Do you watch “real” sports like (American) football, baseball, basketball, and so on?
My focus right now, for the sake of this column, is the Baseball Hall Of Fame and the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. They’re the two biggest sporting Halls in North American sports, and for good reason.
Through the years, there have been certain criteria that a player in those sports needed to reach before a guaranteed Hall Of Fame induction would take place. An NFL Quarterback needed to throw a certain amount of touchdown passes in his career, an MLB position player needed to hit a certain amount of home runs in his career, and so on. There are always exceptions to whatever “rules” are in place, but it was generally pretty much set in stone. As time went on, the sports would change, and those benchmarks needed to be altered a bit. For example, Johnny Unitas is one of the greatest Quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. The Pro Football Hall Of Fame opened its doors to him in 1979, and he retired after throwing for a total of 290 touchdowns during his 17-year career. At the time, that was considered a lot of touchdown passes. In this day and age, with the game evolving and the way its played being vastly different, 290 touchdown passes in a career would barely be noteworthy. Tom Brady is the current all-time touchdown pass leader in NFL history, and he sits at 649. I’m not sure if you’re good at math or not, but if you doubled the amount of touchdowns that Johnny Unitas threw in his career, you would still need 69 touchdowns to reach Tom Brady’s mark. Patrick Mahomes is someone that has entered the league and is on pace to break pretty much every passing record in league history if he continues playing the way he has. Mahomes has thrown for 192 touchdowns in five seasons.
In the world of baseball, the tests of time have changed the game, as well, but in a lot of ways, it has changed things in a different direction than football has gone. Offense has changed a lot because of the steroid scandals that the sport suffered through. Barry Bonds holds the all-time single-season home run record with 73, set in 2001. Since 2001, a player has only led the league with 50+ home runs nine times, and only led the league with 60+ home runs once. Ironically enough, that 60+ home run season came this past year, when Aaron Judge led baseball with 62. When it comes to career numbers, 300 home runs used to be considered the mark that would guarantee you a spot in the Hall. Then it was 400 home runs, and then it was 500 home runs. Now, you need 500 home runs, but you also need to have general public speculation that you hit those 500 home runs cleanly and without the assistance of steroids or any sort of performance-enhancing drugs. Of the 28 men in MLB history to hit 500+ home runs in their career, only nine of them are not currently members of the Pro Baseball Hall Of Fame. Two of them (Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera) were active players this past season. The other seven (Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield) are all being held out because they’ve all been tied, in one way or another, to steroids and other performance enhancers.
I bring all of these numbers and statistics up for one reason, and one reason only, folks.
The WWE Hall Of Fame isn’t anywhere near the standards of those sports when it comes to who goes in and who doesn’t. Other sports are certainly far from perfect when it comes to voting and selecting who gets inducted into their Halls Of Fame. Personally, I’m of the thinking that you should be in the Pro Baseball Hall Of Fame if you hit 500 home runs, even if your testicles have completely retracted into your body because of the amount of shit you’ve injected into every possible vein in your body. The point is that there are still rules and regulations. There are still things that a player must do and accomplish before they’re even considered for a spot in the Hall. The WWE Hall Of Fame doesn’t have those things at all. In previous years, it was all up to Vince McMahon. If he felt you belonged in there, you were in there, and if he didn’t, you weren’t.
That’s an incredibly important thing to bring up whenever the WWE Hall Of Fame is discussed, because every time… every single time… it gets brought up, people are quick to bring up that so-and-so doesn’t “deserve” to be in the Hall. None of that matters, folks. It doesn’t matter that Wrestler A was never a World Champion. The fact that Wrestler B didn’t ever reach the main event is irrelevant. It doesn’t even matter if a wrestler has ever worked for WWE or not, even though… you know… it’s the WWE Hall Of Fame, not the Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business here. With the Royal Rumble only a few short weeks away, we’re officially on the Road To WrestleMania. This is generally the time of year when we first start hearing about the WWE Hall Of Fame, with the year’s first inductee getting revealed to the world.
