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Ask 411 Wrestling 01.18.12: Why Cena is Booed, DX Mocks the Nation, Piper vs Snuka, and More!

January 18, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am Ryan Byers, and I have been filling in for Mathew Sforcina over the last several weeks due to some professional commitments that Mat has had. This is my last guest shot before Mr. Sforcina returns, and I’m not in the mood to waste it with small talk . . . so let’s get into the meat of this column!


And what’s a good banner without a good Twitter?




I wound up spending a *lot* more time answering questions than I thought I might this week, so we’re going to keep the Backtalking relatively brief.

APinOZ fills our Aussie quota while Mat is away and asks about two topics from last week:

Good job stepping in for Mat, although as a fellow Australian, I’m simply going to play the diplomatic card and say you’re as good as each other.

In regard to the cage match question, a little more background. I believe Texas promoter Paul Boesch came up with the cage concept but in its early incarnation, it was known as a “Fence Match”. As you stated, the cage was originally little more than chicken wire, even up to the mid-1970s, at least here in Australia. The Australian promotion, known as World Championship Wrestling long before the WCW of the late 80s to 2001, also came up with the idea of the “Barbed Wire Cage Match”, in which a barbed wire fence enclosed the ring (Note, it wasn’t coiled around the ropes, nor were the ropes removed) Spiros Arion and Waldo Von Erich settled a vicious feud with a barbed wire match in 1972.

I believe the Memphis promotion produced one of the first versions of the “Hell In A Cell” type cage for a famous match between Jerry Lawler and Austin Idol in about 1988. In a “loser gets a crew cut” stipulation, Tommy Rich hid under the ring and helped Idol win the match, and almost cause a riot in Memphis.

Now to your top 5 recognisable names. I totally get The Rock, Rikidozan, El Santo and Hulk Hogan. And given its an opinion, you can’t be wrong, but did you consider Steve Austin, Andre The Giant or Gorgeous George?

I don’t know if the Paul Boesch story regarding the invention of the cage match holds water, because, from what I can tell, Boesh debuted as a wrestler in the late 1930s and there were already early versions of the cage match being held around that time. I’m not saying that Boesch didn’t popularize the cage match when he started booking, but the timeline doesn’t work out for him being the promoter who came up with the idea.

I also thank you for the note on the Australian version of World Championship Wrestling. Sadly, despite being the hottest wrestling territory in the world for a period of time, that group seems to have been largely forgotten by the rest of the world, to the point that I’ve never even seen footage of them despite the fact that I’m the guy on this site who will watch just about anything that a promoter calls wrestling.

As far as the “recognizable names” list is concerned, that question from last week generated a lot of discussion, and, for the most part, I’m going to stick by my original list as published. I did, in fact, consider Austin, Andre, and Gorgeous George when putting it together. I didn’t include Austin because he and the Rock were from the same era, and I feel that the Rock has become a bigger mainstream star than Austin not necessarily because of his time in wrestling but because of his ongoing movie career. I didn’t include Andre because, even though he was a big international star and a huge draw, I don’t think that he reached the same level of defining what wrestling in his home country was like Santo, Rikidozan, and even Hulk Hogan did. I didn’t include Gorgeous George because, though he was important to the early success of pro wrestling on television in the United States, he was a contemporary of Lou Thesz (who did make my list) and, while George was huge in the United States, Thesz was huge not just in the United States but simultaneously huge in Japan and later huge in Mexico, making him more recognizable on a worldwide basis than George.

Your Turn, Smart Guy

Last week’s question was:

I am a performer currently under contract with WWE, though I first held gold with a regional promotion. Over the years, I have become known for my controversial promos and am heralded as one of the best mic workers in the business. When I’m on WWE television, I am portrayed as being very proud of where I come from. I spend a lot of my time hanging out with a non-WWE contracted fighter who I like to call Colton. Who am I?

About half of the people who answered got this and about half of the people who answered this didn’t get it. The people who got it realized that it was designed to be a swerve, set up to make people think that it might have been CM Punk when, in reality, the answer is . . .

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Both guys are under WWE contract, with Piper having a legends deal and Punk being under a regular contract. Both held regional titles before coming to WWE. Both guys have cut promos which are put over on WWE television as being controversial. Both guys are portrayed as being proud of where they come from. (Punk with Chicago and Piper with his kayfabe home of Scotland.) Both guys hang out with non-WWE performers named Colton, with Punk’s best friend being Scott “Colt Cabana” Colton and Piper’s son being named Colton Toombs.

The key is the use of the word “fighter” before the Colton clue. Colt Cabana isn’t a fighter. He’s a pro wrestler. Piper’s son, meanwhile, has had pro-MMA fights and, as far as I know, continues to train.

Also, though this is much more subjective, there is no way that I would call Punk one of the “best mic workers in the business.” He’s a good promo, but he’s too early into his career to be considered the best of anything. Piper, meanwhile, has the resume to be given such an elite distinction.

No question from me this week, as I won’t be back to answer it. On to the reader questions!

Questions, Questions, Who’s Got the Questions?

James has a doozy:

My question is short but may take some time to locate the answers. The other day I was watching some old school World Championship Wrestling on WWE Classics on Demand and I then thought of something to ask you. Going back to say 1980 to the present, who were the bookers for the WWF and now WWE? Who were the bookers from 1980 to 2001 for WCW? ECW? I know Heyman was one but I’m sure there were others before him. I always wondered who was booking around angles and supercards at certain times over the past 30 years.

I’ll start this answer off with a disclaimer. A lot of the booking of professional wrestling in the modern era has been handled by committee, and it gets insanely difficult to track when various members of a booking team dropped on and off. So, unless otherwise noted, in answering this question I am focusing on who the head of the committee was and who had significant influence as opposed to trying to name every grunt that pushed a pencil around for a short period of time.

