The first entrant in the 2011 class of the NWA Hall of Fame is a man who was NWA World Heavyweight champion from 1959 to 1961, held the NWA World Tag Team title, the NWA British Empire title, the NWA Central States title, and too many others to mention. On June 30, 1961, he and Buddy Rogers wrestled in front of 38,622 fans in Comiskey Park, a record in North America that stood for 25 years! The NWA is proud to welcome Pat O’Connor into the Hall of Fame!!
The next entrant in the 2011 class of the NWA Hall of Fame started his career in tag teams with Larry Hennig and Dick Murdoch. But it was in Florida that his career began to skyrocket, and from there he became worldwide! A 3-time NWA World Champion, a 10-time NWA Florida champ, NWA National Champ, NWA Georgia champ, the list goes on and on, we are honored to open the Hall of Fame doors, “if you weel”, to the son of a plumber, the bull o’ the woods, The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, baby!
The third entrant in the 2011 class of the NWA Hall of Fame started his career in New York, but headlined all over North America before the end of his long career. A three-time NWA World Jr. Heavyweight champion, he engaged in one of the most famous feuds in NWA history with the great Danny Hodge–one that grew so heated that Hodge’s own father jumped into the ring and stabbed him!! The NWA is pleased and proud to induct Angelo Savoldi into the Hall of Fame!
Originally from Korea, the next entrant in the NWA Hall of Fame started out in sumo wrestling. However, his switch to professional wrestling had momentous impact, as he is now known in history as the “Father of Puroresu”. Perhaps the most important figure in wrestling in the history of Japan, he is a former NWA International Heavyweight champion, whose televised matches against Lou Thesz and The Destroyer rank in the top ten of most-viewed TV shows of all-time in Japan. The NWA Hall of Fame is honored to induct Rikidozan into the Hall of Fame!
The next entrant in the NWA Hall of Fame had her first pro match at the age of 15 and had over 40 pro matches by the time she finished high school! Originally trained by Joe Blanchard, she was later under the tutelage of The Fabulous Moolah. Student overcame teacher in 1975, when she defeated Moolah to become the NWA World Women’s Champion! Also a holder of the NWA Women’s Tag Team title, she has headlined all over the world in a career that has spanned four decades! It’s about time for a woman in the NWA Hall of Fame, and we can think of no more deserving entrant than Sue “Tex” Green!!
Summarizing the career of the next entrant into the NWA Hall of Fame is impossible in a limited space. NWA World Jr. Heavyweight champ, 17-TIME NWA Southern champ, NWA Americas champ, a legend in Japan where his match with fellow HOF inductee, Rikidozan, was said to have caused heart attacks in the Japanese viewing audience, part of perhaps the hottest feud ever in California against John Tolos (Monsell’s Powder, anyone?), well, you get the idea. The NWA Hall of Fame throws open the doors for “Classy” Freddie Blassie!
As with all our entrants, it’s impossible to list all the titles our next entrant won during his career, but here’s a summary: NWA National champion, U.S. champion, Southern champion, Mid-Atlantic champion,Florida champion, Georgia champion, Texas champion, whew, and lots more! He wrestled all over the globe and was one of the most popular wrestlers with the fans everywhere he went! On top of all that, he had an outstanding career in the old AFL–Len Dawson says the hardest hit he ever felt on a football field came from this man. The next entrant in the NWA Hall of Fame is the one and only Chief Wahoo McDaniel!!!
The NWA Hall of Fame has more than its share of tough guys, but our next entrant is near the top of the list! The titles he held range from NWA U.S. champ, Florida champ, Georgia champ, Texas champ (8 times!), Mid-Atlantic champ, Missouri champ. Canadian champ, dozens of tag team titles, and on and on! He was so respected in Japan that his series of matches with Antonio Inoki in the mid-60s are cr…edited with vaulting Inoki into superstar status! At various times in his career he was both the most loved and most hated wrestler in the world! Still going strong in 1975, he unfortunately was crippled in the same plane crash that broke Ric Flair’s back and was never able to return to the ring as an active competitor. The NWA Hall of Fame is honored to induct Johnny Valentine into its ranks!!!
The next inductees into the NWA Hall of Fame are actually a family entry. Aileen LeBell Eaton and her sons, Mike and Gene LeBell were a California promotional dynasty! “Lady Aileen” got into boxing and wrestling promotion alongside her second husband, outlaw promoter Cal Eaton. When Cal passed away, Aileen ran the company herself, becoming such a major figure in the boxing world she was featured in an article in Sports Illustrated and was the first woman inducted into the Int’l Boxing Hall of Fame! At the same time, she promoted regular wrestling events at the Olympic Auditorium in L.A. Her sons Mike and Gene took over the wrestling promotion and were responsible for the famous Blassie-Tolos feud talked about in Freddie Blassie’s bio and the influx of lucha talent like Mil Mascaras. “Judo” Gene is perhaps the greatest U.S.-born martial artist and judoka and refereed the historic match between Muhammed Ali and Antonio Inoki! The NWA Hall of Fame has a family-sized spot reserved for Aileen LeBell Eaton, Mike LeBell, and Gene LeBell!!
The last entrant in this year’s class of the NWA Hall of Fame is the man who is largely responsible for most of our older fans knowing about wrestlers and wrestling worldwide. Before cable television, and then the internet, wrestling fans on the East Coast almost never got to see Mil Mascaras, fans on the West Coast rarely saw Bruno Sammartino, U.S. fans only knew the names Rikidozan and Giant Baba. The only way for fans to know about and keep up with the whole world of wrestling was by reading “The Wrestler” and “Inside Wrestling” and, later, “Pro Wrestling Illustrated”. Our next entrant was so integral to those publications that they became known by the slang term “Apter mags”! It is difficult to overstate how important his efforts have been to the entire business of pro wrestling and to the NWA. The NWA Hall Fame is deeply honored to induct Bill Apter!!