It’s one of the staples of WrestleMania week…when some of the biggest names to grace a WWE ring are inducted into the company’s Hall Of Fame. Due to the pandemic, last year’s class of 2020 were unable to be given their moment to shine, meaning 2021 will see two classes inducted on the same night. Andy Spoors takes a look at the achievements and careers of the class of 2020…
New World Order – Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & Sean Waltman
Where do you start with one of the most talked about factions in the history of the business? A product of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s move to rival company WCW in the 90s, the NWO was formally introduced when perennial good guy Hulk Hogan was revealed as an ally of The Outsiders in an infamous betrayal of his friend Randy Savage. A genuinely shocking moment in wrestling history.
Clad in black and white, the NWO would prove to be the formula of success for WCW as they began an 83-week streak of beating WWF in the ratings, creating the Monday Night Wars. At the height of their popularity, celebrities could be seen wearing the black and white initials adorned on t-shirts, with Dennis Rodman even making guest appearances on WCW during his Chicago Bulls heyday.
Over the weeks and months since the formation of the NWO, the group’s numbers began to swell to ridiculous levels. Eric Bischoff, the on-screen authority of WCW, recently mentioned on his podcast that the plan was for the company to start an NWO TV show but the idea never came to fruition.
Thanks to the creation of the edgy and more adult Attitude Era in WWE, both the faction and WCW would ultimately fail in their quest for global domination. The original three members — Nash, Hall and Hogan — would get back together in WWE after Vince McMahon purchased his long-time rivals.
It may not have been quite what it was across on Monday Night Nitro but the trio managed to create more memories for fans and etch their name in history. Without the NWO, who knows what the current landscape of professional wrestling would look like?
The Bella Twins – Nikki & Brie
Sure to raise a few eyebrows, the inclusion of the Bella Twins was met with derision when first announced. Blocking out the negativity from sections of wrestling fans is nothing new to the multiple time Divas Champion twin sisters.
After the Ruthless Aggression era the women’s division, along with the entire WWE, underwent a transformation to keep up with a society obsessed with instant information and reality television shows. Pivotal to the transition, Nikki and Brie helped draw new audiences to the company through Total Divas, a reality show focussed on the lives of some of the WWE’s Women’s Division.
A subsequent spin off titled Total Bellas, shone the spotlight squarely on the sisters and their careers both in and out of the ring. In the squared circle, Nikki is the longest reigning Divas Champion in the company’s history, before the title became the WWE Women’s Championship again.
They may be polarising, but the pair have undisputedly helped transform the women’s Division and the company. A key force in demanding more television time for the women of WWE, it was after their 30 second tag match against Paige and Emma in 2015 that a revolution was born. #GiveDivasAChance began to trend world-wide for days until CEO Vince McMahon publicly acknowledged the movement and promised change.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield
Few wrestlers have managed to reinvent themselves with such polarising personalities quite like JBL. Making his name alongside Farooq as part of the Acolytes/APA, Bradshaw was a no-nonsense Texan that liked to drink and play poker but loved to fight.
When Farooq’s career drew to a close, Bradshaw metamorphosised into the stock exchange savvy John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL). From fan favourite to universally despised, JBL captured the WWE Championship amongst a raft of other titles. His blood-soaked match with Eddie Guerrero at Judgement Day 2004 was a stand-out in his career.
Outside of the ring JBL served as a colour commentator from 2006 and is widely attributed as suggesting the idea of WWE’s Tribute To The Troops, a dedicated show for serving troops in United States Armed Forces.
The British Bulldog – Davey Boy Smith
One of the finest British exports to the world of wrestling, the British Bulldog established himself as a firm fan favourite in the early 90s. His list of accomplishments in WWE include capturing the Intercontinental Championship in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium at SummerSlam 1992. He was also the inaugural European Champion, two-time Hardcore Champion, and two-time World Tag Team Champion.
Tragically passing away at the age of just 39, calls for Smith to be inducted have been rampant for years. His rivalry and partnership with Brett “The Hitman” Hart elevated Bulldog to flirt with the main event and he will always be remembered as a British institution.
For one of the loudest pops in WWE history, Bulldog’s win at Wembley Stadium has to be in the conversation. The noise from the British crowd is more akin to England scoring a winning goal in the World Cup final.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Respected and revered by the entire wrestling industry, Jushin Liger is an 11-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and one-time WCW Light Heavyweight Champion. A few eyebrows were raised with his inclusion, not because he isn’t a worthy inductee, but more because his reputation was forged in Japan and away from the eyes of the WWE Universe.
Appearing on one NXT Takeover event against Tyler Breeze, the company has rightly acknowledged Liger as one of the most revolutionary competitors in sports-entertainment history.
Making his name as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek, Shatner is the latest inductee to WWE’s celebrity wing: always a bone of contention for fans after previous entrants have ranged from worthy to questionable. Donald Trump, Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson and Mr T. are just some of the names we will leave for you to fit in the aforementioned categories.
Shatner has made numerous appearances on WWE programming, including a stint as Raw guest host in 2010 as well as providing the narration for the WWE Network reality series Breaking Ground. The cult favourite will boldly go where few have gone before.
It is widely rumoured that Titus O’Neil will also receive the Warrior Award for his outstanding work with various charities in the Tampa Bay area.