This report of events from the 2011 WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony is by Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, and was written as it happened:
The WWE talents began arriving. Sharmell is with Booker T. Linda and Stephanie McMahon are here. Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat arrived together. Wendi Richter arrived. There are tons of Woos for Flair, who received the biggest reaction up to that point for his arrival.
John Cena was loudly booed when he arrived.
JBL and Lex Luger are here. Bob Orton is with Randy Orton. DDP is here as well.
Todd Grisham reminded everyone to be respectful of those honored tonight. WWE had lots of signage to that effect all over the venue.
They played a trailer for the new WWE videogame as they are the sponsors of the Hall this year.
Drew Carey was booed when his name was shown on the opening video.
Jerry Lawler is the host again. He welcomed everyone to the evening saying it’s his favorite of the year. He asked everyone to show their appreciation for the current stars.
Lawler talked about patriotism in wrestling and they played a video for Hacksaw Duggan.
After the video, Ted DiBiase was introduced. He said that a year ago he was honored to be inducted but is even more honored to induct a good friend he has known for many years. DiBiase teased he was going to drop money down like he did last year but then said, “how does it feel to want?”
DiBiase talked about the passion that Duggan had not just in WWE but in all sports, discussing his sports career in High School, College and the Atlanta Falcons. He said the first time he met Duggan, it was 1981 for Georgia while teaming with Tommy Rich. He said after tying up with Duggan he tagged out to Rich and said he’s all yours. Duggan was all go go go.
DiBiase tells a story about Duggan busting his head open on a bolt in the ring. Duggan was pacing angry after and had bandages that slipped up so he looked like a Conehead and when he saw himself he laughed and then went out to work a battle royal the same night.
DiBiase told the story of working the Tuxedo match against Duggan in Mid South and then spoke proudly of Duggan beating kidney cancer.
Duggan brought the 2×4 with him and is wearing a tie. Duggan said it’s been thirty years since he became a wrestler and he couldn’t imagine that a chance meeting with Fritz Von Erich opened the door for wrestling. He said Fritz opened the door to the strange and wonderful world of wrestling.
He talked of working as Big Jim Duggan and talked of Arnold Skaaland telling him to come up with something better. He went to Hawaii and worked as the Convict under a mask. He moved onto Georgia Championship Wrestling where he met DiBiase and Terry Gordy, who he called a wonderful friend.
He talked about having a run as Wildman Duggan before becoming Hacksaw Duggan for Joe Blanchard. He said that his mentor Bruiser Brody advised him to carry something he can use to the ring and that’s where the board came from.
Duggan said his first big break was for Bill Watts and told of the angle where Ted DiBiase joined forces with Skandar Akbar, which allowed Duggan to defend America.
He said his biggest accomplishment was main- eventing the Garden against Andre the Giant. He said working for WWF changed his life in ways he can’t even explain. He talked about moving to WCW and how Atlanta was important to his career and now he’s being inducted here.
Duggan said he’s wrestled in every state and dozens of countries and talked about the power of wrestling. He said he had the chance to travel the world and even wrestle with the children of his friends. He said he was never in a group or a clique but he always had the flag and his 2×4.
Duggan thanked his sister and his parents. He asked his daughters to rise and thanked them. He spoke lovingly of his wife and all her support through the years. Duggan thanked all the forces around the world for fighting for us and closed out with a big Hooo.
Lawler introduced a video on Bob Armstrong.
Introducing Armstrong are Brian, Scott and Brad Armstrong. No Steve. They came out to the Road Dogg music and he did a Road Dogg style promo and then said he was going to break character and shoot.
He thanked the fans for their support of the family and thanked WWE for all they did for the family. He said 50 years ago his father became engaged to their mother and pro wrestling both and they both still love him as well.
Brian said that watching that video he realizes he stole everything from his father. He said he’s never been prouder of his dad than he is right now. He did a Road Dogg ring introduction for his father.
Bob came out and acted like he was asleep then joked a few times before starting. He thanked everyone in WWE for the honor. He said his other son couldn’t be here but he’d see him soon. He joked that his wife raised five boys including him. He joked she has the best wristlock in the world and would apply it on the boys when they got too rough imitating their dad. He thanked her for never giving up on him.
He said that he remembers seeing his first match like it was yesterday, in 1942. He saw Gorgeous George, who was a master showman, and when he came to Marietta he sold the house out by going to a ladies beauty parlor. He said Marietta set a record that night that was never broken.
