Thanks to Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com for the following report:
We are live at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies. WWE had signs posted warning fans not to catcall and also announcing video streaming was prohibited. Todd Grisham welcomed everyone to the event, at which point the WWE talents began to take their seats.
Among those here are Gene Okerlund, Blackjack Lanza, Dusty Rhodes, Tony Garea, Nick Bockwinkel, Steve Keirn and Billy Kidman.
As Batista entered he passed, and then stared down, John Cena.
Gorgeous George, Ted DIBiase and Bob Uecker will be inducted on the USA Network special.
Jerry Lawler was introduced as the host. He said it is his favorite night of the year and he’s honored to be hosting. He introduced the “future Hall of Famers”, the current WWE Superstars.
The first inductee is Mad Dog Vachon.
WWE is giving the inductees a five minute time limit for their speeches.
They aired a video feature on Mad Dog Vachon.
Lawler said that Vachon even struck fear into the hearts of his tag team partners and introduced the only man who has “jokes older than his”, Pat Patterson.
Patterson said he was happy to be here but it was strange because tonight he’s inducting a “mad dog” and two years ago he inducted an “old bag”, Mae Young.
Patterson said when he broke into the business in Montreal, he was scared to death of Vachon. Years later, he was making no money in Boston and got a letter from Vachon booking him in Portland and that’s what set his career off.
He said Vachon always tried to help the careers of French Canadians. Patterson made some jokes because he forgot what he was going to say. He said he’s excited for tomorrow and is pulling for Shawn Michaels, who in his book is the best he’s ever seen. He then said he was looking forward to seeing Vince McMahon get his ass kicked because “Bret got screwed.”
Patterson said when he had his first Portland payday, he received $300 and thought it was too much. Vachon told him that was his pay and the promoter probably screwed him anyway.
He told stories of Vachon coming to his house when Vachon got into domestic troubles and Patterson told Vachon he was going to “ruin my reputation” (by staying in his house). Everyone laughed.
He said he was proud to induct Vachon and introduced him.
Mad Dog Vachon came out in his wheelchair. He started doing one of his old promos and finished with “I’m Mad Dog Vachon and I approve of this message.”
Vachon said he believes he had 13,000 matches and became a wrestler because of his name. He said growing up his nickname was ‘Vachon the Pig.’ He said when he got into fights as a child, his dad told him it was okay, as long as he won.
Vachon told the story of getting the Mad Dog name, and he told the story of working for Don Owen in Portland Wrestling. He was told to be wild because he would be feuding with Curtis Iaukea. He said he attacked his first opponent, then attacked his referee. A policeman tried to hit him with a stick and he threw him into the third row. When he returned, Owen told him he ‘looked like a Mad Dog’ and it fit him perfect.
Patterson asked him to tell the story of the night he opened a plane in mid-air. He had too many drinks while flying back to Minnesota and opened the door. He could be feel himself being pulled out and said “Its a good night to die.” He was charged $500 for opening the door, so he never did it again.
Vachon told some stories of starring in commercials in Montreal. WWE cut his speech as he was going long and rambling a bit.
Jerry Lawler said that if had a dollar for every time he was asked where Jim Ross was, he’s be a Million Dollar Man. He then introduced Ross, who got a huge reaction.
The second inductee is Wendi Richter.
They showed a video feature on Wendi Richter.
Jerry Lawler noted that the Rock and Wrestling Connection began on a segment of Piper’s Pit and introduced Roddy Piper.
Piper asked if anyone can believe tomorrow is Wrestlemania and quipped he was there when it ‘didn’t have a number.’
Piper said he lived with Mad Dog Vachon for two years. “There’s a reason I act like this.”
Piper said the early 80s was a time of feminism, which he didn’t appreciate until he had his daughters. He said you had to do tough things back then, ‘like date Moolah and live.’
Piper said it was an exciting time and he got to knock out Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. He then saw something come under the ropes and he kicked it. He said he ended up “kicking a girl who only wanted to have fun.”
