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Ask 411 Wrestling: Could We Still See Rock vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania?

March 13, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Rock Roman Reigns, The Rock, Paul Heyman 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 holding out hope:

Is it still possible the Rock could go against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39? I know he said he couldn’t get in shape in time but I saw a picture of him a few days ago and he was absolutely jacked. Plus, I don’t think he has any movies planned for the next several months. I am hoping he is just trolling us and he actually does show up to wrestle just to surprise us.

Yes, it’s still technically possible, but at this point it seems highly unlikely.

Here’s the thing: If you have the Rock, one of he biggest if not the biggest movie star on the planet associated with your wrestling show, you do not want to book it as a surprise. The whole idea behind getting a megastar on your wrestling card is to convince people to tune in to watch it. You can’t do that anywhere near as effectively when fans’ first awareness of somebody’s appearance is the appearance itself. You want to advertise this stuff, and we have precious little time remaining to do that properly.

I will also add one note regarding Rocky’s physique. The fact that he’s jacked has nothing to do with his being in shape for Wrestlemania. The guy is perpetually jacked. Being in shape for Wrestlemania would have far more to do with his cardio and ability to move than it would with the size of his muscles.

HBK’s Smile is the lineal Western States Heritage Champion:

If organizations like the NWA and AWA intended to portray their titles as world championships, why did they choose “National” or “American” as part of their name? One would think they limited their potential scope as national, not worldwide, at first impression.

Honestly, you may be overthinking this one. Look at the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. These are U.S.-based sports leagues that, in recent years, have been attempting to establish more of an international presence, whether it’s the NBA broadcasting their games heavily in China or the NFL running a developmental league in Europe and playing some games in Mexico. They’ve not sought to change their names to the World Basketball Association or the World Football League in order to have international fans perceive them as something greater than an American company. They’ve just presented their product and, to a certain extent, relied more on the company’s acronym as opposed to the full name. The international operations of the NWA and the AWA strike me as much the same thing, and it apparently worked, too, because both championships were recognized overseas in different places and at different times and sometimes viewed as more prestigious than native titles.

Uzoma won’t put his name on the dotted line:

Was the plan for Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre, Jr. to face off in the Final of the Cruiserweight Classic had they signed with the WWE?

Though it’s not clear who his opponent would have been in the finals, the September 16, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter states that Ibushi would have been the winner of the tournament had he agreed to sign a full-time deal, though obviously he did not. It does not make the same, direct comment about Sabre, but the author does state that he believes that Sabre could also have been the winner had he agreed to sign.

Gilles feels this question in his vertebrae:

Is the ganso bomb the most dangerous move in wrestling?

This question is more complicated than it’s brevity might lead one to believe.

The first thing that I think we have to address to answer the question is this:

Is the ganso bomb even a wrestling move?

For those of you who may not know the story, the original instance of what is now called the ganso bomb occurred on January 22, 1999 in Osaka during a match between Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi for the All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown. Early in the match, Kawada fractured both his wrist and his forearm when a spinning backfist was mistimed and his arm legitimately connected with Misawa’s head. However, Kawada was an absolute monster of a human being, so he continued to wrestle the match through to its planned finish, roughly seventeen minutes later.

However, somewhere along the way, Kawada was going for a powerbomb, and Misawa attempted to block it with a headscissors. It seemed to be that the planned spot was for Kawada to cut off the headscissors reversal and herc Misawa back up for the originally planned powerbomb, but he couldn’t do that because, well, HIS ARM WAS BROKEN. The result was Misawa hanging off of Kawada in sort of a half-completed huricanrana pose, with Kawada just dropping to his knees and spiking Misawa right on the top of his head. It is one of the sickest recorded head drops in wrestling history.

It’s not really fair to call it a wrestling move, though, any more than it’s fair to call any botched maneuver a distinct move from the one that was intended. A few weeks ago in this column, we talked about the fact that there are about five people who have suffered severe neck injuries from the Styles Clash because they tucked their heads while taking the move and were spiked straight down on it. Do we call those botched Styles Clashes something else? No, we just acknowledge that they’re screwed up instances of the main move and go on from there.

That being said, there is somewhat of a difference between the ganso bomb and those botched Styles Clashes. The difference is that, over time, the ganso bomb became so iconic that people started to recreate it. This began with Kawada himself. In the weeks after the Misawa match, he would start to pull opponents up into the same position from which Mitsuharu took the infamous head-drop, though, the move would always be countered in those early days. It even earned its own name, officially being called the Kawada Driver – not the the ganso bomb. Eventually, Kawada did hit the worked version of the ganso bomb/Kawada drive on a couple of different occasions, but: a) you could count the total number of them on your fingers and b) they were done in a much more controlled manner than the original.

