The WWE Hall of Fame was established on March 22, 1993 on Monday Night Raw. The first inductee was Andre the Giant, and since then, 129 names from professional wrestling history have been honored. However, much like virtually everything related to Vince McMahon and his empire, the WWE Hall of Fame has not existed without a healthy dose of controversy. Certain names have been snubbed for years, while others seem completely undeserving of induction. Some people deserve induction, but certain personal issues might make fans think twice when considering if a superstar is truly worthy of induction.
We’ve already told you who was missing from the Hall. This time we’re looking within its metaphorical walls and attempting to unlock the shady mysteries surrounding it. One might assume there is no greater honor for a former wrestling personality than to receive a Hall of Fame ring, but read on and you’ll learn 13 facts that explain why the WWE Hall of Fame isn’t exactly viewed with the same level of honor and prestige as some other pro sports Halls of Fame out there.
13. The Selection Process Is Pretty Random
One major issue critics have had with the WWE Hall of Fame is that there’s no clear-cut explanation for how or why performers get inducted. Seemingly minor names get inducted the same year as huge mega stars, while other even bigger mega stars were snubbed for decades. Since the Hall has existed for over 20 years, by now, the vast majority of important names throughout WWE history have indeed been inducted. However, looking at the selections through the years, one can still see the order and timing behind a great deal of these inductions has been completely random. WWE has never even publicly named any sort of a committee or board of directors in charge of making such decisions, leading many to believe the inductions ultimately come down to the oft-confusing whims of Vince McMahon.
12. There Are Virtually No Female Inductees
After the 2016 ceremony, 137 names will have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and only 9 of them belong to women. While it’s obvious there have been far more men than women in the history of wrestling, this is still a pretty ridiculous ratio. Especially after you consider almost all of the inducted women wrestled or at least were active within the past two decades, this leaves an incredible amount of the history of women in professional wrestling completely ignored. The Fabulous Moolah and her best friend Mae Young are the only women inducted who wrestled prior to 1980, despite the fact the Hall was pretty much founded on the idea history extends well beyond that.
11. The Limo Driver
Arguably the single most controversial entrant into the Hall of Fame is James Dudley. Dudley was the first African American to run a major arena for WWE, and that is a solid accomplishment in the name of civil rights, but it’s not really why he’s in the Hall of Fame. Prior to that, Dudley was Vince McMahon, Sr.’s limo driver and best friend. WWE has made a serious effort over the years to make it seem like Dudley actually did something important, but even on his official WWE.com profile, they resort to weasel words, only vaguely claiming he was “like totally important, you guys.” It’s not even that bad a move to put a family friend in the Hall of Fame and bring up the fact he was a racial trailblazer during the ceremony, but it’s shady to lie about it and pretend something, that quite frankly was a footnote, about a small sporting venue defined his career.
10. The “Wall of Fame”
As is well known by now, the first inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame was Andre the Giant. No one denies Andre was deserving of the accolade, but plenty of people at the time did deny it was an accolade at all. Presented less than two months after his death, the entire concept of a “Hall of Fame” was merely an idea to honor the fallen Giant. Future Hall of Famer himself Kevin Nash has joked in shoot interviews at the time, it was mockingly called “The Wall of Fame,” since it literally consisted of one picture in Titan Towers.
9. There Have Been Extremely Important Omissions
It’s been covered over and over by every wrestling publication there is, but it bears repeating—there are dozens of names still forgotten by the Hall of Fame. Certain names, such as Toots Mondt, are so important to the history of WWE and professional wrestling in general people consider it an active effort on WWE’s part to gloss over and hide his legacy, since that would imply the McMahon’s didn’t create wrestling all by themselves. Maybe it isn’t that dark and sinister, but the fact remains some of the most important people in wrestling history are continually ignored by WWE for seemingly no good reason. While names like Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage have finally been inducted, fans will never quite forget the fact it took decades for WWE to do so. What’s worse is who was getting picked over them. Speaking of which…
8. There Are Still Irrelevant Admissions
Most wrestling publications have covered this one, too, but it might even be more important: some really random people are still getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. James Dudley was a particularly special example, but even looking at the list of people inducted due to their actual contributions to the sport of wrestling, some really questionable choices have been made. Koko B. Ware and Johnny Rodz were both career jobbers, and the 2016 induction of Jacqueline Moore set a new low standard, considering her biggest contributions were constantly playing second fiddle to various women yet to be inducted. Knowing what we know about wrestlers, it’s possible everyone who’s ever stepped into the ring feels like they deserve to be inducted, but to put it frankly, we disagree.
