1. The 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony live from Madison Square Garden kicked off with Jerry Lawler hosting. Lawler introduced Terry Funk to begin the induction of Mick Foley. Funk told some great stories of Foley and really played up Mick’s “heart, soul, blood, sweat and guts” approach to performing for the fans. Mick’s hometown crowd — myself included — really were into this particular induction from the beginning, and Funk set the stage very nicely for Foley.
2. Foley came out to a HUGE POP from the MSG faithful, and he just completely shined with his speech. He thanked guys like Jim Ross and Dom Denucci and Shane Douglas for all of the things they did for him throughout the different stages of his career, and Mick also gave a very heartfelt thank you to The Undertaker for all of his help in putting Mick on the map and being a great friend. Foley also used the word “surreptitiously” to describe a moment in their Hell In A Cell match where Jim Ross said Mick was smiling but really Mick was trying to ease some pain in his upper lip. Foley then said he was just trying to use a big word “to earn Damien Sandow’s approval” which the crowd popped for and Sandow gave Mick a thumbs up as well.
3. Foley then said he was very proud of his 2004 match with Randy Orton at WrestleMania, and he thanked Orton for saying that was his personal favorite match of his career, to which Randy nodded that he did acknowledge that. He also thanked Ric Flair for getting one more match out of him (referring to their TNA match, which was Foley’s last match), and then said his one regret was that he never beat Chris Jericho. Jericho laughed and then Foley said all he wants is to be able to elbow Chris Jericho and get a ref to count the 1-2-3, and this led to my favorite moment of the entire night, when Jericho came on stage and laid down for Mick. Foley then backed up and did a running elbow right on the Hall of Fame stage, and CM Punk jumped up to play the ref and count the honorary pin fall. The crowd absolutely went nuts for this and I totally marked out myself.
4. Trish Stratus was up next, and Stephanie McMahon inducted her. Stephanie talked about some of Trish’s sordid storyline history with the McMahon family, and then called her a great friend. Trish came up and gave a nice speech and thanked many of her female opponents over the years (including Lita) as well as Fit Finlay, but the best part of this segment was the MSG crowd BOOING THE HELL out of Trish’s husband Ron, who was her high school sweetheart. They showed Ron and the crowd booed some more, but at the end of her speech Trish announced she was pregnant and the crowd then started chanting, “Ron! Ron! Ron!”. Pretty funny stuff you probably won’t see on TV.
5. After Trish came Booker T’s induction. Stevie Ray got a very nice reaction and he was very humble in talking about his brother. Stevie talked about Booker being the youngest of 8 children, his father dying when Booker was just 11 months old and Booker’s mom dying when he was a teenager. Stevie Ray talked about Booker overcoming the odds (including incarceration) to become a success story, and then talked about how they started training to go to wrestling school before getting a tryout together. He said Booker was always the best wrestler in the room and how this night says it all about Booker’s career. Booker himself echoed Stevie Ray’s sentiments in his induction speech, and he told a great story about being a green wrestler in Germany and actually seeing Mick Foley backstage right after Mick’s ear was torn off in his match against Vader. Booker sees the trainer come in and say he thinks he has a piece of Mick’s earlobe, and while Booker was just shocked, Mick’s response was simply, “Bang Bang!” Booker then talked about WWE being a new opportunity for him that really helped him in the long run, so he has no regrets about the end of WCW. He finished with a Spinaroonie to cap things off.
6. Maria Menounos talked WAY too long to get to Bob Backlund, and she paid the price by getting booed and then the “WHAT?!” chants started. However, once Bob Backlund got up there, he completely STOLE THE SHOW. Backlund was engaging, funny and absolutely explosive on the Hall of Fame stage, switching on and off between his soft-spoken demeanor and his crazy/loud persona. The crowd absolutely ate it up and by the end of his speech we were just completely shell-shocked and appreciative of the whole thing, which was like a one man stage show.
7. Throughout the entire night — and this is definitely a sign of things to come in terms of the crowd reaction at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for WrestleMania 29 — John Cena got booed HEAVILY every time he was showed on screen. When he was arriving to be seated at the beginning of the night, the crowd booed. When Backlund shouted Cena out a couple of times for his “Never Give Up” mantra, the crowd booed again. Hell, it even got so bad for Cena that the crowd even booed him throughout a pre-taped segment for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Let’s face it – the crowd just wants so desperately to heel on the guy at every turn, yet we all know he will never change unless he’s planning the swerve of the decade tomorrow night, of course.
8. Speaking of getting booed, the MSG audience completely hated on Donald Trump and the only time Trump even got any kind of cheers behind him was when he introduced his daughter Ivanka to the crowd. Vince McMahon did a good job with the introduction, at least.
9. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of those celebrities that definitely has a lot of charisma, and he was very commanding on stage when he was introducing Bruno Sammartino. Arnold touched on meeting Bruno for the first time at a Mr. Olympia competition where Sammartino was a judge, and he also drew comparisons to their backgrounds as immigrants who came to America and worked hard to be successful. Yes, they did show Zeb Colter at one point.
10. As for the headliner himself, Bruno Sammartino was just amazing in his speech. He looks fantastic at 78 years old and his back story was just incredible. Bruno talked about his family being pushed out of town by Nazis during the war, and explained how his mother would make a 24-hour trip down a mountain to sneak into the Nazi camp to get food for her children. Bruno then described how sick he got during those 14 months of exile and how when they were allowed back in the town the doctor gave his mother a death sentence for him and said he wouldn’t last another day. He then said his mother told the doctor she refuses to lose a third child, and as a result of her care and fight he survived. In 1950, Bruno and his family came to America, and because he was still weak he was bullied in school. He said he then discovered the local Y and after he started lifting weights he just never stopped. He said that in 10 years, he went from an 84-pound sick child to a 275-pound strong man and wrestler. The crowd just cheered like crazy for him, almost as if we were channeling our parents and our grandparents who could relate to parts of his story and saw Bruno wrestle at the Garden, where he sold out 187 shows as THE main event wrestler and this one as a WWE Hall of Famer.
11. After Bruno wrapped up his speech, all of the inductors and inductees gathered on the stage together, and in a very telling gesture that many people never thought they’d ever see, Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino embraced. Vince raised Bruno’s arm and they posed together … and then they even hugged. It was surreal to say the least.
12. After everyone left the stage, Bob Backlund stuck around and actually ran into the different lower sections to pop the people who remained. It brought me back to those house shows back in the 1990s where Backlund would randomly run into different sections to say hello as if he was WWF’s official mascot. It was just a fun way for the night to end and this whole night was truly one of the best live wrestling-related experiences I’ve ever had.
Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Backlund, Booker T, bruno sammartino, chris jericho, cm punk, Damien Sandow, Donald Trump, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, john cena, Lita, Maria Menounos, Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahon, Stevie Ray, terry funk, triple h, Trish Stratus, vince mcmahon, wrestlemania, Wrestlemania 29, WWE, wwe hall of fame