My Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Ballot

Awards season is always a staple of the end of the year in wrestling. It’s a time to reflect on the past year in wrestling and debate things like the best wrestler, best match, and also a chance to look forward to the upcoming year. The 2021 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame class was revealed this past Friday and I wanted to talk a bit about my ballot and also offer some thoughts on who was elected into the Hall of Fame. Before looking at the results, I’ll first talk about my ballot and the process involved in voting.

I received my Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2021. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I consider the Observer HOF one of the top independent recognitions someone can get outside of things like WWE’s Hall of Fame. The ballot was stacked with some pretty awesome names and well deserving candidates from all eras and aspects of wrestling, including a number of people that I’m not familiar with. 

The rules are that you (meaning the voter) can only vote for up to ten wrestlers combined from any of the categories – Historical, Modern US/Canada, Japan, Mexico, Europe/Australia and so on – and up to five selections can be made from the non-wrestlers category which do not count against the aforementioned ten. That means a potential ballot of up to 15 selections can be made. After much deliberation, I voted for 14 of a potential 15 spots.

Historical Performers: Archie “Mongolian Stomper” Gouldie

Credit: Stampede Wrestling

The only person I was familiar enough with in the historical performers category was Archie “Mongolian Stomper” Gouldie. Gouldie had a pretty notable run north of the border in Stampede Wrestling where he held the North American Heavyweight title 14 times and feuded with the likes of everyone from Billy Robinson to Bad News Allen (aka Bad News Brown). Perhaps the most famous angle Gouldie was involved during his time in Stampede was in 1983 where Bad News Allen turned against Gouldie, who was a face at that time, in a six-man tag team match. Allen then went on to brutalize Gouldie’s storyline son Jeff Gouldie (aka Tommy Lane) so violently that it caused longtime announcer Ed Whalen to quit in protest. Outside of Canada, Gouldie wrestled most notably in Knoxville, TN based Southeastern Wrestling and was an 11-time holder of the Southeast Heavyweight Championship. He also wrestled for Smoky Mountain, Mid-South, Central States, and several other territories based in the Southern US over his career. 

I voted for Stomper for several reasons. The first being his longevity. It’s not often that you hear of a wrestler whose career spanned the better part of four decades (in this case, he wrestled from 1962-1997). He held dozens and dozens of regional titles in his career, which proved he was crucial to the success of any territory he might be wrestling for. I learned a lot specifically about Stomper while reading the book Pain and Passion by Heath McCoy which details not only the Stampede territory as a whole but also talks a lot about how critical Gouldie was to that particular promotion. I only know of Gouldie from his appearance in the 90s in Smoky Mountain Wrestling but from doing the research about his career and reading about him in the Stampede Wrestling book, I feel that he definitely deserves induction.

Modern US/Canada: Junkyard Dog, Edge, Rick Martel, Jon Moxley, Seth Rollins, Sgt. Slaughter

The next category was “Modern US/Canada” and this is where most of my knowledge is when it came to those listed on the ballot. I’ll be honest, I could’ve just picked most everyone from that category and called it a day. Narrowing it down to several candidates was just that hard. I knew there were several candidates like The Steiner Brothers who were going to get a bunch of support so instead of voting for them, I decided to use my votes to support others who might need it. That being said, there were three candidates I knew I had to throw some support too because I was unsure if they were going to get in, those being Junkyard Dog, Rick Martel, and Sgt. Slaughter. So, I’ll start there.

Junkyard Dog was an easy pick because of his contributions to both Mid-South Wrestling and the WWF. If you look at just his Mid-South Wrestling run alone, he was one of the top stars in the territory from 1980-1984 and fought the likes of Kamala, Ernie Ladd, and King Kong Bundy. There were two angles though in Mid-South that most fans of that territory remember.