He told lots of 80s stories about celebrities being involved in the Rock and Wrestling era. He said Wendi Richter came along and he always had a crush on her. He said Wendi had a way to bring class to the NWA, where he first met her, and the WWF.
Piper mentioned he hated the Rock and Wrestling cartoon and said they once had a cartoon where Wendi Richter beat him in a knighting contest. He said she was a fierce competitor who gave everything for the fans and was a classy lady outside of it.
Piper called Richter ‘the Sandra Bullock of wrestling’ and introduced her.
Wendi immediately joked that Piper had to repeat his introduction after the show and said he was ‘the best mouth in the business.’
Richter said this was her dream and she was humbled to be here, but it “Was about damn time!”
She told the story of seeing wrestling for the first time live because her friend wanted to see it. It was in Shreveport, Louisiana and the night was destiny as she saw The Fabulous Moolah and was mesmerized. She told her friend ‘I think I can do that’ and beat Moolah and four years later, which she did in New York City.
Richter said she approached Sputnik Monroe about getting into wrestling and he tried to discourage her but she had to follow her dreams. She talked about her best opponents, naming Velvet McIntyre, Joyce Grable, Leilani Kai, Princess Victoria and Judy Martin. She said they were wonderful people and great wrestlers.
Wendi told a story of touring Japan and using what she learned there in the United States to become what was then described as a ‘rough babyface.’
Richter thanked her fans for standing behind her for 25 years and thanked Cyndi Lauper for skyrocketing her career overnight.
Richter said that all she ever wanted was respect and feels that she has that tonight. She said a female wrestler has to work ‘twice as hard for half the pay’ and is honored to have paved the way for the stars of today.
Richter said ‘there’s a place where you can touch a woman and drive her crazy… her heart’… and everyone did tonight. She finished off saying ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun.’
The third inductee is Stu Hart.
They aired an awesome video on Hart’s career. They showed Natalya on the screens crying after the video. Lawler introduced Bret Hart.
Hart came out, followed by all of Stu’s children. Bret said he didn’t know where to start, and didn’t have enough time, but his father was a great wrestling promoter and was almost loved as much by the wrestlers as his own children. He said Stu worked on a ‘handshake deal’ and that was rare.
Hart said the man he longs to be is the man he felt his father was. He said there were wrestlers in his life from the day he was born and the family loved and misses that time. He said there were so many things they loved about the wrestling business.
Hart said when he was a child, on a school night, he remembers one of the Cadillacs his dad used to transport wrestlers was stuck at the front gate of the property. Bret said he saw it was stuck, then dozed back off to sleep. His father went down to see who it was that was stuck. It turned out it was a kid who tried to steal one of the cars because the keys were in it. His father dragged the guy back up to the house. Bret thought it was his brother Smith. Stu began stretching the guy in the kitchen and suddenly the brothers realized they were all accounted for upstairs.
Stu stretched the guy for three or four hours, then instead of calling the police, he called the kid’s parents to get him… and gave the kid a job as an usher. Bret said for years he would see that kid and think it was amazing how quick things change.
Bret said its like that for a lot of wrestlers who got their starts in Calgary. He said it was a great accomplishment to start there.
Hart said that Stu had a great sense of humor similar to Owen Hart. There was a big “Owen” chant. Hart said in the 70’s Hart was famous for ‘Mable Parties.’ He told a story of The Great Antonio being ribbed about a girl named Mable who liked him, and Antonio believing it was real. When they went to see Mable while her husband was away, one of the wrestler’s brothers would play her husband, show up with a gun and shoot blanks at them. The ‘shot’ wrestler would tell Antonio to run. Antonio found the police and, of course, when the cops arrived all they found were all the wrestlers laughing about the rib… and Antonio had to sit in the back of the police car worrying while the police enjoyed a few drinks with the wrestlers.
Bret said that Stu had a tough reputation but he was a funny and loving man. He said they all missed Stu and life has never been the same without him. He said that Calgary wrestling was something you had to see to believe and they gave everyone a truly special wrestling product.
He said that his father will live on forever now that he’s in the WWE Hall of Fame and thanked everyone for that.
The next inductee was Antonio Inoki.
