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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Chris Jericho Really the Last Survivor of the Dungeon?

August 16, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Chris Jericho AEW Rampage 7-29-22 Image Credit: AEW

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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Don’t eat anything Adheelios has flipped with his spatula:

AEW has been pretty heavily plugging Chris “Lionheart” Jericho as the Last Survivor of Stu Hart’s Dungeon on programming recently.

However, WWE used to credit Tyson Kidd (TJ Wilson) as this so who was it?

As far as I know, Jericho’s career started much earlier so he would be unlikely to be the last survivor?

Also, any surprising names who trained or attended the Hart Dungeon you know of? Also was Natalya the only female who ever graduated?

It depends on what you mean by “Stu Hart’s Dungeon.”

Bret Hart gave an interview to WWE.com in 2015 in which he talked about the Dungeon and his father training professional wrestlers.

First off, the interview briefly touches on the fact that Chris Jericho never trained with Stu Hart or in the Dungeon, which has also been fairly well-documented elsewhere. Jericho, along with Lance Storm, trained at the Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp, which was promoted as being run by Bruce and Keith Hart, though Storm in many interviews has said that the Harts were virtually never there and the training was left to other, largely unknown wrestlers.

So, despite comments on commentary to the contrary, you can discount the Lionheart as being a protege of Stu Hart.

In the aforementioned interview, Bret was asked point blank who the last wrestler his father trained was. The answer may surprise several readers . . .

It’s Jim Neidhart.

Yes, Neidhart, whose in-ring debut was in 1978, is the last man that Stu Hart fully trained, according to Stu’s own son and Jim’s own brother-in-law. This would give the Anvil perhaps the best claim to truly being the last survivor of the Hart Dungeon. Bret even acknowledges that he and his brother Owen were not really trained by their father, though he would obviously show them a few things here and there.

That being said, according to the same interview, there are other wrestlers who later trained in the physical space referred to as the “Dungeon,” i.e. the basement of Stu Hart’s house in Calgary, though not really with Stu himself. This would include TJ Wilson/Tyson Kidd, but the Hitman notes he and his generation of Hart family members were trained more by other family members and also Japanese wrestler Tokyo Joe as opposed to by Stu. This means TJ can factually state he “trained in the Dungeon,” but any claims he was trained by Stu Hart are overblown.

This means Kidd has a better claim to being the last survivor of the Stu Hart Dungeon than Jericho does, but Jim Neidhart tops them both.

And to the last point about Nattie Neidhart, she cannot really claim to have been trained by Stu Hart any more than her husband can, but to the extent that she is a Dungeon graduate, there is another female wrestler who can make a similar claim. Belle Lovitz, who was a regular opponent of Nattie’s on the Canadian independent scene in the early 2000s, had a very similar training experience with the the Hart family and would have set foot into the Dungeon.

Adrian from Ireland mustache me a question:

A quick question about Bobby Roode. I was a big fan of his in TNA and he seemed to have a good run in NXT also, but he looks to have been wasted on the main shows. Why do you think the main reason for this is? Also, if you could book it, is there any way you could get him into a main event run? (just for fun)

I have a hard time saying that Bobby Roode is being wasted, because I’ve always perceived him as being a guy who is a good hand but is missing something necessary to put him over the top into being a viable main eventer. Is he a very good in-ring performer? Yes. Is he a very good promo? Also yes. However, given all the talent out there in the wrestling word right now, being very good isn’t enough. You either have to be excellent at something or, at least until recently, you had to have the sort of physique that Vince McMahon was always going to push.

I frankly can’t say that I would give the guy a run at the top if I had the opportunity. I’d book him as a utility player or part of a heel tag team, much as he has been up to this point in WWE.

Moses is digging through his closet:

Who is the most influential wrestler who spent most of their time in the ring wearing a singlet? Similarly, who is the most influential wrestler who spent most of their time in the ring wearing upperwear that wasn’t part of a larger ensemble (i.e. t-shirts and undershirts, but not singlets and full body suits a la Jushin Liger)? My gut answers are Bret Hart and Atsushi Onita respectively, but with my limited perspective I’ve little confidence in either.

First off, I wouldn’t say that Bret Hart wore a singlet. Normally the word “singlet” would refer to something resembling amateur wrestling gear with short legs, whereas the Hitman almost always fully covered his gams. I would personally peg Kurt Angle as professional wrestling’s greatest singlet-wearer, though Mr. Perfect and Rob Van Dam are certainly up there as well. You also have to consider the fact that the Ultimate Warrior donned a singlet during high points of his popularity, but I think he loses points because his best-remembered look is trunks with no top.

