WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony – April 2nd 2016
American Airlines Centre: Dallas, TX.
We all know by now that the WWE Hall of Fame isn’t really a legitimate Hall of Fame, but the performers being inducted seem to still take it seriously so I guess the company recognising the hard work of some deserving individuals – and some not so deserving – is still worth discussing. Just don’t get yourself worked up about who should or should not have been inducted, because it really doesn’t matter.
As is tradition the Hall of Fame ceremony was a long-ass show, although there were plenty of fun moments this year to keep the mood of the event fairly jovial. The festivities began on the one hour Red Carpet special, presented by Bryon Saxton and my girl Maria Menounos. Saxton was his usual contemptible robotic self, while Maria livened things up with her enthusiastic fandom and the fact that she pretty much did whatever she wanted instead of acting like the rest of the WWE automaton presenters. New girl on the job, Cathy Kelley, was flubbing lines and getting facts wrong all night; for a “professional” television presenter, she had a bad first day at the office. Renee Young interviewed some wrestlers on the red carpet; the highlights were Sami Zayn talking about how he was still emotional 24 hours after his match with Nakamura, and Dean Ambrose, who seemed to try his best to mess with Renee during the interview. Saxton & Maria brought some stars in for a quick chat on their podium. They danced with the Usos & Naomi and bantered with Steve Austin & Jerry Lawler. Roman Reigns and his wife came in for an interview and Roman’s wife looked as nervous as he does when an entire arena is booing him out of the building. All of the talent that spoke during the pre-show said they were most excited about seeing the Freebirds get inducted and couldn’t wait to see what Michael Hayes was going to do.
The Godfather: Inducted by JBL & Ron Simmons. – The APA gave a really fun induction and talked about the Godfather not being a gimmick for Charles Wright. They did a bit that involved JBL telling road stories about riding with Godfather but Simmons interrupted him every time because it would have incriminated both of them. JBL said they used to help pick girls for the Ho Train and Simmons apologised to his wife and said that Layfield was making it up, which got a big laugh. Godfather came out with some models and did his Ho Train catchphrase. He said that he wanted to keep it short and leave it to some of the other “long-winded guys” to do longer speeches. Wright noted it was his grandson’s birthday and pointed this little kid out in the crowd, whom he referred to as a, “Little pimp.” Godfather said he couldn’t tell any of the stories he wanted to, but fittingly pimped his gentleman’s club, Cheetah’s, in Vegas and said we would have to go there to hear them. He wrapped up with his catchphrase again and the women came back out to escort Godfather to the back. – This only went about five minutes and was an entertaining start to the ceremony. If only more inductees kept their speeches this short.
Stan Hansen: Inducted by Vader. – Vader rambled on forever. He talked about Hansen breaking Bruno Sammartino’s neck and meeting Stan in a, “small regional promotion called the AWA.” Vader put over Hansen’s power and conditioning then said he wasn’t just a good big man, he was a great wrestler. He mentioned that numerous people asked him to tell the Tokyo Dome story and recounted his eye getting knocked out of its socket during his 1990 match with Hansen. Vader said they beat the hell out of each other for 30 minutes (it was more like 15) and he popped his eye back in and finished the match. The pay-off to Vader’s lengthy set up was to pull out a pair of goofy joke-store glasses with one eye dangling out; he got a decent laugh, but took way too long in getting to the punchline.
