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Ask 411 Wrestling: Did The Rock Turn Heel Because Of His Wildfire Relief Fund With Oprah?

March 11, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Smackdown 2-16-24 The Rock Dwayne Johnson 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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You get a question! You get a question! You get a question! Bryan gets a question!

Was the Rock’s heel turn caused by the real life backlash he got for going on TV with Oprah asking people for money for wildfire relief? Most wrestling fans aren’t fans of Oprah and were upset by multi millionaires asking for donations, so you think that helped spurned his heel turn to take advantage of that?


I suspect that the vast majority of wrestling fans would have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention the Rock appearing on television with Oprah.

Fans were just really, really invested in seeing Cody Rhodes take on Roman Reigns. The Rock is savvy enough to realize that, so he created a situation in which he appeared to steal that spot from the American Nightmare, manipulating fans into booing him and making his heel turn come of as very organic.

This heel turn had nothing to do with audience backlash and everything to do with the Rock playing wrestling fans like a fiddle.

Michael L. makes sure everyone has a participation trophy:

One thing that has occurred to me with the absence of Charlotte in this year’s WM is that her wrestlemania matches have always been title matches, whether she was challenging or defending. This has been the case in the seven Wrestlemania’s she has wrestled (32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39). I believe this was the most of any competitor whose WM matches have consisted exclusively of title matches.

Is this correct, and if so, are there other competitors who have only competed at WM in title matches? We can count not just the top title, but also any title on the card, but let’s say this would apply to anyone who has been in two or more WM shows. However, if you’d like, you could also include those who have only been in one WM match such as Maven (defending the Hardcore title at WM18) or Tazz (in a battle royal for the HC title at WM 2000).

First off, one minor correction to the information in the question: Tazz has had more than one Wrestlemania match. In addition to being in the Hardcore Title battle royale that Michael mentions, he was also in a six man tag on Wrestlemania XVII, teaming with the APA against the Right to Censor.

One thing that Michael did get right is that, of those individuals who have only appeared in championship bouts at Wrestlemania, Charlotte Flair has the most with seven.

The person in second place actually surprised me. It’s Jimmy Uso, who was in five Tag Team Title matches on Wrestlemanias XXXIV, XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.

After that, there are several individuals who have had four title matches but no other Wrestlemania matches. They are Jey Uso, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Sasha Banks, Nia Jax, and Rhea Ripley. If you’re curious as to why Jimmy Uso has one more Wrestlemania title match than his brother, it’s because the two were supposed to be in a three-way Tag Title match at Wrestlemania XXXVI, but, as a result of the Miz contracting “an illness,” the match was changed to a three-way singles bout with the tag belts on the line. Wrestlemania XXXVI took place in 2020, so I’ll let you guess what the “illness” was.

Individuals who have had three Wrestlemania matches, all of which have been title matches: Asuka, Mike Rotunda, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Alexa Bliss, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Bianca Belair. Chavo also holds an interesting distinction in that all of his title matches were for different titles: a Tag Team Championship, the Cruiserweight Championship, and the ECW Championship.

Individuals who have had two Wrestlemania matches, all of which have been title matches: Matt Riddle, Leilani Kai, Mabel, Jeff Jarrett, TAKA Michinoku, Ken Shamrock, Sho Funaki, William Regal, Jazz, Charlie Haas, and Luke Harper.

The people who have only had one Wrestlemania match with that match being for a championship are so numerous that it’s not even really worth listing. Just know that the list includes both Eva Marie and Ultimo Dragon, so it is truly all over the board.

Everything is up to Lev:

Why didn’t WWE pick up Vampiro when they bought WCW? He was a regular part of latter day WCW and the kid in me always thought this guy looks cool. I recently read on a forum that Chris Jericho campaigned against bringing Vampiro in. Is that the reason why WWE passed? What did Jericho have against Vampiro?

Yes, there appears to have been some past heat between Vampiro and Chris Jericho going back to their time in Mexico. Essentially, Jericho alleges that Vamp was a prima donna and Y2J wasn’t down with it. This is discussed in more detail in Jericho’s autobiography.

Is this the reason that Vamprio was not signed by WWE after WCW went out of business?

It may have contributed, but, if it was a reason, it does not appear to have been the only reason.

