A ten-bell salute is a gesture of respect given to a professional wrestler who has recently passed away, particularly when the honored wrestler is a current member or distinguished former member of a promotion. It is essentially the professional wrestling equivalent of a military 21-gun salute.
It is typically given at the beginning of a card, with current members of a promotion - wrestlers and other on-screen talent, promoters, referees and other staff members - gathering either in the entrance ramp, or in or around the ring. The audience joins the wrestlers in a moment of silence during the tolling of the bell.
While it is not known how long ten-bell salutes have been a part of wrestling, one of the earlier instances where it has been televised was in 1993, when André the Giant died of heart failure; Andre had wrestled for the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) for nearly two decades. The ten-bell salute honoring him was aired on the fourth episode of Monday Night Raw.
Other deceased wrestlers who have been honored include Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Gorilla Monsoon, "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, Chris Candido, Lord Alfred Hayes and Eddie Guerrero. Chris Benoit was also given a ten-bell salute at several World Wrestling Entertainment events, before the facts of the deaths of his wife and son, and his (Benoit's) subsequent suicide were concretely known.
A ten-bell salute was also given at WWF events following the September 11, 2001 attacks, to honor those who were killed in the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Uses in kayfabe
The ten-bell salute has generally been regarded as sacred by many professional wrestling fans and critics, but that has not stopped promoters - in particular, the WWE - from using the ten-bell salute as part of a storyline. These storylines include:
- A 1988 in-ring promo where Bobby "the Brain" Heenan accused Hulk Hogan of causing supposedly "fatal" injuries to "King" Harley Race. The WWF's heels stood in the ring to support Heenan as he demanded the ten-bell salute. The storyline had grown out of a match where Race was legitimately injured during a match vs. Hogan, due to a mistimed move; Heenan had made reference to this match during the promo.
- A 1998 storyline where Paul Bearer and Kane tolled the bell 10 times in ring to mock the (kayfabe) death Undertaker, whom Kane had supposedly killed when he set ablaze to the casket in which the Undertaker was forced into at the 1998 Royal Rumble.
- A 2007 angle where WWE chairman Vince McMahon (performing as his on-screen character, Mr. McMahon) was "presumed dead" after the limosuine he was a passenger in exploded at the end of a WWE Monday Night Raw broadcast. The "ten-bell" salute was given the following week.
|Ten Bell Salute to Brian Pillman.||Ten Bell Salute to Owen Hart in Stampede Wrestling.|