Anyone who has had the experience of watching a WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony knows to prepare for a roller coaster ride of emotions. Yawns and scratches of the head will often times be as frequent as the smiles or the tears inductees create with their speeches. Tonight’s WWE Hall of Fame class of 2015 was a little bit different, as they managed to make four hours fly right by as they spun yarn after yarn.
Well, as fast as four hours can fly by, anyway.
Jerry “The King” Lawler was the master of ceremonies from the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. “The King” can often be the source of moans and grumbles with his unique sense of humor, but the WWE Hall of Famer was kept in check tonight as the inductions took up most of the time. The Usos kicked off the show introducing their father, Rikishi. The brothers discussed the surprise of seeing their dad on TV…in a thong, nonetheless. Pointing at a picture of the famous backside, The Usos said that butt is what put them through college and put food on the table. Rikishi spent most of his time giving thanks to his extensive Anoa’i family, prompting a chant for his late brother Umaga and a mixed reaction for cousin Roman Reigns. The passionate speech ended on a lighter tone as the sons broke out the signature shades of their father and shared a dance in homage to Rikishi’s time in Too Cool.
The winner of the most authentic speech of the night went to the next inductee. Bruno Sammartino introduced his former protégé Larry Zbyszko. The speech from Zbyszko centered on his crawling through the hedges in the backyard of the Sammartino home to go tell the former WWWF World Heavyweight Champion he was his hero. Zbyszko told it as only he could, as he verbosely described the encounter in symbols and metaphors that could throw a prime Bob Dylan for a loop. In all, it was all you could expect of Larry being Larry, who stated that he had felt the love and wrath of the fans and ended by saying he fought through riots and was “stabbed in the ass by the best fans in the world,” prompting roars of approval from the WWE Universe.
Alundra Blayze was introduced by Natalya, who outlined her significance to women’s wrestling. Blayze continued the theme by thanking the numerous inspirations and contemporaries in women’s wrestling that inspired her, calling back names like The Fabulous Moolah, Bull Nakano, and Sherri Martel, to name a few. Blayze then went back to what she is best known for as she pulled a trashcan out onto the stage. Rummaging through, she threw a pair of bra and panties off the stage while stating her hatred for the attire so many women have wrestled in. Blayze picked up some BBQ sauce next and again took a shot at its place in women’s wrestling, though she was quick to note how much she loved that particular brand with Jim Ross’s name on the front. Pulling out an Eric Bischoff book brought jeers from the crowd and Blayze laughed, noting that Bischoff is still a friend. Finally, grabbing the infamous WWE Women’s Championship and declaring herself the reigning champion for the past 20 years. Blayze proudly exclaimed that it was what a women’s title should look like. Blayze also inspired a fine moment as she introduced her husband, a Sergeant Major in the United States Army, and thanked the troops and public servants for all the work they do.
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night soon followed as Dana Warrior came out to present the inaugural Warrior Award. Dana described the trials she has encountered in the past year since the tragic passing of Warrior, but she credited her daughters and the strength she drew from the Ultimate Warrior character her husband showed in and out of the ring. Dana introduced Daniel Bryan, who came out with tears in his eyes. Bryan shucked off all cheers and chants for him as he told of his time with the recipient of the Warrior Award, Connor “The Crusher” Michalek. Bryan drew some boos as he told the crowd that “everything is fake” that he does in front of them, but “inspiration is real” as he discussed his WrestleMania moment that he shared with Michalek. Steve Michalek came out to accept the word with his son Jackson on the later Connor’s behalf, thanking the WWE for all their support through the WrestleMania wish and Connor’s Cure.
While the next two inductees kept things on the lighter side, they were nonetheless entertaining. “Mr. Excitement” John Laurinaitis introduced his mentors The Bushwhackers, who came out high-stepping and flailing their arms with gusto. Luke Williams and Butch Miller may have seemed like they were staying in character as they told tales, but the duo had the time of their lives as they cracked wise like fun uncles at the family gathering. After a lick of the head, they were gone and Ric Flair came out to introduce Tatsumi Fujinami. Flair did most of the talking and Fujinami kept things short and sweet in his limited English, though the sincerity of the speech shined through.
In one of the more awkward moments of the night, Hulk Hogan fumbled through a speech inducting his “friend” “Macho Man” Randy Savage. In fairness to Hogan, he kept the speech simple and only strayed away from talking about Savage once to mention his famous slam of Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III.
Lanny Poffo accepted on behalf of his brother and “The Genius” made an appearance or two as Poffo recited some heartfelt poems about his later brother. Poffo made clear Savage’s love for Special Olympians, his wife, and talked about the intensity and passion that made Savage the man he was on and off the camera.
The show closed on The Kliq. Triple H inducted Arnold Schwarzenegger into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame. Though WWE Hall of Fame celebrity acceptance speeches are more noteworthy for cringe-inducing moments about mothers and who knows what else, Schwarzenegger delivered a speech that related to wrestling fans. Arnold managed to drop the names of Bruno Sammartino and Catch Wrestling Association proprietor and European wrestling legend Otto Wanz as he discussed the impact wrestling had in developing a love for fitness and bodybuilding.
Finally, Shawn Michaels inducted friend Kevin Nash in the final induction of the night. Michaels told the story of seeing Vinnie Vegas in WCW and asking Rick Steiner who was playing the character. Steiner called Nash and asked if he would be interested in coming to the WWE. Nash went to WCW head booker Ole Anderson and said he wanted to go back to bouncing at clubs and bars. Anderson handed him his notice and Nash immediately faxed the document to WWE front-office member JJ Dillion. Nash took the stage and closed the show on a high note with his tongue firmly planted in cheek throughout the speech. Nash went through his history and ultimately declared that it didn’t matter much to him whether he’d be going in under his name or Diesel, stating that there would be no Kevin Nash without Diesel. The four hours closed on the mark with The Kliq giving a bow.
Believe it or not, four hours in front of a TV can be one of the most draining things a person can endure. WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies can make that doubly so, as speeches seem to carry on for hours and reveal eccentricities about wrestlers that no one ever needed to know. However, tonight was different. Without a bad speech in sight, the yawns never came. Smiles, tears, and laughter were shared by inductees, presenters, and audiences at the ceremony and watching on the WWE Network. It may not be an indicator of great things to come on the night before Wrestlemania 31, but as far as Hall of Fame ceremonies go in the WWE, you’d be hard pressed to find one as entertaining as the class of 2015.