wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Did Nick Patrick Screw Sting At Starrcade 97?

November 11, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
WCW Starrcade 1997

Hello, welcome to Ask 411 Wrestling, a column that really hopes that The Bar regaining the Raw Tag Titles means we somehow get a long Rollins/Ambrose V Owens/Zayn tag match at Survivor Series because reasons.

Or, if by the time you read this, that possibility is no longer open, then welcome to Ask 411 Wrestling, the only column upgrading its “Disney Buys WWE” forecast from “a possibility” to “a likely possibility” if/when Disney buys all of Fox it can legally own.

Got a question for me? [email protected] is where you send it. And I’d get in quick if I were you.

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My Ranking Woman: For the record, that ranking basically was a mashing together of my own opinions and what WWE is currently doing with them. Yes, I would probably run Asuka/Sane as a tentpole feud in my company for eleventy months, but right now Sane is not a presence anywhere on mainstream WWE TV. Bringing someone who works best as a fighting from underneath scrappy babyface in a main event position is counter-productive, unless you run the Paige win on debut angle, which I’m not sure you can do. Right now Naomi is near the top of the SD heap, and even if you want to move her down, that shouldn’t be done suddenly, tell a story with it.

But I’ll defend Bliss as a main event slimy heel all day.

Facts: When I get factual questions I can answer, I’ll answer them.

Wait Time For Questions: A month is a long time? Um… Some questions are almost certainly more than a year old, so, yeah…

Chandler: I don’t force him in if he’s not needed. Plus he’s still recovering from the Mumps, you know.

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I was a part of the above’s debut matches, well, one of them. I’ve teamed with someone in two companies, albeit for one night in one company. I won a singles title that was vacated when the guy holding it became an authority figure. One of my signature/finisher moves takes its name from a town that a hall of famer hailed from, sort of. I’m the first and so far only man of a certain aspect to have held a specific world title, a man who replaced a Double A recently, and a man who Dolph Ziggler has sort of stolen from, I am who?

Adam has most of it, I’ll fill in some of the gaps.

Who am I? I was a part of the above’s debut matches, well, one of them (2016 Royal Rumble). I’ve teamed with someone in two companies, albeit for one night in one company (Consequences Creed/Xavier Woods). I won a singles title that was vacated when the guy holding it became an authority figure (WWE United States title after Bret vacated to become GM). One of my signature/finisher moves takes its name from a town that a hall of famer hailed from, sort of (Truth or Consequences/Cactus Jack). I’m the first and so far only man of a certain aspect to have held a specific world title (African-American NWA champion), a man who replaced a Double A recently (replaced Austin Aries on Main Event commentary), and a man who Dolph Ziggler has sort of stolen from (lack of theme music), I am who? You are R-Truth.

Who am I? I was involved in the above’s debut, well, one of them. I once made CM Punk tap in a historic situation for both of us. I’ve been traded from one brand to another a couple times, fired from one and returned to it as a free agent, drafted who knows how many times, and was moved to a different brand when the brand I was on was cancelled, but still turned up in the same time slot the very next week. My most recent televised match was a loss to a guy who currently holds a title. My last match in WCW was on Saturday Night, my last manager was female, while the last man I managed is a large gentleman. A guy who works for WWE right now, I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

Brian starts us off this week.

Glad to see you’re still writing the best column on the interwebs, but you have mentioned a few times in recent weeks about a time when you’re no longer doing it and I was wondering if an announcement is looming? I hope not, it’s not the same when you’re not doing it.

Hey, did you know that my very first Ask 411 Wrestling was nearly 10 years ago?

What I really wanted to ask about was Buff Bagwell. I’ve just read 411’s digest of the transcript of his recent radio interview where he’s laying into JR for ruining his career. I wasn’t aware of the story of his firing and was hoping you could shed some light on the events, including explaining the “mother phoned in” rumour and giving your thoughts on the situation.

This is one of those stories in wrestling where the basic facts that everyone agrees on are very dry, but both sides have juicy stories to tell but they can’t both really be true.

So the very basic facts are: The WCW buyout happens, and most major names that WCW did not have their contracts picked up by WWF. These performers had the choice to either sit at home and get paid their contracted payments until the terms ran out (and thus get money to sit on their ass at home, but also have their name/heat die off) or they could take a buyout, 50c to the dollar is a figure I’ve heard but I’m not sure of the specifics, where they got paid a lump sum based on what was owed to them, and then they were free to sign onto somewhere else immediately. Buff Bagwell takes the buyout, and signs onto WWF.

