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2020 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame

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Really wish they would bounce that age back to 45 or even 55. Note entirely sure that changes the standard to get in. If Kenny is a HOF guy now, he would be a HOF wrestler later. If that meant possibly resurfacing wrestlers that fell off and were presented before turning 45, I would be okay with that! Load these ballots up.

I'm super interested in the candidacy of Kenny right now but think maybe in a decade when we have more info on how AEW plays out, he would at least be fun to discuss. He has layers to his career, is going to be a top guy in 2 of the 5 biggest promotions of the past decade, and one of the more divisive in-ring talents of this era. But that is a less enjoyable conversation when we still don't have much distance from it. 

Will say I am super happy for Jun who should have been in. The WONHOF feels like the closest thing we have to a HOF for wrestling so will take it when one of the good ones get in.

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Sgt. Slaughter turned 35 in 1983. If he had been on a theoretical ballot in 1983-84, fresh off the Final Conflict and the Iron Sheik feud, would he have gotten into the Hall? 

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Man, this forum used to have a waaaaaaayyyyyy stronger pro-Big Daddy contingent.  i guess a lot of the big UK heads don't post here anymore, and i think Dylan might've been in that camp too...

Anyway, glad to finally see Jun get his due!  And always down for more Mexico inductees, that's still the most logjammed category.

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On 11/20/2020 at 12:19 PM, Al said:

Sgt. Slaughter turned 35 in 1983. If he had been on a theoretical ballot in 1983-84, fresh off the Final Conflict and the Iron Sheik feud, would he have gotten into the Hall? 

I'm pretty shocked that Sarge isn't in.  What's the reasoning on that?  Dude was a good worker and a pretty big crossover star, seems like a lock to me.

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2 hours ago, Log said:

I'm pretty shocked that Sarge isn't in.  What's the reasoning on that?  Dude was a good worker and a pretty big crossover star, seems like a lock to me.

Victim of a slow decline and his career ending with a whimper. I remember Meltzer accusing him of phoning it in as soon as he became a megastar in 84 and then coasting afterwards. Not sure of this, but I'm assuming the 90/91 Iraqi sympathizer run was trashed at the time in WON. Outside of PWO and few other circles, not much love for Slaughter's early 80s glory days. JYD, Patera, Rich, Blackwell, etc are similar--guys who were huge pre-84 but are either forgotten or more remembered for sad last days by most fans 

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I mean, even if somehow AEW crashes and burns I would think Kenny would deserve entry based on taking New Japan to the next level. Folks were fearing a return to the dark ages when AJ and Nak left, but Kenny not only stepped in admirably but took the business higher.

(also I don't expect AEW to go anywhere unless the Khan family somehow manage to get Enron'ed out of their nearly 8 billion dollar worth)

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People underestimate just how badly Sarge bombed in the AWA. Check out the attendance/gate figures for yourselves. He didn't draw a dime, which suggests that his "star power" benefited greatly from the stacked WWF cards of the early 80s. Had Backlund stuck around post-title run, I'm pretty sure he would've struggled (even more than he did) to make it into the HOF as well. 

Also, the fact that he's still in kayfabe mode about serving in Vietnam is a problem for some voters. Bullshitting about stuff like that tends to go down badly. 

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I'm not asking for a deep dive of stats, but explain how Omega "took NJ to the next level" when Fumi Saito said that in Japan people just view Omega as one of the handful of guys on top in that era of NJ.  That everyone who thought NJPW would suffer after he left, that they really didn't, just like the Bullet Club cycled thru Balor to AJ to Omega, New Japan just moved on after he left.  I'm not sure the stats back up that take either though.

Regarding the age 35 thing, while I agree that Dave is probably too stubborn to budge from that rule, I think there is some logic behind it though as that would kind of create a 10-year dry period of new candidates if he changed it from 35 to 45. But it did lead to a lot of interesting discussion on the 605 HOF shows about guys like Slaughter, Mistico, etc. on how they would have been viewed if they had been on the ballot coming off their prime years and if the picks would have aged well.

