LECLAIR’S WWE HALL OF FAME 2022 REPORT: Detailed coverage of 2022 induction ceremony featuring The Undertaker

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE HALL OF FAME 2022 REPORT
APRIL 1, 2022
DALLAS, TX AT AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK

-Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the Hall of Fame kickoff. An on-screen timer indicated that the actual show would begin in 15 minutes. Cole tossed to backstage correspondents Maria Menounos, Kayla Braxton, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton. They talked about the honorees before tossing to a video package celebrating each inductee. In between quick interviews with current talent, the camera showed some glimpses of the production team frantically changing the Smackdown set over for the ceremony.

-The show officially began at 18 minutes past the hour with another full intro package.

-The camera panned around the American Airlines Center slowly as the crowd applauded. A voice over the P.A. welcomed the show’s hosts, Corey Graves and Kayla Braxton. Graves and Braxton previewed the night’s inductees before tossing to a promo package for the Steiner Brothers.

Corey Graves and Kayla Braxton welcomed Bron Breakker to induct his father and uncle. Breakker walked through a collection of past and present talent seated on the entrance stage. He barked toward the crowd before stepping in the ring proudly. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, they did it!” Breakker began. He said his father and uncle were great to their family. He said there’d be no Bron Breakker without their contributions. Breakker said he was about to make the biggest risk of his career but turning the microphone over to his uncle Scott. He welcomed the Steiner Brothers.

Rick and Scott Steiner made their way down the ramp, shaking hands with the likes of J.B.L. and Randy Orton as they passed them on the stage. Breakker hugged both men before stepping out of the ring.

THE STEINER BROTHERS

Scott Steiner said giving him a live mic can sometimes go good, but “it could go off the rails.” He thanked the list of tag teams he and his brother wrestled over the years – saying it takes two, or, in this case, four, to make it all work. Scott thanked Macho Man Randy Savage for being a great travel partner. He said he turned every drive into a competition. He launched into a story about riding through upstate New York, where Savage pulled their rental car over and told Scott he could get a family of cows to come to him before Scott could. Scott “moo’ed” at them, but the cows didn’t respond. “I got some food!” he yelled, “I don’t know why I thought those cows spoke English.” The crowd let out a small laugh. Scott said as he turned around to leave, he saw the cows run for Macho Man. Steiner said Savage never told him how he did it. “I swear he knew those cows,” Steiner concluded.

Scott turned his attention to the current crop of wrestlers. He told them to enjoy the weekend. He said the days are long, the nights are short. “Before you know it, you’ll be the one staring out here.” Scott said all his hard work paid off, from winning the Tag Team titles with his brother, to becoming a World Champion on his own. Steiner said those times were great, but there was nothing better than meeting his wife. “I don’t have any great marriage secrets, except she’s right.” Scott said his two boys are his reason for being. The camera cut to his family at ringside. Scott said his legacy will live forever in the WWE Hall of Fame, but his greatest legacy is his two boys.

Rick stepped to the podium. “Thanks for leaving me time to speak, Rick said.” He said they gave them four minutes to speak and Scott took three. Rick thanked his family for understanding – missing the birthdays, shortening the holidays all so he could be on the road. He gave a shout out to his local county schools for helping him take his next steps after wrestling. Rick said he wanted to thank his brother the most. “It’s icing on the cake when you get to do what you love with your brother.” Rick thanked Scott and everyone who supported the Steiners. He gave a final bark and the duo were ushered off stage.

-A promo aired for Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania night 2.

-Corey Graves and Kayla Braxton hyped up the spectacle of WrestleMania. Braxton said she couldn’t wait for Saturday and Sunday. She transitioned to a video package for the next inductee, Queen Sharmell. After the video, Graves said it’s against the royal code to induct a Queen without her King. Kayla agreed, and introduced Booker T to induct his wife.

