NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum held a fundraising dinner Saturday night that had a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, and also announced its Class of 2004 and the impending move of the museum.
Legends of the past who attended included the dinner in New Rochelle, NY included former WWWF Champion Ivan Koloff, Captain Lou Albano, Johnny Valiant, Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Tony Cosenza, Dominic DeNucci, Irish Davey O’Hannon, SD Jones, referee Al Vass, Tom Townsend, Ida May Martinez, and George “The Animal” Steele.
The “old school” wrestlers were joined by currently active wrestling personalities Raven, Missy Hyatt, Jim Powers and Francine.
Dinner organizer John Pantozzi presented awards to all wrestlers who attended the event. In addition, Lou Albano and Johnny Valiant showed their standup comedy skills to the crowd’s delight.
The crowd really ate up The Destroyer Dick Beyer’s challenge to The Rock and his father, Rocky Johnson to a father-and-son vs. father-and-son tag team match with Dick’s son Kurt teaming with his dad.
PWHF President Tony Vellano and Board of Directors member George Steele announced that the PWHF headquarters will be moving to a new location as the current location, 123 Broadway in Schenectady, had been purchased by a new owner. The PWHF is working closely with city officials to find a suitable location for the hall.
The 2004 Induction Weekend is scheduled in Schenectady, NY on May 7, 8, 9 of 2004, and another sold-out banquet is expected that weekend.
The first awards that will be presented will be the New York State Awards which honors two wrestlers, one living and one deceased, who have achieved world class wrestling status accompanied by a considerable amount of community and/or charitable endeavors. The 2004 New York State Awards will be presented to Len (Rositano) Rossi in the Living category and Dr. John Bonica in the Posthumous category. Dr. Bonica is a former world’s lightheavyweight titlist who worked his way through medical school as a professional wrestler. He went on to become the world’s leading expert in anesthesiology and authored scientific texts in that specialty. Len Rossi held various wrestling titles, especially in the southern United States, and currently is a nutritional counselor in Nashville.
Inductions into the PWHF fall into seven categories. In the Pioneer division, William Muldoon, who was a top American wrestler at the turn of the century as well as being the first New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) Chairman, will be inducted posthumously. Muldoon is already in the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a trainer of John L. Sullivan and for his NYSAC accomplishments. Also in the Pioneer category, former world lightheavyweight champion Angelo Savoldi will be inducted. Mr. Savoldi is still in great shape at age 90 and the PWHF looks forward to presenting him with his induction ring.
In the Midget division, the museum will be graced by royalty as Lord Roger Littelbrook will be inducted. The former British subject provided tremendous entertainment for many fans throughout his long career.
In the Ladies division, a “young” lady named Mae Young will be inducted. Ms. Young is still currently wrestling at the age of 80! She was at the 2003 Induction ceremonies with her good friend and 2003 hall-of-famer the Fabulous Moolah. Now it will be Mae’s turn for induction honors.
The Non-Participant category voting resulted in a tie between legendary announcer Gordon Solie and legendary promoter Vincent McMahon, Sr. The PWHF Board of Directors decided to induct both honorees this year. Although both men are deceased, they left lasting contributions to the wrestling world.
Two Canadian brothers will receive PWHF honors in the Tag Team division. Paul “Butcher” Vachon and Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon have attended PWHF events in previous years but now they will be receiving awards themselves. PWHF officials anticipate that the fans in attendance will enjoy their acceptance speeches very much.
In the Television Era category, the late Freddie Blassie will be inducted along with Verne Gagne. Blassie recently passed away but was participating in televised wrestling several weeks before his death at the age of 86. Gagne competed in the 1948 Olympics and went on the become a perennial American Wrestling Association (AWA) champion.
In the Modern category, two former National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) champions will be given rings. They are Terry Funk and Harley Race. Both men epitomized the high standards set by the NWA. Now retired, Race went on wrestle for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Funk still tests his skills in the ring although well into his fifties.
The selection processes include Screening Committees for both the New York State Awards and the PWHF Inductions. After nominations are made by the Screening Committees, the entire committees then vote upon the nominees. The vote totals are then passed on to the PWHF Board of Directors for their use in making the final determinations regarding honorees. Dr. Robert Bryla of Utica, New York served as Chairperson of the Board of Selectors. Hall-of-famers Killer Kowalski, Nick Bockwinkel and the Fabulous Moolah served on the voting committee for induction honors. Significant help was obtained through the Cauliflower Alley Club, an organization dedicated to the “Ring of Friendship”. The PWHF can be contacted online at www.pwhf.org .
The PWHF wishes to thank all the wrestlers who attended this event as well as Dr Mike Lano who helped secure the appearances of several attendees.