On the subject of wrestlers who wore tops that could double as street clothes, I usually don’t go to modern wrestlers as the answers for these “best of” questions, but the more that I think about it, the more the nod might actually have to go to Kevin Owens. He’s been in and around WWE main events for many years now, he was the hand-picked opponent for one of the most popular wrestlers of all time when he decided to come out of retirement, and he’s worked in a t-shirt all the while. That certainly pushes Owens to the top of the list, and in my mind definitely puts him over Onita. I also have to give a shout-out to Hillbilly Jim and his bib overalls.

Jason is pushing the limits of what we can do here:

What match had the most near falls? Are analytic stats like that even recorded? Is Shawn Michaels the wrestler with the most near falls per match leader?

No, records of this nature really are not kept.

Big Al don’t bother to resist:

When was the first year that the Titantron was used by the WWF? The earliest I remember was Wrestlemania 8 (I think) where it was just a lit board, with no video, being the wrestlers as they would enter. Also, when was the first video used on the tron?

The first set with the large central video screen that would ultimately be called the Titantron debuted on the March 10, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw. The first wrestler to come through the curtain on that show was then-WWF Champion Sid, so he was the first wrestler to use a Titantron video.

However, smaller video screens had been used throughout the New Generation era, including what looked like a four-by-four grid of small monitors that would sit next to the entrance on shows like WWF Superstars. There would usually not be custom videos on those monitors, though, just a logo/title card for the wrestler (which they would also stand in front of when cutting promos in the Event Center), followed by footage of the wrestler making their entrance.

Brian needs to call his mama:

So it’s a fairly common wrestling trope for a wrestler to debut as a face (since debuting/returning wrestlers almost always get a face pop) and then turn heel apart immediately afterwards, whether by attacking another face out of nowhere or just shit-talking the crowd. But what about the opposite?

Can you think of a few good examples of a wrestler debuting as a heel (whether by vignettes designed to position them as one or by association with other heels) and then almost immediately turning face? I’m drawing an absolute blank.

The first name that sprang to my mind was Brodus Clay. In 2011, Clay was part of the fourth season of the original NXT television show on the Sci Fi Network and then had a brief run as Alberto Del Rio’s bodyguard before being relegated to c-shows like WWE Superstars and the house show circuit. In the fall of the same year, promos started running on Raw for his re-debut, and they portrayed him as being an unstoppable heel monster.

Fast forward to the January 9, 2012 Raw, and, with no explanation, Clay debuted as the babyface Funkasaurus, meaning that we had not only an immediate turn but also an immediate repackaging.

El Redman is in my corner:

We have heard all the statistics about wrestlers with the most combined days with certain belts, but I have been wondering who is the manager with the most combined days managing a world champion? My guess would be Heyman, with all of Brock, Punk, and Roman’s reigns, but curious if there are any sleeper picks from the territory days etc.

It almost certainly has to be Arnold Skaaland. Yes, Heyman has been involved in several reigns – a couple of them lengthy – in the modern era, but Skaaland was the manager of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund during their extremely long babyface stays as champion, which total over 6,000 days.

Michael is lookin’ at the real deal now:

On a Monday Night Raw, D’Lo Brown was wrestling Jeff Jarrett (I believe the Euro or IC title was in play) in what should’ve been a decent TV match. Instead, D’Lo kicked the crap out of Double J for about two minutes and pinned him clean. One of the biggest, and most unexpected, squash matches I’ve ever seen between two top talents. Seriously, Jarrett didn’t do one move. Was there any reason it was booked this way? Was Jarrett on the way out again?

Unless I’m missing something, the only match you could be thinking of is Brown versus Jarrett on the July 27, 1999 Raw, which was actually a title-for-title match with D-Lo coming in as European Champion and Jarrett coming in as Intercontinental Champion. The match ran a little over six minutes (not two), was competitive, and concluded with D-Lo winning both championships and becoming the combined Eurocontinental Champion, even though it wouldn’t be called that until Kurt Angle won both belts a little bit down the road.

And, no, Double J was not leaving the promotion at the time. In fact, he beat Brown for both belts less than a month later at Summerslam and remained with the company until October of that year when he made his infamous departure following the Good Housekeeping match with Chyna.

I think that this has to be a false memory by Michael or at least a conflation of the Jarrett/Brown double title match with a non-title singles match that they had on the December 1, 1998 Raw, which did only run for about two minutes.

Night Wolf the Wise is concerned about his auto club membership:

The 1997 Royal Rumble featured a lot of stars from Triple A. How did WWE’s partnership with Triple A for that event come about?

