We are less than 36 hours from the 2015 Hall of Fame ceremonies, which means it is the PERFECT time to start gazing into our orbs of crystal and making predictions for the 2016 Hall of Fame class.  Who will make the cut next year?  Will it shape up better than this class has seemed to?  Sure, so long as I have something to say about it. . .

(I don’t have anything to say about it.)

Still, I’ll give you the talents I’d put in next year’s group.  Here’s what I’ll include

A major headlining talent
A “minor” headlining talent
 (the Kevin Nash to Randy Savage, for example)
A tag team
A female talent
An “older” talent
 (think Larry Zbyszko)
A celebrity
A foreign talent and/or a “minority” talent
 (sad, but true - This is why Rikishi is getting in, after all)

I will not be including the “Warrior” Hall of Famer, since I’m not sure if this will be an annual thing or only when it is warranted.  Hoping for the latter, honestly.

On we go!

Sting

Some might believe this is a year or two too early, but it comes down to the fact that WWE is quickly running out of these “top” names.  The only other name I could see getting inducted in 2016 is The Rock, and if he’s supposedly wrestling Lesnar at 32, then I doubt he’s getting inducted.

Of course, if Sting wrestles Taker, then who the heck knows?

Still, I’ll say it’s Sting’s year.

”Ravishing” Rick Rude

I was honestly stunned to learn that Rude wasn’t already a member of the Hall of Fame - He was just one of those guys I assumed had been in for ages.

Rick Rude was a one-of-a-kind talent, in my mind.  It’s rare to find someone who has such a perfect match with his gimmick - nobody played the “I’m sexy and I know it” card quite like Rick Rude did.  If you like Shawn Michaels (especially when he was full on HBK), if you like Tyler Breeze, than you would love the “Ravishing One”.

The New Age Outlaws

This is a rare case where the tag team can also close out the show, usually a spot reserved for one of the two “headliners”.   You’re damn right that the D-O-Double-G and Mr. A-Double Crooked Letter are going to end things in 2016.

Arguably the best tag team during my really big childhood watching years, Brian James and Kip Sopp prove that sometimes a tandem of convenience can work - both The Roadie and Rockabilly were going nowhere with bad gimmicks until this team happened.

Are you listening, WWE?  Adam Rose and Fandango - Make them a team!  Now!

Miss Elizabeth


Truth be told, this should be happening this year - inducting Savage and Liz in the same year puts as much of a happy ending on this doubly tragic story as you can.

Sunny may claim to be the original Diva, but Miss Elizabeth is the true innovator, in my eyes.  She was THE valet of the 1980’s and the first one to take a major role in main event storylines.  She needs to be in the Hall.

Teddy Long


People might see this and immediately think “Oh, well yeah, you need an African American”, but to be honest, Long is deserving regardless of race.  He’s been a referee, a manager and a General Manager, and has had a wrestling career that has spanned multiple decades.

Plus, without Teddy Long, we’d have no “Hate-O-Rade”, and we can’t have that.

Ray Stevens


The only reason I’m listing “The Crippler” is because he’s been rumored for so long.  I don’t know anything about him, so if you’re curious, ask Magnum or somebody.

Seth Green


He’s guest hosted RAW a couple times and, if memory serves, even had a match.  Put Seth Green in the Hall!

The Aguayo family


This might not happen since the tragic events of Perro Jr’s death will have taken place over a year away by the 2016 ceremony, but it would be a kind gesture to induct the Aguayo clan into the Hall.

Perro Sr. had a handful of WWE appearances back in the 90’s and is a legend in Mexico, and we now know the story of his son.  This is the classy act we now expect from WWE.

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What do YOU think?  Who makes the cut for the 2016 Hall of Fame?  Be Heard.

 

Did you notice the amazing thing that happened not too long ago?

As WWE made the formal announcement that the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame class was Japanese star Tatsumi Fujinami, if you stood outside in just the right wind conditions, you could hear a great disturbance in the wrestling Force. . . As if thousands of voices cried out in total confusion.  If you listen now, you might hear the echoes. . .

