wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Sting Being Attacked By Dogs, Scrapping Emmalina, Purpose of Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, More

March 18, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling. My name is Ryan Byers, and this is the final week of a three week run for yours truly filling in for Mathew Sforcina.

As always, this has been fun, but part of me is ready to crawl back into my cave so that I no longer have to sort through five hundred questions about Chris Benoit and the Montreal Screwjob in order to get to some uncovered ground.

If you’ve got questions for this column, feel free to go back to using the normal e-mail address, and I’m sure that Massive Q will do his darndest to get you an answer.

You didn’t come here for perfunctory yammering, though. You came here for good, old fashioned, content and BANNERING.

Zeldas!

Check out Mat’s Drabble blog, 1/10 of a Picture!

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Feedback Loop

The majority of last week’s feedback focused on whether John Cena is, in fact, WWE’s ultimate “company man” as one questioner asked.

My response was that Cena was probably one of two top contenders but that Hulk Hogan probably edged him out because, even though his original run with the company was shorter, he did far more than Cena in terms of bringing positive mainstream attention to the promotion and, in fact, to the industry as a whole.

Most people who wrote in wanted to make an argument for the Undertaker over both Hogan and Cena, but there’s a very good reason why I didn’t mention Undie in my answer. When defining the term “company man,” the questioner didn’t just focus on loyalty to the promotion, in which case ‘Taker would almost certainly top the list. The questioner wanted to focus both on longevity and the extent to which the wrestler brought outside eyes on to the WWF/WWE. Though the Undertaker is obviously one of the longest-serving wrestlers on the roster, his mainstream appeal is virtually nil. Sure, he has a certain name recognition among non-wrestling fans because he’s been around for so long and has such a distinctive gimmick, but he has never once had an angle or an outside project that truly grabbed the attention of the mainstream, no matter how much you may personally like his turn as the lead heel in Suburban Commando.

One other interesting point made in conjunction with the discussion around that question was whether Cena could be seen as a WWE loyalist because he hasn’t had another large-scale wrestling promotion to jump to as so many former McMahon-contracted stars did. In response to that comment, I say that, though Cena during his career has never had an equivalent wrestling company to compete in, he certainly would have opportunities in other areas of entertainment, and, though he probably couldn’t become one-tenth the star of the Rock or even half the star of Batista, he could surely make a comfortable living off of a run in Hollywood. So, I don’t think that you can totally undermine the importance of Cena’s loyalty to WWE by saying that he’s just had nowhere else to turn.

The Trivia Crown

Jarvin Driftwood, whose name sounds like a rejected Chikara gimmick, hit the nail on the head with last week’s question. Let’s break it down:

Who am I? I was trained by two WWE Hall of Famers. One of my trainers is haunted by some persistent disturbing rumors and the other of really likes big boots . . . though I’m not talking about the wrestling maneuverer.

This wrestler was trained by Jimmy Snuka, who was haunted until his final moments on earth by allegations and speculation that he murdered his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in 1983, as well as Tony Atlas, who has a foot fetish so notorious that it was even brought up as part of his time on the reality show WWE Legends House.

I was part of a major promotion with national television in the United States for several years, including competing on the last episode of one of that company’s shows, which had previously run in some form or another for over twenty years.

This wrestler was part of the card on the last-ever episode of WCW Saturday Night, during which he was a competitor in a six man hardcore battle royale that was won by Brian Knobs.

Perhaps my biggest regular push came as part of a tag team with a former Intercontinental Champion. I replaced his previous partner, a guy who used to the bane of a certain wrestling promotion’s existence.

This wrestler was once the tag partner of former IC Champ Giant Bernard (a.k.a. Albert/A-Train/Matt Bloom) in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He replaced Travis Tomko in the role, and Tomko competed under the name Travis Bane when he was part of the Disciples of Synn as a WWE developmental performer in Ohio Valley Wrestling.

Who am I?

We are talking about none other than “Big” Rick Fuller.

I won’t be able to answer a trivia question next week, but let’s ask one anyway!

Who are we? We are a professional wrestling tag team, who only ever competed in one major promotion, and, despite being fairly prominently featured in that company, we never held its tag team championships while we were together. Even though we never held tag belts together, we are both fairly prolific tag team champions when you look at us separately, as one of us has held six different major promotion tag team titles with three different partners and the other has held four different major promotion tag team titles with three different partners. Interestingly, for all of those tag team championships, neither one of us has ever held a tag team title that the other one has held.

