As the "Road to WrestleMania" continues attracting attention for the 10th Anniversary of the Undertaker vs. Triple H match where Hunter buried the entire roster in one promo, anticipation seeps through fans' veins as the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony is in just four weeks. In addition to the headlining Shawn Michaels, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and "Bullet" Bob Armstrong have been announced as 2011 inductees. Since there is no physical shrine devoted to these Hall of Famers, the highlight of the ceremony is to hear the speeches by wrestling's legends. Listening to the old timers share laughs, tears, and precious moments from their career is similar to hearing war stories from grizzled veterans. When the inductee walks on stage and the crowd roars in honor of the famer's contributions to the business, it provides a sentimental moment for the inductee to soak up the glory one last time. Over the years many speeches have transcended time and united fans young and old, from pro wrestling to sports entertainment, from Wrestling at the Chase to Friday Night Smackdown, from Bruno to Cena. While I present the greatest Hall of Fame speeches, lose yourself from the current pessimistic internet generation of overly scripted and produced homogeneous sports (without the) entertainment. Sit back, munch on some Cracker Jacks, and embrace the nostalgia.
8. Terry Funk
Any time The Funker has a chance to speak, EVERYONE should listen. His honesty, creativity, and passion that has been demonstrated throughout his 46 year career was on display during this brief, yet powerful speech.
7. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
Perhaps the greatest heel in wrestling history, The Million Dollar Man brought his charisma and more importantly humility to the ceremony. Since fans have always believed that DiBiase was robbed of a WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign, the induction was overdue and satisfying for the wrestling community. Plus, that trademark laugh still shends shivers down my spine.
6. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
Although I wouldn't consider Steamboat a good promo, his respectful approach and quiet dignity that attributed to his mass appeal as a perennial fan favorite evoked a passionate response from the HOF crowd. Since his legendary peers speak nothing but highly of "The Dragon," it should come as no surprise that Steamboat's speech was filled with gratitude. The lockup with Flair and the shout out to Mickey Rourke add to the greatness of this speech.
5. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
"Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions." "You don't throw rocks at a man holding a machine gun." "I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of bubble gum." Just a few of my favorite quotes by the Hot Rod whose speech stole the show during the 2005 Hall of Fame. Although Hogan headlined as usual, always remember that "they never would have loved Hulk so much, if they didn't hate Piper that much more."
4. Stone Cold Steve Austin
When Vincent Kennedy McMahon appears on stage for to induct, you know that business is about to pick up. And nobody draws more business than the Texas Rattlesnake. The highlight of this speech besides the beer bash is the subtle retire announcement. Although fans will forever be disappointed that he has hung up the black boots, if anyone deserves to ride out in the sunset it's ole' Stone Cold.
3. "Nature Boy" Ric Flair
Despite Naitch's return to the squared circle tainting the ceremony, the emotion was flowing like Niagra Falls during the WrestleMania 24 weekend. I could listen to Flair tell stories all day long and millions of fans would agree. Forget "leaving the memories alone," lets climb Space Mountain one more time. Wooooooooo!
2. Bret "Hitman" Hart
Before his triumphant return in 2010, Hart's 2006 Hall of Fame induction was his first appearance on WWE TV since the Montreal Screwjob of 1997. Clearly, the fans had been salivating for his return and exploded when he appeared. Chants of "OWEN" and "Welcome Back" dissolved any controversey and animosity toward McMahon for at least one night as Bret soaked up the adoration and provided a truly special moment for wrestling fans. P.S. Look out for Austin's amazing one liner to Hogan. AW HELL YEAH!
1. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
The absolute greatest speech by the absolute greatest manager in the history of professional wrestling. This epitomizes why the Hall of Fame is loved by the wrestling community. As you watch the genuine emotion from the "Weasel," remember that Heenan has suffered from jaw infections in recent years. Despite the adversity that plagues "The Brain," Heenan continues to exhibit the resiliency of fighters that he has managed. As Paul Heyman said, "Here is the Johnny Carson of the wrestling world."