In pondering and researching this article, I stumbled across something via Google that really made me think. In 2009, the Wall Street Journal published an article that basically said making a professional sports hall of fame equals automatic dollar signs for the rest of one’s life.
I tend to agree with that, after thinking about it. And this is why I am totally behind Bruno Sammartino taking WWE to the cleaners recently when he agreed to be enshrined in their Hall of Fame, as well as take part in various WWE programming.
Good for Bruno, and good for WWE. Finally, they both got it right.
The article I reference brings up a valid point. Let’s look at two individuals who were enshrined in their respective halls.
The year was 2005. Wade Boggs was inducted into the baseball hall of fame. Nikolai Volkov was inducted into the WWE Hall. Wade Boggs is doing quite well for himself, living comfortably. He’s written books, appeared on television shows. On March 24th, he will be appearing at an autograph signing, where at the low cost of $65 USD, you can have a little (very little) something with his name on it. That’s what being a MLB hall of famer does for ‘ya.
Nikolai received the same honor, same year. He works a little harder for the money. He labors as a code enforcer in Baltimore, Maryland for a blue collar wage, while schlepping it on the weekends in gyms and armories for a few extra bucks to make ends meet.
I saw Nikolai at a Maryland Championship Wrestling event in 2007, in Chambersburg, West Virginia. Paid attendance of about 50. He came out in the same worn down USA/USSR ring gear he was rocking in 1991, accepted a cheap plaque for all his accomplishments, sang a few lines of Cara Mia, then proceeded to kick and punch a twenty year old for five minutes. It was an honor to see the man, even then. More so, because I worked a camera for the show (I almost tripped him with a cord on the ring steps, sorry bro) and saw him up close.
But I ask you. Is this proper treatment for a hall of fame caliber athlete who was in the spotlight for so many years? Hell no it’s not!
For Bruno Sammartino, this will not be the case. He will be treated and revered as the legend that he is, and he will live very comfortably in his later years, being rewarded by the company he helped build. Some people call him a sellout. I call him a businessman with common sense.
Wrestling bleeds you dry. The Wrestler was a fictional account that was such an accurate depiction of what a famed sports entertainer deals with after the spotlight fades, that we, to this day, still sit around in circles at our pay per view parties and try figuring out who they are actually portraying. Sadly, there are too many possible candidates to list in this article.
Bruno is not one of those men. He has held his ground as well as his moral standards for decades, and finally…FINALLY (that’s how we get you to see The Rock in your head) he will get his just due for it.
On another note, this move by WWE is supposedly a precursor to them building an actual, physical, hall of fame building. Just like this induction, this is a move that is so, so long overdue.
The thing is, there actually is a real pro wrestling hall of fame. It’s in Schenectady, New York (you can check that out here, if you like). Maybe the location is part of the reason no one’s really heard of it. Or maybe, it doesn’t have the name power that WWE has behind it. Maybe WWE and TNA should have gotten behind it, or the Cauliflower Alley club perhaps in the first place. Shame on them for not doing so.
But at least Vince McMahon and his people are finally taking steps to rectify the situation. Building a real hall will generate fans as well as revenue for the company as well as the wrestlers and personalities in it.
Maybe there will be no more Randy the Rams out there, pawning their Hall of Fame rings for beer and bill money.
Maybe someday, even Nikolai Volkov can cash in and sit at the table next to Wade Boggs at that signing.
Bruno Sammartino didn’t sell out. He helped further the business.
Jimmy Duncan is the host of the Hookers and Shooters wrestling podcast, available exclusively at facebook.com/hookersandshooters. Generally, the show is ready for downloading on Monday morning. Keep calm and listen