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WWE HALL OF FAME 2021 REPORT
APRIL 6, 2021
RECORDED IN TAMPA, FL.
AIRED ON PEACOCK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
-There was a short video to put over the Hall of Fame and list those being honored tonight.
JOHN “BRADSHAW” LAYFIELD
There was a brief rundown of JBL’s career, skipping past Justin Hawk Bradshaw straight into the APA days, then culminating with the JBL phase of his career. Host Jerry Lawler introduced JBL. There was no crowd other than those watching from home on the Thunderdome screens.
JBL talked about getting cut from a World League team and turning it into the best thing that ever happened to him as he went to Minnesota to trainer Brad Rheingans and asked for a job. Because someone had no-showed an event, he ended up getting a main event spot and going twenty minutes. He fell in love with it right then. He said a lot of kind words about Eddie Guerrero, who helped make him in the business, and how he loved the white-hot heat of being a heel and not knowing if he’d get out of town alive. He said Ron Simmons was his best friend in the business and he loved every minute of working with him. He also put over John Cena as a great guy and a great choice to end the big JBL run. He took one last cheeky swipe at those who he may have wronged during his career and signed off with his “wrestling god” catchphrase.
-Rhea Ripley and Peyton Royce, on the red carpet, talked about meeting and really liking the Bella Twins tonight.
-Randy Orton talked about being able to induct his dad into the Hall previously and said it was a great bunch being inducted tonight.
-Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston put over the Bella Twins as well but Kofi took some playful swipes at them as well, because “that’s what we do.”
THE BRITISH BULLDOG
Highlights of Daveyboy’s career opened the segment, giving a small bit of time to the Bulldogs tag team and went on to cover his wonderful run in the Hart Foundation.
Smith’s son David Hart Smith, daughter Georgia Smith and widow Diana Hart Smith took the stage. Smith Jr. had a bulldog named Buffy with him and set her on the stage. He thanked the WWE Universe for years of support and said without them, none of it was possible. He said his dad was versatile and could be both powerful and athletic. He said he had a huge physique but had an even better heart. He said his dad had a great sense of humor and pulled some legendary ribs. He went back to the consensus best Bulldog match in WWE – against Bret Hart at SummerSlam at Wembley Stadium – and said it was a special moment for the entire family and is his favorite memory of his father. He said he can watch it over and over and never get tired of it. Smith Jr. got a little emotional here. He also talked about the great matches he had with Owen Hart. He said the Bulldogs helped revolutionize tag team wrestling as we know it today. He said he was glad to carry on his dad’s legacy and he knows his dad is always there in the ring with him, and is with all of us here tonight. He thanked everyone and welcomed his father to the Hall of Fame.
-Commercials for WrestleMania, centering on Orton-Fiend.
-Kevin Patrick talked to Nikki Cross on the red carpet. She said she met Georgia and Diana Smith backstage and thought they were lovely. She put over the Hall of Fame career Smith had.
-Braun Strowman said the Hall of Fame gives him chills just thinking about it and it’s the crescendo and the cherry on top for every superstar.
-Drew McIntyre said “it’s about time” for Bulldog to get elected. He said when he was young, people told him it was impossible to make it to the WWE but seeing the British Bulldog inspired him that it could be done. He wants to inspire the same for young talent.
JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER
All video of Liger in the ring was in WCW to start, but they didn’t shy away from Liger’s run as the ace in New Japan as the Junior Heavyweight Champion. Shinsuke Nakamura said Liger was his idol and the treasure of wrestling. Liger joined remotely from home in front of some WWE logos.
Liger said (subtitled) that this was the first time he was too nervous to speak. He said it was a great honor to be inducted and get a ring. He said he was very glad he became a pro wrestler. In English, he said “Thank you very much. Thank you, all my fans in WWE.”
-Sasha Banks-Bianca Belair WrestleMania spot.
-WrestleMania on Peacock spot.
