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CALDWELL'S WWE HALL OF FAME REPORT 4/9: Complete coverage of USA Network special headlined by Sammartino; ceremony ends with Sammartino & McMahon hugging on-stage

Apr 9, 2013 - 10:15:28 PM
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WWE Hall of Fame TV special report
April 9, 2013
Taped 4/6 at MSG
Aired on USA Network
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor


Top News: The 75-minute Hall of Fame special closed with an impossible-to-fathom image - Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino hugging and standing together on-stage.

The 2013 WWE Hall of Fame special opened with a dramatic video package highlighting this year's class. The Hall of Fame began with one man - Andre the Giant. Two decades later, it has grown to include the biggest names in wrestling history, said the voice-over man. The video paused on Eddie Guerrero before flashing forward to this year's class - Bob Backlund, Donald Trump, Booker T, Trish Stratus, Mick Foley, and now Bruno Sammartino.

From Madison Square Garden, Jerry Lawler was introduced as the host of the event. What a journey for Lawler, himself, from an on-air heart attack in September to introducing a class headlined by Sammartino. Lawler asked the crowd to welcome the WWE stars past and present here tonight. Paul Heyman, Lita, and C.M. Punk were focused on. Lawler then introduced Mick Foley as the first televised inductee. This led to a video package on Foley's career highlights.

Mick Foley Induction

-- Terry Funk was introduced as Foley's inductor. Funk said he is nuts, crazy, and out of his mind, but he loves him like an ugly brother. Jack Swagger was shown smiling in the crowd. Funk then introduced Mick Foley.

-- Mick Foley said he's not sure how the Class of 2014 will follow this class. For example, cumulatively, Bruno, Backlund, and he have held the WWE Title for a total of 6,225 days. Foley said he doesn't think the fans need an individual break down. Okay, actually, 4,040 days for Bruno, 2,138 days for Backlund, and (ahem) 47 days for Foley.

Foley said as he mentioned to C.M. Punk, no one cares about the numbers, but the moments they create is what defines them. He then went back to Jimmy Snuka coming off the cage 30 years ago in the Garden, before asking for applause for Snuka.

Foley said his career is not without regrets because he never beat Chris Jericho. They showed Jericho sitting on the front row, then Jericho hopped on-stage. Foley said he doesn't have any elbows left in him. Jericho laid down, then C.M. Punk hit the stage as referee. Foley then hit the elbow, Jericho sold, Foley covered, and the crowd along with Punk counting one, two, and three. Great spot. Punk then held up Foley's in the arm.

Back to Foley, who sold being blown up. He shouted out to his wife, "Yo Adrian, I did it!" Foley's music played to close out the speech. Good piece of editing to lead to the high-point of Foley-Jericho-Punk.

[Commercial Break]

Next was a brief highlight package on Bob Backlund's speech. Backlund said he respects Bruno Sammartino because he paved the road for guys like him. Backlund was shown freaking out as everyone was on their feet. More of Bob's fired-up speech, then Triple H was shown hitting the stage to salute Backlund.

Back to Jerry Lawler to introduce Donald Trump into the clebrity wing of the Hall of Fame, which drew boos.

Donald Trump Induction

-- Vince McMahon was introduced to induct Donald Trump. They showed Linda McMahon in the crowd as Vince talked about Trump being a WrestleMania Institution. This led to a video on McMahon having his head shaved by Trump. Back live, Linda had a good laugh. Back on-stage, McMahon said that to show how he never carries a grudge, he is here to induct Donald Trump into the Hall of Fame, which drew boos. "You're not even going to let him come out here and you're booing him?" McMahon asked with a smile before waiting out a "No!" chant. Trump then came out on-stage before they went to break.

[Commercial Break]

-- Donald Trump talked about it all beginning for him at Trump Plaza when he first met Andre the Giant. WWE cut to a photo of Trump in-between Andre and Hulk Hogan. Trump claimed that the Battle of the Billionaires has, to-date, "the highest ratings and PPV in wrestling history." Way off. Trump then challenged McMahon to a match at next year's WrestleMania. "I will kick his ass," Trump said.

Trump claimed McMahon has tried to break their PPV record for the past six years, but he hasn't been able to. Trump said that in conclusion, this is a major honor for him after having the #1 show in TV (boos), bestsellers (boos), and a star on the Walk of Fame (boos), but he considers this his greatest honor of all, which drew some applause. Trump said he loves the fans, even if they don't like him. "Thank you," Trump said as Linda was shown standing and applauding.

[Commercial Break]

Back from break, WWE played a video package of Booker T's career highlights interspersed with clips of Stevie Ray's introduction. Booker was then shown introduced on-stage to receive his Hall of Fame induction. They showed Sharmell celebrating in the crowd before Stevie got Booker to do a Spinarooni. WWE missed out on not having Booker's full speech and moment.

Trish Stratus Induction

First was a video package on Trish's career highlights and soundbytes from current stars.

-- Stephanie McMahon was introduced to discuss Trish Stratus's career highlights. Stephanie listed some facts about Trish's WrestleMania career before saying she might not be done yet, hinting at a future Mania appearance by Trish. Stephanie said she is honored and overwhelmed to cement the legacy of her friend, the youngest Hall of Fame inductee, Trish Stratus.

