– The 2009 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony kicks off with Todd Grisham welcoming us from the podium. Grisham asks all the WWE talents in attendance to stand and be recognized. Grisham introduces the first WWE Hall of Fame members for 2009 – Dory Jr. and Terry Funk. We cut to a video package with highlights from Dory and Terry’s careers.
Grisham brings out Dusty Rhodes next to induct the Funks. Dusty comes out to his infamous theme music and puts over the Funks. Dusty talks about Dory and says Terry is another story. Dusty talks about all the times they wrestled and said Funk brings the pain. Dusty talks about ECW and Tommy Dreamer but before all that, Terry was Extreme. Dusty talks about Japan a little bit and calls the Funks icons and national treasures. Dusty talks about the respect he has for them and the respect the Funks have for all the fans. Dusty welcomes Dory and Terry Funk to the Hall of Fame and their music plays as they make their way out from the back with Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly, it looks like.
Terry says that after an intro like that, he will never call Dusty an “AIDS sucking dog” again. Dory talks first and talks about winning the NWA Titles, says he has wrestled in over 10,000 matches and slammed over 100,000 times. Dory talks about some stats from his career and notable accomplishments. Dory says if he had the chance to do it all over again, he would because he loves professional wrestling. Dory says he loves working with young talents today. Dory thanks the promoters, his peers, his family, the doctors, attorneys, both of his wives, the Guerrero family, the Hart family, and the man he beat for the World Title, Gene Kinisky. Dory thanks his children and grandchildren for being here. Dory says WrestleMania 25 features 6 guys he’s helped train – The Hardys, Mark Henry, Edge, Christian and Mickie James. Dory thanks more family members and other guys he has had history with in his career. Dory thanks WWE and Texas for everything. Dory plugs his website as Terry takes the podium.
Terry thanks his family and wife. Terry says his younger family members need an education before getting into wrestling and tells all the kids out there to get their education. Funk says this is for all his peers, mentors and for ECW. Funk says this is for the guys who have done him favors in the ring. Terry talks about giving credit and quotes something from President Roosevelt, I think it was. Terry says for 40 years they danced, now the music has died and the bell rings no more. Terry says he feels 105 but he’s ready to go. Terry says he wants to go to heaven in a wrestling ring and have a universal battle royal that goes on for eternity. Funk says he is going to invite all his rowdy, wrestling friends and fans to meet him up there and says in heaven every seat is ringside. Funk says it’s Bring-your-own-beer in Heaven and will be out infront of the building after this show selling tickets to everyone of us. The music starts to play in mid-sentence as Funk tells everyone they love them and thank you. The crowd stands and applauds as Grisham is back at the podium.
Grisham introduces a video package with highlights from the wrestling career of “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware. We see clips of his days before WWF and then his arrival in WWF with his bird. Grisham then brings out The Honky Tonk Man to his music to induct Koko. Honky does a little dance on the stage before speaking. Honky tells the crowd to make some noise and says it’s an honor to be here. He talks about meeting Koko years ago and watched Koko have a match by himself. Honky says he got in the ring with Koko that day and for the next 9 months, Koko beat the hell out of him. Honky says he knew from the beginning that Koko was headed for stardom because he had the key elements it takes.
Honky says he has heard about this guy JBL and his Clothesline from Hell. JBL stands up in the crowd and waves. Honky says Koko had a dropkick from Hell. Honky says it’s a pleasure to introduce a friend for over 30 years of him and gives a story on Koko’s bird, Frankie. Honky says a promoter one night didn’t want Frankie there and later asked Koko how he did that night. Honky says Koko wasn’t smiling as he said he would never do another show without Frankie. Honky says tonight is for Koko and introduces The Birdman. The music plays and out comes Koko with Frankie on his shoulder. Koko puts his bird on the podium and gets the crowd hype to his music.
