wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Are The Rock vs. John Cena Matches Underrated?

September 28, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
The Rock John Cena

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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Tyler from Winnipeg is asking a question that is once in a lifetime . . . at least until he asks it for a second time.

Do you think the John Cena/Rock WrestleMania matches are underrated?

The first part of answering this question is determining how exactly the matches have been rated. Interestingly, two of the most prolific viewers of professional wrestling have given the two bouts between Rock and Cena exactly the same marks. Both Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer and the late, great Larry Csonka of this very website rated the first Rock/Cena encounter at Wrestlemania XXVIII at ***3/4 and the Wrestlemania XXIX rematch at ***1/2.

For the sake of comparison, Csonka called the Ultimate Warrior versus Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI a ****1/4 star affair, while Meltzer ranked it at ***3/4. Thus, they’re saying that Rock/Cena was generally in the same ballpark as Hogan/Warrior.

And, frankly . . . I think that’s totally fair.

John Cena versus the Rock, much like Hulk Hogan versus the Ultimate Warrior before it, was far more about seeing these two larger than life personalities in the ring together than it was about watching a technical wrestling masterpiece. Yet, even despite that lowered expectation, the men in the matches managed to overcome a lot of their limitations and deliver bouts that were above average spectacles in terms of in-ring performance.

All-in-all, I would say that the consensus ratings for these matches are totally fair.

Steve is staring at the man in the mirror:

In Bobby Heenan’s promos leading up to Lex Luger’s WWF debut in 1993, it seems pretty clear that Luger’s WWF ring name is going to be “Narcissus.” Heenan repeatedly refers to the wrestler he’s unveiling at the Royal Rumble as Narcissus, and the announcers repeat it as well.

Luger, of course, was a former world champion in WCW, though at the time, the WWF’s policy was generally to pretend that WCW and/or the NWA didn’t exist. What’s more, even for WWF fans with no knowledge of WCW, Luger should have been familiar from the ill-fated World Bodybuilding Federation that the WWF had recently promoted incessantly with Luger as its big star.

So I guess I have a few questions surrounding all of this. Did the WWF ever actually intend for Luger to be renamed Narcissus? If so, what was the thought process behind that, and when and why did they change their minds and decide to call him “The Narcissist” Lex Luger? If he was always supposed to be The Narcissist, why was the name Narcissus used so frequently before his debut?

According to the February 1, 1993 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which covered the ’93 Royal Rumble at which Luger made his WWF debut, the man’s ring name was in fact supposed to be Narcissus originally, but Lex didn’t like it, so they ultimately wound up calling him by his traditional ring name with “Narcissist” slapped on their as an additional moniker.

I wish that were more exciting a story than it actually is.

Given that the actual answer here was pretty brief, I have a question of my own to ask in conjunction with this answer:

Am I the only one who feel like I get a disproportionately large number of questions about Lex Luger as compared to other wrestlers? I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that he has been a persona non grata with WWE and other major promotions since WCW went out of business, meaning he’s not been the subject of a lot of coverage elsewhere.

Souvik from India is doing something special at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom:

OVW was the developmental show of WWE for a long time. Can you tell me how OVW begun and why WWE stopped working with them? And how much successful OVW was on producing new stars in WWE outside of the obvious names like Cena or Orton?

Not a lot of WWE fans realize this, but the founding of Ohio Valley Wrestling actually had nothing to do with Vince McMahon or the E. It existed as an independent wrestling promotion founded by southern journeyman wrestler “Nightmare” Danny Davis in 1993. Though the name “Ohio Valley” might confuse some who are not from the area, the company has historically run most of its shows in Indiana and Kentucky – mostly Louisville, Kentucky – and “Ohio Valley” references the Ohio River, which forms the border between Indiana and Kentucky.

For what it’s worth, though the company has been in operation since ’93, the earliest Ohio Valley show results that I found were from February 12, 1996, and it featured many southern rasslers familiar to fans of the era, including Flash Flanagan, Rip Rogers, and a main event of Bill Dundee versus Mike Samples.

During the summer of 1999, Jim Cornette, while he was still employed by the WWF, bought a share of OVW from Danny Davis and began working with the company behind the scenes and on camera as a color commentator, which was essentially his outlet for continuing to create the type of pro wrestling that he wanted while still drawing a paycheck from the WWF, which he was growing progressively more disillusioned with throughout the 1990s.

The first reference in contemporary reporting to OVW having any sort of relationship with the WWF came in the October 18, 1999 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which stated that the Fed was sending some of its developmental talents to three different existing wrestling promotions, one of them obviously being OVW and the other two being Music City Wrestling and Power Pro Wrestling, both based in Tennessee. Some of the earliest WWF developmental names sent to OVW around this time were Scotty Sabre, Steve Bradley, and Rico Constantino.

The WWE/OVW relationship came to an end in 2008, and, thought here was some butting of heads between management of the two companies over the years (particularly when Cornette was there), the main and publicly stated reason for the split was that WWE had helped establish a second developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling, and it wanted to move all of its operations there because there were many advantages to doing so. The most notable advantage was that the vast majority of WWE talent – and quite a bit of retired talent – lives in Florida, so they were never going to be hurting for wrestlers to help the new guys along. This is the same reason that the WWE Performance Center and NXT continue to operate out of Florida to this day.

OVW has continued as an independent wrestling promotion since the WWE partnership ended, including as a developmental territory for TNA from 2011 through 2013. (This would include Danny Davis make appearances on TNA television for a brief period.) In 2018, the company was purchased by Al Snow, who had previously spent some time as OVW’s head trainer during the WWE partnership. In January of this year, the company was bought out again, this time by a group of investors lead by a gentleman named Matt Jones, who makes most of his money off of sports radio. The Jones group has kept Snow in place as the individual who primarily manages operations of the company.

