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Ask 411 Wrestling: The Hulk Hogan Black Eye at WrestleMania IX

October 6, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Hulk Hogan WrestleMania 9 LOL

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 is getting ready for Halloween . . . or should I say Hall-o-Fiend?

1. What is your honest opinion of Bray Wyatt’s new gimmick the Fiend?

I’ve not seen everything that he’s done, but, from the bits and pieces that I’ve caught online, it seems to have been a fairly effective way to rehab what was basically a dead character. The look is interesting and unique, the entrance is amazing, he’s been put over strong, and the fact that he’s only wrestled on very limited occasions should make him feel like a special attraction, similar to what has kept guys like Brock Lesnar and Goldberg effective over the last several years.

The only part of the whole act that doesn’t really work for me is the Firefly Fun House segments. Don’t get me wrong, they’re somewhat clever in the sense that they contain subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to the history of Bray Wyatt’s career, but I have yet to see how they in any way tie in to the storyline motivations of the Fiend character. They seem like clever skits just for the sake of having clever skits, not for the sake of advancing any particular narrative. That’s why I refer to them as “clever” and not “smart.”

In a way, they remind me of Wyatt’s promos from before the Fiend transition, which were always superbly delivered but almost never said anything of substance if you actually listened to the words being said.

2. What would have happened if Bray Wyatt had the Fiend when he had faced the Undertaker at Wrestlemania? Would it have made things better or worse for Wyatt?

I don’t know that it would have made a difference. There were two problems with that match, the first being that Wyatt wasn’t portrayed as being a particularly credible threat to the Undertaker in the buildup and the second being that Bray was going into the bout with an ankle injury, meaning that the in-ring performance was subpar, even worse than what you would normally expect out of Wyatt, who doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for putting on classic matches.

Either of those things just as easily could have happened to Wyatt in his current gimmick. The problems were the push and the injury, not the character.

3. I know WWE isn’t big on stables, but what if they did a stable with The Fiend, the Demon and Aleister Black?

Given the talent of those performers, I’m sure that it would do just fine if WWE were committed to pushing them. However, if the promotion isn’t going to get behind the group, it would wind up getting nowhere fast.

John D. is wrapped in exploding barbed wire:

While listening to the 411 podcast about Lucha Underground, I heard talk about Wrestling Society X. I had never heard of this organization before so I looked it up. IT WAS AWESOME! Can you tell me more about this federation? This was the time that I was not watching a lot of wrestling so I missed everything about it. Things like why it went under so quickly, what, if any, were the future plans and how they managed to get such amazing talent! Also, was it filmed in the same place as Lucha Underground?

Wrestling Society X wasn’t really a wrestling promotion in the traditional sense of the term. They were really just a pro wrestling television show. I say that because the company’s content was developed specifically for TV, and they didn’t tour or host any live shows outside of their tapings, nor was the program was geared towards selling pay per views, live event tickets, or other products as most promotions do. The television show was, in and of itself, WSX’s primary product.

WSX came about as a result of collaboration between two men, Kevin Kleinrock and Houston Curtis. Curtis was a former television executive and professional poker player (what a combination) who had worked with MTV in the past, and, in the early 2000s, had his own production company called Big Vision Entertainment. Meanwhile, in the mid-1990s, Kleinrock was a teenage wrestling fan who worked his way into a variety of odd jobs for Southern California independent promotions. Over the years, he became more integrated into the wrestling scene in that area until, in about 1999, he got hooked up with controversial porn magnate Rob Black and helped Black establish Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW), an attempt to run an ECW-style promotion on the west coast.

Though there were some later revival attempts, the main run of XPW fizzled out by 2003, and Kleinrock and Curtis somehow connected, with Curtis’s Big Vision starting to release a variety of professional wrestling DVDs, most notably the ECW reunion show Hardcore Homecoming – an answer to WWE’s One Night Stand featuring the ECW alums who WWE didn’t want to use – and a series of shoot interviews called Pro Wrestling’s Ultimate Insiders. It’s worth noting that Big Vision wasn’t a company exclusively focused on pro wrestling. They also released a number of DVDs focusing on how to play poker and blackjack, and their most interesting projects were probably their first and their last releases, the first being an educational DVD for very young children called “My Baby Know It All,” which was hosted by former pinup girl Natasha Henstridge, and the last being “Cheech and Chong’s Animated Movie,” an attempt by the 1970s comedy duo to cash in on the trend of R-rated animation.

While Kleinrock and Curtis were working at Big Vision, they used Curtis’s old connections at MTV to sell the idea for the pro wrestling television show that would ultimately become Wrestling Society X. At the time, we were not too far removed from the heyday of TV shows like Jackass and Viva La Bam, and WSX always seemed to me to be an effort to combine that SoCal skater/pop punk culture with professional wrestling. After a pilot was produced, MTV ordered ten episodes of WSX that aired on the network in early 2007. There was also a companion series called WSXtra which was available exclusively through MTV’s website. (Fun fact: I was the guy tasked with reviewing WSXtra for 411mania.)

I thought that the WSXtra product was pretty fun, as it featured fast-paced in-ring action that incorporated things like explosions and barbed wire that you weren’t going to see in other mainstream wrestling promotions of the era. Plus, as John mentions, there was a fairly strong roster, including X-Pac, Vampiro, Joey Ryan, TJP (under his former gimmick of Puma), Masato Yoshino, Genki Horiguchi, Teddy Hart, Scorpio Sky, Jimmy Jacobs, Colt Cabana (under a hood as old timey wrestler “Matt Classic,”) and even a pre-WWE Seth Rollins under his old moniker of Tyler Black, forming an emo-themed tag team with Jacobs called “Do It For Her.” How did they get all of those wrestlers? It’s not rocket science, really. They were mainly just wrestlers from the SoCal indy scene who were local to where the shows were being taped, supplemented by a couple of fly-ins here and there.

Unfortunately, WSX was not long for this world. It debuted on MTV on January 30, 2007, and the second, third, and fourth episodes aired in a regular weekly timeslot throughout February. However, at that point, there was a decision made by the powers that be at MTV that the show just wasn’t connecting with audiences as they had hoped, and episodes five through nine were “burned off” by being aired in rapid succession on March 13 and 14, with all of those episodes airing after 11 p.m. The tenth episode of the series, which was to feature an exploding cage match, never saw the light of day on MTV.

With that, Wrestling Society X was cancelled. And, with that cancellation, there was not going to be any more WSX. Again, it was always envisioned as a television show and not a wrestling promotion, and there was no interest in continuing it without the support of its network.

There apparently were some plans roughed out for a second season. You can read about those in this interview with Kevin Kleinrock by Paste magazine, which also goes in to quite a bit more detail about the history of the WSX idea and the production of the show. Also, in case you’re not already aware, there was a DVD set of the entire run of WSX released by Big Vision Entertainment, and you can still find copies of it floating around if you know where to look.

Two weeks ago, I answered a question about the black eye Hulk Hogan was sporting at Wrestlemania IX. APinOZ wants to follow up on that:

Re: the Hogan black eye at WMIX; there was a story going round that Savage was unimpressed with Hogan’s politicking himself into the world title match with Yokozuna to close the show, as Savage was good friends and an admirer of Bret Hart.

So my first question sort of relates to that: Did Hogan have the black eye when he came out for his tag team match earlier in the show? Did he have it in the day(s) before the show?

When did the WWF decide to have Hogan close WMIX as champion? There was no hints or indication that would happen in any of the pre-show angles.

In my original answer, I didn’t mention the rumor involving Savage popping Hogan due to Hogan’s taking the WWF Title off of Bret Hart in part because, as near as I can tell, it’s totally baseless and because, even among totally baseless rumors, its popularity is a distant second to the rumor behind the black eye that I did mention in the column, i.e. that Savage punched Hogan due to jealousy involving Miss Elizabeth.

To answer AP’s questions: Yes, the black eye is clearly visible when Hogan enters for his Tag Team Title match with Brutus Beefcake and Money, Incorporated. The announce team (which included Randy Savage) acknowledged the shiner and claimed that there were thugs hired by Money, Inc. to rough Hogan up at the gym the night before. I cannot find any record of Hogan making any public appearances in the buildup to the show, so it’s hard to tell exactly when the injury surfaced. Hogan was mainly doing taped interviews of WWF programming to promote Wrestlemania, so you can’t really use any of those as a benchmark. The black eye isn’t present in any of them, but they could have been in the can several weeks before the event.

Again, based on the reporting at the time, I think the boating accident explanation is the most plausible and anything else is a desperate search for a sexier backstory.

As far as the timing of the decision to make Hogan the champion coming out of the event, that’s the subject of some dispute. In his autobiography, Bret Hart claims that he was not told about that outcome for the match until he arrived in Las Vegas the day before Wrestlemania IX. In his autobiography, Hulk Hogan claims that he came up with the idea for the finish and gave it to Vince McMahon when he was in Las Vegas for Wrestlemania, which, again, would only be a day or two before the event. However, on his “Something to Wrestle With” podcast, Bruce Prichard, who was working for the company backstage at the time, says that the idea was developed several weeks in advance of Wrestlemania and that the idea behind the plot was to have a shocking finish that would encourage people to order an encore presentation of the pay per view the weekend after it happened, which was a new offering that the WWF and pay per view companies were trying out for the first time.

Of the three accounts, Hart and Prichard’s aren’t necessarily inconsistent, because the idea could have been several weeks old but Hart could have only been told about it the day before the show. However, Hogan and Prichard’s accounts contradict each other. Of the two, Prichard strikes me as being more credible here, because if the idea was just to get the strap on to Hogan, that could have been accomplished in any number of different ways. Prichard’s explanation is the only reason that gives a legitimate business reason for the impromptu match and title change.