(Anyone recognize Nattie’s Daddy in a completely ridiculous 90’s gimmick?  Anyone?  Bueller? Bueller?)

((Star Wars and Ferris Bueller references in the first minutes of the column - I’m so proud.))

This is a sign of how completely underwhelming this announcement was - I’m choosing pop culture references over a career retrospective.

The only reason I know who Tatsumi Fujinami is, outside of my aforementioned PWI subscription as a teen, is that recently I watched a Fujinami match on WWE Network.  In the early 90’s, WCW had a working relationship with New Japan, so a month or so ago I watched Ric Flair vs. Fujinami as part of. . . A SuperBrawl, I believe.

Other than that, the major reason people might know about Fujinami is that he is credited for the creation of two fantastic moves - The Dragon Sleeper and the Dragon Suplex.  Sadly, neither are used particularly frequently in WWE, but both are worth some research.

As Jason Moltov has said numerous times, this is not the strongest Hall of Fame class in recent memory.  In fact, it seems to be running solely on the star power of its first inductee, Randy Savage.  While I am all for providing some international pizzazz to the lineup, there are many other options for inclusion that would have provided more of a punch.

To wit. . .

Ultimo Dragon

Rather than the supposed inventor of the hold, why not induct the Dragon Sleeper’s most famous user, one who happened to wrestle for WWE, if only for a year.  At one time, boys and girls, Ultimo Dragon held TEN titles at the same time.

Read that sentence again.  On second thought, don’t, let this image speak volumes.

A fixture in Japan AND Mexico, Dragon was also one of the most talented and popular cruiserweights in WCW, and while he didn’t invent the Dragon Sleeper, he is the innovator of the move which bears his real name, the Asai moonsault.  If you’re a fan of Sami Zayn’s moonsault where he kicks off the top rope to the floor, he’s using an adapted Asai.  Yeah, Dragon was cool, someone who is absolutely worth searching for in the WWE Network archives, and totally worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.

Taka Michinoku

While the popularity of ‘cruiserweight’ wrestling might have been mostly thanks to WCW (or ECW, depending on which version of history you subscribe to), the WWF was not without its light heavyweights.  In fact, the winner of the Light Heavweight Championship tournament was none other than Mr. Michinoku, who in many ways was Vince McMahon’s answer to WCW’s  Rey Mysterio Jr.

Taka held the LHC for almost a year, though that was the only gold he held in the WWF.  Sadly, despite Michinoku’s excellent in-ring abilities (I remember being flabbergasted at how easily Taka seemed to just ‘step’ up onto the top rope from the ring, despite only being 5’8”), he is mainly known as a comedy act as part of the evil Kai En Tai stable.  If you know what “Choppy Choppy” means in wrestling, you know that not all the “comedy” was quite effective.

Ouch.

Neither Taka or Ultimo Dragon had incredibly successful WWF/E runs, but they, to me anyway, deserve inclusion in the Hall of Fame before Fujinami.

Our next contender is someone who has never seen a single day in Stamford (the Connecticut home of WWE, for those unaware. Go Whalers. ), yet for most, he is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

The Great Muta

I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong in saying that Muta is the pre-eminent Japanese wrestler in America, despite only having a relatively brief stay in the Western World.  I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching some of Muta’s NWA matches on WWE Network, and let’s just say he’s worthy of such high praise.  The face paint, the mysterious entrance, the mist, and let’s not forget the moves - the power drive elbowdrop, handspring elbow and moonsault are all things that one would likely borrow if they could on a WWE 2K fantasy moveset.

If you’ve been following along on Twitter this week, you’ve seen it - Muta is arguably (now that Sting is but 9-10 short days away from making his debut) the greatest wrestler never to have had a WWF/E match.  Just on reputation alone, this guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Seriously, I know I told you to go watch Ultimo Dragon, but forget that for now.  Get onto WWE Network THIS INSTANT and go watch a Great Muta match.  He’s everything we like from our NXT talents; if Hideo Itami was just afraction as good as Muta was, he’d be the favorite to win the IC battle royal right now, instead of languishing at Full Sail.

