LaBar: WWE Hall of Fame should include more than on-air talent |
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It’s time WWE commits to expanding its Hall of Fame class to more than just on-air performers.

I’m not the first to think of this. In fact, it was a question I fielded every year from fans when the Hall of Fame ceremony announcements would come around. I rejected the thought of behind-the-scenes people being included simply on the principle that the majority of fans wouldn’t know who they were.

But I’ve changed my mind and feel it could be for the best for the WWE Hall of Fame, which has been growing and evolving.

The company already has a celebrity wing featuring those from Hollywood or sports who had involvement inside the wrestling ring, people such as Pete Rose, Mike Tyson and Donald Trump. WWE also broke new ground when inducting Pittsburgh’s Connor Michalek. The late Michalek was an enthusiastic WWE fan who lost his battle with brain cancer. The Connor’s Cure foundation was started by WWE, and Michalek got the inaugural “Warrior Award” and was inducted last year.

It seems like now is the time for further expansion of the Hall of Fame. Jim Johnston would be a great person to start with in honoring the behind-the-scenes efforts it takes for WWE to be the entertainment juggernaut it is.

Johnston has been WWE’s in-house musical composer for nearly 30 years. It starts with music. It’s the first thing we hear and connect to a wrestler as he comes out the curtain. So much of the music and entrance sculpts the rest of the wrestler’s performance. Johnston’s brilliance has been documented via behind-the-scenes segments in how he created some memorable themes. He also was a guest on an episode of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast.

Without Johnston, things would be different in WWE, and I don’t think for the better over the past three decades. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is a phrase that applies to Johnston’s talents. Luckily in my lifetime, I haven’t experienced a WWE without his musical soundtrack.

After Johnston, someone else who contributed musically to WWE was Lemmy Kilmister. The Motorhead lead singer just passed away and is so closely linked to Triple H that he wrote three iconic entrance theme songs for him in the past 15 years.

How about Adam Pennucci? His name might not ring a bell, but he’s captured your attention, educated you on a storyline, made you smile or cry. Since 1994, he’s been responsible for putting together so many video packages that tell the epic stories in WWE and its characters. Pennucci has been the leader in capturing the heartbreak, triumph, tension or celebration and making it come alive in a few minutes of a video reel. In today’s world of smart phones and YouTube, everybody is an amateur video editor ­— the understanding and respect of Pennucci’s talents would be greater now than ever.

Tony Chimel is not only a longtime ring announcer for WWE, he has led the ring crew in his lengthy tenure. Talk about sweat and work not seen that is necessary for the show to go on. And the list can go on.

WWE and Vince McMahon love to be accepted by the mainstream. McMahon is a Steven Spielberg in his unique world of live entertainment. The Oscars and other mainstream award shows all acknowledge the technical side of the business in a variety of categories for music and special effects. WWE has evolved from professional wrestling to an entertainment brand on many platforms. As the company has evolved, it makes sense for those people to be recognized.

Timing also comes into play as there’s been continued talk in recent years of WWE building a physical Hall of Fame location, perhaps in the Orlando/Universal Studios area where so much tourism takes place. If this happens, interactive features for music and video has a place to live or there can be a display of famous props.

These names comes to mind and more can be added to the list as time goes on. The WWE has some special people in its family. It’s time they get their day to be honored while the WWE universe gets to show its appreciation.

Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or [email protected].

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