we didn’t get British wrestling on our TV screens. He was just KNOWN. He appeared in comics and on ads (the first thing I saw when I got off a plane in London in 1995 was a massive billboard ad of Big Daddy hawking some product). He was a lousy wrestler and he hurt the British wrestling industry in the end, but as a cultural icon, I think he has to be included.

7. Mark Lewin

A huge star in Australia and best remembered for leading the babyface side in the ultra-hot People’s Army vs Big Bad John’s Army in WCW in the early 70s. I could’ve thrown my vote to fellow babyface Mario Milano, but Lewin was a huge star all over the world, not just in Australia. Detroit, Canada, Florida – Lewin was big everywhere he went. He gets the nod from me.

8. Lou Albano

A superstar manager in WWWF/WWF who became a crossover star on TV, in Cyndi Lauper’s music videos, in comics, books and more. For good or bad, a go-to guy in the 80s and 90s when the media wanted to interview someone from the biz. He’s in.

9. Bill Apter

How influential were the “Apter mags”? Massively. They made guys like Mil Mascaras and Lex Luger, propped up others like Dusty Rhodes long past their expiry date, and spread the word about wrestling around the world. Many of my earliest memories of the sport come from Bill’s mags.

10. Jesse Ventura

A so-so wrestler, but a superstar none-the-less. A colour commentator who redefined the role. A movie star. A successful politician. A TV host. He should be in the hall of fame, no question.

So there you go. Feel free to tell me what you think of my choices. Everything is subjective, of course, but let me know your thoughts.
– Dann Lennard

Oh…this is what Dave Meltzer wrote to me in his original email:

It’s Hall of Fame election time. This ballot is being sent out to major wrestling stars, past and present, major management figures in the industry, writers and historians.

If you are getting this, you are being asked your opinion on who should be inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame class. The basic criteria for the Hall of Fame is a combination of drawing power, being a great in-ring performer as well as having historical significance in a positive manner. A candidate should have something to offer in all three categories, or be someone so string in one or two of those categories that they deserve inclusion.

The names listed below are those under consideration for this year. To be eligible, a performer must have reached their 35th birthday and completed ten years since their debut as a full-time performer, or be someone who has been a full-time pro wrestler for at least 15 years.

Longevity should be a prime consideration rather than a hot two or three year run, unless someone is so significant as a trend-setter of a historical figure in the business, or valuable to the industry, that they should be included. However, just longevity without being either a long-term main eventer, a top draw and/or a top caliber worker should be seen as relatively meaningless.

The election is broken down into a number of categories. You should check each category for wrestlers that you feel you are familiar enough with based on geography that you’ve either traveled or are familiar with, and based on the time that you have followed pro wrestling. You do not have to vote for a wrestler in every category that you have checked.

The maximum number of wrestlers that you can vote for from all the categories combined is ten. You can pick as few as zero if you don’t believe anyone on this list deserves inclusion.

There is a separate category for non-wrestlers. This is for wrestling executives, managers, announcers and other out of the ring performers. You can vote them in or not, but those choices are not included against the ten wrestler maximum.

All responses are confidential. There is nothing to worry about politically about any involvement in this process. Your selections will not be revealed unless you choose to do so yourself.

Anyone who receives mentions on 60% of the ballot from their geographical region and time frame (broken down as Continental United States & Canada modern; Continental United States & Canada historical; Mexico; Japan; Europe; and Hawaii/Australia/Puerto Rico) will be added to the Hall of Fame this year. If you are unfamiliar with any of the candidates due to geography of having never seen them, that is fine. Ballots are sent to many people all over the world and from different wrestling cultures so that everyone has as fair a shot as possible.

The breakdown for modern and historical performers is 30 years ago, or 1982. So if the last year the performer was a headliner, or was a key figure in the industry, was prior to 1982, they would be in the historical class.

All performers who receive mention on 10% to 59.9% of the ballots from their geographical region or era will remain on the ballot for consideration next year. All those who receive less than 10% of the vote will be dropped from next year’s ballot. They can return in two years based on if there is significant feedback from voters who say they will vote for them. This is mostly for wrestlers who are still active who may improve their career legacy, but can be for other wrestlers if voters belive they should be put on or returned to the ballot.

Please return this ballot by September 15th. You can e-mail the ballot back to dave@wrestlingobserver.com or fax it to 408-244-3402 or mail (please do so by September 8th) to Wrestling Observer, P.O. Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228.

Please check by every category you are familiar with.

I FOLLOWED THE HISTORICAL PERFORMERS ERA CANDIDATES
Gene & Ole Anderson
The Masked Assassins (Jody Hamilton & Tom Renesto)
Red Bastien
June Byers
Pepper Gomez
Dick Hutton
Hans Schmidt
Kinji Shibuya
Wilbur Snyder
Chief Jay Strongbow
John Tolos
Enrique Torres
Kurt & Karl Von Brauner w/Saul Weingeroff
Tim "Mr. Wrestling" Woods

I FOLLOWED THE MODERN PERFORMERS ERA CANDIDATES
Batista
John Cena
Edge
Jeff Hardy
Owen Hart
Curt Hennig
Kane
Ivan Koloff
Brock Lesnar
Fabulous Moolah
Pedro Morales
Dick Murdoch
Rock & Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson)
Buddy Rose
Sgt. Slaughter
Jimmy Snuka
Sting
Mr. Wrestling II

I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN JAPAN CANDIDATES
George Gordienko
Gran Hamada
Volk Han
Masahiko Kimura
Seiji Sakaguchi
Kensuke Sasaki
Mike & Ben Sharpe
Kiyoshi Tamura
Hiroshi Tanahashi

I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN MEXICO CANDIDATES
Perro Aguayo Jr.
Atlantis
Cien Caras
Karloff Lagarde
Blue Panther
L.A. Park
Huracan Ramirez
Vampiro
Villano III
Dr. Wagner Jr.
Dr. Wagner Sr.

I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN EUROPE CANDIDATES
Jim Breaks
Big Daddy
Horst Hoffman
Marty Jones
Billy Joyce
Mick McManus
Kendo Nagasaki
Jackie Pallo
Rollerball Mark Rocco
Johnny Saint

I FOLLOWED WRESTLING IN AUSTRALIA/PACIFIC/PUERTO RICO CANDIDATES
Spyros Arion
Johnny Barend
Carlos Colon
Domenic DeNucci
Killer Karl Kox
Mark Lewin
Mario Milano

NON-WRESTLERS
Lou Albano
Bill Apter
Jim Crockett Jr.
Gary Hart
Jerry Jarrett
Gorilla Monsoon
Dr. Alfonso Morales
Don Owen
Jesse Ventura