KELLER’S WWE HALL OF FAME REPORT
MARCH 31, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
-An introductory video package aired.
-Jerry Lawler walked out as host of the Hall of Fame. He immediately threw to a DDP intro video.
-The DDP intro video included a clip of Triple H calling DDP and informing him he’d be inducted this year. DDP got choked up. Then came lots of clips of his WCW career and comments from various people including Eric Bischoff, Scott Hall, and Mick Foley. Then it shifted to showing the DDP Yoga era of his post-wrestling life.
-Eric Bischoff walked out to officially introduce DDP. A “Welcome Back” chant broke out. He talked about DDP’s heart. He choked up as he said he wishes someone else was inducting DDP – Dusty Rhodes. They showed people in the crowd smiling, tearing, and applauding. Bischoff went back to when he first met DDP in 1988 as a manager of Pat Tanaka & Paul Diamond. He talked about how DDP towered over the wrestlers he managed. He said it might not seem like a big deal, but what if Paul Heyman was 6-11 and shredded with muscles managing Brock Lesnar. He said DDP was loud and flamboyant “and my god was he obnoxious.” He said one night after a TV event, they ended up in a bar fight. He said they got pulled apart. He said he didn’t shed a tear when DDP left for WCW. He talked about DDP recruiting Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to WCW.
He said back in the AWA where he still was, Verne Gagne was ready to shut the doors and he needed a job really bad. He said he failed his WWE audition with Vince McMahon about a year before. He said he got a call to audition for WCW. He said he needed a job badly. He walked in the door and discovered that DDP was his color commentator, the man he got in a fight with a few months before. He said DDP didn’t bring that baggage to the table. He said he got the gig, in great part due to DDP.
He said they travelled together, and DDP was still loud, flamboyant, and obnoxious. “I’m sorry Page, but anybody who knows you is going to tell you the same thing.” He said he learned to respect his desire, passion, and commitment. He said he was motivated to go to work at the WCW Power Plant and start training as an in-ring performer. He said to survive, he had to make himself more valuable. He said he trained in the Power Plant with Jody Hamilton and Dusty Rhodes at age 35. He said that well past the age he should be thinking of learning to wrestle, but he was relentless. He said Page videotaped everything and would corner anyone to get ideas on how he could be get better. He said he went from a too-tall manager to an announcer to an in-ring performer (not “wrestler,” apparently).
He said he was a walking talking gimmick machine. “There wasn’t a gimmick he wouldn’t try,” he said. He said DDP went on to have some career highlight moments in matches against opponents such as Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Curt Hennig, Eddie Guerrero, Hulk Hogan, and Bill Goldberg. He said he respects DDP and he’s there because of his hard work and success. He said he’s there because of his heart more than anything else. He said Hall and Jake won’t argue that they’re there because of the heart DDP showed for them. He then introduced DDP.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s one of the better introductions over the years. It was entertaining, it established Bischoff’s connection with DDP without making it any more about him than it had to be, and he really captured DDP’s entire career path without a missing an important chapter – all without overstaying his welcome. Classy performance.)
-DDP walked out (at 8:19 p.m. ET) with his four daughters. He said he used to have Diamond Dolls, but now he has Diamond Daughters. He told them it was time to leave. Then he took a sip of water and yelled, “Wow!” DDP said he drove Rhythm & Blues to the ring at WrestleMania 6, and now he’s going into the WWE Hall of Fame before WrestleMania 33. A loud “You deserve it!” chant broke out. He got choked up. He said Lee Marshall once called him The Anamoly. He said according to Star Trek it’s something that’s not supposed to happen.
He said this evening is bitter sweet because Dusty isn’t there. He said Dusty told him he reminds him of Captain Lou Albano, Jesse Ventura, and a little of him. Dusty said they’re going to make him the Jesse Ventura of the ’90s. He said Michael Hayes laughed at the very prospect of him wrestling. They showed Hayes in the crowd laughing and nodding. He said when he started training, he told himself “Man, this fake stuff hurts like hell!”
He thanked Jody Hamilton and Terry Taylor. They showed Terry in the crowd. He thanked Dusty’s wife, Michelle. He thanked Bischoff next because he was the one who told him to drop all of his gimmicks. He thanked John Laurinaitis for giving him a finish, which he made his own. He thanked Ron Reis at the Power Plan for giving him the idea for the hand gesture. He thanked the fans for cheering for him and telling the booking committee they liked him.
