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Ask 411 Wrestling: How Long has the Undertaker’s WWE Career Really Been?

November 9, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Undertaker Yokozuna

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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Shaun wants to know how many decades of destruction there have truly been:

How long has the Undertaker actually been active in the WWE? By this I mean since his debut in WWE how many days/years has he been actively working where he wasn’t off for injuries/other reasons?

To make this a bit easier to figure out, I decided to construe “actively working” in the narrowest sense possible, i.e. how many days, months, and ultimately years was the Undertaker wrestling for the World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment. Otherwise, you start to get into some difficult if not impossible questions about how long Taker has to take off before you don’t count the time towards his total. In other words, do you not count a two week break? If you count that, what about three weeks? Four?

That means days of in-ring performance is the easiest and best metric. Since making his WWF debut almost thirty years ago as of this writing, the Undertaker has had 2,192 matches according to our friends at CageMatch.

However, we can’t count all of those matches towards his total of working days. On a not insignificant number of days, Taker wrestled two or more matches on the same day, be that due to a tournament, a dark match following a television taping, a television taping where multiple shows were shot, or a good, old fashioned double shot of house shows.

You also have to deduct some days because, even though this seems unfathomable now, the WWF used to loan the Undertaker out to other promotions for special appearances on their shows. The USWA, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Michinoku Pro, and Ohio Valley were all beneficiaries of this policy at various points.

By the time that you eliminate all of the outside matches and all of the double-and-triple shots, you’re down to 2,044 separate days during which the Undertaker wrestled a match for WWF/WWE. If you do the math, 2,044 days is five years, seven months, one week, and two days.

Wrestling the equivalent of just over five-and-a-half years over the course of thirty doesn’t sound all that difficult at first blush, but then when you account for the fact that the thirty years in question were rather front-loaded and that, even when Taker wasn’t wrestling he was still on the road for significant lengths of time, you begin to see how such a toll has been taken on his body.

Tyler from Winnipeg apparently wants to see me crushed by a massive ass:

Let’s pretend you (Ryan) were about to face Yokozuna on WWF Superstars, which move would you first attack with?

I guess the question depends on whether we’re pretending this is a real fight or whether I’m going to be working with Yoko to put him over in a squash match.

If it’s the latter, I’ll probably do something stupid like running at him full-bore with a shoulderblock so that he can knock me down in order to begin the annihilation.

But what if I am going to have an actual fight with Yokozuna? First of all, I’m going to get killed. However, in order to give myself the best opportunity that I can have, I’m going to have to listen to the sage advice that Gorilla Monsoon often gave out on commentary. In order to fight a larger wrestler, you’re going to want to take the legs out from underneath him. In order to do that, I’d try for some leg kicks to the shin and the knee to rock him, similar to what Akria Maeda did the night that he shot on Andre the Giant.

Ticking TimeBomb Taz, which I’m sure is how it reads on his birth certificate, wants to check back in on a recent favorite subject of Ask 411 questioners:

Was Lex Luger really supposed to win the WWF Title at Wrestlemania 10? There have been theories going around, but what is the true story?

As I mentioned in a September edition of the column, Jim Cornette has stated on his podcast that, when Luger won his WWF Title match against Yokozuna at Summerslam ’93 by count out, the plan was for him to come back at Mania X and win the belt. So, Luger emerging victorious on the grandest stage of them all was certainly in the cards at one point.

However, according to Bruce Prichard on the episode of his Something to Wrestle podcast that covers Wrestlemania X in depth, by January of 1994 Vince McMahon had largely given up on the prospect of Lex Luger as WWF Champion, which is why Bret Hart is the one who ended Yokozuna’s championship reign on that card. (Though Prichard also indicates that Luger losing to Yokozuna by disqualification was meant to keep him strong should he ever need to be reinserted into the title picture.)

