WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Larry Zbyszko

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Larry Zbyszko

Class of 2015

The Other Living Legend, Owner of Larryland

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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.

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Tatsumi Fujinami

fijinami

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.

flair60

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

fujinami2014

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,

bulletclub

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 2015: The Bushwhackers

bushwackers

The Bushwhackers

Class of 2015

Ridiculous Tag Team, Licking Experts

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Hall of Fame Rating

2 out of 10

Undeserving

 When one thinks about the most memorable tag teams in the history of wrestling, there are many names that come to mind: The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, Doom, The Steiner Brothers, Harlem Heat, The Dudley Boys, Demolition, The British Bulldogs, The Wild Samoans, The Blackjacks, Edge & Christian and many many more. One name which is NOT on that list is our newest inductees this week. Ladies and Gentlemen, here come WWE Hall of Famers the Bushwhackers!

bushwhackers

 

What the hell is the WWE thinking? Its not like the WWE Hall of Fame is the first Hall of Fame in the history of the world. Hall of Fames are not uncommon. Every sport has one. Television has one. Every university and college in the history of the world has one. What does each of those Halls of Fame have in common? They induct the best in their business. Induction is generally based on understood criterion and/or voted upon by both the organizers and fans of the Hall of Fame. WWE on that other hand, is totally and completely up to the whims of one man….

 

vincestar

This cocky son of a bitch

And a bunch of goobers….

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The WWE Writing Staff as Represented By the “Amazing” Staff of Mork and Mindy..

What is the logical explanation for this disjointed mess? Take a look at 2013 and 2014. Each class was headlined by a true superstar. Both Bruno and Warrior not only were the epitome of the word headliner; they were also long overdue. Randy Savage fits this criteria too. The difference this year is that Savage is surrounded by such poor compadres.  Three inductees (Rikishi, Arnold and the Bushwhackers) are not only weak but their presence hurts the overall presentation. And the Bushwhackers have to be the worst of the worst this year. In fact ,The Bushwhackers are the worst of the worst of almost any year. This is Ko Ko B. Ware level of bad.

KoKo B. Ware, making The Hall of Fame look bad since 2009

KoKo B. Ware:  Making The Hall of Fame look bad since 2009

Almost no one will disagree that The Bushwhackers would not be their first choice for induction. Worthy teams like Demolition, The Dudleys and The British Bulldogs stand still waiting for the call.  I’d like to mention briefly that The Bushwhackers did have many years as a hated heel team The Sheepherders. The Sheepherders were much better than the Bushwhackers, During the induction video , the Sheepherders are also mentioned briefly (to showcase the 26 Tag Team titles the Sheepherders won all around the world), but do not fool yourself in believing that this is who the WWE is inducting. They are inducting the Bushwhackers. Just watch this induction video. Look how silly and crazy the Bushwhackers are?!

You still don’t believe that this is a ridiculous induction? Fine. Let’s look at the top 5 accomplishments of the newest Hall of Famers: The Bushwhackers in WWE.

5. Defeating the Rougeaus at Wrestlemania 5.

 bushwhackersrougeau

The Bushwhackers attained their greatest victory right at the beginning of their WWF run. In 1989 at Wrestlemania, Luke and Butch defeated Jacques and Raymond, the WWF World Tag…..wait nope. That’s not right. The Bushwhackers defeated C level heel tag team, the Rougeaus. This means that the Bushwhackers were the C level face tag team…at their peak.

Bushwhacker feuds were few and far between. They were much more likely to fight jobbers on Superstars or…

lick people…

While horrifying children

While horrifying children

and become the butt of jokes in important matches

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The Bushwhackers barely ever stepped foot anywhere near a championship, a rivalry or anything which makes wrestling great. Except that one time where they…

4. Failed to Defend Andre the Giant

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Andre isn’t Happy

In 1992, a steroid scandal (which eventually progressed to the 93 steroid trial) forced Hulk Hogan to take a leave of absence from the WWE. Hogan being gone was never good for business.

While grasping at straws , the  WWF  brought back a barely mobile Andre the Giant. The story was that the Earthquake wanted Andre to form a team with him. When the Giant said no, so Typhoon joined up with Earthquake and smashed Andre.

Enter the Bushwhackers, who for no real reason, other than to give someone for the newly christened Natural Disasters to squash, stepped up to defend the injured (and less than 6 months away from literal death) Andre The Giant. Luke and Butch barely tried and failed miserably. Andre was attacked by Earthquake as his great defenders lost and proceeded to get “more injured” before the Road Warriors made the save. Andre was never seen on WWF TV again.

What a great angle!

Andre is Not HAPPY

Andre is Not HAPPY

3. Winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Tag Team Award…Twice

The Bushwhackers were never known to win really anything certainly not awards….or matches. By 1992, the Bushwhackers were basically used to put over heel tag teams. They suffered extremely logical losses to the Nasty Boys, Natural Disasters and others.

In 1992, they were also given the delightful award of the Wrestling Observer’s Worst Tag Team Award. Now, I rarely put weight in Dave Meltzer’s point of view, though his cockiness is funny to listen to, especially when up against Ole Anderson:

One thing is certain, Meltzer knows when wrestling is bad. Luke and Butch were awarded with yet another Worst Tag Team Award in 1994, the year of their second greatest accomplishment below…

It should be noted that three other Tag Teams also received Worst Tag Team award twice, Kronik, The Godwinns and Giant Baba & Andre The Giant. I still think that the Bushwhackers win the worst of this bunch as two of them are former tag champs and Baba and Andre were basically a team of crippled slow-moving older giants.

2. Clean sweep at the Survivor Series…as another character

In a match that can only be considered a poor attempt at comedy, Luke and Butch joined Men on a Mission to destroy the careers of Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastian Booger and the Headshrinkers. Both face teams dressed in Doink makeup in a match  which never actually involved the actual Doink the Clown. The 4 Doinks got a clean sweep on their foes and once again proved that WWE has never known what is funny.

The important point for the Bushwhackers is that they won! For the first time in years! A one day resurgence! Playing another character!

This is horrifying

This is horrifying

1. Getting into the WWE Hall of Fame

bushwhackers

The Bushwhackers number one accomplishment is getting into the WWE Hall of Fame. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. The WWE Hall of Fame is for winners, champions, and legends. It is there for those who blazed a trail, did something historic or had a lasting effect on the core of the Wrestling Fan.

I love wrestling. The Ultimate Warrior made me feel. Hulk Hogan made me excited. The Road Warriors were cool, etc etc. The Bushwhackers were characters on TV. That’s all. Not a Hall of Fame career

Gladiator_Thumb_Down_01

Boo WWE. BOO!!!

 

Why 2015?

This years class looks likes they sat 9 people down in a room and each got to pick 1 inductee. Triple H picked Randy Savage. Stephanie picked the Warrior Award recipient, and John Laurinaitis picked the Bushwhackers. Why? Becauseo Johnny has a history with them in Australia that no one knew about….

bushwhackers-johnny-ace-strat

Oh and hey look, Johnny Ace is doing the induction.

You Suck Johnny....This is why no one likes you,

You Suck Johnny….This is why no one likes you,

Opens Door For?

Literally anybody. Let’s induct the Godwinns, Well Dunn, The Blu Brothers, The Young Stallions and the or even the Original Conquistadors!

conquistadors

80% of People Do Not Know Who We ARE

Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.

All reasons imaginable. The Bushwhackers ARE GARBAGE.