wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is John Cena the Ultimate Company Man?

March 8, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Byers
John Cena

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling! I’m Ryan Byers, also known as Diet Sforcina, and, in case you missed it last week (as at least one commenter did), I’m filling in for the man himself this week and next.

That being said, if you’re got something that you would like to ask me specifically as opposed to our favorite Aussie, feel free to e-mail it to me, and I’ll do my best to get it in.

I’ll do my best to get it in.

That’s what he said.

Wait, wrong sitcom . . .

Anyway, BANNER.

Zeldas!

Check out Mat’s Drabble blog, 1/10 of a Picture!

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Last week, I talked about situations in which WWE wrestlers main eventing a pay per view faced each other on the Raw immediately beforehand. Several people noted how ridiculously long the answer was. For the record, that’s a product of a phenomenon that I’ve run across a few different times when filling in on this column. Sometimes, people will ask a question that requires a large amount of research, but only a small amount of the information that I gather in doing that hours’ and hours’ worth of work is directly relevant to answering the question. It feels like a waste to dump the additional data because it took so much time to gather it, so I just include it in the column, regardless of how boring it may be. Hey, at least last week I included a disclaimer.

Speaking of that answer, Brian G. did offer one correction via e-mail. I had stated that, at Wrestlemania XXX, the main event would have been Randy Orton versus Batista if Triple H beat Daniel Bryan in the opener. Brian reminded me, however, that the stipulation was that whoever won the first match of the evening would be added to the championship bout, so we would have an Evolution three-way had the Yes Movement been defeated. This means that, when Orton and Batista faced each other on the go-home Raw, they weren’t enacting the exact match that would have been the PPV main event, so that Raw match should have been placed in a different category in my miles long answer.

The Trivia Crown

Congrats to Maravilloso on getting the correct answer, though he didn’t quite get all of the clues. Darth Daver also claims that he got it, and he seems trustworthy enough, so I’ll give him a shout-out, too. Let’s fill in the banks, and, to quote Chris Warren, break it down:

Who am I? I am a veteran of the independent wrestling scene with over ten years of experience, the majority of which has been spent with the same promotion.

The Australasian Wrestling Federation.

Even though I’m an indy guy, I’ve had exposure on daytime television, a popular web series, and even a video game.

Our featured wrestler has popped up on Australian morning talk shows, Botchamania, and the mobile phone game Super Wrestling Heroes, which is available in the Google Play store.

I have a cult following online, which was mostly built up in a manner that virtually no other wrestlers have utilized, even though it would be very easy for most of them to do so.

Writing for 411mania has made this individual rather popular with a certain subset of wrestling fans.

Throughout the course of my career, I have been part of a stable of wrestlers that really knows how to party and a tag team that shares its name with an infamous ECW wrestler.

The stable, again, is the Super Wrestling Heroes, who you can book to perform at your child’s birthday party, so long as you live Down Under. (If you live in the U.S., you’re stuck with Lenny Lane.)

The tag team is Mass Transit, in which our wrestler teams with a fellow big man by the name of Traffic. As far as I know, they have no relation to the young ECW wrestler who New Jack brutalized oh those many years ago.

Speaking of names, my ring name has a definite pop culture inspiration, though, if you don’t know where it came from, you might think that it has an affiliation with James Bond, Street Fighter, or even philosophy.

Though “Q” is the name of characters in the James Bond and Street Fighter franchises, our featured wrestler took his moniker from John de Lancie’s recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Of course, the answer is . . . “Massive Q” Mathew Sforcina.

That’s right. Shit just got meta.

Let’s try a different stripe of question this week:

Who am I? I was trained by two WWE Hall of Famers. One of my trainers is haunted by some persistent disturbing rumors and the other of really likes big boots . . . though I’m not talking about the wrestling maneuverer. I was part of a major promotion with national television in the United States for several years, including competing on the last episode of one of that company’s shows, which had previously run in some form or another for over twenty years. Perhaps my biggest regular push came as part of a tag team with a former Intercontinental Champion. I replaced his previous partner, a guy who used to the bane of a certain wrestling promotion’s existence. Who am I?

