The Stomping Ground: Notes From the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony (Sammartino, Backlund, Foley)

As promised, I’m here with a special edition of The Stomping Ground the night before Wrestlemania XXIX, covering Saturday night’s Hall of Fame ceremony from Madison Square Garden. Overall it was a fun evening that ran far longer than I expected for only six inductees: 3 and 1/2 hours, to be exact. I went with my friend Vinny and his dad, who grew up watching Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund wrestle, which I’m sure made him feel like a kid all over again. I hope you enjoy my highlights, and the next time you’ll hear from me will be after my trip to MetLife Stadium!

Pre-Show

*Lots of hecklers in the crowd at the event. There was a nice guy in front of me who was a real mark for the business, so I teased him a bit about how CM Punk would end The Streak and how much John Cena sucks.

*We arrived at our seats around 7:30 pm as the wrestlers were heading to their VIP section. We were to the right of the stage on the first level with a great view.

*Lita accompanied Punk, so I guess they’re still an item. MVP made an appearance, hugging Mark Henry. I also caught a glimpse of Mil Mascaras, but not many people recognized him.

*Michael Cole came onstage five minutes before showtime to warn us not to be rude. Yeah, HE’S the guy you send out to make that kind of announcement.

*CM Punk enthusiastically holds up the applause sign. A huge Punk/Undertaker dueling chant begins. Hilarious.

*Jerry Lawler welcomed us to the Hall of Fame and started a “This is awesome!” chant.

Mick Foley

*We start with Foley’s induction by Terry Funk. Funk says Foley is out of his mind but he loves him like an ugly brother. Funk told a funny story about a match they had together where there was only a crowd of 300. Terry was worried but Mick smiled and said “Look at all those empty chairs.” Terry said by the end of the match there wasn’t a single chair left standing. He also brought up the Hell in a Cell match, mentioning how Mick looked like a dead fish on a beach after he fell.

*Foley came out and mentioned people mistake him for Hacksaw Jim Duggan, so he asked for Jim to stand up so we could tell the difference. He said he’s so thankful…. that the Bella Twins are back. He said that yes, it did hurt when he got tossed off the cage.

*Mick compared his class to that of the 1927 Yankees. In total, they held the WWE Championship for over 6,000 days, including his 47.

*Mick talked about Snuka’s cage match. He even used the word “surreptitiously” to impress Damien Sandow. He thanked Dominic DeNucci for training him, who was in the audience, and JR for going to bat for him.

*Mick said the famous shot of him smiling in the cell was him actually attempting to stick his tongue through the hole in his upper lip. He also thanked Undertaker and told a story about Paul Bearer’s goosebumps every time Undertaker entered the arena.

*He said he did have a few regrets, like never beating Jericho. Mick wished he could drop an elbow on Chris right now…so Y2J got on stage and let Mick drop an elbow and did the job! As Mick said goodbye, Santa and Mrs. Claus came out.

*The whole speech took about 50 minutes, which surprised me because I thought there would be a time constraint. I guess that’s Mick’s consolation prize if he’s getting bumped off the Tuesday night broadcast.

Trish Stratus

*Stephanie McMahon came out next to induct Trish. She said that Trish destroyed the entire McMahon family and had one thing to say to her…thank you.

*Trish came out in a sparkly greenish-blue gown. She mentioned that the last time she was in MSG she was retiring.

*She had a lot of people to thank and brought out a comically-large scroll with a list of names on it (including what seemed to be everyone who ever worked for the company). She thanked her trainer, the head of WWE Canada, Gail Kim, Edge, Beth Phoenix, Lita, JR, Triple H, and Fit Finlay.

*She said JR gave her the pen she signed her contract with and pulled it out of her cleavage. She held up the pen for the camera but hid the F in WWF because she didn’t want to “make the panda angry.”

*Trish thanked her mom, a cancer survivor, and her husband Ron, who was booed worse than Cena! Hey, I’d get booed too if I were the guy shtupping Trish Stratus. She then revealed that she’s set to “deliver a little Stratusfaction” in September. Baby alert!

Booker T

*Stevie Ray inducted his brother, and I have to say he looked good after being out of the spotlight for the last 12 years. He said Booker is the youngest of 8 kids. Their dad died when Booker was a baby, so he latched onto Stevie. One time when Stevie and his friends were out chasing girls, Booker wasn’t allowed and he laid down in the street and cried. He stayed there until Stevie came back later!

*They talked about wrestling while Booker was incarcerated, which got them into the biz when they met Ivan Putski at a Gold’s Gym. Stevie talked about meeting Eddie Gilbert and forming Harlem Heat.

*Booker T talked about how his first job after jail was ironically as a security guard! He continued Stevie’s story about being hired by Gilbert and his first tag match birthed the Spinarooni. He also said Sid Vicious got them their job in WCW.

*He brought up being backstage in Germany when Foley lost his ear and wondered what the hell he was getting into. He also thanked Sherri Martel for helping to get the team over. He said he won his first singles title because Rick Martel forgot his ring gear!

*After Booker’s speech, Stevie Ray convinced him to give us a Spinarooni.

Bob Backlund

*Maria Menounos looked sexy as ever and gushed about how much Backlund has meant to her career. She used a lot of insider terms like “turning heel” and “taking bumps.”

*Maria talked about Bob’s accomplishments so much that it actually elicited heavy booing from the crowd. We wanted to hear from the man himself, and her introduction really did drag on for what had to be close to 10 minutes.

*Let me just say this: Bob Backlund is as batshit insane now as he ever was. He spent most of the time screaming into the mic about never giving up, name-dropping Cena and even went on a bizarre tangent about some kid in the back row of the VIP section named Andrew Cabana, trying to get Triple H to hire him.

*Backlund went on a tirade about how Sergeant Slaughter left welts all over his body and his wife was really mad. Vince McMahon snuck out from behind the scenes to try and get Bob to focus and end his little spiel. Funny stuff all around; nobody had any idea what the hell he was going to do next.

Donald Trump

*Vinnie Mac showed us some clips from Wrestlemania XXIII involving Trump making a fool out of him. He asked if the fans would vote for Trump as President. We booed. Then he asked if we’d vote McMahon: we roared in approval!

*Vince mentioned that he was the ugliest bald man on Earth, to which a fan screamed out, “What about Hulk Hogan?” Vince acknowledged the question by saying he’d disregard that “unfortunate occurrence.”

*Trump was booed long before he got onstage. He teased a fight against Vince next year, but mostly talked about his own accomplishments with the WWE and mercifully kept it short.

Bruno Sammartino

*Arnold Schwarzenegger told a few nice quips about Bruno, like how he was amazed how much Sammartino can still lift (over 400 pounds). He said he lifted 400 pounds just last week when he picked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie up out of his chair! Arnold also said he was amazed when Sammartino was a judge at the Mr. Olympia competition; he couldn’t believe that an American judge looked like he was in better shape than the competitors!

*Bruno received a double standing ovation upon entering the stage. For a guy pushing 78, he’s in great shape. He talked about struggling to survive in his village when the Nazis occupied Italy, mentioning how much his mother sacrificed to protect the family.

*Bruno said that if it weren’t for the Garden and all the fans, he would never be the man he is today.

Post-Show

*The inductors and inductees came out onstage at the same time. Vince and Bruno shook hands to show there was no bad blood between them. Backlund went nuts again and went into the stands to shake hands with the audience, losing his balance in the process!

*Notably absent from the show: The Rock, Brock Lesnar, and Undertaker (Taker never sits in with the other wrestlers as per his character).

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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