There is absolutely no question that Paul Bearer was one of the greatest managers in the history of professional wrestling, and he deserves to one day be enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. Rather than inducting him this year on the heels of his tragic death, however, the WWE should wait for a more fitting time.
Wrestling fans everywhere mourned Bearer's untimely death a couple weeks ago, and that continued on last week's edition of Raw. The WWE played video tributes to Bearer throughout the night, and it was great to see such a well-respected man receive his due credit. Naturally, with WrestleMania XXIX approaching fast, Bearer's potential status as a Hall of Famer has been discussed among fans quite extensively.
When should Paul Bearer be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame?
I certainly wouldn't complain if the WWE were to make the decision to put him in the Hall this year, and I don't think that anyone would, but at this point it seems like waiting is the more prudent maneuver. With the addition of Booker T to the 2013 class, there are now six people in line to be inducted at Madison Square Garden the night before 'Mania, and that is more than enough. Adding another would clutter things and take time away from those who have already been announced.
The one thing that the WWE doesn't want to do is overshadow Bearer's induction, but that would be inevitable based on the other inductees. Bruno Sammartino is the headliner, and he is joined by an extremely strong supporting cast in the form of Mick Foley, Donald Trump, Trish Stratus, Bob Backlund and Booker. The 2013 class is made up of the two longest-reigning WWE Champions of all time, a hardcore legend, a mainstream star, arguably the greatest diva of all time and a five-time WCW Champion.
That is a ton of star power and there is absolutely no reason to add to it. The WWE will already be hard-pressed to make sure that everyone gets their moment in the spotlight without Bearer in the mix, so it simply wouldn't be logical to put him in this year. That isn't to say that Bearer isn't worthy because he most definitely is, but it's a matter of logistics.
At the risk of sounding insensitive, perhaps it would have been more possible for the WWE to induct him this year had he passed away earlier. By the time his incredibly sad and unfortunate death became public knowledge, the WWE already had announced the bulk of its 2013 Hall of Fame class, so there just wasn't enough room to make it happen.
Leaving Bearer out this year is ultimately for the best, though. When he eventually gets enshrined, he should be one of the main inductees rather than an afterthought. There is obviously no rush to get him in the Hall of Fame at this point, so the WWE can now bide its time and wait for the perfect opportunity to make it happen.
Next year is obviously a real possibility as the 2014 Hall of Fame ceremony will take place the night before WrestleMania XXX, which is a milestone 'Mania for the WWE. Making Bearer the main focus of the 2014 class would certainly garner him the recognition that he so richly deserves. Also, The Undertaker figures to be involved in a huge match, potentially against someone like John Cena, so he could be the one who inducts Bearer.
Another option is waiting until The Undertaker is inducted in his own right. Taker and Bearer were synonymous with each other throughout their career and it would certainly be fitting to put them in together. The Undertaker likely won't be inducted until he officially retires and that could certainly be a few years down the line still, but fans of The Phenom and Bearer would probably prefer this idea over any other one.
Bearer was such a huge part of The Undertaker's success in the WWE that it would almost be an injustice if they don't get enshrined in the same class. When The Undertaker first came to the WWE it was clear that he had all the physical tools needed to be a star, but he lacked presence and mic skills. Bearer picked up the slack in that regard and made The Undertaker relevant while he honed his craft.
Had The Undertaker remained with Brother Love, then perhaps he would have fizzled out, been repackaged and ultimately been released. Had that happened then wrestling fans would have been robbed of one of the biggest stars of all time. Bearer ensured that The Undertaker would be a key cog in the WWE, though, so he is as much a part of Taker's legacy as The Phenom himself.
If Bearer isn't inducted this year it doesn't mean that the WWE feels he is less deserving than those who are being honored. If somebody should be in the Hall of Fame then they'll eventually be honored when the time is right. Sammartino had an awful relationship for many years with the WWE, and he is being enshrined this year, so that should tell you that the WWE is committed to making the Hall of Fame prestigious.
Bearer and the WWE were on great terms until the day he passed as he was employed under a legends contract. Everyone in the company seemed to have the utmost respect for Bearer as I never heard a bad word spoken about him. Because of that, the WWE brass is looking out for the best interest of Bearer's legacy, so they'll assuredly handle his Hall of Fame candidacy with care and sensibility.