Ranking the Future Hall of Famers on the WWE Roster
With the Royal Rumble now out of the way, the WWE is officially on the Road to WrestleMania. The most exciting time of the year for the company, huge storylines and conflicts come to a head as everything builds towards the 'Grandest Stage of Them All.'
One of the traditional aspects of WrestleMania season is the Hall of Fame ceremony. Since returning as an annual event in 2004, some of the biggest names in WWE history have been inducted, including Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Bret Hart.
However, many wrestling fans continue to question the validity of the Hall of Fame when it also contains such luminaries as Drew Carey, Koko B. Ware and Pete Rose.
The announcement of the class of 2013 has got off to a great start; Mick Foley, Bob Backlund and Trish Stratus are fully deserving of their places in the Hall of Fame, and hopefully the rest of the inductees are of a similar pedigree.
Seeing these retrospective videos got me thinking as to which currently active WWE alumni could one day join their illustrious peers, and served as the basis for this article.
Here are the all-but-guaranteed Hall of Famers on the current WWE roster (including part-time performers), ranked by how soon they are likely to be wearing the coveted gold ring and why they deserve to be there.
13. Brock Lesnar
Will Brock Lesnar be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame one day? Yes. Does he deserve to be? I'm not so sure.
Don't get me wrong, 'The Next Big Thing' exploded onto the scene in 2002 and had the greatest rookie year of all time, winning the King of the Ring tournament, WWE Championship and 2003 Royal Rumble within 10 months of his first television appearance.
Following the brand extension, Lesnar became the biggest star on Smackdown and had one of the decade's greatest feuds opposite Kurt Angle. The three-time WWE Champion is a truly unique specimen, Lesnar's unique blend of size, speed, power and agility could have led to total dominance of the WWE.
Instead, fed up with the travel schedule and his passion for the business long gone, Lesnar left the company after a dismal match with Goldberg at WrestleMania 20. After a failed attempt to make it in the NFL, 'The Pain' switched his attentions to mixed martial arts and became UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2008.
After a promising start, Lesnar's UFC career fizzled out quickly, thanks in part to a potentially life-threatening stomach illness. Forced to retire from competition, Lesnar resurfaced on WWE television in early 2012 to a huge ovation, after signing a $5 million contract for a handful of television and pay-per-view appearances.
Brock Lesnar is a huge name in the sports world, and a valuable asset to the WWE. His appearances continue to draw impressive numbers, although I'm still not convinced it deserves such a lucrative contract.
While Vince would love to have such a 'name' in the Hall of Fame, knowing Lesnar's reputation, it would probably take weeks of negotiations to work it out
A criminally underused talent during much of his time with the WWE, Christian remains one of the company's most well-respected and popular mid-card talents, almost 15 years after his debut as part of The Brood.
During his first run with the company between 1998 and 2005, 'Captain Charisma' enjoyed great success in both singles and doubles competition. Alongside real-life best friend Edge, the two Canadians became one of the most dynamic and entertaining teams in WWE history, capturing the World Tag Team Championships on no less than seven occasions.
Edge and Christian also played their part in redefining tag team wrestling in their groundbreaking stunt matches against The Hardy Boyz and The Dudleys at the turn of the century.
When the duo ultimately split, nobody was surprised that Edge became the bigger star but this is no slight on Christian. Proving himself to be a lot more than 'the other guy,' 'Captain Charisma' instead established himself as one of the most consistent and well-respected mid-card acts on the roster. Not afraid to put his opponents over, his reputation as a workhorse was truly earned.
When his contract expired in October 2005, Christian opted to leave and spent several years with TNA and managed to twice win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Returning to the WWE with little fanfare in 2009, 'Captain Charisma' finally reached main-event status in 2011, only to quickly fall back into his role as what is essentially the WWE's most talented jobber.
Despite having the longest ECW Championship reign in WWE history at 205 days, the creative team have never believed in Christian as a genuine headliner. A two-time World Heavyweight Champion, his first reign lasted only two days and the second for four weeks.
