It's the most magical time of the year. No, I'm not talking about the time of the year when shops start stocking up on Christmas items to remind you that Christmas is in fact coming and that we will be subjected to Mariah Carey non-stop for two months and I'm not talking about Halloween or Bonfire night when millions of British people point at fireworks, I am in fact talking about Hall of Fame season.
When the words Hall of Fame come up in the wrestling landscape, invariably that awful Script song comes to the subconscious of fans as does Wrestlemania weekend when Vince McMahon and now Triple H hand-selects his picks for the WWE Hall of Fame and we the consumer happily nod along and pretend it's a big deal while wrestlers involved think it actually is. But for this wrestling nerd the Hall of Fame that I acknowledge is the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.
Started up in 1996 by its proprietor Dave Meltzer, the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame's first class was actually hand-picked by Meltzer himself and to be fair the class itself was without fault. If you were to pick the best 75 wrestling acts in the history of wrestling in 1996, they would have made up the inaugural class (except for the case of the non-selection of Bobby Davis)
Voting would start for the 1998 class with a selection of historians, wrestlers and journalists making up the voting panel. The structure for the Observer Hall of Fame would wind up being the following.
● 60%+ of votes for a performer would see said wrestler inducted
● Performers that had less than 10% of votes would be struck off the ballot but they could be allowed back in if their resume for induction is enhanced in the time since removal (like Jon Moxley has been)
● If on the ballot for 15 years without induction or removal, they would need 50% or more of the vote from then on or face removal
● A wrestler will become eligible for the Hall of Fame 10-15 years after their debut depending on their age.
Also, in a new development, Dave has put in a new rule saying that voters can only vote for a maximum number that is a third of the number of acts in a particular category.
In a 6 part series because 5 last year was obviously not enough, we'll look at the best of the best when it comes to candidates for the 2023 Observer Hall of Fame and in Part 1 we will look at the new and returning candidates on the ballot.
The Young Bucks (Modern US/Canada)
No other team has defined a generation like Matt and Nick Jackson have. No other team has dominated a time span like Matt and Nick have. If you take the Observer Awards and look at placings over the years, The Young Bucks have dominated the Tag Team award like no other
The easy and correct argument to make is "well they have been together for way longer than anyone else?" That is true so let's look at the the 10 teams in that above list and look at their scores in a 5 year time span
The Road Warriors, Holy Demon Army and The Midnight Express are in the HOF.
Should The Young Bucks make the Hall of Fame? 100% yes. Taking the stats on the Observer Awards, looking at the stat that they have 23 matches with a score of 9.00+ on Cagematch (2nd on that list is The Briscoes with 10) and then looking at the box office draws that they are (ROH was never the same after they left to form some company called AEW) and the influence that the show they helped create in All In had which did change everything, Matt and Nick should be in the HOF
Will The Young Bucks be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Should and will are two different things as we'll find out in our look at the ballot for the 2023 HOF.
While not the absolute lock that Kazuchika Okada was two years ago and Will Ospreay looks like being, The Bucks have all the qualifications to be inducted but they also divide opinion. Some that think that Matt and Nick are responsible for the style change in wrestling that they don't agree and some took the side of the person that thought it was OK to punch people in the gorilla position of the company he works in biggest ever show in what pertained to be a Civil War in AEW but with enough sensible people voting, you have to be sure that they get above the 60% threshold, hopefully.
Jon Moxley (Modern US/Canada)
Precedent tells you that Jon Moxley should be in the Hall of Fame. Every winner of the Flair/Thesz award for Wrestler of the Year is in the HOF bar Mox and with Jon winning that award twice in 2020 and 2022, the precedent tells you that Moxley is cast iron to be inducted.
While the argument that 2020 was a weird year (which is true) Mox's WOTY win felt more Bayern Munchen winning the Champions League than LA Lakers winning the NBA Championship in that year with how much better he was than the field in wrestling's strangest year and with 2022 being his best ever and putting AEW on his back in the chaos that ensued (more on Punk's candidacy in the article about Modern US/Canada) the only question should be, Is this all too early?
It is his AEW run that will be the crux of his argument to get in and with 99.9% of inductees being in with longevity as the heart of their legacy. The 3 year hot run of his career that is still ongoing might be the sticking point to Mox's argument.
