Another year, another WrestleMania.
Another WrestleMania, another WWE Hall Of Fame class.
After every class, you start seeing the same questions popping up all over social media and in water cooler conversations:
Why isn't so-and-so inducted yet? How many current stars will eventually be inducted?
The first question is an easy discussion to get involved in, as people will always find "snubs" who haven't been inducted yet for one reason or another. It's that second question that I want to take a closer look at. That second question is usually discussed when people mention that there are so many huge stars in the Hall Of Fame, and they wonder how many more classes can be inducted. Surely, they feel, we'll reach a point where the proverbial well has dried up and there just aren't that many Hall Of Fame worthy inductees anymore, right?
On one hand, there's something to that line of thinking. There is a finite amount of people who have worked for WWE, let alone are worthy of being inducted, so unless the company branches out and starts to induct more people who have never worked under its umbrella before, one has to think that the pickings will eventually get slim.
On the other hand, the numbers begin to change when you really start looking at things. For example, there are currently 188 contracted wrestlers on WWE's roster right now, from the top of the top all the way down to people who have signed but haven't debuted yet. Again, that's just wrestlers. That's not counting on-screen authority figures, backstage personnel, and so on. Obviously, not all 188 of them are going to be in the Hall Of Fame when all is said and done, but how many of them will? How about we try to guess that number, based on what has happened until now?
Let's start by going through the obvious choices. These are the people who are getting inducted on 100% of ballots, with most of them probably ending up as a headliner for their class, and they're probably closing in on the end of their in-ring careers these days. There isn't even a point in debating the following names:
- John Cena
- Randy Orton
- Chris Jericho
- The Undertaker
- Big Show
- Brock Lesnar
- Jeff Hardy
- Matt Hardy
- Mickie James
- Nikki Bella
Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 13
Now, let's throw in a few more relatively obvious choices, but that didn't fit the criteria of the first group. Maybe these are people who have more a little more gas left in the tank. Maybe these are people who are coming to the end but don't immediately jump out as worthy without putting some thought in. Maybe these are people who are still at an early stage in their careers, but have accomplished a lot and it isn't exactly a stretch of the imagination to assume they'll accomplish a lot more before they hang their boots up. Whatever it is, the following names are shoo-ins without being shoo-ins just yet, if you know what I'm saying:
- Kevin Owens
- Mark Henry
- Roman Reigns
- Seth Rollins
- Sasha Banks
- AJ Styles
- Dean Ambrose
- Dolph Ziggler
- The Miz
- Shelton Benjamin
Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 27
This is the part where we can start to have a little fun. Now we get to the names that are on the fence for various reasons. Debate can be a lot of fun, and I'd love to hear from all of you if you disagree with my thoughts on the following names (assuming you'll all agree with me on every name that I've already mentioned). Let's take a look at some people and their cases, in no particular order:
Becky Lynch: As you saw, the other members of the "Four Horsewomen" are all surefire Hall Of Fame members in my opinion. While Becky Lynch is my personal favorite of the four, I will certainly admit she is the furthest away from being at Hall Of Fame level. However, she does have a Smackdown Women's Title reign, and she is one of the more popular women on the roster, so she's got that going for her, which is nice. It's just tough to see how things will play out for her. She has, at times, taken a backseat to the rest of the women on Smackdown, even when many of them weren't deserving of that spotlight yet. She doesn't get pushed or treated the same as her Horsewomen partners on Raw. If you were to ask me right now, I'd say NO on her being in the Hall Of Fame, but that's nothing another couple title reigns and a major feud or two couldn't fix. She still has plenty of time for that.
