In any sport, the institution of the Hall of Fame is the biggest privilege. It’s the highest honor of a game, designed to be extraordinarily difficult to reach enshrinement with an arduous process. This ensures that only the best of the best have a plaque in Cooperstown, a gold jacket from Canton or their picture etched into the ceiling of the Naismith Memorial. It’s a process that requires years of debate, but it doesn’t matter if Jim Rice waits fifteen years to appear on 75% of the BBWAA electorate while Tom Glavine gets in on his first try, the two will forever share the same fraternity and hallowed hallways. Meanwhile over in Canton, Ohio, the process is so ridiculously convoluted that we’re still debating on whether or not Ronde Barber, the only player with at least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks in NFL history, is worthy of a spot five years after he first hit the ballot.
That’s where the WWE Hall of Fame is the exception to the rule. It’s a proverbial place with some of the greatest names in the history of professional wrestling: Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Bruno Sammartino, Mick Foley, Lita, Edge, The Undertaker, among others. Yet, for the litany of big stars to be included, the track record isn’t the most consistent. For every Edge who entered one year after his initial retirement, there’s a Bruno Sammartino who waited 20 years after the first Hall of Fame class, despite holding the World Championship for approximately 4,000 cumulative days. For every star the caliber of Steve Austin, there’s an Ed Leslie whose biggest claim to fame is being friends with Hulk Hogan. Not to mention, proverbial was a key word at the start of a paragraph because the institution itself ceases to exist. Those selected receive a commemorative ring, but there’s nothing tangible for a fan to go and soak in the history of it; and beyond that, it’s a pre-determined Hall of Fame process, if one could even call it a process, for a pre-determined sport filled with politics.
Meanwhile, Alexa Bliss is one of the most charismatic and successful performers in WWE history. Alongside Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka and Charlotte, Bliss is one of only five women in WWE’s history to win the main roster triple crown: SmackDown, Raw and Tag Team Women’s Championships. She’s held the two singles championships on a combined five occasions, including becoming only the second SmackDown Women’s Champion in history when she defeated Becky Lynch in a Table’s Match in 2016. She’s a former 24/7 Champion, Miss Money in the Bank and hosted a WrestleMania. Her resume is longer than most women in the history of WWE. It’s hard to say that somebody is a lock for the Hall of Fame, considering arguably the biggest star in WWE history and one of the biggest A-List actors in the world today has yet to be enshrined nearly two decades after his run ended. Consider how long it took talents such as Sammartino, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior or even Scott Steiner to give their speech due to personal animosity between them and the person who has the final say in who goes in. But should Bliss remain on excellent terms with her employer, the nod shouldn’t be too far behind her when she hangs up her wrestling boots.
Bliss recently commented on the WWE Hall of Fame itself while speaking with The MackMania Podcast, sparking the usual discourse that comes with the WWE Hall of Fame.
“I think on paper, I’m definitely a WWE Hall of Famer. I have been so extremely fortunate with all the amazing opportunities I have been given in this company, especially in my first few years here. On paper, I think technically the entire women’s roster, right now, could all be Hall of Famers.”
I’d argue that the assumptions made by Bliss are accurate, but those comments always come with scrutiny from fans. Let’s use the comments on this Facebook post, for example. They include “it’s the Hall of Fame not hall of okay/good” and a very mordant “might as well let Disco Inferno in well you’re at it.” While it’s refreshing to see fans get excited about what a Hall of Fame could represent, this isn’t baseball and we’re not debating whether or not the chase for the 2022 Triple Crown completes Paul Goldschmidt’s eventual Hall of Fame case. It’s professional wrestling and one of the faces of the long-overdue revolution in women’s wrestling is saying she should warrant strong consideration—and she’s spot on. The precedent is set, and was set long ago with the inclusions of talents such as Ivan Putski, that you don’t need many fixed championship belts to necessitate your spot. Before one even discusses the merits of Hillbilly Jim, it may even be simpler to look at the merits of Star Trek star William Shatner or Brewers announcer Bob Uecker. Pete Rose is in more Hall of Fame’s for professional wrestling than professional baseball, despite the fact that he’s never wrestled in a professional wrestling contest and made 17 MLB All-Star teams at five different positions over his career. Who’d have taken that bet?
The celebrity wing has led to a lot of conversation questioning how legitimate WWE’s Hall of Fame actually is, seeing that if your organization hosts two WrestleMania’s in Atlantic City, you perform a hit song live on an episode SmackDown in 2009 or you backhand Triple H in the face, you’re bestowed with what many perceive to be the company’s highest honor. If that remains to be the case, then why shouldn’t every superstar that spends life on the road for over 300 days on the calendar missing pivotal moments of family members to entertain millions around the world in a dangerous environment receive their day in the sun?
Furthermore, The Fabulous Moolah and Sherri Martel were the only two women inducted through the first eight ceremonies. If you don’t include Legacy recipients who don’t get to speak and are barely mentioned, there has never been a Hall of Fame class with more than one woman inducted until 2019 when Torrie Wilson was inducted the same year as D-Generation X (which included Chyna). There has never been a year where more than one solo women’s acts were inducted in the same class. While the Hall of Fame roster gets noticeably fluffed, the amount of women in the Hall of Fame is still thin despite a number of credible candidates such as Michelle McCool, Bull Nakano, AJ Lee, Victoria, Paige, Melina, Jazz and others still on the outside looking in. One could argue that it’s natural to induct more men because the industry was dominated by males for a century, but when comparing the quality of some picked it becomes blatantly obvious that the recent trend of one woman per year has been used as a token. The women are seemingly held to a much higher standard in Hall of Fame consideration and that’s something that needs to change.
To elaborate on the rest of the remarks made by Bliss, it’s worth noting that WWE is in its golden age of women’s wrestling. Crossover talent like Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch may garner the headlines, but between the legacies being built by Rhea Ripley, Bayley, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Naomi and Nikki ASH, there’s plenty of talents to be considered. Not to mention established legends competing currently such as Asuka and Charlotte Flair, they’ll be joined by Ronda Rousey, who became the first woman to main event WrestleMania, Natalya Neidhart whose longevity is unmatched within the women’s roster, first-ever Ms. Money in the Bank Carmella and probably many others as WWE and Triple H look to improve on its booking of the women’s division. With more opportunity likely on the horizon, more will most certainly make noise as they get the chance they’ve been waiting for.
These are the types of discussion that take place in the first quarter of every year, but they’re laughable every time that they take place. Let’s enjoy it for the folks that do get in, rather than pearl-clutching for a certain echelon of talent. It’s WWE’s way to give back to those who have made it a global entity and it doesn’t have to be any more than that.