Koko says it’s good to be back in the WWE one more time and thanks Honky for his kind words. Koko says it’s good to be walking on the ground instead of the ground walking on him. Koko talks about growing up in Tennessee in Union City and being a wrestling fan. Frankie is trying to talk as Koko does. Koko talks about getting into wrestling and how Jerry Lawler invited him to a Friday night wrestling event, which was the start of his career. Koko talks about wrestling in Memphis and getting a call from Howard Finkel to come to the WWF. Koko recalls meeting Vince and becoming the Birdman. Koko thanks all the Koko B. Ware and Frankie fans across the world and thanks his wife, kids, fellow wrestlers, managers, promoters and the rest of his family and friends. Koko’s last thanks goes to the WWE. Koko says God bless the world and his music plays again. Koko celebrates with Frankie and the crowd some more.
We see Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and his wife in the crowd. Todd Grisham comes to the podium and introduces a highlight video for the Von Erich family.
We see clips from the Von Erich’s career. There is no mention of their deaths in the video. Grisham introduces Michael “PS” Hayes and he comes out to one of his Freebird themes, I think. Hayes come dancing out with Kelly Kelly. Hayes tries to do a moonwalk or something across the stage. Hayes talks about the Guerreros, the Funks, both from Texas but says in his opinion, no family had a bigger effect on transforming wrestling to sports entertainment than the Von Erichs. Hayes goes back to the origins of the Von Erich family and talks about Fritz Von Erich. Hayes says Fritz was successful in the ring but more successful in at home with wife Doris as they had their sons who all were successful in life, Hayes talks about. Hayes goes on to talk about the Von Erichs and the birth of World Class Championship Wrestling and how people criticized Fritz for pushing his sons, but that soon changed when three guys, The Freebirds, slammed a cage door on Kerry’s quest to beat Ric Flair for the World Title. Hayes says then, in his opinion, the greatest tag team feud in history began with the Von Erichs vs. The Freebirds. Hayes, straight from his heart, says the Von Erichs were loved by fans all over the world and said the Von Erichs felt the same about their fans and this business. Hayes calls them a worldwide sensation and Texas legends. Hayes says it is with great pride they induct the Von Erichs into the WWE Hall of Fame. Hayes introduces the “surviving member and one of my best friends” Kevin Von Erich. Kevin comes out with Eve on his arm to a big applause and hug from Hayes.
Kevin says God Bless Texas and talks about how fun it was being in the wrestling business, performing infront of the fans. He talks about getting started in wrestling and only getting paid $35. He talks about what the business has become today and is glad to be a part of it. Kevin says Michael Hayes is a good talent and puts over Hayes’ partners, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts, in the Freebirds. He wishes his dad and brothers were here to enjoy this moment with him. He says they aren’t alone though as all the wrestlers are brothers and like family. He talks about his last tour in Africa in 1993, shortly after Kerry died and before he, Kevin, retired. He talks about the Freebirds again and how close they became beating the hell out of each other every night. Kevin says a lot of stuff happened and he doesn’t want people to say “poor Kevin.” He says it’s more like lucky Kevin. He says the Von Erichs are not gone. He talks about his sons, Marshall and Ross, and has them stand up. He says the Von Erichs are still here and he is proud of them. He also talks about his daughter Kristin and other family members. Kevin says he wishes he had more time because he owes so many people so much. He said it would be unfair to start naming names. He says he worked with so many people who made him look good. He says his brothers and father were really the talented people. Kevin says he is proud to be a part of the business today and puts over WrestleMania tomorrow night. He thanks Texas and wishes everyone a good night.
Todd Grisham is back on the podium. We are led to a video package of highlights from Howard “The Fink” Finkel’s career. It calls him the dean of WWE ring announcing.
