April 3, 2005
Graham Cawthon

WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2005 Induction Ceremony
April 2, 2005
Universal Amphitheater
Hollywood, CA
Shown "Live" on Spike TV (few hour tape delay)

We open with a black and white montage of Pat Patterson, Ernie Ladd, Gorilla Monsoon, and Freddie Blassie in an empty arena as footage from many of the other inductees – Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Putski, Andre the Giant, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka, George Steele, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bobby Heenan, Tito Santana, Vince McMahon Sr., and the Junkyard Dog are shown around them.

We’re then taken to a Hulk Hogan video package with classic clips edited in with recent comments from the Hulkster regarding his successes and how pro wrestling laid the foundation for his quality of life.

The camera cuts inside the Universal Amphitheater. This is without a doubt the largest crowd ever for a HOF induction as several thousand are on hand. All the WWE stars are in attendance. Linda, Shane, & Stephanie McMahon (wheelchair-bound Vince is nowhere to be seen), Triple H, Superstar Billy Graham, Bobby Heenan, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, JBL, Orlando Jordan, the Fabulous Moolah, Kane, Mae Young, the Big Show, John Cena, Batista, Edge, Christian, Daivari, Chris Benoit (with a nasty looking stitched up forehead), Chris Jericho, Trish Stratus, and Shawn Michaels are just some of the superstars the camera is able to pick up.

I’m wondering if the tickets were any cheaper than they were for the Class of 2004 ($200). I’m assuming so since there are so many fans on hand. I guess with Stallone, Hogan, and Piper on the inductee list, they couldn’t very well hold it at a hotel as they usually do.

Jonathan Coachman (heard but not seen) reviews the inductees for the night – Cowboy Bob Orton, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik, Jimmy Hart (megaphone in hand), and Paul Orndorff. Each man has already been inducted.

The host for the festivities, Gene Okerlund, makes his way to the stage to present a video package on the first televised inductee for the night – ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.

The package is narrated by Michael Cole. The legend of Piper’s first match against Larry Hennig is retold (and whether it's entirely true or not has yet to be determined). A plethora of clips are shown from throughout Piper’s career, though largely based on his days in the WWF. Battles against the Hillbillies, Hogan, Mr. T, Greg Valentine, and Bret Hart are included as well as highlights from the best of Piper’s Pit. Hollywood director John Carpenter (“They Live”) is interviewed about Piper and references the now legendary line of, “I have come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of bubble gum.”

*Commercial Break*

We’re back as “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and a resounding chorus of “Whoos” bring Ric Flair out to the stage.

“These are very rewarding moments for all of us. And to be out here tonight and to be able to induct Roddy Piper may be one of the most rewarding moments of my entire career.” – Ric Flair

Flair runs down the list of names that could possibly induct Piper and determined that he was the only one capable because everyone else was either being inducted or had passed away.

“When you think about Roddy Piper, you think about the most gifted entertainer in the history of our business, bar none. And the first time my son made me watch Jim Carrey in a movie, I said ‘God, there is a Roddy Piper mark’.”

Ric shares a few brief Piper stories and then introduces the Rowdy One. The bagpipes are heard throughout the venue as Piper makes his way out. The two men embrace as we go to commercial break.

*Commercial Break*

“After spending some time with the best wrestler in the entire world, Ric Flair, I spent the next two years in close quarters with Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Betty Ford. … And a dialysis machine. … Is HBO here? … Nevermind.” – Roddy Piper

So right off the bat, Piper has Flair almost tearing up because he’s laughing so hard.

Piper elaborates on his first night in the business and talks about how appreciative he was to be accepted into the family of professional wrestling, a family he was in need of.

“I gotta admit, I was jealous of Hogan. …Well it had nothing to do with the hair. However, I would listen to him because I would train just as hard and he would hang and bang. And I would listen to his interviews and he would say, “Say your prayers and take your vitamins.” …And folks, I took some serious vitamins (big reaction from the crowd). Never got them 24 inch pythons…”

Piper puts over the inductees behind him and goes on to credit his pro wrestling family for allowing him to have a family of his own. Hot Rod catches himself from choking up and closes the segment by putting over his WrestleMania 21 appearance in classic wild Roddy Piper fashion.

