Throwback Thursday: Celebrating the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018

April 12, 2018 by Brock Allen

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This week Throwback Thursday pauses to celebrate the legacy of the new WWE Hall of Fame 2018 inductees by looking back at a few of their classic moments and matches on the WWE Network!

The 2018 class of the WWE Hall of Fame is a rare collection of trail-blazers and trend-setters who refused to conform to industry norms. From shock inductees like Jeff Jarrett to long overdue entrants such as Goldberg and Ivory, the common theme that ties each of these legendary enshrinees together is a rugged individuality that never wavered and a never-give-up attitude that has inspired fans and fellow wrestlers alike.

WWE - Ivory Inducted Into WWE Hall of Fame by Molly Holly
WWE - Goldberg Inducted Into WWE Hall of Fame, Shows Off Hall of Fame Ring!

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, most of the Legacy inductees are not currently represented on the WWE Network. Those that are have been highlighted here, though we would be remiss if we did not briefly honor the careers and legacies of those not represented on this list, including:

  • The legendary El Santo, the most popular and significant lucha libre star ever and one of the most famous wrestlers, worldwide, in history;
  • the “Golden Greek” Jim Londos, wrestling’s biggest draw from the 1920s to the 1950s (and arguably of all-time), wrestled Ed “Stangler” Lewis in 1932 in front of over 35,000 fans at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a record gate of $96,302, a record that stood until May 21, 1952 when over 25,000 fans packed Hollywood’s Gilmore Field to see Lou Thesz unify his NWA World title with Baron Michele Leone’s L.A. World Championship for a gate of $103,277, the industry’s first hundred thousand dollar gate;
  • Sputnik Monroe, who fought the evils of segregation as fiercely as he did his opponents in the wrestling ring;
  • “The Great Malenko” Boris Malenko, one of wrestling’s most unique and original characters whose violent style was well ahead of its time;
  • Dara Sign, the Antonio Inkoi of Indian wrestling, remained undefeated in over 500 bouts and, like El Santo, was a movie star as well before becoming the nation’s first athlete to be elected to the Rajya Sabha where Sign served from 2003 to 2009;
  • and Dora Combs, a leading ladies wrestling star of the 1940s and ’50s who was the last surviving member of Billy Wolfe’s infamous ladies touring company often headlined by Hall of Famer Mildred Burke.

For more on each of the inductees in the 2018 class of the WWE Hall of Fame check out the WWE Hall of Fame: Class of 2018 collection on the WWE Network!

“Tag Team Table Match” (WATCH – 10:19)
The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) vs. The Hardy Boys (Matt & Jeff)
WWF Royal Rumble 2000 January 23, 2000

WWE - The Dudley Boyz Put The Hardy Boyz Through Two Tables!

Mark LoMonaco and Devon Hughes made up perhaps the greatest tag team of the post-Legion of Doom era as The Dudley Boyz, the single most decorated tag team in pro wrestling history. Life-long wrestling fans the two started out enemies in the comedic Dudley Boyz stable in ECW before joining forces and becoming the very heart of the hardcore promotion. So it’s only fitting that the Dudley Boyz are the very first “ECW Original” act to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. A move to the WWF in the autumn of 1999 exposed the Dudleys to a worldwide audience and helped change the course of tag team wrestling forever. The Dudley Boyz would go on to win eight ECW Tag Team titles, nine WWF/E Tag Team titles, and one WCW Tag Team title. As “Team 3-D” the duo were one-time NWA Tag Team Champions, one-time HUSTLE Super Tag Champions, two-time TNA Tag Team Champions, and two-time IWGP Tag Team Champions. This match from Royal Rumble 2000 was the first of its kind to be televised in the WWF and was but a sign of the carnage to come between those “damn Dudleys”, the Hardys, and Edge & Christian.

