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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Chris Jericho One of the Greatest of All Time?

April 19, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Chris Jericho

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What has Stuart become now that he’s betrayed everyone he’s ever loved, pushed them all away?

Do you think there’s a legitimate argument that Chris Jericho could be considered the greatest of all time over the likes of Hogan, Austin, Flair and Co?

Sure he may not have had as many championship wins or drawn as much money but the sheer longevity of his run over multiple companies and his ability to constantly reinvent himself (far more than anyone else I can remember) must surely put him right up there.

Here’s the thing. In the question you say that Chris Jericho hasn’t drawn as much money as Hogan, Flair, or Austin. In my opinion, you CAN’T be considered one of the greatest of all time – at least not at that level – unless you’ve drawn that sort of money. The paramount goal of a professional wrestler, at least historically, has been to convince fans to spend their hard-earned money on live event tickets or, more recently, pay per view or merchandise.

Don’t get me wrong, Jericho is a personal favorite of mine and has been since the 90s, and he’s had a career that 90% of professional wrestlers would envy, but the question is whether he belongs in the absolute top-tier of everybody who has laced up a pair of boots, and I would put him outside of that group.

I addressed a similar question about Bret Hart in an edition of this column that ran back in February, at which point I laid out some of my criteria for tiers of the greatest wrestlers of all time. If you apply those criteria, I’d probably put Jericho into the third tier of greats, alongside wrestlers like Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, and others who had solid careers and were excellent in-ring performers but didn’t do much in order to cross over into the mainstream consciousness or become the focuses of their promotions during particularly successful periods.

From the greatest of all time, DC wants to take us to some of the most obscure of all time:

Back in the 80s, I remember a wrestler on World Championship Wrestling on TBS named “Nighthawk.” I remember him being pretty good. Any idea of who he was is or his background ? Also, what happened to Ranger Ross and Panama Jack?

Nighthawk was Joe Coltrane (sometimes misspelled as “Joel” Coltrane), and there is surprisingly little information out there about him. He appeared in the Mid-Atlantic territory in March 1986 and then vanished from the territory in May of the same year after losing a Television Title match to Arn Anderson. Coincidentally, just last month the wrestling history podcast Between the Sheets did an episode covering the week in wrestling history that included Coltrane’s debut, and, despite the fact that the show was hosted by three pro wrestling journalists and historians with some pretty good chops, nobody had much of an idea where Joe Coltrane came from or where he went, except for noting that he had been a high school football star in the Carolinas and had a college football run at East Tennessee State before trying out for some semi-professional teams and ultimately landing in wrestling. They weren’t even sure who trained him, though they speculated it might have been Nelson Royal, and everybody was pretty sure that his first appearance in Mid-Atlantic was his first appearance anywhere.

As noted, Nighthawk’s run with Crockett was phenomenally short, though it looked like he was going to factor into the feud between Jimmy Valiant and Pez Whatley that began when Whatley turned heel after Valiant referred to him as one of the “best black athletes” in wrestling as opposed to simply one of the “best athletes” in wrestling.

Outside of his run in Mid-Atlantic, I’ve only seen records of two other Nighthawk matches, one being an August 25, 1986 bout against David Haskins in Memphis and the other being a tag match on February 4, 1989 in the USWA. Presumably he would have been wrestling some other place in the intervening time, because it seems really odd that a guy on his level would pop up for a one-off match three years after having done anything else, but I’m not seeing any record of other matches.

In the February 15, 1988 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, a reader asked Dave Meltzer where Nighthawk went, and his response was that, after he left Mid-Atlantic, Coltrane was going to debut for the Bill Watts UWF but that “some problems resulted and he never showed up there and hasn’t been heard from since.”

The only other reference I’ve seen to Nighthawk out there is a Ranger Ross shoot interview from Highspots, in which Ross claims that when he originally tried to get into Mid-Atlantic he was told by JJ Dillon that there wasn’t a spot for him because they “already had a black guy,” with Coltrane being the black guy in question.

So that’s the career of Joe Coltrane, which raises a lot more questions than it does answers. If anybody out there has more information, please feel free to shoot it our way.

Going back to Ranger Ross, what ever became of him?

Ross’s original NWA/WCW run ran for almost exactly a year between 1989 and 1990. Immediately after that, he was sent on a tour of All Japan Pro Wrestling from May through June of ’90. When he got back stateside, he worked for South Atlantic Pro Wrestling, a company that was promoted by George Scott and was essentially an effort to revive the Mid-Atlantic territory after WCW had become a national promotion. Eventually Ross was brought back in to WCW in 1991, but in the aforementioned shoot interview, he indicates that he was mainly used for personal appearances instead of matches, with his speculation being that the company brought him back mainly to get good press from his legitimate military background.