Should Moxley be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Considering that he's the only man to win the Flair/Thesz and not yet be inducted (tbf he's also the most recent 1st-time winner) then precedent says he should get in..... eventually
Will Moxley be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Yes, eventually. The Observer is unique in HOF's that have an emphasis on inducting by a mass of voting that you don't have to be retired yet to be inducted (72 of the 248 acts in the Observer HOF were still active full-time when they were inducted into the Hall. If you used the "have to be retired for 5 years rule" Ric Flair would have been inducted in 2015 instead of being in the original class of 1996 and the likes of Omega and Okada would have to wait decades and it feels like Mox's last match is still decades away so Mox has plenty left in the bank. But with the above stat of how many active acts were inducted that shouldn't be a barrier but in my opinion there is an interesting barrier in Moxley getting in.
I admit this might be a burning hot take but I do wonder if voters faced with both Jon Moxley and The Young Bucks entering the ballot together might go either/or with the two acts and because of the new number limit on Modern US/Canada and with Matt and Nick having more back story on their resume, I wonder if The Bucks will get more votes than Jon if people vote for one exclusively.
This is going to get misquoted isn't it?
Briscoes (Modern US/Canada)
The fact it took the death of Jay to have him and his brother Mark get onto the ballot feels weird and wrong but here we are.
The Briscoes peaks were higher than the peak of a HC Climb in the Tour De France with feuds with Steen/Generico and FTR, they were the faces of ROH as the main eventers would always end up going to pastures new.
You might have noticed that in my entry on The Bucks that Mark and Jay’s position in the points calculation listing from the Best Tag Team Award in the Observer Awards is second only to Matt and Nick and while the flaws in that above statistic still holds true in the Briscoes case especially when you look at their 5-year peak timespan, their longevity and their influence on independent tag wrestling is an interesting debate case for The Briscoes and their candidacy for the Hall of Fame.
Will The Briscoes be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I don’t know. All the metrics tell you The Briscoes have a shot. Maybe the “death bounce” will get them in but it’s difficult for wrestlers in modern US/Canada to get in when they haven’t spent time in WWE/AEW (A.J Styles only got in after two years in WWE) The Briscoes is one of the reasons why this new class is the most interesting class in years with so many questions asked.
Should The Briscoes be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I don’t know. Just read the paragraph above again.
Blue Panther (Mexico)
Still going at the age of 63, Panther’s 45-year career is legendary. His in-ring work was great and his Lucha de Apuestas matches are famous with his loss of the mask to Villano V so shocking considering his famous wins to Lizmark Jr, Black Man (yes there was a lucha star with a black mask that was called Black Man) and Love Machine (Art Barr) and his hair loss to Sam Adonis made Adonis into a big deal south of the border.
The fact that Bryan Danielson’s dream match is Blue Panther in Arena Mexico tells you how much esteem Blue Panther is held in wrestling circles. He is to adjust a well known sporting saying “a wrestler’s Luchadore”
However, Blue Panther was not the guy at any point of his career and despite winning titles in all 3 major Lucha promotions (AAA, CMLL, UWA) he never had the any of the companies on his back like majority of the Mexican HOF members had to do in their careers
Will Blue Panther get into the HOF? It’s the third time Panther has been on the ballot with Panther going under 10% in his first year in 1998 and then in his second go, he spent 17 years on the ballot finally being eliminated in 2018 on the 15 year rule which was introduced during Panther’s time on the ballot with 50% in 2016 his highest vote share, so unless The Mexican Block do Mexican Block things, Blue Panther looks unlikely to gain the 10% needed to get the 60% that has eluded him for 18 years on the ballot.
Should Blue Panther get into the HOF? To slightly quote Dave Meltzer, this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good. Blue Panther is very good but compare him to those that from Mexico that have been inducted and those that have ended up being a few votes shy and with nothing in the last 5 years to completely strengthen Panther’s case, Panther shouldn’t get in.
Beauty Pair- Jackie Soto and Maki Ueda (Japan)
Sato and Ueda would bring a new younger fanbase to wrestling arenas (that 18-49 demo number would have been so high that certain aspects of twitter would have moaned like hell) from the day they won the WWWA Tag belts on their first night in AJW after the pair graduated from the companies dojo.
