wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Could WWE Have An Attitude Era Brand?

December 9, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
WWE Steve Austin Vince McMahon

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The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I’m joined to the above by a year. I’ve worked with lots of people over the years, including over a dozen or so world champions of various companies. All my title reigns have been singles titles. In one regard, I’ve beaten John Cena by 11. I’ve been connected with shooting an animal, holding a strap, Sexy Boy, and I almost managed R-Truth one time. A guy not related to someone I once teamed with despite our names, I am who?

Robert_Frost has the answer, almost.

Who am I? I’m joined to the above by a year (both made the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005). I’ve worked with lots of people over the years, including over a dozen or so world champions of various companies (Hogan most famously.) All my title reigns have been singles titles (cheated Lawler out of the AWA Southern Heavyweight title.) In one regard, I’ve beaten John Cena by 11 (had a record go to #4 before getting into wrestling – the Doctor of Thuganomics’ debut only went to #15.) I’ve been connected with shooting an animal (no idea), holding a strap (THE YAPAPI BROTHER), Sexy Boy (wrote it), and I almost managed R-Truth one time (offered to at Summerslam once). A guy not related to someone I once teamed with despite our names (the Bret thing was always so weird to me), I am The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart.

The shooting an animal thing is a (apparently not quite) famous (enough) promo from Memphis.

Who am I? I’ve been managed by the above, been Royalty, and was part of a sport other than wrestling with someone I would team with in wrestling later on. I’ve been part of a fake out ‘debut’ to a company, part of the last match in WWF for a Hall of Famer, and totally not a rip off of the previous work of a different Hall of Famer (after all, he didn’t have a hat!). I share an interesting next generation quirk with the guy I teamed with on my last run in WWF, albeit with some differences in companies and in regards to biological V adoption. A guy more well known for something outside the ring than in it, arguably, I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

Quan starts us off with a question about fantasy booking.

Relax, the answer has very little to do with it.

Appreciate your hard work on this column Mathew, I have been following this for 7 years. This is not a common question, instead I request you to do some fantasy booking.

In fact, I want to know how you will book a profitable and believable Invasion angle featuring WWE and UFC. You can draw out any scenario you want, use any wrestler/fighter/other figures you need, consider yourself the head booker with absolute creative control over both companies.

I wouldn’t. There’s very little money to be made in that, thanks to your average UFC fan.

*glances around the bar, looking for new Zuffa or old Tapout shirts*

UFC fans think wrestling is fake, see.

Yes, ok, it is, technically, sure, but UFC fans tend to view that as a deal breaking negative. WWE fans will give UFC a looksee if something catches their eye, that’s part of the reason Brock worked so well, as he not only drew UFC fans as a heel for them, he also drew over some WWE fans. Same as Punk’s… Well, ‘fight’ I suppose, for lack of a better term. It drew much better than most PPVs, as I understand it.

But an invasion thusly doesn’t work, as if you have UFC guys and girls go to WWE, UFC fans aren’t going to follow, as they’ll blow it off as fake sports and not tune in, and if you have WWE people go to UFC, well let’s just say there’s probably more Punks than Brocks in the WWE locker room.

Which is totally fine, I much prefer WWE, a lot of people do, and while there is some crossover with UFC, there’s not enough to warrant an invasion that would work.

So, if you gave me complete creative control over both companies, I’d keep them separate and then basically start rigging UFC in order to make the most money out of the people who are the big stars, until such time as I was caught and fired, but hopefully maybe a few months of big business cards with the drawcards I could retire on.

Putting a gun to my head over it doesn’t help either, as due to the fact that I don’t like UFC/actual real fighting, I’m not very up to date on who is a good talker and/or has a good gimmick. What I’d probably do is have Ronda and McGregor come in as a duo, saying that while they both have different reasons for wanting to do this, Ronda because she’s actually a fan while McGregor is only after money and power and infamy and such, they both understand that WWE is like the wild west, you can’t rely on your own two hands, there’s always someone lurking in the shadows with a steel chair or something to ruin a match. So they’ll watch each others backs as they prove a point at Next Big Event where they fight Raw Women’s Champ Asuka and new IC Champ Finn Balor (Brock costs Roman the belt, both to prove Conor’s point and to set up Brock/Roman as the third big match on the card).

Asuka wins due to Alexa Bliss and a steel chair, while Balor wins thanks to Samoa Joe and two steel chairs.