Ross was let go by the company for budgetary reasons in 1991, after which he attempted to sue WCW for racial discrimination, claiming that he wasn’t pushed as hard as white wrestlers, that he wasn’t paid as well as white wrestlers, and that his termination was racially motivated. WCW ultimately won the lawsuit on summary judgment in 1994. The judge primarily found that Ross couldn’t sue for discrimination under the law that he did because he was an independent contractor and not an employee. However, the court went on to say that, even if the discrimination law applied, Ross wasn’t discriminated against because he made more money than about two-thirds of the roster, because he was released with ten other wrestlers, all of whom were white except for him, and because WCW couldn’t be found to be discriminating against black wrestlers in terms of giving out pushes, because Ron Simmons was WCW Champion during that period. (You can find the full order dismissing Ross’s lawsuit online if you’re curious to read more.)

The ranger didn’t return to wrestling after his time with WCW for a variety reasons, including some shoulder/collarbone issues and probably also because of his lawsuit. Eventually, according to his shoot interview, he fell on hard financial times and also had some custody issues with the mother of his child. He was in a low place, and this lead to him embezzling from a probation office that he was working for and setting fire to a filing cabinet that contained evidence of his misdeeds. On top of that, he robbed a bank. With all of his legal issues, Ross was sent to prison for eight years.

When Ross got out, he went back to school and became a minister. He also briefly returned to wrestling for a handful of indy shows in Georgia and Alabama in 2005 and 2006.

And, finally, let’s talk Panama Jack. I’m only aware of one Panama Jack in wrestling, and he is a luchador (actually Panama Jack Daniels) from Panama who has worked mostly in Central and South America but has also popped up in Mexico and the United States from time-to-time during his career, which began in 2001 and continued until about 2015 as near as I can tell.

However, based on the other wrestlers asked about in this question, I can only assume that DC meant to name somebody else, maybe Savannah Jack? Savannah was a short-lived wrestler who worked in the Bill Watts UWF in 1986 and 1987. Like a lot of guys who Watts took a shine to, he was a former college football player, specifically from the University of Minnesota. Jack was part of a long line of black stars that Watts brought into the territory and tried to push as a replacement for the Junkyard Dog, the star that the promotion had been built around when it had its greatest success.

Savannah Jack got out of wrestling because he had heart issues. He was in his mid-30s when he got into wrestling, and he admittedly had been on steroids for many years, which he always claimed were the cause of his health problems. According to the January 30, 2012 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Jack never really sought the spotlight after getting out of wrestling and worked a variety of odd jobs in Minneapolis after he left the ring. He suffered a series of strokes and heart attacks beginning in the early 2000s, and in 2012 he passed away from those heart issues at the age of 63.

Bryan J. is level-headed:

My question is about the walkway to the ring. In the early 90’s WCW had a walk way that was at the same level as the ring. When you get to the ring you don’t have climb up, you just go through the ropes. You think we should bring this motif to WWE? I think they do it in Japan too. It makes the entrances look cooler, makes run ins look better, and you can do awesome spots like clotheslining someone INTO the ring. What’s your opinion? Too hard logistically? Not worth the trouble?

I’ve always enjoyed the look of the entrance ramp connecting directly to the ring, for all of the reasons that Bryan has mentioned – particularly the cool dives and other spots it allows wrestlers to do from the outside of the ring to the inside. Since WWE is supposed to have two major shows now that are different “brands,” using this setup would be an easy way to visually distinguish one from the other, though the E seemingly wants to that distinction to be as minimal as possible aside from changing the set’s primary color scheme from red to blue.

I will say that, in reading some other people’s thoughts on this style of ramp, the only somewhat legitimate argument that I can see against it is that it eats up a good portion of the ringside area, which limits the angles from which your cameramen can get shots and also limits opportunities for fighting at ringside. In particular, you’ll note that certain dives in WWE matches are usually done to side of the ring that the ramp is on, presumably because it limits the possibility of wrestlers smacking into guard rails and/or fans.

So, the setup has its pros and its cons depending on what you want to do with it. Of course, that leads me to a simple question:

Why does the set have to be the same every time out?

Obviously, there are some cost savings to uniformity, but you can’t tell me that the world’s major wrestling promotions don’t have the money necessary to produce and transport a handful of different sets so that the show doesn’t have to look identical on every single show. Variety is the spice of life, and I’ve always enjoyed it when sets for wrestling shows have varied so that performers can incorporate them into their matches in unique ways.

Mohamed sent these in as two separate questions in two separate emails, but I’m just going to smoosh them together:

Why did the Ultimate Warrior go to WCW? Why did Randy Savage leave the WWF?

I actually covered the second half of this question back in the December 17 edition of this column. The short version is that WCW was offering him more money, and both Savage and Tom Prichard have also alluded to the fact that the Macho Man may have wanted more of an opportunity to be an active in-ring competitor than what Vince McMahon and the WWF were willing to allow at the time.