Lawler talked about how Shatner actually inducted him into the Hall. We were shown the still-bizarre one-episode feud between Lawler and Shatner (though they shied away from the fact that it was to promote Shatner’s ill-fated show TekWar). The announcer talked about Shatner’s actual career accomplished interspersed with Shatner performing WWE Superstar Themes essentially as beat poetry. The announcer said may he live long and prosper.
Shatner also joined us remotely. He thanked WWE for the honor as his dog barked a lot in the background. He said it was a great honor to throw Jerry Lawler out of the ring once and he accepted the induction into the Hall of Fame as someone who was following some of his greatest heroes.
-Kevin Patrick talked to Morrison and Miz. Miz said it was one of his favorite times of the year to honor great wrestlers. Morrison and Miz both compared Shatner’s great musical chops to theirs.
-Mustafa Ali said he was honored to be there to see those who paved the way. He was very excited about nWo and to see them get the honor was huge.
-MVP and Bobby Lashley were with Kevin Patrick. MVP stayed relatively in heel character. MVP put over JBL and Lashley did as well, as he won his first WWE championship from him and he was a pioneer in the business.
-Jerry threw to the Legacy Hall of Fame for 2020:
*Ray “The Crippler” Stevens
*”Dr. Death” Steve Williams
*Baron Michele Leone
Each of the above got a brief video about their accomplishments. Williams’s unspectacular run in WWE late in his career wasn’t included.
THE BELLA TWINS
The Bellas were shown at their original tryouts, young and green, and Nikki’s record-setting Divas Championship run was mentioned leading into Total Divas and Total Bellas. Stephanie McMahon and Trish Stratus put them over. Their entrepreneurial ventures also got some time. Jerry Lawler called them his “all-time favorite divas.”
Nikki and Brie both took the stage. They did a bit where they both tried to talk first. Brie spoke first and said it was special to go in with Nicole since they’ve shared everything from their mother’s womb to a soccer field. They talked about being a twin and fighting to be the best all the time. Nikki said they may not have been picked the first time they went for it, but someone saw something in them and they found their place in it. Brie said women were only in the margins in WWE at that time, but they were going to fight like they always had. Nikki said they were able to be part of create a camaraderie backstage so the women helped each other get better rather than fight for TV time and notice. Nikki said it was a world where sometimes you win, and sometimes you watch the people you love win instead, and threw a sly look at Brie. Brie talked up the women’s revolution and called out some of her women’s wrestling contemporaries. Nikki thanked a lot of trainers and WWE creative, and even “John.” Brie thanked the Bella Army for ever and always, and also Bryan, or “sweetface.” Nikki thanked her husband and both mentioned their kids. They said together “Haters gonna hate, Bellas gonna ball.”
-NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver spot.
-Nia Jax said the Bella Twins were extremely supportive of something different in the division. She said they lead by example. Shayna Baszler said her actual company debut was on Total Divas as she was teaching Nikki some submission holds, so she felt a little pride in the Bellas going to the Hall.
-Mandy Rose also put over the Bellas. Dana Brooke was there as well and strangely wasn’t asked anything as Rose got two chances to speak.
-Lana and Naomi talked about the Bellas as well. Naomi said they love the Bellas a lot and they’ve been an inspiration to a lot of women on the roster.
-Sheamus talked about Titus O’Neil getting the Warrior Award. He said nobody backstage could possibly argue with it and ran down a list of things he’s done to help those around him. He said nobody could possibly deserve the award more.
-Bad Bunny/Damian Priest vs. Miz & Morrison spot.
WARRIOR AWARD: TITUS O’NEIL
Jerry Lawler talked about the humanitarian award, including the always-humorous line that it somehow embodies the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior. There was a video showing O’Neil’s many philanthropic and charitable pursuits with the Special Olympics and Metropolitan Ministries, among others. Lawler introduced O’Neil.
