WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Tatsumi Fujinami

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Tatsumi Fujinami

Class of 2015

“Founding Father” of New Japan Pro Wrestling, 6 Time IWGP Heavyweight Champion

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Hall of Fame Rating

7 out of 10

Historically Significant

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”.

Known from now on a the Gallagher principle.

Known from now on a the Gallagher principle.

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?

Never Saw Fujinami doing anything like this....

Never Saw Fujinami doing anything like this….

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.

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Here is Fujinami. Doesn’t look 60 that’s for sure….

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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.

Weirdest Thing

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…

What is this?

What is this?

Why 2015?

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,

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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!!!

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Carlos Colon

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Carlos Colon

Class of 2014

Father of Puerto Rican Wrestling; 26 Time WWC Champion

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Hall of Fame Rating

7 out of 10

Historically Significant

Carlos Colon is referred to the Father of Puerto Rican Wrestling in some circles. In a way, he fits that title. His organization, the World Wrestling Council, was and in some cases still is, the biggest home grown wrestling company in the Island of Puerto Rico. Unlike most of his contemporaries, his company still does perform shows, and although his involvement is limited, WWC remains his biggest lasting legacy.

That's not Cool!

That’s not Cool!

Oh, yes and Carlito.

Colon followed the path of contemporaries like Stu Hart, Verne Gagne and Fritz Von Erich in whom he booked in his territory. If a promoter could physically do it, his first choice as top babyface was himself. No one better to trust as talent. You will never leave you high and dry, unless you are crazy….Oops said the magic word….

CRAZY!

CRAZY!

Anyway, Colon holds two impressive records/accolades in wrestling down in Puerto Rico. His is 26 time Universal WWC champion. That is more times than any other booker-champion. Unlike his counterparts, Colon not only liked to win, he liked to lose. His first reign was in 1982 and last in 1999, which means he held the championship at least 1.5 times every year during those 17 years. That’s quite a feat, but not as impressive as the next accolade. Colon is the first Puerto Rican NWA Champion. Unfortunately, for him, the NWA to this day still does not recognize his victory over Ric Flair in a unification match.

Matches against Flair aside, Carlos Colon was never known as a wrestler’s wrestler. He was no technician. Colon’s battles with competitors were generally of a personal nature; a severe hatred brewed over a period of time. Its probably why Colon lost the title so much. Its hard to have hatred for someone who is being a competitor and gunning for your championship.

Abdullah the Butcher is often referenced as Colon’s greatest opponent. Their battles were bloody brawls. Abdullah was never known as a worker of anything, so there were lots of punches and kicks and weapons, think hardcore but not really as interesting…

Got to love “Vengeance Matches”, as the above is called.

In the US, Carlos Colon was never as big as a wrestler. He was solid mid-card NWA face. He won some matches and lost some matches. Here in the states, Pedro Morales was much larger and well known. Morales is, after all, a former WWF Heavyweight Champion and the first Triple Crown Winner. Not bad for a man who looks like your uncle…

That's not Cool!

That’s not Cool!

In WWC, another common territory troupe occurred as well. The son of the well known champion and promoter became champion as well. Stu Hart, The Funks and Fritz Von Erich followed this path to much success. And Carly Colon joined his father as WWC Universal Champ for the first time in 2000 and the last in 2011 (not counting the 4 years he was with WWE) That’s 13 times in 7 years, 1.5 times as well. Well if it works…why fix it….

On top of Carly (Carlito), Primo Colon also has held the title and currently is more successful that his older brother as a proud member of the WWE Roster.

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Proud Members

That's not Cool!

That’s not Cool!

Carlos Colon has his legacy intact…except for one thing. For fans of wrestling before the 1990s, there are some beloved territory figures who never really existed in the WWE world. Abdullah the Butcher is one and Bruiser Brody is another. Brody is a future Hall of Famer himself and suffers from the “deceased problem” which has held up his induction. Yet unlike many of his contemporary deceased people, his death is not drugs or abuse related.

Bruiser Brody was murdered. In a WWC locker room. BY a wrestler. Under Carlos Colon’s watch.

In a article about Bruiser Brody, I will go into this further, but the basics are that a fights broke out between Brody and Invader #1  in the showers which resulted in Brody being stabbed, and  was left to bleed out in the locker room while Tony Atlas frantically tried to get medical help. The man was bleeding in the shower, dying on the tile and no one in the locker room (save Atlas) did anything to assist. Partial blame has to fall on the shoulders of the man in charge. That man was Carlos Colon.