Bryan J. is taking us south of the border:

My question is Wrestlemania venues. They’ve had them in Canada, considering how popular wrestling is in Mexico, would there ever be a possibility of Mexico City hosting one? Besides the language differences would there be other logistical issues?

A 2012 interview with Alberto Del Rio by the Spanish-language soccer website MedioTiempo includes a claim by Del Rio that, at one point, the promotion was planning a pay per view for Mexico City in 2012 and was considering holding Wrestlemania there in the future, but plans changed when attendance was disappointing for the promotion’s 2011 tour in the country. Thus, if Del Rio is a reliable source (who knows), this was potentially in the cards at one point in time.

If I were a WWE executive, though, I would be a bit hesitant to take the biggest show of the year to Mexico. There are certainly venues that could handle the event, with Estadio Azteca, an open-air soccer stadium, having the capacity to host a Mania-sized crowd. However, my concern would be whether the majority of the Wrestlemania fanbase is willing and able to travel to Mexico City in order to watch the event.

Over the last several years, Wrestlemania and the weekend surrounding it have become a destination for wrestling fans from all over the United States. Though fans from overseas and folks local to the city hosting WM are certainly in the audience, a large segment of people in attendance are people who have flown in from elsewhere in the U.S. If you host the event in a country other than the United States, you run the risk of costing yourself that portion of the audience, because you add logistic difficulties to them showing up. International flights are more expensive, they’re going to have to deal with language and cultural differences once you get to the city, and you’re going to have to get a passport to attend the event if you don’t already have one. That might turn off quite a few people who are comfortable travelling within the United States or Canada to attend an event of this nature.

There is a possibility that Mexican fans could turn out in droves and fill in the gaps that would be caused by Americans not being willing to leave their country, but nobody knows whether that will actually happen until it happens, and, if you’ve got a comfortable business model that works year-after-year, why bother taking the risk for something that would not be likely to get you any greater return?

That is why, though I do not think it is totally impossible, I would be a bit surprised if Mania left the U.S. in the foreseeable future.

I think that Tyler from Winnipeg is binging old Nitros on the WWE Network, because he’s asked me two questions that make almost no sense otherwise:

Is the 94-0 Goldberg/La Parka underrated?

No, because nobody ever really talks about it, so you can’t really call it overrated or underrated. It’s a match that doesn’t have a legacy to speak of.

Looking back on the June 1, 1998 Nitro match, there’s not a ton to say about it, because it’s a twenty-nine second squash. However, I will admit that, as twenty-nine second squashes go, it’s got to be among the most entertaining. The crowd was pretty electric and the wrestlers gave them exactly what they wanted, i.e. a spear and a jackhammer and nothing more. La Parka even got to incorporate his own gimmick into the very brief match, as it opened with him hitting a chairshot on Goldberg (which was no-sold) and doing a little dance before he was smeared across the mat.

If this match is known for anything, it’s the fact that Parka tore his ACL while taking Goldberg’s spear, which is immediately apparent if you watch what Park does with his leg after the move. I remember this being used by a knock against Goldberg by his online detractors at the time, as they claimed he was reckless and unsafe to work with, though in viewing the tape back it seems to be just one of those things that happens occasionally in a wrestling match as opposed to something that’s specifically attributable to Goldberg’s inexperience.

On to question number two . . .

How many stars do you give for Goldberg vs The Giant on Nitro?

There were actually three different Goldberg vs. Giant matches in Nitro history, and I’m not sure which one you are talking about.

The first encounter between the two men saw Goldberg defeat the Giant via disqualification in a WCW Title match on August 17, 1998. The DQ was forced by interference from the Disciple (Ed Leslie) who was in the Giant’s corner. Two months later, Goldberg retained his title against the Giant again, this time by count out in a no disqualification match on October 12, 1998. The Giant walked out on that match following interference by Stevie Ray and Diamond Dallas Page, the latter of whom was getting ready to challenge Goldberg at Halloween Havoc. In the final match between the two, held on November 23, 1998, Goldberg actually got to pin the Giant in a title defense held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Though the moves are varied somewhat, structurally the three matches are all more-or-less the same thing, with the two wrestlers relying primarily on power moves and their finishers in short bouts with incredibly lively crowds. The longest of the matches was actually the first one, which went on for a whopping three minutes and twenty-five seconds.

I think that the highest rating that I could give any of the matches is *, because they’re all brief and none of them are technical marvels, though they’re all entertaining in their own right. Probably the best of the series is the final encounter between the two men, in part because it’s got a proper finish and in part because it’s the only match in which you see Goldberg get hoist the Giant up for a jackhammer, which works surprisingly well.

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].

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Ask 411 Wrestling, Ryan Byers