wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Did Nia Jax Make Becky Lynch a Main Eventer?

July 4, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Becky Lynch WWE Smackdown 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.

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.

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Edward‘s face is broken:

I have a question about a PPV I attended. For WrestleMania 35, would the main event still have been a triple threat if Becky wasn’t concussed by Nia Jax earlier that season? Would Rhonda have beaten Becky clean instead of the DQ finish against Charlotte?

Lynch almost certainly would not have been part of that historic Wrestlemania main event but for her injury. According to the November 19, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which covered the episode of Monday Night Raw in which Nia Jax broke Becky’s nose and gave her a concussion with an errant punch, it was stated that, though not 100% finalized, Ronda Rousey versus Charlotte Flair was the direction for Mania XXXV, while Lynch versus Rousey was going to take place at the 2018 Survivor Series.

The Observer went on to report that, the day after the injury when it was clear that Lynch could not be medically cleared for Survivor Series, Vince McMahon and Rousey (who has a fair amount of creative influence over her own programs) met and decided that the best thing to do was move the Rousey/Lynch match from Survivor Series to Wrestlemania.

Of course, in the months between that meeting and Mania itself, the plan evolved into the three-way match that we eventually got, but, one way or the other, Lynch was not factored in prior to her injury.

Barry is holding the thin blue line:

We’ve all seen wrestling episodes where the “police” are called to arrest a wrestler usually out for revenge.

It got me wondering, especially in the days before the “secret” was out, has there ever been a time where someone watching at home has actually called the police because of what they’ve seen on TV?

Yes, this has happened many, many times throughout professional wrestling’s history, and it wasn’t just during the era before the “secret” was out. There were a handful of people who would do it well past the point that they ought to have known better, including reports of fans calling the authorities on the evening that Vince McMahon’s limousine blew up on Monday Night Raw. (Little did we know about the real-life legal entanglements that wrestling would be involved in very shortly after that angle.)

Probably the most infamous incident of fans calling the cops on wrestlers occurred on September 1, 1990 in Memphis, when Eddie Gilbert got behind the wheel of a car and ran over Jerry “The King” Lawler with television cameras present. Lawler actually had to cut a promo later on telling everybody that he did not need police assistance and would take care of Gilbert himself.

This question is from Tony V.. The “V” stands for “AV Club.” I also don’t know how abbreviations work.

If WWE uses the 8k cameras to shoot entrances but Smackdown is broadcast in 1080, does it matter?

This is getting outside my area of expertise, but my general understanding is no. Regardless of what cameras are used to shoot footage, it will essentially look like 1080p footage if it’s run on a 1080p display.

Bruce is a biggun’ from Wigan:

A bit of an old school question. My favorite wrestler ever is Billy Robinson. I thought he was absolutely great in the ring. But I have a few questions about him. I’ve read a few times he was a real bully. But I’ve talked with the great Sod-Buster Kenny Jay and he said Billy was a sweetheart. What is your take on Billy as a bully?

It’s all in your perception.

In contemporary terms, a lot of Billy Robinson’s antics would be considered bullying. However, if you asked him about it and if you asked many of his contemporaries in wrestling about it, they would probably consider it to be protecting the business. Robinson was known for taking other wrestlers down, stretching them, and in some instances legitimately hurting them. However, that almost never happened to somebody who he respected as being a legitimate wrestler. Instead, he tended to do it with individuals who came into wrestling from football, bodybuilding, or other sports, who Robinson and his ilk didn’t think “belonged” in the ring.

Even if a wrestler did have a shoot background, Robinson would go after them if they were shooting their mouths off. In Ric Flair’s ghostwritten autobiography To Be the Man, he describes a fairly infamous incident between Robinson and the man who would eventually be known as the Iron Sheik. Despite the fact that he later became associated in fans’ minds with his over the top gimmick, Sheik did have credentials as a top level amateur wrestler, and, when he was being trained for pro wrestling by Robinson and Verne Gagne, Sheik would regularly say he could best either of his trainers in a legitimate contest.

