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Ask 411 Wrestling: Are Two Wrestlers’ Careers More Intertwined Than Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn?

February 20, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Smackdown 12318 Kevin Owens Sami Zayn Image Credit: WWE

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A different Ryan asks a question that has us debating the relative thickness of blood and water:

I mentioned this in another post and it was suggested I bring the question to the expert, so I ask this: Have any two wrestlers been so intrinsically linked as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn? It seems they have been side-by-side (for the most part) for the entirety of their careers. Has that ever happened before, or has anyone even come close?

There was one name that immediately came to my mind up reading this question:

The Road Warriors.

The man who would eventually became Road Warrior Animal started wrestling in 1982, and the man who would eventually became Road Warrior Hawk started wrestling in 1983. Less than a year into both men’s careers, they were put together as a tag team. They were together consistently in a variety of promotions all over the world until the summer of 1992 when things fell apart towards the end of their first WWF run. Fast forward to January 1996, and they were reunited in WCW. They remained together until 2003, when Hawk’s untimely passing occurred.

The difference between the Warriors and Owens/Zayn is that the latter pair has switched between feuding and teaming over the years, whereas the Roadies were always a team (despite winding up on opposite sides of the ring during the Battle Bowl event at WCW’s Slamboree 1996).

The Rock n’ Roll Express have a similar story. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson first teamed in 1980, thought that was before the Express name was coined and was instead a series of six mans where Morton joined the established tag team of Robert Gibson and his brother Ricky Gibson. Then, the RnR team proper formed in 1983, and they have teamed together as recently as November 2022. They even briefly had the feud against each other that the Road Warriors never did, as Morton turned heel and joined the York Foundation in 1991, having a series of matches against Gibson.

The Steiner Brothers also warrant some consideration, though Scott did have his post-WCW life as Big Poppa Pump that Rick only played a small role in, though the two did get back together for a cup of tea in TNA. Also, I suspect that legitimate siblings are probably outside the scope of the question that Ryan asked.

Don’t get me wrong, the intertwined careers of Owens and Zayn are certainly unusual, but this sort of pro wrestling “marriage” is not unheard of, either.

Jonfw2 is enjoying the sound of silence:

I just watched Lacey Evans return after months on the shelf to…nothing. No audience reaction, no heat…even Cole and Barrett couldn’t help laughing at one point. So my question is: what are the biggest “dead on arrival” gimmick buildups in wrestling history?

There was this time after he got kicked out of the Nation of Domination that Crush returned with this stable of bikers. That debut was definitely DOA.

Seriously, though, the classic answer to this question has to be the Gobbledy Gooker. A mysterious egg was shown at WWF shows for weeks and weeks heading into the 1990 Survivor Series, and, when its contents were revealed on the show, it was Hector Guerrero dressed as a turkey. The crowd had no idea what to do with the bird as he danced with Mean Gene Okerlund, and the result was a reaction that was somewhere between confusion and apathy.

MNMNB is the President of the Kofi Kingston Botched Spot Fan Club:

In a battle royal/Royal Rumble, if someone gets tossed over the top rope, doesn’t hit the floor, gets one leg and their entire upper body back in the ring (through the ropes, or maybe even under the rope), but their other leg is still outside the ropes, and someone comes along and hits them and they fall back out of the ring to the floor, with both feet hitting the floor, are they eliminated?

Or is one leg and their entire upper body enough to count as getting back in the ring?

I realize WWE can decide whatever they want with regard to this happening, because the rules in a made-up sport are also made up, so I guess this is more of an opinion question for you.

If I were booking a wrestling promotion, this wouldn’t even be a question, because these sorts of spots wouldn’t even be done. The “over the top rope and both feet hit the arena floor” was helpful for a period of time, because it provided a nice, clear cut rule as to when an elimination would occur. However, it’s been turned into something obnoxious and hokey because wrestlers have overdone variations on the “both feet didn’t hit” loophole. In my nonexistent wrestling promotion, if you go over the top and any part of your body touches the floor, you’re out of the match.