Vampiro was, in fact, under a WCW contract when the promotion went out of business. However, it was not a guaranteed contract that the company was required to honor no matter what, like Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kevin Nash, and a few others had. Instead, according to the April 16, 2001 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Vampiro and many other stars were on deals that included ninety day “cycles,” and WCW could terminate them at any time so long as they let them complete one final cycle. As the purchaser of WCW, the WWF came to own all those contracts, though Vamp was informed pretty quickly after the acquisition that his next ninety days was going to be his last. The same thing happened to Christopher Daniels and Michael Modest at around the same time.

As to WHY, Vampiro received that notice, the April 2 Observer notes that he and WCW had a tumultuous relationship over the years, and, when they were in conflict, the WWF would check on whether he was worth bringing on board. However, they never got good reviews when they asked around, so they stayed away from him. Interestingly, the one person that the WON fingers as giving the WWF bad reviews of Vampiro is none other than . . . Rob Van Dam.

(Yes, I know RVD was not yet a WWF employee at the time, but he would have had connections to some in the office.)

Brad has left me scratching my head:

I know this is a stupid idea, but my question is, HOW stupid is it? Imagine two men who keep their heads shaved due to an obvious balding pattern. They have a hair versus hair match, and the loser had to grow out their hair for a year, like Baron Corbin did for a while when he was down on his luck. But then again, Hulk Hogan certainly pulled off the look.

Yes, it’s a stupid idea, but honestly . . . I kind of like it despite its stupidity. Don’t get me wrong, I would never in a million years run this storyline for any wrestler who is considered a serious part of a promotion, but I think that there would be an entertaining way to shoot this angle this between two comedy characters on the level of an R-Truth or a Santino Marella.

Don’t make Ticking Time Bomb Tazz take off his belt:

From Survivor Series 1996 until Wrestlemania 13, the WWF title went from Shawn Michaels to Sid to Shawn Michaels to vacant to Bret Hart to Sid to Undertaker. Was there a reason for all these World Title changes? Was Vince not sure who he wanted as champion? Was there backstage politics / shenanigans (HBK’s smile?) Injuries? The prevailing thought that more title changes would increase ratings and help WWF in the war against WCW? Any light you could shed on this subject would be appreciated, as it seems that prior to this time period, the WWF Title was usually held for a long time by one person with a few exceptions of course.

There wasn’t an overarching reason for all the changes. There were just unusual sets of circumstances occurring one right after the other that necessitated many of these switches.

Sid-to-Michaels-to-Sid was just a function of the company wanting to do something short-term to build interest in the product.

Michaels claimed that a knee injury required him to vacate the championship, and there were also reports around the time that he needed to take time off for his mental health . . . though that exact phrase would not have been used at the time.

The title being vacated required that somebody new would win it, and that wound up being Bret Hart, because he was in a fatal-four way match that was already on the books and made sense as a way of filling the championship.

Then, you’ve got Hart-to-Sid because Sid and the Undertaker had been the planned Wrestlemania main event for quite some time so the belt had to get on one of them, preferably the heel given how pro wrestling booking worked at the time.

And, finally, you had the Undertaker claiming the championship at Wrestlemania, because you had to have the babyface prevail in the championship match at Wrestlemania during this era.

So, once more, there’s no overall rhyme or reason as to why all these title changes happened. They were each dictated by their own circumstances.

Matt W. is flipping all over the place:

I have a question that I’m not sure has ever been asked before. I was wondering who has had the most turns during a single championship reign? Plenty of champions have turned from babyface to heel and vice versa in a single reign. But has anyone ever done a double turn from babyface to heel, back to Babyface all on one reign. Or even a triple turn or more? It can be any title, singles or tag team and in any promotion. I was just wondering if you knew or heard of anyone who has.

The classic touring NWA World Heavyweight Champions from Lou Thesz through Ric Flair switched back and forth between babyface and heel constantly depending on what territory they were defending the championship in. One week, they might be in Florida where the guy who makes the most sense as a World Title challenger is a babyface, so the champion would act as more of a heel. The next week, they might be in St. Louis where the guy who makes the most sense as a World Title challenger is a heel, so they champion would act as more of a babyface. Each one of the long-reigning champions during this era would thus “turn” multiple times per year – albeit without most wrestling fans knowing the turn had occurred since this was all very regional in nature.

Voice of Logic is going over the top:

Who was involved in the first ever steel cage match?

The March 12, 2018 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter addressed this issue in response to some discussion on Twitter around that time regarding the origins of the cage match. Based on review of newspaper clippings – yes, wrestling results used to be covered in newspapers – the Observer reported that there were two chicken wire fence matches on January 9, 1936 in Caruthersville, Missouri, one pitting Lon Chaney against Otto Ludwig and the other pitting Joe Dillman against Charles Sinkey.

