This was a somewhat difficult choice. Mike Tyson isn’t, or to be fair, at least wasn’t a nice man. As ‘The Baddest Man On the Planet’ he was a captivating but unsavoury character in the world of sport, a man capable of dominating a competitive sport, but also capable – at least as far as the law is concerned – of serious sexual assault. I’m a little unsure that I want to celebrate the life of a man who has the past that he has, but this is overruled for two reasons: 1) As a soppy Liberal, I believe – generally – in rehabilitation, and Tyson seems to have been humbled as of late and rehabilitated. 2) Most importantly, this is a Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, and I judge it solely on the impact the inductee has had on the business. Mike Tyson, when compared to other celebrities, has had a impressive and genuine impact on the business.
Pro-wrestling is obsessed with popular culture; obsessed with reflecting popular culture, and obsessed even more with becoming part of popular culture. It tends to be more successful with the latter goal (Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena), but when Mike Tyson became involved in WrestleMania VIV, the WWE succeeded at engaging with pop culture in a timely and genuinely interesting way. Involving ‘The Baddest Man On the Planet” in a main event program with two of the ‘baddest’ characters in wrestling, Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, was stroke of genius.
There have been a lot of celebrities who have gotten involved in pro wrestling for a payday, and for the most part, it hurts and angle or a match more than it helps through sheer disingenuousness. Hearing people like Criss Angel, Al Sharpton, and Buzz Aldrin try and appear to relate to WWE superstars while barely pronouncing their names provide some of the most awkward and downright displeasing moments in wrestling history. But when people like Andy Kaufman and Mike Tyson turn up, as fans of pro-wrestling, get involved in the storylines and physicality, and care about the outcome – that’s when everybody wins.
Mike Tyson’s involvement in WrestleMania XIV is probably the most successful example of celebrity involvement in a wrestling angle. Without overshadowing the wrestlers, Tyson’s involvement brought more eyes to the product, and actually brought intrigue to the match regarding how he would affect the match and whether he would physical. Indeed, going in, he seemed to be in DX and Shawn Michaels’ pocket, but in the end, he counted HBK’s shoulders to the mat to award Austin his first ever WWF Championship. Adding insult to injury, but not affecting the match, Tyson then floored Michaels with a KO punch for a great feel-good moment. Even better, this marked the start of the ‘Austin Era’, a genesis which was made all the more iconic by the rub given by Tyson. Though Tyson can only claim a tiny bit of glory for Austin’s success, he certainly was a suitable and effective foil to it.Not only that, but it was also the blow that provided HBK with a memorable retirement (or so we thought) as Michaels thought the back injury he suffered at the 1998 Royal Rumble would legitimately retire him.
Tyson’s love for wrestling and the WWE was shown again when he returned to WWE in 2010 as a guest host, burying the hatchet with DX and reprising his role as enforcer when delivering a devastating KO punch to Chris Jericho. Tyson is to be inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame this year, and given the success of his involvement in iconic wrestling moments, he is a natural fit in to any pro-wrestling Hall of Fame.