Who WWE Should Induct into the Hall of Fame in 2014
by Joe Vernola
January is a great time of year to be a WWE fan. Though, the “Road to WrestleMania” doesn’t start until Royal Rumble, anticipation for “The Granddaddy of them All” is in full swing with the announcement of The Ultimate Warrior’s induction. The Ultimate Warrior was larger than life and is fitting to be the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
While Warrior is well deserving, there are still Superstars out there who are just as deserving, if not more deserving, of induction into the WWE shrine.
With the induction of Trish Stratus last year, fans have been clamoring for Lita’s induction into the Hall, and with good reason. Lita is one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history and helped push the envelope when it came to what women were capable of in the ring, consistently performing better than some of the men on the roster and captivating the fans with her high risk offense. Together with Stratus, she was one of very few women to main event a Monday Night Raw telecast and helped to make the dawn of the millennium the best time to be a woman in WWE. Talent, charisma, sex appeal, with what was then a slightly nontraditional look, helped to establish Lita as one of the best performers in the company, male or female. Lita helped to prove a woman could be more than just eye candy. Much like Stratus, Lita was an embodiment of a strong-willed and independent woman. Outside of the ring, Lita was one of the most effective valets ever, be it with the Hardy Boyz or Edge, even her early days with Essa Rios, fans and Superstars alike knew Lita was capable and willing to get involved at any time. Simply put, if there were a Mount Rushmore of women’s wrestling, her face would be one of the four up there along with Stratus’, Mae Young’s and The Fabulous Moolah’s.
Enhancement talent. Jobbers. Call them what you will, but these guys have always had their place in professional wrestling. Which is why, now, as he enters his fourth decade with the company, it’s time Steve Lombardi gets recognized. Most notably as The Brooklyn Brawler, Kim Chee, Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz, Doink the Clown and others over the years, Lombardi went in and did his job, pardon the pun, day in day out and is now passing on his knowledge to current talent as a road agent. The reaction Lombardi received at TLC 2012 showed the fans still know and appreciate the “Brawler.” Fans during the ‘90s would have difficulty finding an episode of Superstars of Wrestling or Wrestling Challenge that didn’t include one of Lombardi’s gimmicks. Gimmicks which were important during a time when the WWE was trying to put more of an emphasis on entertainment and characters, which was a huge part of the evolution to the WWE of today. Such a move wouldn’t even be unprecedented as Johnny Rodz was inducted into the Hall in 1996, and while some may point to the multitude of talent Johnny Rodz has trained as reason for him being in the Hall, Lombardi’s position as a road agent also puts him in similar standing with Rodz.
One type of induction that seems to draw the ire of fans every year is the annual addition to the Celebrity Wing of the Hall. With inductions such as Drew Carey, Bob Uecker or Donald Trump, no matter how deserved their inductions may be, leading to scores of fans sharing their discontent and wondering why such people would be inducted, WWE needs a celebrity induction that will raise eyes and grab the attention of the mainstream media, while pleasing their fanbase. WWE needs to induct Andy Kaufman. The Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler feud to this day is still one of the most well known stories in wrestling history and brought nationwide attention to a wrestling promotion, while pro wrestling was still the Territory Era, something that at the time happened rarely, if ever. Andy Kaufman was one of the most hated men in the history of wrestling and made it look easy while doing it, becoming one of the most hated men in wrestling in the country, while still being revered as one of its top comics. More than 30 years later fans still fondly remember Kaufman’s antics offering $1,000 to any woman who could best the Inter-Gender Champion of the World, making vignettes teaching the Memphis fans proper hygiene and proclaiming himself “king” in Lawler’s own backyard, Andy Kaufman was the blueprint for celebrity involvement in professional wrestling and paved the way for more celebrity interaction in the future. Without the confrontation between Kaufman and Lawler on “Late Night with David Letterman,” WWE may have never kicked off the Rock ’n’ Wrestling Era, we may have never seen Steve Austin flipping off Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, or Pete Rose being on the receiving end of Tombstone after Tombstone, and for that alone, Andy Kaufman deserves a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
Of course, these are only just a few of the omissions from the Hall of Fame and there are plenty more that deserve to be enshrined, but the three mentioned are well deserving, and in some cases overlooked.