wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling 12.26.12: Big Show Flies, Undefeated World Champions, Wrestlers’ Court, More

December 26, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am most definitely NOT Mathew Sforcina. Instead I am Ryan Byers, and I am filling in for our friend Mat while he tends to a few more important things.

I’ve got plenty of questions that have been provided to me by Mathew in order to meet my answering needs over the course of the next month, but I could also use a bit of additional, fresh material, so feel free to shoot a few new questions my way, particularly if there is anything that you would like to get my perspective on as opposed to Mat’s.

I’m looking forward to this run . . . so let’s get it started with the BANNER~!

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



Your Turn, Smart Guy

Who am I? I got one of the earliest breaks of my wrestling career in Mexico, even though that is not my home country. From there, I donned a mask and assumed a gimmick inspired by the stars. One of my former managers is also a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and I have wrestled for two of the “big three” in the United States as well as two of the “big three” in Japan. Who am I?

Questions, Questions, Who’s Got the Questions?

August asks us the last first question of December:

Sometimes, wrestlers are put into a certain match type so many times that he begins to be associated with that type of match, no matter how successful they are at them. Currently I’m thinking of John Cena, who keeps being put in Tables matches despite losing them all the time. Or how Shawn Michaels was called a ladder match master, but lost almost every ladder match he was in.

Anyways, who has LOST the most tables matches, ladder matches, cage matches, and/or any other appropriate gimmick matches you feel like doing?

Unfortunately, no good, comprehensive records of all table matches, ladder matches, etc. are maintained anywhere as far as I know. So, I haven’t been able to answer the question dead on and have had to confine my answer to pay per view gimmick matches. With one exception, I’ve only taken a look at records from WWF/WWE and TNA, because they are really the only two promotions that have run regularly on pay per view during the era that saw gimmick matches become fairly commonplace as opposed to something that only occurred once in a great while.

With that said, the first gimmick match that I took a look at was the table match. By my count, the man who has lost the most table matches on pay per view is also the man who has won the most table matches on pay per view . . . Bubba Ray Dudley. Including both tag team and singles table matches, Bubba has a record of 8 wins and 6 losses. His “brother” D-Von is in a close second with 6 wins and 5 losses. The only other person to wrestle more than two table matches on pay per view is Jeff Hardy, who has a fairly admirable record of 3 wins and 1 loss.

Ladder matches were interesting to look at because, even though it is only recently that they have become a regular part of wrestling (relatively speaking), there are a ton of guys who have competed in them because a) they have happened VERY frequently over the last several years and b) variations like Money in the Bank and TLC (which I counted) include numerous competitors. The answer to the question asked, i.e. who has lost the most of these matches, is, surprisingly enough, Christian, who has nine PPV losses in ladder matches. Because I had to do a fair amount of research to answer the question, I thought I would share some additional data, so here are the PPV ladder match records for every wrestler who has had four or more PPV ladder matches in the history of WWF/WWE and TNA:

1. CM Punk (4-1; WP 80%)
2. Edge (7-5; WP 58.3%)
3. Dolph Ziggler (2-2; WP 50%)
4. Jeff Hardy (5-7; WP 41.7%)
5. Chris Jericho (3-5; WP 37.5%)
6. Christian (5-9; WP 35.7%)
7. Matt Hardy (2-8; WP 25%)
7. Shawn Michaels (1-3; WP 25%)
7. Bubba Dudley (1-3; WP 25%)
7. D-Von Dudley (1-3; WP 25%)
7. Alberto Del Rio (1-3; WP 25%)
7. John Morrison (1-3; WP 25%)
13. Kane (1-6; WP 14.3%)
14. MVP (0-4; WP 0%)
14. Kofi Kingston (0-5; WP 0%)
14. Shelton Benjamin (0-8; WP 0%)

In other words, if you’re a black wrestler and you get an opportunity to pick a stipulation for your upcoming championship bout, don’t select a ladder match.

