wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Are Shawn Michaels Fans Hypocrites?

May 3, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Shawn Michaels Undertaker Royal Rumble

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Michael K. is bumping all over the place:

A few weeks back I believe someone brought up HBK overselling to Hulk Hogan at their now famous SummerSlam match and it got me thinking: Most fans cut HBK slack (as I do) as he was so over the top that it actually was funny and, due to Hogan playing politics, HBK got robbed of his rematch victory. However, HBK also has a pretty lengthy history of childish behavior that he’s still called out on. So, my questions are, wasn’t what HBK did to Hogan (even if funny) still insanely immature and aren’t fans who vilify HBK for his childish behavior earlier in his career hypocrites for endorsing his behavior against Hogan?

Or, phrased another way, if HBK had done this same thing a decade prior, would it be as fondly remembered?

What Michaels did was absolutely, 100% unprofessional and immature. I don’t know how you can spin it any other way. It was also somewhat odd to see because, even though HBK had his reputation from back in the 1990s of being a nightmare backstage, he seemed to have largely gotten over that by the time that he made his return to the ring in 2002.

So, why do fans seemingly forgive his behavior at Summerslam 2005?

It has everything to do with the identity of his opponent.

When somebody acts like a jerk, people don’t like them. However, when somebody acts like a jerk to someone who has a history of being an even BIGGER jerk, that’s something in which we can take a perverse since of joy. It’s pure schadenfreude.

Even though Michaels was by all rights making a mockery out of what was one of the biggest dream matches the wrestling industry could have served up at the time, nobody cared because the guy he was sabotaging had an even bigger and longer-standing reputation of politicking and undermining people’s careers, which we actually covered last week.

You see, the enemy of the smarks’ enemy is their friend.

DC wants to talk DS . . . DSW, that is:

I have tough one I can’t find any info on. During the mid 80’s there was a small Georgia promotion called “Deep South Wrestling.” I recall seeing it on Superstars of Wrestling on channel 46 in Atlanta. I remember the Assassin, Mr. Wrestling 2, and even Nick Patrick as a wrestler on it. Any info?

Well, there’s a reason that you remember seeing the Assassin in Deep South Wrestling. It’s because it was his promotion.

Jody Hamilton, who had been wrestling as one of the masked Assassins since the 1960s, opened up this territory in 1986 alongside Rock Hunter, a more obscure wrestler and manager of the era who also competed under the villainous German persona of Karl Von Brock. (And you saw Nick Patrick there because, if you don’t know, Patrick is the Assassin’s son.)

From what I’ve read, DSW was formed primarily as a result of politics between local TV stations in Atlanta. Of course, Georgia Championship Wrestling had a stranglehold on the market for many years until 1984, when Vince McMahon and the WWF purchased the television timeslot. That went over so poorly with the locals that the Fed was run out of town, with Jim Crockett Promotions taking over about a year later.

Around the same time, Joe Pedecino started airing his “Superstars of Wrestling” programming block on WATL Channel 36. Another Atlanta station, WUPA Channel 69, decided that they wanted to get in on the wrestling game as well and established their own, competing block, with Deep South Wrestling being established to the local wrestling in WUPA’s block.

The promotion got off the ground in early 1986 but did not last long at all and was shuttered by the end of 1988. The stated reason for the closure was that the Assassin suffered an in-ring injury and needed to take time away from his business in order to heal.

While it was around, DSW did promote its own Heavyweight Championship, which was held by only six different men in its history, those being Jody Hamilton (who held it both as the Assassin and as the Flame), Tommy Rich, Mr. Wrestling II, Randy Rose, Ranger Ross (who factored heavily into DC’s last question in this column), and the Botswana Beast. The Nightmares of Ken Wayne and Danny Davis were Tag Champs for the promotion more often than not, and they even briefly had Joyce Grable in as their Women’s Champion.

