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.

bryangif

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.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2004: Pete Rose

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Pete Rose

Class of 2004: Celebrity Inductee

The Gambling Baseball Player, Kane’s “Enemy”

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Hall of Fame Rating

3 out of 10

Unimportant

And it all began with this. 2004. The reemeragance of the WWE Hall of Fame and the birth of the Celebrity Wing.  This class was the largest in history and brought back the Hall of Fame with a bang. It was a who’s who of early 1980s wrestling superstars. Between legends like Sgt. Slaughter and Greg Valentine and Icons like Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura, this was a great class, expect for one man. Pete Rose.

In 2004, there was no public ceremony, in fact this was done at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This small setting set the stage was the last of its type. From here ceremonies went to theatres and eventually arenas. This is old school.

And 2004 is important. It brought back the Hall of Fame and that idea didn’t have to work. It could have fallen flat on its face. After surviving the Monday Night Wars, destroying WCW and gelling into comfort, the Hall came back. But sadly, someone had the idea to include a celebrity for some reason. My guess?

Vince McMahon & John Laurinaitis

Vince McMahon & John Laurinaitis

These two created a mess and a half when they controlled the Hall of Fame. Whether or not the idea came from Vince or from Johnny, it has been a stain on the Hall and the reason why many fans, wrestlers and critics alike do not respect the WWE Hall of Fame.

An easy way to start a “Celebrity Wing” would have been to go big. Real big. There are two men who fit the bill. Muhammed Ali or Mr. T. Either one would have made a statement. Ali would have been to show that only superstar people who had real involvement where getting into this wing.  Ali, of cource, had his famous (and universally panned) boxer vs wrestler match against Antonio Inoki.

He also participated in Wrestlemania 1 (where he tried to knock out Roddy Piper) with our other great choice, Mr. T. T would have said that only those who have real involvement and were totally necessary get in. Cyndi Lauper, Andy Kaufman, Mike Tyson and Donald Trump could have followed in his footsteps.

Instead we got a joke. This old ball out inductee stands out in 2004 as the worst choice. Pete Rose even knew it himself. His own speech was short, awkward and generally silly. Just like his participation in the WWE in general.

For those not aware, Pete Rose served as “the foil” to Kane in three Wrestlemanias. His sctick was he would make fun of someone or dress like a chicken or be annoying and then Kane would tombstone him. Done deal. Here is all of his Wrestlemania appearances.

I give him credit for playing the heel, but the truth is no one would accept Pete Rose as a babyface. Almost all celebrities who come in are good guys. They are too well known and frankly no celebrity wants to lose. Expect for the great Andy Kaufman and Pete Rose. Rose is a good sport. He liked doing it and everyone had fun. Huzzah!

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But this is not enough for a Hall of Fame career. IF the Hall needs to contain celebrities, the celebrity has to be held to standards against other celebrities. Hugh Jackman does not belong in the Hall of Fame for insulting and then teaming up with Zack Ryder. Pete Rose doesn’t belong in the Hall for getting tombstoned. Its plain and simple. This is a big no for the Hall.

ryderjacksman

Hall of Fame. WOOO WOO…forget it. I hate them both.

Why 2004?

My thought is Vince and Johnny Ace had a conversation and it went like this.

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I want to make the Hall of Fame special. Its coming back after all.

Like have a big banner?

Like have a big banner?

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…….

Or....induct the President?

Or….induct the President?

President...hmmmm...a celebrity....YES!

President…hmmmm…a celebrity….YES!

That's a great idea

That’s a great idea

johnny2

He likes me.

Opens Door For?

The travesty that is the celebrity wing. 2004 was followed by no inductee in 2005 (rumored Mr. T said no because of Rose’s induction) William Perry in 2006 and eventually Drew Carey

Drew Carey = Sad

Drew Carey = Sad

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

Comedic celebrity who set a bad precedent. Tons of other celebrities much more worthy. Bad luck. Gambling stuff. I don’t know…pick one.