He talked about Hayes calling him say he was never more happy to be wrong. He said Jake called him and congratulated him for reinventing the DDT. He then talked about the influence of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash on his hot run. They cut to crowd shots of Hall smiling and Nash listening intently.
[15 minutes. 15 minutes gone by in this speech!]
He then told a Randy Savage story, and he said when he hugged him, he was hugged harder than he had ever been hugged in his life. “Thank you, Mach, wherever you are.” He then thanked The Hulkster. “I love him,” he said. He said in 1994, Hogan walked up to him and said somewhere down the line, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he has the ability to draw huge money with him. He said fast-forward to 1998, Hulkster and Dennis Rodman were on “The Tonight Show” and he walked in with Karl Malone of the NBA and shot their angle on the world stage. “It turned out to be the greatest drawing pay-per-view in the history of WCW,” he said.
He thanked the doctors and trainers who have put him back together many times. He thanked his ex-wife Kimberly. “It was an awesome ride, buddy,” he said. He said she always had his back, especially when she thought he was out of his mind. He thanked his current wife, Brenda. He said she is a breast cancer survivor. He said they did it the holistic way and she is his super hero. “You make me want to be the best husband possible,” he said. He said he’s always evolving. He said he’s like Jack Lallane meets Tony Robbins meets straight Richard Simmons. The crowd laughed.
He listed: Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Dustin Rhodes, A.J. Styles, The Miz, Curt Hawkins, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Titus, Zack Ryder, Booker T, RVD, Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Scott Hall, Bray Wyatt, and especially Chris Jericho. They showed Jericho in the crowd. A “Y2J!” chant broke out. He said “C.J.” (Jericho) blew his back out about five years ago. He said he showed him a disabled veteran who did the DDP Yoga program. He said he did it and now he bounces around like he’s 24.
He thanked his family and friends for putting up with his insane schedule. He thanked the DDP Yoga people from all over the world for believing in him. He thanked the documentary makers for the Jake & Scott movie. He thanked Goldberg for a hell of a match. “And lastly, I want to thank my mom,” he said. “For always letting me believe that I could do anything.”
He said he was on his last story. He said Dusty was like his dad, and he would listen to him vent. He said as he went on and on, Dusty raked his eyes and told him, “That is enough! What did you just say?” Lisping, of course. He told him to get out of his pity party about never being able to be like some of the top stars or be World Champion. He said if he doesn’t think he can be World Champion, he should get the hell out of the business right then. He said he wrote down: I will be World Champion in five years. He told the audience not to just dream, but ink it and own it. He said it was four years, four months, and fourteen days that he became champion. He talked about Sting, Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair. He thanked Flair for changing his life that night and moving him one step closer to this podium. He said he will never forget and he is truly thankful. He said when special referee Randy Savage presented him with the title, he felt a sense of peace. He said Albert Einstein said he isn’t smarter, he just worked on the problem longer than anyone else.
He said when Dusty called him, he told Dusty it felt real. Dusty replied: “That’s because it is.” He said his buddy Jim Ross has called him one of the biggest overachievers ever. He said to be an overachiever, you must first be an over-believer. “Never, never give up the power you give yourself by believing in you.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Hey, he clocked in under 30 minutes. Pay up, those who didn’t think DDP could do it! That was exactly what I expected from DDP in this situation. He has a great story to tell, and the charisma and charm to deliver it with class and verve. Really good first 45 minutes to the evening.)
-They showed Roman Reigns in the crowd. The building erupted in boos. He pretended not to be hurt as he chomped on is gum. There is almost no way to chew gum and not look like a complete heel. He raised his eye brows at the camera.
-They went back to Lawler who threw to a Rock ‘n’ Roll Express video package.
-Jim Cornette came out for the introduction. Lawler called him “irrepressible.” He walked out with his tennis racquet. “Oh my God. Well, here we go.” He said, “I’m Jim Cornette and this is a live microphone and the audio guy is on Xanex.” He said the speech has been so built up that he could give a combination of the Gettysburg Address and the Sermon on the Mountain “and you’d still go home disappointed.” He said he knows the over/under on this speech is Sunday morning. He pulled out some notes so he could keep it to Saturday night.