The first was the “blinding” angle between him and the Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts) where the trio blinded the Dog with hair cream at a SuperDome show in June of 1980 following a tag team match with JYD and Buck Robley facing the Freebirds. The stipulation of the match was that if Robley and Dog lost, then Robley would get his head shaved by the Freebirds. Following a match which saw lots of double and triple-teaming by the ‘Birds, Robley and JYD lost the match. After the match, JYD grabbed Michael Hayes who was spreading the hair removal cream on Buck Robley. Hayes threw the cream in Dog’s eyes, temporarily blinding him. For the next few weeks, a series of vignettes aired on the Mid-South TV that showed Dog out and about but being led around by Bill Watts, Buck Robley, and others. It was even mentioned that because of the blinding, that JYD may not even be able to see the birth of his daughter and may be blinded “forever”. Since it was the Freebirds that had blinded JYD in storyline, they received a tremendous amount of heat even to the point that they needed police escorts in and out of arenas. The peak of the angle was a Steel Cage Dog Collar Match featuring JYD (who was wearing goggles during the match) and Michael Hayes battling it out in front of 26,000 plus fans at the SuperDome on August 2, 1980.

Credit: Twitter/Rasslin’ History 101 (@/WrestlingIsKing)

The other major angle Junkyard Dog was involved with was against Ted DiBiase in 1982 where DiBiase turned heel and beat JYD with the help of a loaded glove in a Loser Leaves Town Match. This would lead to the infamous “Stagger Lee” gimmick where a masked man appeared in the Mid-South territory which bore and very uncanny resemblance in stature to the Junkyard Dog. Lee plowed through the competition, including DiBiase, one-by-one. The heels of the promotion at the time strongly suspected that it was just JYD in disguise but were subsequently unable to prove it by the time the “loser leaves town” stipulation expired. Variations on this angle were eventually done in other territories and companies down the line, most notably Dusty Rhodes as the “Midnight Rider” in 1983, Brian Pillman as the “Yellow Dog” in WCW in 1991, and a more recent example, Hulk Hogan as “Mr. America” in WWE in 2003.

For Sgt. Slaughter, more modern fans will remember his Iraqi sympathizer character from 1990-91 including a headlining match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VII where he defended the WWF Title. Even though he was pretty much a transitional champion and only held the belt for 64 days, he’s one of the more notable champions of that era. After losing the title to Hogan, he transitioned back to a flag-waving babyface role with the famous “I want my country back” promo and hung around WWF until 1992.  Those who watched wrestling in the Attitude Era will also know Slaughter as the on-screen WWF Commissioner going up against Triple H and the rest of DX on Raw every week. He did come out of retirement for a Boot Camp Match against Triple H at the December 1997 In Your House event and also played a role in the Triple H vs. Owen Hart match at WrestleMania XIV where he was handcuffed to Chyna at ringside to keep her from interfering.

Sgt. Slaughter was one of the biggest stars of the 80s and for proof of that, you can look no further than the famous 1981 “Alley Fight” at Madison Square Garden with Pat Patterson. No referees, no pinfalls, no submissions. Just Slaughter and Patterson beating the holy hell out of each other. Patterson introduces a belt, Slaughter brings in brass knuckles and it’s some of the most intense fifteen minutes you’ll ever see. By the end of the match, Slaughter’s face is covered in blood and Patterson is slamming him into the ring posts and beating him senseless with a cowboy boot. But Slaughter’s peak came in 1984 when he turned face and began feuding with the Iron Sheik. He got so popular that Hasbro wanted to include him into the G.I. Joe toy line. However, the WWF had a deal with LJN at the time and would not let him be included in the G.I. Joe line. This ultimately led to a dispute between Slaughter and Vince McMahon in which Slaughter left the company for six years and wrestled primarily for the AWA.

Credit: WWE

Rick Martel is another person who was an easy pick for me. My introduction to Martel was him as “the Model” in the WWF in the early 90s. While I wasn’t watching wrestling at the time he was at his peak with the character, I learned about the character by going back and watching old tapes. Through those old tapes, I also discovered that Martel and Tito Santana were a highly successful tag team named Strike Force and captured the WWF tag team titles. His WWF tenure lasted from 1987-1995, which is quite a long time in that era, and was even trying for a comeback to the WWF as late as 1997 where he would’ve teamed with a young Don Callis. He made a brief stop in WCW in early 1998 and won the TV Title but a back injury soon halted his career.

