wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Could Owen Hart Have Been WWF Champion?

January 14, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Owen Hart

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 whole 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.

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Matteo from Italy is a blackheart! He’s a sole survivor!

During the Bret/Owen Hart feud of 1994 was there ever talk of putting the belt on Owen? Looking back to it, it would have made a lot of sense from a story standpoint. Why did they go with Bob Backlund (who was at that point a forgotten 70’s wrestler they turned heel for the occasion) just to drop it to Diesel in 10 seconds in an house show?

I’m not aware of any solid plans to make Owen Hart a WWF Champion, at least not for an extended run, in 1994.

In asking why the WWF didn’t pull the trigger on an Owen title reign, you have to keep in mind that the mentality of booking a professional wrestling promotion – particularly the WWF – was much different 25 years ago than it is today. Nowadays, when two wrestlers feud over a main championship, you can, about 80% of the time, rest assured that, during the course of that feud, both wrestlers will wind up holding the championship. Titles simply change back and forth far more often now than they did then. Meanwhile, from the mid-1990s backward, the WWF was usually built around dominant babyface champions who beat off several challengers before losing the belt, usually to a heel who would have a comparably brief reign in order to transition the belt to the next babyface who would have a long, dominant reign.

That’s why Bob Backlund got the second championship run that he did. The company decided that it was time for a change of direction, and they wanted to go with Diesel as champion for a while as opposed to Bret. Babyface versus babyface matches were seen as things that should only be rarely booked, so Backlund was made champion for 24 hours in order to hand things off to Kevin Nash.

If anything, I think that Owen was put into a better position by not getting the WWF Title than he would have been in if he won it. If he won it in that era, it likely would have been a very brief transitional run and may even have been the same day-long title reign that Backlund got. Owen is probably better off not being remembered as the guy that Diesel flattened in a few seconds to become champion.

Everybody has a price for Dylan:

Is there any information available on how the WWE Network has changed royalties for the wrestlers? In the not-so-distant past, I know they would get regular royalty payments for all of the DVDs sold on which they featured. Is there an equivalent for matches watched on the Network?

And similarly, has anyone given out any information on the compensation current talent have received in relation to the apparent removal of PPV bonuses in the WWE network era? Would you imagine they are getting a better or worse deal overall nowadays in this regard?

The WWE Network has changed royalties for wrestlers in that the wrestlers really no longer get royalties for redistribution of their matches after those matches first occur.

Dylan is correct that, in the past, wrestlers would get royalty payments for sales of home video products in which they were featured. As you can probably guess, home video sales have dropped off pretty significantly in the era of the WWE Network, just as owning physical media of music or movies is now becoming passé among most folks.

The WWE contracts that allowed wrestlers to receive home video royalties did not allow royalties for streaming. Buff Bagwell and Raven actually attempted to sue WWE back in 2017, claiming that the home video royalty language in their contracts with the company should have been expanded to streaming despite the fact that streaming (which really didn’t exist at the time of the contracts) was not expressly mentioned in them. Ultimately, they agreed to dismiss their lawsuit, though from the surrounding circumstances that seemed to have less to do with the merits of the royalty case than it did with WWE agreeing to drop a defamation lawsuit that they had filed against Raven which related to Raven claiming on Chris Jericho’s podcast that Vince McMahon paid off a judge during the course of an earlier lawsuit in which Raven sued WWE in an effort to challenge the company’s practice of classifying wrestlers as independent contractors as opposed to employees.

As I understand it, current WWE contracts explicitly state that no royalties will be paid for streaming distribution of matches.

Though I do not know if this has resulted in wrestlers now receiving stronger base salary payments (in the past referred to as a “downside guarantee”) in their newer deals, that would certainly be the fair thing for the company to have done.

Night Wolf the Wise is out herding GOATs:

I’m asking this question because I always value your opinion and the articles you write. I’m going to throw a curve ball on a classic with a bit of a twist. Who would be on your Mt Rushmore for Tag Teams?

