Arena Reports CALDWELL'S WWE HALL OF FAME LIVE REPORT 4/4: Complete Recap, News, Notes from Hall of Fame ceremony that did not air on TV
Apr 5, 2009 - 9:56:30 AM
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO BOOKMARK US & VISIT US DAILY
By James Caldwell, PWTorch.com assistant editor
WWE Hall of Fame Live Report
April 4, 2009
Houston, Tex. at the Toyota Center
The 2009 Hall of Fame featured a brief speech by Steve Austin, who put a cap on his pro wrestling career and shot down chants of "One more match" from the fans in Houston. Austin acknowledged he didn't have much closure on his wrestling career and simply rode into the sunset after WrestleMania 19, but that's fine with him.
Also, Vince McMahon put his stamp of approval on Austin as the greatest WWE superstar in company history. At least, for this ceremony.
-- Before the ceremony started promptly at 6:00 p.m., wrestlers and their families were seated on the floor of the Toyota Center in a special section facing the platform. As the wrestlers entered through the tunnel onto the floor, the crowd reacted to each entrance.
Christian received one of the largest babyface reactions. John Cena was booed heavily and then every time he was shown on the video screen, he was booed again. He will be booed at WrestleMania 25 on Sunday.
Chris Jericho received a major heel reaction. Randy Orton was a very loud mix of cool heel cheers and boos. Same for Triple H, who came out last with a very stern look on his face while Stephanie McMahon was jovial.
Before the McMahon Family entrance, Bryan Danielson came out with William Regal. Danielson had just worked ROH, but he cleaned up nice with a bright red dress shirt. Also shown on camera to strong receptions were Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart.
-- Todd Grisham then introduced the show and they were obviously in a hurry tonight, as he set a very brisk pace for the proceedings. That was the main takeaway from the ceremony: very snappy, very quick pace to the ceremony. The ceremony only went two hours and about 15 minutes. Nearly everyone stuck to their time cues and they were aided by a giant scoreboard clock at the top of Toyota Center that the inductors and inductees used for reference at times.
1 -- DORY & TERRY FUNK INDUCTION -- via Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes opened the ceremony with a preacher promo on the Funks. He told a few stories and referenced ECW before bringing out "the shootah" and the last-surviving outlaw. Dusty went 3:03 and nearly hit the 3:00-minute mark on the dot. Terry said earlier this weekend that he fully expected Dusty to nail the time cue because he has an amazingly sharp mind. Funks came out and Terry instantly cut a promo on Dusty.
Dory talked first and he talked quietly about the other first families of wrestling, including the Guerreros and Harts. Dory thanked attorneys for saving him and saving his money, which drew a laugh. He said he helped train Edge, the Hardys, Christian, and Mickie James before closing by praising Texas.
Terry Funk then snapped to the mic and screamed out a promo. Very stark contrast between Dory's soft-spoken speech and Terry aggressively approaching the mic. Terry wanted everyone to get an education and respect ECW. He was ready for Heaven and apparently would not have minded his death taking place on the stage right then and there and been perfectly fine with it happening. After all, Funk said he feels like he's 105 years-old.
TOTAL TIME: Dusty 3:03 intro and Funks 8:11 talk time.
2 -- KOKO B. WARE INDUCTION -- via Honky Tonk Man
Honky was the only man not in a suit. I'm sure Steve Austin, who hates dressing up, was thrilled that he had to wear a suit and Honky wore dark wrestling gear. In any event, Honky said he's known Koko for 30 years, dating back to when he showed up at a barn in Tennessee and Koko stretched him for nine months. He told some stories about the barn, then asked JBL to stand up. Honky talked about JBL's Clothesline from Hell, but said Koko had a Dropkick from Hell. And Koko never taught it to him. Honky said Koko had key elements in his career: desire, dedication, and no one worked harder in the ring than him.
After a video package on Koko and Frankie, Koko came out with the new Frankie. Turned out the new Frankie was the star of the show, as he filled in the gaps on Koko's speech by clawing at his notes and overall being a fun nuisance. Koko referenced Union City, Tenn., of course, then talked about working with Jerry Lawler in Memphis. He skipped his Mid-South run completely and went to a discussion of WWE. He thanked WWE and ended the speech. Very charismatic delivery, but Frankie was the star.
