With the world watching on, and the fate of his company resting on the success of his greatest and most riskiest business venture yet, Vince McMahon knew he needed big names. Names that transcended entertainment, names that would bring viewers to what McMahon was showing. He needed someone that could stand side by side with his larger-than-life superhero – Hulk Hogan – and take him from the world of wrestling and drop him right into the middle of pop culture and stardom. And in 1985 at WrestleMania I, Mr T stood side-by-side with Hogan and history changed.
To be inducted by: Mean Gene Okerlund & T Junior
Born Laurence Tureaud on May 21, 1952, Mr T encountered wrestling (in it’s more original form) early on in life when he became the city-wide wrestling champion while at Dunbar Vocational High School. Later in life, now established as a major star thanks to his roles in Rocky III and The A-Team, he found himself back in wrestling when he was offered a position in the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Hulk Hogan in a tag-team match against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. McMahon had paid out a lot to ensure his debut PPV event was a success; Mr T in the ring and Muhammed Ali as the special referee propelled the event into the mainstream. And when the viewing figures came in, McMahon’s vision and expenditure became justified.
All allegedly wasn’t well from Mr T’s side of things, however, with Hulk Hogan claiming in his autobiography that T was ready to pull out of the event on the day of the show, after his entourage were refused entry to the arena. Hogan stated that Mr T’s decision not to skip the show saved WrestleMania. Roddy Piper has since claimed that many wrestlers disliked T because of his acting background and that he hadn’t paid his dues in pro wrestling. This didn’t seen to deter McMahon, who brought T back for WrestleMania 2 for a worked boxing match against Piper, ironically.
Ten years passed before Mr T returned to professional wrestling, appearing for WCW as the special referee in a match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair at 1994’s Halloween Havoc. A further seven years later T appeared at ringside during an episode of WWF Raw.
Though his pro wrestling appearances were few, Mr T’s contributions to the WWF in 1985 for WrestleMania cannot be overstated. He put mainstream eyes on the product for the biggest gamble wrestling had ever seen. And on April 5, 29 years after standing side-by-side with Hulk Hogan at the inaugural WrestleMania, Mr T will take his deserved place in the Celebrity Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.