They are due to be on Raw the next night, but they no-show. Instead, Ronda and McGregor turn up on Smackdown… With the entire UFC roster that can either talk, have a gimmick/hook, are a major star, or are just really good at fighting. They come in at say 1:25 and the show has no commercial breaks until well into the overrun where the UFC people swarm SD and kill everyone and everything.

UFC then takes over Smackdown, with the plan being that they’re going to spend some time getting to grips with this wrestling thing, and make sure they have this scouted, so you have a few brave souls stick around, but for the most part the WWE people run to Raw, while UFC people have wrestling matches with themselves and ‘call ups’ (NXT and indies and jobbers) as you build up to Wrestlemania where UFC V WWE is the gimmick and if UFC wins WWE goes UFC or something, WWE wins the bet, UFC leaves except for the stand outs/people who like it here who are kept around due to their contracts or something. Punk is your Sting character, not trusted by either side until he chooses WWE at WM by kicking Brock in the dick, Brock being the Hogan of this thing where he betrays WWE and joins UFC and combines the world titles and is a total dick up until Punk kicks him in said dick.

But again, it wouldn’t work, I wouldn’t do it. I’d just rig UFC until I was caught.

Richard asks about parts unknown, and if you can expect to still have that or not.

Who are the Top-ten All-time wrestlers from “Parts Unknown?” Who were they really? Where were they really from?

Honorable Mentions due to only being from Parts Unknown for short periods of time in the ‘same’ gimmick: Kanyon, Goldberg

Honorable Mention due to not being hailed as being from Parts Unknown, just not having a hailing from at all: Kane

Honorable Mentions because they are from Parts Unknown but they aren’t top ten worthy: Giant Gonzales, Battle Cat, The Berzerker, The Masked Marvel, The Executioners.

10: Ultramantis Black- Unknown real name, unknown real home town. Presumably near Philly?

9: Powers Of Pain- The Barbarian & The Warlord, aka Sione Vailahi and Terry Szopinski from Nukuʻalofa, Tonga and Pompano Beach, Florida, respectively.

8: Papa Shango- Charles Wright, born in Palo Alto, Florida.

7: The Blue Blazer- Owen Hart from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Except for when it was Jeff Jarrett from Hendersonville, Tennessee. Or when it was Koko B Ware, real name James Ware, from Union City, Tennessee.

6: The Moondogs- OK, so there’s been nearly 30 Moondogs, so I’ll just stick to the three in the WWF, as well as two of the major ones in Memphis.

Cujo (Lanny Kean, Jamestown Kentucky), King (Edward White, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), Rex (Randy Colley, Alexander City, Alabama), Spike (William Smithson, Unknown, possibly Tennessee) & Spot (Larry Booker, Louisiana)

5: The Missing Link- Byron Robertson, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

4: Doink The Clown- Matt Osborne, Charlotte, North Carolina.

I refuse to acknowledge anyone else being Doink. Except for Steve Keirn, from Tampa, Florida.

3: Demoliton- Ax was Bill Eadie, from Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Smash was Barry Darsow, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Crush was Brian Adams from Kona, Hawaii.

2: Abyss- Christopher Joseph Parks is from Park, Park, & Park Washington D.C

1: The Ultimate Warrior- James Hellwig Warrior, Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Argue about my order below!

In this age of the Internet, is it feasible for a wrestler to expect anonymity – real or pretend?

Pretend, sure. ‘Parts Unknown’ is just another way of saying “This person will not tell us where they are from and/or where they currently reside, or possibly they have told us but choose not to tell you’. That’s a valid option for a wrestler in kayfabe, not every wrestler has a hometown they are proud of or choose to fight for, some people are loners and anti-social, and wrestling is, in theory, a great occupation for anti-social loners with anger issues.

Real… That’s where it gets complicated.

Now, if a wrestler chooses to try and keep their private life private, to an extent that they don’t have public social media and the like, then I think they should be able to expect a certain level of respect from the audience, yes. Obviously there is interest in the details of any famous person’s life, but if they want to remain anonymous, especially if they have a mask, that should be respected.

However, once you do start being on social media, while there is a line the fans shouldn’t cross, that line is further back than if you didn’t have it. I of course am not saying any wrestler has the right to have their account hacked or that showing up at the airport or the hotel is ok (it really isn’t), but once you draw back the curtain into your private life it can be hard to close it again. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

I mean, at the end of the day it’s about how fans shouldn’t be dicks, so good luck relying on that strategy.

Michael asks a popular question.

