Updated: Justin Roberts Talks Connor Michalek Being Inducted Into WWE HOF, Says Induction Was Strategic; WWE Issues Statement On Roberts’ Comments

justin robertsFormer WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts posted a new detailed blog entry on Medium.com, and shared his thoughts about Connor Michalek’s WWE Hall of Fame induction, the motivation behind it, how WWE may have changed things for their favor, some of his memories of meeting Connor, and more.

You can read a few excerpts below: 

…I invited Connor and his family to come to DC for an episode of Monday Night RAW, right before WrestleMania. Stephanie asked if there was anything she could give him that he might like. I suggested maybe an Intercontinental Championship replica…I told her I had this crazy idea about being in the ring earlier in the day, before the show and before the fans were in the building. I would introduce Connor, like I introduced the superstars. He could come to the ring with a full entrance, just like the wrestlers. He could get into the ring, where he would be approached by Big E who at the time was the Intercontinental Champion. RVD called Connor the interConnornental champion, so maybe Big E told him to push him, he fell over and Connor pinned him and I would announce him as the new Intercontinental Champion! But then…Triple H and Stephanie, who were the authority figures of the show, would come out and hand him his own replica title and call him the new InterConnornental champion!

I got the runaround on the idea and was told to go through other channels. So I did. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but I contacted Ryan from onehourtees.com in Chicago who did really good work. He not only designed a graphic for Connor, but he sent me a box of Connor t-shirts at the arena and also sent me the graphic to give to the stage designers, just in case the plan came into fruition.

Everything was all set. I got his family a hotel room right outside of town in case he was tired on the drive up, got them ringside tickets and couldn’t wait to watch Connor hang out with all of his new friends. I introduced him to Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan…I’ve never introduced my own family members to these stars. Nothing and no one were off limits for my buddy. The guys and girls were amazing to Connor, all day. I have lots and lots of stories about his interactions with them and they were all amazed away by this little man.

Stephanie had started contacting them on her own and even decided to invite him to WrestleMania, which I thought was incredible. She let me invite him personally, so I got to see his face light up while I did that over Facetime.

When he got to the building in DC, I had sent her a text letting her know that they were there. Shortly after we made our rounds, we met up with her. Connor gave her a big hug and thanked her for the invitation, then presented her with a necklace and gave me a bracelet along with a stone that had his picture in it. He told me that if I ever wanted to think of him, all I had to do was look at that stone. I appreciate that gift and look at it all the time.

We walked out into the arena from the stage and were approached by Triple H. He said hello to Steve, Steve’s father and Connor. He asked Connor if he were to walk to the ring, what music would he come out to? I thought to myself, Daniel Bryan-duh. Connor responded the same, minus the duh. As he started walking away, I called out “Triple H. If he’s walking to the ring, I sent the stage designers a graphic for the entrance wall.” He just talked into his headset and walked away. Daniel came over to say hello and gave him the sweatshirt off his back along with a hug. Before I knew it, the music hit — the graphic was up on the video wall and my plan to have him walk to the ring was happening. Unfortunately, I was no longer a part of my plan. I wouldn’t get to announce him and Big E wouldn’t be in the ring with him, but now Triple H would play that role. While it would have been very special to introduce him to the ring and announce him as the winner, being in there with the guy that was feuding with his hero was just as cool for him as announcing would have been for me, so I was just happy that this was taking place. On top of that, the locker room was around the ring and they cheered him on as he walked down the aisle and into the ring. It was an amazing moment. I stood in the aisle, watched, and recorded the video on my phone. And even though I wasn’t able to perform my dream part of it (after dreaming it all up), I knew how thrilled Connor was and that was all that mattered.

He had an incredible day and night. The next week, his father took him to WrestleMania where Stephanie’s team took care of all of the arrangements. They had a blast. Watching Connor’s face all night was the highlight of announcing that show. Daniel spotted him in the crowd and after he won the Championship, he approached, talked to and hugged Connor. He was cured, if only for just one night.

From there, Steve took Connor to Florida where he was able to play on the beach. Connor loved the beach. He would send pictures and we would Facetime. His health started to decline right after that. Stephanie told me that she wanted to put together an internal video for the employees of the company, to see the effect WWE has on people. The cameras recorded Connor at the arena, during WrestleMania and a producer would be calling me to discuss. I thought it was a great idea, even though I figured that it wasn’t just for the employees. I assumed it would make its way out to the public as well. I was ok with that; it was a beautiful story about making my friend happy. Connor and his interactions with the heroes who were helping him numb the pain, and all in the world of WWE. I just didn’t realize that when they retold this story, it was going to become just like those other reality-inspired storylines I mentioned earlier.

The next week came and went. The plan changed and only Stephanie and Daniel Bryan were interviewed. Stephanie was generous to Connor. Daniel was always good to him when they were face to face at the arenas. Daniel is a quality person and incredible performer. I feel bad that the company put him in a position where people on the outside might assume they were closer than they were.

When the video came out, I was surprised, maybe more surprised than I should have been, to discover that reality was not a part of the story. The company told the story the way they wanted it to be told. And then I remembered: that’s just what the company does — it tells stories. Maybe I experienced this one too personally to see it distorted, but it was not easy to take…

…WWE told a version of the Ultimate Warrior’s story from last year. WWE told a version of Connor’s story. I just wish while telling stories, the company’s actions matched their words?—? they should actually care for the welfare of the people who actively care about the company and devote their lives to making it the best it can be. I wish instead of just paying for rehab of former talents, WWE would take care of the current talent who are on the road nonstop, with no breaks unless they are already injured. I wish they would appreciate those employees who have been there for years and helped them to grow, rather than fire them after they’ve been there “too long.” I watched the Hall of Fame and cried my eyes out. I bit my tongue and swallowed my pride for a long time, hoping everything stemmed from the kindness of their hearts. I thank all of the talent and employees who did and still do everything to help people, out of their kindness and not for business purposes. When I was reading Twitter this weekend, I felt like I was punched in the gut. Despite rewriting the story and using it to pat themselves on the back for being a standup organization, I wish Connor’s Cure and Connor’s induction into the Hall of Fame were driven by sincerity and not strategy. But sadly, it looks like they are just part of the “philanthropic” future of marketing.

In response to Roberts’ column, WWE has issued the following statement:

“It is offensive to suggest that WWE and its executives had anything but altruistic intentions in honoring Connor and his legacy with The Warrior Award. In conjunction with Connor’s father, Connor’s Cure was established by Stephanie McMahon and Paul Levesque to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer, and to honor a boy that so many people within the WWE family came to love.  The fund is managed by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and has already raised more than $200,000 for pediatric cancer research.

In addition, following the Ultimate Warrior’s impassioned Hall of Fame speech last year encouraging WWE to recognize its unsung heroes, the Warrior Award was established in his memory to honor those who exhibit unwavering strength and perseverance, and who live life with the courage and compassion that embodies the indomitable spirit of the Ultimate Warrior.  With the full support and input of Ultimate Warrior’s widow, Dana Warrior, Connor Michalek was the first recipient of the Warrior Award, and moving forward the award will be given annually to acknowledge other unsung heroes among WWE’s employees and fans.

WWE is proud to use our global platforms to raise awareness for important social causes, including Connor’s Cure as well as our longstanding partnership with Make A Wish, our on-going partnership with Susan G. Komen, which has resulted in more than $1.5 million in funds raised, and our international partnership with Special Olympics.”