Who do I think is being inducted this year? Also, who do I think should be inducted this year?
I’m glad you asked.
The first name I want to talk about is someone I know a lot of people are saying should be inducted this year. With The Bloodline holding down the top of the WWE scene, there has been so much talk about their family, both of the current generation, as well as the previous ones. The Anoa’i family tree is legendary in the wrestling business. “High Chief” Peter Maivia? WWE Hall Of Famer, Class of 2008. The Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika? WWE Hall Of Famers, Class of 2007. “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson? WWE Hall Of Famer, Class of 2008. Rikishi? WWE Hall Of Famer, Class of 2015. Yokozuna? WWE Hall Of Famer, Class of 2012. We know that Roman Reigns and The Usos are going to be in the Hall when all is said and done. How about we have the Class of 2023 headlined by yet another member of the family? That’s right. How about The Rock himself? This can work out for WWE in multiple ways. One, having him in the Hall makes sense, as he’s one of the biggest stars the wrestling business has ever created, and anything he does or participates in will get endless promotion, both in wrestling and mainstream media, especially with the Hollywood connection that will be there with Mania being in Los Angeles this year. Two, it’s an easy way to give us Roman Reigns vs The Rock at WrestleMania. I’ve seen a lot of people suggest Rock should enter the Royal Rumble this year and win it, letting him go to Mania and face Roman, but I don’t think that makes a ton of sense. Personally, what works for me is Rock getting named as the headliner for this year’s Hall class, which means he gets plenty of attention. As I said, it will be all over every type of media you can think of, but it will also be mentioned on WWE programming approximately 87 million times between the announcement and the Hall Of Fame ceremony itself. Rock will be talked about as the biggest star in wrestling history, and in typical WWE fashion, he will be mentioned as one of the greatest champions of all-time. Do you know who will probably hate every second of that? Roman Reigns. He’s not going to appreciate playing the background while Rock gets all this praise. That will lead to Roman talking shit about Rock again and again, which will eventually bring Rock back to WWE programming to confront him. Boom. Let them work their magic in a promo segment, and we have one of our WrestleMania main events taken care of. If you’re wondering about what the Royal Rumble winner will do, some of that may have already been floated out there. We’ve seen rumors that the Rumble winner could challenge Roman on night one of WrestleMania, with the following night seeing Roman and Rock squaring off. There are also rumors that Raw will somehow end up with a brand new World Title, and that would end up being the direction that the Rumble winner goes, especially if Rock has already taken the “spot” against Roman. There are definitely multiple options available to use here. WWE could also go an “easier” route and simply have Rock show up on the “Raw Is XXX” (lol) episode of Raw, as The Usos have said “every generation of The Bloodline” will be appearing on the show. We’ll see.
If, for one reason or another, Rock isn’t going to return, it makes a ton of sense to have this year’s Hall Of Fame class headlined by Batista. While it might not be as much “fun” with Big Dave, without the in-ring return that we might get with The Rock, he is more than worthy of being the top name going in this year, and the Hollywood aspect makes a ton of sense for him, too. We already know it’s happening at some point. If you remember, Batista was supposed to get inducted in 2020, but COVID postponed the Hall Of Fame ceremony that year. WWE said that the 2020 group would be inducted in 2021 alongside that year’s group, but when the announcement was made, Batista’s name was removed because he had previous obligations that would not allow him to attend the ceremony. Batista himself has said the company granted his request to be inducted at a future ceremony, so it could be happening here.
