Wednesday, March 6, 2019

What should the qualifications be for a WWE Hall of Fame induction?

WWE's Hall of Fame has become one of the fans' favorite nights of the year.

Why wouldn't it be? You get to see legends and childhood heroes get the respect they deserve and hear some (hopefully) funny road stories.

There are some glaring omissions from WWE's Hall of Fame that hurt its credibility: Owen Hart, Vader, Davey Boy Smith, etc.

There have also been some questionable inductees that also hurt its credibility: Koko B. Ware, The Godfather and Rikishi.

It's understandable that each year, come Hall of Fame time, there will be debate amongst fans. Each group of fans is hoping their favorite gets the nod.

The inductions this year have caused some controversy as well. Chyna, for example, is being inducted. After the way Triple H's comments about Chyna on Stone Cold's podcast went viral a few years ago, seeing her name as a Hall of Fame inductee was a little surprising.

It was also a little shady -- giving Chyna an induction, but not a solo induction (like every other woman before her).

Instead, Chyna's induction is part of a group.

 Is that the only way Chyna is going to end up in the Hall of Fame? Possibly.

I don't know that I believe WWE intended to be shady, but the optics aren't great.

In a way it's actually fitting that Chyna is inducted alongside her fellow members of DX. Triple H is one of the biggest names in the business. The New Age Outlaws are one of the most decorated and celebrated tag teams in the business. And X-Pac is one of the best and most underrated workers there's been (especially for a smaller guy).

Then you have The Honky Tonk Man. He's never put on mat classics like Savage vs. Steamboat, but he is one of the longest reigning Intercontinental Champions of all time. He certainly lasted a long time in the industry. He was a solid mid-card character in the late '80s.

Who has caused the most controversy though? Torrie Wilson. Some of her fans are rightfully happy that she's being inducted. A lot of fans have been vocal about their opposition to this induction. The former 2-time Playboy cover girl is certainly easy on the eyes and was very popular at the time she was in WWE.

That being said, I, too, question her merits.

Does Torrie deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

I started watching wrestling in 1997, so I remember Torrie's debut in WCW and the WWF. She provided some memorable segments over the years, but it was all entertainment / t&a / fluff stuff.

True, she did try to wrestle (and did eventually improve to the point of putting on a passable match), but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she did become a C-list celebrity after leaving WWE (dating Alex Rodriguez and appearing on a reality show competition), but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she was very welcoming to new girls in the locker room (by all accounts) and wasn't problematic, but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

True, she was the poster girl for WWE's Smackdown brand, but does that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

I'd argue that she was over pushed while she was on Smackdown, just like Trish was over pushed on Raw at the time.

Alexa Bliss and Charlotte have been over pushed in recent years, but at least Charlotte has ring skills to put on a main event match and Alexa Bliss is charismatic on the microphone and in the ring.

Torrie's mic skills left a lot to be desired. She was often awkward when she came out to the ring or when she wrestled.

While she was a welcome addition to the 2018 women's Royal Rumble and the Evolution battle royal, she's not someone I think of as a Hall of Fame wrestler or character.

The Hall of Fame is a place for characters too. Teddy Long, Bobby Heenan and others never made their mark as great wrestlers, but they made their mark in other ways.

Teddy Long was a manager, a referee and Smackdown's most prominent General Manager. His induction makes sense.

Bobby Heenan was an absolute genius on commentary and was a great manager as well. He earned his induction.

Some point to Sunny and say, 'Well if she's in it, Torrie can be in it.'  The difference there is that Sunny was an original.

You had Missy Hyatt in the 1980s, but Sunny broke new ground for women in WWE in the mid-90s.  She was a manager, a personality, a mainstream crossover at the time and was versatile (able to at least be competent on commentary, at ring announcing, being a guest referee or managing).

In many ways, Sunny was the prototype for what Torrie's character would eventually become.  As much as I was a Sable fan over Sunny (any day of the week) and as much as I dislike Sunny's personal attitude, I understand why she was inducted.

Torrie never really excelled at anything. She was passable in her roles managing The Filthy Animals, Tajiri, Billy Gunn and others. Her feud with Dawn Marie (involving Al Wilson) certainly made for some Jerry Springer-esque TV.

I can't say I ever enjoyed it, but it did get ratings.

But, again, does any of that equal a Hall of Fame induction?

At the end of the day, she's going in so anybody who doesn't like it better get used to it.

That being said, I think it does more to hurt the credibility of WWE's Hall of Fame than it does help it.

It's nice for Torrie that they're giving her an induction since she never won a championship (because she was never good enough to win one). I'm sure it is a nice bookend to her career and I hope she (and her fans) enjoy every moment of it.

Are wrestling fans too critical?

A lot of Torrie's defenders are saying that wrestling fans are mean and that they're never happy -- that they'd complain regardless of who got in.

Sure, sometimes fans can be fickle, but mostly we just want what we want.

It's common sense to the majority of fans. Fans can be happy to see Torrie at the Royal Rumble and Evolution battle royals, but be dumbfounded by her induction into the Hall of Fame.

It's not that wrestling fans are so hard to figure out. It's that Torrie's induction simply doesn't make sense.

