wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Didn’t WWE Go With Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair in 1992?

February 10, 2018 | Posted by Jed Shaffer
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair

Hullo, and welcome to the only column from an old writer returning to 411 … The World According To Ron!

Wait. I got something wrong there. [checks notes] Right. This is Ask 411 Wrestling. Well, this is awkward.

You know what’s not as awkward? Sending your questions to [email protected]! It almost always works!

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Feedback Loop

Going forward, feedback will probably be a couple issues behind, just because of that delay between issues 1 and 2.

Animals in wrestling
Tons I’d forgotten. Torrie Wilson’s dog, Bad News Brown’s sewer rats, and Ricky Steamboat’s “dragon” to name a few. Jack Swagger’s eagle and Santino’s cobra, however, I can’t count, considering the eagle was a guy in costume and the cobra was a sock. I’m not counting wrestling bears either, as, to me, the spirit of the question was about animals as mascots. YMMV.

GAB ’91
I did not know Windham was scheduled for a six-person mixed tag. Didn’t see anything about that in my research. My bad.

The super-obscure reference
SOMEBODY GOT IT!!! My heart has grown three sizes this day. And yes, they’re still around. Putting out a live album next month, in fact.

Who booked the nWo?
Sullivan may have been on the committee, but the nWo was Bischoff’s idea … in that he took it from Japan and executed it. Bischoff was head of creative. Guys like Sullivan were part of the crew.

What was the one 5* ECW match?
I always heard it was Pitbulls vs. Stevie Richards & Raven, with the dozen run-ins and 911 finally chokeslamming Bill Alfonso. I had no idea Rey vs. Juvi also earned the honor.

You Q, I A

Brian Garber has a pair of questions related to the Rumble, which, as I write this, is in about 8 hours, but from your perspective, was about a week and a half ago. If only he’d gotten it in two weeks sooner, I could’ve featured it beforehand.

If a 205 Live star wins the Rumble, do they challenge for the cruiserweight title?

During the “ECW” “revival” (hopefully, you understand why I qualify those terms with dubious quotes, and take them as implied from here forward), it was established on commentary that, were an ECW wrestler to win the Rumble, they had the option of challenging for the ECW Championship. Based on that precedent, one could make the argument that, yes, a 205 Live wrestler could use a Rumble win to challenge for the Cruiserweight title.

But that presumes WWE would ever acknowledge history, which is just stuff and nonsense. They only have a memory during Hall Of Fame season, so that precedent is meaningless for our situation. We have to go on the evidence we’re presented with today. And based on that … not bloody likely. WWE can say the Cruiserweight division is a division and not beneath the Universal/World titles, just like I can say I’m divorcing my wife and marrying Hayley Atwell and Lauren Graham next weekend. Unfortunately, reality creeps in and pops these imaginary bubbles. The CW strap (written out like that, it sounds like it should be defended on Supernatural, doesn’t it?) is clearly a midcard division on the level of the old European Championship. This isn’t Japan, where weight divisions have parity. To have the Rumble winner challenge for a third-tier championship wouldn’t elevate the Cruiserweight Championship so much as erode the value of the Rumble.

Onto your second question!

Has anyone actually come into this match with a story progression that is leading to a Rumble-win? Sure there are favorites, but for whom would it seem like has been gaining the right kind of momentum? I can only think of 3 guys, but their momentum has gotten them to title matches at this PPV instead (Braun, Kevin, Sami).

The only one I can think of is also the only one that might inspire an Attica-style riot if it were to happen: Roman Reigns. The cut-short-due-to-evil-forces-not-wanting-us-to-have-nice-things Shield reunion restored a little of the shine to Reigns. He beat Undertaker at Wrestlemania. He beat Cena (even if I think losing to Cena would’ve been more beneficial to the current story arc, but nobody asked me). And he narrowly lost to BUUUUHROCK in the Summerslam main, continuing the “Reigns has never beaten Lesnar” narrative. Nobody has a better set-up to win the Rumble and get that shot at *ahem* whoever the champion will be coming out of the Rumble.