Though the original Deep South was not long for this world, it did get rebooted in the mid-2000s when Hamilton relaunched the promotion as a WWE developmental territory. (It was independently owned by the Assassin but as a WWE affiliate.) This run was also short-lived, starting in 2005 and ending in 2007. Many current WWE stars, including Kofi Kingston, MVP, and Nattie Neidhart all had runs in the promotion before winding up on the main roster, and it’s also where Kenny Omega did his time as a developmental wrestler. The promotion is also noteworthy for being the locale of Bill DeMott’s alleged hazing of trainees which resulted in his resignation from WWE when it was brought to light several years after the fact.

That, in a nutshell is Deep South Wrestling. It’s essentially a footnote in wrestling history, but at least it got Ranger Ross that main event push he always wanted.

Allmaninlv has three fairly unrelated questions:

If the roles were reversed an Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson stay in Crockett Promotions and Ric Flair goes to the WWF first, who a takes over the Horseman from Flair and becomes the fourth member?

Honestly, I think the answer is that, without Ric Flair, there are no Horsemen. The group’s main purpose was to serve as Flair’s muscle in keeping the World Heavyweight Championship, and I don’t see the stable coalescing around somebody else’s leadership.

If you HAD to pick somebody else to round out the Horsemen’s roster without Slick Ric around, I probably would have gone with Lex Luger. He is the only other tip-top guy who played both face and heel at different points, and I don’t think that the Horsemen work as well if they don’t have a member who is a tip-top guy. Though the Total Package had been kicked out of the group not too far in the past, you could explain that away by saying that the real problems that lead to his departure were between him and Flair and that the rest of the group was willing to reunite with the Nature Boy gone.

Another, somewhat out of the box pick might by Michael “P.S.” Hayes. Hayes wasn’t a top guy like Luger was, and he couldn’t have the caliber of matches that Flair did, but if you want somebody who could rival Flair in terms of cutting a bombastic, energetic promo and providing a flamboyant contrast to the more workmanlike Anderson, Blanchard, and Windham, Hayes could have worked from a personality standpoint.

Billy Jack Haynes was brought in to WWF an made to seem like a big deal. Why didn’t he get over?

Though he was given the usual chain of wins over prelim guys early in his WWF run, after that Haynes really wasn’t booked in a way that would cause him to get over. He feuded with Hercules and teamed with Ken Patera against Demolition, but it was clear form the positioning that those were just programs meant to fill out house show cards, not to elevate anybody into a major role.

If Haynes had the ability to break through and catch on with fans, he barely had an opportunity to utilize it, as his run in the promotion only lasted about a year-and-a-half. For what it’s worth, Haynes in shoot interviews has claimed that he left the company when Vince McMahon refused to give him time off to spend with his ill father. Then again, Haynes also once did a shoot interview in which he claimed that Chris Benoit killed his wife and son because he learned that Vince McMahon was actually the child’s father, so Billy Jack is not exactly the most trustworthy source in the world.

Could Bob Backlund be a major face in this time period?

It depends on what you mean by the question.

If Bob Backlund from 1978 stepped into a time machine and tried to wrestle in 2020, then I don’t know he would work as a major babyface, simply because the wrestling industry has evolved into something that is immensely different than what Backlund was doing during his first run in the WWWF. He certainly wouldn’t have the chops to do twenty-minute show-opening promos, and his offense of punches and atomic drops would look antiquated in an era where pretty much every main eventer needs to be able to do some variation on a suicide dive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgxrODeA0lI

However, if a twenty-ish year old Bob Backlund, with all of the same basic skills as the original, showed up at the WWE Performance Center today, I think that he absolutely could be groomed into a top name within the promotion. Backlund did have a certain charisma, which developed more later in his career. If that were brought out of him earlier, he probably could have survived in a more “sports entertainment” based environment. Plus, the man was a freakish athlete (and by all rights still is for a man of his age), and I have no reason to believe that, if he were trained in it from the beginning, he wouldn’t be able to pick up and implement a modern style of wrestling just as well as he did with the 1970s style that he was actually taught.

