wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Does WWE Not Care About Faces And Heels Anymore?

July 14, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
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Pulling Out Of Spots: As usual, APinOz has a couple I missed.

I’ve got an example from last week’s column; Jerry Lawler told a story on a WWE Roundtable where Paul Heyman refused to climb a scaffold during a match in Memphis, which was supposed to lead to a big spot where Heyman – then known as Paul E Dangerously – took a bump off the scaffold. Lawler was supposedly furious with Heyman for not going through with it, as the angle was supposed to be the culmination of a long-running feud.

There was also a story involving the Saturday Night Main Event cage match from 1986 between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff. The finish saw both guys exit the cage at the same time, but supposedly the set-up for that was supposed to be a move from the top of the cage, or at least off the top rope – possibly a superplex spot. Hogan didn’t want to go through with it, apparently concerned that Orndorff, who had a serious arm injury, wouldn’t be able to pull the spot off.

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I am connected by body parts to the above. A former DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion, I never held a true World Title, although I did once win a big match to get a shot at one. My main finisher’s first name is sorta similar to the name of one that no-one has ever kicked out of, except for Masato Tanaka and Chris Sabin and maybe a couple other guys. My last appearance in WCW was a PPV loss in a three way, while my last match in WWE was a six man tag on Raw, although I’ve made a few appearances since then. A guy who technically can claim he was at one point every nWo color (although the red and black was for one night, if that), and a guy who is in the WWE Hall of Fame but then sort of isn’t, I am who?

Zach Brinkley has the vast majority of the answer.

Who am I? I am connected by body parts to the above (Chokeslam? I’ve got nothing for this one) A former DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion (won it in 2016) I never held a true World Title (WWC and USWA Heavyweight Championships) although I did once win a big match to get a shot at one. (Won World War 3 in 1997) My main finisher’s first name (Diamond Death Drop) is sorta similar to the name of one that no-one has ever kicked out of, except for Masato Tanaka and Chris Sabin and maybe a couple other guys. (Dudley Death Drop, AKA 3D) My last appearance in WCW was a PPV loss in a three way (vs Sid and Jeff Jarrett) while my last match in WWE was a six man tag on Raw (with Big Show and X-Pac vs Austin, Flair and Bradshaw) although I’ve made a few appearances since then (WM 32, Hogan’s birthday) A guy who technically can claim he was at one point every nWo color (although the red and black was for one night, if that) (Part of nWo Hollywood, joined Wolfpac for one night to defend the titles with Nash before turning on him and joining Hollywood again) and a guy who is in the WWE Hall of Fame but then sort of isn’t (As Razor Ramon) I am who? Scott Hall

The connection to Big Show? Spooky Fingers, which in retrospect was a more general thing but in my mind was always against Giant. But my bad. Let’s see if I can avoid crap like that this time.

Who am I? Via a mix of metal and a liquid, you can get from the guy above to me via one other person. My first match ever was a tag match with a partner similar to me. My first appearance with my current employer had nothing to do with a match. I’ve had an angle end due to someone else’s contract issues, I’ve taken a move designed to write me off TV and yet came back almost immediately, and my biggest singles title reign ever began with me beating the guy I currently call boss. A guy you see on your TV each week (a slightly recent development) I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

Nightwolf asks a couple questions, one really easy to answer, the other, not so much.

1. I was re watching the Brawl between Samoa Joe/Lesnar with the Brawl ending with the Raw roster separating the 2 men. I was thinking, when did the WWE start doing Brawls like this? Also, do you think they still serve the purpose of conveying to the audience that 2 guys really hate each other?

The pull apart brawl, or donnybrook as it is also known, is something that’s been a part of wrestling for a long time, so trying to lock down a specific start point is difficult, especially if you want to delineate between a brawl with the roster coming out rather than just road agents and the like. Because that’s what WWE preferred to do for many years, not have the roster come out, but rather have road agents and producers involved.

The first brawl that was sort of like that one, certainly the one that began the WWE using it with any sort of regularity was one that didn’t technically have roster members involved, but everything else is there. Tyson and Austin.

That was the starting point, even if it technically wasn’t one. Sort of like how the TLC matches started with ‘TLC 0’, the three way ladder match at Wrestlemania 2000. But hey, if a reader can correct me, correct me.

2. What’s your favorite gimmick or storyline from the last 10 years? Mine is Undertaker/HBK 1 because of the Good vs Evil Heaven vs Hell concept.

