2013 WWE Hall of Fame inductees react to epic Madison Square Garden enshrinement
NEW YORK CITY — On the night before WrestleMania 29, where legacy is a prevailing theme, Superstars and Legends gathered in Madison Square Garden to watch the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2013 cement their own.
The WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony saw New York City sports-entertainment legends Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund come home, joined by Trish Stratus, Booker T, Mick Foley and millionaire mogul Donald Trump.
A visibly appreciative Sammartino was humbled by the rousing standing ovation he received at night’s end, as well as the chance to once again main-event inside the building that made him famous.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to appear in Madison Square Garden one more time,” he said. “I headlined this building more times than anyone in history. To have the opportunity to come here one more time at this stage of my life is a thrill that will stay with me forever.”
The ceremonious evening kicked off with Mick Foley taking his place in WWE history. The Hardcore Legend was inducted by his close friend and former tag team partner, WWE Hall of Famer Terry Funk.
“Mick and I went down the road a lot when he first got into the profession,” Funk told WWE.com after his speech. “I know he feels the same way about it as I do. He has a tremendous amount of respect for the business, as I do. That’s our real connection.”
While addressing the WWE Universe from the podium, Foley took time to thank many of the important people in his career, including his trainer, Dominic DeNucci, Jim Ross and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, the WWE Legend whose leap off the top of a steel cage — in MSG, no less — inspired him to become a future Hardcore Legend.
Before wrapping up his speech, Foley wanted to right one wrong from his in-ring career: never defeating Chris Jericho. Y2J obliged, climbing on stage and laying down on the floor. Foley showed his appreciation by dropping an elbow and covering Jericho, with the pin counted by an intervening CM Punk. Then, when it appeared all was said and done, Foley was surprised by Santa and Mrs. Claus, who presented him with a flannel print coat, just like Jolly Old Saint Nick’s.
Trish Stratus then took the stage, introduced by WWE Executive Vice President of Creative Stephanie McMahon. The trailblazing Diva regaled the WWE Universe in attendance with tales of her incredible journey from medical student to fitness model to perhaps the greatest Diva in WWE history. Her list of thank-yous was so long, she had to bring a scroll.
Next came the induction of six-time World Champion Booker T. Introduced by his brother, Stevie Ray, it was an emotional reunion for Harlem Heat, a team that held WCW’s tag team titles on 10 occasions. Stevie Ray recalled how they endured a tough upbringing and the passing of their father, and that developing a bond over professional wrestling enabled the brothers to embark on an incredible journey together.
“We never thought about the Hall of Fame,” Stevie Ray told WWE.com after his speech. “I used to tell him, no matter the job, do your best.”
Maria Menounos then made her way into The World’s Most Famous Arena to present her close friend, the legendary Bob Backlund. The former two-time WWE Champion then brought the Garden down with a passionate speech. When he was finished, he urged “Mr. H” — WWE COO Triple H — onto the stage to do some calisthenics. The Game politely declined – “ I’ve got a big match tomorrow,” he quipped, which Backlund respected.
Mr. McMahon inducted his friend and rival, Donald Trump, next and provided a quick refresher of the tycoon’s long history with WWE, dating back to WrestleMania IV in 1988.
Trump told WWE.com afterward how excited he was to become part of WWE and WrestleMania history once again, 25 years after he hosted the first of two consecutive Show of Shows in Atlantic City.
“It’s been amazing, absolutely amazing,” he said. “It’s a great honor for me to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. It’s been just an amazing experience.”
“The Donald” also appreciated being inducted by Mr. McMahon, six years removed from their epic involvement in WrestleMania 23’s “Battle of the Billionaires” Match. The contest resulted in the WWE Chairman having his precious pompadour shaved off … though the outcome, as Trump recalled, nearly cost him his own precious locks.
“I would not have been a happy camper,” Trump said about the near hostile makeover he endured inside Detroit’s Ford Field in 2007. “Fortunately, Bobby [Lashley] came through, because I would not have been happy.”
Trump’s good mood quickly returned as he again expressed gratitude for his Hall of Fame nod. “This is one of the greatest things for me,” he expressed. “It’s really a great honor.”
To close out the night, action movie star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger presented The Living Legend that sold out the Garden 187 times during an illustrious career that was capped with the longest WWE Championship reign in history at 4,040 days: Bruno Sammartino.
He thanked the WWE Universe for their support and cheers — including those, he joked, who weren’t even born when he first wrestled.
“Whatever success I’ve had,” Sammartino summarized, “I owe it all to you.”