Despite the fact the audience went nuts when he first captured the title, and his feud with Randy Orton over the belt was the best of 2011, Christian has never been near the world title picture since.
All told, 'Captain Charisma' is a nine-time tag team champion, three-time world champion, four-time Intercontinental Champion and has also held the European, Hardcore and Light Heavyweight title. Although he has a few years left in him yet, the 39-year-old will no doubt day take his place alongside longtime partner Edge in the Hall of Fame one day.
11. Randy Orton
Randy Orton is still only 32, despite having made his television debut back in April 2002. Although he has at least another 10 years left at the top, 'The Apex Predator' has already accomplished enough to ensure that one day in the distant future a Hall of Fame induction is a foregone conclusion.
Gaining real traction during Evolution's spell of dominance in 2003, Orton captured his first Intercontinental Championship that December, and enjoyed the longest run with the belt in seven years. Better was yet to come, and in August 2004 the 24-year-old defeated Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship to become the youngest man to ever hold one of the WWE's top titles.
Following this, 'The Legend Killer' would find himself a permanent fixture in the main event scene, and by 2011 Orton was a three-time World Heavyweight Champion and six-time WWE Champion. In recent years, a combination of injury and suspension have seen 'The Viper' absent from the world title picture for the longest spell in years.
Some still say that Orton has failed to truly live up to his potential, and they may be right. Back in 2005 when his 'Legend Killer' persona was red-hot, many were predicting the youngster could go on to become a legend himself. Yet despite a spell as the company's second biggest star behind John Cena back in 2008-09, Orton has never really broken out as a massively popular character.
Perhaps it's because he had accomplished more than most do in their entire careers by the age of 30. Maybe it's because he has spent a great deal of his career as a bland face, when it is blindingly obvious that the naturally-cocky Orton is light years better as a heel.
Or maybe it is the recurring problems with authority that keep holding him back, something from which he should have learned the first time.
Either way, the 2009 Royal Rumble winner could retire tomorrow and would still be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It will be a long time before Randy Orton hangs up his boots, who knows what else he will have accomplished by then?
10. CM Punk
Although currently at the top of his game, CM Punk has often spoke of retiring at his peak, a straight-edge lifestyle offering no relief from chronic injury problems. When that day does come, and it may be sooner than we think, he will no doubt swiftly enter the Hall of Fame.
The main reason for this is of course his second reign as WWE Champion that lasted an epic 434 days, during which he defended the title against all comers in some superb matches.
Although he was hardly featured in pay-per-view main events, we all know that no WWE Champion is guaranteed a main event spot unless John Cena holds the belt. In an era where the top titles are switched with alarming regularity, Punk enjoyed the longest run with the strap in 25 years.
'The Voice of the Voiceless' is also a three-time World Heavyweight Champion and former ECW, Intercontinental and World Tag Team Champion, as well as being the only man in history to win consecutive Money in the Bank ladder matches in 2008 and 2009.
Tipped for the very top ever since his debut on ECW in June 2006, 'The Straight Edge Savior' has now firmly established himself as the second biggest star in the industry.
His infamous 'pipe bomb' promo in June 2011 provided a huge wave of momentum for the Chicago native, and he was undoubtedly the most popular performer in the business at the time.
Not your conventional WWE 'superstar,' it is nothing but sheer hard work over 14 years in the ring that have got CM Punk to where he is, and huge credit must be given for this.
Consistently excellent both in the ring and on the microphone, 'The Voice of the Voiceless' is currently the company's best all-round talent.
CM Punk will remain at the top of the WWE for a few years yet, but when he decide he can no longer cut it at the highest level, a Hall of Fame place will no doubt be waiting for one of the most gifted workers of his generation.
9. Rey Mysterio
Still going strong (albeit on a reduced schedule) after almost 24 years in the business, Rey Mysterio is arguably the most popular high-flyer in history, and has been one of the WWE's biggest babyfaces for over a decade.
