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As we approach the voting season for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, I’ve decided to expand on some research I did last year regarding the history of the WON Awards using the Award Shares statistic.
While the Wikipedia article offers a good explanation of the concept of Award Shares (or MVP Shares), here is a short explanation:
Award Shares are a calculation of the percentage of possible points someone received in the voting for an award. Someone who received all the possible first place votes for an award in a given year would get a 1 for win shares for that season.
By summing the Award Shares someone’s gained over their career, you can then compare them with the shares earned by others to contextualize their careers. Additionally, Award Shares provide a control for how many people vote. For the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair award, 32 people voted for the 1982 awards and 1227 people voted for the 2020 awards.
I have calculated Award Shares in the following WON Awards. Each one covers the period of 1982-2020 unless otherwise noted:
- Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award
- Most Outstanding Wrestler
- Tag Team of the Year
- Best on Interviews
- Most Charismatic (1991-2020)
- Bruiser Brody Memorial Award (Best Brawler)
- Bryan Danielson Award (Best Technician)
- Best Flying Wrestler
- Pro Wrestling Match of the Year (1983-2020)
- Best Television Announcer (1984-2020)
I have also combined some awards two categories: first, Best Box Office Draw, which started in 1997, has been compared with the Best Babyface and Best Heel Awards that were given from 1982-1996. I’ve also combined the Best Non-Wrestler Award, which started in 1999, with Manager of the Year, which ran from 1983-1996.
Here are the sums of the Award Shares for the various awards:
Here are some of my takeaways from this project:
This data is naturally limited to generally only cover 1982 or 1983 to 2020. Workers whose careers or primes fall out of that time period won’t appear in these lists and shouldn’t be used for comparisons.
MMA fighters were allowed to be voted in many of the wrestling awards for several years, and as such should be ignored. They can still be voted in the Best Box Office Award in particular.
Best Box Office, and its predecessors, are not as meaningful as actual drawing data, but can be useful for judging what people thought about the importance of the acts at that time.
Luchadores have historically been dramatically overlooked in the awards. Only four of the top 100 in the Flair/Thesz Award are wrestlers who spent the majority of their career in Mexico: Mistico, Perro Aguayo Jr., LA Park, and Cibernetico. As such, I think anyone from Mexico who does well in the voting should be given stronger consideration compared with wrestlers with comparable numbers who primarily worked in the U.S. or Japan.
Here are some key numbers for people currently on the ballot, with the percentage of the vote they received. Note that returning candidates whose careers pre-date the awards are excluded. The percentage of votes for each person is based on the number of people who voted in the appropriate region. These rankings are with MMA fighters removed, which explains minor differences between the ranks listed below and those listed above.
I’ll start with the singles acts.
Sgt. Slaughter (53% of the vote)
30th in Best Box Office, 85th in Best Brawler, 116th in Best Tag Team (with Don Kernodle), 115th in Match of the Year
Slaughter’s career peak predates the WON Awards by a couple of years. It should also be noted that Sgt. Slaughter won Match of the Year in 1981 for his Madison Square Garden match with Pat Patterson, but points totals aren’t available for that year from the resources I have.
Slaughter’s strongest point in the awards is in the voting for what was then the Best Heel or Babyface awards, which predates the Best Box Office award. He finished second in Best Heel behind Michael Hayes in 1983 and third in Best Face behind Hulk Hogan and Kerry Von Erich in 1984. Slaughter didn’t place high in any positive awards after 1984.
17th in Best on Interviews, 24th in Match of the Year, 31st in Flair/Thesz, 33rd in Most Charismatic, 57th in Most Outstanding, 91st in Best Brawler, 126th in Best Box Office, and three separate listings for Best Tag Team: 31st with Christian, 120th with Rey Mysterio, and 255th with Chris Benoit
Edge’s only top five finish in an award for 2020 was for Worst Match of the Year, where he finished fourth for his WrestleMania match against Randy Orton.
