With Monday’s “exclusive reveal” (ne: plant) from CBS Sports announced the seventh inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016 in Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor, it revealed another great inductee for enshrinement. Yes, they’re still missing a LOT of the obvious. The annual “who’s missing” arguments are in full force throughout the interwebs right now and in most cases every argument is legitimate. But in a Hall of Fame with no set criteria – after all, it’s more akin to the Hollywood Walk of Fame than it is the NHL or Baseball Halls of Fame – there are simply an overwhelming amount of entrants from every era that are worth remembering. In the WWE Hall of Fame, the fourth checking forwards are just as Hall of Fame worthy as the Art Ross trophy winning Stanley Cup centres. Which is a good thing – in guarantees there will be headliners every year for decades and will make every one a magic history lesson for every generation. But why are all of these first seven inductees so worthy? Let’s take a look.
Ray Traylor had other gimmicks prior to ending up in New York, but he’s most remembered and loved as the rogue Southern prison guard Big Boss Man during his tenures with the WWE. One of the few who managed to evolve their 80’s Rock N’ Wrestling character into an edgier modern equivalent during the Attitude Era, Boss Man’s heel tactics reeked of legitimate bullying. Whether it was versus Hulk Hogan in the 1980s or Big Show in the late 90s, Boss Man was an elite level mid-card heel. Sure he had a few stinkers (that Kennel From Hell match comes to mind), but even the Greats had a bad run here and there. Placing Big Bossman in the Hall of Fame is a great move and patronage to the guys who proved that owning the mid-card wasn’t always the worst ceiling to hit.
THE FABULOUS FREEBIRDS
Following the induction of the Four Horsemen, which revealed the Hall’s intent to honour factions as well as individuals, there has been no faction more expected and insisted upon than the Fabulous Freebirds. Sure, we all expect the New World Order and D-Generation-X to end up there, but they need to wait in line. The Freebirds earned that right to go in as the number two. For everything the Horsemen did to show how menacing and bullying a faction could be, the Freebirds showed what being the coolest faction could be. The begin as faces, the rock and roll answer to the stuffy old guys still dominating the pro landscapes. But when they took their cool factor and added in the cockiness – along with turning on their promotion’s biggest faces, the Von Erichs – they changed the game. Lead by the incomparable lovable douche bag Michael “PS” Hayes, with the cocky swagger of Buddy “Jack” Roberts and the loveable Lemmy (Of Mice and Men, not “Ace of Spades”) brute of Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, they were the perfect dislikeable trio of cool. The late addition of one of the original “Prince Pretties”, “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin, only added fuel to their firing heat. Their legacy still carries weight today, with the ‘Freebird Rule’ used throughout the industry for Tag Team champions within factions who can sub any two members into a title match – something current WWE Tag Team champions the New Day have implemented.
At first glance, many decried that this was the 2016 Class’ Koko B. Ware. The nostalgic inclusion that made no sense to include as a worthy Legend to be remembered. But I would disagree. He may be going in under the Godfather gimmick, but this induction is more about remembering Charles Wright as it is about the Conductor of the Hoe Train. Charles Wright debuted in Jerry Lawler‘s UWSA in 1989 as The Soultaker, based on one of his tattoos. He initially debuted in the WWF as Sir Charles, a robe wearing low carder before being rebranded as the frightening voodoo witch doctor Papa Shango. He even had a co-main event feud with the Ultimate Warrior that cemented his character with the WWE Universe in the years to come. By 1994, he was Kama Mustafa, inspired by the burgeoning underground MMA scene of the underground days of the UFC. He toiled as the bodyguard for Ted DiBiase‘s Million Dollar Corporation before leaving the company briefly in 1996. He returned with a revamped Kama in 1997 and once again provided the toughness for a new faction, Faarooq‘s (Ron Simmons) Nation of Domination. He returned to the co-main event once more, feuding memorably against D-Generation X amidst the emergence of The Rock and Triple H as Superstars. When the Nation disbanded in 1998, he morphed again, this time into his Hall of Fame gimmick, the gentile giant of a pimp, The Godfather. He came an Intercontinental Champion. A brief change to the Godfather upon joining ultra-heel Right To Censor extended his run with the company before a slight return as The Godfather in 2002. Charles Wright accomplished what many wrestlers have failed to do. Carry on with multiple different gimmicks without being weighed down by the previous ones. People chanted Husky Harris at Bray Wyatt but they never chanted Papa Shango at Kama Mustafa. His character portrayal was so bang on that we never thought about the man behind the mask, we just believed in this new character. A welcome addition to the WWE in the name of storytelling, no matter which moniker he went in under.
No other inductee so far is more worthy of induction than the most most synonymously remembered with WCW. Sure Ric Flair was the face of the company when it was still the NWA, but by the 90s and the Monday Night Wars, it was Sting’s company. He reinvented an 80s gimmick to 90s edgyness without appearing forced and created a gimmick that outlived his prior super over one. Sting’s painted face has quite possibility eclipsed even that of The Crow character it was inspired from. His feud with Hulk Hogan was legendary (despite the weak payoff), his runs against Flair essential viewing, and despite WWE’s reluctance to mention it, his work in TNA helped keep that company afloat. A well deserved honour to one of the last true Good Guys left in the business.