You take a poll and over 70% of the fans wouldn't recommend Torrie for a Hall of Fame spot (certainly not before at least a handful of other women).

While there is no criteria for the Hall of Fame (it's basically whoever Vince McMahon wants to put in), fans enjoy Hall of Fame night. They want it to be special.

Why fight them on something like that by making silly inductions when management could simply listen to the fans instead and give them what they want?

Wrestling fans get a lot of crap for being critical, but without feedback, how do we expect WWE to improve?  The whole 'if you don't enjoy it, don't watch' argument doesn't fly unless you literally don't like a single aspect of a show.

If you like even one match or one character or one bit of commentary, don't change the channel.  Stick around, make your voice heard and hopefully be part of the change towards a better overall product.

What qualifies as a Hall of Fame career?

I think most fans agree that a Hall of Famer career needs to be some mix of the following:

  • leaving a lasting impression on the fans
  • being groundbreaking in one way or another
  • being able to have a good match (if you're a wrestler)
  • longevity

I'd argue that Torrie did leave an impression on the fans and that her career (lasting 8 years) was long enough to qualify.

But she's only ever had average matches. Did she entertain fans as she wrestled in her underwear and in bikinis? Sure. But that hardly qualifies as a 'good' match. Most good or great matches involve some impressive display of athleticism.

There are enough clips of Torrie executing moves to put together a video package, but her actual matches lacked psychology, physicality and fluid body movements / athleticism.

Additionally, she wasn't groundbreaking in any way. She's not the first hot blonde to come along.
Missy Hyatt did that in the 80s. Sunny reinvented that in the 90s. Sable took that to even further success. Terri was a tough little cookie who looked great and took bumps, too. The Kat certainly had appeal. Stacy Keibler was another cover girl who was around at the same time as Torrie. Trish combined the good looks and athleticism to make a name for herself.

Torrie was in that shuffle and was the dominant Diva of her brand (which only included a couple of women and no championships), so groundbreaking? I'd say not.

This isn't really about her though. It's about the Hall of Fame in general and how it can be improved upon. Torrie is just the catalyst for this conversation.

Can WWE's Hall of Fame be taken seriously?

I think WWE can improve the standing of their Hall of Fame in a few was.

First, they've got to quit with a celebrity inductee every year. There aren't enough celebrities who deserve a WWE Hall of Fame induction. If they keep it up, we'll be giving those awards to every Guest Host of Raw from 2010 to 2014.

Second, they've got to take care of some of those glaring omissions I mentioned earlier.

A Hall of Fame without Randy Savage was NOT a Hall of Fame. Chyna, despite her problems post-WWE, shouldn't be overlooked due to that. Thankfully, WWE has come around in a lot of ways with a lot of people. Savage, Madusa, Chyna, Bruno Sammartino, Warrior and others were all blacklisted by WWE at times and they've thankfully corrected those wrongs.

There are some complexities. Owen Hart's widow, for example, wants nothing to do with an Owen Hart Hall of Fame induction. It's absolutely unfortunate for all the Owen Hart fans out there, but that's the way it is.

WWE should keep working to build that bridge, but if it can't happen, then it can't happen. I've read that it's the same situation with Miss Elizabeth and her family, though I'm not sure how accurate that is.

Third, WWE should limit the inductions to about 5 inductees per ceremony, not including the Warrior Award and the Celebrity Wing. Otherwise you start scraping the bottom of the barrel for names.

Fourth, WWE needs to start maintaining some sort of consistency in regards to their inductions. You can't pick someone like Beth Phoenix and induct her while leaving women like Bull Nakano, Luna Vachon, Chyna, Molly Holly and others out. I think Beth does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but I think her induction came way too early.

It's high-time that WWE start giving some respect to the great male and female performers while they are still with us on this Earth. Chyna died in 2017. Vader and Jim Neidhart died in 2018. King Kong Bundy just died. There's no reason these wrestlers couldn't have been inducted before they died and it's a damn shame that it didn't happen.

I'm grateful that Warrior got his induction before he passed away.

While I wouldn't mind a fan vote for future inductees (one idea I saw on Twitter), I understand why it probably can't happen.

Fans would induct The Rock, The Undertaker and Batista all in the same year. WWE needs headliners for each separate year to sell tickets and promote their Hall of Fame event.

Or they'd induct Owen Hart, Vader, Davey Boy Smith, Brian Pillman, Luna Vachon and King Kong Bundy at the same time. Talk about excessive posthumous inductions!

I think the best way for fans to make their voices heard is with signs at the shows and with hash tags on Twitter.  WWE can't ignore a big social media campaign, especially if it's grassroots.

Lastly, these aren't participation trophies. Just because someone was a good employee and well-liked backstage doesn't mean they should get a Hall of Fame ring. At the end of the day, does them getting a ring hurt fans? No. Would it make the wrestler receiving that ring happy? I'm sure it would.

But there's credibility issue involved if everyone gets a ring. That's what makes it special.

They need to start taking their own Hall of Fame more seriously, however, if they expect fans to.

Otherwise, why the heck should any of us care enough to buy tickets or tune in?

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