Last week, we cleared out all of Tyler from Winnipeg‘s questions, but he’s back with more:

In your opinion, which is a bigger deal: Tyson as guest enforcer for Micheals/Austin or Taker/Mankind HIAC?

The answer is Tyson as guest enforcer, and I don’t think that it’s even close. That is something which brought mainstream eyes on to the WWF at a point where they were launching Steve Austin as the face of their company, and it worked to help him break out in a major way.

Though Mick Foley’s big bumps in his Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker are iconic and will forever be remembered by everybody who was a wrestling fan at the time, they didn’t do anything to change the course of wrestling history, which Tyson at Wrestlemania definitely contributed to.

unhappy_meal is heading to the Land of the Rising Sun, brother:

I recently discovered that Hulk Hogan faced The Great Muta in Japan when the former was WWF Champion and the latter was IWGP Heavyweight Champion.  That this happened at all really surprised me, and to my knowledge (which isn’t much) this is the only time a Vince-era WWF wrestler competed in a different organization until recently (though whether WWE has a stake in Progress could be another question).  Though Muta lost, he kicked out of the legdrop.  Moreover, Hulk apparently made some remarks about how IWGP was superior to WWF afterward.

Just wondering if you know anything about the political/backstage/public etc. circumstances surrounding this match?

First off, this isn’t the only time that a WWF wrestler has worked for another promotion, but it is still one of the more unique bouts in history, featuring the WWF Champion and the IWGP Champion going head-to-head with one another.

The match took place on on May 3, 1993 on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s show “Wrestling Dontaku in Fukuoka Dome” before an estimated 66,000 fans. In true Hulk Hogan fashion, he also got his buddy Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake on the card, with Brother Bruti winning a midcard battle against Masa Saito. In another interesting piece of trivia, because New Japan had a working relationship with WCW at this point, Wrestling Dontaku was also the first time in wrestling history that Hogan and Sting worked on the same show, as the Stinger fought Scott Norton to a no contest.

How did this unique lineup come about?

You have to go back to Wrestlemania VIII in 1992. It was known heading into the show that Hogan was going to go on hiatus afterwards, in part to start working on Hollywood projects. During that time, the Hulkster was a free agent. It was widely assumed that, when he set foot back into the ring, it would be for the WWF. However, when he was ready to return, Hogan started negotiating with several different promotions. New Japan and the WWF were the two largest wrestling outfits in the world at the time, so it made sense that they would both be on the table, but there were also some media reports of Hulk popping up at CNN Center around this time, a couple of years before he would actually sign with WCW.

Originally New Japan was attempting to bring Hogan in to take part in their January 4, 1993 Tokyo Dome show, but they could not come to terms on money in time, which extended his hiatus even further. Ultimately, because of his status as the industry’s biggest star, Hogan was able to broker deals with both NJPW and the WWF, which is why he was able to win the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania IX followed up by him wrestling in Fukuoka a month later.

You are correct that, immediately following his victory over the Great Muta, Hogan made a couple of comments denigrating the WWF Championship and calling it a “toy” compared to the real prize of Muta’s IWGP Title. Obviously this would have helped build to a rematch with that championship on the line, but there was some speculation at the time that by downplaying the WWF Title Hogan felt that he would not look as bad when he ultimately lost it to Yokozuna in a screwy fashion and didn’t pursue a rematch.

Due to creative differences over Hogan’s role in the company, he finished up with the WWF after their summer 1993 European tour, where he regularly wrestled Yoko in rematches for the Fed’s top championship. In between his departure from the WWF in 1993 and his debut with WCW in 1994, Hogan did wrestle three more matches with New Japan, two of them on the same tour in September ’93 and the third on the January 4, 1994 Tokyo Dome show.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].