They played a video on Inoki’s career.
Jerry Lawler introduced Stan Hansen. Hansen said he ‘spent the last few decades in Japan and never did one interview’, so please bear with him if he stumbles a little.
He said he wrestled all the top competitors in Japan and they were hard ranks to climb. He said Inoki stands alone in many respects. “Inoki was a household name with everyone in Japan – that’s how over he was.”
Hansen said that Rikidozan learned of a pure Japanese athlete living in Brazil and brought him back as a young star to train under him. He said the rest of the story is that Inoki became an icon in Japan. Inoki was excited about promoting pro wrestling – Hansen emphasized PRO WRESTLING – and said he was lucky enough to be a part of that.
He talked of Inoki putting together a Boxer vs. Wrestler match and that launched MMA. He said Inoki did it as a wrestler. He said Inoki used pro wrestling to promote peace and Inoki used his power to go to North Korea and Iraq. He said Inoki pushed the envelope and went to India and Pakistan before anyone else to try and broaden pro wrestling.
Hansen said that after the Shea Stadium show (where Hansen faced Bruno Sammartino), Vince McMahon Sr. got him booked for Inoki in Japan. At the time, Hansen didn’t know much about how over Inoki was.
One time, Hansen’s back was bad. He and Dynamite Kid got on an eight hour train that stopped every twenty minutes. He said they went to the southern part of Japan and were sent to chiropractors. They used flame and a cup to kill the pain in a vacuum. The doctor told Hansen he could ‘adjust him’ to where he would be impotent, to which Hansen said “Whoa!”
He told a story about Inoki wrestling Jack Brisco in Japan. Hansen, Chavo Guerrero and Steve Keirn are watching in the back. Inoki goes over and starts tossing his winnings out of the ring to the fans. Hansen said that it showed how much the promotion gave to the fans.
Hansen told a story of wrestling Inoki in Sapporo and having Inoki choked outside against a railing. Hansen said he doesn’t see very well without his glasses. He sees someone winding up to hit him then the person tossed an egg on him. Hansen said he hopped the rail and followed the fan around. He said he knew the fan would trip over someone, and he did. He ‘taught the fan a lesson’ and the next day, there’s big trouble and he needed to go to a police station. He spent the entire day being questioned. He leaves to go to the show and there’s the fan, all bandaged up, bowing and apologizing. Inoki had told the fan about the trouble and the fan went on to become a great sponsor for Hansen.
Hansen said it was his honor to tell some stories and induct Inoki into the Hall of Fame.
Inoki said his English is bad, and that he started in Japan. He thanked everyone for attending the ceremony. He said it was an honor for him to receive such a prestigious honor and the timing was perfect, as his first match was 50 years ago this year. Inoki said he was proud to develop professional wrestling and martial arts.
Inoki then spoke in Japanese with a translator. He said he wanted to thank his fans in Japan and those who came here for the ceremony. He said this year is his 50th anniversary and he appreciates the fans and everyone who worked on inducting him.
He said he’s been watching many of his matches recently and the most famous was the fight against Muhammad Ali. He said after the match he was able to build a nice friendship with Ali, and via that friendship, he was able to attend an event in North Korea that drew 190,000 people twice.
He said with the skills he developed as a wrestler, he was able to promote a ‘Sports for Peace’ event in Iraq.
He thanked all his fans. He said he’s been working on unique events and would like to promote a card in Antarctica with WWE to promote Global Warming awareness.
Inoki did his traditional Japanese cheer after explaining it to the crowd and asking them to do it with them. They all did. A really nice speech.
Jerry Lawler talked about celebrities in wrestling and said the next man is just as important as any of them. He brought out Dick Ebersol.
Ebersol said 25 years ago tonight he was producing one of his last Saturday Night Live episodes and had Hulk Hogan and Mr. T doing a sketch on the show. He said Hogan got so carried away, he laughed and couldn’t read his cue cards.
That was the night before Wrestlemania 1 and it led to the launch of Saturday Night’s Main Event. He said that he’s never had more fun than he did when working to produce WWE programming for NBC.