As far as the Ultimate Warrior is concerned, that also revolves primarily around money. Warrior had not wrestled since June 25, 1996 when WCW started talking to him in 1998, with WCW’s interest in the guy picking up because the WWF was starting to rival them in television ratings again, and they felt they needed something to turn the tide. This lead to them giving Warrior what was, at the time, a sweetheart deal to return to the ring. According to the June 15, 1998 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Warrior was being paid around $1 million to appear on between 36 and 38 shows, the vast majority of which he would not even be wrestling on.

Though that might not sound too impressive given the volume of part-timers who have big WWE contracts these days, back in 1998 it was a phenomenal deal that the Warrior would have been crazy to pass up.

Sebkane has three totally unrelated questions:

1. Is Asuka married as well as being a mother?

I’ve not seen any indication that Asuka is married.

2. Years ago, one of the “Apter mags” was one called Wrestling Superstars. In that magazine they would have a section devoted to a dream match/card. I was wondering what all issues had a section for dream matches and/or if there is a list of what the matches/cards were.

I feel like I’m striking out for you, but I am not aware of and upon searching could not find any archives of the dream match columns from Wrestling Superstars magazine. However, it looks like there are plenty of back issues available on eBay and Amazon, so maybe you could be the one to build that database.

3. Back in the day, guys like Roddy Piper and Jake Robert’s would be at or near the top of the card yet never win a title. Why did the WWE put the title on Wyatt/Fiend? Do they not see him as someone who can get by without a title?

I don’t think that the company feels like Wyatt is incapable of getting over without the title. Instead, I think that the difference you’re seeing is that WWE on the whole is booked quite differently than it was thirty-five years ago. It used to be that title changes were far less frequent than they currently are, and the company was built around one major babyface star who would hold the championship more often than not. (This doesn’t just apply to Hulk Hogan – you could say the same thing about Sammartino, Morales, and Backlund.)

Nowadays, if you become a main event wrestler in WWE, you are virtually guaranteed to hold a world title at some point, simply because the promotion has so much more high-level television product than they used to, and they feel like stories have to be advanced more rapidly and therefore titles have to change hands more quickly in order for them to have material to fill up all of that TV time.

Uzoma is staying gold, Ponyboy:

Was Alex Marvez suppose to commentate regularly on AEW before being removed from the position?

That’s correct. However, he didn’t work out as well as was planned, so his position in the company was adjusted.

Tyler from Winnipeg is still playing with dolls:

Is anyone one person credited for coming up with the wrestling figure idea?

I don’t know if there is one specific person who came up with the idea, but the first line of professional wrestling action figures came out in the late 1960s in Japan and were produced by a company called Bullmark. Bullmark is primarily known for developing figures based on the Godzilla films and the Ultraman television series. However, they also secured the license to create toys in the likenesses of the stars of the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (JWA), the first major wrestling promotion in Japanese history. Legends like Rikidozan, Giant Baba, and Antonio Inoki were all included in the lineup, and the figures were so popular that there were reproductions of the original line made in the mid-2000s. You can still find several of those reproductions floating around on eBay and similar resale sites if you’re interested in picking one up.

IMissMarkingOut is 2020’s reigning toughman champion:

Was Bart Gunn vs Butterbean a legit shoot match like the Brawl For All or was it pre planned for Gunn to lose in 30 seconds( rumored to be as punishment for winning that tournament.) ? If it was legit, was there a plan in place had it taken time away from other matches on the Mania 15 card?

Yes, like at least the majority of the Brawl for All matches, Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean was a shoot.

What were the plans if the match ran long?

The answer is that the match was never going to run long. The Brawl for All rules stated that each match consisted of three sixty second rounds. There were judges on hand to render a decision in the event that the fight went the distance. With a maximum of only three minutes of in-ring action, you’re probably looking at ten minutes for the whole segment max, so you just have to have a plan in place that accounts for that maximum time with some matches being padded (or the show going off the air slightly earlier) if it runs shorter.

As a side piece of trivia, Butterbean was not the original opponent considered for Gunn. According to issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter from January 1999, the WWF talked to both Kimo Leopoldo and Tank Abbott about coming in for the bout. The exact reason Kimo didn’t sign up wasn’t mentioned, but apparently Abbott demanded $55,000 for the match, which the Fed thought was too pricey. Even though things didn’t work out with the WWF, Tank did sign with WCW and debuted in December of the same year.

In ANOTHER side piece of trivia, this actually wasn’t Butterbean’s last involvement in professional wrestling. Between May 2009 and March 2012, he appeared on nine different independent wrestling shows, with the most notable cards being promoted by the Insane Clown Posse’s Juggalo Championship Wrestling. The Bean did battle with indy stalwarts like Trent Acid, and even “Sterling” James Keenan – later known as Corey Graves. Butterbean’s last foray into wrestling came on March 31, 2012, when he appeared on the first-ever pro wrestling card in Guyana of all places. I’m not sure how exactly this show came about, but 411 covered it at the time, and Butterbean came out victorious against Cliff “Domino” Compton on the show.

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].