Singles Match (WATCH – 12:22) (HIGHLIGHTS)
Rene Goulet vs. Hillbilly Jim
WWF on MSG Network February 18, 1985

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Hillbilly Jim vs. Rene Goulet

James Morris wrestled for less than 15-years and won no significant titles of any kind in either the territories or the WWF until 1996 when he managed The Godwinns to WWF Tag Team gold. Starting out in Memphis in Jerry Jarrett’s Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) as “Harley Davidson” Morris came to the WWF in autumn of 1984 as super-fan “Hillbilly Jim” where, paired with Hulk Hogan, Hillbilly Jim became one of the biggest babyfaces in the WWF and ushered in the “Hillbilly Family” that included the late Uncle Elmer, the late Cousin Luke, and the late Cousin Junior. Though Hillbilly Jim is best remembered for his mixed tag team showdown with King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania III, it’s this match, Hillbilly’s debut at Madison Square Garden, that means the most to “Big Jim”. After retiring from the ring Hillbilly worked for Coliseum Home Video and as an “ambassador” for the WWF for many years. Highlight footage from this match comes from Coliseum Home Video’s Wrestling Biggest, Smallest, Strangest, & Strongest as the MSG event itself and subsequent re-airing on All-American Wrestling (a series currently unavailable on the Network) are not available as of this writing.

2018 Legacy Inductee:
“3-out-of-5 Falls 6-Man Tag Team Match” (WATCH)
Stan “The Man” Stasiak, “The World’s Strongest Man” Ken Patera, & Capt. Lou Albano vs. Larry Zbyszko, Tony Garea, & “Chief” Jay Strongbow
WWWF on MSG September 26, 1977

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Stan 'The Man' Stasiak

Born George Stipich in 1937, Stan “The Man” Stasiak debuted in 1958. A mainstay of Don Owen’s NWA Pacific Northwest promotion Stasiak toured the NWA territories, finding success as a top heel in virtually every promotion he worked for before debuting with the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1971. Though viewed as a “transitional champion” after defeating Pedro Morales for the WWWF Heavyweight title (becoming the first Canadian-born WWWF Champion in the process) and dropping it a mere nine days later to Bruno Sammartino, it was a specialized job that only a certain kind of heel could pull off and, more over, recover from. Stan “The Man”, with his dreaded heart punch, is the only wrestler to challenge then-World Champions Bob Backlund (WWWF), Bruno Sammartino (WWWF), “Superstar” Billy Graham (WWWF), Pedro Morales (WWWF), Nick Bockwinkel (AWA), and Terry Funk (NWA). This rare six-man tag from September 1977 is a unique opportunity to see Stasiak work with different babyfaces and to see his almost effortless ability to draw heat.

2018 Legacy Inductee:
“Non-Title Singles Match” (WATCH – 10:23)
Hiro Matsuda vs. NWA Mississippi Heavyweight Champion Mr. Wrestling II
NWA Mid-South Wrestling January 15, 1983

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Hiro Matsud vs. Mr. Wrestling II

Yasuhiro Kojima, born July 22, 1937 in Yokohama, was a baseball player who worked under his real name for WWE Hall of Famer Rikidozan’s famed Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA) before leaving for the U.S. in 1961. In the States Kojima would develop the heel Hiro Matsuda character and become a staple of Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling From Florida. Though Matsuda won a slew of titles throughout his career his greatest accomplishment was becoming the first Japanese-born NWA titlist when he defeated the legendary Danny Hodge for the NWA Junior Heavyweight title on July 11, 1964 and again in 1975. Modern fans may remember Matsuda as the manager of Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen in 1989 but Matsuda’s true legacy in the industry is as trainer of some of the biggest names in wrestling including Paul Orndorff, Ron Simmons, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, Hercules Hernandez, Brian Blair, and Hulk Hogan. This match from 1983, with the equally legendary Mr. Wrestling II, is a perfect exhibit of Matsuda’s skill, psychology, and respect for the sport of professional wrestling.

2018 Legacy Inductee:
“Non-Title $100,000 Challenge Match” – If Rufus R. Jones Defeats Dory Funk, Jr. Jones Wins $100,000 (WATCH – 35:48)
Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones vs. NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Dory Funk, Jr. w/Paul Jones
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling July 30, 1983 (TAPED: July 17, 1983)

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Rufus R. Jones vs. Dory Funk, Jr.

