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Ask 411 Wrestling: Could John Cena Have Beaten Ric Flair’s World Title Record?

May 3, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WrestleMania 23 John Cena Image Credit: WWE

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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Big Al is wondering what might have been:

Had John Cena stayed full time do you think would have broken Ric Flair’s all-time record for championships?


If you’ve got a guy on your roster of Cena’s stature for any length of time, it becomes very difficult to not put the world championship on him. First off, it strains credulity to a certain degree, because he’s been presented as the top guy in the business for an extended length of time and he should theoretically be able to grab the championship at almost any time he wants. Plus, there will always be situations like unexpected injuries where you need a quick and easy replacement champion, and somebody at Cena’s level would always be on the short list to fill that gap. Though there would always be one guy in the room who would ask whether it is a good idea to break Flair’s record, there would almost certainly be a situation in which immediate needs would trump care for the cultivated history of the “sport.”

That is, so long as Jon Stewart isn’t in the building.

Matt B. is a fan of round numbers:

With the exception of Wrestlemania X, why do you think Mania 20, 30, and 40 have seen the crowning of stars who made their name initially outside of the WWE – Benoit, Danielson and Rhodes – (I know Rhodes was first WWE but that wasn’t where he was ‘made’), as opposed to homegrown stars, i.e. Cena Orton Reigns. It’s got to be more than just the timing of their ascent?

I actually do think it’s just a coincidence based on several different data points.

First off, Bryan Danielson winning the championship was not the original plan for Wrestlemania XXX. The show was supposed to be built around Dave Batista returning and winning the title, but the company pivoted due to Danielson’s incredible popularity. Also, you can debate whether that show was truly his “crowning” as a star, because he was already a former World Heavyweight Champion at that point in time.

Second, Cody Rhodes winning the championship at Wrestlemania XL wasn’t the original plan either. He was first pegged to win it at Wrestlemania XXXIX before plans were changed because the company thought that they could get another year’s worth of booking out of his “story.” Then, his title victory was taken off the books for Wrestlemania XL when the Rock committed to wrestle at the event, only for the title change to be added back to the show in the wake of fan backlash that Rocky ultimately decided to exploit and amplify for his heel turn.

If there was an intentional pattern to these coronations, Danielson and Rhodes would have been the long-term plans for the shows and not pivots.

Plus, there have been plenty of Wrestlemanias that were NOT multiples of ten where somebody who originally made their name outside the company pulled down the big brass ring for the first time, including:

Wrestlemania IV, where Randy Savage became WWF Champion for the first time after originally making his name in Memphis.

Wrestlemania VI, where the Ultimate Warrior became WWF Champion after originally working for a variety of territories, including Mid-South and World Class.

Wrestlemania XIV, where Steve Austin, who had previously been featured on national television in WCW, captured the WWF Championship.

Wrestlemania XXXI, where Seth Rollins, who was at one point just as much an indy darling as Bryan Danielson, cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and became champ.

So, yeah. Sometimes there are coincidences in life. I really think this is one of them. Somebody make a note to write in after Wrestlemania L to ask me this question again so that I don’t have to ask it myself and piss off the comment section.

Damion is taking over:

What do you think the reaction would be if Jacob & Zilla Fatu showed up on AEW to help Samoa Joe keep his title, they say they are drawing a line in blood. On Smackdown, the Rock raises an eyebrow, Roman smiles and says “We are everywhere. Acknowledge us”?

I think the reaction would be confusion, because this would make no sense and would not accomplish anything for either company in relation to long-term booking.

APinOZ only works when the cameras are turned off:

Does AEW run house shows? Or are they purely a TV company?

At this point, AEW is almost purely a TV company, though they have flirted with running house shows in the past.

Their first house show occurred on April 9, 2021 and took place in the company’s home base of Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida, which featured Darby Allin defending the TNT Championship against The Butcher and a ten man tag pitting the Elite against the Death Triangle and the Sydal brothers.

There were not any traditional AEW house shows again until May 2023, when they ran on May 12 in Corbin, Kentucky and May 13 in Salem, Virginia. I recall reports of those shows criticizing them for not having a lot of star power, with the biggest names probably being FTR, who wrestled in Corbin but not Salem, and Claudio Castagnoli, who was defending the ROH Championship on both shows.

And that is really it. AEW has run what I would call three traditional house shows in its entire five-year existence. Some of that may be a result of circumstances. As we all know, the company was established in 2019, and their operations were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 with some level of restrictions on their ability to travel and hold large gatherings in certain parts of the country until 2022. This would have prevented them from having regular house shows for a good portion of their existence, even if they had wanted to.

However, they also never really picked up house shows after COVID restrictions were fully lifted, so at this point they’ve just decided that holding these cards will not be part of their business model.

