During the height of ECW, it was common to see people holding up signs that read “Heyman is God”. On Friday night, Heyman certainly proved he has godlike powers, at least when it comes to entertaining a crowd. That’s exactly what he did during his speech as one of the 2024 inductees in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Heyman’s speech – which was a masterclass in public speaking, perfectly balancing emotion and humor and full carny – was one of the most memorable in the history of the event.

The video package before his induction talked about Heyman scamming his way backstage at Madison Square Garden when he was 15 years old which kickstarted his incredible career. From photographer to manager to the leader of ECW, which was credited with spawning the Attitude Era. And that’s even before his incredible WWE career as announcer, manager, GM, and real-life mentor to many.

Roman Reigns was introduced to induct Heyman. As he made his way to the ring – which had a more formal look with a black mat covering, black and gold ringposts, and no ropes –  the cameras showed Jimmy Uso and Nia Jax pointing their fingers in acknowledgement of their Tribal Chief while Jey Uso sat with his arms folded.

Reigns was grateful and reverential about Heyman, noting the influence the “Wiseman” has had on Reigns’ career. He talked about lessons that he’s learned from Heyman, including what he said was the wisest piece of advice he received. It came late one night on the road. Reigns told Heyman that he felt that as long as Heyman was on his side, there was nothing Reigns couldn’t do in this business. Heyman told Roman that all Roman had to do was believe in himself, and if he could do that, then the world was in the palm of Roman’s hand. Reigns ended by saying that without the Wise Man, there would not – and will not – be a Tribal Chief.

The old ECW TV theme song played while Paul Heyman made his way to the ring, pausing to hug some of the ECW Originals who were in attendance, Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, and Bubba Ray Dudley. In the ring, he looked proud and sentimental as the crowd chanted “ECW”, “Paul E.” and “You deserve it”.

He started off a bit extreme saying “You damn f—in’ right I deserve it” which garnered a thunderous roar from everyone and a second standing ovation, including from Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who was sitting front and centre beside his wife, Stephanie McMahon, who was sporting an ECW hat right out of the old Invasion angle.

Heyman noted that he was the first person picked to be in the first Hall of Fame class to be selected by Levesque. The difference was certainly highlighted by HHH’s on-camera presence – with few exceptions, Vince McMahon had famously avoided being shown on camera during the HoF ceremony and reportedly had banned people from mentioning his name.

Driving home the difference between the old and current regime, Heyman went on to point out Triple H and heap praises on him as the new creative leader of the company.

“Only one person can drive the car out of chaos,” Heyman said, pointing at Triple H. “Only one person can assume true control of the locker room. And the leadership that was sorely needed by the men and the women in this beautiful performance art has been bestowed upon us by that man sitting right there.”

“(Levesque) has assumed the pencil of this company, and has led us to a creative freedom backstage where more Superstars are emerging to the main event before your very eyes. And the manner in which he leads us, let me tell you… for the rest of my life, I will be a Paul Levesque guy.”

Heyman had similar complimentary words for Stephanie, saying “If my daughter grows up to be half the woman Stephanie is, I assure you that I have raised a great lady in my household.”

Both Trips and Steph thanked Heyman for the kind words, shaking his hand and blowing him a kiss, respectively.

From there, Heyman addressed his two children, Jacob and Azalea, who were in attendance, giving them a lesson about what defines success in the world.

“It’s not about the money,” he told them. “It’s about being worthy of people’s respect. It’s about being worthy of their admiration. It’s about pursuing your dreams and failing, and going after them again and again and again. And failing a hundred and one times and succeeding on the hundred and first. Pursue your dreams. Pursue your happiness. And I promise you, one day you will be standing at a podium in front of an audience and your friends and your family and your children and you will hear the love for the body of work that you put together with the true passion of your lives.”

Paul Heyman talks to the Rhodes family at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com

Paul Heyman talks to the Rhodes family at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com    MORE PHOTOS IN OUR WWE HALL OF FAME GALLERY

Continuing talking about his family, Heyman choked up when he expressed his wish that his mother and father were there to see him receive this honor. Then, turning to Cody Rhodes, he added that he wished Cody’s father Dusty were also there.

With the “mushy sh—” out of the way, Heyman then turned up the “Extreme” factor, donning his trademark black leather duster, a headset, and an ECW ballcap before pulling out one of his old brick cellular phones from his WCW days.

Appropriately clad, he manifested his old Paul E. Dangerously persona circa 1993. He talked about wanting to change the industry that “sucked” and featured wrestlers featured clowns and plumbers. He said he wanted to revolutionize the business with hip-hop and rock-and-roll and sexy women and violence. And thus the Tribe of Extreme was born.

And, though the company no longer exists, Heyman said that the spirit of ECW lives on, in the matches that are put on today and in the passion of the fans of every wrestling company.

“If you think that the spirit of ECW died in a bankruptcy court in 2001, you can suck my f’—in’ d—“ he said (in one of many bleeped lines.