Finally, we have the cage match, the match of the three asked about that has the longest history in professional wrestling. Because it has such a long history, I went ahead and threw WCW back into the mix with this question, alongside WWE and TNA. Interestingly, as far as a raw number of losses is concerned, there is a three-way tie for first place between three TNA wrestlers. Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal, and Alex Shelley all have six losses in PPV cage matches. This in large part has to do with the fact that they have spent time in the X Division, which for several years was featured in a multi-man cage match at Lockdown. They each lost several of those matches in addition to other cage matches in which they were featured performers. As with the ladder match above, here are the PPV cage match win/loss records for those individuals who have had four or more such matches in WWE, WCW, and TNA:

1. D-Von Dudley (6-0; WP 100%)
1. Bubba Dudley (5-0; WP 100%)
1. Samoa Joe (5-0; WP 100%)
4. Jeff Hardy (4-1; WP 80%)
4. Sting (4-1; WP 80%)
6. Dustin Rhodes (3-1; WP 75%)
6. Batista (3-1; WP 75%)
8. Hulk Hogan (5-2-1; WP 62.5%)
9. John Cena (3-2; WP 60%)
9. Kurt Angle (3-2; WP 60%)
11. Triple H (7-5; WP 58.3%)
11. Undertaker (7-5; WP 58.3%)
12. Ric Flair (6-5; WP 54.5%)
13. Edge (3-3; WP 50%)
13. Randy Orton (3-3; WP 50%)
13. Mankind (2-2; WP 50%)
13. Steve Austin (2-2; WP 50%)
13. Matt Morgan (2-2; WP 50%)
13. AJ Styles (2-2; WP 50%)
13. Booker T. (2-2; WP 50%)
13. Lex Luger (2-2; WP 50%)
21. Christopher Daniels (4-6; WP 40%)
21. Eric Young (2-3; WP 40%)
23. Chris Sabin (3-6; WP 33.3%)
23. Hernandez (2-4; WP 33.3%)
23. Bobby Roode (2-4; WP 33.3%)
23. Homicide (2-4; WP 33.3%)
23. James Storm (2-4; WP 33.3%)
28. Kevin Nash (1-4; WP 20%)
29. Jay Lethal (1-5; WP 16.7%)
30. Alex Shelley (1-6; WP 14.3%)
31. Sonjay Dutt (0-4; WP 0%)
31. Petey Williams (0-4; WP 0%)
31. Big Show (0-5; WP 0%)

Interesting to note that, though they are obviously associated with tables matches, the Dudley Boys actually do much better for themselves when they’re locked inside a steel cage.

Long-time reader and question-asked Laszlo fancies himself a bit of a hot shot:

I’ve heard of the term hotshotting where bookers load up cards with star talent/gimmick matches/hot matches etc. to regenerate interest in the product and then ease back once business picks up again.

Are there any examples of notable cards, matches and/or angles that happened while a territory were “hotshotting”?

The definition that I’ve heard for “hotshotting” differs a little bit from the one that you’ve listed. When I’ve heard the term used, it’s been a bit more related to rushing through angles or title changes at rate that is faster than normally would be reasonable for the purpose of rekindling interest in the product. Because of that, one person’s idea of when hotshotting is occurring may differ from another person’s just because reasonable minds can differ as to when the best time to pull the trigger on a scripted event in professional wrestling may be. For example, I have heard some people with a more old school mentality refer to the WWF’s entire booking philosophy between roughly 1998 and 1999 as “hotshotting” because titles were changing hands at a rapid pace compared to what they had historically, and there was at least one major angle on every show.

However, I think that one of the most clear, undisputable instances of hotshotting that occurred in the modern era came when Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff rolled out their combined regime in WCW on the April 10, 2000 edition of Monday Nitro. They LITERALLY halted every storyline that was ongoing prior to that evening, threw it out the window, and started up a brand new set of angles. Additionally, scads of new talent crawled out of the woodwork overnight (including the controversial jump of Mike Awesome), and all champions were stripped of their titles, to have them re-filled at the next pay per view event. It was a complete reset of the entire company out of the blue which, unfortunately, did not have anywhere near the positive effect that the booking team thought that it would.