Almost immediately WWF and Bagwell don’t fit together well, there are attitude and morale questions, and an incident with Shane Helms. But, as Bagwell is considered the strongest WCW heel name they have at the time, he is chosen to be part of the first ever WCW match on WWF TV.

The match doesn’t go well, and after a couple more live dates, Bagwell is released from his contract.

That’s the agreed upon facts.

From Bagwell’s point of view, WWF wasn’t really behind the WCW experiment, as evidenced by their decision to launch WCW in Tacoma, Washington, where WCW was not a thing, as opposed to the week after when they were in Atlanta, Georgia, where WCW was very much a thing. Then he and Helms get into an argument at one of WWF’s training school days for the WCW guys to get used to a WWF ring, and he slaps Helms, and Helms responds by slamming an ice brick filled water bottle over Bagwell’s head when he had turned around, giving him 28 stitches and a concussion. The fellow WCW wrestlers, Bagwell says, convinced him not to kick up a stink about it for fear of them losing their jobs, as Bagwell was ‘safe’ but Helms wasn’t. So he lies, says he’s fine. The night of that Raw, he sees Helms and the Hardys together, and they deliberately ignore him, so he puts 2 and 2 together, and then goes to John Laurinaitis, who is basically the agent in charge of the WCW guys, and explains what happened with Helms.

Next thing, JR calls Buff up, says Buff, and gives him the weekend off because of the head thing, and to just come to Raw. Buff says cool, stays home, goes to Raw, gets fired.

From WWF’s point of view, they bring in Bagwell and he immediately starts causing trouble, there’s reports of him blowing off training and being a prima donna and such, despite this being a golden chance for him and how he should be grateful and what have you. Then he gets into a fight with another wrestler, then he has THAT match with Booker T, THEN he ‘fakes’ an injury after Smackdown, complaining about a double powerbomb from the APA. AND THEN Judy Bagwell calls up Jim Ross to say Buff is sick and can’t come to the shows on the weekend, and they’re not giving him an accept schedule and such. So, attitude problems, fighting with co-workers, horrible match, claiming injuries and then having his mom call in for him being the last straw, he’s fired.

So my thoughts? Well as far as Bagwell’s opinion goes, it you feed it through the ever popular ‘Ask 411 Wrestling (by way of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’) Shoot Interview Rule.’

“Any statement in a wrestler’s shoot interview can represent one of six different levels of reality:

a. What happened.
b. What he believed happened.
c. What he would have liked to have happened.
d. What he wants to believe happened.
e. What he wants other people to believe happened.
f. What he wants other people to believe he believed happened.”

I think this is mostly a mix of B and D, in that I’m not really on board with the “WWF hated WCW and Bagwell specifically” theory, I think it’s more a case of WWF expecting the WCW guys to be humble and quiet and tugging the forelocks and grovelling, since after all, their company just went out of business, and here we are, out of the goodness of our hearts giving you a job, so on and so forth and so sickening.

So a guy like Bagwell who has never had a reputation for being a team player, that’s not going to fit in with that desire. And then he ‘fails’ in his big break, that’s a big strike two, and if you’re thinking someone is already on two strikes that fast, you can find a third one pretty easily. Be it getting pissy from taking a stiff bump or hiding behind your momma, if you’re already predisposed to not like someone, you can make them out to be so much worse.

(I mean, Judy calling in… If it’s a case of Buff’s just texted me from the physio, they’re about to start a three hour session and he thought you’d want to know ASAP that he may have issues getting to the next show or something, that’s a bit weird, but not too bad. But if it’s the stereotypical “you should treat my boy like a star!” type thing, then yes, you can understand having issues with that. But it’s more a straw on the back thing in either case.)

I don’t think WWF and Jim Ross had it out for Bagwell per se, and there are factors that put Bagwell up against the wall, but he did himself no favors, probably.

Well that took a while. Let’s go to a fact based question from Jon that I know I’ll lack a full answer for.

With Raw 25 being held apparently at both Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center, I was curious about this: How many times have shows been televised from multiple locations? Let’s define that by matches and fans in each place or all places and not including highlight shows. Also, not including gimmicks like the boiler room or junkyard crap. Best I could come up with was WM2 (obviously) and then to stretch it a bit, the night of the purchase announcement when Shane “bought WCW”. What am I missing?

It’s very borderline, but the one I always remember is Summerslam 98, which technically all took place inside MSG, but had the Lion’s Den match with Owen and Shamrock in a separate theatre within MSG from the rest of the show.

