So I have to say that since becoming a lapsed fan, I find myself not really using the Peacock app much at all. I did start to use it a bit to go watch some old Scott Hall stuff from WWF & WCW recently, but it’s largely an app that gathers dust for me. I did use it this past weekend though, because for all the stuff that WWE puts out these days that I just don’t care much about anymore, one offering from them did pique my interest. As you can see above, I wasn’t about to miss this year’s Hall of Fame Ceremony.
There are actually a variety of reasons why I didn’t want to miss this event, first and foremost, of course would be the induction of the Undertaker, which I’ll get to here in a bit, but I was also very interested to see the Steiner Brothers, Shad Gaspard, and especially Big Van Vader be inducted! So let’s get on with my thoughts on this show, shall we?
The first to be inducted were Rick & Scott, the Steiner Brothers. Inducting them was Rick’s son who currently works for WWE in the NXT 2.0 brand, Bron Breakker. Now right there, I just don’t get the name. If you’re going to acknowledge the family ties, why the hell has nobody in WWE considered the fact that fathers & sons rarely have different surnames? If it were a trademarking/copywriting issue, I might understand, but Steiner isn’t even their real last name, which is Rechsteiner. So if you really wanted to name him Bron Steiner and trademark it, it’s not like he could argue it’s his real name…but instead, we get this Bron Breakker bullshit name.
The one thing that hit me when the Steiners were announced to be inducted was the fact that WWE was trusting Scott Steiner with a live microphone, which Bron actually mentioned in his induction speech. Surprisingly though, Scott was on good behavior…even after teasing that he could go off the rails. The only odd part about his speech was some story about he & Randy Savage trying to lure some cows over to them in upstate New York. The only real zinger came when Rick complained that Scott had used up most of their 5 minutes they were allotted…which has always been a pet peeve of mine. With regards to the Hall of Fame Ceremony, it’s a ceremony that is celebrating your career, but you have to keep the length of your speech to a predetermined allotment of time!?! Especially since it’s being aired on their own network, there is just no reason for it.
Next up was Booker T to induct his wife, Sharmell. To be honest, I kind of feel like I could easily name a good 10 other women who are more deserving of this honor than Sharmell, so I wasn’t real hyped for this induction. What I will say of this induction is the following: 1) Every man should strive to be as in love with his wife as Booker T is with Sharmell. There is such an amazing bond between these two that was undeniably apparent during this induction. 2) Sharmell gave an incredibly well-prepared speech here and was far more likable during her time at the podium here than at any time during her career in prowrestling. Though I didn’t agree with her being inducted, I thoroughly enjoyed her acceptance speech.
The next two inductions really tug at your heart strings as the Warrior Award came next as it was awarded to the late, Shad Gaspard. For those who don’t know the story, WWE put together a terrific video package going into this induction. It explained his wrestling career, then leaving wrestling to be a husband and a father. But not just any father…he let his actions speak for themselves as a father and we, as men & fathers should strive to set an example in life for our kids as Shad did for his son. Shad had an undeniable bond with his son up until the end when he saved his son while being dragged under by a strong riptide when he drowned. His final act in life was assuring his son’s safety. The most honorable of deaths, this man was a hero to the truest definition of the word.
When announced by Dana Warrior, Shad’s widow & son made their way down the ramp to the ring, accompanied by JTG to the Cryme Tyme music. Once in the ring, JTG did the signature handshake with Shad’s son. This whole induction is where my emotions really came unglued. From the videos and stories of the man Shad was in life, you couldn’t help but feel for those who knew him and know the unimaginable loss they felt. I know that from the one time I interacted with Shad & JTG at WrestleCon in 2019, they both were very nice, humble guys who were very approachable and welcoming to fans. I had planned to go back to get a picture with them, but ran out of time. This was a great induction that really set the stage for the rest of the evening.
Next up was one of my old favorites…the posthumous induction of Big Van Vader. While I was relieved to finally see him inducted, I couldn’t help but also be angry with Vince McMahon & WWE for not inducting him sooner. Leon had passed away the evening of June 18, 2018 from congestive heart failure which he knew about a full two years in advance and had made it known to the world that his doctors had given him about two years to live. Sadly, that timeframe came to be and all along, WWE sat idly by and didn’t “move him up in line”, so to speak. Instead, here we are, almost four years after his passing, finally honoring the man for his contributions.