Zack Ryder: Full disclosure here, but I've never been what you would call a huge Ryder fan. I've never been one to say that he sucks in the ring or anything. I just didn't watch Jersey Shore and shows like that, so his gimmick isn't something that appealed to me. He came across as annoyingly obnoxious, even when he wasn't supposed to. I will always give credit where its due, though, and its due here. He went above and beyond what is required for a wrestler to help get himself over, and even though the company never properly rewarded him for it, he busted his tail to win fans over. Kudos to him. He has had one reign each with the Intercontinental, United States, and Tag Team Titles (with Curt Hawkins). Unfortunately, those reigns lasted for a combined total of 93 days, with his one-day reign as Intercontinental Champion standing out the most for the roller coaster ride of emotions it took his fans on. This one is a little tougher than it appears on the surface, because a lot of people would immediately say he isn't worthy, but he has accomplished more than some people who are already in the Hall. Unless something changes with his booking, and you have to doubt that it will at this point, I'll say NO for him, as well.
The Usos: Sometimes, it's crazy to think that Jimmy and Jey have been wrestling on the WWE main roster for seven years now. They've come a long way in that time, racking up a total of three Tag Team Title reigns, and at face value, that's more reigns than some of the top tag teams in company history can say they've had. Another check mark in the right box is that the heel turn they went through recently has freshened their act up for the first time in their WWE run. It was directly responsible for them getting a Smackdown Tag Team Title reign, and with the poor division they're in on the Blue Brand, they should always remain in contention. Would anyone be surprised if they got a really long reign or two? Would anyone be surprised if they got a handful of reigns before they retired? I wouldn't, on either count. Based purely on what I think they have yet to accomplish (they aren't even 32 years old yet), I'll say YES to them getting inducted one day. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 28 (The Usos are one induction)
Bray Wyatt: If you were to have asked me a year ago, I would have shot the idea of Wyatt being a Hall Of Famer down right away. Now, there's at least an argument that can be made, with his reign as WWE Champion taking place, albeit long after he probably should have been given a chance to be a "top guy", as well as a run with the Smackdown Tag Team Titles with his fellow Wyatt Family members, Randy Orton and Luke Harper. The Bray Wyatt character has only been on the main roster for less than five years now, and he still hasn't reached his 30th birthday, so one can assume that he has plenty of career left in front of him. If the company continues this trend of taking him more seriously as a character, and not just the "talk a lot but lose every big match he has" guy that he has been until this last calendar year, it's easy to see more titles in his future. I wrote that previous sentence before WrestleMania, and now, here we are, with Wyatt talking a lot and losing another big match. As is always the case in wrestling, now it's all about the follow up. As an added bonus, if the company wants to do his Hall Of Fame induction in non-kayfabe fashion, it will be nice to reference that he's a third generation wrestler, and the fact that his grandfather (Blackjack Mulligan) and uncle (Barry Windham) are also in the WWE Hall Of Fame. Let's say YES here, for now. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 29
Heath Slater: For someone who has been nothing more than a comedy act jobber for a large portion of his WWE career, Heath Slater sure has accomplished a lot. It surprises people to find out that he has been a part of four different Tag Team Title reigns (three with Justin Gabriel while with The Nexus, and one with Rhyno). On top of that, the aforementioned Nexus group was the hottest act in wrestling when they made their main roster debuts, running roughshod all over Raw. Revisionist history is something that WWE has become experts in through the years, and that revisionist history could easily say that, because The Nexus came from the initial version of NXT, they're directly responsible for the current NXT brand being so big. Their debuts caused a splash, showed that NXT was not to be taken lightly and viewed as the "minor leagues", blah blah blah. There is some truth to that, but for a Hall Of Fame video package, it would be made to look like there's complete truth. Even with Smackdown's current tag team scene being weak, I don't know if I can see Slater and Rhyno winning the titles again. I don't think I can see Slater teaming up with someone else to win titles, although... both Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre are employed by the company again, so... nah, couldn't be. He'll get respect for going out and doing anything that the company asked him to do, even if it was something ridiculous, comedic, or would make him look like a fool. As strange as it might seem at the surface, I'm going to say YES here. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 30