The last time that somebody asked me a “Mount Rushmore” question, I felt like I almost had to apologize for answering it, because, at the time, we had a guy on the site whose entire gimmick was writing a column where, every week, he ranked the Mount Rushmore of something related to wrestling. However, he’s not posted anything since Thanksgiving, so I think I’m in the clear to move forward on this without plugging him.

That being said, let’s see if I can anger as many people with this one as I did with my “top face painted wrestlers” list.

My Mount Rushmore of tag teams would be as follows:

The Fabulous Kangaroos: One of the things I noticed when I answered a prior Mount Rushmore question is that some people interpret the phrase “Mount Rushmore” differently than I do. Some people seem to interpret it as “list your four favorite people/teams/etc. that fall into this category.” That’s not how I interpret it, though. If you look at the ACTUAL Mount Rushmore, it’s an attempt to include four individuals who are historically significant, not the four people who are the artist’s favorite. That being said, for historical significance, you have to include the Fabulous Kangaroos of Roy Heffernan and Al Costello, along with their manager “Wild” Red Berry on this list. Though they did not invent tag team wrestling, they are credited with being one of the first teams to have a unified gimmick and one of the first teams to travel from territory to territory as a combined act, and they were remarkably popular for an extended period, really helping to put tag team wrestling on the map.

The Road Warriors: I wrote a bit about the Road Warriors on the recent face painted wrestlers list that I mentioned above, and I don’t know that I need to rehash the same comments about them again. Simply put, they were perhaps the single most dominant and recognizable tag team of all time, having success in every major promotion in the United States prior to death of Road Warrior Hawk in 2003, in addition to being a significant act All Japan Pro Wrestling (and, of course, Hawk created his own version of the team with Kensuke Sasaki in New Japan). They inspired so, so many copycat teams, some of whom went on to become significant acts in their own right, and that may be the greatest proof of what big stars they were.

The Rock n’ Roll Express: The 1980s were the golden age of tag team wrestling in the United States, and that’s why you’ve got two teams who shared a historical period (and sometimes share the ring) with each other on this list, which is something that, in many situations, I would attempt to avoid. The Rock n’ Roll Express of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson are the quintessential babyface tag team, using skill and finesse in an excellent counterpoint to the Road Warriors’ sheer power. Though the RnRs weren’t necessarily an original gimmick, as they were inspired heavily by the Fabulous Ones, they took the pretty boy tag team schtick to a new level and became the primary example of it in just about every wrestling fan’s mind.

The Crush Gals: As noted above, a couple of months ago, somebody asked me about the Mount Rushmore of women’s wrestling, and I included the Beauty Pair of Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda, legendary stars who helped make women’s wrestling a viable form of entertainment on a national level in Japan. There would be a good argument for me just including the Beauty Pair here again, but, for the sake of variety, I’m going with the Crush Gals of Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka, who were essentially the “next generation” version of the Beauty Pair in the 1980s and became even more popular than their predecessors, to the point that you can still find Nagayo wrestling on occasion right up until present day, much like the Rock n’ Roll Express does in the United States. If you haven’t checked out a peak Crush Gals match before, you owe it to yourself to do so.

I’m sure that many of you, my fair readers, will have your own opinions on this question, and you can feel free to add them to the comment section below.

Isaiah makes his debut as an Ask 411 questioner:

Has there been any wrestlers that have managed to make it through their entire career without a serious injury? So no broken limbs, internal bleeding, so on and so forth? Injuries that are related to their career after their retirement don’t count (hip replacement for example).

The tricky thing about answering this question is that the definition of a “serious” injury can differ depending on who you ask. Does it require a bone to be broken or a muscle to be torn? What about a concussion? People used to wrestle through those all the time, but, given increased research on the long-term damage that head injuries can cause, they seem far more serious than they used to. Because of that flexible definition, you could really come up with several different variations on this answer.

