WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2010: Antonio Inoki

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Antonio Inoki

Class of 2010

Japan’s Vince and Hogan Combo

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Hall of Fame Rating

7 out of 10

Historically Significant

Antonio Inoki was the first international superstar inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. His stature in Japan was that of Vince McMahon and his fame as large as Hulk Hogan. Like Hogan, he hocks some strange items.

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Antonio Inoki Condoms, with more yelling, punching and fire

Better or worse than this.

Hulk Hogan made us pasta....

Hulk Hogan made us pasta….

But Why is he in the WWE Hall of Fame?

Inoki began his career in Japan in the early 1960s. He came from a rich background and in many ways that benefit and attitude permeated in a real way throughout his career. Inoki became a large “regional” Japanese star. Japan’s wrestling scene functioned similarly to the old territory based USA system. Yet even still, the JWA owned and operated by Giant Baba was always considered best.

Giant Baba and Inoki began their own WCW/WWF rivarly when Inoki failed a buy out of the JWA and was fired (again remember Inoki is rich). He then opened up the famous New Japan (again super rich) in 1972. Inoki booked and dominated much for New Japan’s card and he eventually became the godfather of Japanese Wrestling. Want to actually watch an hour match? Here’s an example

That was until a political scandal (he’s in politics too, but more on that later) undid Inoki in 1995 and he proceeded to sell the majority share to the video game company Yukes (the same as WWE 12) before eventually retiring, and making his son the figurehead of New Japan.

This would be like McMahon selling to Disney with HHH as CEO.

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Would be mean a raise in pay and health benefits

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All of his bio aside, Inoki is in the Hall of Fame due to his force of personality. WWE began inducting competition and non-WWE wrestlers in 2006 and this was one step further. No one can deny the importance of Antonio Inoki.

Inoki was a big deal but also a tough son of gun. In the “fake” world of professional wrestling, he was known as a pretty straight shooter. And he knew how to promote. Inoki used himself to challenge the odd and the famous. Inoki was also famous for his shoots. He was legitimate as any NCAA champion. He messed up the no selling Great Antonio and shot on Muhammed Ali.

He is also one of the few men to have defeated Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund. All by pinfall. For real.

Ric Flair vs. Antonio Inoki – Video Dailymotion.

He even won the WWE Championship (not held as official or valid, but technically he did)

http://robschamberger.com/antonio-inoki/

Inoki was also involved with the WWE at one point in the late 70s/early 80s. Vince Sr. attempted to bring in many varied acts for all over the world. Everyone has and always will feel the importance of the garden but this time period it was at its height. Inoki was the first and long running WWF Martial Arts Champion. A title which not only existed but existed until 1989.

shrug

His prestige is a major part of his character and his image. Inoki was the first professional wrestler in history of the entire world to ever run for political office and win. (Jesse Ventura followed) Inoki used his wealth and prestige to build himself an empire around himself.  It collapsed down on top of him when in 1995 he was accussed of bribery and working with the mafia. Inoki was subsequently defeated in the congress.

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And he likes to dress up as Che Guevara for some reason

But most of all, Antonio Inoki is the Hall due to the respect for him. People line up to be slapped BY HIM.

And in wrestling, that’s a man to be celebrated.

Why 2010?

Starting in 2006, WWE generally inducted at least one of their competition into the Hall. Verne Gagne, Stu Hart, Eddie Graham and Bill Watts all went into the Hall. Inoki is similar in his “competition standings, yet for the most part Inoki always had a working/reasonable relationship with the WWE.

This was the beginning of the next layer for the WWE Hall of Fame. Competition was inducted, now begins foriegn stars. Inoki is probably known by 15-20% of wrestling fans in the world. Americans are not familiar with his work or importance. Yet by adding him to the Hall of Fame, the WWE attempted to legitimize the Hall and THE one and only Hall that matters.

Inoki, sadly was part of one of the strangest and weakest classes since the reboot. The lack of marquee names and his own translated speech made this an awkward induction for sure.

Opens Door For?

Directly, Mil Mascaras. Mascaras had a similar history for the organization but mostly flourished outside of the USA.

Potentials for the future include Dos Caras or Justin Liger

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

Fear that Inoki would beat somebody up.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Booker T

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Booker T

Class of 2013

5 Time, 5 Time, 5 Time, 5 Time, 5 Time WCW World Heavweight Champion, Good Hand

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Hall of Fame Rating

8 out of 10

Legend

Booker T’s inclusion makes a statement. He is the latest (and most likely last) inductee into the 2013 Class, making it without a weak link. It is super strong. Booker himself is an obvious candidate. He is a rarity in the history of professional wrestling. He is one of only a handful of African American wrestlers. He also survived and flourished in the very varied atmospheres of WCW and WWE. But where is Booker’s lastly legacy?

