wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling 02.20.13: Andre the Giant, Mass Transit, More

February 20, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am Ryan Byers, and it’s been a long, strange road that has brought me here this week.

Approximately one month ago, I was writing the 8-Ball here on 411mania, and I told the powers that be that, due to mounting responsibilities in my professional and personal lives, I was going to have to step aside from that role in the coming months, agreeing to hang on until they found a suitable replacement. (Writing one column that really pissed everybody off in the process.

This past Saturday, my replacement, the in-ken-parable Ken Hill debuted, and I thought that I was all ready to kick my feet up and sip mint juleps in my free time as opposed to writing about pro wrestling.

Then, on Monday, I got word that Mat Sforcina, the regular author of this column BROKE HIS HUMERUS (not kidding) while pursuing his independent wrestling career. Originally when I heard the story, I thought that he had kicked Bill DeMott’s ass, but I apparently heard things wrong . . . he actually hurt his arm.

In any event, because I like Mat and because I like Ask 411, my resignation wound up being short-lived. I’m filling in for him until such time that his arm heals up to the point that he’s comfortable typing again. Best of luck getting better, Massive Q. Hopefully this doesn’t keep you sidelined for too long.

Due to the somewhat short notice for a fill-in brought about by Mat’s injury, this week’s version of the column will be a bit truncated compared to what I normally do, and I may lob myself some softballs from the backlog of questions, but hopefully things will be in full swing next week.

And now, the best damn banner on 411:

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




No Backtalking this week because I didn’t write last week’s column. However, if you call me an idiot in the comments section this week (trust me, I’m used to it), I might just put a response right here in seven days! Have at it!

Your Turn, Smart Guy

Here’s a new question from yours truly:

The height of my career was 1987 in the United States, though I also got a fair amount of exposure in Japan the year before. Two of my biggest rivals were imposters of Antonio Inoki and Hulk Hogan, respectively. With my distinctive mask and pink-and-purple tights, I have one of the most unique looks in professional wrestling. Who am I?

Put your guesses down in the comments!

Questions, Questions, Who’s Got the Questions?

Chico likes ’em big:

Besides Hogan, what wrestlers have gone one-on-one against both Andre the Giant and The Big Show?

Ric Flair immediately springs to mind. I don’t know how many matches he has had overall against Andre, but he definitely defended the NWA Title against him on at least one occasion, going to a draw in Orlando on February 13, 1983. Flair had several matches against the Big Show, most notably with Show (then known as the Giant) defeating the Nature Boy for the WCW Title live on Monday Nitro in 1996.

Randy Savage did it as well. He defended the WWF Title against Andre several times, including on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event in November 1988. Savage and the Giant also met up in WCW, including a title match on Nitro in December 1995.

Jim Duggan is another person who meets the criteria. He had a house show program with Andre when he made his WWF debut in 1988 (including a match from the Spectrum that you can find online). Hacksaw and the Giant also had several WCW television matches over the years, albeit none of them a part of particularly memorable angles.

Really, unless they were always on opposite sides of the heel/face divide, just about any wrestler who was in the WWF in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s and jumped ship to WCW around the time of Nitro had the potential to have wrestled both Andre the Giant and the Big Show. It’s not quite the oddity that you think it might be.

Patrick T. asks a question that could probably be filed in the “frequently asked” category:

Another one from my misty memories of 1999: Who fiddled with the briefcase when Austin faced Vince and Shane at KOTR ’99? I can’t remember it being stated on air. My brother and I assumed it was Steve Blackman, but I can’t remember why, other than that he seemed vaguely associated with the McMahons at the time (could you shed some light on that angle too? Was there an aborted Blackman heel push on the cards?)

It was never directly stated, but it was very strongly implied that the responsible party was the Big Boss Man. The match had a stipulation in which any member of Vince McMahon’s Corporation who interfered would be fired from the WWF. Shortly before the show, the Corporation appeared to get angry with the Boss Man and kicked him out of the group. Then, the briefcase mysteriously moved and, after the PPV, the cop from Cobb County was reinducted as a member of the Corporation. The almost-too-subtly-told story was that the McMahons had kicked the Boss Man out of their group for a brief period to avoid the stipulation that no member of the stable could interfere.

I have no idea where you got Steve Blackman from.

