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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Liv Morgan the First Italian-American Women’s Champion?

June 7, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE King and Queen of the Ring - Liv Morgan Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling . . . the last surviving weekly column on 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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HBK’s Smile is Livin’ large:

1) Was yesterday’s Liv Morgan – Becky Lynch steel cage match the shortest televised cage match in WWE history at 13:22 (more or less)?

Nope. I didn’t do a comprehensive search for all shorter TV cage matches, but Mick Foley alone was involved in two shorter versions. On the June 15, 1998 episode of Monday Night Raw, Steve Austin and the Undertaker defeated Kane and Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match that lasted ten minutes. Then, on August 24 of the same year, Kane and Mankind went to a no contest in another Hell in a Cell match that only went 7:41.

Never rule out the possibility of a match running short when Vince Russo is in charge.

2) Is Liv Morgan the first Italian or Italian-American to hold a women’s title in the WWE?

Nope again. Alundra Blayze, a.k.a. Debrah “Madusa” Miceli, is not only of Italian ancestry but was also born in Milan, even though she was raised primarily in Minneapolis. She held a women’s championship in WWE twenty-nine years before Liv Morgan did.

On top of that, Carmella, real name Leah Van Dale, is of mixed Italian and Dutch heritage, and she beat Liv to a women’s title.

Bret is known by many names:

Who has had the most gimmicks in wrestling? I would guess hands down it would be Ed Leslie a.k.a. Brutus Beefcake. Also, do wrestlers have to trademark their name? I saw when like Earthquake, Boss Man, and Haku were forced to use a different name. Was it because WWE owned their names?

It’s pretty difficult to determine who had the most gimmicks in wrestling because there’s not a universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a gimmick change. For example, I read one article that counted Ed Leslie as having 19 different “gimmicks” because by their count he changed his ring name 19 times. However, I wouldn’t exactly call the Butcher and the Man With No Name or Dizzy Golden and Dizzy Hogan different gimmicks because, even though the names changed, the essential elements of the character being portrayed did not.

On the flip side of the coin, guys like Chris Jericho have seen their character’s behavior change drastically over the years, but he’s pretty much always been known as Chris Jericho, so some people refuse to acknowledge that there has ever been a gimmick change on his part.

I personally would count Ed Leslie as having seven gimmicks: 1) Dizzy Hogan, 2) Brutus Beefcake, 3) The Mariner, 4) The Butcher, 5) The Zodiac, 6) The Bootyman, and 7) The Disciple.

Yes, he had more names, but I think those are the unique names with unique characters associated with them.

If that is the definition we are using for a gimmick, then Mr. Leslie certainly has quite a few more to his credit than the majority of pro wrestlers.

However, when I was recently answering a question about still-living members of the AWA roster, I looked into the background of the wrestler probably most popularly known as Jerry Valiant. I was surprised to see how many different characters he portrayed over the years, with those including:
1) Jerry Valiant, 2) Mad Man Mitchell, 3) Guy Heenan, 4) Masked Avenger, 5) Mr. X, 6) Stomper, 7) The Masked Strangler, 8) The Destroyer, 9) The Chicago Assassin, and 10) The Red Devil.

That’s three more gimmicks than E. Harrison Leslie.

Also, every time a question like this comes up, I have to mention SUGI, a high flying masked wrestler from Japan who has also spent a fair amount of time in Mexico. Over the past twenty-plus years of his career, he’s been known as:

1) SUGI, 2) El Blazer, 3) Yoshitsune, 4) Namazu Man, 5) NOIZ, 6) AHII, 7) Dual Force, 8) HUSTLE Kamen Red, 9) Little Dragon, 10) Michinoku Ranger Gold, 11) Mini CIMA, 12) Rabbit Boy, 13) Shanao, and 14) THE ZEST.

Yes, that’s fourteen gimmicks, the equivalent of two Ed Leslies. If anyone can beat that, I’d be glad to hear it.

