On the eve of WrestleMania 29, the WWE will induct one of its most star-studded collections of talent into its Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 6 from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The list includes Bruno Sammartino, Mick Foley, Bob Backlund, Booker T., Trish Stratus and Donald Trump (celebrity wing).
Below is a look at each of their respective careers.
• Bruno Sammartino
Considering WWE’s current demographic, it doesn’t surprise me that many members of the WWE Universe have ever heard of the name Bruno Sammartino.
I’m glad this is changing, and kids these days (I can’t believe I’m saying kids these days) are getting a history lesson, which I think is another reason why I love the WWE Hall of Fame. Sammartino’s inductor will be none other than the Terminator himself Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Before Hulk Hogan and John Cena, there was an Italian-born phenomenon that captured the love and admiration of many generations. If you lived in the Northeast, Bruno really was Uno.
I myself was born during the tail end of Sammartino’s career and after my family moved from New York to South Florida, he had transitioned into broadcasting. Thanks to Coliseum Home Video (I miss them) and such releases as the “Best of the WWF” series, I was able to catch up and appreciate the contributions he made to pro wrestling. Crazy to think I had the honor of interviewing him days before an appearance at a wrestling convention years ago.
My late mother, who wasn’t a big wrestling fan, would often tell me how the “Living Legend” was her favorite wrestler growing up. She would go to Madison Square Garden with her father to cheer him. MSG, the venue Sammartino is credited for selling out more than 180 times, will serve as the place the greatest wrestling champion of all time takes his place in the WWE Hall of Fame.
It’s almost criminal for the WWE to have a Hall of Fame without the man, whose two title reigns exceed 11 years, including his first which spanned eight. Whatever WWE had to do to make this a reality was well worth it, as it further legitimizes the Hall of Fame (even though they really need to secure a physical facility to house it).
I think this would be a great time for WWE to release a Bruno Sammartino DVD featuring a biography and some of his most classic matches against legends from Killer Kowalski and Buddy Rogers to Ivan Koloff and Stan Hansen. Fans loved Sammartino so much that when he lost they more than wished bodily harm on his opponents. It was really real to them. If WWE does move forward with a DVD, it must include his historic teacher versus student feud with Larry Zbyszko. The two sold out Shea Stadium back in the day.
Next to Bret Hart, I can’t think of many other past wrestlers other than Sammartino who had ill feelings with not only the chairman, but the direction he was sending his company in past years. Despite Sammartino’s age, 77, I would pay money to see a Sammartino versus McMahon match at a WrestleMania.
• Mick Foley
Mick Foley may trade his signature flannel and sweatpants for a tuxedo, for one night anyway, as he enters the WWE Hall of Fame.
Given his accomplishments inside the ring and out, I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Mrs. Foley’s baby boy. Historic MSG is also the ideal venue for his induction. It’s the place where the New York Times best-selling author’s love of pro wrestling was born watching Superfly Jimmy Snuka leap off the top of the cage onto rival Don Muraco.