Tajiri

Some might think I’m reaching here, but think about it.  Tatsumi Fujinami has done practically NOTHING on American shores, and as much as one might hate to admit it, WWE is an American company through and through.

Tajiri, however?  US Champion, 2 time Tag Champion, 3 time Cruiserweight and 1 time Light Heavyweight Champion.  Oh, and then there’s the ECW tag and TV title as well.  Plus he’s the guy behind the Tarantula, one of the coolest and most innovative moves of the last 15-20 years.

Can I make an argument that without the Tarantula, Dean Ambrose doesn’t do the rope flippy-do clothesline?  Sure I could.

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What I’m saying here folks is that if Fujinami is getting in, so should Tajiri.  And Hakushi.  So should the Orient Express, Kaz Hayashi, Jimmy Wang Yang AND Jamie Noble (he was a Japanese sympathizer back in the Yung Dragons.)

That’s not even counting other Japanese greats who have next to no mainstream American exposure.  Kenta Kobashi.  Koji Kanemoto.  Mitshuharu F’ing Misawa.  (Fun fact: Never seen more than 1-2 Misawa matches, but he remains one of my favorite wrestlers of all time.  Google Tiger Driver ‘91 to see why.)

Can someone explain the logic between these decisions?  Why have I had to write about Fujinami and the Bushwhackers?  What in the world is happening to my Hall of Fame?

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What do YOU think?  Which Japanese wrestling stars should have been entered before Fujinami?  Can you make any sense of this at all?  Be Heard.

The era of the big man is over in WWE.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  It’s almost over.

Want proof?  Using my free time wisely, I’ve compiled a list of wrestler stats.

Once Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane retire (which, I expect, will be by the end of 2015), can you name the 3 wrestlers who weigh over 300 pounds?  WWE and NXT together, there’s only 3…

Rusev, Erick Rowan and Bull Dempsey, who is listed on the NXT website at exactly 300 pounds, but might be exaggerating slightly.   These are the “super heavyweights” in WWE once the old guard retires.

Why am I talking about this on Hall of Friday?  Two reasons.  First, giving you a sneak preview of future columns regarding the re-definition of “big man” in WWE.

Second, to talk about two men, arguably two of the most athletic big men in wrestling history, and to determine whether they are contenders for the Hall of Fame.

We begin with the larger of the two men, yet the only one (to my knowledge) who pulled off a moonsault.

(Big Van) Vader

Leon White did not have a hugely successful WWE career, outside of beating the tar out of some foreign reporter, but his wrestling life as a whole is worthy of NAIHOF consideration.

After a knee injury ended his NFL career (White played for the LA Rams in the late 70’s and early 80’s), White began training as a pro wrestler and started his career in the AWA, where he was known as Baby Bull.

Really glad that’s not what WWE went with for Bull Dempsey, by the way.

White’s career first took off when he went to Japan in the late 80’s, which is also where he was given the name Big Van Vader, supposedly a warrior from Japanese folklore.   Vader traveled all over the world honing his craft.  At one point, he held three heavyweight championships on three separate continents. . .At the same time.

Another fun fact - Vader (a notoriously stiff worker) had a match with Stan Hansen (also famous for his hard hitting), and during the match, Vader’s eye popped out of its socket.  He kept wrestling, because of course he would.

Vader made his WCW debut in 1990, though he wouldn’t become a full-time competitor there until 1992.  Immediately placed in the world title picture, Vader won his first WHC in July, defeating that ‘face painted goon’ Sting.

Vader’s stiffness caused problems, as he injured multiple wrestlers during his stay in WCW, including Sting (cracked ribs and ruptured spleen), jobber Joe Thurman (broken frickin back) and most famously, Mick Foley (multiple, ear included).  Despite being more dangerous than Ryback, Vader won 3 World titles in WCW, along with a US title and being a Battlebowl champion.  Remember Battlebowl?