One of the figureheads of WCW's cruiserweight ranks when it was the hottest division in wrestling back in the mid-1990s, Mysterio became immensely popular thanks to his spectacular and innovative aerial offence, and became a five-time Cruiserweight champion.
Finally signing with the WWE in 2002, 'The Ultimate Underdog' was one of Smackdown's major players during the brand extension and captivated the audience with his underdog spirit and high-octane matches.
During this time, Mysterio captured three WWE Cruiserweight titles and became a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion.
Finally reaching main event status after entering the 2006 Royal Rumble at No. 2 and winning the match, lasting a record 62 minutes in the process, 'The Ultimate Underdog' became World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 22.
One of the unlikeliest world champions in history, Mysterio was a popular champion and defended the belt with pride for over 3 months. Mysterio would win the belt again in 2010, and spent a few minutes as WWE Champion in July 2011.
These days, the two-time Intercontinental champion has limited his schedule to cope with the huge amount of nagging injuries accumulated over a near quarter-century in the business.
Now passing his vast knowledge and experience to tag partner Sin Cara, Mysterio has more than earned the right to take it a little easier.
He spent years perfecting his craft in Mexico and with WCW to earn a reputation as one of the industry's greatest innovators back in the 1990's, and he peaked by winning WWE World title gold at WrestleMania.
Despite his small stature, Mysterio enjoyed unprecedented success amongst the WWE's heavyweights, and the Hall of Fame surely beckons.
8. William Regal
William Regal is one of the most under-appreciated stars in history and since beginning his second stint with the company in 2000, he has acted as wrestler, commissioner, authority figure, manager and commentator.
It is often overlooked that Regal is one of the most gifted technical wrestlers of his generation, and has had a hand in the training of such talents as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe. The Englishman is the true definition of 'enhancement talent,' despite losing most of his high-profile matches in the WWE, both Regal and his opponent would look great in the process.
That being said, 'The British Brawler' is still a five-time Hardcore Champion and four-time holder of both the World Tag Team and European championships, as well as capturing two Intercontinental titles and being crowned 2008 King of the Ring.
In his current role as color commentator on NXT, Regal adds a certain gravitas to the proceedings as his vast experience and knowledge of the game can often verbally enhance the in-ring action, especially as some commentators these days don't even seem to know what half of the moves are called.
Regal has always had a reputation for being a selfless performer, and in the rare occasions he steps back into the ring he continues to prove it. For instance, last year he had a great feud with WWE newcomer Dean Ambrose down in FCW before appearing on Raw just a couple of months later to be destroyed by The Big Show.
Although retirement seems to be looming ever closer for the 30-year veteran, both backstage and onscreen commitments ensure he will remain a presence in the WWE. Hopefully when he finally calls it quits William Regal will finally get the recognition he deserves, and a place in the Hall of Fame.
7. John Cena
John Cena has been the undisputed biggest star in the business for almost eight years now, and it is an understatement to say the fans are beginning to get tired of it. However much the man divides opinion, it cannot be argued that he has enjoyed a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
A record 10-time WWE Champion, Cena has also captured the World Heavyweight Championship twice to spend over 1,100 days of his tenure with the company as world champion.
The former 'Doctor of Thuganomics' is also three-time United States champion and four-time tag team champion, as well as recently becoming only the fourth man to win the Royal Rumble twice; adding the 2013 match to his previous victory in 2008.
Initially a universally-adored babyface when he was the blue-collar underdog fighting against the odds, by 2006 Cena overkill was bordering on the inane. The character has been stale for years, but the powers-that-be are reluctant to change the character due to the huge amount of revenue generated from his child-friendly line of merchandise.
The problem with Cena isn't entirely his fault; when he first cemented his place in the main event he was surrounded by the likes of Batista, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Edge, Triple H and The Undertaker to name but a few.
Since these names have disappeared from the roster, the creative team have yet to truly elevate anyone to the same level. Randy Orton nearly managed it a few years ago, and CM Punk came close in the summer of 2011, but Cena remains the top dog by some distance.