Starrcade did this a couple times, 85 and 86 were both held in The Omni and the Greensboro Coliseum, as well as WM2 being from the three locales.

It’s weird, I was sure there would be more than that, but stuff like the Great American Bash tours don’t count, and they’ve very occasionally referred to stuff happening at the same time at a live event or something, but shows from actual multiple locations… I’m drawing a blank here.

Readers? Am I missing something huge here?

Speaking of missing something major, Lev keeps us at Starrcade.

Ok, been wondering this for a while – sorry if you have answered it previously. Starrcade 1997. Have read various reports but what is the truth – did Nick Patrick make a mistake? Or did Hogan tell him not to do a fast count? Also, if it was meant to be a fast count, but wasn’t, why didn’t Sting simply kick out? Surely, as a very experienced wrestler, he would be able to hear the difference between a regular count and a fast count while pinned?

This another case where you have to take what people say with grains of salt the size of baseballs, as everyone involved seems to have an axe to grind and falls into section E of the previously shown list, so it’s hard to say for sure, what happened. However, Patrick’s most recent words on the subject are pretty clear. He appeared on a podcast with David Penzer a few months ago, and he said, and I quote:

”What happened was two people, Sting and Hulk, they were the two franchise guys and the two franchise guys were butting heads at that point in time,” said Patrick. “One guy came up to me and told me to fast count it to get some heat and give him an out and the other guy said ‘Don’t fast count it. Keep it nice and slow.’ And so the person that was in charge evidently didn’t want to make a call, didn’t want to pick a side, and made themselves scarce all night long to where I couldn’t find them to ask them ‘Hey, what do you want me to do?’”

This contrasts with the previous times he’s discussed it (which he says, when asked on the above podcast, was him being politically correct due to working for people) where his story was generally that he thought he was counting fast but in retrospect it wasn’t. Which does have some bizarre logic, as WCW counts were always on the slow side.

Now, Bischoff has also semi-recently taken the heat for changing the finish from Sting over clean to what the finish was going to be, if things had gone right (screwy finish, Bret comes out, restarts match, Sting ‘wins’, title held up, rematch for even more money) rather than the complete mess it was. But according to Patrick, someone, sorry, Hogan, told him to count slow and he went along with it, I guess.

As for Sting not kicking out, the previous understanding I had was that the idea was supposed to be Sting gets hit by one legdrop, kicks out normally, then either Hogan his another one or just covers him again, and the second count is the fast one. This would then bring out Bret Hart, as a ref, to restart the match since he’s not letting someone else get screwed etc. But Sting sees Bret coming to the ring early, as Bret was cued too soon by Terry Taylor, and so Sting assumes they’re going straight to the screwjob, and by the time he realises they aren’t, it’s too late. But given the above, maybe not.

I mean, there is something to Hogan and Bischoff’s point, actually, in that Sting, by his own admission, was in a dark place at this point in time, with the booze and drugs and such, and he wasn’t in great ring shape, which does matter to some degree, but not really, it’s a minor point. And perhaps this plays a part in Sting not realising the mess ups.

Although now, as far as what I’d do, I still think the match should have been the Hogan punches twice, Sting no-sells, fists into the corner, whip, Stinger Splash, whip, Stinger Splash, whip, Stinger Splash, drag into middle, Scorpion Death Drop, Scorpion Death Lock, Hogan taps out in such a way as to make this guy look slow. But then if you really don’t trust Sting to carry you long term, he comes to the ring the next night on Nitro and have him cut a promo, or tape a kid saying it, whatever, and explain that he is not ready to lead WCW just yet, he’s not the shining knight, he’s the dark angel. He will not hold this title, he just took it from Hogan. Then you either hold a tourney that goes onto Souled Out, or just a one night thing, something where someone unrelated to Hogan wins it then Hogan gets it back via screwjob or something, and then you build to Bret, so when Bret is healed and available to wrestle you do Bret/Hogan and Bret makes Hogan tap out even faster, go with Bret instead, with Sting having time to get back into shape and then come back in to kill the nWo once and for all and then Bret can turn on him or something because this is still WCW and fuck you viewer.

Stuart asks about wrestlers talking.

I notice that at the end of many matches the two wrestlers involved in the decision often speak to one another, I noticed Jinder Mahal talking to Shinsuke Nakamura at the finale of their match at SummerSlam but he could have just as easily been telling him to raise his left arm give how awkward the Khallas looked.
I know a lot of the time it’s thanking the other person (such as the Rock thanking Crush in his debut)

But what is the etiquette for this happening? Big moments? Every match? Do wrestlers get pissed when someone who should be thanking them doesn’t?