10 years? Since July 2007? The best gimmick was part of the best storyline, in my mind, that would be the Best In The World At What He Does Chris Jericho, and his feud with Shawn Michaels. Mainly because it pretty much started with Ric Flair’s retirement and you can argue that it lasted all the way through to Shawn Michaels’ retirement, at least in terms of reactions and flow on effects. Plus it had arguably the greatest moment involving a Nitro Girl ever.

But Suit Jericho is GOAT Jericho. But hey, what about you, dear reader? What’s your fav?

Adrian from Ireland wonders about flipping a script.

In your opinion how could the Outsiders angle have worked in WWF in 1996? Say for example, Sting, comes walking through the crowd on RAW and interrupts a Rockabilly vs Thurman “Sparky” Plugg match and gives the Scott Hall speech. He says if WWF wants a war…..they got one. He’s soon joined by the Giant perhaps, and the same bash at the beach scenario plays out….but the guy in the Hogan role is Bret, or Shawn may work better in the role. Would Vince have allowed this group the leeway that WCW did for “their” nWo ? Could it have worked ? How would you book it differently ?

Not in 96, no. There were three main things that got the nWo kickstarted. Two of them were Hall and Nash jumping ship and WCW fans hating Hogan. Neither of those translates well to WWF.

Hall and Nash seems to be the easiest to replicate, you have Sting and Giant switch as you say, where Steve Borden and Paul Wight do the same thing. But I’m not sure they can pull off the same vibe as Hall and Nash, Sting is not a natural heel, and merely being of the other side isn’t enough. Bringing them over as a duo into WWF, that could work, but not as Outsiders.

Likewise, Bret as Hogan… If this is prior to Canadian Pride Bret, then the American fans aren’t at the hate stage, just the over him stage, which isn’t quite the same. And if it’s post that point, then not only are you screwing over the rest of the world where Bret was still loved, but the American fans liked booing Bret, in a way. Hogan turning got a LOT of attention and new eyeballs because ‘Hulk Hogan is a bad guy’ would be like making Superman evil, you have to tune in to find out what the hell is going on. But Hogan turning also allowed all the WCW fans already there to do what they had been doing, hate Hogan. Turning someone to align with how the fans already react can be a very powerful tool in wrestling, if the fans think they own something, you can print money. And they already hated Hogan.

But the main reason I don’t see it working is that WWF wasn’t really taking potshots at the opposition like WCW had been doing. Yes, there was Billionaire Ted, but parody is one thing. Giving out results, signing Luger and stuff, WCW fans were primed to believe that they were fighting against WWF, against the cartoony and the crappy, and so when two big names from there ‘suddenly’ jumped ship, and then were joined by Hogan… They were ready and willing to go there.

WWF doesn’t have that. The Billionaire Ted skits were bad, and some of them were actually almost slander, but there wasn’t the same level of us and them about it. So WCW ‘invading’ in 96… No, it would fall flat.

Now, 98, 99, with the Monday Night Wars in full swing, maybe WWF in the lead, inverting the nWo and having a bunch of WCW guys come over as payback for killing their company via the nWo. You killed our wrestling company with your sports entertainment, so we’re here to kill your sports entertainment company with wrestling… Maybe get ECW involved as well…

Yes, ok, that’s technically the InVasion, but in 99, using the same tactics as the nWo invasion storyline and it being OK since that’s the whole damn point, to redo it the other way round… Yes, that could totally work. Hell, the Radicalz were a watered down, tiny version of that and it went awesomely until Eddie’s elbow inverted itself.

So to make it work, wait till 1999, St Valentine’s Day Massacre, Steve Borden jumps the rail and derails Boss Man and Mideon, does a speech, Paul Wight attacks both Austin and Vince in the main, Austin wins anyway, do a six man at WM, but instead of doing the match as such, Mankind, Triple H and X-Pac or whoever get beaten down by Sting/Giant/DDP/Horsemen… I mean, it depends on who you get. But that’s out of your wheelhouse. Back in 96… You can’t claim that WWF has been beating WCW down, a wrestler invasion makes no sense with Bret and Shawn and Not Crippled Austin… I don’t see it working at that point, no.

Hey, remember this? Let’s see some cool videos, like Botchamania!

And a cool little vid. Props for keeping up the gimmick, constantly switching back to the empty white room like that.