Despite the character being shoved down our throats for the last several years, nobody works harder for the company than John Cena. A full touring schedule, alongside a massive amount of media and charity commitments, take up a whole lot of time and it is clear Cena lives and breathes the WWE.
This, aligned with his huge success and innumerable great matches over the years, made him a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame a long time ago.
I only wonder if by the time his induction comes around the WWE will acknowledge the hostile reaction he currently receives from some quarters, or if SuperCena will live on in the history books forever...
6. The Big Show
It's hard to believe that The Big Show is still only 40, despite capturing the WCW World Championship in his debut match way back in October 1995.
At the age of just 26, The Giant (as he was known then) left WCW as a two-time world champion and three-time tag team champion. Signing an unprecedented ten year, $1 million per year contract with the WWF, many were hoping the leviathan would live up to his, ahem, massive potential.
Soon after joining the WWF, The Big Show began having problem controlling his weight. When previously he had been able to perform dropkicks or even the occasional moonsault in his early days, 'The World's Largest Athlete' ballooned to such proportions that he would be gassed after only minutes in the ring.
Despite this, Show has amassed an enviable amount of accolades; as well as winning two World Heavyweight and two WWE Championships, 'The World's Largest Athlete' is also an 11-time tag team champion, three-time Hardcore champion and enjoyed single reigns as ECW, United States and Intercontinental Champion.
I can't think of anyone in recent history (except possibly Kane) who has gone from heel to face and back again than The Big Show, and he has been subject to some terrible booking over the years. Like when he turned his dad's funeral into the X-Games? Or impersonated Hulk Hogan? Nonetheless, he has remained the consummate professional in 14 years with the WWE.
History will remember The Big Show as one of the greatest big men the business has ever seen, and that much is true. However, those of us who remember seeing The Giant's jaw-dropping combination of size, speed and power in 1995 realize he could have been so much more.
Regardless, a Hall of Fame place awaits 'The World's Largest Athlete' when he hangs up his size 22 5E boots.
5. Chris Jericho
With those pesky 'outside interests' taking up more and more of his time in recent years, it is always great to see Chris Jericho in a WWE ring. He doesn't need to come back; it's clear that Y2J simply loves the business, which is remarkable after a career that has spanned over 22 years.
Jericho came to prominence in the mid-1990's as part of WCW's dazzling cruiserweight division, capturing the championship four times. Bursting with charisma, the young 'Liontamer' also possessed the microphone skills to match his undoubted in-ring talent. Jericho also captured the WCW Television title before being lured to the WWF in August 1999.
Making one of the greatest debuts in WWF history when he gatecrashed a promo by The Rock and proclaimed that 'Raw Is Jericho,' Y2J went on to establish himself as a premier upper mid-card talent. During this time, 'The Ayatollah of Rock N' Rollah' would capture the Intercontinental, European and Hardcore championships.
History was made in 2001 when Jericho became the first ever Undisputed Champion, and did so by defeating Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night. This initial main event run only lasted a few months and Y2J returned to the mid-card, where his vast experience was better served.
By 2005 Jericho had grown tired of the wrestling business and took a two-year sabbatical to pursue other avenues. When he returned in 2007 he seemed more refreshed and passionate than he had been in years, and gave us some of the best work of his career.
Much like Shawn Michaels before him, Jericho used his second spell in the company in an effort to put as many people over as possible, and usually in match-of-the night contenders.
Y2J disappeared again in September 2010 and didn't return until January 2012, but this time he only stayed until August. During this time, he still managed to put over CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler in great matches.
It seems that 'The Best In The World At What He Does' is content to sign short-term contracts with the WWE, and it seems like the perfect scenario; the gifted veteran comes in for a short run to give the rub to one of the company's younger stars.
The record nine-time Intercontinental champion will go down as one of the all-time greats, making a spot in the Hall of Fame a mere formality at this point.
