NEW YORK, NY — Though TicketMaster showed the event as being sold out, there were a few pockets of seats that were empty throughout the building for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at Madison Square Garden.
– The first induction was Mick Foley. Terry Funk was very good in his introduction – luckily they gave him some time, unlike when he and his brother Dory were limited to two minutes when they were inducted.
He told a couple of good stories about Foley that demonstrated Foley’s willingness to go the extra mile, in terms of taking pain and damage, in order to put on a good show for the crowd. He noted the irony in the fact that in the famous Hell in a Cell match between Mankind and Undertaker that saw Foley get thrown off, and then through the top of the cage, Funk was the only one that had to get carried out of the ring (after taking a chokeslam by the Undertaker).
Foley’s speech was great. A great mix of emotion, comedy, and gratitude was brought up. He thanked several people that were instrumental in helping him reach the HoF: Triple H, Dominic DeNucci, Shane Douglas, Jim Ross, and the Undertaker. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Sting wasn’t mentioned, though in the past, Foley has said Sting was a major reason for his WCW success.
A great moment when he pointed out that he had never beaten Chris Jericho – he said that, and the camera showed Jericho mouthing to him, “Never. Never. Not once.” Foley shared that he dreamed about dropping an elbow and pinning Y2J as part of his induction. To his credit, Jericho was willing to do it, and fans got to witness Foley hit his running elbow drop on Jericho on the stage, and pin him – surely a first in the history of any Hall of Fame anywhere.
After his speech, he was surprised by Santa and Mrs. Claus who came out to celebrate with him (this stemming from a comment Foley had made earlier expressing his wish that Santa would be there, Foley being a huge fan of Christmas).
– Up next was Stephanie McMahon to induct Trish Stratus. Stephanie was very respectful of Trish’s abilities to “make you hate her, make you feel sorry for her, and make you fall in love with her, all at the same time.” She also called Trish a role model for women everywhere. High praise indeed – and richly deserved.
Trish thanked not only Stephanie but the entire McMahon family in her speech, noting that she had to get better when working storylines with them.
Her list of people to thank being too long (she unrolled a lengthy old-style scroll on stage, listing many of the people who she felt indebted to), she focused on four men: former President of WWE Canada, Carl DeMarco; her trainer, Toronto’s Ron Hutchison from Sully’s Gym / Squared Circe Training; Jim Ross (she bought with her and showed the crowd the pen that Ross gave her during their first meeting, which was also the one she signed her first WWE contract with); and Fit Finlay, who worked with her and the other Divas during the late ’90s, what she called a golden era. “We set out to change the way that women’s wrestling was perceived,” she told Finlay. “And we did that.”
Related to that, she also thanked her fellow Divas from that golden era: Ivory, Jacqueline, Molly Holly, Jazz, Victoria, Mickie James, and her “bestie”, Amy Dumas aka Lita.
She made a heartwarming thank you to her mother – Trish revealed that she actually retired in part to be with her mother during a battle against cancer (a battle won – Trish announced that her mom was now cancer-free), and her husband Ron. The New York crowd booed him, presumably because of jealousy, but Trish won them back.
Of course, Trish also thanked her fans, noting that “you were the most important people in my career.”
Trish then revealed that she and Ron would, “in September, be delivering a little Stratusfaction,” and playfully hiding her baby bump.
It was noted that faithful SLAM! Wrestling reader, and Trish superfan Dana Stead was featured in Trish’s HoF video.
– Stevie Ray’s induction speech for his brother, Booker T, was good at the beginning, but went on too long. Ray told stories about the duo’s troubled childhood, leading up to Booker’s incarceration when he was younger, and his determination to turn his life around when he got out. He then told about their start in professional wrestling, all the way up to their signing with WCW. He summed up his speech by noting that “my brother has become a role model. The deck was stacked against him, and he overcame them.” It was a nice, touching speech, but dragged after a while.
Booker’s speech was very good, as he continued the story of his WCW and then WWE career, noting people that helped him along the way, including: Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and Sensational Sherri Martel, who he called “the Harlem Heat Legitimizer” noting that her association with he and Stevie made their team “world class”.
It was understandable that Booker’s series of WCW matches with Chris Benoit wasn’t mentioned – though he may have alluded to it when he was telling an aside about how he originally won the WCW TV Title. “Rick Martel was supposed to win the title that night – another great Canadian.” It turns out Martel couldn’t do so, because he’d forgotten his boots that night.
He thanked a number of agents and other people that helped him navigate the WWE waters, referencing in particular Goldust, Steve Austin, and the Undertaker among others.