Booker T headed down the ramp, slapping hands with wrestlers and fans alike. He stopped by his family before stepping into the ring to respectful applause. Booker said when he was inducted in 2013, he thought he’d only have a chance to something like that only once. Then, in 2019, he got to do it again. “Now I get to do it just one more time.” Booker said quoted Michael P.S. Hayes, “when I’m good, I’m good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” Booker said that summed up his Queen Sharmell. “I said it in 2013, and I’ll say it again today – she made me a better man.”Booker said his most memorable run as King Booker wasn’t about him, but about Sharmell. “It was spectacular,” he said, “it’s the run I’ll be remembered for in WWE.” He welcomed his Queen, his love, and his wife – Queen Sharmell.

Wrestlers in the aisle stood and bowed to Sharmell as she walked down the ramp. She held her flowing dress off the ground and bowed repeatedly. Booker repeated “all hail Queen Sharmell” before helping her up the steps and into the ring.

QUEEN SHARMELL

A “you deserve it” chant broke out as Sharmell took her place at the podium. She was overcome with emotion. She thanked the fans and said it was an honor to join her King in the hallowed halls of the WWE Hall of Fame. Sharmell said her story began as a Nitro Girl. She talked about growing up in the Power Plan with Molly Holly and Torrie Wilson. She shouted out Rey Mysterio, thanking him for all of their moments opposite each other.

“Of course, I still look over my shoulder for the Boogeyman.” Sharmell thanked him, and so many of the other characters she had the pleasure of working with over her time in WWE. She thanked her husband, Booker T. Sharmell said it was a joy to illicit boos from the audience. “It was one of the great joys in my life to entertain you.” She thanked a number of backstage personnel, including Johnny Ace and Bruce Prichard. Sharmell said she and Booker opened their wrestling school seventeen years ago with the hopes of becoming a feeder system, and they’ve worked tirelessly to help their students make their dreams come true the way the fans did for her.

Sharmell thanked her hometown of Gary, Indiana. She shouted out her brother Ron, and her mother, whom she said traveled up and down the road with her and helped her chase all her dreams. She thanked her twins, then turned her attention to Booker. She thanked him for choosing her. “You are my proof that fairy tails really do come true,” she gave Booker a kiss. She concluded by thanking WWE for the opportunity and the honor. She gave a traditional Queen’s wave and celebrated with Booker.

-A promo aired for Bianca Belair vs. Becky Lynch at WrestleMania night 1.

-Corey Graves said it’s time to present the Warrior Award. Kayla Braxton touted the merits of the award. Graves said that this year’s recipient embodied the virtues of the award. He tossed to a video package for Shad Gaspard. Kayla Braxton introduced Dana Warrior to present the Warrior Award.

Dana said it would be impossible not to be moved by the valiant character of Shad Gaspard. She said he’s the definition of a true hero and warrior. Dana said that Shad was a doting husband and father who had a soft side in fatherhood. “As a parent, there is no more primal urge than the protection of one’s children.” Dana said Shad faced his entirely life with nobility. She said his ultimate goodness will be his legacy. “Real warriors don’t do anything for the vision of glory, they do what they do because they could never do otherwise.” The crowd applauded. Dana said it’s an honor to present the award to Shad’s wife and son. She welcomed Siliana and Aryeh, who were accompanied by JTG.

WARRIOR AWARD: SHAD GASPARD

Siliana took a deep breath. She thanked Dana, and WWE. She said Shad was a warrior, and it’s how he lived his life everyday. Siliana said she’d risk himself for others to know they were safe. The crowd applauded loudly. She checked on Aryeh. He smiled. The crowd chanted “Shad’s a hero.” Siliana said her husband was a real man and a real hero – a real gentle giant. She said she and Aryeh are here today because of Shad’s dedication and his desire to be a WWE Superstar.

Siliana mentioned that, in 2016, Shad stopped an armed robbery. He calmly walked the perpetrator into the parking lot and body slammed him. “I heard Jason was there, but he didn’t help.” She looked to JTG and they shared a laugh. Siliana said more recently, their beloved family dog had gone missing. Shad worked for two months on leads, and eventually found the dog’s captor. The situation ended in a high speed chase where Shad “did some things I can’t talk about in this speech.” Siliana went on to say that dog is sleeping peacefully on their couch at home tonight.

