The Warrior Award – A telltale of WWE’s legacy
“Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper than something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honour him and make the running the man did live forever.” – The Ultimate Warrior
The night before WrestleMania is special for so many reasons. The fans get to meet their favourite superstars during the weekend while the superstars themselves prepare for the biggest night of the calendar year. But the night before WrestleMania has traditionally produced some of the most emotional moments, as the fans get to witness the softer side of the performers and legends during the Hall of Fame ceremony.
The WWE Hall of Fame too has a story behind its initiation. Andre The Giant, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time, was the reason behind WWE starting their own Hall of Fame, as he became the very first inductee posthumously. To its credit, WWE has always tried to give back to the superstars for putting their bodies on the line, and no matter how many controversies the company endures, ultimately, WWE’s gesture and good will are some of the reasons why the fans continue to side with the organization.
The 2015 Hall of Fame ceremony saw its share of emotional moments; while Randy Savage was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame, his brother’s poetic and poignant speech left many fans in tears who grew up watching and idolizing The Macho Man. Much like last year’s induction of The Ultimate Warrior, it finally closes the saga of unrest between the WWE and the legendary performers, bringing back the superstars home after a long, tumultuous voyage.
The other highlight of the ceremony was the first ever recipient of The Warrior Award. As a fan, one cannot ask for anything more than being acknowledged by the WWE, but last night, something magical happened. Almost always, it is the superstars who touch the lives of the fans, but with Connor “The Crusher” Michalek, it was the opposite.
Connor might not have followed professional wrestling or the WWE for 15 years, nor did he witness the greatest period in professional wrestling – The Attitude Era. But he undoubtedly personified the most ardent wrestling fan, and in the process, carved himself a place in wrestling history.
More than two decades ago, WWE started the Hall of Fame to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Andre, and last night, The Warrior Award was given to the one fan who understood the business; at 8 years old, Connor Michalek appreciated the wrestling business more than most of the fans do, and his attitude towards life in general while the odds were stacked against him made him even more special. And perhaps, the most emotional moment came when Connor’s favorite superstar, Daniel Bryan took the center stage to give away The Warrior Award.
While a teary-eyed Bryan recounted his experiences with Connor, for those 20 odd minutes, professional wrestling was genuine. There were no smokes and mirrors, there was no showboating; Connor didn’t need to cut a great promo or work a good match to garner a fan base. They say the greatest art is to make your work tangible, to make the people believe in what you’re doing. Connor, since the first time he met Daniel Bryan, became a part of this great industry, and in doing so, touched many lives.
Connor’s Cure in its one year was able to amass 200,000 dollars, and even though he isn’t physically present in this world anymore, Connor Michalek, or “The Crusher” is still making a huge impact on people’s lives.
WWE could’ve looked the other way; most of the companies try to maintain a positive image, and once that is achieved, they don’t look back on the people who were instrumental in the process. But WWE once again proved just why for the past three decades, they’ve garnered millions of fans around the world, and why they’ve become an integral part of every fan’s childhood.
With Dana Warrior urging the fans to raise a million dollars for Connor’s Cure, and with Connor’s family and the WWE going all out in creating awareness of pediatric brain cancer, one small fan’s dream of meeting his favorite superstar has snowballed into a great cause, helping thousands of cancer patients around the world. For some fans, the WWE Hall of Fame might just be the precursor to the showcase of the immortals, but for most others, The Warrior Award signified everything professional wrestling business stands for and is a telltale of WWE’s legacy.
Much like the Hall of Fame ceremony itself, The Warrior Award was initiated to celebrate the life of a kind spirited fan, and it might also become an integral part of the Hall of Fame ceremony going forward.