He ended his speech by thanking his wife, “Queen” Sharmell, who was holding, presumably, their child and teared up at Booker’s declaration of love.
As Booker left the stage, Stevie Ray convinced him (though it didn’t look like he needed much convincing) to end with a HoF version of the Spin-a-roonie.
– TV personality Maria Menounos made a mis-step in her induction speech of her friend Bob Backlund, by going on waaaay too long. So much so that the Madison Square Garden fans started heckling her and at times drowning her out. While her stories about meeting and knowing Backlund were fine, it was when she started listing off a series of random facts about Backlund that she lost them.
Backlund’s speech was simply weird. It wasn’t clear if he was cutting a promo in his Mr. Backlund character, or if he was serious. He rambled on from topic to topic, sometimes yelling unintelligibly (popping the microphone during occasional screaming moments). At one point, it looked like he was going to bring some negativity to the night, by alluding to being bitter about being let go when he refused to turn heel despite the fact that his babyface persona was losing the fans’ interest. “When you have that kind of power,” he said about the WWE juggernaut in the early to mid ’80s, “somebody’s going to get hurt. And somebody got hurt. And he’s standing here.” But then instead of elaborating, he rapidly changed topics to his childhood (“we had no indoor plumbing… we had a root cellar.” It was like a mental patient trying to give a motivational speech.
He yelled at Sergeant Slaughter who was in the crowd, admonishing Sarge for “(whipping) the heck out of me. You left marks all over me. My wife was mad at you that night.” Then he yelled at Triple H for laughing or something after saying how he’d forgotten to open his speech by telling everyone that he’d hugged Arnold Skaaland’s widow backstage before the show. He then tried to get Triple H to sign one of his protégés before Vince came out onto stage to tell him to wrap up the speech because it was going too long. This speech was a fail.
– McMahon interspersed his induction speech of Donald Trump with clips featuring Trump’s history with WWE – most recently, the Battle of the Billionaires at Mania 23, where Trump shaved Vince’s head. Vince was funny and on point, even improvising a line at one point. When talking about how he saw himself as the world’s ugliest bald man, a fan yelled out something about Hulk Hogan. “Someone mentioned Hogan,” noted McMahon. “Moving on from that unfortunate incident…” he continued, and introduced Trump.
Trump was Trump. He put himself over, talked about how much he meant to the WWE and why he deserved being the HoF. It was actually pretty funny, because he was clearly enjoying playing the heel to the NYC crowd that booed him throughout. At least his daughter got cheered, though. In the end, it seemed it was all in fun, as the crowd applauded Trump at the conclusion of his speech.
Notable highlight line: “I will challenge Vince McMahon to a fight next year. And I will kick his ass.”
– The last induction, of Bruno Sammartino, came from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold told the story about meeting Bruno for the first time, at a muscle man contest for which Bruno was one of the judges. “I said, ‘There is something wrong in America… the judges are bigger than the athletes.’”
Bruno received two standing ovations before saying his words. He put over the importance of Madison Square Garden to his career, noting that headlining there meant that could headline anywhere, simply because of all the media attention that anything in MSG would get – it would become international news, and he received many offers to wrestle overseas as a result.
He then thanked his family, telling a touching story of how his mother saved his family by breaking into their Nazi-controlled city, from which they had evacuated, to steal food for her kids and keep them alive. “Her love kept me alive,” he said.
Sammartino thanked the doctors who helped heal him after his retirement – “I was hurting,” he said, “and they worked miracles.”
Lastly, Bruno thanked the fans for coming to see him and noted that it was them that kept him as a headliner – if they stopped coming, he would not have been headlining. “For that, I am a very lucky man.”
With that, he quickly wrapped it up, noting that it was getting late. This was a disappointing ending, frankly. Not sure what should have been expected, but it seemed a bit underwhelming at the end of the day. Perhaps his induction was built up so much in the eyes of fans that no speech could have lived up to that hype. Whatever the case, it just seemed to be missing something.
– After Bruno’s speech, the entire HoF class of 2013 and their inductors came out on stage to end the show. Reportedly, Vince and Bruno hugged on stage – this reporter missed that, because he was too busy watching Bob Backlund run around the arena floor and slap high fives with the fans in the lower bowl seats.
Bob Kapur is very tired, as it’s 5:19 a.m. in the morning and he’s writing this. He wants to dream about being in a hall of pillows, but he’s afraid he’ll dream about eating marshmallows and when he wakes up, the pillows will be all gone. See? That’s how tired he is – he thinks that was funny. E-mail him at [email protected].