“Shad used to tell our son that there are two types of men in the world – wolves and sheep-dogs.” Siliana said Shad told Aryeh to be a sheep-dog, because they protect flocks of sheep from the wolves and are empathetic to others. Most importantly, they know how to use their violance to protect others. She said that’s Shad. She turned her attention to her son. “The best of you comes from your dad.” She said he had a badass dad, and anyone would be lucky to have a father like Shad. She thanked the audience and the hugged Aryeh, who held the Warrior award high in the air to a big applause.

-A promo aired for Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey on WrestleMania night 1.

-Corey Graves talked up NXT Stand & Deliver. “How could this weekend get any bigger and badder?” Kayla used that to transition into a video package for the next inductee – Vader. After the video, Graves welcomed Vader’s wife Debra, and son Jesse.

VADER

Jesse White began by tapping his watch. “Mom, my watch isn’t working, can you tell me the time?” Debra played around. Jesse asked the crowd. “It’s Vader time!” they happily responded. Debra thanked the fans and said Leon is looking down with the biggest smile on his face. Jesse said the fans, and everyone directly involved in the business kept food on his table for a long time and for that, he’s forever grateful.

Jesse talked up some of Vader’s funnest moments – a multi-time All-American, appearances on Baywatch and Boy Meets World, an “eye-popping experience” in Japan, and the infamous White Castle Affair. He mentioned Vader’s thirteen world championships on four separate continents. Jesse said the very top of his resume, though, was his role as a father. Jesse said that he’d often chat with his dad about how Leon missed about half his childhood growing up. “Still, in that little time, he accomplished more than many of my friend’s fathers ever did.” Jesse said if there’s a Hall of Fame for father’s, his dad was entered a long time ago.

The Whites asked the fans to put their best “V’s” in the air. The crowd obliged. They led them in one more “what time is it” call and response. They pointed to Vader’s steel helmet, which was set-up at ringside.

-A promo aired for WWE Evil.

-Kayla Braxton and Corey Graves returned to the ring. Graves said the time has come. Kayla said she’s getting chills. Graves introduced a video package highlighting The Undertaker’s career. After the video, Kayla introduced Vince McMahon. The ring was lined with Undertaker’s various entrance coats from over the years. Vince strutted down the ramp and smiled as the crowd sang along with his theme.

McMahon took his place at the podium and said that tonight is his favorite night of the year. He said that’s because we, as fans, get to say thank you to those who contributed so mightily to WWE, and entertained people all over the world. Vince said there is no one more deserving of this honor than the man they’re about to induct. McMahon said Taker traveled thousands of miles, endured dozens of injuries and dealt with the toll on the human body for thirty years. “It’s safe to say, he’s been to hell and back.” Vince ran through a long list of opponents. “I’ll read them quickly so you don’t interrupt me.” The crowd responded with “what?” Vince played along. He began reading, but the crowd still tried to get “what” in. McMahon got through a who’s-who of the last thirty years of WWE, before concluding with “just to name a few.”

Vince talked about Shotgun Saturday Night. He said back then, there were no safety measures, it was just “run and gun.” He talked about The Undertaker and Triple H fighting in the middle of a New York City subway. He said even New Yorkers thought “what the hell?” He recounted The Undertaker filming a segment in a freezing cold cemetery for hours. He talked about putting The Undertaker on a float with no food, no water, no ability to use the bathroom. He then recalled a story about Taker climbing down into a real life sewer just to get a cool, creepy shot of him climbing out with smoke behind him.