How would this play out under WWE’s more convoluted rules? I suspect that the wrestler would not be eliminated under the circumstances. In reaching this conclusion, I’m making a comparison to how count outs work in professional wrestling. If you’re being counted out of the ring and want to stall, it is typically enough for only a portion of your body to roll back into the ring in order for the referee’s count to be broken. You don’t have to get fully back into the ring. If you don’t have to get fully back into the ring to avoid a count out loss, I would say you don’t have to get fully back into the ring to avoid being eliminated from the Royal Rumble, either.

Night Wolf the Wise is jabbing at New Japan:

1. What is the deal with NJPW and their titles? They have like 12 of them. Why so many?

Yes, twelve is the number. The current IWGP Titles are the World Heavyweight Title, the United States Title, the Junior Heavyweight Title, the Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and the Women’s Title. Then you have the two NEVER championships, the Openweight Title and the and the Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles. There’s the Strong Openweight Title and the Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles. Closing it out are the two miscellaneous championships, the King of Pro Wrestling and the NJPW Television Title.

Why are there so many titles?

I have no idea, other than to say it’s lazy booking. A wrestler challenging for a championship is a ready-made storyline for a match, so if you’ve got a bunch of belts, you don’t have to think of a bunch of stories. Unfortunately, there are some bookers who fail to realize that there are other types of story you can tell. Those bookers feel like half the roster needs a championship to go after.

2. Does NJPW hold the record for having the most belts for one promotion?

No, they don’t. In fact, they don’t even have the most belts in a single promotion right now.

WWE has fourteen active championships: the WWE Title, the Universal Title, the Raw Women’s Title, the Smackdown Women’s Title, the United States Title, the Intercontinental Title, the Raw Tag Team Titles, the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, the NXT Title, the NXT North American Title, the NXT Women’s Title, the NXT Tag Team Titles, the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles, and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles.

They actually had even more titles than that last year, before all of the NXT UK belts were scrapped.

3. If you had to choose which titles to get rid of, which titles would you choose and why?

The list of what I would keep is shorter than the list of what I would cut. In a perfect world, NJPW would have a World Heavyweight Title, the United States Title, one set of Tag Team Titles, and the Junior Heavyweight Title.

I could understand keeping the Strong Openweight Title and Strong Tag Team Titles, because NJPW Strong is effectively its own promotion-within-a-promotion and the belts aren’t being defended on the company’s main shows, but I wouldn’t miss them if they were gone, either.

As far as the cuts are concerned, the company really only needs one secondary singles championship, which is why I would keep the U.S. Title while axing the NEVER and TV Championships.

The King of Pro Wrestling championship is too gimmicky and doesn’t fit with the overall legitimate overall sports presentation of the company. Axe it.

The Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles have always felt superfluous, because there are never more than four regular teams in the division at a time. I would merge them with the Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and make them an IWGP Openweight Tag Championship.

As meaningless as the Junior Tag Titles are, the Six Man Tag Team Titles are even more meaningless. I have literally never once in my life seen a U.S. promotion or a Japanese promotion create a set of Six Man belts that are worth a damn. (AEW is off to a decent start, but the championship is still new enough that I am reserving judgment.)

The IWGP Women’s Title is a dumb idea because it’s a title for a division that doesn’t exist. Sasha Banks is the only woman the company has under any sort of contract, and even that is for a limited number of dates. My understanding is that the plan isn’t even for it to be defended regularly on New Japan shows in the promotion’s home country and it’s been created primarily for U.S. shows where a segment of the fanbase subscribes to the inane notion that every wrestling company MUST have a women’s division, even when there aren’t enough good women in the area to build the division around. If that’s what they feel they need the belt for, I think they would be better served by just borrowing the women’s title of a collaborating promotion instead of creating their own.

Tyler from Winnipeg is combing through the archives:

I’ve been curious since Tony Khan bought ROH Why wouldn’t he just play the match of Tyler Black vs. Kevin Steen or something like that on Rampage?

There’s nothing that would stop him from doing that as far as legalities are concerned. He owns the footage. However, I don’t think that it would be smart from a business perspective. Replays of historic wrestling footage don’t have a proven track record of putting up viewership numbers compared to first run content, plus the production values of most ROH footage aren’t up to snuff compared to what a modern AEW show looks like. That might sound like a small point, but interest in WWE tanking during their COVID/empty arena period established that wrestling fans actually do care about this sort of thing.