Don’t get me wrong, the planned Kawada Drivers are probably more dangerous than a standard tombstone piledriver, the move that it most closely resembles, but there is still an added element of danger because there is a separation between the wrestlers’ bodies, making control on the way down more difficult – not impossible, but certainly more difficult.

There have also been some individuals who have tried to recreate the Kawada Driver themselves, though it remains incredibly rare. Those legitimate Kawada Drivers should not be confused with other botched powerbombs that get labeled ganso bombs, as you can see videos online right now that claim to show Booker T, Rick Rude, and Kota Ibushi hitting ganso bombs, even though, when you watch them, it’s clear that they’re just messing up other moves.

With all that background, let’s loop back around to Gilles’ original question. Is the ganso bomb the most dangerous move in pro wrestling?

Maybe you could say that about the original or the other botched moves that have been retroactively called ganso bombs . . . if you consider them to be actual wrestling moves. But, like we said, comparing botched spots to regular wrestling moves in terms of level of danger really isn’t fair, given that one is the product of two wrestlers working together and the other is by definition out of the control of at least one of the participants. I don’t know that I would call a botched Styles Clash a more dangerous move than a Styles Clash, because it’s comparing apples and oranges. The same goes for a ganso bomb and a properly executed powerbomb.

But what about the worked version of the ganso bomb? Is it the most dangerous move in proessional wrestling?

. . . eh, not really. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s a lot like a tombstone, albeit with a somewhat larger degree of difficulty. As long as a wrestler knows what he’s doing, I’ve got no more problem with the worked Kawada Driver than I do with a lot of piledriver variants.

(It should also be noted that Brody King’s Gonzo Bomb is altogether different than a Kawada Driver/ganso bomb, as he sits out to make the move even safer, as his thighs are taking the impact.)

Joel is popping a Ricola:

What exactly are the issues between Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castagnoli? They have mentioned it several times on TV now that they have past issues with each other. Is that real or a storyline?

It’s 100% storyline. The two had a longstanding feud in CHIKARA between 2009 and 2011, which was well-remembered by fans of that promotion in part because they were both super-talented performers who did well at portraying loathing for one another and in part because, as two of the only true heavyweights in the promotion, they utilized a significantly more ground and realistic style than the lucha influenced bouts that predominated in Mike Quackenbush’s company.

That’s really all it is. AEW decided that they wanted a little extra something to put these two over as bitter rivals, so they decided to incorporate a decade-old storyline from a fairly small, fairly obscure independent promotion.

Of course, if CHIKARA is cannon to AEW, this raises all sorts of questions . . . including whether we could one day see the Archibald Peck / Danhausen confrontation that we all deserve.

Brian on the West Coast of Scotland is the Cousin Oliver of this column:

I was mindlessly browsing Facebook, as you do, and caught a mention of Lance Von Erich’s NJPW debut being . . . not very good. Apart from not being a real family member, I don’t know much about him. Can you tell us about his NJPW debut and why it was considered so bad, and maybe a bit more about his career? Was he any good and how did he get the call to become a Von Erich at some point?

I’ll start with the specific question and move to the more general.

The subject of Lance Von Erich’s first and only match in New Japan Pro Wrestling gained some popularity on the internet within the past couple of weeks because Maffew, the man behind the epic Botchamania series, tweeted out some video clips of the bout with a caption stating that Lance’s performance in the match was so bad that his opponent, Japanese veteran Kengo Kimura, got himself intentionally disqualified so that he would not have to wrestle any longer.

Is this true?

It’s undeniable that the match was terrible. There’s video evidence of it. Lance badly botches a dropkick at one point, he totally fails at laying in any strikes, and at one point he moves out of the way of a leg lariat in such a manner that Kimura lands awkwardly and dangerously on the bottom rope, making it clear that wasn’t the called spot. Eventually, Kimura dumps LVE out of the ring a couple of times, seemingly in hopes that he will take a hint and get counted out, but Lance won’t acquiesce, so eventually Kimura just walks off himself.

It’s also worth noting that this wasn’t just any match on any wrestling show. This was on an October 9, 1986 NJPW show from Sumo Hall that drew over 11,000 fans and an $837,000 gate in addition to monster TV ratings thanks to the headlining match of Antonio Inoki versus former heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks. This wasn’t just an embarrassing performance by Lance Von Erich, it was an embarrassing performance on one of the biggest shows imaginable at the time.

