25th Anniversary of WrestleMania: Prelude to Immortality

Ron Johnson@TLCCaptainSenior Writer IMarch 25, 2009

We all know that WrestleMania is the biggest event of the year in almost every circle.

When the NFL is done flaunting around how rich they are, and the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball haven't even felt the true pinch of crunch time, the WWE delivers yet another installment of the event that critics made clear wouldn't make it to this point.

But the night before the Greatest Spectacle on the Planet takes center stage, the WWE honors the individuals who paved the way for the WWE Superstars of today.

In the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, the WWE Hall of Fame gets some much-needed Attitude. With that, here's now is the final list of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009!

Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat

You may not know for sure what your greatest memory of Ricky Steamboat is. Whether it be his epic encounter with "Macho Man" Randy Savage at WrestleMania III or his priceless battles with Ric Flair.

Either way, the man simply known as "The Dragon" has left his mark in both WWE and WCW.

He is a former WCW United States, Tag Team and World Heavyweight Champion. He is a former WWE Intercontinental Champion, and he has had some fierce battles with Ric Flair, Randy Savage, "Ravishing" Rick Rude and fellow 2009 Inductee Stone Cold Steve Austin (while he was "Stunning").

These days, The Dragon stays behind the scenes, but he is finally able to take his long awaited spot among those very individuals that he delivered high caliber matches with when he stepped into the ring.

But there is just one more thing: As announced this Monday night on RAW, Steamboat will team with fellow HOF's Rowdy Roddy Piper and "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka to battle the self proclaimed "Legend Slayer" Chris Jericho at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania.

The Von Erich Family

In the world of professional wrestling, there have been several famous families that have left the impact that we see before us. Out of the small pile of names that have done just that, you will find the Von Erichs.

Fritz Von Erich led his family into the wrestling business from their date of birth. If you were to watch the video of WCCW, you will most likely hear the Von Erichs name as many times as humanly possible. Three of Fritz' sons, Kevin, Kerry and David, became mainstays for the company's survival.

But if it wasn't for the Von Erichs, we wouldn't have seen Damian, Jake Roberts' trademark snake. We wouldn't have seen the creepy handler of The Undertaker, Paul Bearer.

We wouldn't have seen the music video that introduced us to Michael P.S. Hayes and the Fabulous Freebirds. And most importantly, we wouldn't have two words for them if they weren't down with that.

That's right kids: A young, cocky Shawn Michaels also got his start in WCCW.

The Funk Family

When I was talking about famous families, I wasn't kidding. From the Von Erichs to the McMahons, famous families come a dime a dozen in the world of professional wrestling. But when you talk about famous families, you have to talk about...The Funks!

Whenever you step into Amarillo, Texas, the sign that is on the outside of the city should read, "Home of The Famous Funks."

Dory Funk, Sr. brought to the wrestling world two sons that left one hell of an impact in not one, but two wrestling promotions before it was all said and done.

Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk managed to drop their own F-Bombs on WCW and ECW before Terry came to WWE as the maniacal Chainsaw Charlie.

Dory Funk, Jr. was mad famous for being the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for over four years. He stormed through the Southern and Central States, continuing his dominance by garnering championships in every state he passed through.

Known for his raspy voice, Terry Funk was known mostly for his Hardcore demeanor and of course, his Hollywood status while filming alongside Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott, two of H-Wood's biggest pairs of eye candy.

But Funk was more than just a Hollywood legend. He was also one of the most undersized, unbelievable superstars in wrestling history.

Funk had intensive rivalries with Ric Flair, but his stint in ECW made him the ultimate Hardcore Legend. Because of his stay in the Real Land of Extreme, he became a mainstay for Extreme matches in the WWE.

"Cowboy" Bill Watts

Despite WCW's desert cloud of dust that is left in some rural part of Atlanta, there is one name that remains a huge portion of the annals of WCW and professional wrestling history.

Bill Watts originally became famous in Japan, but his partnership with Gorilla Monsoon during the era of Worldwide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) is what made him a mainstay in the States.