Cesaro: Do you all realize how many World Title reigns Cesaro would have by now if the "smark" fans were in charge? Many of those fans have held out hope for a long time, but are starting to feel that a World Title of any kind isn't in his WWE future. I'm not 100% sold on that, but it's close. As it is, he does have a reign as the United States Champion to go with two reigns as a Tag Team Champion (one with Tyson Kidd and one with Sheamus). He's one of the rare breeds of performer that can get in the ring with any opponent and have a good match. It doesn't matter if he's facing a high flier, a brawler, a technical master, or even someone who isn't all that great themselves. He's that good. His pairing with Sheamus seems to be hitting a nice stride right now. Their work together is very entertaining. When they were first put together, I thought it was incredibly stupid and was a waste of what Cesaro can do. I've grown to enjoy them now, although a singles push for Cesaro would still be my preferred choice. He keeps himself in tremendous physical condition, but he'll also be turning 37 in 2017, so you have to believe he's closer to the end than to the beginning of his career. I don't think we've seen the last of him winning Tag Title belts with Sheamus, even if they remain in an incredibly stacked tag division on Raw. Again, my preference for him is always going to be a singles push, and another reign or two with the United States Title (or a shot at the Intercontinental Title should he or the belt switch brands) isn't out of the question. While he will remain one of the more underutilized and wasted talents of this generation, I think he has done enough, and will do enough, to earn a YES here. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 31
Finn Balor: He's been a member of the main roster for a cup of coffee (say that in Macho Man's voice), but here we are, discussing his Hall Of Fame chances. Right off the bat, the first thing to mention is that he was the first WWE Universal Champion. Yes, his reign lasted a full 24 hours before he had to relinquish the belt due to an injury, but it still happened. If you look at the title histories for all of the World Titles that WWE has had in the last few decades (no matter what name those titles went by), everyone who was a World Champion is either in the Hall Of Fame or is going to be in the Hall Of Fame one day. The only exceptions to that rule, as of this moment, are Alberto Del Rio (perhaps due to his relationship with the company right now), CM Punk (ditto), and Chris Benoit (you know why). The company simply isn't putting you in that position if they don't have a huge amount of faith in you and what you can do. With his return to the company, he can get right back into the Universal Title picture... or be sent in a different direction entirely now that Brock Lesnar possesses that belt. I've seen people say he'll turn heel and go after Seth Rollins, who "injured him" last year. I've seen people say he'll be added to the Cruiserweight division to give it some star power. I've seen people say he'll end up in the United States Title hunt. There are a lot of options, but with the company's track record, they'll be doing something with him and not just letting him fade into obscurity. Even at such an early stage of his main roster career, history says YES to Balor being inducted. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 32
Rusev: Here's someone else that, like Cesaro, has people hoping and wishing that he would get a bigger push, but it doesn't look like that will be happening. At one point, he was one of the biggest and best heels on the roster, and looked like he was primed to become a main event player in the not-too-distant future. Then, it seemed like the train went off the tracks completely. He was rumored to be in some hot water with management because word of his real life engagement to Lana hit the internet. He was placed in a silly, nonsensical storyline that saw him "break up" with Lana, and that was followed by them getting back together, only for them to be involved in some more terribly written angles where a face wrestler would make moves on Lana and Rusev was supposed to be a dastardly heel by... defending his wife? He hasn't been used "properly" since he rolled into WrestleMania 31 on a tank. He can say that he has two reigns as United States Champion, though, and those reigns combined to last about nine months, which is more days as the United States Champion than people like Steve Austin, Booker T, Sting, Bret Hart, and Ricky Steamboat have had. I just don't see that being able to wash off the stench that has been his booking over the last couple years. There is still plenty of time to change this, but unfortunately, it's a NO from me.