Hansen came out and told everyone to take notice that Leon had left; he didn’t have any notes and just spoke from the heart. He told a story about Vader having tickets to the Mike Tyson/Buster Douglas fight at the Tokyo Dome the night after their match and Hansen told him he was flying home because their wouldn’t be a punch thrown in the fight harder than the ones they threw at each other. He thanked JBL for keeping his name alive then recounted the time Bruiser Brody told him it would be great if they both find women to love them. He thanked a bunch of old-timers: Terry Funk for breaking him in, Karl Von Brauner, Moose Morowski, Bob Backlund. Hansen put over Jumbo Tsuruta and Giant Baba like he was still amazed that such men existed. He mentioned that his career started abut 15 blocks away at the Sportatorium then said, “God bless Fritz Von Erich’s soul.” Hansen brought up that he put over Rick Martel in 9 seconds and stated, “I want to put that out there so that everybody knows that Stan Hansen’s done a few jobs.” – A great line. He talked about feuding with Bruno and working at MSG when he was just 25 years-old. “I guess that night I was a little bit nervous,” Hansen noted as he told the tale of how he dropped Bruno on his head that night. He added that Bruno had always been friendly to him and never held anything against him, which he thanked Bruno for.
Hansen talked about wanting to emulate Tiger Jeet Sing and how British Junior-heavyweight wrestler Pete Roberts became his best friend. He mentioned getting caught up in the war between New Japan and All Japan then told the story of his legendary match Andre the Giant in 1981 and said he owed his career in Japan to Andre. Hansen said it was a pleasure to work for Giant Baba for 26 years on only a handshake deal and remarked that he and Brody ran rough-shot over All Japan in the 80’s. He named dropped Jumbo and Tenryu and the “younger generation” of Misawa, Kobashi & Kawada and said they were all great opponents for him. Before he wrapped up, Hansen gave a special thank you to the carpenters in the business, who got guys like him ready for main events by putting them over every night. He closed with his signature horns and hollering war cry. – This was one of the most interesting speeches of the night. Hansen came off like such a nice friendly guy who was grateful and humbled to be there and it’s a shame he had to gloss over a lot of the big moments of his career in the short time he had.
Jacqueline: Inducted by the Dudley Boyz. – The Dudleys brought a little bit of comedy to their induction, as D-Von tried to speak but Bubba told him he was only supposed to say, “Testify.” D-Von responded that Bubba could get his own damn tables from now on. Bubba said Jackie would always be, “one of the boys” and D-Von told a story about her pretending to be asleep in order to avoid paying a toll booth. Jackie kept her speech short and just did the basic, “thank yous.” She thanked Skandor Akbar for seeing something in her when she got started then thanked Lita, Trish, Victoria, Sable, Molly Holly & Terri Runnels and said it was a pleasure working with them. She closed by thanking WWE for the honour of being inducted.
Jerry Lawler threw to a really cool video package of the Legacy Award inductees. Pat O’Connor, George Hackenschmidt, Frank Gotch, Mildred Burke, Lou Thesz, “Sailor” Art Thomas & Ed “Strangler” Lewis were the first class of the new award. I guess WWE are trying to plug the glaring holes in their lineage by adding guys like Gotch, Hackenschmidt, Lewis, O’ Conner & Thesz. Not that it makes there Hall of Fame any more legitimate, but it was still a nice touch. They of course tried to tie in “Sports Entertainment” to the likes of Frank Gotch, which was downright hilarious.
The Fabulous Freebirds: Inducted by the New Day. – New Day were their usual wacky selves, especially Big E, who cracked about the Freedbirds wearing red, white and blue face paint and being patriotic Americans. Xavier thanked the Freebirds for teaching the New Day how to be brothers (which wasn’t a joke) then Kofi started a “Freebirds rock” chant. WWE actually forked out the money to get the rights to “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd so Michaels Hayes & Jimmy Garvin could run out and do their horrible dance from WCW in the early 90’s. Hayes wore one of his ring jackets, a Badstreet USA t-shirt and the ubiquitous pro-wrestler fanny-pack. Garvin was blown up from dancing and made some jokes about nearly having a heart-attack. Garvin said 55 years ago Chief Jay Strongbow threw him in the ring when he was just nine years-old and 37 years ago he became brothers with Michael Hayes. He added that they set the all-time attendance record at Texas Stadium 32 years ago and said that record would be smashed by WrestleMania 32 the following night. Hayes told a story about Terry Gordy kicking down the door of their first apartment when they couldn’t find the key, which led to Buddy Roberts punching holes in the wall and taking a bump through the coffee table.