WCW produced and showcased many great talents. Their money alone allowed for the best luchador, Japanese, Cruiserweights and Tag Teams. Booker began his tenure with Harlem Heat (with brother Stevie Ray) They were one of the last successful long term tag teams. Their chemistry and longevity was Legion of Doom worthy.

Booker T’s WCW run can be sumarized in title reigns. He held bunches and bunches of titles. It says a lot about a talent who keeps getting handed gold. Its a faith in their abilities. Shelton Benjamin and Kofi Kingston are two modern examples of that type. But Booker did something which perhaps seemed impossible, he won the big one.

WCW in late 1999 and early 2000 attempted to rebrand. As Bischoff, Russo and others traded control, the “younger” market was targeted.

And we all know that young people are incredibly racist

Booker T was given a run during the peak of Jeff Jarrett’s many title reigns. And he ended up holding it again and again throughout 2000 and 2001. Booker T was even the last WCW Champion on the last WCW Nitro.

Booker’s title reigns matter. He is one of only a handful African American World Champions. He was WCW’s 2nd (after Ron Simmons) and he flourished in that roll. Booker T became one of only a dozen men or so to be made main eventers by WCW.

And then the WWE happened. Booker T decided to join the organization immediately after the acquisition. (Most likely why he was given the belt over not joining Scott Steiner) and proceeded to slowly flop. Booker T wasn’t really given a chance. He was a WCW guy and was treated as such. Sting explains well the perception of Booker T’s entrance here.

He also had THAT terrible match against Buff Bagwell.

In 2001 Booker T went from main eventer and World Champion to afterthought. He lost all the time. Even in his high profile matches (against Austin or Rock) it was obvious that according to WWE, Booker wasn’t as good as the home grown.

He then was buried. His match at Wrestlemania in 2002 was over a fictional Japanese toothpaste commercial.

The point is Booker T should never have succeeded in WWE. The WWE didn’t make it easy for ex-WCW stars. They were treated differently, never really pushed and made to see that the WWE was in charge of them. Most didn’t succeed (DDP, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, etc) but that few that were able to take the licks, were eventually rewarded. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio and Booker T were all successful. Because they wanted to be and didn’t have an ego about it.

That is the essense of Booker T’s greatness, he succeeded in two organizations were the chips were against him. His race, and the switch of organizations would have kept down many people but didn’t Booker T.

Or these guys....Wait

Or these guys….Wait

Now I will say this. Booker T has been part of some of the worst or silliest angles in WWE’s 2000s. He fought and lost to Boogeyman, the aformentioned fight over being in a Japanese commerical and most tragically his loss to Triple H at Wrestlemania 19. The angle was kinda racist.

And the face Booker T didn’t get his revenge and lost cleanly to the heel.

Which, coincidentially was against all of the basic patterns and practices of how to book wrestling and will forever be known as “Triple H was a Dick Manuever”

Smug Face McGee

Smug Face McGee

Booker T still had his good moments. He won the IC, US and World Heavyweight Titles and by his depature in 2007 had regained his nominal credibility. He bowed out (due to a wellness violation) and eventually reappeared in TNA.

Booker is one of the few talents who have left WWE, went to TNA and come back. Superstars like Gail Kim, Jeff Hardy and Chrisitan have all attempted and succeeded to one level or another. But Booker was different. His returning was a homecoming. He didn’t come to be a regular wrestler. He came to be with his wrestling family. And although he is constantly messing up at any or all talking job he has, Booker is beloved.

Check out the Awesome Bookamania below.

Why 2013?

Booker’s inclusion this year has multiple reasons and also multiple concerns.

The logic is solid. Booker T is a former WCW star, not a active wrestler and reaching his 50s. He is older than Sold Cold when he went in. He is also African American, which WWE likes to include one inductee who is not white in each Hall of Fame Class.

Still it seems too early for his induction. The main reason is Booker isn’t really officially retired. He last wrestled last year at Wrestlemania 28. And although he isn’t a current star, Booker seems like a person who should have been held. They should have waited. It is also possible that Booker replaced a declining Kamala, as many rumors have circulated that Kamala was asked. (In these cases, WWE normally inducts a WWE regular like Ross & Lawler in 07)

That aside Booker T also does something to this Hall of Fame Class. He makes it the first in history to have no weak links. Even 2005 had Bob Orton ( reverse nepotism) Every inductee in the 2013 is a former World Champion or Donald Trump. That alone is impressive and makes me okay with his induction.

It also sends out the message that the Hall of Fame is serious again. Good job Triple H.

Opens Door For?

