Welcome to Part 4 of my look at the Observer Hall of Fame Ballot with us looking this time round at the Modern US/Canada category. This category is for those who have made a big enough impact in the last 30 years to be worthy of being on the ballot and Junkyard Dog it seems, who last was in a prime position in a wrestling promotion in 1990. I don't make the rules guys.
So, let's look at the best candidates from the Modern US/Canada category and see who's worthy of a spot in the HOF
Sgt. Slaughter (Last Year- 58%)
Slaughter is one of the most interesting cases in the HOF ballot. Fans of a certain age remember Slaughter as the heel in the highly controversial Wrestlemania main event feud against Hulk Hogan in 1991 and those would scoff at the thought of the Sarge being inducted in any HOF that wasn't the WWE version but when you look at Slaughter’s career pre-1986 then Slaughter is a very good case for the Observer HOF.
Slaughter was part of the heel team with Don Kernolde that sold out the Greensboro Coliseum against Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood with stories from that night being that Greensboro was at a standstill from the traffic from cars heading to the arena to the point that Ricky Steamboat was in the traffic jam.
Slaughter was the second biggest baby face in wrestling behind Hulk Hogan in 1984. He also would be part of some of what were thought at the time as the greatest matches in wrestling history. A match against Bob Backlund in 1981 and The Iron Sheik matches with ratings of 8.64 and 8.09 respectively among the best matches from the 1980 to 1985 era of the New York territory according to Cagematch.
I have heard arguments from some including historian Karl Stern from whenitwascool.com that the Stolen Valor scandal in which Slaughter has claimed that he is a shoot-Vietnam War veteran when he isn't sours his claim but if someone who has murdered his wife and child then himself was still voted in the HOF in a reclaim ballot then someone who is not telling the truth about going to war can be inducted as much as Slaughter's claims understandably offends people.
Like excluding Mistico from the book telling the story of Lucha history would be bizarre, removing Sgt, Slaughter from the telling of the history of US wrestling in the early-1980's would be very strange.
The Steiner Brothers (Last Year- 40%)
In a world when tag teams were classed as second-class citizens compared to the World Singles Title scene in both WWE and WCW and then in the RoH and TNA era, the Steiners were the class of the field in the early 90s with their five year stretch from 1990 to 1994 one of the top runs of a tag team in modern wrestling history.
WON Awards Ranking=Points in 5 years span
25pts-1st, 18pts-2nd, 15pts-3rd, 12pts-4th etc
Young Bucks (2018-2022) 118pts
Midnight Express* (1985-1990) 101pts
RoadWarriors* (1983-1987) 85pts
Steiners (1989-1993) 77pts
Ultimo Guerrero/Bucanero (2001-2005) 75pts
*Inducted into the Observer Hall of Fame
One of the top acts in WCW in the early 90s with their work in NJPW massively underrated, their 18 months in WWE while not hitting the heights of their time south of the Mason-Dixon line, their matches with the Hart Brothers and Money Inc are in the S tier of tag matches in the New Generation Era of WWE.
In a ballot that is now chock-a-block full of tag teams (more on that in Part 5) Rick and Scott numbers tell you that of the modern candidates they are the best case to be inducted, well until the Young Bucks join the ballot next year.
Edge (Last Year- 32%)
One of the main points of discourse in the wrestling stratosphere, Edge’s candidacy has been debated by many. Seen by some as the one of the best North American wrestlers of the 00s, others look at Edge not only as the main heel of a down period of business for WWE but use the lack of upturn in business upon his return to wrestling in January 2020 as a stick to beat the Rated R Superstar with. The truth leads you to somewhere in the middle.
When it comes to work rate, Edge was a top 5 worker in WWE throughout the 00s from 2002, which was his first full year as a singles worker with 2003 the only year Edge would be missing from my WWE WOTY Top 5 due to a neck injury. In fact, Edge’s nine Top 5 placings in my WWE WOTY listings put him joint third in total with only Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels topping that number and John Cena on nine years with a Top 5 placing. Edge was on course to win WOTY for 2009 had he not suffered an injury in June which would end his year in-ring wise.