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8 minutes ago, WrestlingPower said:

I'm not asking for a deep dive of stats, but explain how Omega "took NJ to the next level" when Fumi Saito said that in Japan people just view Omega as one of the handful of guys on top in that era of NJ.  That everyone who thought NJPW would suffer after he left, that they really didn't, just like the Bullet Club cycled thru Balor to AJ to Omega, New Japan just moved on after he left.  I'm not sure the stats back up that take either though.

100%. If the argument for Kenny Omega being in the HOF is his drawing power in New Japan then Devitt, Styles, and Jay White all should be in as well as they drew similar attendance figures when in that same spot as the top gajin heel. Really the better argument for him as a draw in Japan is the attendance figures for DDT. They managed to sell 11,000 seats at the Budokan with him on top! The only other Westerners who impacted a Japanese indie's attendance figures  like that were Terry Funk and Mick Foley.

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17 minutes ago, WrestlingPower said:

I'm not asking for a deep dive of stats, but explain how Omega "took NJ to the next level" when Fumi Saito said that in Japan people just view Omega as one of the handful of guys on top in that era of NJ. 

Not advocating for Omega either way, but I think the best argument for that would be his first match with Jericho which sent NJ World subscriptions skyrocketing worldwide, and also led to more foreigners attending the Tokyo Dome shows, which meant NJ started selling them out for the first time in almost decades, although this was with fewer tickets being put up for sale. 

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Except they haven't legitimately sold the Dome out since 2003. They did respectable numbers with Jericho vs Omega, Omega vs Okada and Omega vs Tanahashi but they weren't sell outs.

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43 minutes ago, joeg said:

Except they haven't legitimately sold the Dome out since 2003. They did respectable numbers with Jericho vs Omega, Omega vs Okada and Omega vs Tanahashi but they weren't sell outs.

Nope, they were sell-outs. Fewer tickets were put on sale, as I mentioned, but they were sold out. We had a discussion about this a few months back - https://forums.prowrestlingonly.com/topic/35718-comments-that-dont-warrant-a-thread-part-4/?do=findComment&comment=5918782 

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Devitt, Styles and White have never main evented a Dome show. Devitt wasn't close, Styles was 2nd from the top in 2016, and White will do so this year (although obviously his number in draw will be capped). 

Also, Styles is in, at least partly based on his run in Japan. 

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Let's be real, though. Omega is in almost entirely on the basis of work. If you think that the Okada/Omega tetralogy is the greatest series of matches in history or close to it and Omega/Page vs. Young Bucks is the greatest tag match in history or close to it, then he belongs in on that basis alone and whatever role he played in growing New Japan's business and establishing AEW is icing on the cake.

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4 hours ago, NintendoLogic said:

Let's be real, though. Omega is in almost entirely on the basis of work. If you think that the Okada/Omega tetralogy is the greatest series of matches in history or close to it and Omega/Page vs. Young Bucks is the greatest tag match in history or close to it, then he belongs in on that basis alone and whatever role he played in growing New Japan's business and establishing AEW is icing on the cake.

I love takes like these when they don't even acknowledge his DDT run.

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7 hours ago, NintendoLogic said:

Let's be real, though. Omega is in almost entirely on the basis of work. If you think that the Okada/Omega tetralogy is the greatest series of matches in history or close to it and Omega/Page vs. Young Bucks is the greatest tag match in history or close to it, then he belongs in on that basis alone and whatever role he played in growing New Japan's business and establishing AEW is icing on the cake.

I don't really get this. Why would growing New Japan's business and establishing AEW be icing on the cake when they would form the main basis of a case for anyone else? Why can't people look at the numbers and appraise him for that even if they're lower on his matches than the general consensus?

Okada is coming on the ballot next year and his business record means even the people who insist he's Japanese Randy Orton should objectively be voting for him. 

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In my opinion the European side of the WON ballot is lacking in terms of wrestlers from Continental Europe, which is understandable since there's a big lack of research on that part of the world. So I gave it some thought and here's some thoughts about a few potential European candidates that could conceivably go on the ballot, but have gone under the radar. I'm only picking guys who are more recent - recent as in they had careers that lasted through the 1950s and went beyond 1960. These are also guys who you can find some footage of and get somewhat of an idea of their in-ring work.