Night Wolf the Wise (Where do they come up with these names?) wants to take things to the extreme.

I remember reading a story about a fan that posed as a wrestler. He went to ECW and told Paul Heymen that he trained with Killer Kowalksi. He was granted a wrestling contract and then was killed facing New Jack. Is there any truth to this story? If so why didn’t Paul Heymen check out this kid’s story before letting him wrestle?

You’re confused as to some of the details, but, yes, something roughly fitting that description did happen at an ECW house show in Massachusetts on November 23, 1996.

The young man was named Eric Kulas, and he attended the show, claiming to be a Kowalski-trained wrestler who competed under the name “Mass Transit,” wearing a bus driver’s uniform. Kulas probably would not have gotten his spot on the card if not for the fact that there was a no-show and Heyman felt he needed to fill out a spot on the card. You have to keep in mind that, in a lot of ways, ECW was similar to a modern independent wrestling promotion at this point in time, and it’s actually not entirely unheard of for random local wrestlers to show up looking for work at independent shows. So, it wasn’t out of the question that a legitimately trained wrestler would appear at the arena and ask Paul E. if he could get some form of tryout. Also, according to some accounts of the story, there was at least one individual known to be a professional wrestler (though not a regular part of the ECW roster) who vouched for Kulas and claimed he was trained, in addition to Kulas’ father also supporting his son’s request. So, the match was on, and then stuff like this happened:

Transit’s opponents for the evening were the Gangstas, and New Jack brutalized the poor kid. He gave him hard weapons shots but, more infamously, he also bladed him, drawing a significant amount of blood. (Most sources agree that Kulas actually requested that New Jack blade him, because blood was a planned part of the match but Kulas had never bladed himself before.) Kulas and his family claimed that he had been assaulted and that New Jack’s attacks went beyond the parameters of a normal pro wrestling match. However, Jack and ECW were vindicated when lawsuits brought against New Jack as a result of the incident resulted in a determination that he had neither criminal nor civil liability for the incident.

And, for the record, the incident did not result in Kulas being “killed” as was suggested in the question. Eric Kulas did die at the tragically young age of 22, but it had nothing to do with New Jack and had everything to do with medical problems he suffered as a result of gastric bypass surgery.

Keeping the ECW kick alive, Omar Magnus has two questions about the Eliminators:

Has any tag team done the Eliminators’ finisher since them?

As far as a high profile tag team doing the exact same maneuver as “Total Elimination” (a leg sweep combined with a spinning heel kick), I believe that the answer is no. However, variations on the move have been pretty popular, with the most popular one being the finisher of Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. It was essentially Total Elimination, except instead of performing a spinning heel kick, Cade would perform a lariat.

Why did the tag team of the Eliminators break up?

Because Perry Saturn signed with WCW and John Kronus did not.

jayzhoughton has a bit of a chicken and egg situation going on:

What came first: John Cena or PG? When John Cena was breaking through, was the WWE already changing to the PG and then John Cena came along and fit well with that idea or was it they had an over Cena who appealed to the women and kids and just went with it?

WWE decided to head in the PG direction for reasons that were completely unrelated to John Cena’s persona. The company had been toning down its product for a couple of years beforehand, but the major change happened in approximately 2009, for two major reasons. The first is that WWE was attempting to court some new major business partners who were not happy to be associated with risqué content. The most notable example of this is Mattel, a major toy maker that WWE wanted to bring on board to make its wrestling dolls, replacing Jakks Pacific. There were additional sponsors that also came on board shortly after the change, including major retailer K-Mart. The second reason for the more pronounced toning down of the product was Linda McMahon’s attempt at launching a political career, which began when she first announced her candidacy for the United States Senate in 2009. The promotion really had to mind its p’s and q’s with Linda running for major political office, as virtually anything that the wrestling promotion did could be (and in some instances was) used against her.

So, the switch to PG had nothing to do with the character that John Cena was portraying. In fact, when he first broke out, John Cena was actually pretty edgy, with his “freestyle” raps containing adult language and double entendre that wouldn’t fly today.