And finally, a cool video about wrestling down here in Australia. The best bits are the bits with me, obviously.

… Oh, right.

Robert has his first question sent in here, and it’s an oddish one.

Hey long time reader first time asker. Odd question, is the reason for HHH’s King of Kings nickname because everyone on the internet called his early original World Champion run the Reign of Terror? If not, why? I mean if you think about it both The Game and The King of Kings are similar with The Game being more original

No, he’s not called the King of Kings because of the Reign of Terror, which I was under the impression was the World Heavyweight Title runs, not the first WWF title. He’s called King of Kings because it sound cool when Steve Corino used it.

(Fun fact: One of the few times Wikipedia has used me as a source is for a lot of Corino’s nicknames, which I included in his Evolution Schematic. I got the list of his nicknames… From Wikipedia. Shhh.)

No, he has the nickname because he kind of outgrew The Game. The Game nickname arose because he was the headstrong upstart who was going to take what he wanted, who was wrestling’s future, was wrestling’s next big thing, was wrestling.

But skip ahead several years, suddenly HHH isn’t the upstart, doesn’t need to prove himself. Because he’s beaten everyone. Anyone who is anyone in wrestling, HHH has taken them on, taken them out. There are plenty of Kings in Wrestling, but he is the King of Kings, he is God.

They’re both roughly the same thing, it’s just one is him being the embodiment of wrestling, the other is him ruling it absolutely. Slightly different personas, slightly different nicknames.

APinOz gets his questions answered for helping me out up above.

A few questions: Does Vince have any hands-on involvement with NXT? It almost seems to be the antithesis of what Vince views as “money-making” wrestling.

Hands on, not really. The whole point is to be the trial run for ‘No Chance in HHHell’, so Hunter is left somewhat alone, by all accounts. Vince is apparently sometimes at the shows, he saw Bayley/Sasha Brooklyn and Bayley/Sasha Iron Woman live, for instance, but he’s like the Turner brass back in WCW. Nominally he’s the highest boss in the company, but he doesn’t do anything hands on. NXT is all HHH and his guys.

If so few fans watch TNA, how come entire arenas chant “Delete” at the Hardys?

Because angles and gimmicks can transcend viewerships. The Broken Universe, or whatever we end up calling the WWE-ised version, has infected more than just those who watch the show. It’s available on Youtube for the most part, so it’s not hard to see it, and it’s pretty hard to forget it once you have.

But don’t underestimate the power of a phrase and hand gesture. Wrestling fans, like any crowd, love to do hand gestures and/or chants that are cool. You may not be able to pick Señor Benjamin out of a lineup, but if everyone around you is chanting ‘Delete’ and making the same line in the air gesture, you’ll probably go along with it.

Not every arena chants it full strength, some arenas will get more references than others, but at the end of the day, a gesture and a fun thing to chant almost always work.

The Lesnar-Joe main event at Great Balls of Fire was technically a heel vs heel main event title match. When was the last time WWE ran a main event title match on a major show between two heels?

Does Raw count as a major show? Because I remember there was HHH/Edge as the main event of one of the Raw episodes from Japan for the World title, which was something that the storylines at play needed to happen, as Edge and HHH were part of this multi-man feud over the belt, so since Japan was going to be quiet anyway, they did it there. Smackdown had a similar situation during JBL’s run, where Angle challenged him for the belt.

But assuming you mean PPV/equivalent for a major show, and assuming you mean a world title (thus negating the All Heel MITB from 2013), plus assuming you’re not asking me to decide if John Cena is a heel on any given night, then it would be Sheamus/Orton for the WWE title at Royal Rumble 2010, I think. Sheamus was a heel, having won the belt off John Cena in controversial fashion, and Orton was head of Legacy, and a heel… Except this was the match that was his face turn. Plus it wasn’t the main event in the sense of being last.

Royal Rumble 2001 I guess is the next one back, I think, Angle/HHH, totally heel/heel, and for the title, but again, not last.

If you want it heel/heel, for a world title, as the last match, on PPV, then I believe the answer is Kane/Taker from Judgement Day 1998, when Austin was ref and screwed it all up because he could.

If you for some reason don’t count that since Austin’s involved, you’re down to the fricking Montreal Screwjob…

Following on from that, are we finally seeing a blurring of the heel-face divide? Strowman-Reigns totally split the crowd, Lesnar is almost a tweener champ, as many people cheered Joe as booed him. Are WWE bookers watching a bit more New Japan than they are letting on?