Before I even start I have to say this. Making a case for wrestlers from Continental Europe would be much, much easier if we had access to attendance numbers, but unfortunately we do not. The European press just did not report numbers on a regular basis. Having all the numbers from France, Spain and Greece would have been a big difference maker as there were a lot of shows there in arenas for 10,000+ crowds. Oh well, it is what it is. I also have to point out I'm still researching Spain and France so I expect I'll dig up more info in the months to come.

Jose Tarres
Career: mid 1940s through late 1960s
Pros: One of the biggest, if not the biggest, stars in the history of Spanish pro wrestling. Three weeks into his pro career he was already headlining shows. Was on top in Spain for about 20 years during the golden age of Spanish pro wrestling when every summer there would be a lot of open-air shows in big bullrings and stadiums throughout the country. Was one of the keys stars who helped take the business in Spain into its golden age. Drew three 20,000+ crowds for title matches in Valencia, as well as a lot of big crowds in his home town of Barcelona (and probably elsewhere in Spain too). Held a ton of championships in Spain, more so than anyone else there. He held championships in three different weight classes and when you add them all together he was a one-time World champion, 7-time European champion and 3-time Spanish champion. On a couple of occasions he held three titles at the same time - one of only a handful of wrestlers to do so in the history of Spanish wrestling. Was popular in France too, where he worked quite a bit, and had some television exposure there, and this was during a time when wrestling was doing quite well on national TV in France.
Cons: He did wrestle a little bit elsewhere in Europe too (England, Germany, etc.), but didn't have a lot of success outside of Spain and to a lesser extent France. Other Spanish stars like Francisco Pino and Hercules Cortez (and Eugenio Gonzalez in the early 1950s) were a bigger deal than him in France so he was probably the number four or five Spanish star in the history of France. While he did work quite a few main events and semi-main events in France he never worked the really big shows there. Had a minimalistic in-ring style in a sense that usually his matches were built around him trying to knock his opponents out with his famous headbutts. It worked for him back in his era, but I could see someone looking at him today and thinking this isn't very exciting to watch and that plenty of other European wrestlers were better in-ring workers than him because of this.

L'Ange Blanc (Francisco Pino)
Career: early 1950s through mid 1970s
Pros: Probably the biggest mainstream star in the history of French pro wrestling. I would say bigger than guys like Paul Pons and Henri Deglane on a mainstream level, because L'Ange was a star in the television era when millions of people could actually watch him perform live on TV. From the little information that we know, his TV appearances seem to have done double what the usual TV audience for wrestling would be so that right there tells you how big of a TV star he was. He also made appearances on other French television shows and was very much a mainstream celebrity in France. His two-year run as a masked wrestler was huge in France and this was a time when business in France seems to have been at one of its highest levels in history. Big TV audiences for his appearances, packed weekly venues and reportedly several crowds of 10,000+ in Paris. His appearance ushered in a new wave of masked wrestlers not only in France, but in Europe too, so he was very influential in that sense. In France alone 25+ new masked wrestlers were introduced in the year after L'Ange's debut and there were a number of L'Ange Blanc imposters working throughout the country just because the demand for the masked hero L'Ange Blanc was so big. Not too long after England, Spain, Greece and other places introduced their own versions of L'Ange Blanc and in general masked characters became more prominent in Europe, which was largely inspired by L'Ange Blanc and his success in France. He wasn't as big a star in France after 1961 when he removed his mask, but he continued being a headline star there for another decade. Was also a star in his native Spain. Perhaps not as big as Tarres, Cortez and some of the other local stars, but was certainly a popular name in Spain for 10+ years. Held some championships in Spain and headlined some big shows in Madrid and elsewhere. Also had a solid run in England and also a run as a headline star in Mexico in 1967, where he drew some big crowds at Arena Mexico.
Cons: His run as a masked wrestler in France was huge, but it was only a little over two years. A few months into his run the big 18,000 capacity venue in Paris that had hosted all the major Paris shows since 1933 got demolished so he got to headline only a few shows there. Because of this in terms of drawing big crowds in Paris he's not anywhere close to the previous two generations of French stars (Henri Deglane, Charles Rigoulot, Yvar Martinson, Felix Miquet). He was a big television star, but in reality as a masked wrestler he only had three, four at most, matches on TV. He doesn't seem to have been as big in his native Spain as you may think an internationally renowned Spanish star would be, which kind of surprised me to be honest. I would have expected him to have been a bigger deal there, but I still have some research to do so things may change as I do the research. He was a solid in-ring technician and had a very clean style, but wasn't overly exciting to watch. There were plenty of better and more exciting European workers than him back then.

