Former AWA World heavyweight champion Rick Martel was touched to receive news of his induction into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“It made me very proud that a committee of my peers felt I was deserving of such recognition,” Martel told SLAM! Wrestling.
Undoubtedly one of wrestling’s “good guys,” who is well-liked by his peers and who did not fall into the pitfalls of the industry, Martel knows he will be paying homage to his late older brother Michel, who got him into pro wrestling during his induction speech in Amsterdam, NY, next May.
Martel also knew many of his fellow Class of 2015 inductees very well, as his career spans well beyond his most famous run in the WWF as a popular tag team wrestler who then became the arrogant Rick “The Model” Martel. Before his big run, Martel had already traveled and wrestled the world over from North America to Japan going through Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand by the time he joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1986. He even had a previous run in the WWWF where he became tag team champions with Tony Garea on two different occasions.
It is during that stint that he was asked to take care of a new rookie by fellow Quebecer Pat Patterson: “He asked me if I could show the way of the territory to the son of one of his friend from back when he worked in Minneapolis. I was young but I had already a lot of experience still I didn’t want to be a babysitter. That was until I met the man who would one day be known as Mister Perfect.”
Curt Hennig, a fellow inductee in the “Modern Era,” was protected and mentored by Martel during his initial WWWF run, and Martel had a hand in sending the youngster over to Portland after his first run in New York ended. Their careers would intersect regularly even at the end of Martel’s time in wrestling with WCW. Strangely enough, Martel got a phone call from Hennig shortly before his tragic death, where Hennig thanked him for being a true friend who did not have a problem pointing out when his head had gotten too big for his own good at the height of his success as Mr. Perfect. It will be emotional for Martel to accept the induction on the same day as his late friend.
That’s not the only link Martel has to other inductees he will share the stage with on May 16th. Pedro Morales, the former WWWF World champion, should also be there to accept the award. “Pedro was the Intercontinental champion when I was first in New York. The title meant something back then, I was a young veteran and yet I learned so much watching him do his fiery comeback. I just loved to watch him wrestle.”
The Fabulous Freebirds will also be inducted to PWHF and Rick Martel is no stranger to their leader Michael Hayes, who he loved working with in singles action in the AWA. “We had good chemistry; we would enhance each other’s strengths while bringing different talents to the table. It was a lot of fun.”
The most emotional for Martel, though, will likely be the “International” inductee, whom he defeated to become American Wrestling Association World champion on May 13 1984: Japanese legends Jumbo Tsuruta. “I knew him real well before we worked together for the championship. He was an incredible wrestling machine. I had and still has tons of respect for him in and out of the ring.”
Martel, who resides in Quebec City, is planning to attend and is very intrigue to see the museum with his own eyes for the first time, now home to the legends of all of the inductees from previous years.
“Friends of mine, who attend each year, have told me great things about [PWHF President] Mister [Tony] Vellano and his organization. So did my good friend Lanny Poffo who was the emcee at the ceremony two years ago.”
Many of his friends are already members of the PWHF like Tito Santana that fans remember from their run as Strike Force for WWF and Stan Hansen, who Martel got to fight with every night back when he was starting out in Texas.