wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Has Big E’s Career Peaked?

August 22, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Raw Big E 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.

Hey, ya want a banner?

I’ve been told I should promote my Twitter account more. So, go follow me on Twitter.

Tyler from Winnipeg likes his pancakes stacked tall:

Has Big E already peaked?

Time will tell on this one, but my best prediction is that no, he has not.

The man is currently 36 years old, and wrestlers tend to peak a bit later than other professional athletes given that a big part of what they do involves performance and psychology as opposed to outright physical prowess. With that concept in mind, he should really just be entering his prime years as a pro grappler. Plus, he seems remarkably dedicated to our favorite pseudo-sport and has a strong connection with the WWE fanbase. On top of that, fighting his way back from a legitimate broken neck is the kind of story that a successful main event run could be built around if it is handled correctly. (Just ask Kurt Angle.)

Though that neck injury has some potential as a jumping off point for a bigger story about Big E, it is also potentially has biggest liability. We do not know how much, if at all, lingering effects from that condition will slow him down in the ring, and that might be the one thing that holds him back.

However, on the whole, I am optimistic about Mr. Langston’s prospects.

RayS is concerned about wrestlers wearing horizontally striped shirts as a result of attacking people wearing vertically striped shirts:

Ronda Rousey’s recent “suspension” for “attacking a referee” got me wondering – has any wrestler ever legitimately attacked a referee for any reason, either during a match or otherwise?
Or done anything to a ref that caused a legitimate suspension?

Yes. This question brought to mind two incidents, both of which I have actually written about in this column previously.

The first wasn’t even that long ago. On December 11, 2021, Canadian wrestler Devon Nicholson, a.k.a. Hannibal, a.k.a. the Blood Hunter, was booked on a show in Irving, Texas for an independent promotion called World Class Revolution (no relation to the much more popular “World Class” promotion from Texas). There was a planned spot at the end of his match during which the referee, Lando Deltoro, was going to blade, but, after that didn’t quite go right, Nicholson took a spike and repeatedly stabbed him in the head with it. Nicholson made a variety of excuses for the incident, including claiming he was not aware the spike was actually sharp, but the owner of the promotion stated that Nicholson would never be allowed back on one of his shows. Then, in May of this year, Nicholson claimed that he was retiring from in-ring competition.

You can read me talking about whether it would be possible for Hannibal to be prosecuted for this episode here. For what it’s worth, subsequent to that column being written, local police closed their investigation without sending charges along to prosecutors.

The second example I have is a bit less clear as to whether it was a legitimate or unplanned attack, but it had severe consequences nonetheless. I’m talking about November 28, 1989 in WCW, when referee Tommy Young’s full-time career was ended at the hands of Tommy Rich. While Rich was wrestling Mike Rotunda, the lights went out in the arena. Moments later, Rich threw Young down towards the ring ropes, resulting in Young colliding with the steel cable face first and breaking his neck immediately.

It does not appear that this was a planned spot at the outset of the match, but it also seems unlikely Rich was intentionally trying to harm Young or doing anything outside the context of kayfabe. However, Young does allege that the former NWA Champion was inebriated during the match, which could have impacted how events unfolded. For what it’s worth, Rich does not appear to have been suspended or otherwise punished by WCW for the incident, though Young did file a civil lawsuit against Rich. On an episode of his podcast, Eric Bischoff said he thinks WCW settled that suit out of court, but he did not have perfect recall.

You can read a more detailed account of the Young/Rich incident in one of my prior columns here.

Neil sounds suspiciously like James Earl Jones:

I’ve recently been catching up on AEW and watched the bout between Danielson and Daniels on the show where Khan confirmed he had purchased ROH.

They mentioned a few times that they were in the very first main event but always avoided mentioning one persons name: Low Ki.

In your opinion, what chance does Low Ki have of appearing in AEW and if he debuted today, what would he be doing?

Nothing is impossible, but it seems somewhat unlikely for Ki be announced as #AllElite at this point. First off, to my knowledge, he is still under contract Major League Wrestling, and, while it is true that people’s contractual statuses change all the time, he seems to be fairly happy there. In fact, in a 2019 interview with a podcast called WINCLY, the One World Warrior mentioned that he signed with MLW because he felt that owner Court Bauer had treated him well in the past and would continue to treat him well in the future. Also, though it was only a brief reference without a lot of explanation, he referred to some wrestlers signing with AEW as “whores” who were “going after money.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Low Ki’s take on that subject, he certainly does not sound like somebody who will be champing at the bit to join the AEW roster.

That being said, we’ve also seen that AEW will bring in all sorts of wrestlers for one-offs if the timing and context is right, whether it’s Juventud Guerrera or Nick Gage or Erick Rowan or Gangrel. I think if we do see the former ROH World Champion in Tony Khan’s playground, that is probably the most likely scenario – a one or two match cameo that grows into nothing else.

