wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Would Rusev Benefit From a Babyface Turn?

September 23, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
Rusev Rusev’s WWE Emmy

One of my standard lines about my wrestling is that I describe my style as ‘Half Andre The Giant, Half Bobby Heenan’. This is meant to be about how I use giant stuff intermixed with slimy heel stuff, but really, it’s always been a goal to set myself. Bobby Heenan was one of the greatest performers in wrestling history, any discipline, any style. And I’m sad I never got to tell him that, or thank him for all he did. But at least Gorilla isn’t as lonely in the Gorilla Position any more.

RIP The Brain.

Oh, and Ask 411 Wrestling, welcome, I have MANFLU, all that stuff. [email protected] if you have a question.


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Australian Wrestling’s Golden Age: The guy who I’m slightly worried is going to kill me one day so as to gain more wrestling knowledge, Jet Li in The One style, APinOz has a bit more detail about the Real WCW.

Jim Barnett was, as you say, the catalyst for the explosion of popularity in pro wrestling. He came here in 1964, intending to stay 6 months, and ended up running the promotion for 10 years. he and partner Johnny Doyle would take 6 months stints running the show, and the wrestlers much preferred Barnett over Doyle. When Doyle died in 1969, Barnett took on the responsibility himself. As you mentioned, he got out of the promotion totally in 1974, after selling a stake to local Tony Kolonie in 1973 after the Whitlam government changed the rules on foreign ownership of major companies.

And make no bones about it – World Championship Wrestling was a MAJOR company. The most fondly remembered period for the promotion is probably from 1971-74 where Barnett ran the People’s Army vs Big Bad John’s Army feud, in itself a precursor to every NWO-like takeover angle that has been in existence in the US for the last 20 years. At its height, Oz-WCW would pull house show crowds of 6,000 per week to the three major markets of Sydney (Hordern Pavilion), Melbourne (Festival Hall) and Brisbane (also Festival Hall, but not nearly as well-known as the iconic Melbourne venue). That’s almost 20,000 fans per week, not taking into consideration the smaller regional shows in places like Adelaide, Perth and country NSW and Victoria.

Barnett’s connections with the major companies in the US ensured that Australian fans got to see stars the likes of Bulldog Brower, Abdullah the Butcher, Tiger Jeet Singh, Mark Lewin, Spiros Arion, The Tojo brothers, Waldo Von Erich and King Curtis grace the rings here. Reputedly, the US wrestlers loved coming down for short stints (visa issues ensured they could only stay 3 months at a time but Barnett was so well-organised it was almost seamless). The pay was great, they were well looked after in terms of travel and accommodation. Barnett affiliated the promotion with the NWA and we got tours from NWA World Champion Jack Brisco, Dory Funk Jr and Harley Race (though his tour occurred after Barnett had sold the promotion to Ron Miller and Larry O’Dea).

There is no doubt the promotion declined in popularity after Barnett left (allegedly while still owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes) but it still pulled big crowds to the weekly shows and relied from then on the connections Miller and O’Dea had made with the promotions in Memphis and the southern States of the US where they wrestled prior to 1973. So the big touring names were guys like Butcher Brannigan, Bugsy McGraw, Bruiser Brody and The Spoiler. In a sense, Barnett’s reluctance to make new stars caused the promotion to decline when he left it, as it had relied on guys like Arion, Brower, Abdullah and Von Erich for years to the detriment of talented locals. That sounds kind of familiar.

As for cross over stars, that wasn’t really a “thing” in those days due to the strict adherence to kayfabe. But if you mention the names Mario Milano, Sipros Arion and Mark Lewin to almost anyone over the age of 35 today, chances are they will know exactly who those names are, which is amazing considering the prime of those guys was 40 or more years ago! In fact, wrestling’s cross over stars of the 70s usually came the other way and were commentators. Mike Cleary was the Sydney-based commentator who was a dual rugby league and union international and a Commonwealth games competitor, later to become a NSW politician. Ted Whitten was a huge VFL (Australian Rules) star in Melbourne who became the Melbourne-based commentator. For a US comparison, this would be akin to Tom Brady or Brett Favre becoming announcers for WWE after they retired from football.

However, one guy parlayed his wrestling notoriety into minor movie stardom – Steve “Crusher” Rackman had a memorable part in Crocodile Dundee and has acting credits in a number of other roles after the end of the promotion in 1978.

