WWE Hall of Fame Tonight!!!

wwe-hall-of-fame-2015

 

Tonight on the WWE Network, my favorite night of the year: The WWE Hall of Fame premieres!!!!

Tonight’s induction class is the largest since 2004 and features one of the most eclectic classes in history. Many deserve the honor. Some do not. Let’s take a quick look at who is going in tonight:

 

Macho Man Randy Savage

Macho Man Randy Savage finally takes his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. While the celebration of this moment will be great, Macho will not be there himself to revel in his induction. Lanny Poffo will do a passable job at accepting for his brother. Expect him to say that this Induction is “For the Macho Fan, more than the Macho Man>” something he has said way too often since this was announced. Maybe we’ll be a poem too…..

 

Kevin Nash

Rumors have said that Kevin Nash will be headlining the Class tonight, mostly due to the fact that Macho Man is dead. He is also supposedly being given the most time, with all other inductees asked to go twelve minutes or less.

Nash is a über polarizing figure and an apparent avid fan of fucking with fans. It is possible we may see some of that, and its also possible he may be booed by the smart mark crowd.

Rikishi

The latest in the long line of Samoan inductees, Rikishi is one of the weakest in this year’s class. His induction is due mostly to “popularity” with Too Cool and stinkfaces. Rikishi will be inducted by his sons, The Usos, who will immortalize their father, all the while likely knowing in their minds that Rikishi is only getting in due to their current employment. Not looking forward to this one.

Alundra Blayze

The potential dark horse of the night, Alundra Blayze or Madusa as she is properly known, should have an interesting speech. Her inductor is TBD, which means it will likely be a Diva like AJ Lee (or possibly all the DIVAS combined like Sunny). Blayze has been persona non gratis with the WWE for 15 years, she may have something to say about it. Watch this one.

 

Larry Zbyszko

The classic superstar inductee of this year, Larry Zbyszko may be an unknown for some of the fans in attendance. His heel persona was one of the best and he specifically is known for his promo skills. Bruno Sammartino will be inducting the owner of Larryland. It is likely that Larry’s poetic nature will give the best speech of the night.

 

The Bushwhackers

The most frustrating inductees of the night, The Bushwhackers, undeservingly join the Hall of Fame tonight as well inducted by former flag bearer, Johnny Ace. I just hope this goes quickly and we can forget the KoKo B. Ware level of embarrassment felt by their inclusion.

 

Tatsumi Fujinami

Tatsumi Fujinami, international star and Japanese legend will also join the Hall this year. Ric Flair, his greatest US opponent with wax poetic while telling tales of this master of the wrestling ring. During access, he even appeared to congratulate Hideo Itami on his victory. Hopefully, those in know can see this rub to help Itami become a success here in the WWE.

Connor the Crusher: Warrior Award

The heartfelt moment of the night with be the inaugural Warrior Award as presented to recently deceased Connor “The Crusher”. Connor died last year after a long battle with cancer. This move of inducting him is both welcome and will be a special moment for his family.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

WWE continues its pattern of celebrity inductions with the weakest one since Drew Carey. Arnold’s inclusion is likely due to a deal between Triple H and he, with Triple H going into the International Sports Hall of Fame (owned and run by Arnold) and Schwarzenegger going in to the WWE. This is a dumb induction and will hopefully go quickly.

Catch the WWE Hall of Fame tonight on the WWE Network and come back for a full review of the days proceedings this upcoming week after Wrestlemania!!!

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Kevin Nash

nash

Kevin Nash

Class of 2015

Big Daddy Cool, Big Sexy

nashnow

Hall of Fame Rating

8.5 out of 10

Main Eventer

Without a doubt, Kevin Nash is one of the most polarizing figures in wrestling history. His detractors’ hatred is plentiful,with names like Big Lazy circulating regularly.  When Nash was first announced, one of this blogs’ regular readers “threw his hands up in the air” and said without a doubt that Nash’s inclusion solidified the 2015 class as one of the worst in history. He was no longer going to watch the ceremony on the WWE Network That is a serious set of statements. What about Kevin Nash creates such disdain in the “smart fan” base?

Supposed character or  Nash’s supposed lack of it, fuels his naysayers. Kevin Nash  summarizes himself succinctly, he is first and foremost a business man. Heroes like Daniel Bryan are seen by fans as fans of the business who do their life passion in the ring. This might be true in Bryan’s case but isn’t as much of a constant as we’d like to think. Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Goldberg and anyone who jumped to WCW during the Monday Night Wars were much more concerned with the bottom line than their own passion,

brethart

And some are more concerned with their pride….

