Eleven athletes who helped feed society’s age-old lust for physical combat have been named as the newest stars headed for recognition by the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
The Amsterdam-based PWHF last week announced plans for a weekend ceremony to be held in May to celebrate its 13th induction of professional wrestlers, the hall’s Class of 2014.
The PWHF is not affiliated with pro wrestling organizations past or present but it strives to recognize those who made a living entertaining a mass of fans that stretch around the globe.
There are more than 20 halls of fame in the state, PWHF board of directors President Tony Vellano noted. Among them, baseball, boxing, horse racing and dancing all have halls that draw guests with specific interests to New York.
He said the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is cementing its place among fans of the spectacle, which traces is roots to the original Olympics in Greece.
Though less regulated than amateur wrestling, professional wrestling has given many individuals a chance to continue their sport — even though they sometimes employ folding chairs or drop their opponent onto a table.
Vellano said a large percentage of the pro wrestling stars people see on TV were high school and college wrestling champions for whom there are few avenues to continue competing.
Pro wrestling opened up that window, he said, but, “there is a cost to bear when that happens.”
Unlike amateur wrestlers who train for a month or more for a meet, pros may wrestle many dozens of times per year, sometimes as much as twice a day.
The late Walter “Killer” Kowalski, a legendary pro wrestler who later started a professional wrestling school, had about 15,000 matches during his career, Vellano said.
Kowalski was inducted by the PWHF into the class of 2003, along with Hulk Hogan.
The Amsterdam-based hall of fame draws support from events that stretch as far away as Japan, Vellano said. The advent of the social networking site Facebook makes it possible to identify followers, and their whereabouts, and the PWHF now boasts more than 9,000 friends from nearly 80 counties.
Last week’s announcement of 2014 inductees marks the unofficial start to planning for a two-day ceremony to center on the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Amsterdam, which now contains about 5,000 square feet of professional memorabilia dating from the mid-1800s.
Vellano said more details of the events planned for the spring will be announced as they are developed.
Many of the old-timers have died. For some of the inductees, being recognized is an emotional event, Vellano said.
He said many have told him they figured they were simply forgotten by the masses who once chanted their names.
The wrestlers chosen for induction are all selected by their peers — fellow professional wrestlers.
The Class of 2014 is:
Pioneer Era (Pre–1946): Stu Hart and Leroy McGuirk
Television Era (1943–1984): Bruiser Brody and Johnny Walker, aka Mr. Wrestling # 2
Modern Era (1985–present) Don Muraco and Bill Eadie, aka The Masked Superstar
Ladies: Sheri Martel
Tag Team: Don and Jackie Fargo, aka The Fargos
Colleague: Gary Hart
International: Lord Alfred Hayes
More information about the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is online at www.pwhf.org.