The Shadiest One is here and asking a couple of questions inspired by the heyday of Monday Nitro:

I was watching The Best of Nitro DVD and noticed that, during the Goldberg/Hogan match, Heenan says something along the lines of Goldberg becoming the first undefeated World Champion. If I’m not mistaken, Undertaker was the first “undefeated” World Champ and Yokozuna did it as well. If Heenan meant WCW champ, didn’t the Giant accomplish that as well? Who was the first undefeated champ and how many have there been?

First off, I think that Heenan was probably just making something up on the fly that sounded good as opposed to stating a “statistic” that either he or the company actually put any degree of research into, but the question is an interesting one to look into, so I’ll see if I can provide an answer anyway.

The claim that Goldberg was an undefeated world champion is, by almost all accounts, accurate. There have been urban legends over the years (going back as far as 1998) that Goldberg lost any number of house show matches or dark matches before his streak began or that he lost in the infamously bad “Piper’s family” series of matches on Nitro. I can confirm that he was not involved with Piper’s family, as that episode of Nitro was recently on WWE Classics on Demand and I suffered through it, only to see no Goldberg. However, I have been able to find no source aside from anecdotal message board accounts which say that Goldberg actually did the job in untelevised matches, so I’m considering him undefeated for these purposes. However, the question remains: Was he the first undefeated world champion and, even if he was, how many others were there?

Regarding the Undertaker, he actually not undefeated when he claimed his first WWF Title. He had several gimmicks in small territories and a run in WCW before jumping ship to the WWF and adopting his iconic gimmick, and he lost all the time in those roles. However, I have also found some records of him losing sporadically in the WWF before winning the company’s title on November 27, 1991. Specifically, on July 1 of that year, he was beaten in Madison Square Garden by the Ultimate Warrior in a body bag match. There aren’t comprehensive records out there for this period, but you can surmise that, if he lost this one matches, chances are good that he also lost others on various house show swings, back when house shows (particularly MSG events) “counted” far more than they do today.

As far as I can tell, Yokozuna could be considered undefeated depending on the criteria you wish to apply. First of all, like the Undertaker, he had runs in other territories before the WWF and definitely lost there. In his WWF run, he may have had at least one loss prior to winning the title, depending on how you want to define losses. On an edition of WWF Superstars that was taped on January 5, 1993, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan succeeded in knocking Yoko off of his feet in a special challenge set up specifically to see if that feat could be accomplished. It was not a traditional wrestling match that was to end by pinfall, submission, etc., but some resources that track match results definitely do list it as a “win” for Duggan, the same way people might win other matches that don’t necessarily involve pinfalls. However, if you don’t want to count the Duggan incident and you don’t want to count his matches prior to the Yoko gimmick, this man would qualify as an undefeated world champion.

The Big Show, a.k.a. the Giant, is a lot like Yokozuna. He was undefeated in WCW under the Giant gimmick before winning the WCW Title for the first time. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the Giant’s first WCW match was not the first match of his career. Under his real name of Paul Wight, he was trained to wrestle at Larry Sharpe’s “Monster Factory” school in New Jersey, and he had about a year’s worth of matches at an independent promotion called the WWA that was affiliated with Sharpe’s school. Not many records of those matches exist, but I was able to find one record that indicated a wrestler by the name of Frank Finnegan, who at the time was the WWA Heavyweight Champion, beat Wight in a title match via count out on December 3, 1994 in Clementon, New Jersey. So, do with that information what you will.

Also, David Arquette had never lost a wrestling match before he became WCW World Heavyweight Champion, but, the less said about that, the better.

That’s really it. I checked out everybody who has held the NWA, WWE, WCW, WWE World Heavyweight, AWA, and TNA Championships, and by my research the only two men who won them while 100% undefeated are Bill Goldberg and David Arquette. Everybody else had been beaten somewhere along the way first.

Also What Was up with John Nords & Barry Darsows’ mid to late 90’s WCW comeback streaks?

Darsow came in to WCW in 1994 as “The Blacktop Bully,” doing a trucker gimmick as a heel foil for Dustin Rhodes, and he remained there through March 1995’s Uncensored pay per view. There, he wrestled Rhodes in one of literally the worst gimmick matches that I have ever seen, the “King of the Road” match, which featured the two men fighting in a cage on the back of a moving flatbed truck, with the goal being to make it to a goal at the front of the truck before your opponent. There is a persistent rumor that Darsow was fired after that match for integrating blood into it in contravention of company policy, but I have a vague memory of at least one person in an interview claiming that the rumor was not true.