Nash also loves to fuck with the fans. On twitter, Nash writes incendiary things, (Chris Jericho too!) or  “news” to fuck with the “smart fan”. Nash’s life is the wrestling business and he takes offense to people who suppose they are “in the know”, a fairly old-school wrestler attitude. When he isn’t actively ribbing fans, he’s offending them by jabbing at some of their heroes..

Hatred for Nash in the modern era stemmed from comments about Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. He referred to Eddie as a “Vanilla Midget” and said Guerrero was unbelievable as a World Champion. This is a very unpopular position within our community, but I see his point. Eddie Guerrero won the WWE Heavyweight Championship out of nowhere in 2004 at  No Way Out. He won it because both Brock Lesnar and Goldberg  decided to leave the organization after Wrestlemania 20, where they were originally planned to have a WWE Championship match.. If one or both of them had decided to sign on for another year, Eddie’s title run would have never occurred. Unpopular opinion, Eddie Guerrero was not a main event talent. He didn’t last long as heavyweight champion and his run cannot be considered to be stupendous. To this point of view, Nash is greeted regularly with:

howdareyou

On top of his attitude, Nash has been accused of being overrated as a talker, a worker and a talent, all the while himself masquerading as a Main Eventer. To his detractors, his 1995 title reign is as the example of his poor performance and sheer inability to create memorable moments. Diesel hatred can be summarized succinctly; he couldn’t wrestle and only got where he did due to his size. This is a gross simplification of his 1995 championship run. 1995 WWF had a completely different terrain than today, with kayfabe not yet dead and limited internet. Nash got the championship belt during a downward spiral period in both quality and superstar caliber. 1993 saw the end of the long running Hulk Hogan Era with the McMahon run company. Hogan’s replacement, Bret Hart, was originally poised as a temporary champion (both picked for his small stature and lack of obvious steriod usage)  The Hitman’s look, bland and basic mic skills and lack of a large personality all hurt his first run. Yokozuna, the first long-term heel WWF Champion since Superstar Billy Graham, eventually lost the title back to Hart when Lex Luger went belly up.

Who would ever believe this man had charisma?

Who would ever believe this man had charisma?

There was a large problem. Bret Hart in 1994 had very few reputable challengers. His feuds with Crush, his brother Owen and even former champion Bob Backlund were not “big” enough in the world of Hogans and Warriors and business began to fade. Add in the end of the steroid trials, WCW starting to rise as competition. (The year Hogan arrived there) and in 1994, Vince McMahon needed a new larger than life babyface. McMahon decided to take a chance on a newer wrestler, who while relatively green, had the look, size and the charisma with potential to take fire. Baby-face Diesel worked. Fans took to him and he had some limited success as the anti-Bret Hart, even having a fairly good match with the former champion at the Royal Rumble. (This is mostly due to Hart himself and his ability to make anyone “look good”)

Pride is the most important thing....

Pride is the most important thing….

Why would WWE go with Diesel over Bret Hart, who was clearly the most capable wrestler? Wrestling in 1995 was considerably less about the showstopper nature of matches and more about larger than life characters who the fans could believe in. The idea of “amazing matches” throughout the card with spot fests, and jumping through ropes and stunts, otherwise known as WWE today, is a by product of the WCW luchador revolution, and ECW. It didn’t really exist in 1995. Nash was of his time.. One only needs to look at the Undertaker the progression of the business. His amazing Wrestlemania matches didn’t begin until the mid 2000s, when more was expected of him as a wrestler.  (PS, this is also one of the reasons Kevin Nash did not succeed in his return in 2002/2003, his plodding wrestling style didn’t really work anymore. He couldn’t carry a “great” match.)

While not a maven in the ring, Nash needs to be given more of a break in the “talent” category. He wasn’t terrible. One could even compare him to current “hated persona” Roman Reigns. Reigns, like Diesel, are an example of Vince taking a chance and building a new star with potential. Where Nash struggled, and likely Roman will succeed, was in the quality of opponent to help the green champion improve. Reigns will have Rollins, Bryan, Cena, Lesanr, Wyatt and more to teach him while growing his image. Nash didn’t have that. You can’t put a large Kevin Nash in the ring with the talentless Mabel. Here is the list of wrestlers who got a good match out of Mabel…..

THERES-NOTHING-HERE-e1348677191662_zpse6d3406c

Outside of Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, the WWE struggled with legitimate characters in 1995. They had gone too far to the cartoon style. Here is some characters in WWF 1995: Remember Them?
tlhopperwelldunn

Now while Kevin Nash is better than he is given credit, there is still a massive downside to this man. First, Nash was a member of the Kliq, the group of friends, who successfully bullied their way into positions of power when the void of Hogan opened up in WWF.