This is one of those things in wrestling that doesn’t have etiquette unless it becomes noticeable. If you try and talk to people and it’s noticeable to the fans, or you’re trying to have long conversations, you will get called out on it and told to learn to do it less obviously or stop, sure. But for the most part, you’re usually talking to them in there for the entire match, the ending’s just one more spot. Certainly at the end of almost all my matches, I tend to ask if they’re ok and then thank them, especially if I win and/or it was a great match.

But overt, annoying thanks, I suppose I can see that causing an issue, but it’s very low on the list of things that are a problem. Somewhere between ‘annoying significant other’ and ‘always wants to run an international’.

Pro Tip: If you do every get in the ring, if you’re worried about conversations being noticeable, always toss in a loud “ya bastard” or some such at the end, make it seem like you’re just trash talking the other guy, Austin was great at that.

Dave asks a what if about ECW and a money mark.

Hey man, quick question about Paul Heyman. It seemed like ECW was really the forefront of the wrestling world in the 90’s, as they had so many superstars before their WCW and WWF/E runs, as well as The Attitude Era before it was popularized in WWF/E. How do you think the wrestling world would have changed had Paul Heyman had the financial resources of either Vince McMahon or Ted Turner, either against him or with him?

He had both, in a way. Vince was supporting him, and Turner, or rather Bischoff, was against him. But that’s not what you mean, obviously.

If someone rich and powerful had it out for Heyman, ECW could have been crushed fairly easily. You tip off/force the copyright holders for the music they used, you buy and shut down the ECW arena, you sign anyone good they get and put them to work as gardeners for a million dollars a year, whatever, they could have been destroyed if someone was out to get them. Easy.

Now, the question of having someone behind them, that’s another matter. A major component of ECW, certainly in the early days, was the unique locker room family, and the fanbase as an adjunct of that. Heyman was a master at motivation and inspiring you, to make you think that ECW was yours as much as it was his, and that you could do amazing things, and you wanted to do the best you could, and you drank the Kool-Aid. The fans had a slightly different flavor, (well, maybe not the front row named ones, but the rest of them) but it was still a unique feeling of this being the renegade promotion that was the underdog, was raw and unique and special and it was ECF’nW dammit!!!

That was the style and the persona that Heyman was looking to sell, certainly, but it helped the image that the company was somewhat fly by night, by the seat of their pants and such. Having some sort of huge corporate backer, that does kind of take the wind out the sails, it’s hard to be the scrappy underdog when your food is served on a silver platter by a waiter.

So either Heyman manages to hide this Money Mark, or he alters his game plan. In either case, the assumption follows that ECW could then afford to keep people, that instead of constantly finding new talent to let go to WWF or WCW, or just being the stopgap between the two, people could earn a living in ECW? That changes things, certainly. A boost in production values, assuming they wanted that, that could help, especially if they went a slightly different direction to the grunge concept. And absolutely, having people Heyman could trust, or at least pay and thus get good people in to run accounts, to handle the paperwork, to leave him to do creative and such, if Heyman wasn’t trying to do everything, that must have helped.

Except…

Then ECW ceases to be ECW, or at least the ECW we remember. ECW was about the violence and the sex and the blood and the great wrestling and all that, but ECW was a moment in wrestling, one that was needed to help break the monotony of the corporate branded committee led WCW, and the cartoonish, silly WWF. Having money, having backers, that kind of ruins the vibe of ECW. And without the vibe, ECW because just another company, albeit a company with a creative as hell guy at the head.

Don’t get me wrong, ECW would be in much better shape, it might even still exist today, albeit as Evolved Championship Wrestling or some such. But the wrestling world at large… No ECW as is, no Attitude, at least as we know it. Yes, Austin and Rock would probably have been fine without it, but then again, Attitude was very helpful in covering for Austin’s limitations…

It all comes down to how Heyman plays it. If he tries to stay the course, just with a safety net, maybe things don’t change all that much. But if Heyman tries to take ECW mainstream instead, then that changes everything, and it’s really hard to predict how that plays out, too many moving parts, too much feedback. I mean, hell, if the Big 3 is a legit Big 3, maybe there’s another small, scrappy underdog company that forms and tries to take on the big dogs by being different. Hell, ECW ripped off Memphis somewhat, maybe Memphis rips… itself off…

Jorge from Puerto Rico keeps us in WCW… Hell, I’m going to go back and change the banner.