Extreme Championship Wrestling

We’ll start with ECW, because that’s the easiest story to tell. The forerunner to what would become Extreme Championship Wrestling was the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, which was essentially an independent group in the Northeast owned and operated by a man named Joel Goodhart in the late 1980s. If Goodhart had anybody else booking for him, I can’t come across any record of it, though the promotion was so small that it seems unlikely. Tod Gordon, who previously made his living as a pawnbroker, was the major money man backing Tri-State, and, in 1992, Goodhart sold his interest in Tri-State to Gordon, leaving him as the sole owner. Gordon rebranded the company as Eastern Championship Wrestling and installed Eddie Gilbert, who was wrestling for the promotion at the time, as head booker.

Gilbert’s run on top of ECW didn’t last long, as he suffered from a variety of “personal demons” and couldn’t be relied upon. In 1993, he quietly slipped out of the company and was replaced with Paul Heyman. Gilbert and Heyman were friends and had previously booked the Albama-based Continental Championship Wrestling together in the late 1980s, so it was a natural transition. Believe it or not, Heyman remained in primary control of the company’s creative direction until the very end in 2001, though he had a reputation on taking ideas from the company’s wrestlers and incorporating them into the storylines (or just handing them a live mic and letting them do whatever they wanted). As a result, Tommy Dreamer, Raven, and many others had some input into the company.

When WWE relaunched ECW as a “brand” on the SciFi Network in 2006, Heyman was in control of creative once again, though he was subject to the WWE creative hierarchy at the time. (See below for who exactly those people were.) However, he was taken out of this position late in the year after the debacle of a pay per view that was December to Dismember, and then the show would be treated much more like a traditional WWE show in terms of how it was put together. Heyman’s immediate replacement was David Lagana, a Hollywood writer who had been with WWE since 2002. Lagana was fired by WWE early in 2008 and was replaced by, of all people, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

Ultimately, Rhodes (who was 63 at the time) decided that he did not want to have a position that required him to travel heavily, so he was reassigned to oversee the creative direction for developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling. So, later in 2008, Big Dust was replaced by long-time creative team member Ed Koskey. To the best of my knowledge, Koskey kept the position to the very end, when ECW was axed and replaced by NXT in early 2010. We’ll follow up with the rest of Koskey’s WWE career a little bit later on . . .

World Championship Wrestling

WCW came into existence in 1988, when Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett Promotions, which had previously been providing programming for his television station TBS. When the transition from JCP to WCW occurred, the man in charge of the book was none other than Dusty Rhodes. (Gee, his name seems to pop up a lot around here.) As the buyout was taking place, the decision was made that Rhodes would leave the position. Different sources provide different information as to why Dusty gave up the book, with some pointing to “burnout” caused by man years of working in creative positions for wrestling and others pointing to political disagreements with Ric Flair, who the promotion sided with because he was their biggest draw at the time.

Regardless of what caused Rhodes to step down, the result was newly-appointed WCW Executive Vince President Jim Herd appointing Flair himself to be the head of the booking committee in late 1988 or early 1989. Herd himself, who did not have a wrestling background, would also interject his own ideas from time-to-time, with one of his more infamous creations being the tag team of the Ding Dongs. Other committee members around this time included Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, and Kevin Sullivan.

However, Flair’s run was short-lived, as there was some backstage jealousy when the sentiment started to develop that the Nature Boy was unjustifiably putting himself over the other talent. This lead to Slick Ric getting tossed from the committee in 1990. Jim Herd himself started to take a more hands-on approach to overseeing the booking of the company, though he also brought in veteran wrestling promoter Jim Barnett. Jim Crockett, the former owner of Jim Crockett promotions (duh) was also brought back to serve on the committee during this time. After only a short time with this version of the committee in place, it was announced the Ole Anderson, who had previously booked the old Georgia territory and had recently been pulled from active in-ring competition, was going to be put in charge of WCW’s creative.

Ole Anderson, however, was not particularly well-liked by many people in the promotion, in large part because he had a core group of guys who he wanted to push, and he made sure that, if you weren’t part of that group, you weren’t getting over. That, combined with the fact that the company was bleeding money throughout 1990 (losing approximately $6 million, to be exact), and Ole was dismissed in December of that year. Flair was briefly restored to power, though it was generally understood that it was a stopgap measure until a new booker could be hired on a full-time basis as opposed to something that was meant to be long term.

What was meant to be long term? None other than Dusty Rhodes, who was brought back into the WCW fold and completely restructured the booking committee with the exception of Kevin Sullivan, who was allowed to stick around. However, as was becoming par for the course in WCW, the head booker didn’t remain in the position for too long. Dusty only made it until March 1992, as Jim Herd, after several years of losing big bucks, resigned from the promotion and was replaced with another executive who had little to no wrestling background, Kip Allen Frey. Shortly after his arrival in the promotion, Frey relieved Dusty of his creative duties and made him an announcer full-time, bringing in “Cowboy” Bill Watts to head up creative and hopefully right the ship.

Watts continued the string of short reigns on top, as he bounced in 1993. Watts was in hot water throughout his time with WCW, in part because he did absolutely nothing to increase the company’s business (and, in fact, it continued to slide), in part because he had an anti-corporate bias that lead to him slamming Turner higher ups on a regular basis, and in part because he almost botched the negotiations to bring Ric Flair back to the company after his WWF run by bickering with the Nature Boy over money. Originally WCW attempted to demote Watts by keeping him over creative but sending the power to hire and fire wrestlers elsewhere, but the Cowboy didn’t find that acceptable and quit rather than take the demotion.

This is where Eric Bischoff entered in the picture. He was made “Executive Vice President” of WCW in 1993, gaining not only creative power of his own but also the ability to shape the booking committee. It’s at this time that the committee really started to get out of control, with over a dozen members being added and a near constant rotation of who the top guy was ensuing. For a period of time, believe it or not, Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson became power players on the committee again, despite the fact that none of their ideas had worked to make WCW money for several years prior. Ric Flair also regained prominence for a period of time, because there was at one point a rare meeting between the folks who ran the wrestling operation and Ted Turner himself (despite how Vince McMahon may portray it, Turner was usually very “hands off” with WCW) and Turner favored Flair’s opinion over all others because he was the wrestler with whom Billionaire Ted was the most familiar.