This did not sit well with Robinson who challenged Sheik to an amateur match. Sheik took the bottom of the referee’s position. Rather than employing any sort of amateur technique, Robinson drove his knee into his opponent’s thigh – which would be illegal in an amateur match – and dislocated Sheik’s hip in the process.

Was that a justified reaction to Sheik running his mouth? I assume most reading this today would say no, but others with a more old school mentality may feel differently.

Bryan knows we’re in the midst of swimsuit season:

How come as the 80s ended and 90s began, Randy Savage began to cover himself up more and more in his ring gear? He went from the just the short tights, to the long tights to the long tights and shirt. He always had a great physique. Did he have an embarrassing surgery scar or questionable tattoo? It’s a visual business and it makes no sense to not showcase a muscular build.

Savage himself did an interview on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 indicating that he had used anabolic steroids when they were legal. Steroids were officially made a controlled substance in the United States in 1991 and were out of favor a couple of years before that, which matches with the Macho Man’s transition to wearing a shirt.

You can probably do the math from there.

unhappy_meal can’t hide his true identity from me:

The Machines were a team/concept slightly before my time as a fan that sounded amazing – and I think have the potential to be really popular if they return. Wondering if you knew of any fun backstage stories or rumours involving a team that started as 2 and wound up growing to +/-6 (including the Hulk Machine).

One of the things that WWF fans don’t realize is that the Machines, who in the Fed were somewhat racistly portrayed as being from “The Orient,” were actually inspired by the gimmick of a Japanese professional wrestler.

That man’s name is Junji Hirata. In puroresu, there is a tradition of a rookie wrestler having a couple of years of matches in Japan and then going on an “excursion” to a foreign country where he continues to learn his trade before making a Japanese redebut with a new look. When a young Hirata returned to New Japan Pro Wrestling from his excursion, he donned a mask and became the Strong Machine. This morphed into a tag team in which Hirata was Strong Machine #1 and Korean wrestler Yang Seung-Hi was Strong Machine #2. After about a year, they were joined by Yasu Fuji as Strong Machine #3. Eventually Machines #2 and #3 turned on #1, which caused Hirata to promote himself to “Super Strong Machine,” feuding with the other two.

In early August 1985, Hirata left New Japan and would show up in All Japan a couple of months later. When he left the company, NJPW put Bill Eadie – a.k.a. the Masked Superstar and later Demolition Ax – under a mask as the Super Machine and teamed him with Andre as the Giant Machine. They wrestled as the Machines in New Japan throughout August and September of 1985, bringing the gimmick to the WWF almost a year later, where Blackjack Mulligan joined them as Big Machine.

They were the core Machines group in the WWF for the rest of the gimmick’s run, being joined by guest Machines like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, George “The Animal” Steele, and the Crusher.

Neil is waiting for my cue to burst out of a plywood box:

Taking AJ Styles at the Rumble for example, despite the obvious such as Vince and the show producers, who else needs to know when a surprise wrestler is about to debut? I’m talking people such as music producers for the entrance music, graphic designers for the sets and Titantrons, etc., even down to pyrotechnicians for any pyro, HR for pay cheques, etc.

And how secret is the debut among the wrestlers backstage? Is it fair to say that some wrestlers wouldn’t have known that AJ would have been at the show until he is about to walk through the curtain or would ALL wrestlers know this?

You’ve covered quite a few of the people who would need to be in the know, but here are a few others that you haven’t mentioned:

Legal: Though there are some “one-shot deals” to whom this wouldn’t apply, if a wrestler is making a surprise appearance to set up their being a regular member of the roster, they’re almost certainly going to be signed to a contract prior to the event, and that would most likely be negotiated through the legal department.

Wardrobe (maybe): If the wrestler coming in is adopting a new gimmick or debuting a new look as opposed to simply using gear from another promotion, somebody is going to have to put together their outfit.

