By Mike Mooneyham

March 7, 2004

Pete Rose always wanted a spot in the Hall of Fame. He’ll get his wish March 13.

That’s when baseball’s bad boy will be inducted into World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hall of Fame.

The all-time hit leader will be honored in New York as part of Wrestlemania weekend at Madison Square Garden.

Never one to miss a payoff, Rose will be handsomely compensated for his appearance at the March 13 induction at the New York Hilton, and at the sold-out Wrestlemania XX extravaganza the following night at the Garden where he will join 10 other legitimate inductees as part of the WWE class of 2004.

Banned from the game of baseball for life, the disgraced legend belatedly admitted to betting on America’s pastime in his autobiography released earlier this year with the hopes of being reinstated, clearing his path to induction into the Cooperstown, N.Y., museum. For now, though, he’ll have to settle for WWE’s shrine.

Pete Rose

Pete Rose

WWE owner Vince McMahon announced last week that Rose would be the first-ever special celebrity inductee into the wrestling hall. While 4,256 hits might not have been enough to get Rose into Cooperstown, three celebrity Wrestlemania appearances (1998-2000) – where he dressed as a chicken and took choke slams and tombstone piledrivers from Kane – apparently were sufficient to land him a spot among pro wrestling’s elite.

The real reason for his induction, of course, is that it’s a publicity stunt that has garnered marketing dividends and considerable ink for WWE, including coverage in the New York Times and a host of other media outlets, and has capitalized on the burst on publicity for Rose’s book, “My Prison Without Bars.”

“He has a deep, abiding respect for what we do,” McMahon told the Times. Whether he was snickering when he made the comment was not clear.

“That body of work was clearly enough to get him into the hall,” sports talk show host Jim Rome sarcastically said last week. “That and the check they are going to cut him to get him to appear … I would imagine he also has a deep, abiding respect for the pile of cash you are going to give him as well. Pete Rose in the wrestling hall of fame? I look forward to him receiving the Nobel Prize as well. I would imagine he is going to be inducted into the Supercuts hall of fame as well later this summer. And if he isn’t, he should be.

“In all seriousness, this is sad. This guy is one of the greatest players ever, and instead of sucking it up and coming clean legitimately, and sincerely and eventually getting back into baseball’s good graces, he is chasing more jack from the WWE. It’s sad. The guy has become a caricature of himself.”

“Pete Rose is our first-ever celebrity inductee for the classic moments he has provided in Wrestlemania matches with WWE superstar Kane,” McMahon announced on his company’s Web site. “Only a champion like Pete Rose would get into a wrestling ring with a 300-pound monster like Kane, and then have the tenacity and determination to do it again. One day Pete Rose will take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but on March 13, Pete will officially become a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Kane (Glen Jacobs), who was Rose’s nemesis at the three Wrestlemanias, will present the former Cincinnati Reds player and manager at his induction. “He came in, from totally outside our environment, and said, ‘What do you want me to do?'” McMahon told the Times. “I said, ‘Well, we have this 300-pound wrestler named Kane who does the piledriver.’ Pete says, ‘Great, what’s that?’ And I said, ‘He turns you upside down and drives you into the mat.’ Without hesitation, he said: ‘Is that good? Will there be a crowd reaction?'”

“This is how far Pete Rose has fallen: Being inducted in a pro wrestling hall of fame neither improved wrestling’s credibility, nor hurt his,” wrote one sports scribe.

On the other hand, rumors that homemaking icon Martha Stewart will be next year’s guest celebrity at Wrestlemania appear to be completely unfounded. Not that she’d be available anyway.

– WWE announced last week the full list of former WWE stars who will be inducted into its hall of fame. The group includes former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, Superstar Billy Graham, Bobby Heenan, Greg Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, Don Muraco and Harley Race. Junkyard Dog (Sylvester Ritter) and Big John Studd (John Minton) will be inducted posthumously.

Bob Backlund, whose name was initially mentioned as a candidate for the WWE Hall of Fame, is no longer on the list. It might also be noted that Bruno Sammartino, who held the company’s world title for a seven-year stretch during the ’60s and ’70s and is widely regarded as one of the greatest champions in the history of the business, is not among those presently in the hall.

– “Wrestlemania’s 10 Greatest Matches Ever,” as voted by WWE wrestlers, will air at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Spike TV. Ric Flair will host the one-hour show.

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Wrestlemania pay-per-view March 14 beginning at 7 p.m. Cover charge is $5. Only valid ticket-holders will be allowed after 6:30 p.m. I’ll also be on hand signing new paperback editions of “Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment.”

– Matthew’s Sport’s Bar & Grill, 613 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., also will air Wrestlemania on March 14. Cover charge is $5.

– Ring of Honor founder and co-owner Rob Feinstein was the target of an underage sex sting by a Philadelphia television station in conjunction with perverted-justice.com, a Web site which exposes suspected pedophiles.

Feinstein, who also owns RF Video, was caught on camera and confronted as he approached the door of a house he thought to be the residence of an unsupervised 14-year-old youth. Feinstein met the boy, who really wasn’t 14 but rather a spokesman for the Web site, in an AOL online chat and set up a meeting. Feinstein reportedly had claimed to be a wrestler and not the owner of a wrestling promotion in his online discussions with the youth.

Feinstein, who launched the Ring of Honor promotion two years ago as a way to produce royalty-free video tapes of wrestling events for his video business, which he started as a teen-ager, issued a press release Thursday announcing that he was stepping down as a partner of Ring of Honor Inc. and president of RF Video.