According to the November 25, 1996 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, AAA head Antonio Pena had an initial meeting with the WWF about a partnership on November 13 with a follow-up on November 17 when Pena was backstage at Madison Square Garden during the 1996 Survivor Series pay per view. WWF was interested in a partnership so that they could have some smaller, higher flying talent to help compete with WCW’s cruiserweight division, which was rather popular at the time. Meanwhile, working with the WWF was attractive to AAA because they were involved in a promotional war in Mexico with an upstart group called Promo Azteca. Konnan worked in the front office for Promo Azteca and was securing spots for many of their stars on the WCW roster, which put a lot of money in those men’s pockets compared to what they were making in Mexico. Pena saw a working relationship with the WWF as being a countermeasure to attract and retain talent, as he could offer WWF money and exposure while Konnan was doing the same with WCW.

By its December 2 issue, the Observer was reporting that the AAA/WWF deal was on as a “trial” with no firm commitments on either side. WCW was upset by this, because many of the luchadors on its roster were actually contracted to AAA in Mexico, and there was concern that a new deal with the WWF might result in guys like La Parka, Rey Misterio Jr., and Psicosis jumping ship. Accordingly, the December 16 Observer reported that WCW took immediate countermeasures by signing its luchadors to exclusive U.S. deals, including Rey, Parka, Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo, Villano IV, Halloween (a.k.a. Ciclope in WCW), and Damian 666 (sometimes known as Galaxy in WCW).

The first WWF/AAA talent crossover of the relationship came as a bit of a surprise, as it was not a wrestler – it was an announcer. On the In Your House: It’s Time pay per view held on December 15, 1996, AAA commentator Arturo Rivera showed up and provided Spanish language commentary on the WWF’s broadcast.

The next night, December 16, the WWF hosted a television taping at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida that would include the first appearances of AAA wrestlers in the promotion. On that show, Pierroth Jr. defeated Matt Hardy (who was still an enhancement talent at the time) in a match taped for WWF Superstars, Hector Garza went over Jeff Hardy in a dark match between taped shows, and Pierroth worked a second time, teaming with Cibernetico for a win over the New Rockers that would air on the December 23, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw.

Twenty-four hours later at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, the WWF taped more television, focusing primarily on syndicated shows. This time around, Pierroth & Cibernetico beat Bruno Sassi (later part of Phi Delta Slam in TNA) & Marty Garner (a.k.a. “Cham Pain”) in a dark match and then returned to lose via disqualification to Doug Furnas and Philip LaFon in a match that aired on the January 5, 1997 episode of Superstars. The Furnas & LaFon match was explicitly for the purpose of promoting the luchadors’ appearances at the Royal Rumble and featured a run-in by Mil Mascaras, who was promoted as one of the Mexican stars for the Rumble, but he was not really an AAA wrestler at the time and would have been booked by the WWF as an independent. Also on that taping, Hector Garza returned to get a win over TL Hopper in an odd clash of styles that was part of the January 12 Superstars program.

In the December 30, 1996 Observer, it was noted that the reason Garza had been on these WWF television tapings was that he had actually jumped to AAA from its rival promotion EMLL specifically so that he could start working with the World Wrestling Federation. In fact, Super Luchas magazine claimed that the plan was for Garza to be primarily a WWF star with only occasional appearances in AAA – though, as we’ll see, that did not really pan out.

Speaking of December 30, the luchadors were back for another television taping that night, with Hector Garza winning over enhancement wrestler Nick Barberry and Mini Vader picking up a victory over Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. Mini Vader was AAA luchador Espectrito repackaged in a WWF-friendly gimmick. As I understand it, both of these matches were dark and have never seen the light of day. Oddly, there were no televised matches featuring the AAA wrestlers from this show, given that three weeks of Raw were taped and it would have been prime time to build for the 1997 Royal Rumble.

However, there was an AAA presence on the first-ever episode of WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, which emanated from New York’s Mirage Night Club on January 4, 1997. Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. and Mini Vader rematched on the show, this time with Sagrada winning. Somewhat embarrassingly, this “edgy” show also had to feature a pre-match skit in which Jim Cornette held Mini Vader up to a urinal to pee, despite the fact that production apparently scouted the wrong urinals and the little guy could have reached on his own.