Being Forced To Put On A Mask: Brian had a good point.

When Punk lost a Luchas de Apuestas match to Rey Mysterio (ironically a masked character whose mask was not on the line during the feud) that resulted in his head being shaved, he was so embarrassed that he began wearing a mask. Ergo, the loss of the match did lead (relatively) directly to him donning a mask, albeit with no requirement to do so.

Sabotaging Your Own Career: Well yes, I suppose Benoit is the ‘true’ winner in that he totally ended his career with his actions, but thing is, Benoit’s career path going forward at the point he died was basically what Christian did in ECW, be the champ, be the workhorse, get everyone ready for the future. Important, but not center of attention. RVD was also going to be the focal point and champion of ECW going forward long term, then the drug bust happened. Kennedy was going to be the focal point of the entire promotion, he was going to be a modern redo of the McMahon-Helmsley era. That’s pretty huge, and that got messed up due to his actions, thus that’s the guy I’d say won, but as always, unless I answer a fact question, it’s just my opinion.

My Upper Teeth: I’ll admit, that was a few years ago, but they’re still good, I think…

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I once beat the above in a tournament. Despite not being a luchador, I trained under a guy who wore a mask. I once gave away a title, as well as a battle royal win. I’m the only man to manage a two time feat with a fearsome tag team with two names. Although I’ve held multiple singles titles, I’m more well known for my tag team reigns. I’ve been managed by a cheerleader, a make up lady, and someone holding a title I would later claim myself. A man in WWE right now, both personally and via lineage, I am who?

Jonah, come on down!

Who am I? I once beat the above in a tournament(beat Mabel in the 1994 King of the Ring tournament). Despite not being a luchador, I trained under a guy who wore a mask(The Destroyer). I once gave away a title(NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship to Rick Steiner), as well as a battle royal win(to Ted Dibiase on the 15th anniversary edition of Raw). I’m the only man to manage a two time feat with a fearsome tag team with two names(defeated the Road Warriors for the NWA tag team titles and the Legion of Doom for the WWF tag team titles). Although I’ve held multiple singles titles, I’m more well known for my tag team reigns(as a part of the U.S. Express and Money Inc.). I’ve been managed by a cheerleader(Leia Meow), a make up lady(Terri Runnels/Alexandra York), and someone holding a title I would later claim myself(“Captain” Lou Albano). A man in WWE right now, both personally(an agent) and via lineage(Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas), I am who? Mike Rotunda.

Who am I? I was involved in one of the specific matches mentioned above. I appeared on PPV for a company after I was released by them the previous calendar year. I replaced an MMA guy in a tournament I had no real business being involved in, and lost to a guy who I’d draw comparisons with, gimmick wise, to my first WWF gimmick, but that would be insulting to Traci and Nadine. I was signed to WWE in the mid 00’s but never made it onto TV. I won tag belts with a ‘surfer’, a ‘bull’, a ‘stranger’, and an Englishman. A guy known for my moves and my body, or at least a part of it, I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

So, let’s get down to business before Larry takes over this column as well because the man can’t do anything badly, apparently…

First up is Jimmy Jey asking about WWE merch.

Can you explain to me what “one day’ish” means? I know they explained it on talking smack one time, but their explanation made no sense to me, so I’m hoping you can do better. Are they not twins? Were they born on opposite sides of midnight, so technically not on the same day? Are they even brothers??? A wise man once said everything you see on tv is a work.

Unless it’s a shoot work, or a worked shoot, or a work that turns into a shoot, or a shoot that becomes a worked shoot until people get so worked over the worked shoot they end up shooting on the worked shoot’s work and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Anyway, there’s two explanations, the one that probably they started with, and the one they claimed all along.

So the original implication seems to have been that “ish” was being used to mean “shit”, as the ish sound in rap and hip hop is that exact euphemism, taken from the radio edit versions where shit is dubbed/muted and sounds like ‘ish’. So in that case, the shirts are saying that they are the shit, in the positive sense of being the best, and have been since day one.

However, you probably can’t get away with that straight up, so you need a cover story. This is where the claimed explanation comes in. Their newer gear has a slight addition to their shirts, as the new ones say “Down Since Day One Ish”, and so the implication, which is as official as you’re going to get, is that they’ve been down and thus cool/great at wrestling since nearly the start, they’ve been great almost since day one. A small touch of humility, in that the Usos admit that they didn’t start off amazing, they had to work at it, but not too much, as they became amazing pretty quickly.