TOTAL TIME: Honky 3:57 intro and Koko 4:52 talk time.
3 -- VON ERICH FAMILY INDUCTION -- via Michael P.S. Hayes
The intro video package on the Von Erichs focused on Fritz for some time before shifting to the Von Erich boys. No focus on the tragic deaths. Just the highlights of the big shows and clips from Kerry winning the NWA Title from Ric Flair in Texas Stadium. The focus was on the Von Erichs helping bring pro wrestling into sports entertainment. Michael Hayes then came out with a black Cowboy hat and his long blonde hair flowing off the sides. Jim Ross made sure to point that out later in the ceremony.
Hayes said the big Texas families were the Guerreros and Funks, but no family was bigger in Texas than the Von Erichs. He talked about Christmas Day 1982 for one of the top angles in wrestling history when Bam Bam Gordy slammed the cage door on Kerry Von Erich's head to set up the red-hot Von Erichs vs. Freedbirds feud. He said the Von Erichs were loved by fans the world-over. Focus was, again, on their drawing power and Fritz taking cameras inside the ring for in-your-face action that helped transform wrestling. He introduced Kevin Von Erich as the last-surviving member.
Kevin came out and said Hayes could talk back in the day and can still talk now. (Hayes went well over his three-minute countdown clock.) Kevin said he wishes Fritz and his brothers were still here, but he doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him. He said he has brothers in the wrestling business. That was evident on a trip to Africa in 1993, he said, when Kerry had just died and his wrestling peers picked him up during his grieving. He then asked his family to stand up and be recognized.
TALK TIME: Hayes 4:43 intro and Kevin 4:57 talk time
4 -- HOWARD FINKEL INDUCTION -- via Mean Gene Okerlund
Mean Gene Okerlund came out and started with some praise and we assumed it was for Fink, but he didn't name Finkel by name to set-up his one-liner punch line... "But enough about me." He did his sideways eye-brow raise to play to the crowd. Mean Gene said Finkel is credited with coming up with the WrestleMania name and he's the only person to appear at every Mania.
Fink came out to some circus music and pretended to slip around the stage to play up the "silly antics" aspect of his Attitude-era character that was highlighted in the pre-induction video package. Fink took us back to Jan. 17, 1977 where he debuted in WWWF and started working part-time. Fink started in his announcer voice, but went to his normal talking tone, which still sounds like a good announce voice. It was here where the Countdown Clock came into play, as Fink was looking down reading from his script, but he would look up every few seconds to check his time on the big scorecard at the top of the Toyota Center. Fink did some Rhyme Tyme on his induction before introducing himself in his classic Fink announcer voice as "NEW inductee into the Hall of Fame."
TALK TIME: Mean Gene 3:01 intro and Fink 5:13 talk time
5 -- COWBOY BILL WATTS INDUCTION -- via Jim Ross
Watts video package focused on him wrestling before becoming booker. The video package included footage of Ron Simmons becoming the first African-American World Hvt. champion under Watts's eye and Watts helping establish JYD as a household name in the South. Simmons was in attendance and Watts picked him out of the crowd during his speech. Jim Ross came out to induct Watts and he made sure he got in his Oklahoma reference in Houston that drew some boos. But, Ross won 'em back with a reference to Watts playing for the Houston Oilers in the old AFL. This wasn't in the speech, but Ross has said in past interviews that growing up in Oklahoma, he had two choices for which pro football team to cheer for, Dallas Cowboys or Houston Oilers, and Ross was an Oilers fan, which made his broadcast of WrestleMania 17 in the Astrodome one of the best moments of his career.
Back to Ross at the Hall. Ross said Watts was strict with his fines and demanded talent be on-time for all bookings. He said Shawn Michaels was fined the first week he was in Mid-South. Ross said Watts demanded perfection, maximum effort, and giving 100 percent to the fans. "Okay was not acceptable," Ross said. "He was blunt, combative, and hard to get along with." But, Ross said, he was a great friend and a great man.
