The WWE Hall of Fame was originally introduced back in 1993 when Andre the Giant became the inaugural inductee. Over the years, the hall has grown and many of professional wrestling biggest names have gone on to be inducted. Today, the Hall of Fame ceremony is a major part of WrestleMania weekend. The induction speeches are often quite interesting. While many of the inductees are clearly deserving, there has been some occasional controversy regarding certain acts, most notably in the “celebrity wing” of the hall. Inducting outside entertainers, like Drew Carey for example, as opposed to more established wrestling stars, has frustrated some long-time fans. However, this year’s collection of Hall of Fame inductees seem to have generated very little controversy.
The WWE Hall of Fame class of 2017, features several names which are very familiar to most wrestling fans. The group is headlined by none other than former World Champion and Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle. The lineup also features former SmackDown General Manager, Teddy Long. Diamond Dallas Paige, Beth Phoenix and The Rockin N Roll Express will also be inducted as part of this year’s festivities. You may have watched these superstars on television over the years, but how well do you really know them? Here is a list of 18 things that you very likely didn’t know about the Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
18. Kurt Angle – Almost Debuted In ECW
Kurt Angle actually considered signing with Extreme Championship Wrestling, prior to his initial debut in WWE. Angle was an acquaintance of former ECW World Champion, Shane Douglas. Douglas was able to convince Angle to attend an ECW television taping. During the taping Angle did a brief in-ring promo and provided some guest commentary. However, this taping featured the controversial encounter where the Sandman was crucified with barbed wire, by Raven. The stunt caused Kurt Angle to immediately exit the building. He later contacted ECW promoter Paul Heyman and told him he did not want his name associated with the incident. Moreover, the Olympic champ stated that if he was featured on the broadcast, there would be a lawsuit filed. Needless to say, he didn’t wind up signing a contract with the company.
17. DDP – Sued Rapper Jay-Z
During his days in WCW, Diamond Dallas Page had a signature gesture known as the “Diamond Cutter”. The gesture basically consisted of Page joining his index fingers and thumbs at the same time. He actually trademarked the gesture back in 1996, while he was still an active wrestler. Apparently, rapper Jay-Z started using a similar gesture. Page claimed that the husband of Beyonce Knowles had “illegally adopted his trademark hand gesture”. DDP filed an injunction and sought monetary damages. The issue would go on to be settled out of court. Page would have a similar problem with the electronica musical group, 3OH!3. He would file a lawsuit against the duo, in August of 2010. It’s fair to say that using the gesture in public without his permission is ill advised.
16. Rock ‘N’ Roll Express – Wrestled At WrestleMania XIV
Despite being selected to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson only actually appeared on WWE television for a brief period, in 1998. The two were managed by Jim Cornette and faced teams like LOD. 2000 and The New Midnight Express. The highlight of their run was competing at WresleMania XIV. During the event, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express competed in a tag team battle royal. The team was eliminated when Ricky Morton was thrown out by Henry Godwinn. The Legion of Doom, or LOD 2000 as they were known at the time, went on to ultimately win the match. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express would also appear on the Pay-Per-View Unforgiven, before disappearing from WWE television.
15. Rick Rude – Appeared On Raw And Nitro On The Same Night
The period during “The Monday Night Wars” was one of the most exciting times in the history of professional wrestling. WWE’s Monday Night Raw and WCW’s Monday Nitro went head to head on a weekly basis, in a heated battle for ratings.
During Rude’s second run with the WWE, he worked under a pay-per-appearance deal, meaning he had no contract with the company. Rude wasn’t pleased about how Bret Hart was treated during the infamous Montreal Screwjob. As a result, he decided to negotiate a deal with rival promotion WCW. Eric Bischoff was always looking to poach talent from WWE in those days and eagerly welcomed Rude aboard. At the time, Raw was recorded a week prior to airing, while Nitro was live. This made it possible for Rude to appear on both programs on the very same night, back in 1997.
14. Beth Phoenix – Youngest Inductee of All Time
Beth Phoenix, whose real name is Elizabeth Kocianski, had a very nice run in WWE. Her highlights include being only the 2nd women ever to enter the Royal Rumble, winning the Women’s Championship 4 times, and becoming the youngest person to ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. That’s right, once it becomes official, the 36-year-old Glamazon will be the youngest member of the hall. Being inducted so young, is due to in large part, to Phoenix’ early retirement. She left the WWE back in October of 2012, about a month shy of her 32nd birthday. She will also become the second Hall of Famer in the family, as her current husband Edge was inducted back in 2012. The two will become the first couple to be inducted into the prestigious institution.