Are those hints not good enough? Let’s try these . . . one of us has had a finishing move that was copied by a luchador, while the other one of us has had a finishing move that was named after a sex act. Oh, we’re also from different countries . . . except for the period where we weren’t . . .and our gimmick is an old favorite of 411mania’s “Living Legend” Larry Csonka. Who are we?

Submit your answer in the comments, and we’ll see if Sforcina can figure it out in order to tell you whether you’re right.

Nobody Actually Asked Me About This, but I’m Writing About It Anyway

If you could indulge me for a moment, there’s something that I would like to talk about while I’m filling in for Mat and have a soapbox that I don’t normally have.

As most everybody reading this knows, this past Monday, professional wrestler Dennis Stamp passed away after a battle with cancer. When I was reading articles about Stamp’s death these past several days, there was one constant line that popped up everywhere:

“Dennis Stamp, best known for his appearance in Beyond the Mat. . .”

Given that Beyond the Mat is now almost twenty years old, I have to suspect that there are some of you out there who have never seen it, because you weren’t following wrestling at the time of its release. If that’s the case, allow me to briefly say that Stamp is, essentially, the comic relief of the documentary. Stamp is portrayed as a past-his-prime never-was wrestler and friend of Terry Funk, who takes his being left off of Funk’s retirement show too seriously, especially given the fact that he’s long since retired and has become an exterminator known as the “King of the Cockroaches.” And, of course, we can’t forget about him bouncing on a trampoline while holding dumbbells and wearing his underoos.

Off of the success (at least among wrestling fans) of Beyond the Mat, Stamp became a cult character, though there was still an air of derision around the whole thing. He attempted to capitalize on his newfound popularity and did some shoot interviews in addition to releasing an e-book, and he even got the odd booking or two, most recently in 2015 when he teamed with Dick Justice and Grado against Benjamin Boone, Gregory Iron, and Joey Vincent Martini for the Ohio-based independent promotion AIW.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to make the argument that we should be ashamed of ourselves for getting a chuckle or two out of Dennis Stamp’s post-Beyond the Mat persona. Heck, I’ve done it myself. I’m also not here to try to pretend that Dennis Stamp had some great, superstar level professional wrestling career that you’ve never heard about before. He didn’t. He had a good, solid, respectable career for a grappler before the time of national television, but it was far from the stuff of legend. However, when a guy is associated with wrestling in some way for over forty years and we only know about the last five to ten, I think we owe it to ourselves as a form of tribute to the deceased to educate ourselves about what he did in his physical prime.

With that said, here are some things that you probably didn’t know about Dennis Stamp, serious professional wrestler.

Born in 1946 in Brainerd, Minnesota, Stamp started out as an amateur wrestler in high school, winning a State Championship for his weight class in 1965. By the early 1970s, he was training to be a professional wrestler and had his first regular run in notable promotion in Vern Gange’s American Wrestling Association. During that stint with the AWA, Stamp was primarily a preliminary wrestler, but he occasionally stepped into the squared circle with some major names, including Don Muraco, Ox Baker, and Dusty Rhodes.

Around the time that Stamp joined up with the AWA, the promotion struck up a working relationship with International Wrestling Enterprise, a Japanese start-up group that was using Gagne’s long-time partner Billy Robinson in a key capacity. This relationship sent Stamp on an overseas tour, working for IWE from late October through early December 1972. On the tour, Stamp served as the regular tag team partner for the legendary Red Bastien and mixed it up with the likes of Strong Kobayashi and Mighty Inoue. Stamp also stopped off for at least one match in Hawaii for Big Time Wrestling on his way back from Japan to the U.S. mainland, a losing effort to Spiros Arion.

1973 and 1974 saw the Minnesotan relocate to the Florida territory, where he had moderate success as both a singles and a tag team wrestler, with one of his more notable roles being a regular partner of the 600 pound hillbilly Haystacks Calhoun when Calhoun, at the time a major touring attraction throughout the United States, would stop through Florida. Stamp and a variety of partners would also from time-to-time tangle with the duo of Dick Slater and Dusty Rhodes. It was during this period that Stamp also got a singles match with Jack Brisco during Brisco’s first NWA World Heavyweight Title reign, though the championship was not on the line.

Later in ’74, Stamp spread his wings and flew a little bit, continuing to wrestle in Florida but also jumping around to a few other territories, including the Australian version of World Championship Wrestling, a company called Northwest Promotions in British Columbia, Canada, and the Andersons’ Georgia Championship Wrestling. In fact, in 1975 in NWP, Stamp picked up a championship, teaming with the iconic Tiger Jeet Singh to wrest the NWA Vancouver Tag Team Titles from Dale Lewis & Masa Saito.

