By Greg Oliver: From heart-felt family bonding to rambling powerlifters to a trailblazing woman, the Cauliflower Alley Club banquet on Wednesday night offered a little bit of everything.
It was Trish Stratus in the main event, as the first female recipient of the Iron Mike Mazurki Award, the most prestigious award in the wrestling industry. Voted upon by her industry peers for her contributions both to wrestling and the world outside, Stratus joins the likes of Mad Dog Vachon, Woody Strode, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Stu Hart as past honourees.
The seven-time WWE Women’s champion said she was proud to be “accepted into the boys club.”
Growing up in a large extended Greek family in Toronto, she talked about loving pro wrestling and Wonder Woman equally. After fitness modelling got her noticed, she started training with Ron Hutchison at Sully’s Gym as a pro wrestler.
“She had what I call the ‘It Factor.’ She was born with that,” said Hutchison when bringing Stratus to the stage. The evening’s emcee, Mean Gene Okerlund, said something similar, saying that “the presence she has in and out of the ring is second to none.”
Stratus talked about knocking down barriers, starting as a valet in WWE. “I worked my whole career to earn the right to be called a woman wrestler.” She thanked many of the people who helped her along the way, “letting me unleash my inner Wonder Woman.”
The semi-main event, however, was easily the most emotional part of the evening at the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino.
Travis Orndorff introduced his father “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and delivered the most resonant speech, at equal times funny, touching and rude.
“It’s not very often that you get to present an award to your father after a prestigious career,” said the younger Orndorff, who then led the fans with a mocking chant of “Paula.”
He told many funny stories of living with a “royal pain in the ass” who loved his family. Like how Dad used to come to his baseball games in the pickup truck, setting up a lawn chair in the back to suntan. Or how they left the building after Orndorff turned on Hulk Hogan in an ambulance.
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