By Nathan Hubbard
It's Hall of Fame season folks. That may not mean much to some people, but for subscribers to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and just for Internet wrestling fans in general it is a time of year that can spark great debate. And also much debate that is not so great, but that's wrestling for you. The Hall of Fame in question is the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, and the 'class of 2006' will be announced in a few weeks. That is, if anybody is voted in this year.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, or WONHOF for short, was created in 1996, with an initial list chosen by Dave Meltzer himself. Every year since then has seen a list of eligible wrestlers put before a secret ballot of numerous wrestling insiders, with those wrestlers getting enough approval being admitted to the list. Consideration for the ballot is based on criteria such as longevity; drawing power; legacy; and, of course, actual wrestling ability. As with anything of this nature, there can be controversy: there will always be those that aren't accepted to the Hall who some people believe should be, and vice versa.
That is where the 'Not the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame Hall of Fame', or NTWONHOFHOF for short, comes in. It was created in 2006 with an initial list chosen by me, with more to be nominated and chosen by whoever wishes to participate (see below for details). Consideration for the ballot is based on whatever you want it to be, with the one stipulation that the candidate must not already be in the WONHOF, nor can they be strong candidates for future inclusion. One point is that the WONHOF has restrictions for age and years since wrestling debut, but the NTWONHOFHOF will take anybody under consideration. (A full list of those in the WONHOF can be found here).
The first four inclusions in the 'NTWONHOFHOF Class of 2006' can be found below. They are four men who, for one reason or another, will not be found in the WONHOF, (at least not in the pro wrestling section). Next week I will provide for you some choices to vote on, nominated by you, the honest wrestling fan.
Chris Jericho is the greatest professional wrestler to have ever lived. Ok, obviously he's not, but he's my favourite. Of course, personal bias should not influence selections, so here's the case for the current actor/musician/comedian/radio presenter/ex-wrestler. The son of an Ice Hockey player, Christopher Irvine was born in New York, but was raised in Winnipeg. I went to Winnipeg once, it was really, really cold, so that would have toughened him up, as would being partly trained for his wrestling career by the Hart family. Making his wrestling debut in 1990 against Lance Storm, Jericho was an overnight sensation, leading to his reign as the first ever 'Undisputed' World Champion eleven years later. So, perhaps not an 'overnight' sensation then, but in the decade prior to his title success, Jericho wrestled around the world from Canada to Japan, Mexico, Europe and back to North America, where he turned up in ECW. Just like with Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, it is a misconception that Jericho was undiscovered before ECW, but Jericho is writing his own autobiography at the moment, so he can tell you all about that himself.
Chris Jericho did not make many appearances for ECW, but he did stay long enough to hold their TV title. Moving on to WCW, Jericho had feuds with the likes of Juventud Guerrera, Dean Malenko, Rey Misterio Jr and Perry Saturn. He held the WCW Cruiserweight Title numerous times, and also the Television Title. Jericho was one of many talented wrestlers in WCW who didn't receive much of a push, but made for a hella entertaining undercard. Jericho also managed to have a feud with Goldberg, despite never actually wrestling him, because Goldberg was afraid (this led to a later physical confrontation where Jericho kicked Goldberg's arse for real, after Goldberg had attacked him from behind. Maybe with a stick). Feeling under-appreciated, Jericho left WCW for the WWF, where he could be under-appreciated for more money. Jericho had a very memorable introduction, with a countdown clock which expired in the middle of an in-ring promo by The Rock, leading to a sparkling verbal confrontation between the two.
During his time in WWF/WWE, Jericho provided many more oral highlights, and also performed inside the ring too. He lost to HHH lots and lots of times, but managed to win the Intercontinental Title a record seven times, as well as the European Title; Hardcore Title; Tag Team Titles; and in December 2001 he won both the WWF and WCW titles, unifying them into the Undisputed World Title. Jericho is the only man to hold those five particular WWF/E titles. He lost the World Title to HHH at WrestleMania X8, and was demoted to the upper mid card where he was a man to beat rather than the man to beat. Jericho made the most of the limited opportunities he was given, often shining on the biggest of stages, such as his WrestleMania matches with Christian and Shawn Michaels, and in the inaugural Money in the Bank multi-person ladder match. His most recent actions in wrestling were to carry John Cena to two good matches, before moving on to pursue his other goals in life, specifically an acting career. Jericho has most recently appeared in a well received stage play in his native Canada.