LannyPoffoAsTheGenius doesn’t want you to smoke:

There’s been a lot more talk recently of a possible Street Profits split. And with any team – especially one maybe on the verge of ending – the comparison to The Rockers is always brought up with people questioning who will be the breakout “Shawn Michaels” (in this case seemingly Montez Ford) and who the more undercard “Marty Jannetty” (seemingly Angelo Dawkins.) However, I thought I read something, somewhere years ago that said when the Rockers split, it was actually Jannetty who was tabbed to be more of the breakout star, but his arrest shortly after and further personal demons got in the way. Was there any possibility that was the case or was it always going to be Michaels who had the rocket strapped to him?

It’s absolutely correct that, when the Rockers were a team, many people thought that Jannetty was the better wrestler and had more of an upside than his partner. It’s also correct that his being fairly unreliable in the period immediately after the duo’s split resulted in a reduced push for him. (That’s not to say that Michaels was a saint in this era – but he at least showed up when he was booked and avoided problems with law enforcement more often than not.)

Though Marty’s personal demons were far and away the bigger issue, one other factor that I think contributed to Shawn becoming a bigger star than his partner is that HBK took the time to, well, become HBK. He received a gimmick overhaul with a new look and persona, whereas Marty Jannetty never really established who he was beyond being “that guy who used to be in the Rockers.” He didn’t give fans anything new to latch onto, and that did not do him any favors.

Night Wolf the Wise holds a grudge:

1. With the Steiner brothers being inducted into the WWE hall of fame this year, it got me thinking of something. How many wrestlers have not mended their bridges with WWE? I’m talking about the old guard?

2. Piggybacking off of question 1, How many do you think will never mend their bridges with WWE?

I assume that you’re referring to individuals who would still have an opportunity repair their relationship with the company, so I am not including wrestlers who died while on ostensibly bad terms with WWE, like Randy Savage or Tom Zenk.

I don’t know that he’s really part of the “old guard,” but the biggest example I can think of when it comes to a wrestler who has not patched things up after a fallout with WWE is CM Punk. Granted, he had his brief run as a host of WWE Backstage on Fox Sports 1 in 2019 and 2020, but that was as a Fox employee and not a WWE employee, and he has still been critical of the E in recent interviews. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll return to the company anytime soon, not just because he is signed to AEW but also because his problems were just as much with Triple H as they were with Vince McMahon, and it seems like Trips is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Going back a bit further in wrestling history, “Dr. D” David Schultz is another guy who had a falling out with the company and never came back into the fold. Schultz was, of course, fired after slapping reporter John Stossel when Stossel questioned the legitimacy of professional wrestling. Schultz sees himself as a victim who was unfairly terminated for doing what he was asked to do by the promoter. Schultz also seems unlikely to make a comeback at any point, just because he has not shown much if any interest in being part of the wrestling industry after his retirement from in-ring competition in the late 1980s.

Though he had a couple of different stints with the promotion, Raven was obviously never a favorite of Vince McMahon or WWE management more generally. In fact, Mr. Levy himself in shoot interviews has reported on a fateful creative meeting circa 2000 in which McMahon, apparently not fully realizing who was on his roster, bellowed, “Who the fuck hired Johnny Polo?” Raven did continue to wrestle for the company through early 2003, but neither side has shown any interest in renewing a relationship since then. In fact, Raven has sued WWE twice after he left, once around 2010 for compensation allegedly due to him because he was misclassified as an independent contractor when he should have been considered and employee and once around 2017 for royalties he claimed he was due from streaming content. (Neither suit went anywhere, for what it’s worth.) Though others have rehabbed their status with WWE after filing suit against them, the repeated litigation by Raven does seem like an indication that he’s given up on a future relationship.

Another ECW alum who finds himself in a similar position is Shane Douglas, who had runs with the WWF in 1986, 1990-1991, and 1995 as Dean Douglas. In fact, he’s apparently had an even worse relationship with them than Raven, as he’s not been invited back in any capacity in 27 years now, even during waves of ECW nostalgia. Will he ever show up in some role? Again, I doubt it, because like Punk his problems were just as much with Triple H as they were with Vince McMahon, so it’s unlikely regime change will do much for him.

Finally, there is Maxx Payne / Man Mountain Rock, who after leaving the WWF in 1995 claimed that he was going to release a documentary showing behind the scenes debauchery in the promotion, essentially Dark Side of the Ring before there was a Dark Side of the Ring. He’s not been back and probably never will be back for reasons that ought to be apparent.

Lee in Liverpool is going back to the well:

As the last question went pretty well I’m gonna follow up with ‘Who are the top ten Steves in wrestling history?’ Don’t worry, I won’t ask any more questions like that!