If you include his previous guises as Isaac Yankem and the fake Diesel, Kane has been with the WWE for nearly 18 years. A lot of strange things have happened to 'The Big Red Machine' over the years, yet he has remained enduringly popular. The reason for this is simple; the character has constantly evolved to move with the times, and Kane could lay claim to the title of most versatile performer in WWE history.
The names 'The Devil's Favorite Demon' has competed against reads like a who's who of wrestling history; Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Goldberg and Shawn Michaels, to name but a tiny few. In fact, if you name any high-profile WWE star of the last decade, chances are that they have tangled with Kane at some point.
Let's also not forget that Kane is one of the most accomplished tag team wrestlers in WWE history. winning no less than 12 tag team titles with seven different partners. Whether it be monster heel duos alongside The Undertaker and The Big Show or odd-couple shenanigans with The Hurricane and current partner Daniel Bryan, Kane is as versatile in doubles action as he is competing alone.
And then there is Kane's dominance of the Royal Rumble match; over a record 16 appearances, 'The Big Red Machine' has eliminated 36 other stars, and still holds the record for eliminations in a single match set in 2001 when he threw 11 men over the top rope.
Kane enjoyed a 24-hour stint as WWF Champion in 1998 and is also a former ECW Champion, as well as capturing the Intercontinental championship twice and successfully cashing in his 2010 Money in the Bank contract for a run with the World Heavyweight Championship.
'The Big Red Machine' has been face and heel more times than I care to remember, and has been the victim of some truly horrendous booking, which was brilliantly recapped during recent anger management skits.
However, the 45-year-old has constantly altered his character over the years to keep it relevant, and 2012 was his best year in the ring for some time, which is remarkable after over 15 years with the same gimmick.
Kane will be sorely missed when his career comes to an end, but his weird and wonderful legacy will live on in the Hall of Fame.
3. The Rock
The Rock's initial run with the company only lasted less than seven years, yet in that time he was able to establish himself as one of the most popular and entertaining performers of all time. 'The Great One' was assured a place alongside his father in the Hall of Fame long before he captured his eighth WWE Championship at this year's Royal Rumble.
Pushed from the very start following his debut at Survivor Series 1996, blue-chipper Rocky Maivia soon evolved into the cocky, charismatic 'Peoples Champion' we all know and love. The Rock won the Intercontinental Championship twice en route to becoming WWF Champion for the first time in November 1998 at the age of just 26.
Firmly established in the main event, The Rock's natural charisma, promo ability and comedic timing spawned dozens of catchphrases during the Attitude Era as he and Steve Austin battled for the title of biggest star in the business. 'The Great One' also became a five-time tag team champion (three of those wins coming as part of hugely popular Rock N' Sock Connection) and won the 2000 Royal Rumble.
People often forget how selfless The Rock was during his first run with the company. As one of the biggest draws in the business he had some level of control over his storylines, yet still put over the likes of Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Goldberg in major matches.
By 2003, 'The People's Champion' had caught the acting bug and soon after left the company. After a seven-year hiatus The Rock returned to host WrestleMania 27, a chain of events that included a record-breaking match with John Cena at WrestleMania 28 and culminated in a WWE Championship win just last week.
Less than a decade after his WWF debut, The Rock had quit wrestling and become an in-demand movie star having already built a legacy fit for a Hall of Famer. He didn't need to come back; he earns millions of dollars per movie and has accomplished everything he can in the business.
As he has made abundantly clear, 'The Great One' is back because wrestling is in his blood.
2. Triple H
Triple H finally began gaining momentum after winning the 1997 King of the Ring, and really picked up steam after aligning with best friend Shawn Michaels to form D-Generation X. Their rebellious attitude and edgy promos helped usher in the Attitude Era, and they became one of the hottest acts in the business.
Following HBK's retirement in 1998, Triple H became leader of DX and began his ascent towards main-event status, capturing both the European and Intercontinental titles en route to a first WWF Championship in August 1999. This saw Triple H firmly establish himself in the main-event scene, and he dominated the opening years of the century as part of The McMahon-Helmsley Faction, the Two-Man Power Trip and Evolution.
