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WWE Hall of Fame live notes: Kurt Angle headlines 2017 inductee class

As part of WWE's WrestleMania weekend, Friday's Hall of Fame ceremony kicks off five straight nights of WWE-branded action in Orlando, FL, even though tonight won't feature any in-ring competition.

Starting at 8 PM EST, I'll be your companion through tonight's show on WWE Network, giving you bullet points and any need-to-know fun facts from the ceremony at the Amway Center.

Historian and MLW podcaster Matt Farmer will have some insight on the ceremony from a different slant, coming either later tonight or early Saturday.

Here's who is being inducted and by whom:

- Kurt Angle, inducted by John Cena

- "Diamond" Dallas Page, inducted by Eric Bischoff

- "Ravishing" Rick Rude, posthumously inducted by Ricky Steamboat

- The Rock 'n' Roll Express, inducted by Jim Cornette

- Beth Phoenix, inducted by Natalya

- Teddy Long, inducted by Ron Simmons

Additionally, former Rutgers football player Eric Legrand will be honored during the night with this year’s Warrior Award.

Join us at 8 PM EST.

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Jerry Lawler is out to host tonight’s festivities. 

Diamond Dallas Page

Eric Bischoff starts us off. He talks about what a heart is, but before anything he wishes one person was out here tonight inducting DDP -- Dusty Rhodes. When he met Diamond Dallas Page, it was in 1988 when he managed Badd Company (Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond). Bischoff felt at the time it was an odd pairing, considering he was significantly taller than either of them. 

He talks about a time he got into a bar fight with DDP during his time in AWA. He didn’t feel bad when DDP left for WCW shortly after. But when Bischoff left the AWA, he auditioned for a gig as a WCW announcer...and the guy handling the interview? DDP. He was still flamboyant and obnoxious, but he had a great time. He learned to respect his passion for the company -- both by announcing and training at the Power Plant. 

People told DDP he was too old to enter wrestling at the age of 35, but he wasn’t relentless and kept going. Bischoff lists names DDP has worked with in the past, including Goldberg, Sting and Eddie Guerrero. Bischoff defines the scientific term of what heart means, then says DDP is living proof of heart through his dedication to help others, listing his successes through DDP Yoga. He introduces Diamond Dallas Page.

He talks about a time he got into a bar fight with DDP during his time in AWA. He didn’t feel bad when DDP left for WCW shortly after. But when Bischoff left the AWA, he auditioned for a gig as a WCW announcer...and the guy handling the interview? DDP. He was still flamboyant and obnoxious, but he had a great time. He learned to respect his passion for the company -- both by announcing and training at the Power Plant. 

People told DDP he was too old to enter wrestling at the age of 35, but he wasn’t relentless and kept going. Bischoff lists names DDP has worked with in the past, including Goldberg, Sting and Eddie Guerrero. Bischoff defines the scientific term of what heart means, then says DDP is living proof of heart through his dedication to help others, listing his successes through DDP Yoga. He introduces Diamond Dallas Page.

DDP says he used to have diamond dolls, but now has diamond daughters as he introduces his daughters, who accompanied him to the ring. He brings up his cameo at WrestleMania VI, saying the car he drove got the gig, not him. Crazy to think that at WrestleMania 33, now he’s in the WWE Hall of Fame.

He says it is a bittersweet night because Dusty Rhodes isn’t here tonight. He tells a story of when he first met Dusty. He brings up wrestling at 35, saying that Michael Hayes was on the ground laughing when he heard it. He thanks Terry Taylor, the Assassin Jody Hamilton and Buddy Lee Parker for their tutelage while training at the Power Plant. He thanks Eric Bischoff next, as when he first started out he put on so many gimmicks he didn’t know who he was, but when Bischoff came in he helped him find out who DDP really was. He thanked Jake Roberts too, because without the both of them, he wouldn’t be there. People made fun of him for watching tapes of all his matches, but now everyone does it on YouTube. 

DDP brings up stories of Macho Man and Hulk Hogan, and how he met Hogan in 1994 and said soon they’d be working together. Years later, they not only did just that, but also with Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman. After listing people he wanted to thank, he brought up his ex-wife Kimberly for supporting him even when she thought he was crazy. He brings up his wife, a breast cancer survivor. He rattles off a list of names, including Chris Jericho, who helped put out the world regarding DDP Yoga.

 He finishes off his speech talking about Dusty Rhodes, who would let him vent when things weren’t going right him. He says he went too far one night and rakes his eyes, asking what he meant. He said that night he thought he would never be champion. Dusty said if you don’t believe you’ll be champion as hard as a worker as he is, then what are you doing here. He says he took a piece of paper that night and wrote that he will be world champion one day. He says when he won the title, the next day Dusty called him and asked how it felt, he said it felt real. Dusty said because it was.

Jim Ross once called him the biggest overachiever in wrestling. He said you first must be an over believer and you must believe in you.

Rock and Roll Express

Jim Cornette arrives, saying that back in 1983 the biggest thing on television was MTV, so the idea to put together the Rock and Roll Express seemed like the right idea at the time. But it wasn’t just the gimmick - Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson knew the mental part of this sport in connecting with the audience. The women loved them for their look, the men loved them for their toughness, especially Ricky Morton. He talks about their infamous hot tags, the double dropkicks, and the adoration of the fans.

They wrestled every great tag team there was back in the day, but like how Batman needed the Joker, the Rock and Roll Express needed the Midnight Express. They toured the Mid South and Carolina areas, people never getting tired of the feud. When politics split up the Midnight Express, they were the backbone of Smoky Mountain Wrestling.

The Rock and Roll Express always delivered, no matter where they were. People always come up to him, especially on the WWE roster, saying that when they saw the Expresses battle they knew they wanted to enter the business. Even by the 2000s, the RnR Express fought guys half their age, then feuded with the Midnight Express all over again. 

Nobody can make them stop and nobody wants them to stop because they are a national treasure. He notes one time that one family would take their Christmas pictures and give them to the Rock and Roll Express because they thought of the RnR as their own family, Cornette musing that you know you’re over when you’re in the same picture with Jesus.  He then brings out the Rock and Roll Express.

After musing about their families, Morton says he’s watch the wrestling business grow from a sport that they love into a global empire. He says that it is the boys, that is what it is all about. He credits Jimmy Hart, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross and Bill Dundee for believing in them. Morton brings up Dusty Rhodes, saying it was his vision that helped them. They go through a list of people, including Ric Flair, who gave them a PhD in the business.

Morton briefly brings up their history with Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, and Stan Lane, the Midnight Express, saying that hopefully they’ll soon be here on this stage. They thank their families. Morton tells Gibson that he’s the greatest person he’s ever met in his life and he wouldn’t change a thing.  

Rick Rude

Ricky Steamboat is introduced, giving shout outs to Triple H and Shane McMahon. After bringing up his accomplishments, Steamboat says that Rude was a true heel, insulting both men and women. Steamboat tells a story of how strong Rude was, and being in the ring with him you could feel that strength. He knew what he was doing in the ring and had a great sense of timing. He brings up his enforcer role in DX, as well as being a part of Bobby Heenan’s family.

He wasn’t stiff in the ring, but he was awfully snug and you could feel it whenever he laid him in. He introduces his son, Rick Rood, as well as his wife and daughter, Michelle and Marissa.

His son Rick speaks for the family, saying how do you talk about one of the best entertainers in all of television? He thinks what his father would say, then tells the fat, out of shape central Florida sweathogs to keep the noise down to a big pop. He talks about Rick Rude’s early life, noting how it wasn’t until many of his high school friends became wrestlers that he did too, joining the business and learning under Eddie Sharkey. 

Rick Rood mentions his father loved being with his family more than anything else, that he worked so he could provide his family what he didn’t have growing up. Rood says proudly tonight he can say he accomplished that. He brings up his late brother Colton, who was the most wonderful, Christ loving person and kind person he’s ever met. On behalf of the entire Rood family, he thanks the WWE for placing his father with some of the greatest wrestlers of all time. 

Beth Phoenix

Natalya says it all started with Mark Henry, who noted when they first met that she reminded him of Beth Phoenix. She smiled, saying who the hell is she? She wondered who was this girl, why did they look so much alike,  and why was she single white femaling me? She says eventually they met, and wouldn’t you know, they wore the same outfit.

They did their best to impress Arn Anderson and Fit Finlay the best they could. They weren’t models growing up -- they wanted to kick ass. She brings up when they faced Laycool in a tag team table match, and she wanted the match to focus on Natalya - she wanted to lift other women up.