On top of all of that, Colon continued to book Invader #1 until his retirement. Invader, whose real name is Jose Gonzalez, was charged with murder and found innocent…mostly due to the corrupt nature of  the Puerto Rican legal system as the time and Colon’s power to push it under the rug.

That's not Cool!

That’s not Cool!

 I agree Carlito. I agree.

On a side note, Colon is our second inductee into the Crazy Scars Wing where he joins Abdullah the Butcher in the wing where we ask the simple question, “Why did you do that to your forehead!!!”

Welcome! Forks are sharp and plentiful!

Welcome! Forks are sharp and plentiful!

Why 2014?

Two words. Video Library. Carlos Colon owns one of the largest untapped libraries still not owned by WWE. They have been on a mission to own all of wrestling. Started in early/mid 2000s and a renewed push due to the WWE Network. Colon is selling and he gets the Hall of Fame nod he’s been wanting. Its a fair trade.

And this isn’t the first time that a Hall of Fame induction has been part of a sale or DVD release. Many Hall of Fame inductions have terms attached to them (Gagne sold library and wanted son hired) or themselves are icing on the cake, as Colon’s appears to be here. He wanted the induction (and was rumored to be upset when it didn’t come last year in NYC)

Opens Door For?

Other international lesser known stars, perhaps from Japan or Mexico. El Santo or Great Muta. Also anyone who owns a wrestling library. Definitely those.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

The Brody Thing is the only negative mark against Colon. He is supposed to be a very nice man, with very poor judgement.

 

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2007: Nick Bockwinkel

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Nick Bockwinkel

Class of 2007

AWA ‘s Ric Flair.  The Vocabulary.

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Hall of Fame Rating

7 out of 10

Historically Significant

Nick Bockwinkel is one the great forgotten talents. He was the total package in many ways. He could talk. He could wrestle and he could entertain. This is why he has been called “the last great old school wrestler”.

05 (1)

You know the serious kind…like Boris here

When I say old school wrestler, I am referring to a style which disappeared in the 1980s. It was a product of the territory days. A major talent in an territory, heel or face, would become the star. But only for that small group of people. There was also a surefire grit and realness to the complete kayfabe style. Take a look at Bockwinkel, he is incredibly believable in his promo work.

He is believeable. No superhero need apply in the 1970s/early 80s AWA. He comes across as not a character, but Nick Bockwinkel the man. Its hard to try to imagine what modern wrestlers would be in 1970s world.

cenadouche

Hey Everybody! Its a douche!

Different era aside, Bockwinkel was a real promo man. He had the ability to use words that no one in their right mind knew and come across believable. It is very clear in the clip below that Stanley Blackburn was in fact guilty of obduro relclacitrance. (LOOK IT UP!)

Notice the quietness of Bockwinkel’s promo. Even when filled with anger, he speaks with a calmness which is both menacing and yet eerily direct. Jake the Snake Roberts was famous for his quiet and striking promo work. Bockwinkel did it first. (Nothing ever original in wrestling)

Take a look at his main contemporaries. Bockwinkel became AWA World Champion in 1975. The champion in WWWF was Bruno Sammartino. The NWA champion was Terry Funk, in his actually a wrestler phase. Both men were good at very specific things. Sammartino was the entertainer. Funk was the wrestler. Bockwinkel was actually both. He has more in common with Ric Flair than he does Harley Race.

SO why is Bockwinkel not remembered more fondly? Simple. The AWA lost. It closed its doors. It ceased to be. And he went down with the ship. Bockwinkel was old school and old school meant loyal.

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Go Save Verne, Bockwinkel!(Great name for a dog!)

Gagne leaned on Nick throughout the 80s to be his rock. The AWA struggled from one champion to another. Whether it was Rick Martel, Stan Hansen or Curt Hennig, the title always came back to Nick Bockwinkel. His career suffered because of it. In the tail end of his career, when he could have jumped to NWA or even WWF, Bockwinkel stayed put. And therefore faded into obscurity.

Why 2007?

Verne Gagne was the first non-WWE wrestler to go into the Hall in 2006. As a continuation, they inducted one of its greatest main event talents the following year. (And another in Mad Dog Vachon in 2010)

This can be seen both as an olive branch to the greats of old and a cementing of the legitimacy of the WWE Hall of Fame. If all wrestlers are eligible, Nick Bockwinkel is necessary.

Opens Door For?

The previously mentioned Mad Dog Vachon as well as Gordon Solie, Abdullah the Butcher and all other non-WWE performers.

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

Can’t say his name. Worry his speech would be too intelligent for modern viewers.

Spoiler alert, it wasn’t