With certain pre-taped appearances from December airing, the Mexican wrestlers were not back until January 18, the day before the Royal Rumble. That evening, there was a Shotgun episode from the Denim & Diamonds club in San Antonio, Texas, which saw a mixed tag team match in which each team consisted of a mini wrestler and an average-sized wrestler. In that match, the debuting Mini Mankind and Histeria scored a victory over Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. and Venum. Mini Mankind was AAA’s Espectrito II, the brother of Espectrito/Mini Vader. It is also worth noting that the masked luchador Histeria would later go on to greater fame in the U.S. without his hood as Super Crazy. This was his first-ever WWF bout.

And of course, the next night was the Royal Rumble. Though it was not promoted this way to American fans, if you watched the full show in the arena, including the dark matches, this was essentially a split show between the two promotions, with four AAA matches and five WWF matches, as well as three AAA wrestlers (Cibernetico, Pierroth Jr., and Latin Lover) and Mil Mascaras in the Rumble match itself. Rumble aside, the AAA matches were Venum & Perro Aguayo Jr. over Maniaco & Mosco de la Merced; Octagon, Blue Demon Jr., & Tinieblas Jr. beating Heavy Metal, Abismo Negro, & Histeria; Mascarita Sagrada Jr. & La Parkita winning against Mini Mankind & Mini Vader; and Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo, & El Canek defeating Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal, & Fuerza Guerrera. Only the last of those matches aired on the main show.

The luchadors also had a minor presence at the January 20 post-Rumble television tapings in Beaumont, Texas. Again they competed exclusively in dark matches, namely two singles matches – one with Latin Lover over Pierroth Jr. and one with Mascarita Sagrada Jr. over Mini Mankind.

The January run of AAA matches in the WWF came to a conclusion on the January 21, 1997 Superstars tapings at Lafayette, Louisiana’s Cajun Dome. In singles action, Perro Aguayo Jr. pinned Abismo Negro in a match to air the weekend of February 2. After that, the team of Octagon & Hector Garza were successful in their match against Fuerza Guerrera & Heavy Metal, which aired on the Superstars episode that was set to run the weekend of February 9.

It should be noted that this was not just a one-way talent exchange. In the main event of AAA’s January 31, 1997 card, the WWF trio of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Razor Ramon II, and Diesel II (a.k.a. Glenn Jacobs/Kane) debuted and scored a victory over Perro Aguayo Sr., Pierroth Jr., and Cibernetico. Lower on the card, Mini Vader and Mini Mankind picked up a win against Mascarita Sagrada Jr. and Torerito.

The WWF/AAA relationship was fairly quiet in February. The February 24 Wrestling Observer reported that Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard were announced as attending AAA’s major show on February 21 (likely in a behind the scenes capacity only), but the subsequent issue of the newsletter said that fell through. The Fake Razor Ramon and Fake Diesel did continue to appear in AAA, though, debuting a gimmick on the promotion’s February 28 show in which they dubbed themselves the “Mexican World Order” and pretended to be Mexicans in an offensive manner. And, yes, that means the Fake Razor and Fake Diesel were in a Fake nWo. You can’t make this stuff up.


In an interesting side note, there was a wrestler wearing a costume very similar to Histeria/Super Crazy’s and using the name “Super Hysteria” at this time in the USWA, which had a working relationship with the WWF and functioned as a proto-developmental territory. However, according to the Observer, this was not the actual Histeria but rather a USWA regular at the time named Tony Myers. In an aside to this aside, it appears that Myers is still wrestling today, mostly in smaller Japanese promotions, in a version of the Leatherface gimmick originally popularized by Mike “Corporal” Kirchner. Under that mask, Myers appears to be alternately known as “Chainsaw Tony” or “FMW Leather.” However, none of the major match database sites appear to have connected Tony Myers to Super Hysteria to Chainsaw Tony to FMW Leather. Get on that, guys.

Throughout the month of March, AAA seemed to constantly be announcing that high profile WWF wrestlers were coming into the promotion, with names like Vader, Mankind, the Undertaker, and Bret Hart being bandied about, but none of those ever came to fruition.

However, March did see the return of AAA wrestlers to the WWF. This kicked off with the March 10, 1997 television taping at the Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts. Hector Garza and Heavy Metal went at it in a match taped for the March 15 episode of Shotgun Saturday Night (which had already given up on the night club gimmick), with Garza getting the victory. Those two men would actually work double duty, as they would return later in the evening to wrestle on the 3/10 edition of Raw proper, this time in trios action with Metal, Pierroth Jr. & Pentagon winning over Garza, Latin Lover, & Octagon.

