Nothing compares to the experience of a live WWE event, especially one of the magnitude of the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. A wrestling crowd will make or break a show and on April 6, 2013, the crowd at Madison Square Garden owned the show. Instead of letting WWE dictate the action, New York City set the pace for one of the most historic events in WWE history.
The show will finally air tonight, April 9, on USA Network at 10 p.m. ET. Take it from somebody who was there live: You do not want to miss this show.
Having attended many WWE events in New York, I thought I knew what to expect from my home-state brethren, but even I was shocked by how respectful and more importantly, disrespectful, Madison Square Garden was. To say the crowd entertained would be an understatement as seemingly every WWE superstar, legend, diva and mainstream celebrity got a kick out of New York City.
WWE had closed off a good portion of the Garden to fans, which is surprising seeing as how many more people they could have packed in if they wanted. Still, it was a nice move by WWE to provide a more intimate feel for the paying attendees and WWE family.
From the moment the WWE stars made their way to their seats on the Garden floor, the crowd voiced their no-holds-barred feelings of just about every single person. Unfortunately, the WWE Universe won’t see any of the entertaining moments from the pre-show assembly line.
Most current and former stars were cheered as they made their way to their seats, but it was who received the biggest pops that would shock many wrestling fans. Naturally, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan received massive pops, but Billy Gunn, William Regal, Faarooq and The Iron Sheik also received major fanfare.
Of course, as soon as John Cena was seen, New York City unleashed a relentless chorus of boos. These sentiments never let up throughout the night as fans even booed Cena’s appearance in a Make-a-Wish video package later in the evening!
Right before the show began, a huge CM Punk vs. Undertaker dueling chant erupted. The Undertaker may have won at WrestleMania to extend his streak to 21-0, but Punk is easily 1-0 in dueling chants at MSG because his allegiance of fans were louder than ‘Taker’s.
Foley’s portion lasted for nearly an hour as Terry Funk came out to induct him. Many fans in my section were shocked that he was being inducted first and felt it was a cheap shot by WWE. Foley hasn't always received his due credit by WWE for his overall contributions to the company, but he is undeniably one of the most beloved performers ever and his induction proved that.
Funk shared a great story about he and Foley in Japan. He explained that an arena they wrestled in at one point held thousands of people, but that only 300 people showed up. Funk says he told Foley to look at how many people were in attendance and that Foley replied back, “Yeah, but look at how many empty chairs there are for us to use!” Classic Foley!
Foley’s induction speech was everything a fan could want and then some. He talked about Jimmy Snuka’s leap from the Garden, his resemblance to Jim Duggan and even reminisced about his classic battles with Triple H at MSG.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Foley Hall of Fame speech without the mention of the infamous Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker. He thanked 'Taker for the match and joked about Terry Funk being chokeslammed out of his shoes. Foley says after taking the fall off and through the cell, the one thing he wondered during that match was where those tennis shoes came from. Priceless moment of Foley's induction.
However, nothing was better than his interactions with CM Punk and Chris Jericho. When Foley was being announced to the stage, Punk held up an ‘APPLAUSE’ sign for the crowd, which got Punk only more over with the crowd than he was before.
Later in the speech, Foley says that he never beat Jericho, but always wanted to drive an elbow into his chest. Jericho then ran on stage and laid down for Foley to drop the elbow. After Foley dropped the elbow to a great pop, Punk ran on stage and counted the 1-2-3 as the crowd went ballistic. It was easily one of the best moments of the night.
Many were surprised that Lita wasn’t chosen to induct Stratus, but Stephanie McMahon was a great choice. McMahon went through her history with Stratus, which almost ‘tore apart’ their family on television for the world to see, which drew laughs from the crowd.
She ultimately expressed her admiration for everything Stratus has accomplished during her career as a wrestler and afterwards as an entrepreneur. More importantly, she implied that we likely haven’t seen the last of Stratus in the squared circle.
Stratus received a great reaction when she walked out on stage, but it definitely could have been louder considering she is easily the greatest women’s wrestler ever. She explained that she had so many people to thank and didn’t want to forget anybody so she wrote them down.
Stratus then pulled out a scroll and opened it on the stage, which ended up extending for what seemed like 10 feet! It was a great moment that featured just about everyone a wrestling fan could image.
Later in her speech, she went on to explain how important Jim Ross was to her career. She then pulled out the pen she signed her first contract with for the company. In an underrated and very funny moment of the evening, she said she had to cover the “F” on the pen to avoid angering the pandas.
The highlight of Stratus’ speech came when she introduced her husband, Ron. The fans instantly booed Ron, obviously because Stratus is such a fan favorite of just about every wrestling male. She explained how they were high school sweethearts and about the support Ron has given her, which only drew more boos from the crowd.
Then, Stratus announced that she was pregnant and the crowd started to chant for Ron for underlying reasons. Talk about a quick face turn!