Shawn Michaels, an annoyingly beloved figure, was at the forefront of this charade called the Kliq. Its sole purpose seemed to be to keep down talents (Tatanka at Wrestlemania 9, Bam Bam Bigelow after Wrestlemania 11, etc) and make sure that the Kliq, more than anyone else, remained top dogs.

Bret Hart complains about this group of cronies, who had Vince McMahon’s ear, and ran roughshod through the organization for a few years. Nash likely got his run with the belt from this connection. He was a political monster, and he, as well as Michaels, hurt the WWE, heralding the two worst years financially for the company 95 and 96 (funnily enough Michaels year of 1996 was much worse than Diesel’s of 1995, largly due to Nash debut in WCW)

Nash and Hall took the politics they learned in WWF and perfected them in WCW. They changed the business with their guaranteed contracts. From 1996 on, the Monday Night War necessitated guaranteed money for a wrestlers’ loyalty. Nash was a businessman who helped make wrestling more of a business, a practice which still exists today.

http://www.tsmplay.com/money/wwe-wrestlers-divas-salaries/

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. No wrestler should be putting his body on the line and not be able to afford to live. The sad tragedy of Kamala and many other old school talents is that of the per show, per crowd paychecks….

Nash changed that for the better, but in doing so politicized money within wrestling in a way it hadn’t been. CM Punk and Brock Lesnar would continue his salary negotiations tactics to their advantages later down the line. Politics is a dangerous pen to wield. And Nash knew how to use his suave nature and coolness factor to his advantage, getting the ear of both Vince McMahon and Eric Bishcoff.

In WCW, Nash did some of his worst offenses. His work rate, match quality and storylines were fairly strong, especially from 1996-1998. Nash became the leader of the face version of the NWO and as an avid watcher, I always thought the Woldpac was somehow cooler (and in retrospect realize Nash was creating a storyline Kliq)

Nash is heavily criticized for his booking decisions when he took over the book for a short period of time. Funnily enough, Nash did fine, but in the end was replaced by Kevin Sullivan,who was much better. It wasn’t until Vince Russo came in with creative control that WCW turned to shit, with the year 2000 being the most absurd year in pro wrestling in history. None of that was Nash’s fault. He for sure took advantage of WCW, and their large purse to his advantage, but in the end it was a job for him. Nash shrugged more than he stuck it to wrestlers.

The last real negative affect of Kevin Nash, and the NWO as a whole, was they glorified being the heel too much. Nearly all heels since then have tried to be cool. I mentioned in my piece about Larry Zbyszko that Larry never strove to play a cool or even likeable person. That is what a heel was supposed to be. Nash helped change that.

Fans, especially the older, teenage group, began cheering the “bad” guy. Stone Cold took that to another level, taking the heel and turning him into the babyface. Austin is an example of it done well. Today’s WWE is an example of it done poorly. Wade Barrett, for example, has become bogged down with a catchphrase and his directed need to be “noticed” by the audience. Heels are supposed to get noticed by being dastardly, unlikable and plain bad guys.

Actual Bad Guys.. not this Bad Guy

Not this Bad Guy

When Nash and Hall changed that, it added a level of haziness to the roles of heel characters. It seemed no longer to be bad guy vs good guy.

One last point on the NWO. The NWO will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Despite what the WWE likes to say publicly, the NWO is the most important faction in the history of pro-wrestling. While their pure wrestling was leaps below the original Four Horsemen’s run, their effect on the business was far larger Without the NWO, there is no DX, no Attitude Era and no Monday Night War. Plain and simple.

 And Nash was a catalyst for the success of the NWO, If just Razor Ramon left and was joined by Hulk Hogan, it would have felt like a wrestling angle. It needed Hall, Nash and Hogan to succeed.

Funnily enough that statement above is why the NWO failed in WWF in 2002. The NWO was made to look like chumps at Wrestlemania 18, with both Hogan and Hall losing cleanly and then Nash and Hall turning on Hulk Hogan for absolutely no reason. They tried to have Nash take the lead on the NWO, even bringing Big Show, Booker T and eventually Shawn Michaels to help legitimize and differentiate it from the WCW version (making it a new Kliq?)

Until this....

Until this….

Nash’s body seemed to turn brittle by 2002 and he tore his quad. He has been plagued by this rib from the IWC since and boy I bet it bothers him to some degree.