He thanked Lawler and said 34 years ago he had an idea. He said MTV back then was the hottest thing in entertainment. He said he had a couple of young guys in his territory named Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. He said they needed a gimmick. He said he decided to give them bandanas and spandex partners. He said the spandex pants were especially flattering to Robert Gibson. He said he put them on him and they debuted at the Memphis Mid-South Coliseum. He said it wasn’t just a marketing gimmick. He said they had grown up in a ring and cut their teeth on turnbuckles because Ricky’s father, Paul Morton, set up rings and referees and promoted ticket sales. He said Robert’s older brother, Ricky Gibson, was one of the best in-ring performers he has ever seen. He said he watched his matches with Lawler and so did Gibson. He said they also learned how to connect with the crowd and learned what fans liked and didn’t like. He said it wasn’t just a physical part, it was a mental part that they mastered.
He said they had to get away and go somewhere fresh now that they had their business together. He said that’s when “Cowboy” Bill Watts came along and took them to Mid-South Wrestling. He said they were an instant sensaion there. “They were Justin Bieber before Justin Bieber was born.” He said Ricky & Robert had more sex on their way to the ring than most people had in a year. He said it was brutal to watch. He said the women loved them, but the guys loved them too because they had guts. He said when you fought R&R, they were quicker and smarter than you. He said if you got the advantage, especially if you got Ricky down, he took “a classic butt kicking.” He said he would mouth to the fans “help me.” Cornette said, “Oh bloody hell would they help him!” He said he was beat up more by the fans of the R&R Express than the R&R Express themselves.
He said Robert was the “clean up guy” when he got the hot tag. He said they’d throw the double dropkick. He said Batman needed The Joker, Superman needed Lex Luthor, and the Rock & Roll Express needed The Midnight Express. He said Watts gave him, Dennis Condrey, and Bobby Eaton a chance, too. He said it was a battle of polar opposites in the battle of the Expresses. He said the Midnight Express were liars and cheaters and thieves who would break every rule and do what they had to do to win. He said those matches were magic. He said for a bunch of guys in their 20s who just a few months before that had been at the county fair and now they’re in the main event in front of 25,000 people at the SuperDome, it was cool.
He said there were two guys who wanted them to go to Charlotte – Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. He said they were on national TV and headlining major arenas across the United States setting more attendance records. He said when they got a new member, Stan Lane, they did it all over again. He said backstage politics led to the breakup of the Midnight Express. He said they were the backbone of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He said it was a project near and dear to his heart and he said he lost hair and brain cells and sanity, trying to recreate a terirtory the way it used to be the way you like it (the SMW catchphrase). He said it wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did without the R&R Express. He said in the 1990s, they also made their WWE debut and opened up a whole new generation and worldwide audience to “what rock ‘n’ roll was all about.” He said they always delivered and gave the people what they came to see. He said more than one member of the WWE roster over the years has told him that the first time they saw those four in action, that is when they knew what they wanted to be – wrestlers. He said that’s the impression they made night after night with so many people.
He said in the 2000s, they were fighting guys half their age, and they began fighting the Midnight Express all over again at legends shows. He said the rivalry lasted 27 years. He said it might be rivaled by Betty Davis and Joan Crawford or Bobo Brazil and The Sheik. He said they’re still going – “maybe not quite as often” – but now they’re fighting guys half their age and are training wrestlers a third of their age. He told some age jokes. He said they are a national treasure.
He talked about what they meant to fans. He said one family had a framed picture of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express on one side of the Christmas tree and a framed picture of Jesus Christ on the other. “That’s when you know you’re over.” He said he feels transported back in time when they were in front of 15,000 or 20,000 people across the country with a loud chant of “Rock ‘n’ Roll!” It didn’t lead to the desired chant, unfortunately. He then introduced them.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good speech. He stayed in bounds. There was nothing controversial about it. I feel like this wasn’t quite the audience, sadly, that would appreciate the trip down memory lane, but hopefully it was a history lesson for many of them.)
