In the final part of our look at the 2023 Observer Hall of Fame ballot (I can finally sleep now) we are now looking at the International and Non-Wrestlers sections.
With three of the four members of the ballot that need to get 50% of the vote share to stay on the ballot after spending 15 years on said ballot being in the International section (the other being Sgt. Slaughter) attention on the International section is greater than previous years especially on the British contingent with all 3 being from the United Kingdom.
So time to queue up, put on the kettle on and enjoy this article with a scone (too many British stereotypes?) and see who has the best chance of induction to the Hall of Fame.
Big Daddy- Last Year 35%
The hottest point of contention in not just the International section but maybe the entire ballot. Big Daddy’s endorsers have banged on the drum on social media about Shirley Crabtree. Those who follow @Allan_cheapshot on twitter will see this during the Hall of Fame season and his points are very valid.
On a thread about Daddy’s candidacy, Allan points out that Joint Promotions (the actual name of the company that appeared on ITV not World of Sport which was the program that Daddy appeared on) was struggling when Shirley came to his brother, who was the promoters' aid when Joint Promotions was struggling and box office skyrocketed with Daddy as an attraction with the argument that he killed the territory not a just one considering that Joint Promotions suffered the same problem every other promotion in the mid 80s suffered, the WWF happened.
The argument that Big Daddy drew big television ratings on ITV while factually correct doesn't hold water with the fact that until 1981 there were only three channels on television sets in the UK and satellite TV didn't become popular until the early 90s well after the death of Joint and the argument that Big Daddy was such a mainstream star that he appeared on Saturday morning national TV and regularly appeared in tabloid papers is numbed down by the argument that snooker players were of the same ilk. Being a mainstream star in the early 80s wasn't that difficult to be honest.
The biggest negative point on Big Daddy is the damage he did to British wrestling and its perception. I personally have had conversations about my wrestling fandom with workmates/work neighbours which have consisted of “that thing Big Daddy did right?” in a less than flattering tone. Wrestling was a joke in the UK to a generation because of Big Daddy. Instead of talking glowingly about the likes of Mark “Rollerball” Rocco and other lighter weights, Big Daddy is derided as the star of the industry, and it would take British wrestling 15 years to get something that resembled a foothold on the wrestling landscape after Joint Promotions died.
Should Big Daddy be inducted? Allan Blackstock thinks so and while his arguments are interesting, passionate and well argued, the negative stigma that follows him is there for a reason. Big Daddy did set grass roots wrestling in this country back a couple of decades and while the better workers of the Joint Promotions era are making the 60% makes any possible Shirley Crabtree induction easier to stomach, his nephew Earl is more of a Hall of Famer in his sport, Rugby league than Shirley is in his industry.
Will Big Daddy be inducted? As I said in the article about the Historical US/Canada candidates regarding JYD’s nomination, workrate seems to very important in regards to wrestlers from 1980 onwards and their case for induction but with the new rules, the case made by Allan and the fact he is one of the four that need to hit 50% to stay on the ballot with the 15/50 rule, Daddy might actually make it. But I won’t lie to you, Allan, as much as I like him and his account on twitter having a temper tantrum on X/twitter will be very funny to this sadist.
Jackie Pallo- Last Year 35%
If the argument that Big Daddy’s fame is the factor that brings him over 60% then Jackie Pollo should also be in the HOF.
For two years in a row in 1962 and 63, he and Mick McManus (a member of the HOF himself) wrestled on ITV’s pre-match coverage of the FA Cup final. For the Americans reading this, imagine if FOX had Roman Reigns vs LA Knight on the pre-show on their Superbowl broadcast. While stories vary on the TV ratings of the matches going from 3 million to 16 million, the broadcasts itself show how the pair caught the imagination of the public, Pallo especially. His ability to rile up fans would get him in the tabloids. The riled-up granny with the shoe stereotype came from a Daily Mirror story of how a elderly female fan tried to attack Pallo with her shoe after Pallo’s heel tactics.