Bob begged his father to take him. He was six years old at the time and when he saw George it was like watching an angel floating across the ring. When George through a bobby pin into the crowd it was the biggest fight he ever saw. An elderly woman got it and was helped in the ring with blood on her face and a smile on her face.
Bob said he wanted to be a pro wrestler and became one. He did it while he worked as a firefighter and one day had to decide between the two. Tonight he knows he made the right decision.
He thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart and wished them goodnight.
Lawler said that he didn’t think anyone was a bigger fan of the Divas than him and they played a video for Sunny.
All of the Divas came out to induct Sunny. LayCool said everyone came to see them. Michelle said she is speechless and Layla joked that was the first time. They said tonight wasn’t about them but someone who made it possible for them to be an us.
They said the term WWE Diva would not exist without her, she was groundbreaking and was ahead of social media by being one of the most downloaded women ever. They said she was the original Diva and now the Hall was flawless.
Sunny came out and pointed out the Divas, saying look at what she started. She said that she’s still been in shock at this. She said everyone knows her life was a roller coaster and now her life has come full circle.
She talked of being a huge fan of the business and meeting wrestlers as a child. She said that she never intended to get in the business and was just the girlfriend of a really underrated wrestle, Chris Candido. There was a huge pop for Candido.
She told the story of being recruited into SMW by Jim Cornette when she wanted to go into medical school. Two years later, WWE offered her a tryout and she flew to Stamford on her birthday. She said she had no idea how to be an announcer and had a horrendous audition. She put WWE out of her mind forever but they asked her to start several weeks later.
She began working as Tamara Lynn Murphy and six months later Sunny was born. She said she had the chance to show what a woman had to offer. She said it was all thrown at her and she did it all from refereeing, announcing, managing and doing the first on- location bikini video.
She said there was a debate on who was the first Diva and tonight they can put that debate to rest.
Tammy thanked her parents and her boyfriend, saying he got her back in Sunny shape. She thanked the makeup artists for making her look so great and thanked WWE for always inviting her back.
She talked of Terry Funk giving her advice to give the same show no matter how large the crowd is. She noted she was the youngest inductee and said you never know if she might be able to come back for another run since what Sunny wants Sunny gets.
Lawler introduced Terry Funk. The Funker said it was time to get down to the real deal. He was here to induct someone into the Hall of Fame. He said Abby is an ugly guy but was the toughest guy. He said that he and Dory had a love hate relationship with him. He said they hated to wrestle him but loved the money. He said Abby filled asses every 18 inches without speaking one word on the mic.
Funk did a Dusty impression as he told a story about facing Abby in Japan. Terry tried to tell the referee Joe Higuchi that there was an object in his pants and the ref said we all have objects in our pants.
Abby pulled out a fork and forked him in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and everywhere else all the way to Texas. He said Abby made brutality beautiful and made Terry so much money he would marry him if he could.
Abby came out and pulled out a fork, teasing he would use it. Abby said that at 3 a.m. he received a phone call from Johnny Ace and was told he wanted to put Abby in the Hall of Fame. He punched himself in the face and asked who it was again. Abby got emotional and said he wishes his parents were here but they are gone. He said his 90 year- old aunt and his friends and family are here. He got the fans to chant his name.
Abby said he was really happy to be here but wishes Ace was here so he could fork him. He said he’s been around a long time because the man upstairs takes care of him. He thanked everyone.
They aired an awesome video on the Road Warriors and Lawler introduced Dusty Rhodes.
Dusty said it was a powerful night and when you talk about power, you talk about the Warriors. He said the Class this year set the table for today’s stars.
Dusty talked about Paul Ellering’s career and said that he was the real deal. He and the Warriors crossed paths and when they started their trip to stardom, Ellering legitimately managed them. Dusty talked about Ellering’s exploits in the Iditarod. He said Ellering led those dogs and he led the Warriors.
Dusty spoke of Hawk, who he loved to call Hank. He said that only the good die young and Hawk was proof of that. He didn’t slow down for anyone and ran life hard. His presence is being felt tonight. Dusty said he knew the booker at the time and told the story of the Warriors against the Midnight Express in the Night of the Skywalkers. He told the story of Bubba Rogers missing the chance to catch Jim Cornette. Dusty said Hawk was a good friend and we miss him dearly.
Dusty said that Animal would puff up like a toad frog when he was mad at him. Dusty said he was a leader and one of the most powerful men around. He said Animal was a loving father and made some jokes about his son’s football career.
Dusty said the LOD were the best tag team of all time. He told the story of Animal having his back when a fan sucker punched Dusty in a bar, making it funny. Dusty used a sound bite of Hawk and said it was his honor to induct the mighty Road Warriors.