Moving on to the second half of the question, just how successful was OVW in terms of producing talent?

The answer is extremely successful.

In addition to Cena and Orton as mentioned in the question, other OVW products include Bobby Lashely, Brock Lesnar, Dave Batista (though admittedly he is critical of his time there), Santino Marella, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Chris Masters/Adonis, Cody Rhodes, Jillian Hall, John Morrison, Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore, the Basham Brothers, the Spirit Squad, Serena Deeb, and Renee Dupree.

Also, though they had careers of significance elsewhere, OVW was used as a “finishing school” of sorts for names like the Big Show, Mark Henry, CM Punk, Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, and Joey Mercury.

And those are just some of the more significant names to make their way through the OVW system. In all, over 100 OVW alumni appeared on WWE television at some point in time.

We can see right through UNCP2k1:

Why do some wrestlers who sport tattoos have such, such overly white skin? I mean, you simply can’t see their tats. The skin just looks too white. Their tattoos are so dull and without colour. Strange question, maybe, but here are some examples: Brody King looks like he is wearing a thin translucent long sleeve shirt over the tats. Rey Mysterio on Smackdown. Scott Steiner. Malaki Black.

Honestly, I’m not sure what you’re talking about, because I don’t know that I’ve ever had difficulty seeing any of these men’s tattoos. I’m also really baffled by referring to Rey Misterio, Jr.’s skin as “overly white,” given that I’ve always considered him to be fairly tan. In any event, even if the wrestlers’ tattoos were difficult to see, the answer to the question is essentially that they get to do what they want with their own bodies.

Stevil is taken us to some well-trodden ground:

Would be interested in knowing your opinion if the following wrestlers / personalities will ever be inducted to the WWE hall of fame.

To start with, I’ll give my standard caveat anytime anybody asks me whether a particular wrestling personality is WWE Hall of Fame-bound:

Anybody can get in at any time, because it’s not a Hall of Fame that has any sort of objective criteria or voting process for induction. Whether a particular person is inducted or not depends entirely on the leanings of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and past practice has demonstrated to us that who receives an induction has almost no alignment with who would gain entry into a traditional sports (or entertainment) hall of fame. Instead, selection is based upon what will be perceived as a “draw” for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wrestlemania weekend and making that a balanced show. Also in the past, selections have been based upon what is perceived as being helpful to WWE merchandise sales (particularly when DVDs of classic content were popular), as political favors to those with whom WWE is seeking to establish or maintain partnerships (most Japanese inductees), and company loyalty despite not having a particularly noteworthy career (James Dudley is the chief example here).

Also, quick side note: As of the time that I am writing this article, I am currently cited as a source on the Wikipedia page for the WWE Hall of Fame, which quotes an article in which I called the selection criteria “weird.” A note to Wikipedians out there: Though I have some real issues with how Wikipedia’s coverage of professional wrestling is treated (which we can get into another time), I don’t mind being quoted in the future. Just please try to find some better examples of my writing.

That being said, let’s take a look at who Stevil wanted me to prognosticate about:

1. Ole Anderson

Ole was actually interviewed by the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier newspaper in 2012 when the Four Horsemen were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he indicated that he was not called to participate in that ceremony, and, even if he were called, he would not have accepted, both because he hates Vince McMahon’s guts and because he did not think that his health at the time (he suffers from multiple sclerosis) would have allowed him to travel to the ceremony. Thus, it seems that Ole Anderson simply does not want to be inducted into the Hall, and I’m not aware of an instance in which WWE has inducted anybody against their will. Thus, his odds of ever going in seem pretty low unless he quietly gets put into the Legacy Wing after both he and McMahon have passed away.

2. Jim Crockett

Some people might take the position that neither Jim Crockett Sr. nor Jim Crockett Jr. will go into the WWE Hall of Fame because they were competition to the WWWF/WWF, particularly Crockett Jr., who was actively trying to combat Vince Jr.’s national expansion. However, that’s not stopped a Bill Watts or a Verne Gagne from going in, so I don’t consider it a roadblock. I think that the issue with either Crockett entering the HOF is that I do not know who would advocate for them as mainline inductees. When Watts and Gagne went in, WWE had opportunities to actively market their old footage, and Watts had an old ally in the company, i.e. Jim Ross, who would have pushed for him. As a result of all of this, I could see either or both of the Crocketts quietly being placed into a Legacy Wing, but I doubt that you’ll ever see them on the main ceremony.

3. Lex Luger

I actually covered Lex Luger as a possible WWE Hall of Fame inductee back in May.

4. Dustin Rhodes

My thoughts on this one are similar to the thoughts that I had a few months ago when somebody asked me whether Chris Jericho would ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I think it depends entirely on what the future of AEW is. If that company folds within the next few years, there’s a possibility that Dustin could wind up working for WWE in a backstage capacity again, and that sort of role could prompt the company to put him in. However, if All Elite is here for the long haul, Dustin probably has a job there for as long as he would like one, and the E isn’t going to be inducting anybody who works for so strong a competitor.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves: If he does go in, he doesn’t go in as Dustin Rhodes. He goes in as Goldust. Scott Hall/Razor Ramon taught us that one.

5. Other than those already inducted, and excluding Paul Heyman, anyone who was most synonymous with ECW.

Some people might poo poo this because of why his name has been in the news most recently, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Tommy Dreamer included as a lower card inductee sometime within the next ten years or so. He seems to be well-liked by wrestlers generally and had an office job with WWE for a time and was a loyal company guy, ultimately leaving amicably on his own request. If the right people wind up in power in the company and/or if he works for the E as an agent again once he decides his in-ring career is totally done, this is well within the realm of possibilities.

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]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.