The Min Report: Miami Reflections – Volume 2 – WWE Hall Of Fame 2012
Ok y’all, here’s the second of my reflections on WrestleMania week in Miami, this time looking at the Hall of Fame experience. I was going to combine this one with Mania itself but realised pretty quickly that that could get a bit lengthy! That means, we’ve now got two more to go after this one…
So, it was Mania Eve and there was a good buzz about the Amercian Airlines Arena on the Saturday night. The Daniel Bryan “YES!” chants we’d heard throughout the week (at Axxess etc) were getting stronger and stronger, and the reaction to Bryan himself entering the arena was immense. Could it be that my premonition of “YES!” becoming the new “WHAT?” were slowly coming to fruition? I think I’ve remembered the order correctly as it went down on the night, forgive me if not. Whether or not this is the order that makes the DVD or what was televised may differ anyway (I’ve not yet watched the televised version).
We got the usual array of video packages focussing on both to remind us of the main events of the following night (as if we needed it), and the usual stat heavy compendium to show us the variety of demographics that the WWE hits, and of course the work it does for the likes of Make A Wish, BA Star etc. Again, we didn’t need reminding and the smart crowd were more than aware that these things are only 50% about giving back and doing a good deed…the other 50% being a PR move to make people feel ‘warm and cuddly’ towards WWE and keep shareholders and sponsors happy. Still, the videos themselves were well put together in the way we’ve come to expect of course.
We started with JBL inducting Ron Simmons. Great video package reminding of of how entertaining the APA were during the Attitude Era, and of course the fantastic moment when Simmons beat Vader for the WCW Title enhanced beautifully by Jim Ross’ commentary. Anyone who has followed JBL for years and keeps up to date with him on twitter will know he’s both a great talker and truly knows his sport and stats. He proved both here, reeling off a lengthy speech about Simmons’ accolades without hesitation or autoqueue, and with a really touching heartfelt delivery. Simmons’ acceptance was equally befitting, showing the class, dignity and humour we’ve all enjoyed from him over the years. A fine start to the evening.
Next up was the return of Alberto Del Rio to induct his uncle Mil Mascaras. A much shorter speech but a great reminder of the charisma that Del Rio holds and has helped elevate him so quickly. Mascaras (in mask but not necessarily in character) delivered a humble speech of thanks, alongside some lovely humour (even in his broken English) about his wives. Funny stuff. A poignant reminder too of just how important Mascaras is for opening the door to Mexican talent such as Rey Mysterio over the years.
The Four Horsemen
When you talk about legends setting standards in the industry, you don’t have to talk long before The Four Horsemen are mentioned. This induction by Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes (who else?), saw JJ Dillon, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard alongside Ric Flair being inducted for the second time.There have been many incarnations of The Horsemen and this was also to include Barry Windham (who joined some 2 years after the original stable came together, and after Lex Luger also), omitting Ole Anderson largely due to I expect to his verbal diarrhoea towards other members and known personal issues with the likes of Vince McMahon and Michael Hayes in recent years. Windham has great lineage already in the HOF having seen his father Blackjack Mulligan inducted in 2006 which was alluded to in his speech.
All members received great ovations and their speeches were full of love and respect for their peers and the fans. Although we’ve all watched the videos and been reminded several times over the past few years of their accomplishments in several DVD packages, it’s still great to hear the genuine passion that comes from a group of guys who truly cared about their on-screen personas so much that they lived the life they portrayed and strived to go out every night to be only one thing – the very best. The epitome of excellence. In fact I dare say these guys, years before anyone on our screens claimed to be awesome or the toughest SOB, were the first to ‘piss excellence’.
If you’ve never taken the time to watch any matches featuring The Horsemen during their heyday, or to see any of the promos, do it. Buy the DVD’s, youtube some stuff and learn about just what it takes to be a truly great performer. These guys BELIEVED in their characters and because of that we did too. While too many stars are handed a shit gimmick nowadays, too many also don’t take the opportunity they are given to get inside that character and live it on-screen. Conviction is everything. Just look at Dolph Ziggler.
A special mention to Arn Anderson who received a huge ovation. Truly one of the best performers and technicians ever to grace the squared circle, unglamorous and often an unsung hero who now continues to entertain us all through his work as a producer along the likes of Ricky Steamboat to hone the skills of the next generation of stars. Arn gave the biggest accolade to Randy Orton in stating he could as good as he wanted to be, maybe the best ever, to which Orton seemed genuinely humbled. I have to agree. Orton is still one of my top guys as he has been for years. He’s a phenomenal athlete who like Punk and Bryan doesn’t always get the chance to display his full talent. If he can find that little something that takes his persona to the next level I think he has all the tools then to truly realise Anderson’s foresight. Arn continued to give props to a host of ‘leaders’ in the current WWE locker room, noting the evolution of CM Punk as a highlight over the past 3 years.