Chris Jericho is on the ballot for the actual Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame this year (as he was last year), but it seems highly unlikely that he will be voted in. Upon examination his career, Jericho has not demonstrated much of a drawing power, he has not had a sustained run on top of a promotion, and he has never been the most consistent of workers. What he has been is one of the best in ring performers; one of the best talkers; one of the best storytellers; and one of the most consistently popular wrestlers of the last decade. Also, unlike many wrestlers he has been smart enough to save his money, and he is a damn fine purveyor of beards.
In any Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Ken Shamrock would be in without much question. Ignore the recent showings of a man who has needed the referee to stop him from having his head turned into mashed potato, Shamrock helped to revolutionise the industry, and also proved that Royce Gracie was not invincible. But enough about that real fighting nonsense, because Shamrock also found success at pretend fighting. He had previously trained in pro-wrestling, but it was on the back of his MMA successes that Shamrock got a $1million per year contract with the WWF in early 1997. One of his first duties was to play a part in one of the most famous wrestling matches of all time - one to be found at the top of many people's all-time favourites list - the WrestleMania 13 match between Steve Austin and Bret Hart, where Shamrock acted as the special guest referee.
Ken Shamrock was never the best in-ring performer, but he was more than adequate, and far better than most who have tried both real and worked combat. Perhaps the most well received match he worked in was the Survivor Series match in 1997 featuring himself, Austin, the LOD and Goldust against the Hart Foundation. Being amongst such compnay means that it would be impossible to give any of the credit to Shamrock, but he was involved in singles PPV matches with Vader; Shawn Michaels; The Rock; Mankind; and HHH that were all given three stars or more by Dave Meltzer. The match of his that I remember most fondly was a ladder match against Rock over the Intercontinental Title, but perhaps his most memorable feud was with the late Owen Hart, which resulted in two more quality matches: one inside the Hart family dungeon, and one at Shamrock's 'Lion's Den'.
Character wise, Shamrock was at his best when just playing 'The World's Most Dangerous Man' and movements into more sports entertainment style storylines didn't bring forth much success for him. He joined Vince McMahon's corporation as it feuded with the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness, then briefly formed The Union with Big Show, Mankind and Test after the Corporate Ministry had been formed. There was also some nonsense with his storyline sister (and real-life girlfriend) Ryan. Shamrock's stay with the WWF didn't last the three years of his original contract, as he went back to the world of MMA. He returned to wrestling in 2002, in the formative days of NWA:TNA, and as a recognisable and legitimate figure he became NWA world champ on their first weekly PPV, losing the title to Ron Killings six weeks later.
As well as the NWA world title, Ken Shamrock held the WWF Intercontinental and Tag Team titles, and won the King of the Ring in 1998, not a bad record for a man with pro wrestling as his second occupation. Additional to being one of the most successful and most important shoot-fighters of all time, Ken Shamrock was also a reasonably good part-time professional wrestler, and he deserves recognition for his accomplishments.
Born Shirley Crabtree in 1930, Big Daddy first learned to fight as a child, as his name was 'Shirley Crabtree'.
Shirley started wrestling at the age of 22, and, despite actually retiring for over a decade, he was tempted to return as wrestling's popularity rose in Britain due to its position on the weekly World of Sport show on ITV in the UK. Shirley's brother Max (not short for Maxine, by the way) was the prominent promoter at the time, so it was easy for Shirley to get back into the ring. The newly christened Big Daddy, with his extravagant outfits and a rare musical entrance to the tune of 'We Shall Not Be Moved' quickly became the biggest national star of the business.
Big Daddy was a frankly awful wrestler, and due to his size was extremely limited in the ring. He would throw people around, bump them with his gut and finish them with his big splash. It took a talented wrestler to bump their way to having a good match with him. His best matches would come in tag bouts which would involve the likes of the Dynamite Kid as his partner: the smaller star would wrestle the match, before Daddy would come in and get the win for his team using his gut. I recently had the pleasure of seeing a match between Big Daddy and another British behemoth Giant Haystacks (possibly the most famous feud in British wrestling history). The match was incredibly short and Daddy just bumped Haystacks over the top rope where he got counted out. By all accounts it was a terrible example of a wrestling match, but the live crowd were absolutely loving it.