McMahon said The Undertaker has all the qualities a Hall of Fame inductee could have – integrity, loyalty, respect, leadership, toughness, athleticism, intelligence, discipline. A small segment of the crowd chanted “what.” Vince put emphasis on discipline. “I’m gonna have The Undertaker come out here and kick your ass.” Regarding loyalty, he said The Undertaker is the only guy WCW would never call during the Monday Night War, because they knew he’d never leave. Vince said Taker is the most revered Superstar in WWE history. He said the greatest quality Undertaker brings is love, because you can’t accomplish what he has in thirty years without incredible love for the business. McMahon said Undertaker has love for the talent, past and present, and for those who stood and watched him perform through three generations. Vince said it was his honor to induct Mark Calloway, the Undertaker. The crowd rose to their feet in unison and cheered loudly.

The Undertaker’s music hit, and the arena was bathed in the familiar glowing purple. Taker walked out onto the stage and stopped to pose at his usual spots. He wore a small, hands-free microphone fitted to his ear. Taker embraced McMahon on the stage and told him he loved him. Vince choked up as he left the ring. The Undertaker walked around the ring, soaking in the moment. “Thank you Taker” rang out from the crowd. Taker got emotional quickly. The crowd’s cheers didn’t let up.

Wrestlers on the stage remained standing, joining in the audience’s adoration. Taker’s lip quivered as he attempted step to the microphone, quickly thinking better of it. A “you deserve it” chant filled the arena. Taker wiped tears from his eyes and planted his hands firmly on the podium to begin. The crowd cheered louder. Several more moments passed.

THE UNDERTAKER

“For the last thirty years, my identity has been Undertaker, the Phenom, the Deadman, the American Badass, and the Taker of Souls,” Taker began. Undertaker said that tonight, he’s going to take everyone behind the curtain to meet the man behind the black hat, Mark Calloway. Taker said it would have been easy to keep Calloway hidden until the day he died, but he felt it necessary to show the fans the same respect that they showed him all these years.

Undertaker said he loves the wrestling business with all his heart, but it comes with huge sacrifice – especially in terms of health and privacy. Taker said he wouldn’t be the man he is today without the business, so his first thank you is to the fans. He said the fans are the reason he worked himself onto the training room table, pushed the pain, and performed. Undertaker said tonight isn’t just about him, but it’s about all the fans too.

Taker recalled a time in 1986, sitting with his brother in his living room. He said he was about a semester away from college graduation, conflicted and miserable. He told his brother he didn’t know what to do. He contemplated graduating, or perhaps going overseas to play basketball. Taker said he spent a decade consumed with playing basketball, and the opportunities were pretty promising. He said his heart was already with wrestling. “I already know, this is what I want to do with my life,” Taker said. He didn’t want to disappoint his teammates, or his parents. His brother told him he can’t live his life for anyone other than himself. “It was in that moment that everything became crystal clear,” Taker claimed. He said that’s when he knew he’d become a professional wrestler no matter what. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was the only way he’d find his true identity. Undertaker said he had to chase his dreams without fear of what other people thought. “My dreams led me to become The Undertaker.”

Undertaker listed his signature moves and said tonight, he’s going to reveal his “mental signature moves” in the hopes that maybe they can help other people the way they helped him. He told a story about Vince McMahon in Rochester, New York. “I’m working a squash match – excuse me, an enhancement match,” Taker corrected himself. He said he worked with a local kid who kept screwing up his moves, leading Taker to “noticeably roughing him up.” Vince was waiting for Taker when he returned to the back. McMahon said, “Mark, perception is reality.” He told Taker that everyone backstage, and everyone in the arena thinks he’s an asshole. “He was right!” Taker chuckled. He said he’s not proud of his actions that night, and that became his first “mental move” – whether he was inside the ring, or outside, actions matter.

“That brings me to Stephanie McMahon,” Taker said Stephanie isn’t as big of a brat as she seems on screen, “she’s actually a lot bigger.” The camera cut to Steph, laughing. Taker said Stephanie is the little sister he never wanted. He said he loves the McMahon family. He talked about Shane and his propensity for talking about all the ridiculous bumps he wanted to take. “He wore me out,” Taker said, affected. Undertaker brought up The Godfather, and what an influence he’d been. “I never said a positive influence,” he joked. Taker said they’d been friends for years, drank gallons of Jack Daniels and fought of hats, watches, and just about anything else you can imagine. “I always knew you had my back,” Undertaker said. He thanked the B.S.K., and said he’d take their stories to the grave. He shouted out the late Yokozuna, and said his fondest memories of him happened outside the ropes.

