Last year I was elated to see Eric Bischoff inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I wrote a lengthy piece for Fightful.com recounting my experience meeting him very early on in my career at IMPACT Wrestling. This year we finally get the opportunity to induct another legend whose induction is long overdue. While long overdue it certainly is, the decades of memories have been more than worth the wait and have inspired generations of future WWE Superstars. The Dead-man walking - The Phenom himself, The Undertaker! As a teenager I remember getting to see The undertaker live and that is an experience I'll treasure forever as it further cemented my resolve to break out into this taboo industry…
I recently asked my fan base who their current favorite WWE Hall of Famer is. And as the tweets rolled in I kept circling back to the idea that each WWE Hall of Famer is linked to the other both past and present leading in to the future. Each left their mark in one way or another. Whether inspiring another Hall of Famer in their time. Or being an integral part of a dynamic paradigm shift in the WWE during their time. The glass ceiling they smashed. The way they dispensed reality and disbelief while entertaining millions around the world. The draws. The losses. The wins. Not only defining an era but also the trajectory of the industry as a business.
The more I mulled that over in my mind the more I kept turning back to a name. While I've been inspired by so many that came before me I always seem to go back to my OVW days watching and studying tape after tape. The act of earning every inch of that squared circle. The blow up drills. Doing ring crew. Carrying other people's bags. Working without pay until deemed worthy of receiving pay. Going through chop shop. Paying for and attending seminars… The tape. All the tapes. The footage. Years gone by. What's old is new again. Paying homage to where the business was and the people who made it so in order to understand where the business is headed and why. The people who paved the way for me to even have a chance at a chance to be in this business.
Sherri Martel battling Princess Victoria and Velvet McIntyre! Mildred Burke with NWA! Brian Pilman promos! Bret Hart versus anyone! Ernie Ladd! Chris Kanyon being way ahead of his time! Syxx versus Eddie Guerrero. Come to think of it, Eddie Guerrero versus anyone! The Grahams! Madusa! Hiro Matsuda! Ahmed Johnson in the early Attitude Era! The Fabulous Free Birds! The Jumping Bomb Angels versus The Glamour Girls! Harlem Heat being such a badass tag team! Verne Gagne feuds with Nick Bockwinkel and Lou Thesz! Ultimo Dragon concurrently holding ten titles! Ravishing Rick Rude! Bob Backlund! Macho Man! Rowdy Roddy Piper! Papa Shango scaring the heck out kids! The Von Erichs! Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig. So many names and not nearly enough time..and then there's that aforementioned name.
The name that resonates with me perhaps even more than the others for how much I loved watching his tapes as I sat for hours wishing I was born sooner so that I could have trained at the WCW Power Plant. While I think in some ways I kind of did being from OVW. Nevertheless I digress. Many diehard Pro Wrestling fans remember this man's name. They remember this man's brute strength. They'll recall his fiercely intense energy. They'll recant his take no shit and never be outworked attitude. An admirable dedication that carried him on a once in a lifetime legendary life from college football to iron works to offers from the NFL and Canada to Arm Wrestling and on through the territories and subsequently right into WCW and the WWF. Crossing paths with Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, Rick Rude, The Four Horsemen and so many more. When you looked at him you just knew he was a walking embodiment of a man's man. His vibe was almost tangible captivating you through your TV screen!
Chiseled. Formidable. Strong. Focused. Athletic Prowess. Pretty much everything you'd want out of a WWE Superstar today, and he had "it" way back then! When he talked you actively listened. When he performed you tuned in for a battle. When he wrestled you believed it was a fight! His authenticity and his intelligence and work ethic in my opinion were unmatched. I feel this man does not get enough recognition. He has not received his due. While he did not embark on this journey for the recognition, to me, that's why he deserves it and to be rememebered for it, as it speaks to the kind of man he was. The people that knew him most would avidly say the most remarkable thing about him was his love as he was a loving and devoted friend, husband, father, and grandfather right up until the day he passed.
This man personified the idea that it is important to not only hone your craft in order to reach your fullest potential but to also stay true to who you are and your core belief system. Whether in this business or another. And as a person in this business, I can say with utmost confidence, that you owe it to yourself and to the business to reach your highest heights for you and the people looking to your example just as he did. And while this business owes you nothing, it is important to respect the hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and literal broken bones of the generations past that were sacrificed for us to even have a chance at the possibility of fulfilling your wildest childhood dreams in Pro Wrestling and Sports Entertainment just like they did…
Every year we embark on the road to Wrestlemania. Signified and marked by the WWE Royal Rumble, each year we head towards the biggest WWE PPV of the year - the flagship PPV, Wrestlemania! And true to form every year we rightly add more former WWE Superstars to the growing WWE Hall of Fame! However, I do think we're remiss in the fact that as we add to the WWE Hall of Fame we don't always recognize how at all came about. Let's shed some light on WWE Hall of Famers past. As the names continue to roll in on my Twitter, I want to add this man's name. So, as we draw closer and closer on the road to Wrestlemania 38, please join me and take an introspective look back to where it all began leading us to 2022. Join me in taking a look back at March 31st 1985 - Madison Square Garden - Wrestlemania 1! The event that started it all! This man main evented a pivotal do-or-die WWF PPV now known as Wrestlemania 1. Everything was on the line that night for the WWF. And this is why I stand by this statement with immeasurable respect and complete earnestness, when I say that before there was Hollywood Hulk or Mr. Perfect, there was Mr. Wonderful - WWE Hall of Famer, Paul Orndorff!
For more Taeler Hendrix content check out the links below
Children's Book: "It's Not Easy Being A Sloth" By: Taeler Hendrix
Children's Book: "A Fish With A Wish Is Trish" By: Taeler Hendrix
Children's Book: "Nosey Rosie and the Secret Surprise" By: Taeler Hendrix
Podcast Talks with Taeler Hendrix: bit.ly/2YvNKwP