Do you know when the Network will include the episodes of Thunder?

No, or rather yes, but not to specific date, but a specific point in time. WCW Thunder is, apparently, 100% ready to go. But it won’t be uploaded until the lawsuits brought against WWE by Raven and Bagwell about royalties of uploading old footage onto the Network is sorted out. This is the same reason Sunday Night Heat isn’t there either, due to Raven being all over that show.

WWE is deciding to hold off, as much out of spite as is it a legitimate worry they might have to pay out for the usage. Still, there’s a LOT of stuff they have still to put up there…

Who came up with the idea of Sting going to the Wolfpack? It made so little sense of him going to the Wolfpack when Nash had cost him the title less than two months earlier? And on that note why did Luger?

I don’t really know who made the call, I presume it was Bischoff, WCW had a committee of sorts at the time, but Bischoff was the guy still in charge then, at that time. Certainly given that Sting was still fighting the demons and such, putting him in a slightly reduced role was deemed better.

As for the logic of him and Luger joining, both sides of the kayfabe coin have some merit. As for as backstage stuff goes, the idea was to create a three way feud of sorts, with the nWo Hollywood being the real bad guys, WCW being the solid, boring faces, and nWo Wolfpac being the cool tweeners who were basically good but wore the cool shirt and had the cool music and weren’t bound by your rules, man. It was the nWo for the fan who wasn’t quite on board with the evil Hogan nWo, but had to admit the shirts were cool.

As for the kayfabe reasoning, Luger joined because he hated the fact that Giant, his former best friend, had turned his back on him and joined the nWo Hollywood, because Giant really hated Nash so much he joined Hogan to stick it to Nash, so Luger joined the Wolfpac to stick it to Giant. And then Sting, sick of being by himself, and lured by his best friend who was already there, joined the Wolfpac too, in order to be with his buddy, and to help drive Hogan out once and for all. Nash… Wasn’t an ideal partner, sure, but better him than Hogan since Nash was so cool and all.

Finally, in my opinion the worst booking during the MNW was how they handled Bret Hart. I mean when he came and reversed the decision of the Sting/Hogan match (which we know was a major screw up), why give him a program with Flair, why not put him against NWO?

Because Hogan.

*1/10000th of a Chandler*

Well, ok, Bischoff claims that Bret was changed by Montreal and was never up to the level he once was, and thus no matter what they did, he wouldn’t have worked, which… I don’t buy, for the most part. But anyway, when Bret was able to wrestle, the idea was that you needed to introduce Bret, you couldn’t bring him in cold, you needed to establish him to the WCW audience first, so he fought Ric in order to put on a great match and help depush Flair a bit because reasons, and then he fought Brian Adams and Curt Hennig, he did go after the nWo, just not the bigger names, until he turned heel in April and align with but not join the nWo for more reasons.

But yeah, they wanted to establish that Bret was really good at the wrestling because that was something people didn’t know, supposedly, plus hey, make Flair look stupid, that’s always a good time in WCW!

And finally, Jeremiah asks about a guy on his way INTO WCW, just to be different to finish up.

What was Jim Neidhart’s contract status that year? I know he disappeared for a few months in the summer due to a double booking situation, but was he signed or being paid on a nightly basis? I’m asking cos the way he exited the company, in joining and being tricked by DX then jobbing to Hunter and tagged with WCW, doesn’t seem like something that someone who was getting paid nightly would agree to. Was he simply doing what was asked of him to guarantee a release after the humiliation, kind of his penance akin to Bulldog’s $100K?

Yeah, Neidhart is a useful name to catch people up on with DX member lists.

Anyway, Neidhart at that point didn’t have a contract as such, he was on a nightly deal, as you say. He was Bret’s guy, so they brought him back in, and while they didn’t sign him to a full contract like Owen (that they kept him to) or Bulldog (who had to pay to get out of it), it was still a deal. He did sit out a week after the screwjob like the other Hart Foundation members, but then Bret was able to get him a deal with WCW, and so Jim gave notice to the WWF, and Jim, despite what they did to Bret, was professional enough to endure the humiliation of the above since he was on his way out. Obviously there were some ulterior motives at play here, you’d assume, but Neidhart wasn’t being beaten with a poke to the eye or anything, he did get beaten down as such, but yeah, this was just Jim being a professional.

And on that note which you can take a few different ways, I bid you good day, and see you next week!