Stratus thanked former Divas who competed with her in the ‘Golden Era’ of women’s wrestling in WWE. She mentioned the likes of Ivory, Victoria and Gail Kim, but nobody more prominent than Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas, who was in attendance sitting next to CM Punk.
The crowd erupted for Lita and rightfully so as many fans will attest to Lita vs. Stratus as being the best women’s rivalry in WWE history.
Stratus wasn’t just a member of WWE’s Golden Era of women’s wrestling; she was the leader. The youngest WWE Hall of Famer is among the most deserving of anybody ever inducted.
Stevie Ray came out next to induct his brother, Booker T. Fans chanted ‘Harlem Heat’ and ‘One More Match.’ Stevie Ray told fans about how when they were younger, Booker T followed Stevie everywhere.
Eventually, Booker followed Stevie into professional wrestling, but Booker would be the standout performer and he let everybody know. It was an emotional induction given everything these two men have been through in their lives and it made for an exceptional moment.
Booker T confirmed everything Stevie said, even owning up to a story about sitting in the middle of a road crying until Stevie returned to get the crowd laughing. A standout moment of Booker’s speech was when he talked about finally coming to WWE after the McMahon family bought WCW. Linda McMahon said to Booker when he signed, “We finally got you.”
For every WWE fan prior to WCW’s closure, those sentiments couldn’t be truer as he was arguably the best homegrown talent from WCW.
The fans were into Booker’s speech throughout, but nothing got fans hotter than when they chanted for a Spinaroonie. Booker T seemed reluctant, but finally gave the fans what they wanted as he ended his time on stage with a Hall of Fame-worthy Spinaroonie.
Maria Menounos inducted Bob Backlund, though you may not have been able to tell since the crowd booed her entire induction speech. It got to the point where it was nearly impossible to hear her. It was certainly one of the most disrespectful portions of the night and will be interesting to see if WWE decides to cover it up.
Backlund came out and he was clearly irate about how the audience treated Menounos and even Cena throughout the night. He was immediately worked up, more worked up than we’ve ever seen Backlund. He went on a long-winded rant, which if you’ve seen Backlund before, you know all too well.
Backlund’s speech was one of the funniest and most incoherent speechess we’ve ever seen. It got to the point where fans gave up trying to understand him and just started to go along with Backlund, cheering and chanting for him.
Vince McMahon eventually came and snuck up behind Backlund, scaring him in the process and telling him to wrap it up. It was pure gold.
Vince McMahon inducted Trump and was cheered and thanked by the fans when he came out. McMahon went over his history with Trump, primarily the Billionaire vs. Billionaire extravaganza at WrestleMania 23 when McMahon had his head shaved on pay-per-view.
McMahon said that he was the worst looking bald-headed man ever. At that point, a fan screamed out, “Ever see Hogan!?” McMahon smiled and laughed at this comment!
New York wrestling fans evidently despise celebrity involvement because Donald Trump, like Maria Menounos, could barely be heard due to the melody of boos. The only time Trump was cheered was when he introduced his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
The highlight of Trump’s speech was when he challenged Vince McMahon to a match at WrestleMania 30. Imagine the buyrate for that! We can also imagine the beating Trump would receive if they really fought…
Thankfully, the Madison Square Garden crowd proved they don’t hate all celebrities as Arnold Schwarzenegger received a great pop by the crowd, who also laughed at his jokes and seemed interested in his induction speech. This may have been because the Garden has the utmost respect for Bruno Sammartino and didn’t want to disrespect the Living Legend’s return to WWE.
Sammartino’s speech, as expected, was the most emotional and prolific of the night. He talked about his childhood; escaping the Nazi regime and suffering from an illness that his doctor believed he wouldn’t recover from.
He discussed how important his mother was in his life and growing up a scrawny kid and being bullied in school, only to become one of the most powerful men in the world during his prime.
It was his inspirational words that led the fans to chant ‘One More Match’ at the Living Legend. Of course, another match isn’t possible and the fans know that, but it was the ultimate sign of respect for one of the founding fathers of professional wrestling.
After Sammartino’s speech came to an end, all of the inductees came out on stage to pose and bow for the audience.
After everyone went backstage, Bob Backlund, clearly still emotional from his portion of the show, taunted the fans. He exchanged words with some and kept leaving and coming back to wave his arms. It was a fantastic moment to close the show because it proved the type of entertainer Backlund truly is.
The most stacked Hall of Fame class in WWE history provided one of the most entertaining shows we’ll see all year. Although the crowd aided the overall atmosphere and entertainment, the stories each Hall of Famer told and their reactions to the crowd throughout the night was flat-out special.
There will never be a Hall of Fame ceremony like this as the connection between the legends and audience was uncanny. More importantly, another class will never match these Hall of Famers’ collective contributions to the business.
For more wrestling talk, listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics or catch the latest episode in the player below (some language NSFW.