Gilbert Leduc
Career: late 1940s through mid 1970s
Pros: A popular headliner in France for 20+ years. A genuine wrestling television star. One of the staples of French wrestling TV, really. Held various European and World Titles, in different weight classes, in France. One of the most well-regarded workers in the history of French pro wrestling. Was an influential name behind the scenes too. He was also a headline star in Spain, where he was also a European and World Title claimant and headlined a number of big open-air events throughout the country. His in-ring ability was held in very high regard in Spain too and some Spanish reports would go as far as saying Leduc was the best wrestler in Europe, period.
Cons: While he was a top babyface in France for a long time, for most of that time he was the top babyface of what was essentially the number two promotion. He worked only a couple of matches at the big Palais des Sports venue in Paris and most of his biggest matches in France were in smaller to mid-size venues so in that sense he cannot compare to the headliners from the Raoul Paoli/Alex Goldstein promotion. His size, i.e. not being a heavyweight, is probably what hurt him in that regard as Paoli/Goldstein relied mostly on heavyweight stars for their shows at Palais des Sports. Leduc also worked a bit in places like England, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, but didn't have much of an impact there.

Roger Delaporte & Andre Bollet
Career: early 1950s through early 1970s
Pros: The most high profile team in French pro wrestling history. French tag team champions and I would say the top heels of the TV era in France. Big stars of the early French television era. In fact, probably the biggest mainstream stars of the era after L'Ange Blanc. Much like him, they were two of the few French stars who crossed into the mainstream, but in a different way. Not only were they mainstays of French wrestling TV, when the TV was at its strongest, but they also made appearances on other television variety shows, did some acting (including starring in their own feature film) and also released a music album. Very entertaining characters with an in-ring style that really resonated with the French audiences. The definition of heels you love to hate. Great at stooging, cheating and drawing heat, but at the same time always bringing the comedy and bumping big time for the babyfaces to make them look good. Headlined some shows at Palais des Sports. Both wrestled elsewhere in Europe (England, Spain, Italy, etc.) and were held in good regard as headlining stars, but overall Bollet is ahead of Delaporte on that front. If we are to look at them individually, for Bollet you could say he had a decent little run in Texas, a good one in Canada (where he headlined in front of some big crowds tagging with Edouard Carpentier) and a tour of Japan with IWE where he was in some main events. Delaporte didn't travel that much and at first he was a bigger singles star than Bollet in France, but Bollet caught up to him in later years. It's also good to point out Delaporte had a long run as promoter at Elysee Montmartre in Paris.
Cons: They didn't headline a lot of big shows in France - a few, but not a lot. Again, like with L'Ange Blanc, as they were beginning to hit their stride as stars the big Paris venue got demolished. While they did have some success outside of their native France, Bollet especially, they weren't overly successful outside of France. Their in-ring style could be seen as too much clowning around by some.

Anyway, just some thoughts from me. Hopefully some of these guys get more attention. I feel they deserve it.

On a related note, I believe my HOF bio of Dan Koloff should be coming out in the Observer soon. I hope you guys would enjoy it. If anyone has any questions or feedback about it, ask away.

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Nothing to add except I really enjoy reading that type of information.

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The Europe/Aus/Rest of the world section of the ballot is, in my opinion, the most competitive of them all (I voted for 4 guys in that section alone last year). Adding more names would only make it more difficult to get anyone inducted and risks eliminating guys who are deserving, but suffer from lack of voter knowledge. The names on that list, Phil, are likely to fall into this category. As would guys already on the ballot like Billy Joyce. The best UK wrestler of his generation, hugely influential for the likes of Billy Robinson & Karl Gotch, yet polled at 11% because voter awareness of UK wrestling pre-TV exposure is incredibly weak.