13. Teddy Long – Was A Heel Referee
Before Nick Patrick became the primary heel referee in WCW, Long had done a similar angle several years earlier. During The Clash of the Champions VI, Referee Teddy Long utilized a quick three-count, which cost The Road Warriors their NWA World Tag Team Championships. Following the match, according to the storyline, Long was no longer allowed to serve as a referee. In actuality, Long had previously been a heel referee for a promotion called Championship Wrestling from Florida. During his time in Florida, Long cost several wrestlers their matches, with his underhanded officiating. He even helped Ron Simmons, who he would later manage, gain a victory by nefarious means. After his stint as a crooked referee, Long would go on to become a manager.
12. Kurt Angle – Almost Fought In The UFC
Kurt Angle has an extensive background in amateur wrestling and an Olympic gold medal to show for it. Given his background in freestyle wrestling, it may be a little bit surprising that Angle never competed in mixed martial arts. As it turns out, Angle actually came very close to signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Apparently, UFC President Dana White had serious talks with Angle regarding the possibility of competing in the organization. In fact, Angle almost appeared as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter reality program, back in 2009. However, Angle was unable to pass the medical exam required to compete on the show. While he never fought for the UFC, he did sign a contract with rival promotion Bellator to do fan conventions. He has teased possibly fighting in Bellator, but nothing has ever been made official.
11. DDP – Teamed With Jay Leno & Karl Malone
Many folks may have forgotten that Diamond Dallas Page was quite the celebrity magnet during his time in WCW. He was involved in a high-profile feud with Hulk Hogan and NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, during their WCW days. Conversely, DDP was paired with another NBA legend to combat the duo, that being Karl Malone. The match wasn’t anything to write home about, but it got some mainstream publicity at the time.
Page would also go on to team up with late-night comedy legend Jay Leno. The two successfully defeated the team of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Paige got to team with these stars based on his massive popularity, during the late 90s. 1998 was arguably the height of DDP’s popularity, although he would continue to wrestle for several years.
10. Rock ‘N’ Roll Express – Had Different Members Over The Years
Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson are the first names that come to mind when people talk about the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. After all, these are the two men who are being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. However, over the years, the team name was been used on occasions when either Morton or Gibson teamed with another wrestler. Ricky Morton used the name “The New Rock N Roll Express” when he teamed with Ricky Fuji, Brad Armstrong, and Kid Kash. Robert Gibson teamed with Marty Jannetty and the two used a spin-off name “The Rock ‘N’ Rockers”. However, none of the newer versions came anywhere near having the type success that the original duo enjoyed. I guess it’s true; the sequel is never as good as the original.
9. Rick Rude – Teamed With The Ultimate Warrior
During his first run with the WWE, Rick Rude’s biggest rival was The Ultimate Warrior. In fact, Rude even defeated The Warrior at WrestleMania V, to win the Intercontinental Championship. The two men went on to compete in the main event of SummerSlam 1990, for the WWF World Championship. While most fans are aware of their feud, few people realize they were actually tag team partners at one point.
Back in the mid-1980s, both men wrestled for the Texas-based promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling. During that time, The Ultimate Warrior, who at that time was known as The Dingo Warrior, formed a tag team with Rude. The two split up after a brief period and Rude left the promotion shortly after.
8. Beth Phoenix – Used To Be Married To Joey Knight
In 2001, Beth Phoenix married Canadian professional wrestler, Joey Knight. Knight actually helped train her and got her started in the business. While Joey Knight is not a household name, he did have some success in Canada as a member of the tag team, The All Knighters. He actually trained at the Hart Family Dungeon and even worked with Stu Hart. The couple would eventually get divorced in 2010.
Beth Phoenix would go on to marry Adam Copeland, who is better known to wrestling fans by his ring name, Edge. The couple currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with their two daughters Lyric and Ruby. If either of the two young girls ever decides they want to wrestle, they will certainly have two great mentors.