Also, I don’t know the particulars of AEW’s contract with the Turner networks, but there’s a chance that they may require Dynamite and Rampage to consist of predominantly original content. I recall reading about a similar clause being in WWE’s television deal with USA several years ago.

Rex is going hard on the Hardys:

Why did the Hardy Boys go through so many managers? They had Michael Hayes, Gangrel, and Terri before settling on Lita.

I don’t know that there’s a great explanation for this one. It was the Attitude Era, and there wasn’t a lot of long-term planning. Things were just thrown up against the wall to see what would ultimately stick and get over.

It’s time to go home, according to Bryan:

I’m wondering about two finishes used a lot in the past: The Dusty finish and the Broadway. Do they have any place in today’s product?

The Dusty finish could be used to see how crowds would react to a guy winning a title. If it’s lukewarm you can skip him, but if they go nuts, put it on him later, and don’t make the mistake Verne Gagne made with Hogan.

The Broadway . . . assuming it’s 30 minutes and not an hour could be a way to keep both guys looking good without a contrived ending. Sting vs. Flair in 1988 comes to mind, though fans may not have the attention span for that long of a match.

What do you think, could they work today or not?

The answer to the Broadway portion of the question is pretty easy, because Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega just did this at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2021. It worked pretty darn well all things considered and was done with the effectively the same purpose that Bryan mentioned in his question. That being said, the further wrestling gets away from its roots as a simulated sport, the harder a time limit draw becomes to pull off, because rules like time limits are more the province of legitimate sports than they are male soap operas.

Regarding the Dusty finish . . . meh. Anything can work so long as it’s done in the right context and isn’t overdone, but that particular finish still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Though it could, in theory, be used in the manner that Bryan mentions, the problem is that it gives the audience something that they wanted to see and then immediately takes it away. This makes the crowd’s investment of time and/or money feel meaningless, thereby burning good will with your fanbase. People hate it for the same reason that they hate TV shows or movies that end with the trite “it was a dream all along” finish. I’m not saying that there isn’t a larger narrative that it couldn’t serve, but I would proceed with caution and certainly wouldn’t recommend doing it more than once every several years.

Todd is flaunting his SAG card:

I seem to recall an article in a wrestling magazine sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s, listing the their best actor choices that should enter the squared circle. I seem to remember Randall “Tex” Cobb leading the poll as top choice.

Since this time frame, the lines have blurred with stars such as the Rock, Cena, and Insane Clown Posse smoothly making the transition between wrestler, acting, and music.

In your opinion, who were the most notable wrestlers / actors who should have made the jump to film or the squared circle but never did during the 80’s-90’s time frame?

Huh, that may be the first time that ICP have been put in the same category as the Rock and John Cena, unless the category is “hominids.”

I distinctly remember that, when I was a kid, I thought that Jackie Chan should get involved with wrestling. The guy has a marital arts background and crazy levels of experience with fight choreography and stunt work, which at the time I thought would translate to the squared circle. I now know that those are different skillsets, but there is some similar DNA. Also, when I first had this idea back in the 1990s, I didn’t realize that Chan was only 5’9” and would look minuscule in there with all but the smallest wrestlers.

Similarly, Danny Trejo was a guy who had the look, physique, and persona to become a wrestler, particularly back in the 1980s, but he’s even shorter than Chan – 5’6” tall.

On the opposite side of that particular spectrum was Michael Clarke Duncan, who I remember a lot of wrestling fans speculating about as a potential celebrity ‘rassler at one point. However, even though he had impressive size, he never seemed particularly mobile to me, which was we know can present all sorts of problems (see Khali, Great).

Lou Ferrigno of Incredible Hulk fame also comes to mind, though I don’t know how much work it would take to convert is “show” muscles into “go” muscles.

Also, if you want somebody for your women’s division, what about 1980s straight-to-video marital arts movie queen Cynthia Rothrock? Given what we’ve learned about the Fabulous Moolah in recent years, I wouldn’t have minded seeing Cynthia throw a couple of swift kicks her way.

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.