wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Did Earthquake Hate Arn Anderson?

May 21, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers

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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Tyler from Winnipeg is not a fish . . . he’s a man:

Can you break down the heat, if there was any, between Arn Anderson and John Tenta?

“Heat” might be a bit of a strong word, but there may well have been a misunderstanding between the two men at one point.

This goes back to March 1997 in WCW, when the company was building to its Uncensored pay per view. The main event was supposed to be an elimination match with three teams of four men each. Hulk Hogan was going to captain an nWo team, Lex Luger was going to captain a WCW team, and Roddy Piper was going to captain his own team.

On the March 3, 1997 Nitro, there was an angle in which Piper hit the ring and said he was going to give some new faces an opportunity to join his team. He then proceeded to have “fights” with six different men, with the idea being that the fans would give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to each contender, making the determination as to whether he would join Team Piper.

The segment was an unmitigated disaster, as most of the six men (one of whom was a very green Luther “Horshu” Reigns) had little to no wrestling experience and largely just flopped around on the mat with Piper or traded sloppy-looking punches. However, that didn’t stop Piper for selecting two of them for his team despite incessant boos from the crowd. The sixth man out was John Tenta, the only one of the group with any name recognition or talent, and he did get a bit of a positive reaction from the fans en route to being the Hot Rod’s third and final pick.

According to the March 10, 1997 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Tenta was brought out for the segment because he and Piper were friends, and this was Piper’s effort to get his buddy a renewed push after he had been off of television for a while. Unfortunately for the former Earthquake, that same edition of the Observer reported that WCW brass realized this segment was terrible while it was ongoing and that there needed to be a change. It was also reported that the match would be changed in the near future so that rather than Piper, Tenta, and the two unknowns, the team would be Piper, Tenta, Chris Benoit, and Steve McMichael, the latter two of whom were members of the Four Horsemen who would be “loaned” to Piper by Ric Flair.

It seemed that plan was being put into action on the March 10 Nitro, as Piper first hit the ring with his three teammates and cut a promo, slagging critics of the prior week’s segment, including, for some reason, Howard Stern. It was not long, though, before Roddy was cut off by “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” signaling the entrance of Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen.

As the Observer predicted, Flair offered Piper the services of Benoit and McMichael, though there were also two additional happenings of note. First off, then-Horseman Jeff Jarrett was added into the mix, meaning that all three members of Piper’s team would be replaced. Secondly, in the opening seconds of the Horsemen’s promo, Arn Anderson delivered the line, “This is a job for professionals, not amateurs.”

The rest of Nitro went on, the Uncensored pay per view went on, and, though the “tryouts” for Piper’s team were remembered as an all-time abysmal segment in Nitro history (and think of the ground that covers), that Horsemen promo was largely forgotten.

That changed in 2017, when Stevie Ray of Harlem Heat released an episode of his podcast “Stand Up for Greatness” which discussed John Tenta. Ray remembered Tenta as a jovial fellow who he had only seen in a bad mood once . . . and it was backstage at the March 10, 1997 taping of WCW Monday Nitro. According to Stevie, not long after that promo involving Team Piper and the Horsemen, Tenta was livid backstage, swearing up a storm and tearing apart the trailer he was sharing with Harlem Heat, claiming he was not clued in on the fact that he was getting bumped from the Uncensored match until he heard it for the first time from Arn Anderson’s lips, after Arn called him an “amateur.”

Because it’s 2020 and everybody has a podcast, Arn Anderson had a chance to respond to this anecdote when asked about it by Conrad Thompson on a 2020 episode of his own show, appropriately entitled “ARN.” Anderson said that he never heard Tenta was upset until the Stevie Ray shoot interview clip surfaced and that he certainly would not have done anything to change a match or an angle on the fly. He was told that the former Shark was getting bumped from the very beginning.

So, that is that. Tenta was certainly angered by something that Anderson said at one point, but it apparently wasn’t a longstanding issue, because Double A didn’t even know there was a problem until more than twenty years after it happened.

