wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Could We See Vince McMahon in AEW?

June 14, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Vince McMahon Higher Power WWE Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 . . . the last surviving weekly column on 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 wanna banner?

Ben has . . . an idea . . . that’s for sure:

Based on a recent news piece from Lex Luger about company takeover angles in AEW, it got me wondering. Could Tony Khan capitalize on the recent split of Vince McMahon from WWE? Meaning could he possibly propose story lines that McMahon is after AEW after he lost his pride and joy, WWE?

He could propose it.

It would be a terrible idea, but he could propose it.

Vince McMahon is being accused of some really horrible, terrible, awful, stomach-churning things in the civil suit that is currently pending against him, and word is that he is under criminal investigation for similar behavior.

Yes, these are currently just accusations and an investigation as opposed to facts that have been proven in a court of law. However, the reality of the situation is that, unless and until McMahon clears his name, he is going to be an anathema to the television industry. Executives at Warner Brothers Discovery aren’t going to want Tony Khan putting Vince McMahon on AEW television given what he is presently accused of. Heck, there are wide swaths of the fanbase that aren’t going to want to watch Vince McMahon on AEW television given what he is presently accused of.

I cannot see Tony Khan or anybody else bringing Vince McMahon in to their wrestling promotion being a positive for that promotion in any way, shape, or form. It may initially pop a huge one-off rating because people like to see train wrecks, but over the long haul I have a hard time imagining it being a boon to viewership, let alone relationships with the network – and deals with the network are where companies like AEW are making the bulk of their money now.

Tyler from Winnipeg has made a list and is asking me to check it twice:

Bell to bell, which of these wrestlers have had the best bell to bell action: Rey Mysterio, Kenny Omega, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Dynamite Kid, Harley Race or Seth Rollins?

When you’re talking about wrestlers of this caliber, a lot of this is just a matter of personal preference. I don’t know that any of these guys are objectively better than any of the others. If I were going to argue that any of them didn’t belong on the list, it’s probably Kenny Omega, because, even though he’s had some excellent matches, I would argue that the others have been more impressive throughout their careers because they’ve had schedules that required them to work significantly more often, whereas Kenny has had several years of being able to pick his spots and wrestle much less frequently.

My personal favorite of the group would probably be the Hitman. Some of that is nostalgia because he was ascending as a singles star when I first started watching wrestling in the early 1990s, but even putting nostalgia aside I think that he’s a balance between Harley Race, who had a great presence and psychology but could be a little slow, and guys on the Rollins side who are incredible athletes but do too much in the ring and don’t sell enough for my tastes.

I’ll also take a moment and say that Misterio is the most important person on this list from a historical perspective, because he was perhaps the single person most responsible for allowing lucha libre style and smaller wrestlers to be accepted in the United States after the “big man” era that Hulk Hogan kicked off in the 1980s. Everyone else on the list may be a great wrestler, but I don’t know if they’ve had that sort of impact on who can be a star and how matches are executed.

Big Al is not upset about this upset:

I remember when the 1-2-3 Kid beat Razor Ramon in 1993. As a 13 year I remember jumping out of my seat in absolute shock as it was the only time I remember a jobber beating an established name. I also remember Razor offering $2,500, then $5,000, then $7,500 and finally $10,000 for a rematch. This ultimately led to Money Inc coming out each week and insulting him which led to Razor turning face. My question is, what was the logic behind all this? Was Razor starting to get some cheers? This was well before it being cool to cheer the bad guys (no pun intended).

It appears that the WWF was moving towards turning Razor Ramon babyface even before the 1-2-3 Kid upset occurred. Per the May 10, 1993 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, beginning on May 1 the regular house show lineup for the Fed’s “a-shows” included matches between babyface Bret Hart and heel Lex Luger which Hart would win by DQ when Ramon interfered on behalf of Luger. Then, miscommunication between the heels in a post-match beatdown of the Hitman would lead to Luger hitting Ramon and Razor firing back as a babyface. This in turn set up Ramon/Luger matches when the company returned to the same market for its next house show.

In other words, Razor Ramon as a babyface was something the promotion was building towards anyway, and they decided to use the Kid and Money, Inc. as the path to get there on television.

Promotional consideration is paid for by Redmond:

As wrestling fans, depending on where we are located and what channel we viewed things on, we have been subject to many of the same commercials off and on for decades – do any ads oft-repeated during wrestling programming stick in your head? If you were watching Raw in Canada in the mid-90s on TSN then you were often bombarded with a “Treat it to Trimclad, give it that TLC!” jingle, and in the mid-late 80s there was a classic for a car dealership in Michigan that many likely recall – “HERE DOG, COME ON DOG, ME AND DOG WANT YOU TO COME TO TELEGRAPH ROOOOAD, RIGHT NOW, GET A GOOD DEAL!”