As its most popular star, the non-inclusion of Big Daddy in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame is basically the argument for the relevance and importance of the British wrestling scene. The British market trails well behind the big three of US and Canada, Mexico and Japan, and so Big Daddy being its biggest ever star and a cultural icon in the country seemingly doesn't mean enough (Dynamite Kid is included in the WONHOF, but the vast majority of his career was spent outside of Europe, and it is for those accomplishments that he received the honour). I could go on about the merits of British wrestlers and the case for their inclusion for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, but I shan't, because this is not about the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, this is about the Not the 'Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame' Hall of Fame.
Big Daddy has seeped into the culture of Britain: his name would still be the most recognisable name to British non-wrestling fans, and in his prime both Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher were said to be fans. The chants of 'Easy!' that would greet Big Daddy as he dismantled his opponents has been repopularised, and can once again be heard at sporting events around the country, even at wrestling shows. Shirley Crabtree was a true giant of the business (that's right, I said it), and a man who really put the entertainment into sports entertainment.
Shirley Crabtree died in 1997.
Dave Meltzer started writing about wrestling at the age of ten, and in 1982 he started the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Before Vince McMahon Jr. destroyed them, Meltzer would report the news and results from different territories, news which would often be hard for fans to find. Since the advent of the Internet the Observer has been more about the inside news and exclusive stories than simple results. Many subscribers read the Observer for Meltzer's opinions on matches from around the world - if Big Dave recommends a match, people seek it out and watch it - and this is part of the reason why Dave Meltzer is one of the most powerful men in the wrestling industry.
It's not just wrestling fans who read the Observer. Subscribers range from indy wrestlers to some of the biggest stars of the industry, and various people have noted seeing a copy of the Observer on the desk of Vince McMahon. Meltzer and McMahon used to have working relationship, but that ended with Meltzer's reporting on the infamous Zahorian steroid trial, a time that brought Meltzer to national attention as his insight into the machinations of the industry made him a regular guest for TV interviews and in news columns. This relationship with the media has continued to this day, with Meltzer being called upon when sports entertainment stories have entered the mainstream news.
The Observer newsletter has spawned a weekly radio show, co-hosted by some bloke named Bryan Alvarez, and two 'Tributes' books, compiling obituaries from previous newsletters. These obituary editions of the newsletter are amongst the most well-received and most popular issues. The Observer also covers MMA, the coverage of which has increased with the growth of the Japanese fighting scene and the UFC and other promotions in the USA. Meltzer is also a fan of Roller Derby, ocassionally covering this in the newsletter, with his recent obituary following the death of Ann Calvello being one of his best-selling issues of all time.
Another Dave Meltzer accomplishment is the creation of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. The WONHOF was created in 1996, with an initial list chosen by Meltzer himself, and every year since then has seen a ballot of numerous wrestling insiders, with those wrestlers getting enough approval being admitted to the list. Consideration for the ballot is based on criteria such as longevity; drawing power; legacy; and, of course, actual wrestling ability. As with anything of this nature, there can be controversy: there will always be those that aren't accepted to the Hall who some people believe should be, and vice versa. But still, the WONHOF is the most complete list of those who have seen real success in the industry, and is a veritable 'Who's Who' of wrestling. Dave Meltzer has refused all calls to put his own name on the ballot, but he can be recognised here, as he deserves to be.
For the most in-depth and detailed news and analysis on pro-wrestling and MMA, always turn to the Figure Four Weekly newsletter and Figure Four Daily radio show! Become a member of F4Wonline.com and get the absolute latest insider news and commentary from WWE, TNA, UFC, PRIDE, ROH, K-1, all the independents, Japan, Mexico and so much more, all for as little as $1.20 per week. Members get complete newsletter, radio show (Figure Four Daily, Bryan & Vinny, and Adam & Mike), Mike Coughlin, Keith Lipinski and Derek Burgan Archives, plus the brand new VINNY'S BLOG~! and complete access to our news, interview and TV/DVD archives dating back to 2005. For your convenience, we offer secure online payments using your VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover card or PayPal account. Don't miss out on the fun, sign up now!
Want full access within one minute? QUICK AND EASY $6.95 PAYPAL SIGN-UP!