WATERLOO, Iowa – The 2022 George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame induction weekend in Waterloo, Iowa, was the ideal place to be for dedicated wrestling fans. As usual, the weekend provided a wide variety of activities and opportunities to interact with wrestling greats, both old and new. Many attendees have often said that there is such a different and positive “feel” to this particular HOF weekend.
Thursday night’s events began casually at the Dan Gable Museum. The Jason Sanderson-hosted social offered a great chance for fans to both reconnect over pizza and soft drinks, against the backdrop of the museum. As would be appropriate, the museum was decked out in old school professional glory, with many additional vintage wrestling artifacts and silent auction items set out for fans to enjoy and bid on. The annual Impact Award winner was announced, in the form of the Minnesota High Rollers tag team of Sterling Nolan and the late Jerry Anderson. Fans will remember that Jerry received a standing ovation at last year’s banquet event, attending just days after chemotherapy treatment during a long battle with cancer. While Jerry passed away in September 2021, his courage, along with both of their positive impact on the independent wrestling scene, will live on.
A trivia event back at the Best Western host hotel capped the night, and was well supported by dozens of teams. It was a fun and friendly competition to show off the knowledge of fans on a wide variety of wrestling topics.
Friday events at the museum included some interesting podcast round table discussions. Five well-established wrestling podcast teams gave their pitch to fans on how they got their start of their podcast journey. Old school gamers had their chance to try out the latest version of the Filsinger Legends card game, plus attend a live podcast presentation by Art of Wrestling podcaster/wrestler Colt Cabana.
On Friday night, fans packed the Waterloo Convention Center for an Impact Pro Wrestling card featuring Colt Cabana, 2 Cold Scorpio, James Jeffries, referee James Beard, and even the museum’s own Becca Roper, in her first professional match, seconded by Museum Director Jim Miller.
Appearances by other wrestling legends were also popular during the matches. Attendees included Ric McCord, Bob Roop, Baron Von Raschke, Joe Malenko, John Nord, JJ Dillon, Mike Rotunda, Thunderbolt Patterson, B. Brian Blair, Jim Ross, and star attraction Trish Stratus.
Saturday events started out with veterans of the Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF) territory recalling their road memories, hosted by Jonard Solie, son of famed announcer Gordon Solie. At the autograph signing in the afternoon, lines were long for both Trish Stratus and Museum namesake Dan Gable, but those who waited were rewarded with a very warm and positive interaction.
Saturday’s main event took place after dinner at the convention center, providing heartwarming speeches by those receiving awards. Miller welcomed the large crowd, noting that a record 150 all-access passes had been sold. Both the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Filsinger Games crew provided generous checks to the museum.
The first of the awards was the Frank Gotch Award, which went to Dan Spivey for his continuing work as a substance abuse counselor. Though Spivey was unable to attend in person, he sent an acceptance speech noting how proud he was to have 13 years of being clean and sober, and being able to help others battle their addictions.
The Jim Melby Award for Wrestling Journalism went to writer Dick Bourne. Along with David Chappell, Bourne developed the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, and has published four books on the region’s belts and title histories. He hopes to continue that writing journey in future years.
This year’s Hall of Fame Inductee was Mike Rotunda, who recalled his amateur background at Syracuse University, which led to eventual career assistance by fellow Syracuse alumnus Dick Beyer, aka The Destroyer. Rotunda relayed a humorous story of how Dick had him moving furniture all summer long, as strength and endurance training for an opportunity to go to Germany and begin his long successful career. Rotunda ultimately attributed much of his success to Stephanie, his wife of 38 years, and his three children, Mika, Windham (aka Bray Wyatt) and Taylor (aka Bo Dallas).
The recipient of the Gordon Solie Award was famed wrestling announcer Jim Ross, aka “JR”. He noted his role in predicting the success of two particularly strong and promising stars in the WWE world, The Rock Dwayne Johnson, and Trish Stratus. In addition to his current work with AEW, he is working on a documentary on Mildred Burke, along with another book on his 50 years in wrestling announcing. He strongly encouraged fans to continue to support the museum, and announced that he is cancer free following 22 radiation treatments for skin cancer. He tearfully paid tribute to his late wife Jan, saying that she would have encouraged him to go to the doctor sooner.
The final award of the evening was the Lou Thesz Championship Award, which went to Trish Stratus, as presented by Lou’s wife Charlie. Trish stated that she was proud to be the first female recipient of the award, as she noted the progress made in women’s wrestling to date. While she stated that there is still much more progress to be made, she has been proud to kick down many of the stereotypes and preconceived notions of what a woman could do in wrestling.
Overall the event ended on a very positive note, with plenty of opportunities for fans to greet and congratulate the award winners. No Waterloo wrestling weekend account would be complete without a mention of wrestler and Museum cheerleader Gerry Brisco, who sadly had to miss this year’s weekend due to a temporary illness. Brisco’s son, Wes, provided reassurance that Gerry is doing fine and will be back next year to join us all, as we all return to this wonderful weekend of positive support of wrestling. Of course, don’t forget to “Bring a Friend!”
JOYCE PAUSTIAN’S PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE TRAGOS/THESZ HALL OF FAME INDUCTION WEEKEND
TOP PHOTO: The 2022 George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame honorees, from left, Dick Bourne, Trish Stratus, Jim Ross and Mike Rotunda. Photo by Joyce Paustian
- SlamWrestling.net’s George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame story archive
- Tragos/Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame website