On the night before WrestleMania, the WWE community gathers to honor legends who either blazed trails or contributed heavily to the success of sports entertainment.
The WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the second-most anticipated event of WrestleMania weekend after, of course, WrestleMania itself. Faces and heels put aside their in-ring storylines to sit together in awe of the honored performers, many of whom today’s roster grew up idolizing.
With each passing year, the HOF classes are becoming more exciting to watch. And unlike other sports where the athlete has to be retired for a certain amount of time before he or she can be considered for induction, the WWE Hall will call on performers who retired the year before.
Last year’s stellar class was headlined by Edge, whose neck issues brought an early halt to his ring career in 2011. The year before, the star of the show was Shawn Michaels, who hung up his ring tights in 2010 but still maintains a presence on WWE telecasts.
This year, published reports say that Mick Foley will be among the Class of 2013. His induction could be made official as early as next Monday night when Raw celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Whether Foley will be the sole centerpiece of that class depends upon who else gets the Hall call. There has been buzz about putting in the Undertaker or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with Foley since all three men have had their careers so intertwined.
But WWE likes to put space between its most popular inductees so that each person gets the main spotlight to himself or herself. So with Foley apparently going in this year, look for Taker and Rock to get their moments in the sun in 2014 and 2015.
Many of the current superstars in the audience that night will look upon that stage and think about how it would feel for them to be standing up there years from now soaking in the adulation.
Let’s take a look at 12 of the stars on the current roster and analyze their chances of getting in the Hall. We will break down these stars into three groups—Sure-Fire Lock, Should-Go and Still-Needs-Work.
Up first, the Sure-Fire Locks...
Like the rest of the stars in this group, isn’t it obvious that CM Punk will go in?
After all, he has held the WWE Championship belt longer than any other man in the past 25 years. He is one of the best, if not THE best, talkers of all the in-ring talent out there today.
Punk knows exactly which buttons to push to generate the biggest face pop or the hottest heel heat. He also knows how to get his opponents over with the crowd like no other wrestler can. Just ask Ryback.
He has a big year ahead of him. In addition to squaring off with The Rock at WWE Royal Rumble 2013, he also has been rumored as the Undertaker's opponent at WrestleMania 29.
It no longer is a question of "if" CM Punk will go in. It's "when."
Whether you think he is great or you think he sucks, there is no denying the impact that John Cena has made on the WWE.
He is a 10-time WWE champion. To many, he symbolizes the work ethic that good always will triumph over evil.
Sure, 2012 was not a banner year for him. He lost the WrestleMania 28 main event to The Rock. He was booked in silly feuds with Kane and The Big Show. He was the first man to win a Money in the Bank briefcase and unsuccessfully cash it in.
But as 2013 dawns, it looks to be out with the bad and in with the good. After being out of the WWE title picture for almost two years now, Cena is expected to storm back in and recapture the WWE title at WrestleMania 29.
He also could play a major role in the long-discussed unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight titles. But that depends upon how WWE books the World belt matches over the next few months.
Rey Mysterio is the greatest luchador-style wrestler ever to grace WWE. He is wildly popular with the WWE Universe—especially the kids. He has been pivotal in helping WWE build up a strong Latino following, opening and then holding the door for guys like Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara.
And he has won multiple championships in WWE, despite being no bigger than a minute.
Years of in-ring work have started to take their toll on Mysterio. He has been spending more time than he probably would like on the trainer’s table nursing all kinds of injuries.
Only Mysterio and his family know how much longer he can take the wear-and-tear of life in the WWE. But it is certain that once he hangs up his mask for the final time, the Hall of Fame will come calling.
Like Rey Mysterio, the World’s Largest Athlete is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. But if Paul Wight is indeed heading toward the sunset, he is doing so with guns blazing.
Big Show has spent the better part of two decades entertaining and irritating the WWE Universe. He has done everything WWE ever asked of him, from fire-breathing monster heel to teddy-bear face to comic relief.
Last year, Big Show finally chased away the ghosts of WrestleManias past by beating Cody Rhodes. Later, after being fired by then-GM John Laurinaitis, he returned with an iron-clad contract in one hand and the deadly Knockout Punch in the other.
As he enters the winter of his career, Big Show is doing probably his greatest in-ring work. His feud with Sheamus has to rate among the best of his career, and now he is tangling with Alberto Del Rio, who beat him for the World belt earlier this week.
Kane is another of those current superstars closing in on the end of his career. And like Big Show, Kane is heading into the last stages with full steam ahead.
The Big Red Machine has held 16 championships during his WWE career. But he will be best remembered for two accomplishments—the revitalization of the WWE Tag Team Division with Daniel Bryan in 2012 and strong programs with future HOF’er Undertaker, his storyline brother and real-life close friend.
It almost would be poetic justice if he and Undertaker went in together.
Now, let's consider the stars in the Should-Go group...
Some of you may disagree with Orton being placed in this group. He easily could have been among the Sure-Fire Locks.
He certainly has the credentials to go in—multiple championships (including being the youngest World Heavyweight champion at 24), great in-ring skills, a wrestling bloodline, the good fortune to have been booked in some strong programs over the years, an intensity unmatched by many in WWE, and so on and so on.
But what kept The Viper from being a Sure-Fire Lock is what has happened to him outside of the ring. He has run afoul of WWE’s Wellness Policy on a couple of occasions and has paid the price with suspensions.
While that should not be a factor in keeping him out of the Hall, you never know how he will be perceived as a performer once he gets to the end of his career. He probably will still get in.