Before he was “the Model” though, Martel was a star in various territories across the US and Canada. He even had a run in the WWF in the early 80s where he held the WWF Tag Team Title with Tony Garea twice for a combined total of 213 days. He was also one of the longest reigning AWA World Champions in the history of that title, holding for an astonishing 595 days. During that reign, Martel defended the title against the likes of Billy Robinson, Nick Bockwinkel, Jimmy Garvin, and Stan Hansen and even took it outside the AWA for defenses in International Wrestling in Montreal, Pro Wrestling USA, NWA St. Louis, and All Japan.

I picked Martel just because he’s one of my favorites. He was always a solid wrestler and I’ve never really seen a bad Rick Martel match. Everyone he wrestled, from Kendo Nagasaki to Booker T and everyone in between was always better if they were in the ring with Martel. Plus with him being one of the longest reigning AWA World Champions of the 1980s puts him in elite company.

I also picked three active wrestlers for this category in Edge, Jon Moxley, and Seth Rollins. A case could be made for Edge just going by titles won alone … 4x WWE Champion, 7x World Heavyweight Champion, 5x Intercontinental Champion, 2x WWE Tag Team Champion (Smackdown version), 12x WWF/World Tag Team Champion, and a two-time Royal Rumble winner (2010, 2021). Plus there’s all his other accolades … Money in the Bank winner, King of the Ring tournament winner, WCW United States Title, and WWE Hall of Famer.

Credit: WWE

Edge debuted in the summer of 1998 but it was in late 1999, over a year after debuting that he and Christian really started to make people pay attention to them. The legendary ladder match with Edge and Christian against Matt and Jeff Hardy elevated the tag team division in the WWF and by adding the Dudleys into the fray at WrestleMania 2000, the tag team division was catapulted into the stratosphere. Once those matches started to cool down and Edge and Christian split up, he hung around the Intercontinental Title scene feuding with William Regal and then started to really shine on Smackdown once he got into a feud with Kurt Angle.

I think 2006 was absolutely the year for Edge. Cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at New Year’s Revolution and beating John Cena for the WWE Championship in an absolute shocker propelled him to stardom. Joey Styles said it right on commentary that night when he screamed “Edge has shocked the world!” when Edge held up the championship belt in victory. There were so many great matches that year for Edge that it’s really hard to pinpoint one that stands out. There was the TLC Match with Ric Flair on Raw, the hardcore match with Mick Foley at WrestleMania, bouts with Rob Van Dam, and then capping off, the John Cena feud in a wild TLC match at Unforgiven. Without that year, it’s hard to argue if Edge would’ve ever eventually reached main event status in the WWE.

After being forced to retire in 2011 due to a neck injury, Edge made an emotional return as a surprise entrant in the 2020 Royal Rumble match and made it to the final four. Despite being more of a part-time wrestler thus far, the matches he’s had with Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins show that he hasn’t lost a step. 

A personal pick for me was Jon Moxley. He is someone who’s career I’ve followed pretty much since the very beginning. Moxley is a local guy and started his career in the now defunct HWA. I was lucky enough to see him live numerous times during his time with HWA. The very first time I saw him was in December of 2004 where he was involved in a four way tag team match that went all over the building. Over the next few years, he rocketed up the card and main evented HWA’s first ever internet pay-per-view, CyberClash, in a cage match against his mentor and trainer Cody Hawk.

Moxley pretty much carried HWA on his back through 2006-2008 wrestling everyone from former WWE stars Raven and Ro-Z to local and midwest regional stars like Gerome Phillips, Jake Crist, and Drake Younger. He slowly got noticed outside of the territory and began to take dates with CZW and Dragon Gate USA. As his stock rose, he still always came back to HWA including an August 2010 match against Bryan Danielson in front of about 200 people at a community basketball gym which I was privileged enough to see in person.