O’Neil did a brief “million dollar” dance with Lawler. He said he’s a man who grew up in poverty and is the product of sexual assault. He said he was told he would be dead or in jail by 16. He said he was put into the Florida Boys Ranch where he finally was told something important: I love you. He said he was told he was loved before that by people who couldn’t back it up with actions, and words have consequences. He mentioned his sons. He said a lot of kids are asked “What’s wrong with you?” but rarely they’re asked “What happened to you?” He said he’s been successful, but he’s always wanted a life that was not only successful but significant. He said winning the award made good on the most important part of his career: living a life of significance. He wants to set an example of what it means to be a great human being. You won’t agree with or like everyone, but you can love them and respect them – that’s what real warriors do. He thanked his family and his co-workers who helped him grow as a father, a servant and an overall man. He signed off with “to all of you – I love you, and I believe in you.” Let’s just rename the award for this man. He really does set the bar.
-Mania hype for Reigns-Bryan-Edge.
-Hype for Lashley-McIntyre.
nWo (Hulk Hogan, Syxx, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash)
This is the final 2020 inductee – beyond this they’ll all be 2021 inductees. A video of nWo’s early run in WCW played. Waltman spoke first (called “Syxx” onscreen). He thanked his wife as well as Eric Bischoff, whom he also congratulated. He thanked Scott and Kev for always having his back and he thanked Hogan for always being so good to him. He also thanked him for being able to be the one to hit him with a chair after his match with Rock. Scott Hall said “Hey yo.” He said he thought the height of his career was being inducted as a singles wrestler, but this is better. He thanked Hogan, who made him want to be a wrestler. Nash talked about the great timing of everything leading to the heat of nWo. He said he was thankful he could still do a signing and see 80% nWo shirts and little kids throwing up the hand symbol. Nash said “We might not have been the Beatles, but at least we were Led Zeppelin – who am I kidding? I am the Eggman, I am the Eggman, I am the Walrus.” Hogan, with the spray-painted big gold belt over his shoulder, talked about the formation of nWo and talked about how real it looked, and he called “Easy E” and said he made the call right away. He said the nastier and more bottom-feeding they became, the more they got cheered, and to this day nWo is still alive and he sells their merch all the time. He said he never got beat for the belt and he needs to have another run. He said they should wait in the wings and put the “real” heavyweight title up and teach everybody a lesson. He said now that they’re in the “WWE Hall of Fame 220” (whoops) it’s definitely 4 life, and they’re just. Too. SWEEEEEET!
-The show faded out and went to a WWE Network bumper before the 2021 ceremony.
-We got a video much like the one before the 2020 show with the listing of the 2021 inductees after.
-Corey Graves and Kayla Braxton were the hosts for this show. Braxton welcomed everyone to the Hall of Fame ceremony. Graves said we saw the 2020 class enshrined and tonight will be another historic tonight. Braxton introduced the first inductee, Rob Van Dam, and Graves said he was surely “riding high” on the feet of such an accomplishment.
ROB VAN DAM
The announcer narrated a video showcasing Van Dam’s athleticism and also called attention to his popular airbrushed gear. It showed some highlights of his career, as much from ECW proper as from WWE. Braxton introduced him to the stage.
Van Dam waited out a piped-in “RVD” chant. He said he drove from Battle Creek, Michigan to Florida in a Ford Mustang held together by coat hangers with $100 to become a pro wrestler. He said it was because of the fans that he wanted to be a pro wrestler. He said when his dad passed he felt so much love from everybody that it got him through the hole he was in. He said he was tickled that people derive happiness from seeing him do his thing, but that’s what people do – find their energy in their own places. He said he hopes when people think about him and his journey, they think about individuality. He said so many people tried to change him and didn’t understand him, but he just kept going. He thanked his parents for letting him follow his dreams. He thanked The Sheik for breaking him into the business and saying “Don’t listen to anyone else – they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.” He thanked ECW for putting him against some guys he grew up watching. He thanked Sabu for training him in addition to Sheik. He said every match he won, he did it together with the fans and their support. He said when he looks out to the crowd to get their support for the Five Star Frog Splash, “I don’t know a better high – and I think that I would know.” He said the induction was definitely a victory “for all of us.” He hit the catchphrase “The whole damn show – RVD.”
-WWE Shop ad, followed by a WrestleMania ad.
-Sasha Banks, on the red carpet, said she was most looking forward to Molly Holly. She met her at 15 at a show and Molly asked her if she was a model, and she talked to her for 20 minutes and made her feel wonderful. Sasha said she wanted to be just like her, always giving back to the women.
-Big E also put over Molly Holly. He watched her growth and said she definitely deserves it. Big E shook interview Greg Daniels’s hand and then walked off still holding him as Greg tried to say he had more interviews.
-Carmella piled on for Molly Holly as well, and said “she’s still a babe” and you can’t talk about the women’s revolution without Molly Holly.
Braxton and Graves teed up the Molly video. Beth Phoenix said Molly stood out for her genuineness. We got to see all the versions of her in WWE – Molly Holly and Mighty Molly before the sharp heel turn and her championship run. Natalya, Bayley, Trish Stratus and Tegan Nox all talked up her talent. Bayley said she was proof that a genuine person can make it.
Molly brought her impossibly huge smile to the stage. She said only two people have had their shaved bald at WrestleMania – one was the biggest and most influential person in wrestling, and the other was Vince McMahon. She also talked up the crew backstage and said she would’ve hung out with them at lunch in school. She said they always made her feel better, and she’d stay after and help wrap up cables just to spend more time with them. She named a very large number of them. She thanked the fans for overlooking her shortcomings and always cheering her on. For that, she’s eternally grateful.
-The Street Profits were on the red carpet. Montez Ford unsurprisingly called out fellow high-flyer RVD as a favorite. Angelo Dawkins said they’d get those “eye drops poppin'” tonight.
-Rey and Dominic Mysterio both talked up RVD and Kane. Dominic said when he was little, he had RVD’s action figures and always teamed them up with his dad. He also admitted to a lifelong fear of pyro thanks to Kane.
THE GREAT KHALI
Khali’s video outlined his championship run and how big it was in India for him to be the first. Kavita Devi talked about how much this generation owes to Khali. Khali joined us virtually.
Khali said he feels very happy and Ranjin Singh broke the news to him. He said he and his family were all happy that he was being elected to the Hall of Fame, and he can’t say how happy he is. He said “For some reason I can’t be with all of you today, but all of you are in my heart.” He thanked everyone for supporting him and showed off his ring.
-NXT: Stand and Deliver. Watch it, gang!
-Ranjin Singh got fired up about Khali being in the Hall of Fame. He said he was an inspiration to Indians everywhere.
-Bianca Belair said Molly Holly was one of her inspirations and it was a thrill to see her get her flowers and her roses and everything she deserves.
The announcer talked up Ozzy’s music career, then showed some of his appearances in wrestling, including his appearance with the British Bulldogs at WrestleMania 2. He also hosted “Raw’s Got Talent” and told Chris Masters to get a bra when he made his pecs dance. Ozzy joined us virtually.
Ozzy said he doesn’t deserve this, but thanks anyway. He said it’s about the fans. He thanked Vince McMahon and Triple H.
-More WrestleMania hype. I feel like this level of sell is unnecessary on fans who tuned into the Hall of Fame Ceremony.
-2021 Legacy Hall of Fame inductees:
*Dick the Bruiser
Bischoff got his start in wrestling by advertising on their show, and worked his way up to the top in WCW and changed everything about the perception of the company. All of the well-known prick moves he pulled were outlined, and we got a lot of smarmy nWo Bischoff. We also got the truly shocking reveal of Bischoff as the Raw GM. We also saw Bischoff being on-screen fired and driven out in a garbage truck.
Bischoff said he only had three minutes to talk and said “Wait…did I say THREE MINUTES?” and he pointed skyward to Umaga and Rosey. He talked about finishing his work in AWA in Minnesota and driving to Atlanta. He said it gave him the opportunity to explore the what ifs in his imagination, but like any road trip, it ended…until he got a call one summer that gave him invaluable opportunities and experience. He referenced the Latin phrase for standing on the shoulders of giants, which he’s had the privilege to do. He said he’s standing on a platform now and he wants to thank the giants for giving him that opportunity. He said it’s a uniquely American art form and he wants to thank each and every person for this, no matter where you are in the universe, for being part of this road trip. He said it’s been one hell of a ride and the best is yet to come.
