Sunday, November 22, 2015

Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame-A Disgraceful Betrayal?

Normally on this blog, I try to make my blogs about history, or favorite things of mine, such as trips I may make or the holidays, I also like to comment on my writings.

I rarely, if ever, give a true editorial rant about my opinions. I might comment, or give my thoughts on which historical fact is correct. But when it comes to personal opinions on topics, I try to stay away from.  This post is different, this post is my opinion, and also includes some investigation, I have done and reporting of how people are responding.

As many of my readers know, I am a part time professional wrestler, and when I get the change an opportunity I try to do some volunteer work at Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (PWHF). You may also have seen that any opportunity I get, I will mention the PWHF.

The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame was established since 2002. It first was located in Schenectady, NY, and then moved several miles to Amsterdam, NY.  Since its conception the hall has put on an annual induction weekend, at this time wrestlers are inducted into the hall of fame. The weekend events have included dinners and meet-and-greets.

For weeks, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame was stating there was big news going to be released on November 19. Fans and supporters of the hall of fame had to guess what this big news was. Many anticipated it was possibly a big name coming to the induction weekend, or that maybe the annual wrestling show, which goes in conjunction with the induction weekend, was going to feature some famous stars.  The news they finally received outraged many, and many of them, like myself felt betrayed.

On November 19, 2015 the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame announced it is moving from Amsterdam, NY to Wichita Falls, Texas. This information floored me, and it is why I am writing this opinion piece.

The President of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is TONY VELLANO. He began the original operations of the hall, but always states he never watches wrestling.

The information about the move was kept secret, people who had supported the hall, people who had volunteered there did not even know it, only a handful of select individuals knew of this clandestine move. 

The problem when it comes to performing something in secrecy, is you create a void in “the who, what, why, and where” of a story. This is exactly what happened here, without knowing the facts the void where thetruth should be, is not being populated by anger and conspiracies.

I believe the worst complaint about this situation, is how it was done. The news about the move came out on their website, and Facebook, the same time Texas does a press conference proudly stating that that was the PWHF new location. Not only this, but then it was indicated the doors to the PWHF in Amsterdam would be closed at the end of the month. I am unsure why Vellano felt compelled had to make an announcement in Texas, perhaps to keep from answering questions from the current supporters of the PWHF.

I am not privy of the reasoning of this move, I can only guess, perhaps it was a lack of dedication to have the hall of fame in New York State, or perhaps some type of financial gain. The reasoning itself is trivial, the act of how they informed the fans and supporters of the hall about the move is what is upsetting.

Amsterdam, NY has had its financial troubles in the past decades and the PWHF was an economical boost for them and the area. During the induction weekend, Amsterdam had a town wide event to help celebrate the PWHF. The local hotels and restaurants were always filled to capacity during this weekend. Now that will be all gone.

Many people volunteered there at the PWHF. It was these people who spent their weekend, their free time, cleaning the displays, welcoming visitors that visited. They were the ones that made the hall something to be proud of, something to show respect to those wrestlers who built the sport. There hard work was in vain.

Many people donated to the PWHF. This included donations to a building fund, which was to help for maintenance and expansion of the hall in Amsterdam. I know many people gave a large amount of money, even thousands for this fund, now that money is not going into the building they thought they were helping, but probably forwarded to Texas.

In my opinion, this move is a result of a lack of respect. No one respected those who worked hard volunteering at the PWHF, no one respected the fans who gave money to keep it going. No one respected the time and effort to make the PWHF an attraction in Amsterdam. Tony Vellano, and the board of directors, believed they could do what they wanted with the hall of fame without considering its impact on the city, or the supporters of the hall.

Tony Vellano has stated, even at the induction dinner, that he does not watch wrestling. Assuming someone who does not watch it, why should he make major decisions about its location?  I also know that Mr. Vellano has attended boxing and wrestling matches, not as a fan, but officially as a representative of the New York State Athletic Commission.

It is strange to me, that someone who works for a New York state agency would allow the PWHF to be moved out of its home state. Especially since NY gave the PWHF nonprofit status. This is particularly odd since New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a concentrated effort to keep businesses and organizations from leaving the state, especially to Texas; which has actively been wooing these groups to move there.

You would also think Tony Vellano would have more loyalty to the state where he makes a livelihood, to the state that gave the PWHF tax payers money. Perhaps, he was upset with how the city of Amsterdam treated the PWHF or himself. This could have been resolved with communication with the town. Also, maybe the current location was limited, and they wanted to expand the hall.  I am sure many larger cities in New York State, or near Amsterdam, would have lobbied to have the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in their city. But these cities from New York State were unable to lobby for it, since the whole process was done behind closed doors and in privacy.

Like a thief in the night and in total secrecy Tony Velleno and the board of directors, arranged this move, even to the point of packing up some exhibits and shipping them to Texas before the announcement was made. The reasoning for this secrecy is unknown to me, but there are theories one of which is he wanted this to be preordained so it would happen, not giving people, the fans, and even the city of Amsterdam or the state enough time to try to prevent it.