Out came the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Then came the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” chant, finally. Nice to see. Ricky said a promoter told him regarding Cornette that if he can get as much heat from the fans as he did the locker room, they’d make millions. He joked about hell not freezing over despite Cornette being there in a WWE setting. Robert Gibson said getting the WWE Hall of Fame call was the most amazing call of his life. He said right after that his two kids, his son and daughter, called him and said he’s going to be a grandfather. He might have wanted to clarify the details of that story. Morton said he’s got seven grandkids. Gibson chimed in, “And they all look like me.” Gibson said they’ll still active in the business. Ricky said, “And I guarantee you our independent rate just went way up.”
Ricky said pro wrestling went from a sacred business to one of the biggest global sports entertainment enterprises. He said they went through so much to pave the way. They showed Reigns on the screen and the crowd erupted in boos. It threw off Morton and Gibson. Ricky said Jimmy Hart and Jerry Lawler believed in them and their gimmick worked. He thanked Bill Watts, “Superstar” Bill Dundee, and Jim Ross for believing in them. He said they followed the yellow brick road to the Carolinas to see the wizard, Dusty Rhodes. He said it was Dusty’s vision that made them who they are. They showed Ziggler and Styles laughing uproariously after Gibson asked Morton to show them his tongue after Morton compared them to Gene Simmons and KISS.
He said he watched Shawn Michaels grow up. He thanked Nash “for keeping us alive in the business.” He thanked Flair for the PhD. He called him the greatest heavyweight champ of all time. He called for a “woo” at the count of three. Morton is such a ham. They saluted Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin. Morton said he told Hayes to just hit him as hard as he could because his worked punch was going to send him to the hospital anyway. They showed Hayes laughing. Gibson said he and Hayes used to hitchhike to the matches to set up the wrestling ring. “That’s how much we loved the business.”
Gibson said they made history with another tag team that he hopes are up there very soon – Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane, and Jim Cornette. He said he hopes they’re on that stage some day soon. Gibson thanked his fiancé and other family members. Ricky said he and Robert have been around the world many times for many decades and shared life’s tragedies. He said he’d never change anything because Robert was the greatest person he ever met in his life. Ricky turned around to hide his tears, then hugged Gibson. Gibson shed tears. As Ricky wandered to the side of the stage, Robert called for Ricky to join him at the podium as Ricky wandered to the other side of the stage waving at fans.
(Keller’s Analysis: A little scattershot, but endearingly so. Ricky acted like the toddler at the wedding who keeps wandering away from their parents.)
-After some commercials, Lawler threw to a video package on Rick Rude, saying if Rude was there, he’d tell the “sweat hogs from Orlando to watch what a real man looks like.” Natalya said he was Picasso showing his masterpiece. They aired soundbites with Paul Heyman, Booker T, Michael Cole, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, Sam Roberts, Shawn Michaels, John Cena, and The Miz.
-Ricky Steamboat walked out, looking rested and distinguished. He said he wears his Hall of Fame ring every day of his life. He said they broke the mold after Rick Rude. He talked about Rude’s background, training with Eddie Sharkey in 1982, winning numerous regional titles along the way to the WCW World Championship. He said Fit Finlay said Rude was stingy and didn’t want to transfer any of his heat to anybody. He said he was a true heel. He said he’d pick out a fan and tell a guy he wants his six pack, then tell the woman next to him she wishes her guy had a six pack.
He told stories of how impressive Rude was at the gym. He said you could feel it when you shook hands, or when you worked with him in the ring. “Anyway he wanted you to move, he’d move you. You could feel the strength in his body,” he said. He said he in the match, he had a sense of good timing. He talked about a 30 minute Iron Man match he had with him, and how he sold it when doing an abdominal hip swivel, still selling his ribs from earlier in the match. Steamboat talked about him being an enforcer for DX and a member of the Bobby Heenan Family. He left “The Dangerous Alliance.” He said in the ring he was a bit snug. Not stiff, but you knew he was there. He invited Rude’s family on to the stage.
-Rude’s son, Rick Rood, and his wife and daughter Michelle and Marisa. Rich Jr. said he had never spoken in public like this, and he wasn’t sure what to say, so he imagined what his dad would say. He then did a bit insulting the fans as sweat hogs and told them to keep it quiet so they can get what they came for tonight. He talked about his dad’s history, being raised in Robinsdale, Minnesota, one of six children in a single-parent home. He said he was taught to work hard so he could change his situation. “As Steve Austin would tell you, he enjoyed trying to hunt.” He mentioned his mom and deceased brother.