Sami Zayn: A classic overachiever, Sami is someone who shouldn't have been successful in the wrestling business based on his look. He's not the biggest, he's not the strongest, etc, but when he steps foot between those ropes, he just knows what he's doing and has been able to connect with audiences for years. Add him to the list of names that people are always hoping gets bigger pushes than he does. Fans have been waiting for Sami to be the "next Daniel Bryan" since Bryan retired, but so far, it hasn't happened yet. The highlight of his WWE career, title wise, is his reign as NXT Champion... because it's the only title he's won since he's been there. Working in his favor, should the company want to go there, is the fact that, as El Generico, he was one of the more popular and successful independent wrestlers of the last decade or so. It's tough to tell when it comes to WWE and the pasts of those they induct into the Hall Of Fame. Sometimes they like to spend time highlighting what those people did outside of WWE, and sometimes they don't. If they don't want to do that for Sami, it's probably not going to go well, as it's currently his only shot at making it. Right now, I'll say NO, but I'm hoping for something bigger and better from him in the years to come.
The Brian Kendrick: For newer fans to the product, you've seen Brian Kendrick's work in the still relatively new Cruiserweight division, but longtime WWE fans will remember his other stints with the company, with his last one (2005-2009) as the most memorable and newsworthy. He has had a total of three title reigns with WWE, winning Tag Titles twice with Paul London and then winning the Cruiserweight Title. He's creeping closer to the age of 38, so time isn't on his side, but he has one of the biggest personalities of anyone in the current Cruiserweight division, which should mean that he can always remain in the title picture for as long he's under WWE contract. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to see him win the title again before he retires. Is that enough, though? To this point, his reign as Cruiserweight Champion was the shortest in the title's brief history. On the opposite end of that, however, is the WWE Tag Team Title reign he and London had, which lasted 331 days (listed as 334 days due to their title loss being on a taped episode of Smackdown), good for the longest reign in this particular title's history until New Day had their 483-day reign. Just for fun, let's flip it again, though, as Londrick's World Tag Team Title reign lasted a whopping three whole days, with both their title victory and title defeat coming at house shows during a tour of South Africa. It might not be fair to him, but I think that the success of the Cruiserweight division could go a long way in deciding whether or not Kendrick gets inducted. If it, say, fizzles out and is gone before the end of 2017, that's one thing. However, if it goes on for years, picks up steam, brings us tremendous wrestlers and matches, and is viewed in a positive light, Kendrick will get a lot of credit for being one of the top stories of the initial Cruiserweight Classic. I think he's done, and will do, enough to make it in, so I'll say YES here. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 33
Neville: While he is currently in the middle of a nice reign as Cruiserweight Champion, there was a point in time where Neville was viewed as a bigger deal, at least in NXT. With everything that has been happening in NXT in recent years, a lot of people forget that Neville won the NXT Title at their very first WWE Network show, Arrival. He was the champion for 287 days, the second-longest reign in that title's history, topped only by the 292 days that Finn Balor had the strap. When the company wanted to take NXT and turn it into the talk of the wrestling world, they looked to Neville to be their top guy and help make that happen. When NXT wanted to crown their very first Tag Team Champions a year before that, who did they look to? Neville, who won the titles with Oliver Grey. Grey would blow his knee out almost immediately, and would essentially never be heard from again, but Neville even got a second reign with the belts, this time winning them with Corey Graves as his partner. Neither of those reigns were very long, but again, it showed that those in charge of NXT saw something special in Neville, and hitched their wagons to him with thoughts that he could help take them to bigger and brighter places. His main roster stint has been a bit of a mixed bag, as he debuted to much fanfare, looked like he was going to be pushed to the upper part of the card right off the bat, then faded away. The Cruiserweight Title hasn't been around for long, but he already has the belt's longest reign, just topping Austin Aries at WrestleMania in a match that everyone was sure he would lose. His heel turn has given him an edge and a swagger that he didn't appear to have as a face, and it has made him look like a star all over again. I don't think we've heard the last of Neville. Whenever he loses the Cruiserweight Title, I'm not expecting him to simply fade away again. As someone who laid the foundation and helped NXT get to where it is today, I'll say YES to him. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 34
