The National Wrestling Alliance announce on Tuesday their Hall of Fame Class for 2014 and the inductees include Kevin Sullivan, JJ Dillon, and posthumous inductees “Cowboy” Bob Kelly, Shohei “Giant” Baba, Ox Baker and Paul “Pinkie” George.
Sullivan had a lengthy career wrestling first for the NWA Gulf Coast area before traveling to the WWWF territory and out west for Roy Shire and the NWA San Francisco territory. Sullivan’s greatest success came wrestling for the legendary Eddie Graham in Florida for the NWA Championship Wrestling from Florida where his turn on former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Dusty Rhodes and his “devil worshipping” character put him and the territory on the map. Sullivan would go to Jim Crockett Promotions in the Mid-Atlantic where he would form “The Varsity Club” and then later in World Championship Wrestling he would revamp the devil worshipping character into a more watered down version as “The Taskmaster” and part of “The Dungeon of Doom.”
While in WCW Sullivan was involved in a two very distinct and controversial story lines where the perception of reality was blurred. Sullivan and Brian Pillman seemingly had very intense personal issues that transcended the ring and at one point, with Sullivan in power backstage, Pillman shouted from the ring, “I respect you booker man” before leaving the promotion for ECW. Sullivan would also try and blur the line of reality by becoming embroiled in a feud with Chris Benoit where Benoit would steal manager and then wife of Sullivan, Nancy “Woman” Sullivan. The story line would soon turn real when it was announced that “Woman” had divorced Sullivan and married Benoit.
Sullivan remains somewhat active in wrestling today helping on the indie scene and appearing at a variety of wrestling conventions.
JJ Dillon is no stranger to being inducted into Halls of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame is his third honor having been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 and in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. Dillon has also been honored for his work in wrestling by the Cauliflower Alley Club as well as being voted the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Manager of the Year in 1982, 1983 and 1988.
Though Dillon is most well known as the manager of the famed Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson) he was also a very decorated wrestler having won a number of NWA singles and tag team championships over the course of his in-ring career which ran from 1968-1989. Dillon also came out of retirement in 2009 to team with current NWA National Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Lou Marconi and Frank Stiletto at “Deaf WrestleFest 2009” an annual event promoted by the legendary Lord Zoltan to benefit the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
Dillon has also been a front office executive for World Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment and served as a representative for the NWA when TNA was under their auspices.
Former three time NWA World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Shohei “Giant” Baba is one of the most legendary and well recognized figures in Japanese wrestling along with the man considered the father of Japanese wrestling Rikidozan and the immortal Antonio Inoki.
Baba went from a floundering baseball career to professional wrestling when Rikidozan took the star under his wing. Baba and Inoki would become one of the most successful and popular tag teams in the late 60s and early 70s while working for Japan Wrestling Association. Inoki would leave the JWA and start New Japan Pro Wrestling as Baba would go and start All-Japan Pro Wrestling and the two groups would rival one another for years.
In 1974 Baba would become the first Japanese wrestler to hold the NWA World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship defeating Jack Brisco. Baba would go on to hold the title twice more defeating Harley Race both times in Japan. Jumbo Tsuruta and Baba would also form a tag team that would easily rival the popularity of the Baba/Inoki team and dominate the AJPW scene for years.
Baba is one of the most honored Japanese wrestlers having been inducted into the Puroresu Hall of Fame in 1996, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008, voted Best Tag Team of the Year three times, been awarded Match of the Year on four occasions, voted in the top 10 of the best tag teams in history with Tsuruta and ranked in the number 26 spot of the top 500 singles wrestlers in history according to Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
Baba passed away in 1999 at age 61.
Master of the “Bulldog” finish former rodeo aficionado and amateur stock car driver “Cowboy” Bob Kelly was one of the most beloved wrestlers in the Gulf Coast territory and one of the most celebrated Gulf Coast Heavyweight Wrestling Champions in history.
Kelly would sell out many arenas along the Gulf Coast territory including buildings in Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. Kelly would wrestle and defeat some of the most legendary figures in wrestling including Donnie Fargo, The Sheik, Bobby Shane, Greg Valentine, Don Carson, The Masked Interns (along with partner Bobby Fields) and more.
Kelly, who passed away earlier this year, was a successful real estate agent along with wife Chris and at one time sold over $2 million worth of real estate in a little over a month. A fixture at the Gulf Coast Wrestling Reunion every year and a Cauliflower Alley Club mainstay, Kelly was a local wrestling fixture who had a worldwide impact on professional wrestling.
Douglas “Ox” Baker was one of the most feared characters in professional wrestling from the time he made his debut as “The Arkansas Ox” in St. Louis until he retired from the ring officially in the late 80s but still was a force to be reckoned with during a brief return as late as 2013.
Baker was blamed for the deaths of two wrestlers, Ray Gunkel and Alberto Torres after he delivered his devastating “Hurt Punch.” There has been a lot of misinformation about Baker and his use of the “Hurt Punch” but according to Baker himself, Stan “The Man” Stasiak, who initially used the same maneuver as the “Heart Punch,” objected to Baker calling the move by the same name so Baker changed it to the “Hurt Punch.” Baker was also involved in one of the most violent riots in professional wrestling in 1974 in Cleveland, OH after he interfered in a main event match between Johnny Powers and Ernie Ladd and Baker would not stop using the “Hurt Punch” on Ladd.
Though a star everywhere he went and placed in a main event or semi-main event role Baker never caught on in the WWWF as then promoter Vincent J. McMahon did not see the appeal in the grappler and refused to book him after a couple of matches. Baker’s career would not be affected by the WWWF snub and he would go on to be an international star in wrestling as well as one of the most notable figures in the NWA Mid-Atlantic territory (feuding with Ole Anderson) and appearing in several movies including his most notable role opposite Kurt Russell in “Escape from New York.”
Baker, who passed away in October, genuinely loved his fans and appreciated everyone who came to see him wrestle or share their memories of him during his many convention appearances.
Paul “Pinkie” George is one of the most important historical figures in the history of the National Wrestling Alliance. George was one of the original “founding fathers” of the NWA as a governing organization and also its first President.
George was instrumental in taking the organization from a group of just ten initial promotions to over 100 in two years. As a two term president George would oversee the NWA into becoming the international powerhouse it has become today.
After being replaced as NWA President in 1950 by Sam Muchnick George would become alienated from the NWA and professional wrestling but would continue to work in the sports industry including managing the McElroy Auditorium.
George would pass away in 1993 at the age of 89.
Congratulations to the 2014 Class of the National Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame.