PWHF inducts Class of 2013


Recorder Sports Staff

JOHNSTOWN -- All six living members the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame's Class of 2013 were on hand for Saturday night's induction ceremonies at the Johnstown Holiday Inn, sharing stories both poignant and humorous about careers which spanned the globe over decades.

Tito Santana, J.J. Dillon, Joyce Grable, Baron von Raschke, Bill Watts and Jody Hamilton -- inducted as part of The Assassins tag team with his late partner, Tom Renesto -- received their Hall of Fame rings Saturday, while Renesto, Dick Murdoch, Dick Shikat, Sandor Szabo and El Santo were honored posthumously.

PWHF President Tony Vellano said he was thrilled to have every living member of this year's class turn out for the event.

"That's a testimony to how the Hall is starting to grow," Vellano said. "It's starting to have recognition, and the wrestlers are really starting to feel proud about wearing those rings."

Dillon, best known as the manager and leader of the legendary Four Horsemen faction fronted by Ric Flair, called his induction in the Colleague category the greatest honor of his career due to the PWHF's peer-based election process.

"It's the greatest honor that you can receive, I don't care what you do," Dillon said. "Here, you can't buy your way in, you can't politic your way in, it's structured in a way that it's something special."

Former wrestler and manager Lanny Poffo -- the brother of the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage -- served as the evening's master of ceremonies and was presented by Vellano with his brother's plaque from his 2009 PWHF induction. The evening began with the posthumous honorees, highlighted by wrestling legend Terry Funk's induction of Murdoch, who Funk said was respected enough that he didn't need a world championship reign to validate his tremendous career.

"Everybody says, 'Why wasn't Dick champion?' Well, he was too good to be champion," Funk said. "He drew money on his own, he didn't need the belt."

Santana, a mainstay in the World Wrestling Federation for nearly 15 years echoed many of the night's sentiments when he spoke about what wrestling -- and wrestling fans -- had meant to his life.

"Without wrestling, I never would've had the opportunity that I gave my children," Santana said. "It was wrestling that's given everything to me, and for that I'm so grateful. To me, the most important people to all of us are the wrestling fans."

Hamilton spoke at length about his relationship with his late partner Renesto, while Watts and Dillon -- both prominent behind-the-scenes figures in wrestling history along with their work in front of the crowds -- spoke about their respect for the work being done by Vellano and the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Grable, inducted into the Ladies category, provided one of the most emotional moments of the night when she spoke of her battle with leukemia and upcoming bone marrow transplant surgery.

"I'm gonna beat it, because I am one tough old woman," she said.

The night concluded with von Raschke's induction, where the former champion amateur wrestler -- born Jim Raschke -- who worked as a substitute teacher when not portraying a dastardly German villain inside the squared circle, commented on the dual nature of pro wrestling.

"You've made two people very happy tonight. You've made Baron von Raschke very happy," he shouted in his trademark Baron von Raschke growl, before lowering his tone. "You've also made his alter-ego, little Jimmy Raschke from Nebraska, very happy."