The Opponent: Maybe this one is obvious, but it wasn’t mentioned in the question, so I will throw it out there. The debuting wrestler’s opponent will need to know who they are wrestling, particularly this era where call-it-in-the-ring wrestling is less common than it ever has been. Granted, in a battle royale, you can leave most of the wrestlers in the dark and only notify a person or two with whom the debutante will be having a key spot.

At Least One Agent: There is going to be an agent assigned to the match or segment that the new wrestler is debuting in, because, as noted above, in most instances these days the wrestlers in the segment aren’t going to be putting it together in the ring on the fly. There’s going to be an agent who is helping to coordinate things.

On the question of how many wrestlers backstage will know about the impending debut, it has varied over the years, but the more common practice these days seems to be to keep the identity of any mystery wrestlers from as many people as it can possibly be kept from.

Davros puts pressure on seven points of the lower anatomy:

Why don’t we ever see the ring post figure four anymore? Bret Hart made the hold nuclear in 1997 but I can’t recall seeing it since.

I’m not aware of this having been addressed anywhere, but the best educated guess that I can come up with is that, if you watch recent WWE productions, they REALLY want to focus on wrestlers’ faces when they are in submission holds, and the ring post figure four is difficult to shoot in such a way that you can see both the victim’s face and what is happening to him at the same time.

Let’s go to Tyler from Winnipeg for another “move” related question:

Who is credited or most famous for the leg lariat?

From my research, it does not appear that there is any consensus on who exactly created this move. However, I will say the individual who I personally recall having seen perform a leg lariat first is Dean Malenko. Yes, it was one of his thousand holds.

Night Wolf the Wise is looking for things to undo with his newly invented time machine:

If you look at all the wrestlers who held the Heavyweight title, who would be your top 10 that should have never held the title and why? Be it their reign was lackluster, they didn’t have credible challengers and feuds or they were simply the wrong choice. You can limit your list to WWE because my question would take up an entire column if you were to include every promotion.

This is a pretty straightforward question, so here we go . . . in no particular order:

Jinder Mahal: There are some contrarians out there who tried to argue he was better than he was, but Mahal was an incredibly generic wrestler. The justification for his reign was to try to expand WWE’s business into India, but that flopped, so the whole thing was pointless.

Braun Strowman: What did that accomplish, exactly?

JBL: Bradshaw is a talented performer, and this gimmick became somewhat iconic, but watching this at the time made absolutely no sense. He had been a midcard tag team wrestler for years, and then he suddenly changed gimmicks and became a world champion out of nowhere. It felt wrong, and there should have been more time spent building him up to that level before pulling the trigger.

Sgt. Slaughter: I understand wanting to have a heel that Hulk Hogan could take the title off of at Wrestlemania VII, but Sarge’s entire Iraqi sympathizer run was exploitative of then-current events and in bad taste.

Chris Benoit: Hindsight is 20/20, I guess.

Mike the Miz: Both of his championship reigns have come off of Money in the Bank cash-ins, a gimmick that I was tired of about three years after it was introduced. On top of that, he was never given any credibility as a champion, so you essentially wound up with the Honky Tonk Man as your to titleholder. Honky’s run was great for a midcard belt, but people generally need something more from the top title in a company.

Vince McMahon: Aside from creating a one-off shocking moment for the sake of buzz and ratings, I have no idea what the point of this was – but at least they had Vince immediately vacate the championship as opposed to trying to give him an actual reign.

Alberto Del Rio: See the entry about Chris Benoit.

Drew McIntyre: I have nothing against McIntyre as a performer, but having his big coronation and title reign during the pandemic era of WWE took the wind out of his sales and likely prevented him from being as big as he could have been otherwise.

Rey Misterio Jr.: Like McIntyre, I am a fan of Misterio, but it was clear the company wasn’t behind him as champion, and, if they weren’t going to get behind him, I’d preferred that they just didn’t do it at all.

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.