I don't think there has been a more fun Hall of Fame special in WWE history than the one that aired this past Saturday night from Dallas, Texas. In the hours before WrestleMania, the internet was still all abuzz about the rowdy induction of the Fabulous Freebirds and about the shocking announcement that Sting has officially retired from active competition.
But while these moments were history making in their own right, I feel the wrestling community didn't have enough time to acknowledge some of the more groundbreaking moments from the show. The WWE made some serious steps forwards with the broadcast, and they deserve to have those highlights acknowledged.
To start with, the induction of former WWE Diva Jacqueline is actually more amazing than people realize.
“Ms Jackie” as she's often known as at conventions, was the first Black woman to hold the Women's Championship, and the first Black woman to hold the Cruiserweight championship, the latter being a stunning achievement when you factor in that she was the third ever female to hold the male dominated title, and the second Black wrestler to hold it after Elix Skipper. And yet, despite this, the WWE did not acknowledge until recently that she was the first Black Women's Champion.
They simply listed her as A champion, meaning they viewed her on the same level as the rest of the roster, not noticing color until a few weeks before the induction. This is an incredible leap forward, as most companies even outside the squared circle, still view their workers in terms of color. Jacqueline is viewed as a brawler, not a shade of brown.
But another leap forward taken at the Hall of Fame last night comes in the form of the history of wrestling itself. And sadly, this was not well advertised prior to the Hall of Fame, but deserves its rightful place in the news.
Stan Hansen's induction concluded with an important term. He said he wanted to “thank the carpenters”. This is an old-school term that was used prior to the 1980's, that has since been replaced with the term “Jobber”. In the days of Stan Hansen, a “Jobber” (hapless light heavyweight sent out to be the punching bag to the guy about to be pushed) was called a “Carpenter” because these men and women were designed to take the falls needed to make the next big star look amazing.
Jobbers/Carpenters build the foundation for the more brilliant careers, but are often mistreated and over-looked by the fans. And yet on many occasions, those lesser known stars themselves have gone on to main event shows like WrestleMania. Some famous ex-Jobbers include Hall of Famer Mick Foley, Kane and at one point, even John Cena was a bright-eyed jobber on Velocity.
The introduction of the term synced well with the groundbreaking announcement of the Legacy branch of the Hall of Fame, which while unadvertised, was an important and vital addition of the show.
In a respectful video tribute, the WWE announced the following inductees into the Legacy:
Ed "The Strangler" Lewis: A member of the Gold Dust Trio, one of the first wrestling groups to travel beyond their territory, credited with modifying a side headlock to create the sleeper hold.
Lou Thesz: Creator of the Thez Press and the powerbomb, this former NWA “Hooker” wrestled off and on from 1932 to 1990.
Frank Gotch: One of wrestling's first “Superstars” branched out as the world's first wrestler-turned-actor by starring in the play All About A Bout and by fighting a Ju-Jitsu fighter in the White House, became one of the first wrestlers to branch into Mixed Martial Arts.
George Hackenschmidt: The first world-traveling Superstar and innovator of the modern-day Bear Hug, Hackenschmidt was an icon in Russia, France and England long before making a splash in America. He was also the first straight-edge wrestler and one of the first vegetarian grapplers.
Mildred Burke: This woman not only held the Women's championship for nearly 20 straight years undefeated, she was also one of the first women to wrestle men on a regular basis, and was responsible for the NWA accepting women's wrestling as legitimate competition, and not as a side-show act.
Pat O'Connor: A pioneer in his own right, this early televised Superstar was the first New Zealand native to win the NWA tag team championship and the AWA Heavyweight Championship.
"Sailor" Art Thomas: An incredible brawler, Sailor Thomas became the first black WWA world heavyweight champion on April 25, 1972 and was the third man of color to hold the belt, behind Mitsu Arakawa and Billy Red Cloud.
Some dispute the WWE for adding the above grapplers and for adding previous inductee Gorgeous George, since many of the names were not WWE wrestlers, but fans forget that WWE at one point was Capitol Wrestling, a tiny independent company that joined the NWA early in its start, which at one point owned many of the companies all of these legends worked for, not to mention that the eldest wrestlers of the group worked under the umbrella for the Gold Dust Trio, who in various ways helped shape what would become Capitol and subsequently Jess and Vince McMahon Sr.
By proxy, the WWE is acknowledging its own history in keeping these names in the Hall of Fame, but they have also shown honor to the overall history of wrestling itself and in doing so, have set a good example for other companies to follow.
This year's Hall of Fame expanded on the rich history and tradition of wrestling, and outclassed earlier televised installments with a good mixture of fun and grace. It is currently available on demand via the WWE Network and is worth the uncensored viewing.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!