2022 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Ballot Review Part 3 (Historical)
Seen by many as the toughest part of the Observer Hall of Fame ballot to predict and also negotiate, a lot of feedback from voters on twitter will see that research is often needed to see if wrestlers from the Historical category are worthy of their vote. Voices of Wrestling is a good site to look at regarding people in the wrestling media advocating for someone to be voted in with @WONHOFTracker a good source for information on articles including writers making their cases for wrestlers to be voted in
Below I have made cases for some interesting cases in the Historical Category on the HOF Ballot
Rocky Johnson (Last Year- 20%)
Most famous in 2022 for being the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rocky’s career while without a World Title is famous for the impact he made in the multiple territories he worked. In Los Angeles, he was the top babyface and had a high-drawing feud with Freddie Blassie, one of the most effective heels in wrestling in the 1960’s. San Francisco would see Rocky headline at the Cow Palace multiple times. Rocky is one of the highest drawing rivals of Jerry Lawler in Memphis where he was portrayed as a Top Ten heavyweight boxer in the world in a boxer vs wrestler feud (Boxrec wasn’t a thing then I guess) His time in Houston would see Rocky face NWA Worlds Champion Terry Funk for the title on the undercard of Ali vs Inoki on the USA broadcast which visited various arenas throughout the country during the night. It would be his time in the North-east and WWF which Rocky is most famous for though. Rocky and his Soul Train partner Tony Atlas would become the first black wrestlers to win a title in the WWF and a case for how big that moment would be when appearing on the Graham Norton Show with Snoop Dogg, Dwayne Johnson would mention his dad and Tony Atlas’ tag title win, Snoop “marked out”. That’s what Rocky meant to African Americans of a certain age. Rocky Johnson was Superman to black kids of that time. That time in New York was the end of one the great travelling careers of the territorial days of wrestling and if I had a vote for the HOF, Rocky joins his son in the HOF.
Enrique Torres (Last year- 52%)
Enrique Torres is someone whose case is maybe diminished by only having two of his matches in circulation that can be watched but reading up on Enrique and his case is strong for the HOF.
His feud with Lou Thesz during Thesz’s time as NWA Worlds Champion saw regular sell-outs. He was to Thesz what Okada is to Tanahashi, Edge was to Cena, what Kawada was to Misawa. While Torres wasn’t the guy to dethrone Thesz, he would hold multiple titles in the territories he visited within the state of California, LA and San Francisco primarily, Texas, Georgia and Hawaii being his best-selling stays, selling out arenas on a regular basis.
Enrique Torres like Sgt. Slaughter and Rocky Johnson is needing north of 50% of the vote to stay on the ballot having been on the ballot for 15+ years and like Slaughter, being on the cliff edge might give voters an incentive to vote for Enrique and get him into the Hall of Fame
Johnny Rougeau (Last Year (47%)
The king of Quebec, Johnny Rougeau during the late 60’s was one of the best draws in wrestling. Johnny’s feud with Ivan Koloff sold out the Forum in Montreal several times. He and Abdulluh the Butcher would also sell 17,000 tickets for the arena on February 17th, 1969. Rougeau was responsible for the highest drawing gate in North America in 1968 and 1969 and drew seven 10,000+ crowds in 1969 in the Montreal area with only New York bettering that in a particular year in the 60s. In all, Johnny Rougeau was the main attraction for shows that drew 10,000+ in Quebec alone on 20 occasions. His run in the 60s helped start a golden period in Montreal that carried over to the early 70s past his sudden retirement in 1971 and again in 1973 after a brief comeback.
Johnny was to Montreal and Quebec what the Von Erichs were to Dallas and Jerry Lawler was to Memphis. To quote Pat Laprade, the historian “If that’s not enough to be in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame I don’t know what is”
Ole Anderson (Last year- 45%)
Ole Anderson is the third highest vote gathering from the historical section on the ballot last year that wasn't inducted which when you look at his whole body of work is maybe a surprise.
While Ole was involved in some of the most memorable angles from the 80s from the heel turn on Dusty in Georgia, the formation of the Horseman and Ole’s departure from said group but his negatives outweigh his positives. Georgia’s collapse in 1984 was in the main due to “Black Saturday” but Ole’s booking was causing Georgia to trend down after the departure of Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff and others and when YouTube video essayist Joseph Monticello talks of WCW in his review of 1990 being “good until it wasn't”, the wasn't was because of Ole. The Black Scorpion, Horseman vs Doom, that Pat O’Connor tournament at Starrcade 1990. That was Ole and his awful booking.
Ole’s high number is probably a result of the fondness of the era from voters but when scrutinised Ole was in the bottom percentiles of the bookers of that era and shouldn't be in the HOF.
June Byers (Last year- 32%)
There was a time when women’s wrestling was just a big of a draw as the men were. It was also the time when controversy would dominate. The story of Byers vs Mildred Burke in 1954 would make a good movie (Sisterhood of the Squared Circle by Pat Laparde involves the story and it's a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of women's wrestling).
After June Byers disputed victory against Mildred Burke in what was supposed to be a passing of the torch moment but wasn't, Byers would be the face of women's wrestling while travelling around the country as NWA Women's Champion. Byer's athleticism and technical skills would lead people to say that she was the greatest woman of all time at the time even if her reputation of being too physical in the ring was lived up to on more than one occasion with matches often making Athena vs Jody Threat look like the opening minute of an Orange Cassidy match.
Byers would be seen with her faults and all as the last great women's wrestler before The Fabulous Moolah come into wrestling and ruined women's wrestling with her out of the ring awfulness and her wretched wrestling in-ring and if Mildred Burke is in and Moolah can get north of 50% at points, June Byers is a shout for the HOF
Bob Armstrong (Last year- 21%)
The father of the Armstrong brothers, Bob was the prototype of the southern States babyface. If you were to compile a Rushmore of babyface authority figures, Bob is the George Washington of that monument from his time in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and if this was a Southern Wrasslin’ Hall of Fame, Bullet Bob is a first ballot inclusion, but it isn't and due to a lack of national resume, Bob’s post-death bounce from last year looks unlikely to get in and it would be a massive shock if he ever did get voted in and would be more likely to finish under 10%.
Sputnik Monroe (Last year- 31%)
When it comes to his in-ring work, Sputnik would probably never make it to the ballot, but Monroe is famous for one thing.
Monroe was popular with black fans in the sixties when wrestling in the southern states after an incident when he picked up a black hitchhiker and transported him to the arena he was due to watch him wrestle in, leading Sputnik to be booed by fans queuing to arrive that night to which Sputnik responded by putting his arm round the hiker and kissing him on the cheek, to which the locals living in Alabama in 1957 would react how you would think they would react. Sputnik is the greatest hindsight babyface in wrestling history.
In the 60's, when in Memphis, Monroe, having become the biggest wrestling draw in the territory, soon refused to wrestle unless patrons, regardless of their race, were allowed to sit in any seat at the Ellis Auditorium. As a result, the promoter desegregated his wrestling shows, which then completely sold out with Monroe's black fans, in some cases over 10,000 at a time, filling the auditorium. Soon, other Southern sporting events, recognizing the enormous financial benefits, began to desegregate as well.
When you think of pioneers on the HOF ballot, Sputnik is the prototype for that. Sputnik is one of the most important people in the civil rights movement in America. That means more than any star rating, right?