I mean, I was thinking that maybe they were saying that they were discounting their first face run as them not being really them, that they’re only being their true selves now, but then upon checking, I forgot that they debuted on Raw as heels, with Tamina as their manager.

So yeah, the idea is that they weren’t born amazing (thus downplaying their heritage) but got to that point damn quickly regardless. While actually referencing a naughty word.

Andron is asking about… I think I know, but I’ve got this wrong, my apologies.

Good day. Just was thinking WWE used to have this short video that aired during storylines that advances the story line. I guess mainly or specifically in the attitude era if I’m right. What was the name of those clips? It used to expose the wrestlers secret related to the storylines. The result normally a wrestler character changes maybe a heel turning face or vice versa. And would that segment help the WWE today if they brought it back?

I presume you’re talking about GTV, the series of black and white videos that would pop up from time to time and expose a secret, or be a bit of comedy or some such.

Well, it ended as GTV, the very first edition was GDTV, supposedly, although no-one has been able to show a video or still to support that. It was meant to be a Goldust thing, but then he left almost immediately and so they rebranded it as GTV. For a long time, the ‘smart’ money was that Glen Ruth, aka Headbanger Thrasher was the guy behind it, based on one skit where he came out and GTV revealed that Marianna Komlos, Chaz’s girlfriend, was faking that he was abusing her, and thus reuniting the Headbangers team. Glen TV, he knew it was coming, so on.

The guy that was supposed to be the name behind it was Tom Green, who at the time had a show where he did wacky stunts and filmed stuff, so it wasn’t a totally left field thing that he might be behind it, sort of.

… I don’t know what network that was on, but if it still exists, support it. It clearly needs the help.

But then Vince saw Tom Green’s stuff, didn’t find it was funny, and shut that down, so it just fizzled out, the last appearance being here where Eddie clearly is a very lucky man.

Zack Ryder’s theory on it being Mene Gene notwithstanding, we never got an explanation, but the concept actually had a fairly solid logic behind existing, in that Russo’s time booking in WWE did not have the invisible cameraman concept. Attitude Era WWF, if you saw stuff backstage, it was either a direct to camera promo, or was being filmed because chaos was ensuring. Thusly nothing shocking or revealing would be done backstage on screen, because why would someone reveal their secret in front of a camera?

WWE has flipped back and forth on this, sometimes they have invisible camera people, sometimes they don’t. Right now they do have invisible camerapeople, and honestly the concept has always felt off to me. I prefer the camera to be acknowledged all the time, so when you do do that, having a GTV concept helps. WWE in fact did bring it back on Raw with the “F-View” idea, although they were upfront about that being Eric Bischoff’s doing.

Have the rights to the sixth letter before you view that one, obviously.

So yeah, right now it’s not needed, but if WWE goes back to being more realistic and gets rid of the invisible cameraperson, then it has a place, sure.

Also I don’t think I’ve seen a baby face Rusev would he benefit from a face turn ?

I’ve seen a babyface Rusev. Sort of.

But yes, I do think Rusev could be amazing as a babyface, he’s very good at the wrestling thing, he’s emotive as all get out, and people clearly want to cheer for him. The current ‘I must break a legend’ thing would be a way to do it, you have him target someone who he beats down, then the legend gets back up. Then he ‘breaks’ them, and then they get back up again, he seems shocked, then the legend does the “You gotta do it for the fans” speech, then manages or at least sends Rusev on the path of goodness, and there you go.

HBK’s Smile asks a simple enough question about the refs.

Quick question – has there ever been a match involving a Special Guest Referee where both competitors abandon hopes of winning the match so they can collectively beat up said referee? (If you care, I’m asking because I’m envisioning a few long-term scenarios regarding Owens, HHH, and the McMahons given this week’s Smackdown.)

Yes. WWE featured it in one of their recent top 10 vids, Rock defending the WWF Title against Big Show, with Mankind as the ref, 22nd of Feb 1999.

I’m sure there has been other matches like that, but that one was the most recently brought to my attention, so there you go.

I would have finished this week’s edition with Stuart, but that wouldn’t be very fitting, see.

