Despite not having a televised ceremony or a fancy building to hold it in, Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame is the most credible one in the industry, as the inductees aren’t chosen by one man’s whims, but are elected by a combination of over 200 active and retired wrestlers, historians and reporters. Gaining induction into the Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed upon a wrestler. The main criteria are in-ring ability, drawing power and historical significance, though voters are left to judge for themselves which of these are the most important.
For someone to be voted into the Hall of Fame, he or she must get 60% of the votes from their respective region. Regions are split into North America (modern and historical), Mexico, Japan, Europe and a combined Australia/New Zealand/Puerto Rico/Hawaii region. Major wrestlers and wrestling personalities (managers, announcers, promoters and bookers) become eligible when they have either turned 35 and had at least ten years since the start of their career, or passed the 15 year mark of their career.
To give an idea of how difficult it is make it, Sting, one of the biggest stars of the 90s, and Jesse Ventura, a household name who was governor of Minnesota, are still not in. The thing about the 60% threshold is that while there are undoubtedly deserving candidates who may struggle making it, or even never make it, it’s virtually impossible for someone who isn’t deserving to not be voted in.
The annual Hall of Fame issue is something I look forward to every year as a fan of professional wrestling history.
The results came out last Wednesday and surprisingly in his first year on the ballot Takashi Matsunaga was elected after receiving 74% of the vote. He joins a select group of first-ballot inductees that include: Steve Austin (2000), Kenta Kobashi (2002), Kurt Angle (2004), Kazushi Sakuraba (2004), Rock (2007) and John Cena (2012).
Matsunaga was the most successful promoter of women’s pro wrestling as part of the family that ran the All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling promotion during its big runs from the mid-70s into the mid-90s. During the 80s and early 90s, All Japan Women had some of the fastest paced, most action packed matches with some of the hottest crowds in wrestling history.
Also elected this year was Dr. Wagner Sr., one of Mexico’s biggest stars and best tag team performers of the 60s and 70s; Atlantis, a consistent headliner and great performer for over 30 years in CMLL; Kensuke Sasaki, one of the biggest stars of the 90s heyday of New Japan Pro Wrestling and current NJPW ace Hiroshi Tanahashi. Henri DeGlane, the biggest wrestling star in the history of France, was added as an overlooked historical figure from the pre-1950s era.
Tanahashi’s induction is noteworthy because he is the key figure responsible for NJPW’s business turnaround of the last few years. They went from being a struggling promotion not all that long ago to reclaiming their status as the #2 wrestling company in the world behind WWE. Not only is Tanahashi the biggest active star in the Japanese wrestling industry, but he’s arguably (more like inarguably) the best all-around wrestler on the planet today. When it comes to the traditional metrics of what constitutes a Hall of Fame caliber wrestler, Tanahashi more than lives up to the standard.
How did other modern major candidates fare? Carlos Colon, the biggest star in the history of Puerto Rico came just one vote shy at 59% and the Rock & Roll Express, the most influential babyface tag team of the last three decades finished with 55%. Current WWE star and former UFC champion Brock Lesnar garnered 47% of the vote. My gut tells me that each of these acts have a strong chance of making the cut next year. Added to the ballot next year will be Junkyard Dog, Minoru Suzuki, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama and C.M. Punk. It will be most interesting to see how Punk fares since he has been WWE’s second biggest star next to Cena for the last few years. He’s also been one of the best overall workers in the business for most of the last decade. Even if they don’t go in right away I feel both Punk and Lesnar will go in at some point.
Well, I hope you all have enjoyed my look at this year’s Hall of Fame class. What do you all think? Drop a line in the comments section and let the discussion begin!
For further reading on the 2013 Hall of Fame balloting, I’ve provided links to the following articles:
We Talk Wrestling Blog’s Picks for the 2013 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame
Rasslin’ Riot’s Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Picks for 2013
A look at Mark Madden’s 2013 Hall of Fame ballot
A complete listing of HOF inductees dating back to its inception in 1996