Another week, another footnote in the eternally pointless ?celebrities on Raw? debate. The question of Jeremy Piven’s contributions to the WWE Universe is, truth be known, utterly inconsequential. Vince McMahon doesn?t care what any man, woman or mark thinks of his show(s) as long as he and his legions of sycophantic minions are satisfied. Hence, you will continue to see the shameless self-promotion of ?Gits on TV? for the foreseeable future, right up to the point a Raw rating circles the drain or Vince gets bored. It would be funny if it wasn?t such a dishearteningly futile exercise in eye-rolling.
In my estimations the only new news of note concerned ?Superstar? Billy Graham coining $11,500 for his WWE Hall of Fame ring. A typically ostentatious and rather gaudy piece of tat, the ring was supposed to be a timeless reminder of the pride and prestige of the Hall of Fame. In reality, Graham rather unfortunately beheld Vince McMahon in a moment of senile candour and had a revelation. The WWE Hall of Fame will endure only to the point Vince McMahon grows weary of the marquee and publicity value and, feeling said strengths have diminished, pulls the plug. Hence for all the pompous ceremony and crocodile tears, the WWE Hall of Fame sways wildly between legitimate sporting memorial and total farce.
The principle of any hall of fame is rather uncomplicated. It’s supposed to be a permanent record of achievement, in honour and celebration of the contribution of great luminaries of a particular field. There are regular rounds of inductions, a permanent memorial (such as the names of the MSG inductees on the floor of Madison Square Garden) and a museum housing various items of memorabilia. All in all, a pretty standard blueprint.
The most important attribute of any legitimate hall of fame is the calibre of inductees. The whole idea of such a memorial is to enshrine the achievements and contributions of a your chosen honouree. Ergo, personal grievances and petty disagreements should be laid down in the wake of objective appraisal. Yeah, right. Wrestling is the most subjective, childish, deluded, small-minded, ungracious and parasitic of all sporting endeavours. For every enlightened soul e.g. Jerry Lynn there are a hundred men named Bob Holly: Spineless, talentless bullies wasting everyone’s time who couldn?t give a monkey’s left nipple who you are and what you did because ?I?m a badass?. Anyone who has made real money in wrestling can drift between the lines on this but the rest are but mere puppets awaiting promotion or execution.
For those who haven?t realised, professional wrestling is the ultimate circus; the purview of greedy bastards who have marooned the industry in the Stone Age. Fittingly, the direction of the WWE Hall of Fame is, like everything else, the exclusive remit of the greediest, most insanely paranoid bastard of them all: Vince McMahon. Every name entered into the Hall of Fame is personally vetted by Vince McMahon. Other men do have a say, as Hulk Hogan so famously demonstrated, live on the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show. The final word belongs to only one man, however.
Vince McMahon has claimed for many years that the Hall of Fame would be a richly celebrated and credible institution. To this end, nobody can deny the lavish nature of the ceremonies, the quality of the inductees or some of the landmark television moments that have been created (Hulk Hogan’s face during Bret Hart’s induction. Priceless). Billy Graham’s point and my own bone of contention is simple. The Hall of Fame is an extravagant souffl? with absolutely no inner substance. It’s wholly irrelevant and superficial. Sure, it’s nice to see some of the older and less fortunate faces have a moment in the sun and be honoured in the moment for contributions past. I have no doubt they will have enjoyed the attention, the speech and above all the cheque.
The point is beyond the moment, the exercise is pointless. The WWE owns every crumb of footage and all aspects of the fame these people once enjoyed. There are no benefits for wrestlers, no grand scheme to help them in their dotage. Like all circus performers they are good only until the point when they are shot. I?m well aware many of these persons left the WWE under a cloud or the argument persists that the WWE, having given these men and women their shot at stardom, owes them nothing. If you know anything of the truth of the lifestyle. The drugs and the politics, the peer pressure and the relentless schedule not fit for a dog, then you know more should have been done; if not in the future then absolutely in the past when it could have made a difference.
Billy Graham reacted to a comment Vince McMahon made regarding the likelihood of a physical monument to the Hall of Fame inductees. Vince stated in all likelihood there wouldn?t be one, as such a place only existed in his head. That would be funny if wasn?t so honest. Vince McMahon does not believe in generosity. He has the odd magnanimous moment, such as offering to pay for drug rehab for many of his former employees. A nice gesture for sure, but done to safeguard the image of the company during perilous periods of intense regulation i.e. right now. It was not done out any sense of obligation. Vince even said he feels no responsibility towards the ill-health and premature deaths of countless former WWE employees whose vices either first took hold or intensified under the WWE banner. How in an institution explicitly conceived, designed, implemented, governed and maintained (from pinnacle to depths) by one man, can said man have no knowledge or responsibility as Vince McMahon has claimed dozens of times before. The mind boggles as to how anyone could be so na?ve as to believe the WWE has no responsibility to bare or blame to suffer.
I?m in danger of digressing from the point, which is plain enough. It should be a great honour to be in the Hall of Fame. As time passes leaves in its wake men like Tony Atlas and the Von Erich family, I imagine the Hall of Fame represents some small comfort and the hope of endurance. Alas, for men like Hulk Hogan what should be a singular honour is instead reduced to yet another instance of Terry Bollea’s insatiable avarice. Hogan demanded (and received) a six figure sum before he would accept induction. The entire ceremony was built around Hogan and his career, for which every inductee had played a part. He was also allowed to smash the undefeated Muhammad Hassan at Wrestlemania, just for good measure. The actual Hall of Fame was thus secondary to the man entering it.
I?m all for the concept of the Hall of Fame. I love the idea of wrestling’s storied past celebrated in full, and as I indicated last week the sight of Sting in any capacity on WWE television would be extraordinary. Alas, the prestige of the Hall of Fame will not be the draw. Bret Hart always maintained he?d ?do? the Hall of Fame if asked and his subsequent 2006 induction was highly memorable. However just like Hogan the year before the honour and longevity of the Hall was eclipsed by the inductee and his agenda of finally saying goodbye. This wasn?t entirely Bret’s fault to be fair, and the reaction of the crowd to him and the content of Bret’s speech made the whole thing quite magical.
Bob Backlund reneged on the Hall after learning of Pete Rose’s planned induction. Vince McMahon used the so called prestigious ?wrestling? Hall of Fame to aim a cheap shot at baseball for it’s integrity-based exclusion of Rose. It is nonsense like this, alongside the continued exclusion of genuine legends like Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior, that permanently devalues the WWE Hall of Fame. Truth be told, it’s nothing more than a tuxedo, a speech, a cheque and a natty ring. Makes you wonder. How much do you think ?Sensational? Sherri’s ring is worth?
Daniel R. Browne.