When you walk into the big blue building in Wichita Falls, Texas, you will be walking into the home of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. You won’t only see event posters, ring attire, wrestling boots, and an assortment of memorabilia, you will also see the history of the sport that was made inside the squared circle.
“It is so important to keep the Hall of Fame and this museum alive because it tells the history of wrestling,” said Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame President of the Board of Directors, Johnny Mantell. “It tells Vince’s story, but it also tells the story of Killer Karl Kox, Dickie Murdoch, and those kinds of guys. If they were alive they would out wrestle the guys of today without even trying.”
The month of May is a special time of year for the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. Starting on Thursday, May 18th, and going through Saturday, May 20th, the organization in North Texas will be hosting its Annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will include museum tours, a comedy show, an outdoor wrestling event, a meet and greet, and the induction banquet that will all take place during the three-day affair.
“It’s a great weekend. I tell everybody that loves this business and has any connection to it at all that it’s going to be fun,” said Mantell. “They will be able to see 40, 50, or 60 wrestlers in town for the entire weekend and the fans get to experience all of that.”
The main reason for the celebration is to honor the men and women who have dedicated years of their lives to a profession that has entertained millions of people for well over a century.
Wrestlers like Stan Hansen, Terry Funk, Gene Kiniski, Bruiser Brody, Orville Brown, Frank Gotch, and Dick Beyer, are some of the past year’s inductees that will be met by an incredibly deserving class that will solidify the purpose and the integrity of what the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is trying to preserve.
“I think the stories from all of these guys in the past need to be told,” said Mantell. “In all reality, 30 or 40 years from now, if we don’t recognize the independents and stuff, the only people being recognized will be WWE people and I think that is a travesty for the sport to recognize only one group.”
This year’s 11 inductees are Yvonne Robert and “Dirty Dick” Raines, representing the Pioneer Category, Luther Lindsay and Sputnik Monroe will represent the Television Era, Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley will be honored for the Modern Era, Susan “Tex” Green and George Napolitano are acknowledged in the Ladies and Colleague Category, and Larry Hennig, Harley Race, and Tatsumi Fuginami are going to be representing the Tag-Team and International Division.
“There is not an unworthy person on this list that is going in the Hall of Fame this year,” said Mantell. “We are really proud of this class and we are really proud that out of the seven living inductees, five of them are pointed to come to Wichita Falls, so we are really excited.”
This class of inductees is not only worthy, but some of their stories are both incredible and inspirational. When you look at the selection for the Ladies Category, the PWHF committee got it right. Susan “Tex” Green had a ton of wrestling talent, but if she didn’t, she could get into the Hall of Fame on her passion for the sport alone. Green grew up as a fan going to wrestling shows with her Father. After years of asking promoter Joe Blanchard to help her get into the sport, he finally did, and by the time she was 15, Green had her first professional match in 1969.
“She beat Moolah one night for the NWA World Title, and the NWA wouldn’t recognize it because that wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Mantell. “Just telling you that, should tell you everything you need to know about Susan “Tex” Green.”
Green had a long and successful wrestling career and now that she has put up her boots, she is still training and working out with people in the ring today.
“She leaves a legacy of being a hard worker in the ring and didn’t put up with any B.S.,” said Mantell.
For that weekend, coming all the way over from Japan will be Tatsumi Fuginami. The wrestler from the land of the rising sun has held many titles in his long career, which dates back to 1971. Being the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and holding IWGP Heavyweight Championship six times might have settled any argument about his greatness.
Fuginami had spent most of his career wrestling with New Japan, and because Mantell has had the opportunity to wrestle there himself, he is very familiar with Fujinami’s in-the-ring talent.
“I was so fortunate to get to wrestle with him and it always felt like a competition,” said Mantell. “I have always enjoyed that feeling of working hard in the ring.”
Going into the Hall of Fame as a tag team this year will be Larry Hennig and Harley Race. Some might be unaware of this partnership, but I assure you that their union was solid and their accomplishments were credible.
The two men crossed paths in their careers during the mid-1960s and shortly thereafter, they captured the AWA World Tag Team Championship from Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher. While Hennig and Race wrestled together, they would hold the titles on two other occasions.
“They were quite the tag team and the reason why they were broken up was that Harley came to the NWA and became the World Champion,” said Mantell. “They wrestled the very best, and I think by them being elected into the Hall of Fame, we are showing the attributes of the territories and how creative those guys were.”
Those are just a few of the legends that will be historically honored between May 18th and May 20th in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. Taking part in the induction banquet on that Saturday night will be an event that no one with a connection to the sport would want to miss, and no wrestling celebration would be complete without having matches.
On Friday night, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame will put on “Wrestling under the Stars.” Five matches will take place in a ring that will be set up in the middle of downtown on 8thand Ohio Street. Some of the wrestlers in action that night will be The Dirty Blonds, Andrew Anderson, Tyson Dean, Tokyo Monster Kahagas, Barrett Brown, Randy Wayne, and several others.
“These wrestlers bring professionalism and an in-ring ability that is second to none. There will be hard-fought matches in the ring” said Mantell. “That is what we want to bring back to Wichita Falls and the Hall of Fame is competitive wrestling matches for the fans to see.”
These events and much more will take place during the dates of May 18th and May 20th at the 2017 Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame 16th Annual Induction. You will want to make your plans early to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the excitement.
“It’s a celebration of wrestling. It’s a celebration of the past, the present, and the future, with the guys that are wrestling on Friday night,” said Mantell. “All of these wrestlers come to Wichita Falls to touch the fans with their work in the ring, their work from the past, and to also touch the fans directly by visiting and talking to them and letting them know that wrestling is alive.”