Beth is not just an ass kicker, but a mother of two, a trained pianist, has a masters degree in criminal psychology and can lift 220 pounds - that’s two Carmella. To this day, she believes was my Uncle Owen’s gift from me because of you, Beth. She introduces Beth Phoenix. 

Beth says you never forget your first love, and she knows that because it was wrestling. She grew up watching WCW with her Polish immigrant grandmother, but it wasn’t until watching WrestleMania X, with Owen vs. Bret Hart, that she knew what she wanted to do. 

She thanks her college roommate Janet, who encouraged her to enter wrestling, and Ron Hutchinson, who helped train herself, Edge, Christian and Trish Stratus. She noted how when she went to her tryout to train with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero and others and how she opened the doors and smacked right into none other than Brock Lesnar.

She brings up her time in Ohio Valley Wrestling, bringing up how Nora, also known as Molly Holly, helped pay for her tuition in OVW and says that is what women’s empowerment is all about. She thanks those who helped her in OVW, including Paul Heyman, who helped build her confidence, and Tommy Dreamer, who she called the champion of the little guy.

When she was brought to the main roster, she got to work with great women including Melina, Gail Kim, Maria, the Bella Twins, Vickie Guerrero, Tamina, Michelle McCool, Layla and others. She brings up Candice Michelle, who helped her become the Glamazon, Mickie James, who she had her first ever wrestling match with, and Eve, who always made time for her as a peer and a friend.

Santino Marella is brought up, which she says she had the best moments of her career with and always put a smile on people’s faces, bringing up how one time in Italy he cut a promo on her saying she couldn’t cook and she didn’t know it until bumping into an Italian fan at the hotel. She finally brings up Nattie, who she bonded with over wrestling, and truly feels Owen had a part in bringing them together because as far as friends go, she’s the best there is, best there was and the best there ever will be.

She puts over the current crop of women’s talent, thanking them for continuing to bring equality to women’s entertainment. She thanks those who came before her, including Chyna. While she never met her, she’s proud of the accomplishments she gave to the business. She thanks her family, then gets to Edge, who gets an introduction by Tony Chimel. She thanks him, saying not only was he born to be a father, but he was born to be a father for their two girls. She brings up her daughters Lyric and Ruby, saying that one day when they’re watching this again she wants to let them know they are her greatest accomplishments.

She finishes by saying of you ever feel like you don’t feel the mold, it is because you were meant for greater things. Don’t try and be someone you’re not and be accepting of how others are different because those are how dreams are made. 

Warrior Award recipient Eric LeGrand

Dana Warrior says it’s fitting that the WWE is in Orlando, as it is a city of once upon a times. WWE has heroes and villains, evil queens and brass knuckle princesses. Our mighty men don’t have swords, they have spears, and stitches. Every story needs a jester, then brings up Enzo. There once was a warrior that was considered ultimate, and three years ago he stood here as a part of the Hall of Fame.

But not every story ends with a happy ending. There are no true once upon a time or happily ever afters, but a cast of characters that have a warriors spirit throughout the ages. Eric LeGrand has that spirit. He required himself to always believe, and shine such a light others followed. His mother Karen is a heroine. This award can go to no one more worthy than Eric. He is in a chair, but he is not the chair. It may be his chariot, but he was vowed to walk again and she believes in him.

He has an eye on champions, bringing up Team LeGrand which is a part of the Dana and Christopher Reeve foundation. She welcomes Eric LeGrand. He thanks God, then Triple H. He brings up Joe DeFranco, who brought him up on his podcast. At the end of the podcast, he was surprised by tickets to SummerSlam a couple of years ago. He talks about a story with a man with deformed legs who wrestled despite this that was featured on his television show on Fox Sports.

He brings up his injury, crediting those who had to hear the news and how they stayed with him that night how he could never walk again, would never eat solid food again and how he was paralyzed from the waist down. He says he had to keep a positive attitude and said he would never give up and keep fighting. Five weeks after the injury he was able to breathe again. That Thanksgiving, he was able to have a full solid meal with his family. The injury was in October; that February, he was able to move his head.

Six years into this, a lot of people would give up, and unfortunately he has seen people pass away from injuries such as his. He brings up Team LeGrand, who wants to look into research for spinal cord injuries. He brings up Christopher Reeve, and says he feels like he is ready to take that mantle that he carried for spinal cord injury research.

He brings up his love for wrestling, noting he was into Stone Cold Steve Austin, remembering the big Invasion angle where Stone Cold Steve Austin returned and laid everyone out with a crowbar. He says Kane was a big influence as well, and also brings up The Rock, who he marveled at just how he was able to move the crowd .