Do you think the term ‘finisher’ is now obsolete? Historically wrestlers worked a match to get their Opponent into the right state/position to got their finisher and that was it. Now a supposed finisher rarely ends a match and you see them being used midmatch and on multiple occasions as people keep kicking out. Doesn’t this also make any wrestler who is beaten by one finisher look weak?

It’s going through a period of weakening, sure. But like a lot of things in wrestling, it can be brought back with time and effort.

I mean, I wouldn’t have a problem with finishers becoming just more like signature+ moves, if you allow wrestlers to win matches with more than just that one move. Audiences should ideally be unable to guess just how long a match will go, and/or how it will end. So you have matches end in roll ups, have them finish off a couple of strung together signatures, a flash finisher, or whatever, make it so you can’t predict how it’ll end, nor when.

On the other hand, you can just spam the finisher kick out trope, which is a problem, as while short term it makes the guys look tough, it will eventually kill finishers as a concept, absolutely. People will not react to the first Spear or F5 or whatever, they’ll wait for the second or third one.

Changing the name though is a step too far, because there’s enough people out there holding to keeping their finishers strong, most of the time. Just because WWE is misusing the concept, doesn’t mean you have to kill it. As for one move pins making guys look weak, that’s kind of the price you have to pay after too long making everyone look ‘strong’. But you can explain it, by having people come up with new finishers that you sell as stronger ones, or by having them train or learn a new trick that makes their finisher stronger. Roman now has a metal plate in his shoulder or Cena snaps off the AA quicker or something. Doesn’t have to be true, you just make up a reason, and push the move strong, and it’ll get back over. Probably.

So no, don’t change the name, but yes, it can and is being overly damaged right now.

Paul asks about plants in a heatwave. They might get wilted!

I have been wondering for years: Was the Heatwave Dudley Boyz promo completely legit? In that i mean the guy who Bubba threw the drink at and the woman who he was spit on and at, were they plants? If they were not plants, what has Paul Heyman ever said regarding how he felt about it? Any fears that it was getting out of control or he was going to have to call in a riot squad to get them out of there safely? Thanks

Ah, back when the Dudleys were legitimately extreme rather than just Xtreme!!! (TM, R, C, PP). So very much NSFW.

Donate to the D-Von Building Fund before you watch that.

But no, this was totally legit, as far as I know. They said as much on the ECW DVD WWE put out a while back, they showed clips of that exact promo and they didn’t say anything about them feeling safe or anything. I mean, you’ll notice they go after an overweight gentleman who doesn’t look too physically gifted, and a woman with her daughter. Not likely to cause too much problems themselves. Yes, it could have caused a riot, they came close one night supposedly, but this was roughly what the Dudleys were doing every night, and Heyman was fine with it, as they were drawing mad heat, and you wanted them to die afterwards. That’s the thinking.

They were young and pig headed enough to go out there and drive a crowd crazy and assume they’d survive. And they did, so they were obviously right, I guess…

Possibly The Same Paul But Maybe Not makes me think about which stable launched the most world champions.

So, this is a bit of a loaded question. I am not asking what the best stable is, that’s obviously the horseman. This question is which stable launched the most main eventers(think Benoit out of horseman, Batista/Orton out of evolution, HHH in DX). If you were a champion before, then you don’t count(think HHH and evolution, flair and horseman). If you won your first while in the group, then you count. From there, which group created the most champions and the most world championships?

Hmm. Well, let’s go through the list of stables on Wikipedia and see who turns up.

I assume we’re counting cross-promotions here.

Heenan Family maybe gets to three, Bockwinkle (4), Rude (3), and Andre (1). (8 total)

Dangerous Alliance has Austin (6), Rude (3), Sabu (2), and Taz (2). (13 total)

Raven’s Nest had Raven (3), Cactus Jack (4), and CM Punk (7) in the TNA version. (14 total)

Million Dollar Corporation had Bam Bam Bigelow (1), Sid (4), and Steve Austin (6). (11 total)

The Brood had Edge (11) and Christian (6), the New Brood had Matt (3) and Jeff Hardy (6), if you count it as one group that’s four. (17 total) (9 total) (26 total)

Similarly, the Corporation had three, Vince (2), HHH (14), Rock (10). The Ministry had three, Bradshaw (1), Edge (11), and Christian (6). The Corporate Ministry had three as well, Vince (2), HHH (14), Bradshaw (1). But do you group that all together into six? (26 total) (18 total) (17 total) (44 total)