Neal is following up on a topic from last week, namely the November 22, 1985 bout in which a frustrated David Sammartino legitimately threw a match against enhancement talent Ron Shaw:

I was there that night, ringside, to the right of Monsoon and Dick Graham. To give you an idea how unplanned this was, as soon as the match was over and they went to “commercial,” Monsoon got up and rushed to the back like a bolt of lightning to see what the hell happened. He came back a few minutes later.

I always thought that was interesting.

It’s always interesting to hear from somebody who was there live for an infamous moment. The fact that Monsoon hit the back immediately doesn’t surprise me, since he also had duties in the office throughout most of his announcing career and would have to have been on top of anything unexpected that happened in the ring. Who knows, he may even have been the agent assigned to the match and watched the finish he planned blow up right in his face.

Dylan has a bear of a question that it took me over two years to get around to answering:

What one-on-one match-up has occurred on WWE TV/PPV the most times ever? I’m thinking that Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler might be up there.

I’ve decided to use my executive authority here to limit this to the match that has occurred most often on pay per view as opposed to television, because reviewing all PPV results to come up with an answer to that question was a multi-hour process in and of itself, and I can only imagine how may days if not weeks it would take to get through the decades and decades of WWE television that are out there.

That said, I determined that there are quite a few matchups have have occurred on three, four, or five separate pay per views, but you really know that you’ve wrestled each other a lot when you’ve gotten up to six bouts on PPV. There are five matchups which hold that distinction:

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
John Cena vs. John Bradshaw Layfield
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
The Undertaker vs. Mick Foley
Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston

Though those matches have happened an awful lot, there are matches that have happened even more frequently. In fact, there are two matches that have taken place on seven different occasions:

Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker

Oddly, there are no matches that have occurred exactly eight times on pay per view, but there are two more matches that have been held on pay per view NINE times, those being:

Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Kane vs. The Undertaker

It’s interesting to note that, of the nine different matchups that we have discussed up to this point, the Undertaker has been part of four of them, which is a reminder of just how lengthy a WWE career he managed to have.

However, none of those nine matchups are the matchup that has taken place the most on WWE pay per view. That distinction goes to one match and one match alone, a match that has taken place on no fewer than TEN different occasions. That match is:

John Cena vs. Randy Orton

Honestly, I cannot say that I was surprised by this outcome at all. In 2002, Cena and Orton were both pegged as being the future of WWE, and, though there were some bumps along the way, it was not horribly long before those prophecies were fulfilled and the two men were at the top of the company for over a decade, bumping off of each other in all variety of different matches, usually with a championship – and usually one of the company’s top championships – on the line.

There you have it. John Cena and Randy Orton are the kings of facing each other on pay per view, and, with the Undertaker, Triple H, and Steve Austin all essentially retired, it seems unlike that any other pair will catch them anytime soon.

Ron and I don’t see eye-to-eye on things:

Just watched TNA’s Lockdown (2010) on AXS-TV. Full disclosure- I was a faithful TNA mark until the product became unbearable. I kinda know what I read concerning their downfall; but after watching Lockdown, it got me wondering. Dixie spent a lot of money on the talent she brought in. But for the most part, they were some of the best in the business. There were a few that showed they were past their prime in the ring (e.g. Nash, Hall, etc); but for the most part, they were hard workers. So, why couldn’t TNA succeed?

We’ll never know a clear-cut answer to this question because it’s near-impossible to go back and run a market analysis of why people refused to tune in to TNA, but my personal theory is that there is a large chunk of the professional wrestling fanbase that existed in 2010 which simply didn’t want to watch what they perceived as being a b-level company (as compared to WWE’s a-level), which is a concept that I talked about in more detail back in October when readers asked me why the Hardy Boys and Kurt Angle failed to save TNA.

unhappy_meal is feeling left out:

Wondering if there are any main event participants from the first 25 Wrestlemanias who aren’t in the WWE Hall of Fame? If there are, is there popular speculation as to why?

There are a ton of main eventers from that stretch of Manias who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, actually, and there are all manner of different reasons that they have yet to be inducted. Let’s take a look at who they are and why that might be:

The Rock: The Rock is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer, and the only thing that has precluded him from being inducted up to this point is that they simply haven’t found the right time and opportunity to do it.