As alluded to when I was setting up the question, the first thing that comes to my mind when talking about advertising on wrestling shows is Lord Alfred Hayes reading “promotional consideration” spots on syndicated WWF television in the 1980s and early 1990s. If you go back to listen to them, Lord Al really tries to sell the products that he’s hawking, particularly video games that he as a man in his 60s at the time probably could not care less about. My all-time favorite Lord Al ad read involved him enthusiastically going on about “Yikes! Stripes! Fruit Stripe Gum!”

Other than that, the ads that stand out most in my mind are the constant promos during WWF programming for other television shows that were on the USA Network. There were many of them over the years. Silk Stalkings. Up All Night. Pacific Blue. Law Femme Nikita. Duckman. Psych. Suits. Chrisley Knows Best.

Also, it’s not a commercial in the normal sense as much as it is product placement, but it’s hard for me to think of the dying days of WCW without thinking of Coca Cola’s ill-fated citrus beverage Surge (or vice versa for that matter), because it seemed like Surge was ALL OVER both Nitro and Thunder when it was first placed on the market. Logan Paul wishes Prime had the kind of placement on WWE television that Surge had in WCW.

memphis b-rad wants to Liv, laugh, love:

Here’s the real question: Is Liv Morgan the least deserving two-time Women’s Champion?

For those who may not know, b-rad is r-ferring to a recent column in which I answered a couple of questions about Liv Morgan. His comment may have been a bit tongue in cheek, but let’s seriously take a look at it.

Obviously, whether somebody is or isn’t deserving of a championship in a worked sport is somewhat subjective. Personally, I don’t have anything against Livingston J. Morgan. Is she as good a wrestler as Becky Lynch, Asuka, or Natalya Neidhart? No, but she’s a totally competent wrestler and seems to have a genuine love for what she’s doing. You could argue that the top champion in a division should be better than “competent,” but there have been plenty of men’s world champions over the years who have been competent and nothing more (Jinder Mahal, Miz, among others), so I’m not going to knock a women’s champion that is on the same level.

If I’m looking at multi-time women’s champions that I’d have not put the belt on, I would look to Maryse, who held the Divas Championship twice, as my top pick, well over Morgan. Admittedly, that was in an era where the standards for women’s wrestlers were significantly lower than they are now, but even among the female competitors who were on the roster at the time Mrs. Miz felt like she was behind the curve.

Night Wolf the Wise pops in with what I like to call a “column within a column” question because really this should be a column in and of itself:

1. Here’s another top 10 question for you. Your top 10 greatest wrestler and manager pairings of all time?

I’m going to whip through these quickly to prevent this article from being twenty pages long. Also, they are in no particular order.

MNM & Melina: This may be more personal preference than anything else, but I thought the entire package of MNM, including Melina, was very well packaged and an effective heel act. However, WWE of that era seemingly couldn’t leave well enough alone with tag teams and unfortunately wanted to break them up the moment they thought Johnny Nitro might have more star potential as a solo act.

Randy Savage & Sherri Martel: I went back and forth on whether to include Sherri and Savage, Sherri and DiBiase, or even Sherri and Harlem Heat, an underrated pre-nWo pairing in WCW. Ultimately, I went with the Macho King and Queen Sherri, because this is really where Martel got to have her biggest role in the wrestling industry.

Undertaker & Paul Bearer: I can’t think of a better example of a single wrestler and single manager’s careers being so intertwined. Yes, Bearer managed others and, yes, Taker was managed by others, but if you became a wrestling fan before the 2000s, I’m 90% certain that if somebody says “Undertaker” to you, the immediate image that comes to your mind also includes Paul Bearer as well. That’s just how connected the two men are.

The Four Horsemen & JJ Dillon The Four Horsemen didn’t need each other, and none of the Horsemen needed Dillon as a manager. Any one of them would have been fine on their own. Yet, when you put them together, you really had pro wrestling’s first supergroup, where any one of the wrestlers could have headlined, with a top tier manager as the icing on the cake.

Road Warriors & Paul Ellering: The Road Warriors are the ultimate intimidators. Paul Ellering added a different dimension to their act, as he was the more reserved, cerebral presence that tempered his men’s raw brutality. Plus, it was a bonus that in the early days Ellering was a pretty imposing physical specimen himself, meaning he didn’t look out of place if he had to fight alongside the Roadies.

Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman: Heyman is without a doubt one of the greatest managers of all time and has actually been at that level for more years than just about anybody else who is in that greatest manager conversation. When it came time to pick one of his acts to be on this list, though, it had to be Lesnar. To put this into terms comic book fans will understand, Heyman was often the Silver Surfer to Brock Lesnar’s Galactus. He was the herald who arrived in advance to warn WWE that some serious destruction was about to go down at his client’s hands.

Ric Flair & Mr. Perfect & Bobby Heenan: If we want to get technical, Heenan was a financial adviser and Perfect was an executive consultant, but we all know that they were really managers. This was a relatively brief alliance compared to others that are present on this list, but you can’t deny that its light burned very bright.