Shortly thereafter, Stamp travelled to Amarillo, Texas in 1976, to compete for the NWA-affiliated promotion booked by the Funk family. This is perhaps where he got his largest career push, at one point even challenging Terry Funk for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on a January 15, 1976 card held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Stamp was affiliated with this promotion throughout the rest of the 1970s and had all manner of high profile opponents, including: Ted DiBiase, Genichiro Tenryu, Manny Fernandez, and one of my personal cult favorites, Mr. Pogo. Stamp also engaged in a feud with none other than Dory Funk, Jr., trading the promotion’s Brass Knuckles Championship with Dory on four different occasions.

At the end of the decade, Stamp’s time with the Funks waned (the promotion as a whole would fold by 1981), and he went back to the AWA, this time primarily as an enhancement talent, putting over the likes of Rick Martel, Jimmy Snuka, and even the Rockers. Stamp would occasionally pop up on WWF television during this period as well, and, though he was mostly a job guy, he got one more world championship match when Jerry Lawler pinned him to retain the AWA World Heavyweight Title in May 1988 in Las Vegas. Based on the records available to me, it appeared that ’88 was also the last year of Stamp’s career as a full-time wrestler, though he would occasionally appear in the ring later on, most often as a referee back in Texas, where we found him when Beyond the Mat was being filmed.

So that is your primer on Dennis Stamp’s career that nobody asked for. Hopefully you found something of interest, and hopefully some of you remember Stamp beyond Beyond the Mat.

Getting Down To All The Business

David F. is question-asking royalty:

Are you aware of the overall purpose of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, and if it has changed since its inception? It doesn’t seem to be utilized to any extent as a tool to move someone up the card.

Cesaro won first, and afterwards I think unsuccessfully became a Paul Heyman Guy in the absence of Brock. No improvement, possibly a drop, in name value.
Big Show won second. A giant won the battle royale named after a giant. No movement.

Baron Corbin won. Almost ignored but for a flash of recognition on Smackdown to get a WWE Title shot around New Year’s. Bare movement.

Should we not expect a push for its winner, and just treat it is a standalone, get-everyone-on-the-card match?

It’s a standalone, get-everyone-on-the card match, which they’re trying to lend a smaller veneer of credibility to by slapping Andre the Giant’s name on it.

Plus, aside from the Andre trophy, this isn’t really a new concept. If you look back to Wrestlemanias past and include pre-shows, a full sixteen of the thirty-two cards have included a battle royale or some slight variation on the concept. Among those battles royale (and “battles royale” IS the popular plural, not “battle royales”), not that many of them have lead to a real push for the winner.

The wrestler who benefitted the most from a Wrestlemania battle royale appearance was probably Bret Hart, though he actually lost the big multi-man match at Wrestlemania IV. After the bout, he destroyed the trophy of winner Bad News Brown due to Bad News double-crossing him during the match, which is often seen as kicking off the Hitman’s singles career. NXT also did an excellent episode of their weekly TV show based around Hideo Itami traveling to Wrestlemania XXXI and competing in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale (which he also lost), but, with Itami remaining in developmental and spending most of his time there on the injured reserve, it’s hard to say that the appearance did anything for his career.

Plus, the Wrestlemania XXXII battle royale, launched the professional wrestling career of Shaquille O’ Neal, and we all know how successful that has been.

On this day, Adam R. sees clearly:

Always been curious of this scenario and how would play out. You have someone win the Money in the Bank match. Then, you have a scenario where said wrestler earns a title shot on their own merit. This wrestler wins the title AND is Mr. Money in the Bank. I think of a scenario playing out with a heel. A plucky underdog upsets the champion, former champ beats down the new champion, cashes in Money in the Bank, and, boom, he’s back to being champion. The face gets sympathy for getting screwed, plus being a former champ. The heel gets heat for, while not breaking the rules, kinda making a dick move. What do you think are the pros and cons of this scenario?

We actually did have a good opportunity to see this fantasy booking scenario play out in real life with the very first Mr. Money in the Bank, as, while he held the briefcase in 2005, Edge also won a “Gold Rush” tournament held on Monday Night Raw to earn a title shot against then-champ Batista. Unfortunately for those who may have wanted to see Adam’s gimmick in person, Batista defeated Edge to retain the title.

