The Hall of Fame is reserved for the limelight's greatest collection of talent, far and wide, who have broken barriers, transcended their chosen professions and left them in a better state than they were in.
If one earns admission into the hallowed Hall of Fame at the close of a career, he or she will have theoretically satisfied the referendum for what constitutes an all-time great.
The WWE, like any sport or area of entertainment, has employed a legion of wrestlers over the years. However, only a relative handful of those have stuck around long enough to leave an indelible impression on not only the business, but the fans.
This year, during its annual Hall of Fame ceremony, the WWE will acknowledge the inimitable contributions of The Four Horsemen (inducted by Triple H and Shawn Michaels), Yokozuna (inducted by The Rock), Ron Simmons (inducted by John Bradshaw Layfield), Mil Mascaras (inducted by Alberto Del Rio), Edge (inducted by Christian) and Mike Tyson (inducted by Steve Austin).
In comparison to past years, this particular class is undoubtedly shaping up to be the most star-studded array of talent in company history.
Three reasons point to this being the case. That is, the six entries have all made a significant impact as stars in pro wrestling, have paved the road for other acts like themselves to follow and, most importantly, can't be disputed as legitimate inductees.
There is no discounting the fact that the chosen ones this year have made a historically significant impact on the world of wrestling.
The Four Horsemen
Comprised of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham and manager J.J. Dillon, The Four Horsemen are arguably the most renowned faction in wrestling history. Having formed in Jan. 1986, the foursome, which gradually took on a different identity over the years, revitalized the NWA and WCW.
If it wasn't for the outcry of heat they generated, their face counterparts in Dusty Rhodes, Sting, The Rock 'n' Roll Express and Lex Luger, to name a few, wouldn't be remembered in quite the same fashion today.
Upon "Bonzai-Dropping" into the WWF in 1992, Yokozuna had become, overnight, the company's most dominant heel act in years. While he is also credited with being a two-time WWF champion and headlining WrestleMania on two separate occasions, the late Samoan star will be remembered—and rightfully so—for ending "Hulkamania" in the WWF at King of the Ring 1993.
Excluding his WCW world heavyweight title reign, Ron Simmons' achievements would still be prolific as a tag-team specialist in both Doom and The A.P.A.
The highlight of his run, though, is becoming the first black champion in wrestling. His unexpected win against Vader in 1992 made history the moment the referee's hand counted to three.
Mil Mascaras is the most famous luchador in history. He is Mexico's "Immortal" Hulk Hogan—a heavyweight babyface icon, who not only won the adoration of fans, but parlayed his momentum to launch a film career.
Additionally, he is credited with introducing several high-flying maneuvers, like the plancha, to pro wrestling. Not just restricted to Mexican audiences either, Mascaras is one of the first masked wrestlers of his kind to forge an internationally acclaimed reputation for himself.
Edge, who was forced into retirement in 2011 due to complications with his neck, is all-around the most decorated WWE superstar of the last decade. He monopolized the world and tag titles, having won them a whopping 11 and 14 times, respectively. Moreover, he literally captured every other accolade the company had to offer, including the Royal Rumble match and King of the Ring tournament.
His legacy will be remembered for reinvigorating the tag division during the Attitude era and becoming, oftentimes, the staple individual of the SmackDown brand.
This year's celebrity wing will boast the induction of "Iron" Mike Tyson, who, not counting his iconic boxing career, played the biggest role of any celebrity in the WWE, past or present.
His altercation with Steve Austin during a Jan. 1998 edition of Monday Night Raw not only helped cement the "Stone Cold" character, but it had an invaluable impact on the success of WrestleMania 14—the turning point in the Monday night wars.
Furthermore, the six inductees were so successful in doing what they did that they made it possible for others to follow in their footsteps.
For instance, The Four Horsemen epitomized the "cool heel" stable so well that they laid the groundwork for similar groups that glorified gang attacks and extravagant lifestyles to spawn. Factions like the NWO, Evolution, Main-Event Mafia and Fortune would not have taken off as they did if not for their predecessors, The Four Horsemen.
Yokozuna's success allowed for other members of his extended Samoan family to join the ranks of the WWE. To a lesser extent, they have included Rikishi, the late Umaga and the Usos. If Yokozuna had failed, though, there is a reasonable chance we may have never seen his Samoan brethren The Rock revolutionize the industry as he's done.
Ron Simmons, unequivocally, shattered the race barrier in pro wrestling. By becoming the first black champion in history, he paved the road for subsequent black wrestlers like Booker T and Mark Henry to receive similar recognition.
Mil Mascaras' innovative moves inside the ring have not only become a staple of lucha libre wrestling, but he is in some ways the progenitor of talents like Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Sin Cara and his nephew, Alberto Del Rio.
The media sensation he became outside the ropes, too, proved that wrestlers, such as Hulk Hogan and The Rock, could conceivably conquer other avenues of entertainment.
It can be argued that Edge not only legitimized the TLC match, but is the prime reason why we have a pay-per-view by the same name today. Although his death-defying stunts ultimately shortened his career, they have been imitated by the company's current crop of mid-carders trying to make names for themselves.
Most importantly, the fact that "The Rated R" superstar accomplished as much as he did with a lean, unimposing frame made it "OK" for wrestlers to to get by more on their in-ring prowess as opposed to their physiques. His success had a subtle but positive effect on the manner in which CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Christian have been presented.
Mike Tyson's brief but wildly successful run in the WWF/E was the direct inspiration for boxer Floyd Mayweather's involvement with the WrestleMania 24 proceedings. One could also contend that Tyson was the modern influence for the Raw guest host concept, which usually called for the celebrities to mix it up with the wrestlers.
Finally, unlike previous years when certain inductees raised questions about the legitimacy of WWE's annual Hall of Fame, this year's class is indisputably deserving.
Every inductee this year was a top-tier performer as an individual, or as part of a stable, in his day. Not to take anything away from them, but the same cannot be said for previously enshrined members like Tony Atlas and Koko B. Ware, for instance.
Judging this year's crop objectively, one cannot make the viable contention that The Four Horsemen, Yokozuna, Ron Simmons, Mil Mascaras or Edge were anything but historically significant players. In some cases, they were also box-office draws (i.e., Horsemen, Mascaras and Edge) who were responsible for the financial well-being of their companies.
Even this year's non-wrestler inductee, Mike Tyson, outshines every celebrity inductee to date (i.e.; "Refrigerator" Perry, Pete Rose and Drew Carey) in addition to being the most lucrative celebrity investment in company history.
While more inductees may later be added, the 2012 Hall of Fame class can so far claim to have the most decorated batch of performers to date.