People who read this column closely probably realized that, when I was talking about the three events above, I referred to them as “traditional” house shows as opposed to just calling them house shows. The reason I included this qualification is because, even though they are not regularly touring with non-televised events, AEW has shown a willingness to put on matches outside its TV broadcasts when they are going to be part of a larger event.

The biggest example of this is the Chris Jericho Rock N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea, a cruise promoted by Chris Jericho which has always featured pro wrestling cards, with those cards being branded as AEW events in 2021 and 2024 and including four shows in each year. The biggest names on the shows in 2021 were probably the Best Friends and Britt Baker, while 2024 saw Jericho himself and Paul Wight step into the ring on one occasion with Penta El Zero Miedo and Swerve Strickland also in action throughout the cruise.

The company also put on three non-televised shows as part of the 2022 Tokyo Game Show in Japan, which played into the promotion of their Fight Forever video game. The shows featured very little actual AEW talent and mostly Japanese wrestlers that the company had a relationship with at the time, though Christopher Daniels did make the trip over so that there was some American representation.

Lastly, AEW did have a non-televised show as part of its fan fest prior to the 2022 Revolution pay per view which mostly featured talent that would be wrestling on AEW Dark at the time. The headliners were the Dark Order.

And there it is, a complete history of non-televised AEW events.

”Triple T” Ticking Timebomb Taz is a man of multiple nicknames:

At Halloween Havoc 1994, Hulk Hogan faced Ric Flair in a retirement steel cage match. Prior to this match, a “masked man” had been attacking or trying to attack Hogan for weeks. Hogan beats Flair in the cage, “retires” him, and the masked man goes to attack Hogan, but gets caught. He is unmasked and it is Brother Bruti, Brutus the Barber Beefcake, whatever you want to call him setting up Hogan’s next program. Beefcake was a solid mid-card hand, but never really flirted with the main event scene or was a believable “MAIN EVENT GUY.” Was the real plan for him to always main event WCW’s biggest show of the year Starrcade for the title or did other plans “fall through?” Was Beefcake always the plan or was this a Plan B type deal? I am fine with Beefcake turning on Hogan and main eventing a Clash of Champions or lesser PPV, but the BIGGEST SHOW OF YEAR for them? That is like the equivalent Tito Santana turning on Hogan and main eventing Wrestlemania. Maybe I am putting too much thought into this and WCW really just sucks that much.

No, it wasn’t the original plan.

According to the September 5, 1994 Wrestling Observer Newsletter the hope was that WCW would be able to sign “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and place him into the masked man role. This was referenced a second time in the October 10 Observer, though the publication also noted that the two sides hadn’t been able to formally negotiate yet because Hennig’s contract with the WWF had not yet expired.

(As a side note, even though Hennig was under contract to the Fed, he apparently considered himself to be on the way out the door, because the October 10 Observer also reported that he was at the Herb Abrams UWF show on September 23 in Las Vegas and was considered to cut a promo on the show, though that was nixed due to his contractual situation.)

However, things took a turn, because in the October 17 Observer it was stated that a Hennig jump to WCW was looking “less and less likely” and, in the very next issue, a report came out that Hennig/WCW negotiations had totally fallen apart with there being a wide gap on the financial terms of a deal. That’s what ultimately lead to Beefcake getting the slot as Hogan’s Starrcade opponent.

Also, for what it’s worth, the wrestlers who appeared under the hood before the final reveal included Arn Anderson and Steve Keirn, and there was one show where a much smaller man under the hood and the Observer believed it to be either Brad Armstrong or Bill Dundee. None of those guys were ever under consideration to have the role in the end, but they were the ones who filled in along the way.

Michael K. is going up light for me:

I was wondering, say starting in 1984, did Dusty Rhodes ever take a bodyslam or Suplex? Im talking individually, not a double team. Seriously Ive watched a ton of his matches and haven’t see him take either move not do I ever recall him from memory taking either move.

Yeah, it happened. It didn’t happen frequently, but it happened. One example that I was able to find in a very prominent match is the mix tag at Wrestlemania VI (1990) pitting Rhodes and Sapphire against Randy Savage and Sherri Martel. In the middle of the match, the Savage gets the American Dream up for a textbook vertical suplex.

Teharistocrat (yes, with that spelling) is stretching the parameters of what this column covers:

The John Tenta question reminded me of something I’ve always wondered: Is there anything preventing the NFL from looking to sumo wrestlers for offensive linemen. They’d typically have the footwork and strength to be naturals I’d think. Or similarly, would offensive linemen improve their craft by training as sumo wrestlers.

I am probably not the best person to be answering this question, because I am not an American football fan at all. I think that, in my entire life, I have watched exactly one full NFL game from start to finish. Thus, I’m coming to this question with almost zero understanding of what it takes to be a successful footballer.