Ruthless Aggression Stars. Booker main run was 2000-2006 so others from that time period. Also, look for other returning superstars like Kevin Nash and eventually Kurt Angle to go it

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

His youth or perhaps saving him for the Mick Foley position in another class.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

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Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

Class of 2004

Bruiser, WWF Mainstay

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Hall of Fame Rating

6 out of 10

Influential

Greg Valentine is the average example of a wrestler type which doesn’t exist anymore. His look, his style, and his aggression were very prevalent in wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s. Every territory had its own Greg Valentine. He was a bruiser. Where did it go and why?

Take a look at Greg Valentine in his prime.

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Almost no muscle and thick.

Compare him to an average wrestler today.

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Does Randy Orton remind anyone else of Ryan Gosling?

Valentine looked out of shape. He had “retired football player” all over his body. And this was totally acceptable. This 1970s look existed almost until the 1990s. Harley Race, Pedro Morales, Johnny Rodz, and Blackjack Mulligan are just some of the Hall of Famers with a similar look. He kinda looks like your uncle. Or what you would expect the gym teacher to look like without his clothes on. George Steele actually led a double life and WAS a gym teacher most of the year in the 1970s and even today.

http://blogs.poughkeepsiejournal.com/underthering/2010/10/03/under-the-ring-interview-with-george-the-animal-steele/

This look doesn’t exist anymore. All the stout wrestlers either took steroids (ala Hercules) or realistically just stopped joining the business. WWE gave stout wrestler Husky Harris a great deal of flack for his weight, moving him back to NXT, (where he is super as Bray Wyatt) Fellow husky brawler, Trevor Murdoch, never really succeeded.

Valentine was also very slow and methodical in his wrestling style. No star today can get away without spots. Antonio Cesaro lifts a man on his knees in an impressive feat on strength. But its purpose is to show and not tell of Cesaro’s strength. Valentine had no such moves. His strength was built up by announcers and more by his look. He looked like a guy who may get into a bar fight. It takes 35 seconds for anything but a punch to happen in this match.

This all stemmed from his bruiser image. The bruiser in wrestling had a hard nosed, more punches and kicks style that is considered today to be the example of a bad wrestler. But it was very common. And truly many many wrestlers of the 1970s were fit, generally able to last long matches which would be hour draws where nothing really happened. Valentine was good at this.

Now when looking at his career, Valentine had much mid-card success in a couple of territories. He had a successful NWA Tag Team championship reign with Ric Flair. His dog collar matches with Roddy Piper over the United States Championship were brutal and great brawl matches. Blood Blood Galore.

But overall, Valentine’s success came from a good business decision. In 1984 Valentine returned to the WWF on a hunch. He supposed that the national expansion of the WWF would be successful. Have this guy on your side at the racetrack.

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And this guy too.

Valentine was rewarded with a long intercontinental reign in 1985 and was spearheaded an a real tough man. Greg embraced his Hammer moniker with impressive results. Valentine retained at Wrestlemania 1 over hot as ever Junkyard Dog before losing the IC title back to Santana in a vicious cage match.

Valentine then held the tag team championship in the old couple like Dream Team with Brutus Beefcake. This was 1986.

This caps off any large success Greg Valentine had in his career. He stayed in the WWF until 1992 and was never treated to any other title success of main event feud. This is due to Valentine’s inherent problem. He had a general lack of charisma. He always needed a manager. Jimmy Hart, and Johnny V were paired with Valentine most of his run in the WWF. He couldn’t cut it. Both literally and figuratively.

I do believe that this is probably the most unitentionally racist promo I have ever seen. He didn’t try to be racist.

Valentine spent the rest of his WWF career spinning his wheels as part of Rhythm and Blues or being paired up with other brawler types like Ronnie Garvin and Jim Duggan. But as wrestling became WWEized and more cartoony, Greg Valentine lost his place. He was a man of a previous generation and didn’t work in the bright light atmosphere of Repo Man or The Undertaker.

Amusing

Amusing

Valentine faded from there, bouncing around from WWF to WCW and eventually to the independents. Valentine is a wrestler who feels like a relic. A relic of a time where stocky men in tights beat the every loving crap out of each other.

That whole thing looks painful.

Why 2004?

2004 was the re-introduction of the WWE Hall of Fame. For this, they decided to go with wrestlers who were important to the early 1980s in WWF. And almost all of them did that (not PETE ROSE!!!) Valentine fit mostly as well.

He gave most of his career to the WWE. Valentine was there for over 12 years. This good hand type is a very common occurrence in the WWE Hall of Fame. Valentine was appreciated for his dedication.

Still the question persists, is Valentine a great Hall of Famer? No. He’s a welcome hand type of guy. He never really succeeded in a main event style (Although was “awarded” WWF title in the screwiest finish ever in the early 80s.)

Valentine is acceptable and memorable. That’s it really. Plus he did this.

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Opens Door For?

Old hand types, Hardcore Holly or William Regal. Men who are company men and just stick with it and do their job good enough

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

He can’t speak so his acceptance speech would be boring. It was boring.