Observer Hall of Fame Q&A: Historical & Non-Wrestler candidates with Pat Laprade

Our look at the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot continues with a look at the historical and non-wrestler candidates.

Joining us today is author and historian Pat Laprade, who has written books on Andre the Giant, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, and the history of professional wrestling in Montreal alongside Bertrand Hebert. Laprade is also a broadcaster for TVA Sports.

We spoke with Laprade about some of the more interesting candidates on the ballot and his process when assessing the historical names that cover so much ground.

Last year, the strongest historical candidates were Enrique Torres (52%), Johnny Rougeau (47%), and Ole Anderson (45%). The strongest non-wrestler candidates were Bobby Davis (56%), Stanley Weston (47%), and Larry Matysik (46%).

Several years ago, Laprade wrote a very compelling case for the induction of Rougeau on the Wrestling Observer site.

As a reminder, the criteria for inclusion into the Hall of Fame is 60% or higher votes from the given region, based on the following instructions:

Longevity should be a prime consideration rather than a hot two or three year run, unless someone is so significant as a trend-setter or a historical figure in the business, or valuable to the industry, that they need to be included.  However, just longevity without being either a long-term main eventer, a top draw and/or a top caliber in-ring performer should be seen as relatively meaningless.

Below are the candidates from the historical and non-wrestler section of the ballot along with 2021 performances:

Historical Candidates

Enrique Torres (52%)
Johnny Rougeau (47%)
Ole Anderson (45%)
Sputnik Monroe (39%)
June Byers (32%)
Cowboy Bob Ellis (28%)
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson w/ J.J. Dillon (28%)
Rocky Johnson (20%)
Bob Armstrong (21%)
Wild Bull Curry (17%)
Pampero Firpo (16%)
Blackjack Mulligan (15%)
Von Brauners & Saul Weingeroff (14%)
Black Gordman & Great Goliath (14%)
Archie “Mongolian Stomper” Gouldie (13%)
Tiger Jeet Singh (added to the ballot)
Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood (added as a team)
Mad Dog & Butcher Vachon (added as a team)
Jack & Jerry Brisco (added as a team)
Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty (added as a team)
Harley Race & Larry Hennig (added as a team)
Dusty Rhodes & Dick Murdoch (added as a team)
Argentina Rocca & Miguel Perez (added as a team)
Kinji Shibuya & Masa Saito (added as a team)
Dynamite Kid & Davey Boy Smith (added as a team)
Adrian Adonis & Jesse Ventura (added as a team)
Mr. Wrestling I & II (added as a team)
Hart Foundation (added as a team)
Kevin, Kerry & David Von Erich (added to ballot)

Non-Wrestling Candidates

Bobby Davis (56%)
Stanley Weston (47%)
Larry Matysik (46%)
Morris Sigel (39%)
Ted Turner (37%)
Jim Johnston (33%)
Mike Tenay (31%)
Grand Wizard (29%)
Bobby Bruns (26%)
Reggie Parks (26%)
Tony Schiavone (26%)
Bob Caudle (24%)
George Scott (19%)
Joe Higuchi (18%)
Dave Brown (17%)
Lord James Blears (13%)
James Melby (percentage not listed)
Rossy Ogawa (added to the ballot)
Sanshiro Takagi (added to the ballot)
Roy Welch (added to the ballot)

Below is our Q&A with Laprade:

How long have you been voting on the Hall of Fame and how to view this version in terms of an area of achievement for those elected?

I’ve been voting for 10 years now. When I talk about the WON HOF, I always refer to it as the most credible wrestling hall of fame there is. Because of how the voting is done, because of the number of people voting, because of the different places where those people come from, and of course, because of the criteria used to determine who should be voted in. 

I believe a wrestler should be more honored to be voted in this HOF, than the WWE one. Not that one should not be honored to be in the WWE one, I understand why one could be, but to me, it’s the difference between being recognized by your former team and being in Cooperstown.   

When assessing the historical candidates on the ballot this year, who has the strongest case and why?

I’m a big believer that you need to recognize the past before recognizing the current time. With that in mind, it’s hard for me not to say Johnny Rougeau. No one on these lists was more popular in his territory than Johnny Rougeau was. Plus, he was one of the biggest and most successful promoters in the history of Quebec wrestling. He was a combination of Yvon Robert and Eddie Quinn. And if those two are in the HOF, well, Johnny should too. 

In the non-wrestler category, is there a short list of candidates that stand out to you?

Ted Turner
Stanley Weston
Tony Schiavone 

Who knows what the business would have looked like, especially in the 1990s, if Ted Turner would have not decided to get in the ‘rasslin business! And look at what happened after he was not taking all the decisions. 

Before the internet, there were the magazines and therefore, before internet, there was Stanley Weston. His dedication and implication are met by very few people not being a wrestler or a promoter. 

Schiavone is proving right now that he is one of the all-time great announcers. He was the voice of WCW for so many years, and without skipping a beat, he’s one of the voices of AEW. 

Who are some of the more intriguing candidates on the ballot this year, regardless of the category?

Any of the tag teams like the Vachon brothers, the British Bulldogs, and the Hart Foundation. Roman Reigns is interesting since it’s his first year on the ballot. And of course, CM Punk, with everything that happened in the past couple of months. 

Do you like the changes with the additional number of votes and the addition of certain tag teams where one member may already be in the Hall of Fame?

Adding tag teams gives a more accurate version of the HOF, I think. This HOF is based on the baseball one, but pro wrestling is different than baseball or any other major team sports. You don’t have tag teams in baseball or hockey. You have duos or trios but it remains an individual sport in terms of achievements and contract negotiations. In pro wrestling, some have wrestled most of their career with the same partner and have negotiated their terms together. 

So to give a place to those tag teams who were a big drawing card or who were among the best makes total sense to me. Even if it means that some wrestlers will be elected twice. 

I would compare this to having a number retired in hockey. You can have your number retired in two different teams. Here, you can be voted as a singles and as a tag team competitor. 

Pat Laprade can be heard weekly with Kevin Raphael on Les anti-pods de la lutte, and just released his latest book on Emile Butch Bouchard.