-- Trish Stratus was introduced to the stage to big cheers and applause. Trish said when you get the nod from the Hall of Fame, it's a reflection on your career and body of work, which she said is sexy. No, kidding. She said it's a compilation of matches, moments, and kicking ass in the ring. They showed Finlay sitting in the crowd. She name-dropped her Attitude Era peers of Ivory, Jacqueline, Victoria, Molly Holly, Mickie James, and her bestie, Amy a/k/a Lita, who they showed in the crowd.

Trish said one of the main reasons why she retired in 2006 was to be by her mom's side as she fought cancer. But, her mom is a true fighting champion. She said that her mom is cancer-free and they showed her tearing up in the crowd. After strong applause, Trish pointed out her husband in the crowd. Trish thanked him, then the males in the audience booed, which Trish acknowledged. Trish said she loves him. More boos. This brought her to the end. Trish said she would like to announce that in September, she will be delivering a little Stratusfaction. She held her stomach as the crowd and wrestlers stood up and applauded. The crowd responded by chanting her husband's name. Trish smiled and thanked everyone for their support.

[Commercial Break]

Back to Jerry Lawler to set up the final speech from Bruno Sammartino. Lawler said this man has sold out MSG 187 times. This led to a video package on Sammartino's career, with file-footage soundbytes from Vince McMahon, Sr. talking Bruno. Other soundbytes were from Mike Tyson, Sheamus, Triple H, George the Animal Steele, Cody Rhodes, C.M. Punk putting over Bruno's title run, Pat Patterson, Mean Gene Okerlund, Larry Zbyszko capturing Bruno in two sentences with his manner of speaking, The Miz, and back to Hunter. "Without Bruno Sammartino, there is no Hall of Fame, there is no WWE," Triple H said in the final soundbyte.

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger was introduced on-stage as WWE showed Miz and Maryse in the crowd. Arnold thanked the crowd, then thanked Vince McMahon and Triple H for inviting him to be part of this. Arnold surveyed the packed crowd, prompting him to ask where everyone was when his movie came out last January. They showed Rey Mysterio laughing in the crowd.

Arnold went back to when he first met Bruno in the late '60s. Arnold said Bruno's thighs were coming out of his pants, then commented to himself that the judges look bigger than the athletes on-stage. He said after the judging was over, he had a great conversation with Bruno and connected on their great immigrant stories. Arnold said Bruno had to escape the Nazis, then WWE decided it was a good time to focus on Zeb Colter (Dutch Mantell) in the crowd. Arnold continued that Bruno had great messages to get involved in sports and wrestling, and to avoid gangs, drugs, and alcohol. He then welcomed "the great wrestler, the great champion, the great Bruno Sammartino."

Sammartino was introduced to a standing ovation and escorted on-stage by Layla and ALicia Fox. Bruno shook hands with Arnold and they shared a moment before Bruno approached the podium to loud applause.

[Commercial Break]

-- Bruno's speech began at the 10:05 p.m. mark of the show. Bruno stepped back to receive a long applause, followed by "Bruno, Bruno" in MSG one more time. Bruno said to be inducted into a Hall of Fame is extremely special, but to be in MSG is - he paused to reflect. Bruno said he is extremely proud to have headlined MSG more times than anyone in MSG history. He said he can hardly believe it that it was 50 years ago that he became WWWF Champion in this building before rhetorically asking how many of them were even born then.

Bruno said he must say how grateful what the Garden did for him. He said there are beautiful arenas all around the country, but the one arena people know is MSG. Bruno said when you are so fortunate to headline The Garden, it gives you publicity worldwide. He said that he would appear on the cover of six or seven magazine covers at a time, so when Vince, Sr. would get requests for him to appear, he was automatically the headliner. Bruno said the building has meant so much to him and done so much for him.

Bruno said his body took quite the toll, especially wrestling in boxing rings in the old days. Big Show was shown leaning forward listening intently, then Bruno said he was glad to finally retire because he spent way too many years away. He said he was looking forward to spending time at home, especially dealing with pain and never depending on a pain-pill to mask the pain. Bruno said he was very lucky with all of his injuries, because two doctors from Pittsburgh improved his quality of life. Bruno said he will be 78 in a few months, and because of them, he is here still training six days a week, feeling in great shape, and still active.

Bruno said in this business, if you have the opportunity to become a headliner, the promoter sees some talent and gives you the shot, but to stay as a headliner, people have to fill those seats. So, he was one of the luckiest guys in the entire world because the fans kept coming out. Bruno said promoters would call Vince, Sr. to have Bruno's services, so he would travel all across the country to sell out with the likes of Ray Stevens.

Bruno closed by saying he is very grateful to Arnold, WWE, and to appear in MSG one more time. Triple H was shown applauding in the crowd. Bruno then thanked the crowd for supporting him because if they never came out and supported him, then he never would become who he is. Bruno thanked the crowd and fans one more time, then concluded, "I thank you for the support and kindness you showed me all of these years. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you and God bless all of you."

The Hall of Fame music played as Bruno stood and saluted the crowd and wrestlers on the floor. Bruno waved around to the arena, then WWE focused on Hunter and John Cena applauding on the front row.

On-stage, the Hall of Famers and inductors came out for a final curtain-call. Bret Hart was shown in the crowd as everyone took their place on-stage. Vince McMahon was the last one out to stand at the far end of the row. WWE cut to Vince grabbing Bruno's hand and raising it in the air, which was a moment no one ever expected to see. Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels were shown in the crowd. Then, Vince and Bruno half-embraced, with Vince flashing a big smile. WWE focused on Trump, Trish, and Stephanie standing together soaking in the moment before closing with a final shot of the entire Hall of Fame class as the show ended at 10:15 p.m.


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