Then, of course, Eric Bischoff convinced Turner executives to shell out a ton of money to sign Hulk Hogan to a deal in 1994. At this point, the issue of who booked the promotion started to get muddied a bit, because Bischoff himself got more involved in the creative process and Hogan had his infamous creative control, with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash also exerting a fair amount of power over the product once they showed up. However, it’s widely accepted that the guy who was the head booker throughout most of the Hulkster’s early run in WCW was none other than Kevin Sullivan. (Hey, you didn’t think that anybody other than Sullivan thought the Dungeon of Doom was a good idea, do you?)

Near as I can tell, Sullivan actually lasted for a fairly lengthy period of time, though, again, Bischoff and the top NWO guys were exercising so much of their own authority that it’s a little bit difficult to give him too much credit for the era, whether positive or negative. The next time that I am aware of a change in the man who was considered to be the head booker occurred during 1998, when Kevin Nash rose to power. Coincidentally enough, it occurred right around the same time that Kevin Nash was being built up to be the guy who ended Bill Goldberg’s undefeated streak, taking the championship off of him at Starrcade 1998. He continued in the position through the summer of 1999, which I recall some online fans dubbing the “Summer of Shit” at the time, not just because the shows were horrible but also because the main feud was a program between Nash and Randy Savage in which they took turns dumping poo on each other. No, seriously.

The fall of 1999 saw the much-hyped jump of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara to WCW, and they headed up the company’s creative team starting with Halloween Havoc ’99. However, they didn’t last long at all, with Russo being removed from power shortly before the Souled Out ’00 pay per view, in part because the television ratings were not good, in part because he kept butting heads with Turner executives regarding the content of the shows that he booked, and in part because he pushed the company to axe hour number three of Monday Nitro, which cost them a fair amount of ad revenue. When Russo was sent to the sidelines, a committee lead by Kevin Sullivan booked the promotion once again, taking care of things through the early months of 2000.

When Sullivan failed to turn things around and also lead to the defection of the Radicals to the WWF, the powers that be in Turner decided that yet another change was warranted, and they went crawling back to Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo. Their combined regime began in April 2000 with an episode of Nitro that was almost literally a “relaunch” of the company, as all championships were simultaneously vacated, new wrestlers showed up left and right, and most existing storylines were scrapped in favor of new material. However, Bischoff and Russo did not work well together, with Bischoff being highly critical of Russo’s writing and particularly Russo’s derision of Bischoff buddy Hulk Hogan, which culminated in the infamous work-ish, shoot-ish promo by Russo on the Hulkster at the 2000 version of the Bash at the Beach. Rather than continue to deal with Vince Russo, Bischoff decided that he was going to walk out and not look back. This left Russo in sole control of the company’s creative direction for several months, which gave us the ridiculous angle in which Goldberg “refused to follow the script” during one of his matches.

Eventually, around October 2000, Russo stepped down from his creative duties. It’s not entirely clear why. In the past, Russo’s explanation was that he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome as a result of injuries that he suffered in an angle with Goldberg. Others explained it by saying that WCW’s popularity continued to slide and slide with no real end in sight. At around the same time, the sale of WCW by AOL-Time Warner was being discussed, and Eric Bischoff and his financial backers signed a letter of intent to purchase the company. During the dying days of the promotion, Bischoff had a fair amount of sway due to the fact that everybody assumed that he would wind up purchasing the company, but on paper the booking was handled by a committee that consisted of Terry Taylor, Ed Ferarra, and current executive vice president of talent relations and interim Raw general manager John Luarinaitis. That group rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic until Bischoff’s bid to buy the company fell through and Vince McMahon and company swooped in to feed on WCW’s corpse.

Speaking of Vince McMahon . . .

World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment

Despite being the largest professional wrestling promotion in the history of . . . well . . . history, there’s surprisingly little information out there about who had the book in the WWF and when. I have a feeling that it’s in large part because Vince McMahon is such a dominating personality and everything is subject to his ultimate approval that many people who try to document what happens in the creative process are happy to just say, “Well, it’s Vince’s company” and move on, even though there are other people who, technically speaking, are the heads of the company’s creative direction.

The 1980s were largely dominated by Vince McMahon himself, Gorilla Monsoon, Pat Patterson, and long-time booker/promoter Jim Barnett, though the first man who is usually pointed to as making an immediate change to the company’s direction is George Scott, a veteran territorial wrestler and trusted ally of Vince McMahon Sr. who was brought in by the WWF to serve as head booker beginning in roughly 1983. It was Scott’s regime that the company held the first two Wrestlemanias, brought in Mr. T, and turned Hulk Hogan into a household name. Scott continued with the company through 1986, with his departure supposedly having a lot to do with the fact that he was not a big fan of the burgeoning drug scene backstage in the Fed. Again, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of definitive information about there who took over after Scott’s departure (unless a reader has something that will fill in the blank) but, again, it’s generally understood that Pat Patterson and Gorilla Monsoon were both guys who had a lot of control, though JJ Dillon also came in around this time and stayed with the company in a backstage role from 1989 through the mid-1990s. It’s not entirely clear who the “head” of the creative process was during this period, though.

In addition to the involvement of JJ Dillon, the 1990s brought about some bad news for the World Wrestling Federation, as in 1993 and 1994, Vince McMahon was indicted and put on trial for a variety of federal drug crimes. Obviously that took Vince out of the picture for a period of time, and Patterson was largely in control, though there was also reportedly a “backup plan” that would involve Jerry Jarrett coming in and running the company in the event that McMahon was sentenced to a prison term and couldn’t continue in his usual role. However, Vince was ultimately acquitted, allowing him to resume his duties before the end of 1994. After the steroid trial, it is typically accepted that Bill Watts was brought in to be the head booker during 1995, though his involvement with the company was incredibly short-lived (as in a matter of months), reportedly due to backstage clashes with the ego of Shawn Michaels, which was running wild at that period.

