Steiners headline Tragos/Thesz induction weekend
KARI WILLIAMS - For SLAM! Wrestling
|Rick and Scott Steiner with their induction plaques. Photo by Joyce Paustian
WATERLOO, IOWA -- Seven of wrestling’s greatest performers and personalities laced up their metaphorical boots to make the entrance of a lifetime for their induction into the 2014 George Tragos/Lou Thesz National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Fans, family and friends flocked to Waterloo, Iowa last weekend, July 18-19, to honor Randy Couture (George Tragos Award), Diamond Dallas Page (Frank Gotch Award), Larry Hennig (Lou Thesz Award), Larry Matysik (Jim Melby Award) and Wilbur Snyder and Rick and Scott Steiner (honorees).
As emcee, Jim Ross controlled the pace of Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which was filled heartfelt sentiments, tales from the road and admiration across the board. In introducing Couture, Ross said the MMA fighter “really invigorated the whole landscape of mixed martial arts.”
“When this man was on pay-per-view, they got my money…” Ross said. “He was the classic hero.”
Couture’s career, according to Ross, is in a field based on athletics, “not sophomoric drama… and backstage skits.”
“Old school pro wrestling reminds me of today’s MMA,” Ross said.
Couture explained that he started wrestling at 10 years old to impress his father, and though that did not happen, he found his calling in what spanned a 14-year career.
“I found my niche, my thing in life,” Couture said. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
DDP’s journey into the world of wrestling, on the other hand, began at 35 years old, and he had two of wrestling’s greats on his side – Jake “the Snake” Roberts, whose personal battles have been well documented, and Dusty Rhodes. Not long ago, DDP introduced Roberts to DDPYoga – a move Ross said “saved the life of Jake Roberts.”
“He’s created an amazing program…,” Ross said. “[DDP is] the most overachieving pro wrestler I’ve ever been around.”
However, Page said he does not view what he did as saving Roberts’ life, but rather, as paying it forward.
“I brought Jake into my house, I tried to help him get his life back because he helped me. He was my brother looking out for me, so I was just trying to return the favor…,” Page said.
In similarly humble fashion, Larry “The Axe” Hennig graciously accepted the Lou Thesz Award. Hennig said Lou Thesz was “one of the most outstanding champions,” and he tried to base his career around Lou Thesz’s. Hennig also had his grandchildren unveil a poster he had made with a photo from a match between Lou Thesz and himself and provided an 8 ½ X 11 print of the poster to everyone in attendance.
Charlie Thesz, Lou Thesz’s wife, told the crowd “Lou is here tonight because he loves Larry Hennig.”
“Lou loved him and respected him,” Charlie Thesz said. “Larry, to me, is more like Lou than anyone I’ve known.”
The only non-wrestler to be recognized came in the form of former Wrestling at the Chase commentator Larry Matysik. St. Louis wrestling promoter Herb Simmons accepted the Jack Melby Award for Matysik, who could not attend the ceremony due to health complications. Simmons said Matysik wanted to give his appreciation to J.R., Jerry Brisco and Charlie Thesz.
“He is very humbled about this award, this induction,” Simmons said.
Matysik also provided a video detailing his time in the wrestling business and expressing his thoughts on receiving the award.
“I couldn’t be more happy and more proud to receive the Jim Melby Award from the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame and to have those names involved, Thesz, Tragos, and Jim Melby was a great friend and what an honor, what a chance to be involved in a hall of fame that really means something,” Matysik said in the video.
Lastly, Wilbur Snyder and the Steiner brothers were selected as honorees to the hall of fame. Ross said Snyder’s 30-year active career – from the 1950s to the 1980s – was “pretty phenomenal.” Snyder was also someone, according to Ross, that “you wanted to be on your show.”
“If you could design a wrestler, he would look just like Wilbur Snyder,” Ross said.
Ross also praised the Steiners, noting Rick Steiner’s out-of-the-ring accomplishments in real estate, as well as being a father and a school board member.
Scott Steiner, according to Ross, had the ability to market himself and keep changing with the times.
“He was going to be hellaciously successful,” Ross said. “[Scott Steiner is] one of the strongest, most real personalities in all of wrestling.”
Kyle Klingman, director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame/Dan Gable Museum, also recognized Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, a hall of fame member who died in November, saying the hall of fame “lost one of [its] greatest members.”
Kathy Vachon, Maurice’s wife, said he “loved every minute” of his time in the wrestling business.
“If Maurice were here, he would tell each of you, ‘I am very proud of you, and you are very impressive to me,’” Kathy Vachon said. “I must say, I was very proud of him.”
2014 Photo Gallery from the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame weekend
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Kari Williams is a freelance writer in St. Louis.