Derek want to talk about one of the greatest (if not the greatest) independent wrestlers going today:

Had a question about how the WWE handles talent coming up from developmental. I just finished listening to Colt Cabana on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast (great interview worth listening to) and he of course talks about how he was getting popular down in FCW and then was brought up to the main roster only to be in a few squash matches and a couple battle royals, got an internet show on wwe.com for a little bit, and then was fired not long after that whenever “creative had nothing for him.” My question is why is that the WWE doesn’t just send talent like that back to developmental whenever they can’t think of anything for them instead of firing them? It just seems like if they really have no use for talent like Cabana on the road and on major television that the talent would benefit from hanging around developmental a little longer than just being fired and having to find somewhere else to wrestle.

The most likely answer to the question is that, in all reality, he wasn’t fired just because creative had nothing for him. In all likelihood, he was fired because creative had nothing for him and there was also a person or persons somewhere in the company hierarchy who didn’t care for what he was doing, whether it was performance or attitude related. (Both of which part of me has a hard time believing, because Colt is a damn fine performer and, though I don’t know him personally, from listening to him on his own podcast, he sounds like a helluva nice guy.) If you want proof of that fact, just take a look at the number of guys who have meandered in the midcard for literally years with creative having nothing for them. Creative hasn’t had anything meaningful for Kofi Kingston (and I include his last IC Title reign in that category) since 2009, and it’s not like he gets released or sent back to developmental.

As far as what the specific problem with Cabana was, the week that he was fired, he had a match with Umaga at the WWE Smackdown tapings which had to be shot twice. There were rumblings at the time that no less than Vince McMahon himself was very unhappy with the first version of the match, which lead to it being reshot and also potentially contributed to the Coltster’s release.

Elivs wants to comment on commentary:

Why does JBL (on commentary) pick on Matt Striker all the time? Does JBL have a legit beef with him, or is he just joking/storyline?

It’s a combination of JBL being kind of a bully and Matt Striker drawing his ire by not being particularly good at his job, thus drawing a certain degree of contempt from the big Texan.

John Davis keeps his question short and sweet:

Why wasn’t Hulk Hogan in The Land of 1,000 Dances video?

Hogan was the absolute top notch, A-number-one star of the World Wrestling Federation during the time that the video was shot. I think that the idea was that, if Hogan was in the video with every other WWF wrestler on the face of the earthy, including such luminaries as S.D. Jones and Dr. X, it would have made him look like just another member of the roster as opposed to a phenom who was on another level. It’s the same reason that you didn’t see the Hulkster wrestling on TV every week – the goal was to make his appearances rare and therefore more special so that they would draw more money.

Plus, word on the street is that he refused to share a trailer with Meat Loaf.

And, yes, before anybody asks, that last part was a joke.

Matt Slater is Pretty #1derful:

In pre-nWo WCW, Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorf was saddled with an angle that his name was allegedly “Paula”. WCW went so far as to plant Paula signs in the crowd. This extended to his run with Paul Roma as part of Pretty Wonderful, when Sting alleged Roma’s name is “Paulina”. What was the thought behind the Paula angle? Was it meant to give Orndorf a decent angle? Was he being publicly punished?
I think that you’re misunderstanding what was going on. The angle was not that Paul Orndorff’s name was “Paula.” The promotion just encouraged fans to chant “Paula” at Orndorff in order to draw his ire, just like the WWF encouraged fans to chant “Irrrrrrrrwin” at IRS or like ECW encouraged fans to chant “She’s a crack whore!” at Francine. There was never any direct statement or implication that Orndorff’s name was actually short for “Paula” or that Roma’s name was actually short for “Paulina.” It wasn’t a punishment, it was just done for the sake of guaranteeing that there was always going to be some kind of reaction to his matches. And, actually, this was not something that originated in WCW. When Orndorff was a heel in the WWF in the 1980’s, there were “Paula” chants and taunts directed at him there as well, as evidenced in this video:

My Damn Opinion

44 Ton Fandango Wildcat Gravy (no, seriously, that’s what he calls himself) has a hypothetical question about Andre the Giant:

If Andre the Giant were alive today, do you think he would still play any sort of role in WWE? Do you think he would have ever won the title in the mid-90s thus prohibiting the pushes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels? Would he have followed Hogan to WCW and could we have had a Giant vs. Giant match? Or do you think he would have stuck around and finished his career in the Attitude era?

