Around this time of year there is always plenty to discuss in the world of wrestling. Who will show up in the Royal Rumble? Who will headline WrestleMania? Who will enter the WWE Hall of Fame?
As I've said many times before, I enjoy the WWE Hall of Fame for what it is. It's an extremely political yearly tribute to stars from the past. If you take it as such you may just enjoy it. For the most part, those who are in it tend to brag about it. Even some who are not in it would love to be. Sure, it's a payday and a small reunion with some old co-workers. For the fans, it's a chance to see those stars on the grandest stage of all one more time.
Although we will discuss selected other 2012 WWE Hall of Fame inductees in the weeks to come, the announcement of the induction of The Four Horsemen is more than worthy of its own entry.
While overly justified, the announcement seemed to "break all the rules" in the minds of fans. A group being inducted? Which version of the Horsemen? Ric Flair inducted twice? Isn't Ric Flair under contact to TNA?
Certainly tag teams and families have been previously inducted, but the induction of a group is a totally different ballgame. The Horsemen had quite a few different members in the span of about a decade. The original lineup included Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson, and JJ Dillon as manager. Perhaps the most remembered and celebrated roster was actually the third which included Barry Windham (who had replaced Lex Luger who had in turn replaced Ole).
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that the Windham version is the one most likely to be celebrated by WWE. Even before airing their video package which highlighted this incarnation, most fans know that Ole Anderson wants nothing to do with WWE and WWE most likely wants nothing to do with Ole Anderson.
Anderson is, in my opinion, a very misunderstood man. People who are opinionated often get a bad rap. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad people. It simply means that they have strong opinions and are unable to waver on them. Ole Anderson is very opinionated and censors himself for no one. That's simply the way he is. Bruno Sammartino is similar in many respects but has a beloved hero aura about him that brings out his endearing side. Believe it or not, Ole does have an endearing side. He just doesn't choose to show it and would probably rather be thought of as the "grumpy old man."
As much as an oversight as it is for WWE not to mention Ole, even if he is overlooked by his Horsemen partners at the ceremony, it's not going to be the end of the world for him. Aside from having a ring, WWE is about as far away from Ole's idea of wrestling as one could get. On the flip side of the coin, there's a much better chance that the members of the "WWE Universe" are going to know who Barry Windham is. We've learned in the past that if WWE feels that their "Universe" doesn't know who someone is and there's no financial stake in teaching them, that person simply isn't going to be presented no matter the role. This is the factual reason as to why William Shatner inducted Jerry Lawler rather than The King's choice of Memphis announcing legend Lance Russell.
As for who WILL be present for the ceremony, Arn Anderson, Blanchard, and Dillon seem to be a lock. Windham is still recovering from health problems suffered last fall although not enough is known on his present condition to even speculate about an appearance. The true question marks in this category all lie with "The Nature Boy" himself.
When cornered by a fan at a recent autograph signing, Flair claimed that he would indeed be accepting the induction on stage at the ceremony. Assuming that he is still under contract with TNA would make this a landmark event. Although Flair was in the audience at the 2011 ceremony, WWE was very careful to catch him on camera as little as possible.
Certainly his TNA run has done him no favors regarding personal financial issues. Whether or not being back with WWE would change that or even be possible remains to be seen. One way or another it seems that we will be seeing Ric Flair involved in the world of professional wrestling until the day he dies.
Inducting the Horsemen is ultimately a landmark event. It pleases old school fans while re-introducing a concept that all fans, new and old, should be aware of. Fans of newer entities such as the nWo and DX need to know where the roots for such "super groups" were planted. This also opens up a floodgate of new ideas for the WWE Hall of Fame. Just when WWE seems to be tricking itself by inducting stars within a year of their retirement, the company finds a way to RE-INDUCT stars such as Flair and others in the future like Shawn Michaels (DX) and Bret Hart (The Hart Foundation). As much as the company is criticized for bad decisions (most of the time rightly so), they do seem to have a think tank with its target being the almighty dollar.
Last year at this time I was sworn to secrecy, but thanks to a member of the 2011 class I knew exactly who all was going to be inducted. Although I don't have such information this year (and if I did...), I'm still hoping for another team to be announced. If they are, we'll be celebrating right here in the next few weeks. They certainly deserve it. After all, pain and destruction is their middle name.