They brought out Ray Gordy & Buddy Jack Roberts Jr to say a few words. Ray joked that he would always find it weird when kids at school would ask who his favourite wrestler was. “Obviously it was Kevin Von Erich,” he quipped, which got a good laugh. Roberts Jr said his speech he prepared at rehearsal was out the window and he basically just thanked everyone on behalf of his father. Before he left, Gordy said he wanted to hear some more Freebird stories. Garvin said they can’t tell most of their stories on a family show, but then cracked that the worst thing that could happen would only be Hayes getting fired. Garvin told a story about Buddy Roberts peeing on him in the shower and said he kept a close eye on Buddy Jr to make sure he didn’t do the same.
The highlight of the speech was a story from Hayes about being in a bar and being accosted by some kind of motorcycle gang. Terry Gordy came to his rescue and took the guy down, however Gordy realised he had a wooden leg and didn’t know what to do. Hayes said he was worried about getting stabbed or shot, while Gordy was worried about this guy’s wooden leg. Hayes & Gordy went to leave through the back-door, but just like a bad dream the door was locked. Hayes said the guy reached into his jacket so they ran out into the street and noted that it was a good job he had a wooden leg because it took him a while to get out of the bar. Hayes explained that the guy unloaded his gun on them and Terry Gordy started laughing. When Hayes asked what he was laughing about, Gordy replied, “because he missed.” – Hayes told the story really well and the crowd erupted for the pay-off.
They put over World Class then Hayes thanked the McMahons, Paul & Stephanie; he said Stephanie always had his back and was like the sister he never had. He also thanked the writers, which everybody booed. Finally, they brought out Kevin Von Erich, who gave a similar speech to his Hall of Fame induction in 2009 about being the luckiest man on earth for having the time he had with his brothers. Kevin said the Von Erichs & the Freebirds beat the hell out of each other but it made good TV and closed by declaring, “God bless Texas!” Hayes noted there was only one thing left to do and said, “Hit it!” Hayes proceeded to sing the entire Bad Street USA song and ran all around the building in doing so. – You just knew Hayes would make the most of his long overdue induction and he certainly delivered a memorable performance. It was a really long speech, but Hayes‘ charisma carried them through with ease and to be fair, Jimmy Jam held his own up there too.
Big Boss Man: Inducted by Slick. – Slick came out to “Jive Soul Bro” and did a bit where he asked for donations then apologised for thinking he was in church. He said he was lucky to be Boss Man’s manager and that he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone he ever met. Slick talked about the run with Akeem as the “iconic” Twin Towers then said heaven gained a guardian angel when Boss Man passed away. He introduced Boss Man’s wife and two daughters. His daughter Lacy did most of the talking and told stories about watching her dad wrestle as a kid. She mentioned that she had to explain to kids at school that her dad didn’t really eat Al Snow’s dog Pepper and recalled the angle where Boss Man stole Big Show’s father’s casket from his funeral. Boss Man’s widow Angela pulled out his old knight stick and got choked up reminiscing about her husband. She noted that Boss Man did a lot for his community and was out doing work for the community on the day he died. She said they would always remember Ray and the legacy he left behind.
Celebrity Wing Award: Snoop Dogg: Inducted by John Cena. – Cena got his usual mixed reaction and did some corny jokes about weed and Gin & Juice. He said Snoop Dogg was a member of the WWE family and that when ever he comes to a WWE show it is his home. Cena talked about Snoop supporting him during his Doctor of Thuganomics days and gave him the chance to work in the studio with him when other rappers would have laughed in his face. Snoop took a selfie on the stage with all of the crowd then thanked Cena for the intro. He noted that Cena had flown the “friendly skies” with him, “if you know what I’m saying.” Snoop named dropped Randy Orton, Mark Henry, DX and “HB Shizzle my Nizzle,” Steve Austin & the Undertaker. He gave a big shout-out to his little cousin Sasha and talked about taking her to WrestleMania 24 and how nervous she was about meeting the wrestlers. Snoop said it was crazy to see her face on the side of Cowboy Stadium and told Sasha he loved her. He said his grandfather used to take him to see “Rasslin” at the Olympic Auditorium, where he saw Andre the Giant & Gorilla Monsoon. Snoop closed with a special rap he composed, but didn’t bother to remember as he read the lyrics off his phone. – After Drew “I don’t watch wrestling” Carey, it is nice to see celebrities that are genuine fans and Snoop came off like he was hugely passionate about the business.