The video shows a few memorable and noble moments from Fink’s career before going into all the comedy and gimmick stuff that he’s done. Grisham introduces WWE Hall of Famer “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Big deserved pop for the awesome Okerlund! Gene says he wants to talk about a man who has been in the WWE for years and says nobody did it better and says he is a one of a kind. Gene says “enough about me” and the crowd pops. Gene says Fink is the longest employee for WWE and is credited with coming up with the term WrestleMania and is the only one to be at every WrestleMania event. Gene calls Fink a walking encyclopedia and reveals he is the co-editor of WWE.com and works on WWE’s Universe website. Gene introduces the first and only ring announcer to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Howard Finkel. Out comes The Fink with Kelly on his arm. Fink does a little comedy bit ebfore taking the podium.
Fink, in his famous voice, says this is his biggest WWE moment – going into the Hall of Fame. Fink is talking fast but says he is going to make it short but sweet tonight. He talks about taking his God given voice and using it the way he has. He talks about the job of ring announcer and says he has always treated each match as if it were a main event for fans and wrestlers. Fink talks about debuting with WWE and says he was told he passed with flying colors. Fink mentions his head never swoll and he never thought he was the star of the show and puts over the Superstars who entertain us. Fink says he’s seen a lot of groups over the years but no roster is better than the current roster WWE has. To the wrestlers of now and then, Fink shares his respect. He talks about being a Bushwacker, being in the APA, being Jericho’s lackey, being in DX and other comedy stuff in his career and he makes it all rhyme, pretty cool. Fink says he has had the time of his life and the magic carpet ride still goes on for him. Fink says from Sammartino to Backlund to Flair to Hogan to HBK to Flair to Cena and many others, he wanted to make their ascension to the throne memorable by the way he announced. Fink plays off his infamous “The NEW…..” and says he is a NEW member of the WWE Hall of Fame. Fink thanks everyone before making his exit.
Grisham is back on the podium and leads us to a video package with highlights from the career of “Cowboy” Bill Watts.
Grisham introduces WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross to do the induction for Watts. JR comes out to a big pop with his Boomer Sooners music and gets a big of heat after a reference to OK in Texas. Ross talks about being a friend of Watts’ and talks about his football career and how he went from football to wrestling. Ross says within a few years, Watts was main eventing Madison Square Garden for the WWWF and Vince McMahon Sr. Ross talks about some other tales from Watts’ career and how he got into booking and then owning a promotion, calling it an amazing transformation. Ross talks about Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling and says nobody ever produced a more exciting 1 hour TV show than Watts. Ross talks about how Watts was with fining people and tells some stories from those days and how nobody broke up backstage fights. Ross said Watts demanded perfection and his maximum effort when he worked for him. Ross puts over WrestleMania tomorrow and says he is a better person after working for Watts. Ross says he is proud to say Boomer Sooner to Bill Watts and welcomes him into the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame. Watts comes out with Eve on his arm.
Watts says he hired Ross out of college to start at the bottom and he is so damn proud of him now. Watts says Ross earned his position. Watts says he will be 70 in May and says what a birthday present this ring is – holding up his new WWE Hall of Fame ring. Watts talks about his children and grandchildren. He points out his daughter Evette and has her stand up. He points out his other kids including former WCW star Erik Watts. Watts thanks WWE and says they have been a custodian of wrestling’s history because it is passing away. Watts says what took so long to get him into the Hall of Fame because he came out of the womb ready. Watts puts over the talents of today. Watts talks about the OU-Texas rivalry and puts over Danny Hodges, Jack and Gerald Brisco. Watts talks about his career and tells a few good stories. He talks about Vince Sr. bringing him into WWWF and getting a big break in his career and how the Cowboy gimmick came. He talks about Bruno Sammartino, Bobby Heenan and Killer Kowalski. He talks about bench pressing big weight back then and says they didn’t even know what a steroid was then. Watts wishes Vince Sr. was here to see this now. Watts talks about how fantastic the business has been and points out Ron Simmons, saying how proud he was when he won the World Title. Watts talks about Junkyard Dog and says when he died, that’s when he realized how much he loved him. Watts talks about Rocky Johnson, Koko B. Ware, Eddie Graham, Gordon Solie, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and other guys he worked with over the years. He calls Dusty Rhodes a true American dream. He talks about how proud of Shawn Michaels he is. HBK is showing some tears. Watts points out Jim Duggan and tells a story about how tough Hacksaw is, which gets a pop from the crowd. Watts says somewhere the late Dick Murdoch and Andre the Giant are having a drinking contest. Watts says this is such an exciting business and calls this the highlight of his career. He calls the fans the real Hall of Famers and says without them, nobody would be here. Watts says he is going to his first WrestleMania tomorrow night as a fan and can’t wait. Watts talks about going to Heaven and coming face to face with his hero Jesus Christ. Watts thanks everyone and tells them to “watch out for flying chairs” before making his exit.
