Congratulations to the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame Legacy inductees
Bruiser Brody — like many men who die before their time — has been mythologized by those fortunate enough to have witnessed the carnage created by the legendary brawler. The fans who cowered from Brody’s steel chain in Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall or watched in horror as he manhandled Bruno Sammartino in Madison Square Garden will say they never saw a competitor as unpredictable, as dangerous and as ruthless as Bruiser Brody. And they will be telling the truth.
What made Brody so threatening? It may have been the fact that no one was safe when the madman was in action. Adopting a wild, freewheeling, brawling style long before the dawn of hardcore wrestling, Brody attacked opponents, referees and fans with equal disregard. But Brody’s tangled hair, feral beard and furred boots often — and intentionally — belied the bright, talented family man underneath the animal exterior.
A college football player at the fabled West Texas State University, Brody struggled to break into the NFL before stumbling into professional wrestling under the name Frank “The Hammer” Goodish. His 6-foot-8, 300-pound frame made him a star from the very beginning, but the big man’s career began to build steam in 1976 when he arrived in WWE and was rechristened Bruiser Brody. Finding his persona as an intelligent monster, Brody took his show on the road, becoming the top independent wrestler in the world during the 1980s.
Fiercely self-reliant, Brody refused to stay in one territory for long, preferring to rampage across the globe in search of bigger paydays and tougher competition. He battled Dick the Bruiser in Indianapolis over the rights to the name “Bruiser,” terrified Lex Luger in an infamous Steel Cage Match in Florida and fought Abdullah the Butcher in every corner of the globe in one of wrestling’s goriest rivalries. But it was in Japan that Brody became a cult icon.
In Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling, the beast formed a tag team with Stan “The Lariat” Hansen that was rivaled only by The Road Warriors in terms of pure power and dominance. Also teaming with Jimmy Snuka on occasion, Brody tore the house down against opponents like Jumbo Tsuruta and The Funks while becoming a mainstream star with the wrestling-obsessed Japanese. When he jumped from All Japan to New Japan to battle WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki, he established himself as the country’s most sought-after performer.
Bruiser Brody’s life came to a heartbreaking end in July 1988. The victim of a killer never brought to justice, Brody passed under terrible circumstances, but the legend of sports-entertainment’s last great outlaw has only grown since that tragic day.
Sports-entertainment is filled with second and even third-generation Superstars, but it’s very rare that females are part of multiple generations — unless, of course, your family name is Vachon.
Luna Vachon is one of the few females to follow in her father’s footsteps and climb into the squared circle. But the daughter of famed Canadian grappler Paul “Butcher” Vachon didn’t just have role models in her own home; they’re all over her family. Her uncle, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, was a five-time AWA World Champion, and aunt Vivian Vachon was one of the most successful female Superstars of the 1970s.
As a youngster, Luna would often climb into the ring with her father, aunt or uncle before or after their matches. After making it clear that she wouldn’t be dissuaded of a career in the ring, Luna officially trained under Vivian and The Fabulous Moolah in the mid-1980s and made her professional debut in 1986. Competing in Championship Wrestling from Florida as a member of Kevin Sullivan’s clan, she struck fear into her opponents based on her physical presence alone: A half-shaven mane of blond hair, freaky face paint and a sneer that never seemed to leave her face.
After leaving Florida, Luna spent time as a competitor and a manager in various independents and Puerto Rico. In 1993, she finally came to WWE for the first time, replacing Hall of Famer “Sensational” Sherri as Shawn Michaels’ manager. She later moved on to managing Bam Bam Bigelow, eventually falling in love with the “Beast from the East” and becoming his “main squeeze.” The duo warred with Doink the Clown and his pint-size prankster sidekick, Dink, for months, leading to a match where Bam Bam & Luna defeated Doink & Dink at WrestleMania X.
Later in 1994, Luna sold Bam Bam’s contract to Ted DiBiase and concentrated on winning the revived Women’s Championship. While she was unable to win the title from then-champion Alundra Blayze before leaving WWE late in 1994, her hand-picked henchwoman — Japanese Superstar Bull Nakano — eventually did claim the gold.
