SAN JOSE, Calif. - One of the annual traditions of WrestleMania weekend took place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Saturday night when the WWE inducted 10 new members into its Hall of Fame.
As usual, the night was full of great stories and memories. But this year was also filled with a number of emotional and touching moments that would have made even the toughest of grapplers shed a tear.
Without further adieu, here are my highlights and observations from the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame induction Ceremony:
- Rikishi was the first to be honored as his two sons, Jimmy and Jey Uso, inducted him with a humorous speech about their father. Rikishi took the stage and paid homage to every member of the famous Anoa'i family that has participated in the professional wrestling industry.
Almost everyone Rikishi mentioned was cheered, with the exception of Roman Reigns, who will be challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Sunday night. Reigns drew the ire fans on multiple occasions throughout the night, as they jeered him every time he popped up on the titantron. Rikishi's speech was heartfelt, concise and fun.
- Up next was the Living Legend Larry Zbyszko, who was inducted by his hero and mentor Bruno Sammartino. Sammartino told the story of the first couple of times he met a young Zbyszko in Pittsburgh and how he begged to be taught how to become a wrestler. Eventually, Zbyszko pestered Sammartino enough that he finally obliged.
When Zbyszko came out to give his acceptance speech, he corroborated Sammartino's story, but went into even greater details about his idolization of the longest-reigning WWE Champion of all time. Zbyszko focused his speech on how much he looked up to Sammartino as a fan and is now standing by his side in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Zbyszko, who did not prepare a speech, came across with genuine emotion, routinely stopping himself so that he would not get too emotional.
- Alundra Blayze came up next and provided arguably the most entertaining speech of the night. Blayze touched on a number of subjects, but none bigger than the time she dropped the WWE Women's Championship on Monday Night Nitro almost 20 years ago.
Blayze had a trashcan brought on to the stage and began pulling out various items, a pair of bra and panties, saying that she hated when the WWE began doing them. She also pulled out a bottle of Jim Ross' famous barbeque sauce. She eventually pulled out the exact title she dropped into a trashcan. She then put it on her shoulder and said that the title belt was back where it belonged and that was the WWE.
Aside from that recreation of history, Blayze thanked a number of people, but none more important than her husband, who has served in the U.S. Army for 30 years and made it back home in time to see her get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Before tonight, Blayze hadn't seen her husband in almost a year.
Blayze also let loose with language a couple of times as well. She didn't hold back from using a couple of four-or-five-letter words during her acceptance speech.
- The mood took a more heavy tone after Blayze's speech, as it was now time to give the late Connor Michalek the first-ever Warrior Award. Presenting the Warrior Award was the wife of the late Ultimate Warrior, Dana Warrior.
Warrior gave an emotional speech about her husband, their two daughters and all of the support she's received from the WWE and the fans during the past year. She then acknowledged the courage Connor Michalek showed in the face of insurmountable odds.
Warrior then gave way to Daniel Bryan, who was Connor Michalek's favorite wrestler. Bryan gave a heartwarming speech about Connor Michalek's quick wit and passion for professional wrestling.
In the end, Connor Michalek's father Steve accepted the award on behalf of his son and thanked the WWE and their fans for all of their support. He ended his speech by bringing out Connor Michalek's little brother, who told his older brother that he loved him.
- In an effort to lift everyone's spirits, The Bushwackers were next in line to receive Hall of Fame honors. John Laurinaitis, who had been their flag bearer during the early stages of his career, inducted them. Laurinaitis' speech was short and to the point, which gave way to Luke and Butch.
The Bushwackers came from behind the curtain with their patented march and proceeded to tell a number of entertaining stories. They were just fantastic together. Eventually, they thanked a number of people, but in particular, they thanked Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase and Bret Hart, who did The Bushwackers' trot up to the stage.
- As entertaining as those speeches were, they took up a lot of time, which forced the rest of the program to go at a bit of a quicker pace. Ric Flair inducted Tatsumi Fujinami and proclaimed him as the greatest Japanese wrestler he's ever seen. Fujinami does not know a ton of English, which made his acceptance speech very short.
- Next up was Randy Savage. Although the fans sort of balked at the fact that Savage wasn't closing the program, once Hulk Hogan and talked glowingly about Savage, the fans didn't voice their displeasures all that much. Once of the main points that Hogan expressed during his induction speech was that Savage's intensity and attention to detail helped make everyone he ever worked with better. Hogan said that Savage always brought the absolute best out of him.
This set up Savage's brother Lanny Poffo to accept the induction on behalf of his late brother. As expected, Poffo had a number of poems ready to pay tribute to his big brother. He did not disappoint.
- Up next was box office sensation and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Triple H inducted Schwarzenegger and used a bunch of his famous movie catchphrases to do so. Schwarzenegger was generally well received from the fans in San Jose, as he told numerous stories about how much of a fan of wrestling he really was. Every time Schwarzenegger's time as governor of California was mentioned, it was met by a chorus of boos.
- Last but certainly not least was Kevin Nash, who was inducted by Shawn Michaels. Michaels told the story of how he discovered Nash while he was Vinnie Vegas in World Championship Wrestling and told Rick Steiner that he was looking at Nash to be his bodyguard on television. Steiner relayed the message to Nash, which brought him up to the WWE.
Nash then came out and provided an entertaining end to a long, but fun afternoon at the WWE Hall of Fame.