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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is WWE Done with 50 Year Old Main Eventers?

June 22, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Super ShowDown Undertaker Goldberg

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.

Hey, ya want a banner?

The King of Roch has two unrelated questions:

First question: Why is WWE so reluctant to create stables since it was so successful back in the Attitude Era and in WCW?

I wouldn’t say that WWE is reluctant to create stables. Currently on WWE programming, you’ve got the New Day, the Lucha House Party, the Undisputed Era, and three of the four Horsewomen kicking around NXT. Also, in recent months and years, you’ve had groups like Sanity, the Riot Squad, the Club, the Wyatt Family, and, of course, the Shield having various levels of success on Raw, Smackdown, and NXT. That’s quite a few stables, several of which were involved in main event-level storylines and matches.

Granted, WWE’s current approach to stables seems to be to keep them smaller than they were in the 1990s and the early 2000s, but they’re still stables nonetheless, and they’ve created some of the bigger stars that currently exist in the promotion.

Second: After the disastrous Undertaker-Goldberg match, will WWE think twice before planning matches with legendary part-timers over 50 in bad shape?

I doubt it.

Undertaker/Goldberg isn’t the first time that this happened. The D-Generation X versus Brothers of Destruction match that took place at Crown Jewel this past November was also a disaster due to the physical condition and part-time status of the competitors, but it didn’t stop WWE from moving forward with Undertaker versus Goldberg at their very next Saudi supershow.

Reportedly, some of the individuals behind the Saudi General Sports Authority, the government entity that is paying WWE tens of millions of dollars over the next ten years for its product, want to see wrestling’s greatest legends on the cards, and, with the amount of dollars at stake, WWE is going to give them exactly what they want.

In my opinion, if you have to have legends from a bygone era on these shows, there is a better way to do it, namely by taking a page out of the playbook of Giant Baba.

That’s right . . . Giant Baba.

See, Baba was one of the most popular wrestlers in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. By the time the 1980s rolled around, fans still wanted to see Baba wrestle, but he was getting up there in years and could no longer compete in the more athletic style that younger performers on the roster could. In response, Baba took himself out of singles bouts and primarily worked in low impact six man tag team matches, often with other more senior members of the roster but sometimes with newer wrestlers as well. By doing this, he kept himself active in matches that weren’t too taxing on his body on and off all the way through 1998.

If WWE were to adopt this model, instead of seeing Undertaker versus Goldberg in an all-time flop of a match, we could have seen something like Goldeberg and the Viking Raiders against the Undertaker and the Authors of Pain, which would serve the purpose of getting the legends in front of the audience while perhaps simultaneously giving a rub to members of the full-time roster.

Tyler in Winnipeg is not the boss of me now:

The excellent and successful TV show Malcolm in the Middle had a great Sharpshooter sequence between Bret Hart and Chris Benoit in the opening to every episode. Do you know the agreement between WCW and the producers of the show? Did Benoit or Hart receive any cash? Now that WWE owns the WCW library, do they get cash through syndication for the clip? Even a guess would be great!

I don’t know the particulars of the deal and can’t seem to locate them anywhere, but I suspect that WWE, Bret Hart, and Chris Benoit’s estate aren’t getting any royalties for this fleeting clip.

Doing otherwise wouldn’t make any financial sense. If a fee had to be paid to the owners of WCW’s intellectual property any time an episode of Malcolm in the Middle aired or streamed anywhere, particularly for footage that means so little to the overall episode, chances are good that the footage never would have been used in the first place or, at the very least, it would have been edited out when the show went into syndication and streaming.

Most likely, if any money changed hands between the producers of the show and WCW, it was just a one-time, flat payment.

Speaking of paying money to third parties, Night Wolf the Wise wants to go shopping with us:

What was the name of the grocery store that the Stone Cold/Booker T brawl took place in? Did they have some sort of agreement with the company and pay them in advance for the damage they were going to do?

The store in question was Bakersfield, California’s Green Frog Market, which was in business for almost eighty years before closing its doors earlier this decade. The store was apparently fairly well-liked, because local news programs were still doing stories about it several years after it met its demise:

According to a 2017 appearance by Steve Austin himself on Sean Waltman’s 12360 podcast, Stone Cold and Booker did over $10,000 worth of damage to the store, and you have to believe that WWE agreed to foot the bill for anything that they destroyed during the filming.

Honestly, though, I re-watched the brawl prior to answering this question, and after doing so the $10k price tag seems a little bit hard to swallow. There are no major appliances or display units broken by the wrestlers. It seems to me that the most “damage” done was the spoiling of the market’s produce section, as I expect that for health code reasons they would have to dispose of any fruits or vegetables that either man came into contact with. That’s not an insignificant amount of product, but I don’t know if it was 10 Gs worth.

