As Nick Bockwinkel looked around at the pictures and artifacts that line the walls and shelves of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, he was reminded of his glory days.
Bockwinkel, following in his father’s footsteps, achieved great success in professional wrestling during the late 1950s and 1960s. He was a world champion for 10 years.
This year, the 71-year-old Bockwinkel was inducted into World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hall of Fame, and in 2003, he was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Since that time, Bockwinkel has been making the trek periodically from Las Vegas to Amsterdam to reminisce with old friends during the Amsterdam hall’s annual induction weekend.
Today, Bockwinkel will be joined by 30 other professional wrestlers from across the country and around the world, along with hundreds of wrestling fans, to induct a new class into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Bockwinkel and one of this year’s inductees, Gene Kiniski, reminisced about the early days of wrestling Friday as they studied the memorabilia at the museum.
“It’s amazing how many people have given their paraphernalia,” Bockwinkel said. “See that sparkly jacket over there? I knew the guy who wrestled with that in the ring.”
The guys reminisced about how wrestling changed the face of television.
“In the 1950s in LA, wrestling was on television all day, seven days a week,” Bockwinkel said.
Hall of Fame President Tony Vellano has an exhibit depicting famous wrestlers from Schenectady. The first person to wrestle on television was from Schenectady, Vellano said.
“When comedy was bad, wrestling was still big,” Kiniski said. “I never understood that.”
While wrestling has changed over the years, it still has a large following. Vellano said the ticketed events for this weekend were sold out months ago, including vendor space at today’s Collectors Convention at the Best Value Inn, which has sold out all its rooms this weekend.
The 90-minute meet and greet with professional wrestlers sold out 150 tickets, and tonight’s induction dinner at St. Mary’s Institute sold out 300 tickets.
Bockwinkel said the nice part about getting together with other wrestlers for this weekend is sharing stories with people who have lived the unusual lifestyle of a professional wrestler.
“What you put your bodies through and all the travel,” he said. “We really lived a nomadic, gypsy-like existence for a while.”
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include Bret Hart, Bob Backlund, Gene Kiniski, Bobo Brazil, Tom Drake, Giant Baba, Betty Niccoli, Toots Mondt, The Duseks, Ray Steele and Tom Jenkins.