We know that the Attitude Era is far in the rear-view mirror and was a wildly popular time for the E but now, we’re strictly in a PG era. In an effort to gain some of those old viewers back OR to attract new viewers; WHY don’t they offer a brand of wrestling with adult-themed storylines and antics similar to what was done in the Attitude Era! So you have NXT, RAW, SMACKDOWN, and why not a weekly show for mature audiences 18+, perhaps with its own roster? The show can contain adult themed storylines, maybe some blood in matches, some cursing, etc etc. For example, you could have Bray Wyatt really dig deeper into his character without the limitations of being PG. I think this idea has merit and wonder if it’s ever been taken into consideration? Your thoughts?

Because that would be off brand.

WWE has their new business model, and it is working for them, from a corporate standpoint. Ratings aren’t anywhere near the peak of the Attitude Era, sure, but the fact is, with TV rights and all the sponsorship agreements and the like, they’re making money, they’re doing well, with a product that is aimed squarely at the family friendly market. And if you’re not into that, then hey, you’ve got this whole back catalogue of Attitude Era and ECW stuff to watch instead! And no-one who is doing business with them minds about that, as they know that this company has back catalogue material they might not like, but they’re not pushing it on-air, they’re not making any new stuff like that, so it’s ok to be associated with them.

The minute you introduce the Attitude Brand, or whatever, you instantly ruin that. No matter how delineated you make it, no matter how you record it separately and keep it separated, you’re still producing a new non-kid friendly product under the WWE umbrella. That kills the deals.

I mean, if you kept it completely separate, as in not on the network, not with the WWE name, you use the logic of how Disney made Pulp Fiction and keep it totally outside the WWE brand, the fact is, it’s a different marketplace even without the sponsors. A chairshot to the head followed by a gusher of blood and then a woman’s top getting ripped off plays far differently than it used to.

There are aspects of the Attitude Era I think that are missing, and that can be brought back. The air of unpredictability, more characters and storylines throughout the card, allowing stories to be told with no clear good and bad guys and letting the fans decide who to support, that stuff should be brought back. But an 18+ blood and tits brand? There’s not enough people who would buy into the network for new stuff like that, certainly not enough to offset the deals you’d have to break.

Get some fans with the old stuff, get some fans with the great wrestling going on now, the rest… You’re not going to get everyone, so don’t lose too much sleep over it.

Andron has… Questions.

Firstly do you think many of the top starsin the wwe received the reaction opposite whst wwe expect because the fans wasn’t accepting of the changes ? Like john cena is no stone coke reigns is no rock or. Did wwe make them franchise superstars too soon ?

No, the issue is not that Reigns was pushed too soon, it’s that WWE didn’t just push the guy.

Well, no, ok, the problem is that he’s not the guy they think he is, but if they were absolutely, 100% committed to Reigns being the Cena/Rock love child centrepiece of all time, fine, then he has to win. Like, 95% of the time. He needs to be a total badass and kill people with finger points and be banging all the women at the same time, or whatever the PG equivalent is. You push a guy hard enough, well enough, long enough, he gets over. And they could do it, with just one night they got Philly to cheer Reigns winning the World title. Reigns. Philly. World Title. CHEERED.

Or just turn him heel, then have him run roughshod over everyone until the fans love him because of that shade of badassery.

But they don’t want Reigns to be over by sheer force. They want their moment. They want the magical night where Reigns fights and strives and works his way up the ladder and gains the fans ‘naturally’ and ‘organically’ and then wins the title in the main event of WM and everyone loves him from now on.

This is old ground of course, but while you can technically argue that he was pushed too soon because he’s not over enough to be where he was when he got there, timing wasn’t the issue, it wasn’t that we still wanted Cena, it’s that Reigns wasn’t the guy for the role WWE used him in, he was a square peg in a round hole, and instead of either finding the square peg, or taking a hammer and forcing it through, they just kept clunking the square peg against the hole, expecting that this time, it’ll work…

Could tna down fall be the t.v. station. Wp7ld they be bigger and more over if they were on more available channels like wb or Nick?

Probably, but not the reason you seem to be insinuating.

The issue of Impact wrestling is not that they’re on a hard to find channel. If a show is hot, if you put on a product people want, they’ll find it. Or they’ll demand it, and get it soon enough. There is a level of quality that would make the channel they’re on irrelevant.