Young, beautiful (Going to be honest I’ve started crushing on 1970's Maki Ueda since doing my research on this article) the pair became pop culture sensations in their time, releasing pop singles with their popularity so great that Fuji Network moved All Japan Women’s weekly TV show to prime-time.
Should Soto/Ueda be inducted? Had the Crash Gals team of Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka not been inducted individually therefore rendering the team ineligible for induction in the wave of tag teams that were put on the ballot last year, they would have and should have got a percentage of above 90% in the team's one and only year on the ballot. But Nagayo and Lioness could only run because Soto and Ueda walked.
Beauty Pair are to joshi what Rikidozan is to puro and what El Santo is to Lucha.
Will Soto/Ueda be inducted? Whether the voters are aware of the above is another story. Historians that are voting in the Japan category will surely vote for the Pair with the knowledge they have. Those without the knowledge of Beauty Pair and their impact on wrestling in Japan might end up skipping Sato and Ueda if they don’t look at their CV, which would be wrong.
Seth Rollins (Modern US/Canada)
Seen by those who watch WWE and WWE only as the best worker in the business in the last 5 years, history actually tells you differently with 2022 being the only year that Seth was WWE WOTY IMHO and even then that was due to a major assist from Cody Rhodes.
Yes, Brock Lesnar is my 2014 WWE WOTY, don't @ me
Should/Will Seth Rollins be inducted into the Hall of Fame? When we look at the names above, just Banks and Reigns are the non-HOFs bar Rollins. Cena got into the HOF before his indy-reffic year, Lesnar had his first brief first WWE run as a foundation for his CV for his induction and Reigns is an interesting case that we'll explore later. In the case of Bryan and AJ their time in WWE was just the icing on the cake after their great pre-WWE careers, Seth, whose ROH run was short and not as remarkable as the ROH OG’s would do very well to break 30%
Iron Sheik (US/Canada Historical)
Added to the ballot after his passing earlier in the year, Sheiky’s career was retrospected by all those who are best at retrospecting. In his run in (W)WWF pre- expansion, his underrated match against Bob Backlund in 1979, Sheik as Great Hossein Arab winning Most Underrated in the 1980 Observer Awards, Sheik’s most famous hour beating Backlund for the World belt in December 1983 and becaming the transitional champ to help Hulkamania become a thing and his 1984 which was most remembered for his feud with Sgt. Slaughter was very steller. After that, Iron Sheik fell in love with crack cocaine. His career fell down quicker than Jack Grealish after being tackled on the football pitch. Scandals, awful wrestling, awful gimmicks and Iron Sheik going bonkers on Howard Stern dominated his next two decades and overshadowed his early career.
Will Iron Sheik be in the Hall of Fame? Sheik’s entry onto the ballot feels like Uncle Dave being curious at how many votes Sheik would get on entry (how do explain Nikki Bella and Stephanie McMahon’s entries onto the ballot and the potential editions of Zane Bresloff and Jerry McDevitt next year). While the “death bounce” will probably put Sheik above the 10% cut line for survival, chances are he’ll be relegated the next few years after
Should Iron Sheik be in the Hall of Fame? If there was a twitter HOF, Sheiky might be a first ballot member (or whoever had the password for the account) but in this HOF, Sheik’s credentials fall short.
Mike Marino (International)
Part of the answer of the pub quiz question “What is the first wrestling match to appear on British television” (the second part of the answer is Francis Gregory if it actually ever comes up), Marino is seen as one of the great British technicians that no-one really ever talks about.
Mike’s other claim to fame is the role he played in the News Of The World publishing a conversation he had with Albert Wall planning their match in the locker room after planting hidden microphones (it could have been worse, the NOTW could have hacked into a dead girl’s phon…..oh wait) Gaining the name Mr. Wrestling, Marino can claim to be a “wrestlers wrestler” and this year joins other "wrestler's wrestlers" in George Kidd and Johnny Saint.
Will Marino be inducted into the Hall of Fame? If Johnny Saint and George Kidd are not in, then Marino isn’t going in before those two.
Should Marino be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Johnny Saint shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame and nor should Marino.
So that's the look at the new candidates on the Observer HOF ballot. Next time , we'll look at the Modern US/Canada ballot which includes a certain Phil Brooks. Nothing controversial about that one.