Cowboy came out with a clean Panama Jack-looking Cowboy hat and turned his attention to his family. He pointed out his son, former WCW wrestler Erik Watts, in the crowd along with his grand-children. Whereas the other inductees didn't thank people individually due to time constraints, Watts made sure he rattled off names in his speech. He actually went the longest, and it was well-deserved. Watts did the right thing referencing Paul Boesch, who ran Houston Wrestling and should have been inducted into the Hall.
Before that, Watts started with Danny Hodge, then thanked Vince, Sr. for seeing his star potential and bringing him to New York for the box-office-record-breaking feud against Bruno Sammartino. Watts referenced their record-breaking card at the old Madison Square Garden when the fire marshal couldn't make it, so they squeezed a ton of people in the building. He said Killer Kowalski and Bruno Sammartino were legitimate strong men. "And they didn't even know what a steroid was," Watts said. This led to some uncomfortable laughter in the audience. They didn't show any of the wrestlers reacting on the video screen, which would have been very interesting.
TALK TIME: Ross 5:27 induction and Watts 12:30 talk time. Watts deserved a healthy amount of time and he took advantage with a captivating speech hitting the highpoints of his career. Both Ross and Watts were highly-entertaining. The audience just needed sweet tea, a porch, and a swing to hear some old stories and really get the moment right.
Live-to-tape for USA Network
-- After they asked the crowd to stand and applaud, Jerry Lawler came out to MC the final two inductions of Steamboat and Austin. Lawler then introduced Ric Flair.
6 -- RICKY STEAMBOAT INDUCTION -- via Ric Flair
Flair came out to a huge reception, but he shook off a standing ovation the crowd wanted to give him. They actually put 1:00 on countdown clock. How are you going to put 1:00 on the clock for Flair? Flair said he remembered the day Ricky Steamboat walked into Jim Crockett's office and he knew there was a star ready to be made. As Flair talked, they cut to a shot of Triple H, who had a stern look on his face. He just seemed so grumpy throughout this.
Flair went 2:00, then they paused to apparently fill in a commercial break for the USA Network broadcast, and came back for a Steamboat video package and three-and-a-half more minutes from Flair. Flair said Steamboat is his greatest opponent ever. He referenced the 1989 series of matches and said they had some even better matches off TV back in the 1970s. Flair said Steamboat is the finest babyface ever. Steamboat then came out and they had a long hug together. They broke apart, then squared up and had one final lock-up on center stage. Almost looked like 20 years ago for a moment.
Steamboat waited out a "Steamboat" chant and said he knew he would break down and cry, but he didn't think it would be before he even started. Steamboat referenced Johnny Ace (WWE VP John Laurinaitis) and Triple H as two younger wrestlers who sought his advice with respect back in the day before they were anything. Steamboat said his recommendation to Ace was to put the skateboard under his arm next time, which drew laughs from fans who knew what he was talking about.
Steamboat referenced some legends, then he called out Chris Jericho. A little TV business was taken care of on USA Network, as Jericho stood to a chorus of boos. "We're taking you to school tomorrow," Steamboat declared to promote the WrestleMania 25 legends match. Huge pop for that line. Piper was also shown on camera since he'll be teaming with Steamboat and Snuka. Steamboat said this ceremony was his Oscar and he pointed to Mickey Rourke, who was shown on camera to a huge reaction. Rourke smiled and acknowledged Ricky. That was a legit surprise to see him at the Hall. Steamboat thanked Jim Ross for putting over his matches, thanked the creative team, TV producer Kevin Dunn, and the other agents, such as Dean Malenko and Arn Anderson.
TALK TIME: Flair 5:30 total induction time and Steamboat 9:41 talk time. Great speech from Ricky, who also acknowledged his family and Ricky, Jr. He said there will be a time when Flair's son and his son carry on the Flair vs. Steamboat tradition.
-- Jerry Lawler came back out and referenced Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker. Mr. WrestleMania vs. The Streak. Michaels was shown on the front row doing the Scott Hall "I'm so scared finger wag" gesture. They cut to a video package from Legends of WrestleMania to show Michaels vs. Taker in video game action, ending with Taker nailing a Tombstone. Perfect for Michael Cole to somewhere interject, "Vintage Undertaker!"