Darsow returned to WCW in 1997, the same year that John Nord joined the company for the first time. What was the point of bringing them in? I hate to answer a question with another question, but what was the point of bringing in half of the guys that WCW brought in during the Monday Night War era? They had a ton of television time to fill, peaking with three hours of Nitro, two hours of Thunder, two hours of Saturday Night, an hour of Main Event, and hour of {Pro} every week, plus a pay per view every month, the occasional Clash of Champions, and probably a couple of other things that I am forgetting. They felt they needed the bodies to produce that level of programming and had a roster nearing (and perhaps at points even surpassing) 100 wrestlers, unlike contemporary WWE, which has a comparable volume of programming but seems to think that it’s OK to fill it out with what seems like only twenty or thirty wrestlers.

Chris flips us from Nitro to Raw with a question about the Big Valbowski:

Was Val Venis supposed to debut as a heel? I know that he did debut as a face, but I remember in WWF Magazine, TV shows and everything, the writers and announcers would say things like “in a previous era he would be hated, but here in 1998, he’s loved.” But yet in Val’s debut promos, he was playing a cocky (no pun intended) heel. Was Val just being held up as a symbol of how the times had changed or did fans decide that they liked him? You would think that a guy playing a sleazy porn star who got all the ladies would be a heel with the mostly male audience, but he tapped into (again no pun intended) fans of that era LIKING the sleazy porn business.

It’s hard to say, really. Val’s first feud was against Kaientai, which was about six weeks after his in-ring debut. Kaientai were clearly the heels in that one, which would make Val the face. However, his role in the six weeks prior to that feud kicking off was really ambiguous. I agree that he had quite a bit of a heel swagger in his pre-debut vignettes, but his matches afterwards didn’t really make it clear whether he was supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy. He was programmed against other wrestlers who were sort of adrift without clearly defined roles, like Scorpio and Papi Chulo, and, though he didn’t engage in any overt cheating or employ other heel tactics, the swagger from his vignettes remained. So, if I had to guess, I would say that he was meant to be a face given that’s where his first feud took him (and his first pay per view match was against Jeff Jarrett, who was definitely a heel), but it’s open to interpretation.

Even if he was originally meant to be a face, he almost definitely turned heel when he started feuding with Dustin Runnels in September 1998, as his actions in banging Runnels’ ex-wife and gleefully using the footage to ruin the man’s life were definitely those of a bad guy.

Don Macaveli (if that is his real name) has a series of unrelated questions:

1. Big Show just recently rehashed his top-rope-suplex-breaks-the-ring move. Seems to be the only top rope move Big Show’s known for. But I clearly remember a video by WWE no less, showing off Big Show doing top rope moves on the offensive like a missile drop kick. I think this was from his time in WCW. Would you know what were these matches?

As an aside, the fact that Big Show’s ring-collapsing superplex was just referred to as “recent” should give you guys a clue of just how backed up the question list is.

Probably the most noteworthy example of Big Show busting out the missile dropkick would have been during the 1998 edition of WCW Halloween Havoc. While wrestling as the Giant in a tag match with Scott Steiner against Rick Steiner and Buff Bagwell, Show attempted the move on one of his opponents but wound up tagging his partner with it. You can see the move in this video at around the 2:11 mark:

Show has also periodically busted out a top rope flying elbow drop, most recently at the 2011 version of the Survivor Series against Mark Henry. Why doesn’t he do these things more often? Well, because they hurt, that’s why.

2. Miz and Morrisson once had this “who’s Jannetty?” angle. Now it’s a bit clearer who is following Jannetty’s footsteps. My question is did Shawn or Marty ever comment on this angle? And what are your thoughts about Morrison’s career at this point?

I don’t believe that Jannetty has ever commented on the Miz vs. Morrison fued in which his name was used so liberally. I wouldn’t say that Morrison is the “Jannetty” of the team and Miz the “Shawn Michaels,” though. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that they’re BOTH Marty Jannetty, if such a thing is possible.

