wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Braun Strowman Wrestling’s Least Experienced Main Eventer?

September 20, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Braun Strowman Raw 8-26-19

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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John D. is stepping in between two men that you do not want to mess with:

I was wondering if you have any knowledge about the personal feud between Randy Savage and Road Warrior Hawk. I saw somewhere one time that they hated one another and would get into some heated brawls, but it is not one of the old stories that I seem to hear a lot about. So I was curious on what you can dig up on this.

As is the case with most tales of heat between professional wrestlers, there are two sides to this, and the two sides tell pretty wildly divergent stories.

However, there seems to be some consensus that the bad blood began because of an incident in which Hawk’s fiancée believed that Savage had hit on her. Whether he actually hit on her is open to speculation, but that is what the woman believed, and that is apparently what she reported to the Road Warrior.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the future Mrs. Hawk didn’t say anything about the supposed pass on the night that it happened but instead reported it to the face-painted brawler months and possibly years later, which caused Hawk to go off when he and Savage were both working on a July 17, 1996 New Japan show as part of WCW’s relationship with that company. Savage was scheduled to wrestle Jushin Thunder Liger in a singles match on that card, and, shortly before the match, Hawk allegedly rang Savage’s bell with a strong open-handed strike, only for the two to be separated before anything further could happen. Savage did eventually make it to the ring, and the match with Liger occurred without incident.

Hawk and the Macho Man had another dust-up three years later at a 1999 Kid Rock concert in Florida . . . because if you’re going to get into a schoolyard fight over something crass another guy may or may not have said to your girl five years earlier, what better place is there to do it than at a Kid Rock show? Anyway, as soon as the two men saw each other, Savage punched Hawk square in the face. Those closer to Hawk in the situation call it a sucker punch, but pretty much everybody agrees that he went down, but not out.

There are also versions of events that involve Savage’s girlfriend, who was a WCW television character for a while as Gorgeous George, getting into it with Hawk’s wife. There was also reportedly a lawsuit filed over the incident with Hawk seeking money damages from Savage, though I wasn’t able to find any more concrete support for its existence than various parties referencing it in their shoot interviews.

And that’s the story of the ill will between Macho and Hawk.

Night Wolf the Wise wants me to engage in some prognostication:

A couple months back, I asked you to envision what WWE would look like after Vince McMahon’s retirement. You gave an interesting insight to how WWE would run without Vince. Now I’ll ask you the same question with a different twist to it. How does the wrestling landscape as a whole look post-Vince McMahon? I’m talking about AEW, Impact Wrestling, NWA, and every indy wrestling promotion. How does wrestling as a whole look once Vince McMahon retires? Does it change anything, or do things remain as they are now?

If you take AEW out of the equation, I would say unequivocally that Vince McMahon’s retirement wouldn’t affect the status of any wrestling promotions outside of WWE. The E is so much larger than any of those other companies that it will be virtually impossible for any of them to become competitive. They don’t have the money, they don’t have the fanbase, and, hell, they don’t have the television exposure to obtain the fanbase. Whether Vince McMahon is on top of WWE, whether Triple H is on top of WWE, or whether one hundred monkeys pounding away on one hundred typewriters are on top of WWE, the promotion’s exposure from being on the USA Network – and soon to be Fox – is an insurmountable advantage unless and until a competitor gets an equivalent television deal, and the presence of Vince McMahon will have little to nothing to do with whether a wrestling promotion other than WWE can land a contract with a high-profile network.

And that is what makes AEW a horse of a different color.

They actually *have* a television deal that is just as good as that of Monday Night Raw, so, at the time I am writing this column, you have to consider them viable competition unless and until they louse it up and fail to capitalize on their golden opportunity. Nobody knows whether they will do that or whether they will actually be successful in establishing their promotion. Because of that, I really can’t accurately predict how Vince McMahon stepping aside might affect them, because they’re a totally unknown commodity.

I will say, though, that McMahon getting out of WWE’s creative process might actually make it *easier* for the company to engage in the sort of long-term story building that grips television viewers, as it’s been reported for many years now that Vince changes his mind on the company’s creative direction fairly often, which makes consistent booking difficult. If WWE’s booking is improved by that increased consistency and they maintain their dominant position on cable, Vince McMahon’s departure may actually make the company a more formidable opponent for AEW than they currently are.

Long Time Fan was the final WCW Women’s Cruiserweight Champion:

While looking at some old title belt histories recently, I noticed that Larry Zbyszko was the last man to hold both the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and the Western States Heritage Championship (Jim Crockett Promotions). Are there any other wrestlers who were the last ones to hold a title before the company folded or the title was discontinued two or more times?

Yes, this has happened on a few different occasions.

The king in this category is puroresu legend Jumbo Tsuruta. As most readers of this column will know, since 1989, the primary singles championship in All Japan Pro Wrestling has been the Triple Crown, which until recently was represented by three different belts. Those belts and the name “Triple Crown” reference the fact that the title began its life as three unified championships:

1. The NWA International Heavyweight Title, which was a Japanese offshoot of an American NWA Title originally held by Lou Thesz.

2. The Pacific Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Title, a title essentially created by All Japan.

3. The NWA United National Heavyweight Title, which started as a championship defended in the Los Angeles NWA territory but was taken to Japan by the original Sheik.

