So, this weekend, in the shadow of WrestleMania 29, two of the biggest omissions in the WWE Hall of Fame will be corrected.
Madison Square Garden has lost its luster as the “Mecca of professional wrestling,” as Gorilla Monsoon used to call it, but it is appropriate that Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund — each of whom headlined dozens of cards at the arena during their tenures as WWF Heavyweight Champion — will get their due tonight at MSG during the Hall of Fame induction.
As I’ve written many times on this blog, Sammartino’s absence in the Hall of Fame became a running joke. While kudos go to Triple H for making the Bruno entry happen, it is sad that Vince McMahon could not get it together on his own watch to get Sammartino in. It’s hard to imagine Vince McMahon, Sr., would have been happy with his son’s indiscretion if the elder Vince was still alive.
Backlund was the first WWF Heavyweight Champion many of you reading this blog grew up with. It wasn’t until years after Backlund had left that I truly appreciated his ring style and conditioning. With the right opponent (Magnificent Muraco, Ken Patera), Backlund could have an awesome match. With the wrong opponent (Ray Stevens in a match I saw at the old Boston Garden, for example), Backlund’s bouts were boring.
How did we go so long without either of these guys in? And their inductions will force the fans to look at other deserving candidates who have not been given the nod, in particular the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who really should have been among the first wrestlers honored in the Hall of Fame. Sure, Savage’s family is playing hardball, saying they’ll only allow Savage to be inducted if Angelo Poffo and Lanny Poffo also get spots. Does anyone really believe either of those two had anywhere near the career that Savage did?
Regardless, it’s a good weekend for long-time fans who have waited patiently for two of the great champions of the past to finally be recognized in the most appropriate arena possible.