So, what do I think are the pros and cons of the scenario?

The biggest positive is that it is somewhat innovative, and it would be a new way to play with the Money in the Bank concept, which, as I have been saying for years now, feels totally played out. Also, if you altered Adam’s criteria slightly, you could have this angle unfold over the course of an entire episode of Raw or Smackdown, and one of the things that I feel is missing in today’s wrestling is a story that progresses throughout an entire show as opposed to appearing in one or two segments with no real connective tissue.

Probably the biggest negative is that I don’t see a set of facts under which this angle could be used to build a new star, which is something that Money in the Bank could theoretically do if used differently. If a guy has gotten to the level of holding a championship and MITB simultaneously, presumably he is already a fairly well-regarded wrestler. He might gain some heat by winning the championship back in relatively short order, but that doesn’t seem like the type of heat that would take an already-established wrestler to the next level. Also, the upstart who beat the champ only to lose the belt right back might not be elevated depending on how the company follows up on the angle. I consider this similar to Chris Jericho “beating” Triple H for the WWF Championship only to be stripped of the title later in the show on a technicality. That move did virtually nothing for Jericho as a main eventer, though some of the follow-up may have been to blame more than the angle itself.

If you’re not making a star and are only using this storyline to use relatively minor heat to an already-established heel, it in some ways seems to be a waste of the Money in the Bank gimmick. However, now that we’re back in the world of the brand split and two world championships, we might also soon be returning to the world of two Money in the Bank matches per year. If that happens, then I could see this storyline being useful to “burn” one of the two briefcases in a unique manner so that you don’t have to run the same basic MITB cash-in angle on two shows within the same year.

Nelson is being made over:

So what exactly was the point with the whole evolution of Emma to Emmalina? Just something to keep her top of mind while she rehabbed, with no real intent of going through with the gimmick? Or was there actually a plan that to bring her back as Emmalina that they ultimately scrapped? The whole thing seems very odd. Why even bother building up this evolution if you don’t intend to go forward with it? It feels very similar to the Brodus Clay repackaging, though longer. I just don’t get the purpose of even bringing her out to only state she’s going back to her Perfect Dark-esque character. If you change your mind, just drop the vignettes, right? It wouldn’t be the first time they dropped something with no explanation. Any chance they’re bringing her back with a split personality gimmick?

The problem is that you need a King’s Rock to evolve Emma into Emmalina, and Vince just couldn’t find one. Every time he spun, he just kept getting that damn Metal Coat over and over and over again.

Seriously, though, the powers that be in WWE simply weren’t happy with how Emma was performing in her new gimmick when they tested it out backstage. So, they scrapped the whole plan and gave her a different character.

Though you’re correct that they could have just dropped the vignettes and never explained anything, it probably is better television to actually tie up the loose end, particularly when the “coming soon” vignettes ran for something on the order of seventeen weeks and weren’t going to be forgotten anytime soon. This wasn’t a one-off like poor Hade Vansen.

Now we just have to hope that, someday, there will be an on-camera meeting between Emmalina and Glacier.

(Hopefully, somebody, somewhere gets that joke . . . or the Hade Vansen joke . . . or the King’s Rock joke. Damn, there was a lot of obscure stuff in that answer.)

Daquan is taking us down to San Antonio, Texas with a couple of questions:

I absolutely loved Jr’s commentary during the WrestleMania 22 match between VKM and HBK. What was the reaction backstage to his comments about Vince? Was there some truth to his comments or was Jim just selling the hell out of the “Vince is evil” storyline?

I listened back to some of the commentary on said match to prepare to answer this question, and, frankly, I didn’t see that much that was too far out of line. Ross referred to McMahon as “evil” and “Satan-like” in addition to really egging on Shawn Michaels’ beating of the chairman of the board, but it all made sense in context. First, part of the buildup to the match was Vince forcing Michaels to join the infamous “Kiss My Ass Club,” and, as J.R. mentions during his commentary, he was made part of that group several years earlier and thus had a particular reason to be sympathetic to the babyface. Additionally, though we had not yet seen the upcoming Vince & Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels & “God” match, Vince had begun mocking Michaels’ religion in the buildup to the Wrestlemania encounter, and that was also a different level of heel tactic that required a different level of response from all of the babyfaces, Jim Ross included.

So, no, Jim Ross wasn’t shooting. He was just that good at working you.

I hadn’t yet discovered the IWC back in ‘02 so I missed out on the immediate reaction to HBK’s in ring return. What was the backstage reaction to HBK’s first match back at SummerSlam 2002? Did anyone expect him to be that good?

