Mike Tyson will join his second Hall of Fame in two years when he's inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania weekend. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Legendary former heavyweight champion and boxing Hall of Famer Mike Tyson will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania weekend this year (March 29-April 1).
A lot of boxing fans who don't follow or care about pro wrestling may not realize that Tyson had a genuinely big impact on the pro wrestling business just as it was entering its hottest period to date. In January 1998, with WCW (long the inferior, cheaper cousin to Vince McMahon's WWF) dominating the Monday night cable ratings war and burying the WWF in pretty much every way, McMahon brought in Mike Tyson for a role at WrestleMania XIV, which was to be the first time that emerging megastar Stone Cold Steve Austin would be crowned the top dog in the company with their world championship belt.
Eric Bischoff ran WCW at the time. Here's what he said about Tyson's impact in his book, Controversy Creates Ca$h:
"At the time, I kind of went, Eh, whatever. I didn't think they could get a deal done (with Tyson). Mike was pretty hot, and the price tag pretty high. It was apparent from everything we were hearing that WWE had a hard time keeping the water coolers in the building, so finding the money to pay a guy like Mike Tyson seemed unlikely.
"I also didn't think they'd know what to do with him once they got him. ... In the past, celebrities on WWE had more or less just showed up. They added their aura to the product but didn't really get involved in the storyline in a meaningful way."
But Tyson was used in a major way by the WWF for the Austin vs Shawn Michaels angle. The story was, he was brought in by McMahon as a major star, "The Baddest Man on the Planet." This was while Mike was serving his suspension from boxing for chewing off Evander Holyfield's ear. At the time, Mike was at his most controversial and most loony -- people really thought he was a loose cannon, a total whackjob.
During his introduction on the WWF's flagship show Monday Night Raw, Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupted, and the two wound up in a pull-apart situation. All in all, it was a huge turning point for the WWF, and not long after, they went on a dominant run over WCW, eventually buying their competition in early 2001.
Here's a clip of the initial Tyson angle from January 19, 1998:
After this, Tyson joined the heel faction D-Generation X, led by Shawn Michaels, and was named the special ringside enforcer for the Michaels vs Austin main event at WrestleMania XIV on March 29, 1998. Tyson wound up having to spring into action as the main referee, counting a clean win for Austin. When Michaels (who was on his way out of the WWF with a back injury) raised a stink with Tyson, "Iron" Mike knocked him out. (By the way, yes I know it's fake, but I'm not putting everything in quotation marks. I assume you get it.)
Tyson has said that he had the most fun of his career working with the WWF, and later when it was rebranded WWE. He's made a handful of appearances over the years and has always done a good job in his roles, which isn't always easy for outsiders (in fact, it almost never goes well for non-wrestling people). No matter how you slice it, it's acting on live TV, which I think we can all agree is pretty hard to do well.
Tyson joins Pete Rose, Bob Uecker, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, and Drew Carey as celebrity inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Tyson, who is racking up quite the post-boxing career profile at this point.