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Ask 411 Wrestling: Does Vince McMahon Hate the Rhodes Family?

March 21, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Cody Rhodes & Goldust Battleground 2013

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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Night Wolf the Wise has a question that requires a bit of a video setup:

When you watch this video back, you can see this is the precursor to Cody Rhodes leaving the WWE. I was watching this video back the other day, and in the video Cody talks about how the McMahons hated the Rhodes Family for 20 years. My question to you is: Is what Cody Rhodes saying 100% true? Does Vince McMahon hate the Rhodes family that much?


Even putting aside the fact that the video in question was form a scripted segment that was part of the “entertainment portion” of a WWE show, to steal a phrase from Jim Ross, there’s no evidence of a deep-seated, decades-long animosity between Vince McMahon and the Rhodes family.

Yes, Vince McMahon and Dusty Rhodes were on the opposite side of a promotional war for several years, with Rhodes being not only an on-air talent but also the primary creative mind between Jim Crockett Promotions at various points. Also, Big Dust was part of WCW during the Monday Night War, albeit in a greatly reduced capacity compared to what he did in JCP.

However, two men being competitors in business does not always result in personal animosity, and, if there was a significant degree of personal animosity, McMahon likely would have chosen to not employ Dusty, Dustin, and Cody Rhodes in as many different capacities for as many different years as he did. If you look at history, if Vince McMahon really has a problem with you, you’ll just be a persona non grata in his company for years and years until somebody eventually convinces him that he should change his mind. Just ask Randy Savage, Bret Hart, the Ultimate Warrior, Jeff Jarrett, or Lex Luger what that’s like. Yes, all of those guys (except for Luger – and Savage only posthumously) eventually came back into the fold, but when Vince did have a problem with them, he didn’t put them into a position where he was writing them paychecks. He just didn’t do business with them.

It is true that, when Dusty Rhodes was in the WWF, he had to wear polka dot gear and dance around a lot, and you’re big naïve if you think that wasn’t a rib on him. However, Vince also wound up pushing him at a relatively high level when he actually got over. He wasn’t ever a WWF Title contender, but he was a solid #3 and arguably even #2 babyface.

It is true that, rather than continuing to bill him as “The Natural,” Dustin Rhodes was repackaged as Goldust when he re-joined the WWF in the mid-1990s. Some people would have been insulted or embarrassed by being made to play a “gay” character, but the fact of the matter is that Dustin seemed to revel in it and reportedly even wanted to make the act more extreme by getting breast implants.

It is true that Cody Rhodes’ WWE career meandered and never really went anywhere before he was finally let go . . . but that’s really not surprising given the levels of talent and potential that he demonstrated while with the company.

There’s no personal grudge here. It’s just business.

Hey, did you know that Bret Hart got screwed out of the WWF Title in 1997? Ben wants to ask about that:

I’ve read all the stuff about the Monteal screwjob and all the bios, books, etc.; seen all the different points of view. And I nearly ended up agreeing with Shawn/Vince/HHH’s thinking, “Well, if Bret doesn’t want to do business, we will do business.” I completely get the business angle.

BUT – if it wasn’t personal, why did they end the match with the Sharpshooter thing? Surely Shawn could have pinned Brett at some point and Earl could’ve done a fast count? Any thoughts? I appreciate it’s a tired subject.

If anybody has ever definitely answered this question of why the in-ring mechanics of the screwjob played out the way that they did, I’m not aware of it. However, based on my understanding of how the events of that evening played out, I have a couple of different theories.

The first is that it’s easier to screw somebody over by doing a phantom submission as opposed to a fast count in a pin attempt, especially back in 1997 when a submissions in professional wrestling were still mostly verbal in nature as opposed to being signified by a tap out (which was adopted from MMA in the late 1990s). If a wrestler is laying down in a lateral press and hears that he referee’s count is coming more quickly than he would have anticipated, he could easily make a move to kick out even before the fast three count lands.

Granted, the wrestler who is making the cover could attempt to prevent the kick out by actively holding his opponent down more so than he might in a regular worked pinning combination, but part of the plan behind the ’97 screwjob was giving Shawn Michaels the plausible deniability to tell Bret that he wasn’t involved in the plan, so as to avoid getting his ass kicked. By using a submission hold as opposed to a fast count, HBK could be a much more passive participant in screwing over Hart.

The second theory involves how the match was laid out. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that was published immediately following the 1997 Survivor Series, which contains perhaps the most thorough and objective account of what happened behind the scenes, it is mentioned that Pat Patterson proposed a sequence of events during the match in which Shawn Michaels would put Bret Hart in the Sharpshooter following a ref bump and Bret would reverse it, after which Michaels would hit Sweet Chin Music and make a cover, though there would still be no referee.

What we could have seen was the first half of a two-step plan, with the first step being that Hebner would call for the bell while Bret was in the Sharpshooter if he could reasonably do so before Hart reversed it. (Hart can be seen going for the planned reversal just as the bell rings.) However, if that for some reason did not work out, perhaps due to Bret reversing the hold more quickly than expected, Michaels and Hebner could still attempt to screw the Hitman over on the pin attempt following the Sweet Chin Music.

Logistically, though, calling for the bell while Hart was in the hold is the easiest and provides the maximum amount of cover for those involved. The fact that the Sharpshooter was used was probably not a personal dig at the Hitman . . . it was just the submission that made the most sense to involve in the match, since it was Bret’s trademark finisher and Shawn really did not have a submission hold of his own that would be bought as a legitimate finisher.

HBK’s Smile wants to discuss one of the greatest in-ring feuds in history:

These questions go back to the Ricky Steamboat-Ric Flair best-of-three falls match for the NWA Title.

1) When Flair submitted during the second fall, the announcers claimed this was the first time Flair ever submitted. Was this true?

No. Flair had been wrestling for seventeen full years by the time this match occurred in 1989, so it would really be quite the feat if he managed to not submit in all that time.

I don’t have comprehensive records of all of the times that Flair lost via submission prior to the two out of three falls with Steamboat (nor would anybody likely want to read them if I did), but I do have a few notable examples:

* In a match in Auckland, New Zealand, Mark Lewin submitted Flair with a sleeper in the second fall of a best of three falls match on March 3, 1983.

* David Von Erich defeated the Nature Boy via submission to win the Missouri Heavyweight Title on September 16, 1983 in St. Louis.

* In a two out of three falls match for the NWA Title, Wahoo McDaniel won the first fall against Flair by defeating him with a sleeper hold. This was at CWF’s Battle of the Belts on September 2, 1985.

I’m sure that there are many more, but these were just a few that jumped out at me immediately.

2) The move Steamboat used to garner that submission was the double-arm chicken wing, a move that played a very prominent role in the match. I don’t remember Steamboat using it before the match, which is understandable. More oddly, I don’t remember him using it after the match. Is my memory correct or did Steamboat continue to use the move afterwards? And if my memory is correct, why on earth would he not continue to use it when it got Flair to submit for the very first time (maybe)?

Interestingly, in doing research to answer this question, I came across this article from NOLA.com, which recaps the Flair/Steamboat two-out-of-three falls match as one of the greatest wrestling matches that ever took place in New Orleans. The article contains some comments from Steamboat about the bout, and he notes that he hadn’t ever really used the double chickenwing before the match, but he came up with it on the day of the match.

Ricky DID actually use the maneuver after the two-out-of-three falls match, though it never really took off and became a common part of his moveset. This is just speculation, but I suspect that’s the case because Steamboat was never really a submission wrestler. He did bust it out from time-to-time, though, most notably in his rematches against the Nature Boy. The chickenwing showed up again in the Flair/Steamboat match at WrestleWar 1989, and it even got pulled out of mothballs in 1994, when the Dragon and Slick Ric had an oft-forgotten rematch of their classic series at WCW Spring Stampede. If you do a deep dive on YouTube, you can also find him utilizing the maneuver in a few less historically significant matches.

David is getting ready for April 15:

Love your work on the column. Is there anything recorded about the Internal Revenue Service claiming copyright or trademark infringement with Irwin using IRS?

No, there is not any record that the real IRS ever complained about the fake IRS.

There’s actually a good reason for that. In the United States, governmental entities are generally unable to have enforceable trademark rights in their official names and insignia. In other words, they probably couldn’t have complained about it even if they wanted to.

Granted, the Canadian government did reportedly take issue with the Mountie gimmick around the same period of time, causing Jacques Rougeau to not use the name north of the border, but that is likely attributable to a difference between U.S. and Canadian laws.

AJ says it ain’t nuttin’ but a T thing:

There was a brief period on 1987 where Mr. T was announced as a new special enforcer referee because refs have been getting pushed around a lot lately. Watching old Primetimes I only see one time in which he got involved in a match and then he was gone. What happened here?

Mr. T made his re-debut as the WWF’s special enforcer on a television taping held on June 2, 1987 in Buffalo, New York, though the announcement (which was made by Howard Finkel before a Honky Tonk Man vs. David Stoudemire match) did not air until June 27. T also did guest commentary on a One Man Gang squash match during the same show, further putting over his new role.

T made several other appearances in the position that I was able to find record of, including:

* On June 3, 1987 in Rochester, New York (aired June 28), when an announcement similar to the above was made prior to a Randy Savage vs. David Stoudemire match.

* On June 23, 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana (aired July 18), with Mr. T appearing on Jake Roberts’ interview segment “The Snake Pit” and helping Jake run off former heel referee “Dangerous” Danny Davis.

* On a July 9, 1987 house show in Hartford, Connecticut.

* On July 15, 1987 in Glens Falls, New York (aired August 8), when the Hart Foundation defeated the Young Stallions via cheating, which caused T in his enforcer role to come out and overturn the decision.

* A dark match main event on the same Glens Falls show in which Mr. T was ringside as the enforcer and punched out the Honky Tonk Man, leading to him getting pinned by Jake Roberts. (Honky was Intercontinental Champion at the time, but the title was not on the line.)

* On a July 18, 1987 house show in Toronto, Ontario, where T was ringside as enforcer and bodyslammed Danny Davis after the makeshift tag team of Jim Brunzell and the Junkyard Dog defeated the Hart Foundation via count out.

* On a July 24, 1987 house show in Houston, Texas, where he guest refereed a match between Randy Savage and the Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Title which saw Savage win via disqualification.

* On a July 25, 1987 house show in Baltimore, Maryland, where he counted the pinfall in a Ken Patera victory over Paul Orndorff after the original referee was bumped.

* On a July 26, 1987 house show in New Haven, Connecticut.

* On an August 1, 1987 house show in St. Louis, Missouri, in which he refereed the same Savage/Honky Tonk Man match that occurred on July 24 in Houston.

* On an August 8, 1987 house show in Chicago, Illinois, where he refereed Hulk Hogan defeating Randy Savage in a WWF Title defense where Savage was, unusually, seconded by Danny Davis. (Given the past relationship between Hogan and T, that seems really unfair to Savage.)

* On an August 15, 1987 television taping (aired September 17) where Billy Graham defeated Hercules. During the match, Mr. T was handcuffed to Bobby Heenan as a means of neutralizing Heenan.

* On an August 16, 1987 house show in Denver, Colorado, when T again refereed a Hogan vs. Savage WWF Title bout.

* On an August 21, 1987 house show in Detroit, Michigan, where Mr. T was again handcuffed to Bobby Heenan at ringside, this time during a Billy Jack Haynes vs. King Kong Bundy match.

* On an August 22, 1987 house show in Atlanta Georgia – AT THE OMNI, BABY – with the Heenan handcuff gimmick again. This time, the match was Paul Orndorff versus Harley Race.

* Later on the same Omni show, Mr. T was the guest referee for a match between Koko B. Ware and Danny Davis.

* On an August 31, 1987 house show in Montreal, Quebec where T refereed Brutus Beefcake defeating Pat Patterson of all people.

Though we have record of those appearances, one thing that appears to be lost to history is exactly why Mr. T fell out of his role as the WWF’s enforcer and moved on to other projects. Aside from some vague references to contractual talks falling through, I couldn’t find any specifics regarding why his 1987 run with the company came to an end.

However, this was almost assuredly something that was building to another Mr. T match on a WWF card at some point, and, based on the patterns in the booking that we can see above, it almost certainly would have involved either the Hart Foundation and Danny Davis or representatives of the Heenan Family.

Rocky 4228 wants to finish things off:

I was just thinking about the Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena SummerSlam match. Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship with a debuting finisher, the Knee Plus (Busaiku knee). Can you come up a list of other wrestlers who have won a world championship with a debuting finisher?

There actually aren’t too many examples of this historically, because usually a wrestler wants a finisher to have been built up as something significant BEFORE they use it to win a major match, let alone a championship. That way, it signals the finish to the fans, and they know to react appropriately.

However, one other example of a wrestler winning a major championship with a debuting finisher comes to us from WWE Night of Champions in 2008, when Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly were set to defend their World Tag Team Titles against Ted DiBiase, Jr. and a mystery partner. The “match” turned out to be more of an angle, as Rhodes revealed himself to be DiBiase’s mystery partner and turned on Holly, laying out the veteran wrestler with a DDT.

From there, Ted Jr. tagged himself into the match and applied his father’s Million Dollar Dream submission hold before turning it into a version of the side Russian leg sweep, which he would refer to as the “Dream Crusher.” Eventually, he replaced the Dream Crusher with a slam out of the Million Dollar Dream, calling that move “Dream Street.”

Since we have now come circle by talking about the Rhodes family in this answer once again, I think that it’s time to wrap things up.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].