Largely overlooked today, Jones was one of the biggest babyfaces of the NWA, a massive star in the southern territories, and a barrier-breaking African-American wrestler whose personality and charisma were simply one of a kind. Debuting in 1969 there were few territories or towns that Jones didn’t work. Known for his crazy promos (like this one), his famed headbutt, and a style few wrestlers could work with, Jones retired in 1988 before passing away at the age of 60 in 1993 after a heart attack. This bout from 1983, though near the end of Jones’ run, is a prime exhibit of all the things that made “Freight Train” such a massive star.

2018 Legacy Inductee:
“Battle of the Mangers” (WATCH)
“Lord” Alfred Hayes vs. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
AWA January 13, 1980

WWE - Bobby Heenan vs. 'Lord' Afled Hayes In a Battle of the Managers Match!

Alfred George James Hayes became a black belt in Judo before training for pro wrestling under the legendary British grappler/promoter Sir Atholl Oakeley. After a successful “blue-eye” run in the U.K. as “Judo” Hayes in the ’50s and ’60s Hayes ventured to the United States where Hayes would find his biggest success, challenging Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World title and Dory Funk, Jr. for the NWA World title. By the mid-’70s, with his knees failing, the aristocratic, heel Hayes became a manager who toured the top territories with the likes of “King James” Valiant and Billy Robinson by his side. Hayes joined the WWF in 1982 and, after a successful stint as Vince McMahon’s cohort on TNT, became a fixture of WWF TV and home video for the next ten-plus years. This classic AWA showdown with Bobby Heenan from 1980 came on the heels of Hayes’ face turn after Super Destroyer Mark II (Sgt. Slaughter) fired Hayes for Heenan. Though both Heenan and Hayes are known more now for talking about wrestling than doing it, this match illustrates that both men were top-notch performers with uncanny ability and psychology.

WWF Women’s Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 48:39)
Chyna vs. Ivory(c) w/Steven Richards
WWF Royal Rumble 2001 January 21, 2001

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Ivory in Right to Censor

Lisa Moretti’s journey to the WWE Hall of Fame is as unlikely as that of Diamond Dallas Page, inducted just last year. Moretti began her career with Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) in 1986 before moving on to Powerful Women of Wrestling (POWW) and Ladies Professional Wrestling Association (LPWA). At the time of her arrival in the WWF in 1999 Moretti was working for Revlon as a makeup artist and had not wrestled for nearly five years. Though willing to play the “diva” game Moretti resisted being viewed as anything short of an athlete and a fighter. A three-time WWF Women’s Champion Moretti had her greatest success as the stand-out member of the infamous Right to Censor faction. This match, from the 2001 Royal Rumble, was part of arguably the biggest ladies program since the days of Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. An outstanding wrestler and talker Lisa Moretti remains the lone representative of GLOW to ascend to WWE Hall of Fame status.

WWF Intercontinental Championship (WATCH – 51:07)
Shawn Michaels vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett(c) w/The Roadie
WWF In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks July 23, 1995

WWE - Jeff Jarrett Classic Ring Attire, Light-Up Sunglasses & Hat
WWE - Shawn Michaels Delivers Sweet Chin Music to Jeff Jarrett!

In many ways the induction of “Double J” Jeff Jarrett is as shocking as that of Bruno Sammartino in 2013. For the era Jeff Jarrett was the Vince Russo of wrestlers; fans either loved Jeff Jarrett or despised him. A third-generation wrestler, Jarrett started out in his father Jerry Jarrett’s CWA before ending up in the WWF in 1993. Jarrett is best remembered, in wrestling, for bouncing between the WWF and WCW more than any other talent during the “Monday Night Wars” and for getting TNA Wrestling (2002) and Global Force Wrestling (2014) off the ground. The last of the old school territory heels Jarrett was a skilled professional wrestler who was, as this classic from IYH 2 illustrates, a cut above the rest. Despite the personal controversies and professional heartaches Jeff Jarrett is a worthy inclusion to the WWE Hall of Fame not just for his body of work but for his unending love of the business and drive to push the business in new directions.