(Keller’s Analysis: Steamboat was Steamboat. Just passable in delivery, while a little more reliant on notes and just reciting facts on occasion from the notes. Still, he conveyed well a lot of what made Rick Rude the person and the wrestler who he was. There didn’t seem to be a huge personal connection with him and Rude.)
-A commercial aired for NXT Takeover.
-A video aired on Beth Phoenix.
-Lawler introduced Natalya, saying she is taking time away from preparing for her match at WrestleMania on Sunday and posting pictures of her cat on Instagram. Natalya plugged @twopaws on Instagram to a mixed response. She said Mark Henry, when he first met her, said she was going to be the next Glamazon. She told some nice stories of her friendship with Beth Phoenix. She said during their time on the road, they became great friends.
She talked about how Beth is a mother of two, a classic pianist, having a master’s degree in forensic psychology, and is able to bench press 220 pounds. “I’ll have you know that’s two Carmellas,” she said. They cut to Carmella laughing so quickly, the director had to know that line was coming. She said to this day, she is so jealous Beth got to kiss The Great Khali and she didn’t. “Sorry T.J.,” she said, laughing, a reference to her husband.
She said she believes that Beth was Uncle Owen’s gift from heaven to her because she believes in fate because of her. She told the fans to give it up for her best friend, soulmate, and destiny, Beth Phoenix.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s a tremendous introduction speech. You really sensed the affection Natalya had for her from the start.)
Phoenix said her fake eyelashes are already ruined with tears. She said she’s a mom now and she’ll put them in time out if they don’t settle down. “I’ll do it!” she said. She said her first love is wrestling, and you never forget your first love. She said her grandmother got her into wrestling, and she grew up watching WCW. She said WrestleMania 10 changed everything for her when she saw Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. She said a switch flipped for her. She said that work of art stayed with her and affected her. She decided that’s what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said in college the first thing she did was put a big poster of Steve Austin on her wall. She said her roommate told her she can be a pro wrestler if she wants to be.
She thanked her trainer Ron Hutchinson who is credited with also training Edge, Christian, and Trish Stratus. She said she carried his wisdom with her every day of her career. She thanked some others, includign the Samoans for their hospitality, and then talked about her nervousness when she got her first WWE tryout. As soon as she talked herself into not being intimidated, she ripped a big metal door open and smacked directly into Brock Lesnar. She said then she headed to the ring to workout and saw the Dudley Boyz, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Val Venis, Simon Dean, Nick Dinsmore, William Regal, and Chavo and Eddie Guerrero. She talked about Nora Greenwald, a/k/a Molly Holly. They showed her in the crowd. She said Nora put her in touch with Nick Dinsmore and Danny Davis, who helped train her. She said Nora had quietly paid her tuition so she could chase her dreams. They showed Nora tearing up in the audience. She said you can always tell who the strong women are, because they’re the ones who build each other up instead of tearing each other down. She said that is who Nora is.
She listed people in OVW including Lance Storm, Al Snow, Jim Cornette, Robert Gibson, Aaron Stevens, and Paul Heyman who helped her at that stage of her career. Heyman got the biggest reaction. Then she mentioned Tommy Dreamer. They showed him in the crowd, smiling. An “ECW” chant broke out. She said he is the champion of the little guy. She said she wasn’t sure if anyone loves pro wrestling more than him. She said he fought for her when the door closed, and has been her friend.
She talked about her time on the main roster, and listed women she worked with: Gail Kim, Katie Lee Burchill, Melina, Maria, Nikki & Brie Bella, Vickie Guerrero, Tamina, Michelle McCool, Layla, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, Eve, Trish Stratus, among a few others. She spoke in more detail about Candice and Mickie James. She said Mickie was her first opponent. She said she is a leader. “Every night wrestling Mickie was a night off, because it was so fun it was criminal.” She talked about Eve Torres, gushing compliments on her.
She told some Santino Marella stories. Then she talked up her friend, Natalya. She listed some of today’s women wrestlers. She listed more and more names and said it takes a village to raise a WWE Superstar. She began listing even more names. Some that she mentioned earlier, now a second time. Chyna got a big pop. She talked about her breaking down doors for her. Then she began thanking her family, each by name. She finally got around to mentioning “my husband, Adam.” That got a big pop. which seemed to surprise Beth. He was in the crowd with their daughter.
