WWE Hall of Fame report
It was an unforgettable night at the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony last night at Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla. It was memorable mostly because of the return -- for one night -- of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and, of course, for the induction of Ric Flair. Unfortunately, the behavior of many of the fans in attendance put somewhat of a damper on the experience for me -- more on that later.
Johnson -- who was here to induct his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia --into the Hall of Fame, got a tremendous response from the crowd, which he had in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked on the stage. He started off by grabbing the microphone and delivering one of his many catch phrases: "Finally, The Rock has come back to Orlando." By the time he was finished, which was about 40 minutes later, he had done all of his catch phrases.
In a scene reminiscent of Hulk Hogan's induction a few years ago, the crowd kept chanting, "Please come back!" and "One more match!" while Johnson was on stage. He hinted that he would consider another match with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was in the audience nodding his head in approval. Johnson also said that there were three guys he wanted to wrestle but never got the opportunity to -- John Cena, Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels.
Johnson made a few jokes at Cena's expense, mostly cracking on his movie, The Marine. He did it with a smile and a wink, but I have to think that was a receipt for Cena's recent comments about Johnson not giving back to wrestling. Johnson made it a point last night to say that, "I not only grew up in this business, but I love this business."
While I was thoroughly entertained by Johnson, apparently he must have gone on too long, because JBL and Dusty Rhodes both made cracks about it later. JBL said that Johnson forgot the most important two words in wrestling: go home. And Rhodes said that "we've got a good two-hour special if we ever need it."
Triple H also took a jab at Johnson, his former in-ring rival. When giving the induction speech for Flair, Triple H said: "No disrespect to The Rock -- oh, I guess I'm supposed to call him Dwayne now -- but before there was "trailblazing and eyebrow-raising," there was "kiss stealin' and wheelin' dealin'." Triple H got a few boos for the "Dwayne" comment, but he laughed it off and said, "Come on, I'm joking. I love the guy." Actually, I think it's always been apparent that Triple H is somewhat insecure and jealous when it comes to Johnson. It's time to get over it.
Unquestionably, the main event of the evening was the induction of Flair. He was choked up from the moment he went on the stage. Actually, he was choked up earlier in the afternoon at the Hall of Fame news conference. Before he could get his first word out, he started crying. Watching Flair talk about his career possibly ending at WrestleMania XXIV in front of a small gathering of media members is something I will always remember.
Flair's speech last night lasted one hour and 10 minutes. He got teary-eyed a few times, but he got through it and seemed to really be savoring the moment. He tried to mention everyone who meant something to him or played a significant role in his 35-plus-year career. When talking about various members of the Four Horsemen, Flair mentioned Chris Benoit, which drew applause. I'm guessing that comment won't be on the DVD. He also said was that "Austin is the biggest star in the history of WWE. I'm tired of saying Hogan's the biggest star all the time."
On three occasions, Triple H walked over to the podium and whispered in Flair's ear to wrap it up. I can't speak for everyone in attendance, but I could have sat there until the sun came up listening to Flair tell stories. Fittingly, Flair punctuated his speech with a "Wooo!"
Those were the highlights. Now for the lowlights. I attended the first two WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies in Baltimore (1994) and Philadelphia ('95) when the event was in a banquet setting. It was attended mostly wrestlers of the past and present, their families and some media members and people who knew someone in the company. The events were classy, suit-and-tie affairs.
The Hall of Fame has grown to the point in which WWE can fill an arena and charge fans for tickets. I suppose it's a smart business move, but it definitely diminishes the "classy aspect."
Many of the fans at the Amway Arena last night should be ashamed of themselves, as they exhibited all of the negative traits of the stereotypical wrestling fan. They were extremely disrespectful of the speakers and they behaved like they were at the arena to see a house show. They dressed like it as well, even though the dress code was "business attire."
At an event such as this, you shouldn't boo the talent, even if their character is a heel. Of course, the fans last night booed some babyfaces, too, namely Cena and Batista. While the latter got more jeers than cheers, it was nothing compared to the reaction to Cena, who was booed out of the building and serenaded with vulgar chants. Whether or not the fans like Cena's wrestling character, they should at least show John Cena the person some respect.
Cena has always taken the mixed reaction in stride and said all the right things about fans having the right to cheer or boo who they want. Last night, however, Cena looked shaken by the incredibly mean-spirited response. I just don't understand it. He has a passion for the business and an incredible work ethic. And, by all accounts, he's a good guy who hasn't let his success go to his head. He's a decent wrestler, as well, so for those last night who chanted "You can't wrestle," you obviously have no clue about the business.
As horrible as the crowd's treatment of Cena was, the biggest show of disrespect came from the morons who were yelling, "Speak up!" when one of the late Gordon Solie's sons was trying to give a speech about his father.
Here's my suggestion to WWE regarding future Hall of Fame ceremonies: Jack up the ticket prices. Maybe it will keep out the riff-raff.