Mean Gene Okerlund then randomly came back out and apparently they inserted a recap video package on the non-televised speeches. Lawler came back to the podium and introduced Vince McMahon. He said the man doesn't need an introduction, but he figures he'll get fired if he doesn't.
7 -- STEVE AUSTIN INDUCTION -- via Vince McMahon
McMahon came out with a normal walk instead of the exaggerated strut. McMahon said there was a love/hate relationship between himself and Austin. ... He loved Austin and Austin hated him. McMahon played up their storyline feud while also talking about Austin breaking box office records, setting PPV buy records, merchandise sales records, and TV ratings records. McMahon said Austin blew everyone away who preceded him. He said the origin of the "What?" chant was based on them not being able to hear very well, so when they were in the ring together, they would scream out "what?" to each other when calling spots. McMahon then called him the Greatest WWE superstar of all-time.
Austin came out and hugged McMahon. Loud "Thank you, Austin" chant that lasted a solid minute. Crowd gave him a huge ovation, as they paid money to see Austin. Austin walked around the stage to salute each side of the arena and the wrestlers on the floor. He then waited out a third wave of cheers before starting his promo with a little story about the Men's Wearhouse. Austin said he doesn't dress up very often, but he grabbed this suit in Los Ang-eles, Calif. because they say you'll like the way you look, we guarantee it. Problem is, the button popped off. (Other problem was Austin's tie was way too short.)
In any event, Austin said he watched the intro video package probably 50 times to put together a speech and his thoughts on his career. He thanked the fans for sticking with him every time he left WWE and came back. Austin was apologetic, reflective, and thankful for his run as one of the top stars in WWE history. He said he set records and took the business places it had never been before.
Fans chanted, "One more match." Austin paused to smile his sideways smile in acknowledgement, but he said, "Eh, I don't know about that." Austin told us a story about his high school in South Texas doing a job assessment for the students. His test result came up Park Ranger. Obviously, it didn't work out.
Austin said he took his ball and went home many times, which he is sorry about. He thanked the fans for still supporting him every time he did. Austin said a lot of people complain about the business or think Vince McMahon is the devil, but he said the business is what you make it. He then apologized to Atlanta, Ga. for skipping a show when he was asked to put over Brock Lesnar, but he walked out on WWE and went home. He said creative made a "dumb decision," but he made a dumb decision too by no-showing Raw TV. Austin said he's a stubborn person, but it's worked for him so far.
Austin said he's going to Brazil on Monday to film a movie. He then talked about his movie career extensively. Austin said he wasn't great in his fourth wrestling match and he won't be great in his fourth movie, but he's trying. Austin then officially closed the door on his wrestling career and thanked everyone for their support. He said everyone needs their rest for WrestleMania 25, so he wrapped it up and asked for some beers. Austin chugged, ruined his rental suit, and gave a beer to John Cena in the official passing of the torch to Cena.
TALK TIME: Vince McMahon 6:34 intro and Austin 10:18 talk time. Great speech. Austin wrapped up some loose ends, cut a promo in there, gave some love to Texas, and made right with the business, so to speak. A very fitting conclusion to one of the all-time great pro wrestling careers.
-- After the ceremony ended for TV, all of the inductees and inductors returned on stage. They did one last curtain call before the ceremony wrapped up. Wrestlers and family members then filed back through the entrance tunnel. Bryan Danielson was recognized and he sheepishly smiled at the "Best in the World" chants, not really wanting to be recognized for being there at a WWE event.
THE TORCH REACHES MORE COMBAT ENTERTAINMENT FANS THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE
PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
REACHING 1 MILLION+ UNIQUE USERS PER MONTH
500 MILLION CLICKS & LISTENS PER YEAR
MILLIONS OF PWTORCH NEWSLETTERS SOLD
PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.
Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.
The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...
-New Digital PWTorch Newsletter every week
-3 New Digital PDF Back Issues from 5, 10, 20 years ago
-Over 60 new VIP Audio Shows each week
-Ad-free access to all PWTorch.com free articles
-VIP Forum access with daily interaction with PWTorch staff and well-informed fellow wrestling fans
-Tons of archived audio and text articles
-Decades of Torch Talk insider interviews in transcript and audio formats with big name stars. **SIGN UP FOR VIP ACCESS HERE**