Pallo would be a mainstream star appearing on quiz shows like Celebrity Squares and The Generation Game. He appeared in villain roles in The Avengers and The Saint and appeared on Sunday Night at The Palladium and was even the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life.
Should Pallo be inducted? Jackie Pallo and Big Daddy should be seen in the same light in their pros in their candidacy but Pallo’s abilities in the ring put him ahead of Big Daddy in my list of worthy HOF candidates.
Will Pallo be inducted? As one of the 15/50 Club, Pallo might get votes as he is in the last chance saloon. It just goes down to whether people think that Jackie is a just as or a better option than Big Daddy when saying who they are following in the International section.
Johnny Saint- Last Year 46%
Johnny Saint’s percentage in last year’s ballot (45%) was higher than Jackie Pallo, Bobby Bruns, Jim Johnston and The Steiner Brothers. Why is Johnny Saint’s number so high? He was the face of the re-emergence of the old British style, performing in the ring in the 00s, wrestling on Chikara cards in 2010. Johnny would also feature on NXT:UK as the GM but with mic skills so great Sid Scala had to speak for him which in hindsight was not a good thing at all.
In the 2021 ballot, Saint finished 10th among active wrestlers/performers but didn’t rank in the Top 20 among Historians and retired performers. The modern wrestler appreciates Saint and his mat wrestling style and rightfully so. A video circulating on twitter last year showed his magical escapism style while working for Michinoku Pro Wrestling in their heyday of the mid-90s, but Johnny Saint was nowhere near a decent draw and his vote share is too high considering who is underneath him at the moment.
Should/Will Saint be inducted? Saint has been popular amongst active wrestlers but last years 10th position is a fall of seven places. Johnny had hit lightning in a bottle with his involvement in NXT UK and the growth of popularity in the archive of Joint Promotions but there is also a reason why Saint has been popular with just active performers and reporters and no-one else. Saint needs votes from elsewhere to get above 60% which I don’t think he’ll get nor should he.
The Royal Brothers- Last Year 37%
An act so important that they were chosen to be in the lucrative spot of the FA Cup Final in 1964 (West Ham 3 Preston 2) facing Mick McManus and Steve Logan in a time where tag team wrestling was in its infancy. In fact, The Royals are the reason that tag team wrestling became a thing in the UK with the first ever televised tag match just eight months before featuring them.
Should The Royal Brothers be inducted? In an era where tag team wrestling was an attraction with no championships in the division, The Royals were a massive draw in a system where titles were seen as important in the stories being told. The Royals were pioneers and the style they brought to the British scene make them very good candidates and good inductees to the HOF
Will The Royal Brothers be inducted? If it was just Bert Royal on the ballot, I might say yes. Bert was outlier in the 50’s of the main guys being big and burly (this sound familiar) and was the first big star in British wrestling that had an athletic style. However, as per the criteria, The Royals are being judged on their time as a team and I think for how much they are influential, they might struggle to get in with the amount of International on 40% or above.
Kendo Nagasaki- Last Year 14%
His unmasking in the Wolverhampton Civic Hall is one of those massive pop culture moments that came out of the World Of Sport days but surrounded by other British stars on the ballot, Kendo’s path looks congested in the International Section logjam on the ballot with Rollerball Rocco's induction last year the sole induction since 2017. Compare that to Mexico's 9 inductees, Japan's 6 and the 10 from Non-Wrestlers (Only one has come out of the both Modern and Historical US/Canada in the last 5 classes. That person is Bearcat Wright)
Should Nagasaki be inducted? This is the last chance for Kendo to be inducted as he is a member of the 15/50 club, hence why someone with such a low percentage is featured (if I had to do bits on everyone with 14%, I’d have to do a bit on The Mongolian Stomper) and while Kendo was one of the top heels of his era in Joint Promotions, he also was also around when Joint Promotions hit the skids and produced some bad television (Kendo hypnotising William Regal)
Will Nagasaki be inducted? The said congestion involves five from the International section that have above 30% of the vote share and with another four above Kendo the chances of Nagasaki getting that 50% needed to stay on the ballot let alone the 60% to be inducted is smaller than tiny.
Bobby Davis- Last Year 45%
Without Bobby Davis, you don't get Lou Albano, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Paul Heyman and Jim Cornette. Bobby Davis was the first successful manager in the television era. Starting with Buddy Rogers, managing him during the time when the original Nature Boy was the biggest draw in wrestling, Bobby then was the voice behind the Graham brothers, Johnny Valentine and many other main events in the WWWF in the 60s. A testament to Bobby's mic skills are that while Buddy and the Grahams were great promos, Bobby did the talking for them because he was even better and gave adage to the phrase "talk them into the building" and his way of getting under the skin of those fans meant when he took a bump the fans would have got their money's worth.
Should Davis get inducted? To quote @allan_cheapshot “Whilst Davis wasn’t the first pro wrestling manager, he was the blueprint”
Davis was the blueprint for the manager that you want the babyface to get his hands on. The five managers I’ve mentioned above are all in the HOF so the blueprint should join them. To be honest, Bobby Davis should have been in the first class that Dave Meltzer hand selected in 1996 but the point of mistakes is to learn from them and the electorate should not make the same mistake twice and they should vote for Davis to be inducted.
Will Davis be inducted? I fear that the electorate will not learn from Meltzer’s original mistake. It took Bobby’s death for him to get put on the ballot and after the first year’s number of 56% (the 4th highest not to be inducted) in 2021 and then an 11% drop in 2022, with that trend downwards, precedent tells you that Bobby Davis won’t get in.
Maybe Kent Brockman was right when he said that “democracy simply doesn’t work”
Jim Johnston- Last Year 42%
If like me, you were watching WWE at a certain age and during a part of your day you’ve been unable to get rid of an earworm that was your favourite WWE wrestler’s theme, you can thank Jim Johnston. Johnston’s work as the WWE’s head of music creation has helped many wrestlers find their fame. His greatest hits have been heard at NFL, soccer and Ice Hockey games. Jim Johnston the anthem to a lot of wrestling fans childhoods.
Should Johnston be inducted? When determining the credentials of those on the ballot who aren’t wrestlers or even managers instead of using the cold hand stats, emotion plays a big hand in what you think make great candidates and with Jim Johnston in my opinion, he makes a great candidate.
Would The Undertaker have got to the heights of fame without the creations of Johnston. Same for John Cena, Bret Hart, Steve Austin etc. Maybe the memories of my childhood are forming my bias, but Jim Johnston deserves a slot in the HOF for shaping the history of WWE with his creations
Will Jim Johnston be inducted? To a lot of voters, thoughts of Jim Johnston’s legacy might not be the same as the average fan. Maybe if they complied a Top 100 wrestlers theme songs list, Johnson’s creations might make a small percentage of the list and in the Non-wrestlers section, they are a lot of greatest in their field on the list and if a voter thinks that Jim Johnston isn't the greatest wrestling composer ever, he may not be on more than 60% of the ballots. However Jim is trending up with a 9% rise from last year and with the voting class getting younger, the composer of many peoples wrestling youth might actually get in.
Ted Turner- Last Year 41%
More famous to a lot of people as the man behind TCM, CNN, being owner of the Atlanta Braves and being married to Jane Fonda, Ted Turner to quite a few though is the man that owned WCW and to many of a certain age is the man behind TBS and the wrestling that featured on it. Ted Turner with one acceptance of a request from Eric Bischoff started the Monday Night War and changed wrestling but apart from that what else did Turner do for wrestling?
Should Ted Turner be inducted? Dave Meltzer is quoted as saying “Ted Turner thought about wrestling for 5 minutes a year” (I, on the other hand think about wrestling for five minutes every hour) and whether that is over-reacting is a debate but in thinking about Ted’s candidacy, I thought to myself “Should Rupert Murdoch be in the Premier League Hall of Fame”. As someone who detested Rupert’s hold on British politics, I have to say yes. Without Rupert we don’t get the Premier League and without Ted Turner, we don’t get the second boom period in pro wrestling. Ted’s influence in wrestling wasn’t as big as some would claim but in a Hall of Fame full of wrestling game changers, Ted was one of wrestling’s biggest.
Will Ted Turner be inducted? Ted Turner and his possible induction rests on whether people think he should be acclaimed for the second boom period. Does Ted deserve an induction for saying yes to Eric Bischoff’s request for a Monday Night show when it was Eric and his ideas in 1995 and 1996 that set Nitro apart from the rest. Is Ted a HOFer for buying a wrestling company in late 1988? Is Ted a HOFer for scheduling wrestling at 6:05? something that still resonates with fans from that time.
That debate has been ongoing during HOF season but looking at the cold facts, Ted Turner’s vote share went up by just 4% and while the trend is upwards, the amount of diverse opinion and great nominees in the Non-Wrestlers section look like counting against Ted in the count.
Bobby Bruns- Last Year 38%
After a car crash with NWA Worlds Champion Orville Brown would end his full-time in-ring career, Bobby went to Japan and found the gap in the market that many businessmen crave to find. With his protégé, Rikidozan, Bobby would promote tours of Japan bringing wrestling to the masses of Japan and starting a style of wrestling that decades later would resonate with so many around the world.
Should Bruns be inducted? Without Bobby Bruns we don't get to walk down the Kings Road, The Three Musketeers never happen, The Five Star era doesn't happen because Bobby Bruns was the guy who set up the first wrestling enterprise in Japan discovering Rikidozan and setting up a chain of events in which we now see the influence of puro reshaping wrestling in America and the rest of the world.
For some Bobby’s most notable moment of his wrestling career was being in the same car of Orville Brown, the then NWA Worlds Champion when he was in an automobile accident that cut short both their careers but Bobby had successful runs promoting in St. Louis but as he essentially was the father of Japanese wrestling and the Wrestling Observer and its role in the boom periods of the 90’s and 2010’s you should have Bruns in their Hall of Fame.
Will Bobby be inducted? Bobby had a 12% rise in vote share from the year before, with only Paul Orndorff and Jose Tarres having bigger increases last year. I would have done a look at Jose but with no Cagematch rating, Wikipedia page and if you put Jose Tarres Observer Hall of Fame into your google search, you get my review of the results of last year second from the top (Dave Meltzer endorsed by the way) that shows how little info there is on Jose online making research on Tarres difficult.
But with endorsements from Meltzer, Bobby Bruns is trending upwards and could end up being in the HOF and rightfully so.
Larry Matsyik- Last Year 38%
Those from a younger generation might never have heard of Larry Matysik but his mark on wrestling is obvious to see
Starting out in the business in 1963 in St. Louis at the age of 16 under the famed promoter Sam Muchnick, Matysik would become commentator of the territories weekly TV show and became regarded as the one of the best in the country at the time. Larry would become the booker of the territory leading to the areas best run in its existence with Ric Flair's average of 13,086 whenever he headlined at the St. Louis Kiel Auditorium in his first NWA Worlds Title run his highest average in his years as champ.
After leaving the St. Louis Wrestling Club and a failed attempt at a new promotion due to politics and financiers pulling out, Larry would work for WWE from 1984 to 1993 before finding his second coming as a critically acclaimed author whose books are required reading for fans.
Will/Should Matysik be inducted? All the promoters/bookers from the heyday of the territories are in the Observer HOF except for Larry Matysik and you kind of feel that it needs to be rectified and Larry's resume tells you it should be. But if you feel Larry’s time in the 80’s doesn’t make for an induction worthy, Larry’s career post-1993 saw him as a critically acclaimed author and preserver of wrestling history would make a fascinating case but with a 8% drop, chances of induction look small this year.