No, they’re watching old John Cena matches.

WWE now believes that when it comes to the main event, they don’t need to keep everything as clear cut. You can do face/face, heel/face, even heel/heel, whatever, as long as the two guys involved are top guys (as opposed to #TopGuys) who trade momentum back and forth, it’s all good, unless Roman Reigns is involved, in which case it’s all great.

Cena seems to have broken them from the traditional rules of wrestling logic, because Cena broke the rules of traditional wrestling logic. Cena got cheered, Cena got booed, Cena drew money. Ergo, doesn’t matter if a heel is cheered or a face is booed, because money will be drawn.

And then you couple that with WWE accepting smaller gates and ratings because they’ve convinced themselves that the audience is smaller and/or consumes the product differently and/or doesn’t matter once they crack India and China and/or their other excuses, the fact that business is steady and not terrible means Great Success!!

So yeah, WWE is blurring the lines, but not because of New Japan. Because of John Cena.

Jeremy asks a serious question.

If wrestlers bleed during a match, is there required HIV and Hepatitis testing for the wrestlers and referees involved in the match?

No, not in that scenario.

Every state in America seems to have its own rules and regulations about what you have to do to be allowed to be a pro wrestler. Some states don’t care, go for your life, other states require you to apply for a license, get a doctor to check you out and state you are healthy enough to wrestle.

The Kentucky license, to pick one at random, doesn’t require bloodwork, it just has the “you probably shouldn’t do this, it’s, like, super dangerous” waiver bit. That seems to be the common thread, they’re more concerned about your brain and your body than your blood.

There may be a state that requires a clean blood test, but I don’t know of it. What I do know is that WWE does the blood testing during their physicals for contracts. You have to pass one of those to get a contract. The indy wrestler back in 2015 who was convicted of knowingly exposing people to HIV supposedly found out he was positive via a WWE blood test. He then said his contract was pulled for other reasons, then went out and had bloody brawls with guys, hence the arrest and conviction.

But no, there is no requirement to automatically get tested if there’s blood. If you know you’ve got something and you bleed hardway, then you should tell them, well before every match, but at least afterward tell them to get checked, but there’s no legal requirement.

Now, you may feel that one is justified, and maybe there should be such a rule, like how porn stars have to be checked every two weeks. I can see the argument, but the thing is, in wrestling, assuming you know that a guy or girl has an infection like that, you can work around it, since it’s not an actual sport. So the risk is reduced a bit, as much as it can be, in the circumstances.

Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo questions Brock. A brave man, he is…

Love the column – always the highlight of my week. Total opinion question for you: Since his return to the WWE, has Brock actually had a *good* one-on-one match? The original return match with Cena was lacking, the Summerslam squash of Cena was just that (a squash), the match with Reigns was rescued by a cash-in from Rollins, the Triple H and CM Punk matches were forgettable, the ‘Taker and Ambrose matches were not classics (other than the ending of the streak, but that’s not the match itself), the less said about the Orton match the better, etc. I think the triple threat with Cena and Rollins was great, but I feel like Brock in one-on-one matches is slightly overrated. What do you think? (Note: this is written pre-GBOF so maybe his match with Joe is great and renders my whole question moot).

Well the Goldberg Survivor Series one was memorable…

But good, no. Let’s look at the list…

Well, I wouldn’t say there was a classic one on one awesome match there as such, no, but there’s a difference between a great match and a memorable match. Lesnar/BryanCena was one of the most memorable matches I can recall, and sometimes you need memorable more than ‘good’. Same as the Goldberg match above, I mean, if we can get Brock Lesnar back in his worker boots, awesome, but at the end of the day, the guy has the arrogant monster bully thing down pat, and him throwing all the suplexes makes sense, and I don’t have a problem with it, as such.

It can be better threaded into a story of a match, yes. But I’ll take Brock/Cena from Summerslam over any number of technically proficient but forgettable matches that are ‘better’ most days of the week. Your mileage may vary, obviously. That’s cool.

Rahil asks for the break down of WCW’s ‘greatest’ angle to end this week’s one. This is a long one, so if you don’t care, see you next week!

I’d like to know all the Sting appearances between Fall Brawl 96 and Starrcade 97, and what happened?

OK, let’s fire up historyofwwe.com and go from there. I’m probably missing a few.

