WWE immortalized eight Superstars during Friday night’s Hall of Fame ceremony, exclusively on WWE Network.
Kurt Angle was the headliner, an Olympic gold medalist who rose to prominence in professional wrestling at the height of WWE’s popularity in 2000. A multi-time world champion, the honor brought him back to a company he departed under messy circumstances and allowed him the opportunity for enshrinement in front of the fans who helped make him a household name.
Former WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page wrapped his career up with a bang Friday, doing what some thought he never would by taking his place among the elite performers in professional wrestling history. A blue-collar worker who worked for everything he ever got and, in the years after his career came to an end helped others through his unwavering support and motivation, he
A blue-collar worker who worked for everything he ever got and, in the years after his career came to an end helped others through his unwavering support and motivation, he more than earned his honor.class that also included Beth Phoenix, The Rock and Roll Express, Teddy Long and Warrior Award recipient Eric LeGrand,
With a class that also included Beth Phoenix, The Rock and Roll Express, Teddy Long and Warrior Award recipient Eric LeGrand, the 2017 ceremony was a joy to watch.
How did each speech grade out and what were some of the memorable highlights?
Diamond Dallas Page
Former WCW president and Raw general manager Eric Bischoff returned to the company Friday night to induct longtime friend Diamond Dallas Page into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Citing Page’s heart as his greatest attribute, Bischoff discussed the hard work and dedication that went into his journey to the top of pro wrestling but more important, detailed the work Page has done outside the ring.
From helping a veteran walk again to saving the lives of his fellow wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall, Page’s influence beyond the ropes is equally as worthy of recognition.
He introduced Page to a big ovation. The former WCW champion was escorted onto the stage by his four daughters, who he introduced as his “Diamond Daughters.”
Page recalled driving his pink Cadillac to the ring at WrestleMania and discussed how influential in his career Dusty Rhodes was. He thanked Terry Taylor, John Laurinaitis for introducing him to the move that would ultimately become The Diamond Cutter and forgotten big man Ron Reese for suggesting the Diamond Cutter hand signal.
The former WCW champion thanked everyone from Kevin Nash and Scott Hall to Hulk Hogan and ex-wife Kimberly, all of whom he credited for helping him during the hottest period of his career.
He wrapped up his speech by encouraging fans to never quit on their dreams.
It was apparent from the minute Page took to the stage Friday night that the honor of the Hall of Fame induction meant the world to him. He came across as passionately sincere and most importantly, believable.
The references to Rhodes were extra meaningful given his passing a few years back while the pride he took in everything he accomplished was a welcome sight at the Hall of Fame.
Classy and egoless, Page captivated the audience even if his speech was on the longer side.
Kudos to Bischoff for the class and dignity with which he inducted Page into the Hall of Fame with, despite his history with WWE.
The Rock and Roll Express
The often controversial Jim Cornette took to the stage Friday night to induct longtime rivals The Rock and Roll Express into the WWE Hall of Fame and avoided any negativity while doing so.
The outspoken, silver-tongued former manager recalled how popular the tandem was and the classic matches they had with both incarnations of The Midnight Express. He also credited Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson with the success of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, claiming the territorial promotion would never have lasted as long as it did without them.
A humble Morton and Gibson hit the stage and wasted little time discussing the men who influenced their careers, including Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Morton recalled watching Michaels get his start in the industry and hoped that one day, The Midnight Express would stand on the same stage and be bestowed the same honor of the WWE Hall of Fame.
In a fantastic closing, Morton referred to Gibson as his fifth brother and the greatest person he had ever met. They embraced to end their portion of the show.
Morton and Gibson may not have had the widespread appeal of a Diamond Dallas Page and Kurt Angle but few are beloved the way The Rock and Roll Express are. Those who enjoyed tuning in every Saturday night and watching them on The Superstation T.B.S. or packing arenas in Charlotte, North Carolina to witness the latest chapter in their rivalry with The Midnight Express or the Koloffs had to be overjoyed to see them receive their moment in the spotlight on wrestling’s most important weekend.