We cut to a graphic plugging the Hall of Fame special on the USA Network later tonight with Steve Austin’s face. That appears to be the end of the first part of coverage.
Here’s the rest of the coverage that aired on the USA Network courtesy of Mike Johnson:
The televised portion of the WWE Hall of Fame opened with a video feature on the Hall of Fame class members. Todd Grisham then introduced our host, Jerry Lawler.
Lawler came out to a standing ovation. The Toyota Center chanted his name. Lawler said tonight was a special night and his favorite night of the career. He said it was the night the past, present and future collide.
Lawler said that they would kick the night off with the quintessential Hall of Famer, Ric Flair.
Ric Flair said that he wanted to follow on a comment Kevin Von Erich made. He said they are all brothers in WWE…old timers, current stars and today’s talent. He said they are all brothers and shouldn’t forget it.
Flair said he’s had a lot of blessings in his career but the biggest was the day Ricky Steamboat walked into Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic office. He said he is in the position tonight to do for Steamboat what Triple H did for him last year. Flair said he and Steamboat have been intertwined since that first day and today things come full circle as he gets to induct one of his best friends and his greatest wrestling opponent, Ricky Steamboat.
They aired a video piece on Steamboat’s career.
Flair said that over the 36 years he’s stepped inside the ring with the greatest stars, but whenever he’s asked who his favorite opponent is, its Ricky Steamboat. He said Steamboat epitomized what a fan’s wrestler was…built like a Greek God and being able to go every night He said the women loved Steamboat.
Flair said he wrestled 2,000 times against Steamboat and that as good as the matches were in 1989, the bouts in the 70s were better but sadly they weren’t seen by anyone but those in the arena. Flair said they both settled in Charlotte to raise families, opened gyms together and have sons who are carving their own chapter in the Flair-Steamboat feud.
Flair said it doesn’t get any better than this and that Steamboat was the purest good guy to ever walk the aisle. He asked everyone to give it up for Steamboat.
Steamboat came out and hugged Flair for a long time and then the two locked up playfully. The fans chanted Steamboat’s name. Steamboat began to break up and cry, noting he knew he would but he didn’t know it would be before he started talking.
He said that when he looks back, he feels humbled by what he’s been blessed with. He said that he thinks of the great ones who have left and are remembered by their performances, the fans who trusted you to provide them with entertainment, the nod of the pencil knowing you did a good job, and laying in the back after a draw and being told “we got them”, he knew he was a blessed man.
Steamboat talked of young wrestlers asking him for advice and for him to watch their matches for advice, telling stories of John Laurinaitis and riding an airplane with a young Triple H while getting into a deep discussion about the business.
Steamboat said his career wasn’t about wins and losses but knowing that he gave his all every night in the ring. He said that the work with Ric Flair helped give him the work ethic he brought into the ring with Valentine, Piper, Snuka, Blackjack Mulligan, Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, Harley Race, and Arn Anderson. Steamboat told Chris Jericho to be prepared because tomorrow he is being taken to school.
Steamboat said he pushed them all but he was pushed back. He said he had great partners he worked with and without them, he wouldn’t be here today. He thanked them for his career and his Hall of Fame.