This is when things started to ramp up for the Attitude Era. Jim Cornette had first come to the WWF in 1993 as a manager, but he couldn’t do much in the way of booking because he was still running Smokey Mountain Wrestling at the time. However, SMW folded in 1996, and, at this time, Cornette became one of the main forces on the WWF booking team, alongside Bruce Prichard (also known as Brother Love). Cornette and Prichard were in charge of things for the majority of 1996 and through 1997, the latter of which has to be one of my favorite calendar years of wrestling that the WWF has ever produced. Vince Russo was also involved during this time, first joining the writing team during 1996 and becoming head writer at some point in 1997 (though his less wrestling-friendly tendencies were still reined in a bit by McMahon, Cornette, and Prichard). Russo was in full power throughout 1998 and most of 1999 when, as previously mentioned, he jumped ship to WCW.

Russo’s immediate successor as head of creative was Chris Kreski, a professional television writer and author who had worked largely for MTV on shows like Celebrity Deathmatch and even the early version of The Daily Show in addition to ghostwriting Barry “Greg Brady” Williams’ controversial 1992 autobiography. Kreski was head of creative from Fall 1999 through Fall 2000, when he was replaced by Stephanie McMahon. Kreski would keep writing for WWE through 2002, but, unfortunately, he passed away in 2005 after a battle with cancer.

Aaaaand Kreski’s replacement, Stephanie McMahon, has pretty much been the head of the creative department (subject, of course, to Vince McMahon’s oversight) ever since she took over for him. After the separation of Raw and Smackdown into two different “brands,” the two shows have had their own head writers, but everybody answers to Stephanie. The head writer of Raw, starting with Chris Kreski’s reign, was Brian Gewirtz. Before becoming part of the WWF, Gewirtz had worked on Jenny McCarthy’s short-lived sitcom Jenny in the late 1990’s. Gewirtz, though still with the company in a creative capacity, was actually replaced as the Raw head writer during Summer 2011. The new writer is Dave Kapoor, a long-time member of the creative team who also had an on-air role as Ranjin Singh, the Great Khali’s manager/translator/brother.

There has been a little bit more fluidity in the position of Smackdown head writer. The first person who I am able to find record of being the SD chief after the brand split turned it into a separate show is Paul Heyman. Heyman was in charge of the program from 2002 through 2005, when he was demoted to overseeing Ohio Valley Wrestling. The replacement for Heyman was Alex Greenfield, a young writer who, in addition to his WWE credits, has penned a couple of low-level horror movies. Greenfield’s time on top was short-lived, as Michael Hayes, formerly of the Fabulous Freebirds, took the top writing spot in October 2006, and he headed it until the same time that Brian Gewirtz was replaced as Raw head writer. When Gewirtz was succeeded by Kapoor, Hayes was succeeded by Ed Koskey, who, as we noted early, used to oversee the WWE version of ECW.

And that does it . . . thirty years of head bookers/creative team heads for three different promotions, taking up about five pages of content. That’s a helluva way to kick off the final installment of this guest writing run.

Name Redacted wants to go to the Power Plant:

I was watching the “New Year’s Evil” Monday Nitro from 12-27-99. At 57:45 into the broadcast, after the Revolution vignette, the camera shows a few guys from WCW’s power plant training facility. I know the first two are Chuck Palumbo and Mark Jindrak. I also know that the sixth guy is Elix Skipper. Would you happen to know who the rest of these gentlemen are sitting with them at ringside? I have included the link below to make this much easier for you to find.

One of the negatives about writing this column is that the backlog of questions is so big that, sometimes, by the time you get around to answering something, it’s a little outdated. Such is the case here, as the man who asked the question actually included a link to the exact video that he’s referring to, but, due to the passage of time, it is no longer available. I’ve been unable to find the footage elsewhere.

However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t still try my best to answer the question. I may not be able to identify exactly who was at the episode of Nitro referenced in the question, but what I can tell you is that, around the same time this episode aired, WCW was doing a gimmick in which they regularly had Power Plant graduates who weren’t wrestling on other WCW shows having special matches against each other on Saturday Night. Most likely, it was the WCW Saturday Night crew of Power Plant guys who were seated at ringside for New Year’s Evil. Near as I can tell, the WCWSN Power Plant showcase matches began on the November 6, 1999 episode and continued until the show was turned into a recap program in 2000. They featured the following guys:

John Hugger: Hugger wrestled under his real name in the WCW Saturday Night matches and then made his debut in the mainstream WCW continuity when he was repackaged as Johnny the Bull and teamed up with Big Vito in the Mamalukes. Hugger was one of the guys whose contract the WWF bought out when it purchased WCW, and he had one Invasion-era appearance on TV before being sent down to developmental. He would resurface as Johnny Stamboli after the Invasion, competing in WWE from 2002 through 2004. His next major stop after being released was All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he became MUTA, an imposter Great Muta character. The MUTA run only lasted about a year and, after hanging out on the indies for a while, Hugger popped up in TNA. He was wearing the same mask that he wore to do the MUTA gimmick, except now he was calling himself Rellik (that’s “killer” spelled backwards) and doing a monster gimmick.

Elix Skipper: Our asker already correctly identified Elix Skipper, who had many WCWSN appearances and one attempt at a rapper gimmick (under the name “Skip Over”) before getting his breakout role as a member of Lance Storm’s Team Canada. When Skipper was dismissed from Team Canada in the last few months of WCW, he and Kid Romeo formed a team to become the inaugural WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions, a title that would not last long at all due to the demise of the promotion. Skipper too was picked up by the WWF in the WCW buyout, but he never made TV in any meaningful capacity and spent less than a year in developmental before being released. Like Hugger, he also appeared for a brief time in AJPW before jumping to TNA early in the history of the company and sticking around there until 2008.

