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Ask 411 Wrestling: What Were the Original Plans for Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 13?

November 6, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Bret Hart Shawn Michaels Image Credit: WWE

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.

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Night Wolf the Wise is wondering what could have been:

Assuming that there was no Attitude Era or Monday Night Wars. How do you think WWE would have fared from 1995 to 2002? Who would have led the WWE during that time. I can’t imagine it would have been Stone Cold as he didn’t fit Vince McMahon’s bill of what a wrestler should be. Also, would the WWE have faded out without the Attitude Era? Even if John Cena came later like he did, I can’t imagine WWE would be as big as it is, because Stone Cold took the WWE to new heights.Your thoughts on that statement?

If there were no Monday Night War or Attitude Era, the WWF would have died. D-i-e-d, died. The promotion was on a downward trajectory from Hulk Hogan’s 1993 title reign onward, and they were losing so much money by 1997 that they had to let their biggest star out of his contract to try to save the company. Attitude, Steve Austin, and Vince McMahon as a heel character were what pulled them out of the doldrums. Without that – and without the increased popularity of pro wrestling in the 1990s that was actually created by WCW Nitro and not anything the WWF did – I don’t know that we would be talking about WWE today.

(Also) Ryan is a keymaster looking for a gatekeeper:

After watching WWE Untold (Legend Killer vs. The Phenom) they talked about how the Undertaker was the measuring stick and the gateway to main event status, i.e. if you can hang with The Undertaker and he gives you the thumbs up, you won the golden ticket.

It got me thinking as to who that guy is today. Ziggler (proves you can wrestle not that you’re a star), AJ (possibly), but I couldn’t get past Randy Orton. He seems to have kinda fell into that role and looks like he could thrive in it. He’s got the talent and the star quality. When he’s motivated there aren’t many better and losses will not hurt him in the slightest.

So my question is: Is there anybody better than Randy Orton in WWE that could be used to regularly “make” future superstars and be the gateway guy that Undertaker was?

This question was sent in prior to Orton’s current injury, obviously, but when Randall Keith is healthy, he can absolutely fit into the role that this other Ryan is describing.

There are two other individuals who I would say could fit the bill.

They first is Rey Misterio Jr. In recent months and years, Rey Rey has worked with individuals like Santos Escobar, his own son Dominik, and Austin Theory as a means of helping them get to the next level. If you go back a few years ago, he did the same for Anrade Almas, Alberto Del Rio, and Sin Cara when WWE was trying to elevate them . . . though none of those took, really, for a variety of reasons.

The second is Sheamus. He seems to just now be growing into this capacity, as he really helped Gunther up his game earlier this year. He has many of the same qualities that Orton does, and, when he returns from his current injury, I could see him sliding comfortably into a slot as an elder statesman of the promotion.

Brad S., Ghost of Kaientai, and Ticking Time Bomb Taz sent in variation son the same question, so let’s take them all at the same time, starting with Brad’s version:

We all know the rumors that Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels was supposed to be the main event of Wrestlemania XIII, with Bret getting his win and the WWF Title back, until Shawn lost his smile and we got Bret vs. Steve Austin and Undertaker vs .Sid for the title. It also seemed like they were headed towards Marc Mero vs. Rocky Maivia as well before Mero got hurt. My question is: Had the roster been healthy and no smiles were misplaced, what would the WM13 card have actually been/rumored to have been?

And here’s the Ghost of Kaientai’s version:

What were the original plans for Austin at WM13 before the Shawn vs. Bret rivalry turned sour? I’ve read in a few places that WM13 was supposed to be a rematch between Bret and Shawn, leaving me wondering what Austin was supposed to be doing at that show.

Finally, Taylor’s version. I’m sorry . . . Taz’s version:

Was the original plan for Bret Hart to beat Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIII but Shawn then lost his smile? It seems that this is where the booking was headed at the time, do we have any insider information?

It certainly seemed as though Hart versus Micahels in a rematch of Wrestlemania XII was the direction for a time, but the March 10, 1997 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that even before Michaels lost his smile, the company had decided to switch the WWF Title match from HBK vs. Hart to the Undertaker vs. Sid for reasons that were not elaborated on. Michaels was still supposed to square off against the Hitman, but it was supposed to be in a non-title semi-main event as opposed to headlining for the championship.

The same edition of the newsletter states that Steve Austin would have to have been in a key position on the original lineup for the show given his rising star at the time, but it is stated that the author did not know what that match would have been.

One more tidbit from The Observer was that the six man street fight between the Nation of Domination and the team of Ahmed Johnson and the Road Warriors was originally supposed to be a singles street fight between Johnson and Faarooq but was changed to a six man because the company signed the Road Warriors and wanted to get them on the card in their billed hometown of Chicago.

The newsletter lists other matches earmarked for the show as Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan (which happened), Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind (also happened), Triple H vs. Goldust (also also happened), Flash Funk vs. Fake Diesel (Funk wound up facing Billy Gunn on the pre-show while Diesel was left off the card), and a New Blackjacks/Headbangers/Godwinns/Furnas & LaFon four-way (happened). Additionally, there was discussion of a match featuring AAA wrestlers on the pre-show, but that didn’t go through.

Will Red stop?!