Brad is breaking rules, breaking ground, smacking it up, smacking it down:

I have another question that probably doesn’t require much research and may spark discussion. We all know whenever WWE starts a new show or switches a show to a new network, they stack the first episode to make a splash. Could you list what wrestlers or personalities were on the very first Smackdown in 1999 and give your opinion on who (if any) from that list could reasonably also show up on FOX’s first Smackdown? That’s a nice 20-year difference.

The very first episode of Smackdown aired on the UPN network (RIP) on April 29, 1999, and the following individuals were involved in some capacity on the show:

Michael Cole, Jim Cornette, Tony Chimel, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, Triple H, Chyna, The Undertaker, Val Venis, Jeff Jarrett, Debra McMichael, Owen Hart, Nicole Bass, The Godfather, The Big Show, Test, Big Boss Man, The Rock, Steve Austin, X-Pac, Droz, Prince Albert, D-Lo Brown, Ivory, Mark Henry, The Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Kane, Doc Hendrix, Edge, Christian, Gangrel, Ken Shamrock, Bradshaw, Sergeant Slaughter, Mankind, Paul Bearer, Joey Abs, Pete Gas, and Rodney.

Obviously, we’re not going to be seeing several of those individuals because they are no longer with us, which pares down the list to something that looks like this:

Michael Cole, Jim Cornette, Tony Chimel, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, Triple H, The Undertaker, Val Venis, Jeff Jarrett, Debra McMichael, The Godfather, The Big Show, The Rock, Steve Austin, X-Pac, Droz, Prince Albert, D-Lo Brown, Ivory, Mark Henry, The Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, Kane, Doc Hendrix, Edge, Christian, Gangrel, Ken Shamrock, Bradshaw, Sergeant Slaughter, Mankind, Joey Abs, Pete Gas, and Rodney.

(That’s actually fewer dead wrestlers than I thought there might be.)

The first main event in Smackdown history was a collision between perhaps the four biggest stars in the promotion at the time, with the Undertaker and Triple H representing the Corporate Ministry in a tag team match against Steve Austin and the Rock.

One of the most significant things that WWE could do for Smackdown’s rebirth on Fox would be to get those four men back together in the same place at the same time, even if it’s not realistic to get them to wrestle, since Austin apparently has no interest in doing so and the Rock, even if he might be interested, has shied away ever since his Hollywood employers were not happy with the fact that he injured himself in his last real match against John Cena.

Of course, the Rock is also crazy-busy, and it’s his personal schedule that would be most likely to either make or break this reunion of the show’s original main eventers.

Beyond those four really only Cole and the McMahons are still what I would call “regular” performers with WWE, and I would be surprised to NOT see Shane, Steph, and Vince on the Fox debut, since it’s likely to be an all hands on deck situation. A Cole appearance wouldn’t necessarily be surprising, but it’s not really a lock since he’s the lead announcer on the Raw brand and it’s not as though he has enough goodwill with the fanbase that trotting him out for a special appearance on the show would get a pop from the fans.

There are also several people who were on the initial Smackdown who are currently under contract to WWE without being regular on-air talent. Those guys are Tony Chimel, Jeff Jarrett, The Big Show, Mankind, The Road Dogg, Albert, Mark Henry, Kane, and Doc Hendrix. Any one of those individuals could conceivably pop up, though it seems a bit unlikely unless the show will have a gimmick in which they cram as many names from the past on to it as possible, as none of them are performers who would move the viewership needle in any appreciable way, though Kane and Big Show are fairly big stars among wrestling fans, despite not having much crossover appeal.

Then there’s the class of guys who, as far as I know, aren’t under contract but seem to maintain good relationships with the company and made sporadic appearances, with those being The Godfather, X-Pac, Edge, Christian, Ivory, Bradshaw, and Sergeant Slaughter. Of that crew, Edge seems to be the most likely by far to appear since he was closely associated with Smackdown as its biggest star and World Champion for several years, followed by Bradshaw for a similar reason and then Christian, primarily because of his association with Edge.

Then there are individuals who probably won’t be part of the show due to some political or contractual issue. Those guys are: Debra (hasn’t really been involved in wrestling since she divorced Steve Austin); D-Lo Brown (last seen working as an agent in TNA); Billy Gunn (now an agent for AEW), Gangrel (has done porn since leaving WWE, which they don’t like), Jim Cornette (can’t see him coming back outside of the RnR HOF induction). The chances of them appearing are close to zero.

Finally, there are four total wild cards, namely Val Venis, Darren Dozdov, Ken Shamrock, and the Mean Street Posse. None of these performers have any particular ill will towards WWE that I am aware of (or vice versa), but all of them seem to have been persona non grata in the promotion’s eyes ever since they left it. They also seemingly have very low odds of making an appearance.

So, there you have it. Everybody who appeared on the first episode of WWF Smackdown and their likelihood of showing up on the program’s debut on its new network home. Almost regardless of who appears, the show will be an interesting one to watch, as WWE will no doubt pull out all of the stops that it can.

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].

article topics :

Goldberg, The Undertaker, WWE, Ryan Byers