wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Bobby Lashley the Oldest First-Time WWE Champion?

April 5, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Bobby Lashley Raw

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.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

Hey, ya want a banner?

I’ve been told I should promote my Twitter account more. So, go follow me on Twitter.

HBK’s Smile is getting long in the tooth:

Other than the “reign” by Vince McMahon Jr., did Bobby Lashley just become the oldest wrestler to win the WWE Title for the first time?

The answer is yes, but barely.

For those keeping score at home, Vince McMahon was 54 when he won the WWE Championship, though we’re throwing that out per the terms of the question.

Bobby Lashley is the next oldest man to capture the title for the first time, as his maiden reign earlier this year started when he was 44 years old. (He will turn 45 in July.)

There are, however, two men who held their first WWE Championship at the age of 42. Sergeant Slaughter, who had already been a main event act since the 1970s when he became WWF Champion at the 1991 Royal Rumble, is the first. The second is another man who won the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble, that being “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who captured the prize in 1992.

Not far behind them are the first WWWF Champion, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, the Iron Sheik, and Andre the Giant, who were all 41 years old when they first held the strap.

The only other competitor to win the title for the first time in his 40s is Dave Batista, who you were probably able to guess was an even 40 years old when he grabbed the championship in 2009. AJ Styles was just behind him, winning his first WWE Title at the age of 39 in 2016.

So, there you have it, the oldest men to become first-time WWE Champions. Given that the promotion’s largest demographic right now is viewers who are 50+, you have to wonder whether these stats will continue to trend upward as the company tries to push wrestlers with enlarged prostates and mortgage debt of the sort their fans can relate to.

Tyler from Winnipeg is getting up close and personal:

Do you have five living people from wrestling that you’d prefer to have a meet and greet with other than Hulk Hogan?

Depends on what you mean by “meet and greet.” I’ve seen that term used to refer to what are basically glorified autograph sessions, where you get to walk up to a celebrity, shake hands with them, and maybe get a couple of pictures snapped. I’ve never understood the appeal of that sort of meet and greet, particularly if you’re paying a significant amount of money for it. I would be thrilled to meet somebody that I idolized and have a conversation with them in an organic fashion, but a staged photo opportunity seems meaningless. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s your thing, more power to you, but it’s not something I’m going to drop my hard earned cash on.

If you’re talking about a more natural meeting and some conversation, maybe over a dinner the the Ribera Steakhouse, these are the five non-Hogan personalities that I’d like to sit down with:

Vince McMahon: Whether you consider yourself a fan of the man or not, you cannot deny his influence on the professional wrestling industry, for better for for worse. Given all of the stories we’ve heard about the man over the years and all of his idiosyncrasies, just being around to observe him in the wild would be interesting from a sociological perspective.

Jim Cornette: Cornette is a polarizing figure, no doubt about it. I tend to ignore his over the top grandstanding, most of which is done to draw a reaction and attention, just like the work he did as a heel manager in the 1980s. My interest in supping with Cornette has nothing to do with his more controversial statements and has everything to do with the depth and breadth of his knowledge regarding wrestling history, which is unparalleled. Picking his brain for an hour or two would be captivating.

The Great Sasuke: Sasuke has always been a personal favorite of mine and certainly a guy who has had an interesting career, as he’s now been in wrestling for thirty years and is basically the man who brought lucha libre to Japan, helping to create a hybridized style that would eventually evolve in to what we now see in places like Dragon Gate. He’s even had a brief political career and is history’s first legislator to wear a mask while discharging his public duties. A unique character all around.

The Rock: Really you get a two-for-one if you put the Rock on the list of celebrities that you want to meet, because you’re not only talking about one of the most popular professional wrestlers of all time, you’re now also talking about one of the most popular actors of the last ten years, in addition to his being an entrepreneur and all around media mogul.

New Jack: He may not have been a great professional wrestler, but New Jack was a gigantic, captivating personality. Chances are good that, if you sat down for a conversation with him, you would have no idea whether what he told you was the truth, and you likely fear for your safety at at least one point during the afternoon, but it definitely would not be boring.

Ben is talking out of both sides of his mouth:

Who, in your opinion, is the biggest hypocrite in wrestling. For example, I love Bret Hart, but when he went back to WWE surely it was just the money. He didn’t need that money though, so why didn’t he just take his legacy and go? (FYI I would never turn down that kind of money, but I wouldn’t hold myself up to be someone who is above that which, lets be honest in his book, he did.)

The biggest hypocrite in wrestling history is Vince McMahon, and I don’t think that it’s even close.

The best example that I can give is the way that he and his company have framed their historical narrative of the Monday Night War. If you listen to Vinnie Mac and crew tell the tale, they played by all the rules while Ted Turner and WCW pulled out every dirty trick in the book to put the World Wrestling Federation out of business, whether it was stealing talent from underneath their nose, putting a show up against Raw head-to-head, or giving away spoilers of taped programs live on the air.