He returned once again in 2003 was made to look more like a chump than the main event talent he was in WCW.  2003 WWE was not the place for Kevin Nash. He was too old school and his lack of wrestling acumen got in the way. 2003 WWE was much different from 1995 WWF and Nash wasn’t particularly poised to succeed. His contract was not renewed at the end of 2003 and Nash disappeared from TV.

This is when I almost begin to feel bad for Kevin Nash. During his TNA years and the years which followed, it became obvious that Nash needed wrestling more than he might have let onto (or perhaps he grew more attached to it as his star faded). Nash started appearing at indy shows, making pennies to what he used to be making, holding onto the dream as many of his contemporaries.

It was only when Nash came back to WWE in 2011, in an exciting sunrise Royal Rumble appearance, that he truly came home. Nash signed a legends contract and even had a brief feud with CM Punk in 2011 (they never fought due to Nash’s health, but had this really funny banter)

I don’t blame Nash for being who he is. That makes me different from many other fans. He is what he is. If we can forgive Shawn Michaels for being a deviant, we can forgive Kevin Nash for being a cold-hearted businessman. Wrestling does matter to this man, and he deserves his Hall of Fame induction.

 

Why 2015?

2015 has been so all over the place, but the WWE has made good with the last 3 inductees. (Fujimani, Zbyszko & Nash)

Nash is the third member of the Kliq to join the Hall of Fame. Very expected. Didn’t go in as Diesel because Kevin Nash asked to go in under his real name… as it is his real name. Triple H has been slowly getting his friends in the Hall of Fame and Nash’s inclusion continues this.

Plus last main event babyface New Generation Candidate (outside of Lex Luger) Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Yokozuna, Razor Ramon and now Kevin Nash…..

Opens Door For?

Not many people. Nash was the next likely choice of Kliq member. He is one of the last New Generation Main Eventers. Vader and Sid are the only two upper card members still missing. Perhaps them….

Vader can't wait to go in

Vader can’t wait to go in

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

Might get booed. There is a real group of “smart” fans who don’t like him.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Larry Zbyszko

larry

Larry Zbyszko

Class of 2015

The Other Living Legend, Owner of Larryland

zbyszkotoday

Hall of Fame Rating

6 out of 10

Influential

 Our next inductee comes from the long list of former WWE enemies. Larry Zbyszko, for a long time, sat squarely in the camp of those no one ever expected to join the WWE Hall of Fame. The reasons were many, in 2001 Larry Zbyszko sued the WWE over the moniker “The Living Legend”as WWE had started calling Chris Jericho by the name and Larry took exception, claiming it was his. This quickly deteriorated into a “pride off”, with both Zbyszko and the WWE giving each other the “finger” publicly.  WWE began repeating The Living Legend Chris Jericho often, with McMahon himself even saying it on RAW   (Not that Jericho needed ANOTHER moniker or catchphrase)

Zbyszko then challenged McMahon to a legit fight on the World Wrestling All Stars PPV and began working for TNA, all the while continuing to bash  the WWE at any given moment.  It was a bitterness which, historically, is very common with former WWE talent after the death of the last territory: WCW. Zbyszko really had nowhere to go, plus probably had a chip on his shoulder for not being brought in for commentary in 2001 (rumored to replace Jerry Lawler when he left). Can you imagine this pairing?

jim_ross larry_zbyszko

A common phrase is apropos here: time heals all wounds. Hopefully the older you get, the more you temper and  Larry is in his 60s now.So last year, Larry Zbyszko made peace and even signed a Legends contract.  His WWE Hall of Fame induction has quickly followed.  WWE tends to like to bring back those who used to hate the organization.  It’s a good story and contrition feels good for both parties. Plus, NXT films down from Larry’s house. Convenience!

Larry didn’t get into the Hall of Fame because he made peace. He deserves it. He is a type of pro wrestler that really doesn’t exist anymore. Larry Zbyszko ,as a heel, exuded negativity and became inherently unlikable, a role he played to a tee. Today, you rarely see a super successful mid card heel character. The best comparison in modern WWE is the Miz.  The difference between the “Must See Superstar” and the Living Legend is their environment. Miz has to deal with both the mindset of modern wrestlers (be the cool bad guy) and the PC PG environment. Larry Zbyszko could be as unlikable as possible; a good smarmy heel.

Larry didn’t start out as a heel, his debut and first six years were spent as a fairly generic tough Pittsburgh babyface. He has runs throughout the territory systems, holding tag gold. What stopped Zbyszko from being just another Tony Garea was his career defining mid-card feud against Bruno Sammartino. This feud lit fire due mostly to the time period it occurred.  Bruno was the semi-retired beloved figure. Larry was his student and protegé.