A five-time World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H made history in February 2009 when he captured his eighth WWE Championship to become the first (and so far only) 13-time world champion in company history.
The following year, after a brief DX reunion that seemed to serve only for Michaels and Triple H's amusement, 'The Game' reduced his in-ring schedule to just several matches a year in order to focus on his backstage role as Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events.
Some may say that his marriage into the McMahon family led to his rise to the top and while that may contain an element of truth, Triple H was on an upward trajectory long before he married Stephanie.
'The Cerebral Assassin' was also one of the most savvy backstage operators of all time; it takes a great mind to go from the whipping boy of the 'Curtain Call' incident to the apparent heir to the entire WWE empire.
Ignoring the reputation as a politician that dogged him throughout his career, the 2002 Royal Rumble winner has been a success in his corporate role. A real student of the game who has been at the ear of Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Vince McMahon for years, the future seems to be in safe hands.
The recent resurgence of the tag team division and NXT's revamp into a genuine developmental territory have Triple H's fingerprints all over them.
Following his loss to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2012, Triple H teased a retirement angle. Nobody bought it, but it is clear 'The Game' is winding down his career.
With increasing backstage responsibilities, the end may be coming sooner rather than later, and 'The King of Kings' will be swiftly inducted into the Hall of Fame when the time comes.
1. The Undertaker
Simply put; The Undertaker is the WWE's greatest-ever creation. The most successful gimmick in wrestling history has seen 'The Phenom' remain one of the company's elite stars for an unprecedented 22 years. In the era of Internet spoilers and the lost art of kayfabe, 'The Deadman' is a true original.
The Undertaker won the first of four WWE Championships a year after his debut in November 1991, becoming the youngest champion in history at the time at age 26. For the first few years, 'The Phenom' worked a slow, deliberate style in keeping with his gimmick but adopted a more contemporary style in the mid 1990's to accommodate the changing face of the business.
During the Attitude Era, The Undertaker pushed the boundaries of his character during his time at the helm of the Ministry of Darkness when converting his his 'followers' and performing crucifixions, developing a more demonic side.
'The Deadman' once again moved with the times at the turn of the century, adopting the popular 'American Bad Ass' persona (which Vince apparently hates) before bringing back the classic Undertaker at WrestleMania 20.
'The Phenom' delivered the best work of his career between 2004 and 2009, competing in gripping contests against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Batista, Edge and many more. This Indian summer saw The Undertaker win the World Heavyweight Championship three times, the 2007 Royal Rumble, and become the undisputed top draw on Smackdown.
A combination of recurring injuries and the ravages of time have limited The Undertaker to only two matches since October 2010. However, both of these matches came at WrestleMania against Triple H and rank as two of the greatest matches in the event's history. 'The Showcase of the Immortals' just isn't complete without The Undertaker, who holds the coveted 20-0 record.
If recent rumors are anything to go by, The Undertaker may only have a couple of matches left in him. As the WWE's longest-tenured star, locker room leader and legend of the business, expect the company to make a huge deal when 'The Deadman' finally calls it quits.
So there are the active (or semi-active, at least) members of the WWE roster who I believe are shoo-in Hall of Famers. Some of these could happen in the next few years and others not for decades, but I'm sure all of these names will be inducted eventually.
In terms of non-wrestlers; I think JBL will be inducted sooner rather than later, and Booker T will probably join him one day. Michael Cole, Teddy Long and Lilian Garcia are all decent shouts, and the WWE's obsession with Vickie Guerrero will likely see her join Eddie in the Hall of Fame one day.
I would also love to see Paul Heyman go in for all he has given the business, but Vince isn't ECW's greatest fan, so it may never happen.
What do you think of these future Hall of Famers?
Do you agree with the rankings?
Is there anyone missing you would have included?
Does the WWE Hall of Fame really mean anything?
As always, sound off in the comments below!