Edge finished second in the 2008 and 2006 Flair/Thesz voting and was top five in Best on Interviews in 2006 (2nd), 2007 (3rd), and 2008 (3rd). He also has three top three finishes in Match of the Year, for 1999 (2nd), 2000 (3rd), and 2002 (1st)
Tomohiro Ishii (39%)
4th in Best Brawler, 22nd in Most Outstanding, 40th in Match of the Year, 173rd in Flair/Thesz
Ishii has won the Best Brawler award six times, which only puts him behind Bruiser Brody (7 wins) and Mick Foley (10). He also has six top six finishes in Most Outstanding: 2014 (2nd), 2016 (6th), 2017 (5th), 2018 (6th), 2019 (5th), and 2020 (4th).
Akira Taue (39%)
8th in Best Tag Team (with Toshiaki Kawada), 55th in Match of the Year
Every Match of the Year candidate for Akira Taue was a tag match involving other members of the Four Pillars of Heaven.
Kota Ibushi (38%)
4th in Best Flyer, 15th in Match of the Year, 20th in Most Outstanding, 78th in Flair/Thesz, 129th in Best Technical, and two separate listings for Best Tag Team: 57th with Kenny Omega and 252nd with Hiroshi Tanahashi
Ibushi has been top five in Most Outstanding three times – finishing second in 2018, third in 2019, second in 2020 (when he was 56 points off of first). He has three more top tens. He also has four top two Match of the Year finishes: second for 7/15/07 for his tag with Naomichi Marufuji against KENTA and Taiji Ishimori, first for 1/4/2015 vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, second for 10/8/2018 vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, and second for 1/4/2020 vs. Kazuchika Okada. Ibushi has also won four Best Flyer awards, putting him only behind Jushin Liger (five times) and Rey Mysterio (six).
Tetsuya Naito (38%)
17th in Most Charismatic, 34th in Flair/Thesz, 44th in Best on Interviews, 47th in Match of the Year, 55th in Most Outstanding, 61st in Best Box Office, 116th in Best Flyer
Naito has finished third in the Flair/Thesz award three times, doing so 2016, 2017, and 2020. He also finished in the top three of Most Charismatic four times – winning in 2017 and 2018 and placing third in 2016 and 2019.
Ole Anderson (37%)
41st in Best Tag Team (with Stan Hansen), 53rd in Best on Interviews
Anderson won Tag Team of the year in 1982 with Stan Hansen. He also placed fifth in Best on Interviews in 1990; he was one of three Horsemen to make that list, along with winner Arn Anderson and fourth place Ric Flair.
Dave Brown (36%)
50th in Best Announcer
Brown only finished with a listed number of votes once, placing sixth in 2000.
Randy Orton (34%)
41st in Thesz/Flair, 57th in Most Charismatic, 91st in Best on Interviews, 92nd in Best Brawler, 130th in Most Outstanding, 165th in Best Box Office, 179th in Match of the Year
Orton finished fifth in Thesz/Flair in 2009 and 2011. His highest finish in Most Charismatic was tenth, doing so in both 2004 and 2009. He never finished in the top ten of Most Outstanding.
Meiko Satomura (33%)
118th in Most Outstanding, 303rd in Match of the Year
Meiko finished in the “also receiving votes” section of Most Outstanding in 2001 and 2018, making her the only woman not named Io Shirai to receive that big of a number of votes in that category in the 21st century. Shirai did finish in the top ten in that category in 2016 and 2017.
6th for Best Flyer, 11th in Best Box Office, 25th all-time in Thesz/Flair, 47th in Most Charismatic, 281st in Match of the Year
Mistico is the only winner of the Thesz/Flair Award who has been on the ballot at least once before to not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had three other top ten finishes in the category – 4th in 2005, 6th in 2007, and 10th in 2010.
28th in Best Flyer
Hayabusa’s Best Flyer top ten finishes are 3rd in 1998, 6th in 1997, and 7th in 1995, 1996, and 2001
Mike Tenay (30%)
2nd in Best Announcer.
