Kurt Angle led 2017 WWE’s Hall of Fame event on Friday. John Cena was in charge of introducing Angle, selected for being the first to face the 16-time WWE Champion.
“We’ve never had anyone with this man’s physique. Very few come so far ahead of WWE and exceed expectations,” said Cena.” (Kurt) did it in two years and lined up the bar with which WWE superstars are measured.” Angle thanked Cena for his appreciation and welcoming gesture.
He recalled how he had turned down the WWE contract he received after he won his gold medal back in 1996 in Atlanta. However, Kurt Angle started following WWE RAW and liked the plots and one day, called WWE to ask if the offer was still standing. “I was told no, I had to do a test. No problem. Nothing came easy,” Angle told.
Twelve months after signing he had his first professional fight and did not look back. “Dare and you will accomplish many things,” Angle said.
The former Olympic medalist seized the stands as he recalled moments like the little cowboy hat next to Steve Austin, the black wig he used at one point and the truck full of milk before the McMahon and Steve Austin.
The most emotional exaltation of the night, however, was offered by Diamond Dallas Page. The event opened with Page, presented by Eric Bischoff, who described the creator of DDP Yoga and multi-world champion WCW as someone who never gave up on his quest to debut as a fighter.
Page debuted with WCW at age 35 under the aegis of Bischoff. Page, who came on the scene with his four daughters, recalled his first experience at Wrestlemania in Toronto, where he drove an old car to take Honky Tonk Man.
“According to Star Trek, an anomaly is something that is not supposed to happen,” Page said. “This is my history.” He thanked Dusty Rhodes and Bischoff for being an important part of his career, as well as Jake “Snake” Roberts, who was his greatest critic as he honed his fighter skills.
“To achieve more than you can, you must want more than you have,” Paige concluded. Jim Cornette, who did not step on a WWE event eight years ago, introduced The Rock and Roll Express, a pair that emerged in Tenessee territory developed by Jerry Lawler in the 1980s.
Cornette handled the Midnight Express, staunch rivals of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson. Cornette thanked him for the success of his career, as it was in that role that he achieved his success as a rude handler.
The Express rivalry, Cornette recalled, lasted 27 years, although he has been at opposite corners of Rock and Roll for seven more years, most recently four months ago.
“That call was the most important one I had ever received. After that, my son and daughter called me and told me that I was going to be a grandfather. Two blessings the same day,” Gibson recalled.
Morton thanked those he described as his brothers in the business because they know how big of an honor this was.
“I want to thank Jerry Lawler for creating the character, Bill Dundee, and Jim Cornette and Dusty Rhodes, Cowboy Bill Watts and Jim Ross for believing in us and making us champions,” he said.
Finally, Morton thanked Gibson for being his fighting partner for 35 years and for allowing him to be his friend for all those years.
Ravishing Rick Rude was introduced by Ricky Steamboat, who praised the late fighter not only for winning his various titles, but being the ‘purest rude’ that has ever existed. “(Rude) picked someone in the crowd and said he envied him for having the abs he had,” recalled Steamboat.
The recognition was accepted by his widow and his son, who went to full mass at the Amway Center. “I thought I could say at a moment like this my father, so I ask all overweight Floridians to shut up and let the women see what they came to see,” Rick said.
Rude talked about the life of his father, who grew up in Minnesota, and his love of wrestling and how he sought to make the business work out for him better.
For her part, Beth Phoenix was presented by Natalya, who described how they forged their friendship, which according to Neidhart, is still very much alive.
“They say that you never forget your first love and my first love was wrestling. My grandmother taught me wrestling, but it was not until Wrestlemania 10, Bret Hart Vs. Owen Hart, who made a work of art. There I said, ‘That’s what I want to do in life,'” said Phoenix.
Teddy Long, who did all the work in wrestling except wrestle, was another famous recipient on WWE grounds. Long was a referee and manager and later served as general manager of Smackdown.
John Bradshaw Layfield and Ron Simmons, the APA, introduced Long. Simmons and Layfield joked most of the talk about Long’s character, but they recognized the great importance of Long in the battle for racial equality in the 1960s.
Long was short in his acceptance speech as he recounted his career, starting from scratch and setting up the ring for WCW promotions until he reached the position of general manager.
“I want to thank the McMahon family because they had faith in me and proved that those who did not believe in me were wrong,” Long said during his speech.
Former football player Eric LeGrand received the Warrior Award, presented by Dana’s Ultimate Warrior widow. LeGrand suffered vertebral fractures after a stroke in a college match and exceeded the life expectancy that doctors gave him. Currently, he is a motivator and chairs a foundation to help people suffering from vertebral injuries.
[Featured image by by Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images for Distinctive Assets]