From that list, L'Ange Blanc would be the strongest candidate for me. I'd suggest gathering support behind 1-2 current candidates and then adding him (or others) to the ballot as the best way of maximizing their chances of actually getting inducted. For what it's worth, my strongest two picks in that section would be Billy Joyce and Dominic DeNucci. 

 

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On 11/25/2020 at 4:02 PM, rovert said:

I love takes like these when they don't even acknowledge his DDT run.

I would wager most people don't even know what DDT is, and a good chunk of those who do know what it is have never watched any of it and only know of it secondhand.

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Going strictly by numbers, a guy like Georg "Schurl" Blemenschütz also has to be a decent candidate. He was the top star and main promoter in Austria for something like two decades and going by reports, alone during the summer months, they did almost daily shows in Vienna drawing up to 15.000 at the Heumarkt (I obviously don't know how often that happened and what a regular crowd size was). Like many people, he hung around too long in the ring (into his seventies), at the end being called "the mummy of the Heumarkt" by fans.

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On 11/25/2020 at 4:02 PM, rovert said:

I love takes like these when they don't even acknowledge his DDT run.

Exactly. I think his biggest argument for inclusion isn't that he took the Tokyo Dome show from 25,000 paid to 34,000 paid or his in ring work (which is subject for debate as it isn't universally loved). I think the biggest argument for Omega's inclusion is that a garbage indie with no TV that was drawing less than a 700 people to their biggest shows brought him in, put him on top, and sold out the Budokan twice and became a legit number 2 company in Japan!! And then after he left went back to being a garbage indie that couldn't fill Korakeun Hall. Only other people to really do that in Japan are Terry Funk and Mick Foley. 

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14 hours ago, joeg said:

Exactly. I think his biggest argument for inclusion isn't that he took the Tokyo Dome show from 25,000 paid to 34,000 paid or his in ring work (which is subject for debate as it isn't universally loved). I think the biggest argument for Omega's inclusion is that a garbage indie with no TV that was drawing less than a 700 people to their biggest shows brought him in, put him on top, and sold out the Budokan twice and became a legit number 2 company in Japan!! And then after he left went back to being a garbage indie that couldn't fill Korakeun Hall. Only other people to really do that in Japan are Terry Funk and Mick Foley. 

The Omega "research" by certain people definitely displayed who you should and shouldn't pay attention to. The 605 podcast specifically was really embarrassing for all involved.

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18 hours ago, joeg said:

Exactly. I think his biggest argument for inclusion isn't that he took the Tokyo Dome show from 25,000 paid to 34,000 paid or his in ring work (which is subject for debate as it isn't universally loved). I think the biggest argument for Omega's inclusion is that a garbage indie with no TV that was drawing less than a 700 people to their biggest shows brought him in, put him on top, and sold out the Budokan twice and became a legit number 2 company in Japan!! And then after he left went back to being a garbage indie that couldn't fill Korakeun Hall. Only other people to really do that in Japan are Terry Funk and Mick Foley. 

It's the package of the New Japan, the work, DDT and AEW presumably. Because of DDT is the main factor then I'd love to hear from the people who voted Kenny but didn't vote Kota. 

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4 hours ago, rovert said:

The 605 podcast specifically was really embarrassing for all involved.

You were able to get through that whole thing?!  If so, I'm impressed.  I usually enjoy Last's roundtable discussions but I had to tap out after getting about halfway through the first episode.  I think a 4 hour podcast devoted to nothing else but the Observer HOF is a bit much, honestly. I enjoyed hearing Fumi Saito's perspective because it always interesting to her what somebody who actually lives and works in Japan has to say about how the Japanese fans perceive Pro Wrestling...but I thought guys like Kurt Brown brought pretty much nothing to the discussion and actually took away from it.  Cornette usually adds a lot to the conversation due to his encyclopedic knowledge of Pro Wrestling history but obviously thanks to his falling out with Meltzer he didn't even vote this year, so he didn't appear on the Superpodcast HOF episode...and despite what you might think of Jim Cornette, it really could have used him.

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