Here’s a news flash for you: there is no WWE Hall of Fame.
Oh, there is a symbolic Hall, numbering right around 50 men and women once this year’s class is inducted on WrestleMania weekend, and it does a pretty nice job of recognizing the people who helped the WWE attain the position it holds today. There are some noticeable omissions (wasn’t there a champion by the name of Sammartino or something?) and one wonders if Pete Rose and William “The Refrigerator” Perry need to be in there, but for the most part, the Hall serves its purpose.
What it doesn’t have, at least at the current time, is a physical home. Travel to Connecticut if you wish, but you won’t find any shrine to the squared circle. Hockey has Toronto, baseball has Cooperstown and the NFL has Canton, but so far the most powerful wrestling promotion in the world has nothing.
Considering the financial and merchandising possibilities such a facility would create, it’s actually pretty surprising. You have to think that by the time guys like Ric Flair and The Undertaker are eligible for induction — assuming they ever retire — we’ll have someplace to visit. Say what you want about the WWE, but one thing they have down is production values, so its sure to be worth your entertainment dollar once its built.
Fortunately, at SLAM! Wrestling we don’t have to wait for that day to arrive. Thanks to the trusty SLAM! Wrestling crystal ball (patent still pending), we can take a virtual tour of the facility years before they even break ground. Just let me figure out how to hook this thing up to the Internet and we’re off.
Right inside the front door, we purchase our tickets for $39.95 from Howard Finkel, who reminds us that while video cameras and laser pointers are not permitted inside the Hall of Fame, we are free to take all the flash photography we want. And, of course, he encourages us to visit the ShopZone store on our way out. From there, it’s into the Snickers Cruncher Theater for a 27-minute IMAX film on the long and storied tradition of the WWE. The movie is narrated by Vince McMahon himself and features music by a WWE supergroup made up of Fred Durst, Scott Stapp and all of the members of Fozzy except for Chris Jericho.
We exit the theater and proceed into the Hall of McMahons. As the name implies, this is a huge hall dedicated to the many accomplishments and antics of the WWE’s top family, including Triple H, who has now officially changed his stage name to Hunter Hearst Helmsley-McMahon. To round out the exhibit, there are displays in honor of other family “relatives” like Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and former Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon. At the end of the hall visitors can go out into the garden to see the Vince Russo Vehicle Junkyard, which contains the crushed remains of the many vehicles that met their fate on WWE programming when Russo was head of the writing team, or ride up the escalators to…
You can’t visit the Hall of Fame without spending some time in Diva World. This area was a gallery devoted to the best women’s wrestlers in WWE history when the Hall first opened, but was recently remodeled with a little more T & A sensibility in mind and has experienced much greater traffic flow. Along with memorabilia from all of the lovely ladies of the WWE and a display touting the importance of the, um, implant, guests can sit down in the amphitheater every hour on the hour and hear an enlightening dissertation from an actual Diva on the long and storied history of the Bra and Panties Match.
Easily frightened guests can bypass Undertaker’s Graveyard of Ideas, where the scares come from seeing Rod Smart’s infamous “He Hate Me” XFL jersey on display next to a bottle of official World Bodybuilding Federation rub-down oil and the ‘F’ from the days before the federation had to “get the ‘F’ out.” An audio-animatronic Doink the Clown waits at the entrance to the queue for the Carousel of Bad Gimmicks, where if you’re not careful, you just might leave the ride as… The Ringmaster!
Anyone who still has an appetite might want to check out the food court next. The 21-and-over crowd shouldn’t miss the Texas Rattlesnake Pub, which features cold Steveweiser on tap, bartenders who throw your beer to you and house rules that make you wear more beer than you drink. The rest of the family can enjoy the island fare at Jimmy Snuka’s Coconut Grill. More adventurous eaters can opt for the Spanish Announce Team Restaurant, where the Latin cuisine is terrific but the tension builds as diners wait to see if their table will hold up through the entire meal. Hopefully dessert at Candice Michelle’s Candy Shop doesn’t leave you too full, because there’s still one more floor to go.
A whole world of interactive fun awaits at the PlayStation 3 Fan Arena. The hands-on portion of the Hall of Fame is one of its most popular, where you can do everything from superkicking your best friend through a simulated plate glass window to trying to break Mick Foley’s record for most thumbtacks in a person’s back at one time. At the Montreal Tattoo Stand, kids can get temporary tattoos that make sure they won’t forget who screwed Bret. They can also get their official height and weight at J.R.’s Measuring Station, but watch out — if you don’t come in above 6’5″ and 275 lbs., Vince sends you to the middle of the card for at least a decade. Video gamers love the Monday Night Wars strategy game, where you can compete in real time against the actual Ted Turner, who’s always at a disadvantage because he thinks you’re in the “wrasslin'” business but you know it’s really sports entertainment.
Tucked away in the very last part of the building is the aptly named Superstar Shrine. Unusually tasteful and understated by WWE standards, this hall allows quiet reflection on the men and women who gave their all to entertain the fans throughout the years. It’s thought to be the only room on the planet where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels can peacefully coexist, albeit in bronze form. Oh yeah, and Pete Rose and The Fridge are in here too, but there’s still no bust for former WCW champion David Arquette.
The long escalators take guests from the last exhibit to the exit, which leads right through the Hall of Fame ShopZone Superstore. Along with the usual mind-blowing selection of WWE merchandise, the Hall of Fame store is the exclusive place to get new t-shirts from John Cena (with “Cheer Me” on the front and “Boo Me” on the back) and The Rock, who hasn’t even set foot inside a WWE ring in years. Observant visitors will notice that it’s impossible to leave the building without walking through the store.
What can I say? There are some things you can see even without a crystal ball.