As for his ability to draw, 2006’s numbers when Edge started to feature at the top of the card were positive and the downturn from 2007 can be testified to events away from the squared circle. Numbers wise, he was John Cena's best rival at the box office and in the TV ratings.
Of any of the WWE lifer's post-buyout of WCW, Edge has the strongest case for the Observer HOF.
Randy Orton (Last Year-27%)
Edge is a good comparison when you look at Randy Orton’s credentials for the Hall of Fame.
As a draw, Orton can only claim to be an adequate attraction. There was no massive spike in business when Randy was in main events especially compared to Edge.
Orton has had 4 Top 5 placings in my WWE WOTY lists (04,07,11 and 14). For reference, Drew McIntyre is on course for a similar amount of Top 5’s if he finishes in the Top 5 for 2022 (19,20 21,22)
If you compare Randy's body of work to others from his era, you quickly see that Orton isn't an Observer Hall of Famer. Of course, The Viper will get into the WWE Hall of Famer but Koko. B.Ware is in that HOF so yeah, a reason not to acknowledge that HOF.
Paul Orndorff (Last Year- 35%)
With a death bounce last year in his re-inclusion to the ballot, Orndorff’s run as the top heel in 1986 drew insane numbers with the Big Event stadium show in Toronto drawing 61,000 with many seeing the success of that event being the factor behind WrestleMania III.
Before going to the “New York territory” Orndorff would draw in Georgia and Mid-South before heading to WWF and being part of the feud that led to him main eventing the first Wrestlemania, an event which helped change the course of wrestling as much as any. His participation in the two biggest feuds in WWF in the 80s and the numbers he drew play the ultimate factor in his candidacy and if I had a ballot, I would include Orndorff.
Junkyard Dog (Last Year- 32%)
If it was on work rate alone, JYD would not even be a subject of any debate. He was trash in the ring. 1990 Ric Flair couldn’t get a match out of him, that's how bad JYD was. But under the criteria of drawing, The Junkyard Dog makes a more than plausible candidate.
Mid-South Wrestling was one of the premier territories in American wrestling before Vince McMahon and WWF took a flamethrower to the system in the mid-80’s. The promotion would regularly pull up big attendances at the New Orleans Superdome in their prime with JYD as their biggest star. Junkyard would draw a combined number of 293,000 people at the Dome in his four years in Mid-South in feuds with Butch Reed, The Fabulous Freebirds and Ted Dibiase. Before Hulk Hogan became Hulk Hogan, JYD was arguably the No.1 babyface in American wrestling with only Dusty Rhodes and Jerry Lawler the others in the conversation.
If you say that his drawing abilities are nullified by his lack of workrate, then I present his historical significance, one of the factors of selection.
The Junkyard Dog was the first black wrestling superstar in a world where the audience was part of the first-generation post-civil rights. JYD ran so Ron SImmons, Kofi Kingston, Bobby Lashley can hold a world title. In a world where lazy stereotypes were put upon African Americans who wanted to play quarterback in the NFL and of black businessmen who wanted to be CEOs of companies, JYD showed he could be the lead star of a wrestling circuit. Junkyard meant more than star ratings and attendance numbers. JYD changed the game in professional wrestling and that's why he should be in.
Roman Reigns (Re-entrant to the ballot)
Two years ago, Reigns was included in the HOF ballot for the first time and in his freshman year would finish with less than 10% of the vote therefore being eliminated at the first time of asking. Two years later, we are presented with a very different Roman in our analysis.
The Head of The Table is on the best run of his career. No longer under the derision of fans who didn’t want the Big Dog shoved down their throats, fans are starting to acknowledge Reigns. But has the last two years made Reigns HOF worthy?
