Now that WWE has officially announced the sale date for WrestleMania 34 tickets, wrestling fans all over the globe are shifting into prediction and speculation mode. Who will face who at Mania? Who gets the main event spot? Will we get any surprise returns for the show?
While those types of predictions aren't easy, they are something you can get something of a good idea about by merely watching WWE programming. You can see, months away from the show, that certain wrestlers are being positioned for a prime spot on the WrestleMania card, just like you can see certain wrestlers who will struggle to make the card in anything other than an appearance in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Instead, I want to do some predicting that is a little more difficult, and that is looking ahead at who could potentially be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame next year.
Usually, there is no real rhyme or reason behind who gets inducted in a given year. Sure, you might get someone inducted because they saw the majority of their success in the city or state hosting Mania, or that has a connection to the place in some way, but most of the time, it just seems "random". That makes these types of things hard to do. There is a long, long list of people who are deserving of being in the Hall Of Fame, but will 2018 be their year?
To start things off, every Hall Of Fame class needs a headliner. You need someone that will help to sell tickets. You need someone that will create buzz for the ceremony. Most of all, you need someone that is a no-doubt-about-it Hall Of Fame worthy performer. How about The Rock for that spot? He is, arguably, the biggest movie star on the planet today, and someone who could possibly... maybe... perhaps... be running for President of the United States during the next election. If you want buzz, that's what you go with. News of his induction will be everywhere, from sports media to entertainment media, and that's the kind of publicity that makes Vince McMahon not need to pop a Viagra, if you smell what I'm cooking.
Initially, I was going to go with Batista as the headliner for 2018. Rumors have already circulated that he is someone the company has discussed. He is also someone who has used his pro wrestling career to achieve big success in Hollywood, but let's keep it real... Batista is a supporting actor at this stage, and he isn't going to bring in the level of buzz that Rock would. On top of that, Rock's wrestling career is obviously more decorated. Ten World Titles, a total of 17 titles won, a Royal Rumble victory, and one of the biggest earners (ticket sales and merchandise) to ever step foot in a ring... Rock is on pro wrestling's Mount Rushmore in the eyes of many fans.
With the headliner taken care of, it's time to fill out the "midcard", so to speak. A name that was mentioned as a possibility of being inducted as part of the 2017 class is someone I'd put in for 2018. That man is none other than Mike Rotunda, perhaps better known as Irwin R. Schyster. When many fans first think about IRS, they think about the character and the comedy skits he's been involved with in recent years, but he was a lot more than that. He could really "go" in the ring. He is also a five-time Tag Team Champion with the WWF, to go with one reign as an NWA Tag Team Champion (right before the belts would be renamed the WCW Tag Team Titles), three NWA Television Title reigns, and nine total titles won in a very successful stint with Championship Wrestling From Florida. He was one of the more underrated workers of the 80's and early-90's.
It's time for the Hall Of Fame to get a little more intimidating with the man who is one of the most feared in-ring workers to ever lace up a pair of boots. When you think about Vader, you think about the brutal beatings he delivered in every promotion he ever worked for. Mick Foley has famously told the story about how many an enhancement talent would show up to WCW tapings, see they were penciled in to face Vader that day, and promptly leave the building. They would rather ruin their chance to get a contract with a televised wrestling promotion than step in the ring with a man who was guaranteed to brutalize them. Ask Joe Thurman (look it up if you need to) about what it's like to face Vader. Ask Stan Hansen (again, look it up if you need to) about how tough Vader is. Due to ineptitude and backstage politics, his WWF tenure was botched to no end, but as someone who was very successful everywhere else he wrestled, he absolutely belongs in the Hall.
It's pretty safe to say that women's wrestling has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. The "Women's Revolution" has been trying to get wrestling fans to see that the ladies can be more than the "eye candy" that they would've been in the past. Well, that makes my next inductee interesting, because she became famous because of that "eye candy" factor and nothing more. At the peak of the Attitude Era, you could say that the most "over" acts in wrestling were "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock, the nWo, Goldberg, Sting, and... Sable. Male wrestling fans all over the globe were in love with Sable, and to his credit, Vince McMahon capitalized on that, turning her from a valet into a wrestler, just to get her on television more. It's weird to say, because they aren't the same type of performers, but we might not be getting a chance to see the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte, or anyone that competed in the Mae Young Classic without the popularity of Sable.
When switching to tag team wrestling, especially within the WWF/WWE umbrella, one team that often flies under the radar is Demolition. For nearly two decades, their 478-day reign as World Tag Team Champions was the longest in company history, until that number was topped by New Day in late-2016. Yes, many fans saw them as nothing more than Vince McMahon's attempt at having his own version of the Road Warriors, but there's no denying their status as one of the WWF's biggest tag teams of the last few decades. There is one minor (alright, maybe more than just a minor one) speed bump to Demolition getting the call, and that is the fact that Ax and Smash are a part of a class action lawsuit filed against WWE and Vince McMahon involving traumatic brain injuries and the company's attempts to hide the risk of said injuries in wrestling, as well as trying to avoid liability for those injuries. Yes, people that are already in the WWE Hall Of Fame are involved in the lawsuit, but we're talking about an act that is Hall-worthy, but isn't in yet. We've seen plenty of stranger things in the world of wrestling, though.
Obviously, there will be more than five inductees, as the only class to feature less than six acts being inducted was the first class in 1993, where Andre The Giant was the initial Hall Of Fame member. However, going beyond the headliner, a tag team/faction, and a couple midcard acts begins to get tedious, and you end up simply listing names to get them mentioned at that point.
For those interested in that kind of thing, I think it's pretty easy to say that Triple H should be the one to induct Rock. Their careers have been intertwined from the beginning. It would be incredible to see Mike Rotunda's sons, Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas, induct their father out of character, but I think it would be just as likely to get his old tag team partner, Ted DiBiase, to do it. If anyone other than Mick Foley inducts Vader, it wouldn't have as much effect. I would pay a great amount of money to see Sable's husband, Brock Lesnar, delivering an emotional induction speech, but I think it'll be one of the women currently on the roster. Demolition being inducted by New Day makes sense, not only because New Day broke their record, but also because Demolition was wrestling as a three-man unit under the "Freebird Rule" for a while.
Who am I missing, folks? Who do you think gets inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame for their Class Of 2018? Hit me up in the comments section below or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage) and let me know.