This is a difficult if not impossible question to answer just because it’s not as though Andre died suddenly while he was in peak physical condition. His health was in decline and his career was already trailing off, with fewer and fewer significant appearances. If we assume that he was going to be in roughly the same physical condition that he was in during December 1992 without dying in January 1993, I have a feeling that he never would have been in shape again to do any sort of significant wrestling in the United States.

If we’re going to pretend that his physical condition did not trail off during the late 1980s and early 1990s and he would have a body that would hold up to the same extent as Hulk Hogan’s, I think that he almost definitely would have jumped ship to WCW. The company was opening up its wallet and paying top dollar for any name wrestler that they could get, and Andre was legitimately one of the biggest stars in the entire history of the sport. In fact, there’s a possibility that the WWF may not have even been able to afford a guaranteed contract big enough for the Giant, as they were having real financial difficulties at the time and could not honor the multi-million dollar commitment that they made to Bret Hart, precipitating his jump to the Turner-owned promotion.

Perhaps the biggest hypothetical consequence of Andre the Giant living and jumping to WCW would be that, if Andre were around for the Monday Night War, I sincerely doubt that we ever would have gotten a Big Show as a major wrestling star. Show was essentially signed for the sole purpose of being the modern day Andre to feud with (and put over) Hulk Hogan, and, if the genuine article was there, there would be no reason to build up Paul Wight as a contender. He may not ever have been signed by WCW or, if he were, he might have just wondered around aimlessly in the undercard like Ron Reese.

Hypothetical questions like these are virtually impossible to answer, but that’s my best guess.

Dabid and Don (I think) is a disco sensation:

What was the deal with the Disco Inferno? As far as I can tell from what I’ve seen of him, he was a below-average comedy jobber character, but I have seen him listed on tons of PPVs and a huge list of title victories. Any match I’ve seen him in was mediocre at best, and the crowd seemed to have zero interest in him. Why was Disco Inferno seemingly pushed for so long and given so many opportunities when it seems like no one cared about him and he wasn’t very good?

In some other questions he sent in, Dabid admitted that he didn’t watch much of WCW when it was in business . . . and I think this question is probably born out of the fact that he didn’t follow the product.

I was watching WCW at the time, and I completely disagree with the assessment of Disco’s popularity and talent. He got plenty of heat for an undercard comedy heel and, though humor is obviously subjective, I always thought that he was pretty damned funny.

And, yes, he won some championships, but he was never pushed particularly hard, and most of his championship reigns were portrayed as flukes, especially his initial Television Title run. In all reality, he was essentially the late 1990’s equivalent of Santino Marella. He wasn’t the greatest in-ring technician in the world, but he was passable, and he had a unique character and a knack for integrating comedy into professional wrestling matches, so he developed a cult following and grabbed the occasional lower-tier championship as a result of it.

That’s the deal with the Disco Inferno.

keifandom has a timely question about the “outsiders” currently in WWE:

What is your Damn Opinion about the WWE “Superstars” (there really are only like four actual Superstars right now, hence the quote marks) pissing and moaning about Rock and Brock taking the spotlight? Nobody asked, but I say if the boys just put their minds to it, they could get the ratings and buy rates and Vinnie wouldn’t have to go outside the industry to keep his billion dollar company from going under. Opine, sir!

I think that any wrestler who is complaining about the Rock and Brock Lesnar taking the spotlight is losing sight of the fact that professional wrestling is a business and they should be in the professional wrestling business with the goal of making money for themselves and their families. If you’re currently a midcard wrestler in WWE, Rock and Brock aren’t preventing you from being a main eventer. You were going to be a midcarder anyway. John Cena, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Ryback, CM Punk . . . those guys would have made sure that you weren’t breaking through to the main event without any help from the outsiders. If anything, Rock and Brock are going to HELP you, because they are proven to draw more money on pay per view than anybody who is on the regular roster, and their appearances on TV signal a hotter-than-usual part of the year for the E’s business, with rising television ratings and house show attendance. That helps the company as a whole make more money. If the company as a whole is making more money, you, as generic midcard wrestler number eighty-two, will likely see more money in your pocketbook than you would otherwise.

In other words, if you’re a WWE wrestler and don’t like Lesnar and Rocky around because you feel it’s cutting into your TV time, my advice for you is to just shut up and enjoy the extra cash that they’re putting into your back pocket.

That’s it for this week’s Ask 411. If you can’t get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.

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