Short stints in both ECW and WCW followed before Luna returned to WWE in 1997 to stand by the side of The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Luna quickly developed a rivalry with Sable, leading to another WrestleMania Mixed Tag Team Match. This time, however, Luna & Goldust were defeated by Sable & Marc Mero. The following year, however, the two Divas would patch up their differences, and for the first time, Luna heard the cheers of our fans.
Paired with Sable and The Oddities — a collection of Superstars who were all slightly bizarre in some way — Luna became quite popular. It wouldn’t last, however, as Luna would later attack Sable and rekindle their rivalry. Throughout 1999, she continued to chase the Women’s Championship and also managed Gangrel before leaving WWE for good in early-2000. Thereafter, she had been semi-retired, occasionally returning to the ring from time to time for various independent promotions.
Even though she never captured the Women’s Championship, Luna was one of the most feared and respected competitors of the 1990s. At a time when the word “Diva” was being redefined in WWE, Luna Vachon was one of those who used her talents and unique look to help rewrite the lexicon.
In the early 1970s, Buddy Rose began his wrestling career in Minneapolis. From there, he moved on to the Pacific Northwest where he blossomed into a top-caliber performer. Two of his most notable rivalries from that area were against WWE Hall of Famers Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
It was in 1982 that the Playboy entered WWE. He painted the picture that he had money to burn, and lived a lavish lifestyle that he flaunted, saying the fans could only dream that they were him. Despite his husky physical appearance, Rose was surprisingly quick and agile when in action, saying that he was “heavy in the seat, but light on the feet.” He pushed WWE Champion Bob Backlund to the limit in the series of matches they had during the 1982-83 time frame.
Another highlight of Rose’s WWE career came while wearing a mask. As the Masked Executioner, he battled Tito Santana in the very first match at WrestleMania in 1985.
In 1986, Rose returned to Minneapolis, and while competing anew in the AWA, he and his tag team partner Pretty Boy Doug Somers had an intense rivalry against the young, upstart team of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, then known as The Midnight Rockers.
Rose returned for another stint in WWE rings in 1990, and gained even more notoriety by humorously promoting a product known as the “Blow Away Diet.” Despite being 317 pounds at that time, Rose would correct the ring announcer on his weight, adamantly saying that he was a “slim, trim 217 pounds.”
“Playboy” Buddy Rose was one of the most unique and entertaining characters ever to compete in sports-entertainment.
S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones was arguably one of WWE’s unsung heroes throughout his nearly 20-year career in entertainment.
Although Jones never attained elite Superstar status during his WWE tenure, no one could deny his unparalleled passion, dedication and efforts inside the squared circle. From WWE Legends to top performers, many have cited S.D. as one of their toughest opponents — and a victory over the native Antiguan was no easy feat. A WWE Superstar truly earned their stripes if they were able to score a win over this popular performer.
Included among Jones’ more memorable career highlights was his tag team partnership with Tony Atlas, during which the two challenged Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito for the World Tag Team Championship several times in 1981. In 2006, Jones would pair once more with Atlas — with the honor of inducting his friend into the WWE Hall of Fame.
S.D. Jones, who could truly be considered a “special delivery” to wrestling fans and peers alike, passed away on Oct. 26, 2008 at the age of 63.
Whether in the ring or on the gridiron, few athletes have ever matched the sheer toughness of “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel. The Native American Superstar, a proud member of the Choctaw-Chickasaw tribe, lettered in football and wrestling at the University of Oklahoma before turning pro in the American Football League. Notorious for his bruising tackles, he played for teams like the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins throughout the ’60s and wrestled during the offseason. His popularity in both sports made him a star attraction wherever he went.
Eventually forgoing football in favor of a full-time wrestling career that lasted until 1989, McDaniel became a top rival of WWE Hall of Famers such as Ric Flair, Harley Race and the Funk brothers. His battles with Johnny Valentine were famous for their ferocity, although Valentine was far from the only wrestler whose chest was pummeled into hamburger meat by the Chief’s knife-edge chops. McDaniel’s name will live on in history books, as well as fans’ memories, thanks to his many accolades, which include five reigns as NWA United States Champion.
Professor Toru Tanaka
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Professor Toru Tanaka began competing in professional wrestling in 1967. A former Judo instructor, he used every bit of his knowledge of martial arts in the squared circle.
Competing as both a singles and tag team competitor, the no-nonsense Tanaka held many titles in his time, including four Tag Team Championships in what is now WWE, three of them with perhaps his most famous partner-in-crime, Mr. Fuji.
