AMSTERDAM, NY — Who knew? Who knew that the grumpy, ornery “Bad Man from Borger, Texas” could tell a hearty tale, or share a touching memory, just as well as he could a crippling clothesline? Stan “The Lariat” Hansen did that and more on Saturday night as he was the final inductee into the Class of 2010 at the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Still intimidating, Hansen took it all in stride, even the ribbing about his poor eyesight. Hansen talked for almost 10 minutes, giving a quick career overview. He bounced from his days in Japan, to his early days in wrestling around Terry Funk and the Amarillo territory, to breaking Bruno Sammartino’s neck, to Japan.
Hansen was right in the middle of the promotional war between New Japan and All Japan, and addressed that time which propelled him to the upper echelon of gaijin talent in Japan. “I got caught up in something that I never dreamed of, but opportunity only knocks a couple of times. I must say that Japan was the place for me.”
He tried to put things into perspective for the audience of 200 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY.
“I think I was instrumental, along with Brody, my partner Bruiser Brody, of changing the direction of wrestling in Japan,” Hansen said. “Now that may sound a little cocky or conceited, but we did change it, because we were going to go full out. And we did. You know what? The Japanese fought us. They didn’t lay down. I’ll tell you what, I slapped Terry Funk too, and I guarantee you he didn’t lay down.”
After he was introduced by another Japanese legend, The Destroyer Dick Beyer (who said he “caught the lariat at least 100 times”), Hansen spun a yarn about Bobby Jaggers eating a Destroyer mask in a Japanese nightclub; later he animatedly told another about Wahoo McDaniel — a posthumous 2010 inductee — beating up a fan just for touching one feather on his headdress.
After praising the fans and the underneath talent that were necessary to built up main eventers, Hansen got somewhat retrospective, if not weepy emotional.
“I just went out and did my job that I tried to do, bring the money home. But I never really tried to take myself too serious,” he concluded. “But this has made me stop and pause, and because we are elected by our peers, it does mean something special, it does mean something. Thank you so much.”
In the end, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame really is about peers. The voting is conducted by historians, previous inductees and a select group of fellow wrestlers, making it is the only true professional wrestling hall of fame in existence.
With Mil Mascaras the only other 2010 inductee able to be in attendance, it was left to fellow workers, friends, and family to do the honours.
- Mark Lewin introduced “Dangerous” Danny McShane, his brother-in-law. “He was everything to me,” Lewin admitted, “my hero.”
- “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe shared a story about being at the matches, and telling his father, “This is what I am going to do when I’m big.” Later that night, they met “Wild” Red Berry at a diner. Sharpe gathered up the courage to ask how he should prepare for his dream. Berry told him to wrestle amateur for 10 years, and stayed in touch, even bringing Gino Marella — a.k.a. Gorilla Monsoon — out to watch him wrestle one time. Sharpe said it spoke to Berry’s love of the business. “He kept his word, he believed in his product.”
- Tony Vellano, the President of the PWHF, talked about inductee Edouard Carpentier, and his health issues, and all the efforts the Hall made to get Carpentier to the event.
- Nick Bockwinkel was called upon to talk about Wahoo McDaniel, and it was evident he could have told stories about Wahoo — a roommate for three months in Hawaii and a frequent opponent — for hours. “He was just so off the wall,” said Bockwinkel. “He always defended the wrestling world we were all living in. … There are so many people that have imprints on their chest from the chops that he threw. … Nobody created him. He was just the person he was … a dynamic personality.”
- Davey O’Hannon inducted Gorilla Monsoon, talking about how he hated him as a kid — after all Red Berry found him breaking the ice with his bare hands in Manchuria! Later, O’Hannon got to know Monsoon as a peer and a friend, remembering the “heart this man put into ths business,” adding that “he was generous beyond belief,” and “a legend in this wrestling business.”
- For tag team inductees Ben and Mike Sharpe, a couple of their children spoke. The second oldest son of Mike Sharpe, Digby, addressed his dad’s generous nature, and said as he grew up, he was surprised to learn that not everyone’s family was so wacky, complete with fascinating funny friends like Vic Christy, John Tolos and Antone Leone. Ben’s daughter Nancy said it was “wonderful growing up in a wrestling family,” and that her father and her uncle, despite their bodies being so beaten up, always said wrestling was “the greatest life.”
- The Destroyer and Karl Lauer introduced Mil Mascaras, and were generous with their praise, though conceding that Mascaras wasn’t always generous in the ring. The Man of 1,000 Masks didn’t say too much in his acceptance speech, but did point out that he is still actively wrestling.
- Women’s inductee, the late Kay Noble, was presented by Mae Young — who was called upon to be one of Noble’s early trainers — and Donna Christantello, who met Noble when she herself was just starting. “She loved this business, she slept, thought and ate the business. She would be very happy to be here today,” said Christantello.
- Dusty Rhodes was unable to attend due to his WWE commitments in the company’s Florida training grounds. His old adversary, JJ Dillon, did the honours. Dillon, the manager of the Four Horsemen, said the heel faction only worked because Rhodes was the “catalyst,” with the surrounding characters like the Road Warriors and Ronnie Garvin “drawn to Dusty Rhodes.” Later, Dillon worked in management with Rhodes, and admitted he was hard to work with at times, but “that ego was what drove Dusty Rhodes and what made him successful.”
- Mark Lewin was inducted in 2009 for his tag team with Don Curtis, but was unable to attend. To receive his induction ring, he first had to be introduced by Sir Oliver Humperdink and Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Lewin was thankful of the fans most of all. “What made us great was the wrestling fans of the past and the future,” he said.
The evening’s emcee was Hollywood actor Hank Garrett, who had a brief, early wrestling career. Obviously not up on the current scene, he messed up introducing TNA star Jay Lethal twice, before the audience had to shout out “The Black Machismo’s” actual name.
After the ceremony, a reception took place before most returned to the Amsterdam hotel that was the home for the fan fest and meet and greet earlier in the day.