He thanks his mother, who has given her life to help him cope with his injury. He finally thanks his Rutgers team, because without them he wouldn’t be where they are at. He promises that he will walk again one day.

Teddy Long

The APA says they have learned one thing tonight, and that is to go home. They teased him, with JBL saying he was the biggest scrooge in the industry, he never paid for anything. Ron Simmons brings up an invoice, noting he owes around $72,000 dollars. 

Simmons says he held just about every job in the industry, racking up a number of accomplishments.  JBL brings up how Teddy Long was born in Birmingham, Alabama and how he grew up watching and witnessing moments in the Civil Rights movement. JBL says this isn’t about Black History, it is about history and how opportunity was going to come for all for generations. 

Simmons says anyone who puts in hard work can have great things regardless of race. JBL intrudes the  cheapest man on the planet, Teddy Long!

Teddy Long comes out and acts like he threw his back out, but then reveals it's a rib, much to the APA’s dismay. He corrects the story JBL told earlier about him being arrested for being drunk despite never drinking. He says he got a ticket, and found a way to get the APA to pay for it.

He brings up his career in wrestling, how he started by driving guys to the WTBS studio and how eventually he was able to become a referee. His first match he ever match was a match between Black Bart and Ron Bass, who were in a Texas Death match and how he bolted when they started bleeding because they thought they were going to beat him up.

Running through his career, he mentions managing guys in WCW like Doom, Ice Train and Johnny B. Badd. He went to the WWE in 1998, and a few years later became manager for the likes of Mark Henry, Mark Jindrak, D’lo Brown and others. He also brings up his time as General Manager of Smackdown, as he held that title for around 9 years, the longest of any General Manager run in the company.

He wanted to prove to everyone who said he didn’t had talent to prove them wrong, and he thanks the McMahon family for that. He thanks his son and his wife, who he’s been married to for 20 years. He finishes off by saying he’ll put the APA in a tag team match, but since Ron Simmons is retired he’ll just have to put Bradshaw one on one with the Undertaker. He thanks everyone, saying now he’s a Holla Holla Hall of Famer.

They showed a video package of the Legacy wing inductees for this year. Haystacks Calhoun, Judy Grable, Bearcat Wright, Farmer Burns, Rikidozan, Luther Lindsay, June Byers, Toots Mondt and Dr. Jerry Graham were all given short profiles

Kurt Angle

Cena says the experience we’re about to feel is long overdue. There’s no words to describe how great this next man as we’ll never see someone as physically gifted as him as well as being an incredible entertainer. His accomplishments are mythic, wrestling guys way bigger than his own weight class. People get signed to the WWE with high expectations, and sometimes people aren’t able to meet them. Angle, however, exceeded them.

He didn’t just make us laugh, he made us heer and made us believe in him. He says that he has the type of story that a dad tells to his son and says dad, that can’t be true. But it is true, Cena says, as he was there, and it's damn true. He brings out Kurt Angle.

Kurt starts with a story about how he was offered a huge money deal after the Olympics, and said he would never lose a match. He didn’t hear from Vince again. He started watching Raw is War and got hooked, and called head of Talent Relations at the time Jim Ross to see if Vince's orignal offer still stands. Ross told him it wasn't, but could come in and try out just like everyone else. 

He mentions Jim Ross again thanks him, as well as Dory Funk Jr., Steve Bradley and Sean Evans. He was able to be great because of so many great, unselfish athletes like the Hardyz, Edge and Christian, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, Rikishi and many others. 

He wants to give advice for all the sports entertainers in the crowd. Limit your mistakes. Follow the protocol, follow the rules. Don’t be the guy or girl who they said could have been the best. Take chances with your personality and character. 

Sometimes you make fun of yourself, it can turn out to be in your favor. He cites the cowboy hat as an example. Someone brings out a cowboy hat, and Angle puts it on to cheers. He sings the song from the infamous promo. He also brings up the wig from when he was shaved bald, then brings up other comedic moments in his career before ending with the milk truck angle, saying that you gotta get those entertaining moments because they last forever.

He thanks the WWE Universe, who always believed in him, as well as his family and wife. He’s going to celebrate the only way he knows how...by getting two big cartons of milk. He says to the WWE Universe, you are now looking at the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame class -- it’s true, it’s damn true.