Mike Sanders: Mike Sanders is one of the few Power Plant guys who didn’t have much of a career after WCW folded. He got a reputation for being a good promo guy while in WCW, which lead to him becoming the de facto leader of the “Natural Born Thrillers” stable that most of this Power Plant crew would form. He was also the on-air commissioner of WCW for a period of time. Sanders is another guy who WWF hired in the fallout of WCW’s collapse. However, he barely made it a year in developmental (despite showing such aptitude for wrestling that he was made the booker of developmental territory HWA) and was let go. He was part of TNA very early on but, again, stayed there for less than a year before being let go. That was the last time he showed up in a somewhat significant promotion, though there have been reports of him showing up on indy cars as recently as 2011.

Chuck Palumbo: This guy’s career pattern should look familiar. He had some early success in WCW and was a Tag Team Champion with both Mark Jindrak and Sean O’Haire. His team with O’Haire carried on to the WWF during the Invasion, though they were dropped from the angle before its conclusion and sent down to developmental. Palumbo made it back up from OVW after a relatively short period of time and formed the tag team with Billy Gunn that he is probably best remembered for. He would also spend some time as a member of the FBI before getting cut from the company. He ALSO wrestled for All Japan briefly when he was out of WWE, though, unlike many of his Power Plant brethren, WWE brought him back into the fold a few years after his release. Chuck remained there from 2006 to 2008, mostly under a biker gimmick. I’ve not heard of him doing much of anything in wrestling after his most recent WWE release.

Mark Jindrak: Jindrak has probably had the longest continuous major league wrestling career of any of these men. He and Sean O’ Haire were a fairly successful tag team in WCW’s latter days, and he was brought over to the WWF in the buyout. After a run in developmental, Jindrak was on WWE television pretty much nonstop from 2002 through 2005, though nothing the company attempted got him over, with the failures including a team with Lance Cade, a “narcissist” type gimmick with Teddy Long as a manager, and being portrayed as a protégé of Kurt Angle. Jindrak briefly showed up in New Japan Pro Wrestling (not All Japan) and HUSTLE after he was cut by the E, and then he became a pretty damn big star in Mexico. Jindrak changed his ring name to Marco Corleone and wrestled for CMLL (later jumping to the rival AAA promotion) and got huge reactions as a result of being marketed to female fans as lucha’s resident sex symbol. He continues to wrestle in Mexico as Corleone to this day.

Jamie Howard: Howard is better known as Jamie “By God” Noble or James Gibson. He had a few WCWSN showcase matches under the Jamie Howard moniker before being repackaged as Jamie-san of the Jung Dragons. From there he became Jamie Noble when his Dragons cohorts turned on and unmasked him. Aside from a brief run in Ring of Honor after being released for steroid usage, Noble is the only guy from this Power Plant crew who was picked up by WWF/WWE who is still employed by them to this day. Most who read this are probably familiar with his exploits as a wrestler with the company, which came to an end in 2009 when he decided to retire and was put out of action in kayfabe terms by Sheamus. Noble remains with the promotion as a road agent.

Rick Cornell: Cornell probably had the shortest in-ring career of this group. After a few matches under this name on Saturday Night and WCW’s syndicated shows, he was renamed “Reno” to feud with Big Vito as his estranged brother. That rivalry didn’t really get him anywhere, nor did his brief run as part of the Natural Born Thrillers. Cornell’s contract was picked up by the WWF, but he didn’t last a year in developmental. To my knowledge, he never did anything else in wrestling outside of a couple of appearances in the short-lived World Wrestling All-Stars promotion. The only real last effect that Reno had on wrestling is that you still catch people (myself included) calling the Last Rites/Cross-Rhodes maneuver the “Roll of the Dice,” which is what Reno referred to it as when the move was his finisher.

Alan Funk: “Angry” Allan Funk had a short-lived tag team with Mike Sanders on WCW’s syndicated shows called the “Re-Enforcers,” which claimed to pick up on the legacy of Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko. Before long, he became Kwee Wee, an odd mashup of “Exotic” Adrian Street and Saturday Night Live’s character “Mango,” played by Chris Kattan. Funk was actually one of my favorite wrestlers to come out of the Power Plant at the time (probably because he had the most personality), but he also had one of the shorter runs on top. He too did a run in WWE developmental after WCW collapsed but was never called up, leading to him playing a character similar to Kwee Wee in the early days of TNA. He was sidelined by injuries, though, and the next time he made headlines was when he competed on a very small independent show in Helsinki, Finland and suffered numerous broken bones in his face and skull due to a botched legdrop spot. Fortunately he has recovered to the point that he can wrestle again, and he has subsequently appeared in both All Japan and also Lucha Libre USA alongside Mark Jindrk.

Sonny Siaki: Siaki didn’t accomplish nearly as much as the rest of the Power Plant crew did in WCW. He wasn’t part of the Natural Born Thrillers and actually left the company before it folded, going on to compete for an independent promotion run by Dusty Rhodes called Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling. His connection with Dusty and his ties to the old WCW regime got him into TNA from 2002 through 2005, where he was initially pushed pretty hard due to his physical similarities to the Rock. His career there petered out over time, though, and a run in WWE developmental didn’t produce anything either. If anything, Siaki is best remembered for the guys that he hurt during his career. Remember me mentioning that Alan Funk had his face crushed in Finland off a botched legdrop? Yeah, that was Siaki. He was also involved in the spot where Chris Candido broke his leg in TNA, which lead (albeit indirectly) to his hospitalization and eventual death.

Kid Romeo: Romeo is another guy who, though he appeared to have a fair amount of talent early on, didn’t go too far. He actually had two separate WCW runs in a relatively brief period of time, debuting in 1999 and leaving very early in 2000. After a tour or two of New Japan and some independent shots, he popped up in WCW again during its very last month in existence, winning the aforementioned Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles. He chose not to go to the WWF after the fact and instead had brief runs in TNA and Puerto Rico’s WWC, which never lead anywhere.

So, that was the crew of Power Plant guys who were being introduced to WCW at the time you mentioned. How many of these guys were sitting around during the December 27, 1999 Nitro? I can’t really say, but hopefully this is enough information that, should you ever come across that clip again, you will be able to answer the question yourself.