Tsuruta won all three of these titles, first by defeating Bruiser Brody, who held the International Heavyweight Title, on April 19, 1988, and then by defeating Stan Hansen, who held both the PWF Title and the United National Title, almost exactly a year later on April 18, 1989. Because of this, Tsuruta is recognized as the last champion in the lineage of the NWA International Heavyweight Title, the Pacific Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Title, and the NWA United National Heavyweight Title, in addition to being recognized as the first champion in the lineage of the AJPW Triple Crown.

Interestingly, Tsuruta also did something very similar with All Japan’s Tag Team Titles, which were formed by the unification of the Pacific Wrestling Federation Tag Team Titles (created by AJPW) and the NWA International Tag Team Titles (created in JWA, the predecessor promotion to AJPW and NJPW). Tsuruta and his partner Yoshiaki Yatsu first defeated Genichiro Tenryu and Ashura Hara for the PWF Titles on June 4, 1988 and the unseated the Road Warriors on June 10, 1988, making them the last holders of the individual tag titles and the first ever AJPW World Tag Team Champions.

Thus, Jumbo Tsuruta has held not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE different championships at the time that they became defunct.

There are a few other people who have held more than one title of a major promotion at the time the title became defunct, namely:

1. Tiger Jeet Singh held three different New Japan championships when they went the way of the dodo. He was the last NWF North American Champion, which was originally a regional championship from Ohio that was recognized by NJPW in the late 1970s. He was also the only NJPW Asia Champion in the history of that title and held the final NJPW Asia Tag Team Championship with his partner Umanosuke Ueda.

2. In 2002, Rob Van Dam unified both the WWE European Title and the WWE Hardcore Title in to the Intercontinental Title, making him both the final European Champion and the final Hardcore Champion.

3. Tatsumi Fujinami was the last WWF International Heavyweight Champion and one-half of the last WWF International Tag Team Champions, with his partner Kengo Kimura.

4. In the 1960s and 1970s, the AWA promoted a Midwest Heavyweight Title and Midwest Tag Team Titles. Stan Pulaski, who also wrestled for a time as Stan Vachon, the kayfabe brother of the Mad Dog and the Butcher, was the final holder of both titles. In an additional trivia note, Pulaski’s partner in that final Midwest Tag Team Championship duo was Reggie Parks, who is more famous these days as a designer of championship belts.

5. The WWF World Martial Arts Title was essentially created for Antonio Inoki, and, though he did lose it at one point, he was the first and last guy to hold it. He was also the final NWF World Heavyweight Champion, which came from the same Ohio territory mentioned above and was, for a time, adopted by NJPW as its primary belt. (The NWF Title was briefly revived in the early 2000s, with Shinsuke Nakamura being the last person to hold that version of the championship.)

6. Seiji Sakaguchi was the final man to hold the short-lived WWF North American Title, even though many people think that championship’s lineage ended when Pat Patterson was awarded the Intercontinental Title while also holding the North American belt. Sakaguchi was also one of the final men to hold the Los Angeles version of the NWA North American Tag Team Titles (also recognized by NJPW), along with his partner Riki Choshu.

7. Finally, CIMA was the last man to hold a couple of relatively obscure championships associated with the Ultimo Dragon Gym, the predecessor to Dragon Gate. Those titles were the Ultimo Dragon Gym Championship and the Dragon Gym International Light Heavyweight Title.

If you can think of more examples, feel free to mention them down in the comments.

Arthur is all brains and some Bruan:

I was reading an interview with Braun Strowman, and he references his inexperienced beginnings, stated he debuted on Raw with like less than 8 appearances in a wrestling ring.

It got me wondering: is he the least experienced wrester to get the push he has?

Is he the best inexperienced wrestler of all time? Or is there someone else with similar experience levels who seemed to be a natural and excelled beyond belief? I know Kurt Angle comes to mind, but he had been training quite a bit before debuting on the main roster (if I remember correctly). Or maybe Ronda Rousey?

Rousey is a good answer to the question, as she had zero matches prior to her WWE debut, which was in one of the most heavily promoted bouts at Wrestlemania XXXIV. She remained the most heavily pushed woman in the company for the entirety of her one-year run and managed to use her popularity to turn Becky Lynch into a major star in her own right.

There is one other stellar example of somebody who was pushed just as much – if not more than – Strowman and Rousey right out of the gate, though.

Who is it?

Well, it’s the Big Show.

The November 6, 1995 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which covered that year’s Halloween Havoc pay per view in which Show (then known as The Giant) won the WCW World Heavyweight Title from Hulk Hogan, confirmed that the match was only the second one that Paul Wight had ever worked. His only other in-ring appearance came on December 3, 1994 on an independent show in in Clementon, New Jersey, which was promoted by the Monster Factory’s Larry Sharpe, who had a hand in giving Show some of his early training. His opponent in that match was a guy named Frank Finnegan, who was a Jersey-area indy guy throughout the early 1990s.

From there, The Giant was essentially hand-picked to be a major foil from the Hulkster, which meant that his second ever match was on a major pay per view against the guy who was, at the time, the biggest star that American wrestling had ever produced, with a world championship on the line. Oh, and he won the belt, too, albeit via screwy means. I think that beats out Braun’s push, both in terms of how hard it was right out of the gate and in terms of how high-profile it was.

In terms of quality, neither Strowman nor the Big Show were all that great as in-ring performers right out of the gate, but they were both quick studies and became serviceable big men inside of a few months. I do ultimately think that Show was the better of the two, though, as he was leaner than Braun is during the early stages of his career and was more athletic, meaning he was able to move a heck of a lot better.

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].