My answer in 2022 is no. While in-ring Reigns has four Top 5 placings in WWE’s WOTY list, it’s the same number as Seth Rollins and Randy Orton and Hall of Fame inductions seem unlikely for the pair. Drawing wise, it’s still too early to tell. The easy argument to make is that the stadiums that Roman would sell out when main eventing Wrestlemania was not because of the individual but because of the brand and it’s true. Wrestlemania’s in the last decade have sold tickets before we know who wins the Royal Rumble or the champion the winner would face, and we’ll never know about Roman and moving the needle when it comes to PPV buy rates thanks to the WWE Network.
But in defence of Roman, his saving grace regarding any induction is the next TV deal for WWE and especially Smackdown on FOX. If WWE gets an increase for Friday Night Smackdown, WWE will have one person and one person only to thank and that’s Roman. He’s the only prominent man at the top of the blue brand right now. Roman is the centre of attention on Friday night when he's in the building and any increase in TV rights for Smackdown in a couple of years will be because of the drawing power of Roman Reigns.
And there is an interesting question to ask about Reigns. If Reigns or even Edge can't get in, can anyone else from WWE in the modern era who didn't have a lengthy run in the other companies get in?
Becky Lynch (First Year on ballot)
Three and a half years ago, I would have told you that Becky would have been an interesting shot for being in the HOF. She was the biggest star in WWE. "The Man" caught the imagination of wrestling fans. Her upcoming coronation at WrestleMania 35 felt very Austin in 1998. But then it didn’t. Whether it was Kofi Kingston and his run to the title taking the imagination of the fanbase or the fact that the natural match that fans wanted to see against Ronda Rousey saw a massive wedge in the shape of Charlotte Flair inserted into the proceedings and the actual coronation happening at midnight in front of exhausted fans after a seven-hour event which saw Becky win the belt via a pining combination, it just ended up feeling meh.
The resulting reign was also meh. To be fair if your first feud as champion was against Lacey Evans, you would struggle to draw as well but with her partner Seth Rollins’ feud with Baron Corbin inserted into her storyline with the results proving Joey Tribbiani’s theory about relationships and on-screen chemistry to be correct, Becky’s run as champ didn’t get going until her feud with Asuka eight months into it.
Add 18 months off due to wonderful reasons for her and Seth and the mad decision on both creative and Becky’s doing to be a heel on her comeback and Becky while a star in WWE World is not the mainstream star and feminist icon she should have been. A friend of mine got into WWE because of Becky and her “The Man” persona but Becky then stopped being cool.
Did Becky become a victim of bad WWE creative? Yes, but in a world where creative heavily influences your career, Becky has gone from an interesting HOF case to probably being under 10% at the first time of asking and eliminated from the ballot and while it’s the least of Becky’s troubles in all likelihood, it’s a reflection of what could have been.
CM Punk (Last Year- 33%)
A couple of months ago the case for Punk and his inclusion was compelling. Selling the United Center out on a guesstimate that he would appear at the First Dance then All Out and Double or Nothing’s buy rates doing better than the previous year with Punk as part of the main attraction match of that night and his in-ring work being one of the best in the first 9 months of his comeback but then he had to spoil it all by doing something stupid like doing the GripeBomb.
Chances are that Punk will not get in and also see his vote share go down but let's try and see a good case of evidence for Punk for induction to the HOF.
Punk is sixteenth in the all-time Observer WOTY award vote share with everyone in the top 30 in the HOF bar Punk, Mistico and Jon Moxley.
He has five Top Tens in my overall WOTY lists, one of only 22 to amass five or more in the modern era and of those eligible just Punk, Chris Hero (who has never been on the ballot, Tomohiro Ishii and Akira Taue are not in the HOF so in-ring wise, Punk should in the HOF before you even look at his drawing capabilities BUT the Gripebomb happened and the events of the last week with the Punk camp leaking a story about Larry the Dog being injured in Brawl Out which induced eye-rolls from those in the know might have hurt his reputation even more. If All Out was the end of his career, his time in wrestling ticked all the boxes of being a Hall of Famer but his legacy might turn out to be different because of one press conference and its aftermath.