On a somewhat related note, here is Shady Wright:

I remember hearing that there was a sort of “fake invasion” happening in Japan eight or nine years ago with Hernandez portraying Angle and (I think, but I’m not sure) The Amazing Red playing Rey Mysterio and Alan Funk as Hulk Hogan. What happened there? One guy I know who was a trainer at Shawn Michaels school said that this would result in major heat for them, that they may even be blackballed. What was the story behind the faux invasion, and what was the resulting fallout for the guys involved?

The situation that you’re referring to occurred in 2003 in All Japan Pro Wrestling. For folks who don’t follow the Japanese scene, there’s a little bit of background necessary to explain things: Instead of running virtually every week nonstop as American promotions do, Japanese promotions have a practice of going on tour for several weeks and then going off tour for several weeks, during which no shows are run. The tours have several relatively minor shows and television tapings and culminate in one major show at the end of the tour. Japanese promotions have brought in American wrestlers for their tours literally for as long as there has been homegrown wrestling in Japan, and usually whether an American is going to come to Japan is decided on a tour-by-tour basis.

Starting on August 19, 2003 and ending on September 6, 2003, All Japan ran a tour called the “Summer Excite Series II.” There were a lot of American wrestlers booked for that tour, including Mike Awesome (wrestling as “The Gladiator,” the name he previously used in FMW); Gigantes (formerly The Wall in WCW/Malice in TNA); and Extreme Blade (Elix Skipper under a mask). All of these guys had been on several AJPW tours earlier in the year, and they would be on several more. However, for this particular tour, the All Japan office decided that they also wanted to try out some new foreign wrestlers. That’s where Hernandez and Alan Funk came in. For reasons that I don’t entirely understand, they were in fact given the gimmicks of a Kurt Angle impersonator and a Hulk Hogan impersonator, respectively. Also, the Amazing Red, who had been on several AJPW tours earlier in the year under a couple of different masked gimmicks (first as “Fuego” and then as “Spriggan”), was repackaged as Red Misterio to go along with the impersonator theme. Red’s Misterio gimmick didn’t last too long, though, as he blew out his knee in his first match under the new hood and was out of commission through the rest of the tour.

There wasn’t really an “invasion” aspect to this occurring. The guys were just run of the mill foreigners who were on the tour, teaming up with the other American wrestlers who were there and also with TAKA Michinoku, who was allied with Gigantes in existing storylines. Also, there was virtually no involvement of these men in the company’s main event picture. One or two of them would do a house show main event as part of a six man tag, but, by and large, they were confined to the undercard and not mixing it up with the Mutos and Kawadas of the world. In fact, on the pay per view event that closed the tour, Hernandez was in singles action on the third match of the show and the Funkster was one of six guys in the second match on the card, while Red was still sidelined.

So, really, calling this an “invasion angle” or acting as though it was in any way a significant part of the Japanese wrestling scene is sort of misplaced. It was just a couple of guys being brought in to do an undercard comedy act for three weeks on some All Japan shows.

Did the three wrestlers involved get any heat for this? I’ve not really heard anything regarding that one way or the other. The only evidence that we have one way or the other is the fact that Hernandez has worked with Kurt Angle for many, many years now in TNA, all seemingly without incident. That would lead one to believe that there’s no real heat over the situation.

Adam Curry is sensational:

When DX did that promo where they were all dressed like the Nation of Domination, who was the guy that was supposed to be Owen Hart (R.I.P.)? He looks WAY too small to be a wrestler. Was he a guy that worked in the back or something, or did they find some guy off the street that looked kinda Owen? “Of course I can smell what the Rock is cooking, look at my damn nose!”

His stage name was Jason Sensation, and he was essentially a wrestling fan who got on TV through incredible, blind, dumb luck. He grew up in a rural area of Canada and started impersonating wrestlers as a kid. A chance meeting with Owen Hart and the British Bulldog during which he did his impressions got him on the WWF’s radar, and they used him in a couple of minor promotional roles before bringing him to Raw to play Owen Hart in D-Generation X’s parody of the Nation of Domination.

Shortly after the DX skit occurred, Sensation did sign a three year contract with the WWF and was, for a period of time, sent to the company’s late 90’s developmental territory in Memphis to learn to be a manager. However, nothing ever came of that, and Sensation never did anything significant in wrestling again. In fact, since his Owen Hart impression made Raw, the most noteworthy thing that he has done is appear on several wrestling radio shows in 2007 to make a series of allegations (which have never been proven to have any truth to them whatsoever) that, when he was in WWE, he was sexually assaulted by Kevin Fertig, the wrestler who would go on to play the roles of Mordecai and Kevin Thorne.

Name Withheld will strive to survive:

Just a quick question on the earliest few Survivor Series PPVs: How were the teams typically formed? Did they just announce teams based on their current feuds and go from there, or did captains invite team members, etc.?

Typically they just announced teams based on current feuds and went from there. It was very rare to have an angle which revolved around the formation of a Survivor Series team.

Mark Schoeman will wrap up the fact-based questions for the week:

In the latest Lance Storm Q&A, Lance states that many WCW fans have left wrestling and moved on to MMA and he says that there are studies that back this up. I’ve always been curious as to what happened to WCW fans or even just the viewership from the Monday Night Wars. Has there actually been a survey or study that shows part of the UFC’s success in recent years can be attributed to wrestling’s decline?

If Lance says that it’s been done, I would imagine that it has been, as he’s typically a pretty straight shooter. However, I have not been able to find any such study.

His main point makes sense, though. When WCW went out of business, the WWF saw virtually no sustained increase in its television ratings, which means that there were several million professional wrestling fans that just . . . stopped . . . watching. Additionally, there are few hundred thousand people who aren’t watching WWE now that were watching the WWF during its peak of popularity. Not all former WCW fans/former WWF fans could have moved on to MMA, because, if that was the case, there would be significantly more people watching MMA than there actually care. However, it makes perfect sense that many people who have given up on wrestling would switch to MMA. Keep in mind that UFC’s present bump in popularity started as a result of the Ultimate Fighter being the follow-up show to WWE Raw when both were on SpikeTV and the fact that UFC essentially books and promotes its fights exactly like old school professional wrestling used to.

