WWE Hall of Fame 2015: Grading Inductee Speeches, Top Highlights and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2015

WWE Hall of Fame 2015: Grading Inductee Speeches, Top Highlights and More

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    Credit: WWE.com

    On the eve of WrestleMania 31, the Superstars and Divas of today paid tribute to those who had come before them at the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

    Headliner Randy "Macho Man" Savage finally earned the opportunity to take his place among the greats. Brother Lanny Poffo inducted him, while Hulk Hogan introduced him.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger added "Hall of Famer' to his resume, Alundra Blayze delivered the promo of a lifetime, Larry Zbyszko was blown away by the magnitude of the Hall of Fame and the Bushwhackers once again captivated the audience with an entertaining trip down memory lane.

    On one of the most emotional and celebratory nights of the year, World Wrestling Entertainment welcomed nine new personalities and to its hallowed halls.

    With that in mind, let's relive everything that went down Saturday night as WWE presented its Hall of Fame broadcast, exclusively on the WWE Network.

Rikishi

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    Is it any surprise that two of the most energetic and popular acts in WWE history kicked off the show?

    Jimmy and Jey Uso inducted their father, Rikishi, into the Hall of Fame Saturday night and wasted little time pumping up the audience.

    The prized curtain-jerking act of the Usos, much like their rump-shaking poppa Rikishi, had fans fired up for the festivities.

    Rikishi followed up with a strong performance on the microphone, thanking his family and wishing his mother had been there to witness his moment under the bright lights.

    Father and sons danced to close out the segment.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "It was not the 400-pound athleticism moving around the ring that we noticed about Rikishi." -The Usos

    "I thank my parents, but I wish my beautiful mother was here to witness this. I know she is looking down on me tonight." -Rikishi

    Grade

    B+

    Analysis

    Rikishi was a class act as he addressed the WWE Universe to kick off this year's broadcast.

    He was humbled but still had fun, recruiting his sons to dance by his side to close out the first segment on Satuday's broadcast.

    The most puzzling aspect was the lack of Scotty Too Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay, the original members of Too Cool. They were both insanely over with the audience and a necessary key to the packaging of Rikishi.

    The dance with Jimmy and Jey was not only a special moment, it helped kick off the show with a tremendous energy. 

Larry Zbyzsko

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    One of the most talented talkers of all time, Larry Zbyszko found himself dumbstruck by the time he took to the stage for the Hall of Fame, unable to muster the the words needed to describe what it takes to be a fan in the world of wrestling today. 

    When he finally did, he repeatedly mentioned his hero, Bruno Sammartino, whom he achieved his greatest success with as both mentor and opponent. His tale of traveling down the rabbit hole and being greeted by Sammartino, both on his way in and out of the business, was touching.

    Larry eventually labeled himself a wrestling fan before leaving amid chants of "Larry."

    Highlights and Quotes

    "After watching that video, can you believe I'm inducting that guy tonight?" -Bruno Sammartino

    "Bruno, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, sir, for letting a young boy's dream come true when you didn't have to do it." -Larry Zbyszko 

    "After all these years of having a reputation for having a big mouth, man." -Zbyszko

    Grade

    C

    Grade

    Zbyszko clearly wanted to relate just how much his career meant to him but became overwhelmed by the moment, forgetting his speech and winging in it. Despite his periods of forgetfulness, he still delivered a speech full of emotion.

    His speech about fans near the end was beautiful and serves as a reminder that even if you're not the biggest, baddest, strongest or fastest, following your dreams may one day get you inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Voicing his fandom for pro wrestling, something some guys are often too cool to want to admit, was a nice way to top off a solid speech by the Living Legend, whose admiration for Bruno, and the story about journeying down the rabbit hole, was a nice touch. 

Alundra Blayze

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    Natalya introduced Alundra Blayze, who proceeded to deliver the speech of the night, complete with props that would make Carrot Top blush.

    She discussed all of her influences, taking the time to thank them amid tears. She introduced her husband, an active duty member of the military, discussed her victories in Monster Jam and finished by retrieving the for WWE Women's Championship from the trash can and bringing her storied career to a close with her induction into the Hall of Fame.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "The only woman Arn Anderson is afraid of." -Natalya

    "Twenty-one years ago, I had the distinct honor of introducing the first woman to ever be inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame, The Fabulous Moolah." -Blayze

    "Daddy, you would be proud." -Blayze on the father she's never known

    "Evan Karagias...the only dude who had the stones to let me pin him for the Cruiserweight title." -Blayze

    "By the way, I was the first Paul Heyman girl." -Blayze

    Blayze discussing her husband was a truly emotional moment.

