May 19, 2012
Sammartino goes over at the Hall of Fame
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
AMSTERDAM, NY -- There were no hard feelings for the 2012 Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees, Wendi Richter, Dominic Denucci and Superfly Jimmy Snuka when they were overshadowed by a man picking up his 2002 induction ring.
Not when that man was The Man for so long -- Bruno Sammartino.
Purposely put on fourth from the end, before this year's inductees, Sammartino perhaps harkened back to the occasional times when his main event bout went on earlier in the evening so the 11 p.m. curfew at Madison Square Garden could be acknowledged.
His four-minute speech was impassioned, impressed as he is by the PWHF building in downtown Amsterdam, a city about 30 minutes from the New York State capitol of Albany.
On Saturday night, the former WWWF World champion Sammartino talked about how the PWHF was the "true" hall of fame, not one that inducted game show hosts, baseball players or boxers. Though he never mentioned WWE at all, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was firing a shot across the bow of the WWE Hall of Fame.
It was a theme that continued on throughout the night, the 12th induction ceremony for the PWHF.
Richter, the Women's honoree, talked about completing wrestling's "Triple Crown" by being honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club with its lifetime achievement award, the WWE Hall of Fame, and now, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. She also proudly talked about how she was now a member of the "true hall of fame" and stressed how proud she was to have made a career in pro wrestling based on talent and hard work, and "not being a T&A diva and an actress."
Snuka was typically brief, acknowledging he just celebrated his 69th birthday on Friday -- "my favorite number" -- and leaving the audience with his signature line: "I'd just like say three words: I love you."
Denucci was the final inductee of the evening, and was also brief. In fact, Sammartino, with his second trip to the podium talked long than Denucci.
"Dominic was truly an international star," said Sammartino, listing the success of his friend of more than 50 years in Japan, Australia, Europe and more. Sammartino said that he felt that the recognition of Denucci's career had always been shortchanged -- but no longer.
"The people buy the tickets because of wrestling," said Denucci. "I'm not talking about today, I'm talking about many years ago."
Denucci, who had family that traveled in from Montreal, concluded the evening by saying that the ring and the induction was something he will "appreciate the rest of my life."
Other inductees who were not able to attend were Jim Cornette (duties with Ring of Honor) and the Wild Samoans (who were out of the country). Posthumous inductees included George Gordienko, Fritz Von Erich, Junkyard Dog and, in the Pioneer Era, Maurice "The French Angel" Tillet and Abe Coleman.
Next year's Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend will be May 17-18, 2013.
Greg Oliver was a member of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Selection Committee for 2012, which was headed up by Davey O'Hannon, Dr. Bob Bryla and John Pantozzi. Others who voted include Mark Lewin, Don Leo Jonathan, Dick Beyer, Nick Bockwinkel, Roddy Piper, Larry Sharpe, Joe Laurinaitis, Paul Ellering, Bret Hart, Stan Hansen, Ted DiBiase, Ivan Koloff, Angelo Savoldi, Terry Funk, Johnny Rodz, Len Rossi, Johnny Mantell, Don Luce, Fred Hornby, J.M. Kenyon, Tim Hornbaker, Tom Burke, Ken Jugan, Karl Lauer, Greg Mosorjak, Scott Teal, Chuck Thornton, Dave Cameron and Peter Maquire. Greg can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.