Getting Down To All The Business

Ben L. is rolling the dice, spinning the wheel, and making the deal:

Lately I have been somewhat astonished when I am seeing headlines on 411mania that there are actually “betting odds” on PPV winners (I am assuming in Vegas). The idea that someone would risk large amounts of money on something scripted is amazing, but it got me wondering. What factors do you think the “high rollers” are using to make their decisions? Is it wrestlers’ popularity, personal favorites, or “inside information”? Or do they actually go by established storylines to make a decision?

This is probably another “what do you think” kind of question but: Are you a betting man?

If you look into oddsmaking in just about any category, a variety of things are analysed, and wrestling is no different. Past booking? It’s taken into consideration. Leaked future plans from online sources? It’s taken into consideration. The generally predictable nature of pro wrestling booking? It’s taken into consideration. Just about everything is considered, in much the same way that numerous factors are considered when putting the books together for a legitimate sporting event or the outcome of a reality television show. Of course, the most important factor is the bookies balancing things so that they maximize their own profits, because gambling is a business first and foremost.

There is one major difference between betting on sports and betting on professional wrestling, though. If you look at the history of pro wrestling-based gambling over the course of the last several years, there is usually a definite swing in the odds during the last couple of hours before a pay per view, which is attributed to “smart money” coming in, i.e. people who are aware of the results starting to bet on less-expected outcomes in order to make themselves some extra money. This usually causes the bookies to change the odds for subsequent betters so that they don’t lose their asses. There appeared to be a period of several months during which the traditionally smart money got some results wrong, presumably because WWE was frustrated with leaks and changing things at the last minute in order to spite the gamblers among them. However, that phenomenon has since ended, and, now, for at least the past year or so, the smart money has been on the money virtually all the time.

Whether the smart money is coming in from people directly within the company or other individuals who have access to leaks is anybody’s guess, but it seems like it’s here to stay.

Connor W. is a bully . . . a blacktop bully . . .

What was with the King of the Road match at the first WCW Uncensored? Strangest match I’ve ever seen.

For those not familiar with the backstory, WCW Uncensored was a pay per view event created in 1995 with gimmick matches up and down the card. Though anybody who has actually seen how the Uncensored concept executed would not believe this, the reason that WCW started running this show was to cash in on the cult popularity of ECW. In other words, the good ole’ boys in Atlanta thought that they were going to enthral fans with their own brand of hardcore rasslin’.

The King of the Road match was one of the more unusual bouts on the card, and it featured Dustin Rhodes taking on Barry Darsow (under the moniker of the Blacktop Bully) based on a feud between the two in which Darsow started showing up in WCW audiences as an obnoxious trucker and harassing the son of the son of a plumber. The match saw the two men fighting on the back of a moving flatbed truck while surrounded by a wire cage. The first man to make it from the back of the flatbed to the front and honk a horn would be declared the winner.

The match sounded like an interesting spectacle on paper, but in practice it was pretty dull, as the gimmick limited what the two wrestlers could do with one another . . . much like shark cage matches, mud pit matches, and many other “it looked better on paper” gimmick fights. The match was also badly edited, as the sun went down in a ridiculously quick manner while the truck meandered about the countryside, making it clear that the bout had been filmed over the course of several sessions of shooting and pieced together after the fact, despite it being discussed by the commentators as though it was occurring live.

So, that’s the story. Southern rednecks were trying to recreate ECW, and their first idea was to have people fight on a big rig. Their second idea was Ric Flair running in on a match while wearing drag, but that’s another story for another time.

I’m feeling generous, so let’s hit another Connor W. question:

Is it true that the Steiner brothers used to abuse other talent back in the day?