    "Let's talk about the title." -Blayze

    "I'll forever be known as the b**** who threw the title in the trash. It takes a lot to be a b****, just saying." -Blayze

    "The title is finally home where it belongs." -Blayze

    Grade

    A+

    Analysis

    While it may have started a bit slow, Alundra Blayze, or Madusa, rebounded quite nicely, ultimately delivering what was an instant-classic speech.

    Cocky and arrogant, sarcastic and funny, on the verge of tears and gripping, she was the perfect storm of emotion as she gave credit to those who were so very instrumental to her career.

    The moment she introduced her husband to the crowd helped hammer home the idea that there is life outside the business for the men and women of wrestling's past, and to watch her become so choked up at the idea that her husband was allowed to take the night off from active duty to specifically witness her induction was a moment that will stand the test of time.

    The spot in which she recovered the women's title was perfect and served as the best possible conclusion to the speech.

Connor "The Crusher" Michalek

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    The most emotional moment of the ceremony came as WWE awarded Connor "the Crusher" Michalek the inaugural Warrior Award, given to someone who has embodied hope and who has helped inspire others to achieve greatness.

    Dana Warrior thanked everyone for helping her through the difficult times that ensued following the passing of her husband, then turned it over to Daniel Bryan, who became very emotional while discussing seeing Connor at ringside following his WrestleMania title win last year.

    Finally, Connor's father, Steve, came to the stage and accepted the honor on his late son's behalf. 

    Highlights and Quotes

    "We all pass away, but what you leave is what matters." -Bryan

    "Have you ever met someone who just melted your heart?" -Bryan

    Grade

    A+

    Analysis

    This was everything it needed to be, from Dana actually explaining what the Warrior Award stands for, then tossing it to Bryan, who was incredibly heartfelt while reliving his time spent with Connor.

    The biggest revelation of the entire speech was the natural wit and charm that Bryan possesses when not handcuffed by a script. 

    The moment that Steve Michalek brought his youngest son out to utter the words, "I love you Connor," sent event the toughest of men over the edge in what was one of the biggest tear-inducing moments of the show.

    There was not a dry eye in the house upon the conclusion of the speech, as was to be expected.

The Bushwhackers

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    Former Raw general manager and Sheepherder manager John Laurinaitis introduced the Bushwhackers. He credited them with giving him his start and mentoring him.

    This brought out Luke and Butch, who proceeded to captivate the audience with their unbridled energy and unique charisma.

    The team called men from their past, such as Bret Hart, Jim Duggan and Ted DiBiase to the stage, where Butch personally shook their hands.

    Butch finished by licking Luke's head and face in typical Bushwhacker fashion, thanking him for his many years as his tag team partner.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "Luke and Butch never told me my hairstyle wasn't as cool as I thought it was." -John Laurinaitis 

    Grade

    B+

    Analysis

    Anyone doubting Luke Williams and Butch Miller's ability to keep an audience captivated, to entertain them immensely, must look no further than Saturday's speech.

    This writer is a longtime, self-admitted fan of the team and their work across numerous promotions. But it was as the Bushwhackers, with their over-the-top antics, that kept the audience cheering them for as long as they did.

    The line about Butch making the same amount as Luke, who lasted just a few seconds in the Royal Rumble match, was hilarious and perfectly encapsulated the fun nature of the entire ordeal.

Tatsumi Fujinami

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    Tatsumi Fujinami accepted his honor Saturday night, embracing rival "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

    The language barrier made it difficult for him to communicate, but he still got his point across before leaving to a nice applause.

    This was easily the shortest acceptance speech of the night but fans still paid their respects to one of the finest international stars to ever lace up a pair of boots.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "He is the greatest wrestler in the history of Japan." -Ric Flair

    "It is my mission to honor the friends and rivals I have made over the years." -Tatsumi Fujinami

    Grade

    C- 

    Analysis

    The fact that the godfather of New Japan Pro Wrestling does not speak strong English left him standing awkwardly on the stage, waiting for fans to react to the words he was saying.

    Still, Fujinami is every bit as good as the video package that aired early in the broadcast suggested. He did defeat Flair to win the NWA championship and made history by becoming the first Superstar to win the right to wear both the aforementioned NWA gold

    Ric Flair insisting that Fujinami was Japan's greatest wrestler solidifies him in the eyes of fans as one of the true greats. It is an incredible pat on the back to be considered by the Nature Boy to be the best at anything.

    In many ways, that means as much as the enshrinement.

"Macho Man" Randy Savage

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    After a wait that felt like an eternity, "Macho Man" Randy Savage took his place among the elite stars in wrestling history, joining the 2015 Hall of Fame.

    Introduced by Hulk Hogan, who admitted that he was a better performer for having known Savage, then claimed that Hulkamania would not have been what it is today without Savage working to keep him so motivated over the years.

    Lanny Poffo accepted the honor on Randy's behalf, then read one of the trademark poems that he would write during his days as an in-ring competitor. It celebrated different aspects of Savage's career.