My personal feelings aside, I have to say that I really loved his son, Jesse White’s acceptance speech. While it wasn’t super lengthy, he did hit on some really great points when he addressed the fact that his father wasn’t around for a lot of his life growing up, but thanked the fans for going to see his father, because that made sure that there was always food on his plate growing up. He mentioned how proud of his dad he was and how if there was a Hall of Fame for great fathers, his dad was in it YEARS ago, while also stating how none of his friends’ dads had accomplished all that his did during their lifetimes. Clearly, Jesse has a ton of admiration for his late father. This was an excellent speech!
The final inductee for the night was one who could have and probably should have gone in all alone this year, The Undertaker. Inducting Undertaker was Vince McMahon, who I have to be honest here…I was kind of concerned of how good of an induction speech he would give, because back in 2009, he gave the induction speech for Steve Austin which in my opinion, didn’t impress. For all the time that Vince & Steve had worked together both behind the scenes in getting Austin’s character over and also their time in front of the camera, I just felt the induction was very sterile and lacked heart. Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded this time around, as McMahon gave an excellent speech, showing that he understood his audience as he rattled off a long list of names who Undertaker had wrestled over the course of his 30-year WWE career, not giving said fans time to insert “What?” chants between the names. Vince then introduced the latest inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame, Mark Calaway, The Undertaker. For me, this was the first time I can ever remember hearing Vince utter the man’s actual name on WWE television. Vince nailed it!
And as advertised by Vince’s introduction, in walked the man who played The Undertaker for the last 32 years…Mark Calaway. Dressed all in black, with few purple accents to his suit – as you’d expect – Calaway made his way down to the ring to the typical pomp and circumstance that the Undertaker has always received…all the bells and whistles, so to speak: in darkness, with purple lighting, thunder crashes, flashes of lightning, flames and smoke…for one seemingly last time (more on that to come). As he entered the ring, he gave McMahon a hug & then stood there for what seemed an eternity as he soaked in the love and admiration from the live crowd, who applauded and cheered him on for what seemed to me, to be an even longer ovation than Hulk Hogan had received from the Montreal crowd the night after WrestleMania X8. Not only was it a sign of the respect the fans have for the 57 year old, but it also made up for the fact that The Undertaker had to say goodbye to fans at Survivor Series in 2020 with no crowd, thanks to the pandemic.
He opened his speech by first and foremost thanking the fans, stating that some nights, he needed them to get through it, and night in and night out, they were always there for him. As his speech continued, I have to say that he was completely captivating, listening to this man speak, telling stories from earlier on in his career, like when he had a jobber match, to which he corrected himself by calling it an enhancement match with another wrestler who at the time, he felt messed up his moves. He responded to these errors in the worst way possible…by really laying into the poor guy and being visibly upset in the ring during the match. After the match, he was greeted in the back by Vince McMahon, who told him that he just showed everyone else that he’s an asshole, which Calaway really took to heart and changed his actions because of it.
During his speech, which he recited while he walked around the ring with a Tony Robbins-esque mic in his ear, The Deadman referenced Shane and Stephanie McMahon, labelling the latter as ‘the sister I never wanted’ before admitting his love for her and her family. He also mentioned his close, personal friend The Godfather. He talked about his backstage group of friends known as BSK (Bone Street Krew), a group he co-founded with the late Yokozuna. Taker also talked about Bryan “Crush” Adams and the last time he saw him. He spoke of the legendary Paul Bearer and the jokes he played on him, asking “Who puts a cucumber in another man’s drink?” Speaking of his on-screen family, he also talked about his storyline brother Kane, who he quipped, makes him call him Mr. Mayor now, and joked that he stole all of his moves. He continued on to mention his father, and his advice, such as that all of the toes he’s stepping on on his way to the top were also connected to the asses he’s going to have to kiss on the way back down. He thanked Dusty Rhodes, Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, and Ric Flair for paving the way for him. He talked about three mental lessons he learned through his career that all these men helped with. Others included in his speech were Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Bruce Prichard, some of the behind-the-scenes people, his wife Michelle McCool, his parents, his kids, and Vince McMahon. After closing out his speech, as he left the ring, he looked back to the four mannequins standing in the ring which showcased various costumes from the Undertaker’s past, Taker reentered the ring, put on one of his full-length leather coats and black hat, and before exiting the arena, looked back at the camera and uttered “Never say never”, and walked out. If you missed this year’s induction ceremony, I really recommend you go seek it out on Peacock and watch it, it’s terrific!
Thanks for reading.
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