His WWE career had its ups and downs but being part of the Shield when they debuted was massive and made him an instant star in WWE. He was a US Champion, WWE Champion, fought Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, and was always someone they could slot in when they needed a solid challenger for a title. Now, he’s continuing his legacy in AEW and held the AEW World Title for the majority of 2020 while the pandemic was raging and has had dream matches against the likes of Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, Satoshi Kojima, and others during his tenure.

Credit: AEW

Like I said, this was a personal pick for me because to me he represents the last of the HWA, my hometown territory, that I followed religiously up until their closing in 2015. Moxley was always the foundation of that territory and the cornerstone of independent wrestling in the Cincinnati area. Although he probably won’t get in the Hall of Fame right away, to me he already is.

Speaking of the Shield, another member of that faction I voted for was Seth Rollins. Rollins was someone I first noticed when he debuted in ROH as Tyler Black as part of the Age of the Fall stable with Jimmy Jacobs. I had no clue who he was and had never heard of him before. He slowly became a breakout star in ROH during the late 2000s and early 2010s including a 210 day stint as ROH World Champion by defeating Austin Aries at the 8th Anniversary Show in February of 2010. 

After losing the ROH World Title to Roderick Strong, he was about to sign with TNA when Jim Cornette, who was working backstage for ROH at the time, encouraged him to wait for WWE to call him back. The WWE called back and signed him to a developmental deal where he reported to FCW.

From there, he debuted with the aforementioned Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns to form the Shield. After several years together, Rollins turned on the Shield in a memorable angle where he attacked Moxley and Reigns with a chair and joined up with the Authority stable, headed by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. With that came the famous Money in the Bank cash-in at WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns and a long run at the top of the card until a knee injury derailed him.

Credit: WWE

Rollins bounced around after coming back from the injury, feuding with his former Shield stablemates, wrestling a disastrous and ill-received 30-minute Iron Man Match against Dolph Ziggler. He rebounded by winning the 2019 Men’s Royal Rumble and then beating Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title in an upset in the opening match of WrestleMania 35. He did the best of what he could during that run, including feuding with Baron Corbin over the title, rematching against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. His run with the title culminated in one of the worst matches in modern history against “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at Hell in a Cell in October of 2019. Soon after, he dropped the title to Wyatt later that month in Saudi Arabia.

Recently though, he had a really great feud with Edge in 2021, including a match at SummerSlam and an even better match against him on the September 10th episode of SmackDown. I voted for Rollins primarily because of the impact he’s had in WWE in debuting with the Shield and his run with the WWE Championship. He’s also been a top star in WWE for the last 6 or 7 years. He’s also a personal favorite of mine as I’ve really liked him since his days in ROH.

Modern Japan: Hayabusa, Naomichi Marufuji, Kazuchika Okada

Japanese wrestling isn’t something where I’m super familiar with all the history of. I know a lot of the major promotions like New Japan, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and others. I also know that All Japan and FMW were big in the 90s. Since I’m shady on a lot of the nuts and bolts of the history, I voted a bit conservative in this category and took who I was most familiar with, that being Hayabusa, Naomichi Marufuji, and Kazuchika Okada.

Hayabusa is someone I remember hearing about in the late 90s and early 2000s. I have memories of seeing him prominently featured on the FMW VHS tapes and DVDs I’d see in the music and movies stores at the local mall. While I never really saw him in his prime, the first Hayabusa match I ever saw was on ECW Heatwave 1998. It was him and Jinsei Shinzaki (the former Hakushi) challenging Rob Van Dam and Sabu for the ECW Tag Team Titles. It was an absolutely fantastic match and a showcase in aerial athleticism as all four guys pretty much flew around the ring and fought each other tooth and nail for the better part of twenty minutes. That match was the only time Hayabusa wrestled on American pay-per-view and even though I saw it several years after it happened (I think the tape was released in 2000 through ECW’s deal with Pioneer Home Video), it made me an instant fan.