Tajiri: Did you know that Tajiri has been a champion on seven different occasions while with WWE? Three reigns as Cruiserweight Champion in its previous form, one reign as Light Heavyweight Champion, one reign as WCW United States Champion, one reign as World Tag Team Champion (with William Regal), and one reign as WWE Tag Team Champion (with Eddie Guerrero). Throw in his Television Title reign and Tag Team Title reign (with Mikey Whipwreck) in the original ECW, and you have someone who was a lot more successful in the mainstream wrestling world than most people ever realized. I don't think he's going to win another title while with WWE, as I feel he was merely brought back for the Cruiserweight Classic and kept around for the division itself to give it some veteran "name" recognition and some face pops from the crowd. Even if he doesn't win more titles, though, let's look at that first number again... seven title reigns with WWE alone. He's not someone you would think about as a Hall Of Famer unless you really went back and did the research and the education, but when you look at his body of work, he's an easy YES. Total Number Of Future Hall Of Famers: 35
Before I move on, I do have to address one thing. I went back and forth on what to do with The New Day here. In my initial draft of the column, I had New Day included as a group, only to switch it up when I first typed things out. I had Kofi Kingston going in as a solo act, and I had Big E and Xavier Woods on the outside looking in. After a brief discussion with Fightful's own Alex Pawlowski, it was decided that the best thing to do would be to have New Day go in as a group. Yes, Kofi has a lengthy list of accomplishments before he was aligned with Xavier and Big E... four time Intercontinental Champion, three time United States Champion, one time World Tag Team Champion (with CM Punk), and two time WWE Tag Team Champion (one with R-Truth, one with Evan Bourne)... but none of those titles elevated him to the heights that he has been able to reach with this group. None of his title reigns will be as recognized as New Day's record breaking Tag Title run. Together, that group has been able to transcend the wrestling business, setting all kinds of high marks for merchandise sales, and even becoming YouTube stars thanks to Woods' UpUpDownDown video gaming channel. None of that would have been possible for Kofi as a singles wrestler. It's a unique situation, because Kofi could get in on his own, but needed the group with Woods and E to take him to new levels, while Woods and E were also elevated by Kofi, as they wouldn't have been taken as seriously without him and his background. They wouldn't be inducted as solo stars. They all need each other, and they know that. It's part of what helps them succeed. In which case, The New Day is an absolute YES. Which brings the Total Number Of Future Hall of Famers: 36.
This year's Hall Of Fame class saw a total of seven inductees. Last year's class featured eight inductees. The year before that had nine inductees. The only year that has seen double digit inductees is 2004, when the number was 11, in the Hall Of Fame's official return after being away for nearly a decade. There have been a total of 18 Hall Of Fame classes, giving us a total of 164 inductees (counting the Celebrity Wing, Warrior Award winners, and the Legacy wing), giving us a rough average of nine inductees per year. If you use that number, we're already at four solid years of future WWE Hall Of Famers on the current roster, and that's if the only people getting inducted are people around right this moment.
You know who isn't featured on these lists? Triple H. Shane McMahon. Stephanie McMahon. Daniel Bryan. Paul Heyman. Michael Cole. JBL. Christian. William Regal. The Rock. D-Von Dudley. Fit Finlay. Dean Malenko. Road Dogg. Lex Luger. Those are all people under some sort of contract with WWE but aren't listed as active competitors, and all of them are going into the Hall Of Fame one day, as well. That takes our total to 51, and really, the list could go on and on and on, but I think you've gotten my point by now. The WWE Hall Of Fame is just fine, and will continue to be just fine for far into the future.
If you didn't see an active WWE wrestler's name on these lists, it isn't because I'm saying they won't be in the Hall Of Fame. Sure, in a lot of cases, that's what I'm saying, but for a lot of them, it's merely that it's way too early to make any kinds of predictions on that. I'm just saying that before American Alpha marks jump all over me, or before Anna Bauert mails me a poisonous Sydney Funnel Web spider for not mentioning Harambe Strowman.
Do you agree or disagree with my Hall Of Fame predictions? Hit me up in the comments below or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) and let me know what you think.