Vader was fired from WCW in 1995 following a legitimate backstage fight with Paul Orndorff.  After another brief stay in Japan, Vader made his WWE debut at the Royal Rumble in 1996.  The Man They Call Vader never held championship gold in WWE - in fact, his Titan Towers career was pretty unexciting, highlighted by feuds with Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and by hitting the Vader Bomb on Gorilla Monsoon.

Following another successful run in Japan in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Vader mostly retired, save for select appearances for various companies, including a return to WWE to beat the tar out of Heath Slater.

Vader is best known, oddly enough, for his stiffness AND flexibility in the ring.  The list of talents he injured is numerous, but I can’t think of another talent around 400 pounds who could move the way Leon White moved.  The man could moonsault, folks.  With ease.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRVn_XZPoYM

When you consider Vader’s international success, his career in WCW and his athletic prowess, I say that Leon White is a Hall of Famer.  It’s a shame his booking in WWE didn’t reflect the tremendous talent.

One match that wasn’t mentioned earlier was Vader’s contest at Spring Stampede 1994.  The reason is because the feud wasn’t important, but the opponent certainly was, as he is our next candidate for HOF contention.

Big Bossman

Ray Traylor wore a lot of different hats in his wrestling career -  He was a bodyguard, a police officer, a guardian angel, a grave robber and a puppy killer.  No matter what character he played, he is one of the better “big men” of all time.

A legit prison guard before his wrestling career, Traylor got his first big break for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 80’s, where he was Big Bubba Rogers, bodyguard for Jim Cornette.  Fellow NAI writers and wrestling historian Magnum MH would be able to tell you far more about Big Bubba than I would, so if you’re curious, hit him up @MagnumNAI.

Lured to WWE/F in 1988, Traylor became the Big Bossman, a heel prison guard character.  Bossman feuded with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage during this time, as well as forming one of the relatively rare “Double Big Man” teams as one half of The Twin Towers with Akeem, the African Dream.   Bossman turned face in 1990 and became one of Hogan’s staunchest allies, aiding him in fighting the monster Earthquake and the devious Heenan Family.

Some of Bossman’s most highly profiled feuds were with themed opponents - First, the Mountie (Jacques Rougeau), culminating in a “Jailhouse Match” (where the loser spends the night in jail, of course) and then escaped prisoner Nailz, ending in a Nightstick on a Pole match.

. . .And you thought current gimmick matches were bad. . .

Traylor, along with most of the WWF 80’s roster, moved to WCW in the mid 90’s.  He proceeded to have a series of gimmicks, from The Boss (same gimmick, shorter name) to The Guardian Angel, to Big Bubba Rogers once more, to joining the Dungeon of Doom, to being in the nWo, to being Ray Traylor, to being released.

Traylor returned to WWE soon after, becoming The Big Bossman once more, albeit with a more modern look.  For the first time in a major promotion, Bossman won gold, sharing the Tag titles with Ken Shamrock (as members of The Corporation) and winning the Hardcore title 4 times.

Sadly, Traylor’s major feuds the second time around in WWE aren’t ones to write home about.  He fed Al Snow’s dog to him, leading to one of the worst cage matches of all time with the Kennel from Hell.  Following that, he made fun of Big Show’s father at the man’s funeral and then stole the casket, towing it (and Big Show, who had leapt onto it) into the sunset.  Painfully, that really was Bossman’s last major moment in professional wrestling.

Ray Traylor was released from WWE in 2003 and passed away at his home the following year, at the far-too-young age of 43 years old.

While Traylor’s career was not littered with gold, he was a major force throughout most of the highest moments in wrestling history.  Sadly, that’s not quite good enough, so with a heavy heart, I say that Big Bossman does not make the cut as a Hall of Famer.  Like so many other of my favorite talents, he’s a part of that next tier down. . . The Pantheon of Professionals, if you will.

So there you have it.  The tale of two athletic big men - one who makes our Hall of Fame, and one who sadly does not.

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