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April 3, 2011

Thoughts on WWE Hall of Fame ceremony

Shawn Michaels gave a classy, heartfelt induction speech at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta, but in the end, he showed that he will always be a “degenerate” at heart.

After Michaels and Triple H – who inducted his best friend with a funny and at times emotional speech – embraced on stage at the conclusion of Michaels’ speech, they pointed to the back and out came Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman as the DX theme music blared.

In a scene reminiscent of the infamous Curtain Call at Madison Square Garden in 1996, the four members of The Kliq hugged and took a bow to the delight of the crowd. Scott Hall, the other member of The Kliq, was not in attendance.

Michaels’ speech did not come off as polished or rehearsed, which was by design, as he spoke from the heart and not from a sheet of paper. His main message to the fans was that “the most important thing for me was always that was all of you believed in me and thought I was good.”

Getting choked up, he said: “Tonight, I feel it, and I thank you and love each and every one of you.”

The “one more match chants” started as soon as Michaels began his speech, but he quickly shot that notion down. “Don’t start that whole ‘one more match’ stuff. I’m a little nervous up here and you’re seriously breaking my train of thought,” he said with a smile on his face.

Michaels referenced a line from The Undertaker’s promo last week on Raw about him entering the Hall of Fame “full of regret.”

“In 1998, that might have been true,” said Michaels, who retired that year and was out of action for more than four years. “Now, I have absolutely no regret.”

Michaels thanked his family for “letting Daddy go out and finish what I started.”

He also thanked his peers “for your time and patience with me and being part of my life for so long. … We can stab each other on the back but can’t nobody else do it.”

Michaels put over “a man whose name I am not allowed to mention,” in reference to Ric Flair, who was in the audience. After his speech was over, Michaels walked over to the side of the stage where Flair was sitting and mouthed the words, “Thanks for coming.”

At one point in the 19-minute speech, Michaels said that he didn’t want to “be that guy” who talks too long. The crowd immediately started chanting “Wooo!” in reference to Flair’s long, rambling speech during his induction in 2008 in which he literally had to be dragged off the stage.

“You guys are implying that,” Michaels said in response to the audience’s reaction. “I’m not saying that.”

Michaels concluded with the familiar DX “if you’re not down with that” catch phrase, which then led to the Clique reunion.

Other observations from Saturday’s event:

Michaels joked that Triple H’s induction speech was more like a roast than a tribute. Triple H took plenty of good-natured jabs at his buddy, including imitating what he called Michaels “google eye” and saying that Michaels “refused to acknowledge his place in the Hulk Hogan hair club.” …

Even though the crowd was instructed to be respectful and not to engage in catcalling when the inductees were speaking, there still were a number of fans in attendance who just couldn’t help themselves. It’s been that way at the two previous Hall of Fame ceremonies I attended the past few years. There was one obnoxious guy sitting a couple rows in front of me who kept screaming, “Thank Jannetty!” when Michaels was speaking. The worst example of the boorish behavior occurred during Paul Ellering’s speech. As Ellering spoke of the death of Road Warrior Hawk, he said “that was the day the laughter died.” As the entire arena went silent to soak in that moment, some idiot yelled, “LOD!” …

Dusty Rhodes, who inducted The Road Warriors and Ellering, referred to Aimal and Hawk as “the greatest tag team in the business.” He ended by saying, “Tell ’em Hawk,” and then Hawk’s voice was heard over the sound system delivering his trademark “Oh, what a rush” line. …

Animal said that when he and Hawk entered the business, they “just wanted to pay bills, child support and make a little dough on the side.” He thanked Rhodes for seeing something in them and helping them become superstars. …

Ellering, who was wearing sunglasses and carrying a rolled-up newspaper (which he always did back in the day), put a Hawk action figure on the podium near the end of their speech. …

Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who was inducted by longtime friend and in-ring adversary Ted DiBiase, gave a very nice speech in which he recapped his career, spoke about beating cancer and put over his family. Although he went into “Hacksaw” mode a few times, Duggan mostly spoke out of character, which is a big contrast to his cartoonish, larger-than-life persona. He credited his mentor, the late Bruiser Brody, with giving him some advice that led to him always bringing a 2X4 to the ring. “He said to carry something to the ring that I could use, Duggan said. “So I got a board and not sequined robes and feathered boas.” Duggan had a funny line when he said that he beat “Stunning” Steve Austin so bad in WCW that Austin had to shave his head and change his name. Appropriately, he ended with a “Hoooo!” and by starting a “USA” chant. On a side note, Duggan was at the hotel bar – which was filled with fans and past and present WWE talent – after the show, and several times he had the whole bar chanting “Hoooo!” and “USA!” …

Drew Carey was inducted by Kane, who had attempted to chokeslam the comedian/game show host at the Royal rumble pay-per-per-view in 2001. Carey was booed lustily when he came out to deliver his speech, but he had a great comeback: “Go ahead and boo me. I’m skinny, I’m good-looking and I’m rich. Boo all you want.” He put over how much a fan he is of the business and how much respect he has for it and the men and women who do it. That seemed to win over the audience to some degree, as he received more cheers than boos when he finished up. I think Carey going into the “celebrity wing” of the WWE Hall of Fame is a joke, but this was not a night to jeer anyone, and those who booed Carey are classless knuckle-draggers, in my humble opinion. …

Sunny, who was inducted by LayCool as a number of other Divas joined them on stage, was credited as being “groundbreaking.” Sunny said that “there has been some debate as to who is the first, original WWE Diva, but tonight we can put that debate to rest.” She began her speech by pointing to the Divas standing behind her and saying, “Take a look at what I started.” She acknowledged that her “life has been a rollercoaster, but I think most of you know that.” She concluded by saying that she’s “still not too old for one more run, and whatever Sunny wants, Sunny gets.” ...

Abdullah The Butcher, who was walking with a cane, delivered a very brief speech in which he mostly thanked his family. At one point, he pulled out his trademark fork, which he always used to carve up his opponents. Terry Funk inducted Abdullah, saying that he was “a genius who made brutality beautiful.” …

Brian “Road Dogg” James was joined by brothers Scott and Brad Armstrong to induct their father, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong. James delivered his old New Age Outlaw catch phrases, which got big pops from the crowd. Bob Armstrong said that for seven years he was “fighting fires during the day and wrestling at night. I knew I had to make a decision. Tonight, I know I made the right one.”
Note: A one-hour version of the WWE Hall of Fame event will air Monday night at 8 p.m. EDT on USA Network.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 2:16 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

I thought the "man he couldn't mention" was Vince McMahon, who has made it known he can't be thanked by name at these ceremonies.

RESPONSE FROM KE: You could be right about that.

I predict that at this time a year from now Michaels will be back in the ring for one more match.

thanks for the great article....it was awesome to hear what went on...cant wait to see the version they show tomorrow....props kevin...and thanks

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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