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Pioneers Lou Thesz, Ed Lewis, Frank Gotch & more appear headed to WWE Hall of Fame (sort of)

Ask wrestling historians, or fans fascinated with how today's sports entertainment developed from shoot fighting exhibitions and carnival attractions, and the biggest holes in WWE's claim to having the definitive or even a legitimate Hall of Fame aren't Owen Hart or Bruiser Brody.

Instead, it's the laundry list of men and women who weren't associated with WWE (or WWF or WWWF) and what was the Northeast territory, or promotions from which Vince McMahon has purchased their tape libraries. The stars of the 1920s through the 1950s are only represented by the biggest of names like Gorgeous George, and without them, this Hall will never be able to present a complete picture of the art form known as pro wrestling.

Looks like they've taken a step to address that with the 2016 class, however. News of it has broken in an unusual way, but that's fitting considering the manner of their inclusion in WWE's Hall if itself a workaround.

T-shirts being sold in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where WrestleMania 32 will be held on Sunday, and the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place the night before, on April 2, are listing seven recipients of a new honor, the WWE Legacy Award, beneath the rundown of seven already announced inductees and Warrior Award winner Joan Lunden.

Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) reports that Ed "The Strangler" Lewis, Lou Thesz, Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, Mildred Burke, Pat O'Connor and "Sailor" Art Thomas will be honored at Saturday night's ceremony.

For what boil down to legal reasons, they will not be consider inducted Hall of Famers, however.

Official inductees, or their estates, sign Legends contracts which cover the use of the performer's identity and how revenue generated by their name or likeness is distributed. WWE has apparently been unable to come to terms with or even find the responsible parties for these wrestlers who mostly worked the first half of the 20th century.

The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame does something similar with "early influencers" like Hank Williams and Nat King Cole, although not necessarily for the same reason.

For now, this looks like a quick way to address critics regarding WWE's Hall's legitimacy. If there's ever a physical attraction for their honorary club, it's unclear how these men and women would be recognized there, as WWE's Hall of Fame would presumably not be a non-profit enterprise like most sports and music versions.

In whatever form, this is long overdue recognition for several pioneers of the form.

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