That being said, I think that the best answer that I can come up with is this guy:

Though I’m sure that a few trolls out there will say something to the effect of, “well of course hes never hurt he never wrestles lol,” the fact of the matter is that Brock Lesnar did spend several years as a full-time professional wrestler, and, even in his more limited capacity these days, the possibility of a significant injury remains a possibility, particularly when you consider the fact that his matches tend to be among the most high impact encounters that you will see in WWE rings in the Twenty-First Century.

It is true that Lesnar has been injured a couple of times during his career as a professional athlete, but those have actually tended to come when he’s *not* been in wrestling, which is a bit ironic.

Brendon B. gives me my statistic-heavy question of the week:

During the Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Title run, how many “clean” victories did he have? A pinfall or submission win is not in and of itself a clean victory if Jimmy Hart hit someone with the megaphone or the like. Bonus points for a full breakdown of pinfall/submission/countout/DQ wins and losses.

Honky’s fourteen-month-plus title reign began on June 2, 1987 and ended on August 29, 1988, and, during that time, he became known for keeping the title by hook or by crook, almost never winning without some extenuating circumstances. However, I don’t know that I have ever seen anybody put numbers to it, so let’s try to answer Brendon’s request.

Before we get into it, here are a couple of ground rules/caveats:

1. I am only going to be tracking singles matches, because, even though it’s not explicitly stated, that seems to be the intention of the question.

2. One of the difficulties in giving a 100% accurate answer to this question is that, when it comes to house show results, it may not always be noted whether there was interference leading up to a pinfall or submission. In many sources, often just the outcome of the match is reported without a description of how the finish went down. If a victory is reported with no more details, then I am going to list it with the clean wins, though I am noting parenthetically where a win was unlikely to be clean.

3. The results I am using this time are coming from TheHistoryofWWE.com, which is a great resource. I’m going with them in this instance over Cage Match or Pro Fight DB, because they are more likely to give details about how the win went down than those other two sources are.

With all of that said, here’s my breakdown of Honky’s matches during his title reign:

The Honky Tonk Man lost eighty-six matches as Intercontinental Champion, some of them by clean pinfall but many of them by count out or disqualification.

HTM picked up seventy-one cheap victories while he had the belt. By “cheap victories,” I mean winning by disqualification or count out or by interference or other illegal means.

There were four instances in which a Honky Tonk Man match ended by double count-out or double disqualification.

And, finally, there were forty-eight instances of a card reflecting that Honky Tonk Man was on it but NOT recording the results of his match.

That leaves us with fifty-four victories by HTM via clean pin or pin that we have to presume is clean because we have no better information. Those matches are listed below.

1. Honky defeated David Stoudemire on June 2, 1987 in Buffalo, New York. (This is part of the same television taping where HTM’s Intercontinental Title win was recorded. It occurred after the title change.)

2. Honky defeated Paul Roma on June 3, 1987 in Rochester, New York.

3. Honky defeated Koko B. Ware on June 6, 1987 in Boston, Massachusetts.

4. Honky defeated Omar Atlas on June 23, 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

5. Honky defeated Jim Powers on June 24, 1987 in Louisville, Kentucky.

6. On the same show in Louisville, Honky pinned Scott Casey.

7. Honky defeated Joe Malono on July 15, 1987 in Jim Duggan’s hometown of Glens Falls, New York.

8. Honky again defeated David Stoudemire on July 16, 1987 in Lake Placid, New York.

9. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on July 17, 1987 in Richfield, Ohio.

10. Honky defeated the Junkyard Dog on July 23, 1987 in Peterborough, Ontario.

11. Honky defeated Jerry Monti on August 25, 1987 in San Francisco, California.

12. Honky defeated Steve Gatorwolf on August 26, 1987 in Fresno, California.

13. Honky defeated George Steele on September 11, 1987 in Topeka, Kansas.

14. Honky defeated Ricky Steamboat on September 20, 1987 in Columbus, Ohio in a match where Jimmy Hart was suspended over the ring. (I have a hard time imagining that there weren’t some unrecorded shenanigans in this match.)