Since we’re already talking about the Anoa’i family, why don’t we just stick with them for our next inductee? Solo Sikoa has been paying tribute to his Uncle Eddie for a while now, walking like him, acting like him, and even wrestling like him, all the way down to using the Samoan Spike in his arsenal. We’ve seen multiple WWE-produced documentaries that have shown the close relationship that Roman Reigns and The Usos had with their Uncle growing up, and that extends to Solo, as well. With all the mentions, let’s go ahead and put Umaga in the Hall this year. Here’s where the intro to this column comes back up again. Umaga has two reigns as the Intercontinental Champion, but nothing beyond that. Because of it, I’ve seen some people say he “doesn’t belong” in the Hall Of Fame. To the people who say that, I have one question to ask… is this your first time hearing about the WWE Hall Of Fame? In 2019, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake was inducted, and he only won one title with the company, and that was a reign as one-half (with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine) of the WWF Tag Team Champions. The year before that, Hillbilly Jim was inducted with a grand total of zero titles won. In 2009, Koko B. Ware was inducted with zero titles won with the company. That’s not even counting the inductees who didn’t win anything in WWE because they either didn’t wrestle for the company at all, or only wrestled a handful of matches there. It’s not strictly about titles won. Umaga was one of the most athletically gifted “big man” wrestlers of all-time. He is also directly responsible for getting Jimmy and Jey Uso into the wrestling business, as he opened the door for them and got them to start their training back when they were stuck and miserable at a job installing office furniture. The induction speech that those two could deliver for their Uncle would be worth putting him in the Hall Of Fame all by itself.
The second it was announced that William Regal was returning to WWE, people immediately began jumping to conclusions that he was going to be Hall Of Fame bound this year, with some even speculating that it was part of the talks between Regal, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon when they were discussing Regal’s return to the company. We would then get word that part of the deal that would see AEW let Regal walk away was that he wouldn’t be able to appear on-screen on WWE programming for a year. Unless Tony Khan is going to make an extra special exception to allow Regal to be inducted, that means we won’t be seeing the man go in this year. There’s no doubt that Regal will go in, perhaps as soon as next year, but it probably isn’t happening in 2023.
What about the women of WWE? I think there are two obvious choices here. One of them might take a bit of extra work to bring in due to contractual hurdles standing in the way, but she would be the clear cut top choice. That pick, in case you couldn’t figure it out, is Mickie James. In WWE, she is a five-time (five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time) WWE Women’s Champion and a one-time WWE Divas Champion, which makes her one of the most successful women in the history of the company. Of course, the hold up is that she is currently contracted to Impact Wrestling and is the brand new Impact Knockouts Champion. In most other situations, that would be the automatic removal of this idea from taking place. This isn’t a normal situation, though. At this time last year, she was under contract to Impact, and what happened? She was announced as an entrant in the women’s Royal Rumble, and was referred to as the Impact Knockouts World Champion, even wearing the title belt during her entrance at the Rumble. Could it happen again? It sure could.
If Mickie isn’t able to be inducted, or if WWE wants to go in a different direction, Michelle McCool is someone that needs to be inducted. I know she has her detractors, and those people feel she was only pushed because she was dating The Undertaker at the time. Just for the sake of the argument, let’s say that is 100% true and let’s say that The Undertaker himself went to Vince McMahon and told him to push his girlfriend to the top of the women’s division. Okay… so? She still won the Women’s Title twice and the Divas Title twice. There aren’t a lot of women in company history that won more titles than that. We’re not talking about MMA here. Someone, somewhere, makes a decision to push a wrestler, and then that wrestler gets pushed. Even if Taker is actively campaigning for his girlfriend to win titles, it’s still… someone, somewhere, making a decision to push a wrestler, and that wrestler gets pushed. Because of the hate that people have about her romantic relationship possibly guiding her in-ring career, they tend to overlook the fact that she was always pretty solid in the ring, and she got better with time. It is well documented that she was training hard behind the scenes, constantly seeking out help and asking questions to the veterans backstage, and that is a big part of what made Taker notice her in the first place. Whether you like her or not, she deserves to be in the WWE Hall Of Fame.
Let’s take a look at how the group is turning out so far…
– Headliner: The Rock (Alternate Option: Batista)
– Mickie James (Alternate Option: Michelle McCool)
Let’s continue, shall we?
