Class of 2015
“Founding Father” of New Japan Pro Wrestling, 6 Time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
Hall of Fame Rating
7 out of 10
The 2015 Class has easily been one of the wildly all over the place classes in the history of the WWE Hall of Fame. In fact 2015’s class has been the most “Sports Entertainment” Class perhaps ever. Inductees like Rikishi, The Bushwhackers and Arnold Schwarzenegger have no place in a legitimate WRESTLING Hall of Fame. They are being inducted for one reason or another, but can be easily summarized as being “fun” or “popular”.
Once the Bushwhackers were announced, it look like 2015 would go down as one of the weakest classes in history. This all changed this past week, when WWE announced veteran the “Living Legend” Larry Zybszko and this man: Tatsumi Fujinami.
2015 has thrown away the playbook when it comes to inductees. The last few years, a headliner would be accompanied by a female star, a celebrity, a minority, a star from the Wrestlemania locale and finally another main event talent or semi main event talent. Fujinami doesn’t fall into any of these categories. Instead, he is an international star, something which the WWE Hall of Fame has mostly overlooked. Only Mil Mascaras and Fuujinami’s New Japan co-founder Antonio Inoki have joined the halls with a mostly international career.
Fujinami is the type of performer that would easily be included in any wrestling Hall of Fame (Wrestling Observer Inductee in 1996, when the Hall was founded) . He is a huge in an important foreign market and had runs in the US, hitting both of those boxes. However we, the IWC or US fans in the know, are less likely to know someone like Tatsumi Fujinami. The last time he wrestled in the USA on a regular was in the late 1970s. He was a WWF Junior Heavyweight Champion, a belt which most (even those in the “know”) didn’t even know existed.
That’s why I am boggled by his inclusion. What is the WWE trying to say with this class? That they support the best in international wrestling and also silly comedy acts at the same time? The WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Everyone Gets IN!!!! . How is Fujinami in the same class as Rikishi?
Fujinami is a 6 time IGWP World Heavyweight Champion, a 1 Time NWA World Heavyweight Champion (unrecognized) and a “Founding Father” of New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was the inventor of the Dragon Sleeper and the Dragon Suplex. Fujinami is Japanese wrestling to a tee. And in Japan that means something.
In Japan, pro wrestling is not a joke. Despite all of Vince McMahon’s claims of being “part of entertainment”, wrestling in the USA is still considered to be silly soap opera level stuff by main stream audiences. Even at its height in the 1980s Rockin Wrestling or the 90s Attitude ERA, wrestling was never considered to be as important and its characters as popular as Fujinami was in Japan.
In his induction video, KENTA (now idiotically named Hideo Itami in WWE) calls Fujinami Japan’s Hulk Hogan. I think that is incorrect. Antonio Inoki, the greatest and most well-known Japanese wrestler in history is most definitely (by character and also what he’s done with his fame) the Hulk Hogan of Japan. Fujinami is Japan’s Ric Flair. He’s that good of a performer.
Like most Japanese Patriarchal wrestling figures, Fujinami continues to wrestle and will likely until he can’t physically do it anymore. There’s an old joke from my childhood which I remember, “If you want to live forever, be Japanese.” Here is Ric Flair at 60.
Here is Fujinami. Doesn’t look 60 that’s for sure….
The comparison between Flair and Fujinami is very apropos, as they wrestled in one of Fujinami’s biggest international moments, when in the Tokyo Dome, he won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair. The title change is not recognized in the NWA history, as Fujinami’s victory was after a disqualifiable,offense had occurred. This “Dusty finish” allowed Fujinami to win in Japan and come back to the US and lose back to
Flair at Superbrawl.
Today Fujinami owns Dradition (originally MUGA with Osamu Nishimura). He continues the classic Japanese style of wrestling there today. He even won a championship belt at the age of 58, winning their version of the Tag Team Championship
Fujinami is a welcome induction and brings both gravitas and some wrestling cred to the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
On a side note, Fujinami’s popularity did during the 1980s lead to this fun and insane music video.
While ridiculous, and certainly more Wrestle Rock Rumble than Rockin Wrestling, it works because Fujinami is Japanese. And Japanese Pop Culture is insane…
Because of Kenta. KENTA coming to the WWE is huge. He is so very over in Japan. Japanese wrestling in on fire, with the best faction since the NWO, the Bullet Club,
The WWE likes jumping on bandwagons and protecting themselves from other promotions popularity.
Opens Door For?
Giant Baba, and other patriarchs of New Japan: Osamu Kido and Kotetsu Yamamoto
Perhaps even some big Mexican Lucha Libre stars like El Santo and Dos Caras (although Dos Caras is unlikely as he is Alberto Del Rio’s Dad)
Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.
95% of the audience has no idea who he is. Because Fujinami was included, the Brooklyn Brawler had to be left off. What a tragedy!!!