Despite all of his caterwauling about the so-called sins of Ted Turner, what did Vince McMahon do when he was expanding the WWF into a national territory in the 1980s? Well, he poached every top star of every other regional promotion, regardless of whether he had plans for them. He intentionally put shows on network television to steal audiences away from pay per views being run by Jim Crockett Promotions and later told cable companies they had to choose between airing the two promotions’ shows on pay per view. He went to local television stations and paid them to air WWF programming whereas other territorial promotions were being paid by the station to produce TV. Anything that WCW did in the 1990s that could be considered “cutthroat,” the WWF had already done ten times worse a decade prior.

And that’s saying nothing of the Fed’s recent attempt to cut the legs out from underneath AEW by putting NXT up against them head-to-head on USA, starting two weeks before Dynamite first aired and offering their first head-to-head show commercial free. In fact, WWE was shopping NXT around to several table networks, including FS1 which was obviously owned by Fox, with whom WWE had just signed a major television deal for Smackdown. However, according to the Wrestling Observer among others, USA’s ability to slot NXT on Wednesday night opposite AEW was a major factor in WWE selecting that television home for its developmental territory. If a major competitor had done that to McMahon, he would be up in arms about what a dick move it is . . . but when he does it? It’s a-ok, and the sycophants both in his company and in the comment sections of websites like this one rush to his defense.

So, yeah. The biggest hypocrite in professional wrestling is the biggest player in professional wrestling.

Paul is ready to get back to the arena:

I gave AEW a look on their premier episode and the Young Bucks/Private Party match sold me on making this weekly appointment TV. Watching now months later, I find myself invested in the show, much like the live crowds that used to attend. When I watch RAW/Smackdown (honestly don’t watch NXT, don’t have a reason why I don’t), I feel those crowds are not invested in the show. Almost as if they attend just as a obligation or a status thing to brag about having attended a show. Do you feel that way about the two audiences that attend?

Back when live audiences in professional wrestling were still a thing, I think that it is unquestionable that the AEW live audience was more passionate and more wiling to go along with what the promotion wanted them to do as opposed to reacting however they might organically. I suspect that this has to do with the nature of the promotions and the cities in which they were running.

Chances are good that, if you were going to an AEW show, it’s because you specifically knew what AEW was and were a diehard fan of the promotion. There are not a lot of people out there who are going to visit a television taping of a wrestling promotion that they’ve never heard of just for the sake of watching some matches. Meanwhile, WWE has a significant amount of name value and is a major touring attraction that draws in fans based on its name alone, much like what you might see with the Harlem Globetrotters or the Ice Capades. Nobody goes to those shows because of who is on them. They go because they’re in town and because you associate the brand name with live entertainment. That’s what WWE has been converting itself to over time, and, when you have that sort of following, you’re bound to have a decent number of people in your audience who are not fully invested in the product as a diehard fan would be.

I also referenced the different cities in which the promotions were running. If you look at WWE, they’ll basically book themselves in any somewhat decently sized city with an arena, because, again, they’re well known and can draw almost anyplace that they go. AEW, meanwhile, had to be much more strategic as the upstart promotion and was specifically targeting cities in which they had previously performed well by some metric (such as television viewership) and therefore knew that they had a built-in audience.

In summation, yes there were differences in how live audiences reacted to the two shows, but I believe that had less to do with the quality and content of the programs and more to do with the makeups of those in attendance.

UNCP2K1 is growing out his mustache:

Magnum TA. Man, I was such a fan when I was kid; and heartbroken when I learned of the Porsche wreck. I’ve heard and read a handful of different recollections. What happened?

Honestly, if you’re asking about the mechanics of the accident and how it occurred, there aren’t a lot of sexy details. Magnum was coming back to his house in Charlotte, North Carolina after being on the road to wrestle for a while. He was only a few miles from the house and was driving too fast for conditions while it was raining, causing him to hydroplane and fly off the road. In at least one shoot interview, he pegged it as going 50 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone.

If you’ve seen pictures of the car afterwards, it difficult to believe that he lived and not hard at all to believe that the wreck ended his career.

And one more Magnum question: What’s the real story behind Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard/Tessa’s Mom/Baby Doll? How much of all their story(s) un-kayfabe?

I think you might be conflating a couple of different issues here.

The WCCW/JCP valet and occasional wrestler Baby Doll was Nickla Roberts, and she was initially in the corner of Tully Blanchard in JCP, though he eventually traded her in for JJ Dillon, causing Baby Doll to turn babyface to manage Dusty Rhodes and, to a lesser extent, Magnum TA. During most of this period, Roberts was not romantically linked to either Mangum or Blanchard in real world terms. Instead, she was dating Sam Houston (real name Michael Smith, the brother of Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Rockin’ Robin) and eventually married him on July 30, 1986. Houston and Baby Doll remained married through the mid-1990s.