October 21, 1996 Nitro: Sting turns up with white facepaint and a black trenchcoat, put the fake Sting in a Scorpion Deathlock, the nWo offered him a place in the nWo, he said he may or may not be in their price range but “the only thing sure about Sting is nothing’s for sure’.

November 4, 1996 Nitro: Sting’s in the rafters, also in the audience.

November 11, 1996 Nitro: He attacked Jeff Jarrett during a match he had with Chris Benoit, then he’s in the audience.

November 18, 1996 Nitro: Sting shoved Luger with a bat then handed it to him, then watched as the Horsemen cut a promo on him.

November 24, 1996 World War 3: Cost Jarrett a match against The Giant with the Deathdrop.

November 25, 1996 Nitro: Cost Rick Steiner a match against Big Bubba.

December 2, 1996 Nitro: Rick Steiner challenged Sting to a match, he accepted from the rafters, then in the match he shoved Rick with the bat, then turned around, and then, after Scott stopped Rick from using it, Sting pointed the bat at Hall, Nash and Bischoff before leaving.

December 16, 1996 Nitro: Sting fought Rick Steiner again, but it was a no contest as the nWo Sting got to the ring first, both Stings dropped their bats, turned around, then the real Sting dropped the nWo Sting with the Deathdrop. Then in a brawl at the end of the night, whenever a WCW guy hit him, he beat them up then left.

December 23, 1996 Nitro: Sting watched from the rafters as the nWo beat up Piper.

December 29, 1996 Starrcade: Sting entered the ring during Luger/Giant, left his bat for Luger to KO Giant.

January 6, 1997 Nitro: Sting said something to Giant and left his bat behind after pointing at the nWo with it.

January 13, 1997 Nitro: Attacked Jim Duggan after Duggan called him out.

January 20, 1997 Nitro: When Savage returned, Sting gave him the ‘drop the bat, turn around’ gimmick, Savage gives him the bat back, they leave together.

January 27, 1997 Nitro: Sting and Savage chilled in the audience together.

February 3, 1997 Nitro: Sting and Savage chilled in the audience separately.

February 23, 1997 Superbrawl VII: Sting leaves Savage to watch over main event, is absent as Savage joins nWo and screws over Piper.

March 16, 1997 Uncensored: Sting beat up the entire nWo.

April 7, 1997 Nitro: Sting stands side by side with DDP, nWo is scared.

April 14, 1997 Nitro: Sting stops an nWo beatdown by tossing bats to Luger, DDP, and Giant, dropping Nash with the belt.

May 12, 1997 Nitro: Real Sting drops Fake Sting with Death Drop after Bischoff interviewed Fake Sting as Real Sting.

May 19, 1997 Nitro: Sting breaks through ring and drops Bischoff with Death Drop to end show.

June 9, 1997 Nitro: Drops down on harness, attaches KOed DDP to harness, rides him up to ceiling to save him from nWo.

June 28, 1997 Saturday Nitro audio show: Sting appears, attacks Hogan and puts him into Deathlock until Syxx hit him with a lead piper, later he gave the drop to Hall.

June 30, 1997 Nitro: Cleared the ring of the nWo.

July 14, 1997 Nitro: A man in a Sting wig and mask hit the ring to stand by Luger and Giant, pulled off the wig and mask to reveal he was actually Sting.

August 4, 1997 100th Nitro: Sting came to ring to listen as JJ Dillion offered him a new contract and to fight Curt Hennig as a way to rebuild trust between Sting and WCW, Sting tears the contract up.

August 11, 1997 Nitro: Dillion offers Sting a new contract and also to fight Syxx, Sting tears it up, shoves contract into Dillion’s pocket. JJ asks what Sting wants, fans chant Hogan.

August 18, 1997 Nitro: Dillion asks Sting what on earth he wants, Sting enters through crowd, gets in ring, points at signs saying “Sting V Hogan”.

August 21, 1997 Clash of the Champions XXXV: Sting and Vulture act spooky.

August 25, 1997 Nitro: Bischoff says Sting’s missed his chance, Dillion on phone says he’s working to get Sting/Hogan by the end of the year, Sting appears behind Bischoff, shoves a Hogan shirt over his head and in his mouth and then leaves.

September 29, 1997 Nitro: Sting comes to ring, drops bat, beats up nWo with his bear hands.

I’m sure I’m missing a couple. I might check other sources and redo this next week. Until then, however, it’s very cold here, and Fire Pro will warm me up. Until next time…