So, there might not be much hard evidence to back up the claim (unless Lance Storm is aware of something I’m not – which is possible), but it certainly makes sense from an anecdotal standpoint.

I’ve been reading “No Holds Barred” by Clyde Gentry, it’s a history of MMA in the US. The book details Dan Severn’s entry into the UFC. Phyllis Lee is mentioned as not only his manager, but the manager of many other professional wrestlers. Do you have any info on her and her involvement in wrestling? Gentry also credits Al Snow as helping prepare Severn for the UFC as a training partner. Has Al ever discussed his role in Servern’s MMA career and if he ever considered switching careers?

I have heard Phyllis Lee’s name in connection with MMA on several different occasions, though I have heard very little of the specifics regarding her involvement in professional wrestling. In fact, my understanding is that wrestlers have historically almost never had agents, and when guys like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Mick Foley started using agent Barry Bloom to negotiate their contracts, they were looked at very negatively. So, if anybody any information beyond what is in “No Holds Barred” regarding Ms. Lee managing wrestlers’ careers, feel free to pass it along, but I personally have not heard much if anything about it.

As far as Al Snow and Dan Severn are concerned, Snow has talked about his training of Severn in several different shoot interviews. In fact, just about any shoot that goes into any real depth about his career hit son the topic. Despite being involved in training Severn, I don’t think that Snow ever would have seriously considered crossing over from wrestling to MMA. A lot of it has to do with his age. Many people forget that Snow didn’t break out in wrestling until relatively late in his career, as he made his professional wrestling debut in 1982. So, by the time that UFC was having its first bump in popularity in the late 1990s, he was already in his mid-30s and had been wrestling for 15 years. That’s a little late in the game to become an MMA fighter and have any real success with it.

Can you explain wrestling’s decline in Japan? I remember All Japan and New Japan having packed houses in the Tokyo Dome and the Sumo Hall in the 80’s and 90’s. But now when I see matches from Japan it looks like ROH. Can the decline be attributed to the rise of Pride FC and MMA? The decentalization of wrestling in Japan in the form of more companies than I can name? Has America’s commercial colonization taken over Japan in the form of WWE? Any insight you would be much appreciated.

I have briefly alluded to this in the answers to some other questions that I have addressed over the past couple of weeks. It is difficult to identify one cause that leads to an entire industry failing, but most folks who follow Japan are of the opinion that the main cause of puroresu’s downslide was the rise in popularity of MMA. The other big issue is that, around the same time that MMA was on the rise, New Japan Pro Wrestling, the biggest organization in the country, was not providing the sort of wrestling that its fans wanted to see. They were essentially putting on worked MMA fights while simultaneously booking NJPW wrestlers in real MMA fights where they were having their asses handed to them. That lead to wrestling fans not caring to watch their favorite promotion, in part because it was not providing the product they were used to and in part because the MMA losses made it hard for them to take wrestlers like Yuji Nagata seriously as stars.

The other factor to consider is that, at around the same time, Pro Wrestling NOAH was splitting off of All Japan Pro Wrestling, which gutted and nearly killed the number two wrestling promotion in the country and created an upstart group that, though popular, had difficulty reaching the same level as its predecessor.

So, it is difficult to point to one cause, but those are some of the leading candidates.

My Damn Opinion

Michael Klein will get you Kleinerized . . .

About 10 years ago roughly a few of us were discussing if wrestling was real, who would be the top guy/hardest to beat. Most of us said Kurt Angle due to his actual wrestling background but my one friend insisted on the Big Show due to his size. With that in mind, whom would you side with if the sport were real, Angle or Show?

Nowadays, I’d go with the Big Show. There is a reason that amateur wrestling and MMA have weight classes, and it’s because a guy with a massive size advantage will almost always destroy a smaller guy, regardless of technique. This is compounded by the fact that Angle is very old and very broken down right now and, while Show is no spring chicken himself, he’s at least not broken his neck on multiple occasions.

Also, taking the question a step further, if you had to go back over the last 20 years, who would you rank as the 10 toughest wrestlers to beat if it were real? I’m always inclined to go with guys with a solid wrestling background (Angle, Bret Hart, Lesnar, Benoit, etc.) along with a few big dudes (Show, Kane, etc.). Maybe a Ken Shamrock because he was a bad-@ss.

The last twenty years would put us back to 1992, and, for purposes of this list, I am going to go under the assumption that each guy I’m listing is in his physical prime. Also, the list is being produced in no particular order:

1. Kurt Angle: Angle is a smart choice for any list like this one (assuming that he’s healthy) because he is essentially the most decorated “real” wrestler to ever set foot into the pro wrestling world.

2. Brock Lesnar: Brock’s last UFC fight might not have gone too well for him, but that was Brock Lesnar after fighting off two rounds of a disease that would’ve killed most people. Before he was sick, Brock’s combination of amateur wrestling skill (keep in mind that he’s a former NCAA champ) and sheer mass made him a tough customer.

3. Shelton Benjamin: I’m betting a lot of people wouldn’t think to have Shelton Benjamin on their lists. However, he’s another guy with a very polished amateur wrestling background and explosive speed that would make him hard to get a handle on in a “real” fight.

4. The Big Show: We sort of addressed this one above. Fact is there are very few people who can handle a real fight with a guy twice their size, regardless of their level of skill, and the Big Show is at least twice the size of most people.

5. John Tenta: Tenta’s another guy who a lot of folks might not initially think of for a list like this. However, he’s got the same size factor going for him that Show does, PLUS he was a former sumo wrestling star in Japan. People in the western world tend not to get sumo, but those guys are leagues tougher than they appear to be at first blush.

6. Mark Henry: What Henry lacks in training in a legitimate fighting style, he could easily make up for in sheer strength. If Mark Henry charges for air, you keep your bill paid.