Tenay is obviously far behind Ross in the cumulative Award Shares for this award – the margin is over 11 unanimous awards – but Tenay, along with Joey Styles, stands above Lance Russell in this metric. Russell’s career, of course, extended far before the induction of this award.
Bob Armstrong (29%)
114th in Best on Interviews
Armstrong’s career largely pre-dated the awards.
Junkyard Dog (29%)
57th Best Box Office, 78th Most Charismatic
JYD’s career peak was at the start of the WON Awards, and most of his time in the WON Award-era was while his career was in a dramatic decline.
Bill Goldberg (28%)
26th Most Charismatic, 48th Best Box Office, 131st Thesz/Flair, 142nd Best on Interviews, 405th Match of the Year
Goldberg’s Best Box Office top ten finishes were 2nd in 1998, 4th in 1999, 7th in 2016 and 9th in 2003. Goldberg also had one top 10 finish in Thesz/Flair, when he finished sixth in 1998.
The Goldberg match that received MotY votes was his 2017 WrestleMania bout against Brock Lesnar, which finished 15th that year and received two first place votes.
Kerry Von Erich (27%)
23rd Best Box Office, 27th Most Charismatic, 37th Match of the Year, 118th Flair/Thesz
All of Kerry’s top finishes in positive categories are from 1983 to 1985. For the Best Box Office cateogyr, he was the #2 babyface in 1984 and 1985, and fourth in 1983. All of his high finishes in Match of the Year were against Ric Flair or the Freebirds
31st Best Flyer, 83rd Most Outstanding, 86th Match of the Year, 96th Most Charismatic, 133rd Best Technical, 157th Flair/Thesz, three entries for Best Tag Team: 151st with Ricochet, 178th with Dragon Kid, 226th with Sumo Dandy Fuji
CIMA finished in the top ten of Flair/Thesz in 2012. The majority of his career came in Dragongate, making his WON finishes more impressive when you consider the degree of difficulty in getting noticed in a Japanese company that isn’t New Japan in the 21st century.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara (21%)
31st Best Technical, 293rd Match of the Year
The first decade of Fujiwara’s career pre-dated the WON Awards, and Japanese wrestlers didn’t start to appear in the awards until 1982. Obviously his role in Japan’s various shoot style wrestling promotions of the 80s and 90s is the main feature of his candidacy.
Tony Schiavone (19%)
6th Best Announcer, 98th Best Non-Wrestler/Manager
It felt impossible that Schiavone would be inducted five years ago. Arguably, more than anyone else – even CM Punk – Tony’s candidacy has benefitted from AEW.
Jerry Brisco (18%)
85th Best Tag Team (with Jack Brisco)
The majority of Brisco’s in-ring career predated the WON Awards. His scouting work with WWE wouldn’t fall under these awards, either.
Bob Caudle (17%)
24th Best Announcer
Caudle is another nominee whose career had a significant chunk that fell outside of the timeline of WON Awards.
CM Punk (15%)
7th Best on Interviews, 16th Flair/Thesz, 19th Most Charismatic, 29th Match of the Year, 43rd Best Announcer, 45th Most Outstanding, 93rd Best Box Office, 96th Best Brawler, 130th Best Technical, 165th Best Tag Team (with Colt Cabana)
Punk is deserving of his own article looking at his candidacy. His Flair/Thesz standing alone is a strong argument that he should already be in. Add in the effect he’s had on AEW in the short time he’s already been on their roster, and it feels like he’s on the precipice of getting in. However, he would have a tremendous jump to make in terms of voting percentage that would be almost unprecedented in WON Hall of Fame history.