Believe it or not, Shawn Michaels’ comeback match from his back injury was not the bout with Triple H at Summerslam 2002. Michaels had actually wrestled an indy match two years earlier against Venom, a.k.a. Paul Diamond, a.k.a. Max Moon, a.k.a. Kato of the Orient Express.

At the time, Michaels was operating his Texas Wrestling Academy, which produced names such as Bryan Danielson and Brian Kendrick. There was also an affiliated independent promotion known as the Texas Wrestling Alliance, which offered trainees opportunities to gain experience in front of a live crowd and mix it up with veterans who were also kept on the roster. Venom was one of those veterans, and it wasn’t too long before everybody decided that a match between Michaels and Venom, who knew each other going back to the AWA, wouldn’t be the worst idea.

The bout is linked to above, and, as you can see for yourself, it’s not half bad. So, by the time Summerslam 2002 rolled around, it wasn’t really a surprise that the Heartbreak Kid still had some gas in his tank. Based on this performance, the SS match was going to be just fine, particularly in light of the fact that, with all due respect to Paul Diamond, Triple H is a far better dance partner.

Random trivia for those who might not know it . . . also around the time of the Venom match, Michaels decided that he would guest referee one match for relatively low-level Japanese wrestling promotion FMW in exchange for FMW booking his trainees Bryan Danielson and Lance Cade for a tour. Here’s the footage:

Connor took some time off from his Wellness Policy suspension to send in a few questions:

What was up with Sting getting attacked by dogs at Great American Bash 1999? It looked weird and stupid.

Kevin Nash was booking WCW at the time, and the main feud was a storyline in which Nash and Randy Savage took turns trying to dump literal shit on each other.

In other words, I don’t know that Sting being attacked by dogs was even the dumbest thing that happened in WCW that week, let alone that month or that year.

That being said, there’s no particular reason for the angle aside from the fact that somebody thought it would be cool. Somebody was wrong.

Is Great American Bash 1991 the worst show of all time? I’ve seen hundreds of bad shows over the years but Bash 91 has no redeeming features at all.

That depends on what factors you want to take into account when deciding what a bad pay per view is. Bash ’91 has almost always had a horrible reputation as a pay per view, but a large part of that has to do with the fact that Ric Flair had just left the company and the card had to be reshuffled. However, if you put that disappointment aside and look just at the match quality . . . okay, things are still pretty bad, though the Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham championship match is totally passable professional wrestling action and is probably dumped on more than it deserves. (And I don’t mean “dumping on” in the Kevin Nash/Randy Savage sense of the phrase.)

There are certainly contenders for worse PPVs, though. Heck, Bash ’91 may not even be the worst Great American Bash ever, let alone the worst pay per view ever. The WWE version of the Great American Bash in 2004 is pretty terrible, featuring the Undertaker burying Paul Bearer in concrete in the main event, plus a super-lame undercard consisting of matches like Kenzo Suzuki vs. Billy Gunn, Mordecai vs. Bob Holly, Luther Reigns vs. Charlie Haas, and Sable vs. Torrie Wilson. Pretty much the only redeeming quality of the show is the amazingly grotesque bladejob in the bullrope match between Eddy Guerrero and JBL, and the match up to that point wasn’t all too great, because bullrope matches never are.

Off of the top of my head, some other contenders for worst pay per view other from the big leagues would include WCW Uncensored 1995 and almost any incarnation of WCW/nWo Souled Out, particularly the first one. I’m sure TNA also did some awful stuff, but I was never paying enough attention to their PPVs to have an informed opinion. I just watched the weekly TV, when I bothered to watch the promotion at all.

And, if you want to count PPVs from outside of major promotions, we’ve got allllll sorts of horrible stuff that is worse than even the rock bottom of the WWF, WCW, TNA, et. al. There is, of course, the legendarily bad Heroes of Wrestling pay per view with Jake the Snake stroking his python. From around the same general time period, you’ve also got Women of Wrestling Unleashed, put on by David McLane and sadly providing one of Bobby Heenan’s last runs on commentary, and i-Generation Wrestling Superstars: Rodman Down Under, a card built around Dennis Rodman wrestling Curt Hennig for no apparent reason.

And, with that reference to Dennis Rodman and his most obscure professional wrestling match, we’ll bring this week’s column to a close. Thank you all for your comments and e-mails over the last couple of weeks. I really enjoy this fill-in gig, and I’ll do it for as long as I can.