Hall of Fame inductions have become a standard prologue to Wrestlemania, and never fail to cause controversy. Everyone has his or her own opinion of who should or shouldn’t be inducted into the ‘hallowed’ Hall of Fame. Others aren’t being recognised, while others are over praised, but no one stops to question what the Hall of Fame represents in the business.
The Hall of Fame, since its inception in 1993, has honoured over thirty-four individual stars of their time, going so far back in time that the majority of modern wrestling fans have no recollection of them. Buddy Rogers, Harley Race and Fred Blassie, among other veterans; line the walls of the hall for various reasons. The motivation for induction ranges from unrivalled title reigns, commentary excellence, managerial distinction, or just plain being a fan favourite. Each plaque has its own story, so whenever a newcomer joins the ranks of the seasoned ring generals, serious thought must support each induction.
This years inductions include the icon Iron Sheik, manager of champions Jimmy Hart, the wonderful Paul Orndorff, and the induction from left field, Bob Orton Jr. All of these men, in one way or another belong in the Hall of Fame, but this years inductions have begged the question, are we remembering some of these men differently from how we saw them in the past. A shining example is the second-generation superstar Bob Orton Jnr. No one would disagree that Bob Orton was no where near outstanding between the ropes, he did have an empathy with the crowd, but Orton would generously be described as a mid carder. It’s fair to say he did almost nothing of great consequence, his headlining achievements, as outlined by the WWE themselves on their Hall of Fame website, include wearing a cast for inordinate length of time, playing a ‘pivotal’ role in the outcome of Wrestlemania I, an alliance gone sour with Roddy Piper, and one of the first finishing maneuvers to utilize the top rope. No titles, just a list of mediocre achievements. Stranger so, his ally in mischief, Roddy Piper has yet to step foot in the Hall of Fame.
Nevertheless, an endless scroll of accomplishments isn’t the sole prerequisite to be inducted, obviously enough people recall Orton being one of the major players. As mentioned above, nostalgia is a fickle mistress; some people are eternally underrated, while others become sentimental favourites. Orton is in the latter. Time has been kind Bob, the general fan base remember his time in the ring fondly and never without a smile. Bizarrely, this Bob Orton-induced nostalgia has only begun recently, provoked by his son Randy Orton’s stellar rise to fame. Being incredibly over, Randy’s repetoire contains plenty of fan favourite moves, and each time he pulls one off and the crowd cheers, they can’t help but think of his father. Thus Randy is partially responsible the resurgence of reminiscence which has caused Bob’s induction, but it doesn’t discount Orton’s induction as wrongful, because longevity is in the eye of the fan.
The fans dictate what we see on television, as well as who we see on television. Enough fans have to agree for a wrestler to be remembered so fondly. As the years roll on, wrestlers themselves hang the boots up, and will only continue to live on through how the fans remember them. Presently, Hall of Fame inductions have been select, choosing from a pool of heroes spanning almost half a century, so there are plenty of stars to choose from. But there will come a time when the supply of ‘vintage’ stars has exhausted, and the new collection of potential inductees will include the stars of today. The difference between the current potential Hall of Famers and the potentials in the future, is that the stars of the past have the advantage of not being observed firsthand by the majority of fans. Very few fans today saw Buddy Rogers or Antonino Rocca firsthand, and their only knowledge is derived from the fable-like recounts of nostalgic elders served with a healthy dose of embellishment. History is written by the survivors and not the defeated. So these jaded stories could be lop sided in how a star is seen after retirement.
If we assume that the WWE will remain active in over twenty years and the fans remain loyal, we ourselves could become instigators of the process, remembering some stars with boyhood inspiration, while recounting others venomously. How will we remember current stars in the future? With top titles being dominated for years at a time, and lower titles being handed out carelessly, the way stars will be remembered will be altered. Stars like Jericho, Guerrero and Christian who at one stage or another have been in some sort of spotlight but then faded and floated along in the midcards for the rest of their career, may be remembered as underrated stars who never got their dues, but they may also be seen chronic underachievers. Other stars have been tangled up in issues in their off camera lives, Stone Cold and his drinking and marriage fiasco, The Rock’s departure to Hollywood, and Triple H’s backstage and marital dominion, will they be remembered for their real life mistakes, or will time heal the scars left on fans.
The biggest flaw of the Hall of Fame process is that it creates an elite clique of stars who are the epitome of what a wrestler should be, but in essence, any man who dedicated his life to a career deserves to be recognised. Some of the biggest stars would never have been the stars they were without the under card wrestlers to job for them. Goldberg would have been nothing without the 170-odd stars that lost to him without a single offensive maneuver, yet it’s a safe bet that we won’t see the likes of Kwee-Wee in the Hall of Fame. Fans must be reminded that for every superstar there is a foundation of lower stars to lift him to that position. Inversely, some jobbers are held dear to fans, and that’s a talent few have. Losing and being a fan favourite simultaneously is more challenging than receiving a title and being a fan favourite.
Although the idea of the Hall of Fame is sentimental, it’s unbalanced, and is why it’s still seen as a sideshow to the real show, Wrestlemania. Having your plaque in an auditorium may be nice, but being a hero to just one kid, and making him feel like a hero in himself, that’s even nicer.
If you’d like to leave feedback or questions, my email is TheButchershopColumn@hotmail.com.
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