He talked about Brian “Crush” Adams. “Another guy taken from us way too soon,” Taker said, claiming he was one of the few who was never afraid to rib him. Undertaker recalled a story about Crush convincing Taker to fly to Florida to break cinder blocks with their hands. He said there was no reason other than to say they could do it. Crush passed away a few weeks later, and Taker said accepting his ridiculous invite finally made sense. Undertaker talked about Paul Bearer – a legitimate part of The Undertaker character. He called him a tremendous friend, and a great practical joker. Taker said Bearer loved to put cucumbers in his drinks. “Who does that? An evil me, that’s who!” Taker smiled.

“Big Kane,” the mere mention popped the crowd. Taker said their story stretches over two decades. He called Glenn “the most genuine human being he’s ever known,” and jokingly said that Jacobs insists on being called “Mr. Mayor” now. “Don’t get hot brother, I didn’t get mad when you stole all my moves,” Taker laughed and the crowd joined him. Kane smiled big. Taker said Kane did all his moves better anyway.

Undertaker shifted to his second “mental move” that he learned when he was 25, just after he won his first World title. He said he was sitting in his parents’ kitchen, eating red beans and rice. His father asked him if he’d been paying his taxes. Taker said he had been. His father asked him if he’s living beneath his means. Taker said he was. His father imparted this wisdom – “remember the toes you’re stepping on on your way to the top are connected to the asses you’ll be kissing on your way back down.” Taker’s eyes got big. “Dad spewing the knowledge!” Undertaker said he learned that, no matter who you come across, you have to treat them with respect. He said he couldn’t see himself as more important than the security guy, or the catering guy. “One hello can change a life, or save a life.” He said his second mental move is “respect and loyalty go a long way.”

Taker thanked Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Harley Race, Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, and Ric Flair for paving the way for his generation, and generations to come. He thanked Perry Jackson and Bruce Prichard. He thanked those involved in The Last Ride documentary. Taker shouted Terry Anderson, whom he said is responsible for every iconic look of The Undertaker. He listed some of the doctors instrumental in helping him achieve a long and fruitful career.

“My final mental move comes on the eve of WrestleMania 25,” Taker pointed out Shawn Michaels in the crowd. Undertaker said he and Shawn were discussing their match with Michael Hayes. Hayes told them they were on third, and had fifteen minutes. “I’m looking at Shawn, and he’s looking at me, and we both know it’s not good.” Taker said neither of them had anything to prove, but this was insulting. He said they raised a lot of hell, got some extra time, and got moved later in the show. “We weren’t on last, but I’m pretty sure everyone who want after us wished we had been.” Undertaker thanked Shawn for his friendship, and for giving him one of the greatest matches of his career. Taker said that experience cultivated his third “mental move” – never be content. Taker said to fail forward, dream big, and strive to be better. He directed this at the wrestlers sitting on the stage.

Taker shifted to WrestleMania 27 and 28. He pointed out Triple H and said it was always an honor to share the ring with him. He said their chemistry was effortless and undeniable. Undertaker thanked Hunter for reminding him of who he really was when his confidence was at his lowest. “Your words that day got me through that match, and got me through the rest of my career.” He said the moment they shared with Shawn on the stage at WrestleMania 28 was one of the proudest moments of his career.