On the second half of Bret’s question, generally speaking if you’re working for a wrestling company and they come up with a name or character for you, they own that name or character. Also, typically contracts with wrestling promotions contain a “work for hire” clause, which means that even if YOU come up with a name or character while you’re working for them, they own that too. (Of course, this is the standard. There are exceptions to that general rule.) However, if you’ve developed a name on your own prior to signing with a wrestling promotion and they want to use it, chances are good that you can work a deal with them under which you will be able to retain your own rights to the intellectual property so long as you allow them to use it while you are under their employ.

Tyler from Winnipeg is blowing up my phone:

Have you watched the exploding death matches with Cactus Jack in Japan?

Yes. Back in the 1990s when I was in high school and got my first bank account, I ran across the website Highspots, which even back then was selling wrestling merchandise, with most of their products at the time being bootlegs of VHS tapes that if I remember correctly cost $10 each.

One of the tapes in my first ever order from Highspots was the the August 20, 1995 Kawasaki Dream show promoted by Japan’s International Wrestling Association (IWA). Though Kawasaki Dream was the proper name, it got passed around in American circles under the name “King of the Deathmatch” because it featured an eight-man deathmatch tournament with the finals being the Cactus Jack versus Terry Funk match that is most often clipped and put in U.S. documentaries when the producers want to highlight how extreme those two men got in their careers.

The show is not that great on the whole but worth watching because there are a lot of historical oddities on it. If you’re trying to track it down in a non-bootleg format, the company Big Vision Entertainment actually licensed the footage and released it on DVD in 2007. Though I’m sure the DVD is out of print and I think Big Vision may be out of business altogether, it does appear that there are still copies of the disc kicking around on Amazon and other websites.

Redmond ain’t just a city in Washington anymore:

Who was that ref in Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart from Wrestlemania VIII? I don’t recall him being around at all at the time, but if I go back and watch some older WWE DVDs he pops up now and then. Looks like Problem Child’s older brother.

That’s Roger Ruffen!

Ruffen (sometimes spelled Ruffin) is an independent wrestler whose career began in the early 1980s, mostly in his home state of Ohio and nearby Michigan, where he wrestled both under the Ruffen/Ruffin name and the name of Randy Rogers in addition to doing a masked Patriot gimmick.

He was broken in to wrestling by Les Ruffen, a wrestler from the 1930s through the 1950s who by the 1970s was the main promoter of wrestling in Cincinnati. Of course, Roger took Les’s last name when he stepped into the ring. Roger’s biggest exposure early on came when he got booked in the Bruiser’s WWA out of Indianapolis during its dying days.

When the WWF started running shows in Ohio shortly before their harder national expansion, Ruffen got an opportunity to referee for the company because Ohio still had some strict athletic commission rules and required promotions to use refs licensed by the state – and Ruffen happened to have an Ohio referee’s license.

He was also occasionally used as an enhancement talent when the WWF came through Ohio, losing in a tag team match to the Moondogs in July 1984 and being beaten by the Junkyard Dog in forty seconds two months later. Ultimately, he stuck with refereeing rather than wrestling at least as far as the big leagues were concerned, with the Wrestlemania VIII Intercontinental Title match being the highlight of that portion of his career, though he also handled Shawn Michaels vs. Tito Santana and Rick Martel vs. Tatanka on the same card. You can also see him calling things down the middle at the 1991 Survivor Series when Sgt. Slaughter’s team had a clean sweep against a team headed by Slaughter’s former partner Colonel Mustafa.

However, he kept wrestling on the independents even as he ref’ed for the WWF, and he had a couple of matches with a young kid named Christopher Daniels in 1994, when Daniels had less than two years’ experience as a pro wrestler.

In the mid-1990s, Ruffen entered the world of promoting and training, as he established the Northern Wrestling Federation, which is actually still running shows today in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky to this very day. He also has a wrestling school, BoneKrushers, which feeds into the NWF and has produced some pretty noteworthy students, including Abyss, “Wildcat” Chris Harris, “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, and Jillian Hall.

If you want to know more about Roger Ruffen there is, believe it or not, A THREE HOUR LONG DOCUMENTARY about his career hanging out on YouTube, which was one of the sources that I used in answering this question. (No, I didn’t watch the whole thing . . . just the early stuff)

Big Al comes crashing in:

I remember when I was a kid watching Clash of the Champions live in 1993 when the Shockmaster debuted. Obviously we all know the story about how he tripped and his helmet came flying off and Sid had to hilariously keep a straight and concerned face. Was the Shockmaster supposed to be a serious threat, main even level wrestler had that snafu not happened? Seems like his helmet would have flown off in his first match.

