Allow me to set the stage, if you will, to take us forward 10 years from now. It’s Wrestlemania 42 weekend and Triple H is on the stage to announce the newest members of the WWE Hall of Fame. Are you ready? “Ladies and gentlemen, the members of the WWE Hall Fame class of 2026 are…….” Who? That’s right, who. As it currently stands, there are only a few can’t miss Hall of Famers who currently work for the company. This list includes Triple H, John Cena, Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry and the recently retired Daniel Bryan. That’s really it. Everyone else is in a state of 50/50 booking from creative and unable to get significant pushes or lengthy title runs which will allow their impact on the business to be memorable.
Not every member of the WWE Hall of Fame has won the WWF/WWE Heavyweight Championship. Some of the biggest names in wrestling history never held the strap. Roddy Piper, Curt Hennig, Ted DiBiase, Paul Orndorff, Junkyard Dog, Jake Roberts and Ricky Steamboat were never the heavyweight champion for the company. The highest any of these wrestlers got was the Intercontinental Championship. They did however seal a legendary legacy due to their in ring ability and amazing personas. They also, now pay attention here WWE, won significantly more matches than they lost, and were always in the hunt for the coveted heavyweight strap, but never grasped the golden ring.
The sad thing is that there are many talents that are currently working for the company who could have amazing careers that despite not being champ, would still be considered Hall of Famers. Would any of you argue that Roddy Piper is not a Hall of Famer? The man played the main antagonist in Wrestlemania’s one and two and was a major reason why both shows sold out! People wanted to see him taken to the shed by the likes of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Yet, Roddy Piper had only one title reign in the WWF back in the day, it was as IC champion for a mere 77 days. That’s it! But it was Piper’s personality, his work ethic and the way he was booked, that allowed him to become a legend.
Piper’s 77 day IC run is actually 12 days longer than maybe one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the business, Ricky Steamboat. Yep that’s right, after his legendary Wrestlemania three bout against Randy Savage, Steamboat held the title for a mere 65 days. Like Piper, this was the only WWE gold he ever wore. Yet guys like the Honky Tonk Man, Santino Marella and Drew McIntyre have each individually held that title longer than Piper and Steamboat combined. Is Honky in the WWE HOF? Nope. Do you think Santino and Drew will have plaques in Orlando (if the place ever gets built) one day? I highly doubt it.
The current WWE roster has numerous talents who are floating around in a career of ambiguity due to 50/50 booking and inconsistent pushes by creative/writers (I cannot tell you enough how those terms destroyed the wrestling industry). If some of these wrestlers were booked (ah now that’s a term I love) properly, then they could potentially have legendary careers in the company without having gold around their wastes, shoulders, wherever the company is making them carry the title to the ring these days.
If you are just going based on in ring skill, then perfect examples of guys who are seeing prime years wasted in mediocrity are Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and Wade Barrett to name a few. All three have been victims of poor booking where their characters flip flop between heel and face, not being booked with quality opponents and when they are booked with quality opponents they are cast into 50/50 booking purgatory. These three have also been able to cross over and connect with the fan base. The pop Ziggler got when he cashed in on Del Rio with the Money In The Bank briefcase the night after Wrestlemania 29 was deafening. Bad News Barrett was delivering his weekly dose of “bad news” and was greeted by cheers and the crowd joining him in the ‘bad news” comment. Then there is Cesaro. This poor guy basically got the kiss of death when Vince made is “Brass Ring” comment on Stone Cold’s podcast. I’m just using these guys as examples, there are many other wrestlers where 80/20 or 75/25 booking rather than 50/50 booking can keep guys as stars, allows them to connect with fans and go on to have successful, even Hall of Fame careers without being multi time champions.
It becomes even worse when it comes to the development of legendary tag teams. Right now it’s the Dudley Boys and…………? How does nobody sound? There are no existing teams that will smell the HOF in the future if things continue down its current path. It’s way too early to have HOF conversations about the New Day. Also, let’s be honest you know they will eventually be broken up. If you were to ask the Midnight Express, the Rock and Roll Express, the Freebirds, the British Bulldogs and the Road Warriors, just to name a few, you can have a heck of wrestling career and make a ton of money being part of a successful tag team. You can even headline pay per view events! Unfortunately though, the tag team world was pushed so far back into oblivion that it is taking forever to revitalize and the current mind set of this generations wrestler is that they want to be singles stars. I get that everyone wants to be their own star, but sometimes, with the right teammate, you can be part of a legendary unit.
One final thing to keep in mind when it comes booking wrestlers into becoming legendary superstars is time. When looking at Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech, I couldn’t help but think of what could’ve been if he was still able to wrestle another 4-5 years. The current wrestler is taking such huge chances injury wise by doing high spot after high spot and doing irreversible damage to themselves at the independent level. Then after working the indies, they possibly go to TNA, New Japan, Lucha Underground or ROH, then they go to NXT for at least 1 or 2 years which means they aren’t reaching the WWE main roster until their mid to late 30’s, and their bodies are already starting to break down with their physical prime behind them. Let’s be honest, while I love AJ Styles and think he’s been one of the best in the world over the past decade, he’ll be lucky, if over his 3 year deal with WWE, that he will be injury free and be able to compete at a high level until 42.
Who do you think the WWE is under-utilizing at the current time that if they gave the proper push to could eventually be a WWE Hall of Famer? Keep the conversation going in the comments section below.