The next name I want to mention is someone that I haven’t seen a bunch of speculation on, but it’s someone I feel is more than worthy of going in. If there’s any issue here, it’s that this person is still a semi-active wrestler and, at only 43 years old, could realistically continue wrestling for several more years if he wanted to. Not that being retired is a pre-requisite for the WWE Hall Of Fame, but my point remains. Folks, I want to see John Morrison get inducted. For some people, that might seem a little strange, but his career in WWE alone speaks for itself. He’s a one-time ECW Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion, four-time WWE Tag Team Champion (three times with Joey Mercury and once with The Miz), one-time World Tag Team Champion (with The Miz), and was a co-winner (with the late Matt Cappotelli) of the third season of Tough Enough. That’s pretty successful, even if the way his character was booked was often terrible, especially because Vince McMahon is a complete fraud that wouldn’t know funny if it hit him in the dick with a football. As an added bonus, Morrison is a Los Angeles guy through and through, born there and still having a home there with his wife, Taya Valkyrie. You know how WWE likes to induct people that can have some sort of connection to that year’s WrestleMania host city, whether it be their birth place, where they broke into the business, or what have you. This just makes sense to me. If anything, Morrison should be inducted as an apology from the company for the bullshit they booked him to do during his last run with the company. As I’ve said a million times, nobody has benefitted in any way from working with The Miz in years. Miz got his stink all over Morrison, and the man deserves better than that.
The updated group is…
– Headliner: The Rock (Alternate Option: Batista)
– Mickie James (Alternate Option: Michelle McCool)
– John Morrison
When it comes to the Warrior Award, there has been a lot of weird inconsistencies that we’ve seen. Initially, Warrior’s pitch was for the award to be called the Jimmy Miranda Award, named after a man who worked in the company’s merchandise department for over 20 years before passing away in 2002, and should be given to WWE employees that work behind-the-scenes and don’t get the public credit and recognition they deserve. When WWE announced the award, they said it would be given to those who have “exhibited unwavering strength and perseverance, and who live life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior.” The company has also said that the award would be “given annually to acknowledge other unsung heroes among WWE’s employees and fans.” We’ve seen people on both sides of that fence win the Warrior Award through the years. Connor “The Crusher” Michalek was the first winner, and he was followed by famous journalist and television host, Joan Lunden, former football player, Eric LeGrand, and Jarrius “JJ” Robertson. None of those names were employed by WWE, but they all had inspiring stories because of the personal battles that they’ve had to fight in their lives. The last four recipients of the award have been WWE employees, either past or present. It started in 2019, when the company’s Senior Director Of Talent Relations, Sue Aitchison, was given the award. The following year, it went to Titus O’Neil. In 2021, WWE’s Senior Vice President Of Government Relations & Risk Management, Rich Hering, was the award winner. Last year, the late Shad Gaspard was the recipient of the award.
Personally, I’m of the thinking that the award should either go to someone WWE has employed at one time or another, or to someone from outside the world of professional wrestling that is notorious for being a fan of the sport. I have no idea if this person is a fan of WWE, or of wrestling at all, but don’t be surprised if WWE capitalizes on a story that would get them a lot of mainstream media coverage and attention by giving this year’s Warrior Award to Damar Hamlin. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, Hamlin is a Safety for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills that recently suffered cardiac arrest during a game on live television and required CPR and use of a defibrillator on the field before being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. His health became the biggest news story on the planet as the NFL would postpone the game. He spent a week at the University Of Cincinnati Medical Center before being transferred to the Buffalo General Medical Center after showing tremendous improvement in his condition, and would be discharged two days later to continue his rehabilitation from home. The man went from moments away from dying in front of an audience of millions to being able to go home in less than ten days. That sounds like “unwavering strength and perseverance” to me.