What are my thoughts on Morrison’s career? I don’t have a ton of them, really. He was just an athletic midcard wrestler who was pretty good at his role of athletic midcard wrestler. I know there were a lot of people who wanted him to break through and be something more, but I personally never saw him getting to a higher level than what he achieved. He had flashy moves but didn’t have enough of a personality and was one of the dirt worst promos in the wrestling business. Basically, there’s nothing that John Morrison did that Kofi Kingston isn’t currently doing. If he returns to WWE, I doubt that he will light the world on fire or get anywhere near the main event scene. He’ll probably just land back exactly where he was.

3. Speaking of the Miz, it reminded me of JBL and the wrestlers’ court. With a lot of the current roster being relatively new (Taker’s usually out, HHH is well, corporate) who is its leader now? Is it still on or relatively fading with the times?

My understanding is that such things no longer exist, which is a positive in my book, because the whole thing sounded like a huge pile of juvenile bullshit.

4. Regarding the shin cover that Y2J, Miz, CM Punk, and Kofi Kingston are using, I recently just saw a match of Repo Man wherein he’s using one. Would you know when this ring gear started to be a choice for a lot?

They’re called kick pads. They started becoming popular among Japanese professional wrestlers in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when “shoot style” professional wrestling became a big fad in the country. The shoot style matches integrated elements of traditional marital arts, including a lot of kicking that, to that point, hadn’t really been part of pro wrestling. So, the kick pads essentially started off as a modified version of the shin guards that practitioners of karate and other kick-heavy martial arts use. In legitimate marital arts, they’re basically boxing gloves for your legs, allowing you to kick harder than you would otherwise without doing damage to your own body. In professional wrestling, the kick pads allow you to actually connect with a kick without doing too much damage to your opponent, and they also make a more impressive noise than connecting with a bare-shinned kick would.

Over the years, the pads migrated from Japan to the United States, originally used by American wrestlers who did a lot of kicking in their matches. However, nowadays you will find a lot of wrestlers (including the Repo Man, I guess) wearing kick pads even though they don’t really throw a lot of kicks in their matches. I have read a variety of different reasons for this, which I’m sure apply to different wrestlers for different reasons. Some indicate that they feel they have more mobility when wearing the kick pads and amateur wrestling shoes as opposed to traditional pro wrestling boots. Some have claimed that the kick pads allow for more cushioning when you land on your knees, sort of like an extended knee pad. Others have cited more cosmetic reasons; indicating that the pads make their calves look larger or they provide a bigger area for customization of gear without having to wear full-length tights.

Eric W. is here to do a job:

In terms of jobbers and enhancement talent, most people know that these wrestlers are sent to ring to make the wrestlers getting pushed look good, or basically getting “squashed.” Obliviously if they didn’t follow orders they would be fired, but I was wondering if there ever was a time, when a jobber kicked out of a star’s finish on purpose, or blew the match off and wrestled to win? In other words going against what was planned in the ring?

There have been instances of double crosses in which one wrestler was told he or she was winning, only to have his or her opponent come out the winner in the end, but those are generally situations in which the wrestler doing the double crossing is working along with the promotion. Of course, notable examples there would include the Montreal screwjob involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and the other, somewhat lesser known screwjob involving Wendi Richter and Fabulous Moolah dressed up as the Spider Lady.

There have also been incidents in which two wrestlers have stopped cooperating with one another and their worked match has been turned into an actual fight, like the infamous SWS match between “Earthquake” John Tenta and Koji Kitao.

I am not aware, however, of any incident in which an enhancement talent decided that he or she was going to change the result of a match. If you think about it, it wouldn’t really make sense for any of them to do so. You mention the concerns about job security, and those are obviously big ones. Even back in the territorial days of wrestling, where performers could generally jump to a different company of comparable size and profitability when they pissed off their boss, departing from plans and shooting on a big star would be an easy way to stop almost everybody from booking you, not just the promoter whose match you screwed up. Also, you have to keep in mind the fact that, unless you’re somebody with legitimate training up against somebody who lacks any such training, winning a real fight is pretty goddamn difficult. This is compounded by the fact that, at least in recent history, enhancement talent has been chosen in large part because they are less physically imposing or powerful than the stars they’re enhancing, making a shoot an even worse idea. I mean, really, can you imagine Duane Gill deciding he’ll stand up to the Undertaker?