There is a persistent rumor that Luger was intended to win the WWF Title until the week before Wrestlemania when he blabbed the result to reporters and the finish was changed as a result, but that rumor has been pretty widely debunked by anybody who has direct knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes at the time. Some claim this theory is supported by the fact that Lex appeared on a WWF syndicated television taping prior to Wrestlemania with the belt, but Jim Cornette has indicated on his podcast that this was actually shot as an angle exclusively for the live audience at the taping in which Luger briefly “stole” the belt from rightful champion Yokozuna. It was also implied by Cornette that part of the reason for running an angle where Luger held the belt on that taping would be to screw with so-called smart fans who would be looking for clues as to the Wrestlemania results in shows that were pre-taped to air after the PPV.

Bryan is getting all tangled up:

Why is it illegal to use ropes to aid you in a pin attempt but OK to escape a pin attempt? What’s the kayfabe explanation, both seem like cheating.

It makes sense if you think about pro wrestling like any other sport. Whether it’s soccer, basketball, football, or even amateur wrestling, every sport has a field of play and the action cannot continue if one of the competitors goes out of bounds. In a pro wrestling ring, the ropes are the boundary lines, and if you’re tangled up in them, things need to stop so that the referee can put you back into the field of play.

This is the same reason that, if you watch some older matches, referees will put a five count on a wrestler when they climb up on to the ropes, though eventually everybody decided they were going to forget about that rule.

Don is cool, cocky, and bad:

Is it true that the reason that the Honky Tonk Man won the Intercontinental title from Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was he was suggested by Hulk Hogan while he was in a hallway conversation with Vince McMahon?

That’s how the Honky Tonk Man tells the story himself, including in a February 2015 interview with Hannibal TV. Reportedly, Bad News Brown was originally set to win the championship, but he did not make it to the show where the title change was going to occur, and Hogan just happened to throw out Honky’s name as he and Vince were discussing who should take the belt. You can read more about the circumstances surrounding the Steamboat-to-Honky title change in the August 9 edition of Ask 411.

Brad S. is buying his PPVs on the weekly:

With the new weekly PPV series with the UWN teaming up with the NWA, and the announcement of a new world championship being created, I have a couple of questions about the current state of the UWN and it’s champions:

1) Aside from Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and Championship Wrestling from Arizona, what other promotions exist under the UWN umbrella?

The only other promotion I’m aware of that is a member of the United Wrestling Network is Championship Wrestling from Memphis.

2) From only watching CWFH, it appears they are the flagship brand, since the UWN TV and Tag Team titles are featured as their titles, and an announcement of a United Women’s Championship on a recent episode (along with the Hollywood Heritage Title). Are these titles defended in the other territories or just in CWFH?

The UWN Tag Team Titles were established in 2015, and, based on the records that I could find, have only been defended on UWN or Championship Wrestling from Hollywood shows up to this point.

The UWN Television Title has a little bit more of a storied history, beginning its life in 2011 as the NWA International Television Championship (back when Championship Wrestling from Hollywood was an NWA affiliate) and becoming the Championship Wrestling from Hollywood International Television Championship when the NWA/CWFH split occurred in 2012. It was ultimately rechristened the UWN Television Championship in 2015, around the same time that the UWN Tag Team Titles came into existence.

Though it has mostly been defended on CWFH or UWN shows, the UWN Television Title has popped up on other promotion’s cards throughout its history. In 2011, Scorpio Sky held the belt and defended it on an Empire Wrestling Federation card against Freddy Bravo. In 2012, on another EWF card, Sky wrestled EWF Champion Johnny Starr to a no contest. In early 2013, Willie Mack was the TV Champion, and he defended the title twice on shows promoted by Santino Brothers Wrestling, once against Famous B and once against Ray Rosas. In 2016, champion Tyler Bateman took the title to Alpha Omega Wrestling and defended it against Damien Smith. In 2017, Scorpio Sky was the champion again, and he defended the title on the east coast, far from its California home, defeating David Starr on an CZW show in New Jersey. Finally, in 2018, Ray Rosas as champion defeated Suede Thompson and Tyler Bateman in a three-way match on a show called DRKLGHT Invocation. After that, the records that I have show the title remaining in the UWN/CWFH.

