AMSTERDAM, NY - The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (PWHF) is pleased to announce the 2008 PWHF Induction Class and the Senator Farley Award recipient. The PWHF, a New York State chartered not-for-profit corporation, will be celebrating its seventh annual Induction Weekend in May 23 and 24, 2008 in Amsterdam.
In the Pioneer Era Category former World Champion Ray Steele and former American Champion Tom Jenkins will be honored. Ray Steele was born Peter Sauer in Norka, Russia in 1900 and immigrated to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1906. On March 7, 1940 Steele reached the pinnacle of his career when he defeated Bronko Nagurski to become the National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight champion. Tom Jenkins was born in Bedford, Ohio in 1872 and he popularized the catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling. On November 7, 1901, Jenkins defeated Dan McLeod to become the undisputed wrestling champion of America
In the Television Era Category, the 2008 inductees are Bobo Brazil and Gene Kiniski. Houston Harris, better known by his ring name of Bobo Brazil, was born July 10, 1924 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Trained by Joe Savoldi, Bobo eventually relocated to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Brazil is considered one of the most successful African-American professional wrestlers in history. His popularity helped to break down the barriers of racial segregation in professional wrestling in the 1950’s and 1960’s. On October 18th, 1962, Brazil defeated Buddy Rogers to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Due to an injury suffered by Rogers during the bout, Bobo refused the belt and returned it to Rogers. Eugene Nicholas Kiniski, later known as “Big Thunder”, was born November 23, 1928. Gene began his career in 1953 after a notable career in football. He defeated Verne Gagne in 1961 to become the AWA World Heavyweight champion. In December 1965, he defeated Dick The Bruiser to become the World Wrestling Association champion. One of Gene’s finest moments came on January 7, 1966, when he defeated Lou Thesz to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. After almost 40 years on the mat, Gene retired from the ring in 1992.
The Modern Era Inductees for this coming year are Bret Hart and Bob Backlund. Bret Hart was born July 2, 1957 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He received his training along with his brothers in the legendary Stu Hart dungeon. Honing his skills in Stampede Wrestling, Bret's great success was achieved by stressing technique rather than showmanship. Known as “The Excellence of Execution” and “The Hitman”, Hart claimed championship gold in Stampede Wrestling, The World Wrestling Council, World Championship Wrestling and is a five-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion. The self-proclaimed, “Best There Was, The Best There Is, and The Best There Ever Will Be”, Bret retired from the ring in 2002. Bob Backlund was born August 14, 1950 in Princeton Minnesota. He was an accomplished amateur wrestler, winning the Division II NCAA championship at 190 lbs in 1971. Bob turned pro in 1973 and defeated Superstar Billy Graham in New York's Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1978 and held the belt for an incredible six years.
The 2008 International Category Inductee is Shohei "Giant" Baba. Born in 1938, Baba made his pro wrestling debut in 1960. He became the first Japanese wrestler to ever hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Jack Brisco in a 2 out of 3 falls match on December 2, 1974 in Kagoshima, Japan. He would hold the championship on two more occasions. Under his leadership, All Japan Pro Wrestling became the number one wrestling company in the world during the 1990s
The inductees for the Tag Team Category are Ernie and Emil Dusek of Omaha, Nebraska. Ernie was born in 1909 and Emil was born in 1905. They were part of the larger “Dusek Bothers Riot Squad” and they were one of the roughest and most respected teams of their era. They won the Central States version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship on three different occasions in 1958, 1959 and 1960.
Joseph Raymond “Toots” Mondt is the recipient in the 2008 Non-Participant Category. Mondt, a former world class wrestler, is best known as the promoter who revolutionized the wrestling industry in the 1920’s. His vision of a “slam bang” style of wrestling changed the entire landscape of the game and his blueprint for successful promoting is still in use today.
The 2008 Women's Category Inductee will be Betty Niccoli. Betty was a former United States Women’s Champion and a former North American Women’s Champion. She began her career in Missouri in 1963 and wrestled for thirteen years. She now resides in Kansas City with husband, Akio Sato, also a former wrestler. They have two children.
The Senator Hugh Farley Award, which is given to a wrestler who has brought honor and dignity to professional wrestling, will be presented to attorney Tom Drake. The Farley award is determined by committee decision and is based upon the ring career as well as the non-wrestling societal contributions made by the honoree. Chairpersons this year were Bob Bryla and John Pantozzi. Drake’s wrestling career spanned twenty-two years, from 1956 to 1978. While serving as a wrestling coach at the University of Alabama, Drake served nine terms in the Alabama State Legislature and was Speaker of the House from 1982 to 1987.
The PWHF officials wish to thank John Pantozzi for his efforts as Chairperson of the Screening Committee this year. Also serving on the Screening Committee were wrestling historian Don Luce and historian/collector Dr. Robert Bryla. The PWHF also wishes to acknowledge the support from Karl Lauer, Executive Vice-President of the Cauliflower Alley Club. The rotating thirty member Board of Selectors, which is equally divided between professional wrestlers and wrestling experts, voted upon this year's ballot.
As further information regarding the planned May 2008 Induction Weekend develops, it may be obtained on the PWHF website address www.pwhf.org.