Ebersol said that Bob Uecker has had the most extraordinary career of any sports personality. He said Bob had a ten year career, only batted .200 and yet is still in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
Ebersol introduced a video on Uecker.
Ebersol told the story that brought Bob Uecker to Wrestlemania 3. They had gone to Detroit six weeks before the PPV to survey the site and figure out how to get everyone into the building.
He said Vince McMahon was trying to get Uecker, who didn’t “get it” to appear. Ebersol said they would go visit Uecker to convince him. Ebersol sent for Jesse Ventura to come help.
They arrived and called Uecker and told him they were at his hotel. They needed two hours and a “lot of beer” to get Uecker to agree. He said Uecker had the time of his life but didn’t know it was coming when Andre the Giant put his arms around him and he was scared to death.
He introduced Bob Uecker.
Bob Uecker said he had a lot to say but “Inoki stole his speech.” Uecker said he wasn’t always a great player and his father didn’t know a lot about sports but wanted him to do everything the other kids did. His dad got him a football and they didn’t know how to throw it, so they kicked it around until a nice neighbor filled it with air for him and “What a difference that made!”
Uecker said that he was interested in wrestling when he was 75 or 80 pounds. He told a story about being so poor his mother made him an athletic supporter from a flour sack “and the flour would fall out.”
He told some funny baseball stories and showed off his Hall of Fame ring. He joked that “everyone else got a diamond,” but he got a zircum. He talked about dreaming of a world championship ring… and his was tossed into the field and he had to find it during the fifth inning.
Uecker said that he met Dick Ebersol years ago and mentioned some of the shows he was involved in. When he was called to do Wrestlemania, he said he initially said no because it was during Spring Training but it turned out to be one of the best things he ever did in his life.
He told a story of Jake Roberts asking him to take a picture with Damian. He asked who Damian was and Jake said, “He’s in the bag.” Uecker said, “So am I. Pass me another beer.”
When they got to Detroit, he got to meet everyone and was having the time of his life. He said he had spent time with Andre the Giant but had no idea it was coming. Uecker said if the camera had stayed on them we’d have seen him on top of Andre with Vince yelling for him to let Andre go because he had a match.
Uecker said when he was a kid, his grandma did wrestler’s laundry and told a story of putting on Dick the Bruiser’s tights. He talked about watching Milwaukee wrestling in the Rendezvous Ballroom.
Uecker continued his self deprecating lines and joked a lot. It was hilarious.
Uecker said that all of the things he’s had the chance to do in his life, some of the best times he’s had were with WWE. He said he was amazed by how jam packed the place is tonight and is amazed by the body punishment the wrestlers put themselves through.
He thanked everyone for their time and laughter.
Jerry Lawler introduced a video of Gorgeous George.
Lawler then introduced ‘the only man here who can say he wrestled George three times’ – The Destroyer Dick Beyer – who came out wearing his mask.
Destroyer said he is extremely excited and pleased to honor Gorgeous George with the WWE Hall of Fame. He said in college he watched George when George was big, made money and brought entertainment to pro wrestling.
Destroyer talked about George’s Bobby Pins and wishes he had 2,000 to sell on Ebay. He told the story of wrestling George for the first time and learned that George could indeed wrestle.
Going forward, a Los Angeles promoter wanted to put a mask on Destroyer and he thought he was crazy. 16 months later the promoter wanted to take it off and Destroyer said ‘not tonight’. This led to Destroyer’s next story.
George owned a bar in the area and invited Destroyer to visit. The bar would have been the equivalent of the best sports bar today and had tons of photos of celebrities, but the bar was empty. George said he needed a payday and pitched Destroyer’s mask against George’s hair. Destroyer didn’t want to lose his mask. George said not to worry and wanted to do all the pomp and circumstance. The promoter, Jules Strongow, agreed to do it and George submitted to a figure four. As they cut George’s hair, Destroyer felt bad that he helped ruin the first image that brought entertainment to pro wrestling.
Destroyer said George was ‘the living orchid’ and had a mask for George’s widow Betty. He said he was proud to have inducted George into the Hall of Fame.