Upon his retirement from wrestling, he became a huge part of WCW. Watts also was huge in the arrival of several WWE Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers.

If not for Watts, we would not know that everyone has a price via "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. We would not know that it's okay to yell out "HO!" in a building full of women via "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.

And we wouldn't know the words Slobberknocker, Government Mule or the phrase, "Tougher than a Waffle House Steak" via Good Ol' JR Jim Ross.

By the time he officially walked away from the business, Watts had accomplished everything that was necessary for him to be inducted into the 2009 Hall of Fame. In all honesty, the phrase that comes to mind now is, "Better Late Than Never."

"The Birdman" Koko B. Ware

Who have not found themselves flapping their arms in the air and dancing around the living room during WWF Superstars of yesteryear?

During my childhood, I knew that I was.

Alongside with his trusty bird Frankie, Koko B. Ware came to the ring with colorful outfits, an immense amount of charisma and the skills to make himself a mainstay in the WWE.

Ware was well-loved and well known during his time with WWE, but it was when he teamed with the late Owen Hart to form High Energy that Ware left one huge impact on the WWE Universe...before it was even the WWE Universe.

From there, he started a trend that would continue to define the WWE. He was one of the first to incorporate wrestlers into music videos. Since then, we have seen The Rock pair with Wyclef Jean and John Cena show why he's a Bad, Bad Man.

And the wild part of this whole thing is this: He never won a championship in his entire career.

Howard "The Fink" Finkel

Speaking of WWF Superstars, can anyone tell me the original voice that paved the way for singing sultress Lillian Garcia? Here's a few hints: He complimented Trish Stratus and her "puppies."

He wrestled in the first (and thank God only) Men's Underwear match. He has also provided the voice that would announce that WrestleMania once again broke another sellout record.

He is Howard Finkel...but we know him as "The Fink."

Finkel has never won a wrestling championship, but he has announced World Champions in the past. From Hulk Hogan to Stone Cold Steve Austin, Fink's voice has been significant with WrestleMania moments. You will always hear that voice in the back of your mind.

These days, Finkel migrates around WWE.com with games such as "Outthink The Fink" and "Are You Smarter than Howard Finkel?"

But he never forgets where he comes from, which is why every year since the debut of the WWE Hall of Fame, he has been the voice that announces the class for that year.

But this year, he will be the one whose name is announced as one of the members of this year's class.

Insert your best Howard Finkel saying...now!

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin

I did three articles explaining and arguing why Stone Cold Steve Austin is the best superstar of our generation. Let's be as realistic as possible: If not for the birth of Austin 3:16, we would not have The Attitude Era.

And what did the Attitude Era bring us: Ladder Matches between four soon-to-be World Champions (Matt and Jeff Hardy, Edge, and Christian).

The transformation of a phenomenal athlete to a Phenom also occurred during this timespan. And of course, we wouldn't have two words for those who ain't down with that...

Austin started out in WCW as a "Stunning" addition to the roster. He then got screwed and canned by Eric Bischoff before being brought on as a venting tool for Paul Heyman's ECW.

By the time the 90s came around, The Ringmaster, under the tutelage of the elder DiBiase, was a sort of force to be reckoned with. But it was his 1996 King of the Ring speech that would introduce the world to the new Attitude of the WWE.

From The Hart Foundation to D-Generation X to The Corporation, Stone Cold Steve Austin is the reason why several of those small name superstars became huge during his tenure in the ring.

Before Austin, Triple H was simply known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Before Austin, The Rock wasn't known as "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment."

And before Austin, Mr. McMahon, the alter ego of Vince, wouldn't have even gotten off the ground.

But because of Austin introducing the world to his beer chugging, finger gesturing, trash talking, stunning SOB side, the WWE has had no problems picking up where they left off from those times of the infamous WWE Attitude Era.

Simply put: Without Austin, there would be no Attitude Era.

Now on April 4, 2009, the man known by several names takes his rightful spot among those immortals that led him to the promise land.

On April 4, 2009, he seals his fate one last time. On April 4th, the man we know as The Texas Rattlesnake will earn another title to his already illustrious resume: WWE Legend.


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