15. Honky defeated Ricky Steamboat on September 27, 1987 in Cleveland, Ohio.

16. Honky defeated Jim Duggan on September 28, 1987 in Fresno, California.

17. Honky defeated Ricky Steamboat on October 10, 1987 in Chicago, Illinois.

18. Honky defeated Don Muraco on October 12, 1987 in New Haven, Connecticut.

19. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on October 23, 1987 in Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome.

20. Honky defeated Jake Roberts on November 10, 1987 in Miami, Florida.

21. Honky defeated Randy Savage on November 12, 1987 in Pittsburg, Kansas.

22. Honky defeated Randy Savage on November 15, 1987 in South Bend, Indiana.

23. Honky defeated Brady Boone on December 8, 1987 in Tampa Florida. (This match was the first time that Sherri Martel was in Honky’s corner as “Peggy Sue.”)

24. Honky defeated Scott Casey on December 9, 1987 in Fort Meyers, Florida.

25. Honky defeated Randy Savage on December 13, 1987 in Miami.

26. Honky defeated Omar Atlas on January 5, 1988 in Huntsville, Alabama.

27. Honky defeated Jerry Allen on January 6, 1988 in Nashville, Tennessee.

28. Honky defeated Randy Savage on January 14, 1988 in Seattle Washington in a steel cage match. (This may well have been a tainted win, as in a similar match the prior week, Honky defeated Savage in a cage match when Jimmy Hart pulled Honky out through the cage door.)

29. Honky defeated Randy Savage on January 15, 1988 in Los Angeles, California in a steel cage match. (Same note as above.)

30. Honky defeated Randy Savage on January 18, 1988 in Hartford, Connecticut in a steel cage match. (It was specifically noted that Honky won this match by escaping over the top, and no interference was recorded, though that seems unlikely.)

31. Honky defeated Lance Allen on February 17, 1988 in Topeka, Kansas.

32. Honky defeated Jim Evans on March 9, 1988 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

33. Honky defeated Ricky Steamboat on March 14, 1988 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

34. Honky defeated Omar Atlas on March 19, 1988 in Gape Girardeau, Missouri.

35. Honky defeated Outback Jack on March 20, 1988 in Springfield, Illinois.

36. Honky defeated Jose Luis Rivera on April 22, 1988 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

37. Honky defeated Bradly Boone on May 10, 1988 in Duluth, Minnesota.

38. Honky defeated JT Thomas on May 11, 1988 in Rochester, Minnesota.

39. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on May 29, 1988 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Though nothing out of the ordinary was reported here, I am willing to bet Honky won this match via count out when Jimmy Hart, who had been barred from ringside but appeared in drag as Peggy Sue, distracted Beefcake, as that is the finish reported on several other matches between the two on the house show circuit around this time.)

40. Honky defeated Jerry Allen on May 31, 1988 in Fresno, California.

41. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 12, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois. (This was reported as a pinfall victory, though it was not mentioned whether there was any cheating by Honky.)

42. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 17, 1988 in Long Island, New York. (Same note as above.)

43. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 20, 1988 in New Haven Connecticut. (Same note as above.)

44. Honky defeated Reno Riggins on June 21, 1988 in Glens Falls, New York.

45. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 23, 1988 in Utica, New York. (Same note as above.)

46. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 24, 1988 in Richmond, Virginia. (Same note as above.)

47. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on June 26, 1988 in Pontiac, Michigan. (Same note as above.)

48. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on July 11, 1988 in San Francisco, California. (Same note as above.)

49. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on July 15, 1988 in Houston, Texas. (Same note as above.)

50. Honky defeated George South on August 2, 1988 in Dayton, Ohio.

51. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on August 5, 1988 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Same note as above.)

52. Honky defeated Brutus Beefcake on August 13, 1988 in Syracuse, New York. (Same note as above.)

53. Honky defeated Dave Lanning on August 23, 1988 in Providence, Rhode Island.

54. Honky defeated Martin LeRoy on August 24, 1988 in Hartford, Connecticut.

And that dump of information will conclude our column this week. As always, if you would like to contribute to the conversation, feel free to shoot your questions over to [email protected].