Much was said at the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Let’s take a look at three powerful statements that settled historic and recent debates…or gave rise to newer, unresolved issues.
“Thank you for letting Daddy go out and be a wrestler.”
These were a few of the heartwarming words spoken from Shawn Michaels to his children during his induction into the 2011 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. Shawn encapsulated what it meant to be a wrestler, and I will always appreciate his dedication to his craft because I, along with many other fans, were the beneficiaries of his skills.
But his words speak to a larger debate that has been surrounding the WWE for the past few weeks. Recently, TVWeek.com revealed that WWE has verbally dissociated itself with the sport of professional wrestling, calling itself a sports entertainment conglomerate.
The article also stated that the performers are not to be called wrestlers, but rather entertainers and superstars. Though WWE has for years focused heavily on the entertainment nature of the sport, this denouncement as a professional wrestling company seems to be the most explicit that WWE has been regarding its perception of itself.
So begs the question, how do the performers view themselves? Shawn, quite likely the greatest performer in the history of the business, is a wrestler.
As a fan, I valued his appreciation of the athletic nature of professional wrestling. He, along with others who have identified as athletes, including Shelton Benjamin and Kurt Angle have become standards of the sport to which wrestling fans are so faithfully committed. Thank you, Shawn, for being a wrestler.
“Look what I started.”
Sunny stated these words as she pointed to each diva, all who accompanied Laycool to induct her. She later clarified her statements by saying that the debate surrounding who the “original diva” was is now over. In her mind, her induction serves to prove that she, in fact, is the original diva.
From a fan’s perspective, I completely disagree with this on two levels. First, Sunny’s behavior was unacceptable and showcased her massive ego and insecurity.
Second and most important, the term “diva” did not exist during Sunny’s stint with WWE. It came along after Sable got massively over. The term, when it was first used, did not address managers, but rather, it addressed female wrestlers. The first female wrestler to be coined the term “diva” was Sable, a manager turned wrestler.
Sunny was never a wrestler in the WWE; she was a manager—a very good manager, albeit, but a manager nevertheless. This is important, because in order to be the first of anything, there must not have been another to do what you have done.
However, in the case of female managers, there have been plenty, and they’ve been very successful and great in their own way. Such examples include Woman, who managed a number of major stars, including Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen; Sherry Martel, who both wrestled and managed a number of headliners, including the Macho Man and Shawn Michaels; and Miss Elizabeth, who managed the Macho Man and Hulk Hogan.
Sunny managed mid-card tag teams such as the Bodydonnas and the Smoking Gunns.
Not to diminish her skills, Sunny is probably the most charismatic manager of the last 20 years. However, keeping things in perspective, John Cena is probably the most charismatic performer of the past six years. Does that make him the greatest wrestler or as Sunny claims, the first?
Sunny was a manager, and she wasn’t the first nor the best. Being the most downloaded person on the Internet does not speak to one’s skills in the arena of wrestling. It speaks to her popularity, but again, John Cena is wildly popular. His popularity says nothing of his actual wrestling acumen. The only person who Sunny should have been speaking to in this regard is Vickie Guerrero, another manager. Her self-absorption was embarrassing.
“You screwed Bret.”
You may be wondering how these three infamous words apply to the Hall of Fame. Is the Hall of Fame an appropriate venue to address your personal issues with an inductee?
Though I am not a fan of Sunny (and less a fan after her repugnant behavior at the event), I cannot imagine myself throwing obscenities or screaming harsh words toward her while she was speaking at an event designed to showcase her accomplishments in the sport.
Yet, one fan did just that during Shawn Michaels’ speech. He began the infamous, “You screwed Bret” chant. Throughout Shawn’s speech, he continued yelling obscenities and other harsh words. It was disrupting, immature, and quite inappropriate.
It’s moments like those when I feel that the WWE Hall of Fame should be exclusive to family members and competitors.
We as fans have a responsibility and a role to play. Wrestling events could not happen without us. We should take pride in our role and feel honored to be welcomed into such an important event.
For many of the athletes, such as Animal from the Legion of Doom, induction into the Hall of Fame is the culminating highlight of their career. For some fans to trash on someone’s career during their special moment is a poor reflection on those of us who appreciate the commitment and skill that these athletes have given to the sport.
There are venues to express one’s displeasure with a performer. The Hall of Fame is not one of them. What would have happened had that disrespectful fan thought, “Sometimes, the world just doesn’t revolve around me”?