“Due to recent allegations that have been lodged against me it is in the best interest of both companies that until these allegations are resolved that I step down to avoid tarnishing the excellent reputation that has been built over the years of both companies,” said Feinstein.

Both companies, however, will continue to operate under new ownership. ROH announced on its Web site Friday that Douglas Gentry has been named new president and CEO of both RF Video and Ring of Honor.

RF Video had grown from just a mail-order business to having several retail locations across the country spanning from Pennsylvania to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The Ring of Honor promotion also has created considerable interest over the past year with a technically solid wrestling product.

While it is not yet known whether authorities will seek to file charges against Feinstein, officials are investigating the TV station’s choice of a neighborhood near an elementary school to use for the Internet sting, which was set up to lure pedophiles with the prospect of sex with 14-year-old girls and boys. The local police chief called the investigation “highly dangerous, totally unethical and immoral,” adding, “We want to make sure they are not luring pedophiles into our neighborhoods.”

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, three men went to the vacant house that the station had rented and used on Monday. Although the station has left the house, residents fear more pedophiles who have seen the address on the Internet will appear, so police are making extra patrols of the area.

Station officials denied any wrongdoing, but Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green said the station acted irresponsibly and potentially disastrously in preparing “Perverted Justice,” which aired on the final night of the TV “sweeps rating period.

Green, whose office is investigating whether any criminal charges are applicable, told the Inquirer that law-enforcement authorities run such sting operations only in controlled situations and locations, and only with highly trained personnel. Without such planning and preparation, Green said, “it was only good luck that no one was injured, no weapons were drawn, no child was attacked, and no citizen who happened to be on the street at that hour was accosted.”

Philadelphia station NBC-10 issued a statement Thursday saying it “believes this was a very important investigation to tackle, and is proud of its report. Child predators on the Internet are a huge problem, of which every parent should be acutely aware.” The station added that “no one was put in danger by this story” and says it is open to continuing a dialogue with concerned community members.

The Inquirer reported Friday that the township is considering suing NBC-10 to recoup overtime paid to police who patrolled the area after receiving word that the TV station had set up a pedophile sting operation there.

The incident comes just days before Ring of Honor’s biggest show to date March 13 in Elizabeth, N.J. The card includes a match for the newly formed Pure title with A.J. Styles defending against C.M. Punk, with Ricky Steamboat as special referee. Samoa Joe defends the promotion’s world title against Jay Briscoe inside a cage, along with a six-way match with Mark Briscoe, Amazing Red, Teddy Hart, Jack Evans, Jimmy Rave and. Sonjay Dutt.

– USA Championship Wrestling, which airs shows locally on the College Sports South network 10 p.m.-midnight on Fridays, is opening a full-time office in Atlanta effective March 20. Longtime promoter Bert Prentiss runs the company.

– Lowcountry resident and former WWE women’s champ Molly Holly appeared on WWE’s Byte This show Friday and discussed her upcoming match at Wrestlemania in which she puts her hair on the line against new champ Victoria’s title. Molly vows not to shed her locks, since she says she worked long and hard to get it healthy after having bleached it blonde for the first few years of her career.

Molly also discussed her religious ties, encouraging fans to see Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” blockbuster and mentioning that she goes to church every Tuesday and Wednesday night, her days off the road. She said that she spends time with fellow Christians in the wrestling business, such as Shawn Michaels and Charles Robinson, noting that brings her closer to God.

– The highly anticipated Jack Brisco autobiography, “Brisco – The Life & Times of National Collegiate and World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco,” has been released.

The 286-page softbound book, published by Culture House, is available for $24.95 and can be ordered on-line at www.wrestlingmuseum.org or calling Culture House at 641-526-8836 or the International Wrestling Museum at 641-791-1517.

Brisco is regarded as one of the greatest pure wrestlers in the history of the business. An NCAA champion at Oklahoma State University, Brisco went on to become one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling, winning the NWA world heavyweight title in 1973.

– The latest issue of Wrestling Perspective newsletter features an excellent interview with Ricky Steamboat.

Steamboat discusses the series he and the late Jay Youngblood had with Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle and Jack and Jerry Brisco in the Mid-Atlantic territory, his problems with Dusty Rhodes and why he quit the territory, his relationship with Vince McMahon and the WWF, and many other subjects.

The issue also includes a controversial look at the top 100 wrestlers of all time.

Wrestling Perspective is available by subscription for $2.50 per issue up to $30 for 12 issues. Checks should be made payable to Wrestling Perspective. The address is: Wrestling Perspective, 3011 Highway 30 West, Suite 101-197, Huntsville, Texas 77340.

– Ken Mihalik is selling his collection of Wrestling Observer newsletters from 1990-2000 (nearly 500 issues in all). He’ll also throw in three Wrestling Observer Yearbooks (1988, 1989, 1990) plus a unique WWF trunk that he’ll send them in. Minimum bid starts at $575. For more information, contact him at (843) 795-0590 or e-mail at [email protected]

– The plan to have Shawn Michaels in a ladder match at Wrestlemania, on the 10th anniversary of his famous ladder match with Scott Hall 10 years ago, has been scrapped.

– Bobby Heenan is currently doing a book tour for his latest, “Chair Shots and Other Obstacles,” which has just been released.

Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at [email protected] He is the co-author of “Sex, Lies and Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment,” which was recently released in paperback. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at 937-6000, ext. 3090.