7. Teddy Long – Managed The Undertaker
Before Teddy Long became the General Manager of SmackDown, he managed several well-known wrestlers. One of the first wrestlers Long managed was Norman the Lunatic. Norman may be better known to WWE fans by his other in-ring persona, Bastion Booger. Long would go on to manage the tag team, Doom. The team featured future WWE Hall of Famer, Ron Simmons. He also worked with several notable Mid Card wrestlers including; Buff Bagwell, Marc Mero, and The One Man Gang. He even managed “Mean” Mark Callous, who is now known to the WWE Universe as The Undertaker. The two were paired together when Callous was a member of the Skyscrapers, a tag team that also featured Dan Spivey. Shortly after the team split up, Callous would go on to sign with the WWE.
6. Kurt Angle – Is Already A TNA Hall Of Famer
It’s hard to believe, but Kurt Angle has actually spent more time in TNA than he did with WWE. For nearly a decade, from 2006 through 2016, Kurt Angle was a centerpiece for Dixie Carter’s Nashville-based promotion. During his tenure in TNA, Angle became a 6-time TNA World Champion. He was also TNA X Division Champion and won the TNA Tag Team Titles on 2 separate occasions. This impressive list of accolades prompted TNA to make the former champ their 2nd ever Hall of Fame inductee, in 2013. Once he is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he will be only the second person ever to have received the honor from both companies. The first man was last year’s WWE Hall of Fame headliner, Sting.
5. DDP – Developed His Own Yoga Program
Diamond Dallas Page has had a great deal of success since moving on from the business of professional wrestling. He even created his very own yoga program. Page’s ex-wife and former Nitro Girl Kimberly first introduced him to yoga as a way to help him recover from injury. Page was so impressed; he teamed with a well-known Chiropractor and created his own style of Yoga. He originally started out calling the program YRG, which stood for Yoga For Regular Guys. He would eventually change the name to DDP Yoga. He even appeared on the television program Shark Tank, where he declined an offer of $200,000, to purchase 5% of his company. He claimed his sales increased by almost a million dollars shortly after he appeared on the show.
4. Rock ‘N’ Roll Express – Morton Turned On Gibson
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express was one of the most popular tag teams in professional wrestling during the 1980’s. However, by 1991, the team had cooled off quite a bit. WCW, the organization they worked for at the time, decided it was time to split the team up. They chose to have Ricky Morton turn heel and join The York Foundation. The York Foundation was a heel stable that was lead by Alexandra York. York may be better known to WWE fans as Terri Runnels. The stable was mostly known for wearing suits and adopting a business-like persona. In truth, neither Morton nor Gibson had much success as singles competitors. The two would later reunite, in another promotion, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and go on to reform the team.
3. Rick Rude – Co-founded D-Generation X
When wrestling fans think of D-Generation X, names like Triple H and Shawn Michaels are most often associated with the group. However, the original lineup consisted of Michaels, Triple H, Chyna, and none other than Rick Rude.
Rude’s stint with DX wasn’t particularly memorable. His role was that of a bodyguard and he rarely ever spoke. He was only with the group for a very brief period, before he would eventually head over to WCW. Despite being one of the groups founding members, Rude never really had much chemistry with his stable mates. He would also go on to join the NWO, in WCW. He is technically the first person to be a member of both factions. However, he only served as a manager and never wrestled as a member of either the NWO or DX.
2. Beth Phoenix – Wrestled For Notre Dame
Very few sports entertainment fans realize that Beth Phoenix actually wrestled as an amateur for Notre Dame… High School. In 1999, she won the New York State Fair tournament. The very same year, she was also able to win the North-East freestyle amateur title. Phoenix was a registered member of the USA wrestling association. However, even back in those days, she already had her sights set on becoming a pro. In fact, she stated that one of her main reasons for getting involved in amateur wrestling was that she believed it would help her transition into professional wrestling. After she graduated from high school, she would go straight to professional wrestling school. She remains one of the more accomplished female amateur wrestlers to ever compete in the WWE.
1. Teddy Long – First African-American General Manager
In 2004, Teddy Long would go on to replace Kurt Angle as the new General Manager of SmackDown. This made Long the very first African-American SmackDown GM in WWE history. During his first tenure as the new head of SmackDown, he found himself in a feud with none other than Eric Bischoff. Bischoff was the general manager of Raw during this time. The two would eventually face each other at Survivor Series 2005. Long received an assist from the Boogeyman and was able to defeat the rival GM. His first stint as General Manager ended in 2008. He would go on to be replaced by Vickie Guerrero. He would then become General Manager of ECW, before returning to SmackDown for his second run. He would eventually be released from the company in 2014.
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