3) What other championships are in the UWN “family” and who are the champions? I know Ray Rosas is the current Hollywood Heritage and Arizona State Champion. Dan Joseph has the United TV title, and Static/Social Distancing are the United Tag champs. What other titles are in CW from Arizona and any other promotions in the UWN?

The UWN maintains its Television and Tag Team Titles as previously mentioned, and CWF Hollywood and CWF Arizona each have the respective “state” titles that you’ve mentioned. Other than that, I’m not aware of any UWN member territories having any additional titles. In fact, I’ve not been able to find any of their television programming online, but from what little I’ve been able to piece together, it seems like CWF Memphis is primarily using footage of CWF Hollywood matches but pairing them with inserts from local television hosts in the Memphis market.

Bryan wants to go to the late night, double feature picture show:

When they have wrestling done as a part of a TV show or movie like The Wrestler, are the wrestlers expected to follow a choreographed script and do everything “fake” like more fake? Is there a different strategy used since they are putting a match on specifically for a film camera and not a live audience? I know a fight scene in a movie is planned out and wrestling matches are ad libbed, are they more tightly controlled when part of a movie, like with a director 10 feet away saying “do it like this?”

There have been hundreds of different television shows and movies that have portrayed professional wrestling matches over the years, and the answer is probably that there are hundreds of different ways that wrestling matches have been shot for those television shows and movies.

If you watch several films involving wrestling, it’s pretty clear that the grapplers are putting on a match the same way that they always would, just with a deeper and more professional camera crew filming them than what they might normally have if they were being taped for a standard rasslin show. However, there are others where the writer and/or director wanted to catch a particular move or a particular spot.

Ultimately, how heavily “produced” a wrestling match in a film or television show is will depend on how much what happens in the bout affects the plot of the greater piece of entertainment. If you just need two guys having a match and your story isn’t impacted by what moves they’re going to be doing, then you can give the wrestlers free reign. However, if you’ve got a plot point that depends on a competitor doing a particular move at a particular time – for example the finishing sequence of The Wrestler – then the director will have a heavier hand.

Hopefully Jeff‘s friends aren’t turning on him:

Back when the HHH version of DX was feuding with the Corporation, there was a point where Shawn Michaels was kicked out of his corporate commissioner role for helping DX. The next week on RAW, he cut a promo alongside DX, implying that he’d been accepted back into the group he founded. I recall a few segments later, he’s shaking hands with DX members before leaving the arena, saying he’s going to go pick up Austin and bring him back. After the door shuts behind him, you can hear DX members saying stuff like, “What goes around comes around,” and then the next time we see Michaels he’s passed out on the windshield of a car, presumably beat up by Corporation members.

My question is about the follow-up to this, or lack thereof. I don’t remember much more happening with Michaels for a while after this, as during this period he tended to pop in and out. If there wasn’t any followup to this as I’m remembering, was there meant to be? The possibility that DX set him up for past betrayals was intriguing, as they seemed to be hinting at. And we never actually saw who beat him up. Or was this just a way to write him off for a while?

The angle that Jeff is referring to took place on the January 4, 1999 episode of Monday Night Raw, the same episode that is famous for Mick Foley’s first WWF Title win which was spoiled by Tony Schiavone on the competing episode of Monday Nitro.

As I understand it, there wasn’t really a long-term plan or intended followup for this angle. Michaels had suffered his significant back injury at the 1998 Royal Rumble, and he put off surgery for that issue for almost a year, hoping that he would be able to return to the ring without it if he just rested himself for a long enough period of time. However, by this point it was clear that surgical intervention was going to be necessary. The angle that is brought up here was intended to take HBK off of TV so that he could have that work on his back performed.

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].

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Ask 411 Wrestling, Ryan Byers