She was suddenly interrupted by Tony Chimmel. He said we all know him as Edge. Edge’s music played. He was all teared up. She said being a wrestler and being married is a challenge, but being married to a wrestler is another level. She told some jokes. Then she talked about how important her daughters are to her. She gave her daughters life advice if they ever watch this back when they’re older.
(Keller’s Analysis: Every section of Beth’s speech was nicely delivered and a lot of times inspiring or touching. She came across as a super nice and a credit to the industry. Just classy start to finish. That said, in these speeches, you have to make tough calls to keep them a certain length, and not enough tough calls were made here. It was just too long. It started to resemble a Bill Clinton State of the Union back in the day when he’d notoriously, exhaustively mention every special interest group and initiative. I’m not sure who was left by the time she was done that have earned a pro wrestling paycheck that she didn’t mention! But again, she more than anything came across as classy and kind.)
-Back live, Goldberg stood up to a mixed reaction, mostly boos.
-Lawler was back at the podium. He introduced the Warrior Awards recipient. A video aired on Eric LaGrand, an NFL player who suffered an on-field paralysis injury. Dana Warrior came out to give a speech. She talked about super heroes who bring stories to life. “We have Evil Queens,” she said. They cut to Stephanie, who laughed enthusiastically to a largely muted reaction. She said they all leave it on the mat “with no off-season.” She said it’s done to prove “who is the man.” They cut to a smiling Triple H.
She talked about a Warrior “so electric and vibrant, they called him Ultimate.” LeGrand spoke about his story, promoting paralysis research, and what WWE means to him.
-A WrestleMania commecial aired.
-They showed Miz and Maryse in the crowd. Miz waved his hand in front of his face.
-Lawler introduced a Teddy Long video. Lawler said his inductors got kicked out of a bar just in time to be here tonight.
-JBL and Ron Simmons walked out. They got a big ovation. JBL said, “The main thing we have learned tonight is that when you give a bunch of old guys a live microphone, they forget the two most important words in the business.” Simmons: “And that is go home.” JBL: “I was afraid we were going to induct Teddy into the 2018 Hall of Fame.” He said Teddy’s an old man, so they have to get going. JBL said he’s the cheapest man on the planet. He said never paid for anything on the road. Simmons pulled out a sheet of paper that tallied what Long owes them. It was 72K and change. “Which we will never see a dime of,” Simmons said.
They talked about Teddy’s history being around the civil rights movement and how closely it affected him. He talked about various black wrestlers paving the way for others. Then they introduced him as the cheapest human being on the planet.
-Teddy danced onto the stage in a bright red sports coat. He pretended to throw out his back. JBL and Simmons helped him. He yelled, “Got you!” He admitted to being cheap. He got some cheers when he said he isn’t one of those long-winded types who will keep them all night. That got some cheers. He then immediately talked about his start in wrestling in 1983. And he marched through every stage from referee to manager to G.M. of Smackdown. He thanked the McMahon family, and he said he appreciated the opportunity he was given. He said he proved people wrong who said he couldn’t do it. He talked about his son and his wife. She was filming it with her phone. Someone should tell her that it’s forever on WWE Network and she can probably ask for a copy. Teddy then did some signature lines from his days as G.M. The crowd chanted “Teddy! Teddy!” He said he is a “Holla holla holla fame.” He then danced some more.
(Keller’s Analysis: If you had your money on Teddy being the Hall of Famer who would be the first to dance, you win. If you said Beth Phoenix or DDP, what in the hell were you thinking? JBL and Simmons gave a fun-loving introduction with some entertaining road stories. I got a kick out of the juxtaposition of Teddy saying he wouldn’t be long, but then saying “back in 1983” and then marching through every stage of his career. It looked like it was going to be a while, but then he managed to rather briskly get through a lot of the latter chapters of his career.)
-Another WrestleMania commercial.
-Lawler threw to the Legacy Class of 2017 – Judy Grable, Haystacks Calhoun, Edward “Bearcat” Wright, Farmer Burns, Rikidozan, Luther Lindsay, June Byers, Toots Mondt (He “forever changed the landscape of sports entertainment,” said the narrator), and Dr. Jerry Graham.
-Lawler threw to a Kurt Angle video package. They had soundbites with The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Shane McMahon, A.J. Styles, Booker T, Samoa Joe, Chris Jericho, The Miz, Shawn Michaels, Stephanie McMahon, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Pat Patterson.