Which is precisely why he won’t. It’s way too obvious, even for WWE right now. They’ll get a lot more mileage out of him losing, or even getting screwed out of, the Rumble, and then winning the #1 contendership is the Elimination Chamber. Maybe stack it with heels – Braun, Samoa Joe if he’s back, Miz, pull the trigger on Jason Jordan, and then stick Seth Rollins in there to further Rollins/Jordan and Shield brothers colliding.

But that leaves absolutely no one with a hot story building to the victory. Which, while awkward, is kind of refreshing, isn’t it? Yeah, sometimes, it’s fun to have a Rumble with a clear winner (2001 comes to mind). But it’s equally as fun to have a wide open field … provided they don’t whiff on the winner, like when Sheamus won.


And now we know who won. While not terribly surprising – Vegas had him as the odds-on favorite – Nakamura makes sense, even without having a hot storyline coming into it. It’s the best way to get to Styles/Nakamura and instantly elevates him. Now, hopefully they don’t do something rash like take the belt off Styles to serve the insipid, passive-aggressive rivalry between Daniel Bryan and Shane O’Mac that is, sadly, the top angle on Smackdown.

Anthony takes way, way back with a multi-part question about the talent jump that sparked an industry revolution. The first time he did it, anyway.

Multi Part Question-1-Has any legit info or theories ever come up as to what the plan was going to be if Vince had not been able to get Hogan back in 1983-84. 2-Would Hogan have Jumped ship if AWA gave him a serious run as champ? I have heard Tony Atlas say in shoot interviews that it was supposed to be his spot- but I take that with a grain of salt. Also heard some rumors cannot remember where that Duggan may have been pursued but I am not sure if he was even in the business yet and if he was it had to be early into his career. Any info or thoughts on what Plan B was and your thoughts if Vince could have pulled off WWF’s accession without Hogan-3-How would the current landscape look or do you think one way or another Hogan would have made his way to the North-East and it would have just happen later rather than sooner

I can’t say I’ve heard a straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth, definitive “this is how it would’ve been” Plan B. The generally accepted but otherwise still apocryphal answer is:

Although I’ve also heard Roddy Piper as a possible back-up. Hadn’t heard Hacksaw as a possibility, and I doubt he would’ve been. While he was wrestling at the time, I don’t think his profile was big enough to be THE MAN for WWE at the time. And I wouldn’t take what Tony Atlas said with just a grain of salt. Maybe a whole salt mine.

In regards to the second part, yes, I think he would’ve. Eventually. Maybe not right away, but there’s one thing to keep in mind: Verne Gagne was incapable of adapting to the times. Even if he could’ve swallowed his pride to put the belt on Hogan – a pro wrestling whose style was antithetical to his old school nature – Verne also wanted a majority cut of merchandising. Hogan would’ve soured on that deal once new eyes came to the AWA and he saw Verne earning dollars while he earned pennies. Vince had more progressive thinking, better marketing, and aggressive expansion plans. Say what you will, but he knows how to work the system. Verne was too stubborn and stuck in his ways to consider new ideas.

And I think that answers the third part. Yes, I think Hogan eventually would’ve left, and I don’t think it would’ve been terribly long. A year, maybe. Verne would’ve wanted to go back to another old school guy, and Hogan would’ve been tired of the merch split, and it all would’ve built up to a predictable split. McMahon would probably have phased out Snuka (or whomever Plan B was), put the belt on Hogan, and we’re off to the races.

Connor Watson wants to know about a man who was a bird, among other things.

Terry Taylor was a great wrestler, why was he saddled with gimmicks like the red rooster and the Taylor made man?

To be fair, he wasn’t saddled with lousy gimmicks for the first decade or so of his career. His early runs with the NWA and Mid-South/UWF had him positioned as a top star, a next-gen Flair but as a babyface. No ridiculous gimmicks, just a rock-solid wrestler with a high ceiling.

It wasn’t until he came to WWE that he got saddled with the Gooker-level-bad Red Rooster gimmick. The whole angle of “Bobby Heenan can turn anybody into a star” wasn’t the worst idea ever … but presenting him as a raw rookie when he clearly wasn’t, and saddling him with the trappings of thinking he was bird-person turned him into a punchline. And not a funny one, either. Couple that with being painfully miscast as a heel, and it makes the problem worse. Even when he turned face, he kept the gimmick, and it was already a one-note joke that wasn’t funny the first time you heard it, and got progressively less funny every time you saw him way before that. It’s not impossible for a wrestler to escape being a comedy wrestler (see Young, Eric). But it is damned hard, and it’s nigh impossible when the comedy character sucks canal water. When said crappy character is on the world’s biggest stage, looking like a complete tool? That’s a stain that doesn’t wash out.

Over to rambunctiousallday, who wants to fantasy book a fantasy concept and wants to know if it would work.

Pertaining to underdog scenarios, how could/would you make this work…. Underdog character (thinking Daniel Bryan physical stature) booked as underdog. Introduced as a new wrestler, loses first couple matches but quickly begins to win, albeit by “accident”. I.E. the other wrestler is incapacitated somehow and underdog wrestler falls on top getting the pin….. As weeks go by, we start to see that as these accidents happen, the underdog is caught by the cameras winking at the audience while pinning the other more seasoned opponent. You could swing the underdog either face or villain, having someone higher up the card taking umbrage with this fluke. Shenanigans ensue until this feud culminates in a cage, where the underdog is limited in accidental situations and reveals that they could actually wrestle the while time, good enough to feign accidental wins to lull opponents into making mistakes.

I don’t think there’s any way this could work as anything but a heel. For the character to be a face, the concept raises too many questions. If he’s a babyface, why the ruse to make himself look like a bumbling oaf? If he’s a capable wrestler, why doesn’t he actually wrestle instead of relying on tricks and deceits? If he’s able to fight off the opposition on his own, why take the beating just to put up a front? There’s just a lack of consistency that undercuts the idea of being a babyface. Being an underdog like that requires being pure of heart. Think Mikey Whipwreck.

But even then, now that I think about it, those questions could apply to a heel. If you’re a heel, why the ruse of being a lucky, incompetent boob? To what end did that serve? It’s one thing to be a manipulative, chickenshit heel. Those are common, and the two adjectives align with each other. But to feign straight-up inability at even the most basic functions of your profession and win by an increasingly improbable set of circumstances, only to expose yourself later on … I mean, how does this make him look like anything other than a Dr. Forrester-esque nutjob? And then there’s this: once he winks at the camera, he’s now told everybody his secret. Not just the audience, who is left to wonder why he went through the motions at all. Other opponents now know too, since backstage segments clearly have established they all stand around watching each other on monitors. He’s now exposed his scheme to everyone. He has to sink or swim on sheer ability. If he can wrestle, again, why the long con leading to self-exposure? And if he can’t, why is he here in the first place?

Maybe I’m just over-analytical. Maybe my history of writing complex (some would say convoluted) stories for Rewriting The Book has blinded me to an awesome angle. But I just can’t see a way around the massive plot holes in the idea that turn the wrestler into a cartoon villain.

Now we go to Matt and ask about the most logical feud to never happen (well, not happen when it was originally available).

I know that the traditional reason for switching the main event from Flair/Hogan to Flair/Macho was because the match didn’t “draw well” at various house shows in 1991/92. But I always thought that they made the switch because Hogan went to Vince and said that he wanted a break? Because Hogan went from being booked in the main event, to being booked in his “farewell match” only to return one year later. So what is the real story? Did Vince change his mind about Hogan/Flair, and then when he did Hogan decided to take a break? Or did Hogan approach Vince and say that he wanted time off, so they decided against putting the belt on him?

Like many things in life, this does not have a simple answer. Thanks to shoot interviews, backstage rumors, rampant speculation, and any number of amateur historians with an agenda, there seems to be a half dozen reasons as to why it got shelved. Any one of, or a combination of, these could be the truth, and the problem is, those who talk seem to endorse a different one. I don’t know that we’ll ever know. Anyway, to wit, your menu options are:

Vince wanted to push Sid as a main-event heel to go against Hogan, because Hogan v Big Monster was a successful (if, by this point, shopworn) formula.

Randy Savage was a better technical wrestler and, thus, was better equipped to wrestle Flair in a high-profile match instead of having the same old Hogan formula match.

Apprehension that Flair – far less kid-friendly and theatrical than Hogan, and coming from a different wrestling audience – wouldn’t get over as a credible heel against Hogan.

The aforementioned Hogan wanting to spend more time with his family.

The oft-mentioned poor-drawing house show encounters.

And, lastly (for our purposes), having Hogan not be in the dead center of promotion, as George Zahorian was indicted in 1991, and the vultures were starting to circle on Vince and company.

Which of these – either in singular or groups – you choose to believe is entirely up to you. We’ll likely never get a straight answer. Me, I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of 1, 2, 3 and 5. The first just sounds like Vince; the popularity of pro wrestling was vanishing, and he wanted to go back to the well again. Changing to Hogan/Sid forces him to go Flair/Savage, and he retro-justifies it by going “Savage is a better worker anyway”. House show receipts were going down from their heyday, and that can work hand-in-hand with fearing Flair wouldn’t be over against Hogan. But I have no evidence to back that up. Just a gut feeling.

Richard has a question about a ref bump. Good thing there haven’t been too many of those, or I’d be spending all day researching this.

Did fan favorite Tommy Rich once legitimately break a referee’s neck leading to his retirement?

Unfortunately, yes. The referee in question was Tommy Young, a popular referee in the NWA and especially Jim Crockett Promotions. Here’s the video, starting in the moments before the injury:

The camera doesn’t really catch the injury, but it did happen. It was completely unintentional. Tommy Rich just meant to throw him aside in a fit of anger, but in a complete fluke, Young’s head bounced off one of the ropes as he fell. The impact and whiplash effect broke his neck, prompting his retirement. He did go on to a couple guest referee spots down the line, including being an outside-the-ring special referee spot for an ROH World Championship match at the Big Bang! PPV. But, by and large, he’s out of the business.

And finally, we turn to frequent submitter, nightwolfofthewise.

One of the things that has bothered me for quite some time is Vince’s refusal to create new stars in the modern era. He keeps using part timers like Cena, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, etc. When ratings go down or product isn’t great, He blames the Millennials. It’s always the Millennials fault. They don’t want to work hard, and expect everything handed to them. At what point does Vince realize that over 75% of his roster are Millennials? Even Roman Reigns, who he’s trying to push as the Face of WWE is a Millennial. He’s contradicting himself.He can’t keep using the part timers forever. They’re all older, getting older. Why is Vince so stubborn, when it comes to this? He also blames the Millennial for always getting hurt. Doesn’t he realize its not the Sex, Drugs, & Rock & Roll era of wrestling anymore and that the reason most of the wrestlers worked as hard as they did, was because they were on steroids and/or drugs?

I don’t think he’s failed to make new stars so much as the person he’s picked to be a star have not been the people hardcore fans have wanted. Say what you will about Roman Reigns, but he is a star. He moves merch like few in the company, and the kids love him. BRAUN is both a fan favorite and a Vince creation, but he seems reluctant to commit to the monster. Now, has he made as many stars as he should’ve? No, especially not with that roster. In the Attitude era, he couldn’t stop making stars. Not so much anymore, and that’s a damned shame. Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, Bobby Roode, AJ Styles, Rusev, Cesaro … all these guys should be bigger than they are. There was once room for Stone Cold, The Rock, Taker, Mankind and D-X all on the same roster. With two shows, they have no excuse not turning these guys into icons.

(And yes, I’m aware some of those guys already came in with plenty of name value. But this is – all due respect to puro fans – the promotion viewed as the pinnacle of the business. Their names should be even bigger than they already were were coming in.)

I think part of the problem is the fundamental gap between the generations (ignoring that there’s another, often ignored generation between the two) of Baby Boomer and Millennial. Baby Boomers’ view of Millennials is of a lazy, entitled generation raised on participation trophies and constant coddling. These kind of generalities are, obviously, not true, just on a statistical basis alone, but also a logical basis. For anyone to become a professional wrestler takes a profound amount of daily work, both physical and mental. Vince is in his 70’s now. There’s little breaking from established thought patterns by that point, so he’s probably married to that narrow view of Millennials. He expects them to expect success to be handed to them. He thinks they all they think they’re deserving of the main event. So there’s an inherent bias built right in. And when guys like Cody Rhodes or Jack Swagger leave the promotion to make hay elsewhere, it confirms what he believes; soft, entitled brats who didn’t get what they think they deserve, so they pick up their ball and leave.

But I think there’s another part of the problem. As nightwolf pointed out, Vince keeps bringing back the old timers. He put the Universal Championship on a guy who shows up who wrestled 4-6 times a year, tops. He brings out Undertaker every Wrestlemania season to hobble his way through an arthitis-riddled match that gets a ton of hype and never feels worth the investment. He’s let Cena become a part timer who comes in and out of the promotion at will, and rumor has it he’s about to let Orton do that as well. He’s let The Rock and Steve Austin hit their finishers on anybody they want.

And fans keep supporting it.

Time and again, Vince is proven right when the part-timers sell tickets and bump ratings and move merch. It’s like The Who; they went 24 years without releasing an album, but kept touring the entire time. When they finally dropped a new album, you think it sold seven million copies and went down in the annals of their discography next to Who’s Next and Tommy? Hell no. People went to the concert and screamed for “Baba O’Reilly” and “Pinball Wizard”, and probably couldn’t pick out a song off Endless Wire from a hat containing nothing but. But those tours still sold out, as long as they played “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the eight-billionth time.

Just like a Wrestlemania main event of AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura might make hardcore wrestling fans and purists thrilled, but what’ll sell Network subscriptions and tickets is BUUUUHROCK vs. Reigns, and Undertaker vs. Cena, and Dolph Ziggler coming out mocking Steve Austin’s entrance, only for Austin to come out and Stunner him out of the match. Want evidence? Look no further than how expensive tickets to Raw 25 went for, both on the primary and after-market. People lost their ever-lovin’ minds for the hopes of seeing guys they remember do things they remember. And Vince knew that. Selling the unknown is tricky; selling nostalgia? Gun, fish, barrel. As long as the fans keep putting cash on the barrelhead whenever Vince trots out the ninth reunion of D-X, he’ll book a tenth one, because you bought the other nine times. If the current crop of stars are ever to gain the traction they deserve, the fans have the power to make it happen, by not showing out for the part-timers and dumping their money behind the other guys. That’s how Daniel Bryan main evented Wrestlemania. If it worked once, it can work again.

Alright, let’s hit the home stretch. Play dat funky music.

A Question I Want Answered!

Gonna go in a different direction this week. Instead of waxing philosophical, I’m putting the question to you, Constant Readers.

If you were in charge, what would your Wrestlemania card be this year?


You cannot change the winners of the respective Rumbles. But you can have them choose whatever brand’s top championship you prefer.

No fewer than 7 matches on the main show, no more than 10, and up to 3 pre-show matches if you choose to have them.

You cannot move established gimmick matches (Money In The Bank, Elimination Chamber, Survivor Series elimination tags) to the show. The one gimmick match native to Wrestlemania, the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, does not have to held. And only one cross-brand match is allowed. As John Cena is a “free agent”, his participation in a match does not make it cross-brand.

The Universal, World, and both Women’s Championships all must be defended. All other championships are optional.

Keep within the bounds of reality. Sting and Flair are retired. Hogan is persona non grata. Presume Daniel Bryan will not be medically cleared. And everybody short of the Rumble winners are anchored to their brands. No jumping.

There. You have your parameters. I won’t poison the jury with my ideas. Go forth and create! See you in 7ish.