*Commercial Break*

Gene Okerlund sets up a Hulk Hogan video package upon our return. Comments from Shawn Michaels, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vince McMahon, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, MAD TV’s Will Sasso, John Cena, Triple H, Bobby Heenan, Bob Costas, and Edge are heard as we take a look at many of Hogan’s classic moments both in and out of the ring. The clips involve everyone from the Rock, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Johnny Carson, to Mr. T, Stallone, Robin Leech, Andre, Triple H, Warrior, and Savage. It ends with many of today’s WWE superstars doing their impression of Hogan holding his hand up to his ear, making it obvious the influence Hogan’s run in the 80s had on the WWE of today.

*Commercial Break*

Mean Gene welcomes us back and immediately introduces Sylvester Stallone. The theme to “Rocky” is played as Stallone makes his way out. I think both the inductees as well as the audience are appreciative of Stallone’s accomplishments (a “Rocky” chant does break out) but I think there is some hesitation since he’s not a part of the wrestling family.

Stallone puts over wrestlers, specifically Terry Funk, before retelling his experiences of working with Hogan on “Rocky III”.

“And sometimes people and wrestling, they say “Oh, I don’t know if it’s all real.” All I can say is in the scene when Hulk Hogan throws me out of the ring and then jumps into the audience, we had 8 stuntmen. 4 ½ of them went to intensive care. …Seriously, on my children. 4 of them left on stretchers because he didn’t know it was acting.” – Sylvester Stallone

That comment receives a good laugh from the audience.

“With great pleasure, I bring out a man who seriously set the bar very very high. And I’m sure it’s going to keep getting higher. Ladies and gentlemen, the one, the only, the incredible Hulk Hogan!”

The place erupts as “Real American” plays and the Hulkster, wearing a black bandana to match his tuxedo, makes his way out. Stallone hands the plaque to the Hulkster, Hogan holds his hand to his ear, and we go to commercial break.

*Commercial Break*

And now things really get interesting. The reaction from the crowd is such that Hogan does not even attempt to speak for a length of – and I timed it – 9 minutes and 15 seconds.

Even after the break, the crowd is still cheering, giving him a standing ovation, and now even chanting Hogan’s name. Piper has a grin from ear to ear as he’s now sitting directly behind the Hulkster. A second standing ovation begins and the sheer emotion in the room is enough to make even Hogan visibly humble. Hogan signs are shown throughout the venue. The ovation lasts so long, in fact, that Hogan has a chance to embrace each of the fellow inductees and congratulate them.

Big Show is seen literally crying. “We’re not worthy” salutes are shown from the fans in attendance. Hogan’s wife and daughter are shown tearing up as a thunderous chant of “Thank you Hogan *clap clap clap-clap-clap*” breaks out.

The Hulkster begins his speech but is soon interrupted by a chant of “One more match! One more match!” A second chant of “Hogan” soon follows.

Hogan thanks everyone on hand, beginning with Stallone.

“I can’t wait to watch WrestleMania 21 tomorrow. I can’t wait to see these guys go in the ring and put it all on the line …” – Hulk Hogan

“One more match! One more match! One more match!” – The Fans

“You know, there’s one thing in this business that you learn. And the only thing that matters, two things that matter – the money and the miles and the other thing is never say never.”

The crowd pops big for that.

The Hulkster goes on to put over the WWE superstars, WrestleMania 21, the WWE Hall of Fame, and then states that now because he’s in the Hall of Fame, Hulkamania will truly live forever.

“And whatcha gonna do, brothers, when the WWE runs wild on you?!”

Confetti drops from the top as the broadcast comes to a close.

My view:

Wow. I am truly impressed with the amount of genuine emotion that was crammed into this hour long show. I wasn’t sure if it could be done or done well. The end result was not only entertaining but it made me proud.

I thought both Hogan and Piper came across as very appreciative and thankful for not only their years in wrestling but also to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While many wrestlers and fans out there claim that the WWE Hall of Fame is nothing more than Vince McMahon’s public endorsement, and technically that is true, both men were very humble in their accepting of it.

Hogan’s reaction was something clearly no one saw coming. Yes, he is loved by millions but to receive two standing ovations and to be cheered for over 9 minutes straight was … amazing stuff. It was enough to bring Big Show to tears. And I think it made the telecast a memorable one and something definitely worth watching. I only hope that the WrestleMania 21 DVD release includes footage from the other inductees.

The only thing I would gripe about is the length. Last year's multi-hour event had to be heavily edited to fit onto the 2-disc DVD release. Each man had a good 20 minutes or so to give an acceptance speech, during which they would open up about their time in the business and no doubt share some interesting and entertaining stories about their career. Because of time restraints, that wasn't an option this time around. Hopefully next year's will revert back to the 2004 format because I would much rather hear the inductees tell war stories than get an appearance from Sylvester Stallone.

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