-Lawler introduced John Cena next. The crowd sang “John Cena sucks!” and he smiled and took it. “It’s very nice to see all of you, too,” he said. “I think this is the first time we all feel the same way.” A loud “Let’s go Miz!” chant broke out. He said a lot of energy for Sunday is already there tonight. He said never before and never again will they have someone who was so athletically gifted but also with a personality larger than life. He threw some more compliments his way, then introduced Angle, saying “It’s true, it’s damn true.”
-Kurt Angle walked out to the podium. The crowd chanted “One More Match!” He said he just got there so give it some time. He told some funny stories about his early interactions with WWE, including telling Vince McMahon if he signed the contract he offered, he could never lose a match. He said he didn’t hear back from Vince after that for a long time. He said he picked up the sport faster than anyone else, and he had a lot of great help. He listed many people who helped: Jim Ross, Dory Funk Jr., Bruce Prichard, Tom Prichard, Jerry Brisco, Pat Patterson, Johnny Laurinatis, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, Fit Finlay, and Terry Taylor. He said two unsung heroes lost their lives early on when they were in their 30s – Steve Bradley and Shawn Evans. He thanked them for what they did for him.
He said when he started on TV, it had only been 12 months since he first stepped foot inside the ring. He talked about having great opponents: Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz (“Delete” chant broke out), Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, and Rikishi. He smiled and said he’s naming everybody, but he felt he had to name them all. He said two years in he got in a groove and “I was literally one of the best in the business and I couldn’t believe it.” He talked up Shawn Michaels, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, John Cena, and “that crazy son of a bitch, Shane McMahon.” He said he can’t wait to see him against A.J. Styles on Sunday.
He said he wants to give advice to the “sports entertainers in the crowd.” He said he’s done a lot of good and bad in his years. “Limit your mistakes, know what you’re allowed to do and not allowed to do. Follow the protocol and use common sense. Don’t be the guy or girl who everybody says he could have been the greatest of all time if he just stayed out of trouble. He told them to take chances with their personalities and their character. He said sometimes when you make fun of yourself, it turns out in your favor.
He talked about the tiny cowboy hat. Someone brought one to him. He put it on. It looked ridiculous, so perfect. He began singing “Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don’t Care,” as he did in the skit where he wore the hat with Austin and Vince McMahon. Then he put on a wig and headgear. He said he made the Immortal Hulk Hogan tap out with that on. They cut to Orton laughing; Bruno Sammartino was smiling in the background. They also cut to Sami Zayn laughing.
He talked about “woo’ing” with Angle and battle-raps with Cena. He said his favorite was “I’m just a sexy Kurt!” The crowd sang along and Kurt just hammed it up like crazy. It was the high point of the night. The crowd stood and applauded.
He said the fans will remember the wrestling matches for a long time, but they want the character moments, too, because they last forever. He said his favorite moment was the milk truck. He said he’s not driving one onto the stage. He thanked the WWE Universe for making it fun for him. He thanked his brothers and sister and mom and dad. He thanked his five children and said, “You guys are my life.”
He thanked “the one person who saved my life.” He said she was with him for his best and worst. He teared up as he saluted her. And then he said he is going to celebrate the only way he knows how. He turned his back and he was brought two jugs of milk. He said he is the 2017 Hall of Famer. “It’s true, it’s damn true!” They showed Mojo Rawley laughing uproariously as Angle poured the milk all over this face and suit. That’ll be a pleasant ride to the hotel.
-They cut to the crowd. Nash stood and turned to talk to Sting as they cut away to another “Ultimate Thrill Ride” commercial.
(Keller’s Analysis: Great job by Angle. You could see the charm and charisma that made him such a big personality on WWE TV during his prime early years. He didn’t overstay his welcome either, as they were approaching the four hour mark as the wrapped up, but you didn’t feel he rushed it at all, either. I still think he’d have been an even bigger star had they not gone down the tempting road to having him be so damn funny all the time, because a more serious Angle could have been more of a draw than it turned out he was. Still, a true gem of a talent and the signing of “I’m Just a Sexy Kurt” will be one of those late slideshow moments that drive you nuts on other websites when they rank the best Hall of Fame moments in history.) ###