Another theory is that they waited this late in November because of the elections earlier that month. There was a new mayor elected in Amsterdam, having a new mayor not taking office yet, and having a leaving mayor gives you the confusion and inconsistency to do something like this without any opposition.

I went to the PWHF to get a printer and other items I had loaned them. When I was at the hall, members of the “Spindle City Historical Society” arrived and asked about a trophy owed by Mick Mazursky which was on loan to the hall.  They retrieved the trophy, I was able to speak to them and they notified me no one from the hall called them, they saw the article about the closing in the paper.

The Spindle City Historical Society is an organization celebrating the history of Cohoes, NY. Mazuski’s family emigrated from Hungary to Cohoes when he was six years old. Mike Mazurski was a professional wrestling and an actor starring in memorable roles in movies like Dick Tracy (1945), “Some like it Hot” (1959) and “Challenge to be Free” (1975).

I was glad they retrieved the trophy given to Mike Mazurski, for it deserves to be in Cohoes. I am unaware of how they would have gotten it back if it had made it to Texas. Another award given to Mike Mazurski posthumously was the “New York State Award” by the PWHF. This was awarded for Mazuski being a wrestling and the first president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, an organization of wrestlers. Wonder how the PWHF in Texas is going to honor the New York Award?

It does make you wonder how many generous people gave wrestling artifacts and memorabilia to the PWHF thinking it would be kept and presented here in New York. Expecting to see these items each time they visited the hall in Amsterdam.  Since the PWHF does not seem to care about calling people who have items on loan to them, how will these people retrieve their items once they are in Texas. Many are saying that this the reason for the secrecy, so these people could not complain or demand their items back after the PWHF had moved.

The PWHF on their Facebook page, is saying they were negating this move for the past year. I wonder why they did not mention this at the last induction dinner or any time during this period. Perhaps they knew the reaction this would cause, and notifying the public before the fact would have given supporters of the hall enough time to start a grass route campaign, or even perhaps some legal remedy to keep the hall in Amsterdam. This reason to keep the move a mystery has been called by many as a cowardly act by cowardly people who make a decision and then hide from the consequences of it.

The PWHF proudly claims their mission is to “maintain organized volunteerism that preserves and promote the dignified history of professional wrestling”.  It makes one question if being honest and upfront with their loyal fans and supporters, is part of that mission.

William Rusho is a part time professional wrestling and author of the novel “Legend of the Mystic Knights”.


  1. It's too bad when volunteerism isn't valued and given the respect it deserves. This is a very strange situation. Keep us updated.

  2. William, I am sorry that you were betrayed this way. I was executive director for a charitable, non-profit agency for years and know the value of volunteers and donors to any organization. That none of you were consulted is despicable. I also question the legality of using designated donor funds for a purpose for which it was not intended. I don't know about American laws, but that would not be happening here.
    Strange that a person who is not interested in watching wrestling would be instrumental in setting up the Hall of Fame.

  3. I can certainly appreciate your feelings about this situation William. I've chaired 3 county food drives and served on the board of most of the major nonprofits on our island and timely communication with the volunteers and community at large has always been a hot button issue for me. Regardless of the reasoning behind the move, you are so right to be disappointed about the way in which it was handled. Volunteers are the lifeblood of facilities such as the PWHF; it's such a shame that the board doesn't seem to get that and hope that the PWHF doesn't suffer the consequences of that ignorance with this move.

  4. That's a terrible story, William. You have a right to feel betrayed. How dare they leave in the middle of the night without notice to the town or the wrestlers and friends of the Hall who gave both personal and financial support. It may even be illegal to move artifacts that are on loan to the museum.

  5. It sures seems as though the only explanation is that someone is making a buck off of this. I can't imagine the Hall of Fame of any other sport packing up and moving because they were recruited by some other state.

  6. I can understand your feeling of betrayal. The value of volunteers in places like this cannot be underestimated and it does seem like very little respect was paid to them. It is hard to understand the reason for the secrecy or the move itself. Like Ken says, I suspect someone is making a buck somewhere.

  7. No wonder you feel betrayed, William. They really should valuie their volunteers and treat them well.

  8. I am guessing the move to Texas is financially based. I can't imagine why else they would plan it in secret and betray so many supporters.

  9. I'm surprised they were able to keep that secret for so long. Something like that usually leaks. That is really disappointing and is unfortunate for the city and the volunteers. Business people tend to think of their own bottom line before looking at the more wide spread economic or social impact of their decisions. I'm sorry that you were left in a situation of feeling so betrayed

  10. I am very sad to hear such upsetting news for you, William. Your shock is understandable. Volunteers are critical to so many of our museums and other non-profits, I'm sorry all of you weren't treated in a more respectful manner.

  11. This story reminded me of how Talking Heads broke up back in 1991 or so: David Byrne unilaterally pulled the plug on the band and then the other band members found out about it through the media rather than from Byrne himself. Pretty classless in both cases.

  12. I would have felt betrayed too. That's not right to keep something like that from the city and it's volunteers.

  13. This is so sad William, you have the right to feel betrayed.
    Oh dear! Keep us updated ok