The Warrior Award: Joan Lunden: Inducted by Dana Warrior. – I’m going to be honest here, I skipped this induction. I don’t have time for WWE using a prop named after a dead man, who actually wanted the award to be something completely different, to make themselves look good from a PR perspective. I’m also still baffled that nobody in the “legitimate” mainstream media has bothered to do a little research into all the horrible things Warrior said in the past either.
Sting: Inducted by Ric Flair. – Flair, as he is prone to do, took a long time over his induction speech. After mentioning Dusty Rhodes & Roddy Piper then pointing out how proud he is of Charlotte, he called out Stan Hansen for putting over Rick Martel and noted Stan never laid down for him. “Rick Martel? Who’d he ever beat?” Flair quipped. He finally got around to talking about Sting and referenced the 1988 Clash of the Champions that went up against WrestleMania 4. Flair also talked about Sting coming to him and asking why they were doing the same spots in every match and Flair explained that it was working and didn’t need changing. Flair got sidetracked again and talked about Shawn Michaels telling him to just keep his mouth shut before their match at WrestleMania 24 then rambled about how he and Steamboat were 0-4 for marriages, while Michael Hayes was only 0-2. Flair mentioned Sting being in the rafters and doing the biggest PPV in WCW’s history with Hogan at Starrcade 97. Flair noted they were trying to wrap him up and he quickly thanked Linda McMahon for some money she gave him in 1992 then introduced Sting.
Sting pointed out that Flair had left his notes then joked that Flair never stuck to his notes anyway and just winged everything then noted that they were in the same building where he made his RAW debut. He talked briefly about starting out with Jim Hellwig and Sting said he though he was a big guy but was nothing compared to how jacked the Warrior was. Sting brought up the injury during the match with Seth Rollins and recounted Rollins apologising while they were trying to load him into an ambulance. “Sting, I was you for Halloween,” Rollins told him, and Sting added that Rollins had a “shooting look on his face.” He joked, “I know a lot of you probably dressed up as me for Halloween.” Sting made fun of teaming with Robocop and told a great story about being in the ring with Kevin Nash. It was during an NWO beat-down angle and Nash & Sting ended up lying on the canvas next to each other. Sting said he felt a big arm and leg come over him and Nash said, “Sting, would you mind if I spoon with you for a minute?”
He talked about his God-stuff then said he had bragging rights because he had finally performed at WrestleMania and did it against a great opponent in HHH. Sting stated that he was officially a WWE Hall of Famer and some bozos in the crowd chanted, “One more match” and “Undertaker” – Morons. He thanked a bunch of people, from the Warrior, Jim Ross, to Michael Hayes & Road Dogg and gave a special thanks to Ric Flair for making him into a star when he didn’t have to. Sting declared that he was officially retiring and stated that he was happy to do it underneath the WWE umbrella. Everybody gave him a standing ovation and the fans chanted, “Thank you, Sting.” Sting closed by putting on some sunglasses and he held up his black baseball bat. “This isn’t goodbye,” he noted. “It’s an I’ll see you later.” – It was a classy speech from Sting. The retirement announcement wasn’t exactly a shock, as it has been known for weeks that he can pretty much never take another bump again, but the fans received the news well and didn’t act like jerks. Hopefully this will end all the speculation about a damned Undertaker/Sting match.