    Poffo turned the attention to the Special Olympics, a charity very near and dear to the heart of the Macho Man, before wrapping up.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "Randy made you a better performer." -Hulk Hogan

    "There wouldn't be Hulkamania without the Macho Madness." -Hogan

    "When the Mega Powers exploded, the storyline was real. Life's too short to hold a grudge, it's time for us to heal." -Lanny Poffo

    "Thank you for making my brother the happiest man in the world, right up til the day he died." -Poffo, speaking to Savage's wife.

    "Randy loved the athletes of the Special Olympics like Mr. T loves his mother." -Poffo

    Grade

    B

    Analysis

    Depending on what you were looking forward to out of Savage's speech, you may have been disappointed by the final product.

    Anyone looking forward to hearing about his career, including stories and tidbits of information they did not previously know about his career between the ropes, was likely to be let down.

    What they got instead was a deeper look into the life of the iconic figure and his passion outside the ring.

    It was a heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest, most influential stars in the history of the industry, delivered by an emotional brother whose love for his sibling was never more apparent.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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    Unlike previous years, the 2015 induction into the celebrity wing of the Hall of Fame enjoyed a largely positive reaction, barring any mentions of his gubernatorial stint.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger told his story, all the while mixing into his speech stars such as Bruno Sammartino and Otto Wanz, both of whom inspired him to become the successful bodybuilder and movie star that he became.

    He thanked his fans, cheered on America and graciously accepted the honor.

    Highlights and Quotes

    "Or like that time he came to SmackDown and punched me in the face. Really hard. A lot." -Triple H on Arnold Schwarzenegger

    "Arnold slaughtered millions of people in his movies and no one ever got hurt. That's a hell of a worker." -Triple H

    "He was the one who helped me win the Mr. Universe contest for the third time." -Schwarzenegger

    "It is you, the fans, that have created us." -Schwarzenegger

    Grade

    C

    Analysis

    Like most other celebrity speeches at the Hall of Fame, this could have been ugly, but Arnold has such a way of talking to the fans, of engaging them, that he managed to win the audience over.

    Did the speech run longer than it had to?

    Probably, especially with the mutual-admiration-society stuff between the former governor of California and Triple H, but it was still a fairly entertaining speech by someone who clearly enjoys the world of professional wrestling and was able to reference one of the greatest stars of all time in Sammartino and a businessman who became as influential behind the scenes as he did in the ring, Otto Wanz.

    The inclusion of the pro-American stuff at the end felt like pandering but again, Arnold's personality and general likability made up for it.

Kevin Nash

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Kevin Nash headlined the 2015 Hall of Fame class Saturday night, thanking Shawn Michaels for putting him over in his introduction.

    He discussed his career, including a nod to the terrible Oz character that threatened to derail his career earlier.

    Nash relived his meeting with Vince McMahon, where he was informed that he would be winning the WWE Championship after insultingly falling asleep on his sofa. 

    He wrapped up a condensed speech by thanking his wife for keeping him from imploding, then celebrated the induction on the stage with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Scott Hall and the 123 Kid to close out the long broadcast. 

    Highlights and Quotes

    "I would like to thank Jerry Lawler for going through my list of names because the last thing we would want is for this show to go too long." -Shawn Michaels

    "This is one pro wrestler being inducted by another pro wrestler." -Michaels

    "My name is Shawn Michaels and I'm looking for a bodyguard. And just so you know, I may need one in real life because nobody likes me around here." -Michaels

    "Everyone sitting down here, myself included, has a guaranteed contract courtesy of the actions of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall." -Michaels

    "He put me over pretty strong tonight so I guess I didn't suck." -Nash on Michaels

    "There's a lot of people who said I got into this business for the money...and that's absolutely true." -Nash

    "I'm not saying I'm Brad Pitt but do you really wanna put a mask on this face?" -Nash

    "I want to thank my wife. People probably think she's a unicorn that doesn't exist." -Nash

    "There's only two things that are real in this business: when you win your first world title and when you're inducted into the Hall of Fame." -Nash

    Grade

    B

    Analysis

    While he showed some of that trademark Kevin Nash charm, the man known affectionately as Big Daddy Cool appeared somewhat nervous on stage as he discussed his own career.

    The fun he had with the Oz gimmick was great and something no discussion about his career would be complete without. 

    Michaels crediting Nash with the implementation of guaranteed contracts was an interesting addition to his introductory speech. Nash and Scott Hall absolutely were essential in changing the industry and the amount of money a Superstar could earn on the downside of contract, making them pioneers when it comes to the fair payment of their fellow Superstars.

    Nash celebrating with the Klique would have been better and more effective had it not already been done in 2011 for Michaels and 2014 for Hall.

    Overall, it was a solid speech, but one that lacked just a bit of the Nash humor fans are so familiar with.