That depends, to an extent, on your definition of the word “abuse.” If you poke around online, you can find tons of shoot interviews from the Steiner Brothers, particularly Rick, in which they admit that their style in the ring was very rough, particularly when it came to matches against enhancement talent. Mick Foley even weighed in on this topic in his autobiography, as he was once one of those pieces of enhancement talent. However, the University of Michigan alums only rarely if ever actually injured that job guys as opposed to just roughing them up. Does that constitute abuse? Some people who believe in a lighter style of wrestling might think so, though it was certainly accepted in its time and place.

Now there is a fairly infamous incident in which Rick Steiner, during one of the final WCW shows before the company was bought out by the WWF, unloaded on Konnan and beat him up for real. Again, Rick Steiner is on record admitting that this happened, with the Dog Face Gremlin claiming that the incident was revenge for Konnan injuring his buddy Lex Luger and a few other issues that Rick had with K-Dawg’s attitude. He also admitted that he had no reservations about engaging in those acts because he knew that the promotion was going to be over soon, so he couldn’t exactly be disciplined. That probably crosses the line into abuse by just about any definition. There are allegations that, during the same time, Rick also laid in to guys like Lash LeRoux, Hugh Morrus, and Alan “Kwee Wee” Funk more than he may otherwise have done, though it appears that roughing up Konnan is the only one that he’s copped to.

Here’s a couple of questions from Fake Name, if that is his real name . . .

Is John Cena the most loyal and company man ever in WWE? I know others have been there longer like the Undertaker, but Cena has arguably done more in promoting the company through mainstream means.

Cena is certainly a model employee, a guy that virtually any company would be happy to have on its payroll. In addition to being a long-standing member of the WWE roster and a helluva performer, you are correct that he has the perfect persona to put out in front of the mainstream media. Is there anybody who has been better than Cena when it comes to a combination of longevity and mainstream appeal?

Honestly, Hulk Hogan comes close. Though Cena has been a WWE employee since 2000 (including his run in developmental), he has really only been the company’s top star since 2005, giving him a ten year run at top if you account for the fact that, over the last couple of years, he’s allowed himself to be cycled down the card somewhat. Hogan’s run as the face of the WWF, meanwhile, lasted from 1983 through 1993, so you’re looking at a good, solid decade. Though Cena has him beat by a few years in terms of longevity, the fact of the matter is that Hogan brought far more positive mainstream attention to the WWF than the Doctor of Thuganomics ever did, as Cena has presided over a relatively cool period in professional wrestling while Hogan was the top star at one of the hottest. So, if you try to combine the two factors, the Hulkster probably does still come out on top.

Has a female ever intentionally bladed in a match?

This is the sort of question that I always feel uncomfortable answering, because I get the feeling that somehow, some way, I am helping a dude with some really weird kinks get his rocks off. (That comment is not directed at Fake Name himself.)

But, hoping that this question is being asked with the purest of motives, here is the answer:

Yes, absolutely. All the time. Blood was very common in the heyday of Mexican and Japanese women’s wrestling. There are almost too many examples to list (which I know is an ironic statement given the massive list of matches I included in last week’s column), but, as an example, one of my favorite women’s matches that just happened to involve blood was the 1990 steel cage match between Bull Nakano and Aja Kong from All Japan Women’s Wrestling.

And let’s not even get started on the FMW promotion in Japan, which included a very active women’s division in which the ladies regularly competed in deathmatches . . . you’d be more hard pressed to find major matches in that division which DIDN’T involve blood.

In the United States, intentional blood in women’s matches is rare, but it does still happen, mostly on the independent scene. There was some color in the SHIMMER Volume 60 match between Cheerleader Melissa and LuFisto, and Candice LaRae has tapped an artery on more than one occasion.

In “mainstream” women’s wrestling perhaps the best example is Massive Q’s main squeeze Victoria defeating Daffney in a first blood match on the March 22, 2010 episode of TNA Impact, though the blood spilled was far from impressive. WWE has yet to feature a woman blading that I can recall, thought here has been some hardway blood in their ladies’ matches, most notably Lita getting busted open pretty impressively by Ivory’s boot at the 2000 Survivor Series.