Having The Miz in the Hall of Fame would make it more "Awesome!"
The former WWE champion has battled back from the depths of dark matches to once again become a relevant superstar. He returned from filming The Marine 3 to win the Intercontinental Championship, only to lose it weeks later to Kofi Kingston.
But at the same time he lost the belt, Miz began his face turn. He also began dabbling in color commentary on WWE Main Event and began hosting his "Miz TV" talk show.
He also is on the verge of launching a feud with U.S. Champion Antonio Cesaro that likely will find him winning that belt. His comeback will be completed with a prominent position in WrestleMania 29.
But like others in the Should-Go group, Miz still has many years ahead of him to validate a lofty Hall status. Right now, he joins Randy Orton on the line between Sure-Fire Lock and Should-Go.
But like he has done so many times in his career, look for Miz to cross that line.
Sheamus has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. He is a two-time WWE Champion—the first Irishman to hold that belt—and a one-time World Heavyweight Champion. His mic skills may not be the greatest in the world, but he is entertaining enough and is a big fan favorite.
His ring work is as solid as anyone going right now. He is strong as a bull and demonstrates that strength frequently.
At 34, Sheamus still has several good years ahead of him. And it is those years that will make or break his Hall chances.
He has been victimized from time to time by less-than-stellar booking from the Creative Team (see his three consecutive pay-per-view battles with Alberto Del Rio). If the booking picks up—and there is no reason to believe why it should not—then Sheamus should be welcomed with open arms.
Like Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes has the chops to make it to the Hall of Fame.
As a second-generation grappler, Rhodes bleeds wrestling. He has held both singles and tag-team championships. He was part of the last great heel stables of WWE in Legacy (with Orton and Ted DiBiase Jr.).
Rhodes always puts on a good show in the ring. He has the gift of CM Punk in that he always puts his opponents over with the crowd.
Barring serious injury, Rhodes could be around for many more years before he gets to the end of the line. The booking he receives over those years will determine his Hall status.
If he continues to be booked solidly, then the WWE Hall of Fame could be seeing its second father-son combo.
Long before he struck tag-team and comedic gold with Kane, Daniel Bryan brought back the art of submission to WWE. He is not a big man, but he is extremely quick in the ring and can slap a submission hold on his opponent with lightning-fast speed.
Pound for pound, he has to be the best all-around wrestler in the company.
It now appears that Team Hell No may be coming to the end of its title run. Once that happens, look for Bryan to re-ignite his singles career.
He already has held the U.S. and World titles. By the end of 2013, he could very well add the WWE title to his portfolio. All he has to do is shake loose from his comedy and “No! No! No!” shtick, and the doors to the Hall will fling open once he shuts down.
Now, let's move to the final group, Still-Needs-Work...
Why is the reigning World Heavyweight Champion in this category? Poor booking.
Alberto Del Rio boasted his way into WWE, claiming that championships were his “destiny.” When he won the 40-man Royal Rumble in 2011, it appeared he was well on his way to that destiny.
He lost a World title match to Edge. When Edge retired and the title was vacated, he lost that match to Christian.
So WWE Creative moved Del Rio into the WWE title picture. He won the belt twice, but his title reigns were disasters, labeling him nothing more than a transitional champion both times.
So back to the World title picture ADR went. So much has been said and written about his poorly booked programs with Sheamus, so we will not go any further with that.
The face turn at TLC seems to have re-energized Del Rio. So does winning the World belt in an extremely exciting match with Big Show on SmackDown.
Del Rio is picking up the mantle that Mysterio is close to relinquishing—major Latino babyface. He already has started referring to his growing fanbase as “La Familia.”
The coming weeks will determine if Del Rio can make the jump from Still-Needs-Work to Should-Go.
The Show Off has made a lot of noise lately, but until he can finally get a major championship around his waist, that noise will go for naught.
Many still look at Dolph Ziggler as a 21st-century Ric Flair with his swagger, long blond hair and his penchant for trying to be a ladies’ man. While that is not necessarily a bad comparison, Ziggler still needs to do something that Flair did so many times—win the World Heavyweight Championship.
Sure, he held the World belt once before, but that was only for about 12 minutes. He had a little better luck with the Intercontinental and U.S. championships, though.
Right now, he is carrying around the Money in the Bank briefcase and has teased cash-ins numerous times. It’s expected he will finally cash it in before WrestleMania.
Ziggler is a great ring worker, a much-hated heel and a good but not great promo cutter. One of his flaws, however, is that ever since he began in WWE, he has not been a true solo act.
Ever since he came to WWE, Ziggler has been surrounded by people. He was a part of the Spirit Squad heel stable before going out on his own as a singles wrestler.
But even in that capacity, he never has gone completely solo. He has been managed by Vickie Guerrero and partnered with Jack Swagger. Now his entourage includes storyline girlfriend AJ Lee and rising star Big E Langston.
Until he can get rid of the followers and hangers-on, and enter the ring on his own, Ziggler always will be handicapped. Maybe finally winning the World belt will point him in a new, more solo-oriented direction.
If you noticed, this list did not include The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker or Brock Lesnar as Sure-Fire Locks. While they definitely are Hall-bound, this list was limited to full-time superstars.
We could have gone on and on with the chances of the rest of the WWE roster. Suffice it to say that all of them could be lumped into the Still-Needs-Work group.
Your thoughts on this list of stars and their Hall of Fame chances are welcome. Share them in the Feedback section at the end of this article.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.