7. Bad News Brown: People talk about Kurt Angle’s Olympic medal all the time, but the fact that Bad News Brown won a bronze medal in the ’76 Olympics seems largely forgotten. His sport? Judo, which means that he was not going down easily in a fight.

8. New Jack: Jack doesn’t have much of a combat sports background, but he readily admits to having four justifiable homicides on his record. He’s killed four men. That means he’s willing to do just about anything to get out of a fight the winner.

9. Masakatsu Funaki: Funaki, currently a member of the All Japan Pro Wrestling roster, was one of the pioneers of mixed marital arts in Japan and considered one of its absolute top competitors during the 1990s, currently boasting a record of 39 wins, 13 losses, and 1 draw.

10. Yuji Nagata: New Japan’s Yuji Nagata also has a strong amateur wrestling background, having competed multiple times in the Asian amateur wrestling championships and moving on to compete in world championships as well.

James Jennings wants to talk good and evil:

I have a theory on a grand scale that I would like to get your opinion on. Since the beginning of time, the struggle in life has been good vs. evil. In pro wrestling that became the ultimate point to its existence (face vs. heel). I believe this ultimate conflict has been won. The final battle was won by the wrong side during the Attitude Era. When Austin (a heel) became the most over wrestler ever he struck almost the fatal blow to the white meat baby face. This was backed up by the dominance in popularity of the NWO (heels) DX (heels) and little shots like the Rock has a face but heeling to the villains. It all but destroyed the foundation of wrestling, and wrestling has limped along ever since. Now nobody can get all the way over has a pure GOOD guy, look at Cena.

I think you’re wrong. Fact of the matter is, there has never really been a “pure good guy” in pro wrestling. The top stars have almost always been guys who had a bit of an edge to them and would throw the bad guys’ less-than-clean tactics back at them as getting a measure of poetic justice. Hulk Hogan regularly punched, choked, and bit guys he was in intense feuds with, and, for that matter, he even got physical with Sensational Sherri on more than one occasion. Bruno Sammartino did the same thing before him, as did Dusty Rhodes and most of the faces that were over on the WCW/NWA side of the spectrum. These guys weren’t babyfaces because they were people who always did the right thing no matter what and abided religiously by the rules of the sport. These guys were babyfaces because, in the conflict between them and their heel rivals, they were the ones who had their actions being portrayed as morally justified, even when they might not have been to the objective observer. (Again, I take you back to Hogan decking a woman.)

The problem with Cena isn’t that he’s too clean cut. The problem with Cena, at least in my opinion, is that his character acts like there are never any consequences for anything that ever happens to him. He almost never gets angry when a heel does something to him, and he almost never sells a beating for more than 24 hours. Instead, no matter what happens in the guy’s life, he comes out happy and doing lame jokes every week on Monday Night Raw. He never gets mad and never shows fire, and people have a very hard time relating to this because, quite frankly, this is not how human beings act.

We’ll let Chris Methods wrap it up, because he has two opinion questions that he wanted to direct specifically to me:

Knowing how you feel about Impact Wrestling, what would you personally do to make it more enjoyable for yourself and others? What things do you actually like about the current product? What HAS to change for it to do well in your eyes?

I honestly cannot answer this question too well. I can’t say that I don’t like TNA’s product. I can’t say that I don’t like TNA’s product because I don’t *watch* TNA’s product. I reviewed Impact for 411manaia as recently as 2008, and, at the time I stopped doing the reviews, I stopped watching the show, almost completely. I watched a handful of the “New Monday Night War” era shows because Chris Lansdell had asked me to for a column we were doing around that time, and I have watched one or two other episodes since ’08 when 411 was desperate for somebody to do a recap. Literally, those are all of the episodes of the show that I have watched over the past three years, so I can’t honestly tell you whether I like their product, whether I dislike their product, what I would do to improve it, or what I think needs to be done in order to help it draw more. I just don’t have any familiarity with what’s going on there, and I don’t intend to develop that familiarity anytime soon.

When I was actually watching TNA, the two biggest things that bugged me about the show were the pacing and the continuity. As far as pacing was concerned, it felt like they were just trying to do too much. There would sometimes be five different angles covered in the same quarter-hour of the show or three back-to-back backstage skits that all lasted a matter of seconds and didn’t do anything to help anybody. It was very reminiscent of the Russo-booked dying days of WCW, which I didn’t care much for either. I just prefer my wrestling shows to not have so much crap crammed into them. If you throw a ton of crap at the wall all at the same time, it because difficult if not impossible to distinguish the important angles from the unimportant ones, and points that need to be made for purposes of effective storytelling are missed because they’re buried amidst a bunch of white noise.

As far as continuity is concerned, it seemed like the promotion had no idea of how to tell a story with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. Even worse, it seemed like they just booked matches within a feud at random, not really taking account of the fact that some matches work well in a story’s opening stages while some are better suited for the end. The three act structure of storytelling permeates not just wrestling but virtually every form of entertainment ever, and consistently goofing it up would result in me turning off any television program, not just a wrestling show.

Could TNA have fixed those things in the past three years? Possibly. I don’t know if they have or if they haven’t, and I’m not particularly interested in watching the show to find out. I’ve moved on, and I would rather spend my time on wrestling that I know I will enjoy, which there is a ton of these days.

Chris goes on to a different topic . . .

Also, what is your opinion on Sami Callihan? Is he the new Reckless Youth of “King of the Indies,” or like a Christopher Daniels, will be a mid-level star? Or like CM Punk, indie character who can one day make the WWE some money?

I haven’t seen that much recent Sami Callihan, because most of his prominent work lately has been with EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA lately, and I don’t really follow those promotions. When I have seen Callihan, he seems like he has some potential, though I’m not instantly overwhelmed by him as I was guys like Samoa Joe, Low Ki, and Bryan Danielson the first couple of times that I saw them wrestle.

Aaaaaand, believe it or not, that’s a wrap for my three week run on Ask 411. Thank you to everybody who contributed and thank you to Mat Sforcina for the opportunity. The Massive One will be back to entertain you all next week, so keep the questions rolling his way!


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Ryan Byers

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