Tully Blanchard’s wife and Tessa Blanchard’s mother is Courtney Shattuck, and she is not Baby Doll and has never worked in any way, shape, or form in the professional wrestling industry as far as I am aware.

However, after she and Blanchard split, Shattuck DID marry Magnum TA in 2005, so I guess you could say that she’s got a type.

So, there you have it. Long-time rivals Tully Blanchard and Magnum TA have traded female companions both on-screen and off, though they’ve not been the same woman.

James feels the madness:

Who was the heaviest guy to ever be slammed by Macho Man Randy Savage? I know his style wasn’t based on power, but no doubt that he was a pretty strong guy. And with his peak coming at a point in wrestling history where slamming big guys was a big deal, I’m just curious to see who the biggest guy he ever slammed was. I know there was a slam on Diesel at the 1993 Survivor Series, but that’s the biggest Macho slam that comes to my mind – any help?

I wasn’t able to find record of him slamming anybody larger than Diesel, but it’s really a moot point because, when one wrestler bodyslams another, it’s not as though the wrestler doing the slamming is legitimately hoisting his opponent all the way up. The wrestler taking the slam goes up for his opponent and does just as much work as the slammer, if not more so. Asking about the heaviest slams is a bit like asking about the heaviest bench presses where the spotter does half the lifting for you.

El Atomico feels left out:

In the documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows–at least the version I saw, on A&E–when Bret is naming the Hart Foundation members, but he doesn’t name Brian Pillman, although Brian appears in the footage. Years later, there was a cartoon illustration drawn by Bret on the inside cover of his autobiography featuring dozens of wrestlers, and the Hart Foundation stable is front and center, but again no Brian Pillman. As far I know, Bret and Brian had no issues, so why is Pillman absent in these instances? Was it a legal thing, relating to rights of Pillman’s likeness and image, or something?

I don’t think that there’s any heat or any legal issue. I just believe it’s a circumstance where, even though Pillman was part of the Hart Foundation stable as portrayed on WWF television, he doesn’t have the same association with the group in Bret’s mind because, unlike Owen and the Bulldog, Flyin’ Brian was not a member of the family, even though he he did have a history of working in the Harts’ Stampede Wrestling earlier in his career.

David from Glasgow wants to be serious for a minute:

While Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit rightly get credit for their influence on the current generations “hybrid” style of strikes/technical/grappling/flying etc, could there be an argument that the true blueprint among those nineties into the noughties guys on the current crop is actually Lance Storm?  

Honestly, you’re probably right, and you’re right for one reason:

Lance Storm lived.

Saying that might sound overly harsh, but it’s true. Eddie Guerrero passed away at 38. Chris Benoit was 40. Both of them were still active in-ring competitors, and neither one of them transitioned to the next phase of their career before their untimely ends. Meanwhile, Lance Storm is currently 52 years old, and he’s now he’s been out of the ring working as an agent and trainer for just as long a period of time as he was a full-time wrestler, if not slightly longer.

During that period of time, Storm has done a significant amount of work in WWE developmental going back to the early 2000s, and he’s mentioned in shoot interviews that guys like Bobby Lashley and Dolph Ziggler were ones that he worked quite extensively with. Once he left there, he started his own school in Canada, turning out students like Tenille Dashwood, Taya Valkyrie, and Tyler Breeze in addition to assisting with Dominik Misterio.

This means that, though Benoit and Guerrero influenced a generation of wrestlers who watched their matches, Storm was not only watched by that same generation, but he also got into the ring and actively taught them how to get things done.

Chris is getting his comeuppance:

My question relates to the essential workers of pro wrestling, the preliminary guys (ham and eggers to you humanoids). Was there ever a time when one of these guys gave a receipt to a top star who maybe was a bit stiff with them in a match?

Honestly, I’m not familiar with a situation like this, because most longstanding enhancement talent are going to “know their role” so to speak and will just take their beating and move along. Even if they did have the opportunity to get in a good shot, the fact of the matter is that most of the job guys were significantly smaller or otherwise less enhanced than their opponents, meaning that they likely would have gotten an even bigger receipt for the initial receipt, a situation that nobody wants to find themselves in.

If anybody has contradictory information, I would love to know it, but I cannot think of a true situation in which an enhancement wrestler in a predetermined match went out of his way to take a legitimate shot at a star performer.

There’s only one thing that comes remotely close in my mind, in which a guy was put out on a pro wrestling show with the intent that he would lose easily only for him to take things much more seriously than that, and it’s . . .

Daniel Puder vs. Kurt Angle, from the Million Dollar Tough Enough segment on the November 4, 2004 episode of WWE Smackdown.

What exactly happened during that incident?

Well, tune in next week, because somebody has asked me to discuss it in depth . . .

That’s what we in the industry call a teaser, kids.

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.