Larry not only betrayed Bruno, he battered him. The fans of the 1970s wouldn’t accept it. How could anyone turn against the beloved Bruno? Instant heel, and done well.

Larry was a product of his time. As his feud with Bruno cooled, Zbyszko cooled in the WWWF. But in 1981, he could go to another part of the country and succeed in a separate territory.  The territory system benefited wrestlers as their careers were not automatically over if they cooled in WWE (Looking at the Miz once again). Vince McMahon being the see all, end all  of wrestling has hurt some very talented individuals, such as Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy is a wonderful example of a heel who was following in Larry’s footsteps. Both strived to be as annoyingly heelish. Once Kennedy was fired,  he had nowhere to go (TNA doesn’t count), Larry went to the AWA.

In AWA, Larry had two larger successful runs, due both to his skills and that great to decision to marry the owner’s daughter:

Now known as the "Triple H"

Now known as the “Triple H”

Verne Gagne also seemed to believe in Larry’s abilities, at least more than his own son Greg Gagne’s.  Larry ended up becoming a two-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion, while Greg….looked like this:

No One has any idea what is going on here

No One has any idea what is going on here

Zbyszko has the dubious honor of being the last AWA World heavyweight Champion before their closed their doors permanently in 1990/1991. While in the 70s and early 80s the championship was a great honor, held by legends like Nick Bockwinkel and Mad Dog Vachon, by 1989, it didn’t really matter. Larry’s first series of feuds were poor, mostly due to his opponent caliber. AWA’s death knell period was weird and mostly nonsensical. (Anyone remember the Team Challenge!?)

Featuring the Great American Turkey Hunt...Look it up

Featuring the Great American Turkey Hunt…Look it up

On top of that, Larry won his belt in a battle royal, the weakest position for a new champion’s legitimacy, (Looking at you Khali), in a nonsensical over the top rope pinning battle royal. It was AWA in its final years…

http://www.wwe.com/videos/awa-championship-battle-royal-february-7-1989-27169287

Larry’s final active stop was WCW where he played the role of veteran. He ended his career teaming with Arn Anderson, being part of  Paul E. Dangerously’ Dangerous Alliance and winning the World Tag Team Championship. While he hadn’t lost a step promo wise, his age began to catch up to him in the ring. By 1993/1994, Larry stepped into semi-mostly retirement and used his promo skills for another career: commentating. (Think Jerry Lawler circa 2010)

Larry Zbyszko wasn’t the best commentator, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. He had his niche, he played Larry Zbyszko, a smarmy heel like guy who supported WCW in the fight against the NWO. He coined the comically disparaging nickname, New World Oder for the rogue group. Larry had his last great fight against the New World Order, challenging both Scott Hall and Eric Bischoff  to matches in 1997 and 1998.

Both Bischoff and Hall got the opportunity to step into Larryland, a term Zbyszko used for stepping into the ring with him. The phrase was so old-fashioned, silly and frankly bizarre that it got over. Fans could be heard wailing :LAAAAARRRRY at Zbyszko in what has to be the most annoying chant to exist before the dreaded “WHAT?!” chants.

what

While Larry wouldn’t be a first ballot inductee,  his status as multiple time World Champion (even from the AWA) makes him qualified. More 2015 heels should look at Larry’s work and learn from him when he visits the performance center. To be a heel is to be unlikable, Larry’s speciality. Expect him to give the best speech of the night at the 2015 Hall of Fame Ceremony.

On one final note, I am finally excited to talk about a wrestler in the 2015 class who doesn’t frustrate on some level. With 9 inductees, this is the biggest class since 2004, and it includes three terrible inductees and one deceased child….. Larry Zbyszko is the type of inductee who belongs in this Class….

That too

That too

 

Why 2015?

Larry Zybszko recently made peace and has come in regularly as an advisor at NXT. He has joined the WWE family and WWE likes to reward those who come back to the fold.

Plus every year lately have wanted to do a back to the fold candidate. 2013 was Bruno. 2014 was Warrior and even Roberts and Hall to a degree. 2015 is Alundra Blayze and Larry Zbyszko.

Opens Door For?

More outside World Champions who never were in WWE. Rick Martel should go in soon. Stan Hansen too. Perhaps Lex Luger or DDP from WCW. I agree with all these choices.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

WWE instead of hitting all the possible categories for inductees in 2015 (and going with 9) decides to only do terrible ones. Gotta leave Larry off at that point.