Nation of Domination is Rock (10) and Mark Henry (2). (12 total)

Team ECK/RECK had Edge (11), Christian (6), and Kurt Angle (12). (29 total)

The Diamond Exchange, of all groups, has Nash (6), DDP (3), and Raven (3). (12 total)

The Filthy Animals/The LWO both have Mysterio (3) and Eddie (1). (4 total)

The Stud Stable had Cactus Jack (4), Sid (4), Austin (6). (14 total)

Fortune had Storm (1), Roode (2) and Daniels (1). (4 total)

TNA Front Line has Bully Ray (2), Daniels (1), Sabin (1), Storm (1), Lethal (1), Roode (2), and Eric Young (1). (9 total)

The Alliance had Christian (6), Bubba Ray (2), RVD (3). (11 total)

Evolution has two, Batista (6) and Orton (13). (19 total)

The Shield has Rollins (3), Reigns (3), Ambrose (1). Obviously. (7 total)

And finally you have the Horsemen, Luger (2), Windham (1), Sting (12), Sid (4), Benoit (2), Jarrett (10). (31 total)

So in terms of number of champions, the TNA Front Line wins with seven. Number of title reigns is The Horsemen, unless you include the Corporation and the Ministry in the Corporate Ministry.

Unless I’m forgetting an obvious one, that someone below will mention.

Stuart, Who Might Have Asked The Finisher Question Before, I Can’t Be Bothered To Check asks about age.

With the improvement in general fitness and wrestlers being active beyond this point, is 40 no longer such a deciding age for the WWE to have a main eventer, or even someone just competing at the top level for them? With Lesnar, Styles and Cena all being 40, Roode being called up at the same age, and Matt & Jeff Hardy being 42 and 39 respectively (as well as guys like Sheamus (39), Goldust (48), R Truth (45), Big Show (45), Jericho (46), Kane (50) ) and even guys like Curtis Axel and Luke Harper being 37 and Titus O’Neil over the big 4-0 who aren’t close to the main event scene, is WWE going to have a bit of a vacuum on its main roster in the next 2-3 years or will there be enough developmental talent to cover this (or the right people getting pushes that are already on it)?

It’s still part of the equation, but yes, it’s not nearly as an important a factor as it once was. I mean, unless you were Hulk Cena, a 45 year old is probably not getting a look in on the main roster, but a 45 year old who is known and loved on the indy circuit might get a spot on NXT, which then might lead to being called up anyway. This is the problem when NXT is both a brand and a training thing, you get guys brought in to help sell the brand and maybe work with some guys, then suddenly Corbin talks to a doctor at the wrong time and suddenly you’re on Smackdown.

If a guy or girl can physically work, then their age is mostly just a long term planning issue, the less time you expect to have them on the card, and/or maybe ask them to not do certain moves. Physical age is less a worry compared to how long someone has been a part of the show, how fresh they are as a character. You debut an 18 year old and a 45 year old on the same show, if they’re both unknown, they have the same shelf life of how long they’ll be fresh until you mess them up or make them work.

The main roster should be fine, as even if they let go a bunch of people, or a few more people become part timers, there’s enough guys flowing through NXT right now that they’ll be fine. Not everyone will make it up, and they may need to speed a few people up, but NXT’s churn rate is pretty solid now, in a few years the WWE roster will probably be a lot more culturally diverse, possibly have more women, but at the end of the day, they’ll have enough people to feed to Roman Reigns, no trouble.

Another Matt asks a question I can’t answer, sort of.

When did Shawn Michaels break the bar on the Winged Eagle? Did it happen on television, a house show, at a bar, etc;? And why didn’t Vince replace the belt before Wrestlemania XIV?

I tried to see what you’re referring to in the match, but I’m not sure what bar is broken on the belt. Maybe someone below knows.

That said, as to why they didn’t replace it, although you can argue that it makes sense to have a nice shiny new belt for the big show, it’s more traditional to do it the way they did it, to replace a title after someone wins it. The build up to the show has centred around that belt that Shawn had, and it may well have not been ready until around WM time, and why present it to him a week or so ahead, and have all the promotional material look wrong, when you can do it as a new champ, new belt idea? You tend to replace stuff after a big event, not right before.

Speaking of, that’s all for this week, tune in again next week for a brand new… Uh… Um…

I’ll let you know.