The 2017 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony took place in Orlando last night, and say what you will about how that evening usually goes, this year's installment, while a long affair, was full of great moments and good speeches. if anything, I would almost say that this year's headliner Kurt Angle was almost an afterthought by the time he took the stage.
But as he does, Angle rose to the occasion and delivered a pretty tight, funny speech featuring multiple sing-a-longs, his various headgear gimmicks over the years, and name-checks to most of the usual names backstage and on the roster now. He is still in phenomenal shape as well, practically bulging out of his tailored suit. The crowd chanted "One more match" for a good two minutes when he took the stage, and if his look is any indication, they may get that wish. All the requisite catchphrases were uttered: "It's True, It's Damn True", "I won two gold medals with a broken freaking neck!", and the ultimate version of "Sexy Kurt" complete with Shawn Michaels dancing in the front row. At the end, after thanking the fans one last time, he doused himself one last time with a milk bath and much joy was had by all.
Beth Phoenix however stole the show. I will confess, my "dark period" when I was not paying as close attention to wrestling and was more of a casual viewer coincided with most of her career, but thanks to the WWE Network that is not much of an issue anymore. After a great induction speech by Natalya Neidhart, Beth took the stage and put over every member of the women's division during her tenure, which frankly was not the strongest, and championed the WWE for their current efforts with Women's Wrestling. She even pulled a prank on her husband Adam Copeland, aka Edge, and said some very moving things to their two daughters, the oldest of which did not look to be enjoying herself.
Teddy Long kept it short but sweet, say what you will about his time as SmackDown general manager, but he always made me laugh with his dancing and endless tag team match making, all of which he included in his speech. People forget how great a manager he was when he managed Doom back in the day, and i was happy to see Ron Simmons as one of his inductors, along with JBL.
Rick Rude had the most confusing induction of the night, as Ricky Steamboat put him into the Hall with a weird, confusing speech about basically how he lifted weights a bunch and rambling about some of their matches together. Surely there was someone better they could have gotten, but this happens to one person every year. His family accepted on his behalf, and it was nice to hear more about the man than the character. Rick Rude was an avid fisherman??? His son doing his intro was awesome as well.
The Warrior Award, given to someone who "exemplifies the spirit and drive of The Ultimate Warrior", was given to Eric Legrand, a football player who in 2010 was paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle. he now travels the country giving motivational speeches and not letting his injury get in the way of living his life fully, and hearing him speak last night was very moving and when he says he will walk again, I actually believe him.
One of the more anticipated moments of the night was Jim Cornette returning to induct the Rock and Roll Express, and while he was not controversial, his impassioned speech overshadowed the Express themselves when they took the stage. The duo is still active, which is crazy. They gave a funny speech, at one point letting indie promoters that their rate for work "just skyrocketed".
My favorite induction of the night was Diamond Dallas Page. He was inducted by Eric Bischoff, and after his introduction you can say what you want about the man, he was classy and hit all the right notes. Between him and Dallas you got most of the "old days" stories and road stories of the night, most of them concerning the late, great Dusty Rhodes. Multiple times Dallas got misty in his speech, which made me misty, which made everyone misty. That he made so much of himself in and out of the ring is a story that everyone should identify with, and at the end his message of never giving up on yourself and believing that you can do anything as long as you don't lose sight of who you are and what you are capable of was a great moment and should be on the HOF highlight reels for a long time.
Overall, there was less "inside baseball" stories than years past, and nobody really did anything controversial except mention some people not with the company currently (*cough Hulk Hogan), but i prefer that. it should be a night to champion these performers that have given and sacrificed so much for our entertainment. They don't owe us anything anymore. It is us who owe them.