Tom is making noise about crowd noise:

I recently bought the 2011 Money in the Bank DVD and watched the awesome Punk vs. Cena match again. I also saw the PPV live when it aired in July. When watching the DVD, it seemed like the crowd noise was less loud than it was when I watched it on PPV. I remember thinking how hard it was to hear the announcers over the crowd – especially during Punk’s entrance. I also remember reading online that people backstage at WM 18 could feel the building shaking during the Rock/Hogan match because the crowd was so loud, but when I watch the DVD, it doesn’t seem to me to be the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard (though it’s up there). My question is, does WWE lessen the crowd noise on its DVDs so that the announcers are more audible? Or is this just my imagination?

It’s not just your imagination. At an event, there are obviously have different sets of audio equipment picking up crowd noise, picking up the announcers, outputting entrance music, and the like. When you’ve got all of those different audio streams, you have to make decisions about how they’re going to be mixed together. In WWE, they have made the decision that hearing the announcers is of the utmost importance, and, though they can’t always get things exactly as they’d like when a show is airing live, they certainly make sure that the commentators can be heard over the crowd and other bells and whistles as part of the finished product.

JP (not Prag) wrote in with the following:

I watched the Hogan/Sting match from Starcade ’97, and it made me realize that I’ve never understood what the hell happened. As someone who was 17 at the time and a member of the IWC I’m a little ashamed that I don’t know the answer to this but WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

I know it was the fast count that wasn’t; but why? Was it booked that way or was it a Hogan power play? I kind of remember reading that Hogan pushed to have Sting squash him and win cleanly, but clearly that didn’t happen. So was the “fast count” planned? And if it was, and Hogan wanted to put Sting over cleanly, why wasn’t the fast count fast? Or am I mistaken and did Hogan sabotage the match? Could you please explain the politics behind the ending?

It was a Hogan power play. The way the finish was booked, Nick Patrick was supposed to do a legitimately fast count, and Bret Hart was supposed to run in to restart the match, since he had just been screwed by a crooked referee the month before and did not want to see another injustice perpetrated. If it played out like it was supposed to, it would’ve made perfect sense. Not only was the Montreal screwjob a hot topic ripe to play off of, but WCW had even set up Bret having some degree of authority to restart the match since he was sanctioned to act as a guest referee in a match earlier in the evening.

However, Nick Patrick, despite being booked to do so, did NOT count fast. Patrick has claimed in subsequent interviews that he was told to do two different things by two different factions in the backstage area and that he came out on the side of doing what he did. Many people have doubted the credibility of that statement, me included. However, whether Patrick was following direct orders from Hogan to not count fast or whether Hogan and his cronies somehow “confused” Patrick into not counting fast, the result was the same and the Hulkster got exactly what he wanted. He pinned Sting clean in the middle of the ring on pay per view, so, even though the Stinger walked away with the title in the end, it’s clear that Hogan was still the bigger star. Also, by setting up a scenario in which Bret Hart came out to correct an injustice that nobody ever saw happen, Hogan also cut his legs out from underneath him, as he looked like a complete moron in his first big WCW angle.

WCW and Hulk Hogan’s title reigns were FULL of stuff like this at the time. Hulk knew that he was a big enough star that he could get away with doing whatever the hell that he wanted, and he was very protective of his place in wrestling. Thus, he did whatever he could to make himself look like the most dominant wrestler on the planet.

My Damn Opinion

Benjamin J. answers one of those “what if” questions that I’m not particularly fond of, but I’ll answer it anyway, because that’s my job:

What if Owen Hart paralyzed Stone Cold Steve Austin? How would the Attitude Era have been booked without Austin, from that moment on August 3, 1997 onward, if Owen had ended his career?