That being said, though this question does not appear to have been discussed very often, the discourse that I have seen on it points out that, though there are some broad skills and physical attributes that seem similar, being a high level professional athlete in any sport requires years and years of training to develop specific skills in your specific sport. Though some of the broad descriptions of necessary skills like “footwork” and “strength” might apply to both sports, some of the particulars of how and where you move are different, and a sumo might not have the the particular training necessary for football and a footballer might not have the particular training necessary for sumo.

Also, for what it’s worth, it does appear that there is one former sumo currently in the U.S. playing college football with a dream of making it into the NFL as seen in the video below. We’ll see how he does over the next several years.

It’s Elivs himselvis:

Which current members of the WWE roster do you think will transition into commentary once their in-ring career is over?

Many may consider the easy answer here to be CM Punk, since he has already dabbled in commentary on and off over the course of his career. However, given the level of star he has become, he may just decide that he has enough money once he’s done wrestling and stay at home as opposed to committing to the road schedule that most announcers have.

If I had to put money on one and only one WWE wrestler becoming an announcer post-retirement, it would probably be Xavier Woods. He seems like a guy who has a deep and legitimate love for wrestling that he would want to continue to be around it even after he is no longer physically able to perform. Plus, between his own YouTube endeavors and social media projects he has done for WWE, he has already dabbled in being a presenter as opposed to a wrestler.

You also can’t discount wrestlers who have non-English language skills. In the past, people like Sho Funaki and Ray Rougeau have become Japanese and French commentators for WWE, respectively. I wouldn’t be surprised if an Akira Tozawa, a Kevin Owens, or even a Gunther did something similar down the road.

Rob Bacon is Rob Schneider’s non-union Mexican equivalent:

Just wondering if you can help me regain my sanity. Years ago, I remember seeing a non-WWF wrestling show on TV in the UK featuring a tag team calling themselves Demolition. They dressed like the team who had competed in the WWF a few years earlier but it wasn’t Bill Eadie or Barry Darsow playing the characters. Also, they were introduced as Ox and Alex. I have trawled the internet looking for any information about them but always come to a dead end. Can you work your magic and tell me if this impostor team even ever existed.

I really dug into this and tried my hardest to find something, because I always find stories of bootleg wrestlers highly entertaining.

Unfortunately, I came up short as to the specific tag team that you’re looking for. However, it is entirely plausible that you saw something like this on British television.

I say that because the U.K. independent scene has a long tradition of wrestlers knocking off more popular American acts in order to make a few extra bucks.

This phenomenon seems to have had its peak in the mid-1990s through the early-2000s, with some promoters running cards that were explicitly billed as “tribute shows” and featured British wrestlers adopting the gimmicks of WWF stars. Less scrupulous promoters would just put up a bunch of posters around town using the names of American wrestlers, only for fans to show up and find a bunch of knockoffs in the ring.

This practice even started to find its way into the “larger” independents, in particular the promotion All Star Wrestling, which previously had featured legitimate stars like Dave Taylor, Fit Finlay, Mark Rocco, and more.

So, who were some of these bargain basement clones?

Probably one of the most prolific is a wrestler named Johnny South, who started his career in the late 1960s under that name and even got a few matches on WWF tours of the U.K. as local talent. However, in the mid-1990s, somebody apparently told him that he looks like Road Warrior Hawk if you squint and have no idea how tall Hawk actually is. This lead to him shaving his head into a reverse mohawk, slapping on some face paint, and wrestling under the name “British LOD.” Yes, “British LOD” was just one guy even though the actual LOD was a tag team.

When using this gimmick, South was also sometimes referred to as the “Legend of Doom.”

On some of the same cards as British LOD you can find a wrestler named Justin Starr, who ripped off not just one but two WWF wrestlers. On at least one card, he wrestled as the 1-2-3 Boy, I’m sure much to Sean Waltman’s chagrin. Later on, he bought a Kane mask on WWE Shop and appeared on shows as the Big Red Machine. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Sean Waltman and Kane have two completely different body types and it’s bizarre one guy impersonated both of them,” then I would say you are absolutely correct.

In addition to these two, you could also marvel at the athleticism of stars like Dunk the Clown, UK Undertaker, Fake Scotty 2 Hotty, British Bushwacker, Fake Nasty Boy, and Fake Sgt. Slaughter, who wrestled elsewhere as Sgt. Cyanide. Yes, that’s right, some of these guys were creatively bankrupt enough that they just slapped the work “fake” in front of an existing wrestler’s name. Calling yourself Dunk the Clown might be lazy, but it’s not THAT lazy.

If you want to see what some of these bargain basement brawlers looked like, you can check out this Reddit thread, which includes a poster of a show featuring some of these “stars” plus, somehow, the actual Bastion Booger making an appearance.

As if a guy named Bastion Booger hadn’t already suffered enough indignity in his life.

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.