Once characterized as a “ring general, who’d lead everyone else in the match” by former manager, the late, great WWE Hall of Famer Freddie Blassie, Tanaka was always regarded as good-natured and professional, despite the fact that his in-ring persona was notorious for throwing salt into his adversaries’ eyes.
In addition to wrestling, Tanaka served in the United States Army for over 10 years, where he rose to the rank of sergeant and used his tremendous athletic ability in many ways, including as a professional boxer and as a college football player.
Tanaka also made the jump to Hollywood, where he tended to play a slew of seemingly unstoppable henchman and acted in films alongside such action greats as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and yes, even Pee-wee Herman. He even appeared in the David Lee Roth music video for “Just a Gigolo” in the 1980s.
Coming from humble beginnings as an employee at Fred Kohler’s “Wrestling as You Like It” magazine in Chicago in 1949, Jim Barnett was just six short years away from joining Kohler as part-owner of the National Wrestling Alliance.
But serving as part-owner of the now-legendary wrestling promotion was just the start of Barnett’s decorated, six-decade tenure in sports-entertainment, as he also joined forces with promoter Johnny Doyle to run wrestling shows in cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles and Denver, became the owner of Australia’s World Championship Wrestling and presented several shows inside Sydney Stadium, and helped Georgia Championship Wrestling become the first NWA promotion to be broadcast nationally before selling the promotion to Vince McMahon in 1984.
After doing so, Barnett immediately joined WWE, where he served as a vice president until 1987. He also enjoyed stints with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW before returning to WWE as a consultant in 2002.
Barnett held a master’s degree in business and was known for paying wrestlers generously, was well-liked by those who wrestled for him and has been renowned for creating the studio wrestling show. The Oklahoma City native has also been credited with playing a major role in the first three WrestleManias and is recognized as one of wrestling’s most influential figures over his storied career.
Barnett now takes his place with the legends of sports-entertainment as part of the Legacy WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
It might be difficult to believe that someone with a career boxing record of 89-14 hadn’t yet peaked inside the squared circle, but that was indeed the case for Primo Carnera, a deadly boxer turned nearly unbeatable pro wrestler who put on a show every time he stepped between the ropes.
Apparently, knocking out 72 opponents inside the boxing ring wasn’t enough for the towering 275-pound athlete, who retired from the sport in 1946, brought his nasty edge to sports-entertainment and immediately started running roughshod over his fellow grapplers, going 119-0-1 before finally tasting defeat.
Carnera, who was one of the top draws in wrestling for several years and highly coveted by promoters, claimed what was arguably his most impressive victory in December of 1947 when the Italy native bested former world heavyweight champion Ed “Strangler” Lewis. Never one to shy away from the bright lights, Carnera turned in some of his most unforgettable boxing and wrestling performances inside a packed house at Madison Square Garden.
In addition to pummeling opponents in the wrestling and boxing rings, Carnera also tried his hand at acting, playing a fictional version of himself in the 1933 film, “The Prizefighter and the Lady,” getting a role in 1949’s “Mighty Joe Young,” and also appearing in several Italian films, including “Prince Valiant” in 1954.
Carnera was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, and “The Ambling Alp” will be forever enshrined in WWE lore as a member of the Legacy WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Hisashi Shinma was known as the on-show President of WWE in the late 1970s and early 1980s, preceding the administration of Jack Tunney.
Behind the scenes, however, he was known as a master booker. Assisting Antonio Inoki in bringing the legendary New Japan Pro Wrestling to prominence, he is credited with, among other things, giving Satoru Sayama the Tiger Mask gimmick.
As he worked his magic, Shinma eventually developed a relationship with Vincent J. McMahon, father of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, and served a crucial role when he helped negotiate a talent-sharing arrangement between New Japan and WWE that helped many talented competitors and launched Tatsumi Fujinami as an international Superstar.
Joe Cohen was instrumental in the creation of what we now know as the WWE Universe. A multi-media mogul – as well as a sports and entertainment visionary for over forty years, Mr. Cohen was the driving force behind the creation of the Madison Square Garden Network and the USA Network. Joe Cohen believed in the potential of WWE programming and helped build partnerships that launched Sports Entertainment programming into the mainstream.