In 2021, a biography of Lance Von Erich, called Lance by Chance was released. Reportedly, the book contains Lance’s full account of this match. Frankly, I’m not going to buy the book just to provide more detail to my answer to this question. However, I will say that the book’s author, Vincent Berry, did an interview with noted piece of shit Hannibal to promote the tome. In it, he was asked about Lance’s time in Japan, and he acknowledged that Lance was heavily intoxicated for the match with Kimura, which lead to it falling apart.

The Inoki/Spinks show was not a standalone but rather the first shot of a roughly three week long tour of Japan. Berry’s interview made it clear that Lance was supposed to be on the rest of that tour, though it did not happen. However, the author’s comments do not make it clear whether Lance’s missing the remainder of the cards was a decision by Lance or whether it was a decision by New Japan. I’m guessing the latter.

Kevin Von Erich has also commented on this situation, as he and his sons Ross and Marshall tried their hand at podcasting, also circa 2021. Kevin claimed that, as a result of Lance either being pulled from or pulling out of the tour, Fritz Von Erich flew him to Japan as a replacement, even though immediately beforehand Kevin had been “in a hospital bed” and under doctor’s orders not to wrestle. Kevin’s story about being sent as a replacement makes some sense, as he didn’t show up until day eleven of the tour, and it’s uncommon for wrestlers to jump on and off the talent roster in the middle of a Japanese tour. He may or may not have been hospitalized beforehand, because match results do show he was wrestling in Texas just seven days before he made the trip to Japan. For what it’s worth, in his interview on the subject, Berry contested the claim that Kevin was wrestling against medical advice when he came to Japan.

Moving to the more general question about Lance Von Erich’s career, he did some shoot interviews himself to promote his book, and he reported that he broke into wrestling after David Manning, booker and referee for World Class, saw him on a golf course one day and suggested that he get into the sport because of his impressive physique. Lance was trained by Buck Zumhofe, a wrestler who turned out to be an even bigger piece of shit than Hannibal. From there, he wrestled in the Pacific Northwest territory under the name Ricky Vaughn for most of 1985 before showing up in WCCW in November of that year.

He was brought into the company as a “cousin” to the sons of Fritz Von Erich, allegedly the son of Waldo Von Erich, who was Fritz’s kayfabe brother back when Fritz was a full-time wrestler. Conventional wisdom is that bringing in a fake Von Erich was a terrible idea and many people in World Class’s market knew he was a fake because he was a talented high school athlete in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. However, if you talk to many people who were following the promotion as non-“smart” fans at the time this was happening, they will tell you he was actually quite over, which is supported by the fact that he kept up with the company through April 1987.

Then, disputes over money arose, i.e. Lance wanted more of it and Fritz didn’t want to pay him more of it. Lance bolted from the promotion as a result, and an angry Fritz went on World Class television and acknowledged that he had been a fake Von Erich all along – which if you think about it is really Fritz as the promoter telling on himself as opposed to Fritz telling on Lance.

Though you would think somebody like Lance, whose entire career was based around WCCW, would leave wrestling altogether when he left the territory, he actually kept going through at least 1996. When former World Class booker Ken Mantell tried to run an opposition group called Wild West Wrestling, Lance joined up and was known simply as “Fabulous Lance.” He also continued to use the Von Erich name when he was far enough away from WCCW that he wasn’t going to have to face legal action, including on many international tours. In fact, for a time Lance was married to a South African woman and spent much of his time wrestling on cards in that country, which were promoted by Paul Lloyd, the father of the wrestler that most fans reading this will know as WWE’s Justin Gabriel.

Lance’s last matches that I was able to find record of came in March 1996 as part of a tour that saw American wrestlers invade Malaysia, and I have to run down the roster of these cards because I love how random they are. On these shows, in addition to Lance, you could see: Rick Martel, John Nord as “The Viking,” Dick Murdoch, Vampire Warrior (a couple of years away from being Gangrel), King Kong Bundy, Koko B. Ware, Typhoon, Jim Neidhart, the Repo Man, and then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Dan Severn, and, yes, the Repo Man received an NWA World Title match.

When he stepped away from the ring, Lance got into the hotel industry and has apparently managed resorts in South Africa, Mexico, and many Caribbean island nations. From the interviews that I listened to in putting together this answer, he sounds remarkably well-adjusted and successful compared to your typical retired professional wrestler.

And there it is – your patented excessively long Ryan Byers answer, brought on by the fact that I find a subject more interesting than 90% of your readership will.

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.