Ahead of the biggest WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony yet, NZPWI Editor David Dunn takes a look at some WWE Legends—beyond The Bushwhackers and Pat O’Connor—who passed through New Zealand on their road to the WWE Hall of Fame…
Andre the Giant
(WWE Hall of Fame Class of 1993)
Andre the Giant was in a class of his own in every sense of the phrase. Born Andre Roussimoff, he was the first—and only—inductee to the WWE Hall of Fame when it was established in 1993, shortly after he passed away.
Long before he wowed 93,173 fans against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 3, Andre was amazing crowds of Kiwis.
The Giant touched down in Wellington in February 1972. Legend has it that Steve Rickard removed the back seat of his station wagon and installed a mattress so Andre could travel in comfort as they headed up State Highway 1 to Palmerston North.
Before wrestling Bruno Bekkar and Brutal Bob Miller (Bushwhacker Butch), Andre first stopped in at a bar and then at a Chinese restaurant for a supersized lunch. Stuff.co.nz has a full account.
(WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2006)
Bret Hart is a bonafide legend in Canada but the same could have been true of Hart in New Zealand.
A young Hitman caught the eye of Steve Rickard, who brought him to New Zealand in 1981.
Hart was tipped to become one of the major stars of On the Mat over the course of a six-month tour. However, upon discovering he would be living a life on the road without a permanent base, a homesick Hart left New Zealand after just two weeks in the country to return to his fiancée in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. As Hart recalls in his 2007 memoir, Hitman: “I hated to run out on Steve [Rickard], but I had to put my love for Julie first.”
Hart wouldn’t return to New Zealand until 2003 as part of WWA The Reckoning, New Zealand’s first pay-per-view pro-wrestling event and one of Hart’s first public appearances after suffering a stroke.
Harley Race and Ric Flair
(WWE Hall of Fame Classes of 2004 and 2008)
Ric Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a 16-time world champion—but that may be selling Flair short.
The Nature Boy and Harley Race were part of perhaps New Zealand’s most historically significant match: an NWA World Heavyweight Championship bout in Wellington in 1984.
Flair walked into the Wellington Town Hall with the 10 pounds of gold but was defeated by Race, who would then defend the title against Flair in Auckland. But after Flair beat Race in Singapore, Naitch returned to the United States the same way he had left, still NWA World Heavyweight Champion. As such, the title change is often unrecognised in America—while anyone who was there in Wellington would never be able to forget.
The 2021 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony streams from 12pm (NZST) today on WWE Network.