Ric Flair as always showed the most emotion. Genuinely in tears at the ovation he received, including “Woooo”s-a-plenty as standard of course. Remember that he told us all that he was done, only to turn up on the rival promotion not long after. Flair seemed humbled that the fans still welcomed him with open arms. While I doubt it will make the DVD, he openly acknowledged to some heckling fans that he made a mistake and wished he was still with the WWE – I don’t think it will be long before he is. We know he can’t be without wrestling and that’s fine. What we don’t want to see is a wrinkly, crippled old man in the ring for shits and giggles every other month still. Just imagine the impact he could make backstage developing talent alongside Anderson, Steamboat et al.
The Usos inducted their ‘Uncle Rodney’. Amazing to hear that over the past 20 years there has always been at least one member of this family on the WWE roster at any one time. What a lineage that is. I like the Usos – I think they are equipped in the ring, just what the tag-team division needs, and on this showing are also potentially great talkers too. These guys need the straps soon for me. We got funny tales of when Yoko first showed up on screen as from ‘Japan’ much to the disbelief and amusement of Jimmy and Jay.
I really like Yoko during his initial run. He was a different kind of monster at the time, and so agile for a big guy. I remember him decimating jobbers over a decent period of time (similar to how Goldberg was used) to really build him up. I also liked the fact that they didn’t feed him to Taker straight away either in the way that many other ‘monsters’ were at the time. Just a shame for me that Hogan got himself involved in the title picture at the same time. WWE were just starting to break through some of the ‘smaller’ guys, with Bret being the champ and Shawn on the way up. Yoko offered an easy David and Goliath story for a host of talent that was never really exploited to the full. Also a shame that ‘the look’ was still such a massive deal back then, and if rumours are true Yoko’s quite frankly ridiculous weight near the end of his career were a product of being pushed to gain size rather than from any kind of greed, and didn’t contribute positively to his health as a result. Of course, none of this was mentioned in the speeches. Still, growing up he is one of the most memorable talents during my formative wrestling years and a worthy inclusion for me. Great to see Rikishi on hand for the induction too, who was on the card at WM9 (as one of The Headshrinkers) when Yoko first one the WWF title from Bret Hart.
The most ‘entertaining’ speech of the night came from Iron Mike, inducted by Triple H and Shawn Michaels who to be honest didn’t really talk that much about Tyson himself in their introduction…more talking it as an opportunity to indulge in some PG-DX banter. That’s fine of course, this induction is purely PR as are the majority of these inclusions in the ‘celebrity wing’. They spoke about how they’d rush back from arenas to watch Tyson fights but that they were over so quickly Shawn would miss the match – funny in how it was delivered, but strange that in Tyson’s heyday (when he seemingly fought someone new every week and won within 2 rounds every time), Trip and Shawn wouldn’t have been in the same locker room, company or largely have even known each other to make such a story true. But we’re not supposed to realise that of course! Funny Tyson impression from Trip though it has to be said. Highlights included Tysons ring flying off his now scrawny finger (he has lost A LOT of bulk it seems), a generally incoherent rant, and him calling Cena “black”.
Then it was time for the big one of the evening. There has only ever been one person that would induct this legend, and Christian delivered with aplomb. Full of emotion that I daresay would pull at the heartstrings of even the most cold-hearted individual, and supported by a fantastic video package featuring music from The Foo Fighters which as Edge himself admitted and thanked Dave Grohl for, very rarely is given permission for (unless like me you teach Les Mills!).
He took the time to thank so many going right back to his very first breaks and training in the business, to the present day and even breaking kayfabe to thank “Mark and Glen”. This is the class of the man – a true fan who stood in the crowd at WM6 to watch his heroes and decided that was what he was going to do with his life, and wasn’t going to let anything stop him. As a result he became one of the very best ever in my eyes. A fine technician, a risk-taker, and a great storyteller. We were treated to some great banter towards his fellow, a couple of road stories, and a pretty pre-planned faux security video too. I won’t dwell on this too much as it won’t do it all justice. Watch the full ceremony if you haven’t – it’s good stuff.
But the greatest thing about the man for me is that he DID stop when the time was right. He’s not going to become a casualty like so many others. And why should he. He has nothing else to prove. As the t-shirt says, he’s won it all and hell he finished on top too. His words should stand as inspiration to all the current WWE roster and anyone currently in the indies wanting to break through. “Decide what to be, and go be it.” In fact, I think we can all take something from that. Adam Copeland we salute you. Thank you Edge! And by the way, nice socks.
I had no idea what to expect of the Hall of Fame but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my time in Miami. A real opportunity to see stars as people with their barriers down a little more than usual. Great stories, great emotion and great appreciation from the fans which was fantastic to both see and hear. More and more there’s a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the inductees and whether or not the HOF actually means anything. Sure we all know that politics and personal issues get in the way of acknowledging those that truly deserve the accolade, but on this showing I welcome this ceremony into my life for sure every year. A fine evening.
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