Reported by COUNT GROG:
Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Weekend another Success!
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame located in Amsterdam, NY held its 7th Annual Induction weekend May 22-23 in Amsterdam, NY and once again a sellout crowd was treated to a fun filled weekend.
After a night of wrestling matches on Friday night May 22 (that saw Tony Atlas wrestle in a 4 way match, plus Slyke Brown Wagner beat John Walters in defense of his 2 CW title) we retired to the Americas Best Value Inn for a great night of hanging out with wrestlers and fans in the hotel bar. JJ Dillon, Irish Terry Gunn, Gentleman Jim Casey, Frank Durso, Lord Zoltan and others joined wrestling historians Tom Burke, Fred Hornby, Don Luce and others for a night of stories and reacquainting with old friends.
The second Day was started off with the Wrestling Fan Fest with vendors like Bud Carson and others selling their wrestling memorabilia, photos, magazines, DVD’s and more and many wrestlers selling their own items and posing for photos with fans. Superstar Billy Graham, Tony Atlas, Capt. Lou Albano, The Destroyer Dick Beyer, George “The Animal” Steele, Jimmy Snuka were among the most busy for many hours.
I took some time off to take a tour of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. Despite the abandon Buildings surrounding it on the main drag of Amsterdam, NY the life and activity in the Hall of Fame museum itself brought everything to life. Tony Vellano and the Hall of Fame staff have done a great job continuing to add items and fix up the old building. Old photos, posters, ring jackets and masks fill the walls and glass cases. A library of wrestling books and magazines are there for all to enjoy. A new highlight was a large painting of wrestling done by the late George Gordienko, donated by his family.
What was to be a 1 hour meet and greet from 3-4 people become a 2 hour event as over 200 people waited in line to go through and get items signed by all the wrestlers in attendance. All mentioned previously were joined by Gene Kiniski, Chief Jay Strongbow, Paul Orndorff, Pete Sanchez, Baron Scicluna, Davey O’Hannon, Don Bass, Mae Young, Nick Bockwinkle, Tom Drake, Dick Whorle, Len Rossi, Betty Niccoli, JJ Dillon, Johnny Rodz, Doink the Clown (Ray Apollo) Nick Kiniski and others as fans got photos, posters, belts and one guy in a long ring robe that appeared to have close to 1000 signatures on it added some more. Dick Beyer lit up when a guy handed him a photo of a 1950’s Syracuse National Championship football team that he was a coach on. He passed it around to the other legends with pride. Beyer also told me while I stood by him stories of Baba the Giant who he would later be inducting in the hall that night. I also had a great conversation with Indian Legend Billy Two Rivers whom when hearing I was from North Carolina told me about his days working for the Crockett promotion and getting moonshine from fans, bootleggers and the local police.
The Induction Dinner was at the St. Mary’s Institute Gym. The gym floor was transferred into a banquet hall and 25 tables were filled with a mixture of wrestlers, fans and family and local politicians. Ray Apollo in his Doink makeup served as master of ceremonies. After Tony Vellano made some remarks and Billy Two Rivers did the invocation and the US and Canadian National Anthems were played. Amsterdam Mayor Mike Chiara welcomed everyone. Dr. Bob Bryla and John Pantozzi remembered those of the wrestling profession who have passed away in the past year with special emphasis on The Fabulous Moolah, Penny Banner, Dewey Robertson The Missing Link and Billy Darnell, whom were all very big supporters and regular attendees of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. They then acknowledged the wrestling celebrities in attendance.
CAC President Nick Bockwinkle made an appearance and presented Tony Vellano with a $1000 check from the CAC to the Hall of Fame.
Doink made posthumous inductions of Ray Steele and The Dirty Dusek Brothers into the Hall. Toots Mondt was inducted by his grand niece Tracy Ramirez and Tom Jenkins by his great Grandson Tom Ellis, who donated a large amount of Jenkins memorabilia to the Hall. Tom also told that Jenkins went on to teach a mandatory wrestling class at West Point that Gen. George Patton, Douglas Macarthur and Omar Bradley all took.
After dinner was served and finished Doink inducted Bob Backlund and Brett Hart who both could not make it but have promised to attend a future event. Dick Beyer inducted Baba the Giant who Beyer worked for many years in Japan. Dick was as charming as ever with his stories.
Tony Atlas gave us a Tony Atlas history lesson in his induction of Bobo Brazil whom he never met. Because he says two black wrestlers never wrestled in the same territory at the same time back the. But because “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson discovered America Bobo Brazil could wrestle in America” or something to that effect.
Dick Beyer came out and added a quick story about Bobo having to work heel in Japan with him and Beyer told him to eat the flowers he was present at the beginning of each match to get heat. One night a bee was in the flowers and stung Bobo on the roof of his mouth and Beyer, Baba and Jumbo Tsurta had to hide their faces because they couldn’t stop laughing.
Len Rossi, who last year had the best induction speech when he told of his stretching of Danny Hodge was interrupted by him waking from his dream, told how Tom Drake took 45 second to stretch him. Tom Drake was present the Senator Hugh Farley award by Drake.
JJ Dillon inducted Betty Niccoli for the Ladies Division. While JJ was not that familiar with Betty during her wrestling Days he was a close friend of her husband Akio Sato.
Nick Bockwinkle inducted Gene Kiniski. Gene told us ” his son Nick was in the process of making a wrestling ring. I said, ‘Nicky, why are you making a ring outside your bedroom? What for, son? He said, ‘Dad, if something ever happened to you, I’m not going to call 911. I’m going to throw you in a wrestling ring. I know you’ll be good for 60 minutes.”
Afterward all the wrestlers, managers, referee’s were asked to come on stage and take a group photo.
As the dinner adjourned fans took photos with their hero’s. Old friendships were reacquainted and old feuds buried.
That night at the hotel bar Baron Scicluna drank with JJ Dillon, George Steele and Frank Durso rehashed old times, Johnny Rodz and Pete Sanchez shot pool as Tom Burke and Lord Zoltan and I bounced from table to table sharing memories with are old friends.