The Midnight Express & Jim Cornette: I don’t care which version of the Express you’re talking about here. They all belong . . . except for Bob Holly and Bart Gunn. Heck, even if the rest of the MEX act wasn’t awesome, they would probably still make the list just for Corny’s ring introductions of his men.

Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth: Elizabeth isn’t a Paul Heyman who could manage anybody and be awesome at it, and we saw some examples of that during her WCW career. However, her dynamic with the Macho Man, growing from their real-life relationship, lead to a wrestler/manager pair for the ages.

Nick Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan: Bockwinkel is one of those guys that doesn’t need a manager to make up for any shortcomings, but something about Heenan still enhanced his act in a way that made it legendary.

2. Your top 10 list of worst wrestler and manager pairings of all time?

Jeff Jarrett and Jackie Gayda: I’m sure Jackie Gayda is a lovely person, but she really showed little to no aptitude for any aspect of pro wrestling in her brief WWE run. Despite that, the brain trust at Impact Wrestling hired her almost immediately once she was released. She was put into a weird angle where Jeff Jarrett blackmailed her into managing him, and then the whole thing had to be dropped when she got pregnant and didn’t want to wrestle any further.

Mark Jindrak & Teddy Long: In 2003, Teddy Long was building some momentum managing Mark Henry, Jazz, and Rodney Mack on Raw when he was inexplicably drafted to Smackdown in March 2004. Upon arrival, he was paired with Mark Jindrak, who was doing a Narcissist-esque gimmick in which he would stare in a mirror before his matches. The two never really gelled, and Long was the Smackdown GM two months later.

The Steiner Brothers & Ted DiBiase: It’s always harder for a babyface manager to work than a heel manager, and that’s doubly true when the guy you’re using as a babyface manager has been a prominent heel on national television for ten years prior. That’s what happened when Ted DiBiase quit the nWo and aligned with the Steiners in WCW. It didn’t do anything for anybody.

The Freebirds & Oliver Humperdink: It’s been thirty years now, and I still don’t understand why “Big Daddy Dink” as he was called was placed with the Freebirds, particularly when Michael Hayes was a better talker than him AND particularly when Diamond Dallas Page was already managing the team at the time. It was a hat on a hat except the hat you put on the hat didn’t look as good as the first hat.

Mr. Perfect & Coach: A lot has been written about how poor this pairing was over the years, and I don’t have much to add, but I didn’t feel right about omitting it from the list, either. The guy who played Coach, John Tolos, was a star in the territorial era of wrestling and a pretty good promo, but he didn’t work as a cartoon character in the WWF of the time.

Abyss & Father James Mitchell: I like Abyss as a performer. I like James Mitchell as a performer. I don’t think they were a bad pairing on paper. The problem is that, when they were put together, it seemed to bring out all the worst tendencies of Impact Wrestling’s creative team. Rather than just being a monster and his satanic manager, we had to do what seemed like a rehash of Kane and the Undertaker’s convoluted family backstory with Abyss doing prison time because he took the rap for his mother when she shot his abusive father . . . and, oh yeah, it was ultimately revealed that Mitchell was the father in question. This is why when people tell me Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan killed Impact Wrestling, I tell them it sucked long before Bischoff and Hogan showed up.

AJ Styles & Vince Russo: Speaking of Impact Wrestling, going back to the early days of the promotion, they decided to make AJ Styles the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and give him Vince Russo as a manager. The problem is that Russo seemed to get twice as much screen time, so the manager was the focus while the champion was secondary. It didn’t help that Russo was significantly larger than AJ at the time and made him look like a little kid.

Kevin Von Erich & Skandor Akbar: In 1994 and 1995, after he sold his wrestling promotion to Ted Turner, Jim Crockett tried to launch NWA Dallas to fill the void left in the Texas wrestling scene by the death of World Class. This included long-time WCCW heel manager Skandar Akbar turning babyface and bringing in Kevin Von Erich, after having been a rival of the Von Erichs for years and years. I get what they were going for in terms of shock value, but Akbar playing against type really didn’t work.

Austin Theory & Vince McMahon: I can already hear people in the comments telling me that Vince didn’t really manage Theory in the traditional sense, but he was the kid’s on screen mentor in a relationship meant to get him over, and that’s close enough for me. Here you had a young kid with a lot of upside portraying an arrogant heel, and he was kowtowing to a Vince McMahon that was a shell of his former self and looked to be on death’s door. It didn’t help any one, and don’t get me started on the fact that it all began with Theory wanting to take a selfie with an egg that existed to promote the Rock’s Netflix movie.

Ric Flair & Hiro Matsuda: Though Flair’s career has been enhanced by guys like JJ Dillon and Bobby Heenan, that formula did not work when he was paired with Hiro Matsuda. Yes, Matsuda was good for some outside interference, but that was just about it . . . and the Nature Boy was already able to get heat for himself once the bell rang.

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.