Jerry Lawler introduced Betty Wagner, Gorgeous George’s former wife, to accept on his behalf.
She said George was gorgeous. Her mother told George he was gorgeous, and they decided that was it for his name. Betty said she made all of George’s robes. She told stories of her kids running around in the wrestling robes.
Betty was asked if there was anything else she wanted to say about George and she said she didn’t want to ‘tell everything’ and thinks it was time she should go.
A short but funny and sweet induction.
Jerry Lawler asked for everyone to stand and applaud all the inductees since the crowd ignored the “Applause” signs.
Jerry Lawler said their final inductee once wrote a check so big, his bank bounced. He sent us to a great Ted DiBiase career video.
Lawler introduced Ted and Brett DiBiase to induct their father.
Brett said his father was getting inducted and Ted was getting his first Wrestlemania match tomorrow, so tonight he was going to talk about him. He and Ted did a comedy bit about playing with wrestling buddies and Ted dressing like Scary Sherri as kids.
Ted said they were honored to induct not just one of the greatest villains WWE ever produced, but a good man. Brett told a story that his father once told him how he only despises three things…a liar, a cheater and a thief. His father taught them a man is only as good as his word.
Ted said that the success and talent his father had as an in-ring performer is undeniable and the Million Dollar Man character will forever be cherished by those who love the business.
Ted said his father has more passion than anyone he’s ever known and is proud to carry on his name in this business. He said that they are so proud of their father and for the level of character and integrity he brings.
Jerry Lawler introduced Ted DiBiase, who came out with the Million Dollar Belt. DiBiase said that like an American Express card, he never leaves home without it.
He says that it is an amazing night. There are moments in life that you can’t put a price tag on and for him, tonight is that “priceless” night. He said to be in the Hall of Fame means he’s been honored by his colleagues and he’s very honored and humbled to join a very long line of legends in the business.
DiBiase said he had some many things and stories that went through his mind. He said there are some stories that are too good to be true. He told a story about 1987. For the last 12 years before that he had worked hard and wrestled in no-name towns and one day the WWE calls. The next day, he’s in first class heading to New York. A limo takes him to Stamford and he meets with the brain trust.
They tell him they have an idea for a new character that would be ‘truly evil.’ For this character he would fly the best airlines, stay at the best hotels and have a limo take him everywhere he goes. He joked it was a hard job.
They told Ted they wanted to make him one of the best villains and he thought the fans and the wrestlers would hate him. They handed him several thousand dollars and sent Ted and his wife to New York City to spend it while staying at the best hotel. He told his wife that ‘their ship had come in.’
DiBiase thanked Harley Race, Terry Funk, The Briscoes, Dick Murdoch and Killer Karl Kox. He thanked Harley for trying to save Iron Mike DiBiase’s life the night he had a heart attack in the ring. Ted said ten years later he was in the ring against Harley in his first world title match.
DiBiase pointed out his wife Melanie and praised her for giving him a second chance and for being his rock. DiBiase thanked God and Jesus Christ for his mercy.
DiBiase said you can’t talk about the Million Dollar Man without talking about Virgil. He told a story about Virgil picking up their bags and then realizing they didn’t have the Million Dollar Belt. He raced back to the Atlanta airport and there’s no briefcase at the carousel. He went to the baggage officer who had it. The baggage officer told him he had no idea how lucky DiBiase was that they had the briefcase. DiBiase said, “No, you don’t know how lucky I am”… and opened the case to reveal the belt.
DiBiase praised Arn Anderson before addressing the younger stars. DiBiase said his father told him not to go out for anything he isn’t passionate about. He told them to be passionate about what you do, live your life with integrity and work hard. He said the person with the biggest heart and the person who is the most dependable will get the job.
DiBiase said this was a moment where he wishes his father was here and believed his dad would say “Job well done.”
DiBiase thanked the fans for the night and this moment. He then said that just in case anyone doubts that “you don’t have a price and can’t be bought”…he went into a Million Dollar promo and they dropped a ton of money down on the crowd.
They brought out all the inductees and ended the ceremony.
Thanks to Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com for the following report: