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By Mike Johnson on 2023-10-20 01:39:00

This Saturday evening, Impact Wrestling will present the 2023 Bound for Glory PPV from Chicago, IL with a number of championship matches and grudges to be settled inside Cicero Stadium, but perhaps the most emotional moments of the night will come with the 2023 Impact Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony as Traci Brooks, the late Don West and Mike Tenay will all be forever enshrined for their importance to the promotion.

For Tenay, who remains as passionate a professional wrestling fan as he was the day he first spied Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer while watching wrestling for the first time with his grandfather many moons ago, it will be his first appearance on professional wrestling television since July 2015.

The Professor, indeed, has returned for one night and while it does not appear he will be announcing, certainly he’ll once again have something to teach everyone watching, both inside and outside of the professional wrestling bubble - lessons about class, about loss and about closure.  

While Tenay and his long-time broadcast partner and friend Don West will be inducted this Saturday, West is no longer with us, having passed in December 2022 following a long, courageous battle with cancer.

“It’s a really unique situation,” Tenay explained while speaking exclusively with earlier this week.  “The ability to not only be inducted yourself into the Hall of Fame, but also to be the spokesperson in essence for someone else. And I thought back on everybody that has gone into the Hall of Fame and I couldn't come up with anybody that has done it. I'm sure there has been, but it's a unique situation in that I have this balance of doing a tribute to Don and transitioning into a series of Mike Tenay ‘Thank You's,’ I guess you would say. When you have somebody that was as close to me as Don was and we became such great friends, it becomes such an immense honor to be a part of the tribute to him. The specific reason that I decided to do it this year was the time, it was related to his passing in December of last year. The fact that the event is emanating from Chicago, which is Don's hometown and the other primary reason behind it being the way that Scott D'Amore stepped up to the plate on the GoFundMe situation for Don and his family, and I certainly didn't see that coming.  I just thought it was just…I just felt like this was the perfect time where all the planets were aligned and it was the right thing to do. As far as Don, I think about this and you know, it's always nice to have recognition by your peers for the hard work that you do, for the dedication that you have to your craft, to your career. So, for me, this weekend is just extra special when you add the inclusion of Don West in his hometown. And I think at the same time, I hope that it provides in a sense, I hope it provides closure and I know it's an odd term, but I hope it provides closure for all my years with TNA and Impact Wrestling that has been missing for both Don and myself. It was the subject of a lot of conversations through the years that I had with Don after we both left the wrestling business and I just felt like it was finally the right time to do it.”

Tenay and West set the bar for broadcasting when it comes to TNA Impact Wrestling, a meshing of personalities that not only brought out the best when it came to enhancing storylines and moments, but a true brotherhood that shined through on screen, art imitating their friendship behind the scenes.

As to why the partnership worked so perfectly, Tenay reflected, “I think because we hit it off as friends even before we had our first minute on the air, and when I say friends, that was from the drive from Nashville to the event, the first one and it was almost like an immediate feeling that we've known each other for many, many years. We had so many things in common. We both shared, I think, an equal sense of humor on things. And again, this is part of the reflection that I've had in the last couple of weeks. If I can, I'd like to expand and I'm going to include Bobby Heenan in this and not detract from Don by any means, but only to make it more special. But I think back to that reflection and how amazing it's been to have two great friends as broadcast partners in Don West and Bobby Heenan. I've always thought that you don't need to be great friends with your announce partner to be a good broadcast team, but I always thought that it made working together on air so much easier when you're socially friendly. You're so much more comfortable together on air and I always believed that the friendship that Don and I had, I felt like it came across to the audience as opposed to just the business relationship. So, I think when you look back on it, the fact that we did so much together socially, If there was a pay-per-view in a city, it wasn't even a question of talking in advance that we were going to go out to dinner together the night before. We might discuss what sporting events or concerts or whatever it was that we wanted to go to together in that city. And it was so funny because that was a very similar relationship that I had with Bobby Heenan and almost miraculous to be able to pick it up after Bobby was gone, and just have our social lives and our friendship and our business lives just mesh together so well. I just think that that really was the key to being a strong broadcast team on air.”

Tenay is especially ecstatic that Don West’s family will be in attendance Saturday in Chicago, including his wife Terri, who initially Impact did not believe would be able to be at the ceremony.

“I think it's really great that Don's family is going to be in attendance this weekend," Tenay said.  “I know that his wife Terri is going to be there. I know her sister, who was just so incredibly helpful to the family, she moved her total base of operations to Washington to be Terri's strength and power. I've heard from Terri that Don's family, I think his mom and dad may be there. I know that the brothers who live in I think Georgia and Florida are trying to come, I don't know whether they're going to be there. I think it's just so important that they're there.”

While the loss of someone as gregarious, giving and beloved as Don West leaves an immeasurable loss in the lives of those who loved him (which was everyone who ever met Don, something I can speak about from personal experience), Tenay remains touched by those in the pro wrestling sphere who rallied around West to continue to support and connect with him and show their love for him during an obviously dark and hard battle against lymphoma of the brain.

“I also just wanted to make mention of a couple of people that when..”  Tenay said, pausing to collect himself, obviously caught by the emotion of the memory.  “The terrible thing was, it was a terrible coincidence that both Don West and Bobby Heenan lost their ability to speak.  It tears my heart out because it was really the lifeblood of both guys. Just think of Bobby Heenan and Don West and not being able to talk. My God, it was their everything. The number of people that when they know that it's gonna be very, very difficult to have a conversation with someone, the number of people that because they can't handle it personally, they then reject or ignore that person because they feel bad that they're having a difficult time hearing, understanding what the other person is saying on the other end of the phone. And I thought, I didn't get to see it in Don's eyes because of the nature of how he was kept in that facility in Washington, in Seattle, not able to have visitors. But I saw in Bobby's eyes, in so many conversations that his friends from so many years didn't contact him anymore. It was horrible. So, I just want to mention Jeff Jarrett, Earl Hebner, Chris Harris from America’s Most Wanted, Scott D’Amore and Craig Jenkins, who worked with TNA behind the scenes.  My God, every week we talked to Don and I kind of helped facilitate as much as I could. When I knew that Don was available to do that we would do, you know, multiple calls and have multiple people on the line. ‘Maybe today's a good day to send Don a text message.’   But darn, those five guys were just strong. And they didn't take the easy way out by looking the other way and saying well, I don't want to have that.  They didn't take the easy way out. They went the extra mile to have that attempted conversation and that really meant a lot to me.”

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