There was a huge LOD chant as Ellering and Animal came out. Ellering was carrying a rolled up Wall Street Journal. Ellering and Animal thanked Dusty. Animal said their career started in Georgia Championship Wrestling. He said that three weeks into their career, they were told to hit the ring on Dusty and Ole Anderson told them go get yourselves over and they didn’t know what that meant. They hit the ring and were told to open him up. Animal said he didn’t know what that meant. They were told not to let anyone get in the ring and Stan Hansen was then told that no matter what, he was to get in the ring and take out the Warriors. The rib ended with Animal outside crying and having to pull a knocked out Hawk from the ring.
Animal thanked Dusty for seeing something in the Warriors they didn’t see in themselves. He said he will always be indebted to Dusty for what he did for them.
Ellering said he was starting to think they weren’t going to make it here and were exiled to the land of misfit toys. Animal said they were very blessed and thanked the man above for allowing him to be in the sports entertainment business. He ran down the titles they won and said he would give them all up for what they are being given tonight.
Ellering said that the Warriors were like kids without adult supervision and he was the adult. They told some funny stories about Hawk’s toughness.
Animal told a story about all the tough guys that came from Minnesota like, Rick Rude, Nikita Koloff and Smash being from the same school. He is recruited by Ole Anderson to become the Road Warrior and was all full of himself until he learned a lesson of humility from Roddy Piper. He told Piper how he wanted to learn to control the crowd and Piper told him that he just didn’t see it in him. Today that’s something they joke about today.
Animal talked about Johnny Weaver putting him to sleep and how that was a learning experience.
Ellering said they were here for the last laugh of wicked mirth. He said they give thanks for being named a symbol of excellence in the industry.
Animal started talking about his family, thanking his father and talked about his father’s reaction to Animal becoming a wrestler. He thanked his brothers for being here. He asked his wife Julie to please stand and told her she was a true saint. He talked of her support. Animal told his son Joe that he was a hero and thanked him for fighting in Iraq. He thanked his son James, who got a pop. He said that James was always his buddy and his son turned back into a little kid when he found out Animal was going into the Hall. He praised his daughter.
Ellering thanked all his family in the business and all of his real family for allowing him to have his career. He said the night wasn’t about them, but rather the fans. Animal said they were the fuel that fed them and thanked them forever.
Ellering said he was proud of the chance to be part of something special. He said that he has one special friend with him and Hawk. He said Hawk was a son, a brother, a warrior and a friend. He said today they are dancing to the music Hawk plays. He said that Hawk was a friend to all that knew him.
Ellering talked about the day Hawk passed away and that Hawk would have wanted a celebration of life…and what a life he loved. He said that Hawk only wanted to make one person proud…his wife Dale.
Animal thanked everyone who paved the way for them and everyone who put them over. The Warriors were only as good as the people they were with in the ring.
Animal said Hawk was a great man but was rough around the edges. Animal said that he wishes he could explain the connection they had but he can’t. He knew what Hawk was thinking by the look of his eyes. He said he misses him terribly and thinks of him every day.
Ellering pulled out a Hawk action figure and placed it on the podium. They received a standing ovation. Ellering said that he misses Hawk. He said he’s not an angel but he knows one and that angel says….
Animal closed with “Oh what a rush!”
Lawler pitched it to the Drew Carey video. Fans were booing it.
Kane is inducting Carey. Kane talked about eliminating 11 Royal Rumble competitors in one Rumble but after he set that milestone people were only talking about Drew Carey.
Kane gave a funny induction saying Carey was the embodiment of pure evil and that reminds him of him. Kane introduced Carey.
Carey thanked everyone. He was getting booed. He said he didn’t care if they booed because he was rich so do whatever you want. He told a bunch of jokes that bombed. He said he’s having such a great time here he might change his name to Dwayne Johnson.
Carey plugged The Miz since he’s from Cleveland. He said he was surprised when he was invited but since he loves wrestling and loves it outwardly he said let’s do it. He praised wrestlers for being so great at what they do and for putting their bodies on the line.
Carey said he was thankful to be a small part of the WWE Universe and would see everyone at WrestleMania.
They played the awesome Shawn Michaels music video.
Lawler introduced Triple H. He asked if they were sold out. The crowd yelled yes. Triple H said that now Shawn is going to be able to brag about this the rest of his life. He joked that Shawn asked him to do this so he had to say nice things about him.
Triple H joked about what he could talk about, making cute smart ass remarks about Shawn’s height and wardrobe. He said he could talk about the titles or The Rockers or the unbelievable matches like the Iron Man match against Bret Hart, the ladder match against Razor Ramon or the Hell in a Cell against Undertaker.