Those who enjoyed tuning in every Saturday night and watching them on The Superstation T.B.S. or packing arenas in Charlotte, North Carolina to witness the latest chapter in their rivalry with The Midnight Express or the Koloffs had to be overjoyed to see them receive their moment in the spotlight on wrestling’s most important weekend.
Reserved and clearly honored, the tandem thanked everyone they needed to, did not overstay their welcome and left fans wanting more.
Just like they have for the entirety of a career that continues to this day.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat inducted the man he battled in some truly hard-fought contests, including the 1988 Royal Rumble and an underrated gem from WCW’s Beach Blast 1992, “Ravishing” Rick Rude.
He told a few stories about Rude and touted his innate ability to remember everything come bell time, before introducing the 2017 inductee’s son Rick, who was flanked by his sister and mother.
Young Rick took a page out of his father’s book, demanding the music be cut and referred to the fans as “central Floridian sweat hogs.”
Admittedly not the fan of wrestling that those in the audience are, he opted not to go through his father’s many accomplishments. Instead, he spoke to the man his dad was.
A hunter and fisherman, he was a hard worker and enjoyed the simple things in life. He also grew up in a rough familial situation and vowed his family would never endure the struggles he did as a child. He worked every day to ensure that did not happen.
Son Rick thanked WWE for giving his father the career he enjoyed and for recognizing him as one of the greats.
A short, heartfelt speech delivered by a son who knew the man Rick Rude was beyond the squared circle. Not one bogged down by long stories or torrid tales of backstage chicanery, it was an ode to a father and husband the likes of which we do not see all that often at the Hall of Fame.
An excellent change of pace delivered by a young man who would have made his Hall of Fame dad proud.
Natalya inducted Beth Phoenix into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2017 Friday night and recalled the incredible friendship they had.
From the first time she heard of Phoenix to their Tables Match victory over LayCool, The Queen of Harts recalled the incredible road to greatness they achieved by each other’s side. She ended her portion of the speech by referring to Phoenix as her uncle Owen Hart’s gift to her and called Phoenix her soulmate.
Beth embraced Natalya as she walked onto the stage, then basked in the glory of a “welcome back” chant.
Phoenix thanked Ron Hutchinson, the man that trained not only her but also Edge, Christian and Trish Stratus for WWE greatness.
She switched gears, turning her attention to Molly Holly. Phoenix revealed the former women’s champion not only gave her old gear to work in but also paid for her wrestling school tuition. Why? So she could attain her dream of working in professional wrestling.
Phoenix credited Candice Michelle with helping create The Glamazon during their first major rivalry and recalled her incredible run with Santino Marella and the fun they had together. Getting emotional, she referred to Natalya as her best friend while paraphrasing Bret Hart’s “best there is, best there was and best there ever will be” line.
She credited the WWE Universe with demanding change in women’s wrestling, then turned her attention to husband Adam, known better to fans as 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Edge. Tony Chimel appeared and did the whole “Rated R Superstar” announcement in a funny bit.
Phoenix closed her speech out by recognizing her two daughters as her greatest achievements.
This was another fantastic speech in a night of them.
Phoenix was engaging, told emotional and funny stories and came across wholly likable.
The highlight of the speech was the story about Molly Holly, who really needs to join Phoenix, Trish Stratus and Lita in the Hall of Fame sooner or later. Always referred to as one of the classier acts in the business, Phoenix’s story certainly reflected as much.
Her crediting Candice Michelle for the early success of The Glamazon was a nice tip of the hat to a woman who otherwise may not be recognized for the quality run she was beginning to put together in 2007 before injury cut it short.
All in all, a great speech that exceeded expectations and showcased Phoenix’s personality, which was never given an opportunity to fully shine during her in-ring career.
The Warrior Award was presented by Dana Warrior to former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand Friday night.