However, it cannot be denied that larger channels have more reach, more advertising, more brand loyalty. If Impact could get onto a more mainstream channel, that carries with it a certain expectation of the quality, coupled with the larger number of people finding it by accident, true. They’d probably need to grow to get to a point where this would be feasible, of course, but at the end of the day they could grow without needing a bigger channel, and having a bigger channel isn’t a guarantee of success, but sure, a bigger channel does have benefits. Just not ironclad, nor company changing ones.

Steve asks about Bobby Heenan cutting a little close to the bone.

SummerSlam 1991, Gorilla, Piper, and Heenan on commentary. Normal face/heel banter between Piper and Heenan, except that Heenan–at any point a wrestler’s family is mentioned, which is quite often during the Bret Hart v. Mr. Perfect match–makes repeated references to Piper’s parents not liking him, abandoning him, etc. Somewhat standard jokes (Rodney Dangerfield used to make them about himself) except that knowing Piper’s childhood history all these years later, it’s uncomfortable to watch.

Piper legitimately doesn’t seem thrilled with these barbs. Ultimately, during the Boss Man v. Mountie jail match, Heenan brings it up once again, and Piper flat-out tells him “You’re working a little stiff there, huh?” There are a few online reviews of the event which notice this dynamic, though nobody offers any explanation for it.

So my question: What’s the background here, if any? Were these two guys such good friends that Heenan was able to rib him on-air about something particularly sensitive? Or, to the contrary, was there actual animosity between them that resulted in Heenan landing low blows?

I believe Piper and Heenan were good friends, but as you say, there’s little information out there about this particular PPV, and any heat between the two. But I would point out that this is the PPV where Bobby Heenan goes to Hulk Hogan’s dressing room and flashes the first WWE appearance of the Big Gold Belt. And that Piper was set to be the first feud for Flair when he came into the company.

So given the plan was for Flair and Heenan to feud with Piper, why wouldn’t Heenan start to get under Piper’s skin and piss him off, give him a reason to start off trouble with Flair?

That’s my best guess as to the background here. Unless someone has a better idea below.

Jeremiah asks about the Ultimate Maniacs.

Why the red/yellow theme? That’s obviously Hogan territory. Was he to cross paths with them in some way in ’93?

Well there’s a finite number of color options, even less if you want an athestically pleasing one, given the circumstances. Both men were known for being super colorful, so going with the color scheme that Savage last used in his last successful superteam as the Megapowers, that sort of makes sense. Plus Vince was still sort of stuck in the mindset that replacing Hogan required the replacement to be like Hogan, so red and yellow was a color scheme that worked, dammit!

There were no plans to have Hogan cross paths with them, to my knowledge. But then the plans during that time changed a hell of a lot…

Speaking of-

Is there a known plan for them as a team had Warrior not left/been fired/whatever? Presumably they beat Flair and Razor, but after that? Tag titles? Was there an end game planned via a heel turn for one of them?

Most tag teams in WWF end in a turn, sure, but I think this was one of those situations where you have a short term goal, but you can play it out further, if it works. Had the Ultimate Maniacs gotten really over, and Savage was able to translate his WM7 magic and gotten great tag matches out of Warrior, the obvious place to go with that would be for WM9, Ultimate Maniacs V Money Inc for the tag titles, while Bret and Yoko face off for the big belt. I’ve seen people say that was ‘obviously’ the plan, but I think it’s more just an obvious place to take it, rather than the actual plan. As far as known, detailed, legit plans, no, there’s nothing.

Is the rumored WWF title procession of Flair –> Warrior –> Bret (at the ’93 Rumble) accurate?

Flair to Warrior, at one point, yes. The assumption was Savage was the older name, and Warrior was the guy to build the company around, and it’ll work this time. And Flair was thought to be able to get a good match out of Warrior and make it a special moment when he won the belt in late 92, Survivor Series maybe?

Bret though… Bret seems to believe that there were a lot of matches that were going to happen with him beating guys. Using the Yes Prime Minister Shoot Interview checklist, I think with Bret and these sorts of things, it’s a combination of:

b. What he believed happened.
c. What he would have liked to have happened.
d. What he wants to believe happened.

There’s no real evidence that Bret/Warrior, with Warrior submitting to the Sharpshooter, was going to be a thing. Maybe Vince floated it to Bret to motivate him and he took it as a done deal, maybe he heard a rumor, maybe he just really wanted it. But while Flair-Warrior was the plan, Warrior-Bret wasn’t.

Or at least, wasn’t at the time. Maybe after Warrior crashed and burned as champ, maybe, but other than that…

And on that note, no Chandlers or drinks this week, maybe next week. Ciao!