He said he could talk about about the guy who returned after four years following back surgery on PPV and had a great 45 minute match. He said the second they touched he knew Shawn was the best he was ever in the ring with.
He said he could talk about the clique but those stories won’t play in a PG environment. He could talk about DX but those shouldn’t have played even in the Attitude era. He could talk about the wrestlers he inspired. He could talk about the family man or his best friend or what a giving performer Shawn was.
Triple H talked about their comedy vignettes in DX. He said that he gave Shawn the comedy of his nose and Shawn gave him the comedy of his wardrobe, his mullet and Playgirl. Shawn told him the chicks were going to love it. He said Shawn doesn’t want to admit his place in the Hulk Hogan haircut and that’s a comedy gift…as is his google eye.
Triple H said he could talk about all that or just talk about his best friend. He got choked up as he said Shawn was his brother. He told Michaels that he loves him. He said Michaels was the greatest performer he has ever seen in his life and the greatest he ever stepped in the ring with, period.
He started recounting Michaels’ nicknames and said he has a new one that is more deserving than any other….. Mister Hall of Fame.
He introduced Michaels.
Michaels came out and hugged Triple H for a long time. The entire place gave him a standing ovation for a LONG time before he was able to speak.
Michaels said somehow a roast broke out on the greatest night of his life. He said that he knew there was no way Hunter was going to say anything nice about him. He said that it was a huge deal for Hunter to even recognize Michaels worked in this business.
Michaels said he didn’t bring a speech and was thinking about what he was going to say and what would happen if he forgot someone. He joked with fans catcalling him, asking if for once it could be about him.
Shawn said he didn’t know where to start and there are things you aren’t supposed to say and there are politically correct things you have to say, which was a reason he was happy he was retiring since he can’t do those things. He joked that he wasn’t on TV because it was him and he couldn’t be trusted.
Michaels said when he was 19 he didn’t want to be a sports entertainer but wanted to wrestle in front of 25 people in San Antonio and his life would be complete. He said that now he’s 45 years old and he’s had a hell of a ride and is so blessed.
Michaels said that when he got into the business he was searching for validation and he didn’t know why. He said he worked himself into the ground
He spent his life wanting all the fans and his peers to think he did a good job. He said he’s very thankful to all the other inductees and Triple H for making tonight fun.
He said he doesn’t want this to become a cryfest but he wanted and worked so hard to do this for so many years. He said that has brought up questions of whether he would be OK away from wrestling and Undertaker said he was going into the Hall full of regrets.
Michaels said if he was done and went in in 1998 there would have been a lot of sadness for himself and someone backstage he can’t mention…..Vince obviously. He said he came back for one more match and that, as they joke, was nine years ago.
Today he can say he has no regrets. That is in thanks to God and his family in the front row. He introduced his wife, son and daughter. He said that from the moment they came into his life there hasn’t been a second that he isn’t thankful for them and the best gift of all is his family. He thanks them for being so selfless in letting Dad finish what he started.
Michaels said it was important to walk away on his own terms. He thanked his son for letting daddy go play wrestling.
Michaels said there are lots of many special moments he had a chance to create with. He said he didn’t want to be that guy keeping people up late because someone goes long. Shawn said that those wrestlers know who they are because he pulled them aside and thanked them for dealing with him when he went nuts dissecting a match and getting deep into the job.
He said that a lot of times all they have is each other. He said they love their women but when they are together, it’s like being in a foxhole. They may stab each other in the back but don’t someone else do it.
Michaels thanked them for letting him into their fraternity.
Michaels thanked the fans for supporting him even when they bother him at 5 a.m. at airports. He said they have been part of his life and his world for many years. He said it comes down to why a kid wanted validation from a bunch of strangers. He said he doesn’t know if he’s connected to the fans but they are so connected to him.
Michaels said he was never prom king but what was important was knowing how the fans felt about him. He said tonight he knows it, he feels it and he loves his ring. He said if you aren’t down with that he has two words for you.
Shawn and Hunter hugged and they played the DX theme. They recreated the curtain call with Sean Waltman and Kevin Nash coming on stage with him. Shawn acknowledged Ric Flair with a wave. Flair was never shown on camera.
The others left Shawn alone on stage and his Sexy Boy music played. Michaels jumped off the stage and hugged his children then kissed his wife forever and a day.
Shawn returned to the stage and received a long standing ovation before departing. The building chanted his name.
Lawler returned and thanked everyone for joining them this year.