Congratulations to the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame Legacy inductees
At the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame Inductees Ceremony, WWE recognized seven of wrestling’s greatest pioneers by honoring the first-ever Legacy inductees into the Hall. These competitors cover a variety of eras in wrestling history, going back to its roots in the early 1900s. Their contributions to the industry are immeasurable, making them more than worthy of induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. The inaugural Legacy inductees include:
Lou Thesz, a true professional wrestling pioneer, is best known for his domination of the National Wrestling Alliance and for being the inventor of such maneuvers as the German Suplex, STF and the aptly-named Thesz Press. He is the longest reigning NWA Champion in history, having three reigns and holding the iconic championship for more than 10 years combined.
Ed “Strangler” Lewis
Ed “Strangler” Lewis, a major star of the early 1900s, is best remembered for his rough-and-tumble style in the squared circle. Lewis locked horns with fellow icons such as Stanislaus Zbyszko and Joe Stecher, and competed all around the globe, including memorable appearances all the way from Madison Square Garden to New Zealand. Often accredited for helping bring the Sleeper Hold into the mainstream, Lewis’ influence is still felt today.
In the 1900s, George Hackenschmidt was a figure that nobody could ignore, possessing a powerful and chiseled physique that would impress even many of WWE’s Superstars today. Standing only 5-foot-9, Hackenschmidt weighed a rock-solid 218 pounds, and his dedication to both physical fitness and wrestling resulted in history being made. Hackenschmidt invented weightlifting’s hack squat and wrestling’s bear hug, and he became the first World Heavyweight Champion of the squared circle. “The Russian Lion” is also remembered for his legendary rivalry with fellow inductee Frank Gotch.
Frank Gotch was the first American professional wrestler to win the World Heavyweight Freestyle Championship, and is credited by historians for popularizing what is now sports-entertainment in the United States. His reign as World Heavyweight Champion from 1908 until his final match in 1913 is one of the longest in history.
A true pioneer in women’s wrestling, Mildred Burke broke into the business by competing against – and handily defeating – men. Burke dominated the women’s ranks for two decades, reigning as World Champion from 1935 until her retirement in 1955. She also introduced women’s wrestling to Japan during a 1954 tour.
“Sailor” Art Thomas
A former Merchant Marine, “Sailor” Art Thomas was one of sports-entertainment’s first African-American stars. Thomas was a veritable mountain of a man, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 250 lbs. Few could match power with him, making him a formidable foe in the squared circle. He was a perennial contender to the NWA World Championship, and formed successful tag teams with the likes of Bobo Brazil and Lou Thesz.
Hailing from New Zealand, Pat O’Connor was one of the most respected wrestlers of his time. O’Connor reigned as the NWA World Champion for more than two years, and was crowned the inaugural AWA World Champion after Verne Gagne seceded from the NWA. Following his incredible in-ring career, O’Connor later established himself as a promoter in the Kansas City and St. Louis territories.
Don’t miss the Legacy inductees take their place in history during the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, live this Saturday at 8 ET/5 PT, only on WWE Network.