-Hype for Mania.
-Seth Rollins, in a wild fire-covered suit, said he was inspired by Eric Bischoff for changing the game forever.
-Kevin Owens said he despised WCW as a kid and he hated WWE, so he flipped out as a fan when Eric showed up on Raw and his dad told him to keep it together. He said after getting to work with him in WWE, he was genuinely now one of his favorite people in WWE.
-Baron Corbin talked up Bischoff for not being afraid to hurt people’s feelings, and compared him to himself for his ability to generate heat, essentially. Hmm.
WARRIOR AWARD: RICH HERING
Rich was a member of the New York Athletic Commission before joining WWE, where he’s worked for fifty years. He also apparently helped the Warrior family when Ultimate Warrior died, and he got video congratulations from Dana Warrior and daughters Indiana and Mattigan Warrior.
Rich said he wished the Warrior family could be here with him today and said he was honored by the recognition. He thanked the WWE Universe and called them the unsung warriors. He thanked fans for yesterday, today and tomorrow.
-Edge talked up the Hall of Fame in general, then talked up Molly Holly, who’s a good friend of his wife Beth Phoenix. He also said that Glen, the man behind Kane, was one of his best friend and “Glen Jacobs – Kane – deserves it more than anyone.”
-Bayley is excited about Kane and said her brother Jeremy’s favorite wrestler was always Kane, and she looked into the camera and asked Kane to text Jeremy or something. She said the whole event was fun to watch.
Kane’s video opened with Paul Bearer warning Undertaker that his brother was coming. Seth Rollins said his debut was one of the best ever. Mick Foley and John Cena weighed in and we got a lot of Kane’s biggest moments. Daniel Bryan also talked about his ability to do some comedy. Chevelle’s song “The Red” played over the video, and the lyrics are pretty fitting.
Kane said things like this don’t happen to farm boys like him from Missouri. He said parents were good, decent, hardworking people and they’ve always been his biggest fans. His mom apparently loved Isaac Yankem, DDS. He said his mom also had the best sign ever at a live event – “I raised Kane.” That’s fantastic. He said his only regret was missing a lot of time with his kids and his beautiful wife Crystal. He said marriages don’t always do well in this business but they’ve been together 26 years. He said the people most responsible for getting him to WWE were Dutch Mantell, Jim Cornette and Jim Ross, and he’s sorry he paid JR back by setting him on fire. He also talked about all the people behind the scenes who make WWE work. He said it was an honor and a privilege to perform alongside his brothers and sisters in tights. He said they put smiles on faces, and the world is better for it. He also thanked Paul Bearer and Undertaker. His first match with Undertaker was actually at Smoky Mountain Wrestling before he ever joined WWE. Undertaker def. Unabomb in a Tombstone Piledriver in the first of many times Undertaker would drop him on his head. Kane said the Kane-Undertaker saga was the greatest story WWE ever told. He said they traveled millions of miles together and ran through some quick road stories and said so much of his career was due to a guy named Mark Calaway believing in a guy named Glen Jacobs. He said the journey has been wonderful and none of it is possible without the fans. He thanked the fans for making Kane for one of the most memorable characters ever. He said if someone like him can do all he’s done, then just imagine what you can do. He said he’d leave you with that, but Kane would like to leave you with this. [Pyro.] He said thank you one last time and the show faded out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s a real shame not to be able to see the throng of current and former wrestlers reacting to everything being said on the stage, so it was a very different night of honor, but they did what they could to make it seem like a real event. As always, it’s fun to see wrestlers drop character and let their hair down in the right context, and this kind of show is the right context. I can’t say there were any must-see speeches, but Kane and Titus were both very engaging and most of the others were plenty good as well, so if you’re on the fence, I think you may as well jump in.