Credit: FMW

Since Hayabusa was primarily based in Japan and rarely made excursions to North America, it was hard for me to find matches of him to watch. Most of what I could find was on the aforementioned FMW DVDs and it was clear that he was the heart and soul of that company. He held every major FMW title there was to hold, including being the final FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Champion. He was also an inventor of many moves used today like the Phoenix Splash and the Firebird Splash (aka the 450 splash). His rivalries with the likes of the Gladiator, Mr. Gannosuke, and Masato Tanaka were what helped put FMW on the map. However, being the long time ace of the company and turning down offers from the WWF and New Japan meant that the fortunes of the company were essentially tied to him. 

On October 22, 2001 tragedy struck. In a match with Mammoth Sasaki, Hayabusa slipped on the ropes while attempting a springboard moonsault. He landed on his head and cracked two vertebrae which ultimately left him paralyzed. His career was over and with it were the fortunes of FMW. In February 2002, FMW president Shoichi Arai announced the promotion was bankrupt and announced its closure. 

My vote went to Hayabusa because when you think of him, you think of FMW. And when you think of FMW, you tend to think of Hayabusa. The fact that he’s so synonymous with that promotion, that he was a true innovator of high-flying offense and that numerous wrestlers today hold him in high regard shows that he is truly deserving of a Hall of Fame vote.

Credit: Pro Wrestling NOAH

Naomichi Marufuji was another person I was enthralled with and someone who was a springboard into the world of Japanese wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH. The first time I saw a Marufuji match was in Ring of Honor on Final Battle 2005 where he wrestled Bryan Danielson in the main event. I knew Danielson was always good but Marufuji just absolutely blew me away with how impressive he was in the match. I couldn’t tell you exactly how the match went because it’s been ages since I’ve seen it but I still remember that being the match where I thought to myself “hey, this Marufuji guy is really cool!

It was because of him and Kenta Kobashi that I really started following Pro Wrestling NOAH in the mid-2000s. I was lucky enough to have actually seen him wrestle in person too at a Ring of Honor event in Dayton, Ohio in 2007. The main event was Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness against Marufuji and Takeshi Morishima. It was by far one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in person. Him wrestling in Ring of Honor really helped me become a fan of his, which I still am today even though I don’t follow Japanese wrestling as closely.

I voted for Marufuji because much like Hayabusa was synonymous with FMW, Marufuji is pretty much the same with Pro Wrestling NOAH. He’s held pretty much every title that promotion has to offer including being a 4 x GHC Heavyweight Champion and an 8 x GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. He’s wrestled for numerous promotions including NOAH, New Japan, Ring of Honor, and even more recently Impact Wrestling. He’s also held several titles outside of NOAH including the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title and the AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Title. Marufuji is one of the top stars of Japanese wrestling and I feel he should be recognized as such.

Speaking of the top stars of Japanese wrestling, that would be the one and only Kazuchika Okada. If you listened to the first episode of the “Noob Japan” podcast, you’ll understand why I was the guest on that episode and why I picked Okada to talk about. It’s because I wanted to know exactly why I should vote for him for the Observer HOF. (Spoiler alert: I did). 

Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

If you think of New Japan, you instantly think of Okada. He’s been one of their top stars for seemingly forever. The legendary series of bouts against Kenny Omega helped cement his legacy even more than it already had beforehand. He’s won so many “match of the year” awards against various opponents that I’d need a whole other article just to list all of them. He’s held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship 5 times and won the G1 Climax, perhaps the most prestigious tournament in all of wrestling, three times.

Despite the fact that I’ve only seen a handful of Okada matches (two against Jay White, a recent one against Buddy Murphy, and another one somewhere), I feel that just based on the Omega series alone, plus all the other accomplishments he’s had, that he’s well deserving of my vote. I’ll be completely transparent and say that I’ve never seen a single second of any of the Omega/Okada matches. It’s one of those things where it’s an accessibility issue. However, it’s something I definitely plan on remedying in 2022. 