(It should be noted that this “Lon Chaney” is neither the early 20th Century actor of that name nor his son Lon Chaney Jr. It’s just a wrestler who wanted to try to cash in on the moniker.)

Though using a different name, what promoters referred to as a chicken wire fence match essentially was a steel cage match, with a wire structure being built to either keep wrestlers in the ring or to keep others out of the ring.

For what it’s worth, if you run a basic google search, a lot of hits will come up for a chicken wire fence match between Jack Bloomfield versus Count Petro Rossi held on June 25, 1937 in Atlanta. This was believed to be the earliest cage match by wrestling historians for a period of time, but the reports of the Caruthersville matches were later unearthed. It’s technically possible that there are even earlier cage matches than 1936 but that supporting material has yet to be unearthed.

BA is a credible source:

You recently stated that Marty Jannetty has not always been the most reliable narrator of his own life story. Who do you think is the least reliable self narrator? This could sure be taken as people running an angle and I’m okay with that.

And the flip side: who is the most reliable self narrator?

As far as unreliable narrators go, I answered a very similar question back in 2019, though it was framed as, “Who is wrestling’s biggest bullshitter?” In that article, the answer that I came up with was Hulk Hogan.

On the other side of the coin, Bret Hart has always struck me as somebody who has been fairly open and honest about his career. Yes, he has his opinions regarding how certain things went down and those will cause him to disagree with others, but the disagreement always seems to stem from legitimately having a different perspective as opposed to the Hitman making up the underlying facts. Plus, he had a reputation for keeping contemporaneous journals of events while his career was ongoing, which is why his autobiography is one of the most comprehensive in wrestling history – if not the most comprehensive in wrestling history.

Craig is getting obscure:

Got a question about an NXT talent. Stevie Turner had numerous vignettes with a Twitch streamer like gimmick, built her debut up across a number of weeks, gave her backstage interviews through the streaming set up, had one match on the main show, and vanished.

We still see her from time to time in backstage videos, but after all the buildup she had one match and that was it. Is there any reasoning behind this?

Were they disappointed with her match? Did they feel the gimmick needed tweaking? Did she pick up an injury?

Just curious as to whether anyone knows why, after all the weeks building up, she was one and done.

No, not really. I haven’t read anything.

If I had to guess, I’d say that somebody realized the cheesy streamer gimmick felt like something out of a modern day version of GLOW as opposed to the serious women’s wrestling that WWE is attempting to present these days . . . but given that NXT also has a wrestler whose entire gimmick is “likes to nap,” I’m probably wrong about that.

Michael wants to play a game of this or that:

What period of the following talents’ careers do you prefer:

HBK pre back injury or HBK after his return?

After his return. He was an athletic marvel in both periods, but, after he came back in 2002, he had a mastery of psychology and how to play a crowd with the smallest of movements which was almost unparalleled.

The younger, leaner Scott Steiner or the super jacked up Big Poppa Pump version?

If I’m watching isolated matches, the younger, leaner Scott Steiner was more regularly pulling off impressive physical feats and I’d rather see him. If I’m watching a week-to-week, episodic wrestling show, I’d rather see Big Poppa Pump, as he is a more entertaining character and still a fine enough in-ring performer for his role.

The Sheepherders or Bushwhackers?

The Sheepherders, a million times over. They had some very entertaining hardcore brawls, whereas I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Bushwhackers match that I would want to watch again.

Bright face paint, surfer Sting or the Crow version?

Surfer Sting. Most of my associations with Crow Sting are him sitting up in the rafters and not actually doing anything, whereas surfer Sting was knocking out great matches with the likes of Ric Flair, Vader, and Cactus Jack.

Flyin Bryan or the Loose Cannon Brian Pillman?

This is basically the same answer as Scott Steiner, for the same reasons. Flyin’ Brian if I’m watching one-off matches, Loose Cannon if I’m watching full shoes week-to-week.

Mike Rotunda Varsity Club or Rotunda as IRS?

Can I pass on both of them and take U.S. Express-era Mike Rotunda? If so, I’ll do that. If not and I’m limited to the two choices that Michael has given, I suppose I’ll go with IRS because he is often accompanied by Ted DiBiase.

Midnight Express – Condrey version or Lane version?

If I had to pick, I’d go with the Lane version because that’s the one I saw first and thus I have more of a nostalgic connection with it. However, if I’m trying to be purely objective, I would say it’s a coin toss between the two teams.

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.