For those not in the know, when Lee references “questions like that,” he’s calling back to the July 25 edition of the column, in which he asked me to outline wrestling’s top ten Richards.

Since he asked nicely and promised not to do this again, here goes . . .

HM: Steve Cook – Longtime writer for 411mania and The Chairshot provides well-thought out, common sense analysis of professional wrestling and is probably the closest thing out there to Larry Csonka now that we, sadly, no longer have Larry Csonka.

HM: Steve McMichael – After careers in both professional football and professional wrestling, Steve McMichael is currently facing the biggest fight of his life after being diagnosed with ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hang in there, Mongo.

HM: Steve Urkell – As one half of the masked “Psycho Twins” tag team with his real-life neighbor Carl Winslow, Urkell had a barnburner of a match against the Bushwackers back in 1994, despite the fact that Urkell and Winslow were last minute substitutes for the actual Psycho Twins, who had been knocked out in a backstage incident involving Urkell’s experimental Snooze Juice.

10. Stevie Richards – Did I put Stevie Richards on this list just so that he could be the only guy on both my list of Top 10 Richards and my list of Top 10 Steves? You’re absolutely right that I did. You have no reason to complain, either, unless your name is Steve Blackman . . . because it’s really Steve Blackman who is hurt the most by this decision.

9. Stevie Ray – Not to be confused with Steve Ray, who was one half of the Wet n’ Wild tag team in Herb Abrams’ UWF, Stevie Ray is of course best known as one half of Harlem Heat, where he was a ten-time World Tag Team Champion and a one-time World Television Champion, in addition being the former leader of the nWo. (No, seriously, he used to be the leader of the nWo.) Any time we saw Stevie Ray headed for the ring, we knew that it was on like a big steaming pile of neckbone.

8. Steve Lombardi – He was the Brooklyn Brawler. He was Kim Chee. He was a Doink. He was Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz. He was the perpetual talking head on all those DVD documentaries. He was the guy whose sexual relations with Pat Patterson inspired Kamala to write and record an R&B song. (No, seriously, Kamala wrote and sang a song about those two guys screwing.) With all those roles, Steve Lombardi may be professional wrestling’s greatest utility player, even if hew as never the biggest star.

7. Steve Corino – Most people reading this will be most familiar with Corino from his time in ECW and perhaps early Ring of Honor, but in the early and mid-2000s the guy really became a well-traveled international star during an era when it was very difficult to do so, serving as a main event level heel in both the Japanese promotion ZERO1 and Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council. More recently, he has been coaching at the WWE Performance Center, preparing the next generation of wrestlers for the squared circle.

6. Steve Keirn – Speaking of people who have been involved in WWE developmental, Keirn’s last major role in professional wrestling was as the operator of Florida Championship Wrestling when that company served as the E’s farm league. That was the capper on a long and prosperous career, most notably in the Fabulous Ones tag team with Stan Lane. In national promotions, he had turns as gator hunter Skinner, a backup Doink the Clown (the second Doink on this list), and in the oft-forgotten WCW tag team Bad Attitude with Bobby Eaton.

5. Steve Rickard – “Who’s Steve Rickard?” many of you are probably asking, while others roll their eyes and say, “Here’s the part where Byers highlights somebody obscure so he can feel smugly superior to us.” Regardless of what you have to say, Rickard spend over 40 years wrestling and promoting wrestling in his native New Zealand and nearby Australia, as well as in several southeast Asian countries. He, along with American promoter Jim Barnett, were vital to popularizing the sport in that corner of the world and keeping it alive.

4. Lord Steven Regal – Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s been William Regal for a while now, but, to an entire generation of fans, he was Steven Regal first and foremost. Frankly, he did some of his best work under that name, whether it was his matches against the likes of Ricky Steamboat and the Great Muta or his Blue Bloods tag team with Bobby Eaton, who, much like Doink, is popping up on this list an unexpectedly large number of times.

3. Steve Williams – Brawl for All aside, Dr. Death had a stellar professional wrestling career, emerging initially as a breakout star of the old territorial system and then becoming a legend of the puroresu game. I wrote a long summary of his career this past December, so go check that out if you want more information.

2. Ray Stevens – No, not the guy who sang the “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” Known alternately as the “Crippler” and the “Blond Bomber,” Stevens wrestled at a high level from the 1950s through the 1970s and continued at a reduced capacity even after that. He formed legendary tag teams with Pat Patterson on the west coast and Nick Bockwinkel in the midwest, in addition to being a challenger for the WWWF Championship when it was held by Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and Bob Backlund.

1. Steve Austin – To steal the gimmick of another guy who used to write this column: “No explanation needed.”

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. 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.

article topics :

Ask 411 Wrestling, Big E., WWE, Ryan Byers