Non-Wrestlers Category: Bob Caudle, Jim Crockett Jr., Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay

For this particular category, voters were allowed to pick up to five from the ballot and those didn’t count against the ten from the previous categories. If you look at my choices of Bob Caudle, Jim Crockett Jr., Tony Schiavone, and Mike Tenay, you’ll probably notice a theme. That would be that all four of them were at one time associated with WCW or its predecessor Jim Crockett Promotions.

Bob Caudle was a staple of wrestling broadcasts in the Mid-Atlantic region going as far back as the 1950s when he hosted a studio wrestling show in Savannah, GA. As  the weatherman at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, he was tabbed to host the NWA Atlantic Coast Wrestling show which was taped at the TV studio. In those days, station employees often hosted the wrestling show and Caudle was no exception. He pulled double duty as both the WRAL weatherman and the TV wrestling host. While the Atlantic Coast Wrestling show went through many iterations and eventually became NWA Pro Wrestling, Caudle was a constant and steady presence on the program.

Credit: WWE

When Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased by Turner Broadcasting and the name changed to WCW, Caudle came along for the ride and hosted numerous Clash of the Champions specials and also several pay-per-view broadcasts alongside Jim Ross. He was behind the mic for two historic world title changes on pay-per-view, Ric Flair beating Ricky Steamboat at Wrestle War 1989 and then Sting beating Ric Flair at the 1990 Great American Bash. Following his time in WCW, he joined Smoky Mountain Wrestling and was one of their primary commentators through 1994. 

So why did I vote for Bob Caudle? Because I always thought he was a very underrated commentator. He had a great voice and his commentary was so smooth that it was hard not to like him. Whether he was on play-by-play or on color commentary, he never played favorites. The first time I ever heard him was on the aforementioned Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat match and I remember thinking “who is this guy? He sounds really cool!” and since then, I’ve always liked listening to him on commentary.

Someone I already thought was in the Hall of Fame and I was shocked to realized that he wasn’t in was Jim Crockett Jr. Crockett Promotions (aka JCP) had a huge run from the early 80s starting with Starrcade 1983 all the way up until they were purchased by Turner Broadcasting in 1988. Since that’s only a six-year run and doesn’t really measure up to the longevity of other territories like World Class, St. Louis, or even the AWA, I can kind of see the argument as to why Crockett hasn’t been voted in yet. 

Within that six-year run though, they were one of the top territories in the nation and had the top talent like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, the Midnight Express, the Rock N Roll Express, Barry Windham, Magnum T.A., and Nikita Koloff among others. They ran major tours all throughout the southern U.S., drawing crowds in the tens of thousands for major outdoor stadium shows. Crockett Promotions also went head-to-head with the WWF on a number of occasions including the first Clash of the Champions that aired on TBS opposite WrestleMania 4. 

The question would be though who gets credited with the success of the territory? Was it Dusty Rhodes, who was the primary booker for the majority of their success? Or is it Jim Crockett who owned the promotion. It’s a bit of a convoluted answer and there’s logic in the argument for both to be credited with the success of the territory. But you can’t deny the success that Jim Crockett Promotions had, which is why I cast my vote for him.

Rounding out my ballot were two longtime WCW announcers in Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay. 

Credit: AEW

Schiavone could easily be credited as “the voice of WCW”, and also has a good case to credited as “the voice of wrestling on TNT and TBS”. I have fond memories of listening to him call WCW Monday Nitro with Bobby Heenan and WCW Saturday Night with Dusty Rhodes in the mid-90s. Fun fact…the first time I ever saw WCW, Tony Schiavone was the announcer. His commentary made late 90s/early 2000s WCW tolerable after the promotion had fallen off the cliff completely. His involvement in an upstart company in late 2001 called the XWF even made me want to check that out. After a few brief appearances in TNA in 2003, he disappeared from wrestling.