Steamboat pointed out Mickey Rourke in the crowd and said tonight, this is his Oscar. The crowd popped huge for Rourke.
Steamboat thanked and praised the creative team and the other producers. Steamboat thanked his ex-wife Bonnie for all the outfits she made and for blessing him with his son, Ritchie. He then introduced his son, who stood up. Bonnie was crying her eyes out.
Steamboat closed out by thanking his current wife and saying he is extremely humbled and thanked everyone.
Jerry Lawler said Wrestlemania is special and pointed out Shawn Michaels will be facing Undertaker tomorrow. They aired a video feature from the new Legends of Wrestlemania game. It showed Taker winning. Michaels took it in stride.
Lawler then introduced Gene Okerlund. He said it was time for the induction of Steve Austin but before that, he asked for a round of applause for the 2009 Hall of Fame Class.
Lawler said the next person needs no introduction, but if he doesn’t give one, he’ll be fired, so he introduced “the best boss I’ve ever worked for” Vince McMahon. McMahon got a standing ovation from the house.
Vince said he was here to talk about a love hate relationship because he loves Steve Austin but Austin hates him. He ran down all of theterrible things Austin did to him and said that he didn’t understand it because he became more popular with everything he did. He said Austin was the most popular performer in WWE History.
McMahon said Steve Austin wasn’t a babyface in a traditional way. He broke the rules of that and at the same time, he broke all the records for tickets, merchandising and licensing.
He said Austin wouldn’t know this, but Austin would hit him so hard, Vince would forget his name. He said Austin would tell him “sorry” five or six times a match and by the time he returned to the locker room he thought his name was “Sorry.”
McMahon praised Austin’s creativity when it came to T-shirts. Vince mentioned Austin 3;16, What? and Oh Hell Yeah shirts, telling funny stories about each of them. That led to the “what” chants.
McMahon said Austin is a lot of things to a lot of people, but he’s the greatest WWE Superstar. He introduced a video of Austin’s career.
Vince McMahon said it is his honor to induct the toughest SOB in the history of WWE. Austin and Vince shook hands. Austin played to the crowd but no middle fingers. The place chanted his name like crazy, which led to a “Thank you Austin” chant.
Austin said that anyone who knows him knows he doesn’t like to dress up but he got a tuxedo from Men’s Warehouse where you’ll like the way you look, I guarantee it guys …but his button popped off the jacket as he was about to come out so he buried them.
Austin praised the WWE employee who made his tribute video, Adam.
Austin said that he’s been trying hard to find the word to accurately show how much the night means to him but if he doesn’t, he wants to thank everyone who ever supported him or watched him. He said that every time he had an injury, a divorce or took his ball home, the fans respected him and he thanks them for that.
Austin started talking about making a living in the ring and the fans chanted “one more match.” Austin said he didn’t know about that. He told a story about not knowing what he wanted to be growing up and being told he would make a great park ranger.
Austin said he’s met some great people and some bad ones in the business but he has no complaints. He said he has a big smile on his face from his career. He said that when something bad happens, people come out of the woodwork to bury the business and Vince McMahon, but the bottom line is the business is what you make of it. He said you have to do what you can with it and then move down the road.
Austin said he never had the chance to have any real closure for his career. He mentioned the night in Atlanta where he no showed Raw because he was upset with the company and was sorry he never apologized for it. He said the booking team felt he should lose that night and he thought it was the stupidest thing he ever heard, so he left and everyone lost a lot of money so he’s sorry.
He said he felt it wasn’t about doing the job but that it was bad business at the time and he’s sorry he made a big stink.
Austin talked about his movie career and that he’s trying to become a strong actor. He said he was never Ric Flair and won’t be Marlon Brando, but “Damn I’m trying.” He said he’s closing the door on his wrestling career but hopes to open the doors to his acting career.
Austin told everyone he loves them from the bottom of his heart and that’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so. He then had a beer bash on the stage to close the show.
Confetti flew, beers were cracked and the night came to an end.