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2023 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Ballot Review (Modern US/Canada)

After looking at the Newbies (and returnees) to the ballot and everyone who had 50%+ vote share in last year's ballot, now we look at the big cases in each category starting with the Modern US/Canada section with a lot of recognisable faces and a lot of debate that will come from it.

CM Punk Last Year- 41%

Nothing happened with Punk the last 12 months huh?

This time last year, I talked about CM Punk and the Gripebomb and how it could affect his voting percentage going forward. His percentage then went up from 33% to 41.

51 weeks after Brawl Out came The Thriller in Gorilla, Punk acted in such a manner that even Tony Khan who had tried to be a diplomat in the Punk/Elite conflict (and I think I’m being nice in that assessment) fired him. While the Hall has many a person who have committed more heinous crimes than punching people backstage, you do wonder if people voting in the HOF will be turned off voting for Punk after the past 18 months.

Whether the last 18 months should overtake the first 9 months of Punk’s time in AEW is the debate. Despite Punk being WWE WOTY in consecutive years (2011 & 2012) the fact that his percentage in 2020 was 15% tells you that his case should be ultimately judged by his time in AEW.

Those first 9 months saw Punk sell out the United Center on a guestimation, produced 200,000+ buys for a wrestling PPV in 2021 and was a top seller in merch and was winner in the Best Box Office in the Observer Awards in 2021 and second in 2022 with only Roman Reigns beating him. But does the last 18 months with his conduct backstage, the disappointment of the Collision ratings in the two months that it was his show hurt his chances of HOF induction?

Will Punk be inducted? With a 17th place position amongst Reporters and 27th with Active Wrestlers last year, Punk will need more help from Historians (who last year didn’t have a single act from Modern US/Canada that wrestled in the 21st Century in their categories Top 30) and Retired Professionals (who had Edge, Randy Orton and the Hardyz in their Top 30 but not Punk) to get in which I don’t think will happen. Will his peers with the knowledge of the things that we are yet to know that happened in the past 18 months vote for Punk? And while I expect reporters to look at the hard facts of Punk’s box office work, I also expect voters who might be voting emotionally to not vote for CM Punk.

Should Punk be inducted? While the numbers Punk put up in 2021 was HOF worthy, it was a small window in his career in which the Summer of Punk in 2011 was more like the Bummer of Punk with how much gates and ratings did not go up in that time and while the in-ring work from Punk has been beloved by many, it hasn’t been great enough to propel him to the HOF like it did for Bryan Danielson.

Edge/Adam Copeland- Last Year 33%

Randy Orton- 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 (11) topping that number and John Cena also on nine years with a Top 5 placing. Edge also 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.

WWE Wrestlers in the 21st Century statistics

However Edge’s “triumphant comeback” didn’t turn out to be the raging success people were hoping it would be. Even if you can claim that Covid and injuries are a legit reason for Edge 2.0 not getting off the ground, Judgment Day only becoming ok after Edge left and the failure of his Road To WrestleMania 37 outweigh his good points from the latest run.

Will/Should Adam Copeland be inducted?- Adam becoming All Elite has brought about a very interesting twist in his new life as a wrestler. The man who was thought to be a WWE lifer has a chance to show people that he is a big draw and also has a chance of showing he can match the working standard of a company that has having great matches as its USP but the results of this new era of Copeland’s career will only be known in the months to come and whatever you think of Adam Copeland’s case for HOF induction, the last 12 months of Edge hasn’t done anything to change any opinions in this years ballot.

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 has a similar amount of Top 5 placings in my WOTY Top 5 for the New York territory (19, 20, 21 and 22)

Will Randy Orton be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Because of Randy Orton’s back injury, we haven’t seen Orton in a year and while Ibushi’s inclusion last year after his injury was a diversion to what has been the normal in the 27 years of the Hall of Fame, Randy’s career does not match anything of Ibushi’s.

Should Randy Orton be inducted? 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 Fame but Koko. B.Ware is in that HOF so yeah, a reason not to acknowledge that HOF.

Roman Reigns- Last Year- 31%

Probably the odds on favourite on the first day of August to win WOTY in this year's Observer Awards, the combination of the awful Summerslam main event and his inactivity post the Jey Uso match has made the running for that award more open but the fact that the book was more or less shut on Roman winning tells you that his case for HOF induction has improved in the last 12 months. With the boost in WWE interest attributed to Roman and the storylines he has been involved in, the think pieces on the latest ballot that I have read has been very positive on Roman and of the current WWE roster, Roman could be the one to get inducted.

Will Roman be inducted? With Roman being put forward as the man behind the rise in business of WWE, the chances of Roman’s percentage rising from last years debut number of 31% seems likely and the 29% jump needed feels too large there have been inductees to the HOF that have made the jump numbers wise. (Alfonso Morales- 2012, El Satanico- 2001)

Should Roman be inducted? First off, the above two names were Mexican (Mexican Block doing Mexican Block things) so if Roman was to get in it would be the largest gain to be inducted by a non-Mexican.

Now, let's take this bit on Reign’s candidacy from last year’s column I did on the 2022 HOF ballot

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.

While there was an increase on the Smackdown TV rights deal that was signed a couple of months back, it was less than the x1.5 that Nick Khan bullishly predicted that the blue brand would get (guess that puts paid to "Saint Nick's" chances of HOF induction in 12 years time) and the fact that FOX were not fussed about renewing and that a lower audience channel in USA Network, who do need WWE programming to break up the endless Law and Order repeats tells you that maybe Roman isn't as successful as the captain of Smackdown as some will tell you he is and with Box Office the only characteristic that you can judge Roman on and with really one sole year of steady growth that WWE has had with Roman in the main event, Roman isn't HOF worthy yet.

Hardy Boys Last Year 30%

When looking at the Observer HOF criteria and whether Matt and Jeff should get into the Hall of Fame based on that criteria, the candidacy of the Hardys is mixed.

Influence is a no-brainer. Their role in the TLC/Tag ladder match formula evolution and their role in the changing face of tag team wrestling being the conduit between the eras of The Rock n’ Roll Express and The Young Bucks is in no doubt but when it comes to drawing, while through no fault of their own because of the era they were situated they were not pushed as big draws any where near the main event.

Hall of Fame teams like The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express and The Rock n’ Roll Express did benefit from the era they wrestled in, they also held their own when they were in showcase matches when it came to the gate they were part of drawing. The Hardyz never had the chance to have the position in the card that the above three teams had. While their in-ring has been lauded, the argument that Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima were a better team during the early 00s is something I agree with but Tenzan/Kojima won’t get in and the best women’s wrestler of the 00’s Meiko Satomura probably will never get in either.

Looking at the above nine teams. While we will only know about The Briscoes' credentials come results time in this years HOF, the rest of the list is filled with teams that will never be on the ballot (Dudleys/AMW/MCMG) teams that should be on the ballot (Steen and Generico not being on the ballot after the tragedy at the inferno at the orphanage will always be a weird decision) and those who never got over the 10% cutline (Guerrero/Bucanero twice)

Should/Will The Hardyz be inducted. To quote what a very influential person in the pro wrestling opinion game told me “just because you were the best in your era, doesn’t mean you are in the conversation for the Hall of Fame”. The Hardyz are in the conversation for being the best team of the 00s but with the 00s being a weak decade in North America, Matt and Jeff shouldn’t and probably won’t get in.


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