I was so happy when he eventually popped back up in the wrestling scene. First, it was his podcast with Conrad Thompson, then MLW picked him up as a commentator. Now he’s one of the key members of the AEW broadcast team along with Jim Ross and Excalibur. He’s shown too that he’s better than he’s ever been. His interactions with Britt Baker (sorry … Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D) are priceless and whether it’s play-by-play or color commentary, he can do it all. Some people call Jim Ross the voice of wrestling, but for me it’s Tony Schiavone.

Credit: Impact Wrestling

Known for his vast knowledge of wrestling history, Mike Tenay is someone who came into WCW initially after being a color analyst on the AAA When Worlds Collide pay-per-view in November of 1994. Soon Tenay was filling in for Gene Okerlund doing backstage interviews and doing guest spots on commentary during cruiserweight matches on Nitro and pay-per-view broadcasts. After Dusty Rhodes defected to the nWo in January of 1998, Tenay replaced Rhodes and became the third man in the booth. He was also the play-by-play voice of the secondary show, WCW Thunder, on TBS often teaming with Tony Schiavone.

After WCW’s demise, Tenay resurfaced with the upstart NWA-TNA promotion (aka Impact Wrestling today). He added credibility to the fledgling promotion which saw numerous highs and lows during its early years. His broadcast partner was often Don West, who was rocky at first but settled as a super-energetic hype man and color commentator. Him and Tenay were the perfect balance as Tenay’s straight-laced announcer and gravitas was a great match with the vivacious and loud West. After West transitioned into a managerial role, Tenay teamed mostly with Taz throughout the rest of his tenure as TNA’s lead voice. After Tenay left in 2014, he came back for a few brief appearances the next year but has largely removed himself from the spotlight since, except for very sporadic appearances on Wrestling Observer Radio. Mike Tenay is a very underrated announcer and has a vast knowledge of wrestling history. His insight into the WCW cruiserweights during his time there really helped me get a better understanding of the characters and the culture. Listening to him as the voice of TNA, he called so many major moments in that company’s history, from the Unbreakable 2005 three-way-match, to Kurt Angle’s debut, and so so many others.

There’s my ballot for the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. At the end of it all, I picked the ones who, I felt, I knew the best and provided a solid argument for induction. Before wrapping up though, I want to take a quick look at the results. The threshold to be inducted is 60% of the vote.

Who was inducted? Kazuchika Okada, Los Brazos (Brazo de Oro, Brazo de Plata & El Brazo), Jim Crockett Jr., and Don Owen

Two of the people I voted for were inducted, those being Okada and Crockett. Okada received 92% of the vote, Los Brazos had 86%, Crockett was the highest in the “non-wrestler” category with 82% and Don Owen just made it with 61%. Of those four, my votes only went to Okada and Crockett. I almost cast a vote for Don Owen, who was the promoter of Portland Wrestling (PNW), but I haven’t seen enough of that territory for me to give an honest opinion of it and Owen. Los Brazos kind of falls into the same situation. I’m not familiar enough with them to have cast a vote, nor have I seen any classic Lucha. According to the WON HOF Tracker on Twitter, Okada received the highest vote totals among Historians, Reporters, Active Wresters/Industry Professionals, and Retired Wrestlers/Industry Professionals. Los Brazos was second in all voting groups aside from Retired Wrestlers/Industry Professionals, which they finished 8th.

Of those who missed induction, Sgt. Slaughter just missed out with 58% of the vote and Big Daddy once again missed induction only garnering 39% of the vote. Several names, including ones I cast my votes for like Rollins, Moxley, and Martel, will be dropped from next year’s ballot due to lack of support.

First time candidates next year will include Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Roy Welch, Shingo Takagi, and Rossy Ogawa. Teams such as Argentina Rocca & Miguel Perez, Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood, Akira Taue & Toshiaka Kawada and Jack & Jerry Brisco will also be included on the ballot for the first time. I’m looking forward to next year’s ballot and I already see several first time candidates I’ll cast a vote for.

Credit to the WON HOF Tracker on Twitter for the vote percentages.