Always an unenviable spot to be in due to the WWE Universe’s unfamiliarity with the recipient, LeGrand did not allow the pressure to deliver a compelling speech get to him. No, the paralyzed football star spoke about the difficulties that he faces and the manner in which he motivates and inspires athletes in similar situations to tell their stories.
The highlight of his speech, though, was his detour into the Attitude Era and the Superstars he grew up a massive fan of.
He told stories about Triple H, Chris Jericho, Kane and The Rock. The genuine joy he got out of talking about those larger-than-life Superstars made his speech all the more engaging because the audience could relate to his fandom.
The speech wrapped up with LeGrand thanking his former Rutgers teammates in attendance and vowing to walk again one day.
LeGrand was fabulous here.
He could have let the enormity of the moment get to him but instead, he sat on stage looking out at the Superstars he watched as a kid and the thousands of fans in attendance and…expressed his love and admiration for WWE.
That he is such a fan of the product made his contributions to Friday’s ceremony relatable. Fans in attendance who may not have cared one way or another about LeGrand’s story bought in because he admitted to playing the Raw vs. SmackDown video games they did.
He was inspiration, engaging and funny, all trademarks of a great speaker.
John Bradshaw Layfield and Ron Simmons, known formerly as The APA, introduced “the cheapest man on the planet” Teddy Long to the WWE Universe as the former SmackDown general manager took his place in the Hall of Fame.
Layfield told the story of Long’s troubled upbringing during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama in a nice touch.
Long received a nice pop upon his arrival and, with the unique charisma that entertained fans for all nine years of his run as SmackDown general manager, entertained them for the entirety of his speech.
He discussed his upbringing in the business, including the many jobs he held over the course of his career. From driving the ring truck to setting the ring up, refereeing to managing, lifelong fan Long did everything he had to in order to eventually achieve the success he did.
He took great pride in his run as SmackDown general manager before turning his attention to Layfield and Simmons.
Digging into his bag of tricks for his trademark lines, he threatened to book the tandem in a tag team match, then vowed to boo Layfield in a match with The Undertaker.
Long called himself a “holla holla holla famer” to close out the segment.
Before Kurt Angle hit the stage in the night’s main event spot, Long was running atop the leaderboard, the legendary figure with the most entertaining speech. That he dipped into his SmackDown bag of tricks and pulled out the tag team and Undertaker lines was phenomenal and gave fans everything they wanted out of the longtime authority figure.
Another class act in a string of them Friday night, he thanked everyone who helped him and came across as humble in an era of “me first” and ego.
The headliner of Friday’s ceremony was Kurt Angle, who took the stage after a stirring and respectful introduction from John Cena, who stated that in two years, Angle became the measuring stick for all other Superstars.
Angle, relishing the moment, read off a list of “thank yous,” including the Superstars who were influential in making him the man he is. From The Rock to Undertaker, Steve Austin to Triple H, he was not limited to the big names. He even threw in a mention of developmental talent Steve Bradley, who was taken from the world at a young age.
With the serious stuff out of the way, Angle addressed the Superstars of today. He implored them to take chances with their characters and create moments. He brought out the tiny cowboy hat and sang “Jimmy Crack Corn.” He wore the headpiece he sported after having his head shaved.
He even sang a rendition of “Sexy Kurt.”
A smile on the face of the Olympic gold medalist and the WWE fans in attendance, he brought out two glass bottles of milk and dumped them over his face, just moments after announcing himself a Hall of Famer.
Kurt Angle always had a way of holding the crowd in the palm of his hand, regardless of whether he was competing in a match or partaking in some backstage hilarity. He could be a total badass or a hilarious goof, either one engaging fans and creating unforgettable moments. He channeled those elements of his personality while addressing the WWE Universe Friday night.
Angle was fantastic and reminded fans of why he is widely considered one of the best of all-time.
While it would have been nice to hear more about the extraordinary in-ring work so closely associated with him, he was humble and generous.
Just as he always did, he rose to the occasion and delivered a gold medal-worthy performance.
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