World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:50:00)
The Big Show vs. “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry(c)
WWE Vengeance 2011 October 23, 2011

WWE - The Big Show & Mark Henry Break The Ring With Their Weight!

Mark Henry’s road to the WWE Hall of Fame was anything but easy. For more on Henry’s power lifting career prior to the WWE check out this year’s Black History Month TBT, found here. Henry’s early career was marred by uncertainty and floundering until “The World’s Strongest Man” became a part of the Nation of Domination where Henry began to come into his own. Later, as “Sexual Chocolate”, Henry was involved in some of the most talked about moments in company history from “Sammy” to Mae Young birthing a hand. But it wasn’t until 2011 that Henry, with his “Hall of Pain”, put all the pieces together and achieved his greatest success in WWE by winning the World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions 2011. This match, coming one month after defeating Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight title, is a classic encounter that produced one of the most memorable moments in recent WWE history.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship – “Champion vs. Champion Match” (WATCH – 2:01:25)
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Goldberg vs. Hollywood Hogan(c)
WCW Monday NITRO #147 July 6, 1998

Celebrating WWE Hall of Fame Class 2018 - Goldberg vs. Hulk Hogan
WWE - Goldberg Celebrates with WCW United States Title & World Heavyweight Title

William “Bill” Scott Goldberg did not grow up a wrestling fan and dreamed instead of following in his brothers’ footsteps by playing football for a big-time college program, which he did at the University of Georgia. Drafted to the L.A. Rams in 1990 (11th round, pick #301) injuries cut Goldberg’s pro career short in 1995. Turned off by his initial meeting with Vince McMahon Goldberg turned to WCW where the Power Plant and a clever Kevin Sullivan angle turned Goldberg into one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. Goldberg’s incredible return to WWE in late 2016 and his subsequent success proved that Goldberg was no flash in the pan. All told, Goldberg’s career—from his WCW TV debut in September 1997 to his “last” match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXXIII in 2017—totaled little more than four and a half years. A two-time WCW U.S. Champion, one-time WCW Tag Team Champion (with Bret Hart), and one-time World Heavyweight Champion, Goldberg became WCW’s fifth Triple Crown winner, while in WWE Goldberg was a one-time World Heavyweight Champion (2003) and a one-time Universal Champion (2017). This match, one of the biggest in WCW history, saw Goldberg reach his zenith and solidify his position as one of the industry’s biggest Superstars.

Final Thoughts

From top to bottom the 2018 Class of the WWE Hall of Fame includes some of the best wrestlers and performers in industry history!

From a tag team who re-wrote the book on tag team wrestling to a woman who refused to let her body outshine her ability to a former World Champion who redefined what being a “professional wrestler” really was, the Class of 2018 is full of ground-breakers and rebels who refused to take “no” for an answer and left the business far better off than how they entered it.

WWE - The Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz And Edge & Christian Reunite at the WWE Hall of Fame!

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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!

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Leave your comments!

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WDN Reader

Future inductions I hope to see…
Midnight Express and Jim Cornette
The Great Muta
Bruiser Brody
Big Van Vader
Owen Hart
Honky Tonk Man
British Bulldogs
Lex Luger
Andy Kaufman
Bill Dundee
Kevin Sullivan
Lance Russell
Eric Bischoff
Gary Hart
Gary Michael Capetta
Tony Schivonne

WDN Reader

I thought it was generally a good class this year, but often take issue with the night sometimes feeling a little too comedic or just dumb: Dudleys putting the guy through the table and Double J singing. I get this is an attempt at the nostalgia feeling, but those moments really seemed to bring the feeling down this year. Mark Henry’s speech was far superior to the rest in my book.

WDN Reader

it’s kind of sad that some of the biggest name in pro wrestling ever didn’t even get much of an induction on the actual broadcast.

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