It has been part of Wrestlemania Weekend now since the early 2000s. It is usually held a day or so before the big event with thousands packing a nearby location along with most of the WWE stars we see on TV to honor names of the past that fans remember from their glory days. It’s a way to say thank you for all the times these people had our attention and put in the work to be part of our memories as a wrestling fan.
Or at least that is what the WWE wants us to believe.
In reality, unlike Baseball, Football, or any other Hall of Fame, those inducted aren’t voted in by WWE fans. Their names weren’t picked by experts of qualified candidates, and they weren’t chosen by their peers who are still practicing their craft. It’s a whole lot different to get honored in this Hall of Fame.
To find their candidates, the WWE brass has their underlings come up with a list of names that might be good ideas to be part of that year’s event. Mostly it’s “assistants” who ask some of the older wrestlers good ideas and those names get sent to whomever they answer to and marketing magic happens. Most of the time the idea isn’t to honor people that have made memories for wrestling fans for Decades or have done wonderful things in the name of Pro Wrestling. The driving forces are usually who they can advertise to sell tickets to another event over the course of that weekend and make more money. At the very best it’s who made lots of money for the company in the past that Vince McMahon wants to personally thank. The prime example of this is the 1994 inclusion of James Dudley.
James Dudley was never a top star for the McMahon Family or anyone else in wrestling. He was not a big booker or influential promoter. Sure, he was advertised at the time as this groundbreaking promoter in Washington D.C. who back in the day was one of the first black Promoters in wrestling. But the truth was not even close. James Dudley was the assistant to Vincent McMahon Sr., Father to current WWE Head Vince McMahon. He’d drive Vince Sr. car and carted the elder McMahon around. He carried bags and did all the small things a rich promoter was too big to do himself. When the elder McMahon was dying in 1984, he had a list of people he made his son promise to take care of financially when Vince Jr. took over his dad’s business. Even though he didn’t do much of anything in the wrestling business, James was paid well over the years by Vince Jr. and put into the WWE Hall of Fame largely as a gift and a personal nod to his father.
So if people aren’t getting into the Hall of Fame based on any actual merit, What is the point?
For all, it’s seedy underbelly and “qualifications,” more so than anything the WWE Hall of Fame really is a thank you from fans. While they play no part in putting anyone in there, it is a tangible way to thank the performers for the years they put into making us happy and giving us things to remember. Sure there are a lot of names in that Hall that many fans wouldn’t want to be in there like Drew Carey or Donald Trump. But after years of watching the ceremony and seeing these “Vince Thank you” picks, wrestling fans have just kind of put up with these things that come along with it. A necessary evil that came with thanking those who actually deserved our thanks.
So yes, the WWE Hall of Fame may be a different animal than the halls for Baseball, Basketball, Football, or whatever else. But it still has a place for all those that plunked their time, money, and attention to thank those who got us there in the first place. So you could think about all the stuff we don’t see and the WWE doesn’t want you to see, or we can just sit back and enjoy all the memories and times that these people brought something to our lives.