Punk’s best finish to date is 24% of the vote in 2017. If inducted this year, he would make one of the largest one-year jumps in the vote. Here are the largest one-year jumps leading to induction:
|Wrestler||Year before induction % (year)||Year of induction % (year)|
|El Satanico||15% (2000)||62% (2001)|
|Dr. Alfonso Morales||27% (2011)||74% (2012)|
|Eddie Guerrero||34% (2005)||69% (2006)|
|Mark Lewin||34% (2016)||70% (2017)|
|Masahiro Chono||35% (2003)||63% (2004)|
|Minoru Suzuki||37% (2016)||62% (2017)|
|Paul Heyman||39% (2004)||62% (2005)|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi||39% (2012)||65% (2013)|
|Atlantis||38% (2012)||62% (2013)|
The inclusions of Lewin and Guerrero on this list should have asterisks next to them; Guerrero died in November 2005, shortly before his induction, while Lewin was moved from the historical US ballot in 2016 to the Australian ballot in 2017.
A comparison can also be drawn between Punk & AJ Styles, who received less than 10% of the vote in 2013 and 2015, falling off the ballot both times, before receiving 63% of the vote in 2017.
Ultimate Warrior (11%)
16th Most Charismatic, 33rd Best Box Office, 136th Match of the Year
Warrior’s percentage of the vote has generally fallen since he was added to the ballot after his death in 2014. He received 20% of the vote in 2014; his last three balloting percentages have been 14%, 14% and now 11% for 2020.
Warrior finished sixth in Best Babyface in 1988 and second in the same category in 1989, resulting in his 33rd all-time placement in that category.
Stephanie McMahon (11%)
16th Best Non-Wrestler/Manager, 68th Best on Interviews
Stephanie’s received 11% of the vote in her two years on the ballot. She has five top ten finishes in Best Non-Wrestler and three top ten finishes in Worst Non-Wrestler.
Rick Martel (10%)
110th Best Technical, 136th Best Tag Team (with Tito Santana), 273rd Match of the Year
A portion of Martel’s early career precedes the establishment of the awards. Martel’s only top five WON Award finish was coming in fifth for Most Underrated in 1985.
Trish Stratus (10%)
73rd Best Non-Wrestler/Manager
Stratus never received significant support for an award during her in-ring career. Her 2004 feud with Lita did finish 14th in Feud of the Year balloting. She finished in the top 12 of the Most Improved award three times.
Kyoko Inoue (10%)
63rd Match of the Year, 99th Most Outstanding, 99th Best Tag Team (with Takako Inoue), 145th Flair/Thesz
Inoue won Match of the Year for her May 7, 1995 bout against Manami Toyota. The same match-up finished third in the balloting for the 1992 award.
Nikki Bella (new to ballot)
No notable listings
Bella easily has the worst résumé in terms of WON voting of anyone on the ballot, having no notable finishes in positive WON awards. She’s on here primarily because of the impact Total Divas & Total Bellas had on Raw viewership, which would really only have possibly been accounted for in Best Box Office Draw.
Bill Dundee (new to ballot)
60th Best Interviews, 84th Best Box Office
Dundee finished third in the Best Booker award once, doing so in 1986. He placed fourth in Best Heel and fifth in Best on Interviews in the same year.
Jon Moxley (new to ballot)
16th Best Brawler, 23rd Best on Interviews, 26th Flair/Thesz, 43rd Most Charismatic, 73rd Best Box Office, 139th Most Outstanding, 203rd Match of the Year
Moxley’s move to AEW has moved him from a seeming non-factor in HoF voting in at least his first few years of eligibility to a strong contender. Moxley had a dominant win in the 2020 Thesz/Flair voting; before that, his best finish in the category is eighth (2019).
Octagon (new to ballot)
152nd Match of the Year, 225th Best Tag Team (with El Hijo del Santo)
Octagon’s appeared in the WON positive awards twice. Again, using WON Awards to assess lucha libre is a mixed bag.
Kazuchika Okada (new to ballot)
3rd Match of the Year, 4th Flair/Thesz, 5th Most Outstanding, 52nd Best Technical, 62nd Most Charismatic, 76th Best Box Office
If you don’t vote for Okada, you should no longer have a ballot. He’s one of the most dominant wrestlers in terms of WON balloting in history.