Yeah, it was supposed to be a serious gimmick.

In fact, the Shockmaster gimmick was created for Fred Ottman somewhat at the last minute because WCW needed a replacement for the original fourth man on the team, who was a very serious wrestler:

Road Warrior Hawk.

The July 12, 1993 Wrestling Observer Newsletter first reported that the Fall Brawl pay per view was going to be headlined by a War Games match, with the lineup being listed as Vader, Sid, and Harlem Heat against Ric Flair, Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Hawk. (Eventually, Flair would be pulled and replaced with Dustin Rhodes.) WCW started teasing Hawk even though he had not signed with the company, with the plan being for him to debut on the August 18, 1993 Clash of the Champions show before moving on to War Games.

However, negotiations with Hawk did not go smoothly. At one point, he told WCW that he was not going to be coming in for either show (as reported in the August 16 Observer). Things were eventually smoothed over, and they were able to get him in for the Clash, but he still wouldn’t commit for the PPV, most likely because he had a New Japan Pro Wrestling tour starting on September 20 and Fall Brawl was on September 19. That’s what lead to the creation of the Shockmaster.

Of course, the infamous fall happened, and WCW changed direction after that. They actually kept playing the botch on TV after it happened to intentionally transition the Shockmaster to his goofy, klutzy “Uncle Fred” gimmick. The September 6 Observer confirmed that the change over to Uncle Fred was a transition as opposed to being the plan all along.

Dave has been whipped into a frenzy:

I’m always interested when I see a fan enter the ring. Once it’s been established they aren’t another wrestler, they get taken down – all fair game, but then they normally get a few swift kicks and punches by the wrestlers / referee. I always thought it was a little harsh because once the fan has been contained, it’s not defending yourself any longer if you lay a few hits on them.

I’ve not seen that in any other sport or entertainment, as the fan would just get contained and taken away. So for example if a fan ran into a music concert or boxing ring, got taken down and then the performer delivered a kicking, there would be a lot of scrutiny and outrage of over the top assault.

So my questions are:

1) Do you think its fair game for a wrestler / ref to give them a few punches / kicks.

2) Could any of it be considered an assault e.g. if they caused damage and if you filed a case, would it be treated seriously.

3) Has a fan ever filed an assault charge.

The specifics of the law vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but, as a general rule, you have the right to defend yourself if somebody else is threatening your safety. However, the level of force you use when defending yourself has to be reasonable under the circumstances. As an example, if somebody throws a punch at you, you might be justified in throwing a punch of your to deflect their attack, but once you’ve knocked them down you can’t jump on top of them and pummel them for five straight minutes just because they “started it.”

Thus, these sorts of things are always going to be somewhat context dependent.

If two wrestlers are in mid-match and a fan hits the ring with the wrestlers not knowing what his intentions are, I would say the wrestlers would be justified in throwing a punch or kick at him in order to incapacitate the fan, because it is reasonable for the wrestlers to assume that, if a fan his hitting the ring, he’s not doing it to give them a great big hug.

That being said, if the fan hits the ring in such a way that the wrestlers can easily and safely take him down a restrain him rather than striking him, they probably have the responsibility to do that, because, again, they are obligated to use a reasonable amount of force in self defense . . . and this would mean that they shouldn’t take any shots at him once he is restrained, either.

If a wrestler goes beyond using a reasonable level of force in defending himself, then, yes, his actions in attacking the fan could be considered a battery and could result in either criminal or civil liability for the wrestler. Once again, this is going to be highly dependent on context. Also, even though the wrestler’s actions may technically qualify as an assault or battery, there are also practical considerations, which is that the legal system is likely to be less sympathetic to somebody who instigated a situation, even if they were technically wronged in the end.

Has this ever happened? Yes, to an extent. The website for the newsletter Wrestling Perspective has a section in which it has collected court opinions involving wrestlers, many of which are the product of wrestler/fan encounters.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.