Who feuds over the IC title later that year (the feud that helped elevate The Rock)? Does DX still get over? Does Heel Vince McMahon get over, and if so, who would they pit against him? Does Bret jump ship to WCW or is he made an offer he can’t refuse to stay and (maybe) try and save the company? Would there still be a Montreal Screwjob? Who gets Austin’s spot against HBK at Mania 14 (more to the point, who else would Shawn trust in a match of that magnitude with him being as injured as he was, if he indeed would main event Mania under those circumstances at all)? Does Vince McMahon still have the perfect storm of star power and controversy to compete with Turner and Bischoff, or do they eat Vince alive before the end of the 90s?

Frankly, given the state their finances and popularity were in throughout the mid-1990’s, it is nothing short of a miracle that the WWF managed to turn the tide and become not only profitable but also insanely popular in the latter part of the decade. It took such a perfect storm of circumstances to allow the turnaround, I think that if you start to tamper with what actually happened too much, you would get dangerously close to a situation in which the entire promotion would have gone down in flames. Thus, my contention is that, if Steve Austin was paralyzed in the Owen Hart match in 1997, the WWF never would have turned its business around, and the company would have gone belly up at some point before 1999. That’s a big enough issue that I don’t think the booking of the promotion’s storylines is really worth discussing . . . there would’ve been a much bigger story to tell.

Also, I think that, if the WWF went of business in the late 1990’s, WCW and ECW STILL would have gone out of business. They may not have gone under as quickly, but they had so much working against them in terms of being competently run businesses that I doubt they would’ve survived. Without WWF, WCW, or ECW on the wrestling landscape, there would be no reason for a company like TNA to crop up. In short, I think that if Steve Austin was paralyzed in 1997, professional wrestling would not exist in the United States of America on a national basis. Small independent groups would carry on, but I do not see a viable national promotion rising from the ashes of all three of those companies.

As an aside, I would note that, because it was specifically asked about in the question, Bret Hart’s departure from the WWF and the Montreal screwjob almost unquestionably would have still happened even if Austin was paralyzed. The WWF had signed Bret to a twenty year, multi-million dollar contract that they simply couldn’t afford to pay. That’s why he left. Nothing about Austin’s physical status would’ve changed those facts, so Bret still would’ve been given his release and the screwjob still would’ve occurred. The WWF wouldn’t have the money to keep him, one way or the other.

Jar Jar Binks (no, seriously) takes us home with a series of three opinion questions:

This is simple: Bryan, Punk, Joe, Styles. Who is the best according to you, if all four are fully motivated? I haven’t seen many matches of Eddie Edwards and the like, so these four remain the indy darlings for me. Answer with following criteria: Suppose these four are in different matches with NO BUILD. Who will draw you more into a match as it goes on? For me it always remain Joe.

For me, the clear-cut answer is Daniel Bryan. I think that he’s more of a total package than the other three guys listed.

I would immediately put Punk in fourth place of these four wrestlers, because, even though he has a great mind for laying out professional wrestling matches, I don’t think that he has the natural athletic ability or coordination of Bryan, Styles, and Joe, and it does result in his work being a little bit clunky from time-to-time. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not bad, but he’s not quite as polished as these three other exemplary performers.

I would next eliminate Joe. Your question doesn’t specify whether we’re talking about each of these wrestlers now or whether we’re talking about them in what I consider to be their primes, so I’m sort of considering an “average” of them throughout their careers. In the last several Joe matches that I saw, he was not the Samoa Joe of old. Part of it might be motivation, but I also think that he’s been hampered recently by his increased weight and age as well as his rumored persistent knee problems. So, Joe falls by the wayside because, even though he has been great for some time, I don’t think that he’s quite as great as he used to be.

That leaves a choice between Bryan and Styles, and I would take Bryan for two reasons. The first is that he has a much more realistic style of professional wrestling in my opinion. AJ’s high flying, though breathtaking, is not as impressive as a more mat-based game, though I admit that is more of a personal preference issue. Also, I believe that Bryan is a significantly better personality than AJ Styles. I know that you specified that this is a cold match with no build, but charisma and a wrestler’s gimmick still has a lot to do with getting into a cold match, and Bryan is so much better than Styles in this regard that it gives him the additional edge that he needs to sneak into first place.

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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Ryan Byers

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