Joking that he might get cancelled for that kind of language, Heyman went into his final stretch of his speech, saying that would never happen to him.

“They ain’t gonna cancel me,” he promised, “because they know if they do, I’m coming back bigger, badder, stronger than ever before.”

As testament, he listed off all the times he did get cancelled, or rather fired, running down his history from WCW to ECW to WWE, mentioning all the roles he played, from manager to announcer to RAW GM to the advocate of Brock Lesnar, until he found a new life as the special counsel to Roman Reigns and Wise Man of the Bloodline. And getting the opportunity to work with newer stars name-checking Bron Breakker, Rhea Ripley, Carmelo Hayes, Trick Williams, and Jade Cargill.

To conclude, Heyman made it clear that he is going to continue doing what he loves – being part of the professional wrestling industry.

“This is not a lifetime achievement award,” he declared. “I’m just getting started. There’s more disruption of this industry pumping through this heart. And I guarantee you, we’re gonna disrupt it all over again. And that’s not a prediction… that’s a spoiler.”

It would be a challenge for anyone to follow Heyman. Fortunately for the other honorees, even though it had already been a long night (the ceremony took place after the conclusion of Smackdown and after about 20 to 25 minutes to change over the ring), the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center remained polite and respectful throughout the night.

Bull Nakano at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by Alan Jonason

Bull Nakano at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by Alan Jonason    MORE PHOTOS IN OUR WWE HALL OF FAME GALLERY


The first test of that respectfulness would come during Alundra Blayze’s speech for the next inductee, Bull Nakano. Blayze – Nakano’s frequent opponent during their early 1990s WWE run – was a bit stilted in her delivery, clearly reading her short introductory comments from a teleprompter.

Blayze called Nakano a revolutionary star in All Japan Pro Wrestling, talking about both her look and physicality. She noted that Bull’s style still influences women’s wrestling today.

Bull came out wearing her signature makeup, but unfortunately not her trademark upright hairstyle from back in the day. She also was much smaller than in her fighting days, which shouldn’t be unexpected, but still was a bit visually jarring.

Nakano noted that when she started wrestling for WWE, she knew about wrestling, but wasn’t necessarily prepared for the hard life on the road that a WWE schedule would require. She noted it was particularly difficult to navigate the traveling, particularly as a non-native English speaker. She said it was a challenge, but with the help of many friends, including Blayze and Luna Vachon, she was able to get through it.

She noted that the easiest and most enjoyable part of it was actually being in the matches, and that her lack of English skills didn’t matter there.

“Because wrestling is universal,” she explained. “Even if you don’t speak the same language.”

She thanked WWE for giving the opportunity and to the WWE Universe for accepting Bull Nakano.

“We will be forever connected through professional wrestling. If there is such a thing as being reborn, I want to be professional wrestler Bull Nakano again. And be back in a WWE ring. I look forward to seeing you all again then.”

The Rock receives a People's Champion belt from Muhammad Ali's widow, Lonnie Ali, at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com

The Rock receives a People’s Champion belt from Muhammad Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com    MORE PHOTOS IN OUR WWE HALL OF FAME GALLERY


The legendary boxing legend Muhammad Ali was the next inductee. During the video package, our buddy Arda Ocal (who was in WWE for a while as announcer Kyle Richards, but has gone onto a great sports broadcast career with ESPN) was included along with other luminaries like Hulk Hogan.

A larger-than-life character like Ali needed to be honored by just as big a personality – and WWE did that by having the Undertaker do the honors. He started off with Ali’s classic “Float like a butterfly” promo before running down Ali’s credentials as an athlete, a humanitarian, and a “legend among legends.”

Ali’s widow Lonnie accepted the induction on Ali’s behalf. She noted that Ali’s legacy is one as someone who loved people and who people loved back. She noted that Ali took inspiration from wrestler Gorgeous George to create a persona that made him a global star, suggesting he was the first ever global sports-entertainer.

She talked about Ali punching “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at the first WrestleMania as the special guest referee. And about his gift of gab, earning him the nickname the “Louisville Lip” for his promos and also for using his voice for advocating against racism and other oppression.

“I know he would have been thrilled and honored for being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Lonnie talked about how Ali was known as “The People’s Champ” and how in 1998, The Rock requested to use the moniker “The People’s Champion”, which Ali agreed to. Lonnie then called out The Rock to accept the People’s Championship. He joined her in the ring and embraced her warmly before she awarded him with a custom People’s Championship title.

The Rock took to the podium where he received a mix of boos and chants. He thanked Lonnie for the honor and noted that Ali was one of his childhood heroes. He said that his father Rocky Johnson had sparred with Ali back when Rocky was a boxer. Rock said that in 1998 when Ali and his family came to see a WWE show, Ali conferred the moniker over to the Rock. He said that the People’s Championship nickname is the one that he most treasures. He thanked Lonnie and escorted her to the back.

