The WWE Hall of Fame is supposed to be the mecca of sports entertainment. Every year, pro wrestling’s elite are honored, and those who qualify, take their rightful place in the annals of WWE history.
For most in the industry, it is the greatest night of the year. It is a time to reminisce about the good ol’ days and recognize those individuals or teams who contributed greatly to the success of the product we love dearly.
Some are great champions. Some are great entertainers. Some quite simply changed the course of wrestling history.
We’re all well aware that names like John Cena, Randy Orton, Undertaker, Big Show, and Kane will all get the call to the Hall one day. But, there are some interesting names out there that you might not have connected to the Hall of Fame quite yet.
Per the current standard of what it means to be “elite” in WWE history, 5 wrestlers currently reside on the active roster that have Hall of Fame credentials. They might not spring to mind immediately when you think of current acts destined for the Hall, but hey – that’s why I write these articles.
5. Brock Lesnar
Significant achievements: 4-time WWE Champion, 2002 King of the Ring winner, 2003 Royal Rumble winner, ended the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania
Lesnar had made such a huge impact in a relatively short amount of time with the WWE. He debuted in 2002, and within 5 months had defeated The Rock to become the youngest WWE champion in history.
He would hold the WWE Championship until Survivor Series that year, when he lost it to the Big Show after Paul Heyman betrayed him. He would capture the title twice more before leaving the WWE in pursuit of a career in mixed martial arts.
Upon his return in 2012, Lesnar reunited with Paul Heyman and competed in several classic matches against the likes of John Cena, Triple H, and CM Punk. Perhaps his most infamous WWE moment came at WrestleMania XXX, when “The Beast Incarnate” ended the highly coveted undefeated streak of the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
Lesnar parlayed this into the most dominant WWE Championship victory over John Cena at SummerSlam 2014. He would hold the title for 224 days before losing it at WrestleMania 31 as a result of Seth Rollins’ cashing in his Money In The Bank contract.
His 4 cumulative WWE Championship reigns amount to the 8th longest reigning champion in WWE history. He has a Royal Rumble win and a King of the Ring win under his belt as well and is associated with 3 of the most iconic moments in WWE history (breaking the streak, SummerSlam 2014, and the Shooting Star Press at WrestleMania XIX).
Comparable Hall of Fame resume: Yokozuna, “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Significant achievements: 3-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, 2-time WCW United States Champion, 3-time WWE Tag Team Champion, 2-time WCW Tag Team Champion, 9-time WWE Hardcore Champion.
In 1995, Dustin Runnels returned to the WWE under the guise of Goldust. He’s usually lost in the shuffle when discussing the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, but he truly belongs on that list. His feud with Razor Ramon was one of the few bright spots in the mid-90s landscape of the WWE, much less the dimension he added to rivalries against Mankind and The Undertaker.
He had an entertaining run alongside Booker T as World Tag Team Champions in 2002, and paired with his brother Cody to win the Tag Team Championship in 2013. His contributions to the business are still pouring in.
Between his runs in the NWA, WCW, and WWE, Runnels captured 21 championships, including the United States Championship (in WCW), and the Intercontinental Championship (3 times).
Perhaps most impressive is that the Goldust character has had longevity that few have ever had. 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the début of “The Bizarre One.” It’s amazing that decades after his début, he’s still relevant and winning championships.
Comparable Hall of Fame resumes: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Tito Santana
Significant achievements: 2-time WWE Champion, 1-time World Heavyweight Champion, 2-time United States Champion, 2012 Royal Rumble winner, 2010 King of the Ring
If you have watched Sheamus wallow in obscurity for the past year or so, you’re probably wondering why on Earth he’d be on this list. Lest we forget, Sheamus entered the WWE as a major force to be reckoned with.
After debuting for ECW in the summer of 2009, “The Celtic Warrior” made his Raw brand début. An instant success, Sheamus was challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship by December of that year.
When he defeated Cena, it came as a shock. Though he would lose the title at the Elimination Chamber in 2010, he was still in a featured bout at WrestleMania XXVI, facing Triple H. If that’s not the greatest rookie year in WWE history, it’s right up there with the best.
