SAN JOSE, Calif. — Like a well booked wrestling show, World Wrestling Entertainment’s 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony was a roller coaster of emotions on Saturday night in San Jose, Calif.
The ceremony, one of the signature events of WrestleMania celebrations, featured the who’s who of the wrestling world, past, present and future, and celebrated the class of nine (10 individuals) being honoured this year.
Admittedly, as the inductees were being announced in the weeks leading up to the big night, the list didn’t seem as strong on paper as it has in other years. Other than its biggest inductee, the late Randy Macho Man Savage, the list left me to wonder how the inductees would be received.
The 2015 inductees were: Savage; Samoan legend Rikishi, Kevin Nash, Larry Zbyszko, The Bushwackers, Alundra Blayze, Japanese legend Tatsumi Fujinami, Arnold Schwarzenegger (celebrity wing) and Connor “The Crusher” Michalek, who was the recipient of the inaugural Warrior Award, named after the late Ultimate Warrior.
After a red carpet ceremony and a lot of oohs and ahhs and a warning from the voice of the WWE, Michael Cole, that any heckling from the stands would warrant an ejection, the show opened hot with the induction of Rikishi by his twin sons.
The crowd, despite its pre-ceremony shaming, played an important role on this night, encouraging speakers who needed encouragement, supporting others at the appropriate times and delivering the respect and admiration one should expect at such a ceremony.
A number of speakers delivered powerful words, none moreso than the Warrior’ widow, Dana Warrior, who spoke of her late husband’s legacy, how she and her daughters have struggled to come to grips with his death and how they embody his Warrior spirit into healing following their loss. She also challenged WWE and Warrior fans to raise a million dollars to treat childhood cancer.
With barely a dry eye in the place, Dana introduced WWE star Daniel Bryan, who spoke of his bond with the eight-year-old who died of cancer at just eight years of age. Bryan then introduced Connor’s father, Steve, who bravely paid homage to his late son, bringing the room to silence, finally inviting his other son, Jackson, to the stage, who brought the arena to tears and to its feet with four simple yet powerful words: “I love you, Connor.”
The night featured everything.
Fences were mended with the inductions of Blayze, who infamously trashed the WWE Women’s title on live TV after defecting from WWE to its rival World Championship Wrestling, and Savage, who also left the company to work for its rival and harboured ill feelings toward his former employer up to the day he tragically died in May 2011.
Laughs were had as the likes of Shawn Michaels, the Usos and the beloved Bushwackers brought the crowd to its feet with amazing words and road stories.
Fantastic stories were told as the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair, Schwarzenegger, Triple H, Natalya, Blayze and Lanny Poffo, to name some, dazzled us memories from years gone by.
And, of course, legends were honoured, taking their right places among the immortal.
Long live the WWE and its legends.