This one’s a bit hard to report.
There’s not a whole slew of unique photos we can produce or interesting stuff to do. So, I think we’ll report on each of the inductees and their best moments and give our opinions on the live experience.
We took our good ol’ San Jose VTA Lightrail system to SAP Center. Beautiful day, as always, in downtown San Jose. Part of a beautiful weekend.
LOTS of Macho Man shirts. I wore mine. Macho Man Randy Savage means a lot to me. I grew up watching him and loved his wrestling style and he (along with Jake Roberts) are the constant my Mom and I share with pro-wrestling.
In any case, here’s a shot of SAP.
I don’t know if this was a new rule that was added since the New Orleans crowd at last year’s event were shouting things at the inductees, but these signs were posted all over the place.
The tickets we got for this event weren’t great. We were in the 4th row of the upper deck, so we don’t have incredible pictures. We came for the speeches.
Seriously. This is how I watched the Red Carpet: on my phone, using The WWE Network (FOR ONLY $9.99!!!). Because it’s much better than giving you photos, using the digital zoom lens and high ISO on my camera in low light:
I was a bit confused as to why WWE doesn’t do the Red Carpet show from another room and broadcast it on the Jumbotron for the guests to see but, oh well.
It was kinda surreal, at one point…some guy showed up dressed just like Randy Savage…and I mean just like…he had the build, the perfect beard, the grin…everything. Even the lighting made it look like Savage was visiting his own tribute from beyond the grave.
As far as the speeches, my thoughts are these…
Along with The Bushwhackers, I really didn’t think Rikishi was “of note”. He’s more known for the idiotic “Stinkface” (which I’ve never liked; it’s unwatchable and disgusting — even though WWE portrays it as a major milestone in his career) than he is for winning titles. Ironically, his induction was a pleasant surprise.
His sons, The Usos, were selected to introduce and induct him, recalling how their Dad evolved from a broke father who would breakdance in front of the Cow Palace in Daly City for cash, into the guy he is today. Rikishi’s speech was from the heart: genuine, full of love for his family and the fans. He spoke of sacrifice, of not being home to raise his sons and missing birthdays and other events — but that it paid off. Earlier, The Usos mentioned that the Stinkface “put them through college”. Rikishi would mention Umaga and salute the sky in a tribute to him. He’d also pay tribute to his father and his late mother. Strangely absent in his speech was Too Cool, who are, at least, partly responsible for his big push in WWE.
All in all, this was a beautiful speech capped off with Rikishi dancing with his sons at the end. SAP Center clapped along and fun was had by all.
This is more like it. Zbyszko was brought into the Hall of Fame by WWE Legend Bruno Sammartino who recalled the first time he had ever met Zbyszko: some teenager who wrestled for his high school and wanted to go Pro like Sammartino.
Zbyszko went into more detail: he described driving his car through Bruno’s neighborhood and “felt compelled to stop” when he saw Sammartino tanning out near his backyard swimming pool. He was blocked by a “wall of hedges” — and proceeded to blast through them anyhow, scraping up his face and body. He described it as a “rabbit hole” of sorts and said that “Bruno was on the other side”. Instead of escorting the young kid out the door, Bruno took him under his wing and the rest was history. Zbyszko’s speech meanders a bit here and there and he loses his train of thought more than once, stating that it’s ironic since he’s “known for having a big mouth”. Ultimately, Zbyszko goes poetic with his speech, saying he went through another rabbit hole tonight — through the backstage curtain — and that, once again, Sammartino was waiting on the other side. This time, Sammartino was ready “to show him the door” as it was finally time to go. He talked of dreams and how his came true and he finished by wishing for fans to never give up on theirs. A nice speech, though it felt overlong.
ALUNDRA BLAYZE (AKA “Madusa”)
Inducted by WWE Diva Natalya, Blayze’s speech was an absolute showstopper. She credited Wahoo McDaniel, Sherri Martel, and Greg Valentine for her start — but insists that she really wanted to be — and still could be — a stuntwoman. In an emotional moment, she thanked her husband who, through special circumstances, was able to get time off from his military deployment. This lead to Blayze urging all fans in the SAP Center who served their country, city or town as a solider, paramedic, police officer, firefighter, and the like to rise so they could get recognized. From my vantage point, there were about a dozen around our side of the second deck but I know more were there.
Blayze also got very playful, talking about the time she tossed the WWE Womens Championship in the trash on WCW television — and subsequently removing it from a trash can supplied by Nattie later in the speech. She admitted having a crush on Steve Austin, warned Arn Anderson that she would beat his ass — after thanking him, of course, and praised Paul Heyman for being able to “rock a mullet, carry a huge phone and have a mouth only a mother could love.” Then, she said she was the first “Paul Heyman Girl”.
