WWE’s 2020 & 2021 Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Elisa D’Egidio, Staff Writer

Kicking off the week leading up to the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania is days away as the WWE Hall of Fame 2020 & 2021 was taped at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida, and aired on Peacock on April 8.

The 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was canceled last year because of COVID-19, so the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) combined the two ceremonies this year. For the Hall of Fame (HOF), typically, fans would be allowed to be in attendance alongside WWE superstars who sit in the audience, watching the speeches from Hall of Famers. The virtual event lacked live reactions from the fans, rows of seats filled with wrestlers and personal introductions from a variety of superstars.

The three-hour ceremony kicked off with the class of 2020, with host and Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler. The event broadcasted personalized video packages highlighting the superstars’ careers and personal lives, along with red carpet and pre-recorded segments from other wrestlers.

The first inductee of the night was 24-time champion John “Bradshaw” Layfield (JBL). He shared his story of being cut from the World League of American Football and then pursuing a career in wrestling. He was a member of The New Blackjacks with Barry Windham and more popularly, The APA alongside Ron Simmons. JBL ended his speech referring to himself as a wrestling God and went on to tell his haters to “Cry me a river, snowflake.”

The British Bulldog was the first and the longest-reigning World Wrestling Federation (WWF) European Champion, holding the title for 206 days. Unfortunately, The British Bulldog passed away in 2002; however, his family, Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Georgia Smith – alongside a bulldog named Buffy – accepted the honor on his behalf. His son, Davey Jr., reminisced, thanked his father for being an inspiration and was proud to be the one to induct him into the HOF.

Jushin Thunder Liger made his WWE debut in 2015, 30 years after his initial wrestling debut. To wrestling fans, Liger is known not only for his anime persona and cartoon-like masks but for his in-ring aerobatics, especially the invention of the Shooting Star Press. The Japanese superstar was not in attendance, but his speech was shown to all with English subtitles.

Nikki and Brie Bella might have lost the 2006 Diva Search, but today, The Bella Twins are trailblazers, having opened doors for many women in WWE. The two were the stars in “Total Divas” and their own spinoff show “Total Bellas,” and owners of Nicole + Brizee, Bonita Bonita Wine and Birdiebee. The duo were both WWE Divas Champions, Nikki holding the longest reign in WWE History with 406 days. They took part and main evented in the first all women’s pay-per-view event “Evolution” and the first women’s “Royal Rumble” match.

The final inductees of the 2020 section were The nWo. This induction makes the four members, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman, two-time Hall of Famers. The World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a competing wrestling promotion to then-WWF, as WCW was taking big star power from WWF. The New World Order arrived in WCW and took over, making a massive impact on sports entertainment. nWo’s popularity is just as big as it was back in the 90s with Hogan saying, “I think we need to make another run.”

Corey Graves and Kayla Braxton hosted the rest of the ceremony, introducing the 2021 inductees.

Rob Van Dam (RVD) was the first inductee for the 2021 HOF. His speech emphasized the importance of individuality and noted that he would not be where he is today if he wasn’t true to himself. After turning down a full ride to Michigan State, he thanked his parents for always supporting him through his journey. RVD has held the WWE, ECW, and TNA world championships, making him only one of two to ever do so.

Molly Holly was the first member of the 2021 HOF class to be announced and thanked the influential crew backstage, who helped her along the way of her career.

The Great Khali called from India for his speech. He proudly showed off his new HOF ring and thanked his fans for always supporting him.

Eric Bischoff is known to be “a pioneer behind the scenes in sports entertainment, as well as an incredibly entertaining performer in front of the camera, thrived under the belief that controversy creates cash.” The reason behind Monday Night Wars and the face of WCW, Bischoff is one of the most influential figures in wrestling history.

The induction of Kane concluded the night, with his mask sitting on the podium. Glenn Jacobs, Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, began thanking his greatest tag team partner, his wife. Then shifting to his wrestling family, memories with the Undertaker and Paul Bearer were shared as he thanked the two saying that without them there would never have been Kane.

Titus O’Neil and Rich Hering were inducted as the Warrior Award Winners.

WWE Hall of Fame Legacy inductees of 2020 were Brickhouse Brown, Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, “Dr Death” Steve Williams, Baron Michelle Leone and Gary Hart.

WWE Hall of Fame Legacy inductees of 2021 were Dick the Bruiser, Pez Whatley, Buzz Sawyer, Ethel Johnson and Paul Boesch.

William Shatner and Ozzy Osbourne were inducted into the HOF.

WrestleMania 37 airs live on April 10 and 11 from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Peacock. This event will mark the return of fans attending live in over a year.