His success didn’t fizzle, either. In 2010, he won the King of the Ring tournament. In 2012, he won the Royal Rumble and defeated Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to capture the World Heavyweight Championship. Like it or not, it is one of the more significant and memorable moments in WrestleMania history.
He’s had several classic matches against Randy Orton, Christian, Alberto Del Rio, and Cesaro – though the best of his work came against Bryan.
With Sheamus, it isn’t only the accomplishments, but the milestones he’s achieved as well. He’s the 100th WWE Champion in history, as well as the first Irish-born WWE Champion. There may not be a superstar in history who was as prepared and polished for success as Sheamus was.
Comparable Hall of Fame resume: Eddie Guerrero, Dusty Rhodes
2. Daniel Bryan
Significant achievements: 3-time WWE Champion, 1-time World Heavyweight Champion, 1-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, 1-time WWE United States Champion, 1-time WWE Tag Team Champion, Money In The Bank briefcase winner
For a period of several years, Daniel Bryan was thought of as one of, if not the best wrestler in the entire world. Due to his size and stature, Bryan was thought destined to perpetually play the underdog – a solid, dependable worker, but certainly not main event caliber.
B+ ceiling at best.
Within a few months of his main roster début, Bryan had captured the United States Championship from The Miz, and held the title a respectable 176 days. Once he dropped the belt, he surprisingly won the Money In The Bank briefcase in 2011.
In December of 2011, the surprises continued as Bryan cashed in his Money In The Bank contract and won the first of 4 WWE/World Heavyweight Championships. He would spend late 2012 and early 2013 teaming with Kane as the duo known as Team Hell No – holding the WWE Tag Team Championship for 245 days.
The current Intercontinental Championship reign gives Bryan both the “Triple Crown” and “Grand Slam,” winning all of the WWE’s current major championships.
He spent 5 years proving all of his naysayers wrong, and when the WWE decided to give the main event of WrestleMania XXX to Batista, revolt ensued, and the Yes Movement was born.
En route to WrestleMania XXX, Bryan became the most popular superstar since Stone Cold Steve Austin frequented arenas. 2014’s installment of the Showcase of Immortals was one of the greatest in history because Bryan’s journey to the top was one of the greatest in history.
Comparable Hall of Fame resumes: Mick Foley, Harley Race
1. Dolph Ziggler
Significant achievements: 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, 4-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, 1-time WWE United States Champion, 1-time World Tag Team Champion, Money In The Bank briefcase winner
Critics of today’s WWE often cite the misuse of Dolph Ziggler as one of the brand’s chief wrongdoings. However, most don’t realize that “The Showoff” has already achieved more than most wrestlers ever will – accomplishments that warrant a spot among WWE history’s elite.
Ziggler stands in elite company as one of the WWE’s most reliable in-ring technicians. His ability gives credence to the phrase “he could wrestle a broomstick for 30 minutes and it’d be entertaining.” Indeed, when his music hits, crowds around the world know they are in for a 5-star match.
That’s not something that can be said for many, if any, other wrestlers.
In 2005, Ziggler made his main roster début as Nicky of the Spirit Squad – a group of male cheerleaders that were all, coincidentally, pretty talented guys. (and, let’s clear the air now – the Spirit Squad was awesome in all the wrong ways.) Thanks to the Spirit Squad, Ziggler earned his only World Tag Team Championship.
You take what you can get, and you throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks in wrestling. The Spirit Squad did not stick, but Ziggler showed enough of a spark to warrant repackaging and in 2008, he made his return to the WWE’s main roster.
In addition to his reign as tag champion, Ziggler captured the Intercontinental Championship. In February of 2011, Ziggler completed the “Triple Crown” with his first (albeit frustratingly brief) World Championship.
After climbing up the ranks of the midcard, Ziggler established himself as a legitimate main event attraction. His matches against Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk, and John Cena were all classics, and his performance in the main event of Survivor Series of 2014 was legendary.
As of this writing, Ziggler has spent 69 days as World Champion, 182 days as U.S. Champion, 216 days as Tag Team Champion (thanks to the Freebird rule), and 273 days as Intercontinental Champion – over 2 years’ worth of championship reigns.
A cumulative total he will only add to as his career progresses.
Comparable Hall of Fame resumes: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Mr. Perfect
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, and is a Tennessee Titans Staff Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.