“I mentioned this job takes a lot of sacrifice,” Taker said, “and no one sacrifices more than my family.” He said he loves his son Gunner and his so proud of who he’s become. He talked to his daughter, saying she has a beautiful heart, athleticism, humor, and a love of God. Taker said she told him she doesn’t care what the world thinks about her, without skipping a beat. “I hope that never changes,” Taker choked back tears. He pointed out his baby son, Kolt, and said he’s already making him a better man. Taker talked about his parents, saying they were initially disappointed with his career path. They later grew into his biggest fans. Taker recounted a story from Houston, Texas as he prepared to wrestle Sid. His family was in the second row, and Sid knew it. During the match, Sid grabbed a chinlock and said, “where’s mom?” Sid talked some trash at Taker’s mother. “Here she comes,” Taker joked. Undertaker’s mom rushed to the barricade and had to be restrained by security. He said she had bruises on the insides of her arms from being held back. “That’s how mom got banned from wrestling.”

Undertaker talked about his late father, and the crowd cheered. He said his mother has been on him for years about “getting that damn ring.” He held out his fist with a Hall of Fame ring, “we did it,” he said. Taker turned to his wife, Michelle. He joked that when she first came to WWE, she didn’t want to meet Kane or The Undertaker. He said he thought it must be because Kane is scary, and he had a bad reputation (“thanks, Godfather.”) Turns out, he said, Kane was the nicest guy she ever met, “and she married me!” Undertaker said he finally said yes after a long chase. This got Michelle laughing.

Taker said the greatest thing Michelle has done for him is helping him repair his relationship with Jesus. He said she’s an incredible mother, and can still lace up her boots and hang with the best in the world. He thanked her for seeing past his long hair, tattoos, and iffy reputation. He called her his soul-mate. “I got through that one,” he breathed a sigh of relief.

Undertaker turned to Vince McMahon. He said though Vince wasn’t sold on him in the beginning, he gave him an opportunity to prove everyone wrong. He thanked Vince for being an incredible friend and father figure, particular after his own dad passed away. “He always seemed to know just what I needed,” Taker said he’s received hugs, pats on the back, and a whole lot of kicks in the ass. Undertaker joked about the plethora of crazy matches Vince put him in over the years. “You’d think I’d get the hint, you’ve been trying to get rid of me for years, I’m just too stubborn to leave!” Taker said though Vince has gotten a number of things over on him, he never got him to do the Taker-Rooni. “I’ll take that one to the grave, too.” Taker thanked McMahon for all the opportunity, and most importantly, the friendship.

Finally, Taker thanked the fans again. He implored people to make his three mental moves part of their lives, too. He dared them to find their own identity and be themselves, unapologetically. “Thank you for taking this journey with me, and rest assured that now that The Undertaker has entered the WWE Hall of Fame, I will rest in peace.”

Undertaker waved to the fans and bowed to a number of people seated at ringside. He turned to the ramp and bowed to the wrestlers on stage. The crowd stood. Taker began to leave the ring, but stopped and whipped his head back. He walked back into the ring and took a coat from of the mannequins. He put it on over his suit, then put on his hat. He lowered his head. “Never say never.” The crowd erupted. Taker left the ring, hugged his family, and climbed the ramp. He stopped at the top and gave a final look back at the camera. Taker threw his fist up, thunder crashed, and the broadcast faded out.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I didn’t think it pertinent to include significant analysis of these speeches throughout the night, but wanted to make a few personal notes now that the event has come to a close. Early on, it seemed like they were maintaining a solid pace that should’ve had the show ending relatively early – a welcomed change over previous ceremonies. That all changed with Undertaker’s induction, which, while quite satisfying overall, stretched the show’s length well past two and a half hours. The other speeches were brief, and enjoyable for what they were. Dana Warrior’s introduction stood out for being wrought with flowery language that hardly felt human. The story, though, was The Undertaker. His genuine emotion was palpable, as was the emotion Vince McMahon was feeling as they embraced in the ring. This was a fascinating look at the man behind the character, and his speech was carefully crafted, engaging, and thoughtful beyond what I had expected. Die-hard fans of the man and the character should come away incredibly pleased by this tribute. Those more critical will certainly find plenty to enjoy here as well. I thought this was a pretty excellent bow on a remarkable career, one I’d hate to see marred by a comeback that he unfortunately teased at the close.

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