US Express Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com

US Express Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, on Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com    MORE PHOTOS IN OUR WWE HALL OF FAME GALLERY


Taylor and Mika Rotunda – Mike’s son (aka Bo Dallas) and daughter came out to induct the team. They took a moment to remember Windham Rotunda – aka Bray Wyatt – and noted that while he wasn’t on the stage with them, he was there in spirit.

They talked about the team’s in-ring success, but also about the wrestlers that they inspired and the fans that they entertained through their trailblazing styles.

Sadly, the team didn’t come out to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” like they did back in the day. On their way to the ring, Barry stopped to be congratulated by his former New Blackjacks partner JBL.

Mike started off by thanking the WWE Universe for all their support over the years. Mike noted that his first appearance as a public athlete was in an exhibition contest at an Eagles game when he was eight years old – so the night was kind of full circle for him. He noted that it was “The Destroyer” Dick Beyer who recruited him into professional wrestling after seeing him as part of the Syracuse collegiate wrestling team. He briefly talked about his career up to the time that Dusty Rhodes brought him into Jim Crockett Promotions and teamed him up with Barry.

Barry continued the story, talking about how his sister married Mike six months after meeting him.

They talked about appearing at the first WrestleMania, joking that they should have received hazard pay for working against the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff so many times in that era.

Mike closed by saying how much he wished Windham Rotunda could be there to see this. He led the Fireflies in lighting up the arena with their phones to end their speech.


The New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were introduced, but they paused halfway to call out Big E, and the trio made their way to the ring. They brought the New Day energy to their speech, with Big E even going into a preacher-like cadence at one point, channeling his inner Thunderbolt.

They talked about Patterson’s mantra “I love people” and noted that it was that principle that drove Patterson into standing up for change – including equal pay and opportunities for African-American wrestlers. They noted that because of Patterson, they could stand up there as Black performers and do what they do for a living. They did a hyped up New Day introduction to Patterson who was brought out on a wheelchair, but he got up during the entrance to embrace Gerald Brisco and JBL as he passed them.

The video package noted how many wrestlers had – deliberately or subconsciously – taken a lot of Thunderbolt’s persona for themselves, either in their promo style, in-ring style, or both. Clips were shown of Dusty Rhodes taking some of his verbiage and Road Dogg Jesse James taking some of his moves.

For his speech, Patterson was joined by WGH radio host Scott Spears who called Patterson the Jackie Robinson of professional wrestling for the trail that he blazed. Spears told a story about Patterson being warned not to perform in Abilene, Texas, after the sheriff’s wife had been killed. Promoter Dory Funk didn’t back down and booked Patterson to appear. The sheriff drew a composite drawing of the suspect and it was a picture of Patterson. Turns out that the sheriff had killed his wife and was going to try to frame Patterson for the crime. That, Spears said, was the kind of racism that Patterson had to contend with and that he tried to fight throughout his career.

Despite Patterson not having stood in a wrestling ring for over 30 years, Patterson seemed pretty comfortable there. His speech was a combination of a prayer and a promo, cut in a preacher style. He thanked the Lord and a few good people for allowing him to stand there tonight. He preached about stopping the hate, and said that people should look to the Lord to guide them. He thanked Gerald Brisco and Brian Blair for helping him, and writer Mike Mooneyham for keeping his name alive. He rambled on for a bit, acknowledging that the night had been long already, and then reminded people to stop the hate, and ended with the message to be good to each other.


The video package for Lia featured a clip of The Rock visiting his grandmother’s gravesite and singing a song in her memory. The video, with voice-overs from The Rock and the actress who played Lia on the show Young Rock, focused on her promoting career and being the matriarch for the entire Bloodline. They showed clips of her husband’s – the late Peter Maivia – induction into the Hall of Fame from years ago.

The Rock was introduced to induct Lia, and unlike his earlier appearance, this time he came out with the full entrance music and “Final Boss” swagger. But toned it down and got a little more humble for the actual speech.

He started by congratulating all of this year’s inductees before talking about his grandmother.

“What my grandmother was able to do at a time when it was male-dominated… she was really able to change the game and open up the doors for, not only so many of the wrestlers, but for so many of the women as well.”

He noted that when his grandfather died, it was his dream for his promotion to remain successful and so Lia carried that on. Rock said that all of the promoters nationally would send their talent to Hawaii to compete in his grandmother’s promotion, name-checking a number of the stars who performed on her cards. Including, he added, one of his heroes, Dusty Rhodes.

Rock then went into promoter mode, taking the mic and turning around to face Cody Rhodes and address him directly. Rock said that he has nothing but reverence and respect to Dusty and Mama Rhodes. But that what happens between him and Roman and Seth and Cody isn’t business – it’s personal.

Rock introduced his mother Ata as the  real “Final Boss” of the family, and she stood up to take in the applause from the crowd.

Perhaps cut for time (Heyman went a long time, and the HoF event was approaching the two-hour mark), Rock kind of abruptly took the show home by thanking his grandmother, the fans, and telling everyone to get ready for WrestleMania.

The show ended with The Rock jawing with some Cody supporters as he headed to the back.


George Tahinos’ WWE Hall of Fame 2024 photo gallery