Any pro wrestling list is highly subjective. If you wracked your brain, you could probably come up with a hundred solo candidates throughout wrestling history more than worthy of WWE Hall of Fame induction.
(And, no, I’m not referring to their half-hearted "Legacy Wing," which has hastily and disrespectfully dumped in all-time greats like Bruiser Brody, Wahoo McDaniel, Lou Thesz, and Ray Stevens with little fanfare because Vince didn’t deem them worthy of airtime.)
Thus, I’ve chosen a dozen wrestlers who campaigned heavily in the old WWWF and WWF territory, warranting all the bells and whistles for the main induction ceremony.
These individuals were clearly on the radar of Vince McMahon as many worked for both Senior and Junior and should have gone in on day one back in 1993 when the tradition started. Yes, some of them have shamefully been waiting nearly thirty years.
Sadly, many of them are now gone and will never receive the honor in person.
Deserving tag teams, women wrestlers, and even "mighty midgets" as they used to be called would compromise large lists of their own; they will be different pieces for another day.
Without further ado, these are my "dirty dozen" of legends done wrong, in no particular order.
12. "King Kong" Angelo Mosca
Canadian CFL football legend Angelo Mosca transitioned seamlessly into professional wrestling, headlining everywhere he went while garnering a basket full of regional titles along the way.
Main eventing throughout the territory against the WWWF/WWF Champion Bob Backlund and later a fierce feud with Pat Patterson, Mosca moved well for a super heavyweight and always gave the fans their money’s worth.
While a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer, he never got that WWE Hall of Fame nod but more than deserves it. Simply put, big men were rarely as good as "Big Nasty" Angelo Mosca.
Don’t miss: Angelo Mosca and Joe Kapp – Old Rivalries Die Hard.
11. Bill Eadie
In an era of mostly big, lumbering heavyweights, Bill Eadie was a wrestling machine who could get over any and all gimmicks bestowed upon him.
As Bolo Mongol, Demolition Ax, Super Machine, and solo as The Masked Superstar, he climbed to the top in any area he appeared, with a plethora of belts to show for it. And he more than backed it up in-ring as a top-notch main-eventer.
Why he isn’t in the WWE Hall of Fame is beyond comprehension. Only Vince would know why he isn’t on his "good list." However, we’re proud to have both Eadie and Mosca in our own 350 Days documentary.
10. Victor Rivera
Incredibly agile and acrobatic for his era, Victor Rivera was that rare face, both beloved and talented enough to headline Madison Square Garden as a tag team partner to Bruno Sammartino.
Equally popular in California, New York fans also got to see his exploits on Olympic Auditorium TV tapings seen on UHF Channel 41 in Spanish; he had a huge Hispanic fan base at the time comparable to Pedro Morales.
Always high on any WWWF card he appeared, Rivera was a tag champ with Dominic DeNucci but abruptly gave up the belt to leave for the IWA, which briefly challenged the WWWF before collapsing.
He later got a rushed and botched heel turn here as part of Freddie Blassie’s Army and his career never quite reached the same levels after.
9. Adrian Adonis
I attended Bob Backlund’s entire run leading up to and including his six-year championship reign, and I can attest that among the very best of his bouts were his series with a younger, fitter Adrian Adonis.
While never a beautiful body type, the 1982 version of Adonis was a tremendous technician, and he also was a big name anywhere and everywhere he went.
The Adonis/Dick Murdoch and Adonis/Jesse Ventura tag teams also were tremendously successful.
While he’s best remembered for his over-the-top Adorable Adrian gimmick, as far as pure grappling, he was as great as virtually anyone. Backlund says just that in his autobiography.
Don’t miss: Adrian Adonis and Dan Spivey Near-Deadly Locker Room Brawl.
8. King Kong Bundy
The WrestleMania 2 main-eventer versus Hulk Hogan, King Kong Bundy arguably has the greatest heel name in the history of the business.
His 5-count schtick was brilliant, and he was a fearsome force who also moved well for such an unbelievably massive man.
Also, one of the earlier wrestlers with crossover appeal appeared in movies, TV, and commercials and was one of the rare few who transcended wrestling.
Perusing the list of current WWE Hall of Famers, quite a few were never the level of star he was, nor did they draw the money he did on top.
It’s been reported there was behind-the-scenes heat between Bundy and Vince McMahon, and if so, it’s petty that somebody so deserving of the honor didn’t live to receive it.
Learn more: King Kong Bundy – A Monster in the Ring, Joker in the Back.
7. Spiros Arion
Old school fans lovingly remember the shocking heel turn of Spiros Arion, making proud Italian Indian Chief Jay Strongbow eat his feathers and traumatizing us kiddies for the longest time. This led to three MSG sell-outs and countless battles with Bruno Sammartino throughout the horn.
Arion also became part of Fred Blassie’s foreign heel army with Waldo Von Erich and other immortals.
Arion returned a few years later to battle Backlund as well. Until Larry Zbysko a half-decade later, no heel turn meant that much, and few have since.
He was a great performer, either face or heel, and the fact that he isn’t in the hall is beyond me.
6. Waldo Von Erich
While I would have guessed that Bruno Sammartino wrestled Killer Kowalski and George "The Animal" Steele more than any other opponent, fierce Waldo Von Erich was indeed his most frequent opponent.
Another agile heavyweight, Waldo could wrestle, brawl, and his heel “tyrannical” schtick not all that long after World War II ended got instant heat during that era. Hey, many of the dads in the audience had fought in "the big one," my father included. Yes, the stoned-face heel was always "over" and gave the fans their money’s worth.
Few things delighted us more than Bruno stomping him into oblivion on any given night, and we returned to see just that time and time again.
5. John Tolos
Those who know fully realize that the "Maniac" John Tolos, aka "The Golden Greek," was among the greatest heels ever to step foot in a ring. His classic feud with "The Hollywood Fashion Plate" Fred Blassie led to a massive closed-circuit pay-per-view match and super card in Los Angeles.
Hot off of Olympic Auditorium TV in New York City, Tolos headlined MSG versus our beloved Bruno and shocked us by calling "The Italian Strongman" a "spaghetti bender," and other ethnic slurs, which led to a match-up where he ultimately submitted to Bruno’s powerful backbreaker.
One of the greatest promo guys ever, Tolos, would talk you into a seat no matter who he was facing, and he also formed a great tag team with brother Chris.
How do you spell wrestling? "T-O-L-O-S!" he’d snarl. And he was ever so correct.
That the Olympic promoters erased their TV videotapes to reuse was incredibly short-sighted and downright cheap; thus, history hasn’t been kind to John Tolos as not a lot of him has survived for future generations to savor. There is even more reason to see him in the WWE Hall of Fame.
4. Don Leo Jonathan
While many Undertaker fans have done a fawning "He should go into the Hall of Fame alone" mantra recently, Don Leo Jonathan was a fellow big man and super heavyweight who could probably have wrestled circles around him. But again, history hasn’t been all that kind to "The Mormon Giant."
DLJ’s career peaked well before the Hulkamania era and even the Internet and thus isn’t a familiar name to several generations of fans.
A perennial main-eventer and challenger to champions worldwide, including Bruno and Pedro Morales, he easily ranks on any “Top 10” wrestling big man list.
It’s an utter disgrace that he is not in the WWE Hall of Fame because Vince knows just how great he truly was.
3. Dynamite Kid
Sitting in Madison Square Garden in the 1980s, we saw plenty of super heavyweights take on champ Bob Backlund. But none of us were prepared for "smaller guys" Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask blowing the roof off "the mecca of professional wrestling."
We gasped at moves we had never seen before, and when their legendary contest was over, we could breathe once again.
Thomas Billington was a pioneer who took wrestling to a whole different level, and the British Bulldogs were also a great and beloved tag team. Besides, his in-ring exploits led to his being in a wheelchair later in life, so ultimately, few have sacrificed more.
Although some feel that his troubled legacy outside of the ring is to blame, The Dynamite Kid deserves to be front and center in the hall- as of yesterday.
2. Ivan Koloff
A million words have been written about the night Ivan Koloff shocked the world by pinning our hero, Saint Bruno, at Madison Square Garden. You could hear a pin drop and women wept.
Why? Because back then, the belt meant something; actually, it meant everything.
Bruno was a half-God to us, and the mighty Ivan had accomplished the impossible eight years into his legendary reign. Besides that, he was a great wrestler with a perfect Cold War period heel Russian gimmick.
Any USA vs. Russia match involving Ivan and later his NWA "Russians" was box office gold.
He would go hold-for-hold with anyone, brawl, get color, and if you wanted to toss him through the air like a projectile, he was game for that, too.
Plus, he had charisma and credibility off the charts. The fact Vince knew he was unwell before his passing and wouldn’t put him in the hall is an unforgivable disgrace that still stains the WWE.
Further details: Ivan Koloff – WWE’s Shame Behind Him Not Being in the Hall of Fame.
1. Ken Patera
The Olympic weightlifter turned pro wrestler should be on any “Top 10” or 20 all-time heel list and is numero uno on my list of injustices here.
A perennial challenger to all the world champions of his era, his title matches with Bruno, Backlund, and Pat Patterson for the Intercontinental belt are all-time classics.
Patera could do it all in the ring, from tests of strength to technical wrestling, and he wasn’t shy about engaging in bloody brawls either. At his peak, he was as great as anyone.
When I look back at my nearly fifty years of attending wrestling, I can, without hesitation, say that seeing Ken Patera live was among the greatest nights of my life.
This summer, I have vacation plans to visit the WWE Hall of Fame in Parts Unknown. I will start in the Ken Patera Wing, then head towards the Ivan Koloff section, and work my way around until I see the great legacies of those I’ve acknowledged in this piece.
Hopefully, WWE will show the class someday to build not only a brick-and-mortar Hall of fame building but also honor these dozen giants who so rightfully deserve entry.
These stories may also interest you:
- Bruno Sammartino and Ivan Koloff – The Night They Shocked the World
- Warrior on His Initial Refusal To Enter the WWE Hall of Fame
- Buddy Rose on Why Every Wrestler Should be in WWE Hall of Fame
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