Uzoma has a Sax-y question:

Ever since coming to the main roster in 2015, Byron Saxton is often the butt of everyone’s jokes, including his fellow commentators (even his fellow babyface ones), in addition to (despite being a wrestler in the past) his inability to stand up for himself whenever heels he’s critical of like Kevin Owen and (formerly) The Wyatt Family tend to pick on him. Why is he positioned as a butt monkey and why can’t he stand up for himself despite this going on for so long?

This is just a regular part of WWE’s booking. For whatever reason, Vince McMahon seems to have a thing in which he loves having at least one nerdy, oft-abused announcer on the roster at any given time for wrestlers and others to bully. Kevin Kelly filled this role for a period of time, and Jonathan Coachman was also notoriously portrayed as a geek prior to his turning heel. To a lesser extent, Todd Grisham and Michael Cole (prior to becoming the “Voice of the WWE) also received this treatment. So, it’s not really something specific to Saxon. It’s just a WWE trope.

Jon thinks that TV killed the wrestling star:

With the format of Lucha Underground and the relative success of the Broken Hardy angle, I wanted to ask: we seem to be crossing the line now between wrestling shows that happen to be on television and television shows that happen to be about wrestling. Where’s the line? What’s really all the different about the above examples and the new GLOW series coming up on cable?

First, I’d be careful to call either Lucha Underground or the Broken Hardy storyline “successful.” Both LU and TNA are playing to such small niche audiences within the professional wrestling world that they’re not really making an impact on the greater industry, even though they do receive positive reviews from a small cadre of critics on the internet. Make no mistake about it: WWE-style wrestling shows are still by and large the order of the day.

Putting that point aside, LU and the Broken Hardys are still presenting traditional professional wrestling shows. They’re not just TV shows about pro wrestling. What’s the difference between pro wrestling and a traditional television product?

It’s the matches. At the end of the day, even if you utilize the unconventional skits of Lucha Underground or the z-grade movie tactics of Broken Matt and Brother Nero, at the end of the day the purpose of the out-of-ring narrative is still to build up a match that concludes the storyline, and the match, as opposed to the “in between” stuff, is meant to be the draw. That’s contrasted with traditional television programs, which, though they certainly build to important plot points throughout the course of a season, still don’t have a clear analogue to the physical confrontation that is the professional wrestling match.

Chico walks a lonely Rhodes:

Did Dusty Rhodes’ health have anything to do with why WWE booked the Dusty Finish between Ambrose and Rollins? Dusty died less than two weeks after the match.

I suspect that Chico is referring to the 2015 Elimination Chamber event, during which Dean Ambrose apparently pinned Seth Rollins to win the WWE Championship, only for the Lunatic Fringe’s victory to eventually be announced as one by disqualification. The show did, in fact, take place just eleven days before Dusty Rhodes’ passing.

However, I strongly doubt that the Dusty Finish on the pay per view was booked as a tribute to the American Dream. There are two reasons for this. First, the Dusty Finish was not exactly a well-remembered part of Dusty Rhodes’ legacy. If anything, it was a booking tactic that was considered ineffective and that he was slagged for using, not a brilliant idea that he was well-remembered for. Paying tribute to Rhodes by booking a Dusty Finish would be like paying tribute to Dick Van Dyke by speaking in a British accent.

Second, by most accounts, not that many people knew in advance that Dusty’s health was failing. He was reporting to work at his NXT job up until the end, not sitting in a hospital bed awaiting death for months. So, there really may not have been an opportunity to pay tribute to him before he was gone.

Chances are good that this one can be chalked up to a coincidence.

On that dour note, we’ll bring this week’s column to a close. In seven days, I’ll be back with the capper on my fill-in run, so be sure to send in your questions for my grand finale!