As everyone that listens to our podcast knows, I love the hall of fame. A lot of discussion in the early days of We Talk Wrestling focused around the WWE Hall of Fame and who both myself and Mo would put into the hall. There is, however, another Hall of Fame. One that has, in my opinion, more prestige than the WWE version. For instance, Bruno Sammartino and Randy Savage are in the Observer Hall of Fame. James Dudley, is not.
There are different criteria to get into the Observer hall. Candidates have to be 35 or older and should be judged on the criteria of in-ring performance, his or her box office drawing power and cultural impact. You can choose as many as ten candidates and if a person gets 60% of the vote they are in, similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame. As can be the case, I don’t even have ten picks myself but I thought I would go ahead and look at who I would vote for on this year’s ballot.
I’ll be honest, when I first saw that Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were not in the hall of fame I was baffled. When I first began to watch wrestling in the 1980’s it was almost all WWF and Stampede. When I did hear about “the other league”, The NWA (National Wrestling Alliance not the rap group) it was the names Ric Flair, The Midnight Express, and The Rock n Roll Express. The fued between the Midnights and the RnRs was legendary. It was the consistent must see stuff that “Crockett” was putting in their rings. To add to the Iconic status of just the Rock n Rolls alone, anytime a babyface is being double teamed for a prolonged period of time in a tag team match, it’s called “being Ricky Morton”. Of Course, no one does it better than the master himself. Wrestlers breaking in have for years been told to watch Rock n Roll Express matches to get down the psychology of how to work a tag team match. I without hesitation vote for the Rock n Roll Express.
The biggest star of his era, John Cena is a first ballot hall of famer. While he may be controversial to some, the fact that he moves merchandise, ratings, and pay per view buys better than anyone in the past 8 years gets his name on my ballot. I have to give Cena a nod for his charity work as well, with Make-A-Wish and the recent cancer promotion to his credit. Cena will never be confused with Lou Thesz in the ring but he can be carried and has been in the main events of shows regardless of who the WWE Champion is at the time. Top star in the top promotion equals hall of fame to me.
When the Rock N Wrestling era is discussed, most often the names Hulk Hogan, Cyndi Lauper, Mr. T and Roddy Piper are mentioned as catalysts of the era that launched the WWF into the mainstream. It was a plane ride where Lou met Cyndi Lauper that lead to Albano being the Dad in Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun video, a mega hit at the time. Sure Cyndi’s manager David Wolfe being a huge wrestling fan didn’t hurt but Lou in the video propelled Cyndi to appearing on WWF television. It was Albano who had the gold record smashed over his head by Roddy Piper and got MTV and mainstream American media to sit up and take notice of the WWF. His interviews always made me laugh. Sure there are stories of Vince firing Lou on a weekly basis, but on camera he was never boring. I always remember Lou as the manager of Tag Teams, something WWF pushed pretty hard when he came back to manage and turn babyface the Headshrinkers. He had some success with the Super Mario Bros. Supershow in the early 1990’s and his rubber bands were easily identified. I hear knocks on him constantly but for me, Captain Louis Albano is a hall of famer.
The Americas Champion definitely had an impactful career. Whether it was sellouts of Madison Square Garden with The Iron Sheik in bootcamp matches or later working with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania, the man known as Sarge definitely had box office appeal. His Hasbro toy deal to appear as a GI Joe character, complete with action figure, was Slaughter’s mainstream crossover move. Not only did it give him an action figure but it allowed Slaughter to appear on the extremely popular GI Joe cartoon series. It came at a time when Sarge had just left the WWF over the signing of the toy deal and Slaughter was arguably the second hottest babyface in 1984 behind Hulk Hogan. The combination of his WWF title win and the fact that the majority of males aged 35-40 right now would be able to tell you who Sgt. Slaughter is, gets him onto my hall of fame ballot.
As a non wrestler, it shocked me that Gorilla Monsoon is not already in the hall. When Vince McMahon Jr bought the WWWF, Monsoon was guaranteed lifetime employment as part of the deal. In the newly christened WWF, Gorilla had two major roles. One was the on air talent that lead to the infamous duo of Monsoon and Heenan on Prime Time Wrestling. Monsoon also called the first eight Wrestlemanias, many with Jesse Ventura who are my all time favorite commentary pair. The other role was at the desk right behind the curtain where the wrestlers come out for their matches. It was here that Monsoon would go over the main spots in a match and give any last minute changes, such as more or less time for the match. This spot is the Gorilla Position in his honor. For his behind the scenes work and pairing with Heenan, Gorilla gets my vote.
Like Gorilla, Jesse gets my vote as a non wrestler. As a non wrestler it obviously takes his in-ring work out of the equation. This leaves me with the remaining criteria. First is crossover appeal. Well, hmmmm lets see…oh ya HE WAS THE GOVENOR OF MINNESOTA! It can be argued how he did while in office but the fact remains that he was able to be elected to the highest office in the state, something no other wrestler has been able to duplicate. In addition, I’ve mentioned that he and Monsoon were my favorite commentary pair but Ventura himself was my favorite individual announcer of the 1980’s. The reason for that was simple: he felt real. Jesse was flamboyant, no doubt, but he liked who he liked and didn’t like who he didn’t like and it was consistent. When Randy Savage turned babyface, Ventura still expounded the virtues of the Macho Man rather than just turning on him because Jesse was a heel. He was funny (Chico Santana anyone) but got the issues of the matches across to me due to his blunt nature behind the mic.
When I think of woman’s wrestling prior to the “Divas Era” I first think of The Fabulous Moolah. She was woman’s wrestling to me as a kid and, as it turns out, was woman’s wrestling even before I was born. In fact she started wrestling in 1946. It took her ten years to get to the top but once there she never relinquished the spot. The knock against Moolah is that she owned the title and controlled the division, keeping herself on top. While this is true I don’t hold it against her because of the simple fact that this is wrestling. It’s a worked business so I can’t get mad at Lillian Ellison for manipulating the woman in her “troop”. Moolah gets on my ballot with the hall of FAME argument. She, in my opinion, is one of the top 3 most famous women wrestlers of all time and that is the main point I am using for my vote.
This was the pick that I thought the most about. I wasn’t sure I was going to vote for Edge until I started looking further into his career. I always enjoyed Edge as an entertainer, both in and out of the ring. The Matt Hardy situation in real life coupled with the first Money In The Bank cash in really allowed Edge to catch fire. He is an example of WWE giving someone the ball and the performer really running with it. Adam Copeland’s time had come to main event as he had already paid his dues as a Tag Team and Intercontinental Champion. Edge was a guy that I predicted in the year 2000 would main event a Wrestlemania one day. Smackdown became his show and it became regular viewing for me every week. Edge was able to be a great performer and Smackdown became my alternative to the over produced RAW. He was also the man who was able to get people to cheer John Cena which also has yet to be duplicated consistently.
Well there you have it my thoughts on who should get in. And no talk of Big Daddy to boot. Whoever gets in, because of the vast number of voters and the 60% minimum, I know that the integrity of this Hall of Fame is intact. Besides, I don’t think Dave even has a limo driver!
Agree? Disagree? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org