Blayze also sung her own praises, bragging about winning the title and still being champion, as well as being a champion monster truck racer. She ended the speech by blowing a kiss and telling everyone “good night”. An excellent speech that got the crowd at SAP extremely pumped. People flew out of their seats for the standing ovation rather than reluctantly getting up — and, believe me, that’s telling.
CONNOR “THE CRUSHER” MICHALEK
This one was a mixed bag for me.
It started strange when Dana Warrior (wife of the late Warrior) started the induction — then, for the next ten minutes, decided to thank the list of people who helped her after Warrior passed away. Don’t get me wrong, that’s nice and all…but this award was for Connor and this speech should have been given when Dana was presented with her husband’s statue at the first night at Axxess. It got to the point that some in our section were starting to grumble and a couple said, “This belongs to Connor, not Dana…”
Ultimately, Dana finally got around to speaking about Connor but, for me, the opening came across as largely self-serving.
Daniel Bryan came out next and, in another odd moment, decided to declare that “wrestling is all fake”, drawing a very visceral reaction from the crowd who nearly booed him out of the building. The reason for the phrasing was because every fan in the building was doing they “YES” cheer upon Bryan’s arrival on-stage and he really was attempting to avoid that since it wasn’t his moment — perhaps a slight jab at Dana. I have no idea. His ultimate point was that Connor, and kids who suffer like he does, have very real struggles, but the second false start made things kinda awkward, since WWE’s big on the illusion of reality and theatricality. In any case, Bryan turned things around and got the fans behind (and chanting for) Connor, spinning stories about his time spent with Connor. He said that, for a little boy under the threat of death, Connor was so full of life.
Finally, we got Connor’s father, Steve, to accept the honor. Steve looked incredibly stressed out and sounded on the verge of tears the entire speech and who could blame him? Who would want to be in his shoes, giving a speech like that in front of thousands of people? He was brave and powered through. But, I truly lost my shit when Connor’s little brother came out to the stage with his Dad and said, “I love you, Connor” into the mic.
John Laurinaitis inducted the two loveable goofballs from New Zealand, telling stories of younger training days at the hands of Luke and Butch — and ended up keeping them in check along the way.
This was the surprise speech of the night — and very much needed after the Warrior Award drained all the momentum and energy from the building. Luke (left) and Butch (right) are very much like their characters: wild and unhinged, but also good-natured and a riot. For the small block of time, Luke and Butch recalled their early days, wrestling the likes of Peter Maivia and hordes of Samoan wrestlers in their homeland of New Zealand in some of the roughest, meanest, bloodiest matches in pro-wrestling history. “We were doing ‘Hardcore’ before people knew what ‘Hardcore’ was!” proclaimed Butch, who was both confused and upset when WWE brought them into the company — and wanted them to be “faces” rather than heels. “I got on their desk on my hands and knees,” Butch yelled. “[I made a face at them], and said, ‘How are you gonna make good guys out of THESE heads?!” I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard during a speech in my life. The whole thing made you smile from beginning to end and made you realize that they belonged here.
Fujinami was inducted by the great Ric Flair who talked up Fujinami’s legendary toughness and inventiveness, saying that Japan pushes their athletes to excel during their training regimens.
“I fight because it is my mission,” Fujinami would say. “And, today, I join the WWE Hall of Fame. It has been a challenge and an adventure.” Fujinami thanked his wife and left the stage. Fujinami’s speech was everything a speech should be: eloquent, humble, gracious and succinct.
“MACHO MAN” RANDY SAVAGE
Hulk Hogan (who proclaimed himself “Randy’s good friend” about a half dozen times) actually gave a pretty good lead-in here, telling stories of how Savage used to push the people he worked with to be better. Hogan also said that his father, Angelo, is the reason he wears Canary Yellow tights in the ring: it makes him stand out among others.
As expected, Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo, accepted the award on Savage’s behalf, giving the best speech of the night. He was eloquent, charming and perfect with no schmaltz. Lanny wrote two poems for this occasion and had one of the best lines of night to finish off the first poem: “With triumphant jubilation, we celebrate his name. Finally, the Macho Man is IN THE HALL OF FAME!” He got serious and talked about the Macho Man’s philanthropy with the Special Olympics and how he’d give away personally-signed WWE merch to those athletes. He even cracked a few jokes: “Randy loved the athletes of the Special Olympics like Mr. T loves his mother!” Lanny delivered on a speech that, in my opinion, had high expectations. He gave us the man that we all knew and loved.
If you wanna challenge that in the chat below, be my guest. I’ll just say this…I didn’t see anyone at the arena imitating Diesel.
Part 4 is coming…and that will cover WrestleMania 31…