7. They’re Kicking People Out
It shouldn’t be a surprise that some professional wrestlers aren’t the best people in the world, but you’d think WWE would do a little bit of fact checking on the superstars before placing them in the history books as legends. Not so, as has been evidenced by the fact both Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Snuka have been removed from the WWE Hall of Fame web site, after allegations became public the men were suspected to have made racist comments and committed murder, respectively. This is concerning for two drastically different reasons. First, it implies WWE thinks Hogan’s racial comments are just as bad as attempted murder. While they were bigoted and deeply offensive, at least no one died. The more concerning issue is that Snuka’s alleged crimes were somewhat well-known for decades before he was finally put on trial and removed from the Hall. Could there be other horrible people still inducted, merely waiting for their crimes to become public before they get kicked out? Well…
6. Terrible People Are Still In
It’s hard to truly blame WWE for inducting people whom we later later found out had done some terrible things. In Hogan’s case, no one is particularly blaming them, since nobody knew Hogan was racist. Plenty of people know “Cowboy” Bill Watts is racist, though: it’s why he was fired from WCW in the early 1990’s. That didn’t stop WWE from inducting him in 2009. Most people are convinced Donald Trump, inducted in 2013, has some problems with people who aren’t white, too. People also know Verne Gagne, inducted in 2006, committed homicide in 2009 (he wasn’t charged due to suffering from dementia and potential CTE at the time, but it happened). The Fabulous Moolah has been accused of various sex crimes, not to mention actively corrupting the business side of women’s wrestling for multiple decades, but somehow she retains her legend status. Abdullah the Butcher has been convicted of knowingly spreading Hepatitis, but WWE still sees him as such a legend he was inducted in 2011 despite never working for the company. Speaking of that last one…
5. People Want Out
In part due to the other controversies on this list, specifically the fact Abdullah the Butcher was inducted, “Superstar” Billy Graham has been actively campaigning for his name to be removed from the WWE Hall of Fame since 2011. Graham is a former WWE World Champion and one of the most influential and charismatic heels in wrestling history. He was inducted into the Hall in 2004. He has called Abdullah’s induction “shameless,” claiming the decision made the Hall of Fame itself “embarrassing” and saying he “want[s] the name Superstar Billy Graham to be no part of it.” Many speculated this stems from some unknown serious heat between the Superstar and the Butcher, while others naturally assume it’s in relation to the Hepatitis scandal. Regardless, it’s clear how desperately Graham wants out, and it’s also clear WWE is ignoring his requests for some strange reason.
4. Tons of People Turned It Down
Over the past several years, Triple H in particular has been doing a really solid job of negating this point, but it existed for years. Several major WWE superstars repeatedly turned down a chance at inclusion within the Hall of Fame. Names like Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, Bob Backlund, and the Ultimate Warrior are all former WWE World Champions who lead the company for years, and yet all of them denied the first several opportunities to receive a Hall of Fame ring. Most of these superstars denied the WWE due to bad blood with the McMahon family, which just further proves the notion the Hall of Fame isn’t an actual honorific body, but rather simply an arbitrary personal friendship ranking system for Vince McMahon.
3. Several Years of Inactivity
The WWE Hall of Fame was created in 1993. Over the next three years, 20 men and 1 woman were inducted. Then, from 1997 to 2003, the Hall of Fame was quietly ignored. Although professional wrestling was at its ratings peak during this era, it was also an era of enhanced sex and violence, with beer swilling characters swearing at the boss and giving audiences the middle finger as a sign of honor. As we’ve noted, many past performers didn’t want to be involved, and it got to such a point WWE couldn’t even find five or six names per year willing to be inducted. Only after the Monday Night Wars subsided and WWE gradually moved towards PG did more and more past wrestlers again allow themselves to be associated with the product.
2. They Almost Got Rid Of It
Due to wrestlers not wanting to join, wrestlers asking to be removed, and general fan backlash against the people getting inducted, during that six years of inactivity, there were some pretty serious discussions about simply scrapping the concept altogether. Very little was made in the way of an official statement on the matter, but that’s because WWE pretty much didn’t mention the Hall of Fame at all during this time. As is, it only comes up around WrestleMania time when inductions are being announced, and without any new induction, the concept was pretty much seen to be finished. WWE ultimately decided to bring the Hall of Fame back in 2004, and they’ve obviously had pretty consistent success with it since then.
1. It Doesn’t Physically Exist
No doubt the shadiest and most confusing fact about the WWE Hall of Fame is that it doesn’t technically exist. The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame recently moved to Texas. The NWA Hall of Fame is in Charlotte, North Carolina. ECW’s Hardcore Hall of Fame is in Philadelphia, of course. Despite having far more mainstream appeal and financial support than any of the others combined, the WWE Hall of Fame exists only in a metaphysical sense. For years, there have been rumors of a physical Hall eventually being opened, with the most recent rumors pointing towards Florida, but plans have never come into fruition. In fact, there is no concrete evidence to support the idea WWE ever actually plans to build any actual museum site to honor the men and women they have inducted.