Paul Orndorff (new to ballot)
49th Best Box Office, 68th Best Technical, 102nd Best Brawler, 232nd Match of the Year
This will be Orndorff’s first appearance on the ballot since 2007, when he fell below 10% of the vote and was dropped off. He’ll undoubtedly get a bounce because of a reassessment of his career after his death, and appears likely to contend for induction. A lot of this will come off of him being the strongest house show opponent of Hulk Hogan during Hogan’s run on top in mid-80s WWF.
Orndorff only finished in the Match of the Year voting with his appearance in the WrestleMania I main event.
Psycho Clown (new to ballot)
168th Best Box Office, 393rd Match of the Year
Psycho Clown has arguably been the biggest star in Mexico for a few years now. He’s finished 12th in Best Box Office once. This another sign of how WON Award voters largely overlook lucha libre.
He’s appeared in the top nine for every one of the three Mexico MVP votes to date.
Seth Rollins (new to ballot)
25th Best Tag Team (with Roman Reigns), 61st Match of the Year, 65th Most Outstanding, 67th Flair/Thesz, 114th Best Technical, 121st Best Flyer, 169th Best Box Office
Five years ago, I would not have guessed that Rollins would be outperformed on his debut ballot by Moxley, but things obviously change, and it feels like that’s what’s going to happen in this round of balloting.
Rollins is a very weird candidate, as all candidates whose résumés are primarily dependent on work in WWE for the past decade. For almost a decade, he’s been a top star in the biggest company in the world, and yet it feels like he might not even stay on the ballot. He’s a very talented in-ring performer, but hasn’t made the top ten of Most Outstanding since 2015. Despite WWE’s size and importance, the company’s developed a very negative reputation over the past few years among the portion of the wrestling audience that is not absolutely committed to watching them through thick and thin.
Now for the tag teams. It’s important to note that when voting on these teams, only the career of the act together should be considered. Individual careers should be ignored.
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson with JJ Dillon (42%)
76th Best Tag Team, 242nd Match of the Year
Blanchard & Anderson finished third in the 1988 Tag Team of the Year voting, where they spent the majority of the year in NWA with JJ Dillon. They finished a very close second in 1989, but that was when they were with Bobby Heenan and thus isn’t part of this act. This act lasted about one year. I don’t know how you can vote them in per the rules of the ballot.
The Steiners (35%)
4th Best Tag Team, 59th Match of the Year
The Steiners won Tag Team of the Year in 1990 and finished 2nd in 1991, 4th in 1989 and 1992, 5th in 1993, and 9th in 1994. They also won match of the year in 1991 for their bout against Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki, and also finished third and fifth the same year for their part in the War Games match and their May match against Sting and Lex Luger. They also finished fifth in Match of the Year in 1990 for their bout against the Nasty Boys.
I think that, at least until the Young Bucks are eligible, the Steiners are the most deserving tag team for induction at this time.
The Hardy Boyz (24%)
11th Best Tag Team, 81st Match of the Year
Their top ten Best Tag Team finishes are 2nd in 1999 and 2000, and 6th in 2001. They finished third in Match of the Year in 2000 for their SummerSlam TLC match and second in 1999 for their ladder match against Edge & Christian at No Mercy.
The Hardy Boyz weakest point of their argument is longevity in WWF/E – their initial run only lasted about four years, with about two more years together in WWE reunions in 2006-07, 2017, and a very brief 2019 stint. The Broken Hardyz run in Impact lasted less than a year, and their other appearances there didn’t feel like they moved the needle. I prefer the Steiners’ argument here, but the Hardy Boyz getting in wouldn’t be the worst decision.
Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (15%)
21st Best Tag Team; 300th Match of the Year
Tencozy never had a top ten Match of the Year finish, with their only finish in the voting coming in 2002, when they placed 15th for their December 11 2001 match against Mike Barton & Jim Steele.
Both candidates would fare better if considered alone.
The Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane & Steve Keirn) (10%)
158th Best Tag Team; 282nd Match of the Year
The Fabulous Ones appeared in the Best Tag Team balloting once, placing eighth in 1983.