The next week, the minis were back and were also working multiple matches. On the March 17 Raw tapings, Mascarita Sagrada Jr. first beat Mini Mankind in a dark match, and then they returned in tag action, with Sagrada and the new-to-the-WWF Mini Goldust defeating Mini Mankind and Mini Vader in a segment that also featured a post-match dive off the stage by Sagrada on to Vader. For what it’s worth, Mini Goldust was portrayed by the wrestler who has spent most of his career as Mini Abismo Negro.

The luchadors made it three consecutive weeks by popping up on the March 24, 1997 television tapings held in Rockford, Illinois. Venum and Histeria faced off in singles action taped for the March 29 edition of Shotgun, with Venum getting the duke. They were back out later in the evening for the 3/24 Raw, when Venum again won, this time teaming with WWF newcomers Super Nova and Discovery to beat Histeria, Abismo Negro, and Mosco de la Merced.

Likely due to an international tour the following week, the WWF’s March 25 show was a taping for the March 31 Raw and the April 5 Shotgun. The AAA match on that week’s Shotgun was an eight man tag that saw Venum partnering again with Super Nova and Discovery as well as newcomer Ludxor in a winning effort against Abismo Negro, Histeria, Mosco de la Merced, & Maniaco. Then for the 3/31 Raw, Super Nova was pinned by Mosco del la Merced.

Even though there would be Mexican wrestlers – including several of the minis – on WWF shows later in 1997, these tapings in March were actually the final shows of the WWF/AAA working relationship playing out in the United States. We’ll get in to why that was the case and what exactly I mean later on, but, for the time being, let’s talk a bit more about what was going on south of the border.

The WWF released Jake Roberts in February 1997, but he ran in on the main event of the April 5 AAA show, essentially continuing the angle that began as a result of the two promotions’ working relationship even though he was no longer employed by the Fed. Throughout April, AAA continued to promote major WWF stars, along with Roberts, Ramon II, and Diesel II for Triple Mania, their equivalent of Wrestlemania, which would be three shows on three separate days. According to the May 5 Observer, while Roberts, Ramon, and Diesel would be on the cards, none of the other promoted wrestlers were ever planned to be. Additionally, it was noted that Hector Garza was trying to get out of his deal with AAA because he only ever signed with them to procure WWF exposure, which did not materialize to the extent he had hoped. Ultimately, he jumped from AAA to Promo Azteca so that he could wrestle for WCW in the United States.

The next week, the Observer reported that the relationship between the two companies was on “life support” and that Victor Quinones, who had long been involved in booking foreign talent for the WWF, was attempting to establish a relationship between the Fed and AAA’s rival promotion EMLL, with whom Quinones already had ties.

In June, AAA held its Triple Mania shows, which actually did not feature the faux Razor Ramon and Diesel after all. However, Roberts was still appearing, and in order to continue the AAA versus America feud, he managed to book Rob Kellum, a wrestler who somehow owned the rights to and wrestled under the ring name Gorgeous George. (Kellum would eventually sell those rights to WCW in a deal that would also see him receive a talent contract and wrestle as the Maestro.) They were joined by Killer, a luchador who at the time had adopted a character that had forsaken his Mexican heritage and was billed as hailing from New York. Mini Mankind and Mini Goldust also worked those shows, though there was no Mini Vader, as he had jumped ship to Promo Azteca and readopted his Espectrito gimmick. This would be the swan song for the WWF-themed minis in AAA, though.

And, really, it was the swan song for the working relationship as a whole. Though many U.S.-based wrestling blogs who have covered this topic seem to conclude that the AAA/WWF deal failed because the WWF was not willing to promote anything other than homegrown American stars, the fact of the matter is that this arrangement failed more due to AAA than the WWF. According to the April 28, 1997 Wrestling Observer, the AAA business office was incredibly disorganized during this period in history, and it was to the point that the WWF had a hard time communicating with them in order to get dates on the wrestlers they wanted to use. With AAA only making wrestlers available to the WWF sporadically, it was impossible for the American promotion to give any sort of push or storyline ot the Mexican imports.

People who have a keen memory for WWF cards from 1997 will remember that they did feature some luchadors after March, including Super Crazy (as Super Loco) and Aguila (a.k.a. Essa Rios) in the early days of the light heavyweight division as well as the return of Mascarita Sagrada Jr. (as Max Mini) and other Mexican mini wrestlers, their appearances after March were not part of the WWF/AAA relationships. Instead, these wrestlers were either unaffiliated with major Mexican promotions and brought in for guest spots by the WWF or just signed by the WWF outright.

And there it is, a rundown of the AAA/WWF working relationship that went well past what was probably the intended scope of the question, all because I find the topic particularly interesting.

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.