Lighting Striking Twice: Tony Vellano Details The Development Of The International Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame

International Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame IPWHF
Photo: IPWHF

Pro wrestling’s history will soon be noted up in New York once more.

Tony Vellano is the founder of the original Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame, starting out in upstate New York before they relocated to Wichita Falls, TX. After he saw a high desire and demand for such a presence to make its way back to the area and seeing the passion in Seth Turner, the man who wanted a Hall of Fame back in the northeast, Tony decided to jump on board and help get the process rolling for the International Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame which will be based out of Albany. Tony recently spoke with WrestleZone’s Dominic DeAngelo on the process of dipping his toes back into the Hall of Fame waters and speaks about what drew him back into the fold.

“My wife, my friends, they all said, ‘What the hell’s wrong with you? Why would you want to do this again?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t think I have 20 more years in me, I will be pretty old,’ and I said, ‘but, you know the time I could spend with them in the beginning, I could help them out and put them on the fast track and the reason why I say that is because when I first started, there was no gameplan, there was no book, there was nobody that tells me which way to go. It was just like God said, ‘Here’s the machete, there’s the woods, I hope you get to the other side.’ I can’t tell you how many doors closed in my face, more closed than opened, but I just had the tenacity to continue and I did, and I made it and I was just to the point where I got to be internationally recognized as well.”

The IPWHF does have a mission as Tony and the board make their progress towards the development of a physical Hall Of Fame:

“The International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit entity formed to preserve and honor the history of professional wrestling from around the world. Special attention will be given to ensure the contributions to professional wrestling by individuals from various backgrounds and diverse cultures will be highlighted in the establishment.”

From getting a charter to finding donors and fundraising opportunities, Tony notices a strong step forward in the process compared to his previous experience in the hustle and bustle of trying to set a Hall of Fame up.

“Leadership and direction that wasn’t given to me, I can give to him [Seth] and the rest of the board. So we’re moving faster than I ever thought because that crawl, walk, run stage of life with the [Pro Wrestling] Hall of Fame originally. This Hall is already walking, they’re not running, but they’re not crawling because within a matter of a month or so our Facebook page is up, we’re heading towards 2,000…”

They have their board of directors, including WWE Hall Of Famer, JJ Dillon & WWWF regular Davey O’Hannon as members, but late Hall Of Fame talent in Rocky Johnson was also a board member until his untimely passing.

“Seth was close to Rocky Johnson, he wanted Rocky on the board and I think Rocky to be honest with you was pretty excited to be on the board. I think he would have helped us in certain ways, but never got the opportunity to and so a lot of things I’m sure as time goes by we’ll have him in mind when doing what we’ll be doing and I hope that he rests in peace. He was a good guy.”

Vellano already had some fundraisers that included meet and greet sessions with Dillon and coming in May they’ll have an Inaugural Dinner to help fire off the festivities.

“May 16 in Albany, NY at The Red Lion Inn, we’ll be doing our first inaugural dinner and tickets are on sale now and I know it will be a success because we sold out over half of the tickets in the night we announced,” said Vellano. “The Genius” Lanny Poffo will be the Master of Ceremonies.

Also on May 21, promoter Scott Wilder will be presenting The Awakening at Watervliet Dome in Watervliet, NY in which a portion of the ticket sales will be going to the development of the IPWHF (tickets available here).

Despite these events coming up Vellano realizes how important it is to keep the wheels turning.

“We need to talk to a few politicians yet, we need to find a location yet, but we have to build our bank account up a little bit and I’m hoping that next year—I’m not hoping—we’re planning on next year at doing our first induction.”

Tony has a familiar colleague in Robert Bryla formulating the rules and regulations for the induction process, the very same individual who did it for him back when getting his original Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame together. They are still in the stages of deciding how to go about inducting the first class, including the number of initial inductees. Bryla has presented plenty of different options.

“He has given us more than one scenario on how to induct. We just haven’t decided which one to choose yet, and what I mean by that is each scenario was a different amount,” said Vellano.

“We also know that when the first time you put it out will not be exactly the right way. It might not be the right way ten years from now, it may be fine-tuned to be done just a little bit different. So we’ve learned one thing: that you have to put it out there first and then you have to work with it and see what works and what didn’t.”

Tony is used to having the deck stacked against him and thrives at getting matters done. This opportunity is no different and definitely sees the possibility of lightning striking twice.

“We’re starting with nothing. Zero. We’re starting with zero, but you know what? Our ticket sales are good, we’ve got some fundraisers going, we have a couple of politicians to talk to in the near future, things are looking upward, not downward. So I don’t know what to expect, I’m in it for the ride.”

(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)

The full interview with the International Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame’s Tony Vellano is below:

For more information on how to help with the development of the International Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame, merchandise and more, check out their website.