I’m not saying that Damar Hamlin should or shouldn’t be given the Warrior Award this year, nor am I saying that I’ve heard anything that would even remotely come close to leading me to believe it could happen. All I’m saying is that it’s a move right up WWE’s alley, and something that would bring them a ton of attention from media outlets everywhere. With the addition of Hamlin, here’s the updated group I have…
– Headliner: The Rock (Alternate Option: Batista)
– Mickie James (Alternate Option: Michelle McCool)
– John Morrison
– Warrior Award: Damar Hamlin
This would equal the size of last year’s Hall Of Fame class, with four inductees and a Warrior Award recipient. The fact that the ceremony takes place after Smackdown goes off the air means we might see the end of years like 2015, where a total of nine inductees, counting Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Celebrity Wing and Conor Michalek with the Warrior Award, went in. The fans in attendance have already sat through up to an hour of pre-Smackdown things, as well as the two-hour Smackdown episode, so there’s no need to have them sit through several more hours of a Hall Of Fame ceremony.
When I look at my final group, I think I’m going to say this is infinitely more SHOULD happen than WILL or even COULD happen, simply because of how “new school” the nominees are. The Rock technically had a match seven years ago, and could be having another one this year. Batista had a match three years ago. Umaga was wrestling until the end of 2009. Mickie James is the current Impact Knockouts Champion. Michelle McCool was an entrant in last year’s Royal Rumble match, and could very well be an entrant again this year. John Morrison is still an active in-ring competitor. I don’t have any “this guy wrestled in the 50’s, retired in the 60’s, and passed away in the 70’s” nominees like you often see in the Hall Of Fame classes. Could it happen? Yes, and it would only be the 1,945,824th most shocking thing that we’ve seen in the wrestling world over the last few years if it did.
Before I head out of here, my weekly column will be switching days at some point soon. When will it change? I don’t know yet. What day will it move to? I don’t know yet. As you may have seen, Ris Laiman is back on the site and posting post-Dynamite and post-Rampage columns. My weekly columns aren’t time sensitive, so they don’t need to be posted on Wednesday afternoons, while those post-Dynamite columns are clearly time-sensitive. That just means I can move to another day without any issue. I’ll figure it out. I just wanted to let everyone know changes are on their way.
Your turn, though, folks. Who do you want to see enter the WWE Hall Of Fame this year? On top of that, who do you think will enter the WWE Hall Of Fame this year? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
“Hangman” Adam Page vs Jon Moxley: We see it a lot on AEW programming, but this was another pay-per-view quality match on the company’s television show. I was expecting a lot less to actually happen here, figuring they would save it for down the road, but with Revolution still six weeks away, you’re almost forced to handle things this way. It’s not like the feud is completely over, either.
Bryan Danielson vs Konosuke Takeshita: So, so good. With yet another loss, though, Takeshita’s record on Dynamite and Rampage is now 1-194. Something like that, anyway. He has what it takes to be a huge star for AEW, but damn, can we get the guy some televised wins at some point? Is that asking for too much?
Gunther vs Braun Strowman: Call it a conspiracy theory, but doesn’t it seem like Braun was building the necessary momentum to dethrone Gunther until he decided to tweet about how nobody cares about the “flippy floppers” in wrestling? He lost momentum, and lost to Ricochet, as well. Sure, Braun put up quite the effort here, but he still lost. What say you? Do you think the plan, all along, was for Braun to lose to Gunther? Or do you think that plans changed because of what Braun tweeted?
Death Triangle vs The Elite: 64 consecutive weeks of matches between the teams, and 64 consecutive weeks of matches between the teams making my Power Rankings. I guess they did something right. I’m good with not seeing them face off again until 2050, though, thanks.
Adam Cole (Bay Bay): Good to see him make his return after a very serious concussion. The AEW fans still love the guy. Now we wait and see where he fits on that super loaded roster.
Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn: Another chapter added to the story of The Bloodline. At this point, there are more pages in the story than Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” but I believe we’re coming up on the end much sooner than later.
Jordynne Grace vs Mickie James: Both women really stepped up in the main event of Impact’s Hard To Kill pay-per-view. The match itself was really good, but the added drama of Mickie’s possible retirement made things even more fun. Instead of retiring just yet, Mickie is now an 11-time World Champion, making her one of the most decorated women in the history of the wrestling business.
Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor vs The Miz vs Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Lashley: The Elimination Match was good, but what hurt it just a tad was that I knew who would be winning from the start. I suppose a win for Seth Rollins was possible, but we just saw him lose to Austin Theory, so it made more sense to give the next shot to Bobby Lashley.
Cody Rhodes: He officially announced that he’s returning to the ring at the Royal Rumble. Okay, cool. Great. However, why in the entire fuck would WWE not just have his return be a “surprise” that night?!? Vince McMahon really is back, isn’t he? For years, that was one of Vince’s dumbest ideas, constantly spoiling his own product, either by things like this or revealing returns on social media in the minutes leading up to shows going on the air. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The Street Profits vs Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander: My biggest worry about a potential reformation of The Hurt Business was that Lashley would continue to be pushed like a monster, but that Shelton and Cedric would continue to look like losers. We’re not off to a good start here. They’ve lost both matches they’ve had since the reformation talk was hinted at. The last time they won a match on television was the February 28th, 2022 episode of Raw, when they beat Rey and Dominik Mysterio. If we’re just going back to Super Bob & His Loser Friends, I’d rather see Lashley continue to handle things on his own.
Ruby Soho & Willow Nightingale vs Tay Melo & Anna Jay: Every few months or so, AEW hits us with a women’s match that is a bloody, violent mess. See you all again in May! In all seriousness, though, it’s almost weird how it keeps randomly happening the way it does. I’d rather see good storylines than random women with bloody faces, but that goes for my opinions on men’s matches, too.
Alpha Academy vs The Judgment Day: A face turn for Alpha Academy? I’m all for it. The WWE Universe still wants to cheer for Otis, especially now that he has brought The Caterpillar back to his offensive arsenal. Chad Gable, on the other hand, has done really well for himself as a heel with the Alpha Academy thing, but he has a move set that is just asking for fans to pop. Consider me intrigued.
Apollo Crews & Axiom vs Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams: Every now and then, you have to be reminded that Trick Williams is an actual wrestler, and not just Carmelo Hayes’ tall homie at ringside. I’m not sure what his ceiling is as a wrestler, though. He has been doing some entertaining work on the mic, though.
Jade Cargill: When this column is posted, it will be the 378th day of Jade’s TBS Title reign. This makes her the longest-reigning champion, period, in AEW history. She just passed Hikaru Shida’s 372-day reign as the AEW Women’s Champion from May 23rd, 2020 to May 30th, 2021. Say whatever you will about Jade, but she deserves the recognition for breaking that record.
Saraya & Toni Storm vs Jamie Hayter & Britt Baker: If you really think about it, this was a booking mess from the start. Jamie Hayter, a heel, is the most over face in the match. On the other side of things, Toni Storm is in the unfortunate “Rey Mysterio in the 2014 Royal Rumble” spot, where she gets heel heat simply because she isn’t someone else. Rey got booed because fans REALLY wanted the 30th spot in that Rumble to go to Daniel Bryan. Toni got booed because fans REALLY wanted Saraya’s mystery partner to be Mercedes Moné, especially because there were multiple hints dropped that Mercedes would be the partner. The match was good, but there was a lot to dislike about the situation the women were put in.
This Week’s Playlist: “King Snipe” by Gucci Mane & Kodak Black… “Her Old Friends” by PARTYNEXTDOOR… “You Can Have It All” by Maoli… “Wake Up” by Logic & Lucy Rose… “Even When I’m Not With You” by Pierce The Veil… “EMPTY” by Orgy… “One More Flag In The Ground” by Kamelot… “Free Me” by Beyond The Black… “Thrones Of Blood” by Sullivan King… “Where I’m From” by Zulu… “Wildfire” by Periphery… “Odin’s Prayer” by Bloodbound… “Breaking Point” by Prong… “King” by All Faces Down… “Crime” by Beyond Awareness… “Back To Me” by Wandering With… “Endless Fall” by Hard Mind… “Slow Motion” by Juvenile & Soulja Slim… “Sick Of Being Lonely” by Field Mob… “No Better Love” by Young Gunz & Rell