Batista: Batista is similar to the Rock in that he’s sure to go into the Hall, bu the opportunity has not yet presented itself. The difference between the two is that Batista is thus far the only person who was once scheduled to be inducted but then had that induction indefinitely postponed, as he was supposed to have been part of the postponed 2020 class but was unable to appear for the ceremony when the rest of that group as inducted earlier this year.

Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Bobby Lashley, and The Undertaker: These are all men who will no doubt be inducted one day, barring some unexpected turn in their relationships with WWE, but they are either still active wrestlers or are too close to the end of their careers to have been inducted yet. Much like the Rock and Batista, it is only a matter of time.

The Big Show: Show would have been part of the group mentioned above, if not for the fact that he has now signed with AEW. He will likely never be inducted while under contract to that company, but I fully anticipate that his run with the Elite will not be permanent and that he will get his giant-sized ring one day.

Chris Benoit: Not to steal a line from one of the former authors of this column, but . . . no explanation needed.

Umaga: This is an interesting one. On one hand, Umaga was in the main event of what was, up until that point in history, the Wrestlemania that generated the most pay per view buys in history. Granted, the show was really built on the backs of Donald Trump and Vince McMahon, but he was still in the mix. On the other hand, he suffered an early-in-life drug-induced death, during a time when WWE was pushing hard to distance itself from that sort of thing. I anticipate that he will get in, particularly in light of his family connections, but we may need to wait another ten years or so to allow for more separation from his passing.

Lawrence Taylor: I have not read any particular reason that L.T. has not gone in to the WWE Hall of Fame. You would think he’d be a no-brainer for the celebrity wing, since he main evented Wrestlemania and had what was, at the time, considered the greatest match that an outside athlete/celebrity had ever had. (Since then, guys like Floyd Mayweather have given him a run for his money.) Granted, Taylor has had some run-ins with the law, but no less than Mike Tyson, who WWE had no issue doing business with until he started appearing on AEW Dynamite. In light of all the above, I assume he’s not in the Hall of Fame because he doesn’t want to be.

Lex Luger: There are really two knocks on Lex Luger when it comes to the WWE Hall of Fame. First, there has been a history of bad blood between he and Vince McMahon due to Luger appearing on the first episode of WCW Monday Nitro out of the blue at a time when the WWF expected him to sign a new contract. The second is that, in the past, some in the WWE camp have blamed Luger for the death of Miss Elizabeth to a certain extent, despite him not being in any way legally responsible for the same. There have been reports that he has worked with WWE regarding wellness issues in recent years, but he’s still been kept out of the mainstream of the company.

Sid: This strikes me as another case of the promotion just not having gotten around to an induction yet. Granted, Sid has had an odd career in that he bounced around between the major promotions quite a bit in the 1990s and was a participant in several infamous incidents like the scissor fight with Arn Anderson, the squeegee non-fight with Brian Pillman, and his numerous softball games. However, WWE has shown willingness to do business with him, as he has done a legends appearance here and there.

Mike Rotunda/I.R.S.: This is the one name on the list I have absolutely no explanation for. Rotunda had a WWF career that was just as big as many other Hall of Fame inductees, he worked as an agent for the company for many years, and his son is currently one of their biggest stars. The only thing that I can think of is that Bray Wyatt/The Fiend is a guy who you do not see out of character very often, and they may want to save his father’s induction for a time when Bray can be an active participant. (And before anybody tells me that Rotunda was never in a Wrestlemania main event, his WWF Tag Team Title match at Wrestlemania IX was definitely billed as half of a double main event.)

King Kong Bundy: Tommy Dreamer told a story on a 2019 episode of his podcast which might give some insight as to what is going on here. Dreamer was working in the WWE office during the build to Wrestlemania XXI, and he attempted to book Bundy to be part of an angle in which Randy Orton was tangling with the Undertaker’s past Mania opponents as part of the build to their match on the big show. Bundy declined to take part and, in doing so, told Dreamer that he was still upset with Vince McMahon due to some money he felt that he was owed and the fact that he felt he was promised a championship as part of his run with Hulk Hogan. This doesn’t totally add up in my mind because Bundy did return to the WWF for a stint after the Hogan program, but, if true, it sounds like Bundy did not want anything to do with the company later in his life.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. 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.

article topics :

Arn Anderson, Earthquake, Ryan Byers