I was reading up on Gorilla Monsoon recently and saw that he was given a guaranteed job for life in addition to a cash payout in exchange for his shares of the company at the time (about 1/6 of WWWF) when Titan Sports (Vince Jr.) bought it from his dad. Did that decision cost Gorilla and the other owners hundreds of millions of dollars in retrospect?

Apparently not.

A couple of weeks ago on his podcast, Jim Cornette did a little bit about Gorilla recognizing the anniversary of his passing back in 1999. In doing so, he and his co-host Brian Last noted that, as part of his buyout from ownership of the company, Monsoon struck a deal where he would get 1.5% of the gate of every show from the time of the buyout until his death.

So think about Wrestlemania III, Wrestlemania VI, all the huge Attitude Era shows, and everything in between until 1999. Gorilla Monsoon got 1.5% of those ticket sales, even when he got on in years and was barely lifting a finger in terms of doing anything for the company.

That leads to me having a hard time saying that Gorilla didn’t get a great deal when he allowed himself to be bought out of WWWF ownership.

Tyler from Winnipeg is bringing the heat:

Can you elaborate on Eddie Guerrero getting fired from the WWF?

There’s not much to elaborate on. The guy had a drug problem and spent a good portion of the spring and summer of 2001 in rehab. Then, when the WWF put him back on the road in November of that year, he almost immediately got a DUI, so they canned him. Given that the company had a huge roster at the time due to the influx of talent from the recently-closed WCW and ECW, this was not exactly a period when people could get away with a lot of shenanigans, as they just about everybody was replaceable.

In any event, while he was out of the Fed, Eddie went on a tour of the independents and also New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he wrestled on early Ring of Honor shows, for IWA Mid-South, in the FWA – which was essentially the UK’s version of ROH at the time – and in one match for the upstart WWA promotion that tried to fill WCW’s absence in the pay per view market. Eventually, word on the street was that Guerrero had gotten his life back together, so the WWF brought him back into the fold in April 2002 for his feud with Rob Van Dam.

Who knows, had the WWF waited just two months longer to re-sign Latino Heat, we could all be sitting here now talking about how Eddie Guerrero was in early TNA.

CaseyDub is cleaning out his trophy case:

Does Chris Jericho hold the record for capturing a belt in the most amount of “big” companies? I think Raven might be close, but not sure.

I’ve looked for a different answer to this question on a couple of different occasions now but, upon checking and re-checking, I really think that Jericho is correct.

Granted, you will always have some question as to what is a “big” promotion and what is not, but by just about any definition of “big,” the former Y2J is Le Champion of Le Champions. By my count, he’s held titles with seven promotions that you can at least argue are major ones, those being WWE, AEW, WCW, New Japan, CMLL, ECW, and ROH.

Even if you take Ring of Honor out of the picture because you don’t consider it a major enough company, doing that removes entries from other people’s lists as well, and Jericho still winds up at the top of the heap.

For what it’s worth, Raven isn’t particularly close, as he’s only got belts in four major promotions, those being WWE, WCW, ECW, and TNA. There are plenty of other people who match that accomplishment, and even a few who best it with five.

Uzoma has things flipped:

Is it true that Paul Heyman would’ve wanted to bring Bryan Danielson to TNA if he was booking the promotion in 2010 after Danielson was fired by WWE that same year?

Anybody would and should have wanted to bring Bryan Danielson into TNA if he was available and willing. That includes Paul Heyman.

Michael wants to get me in trouble:

What wrestler do you think had the longest sustained main event/upper card run, despite being just average? My vote is Jeff Jarrett. Dude is ok but to me is strictly a mid card guy, not a main event guy especially for several years like he was in WCW and TNA. Second would be Shane Douglas. Again good wrestler, but nothing about this guy ever screamed “top notch.”

Kevin Nash.

I don’t have anything against the guy personally, but I have never understood his appeal as a performer.

In terms of in-ring performance, the situations in which I would want to see Kevin Nash wrestle a particular opponent as opposed to anybody else are pretty rare.

Admittedly, Nash is funny and charismatic, and that can make for entertaining moments on TV, but I don’t think I have ever once heard him cut the sort of promo that gets a person emotionally invested in a match and/or convinces them to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy a ticket or a pay per view.

He really just strikes me as a guy who got by on his look, who his friends were, and in one case very good timing in terms of jumping ship to form the nWo. I’m not going to begrudge him his success, because he was very successful in the industry if you measure success how much money a performer is able to make for himself, but he was almost always a channel changer for me.

Seems like he would be a great guy to have a beer with, though . . . at least if he didn’t read this column first.

JonFW2 has me once again climbing that mountain:

What is your Mt. Rushmore of babyface managers?

This question intrigued me because, when you ask somebody to list a Mt. Rushmore of managers, the names involved will almost always be heels (or at least managers who spent most of their careers as heels) because having an extra person at ringside fits better with a villanous character as opposed to a virtuous one. Names like Bobby Heenan, Paul Heyman, Jimmy Hart, Jim Cornette, The Grand Wizard, Freddie Blassie, JJ Dillon, Sherri Martel, and Lou Albano would all be in the mix for that overall best manager crown, and they’re all primarily thought of as heels.

With that being said, let’s try to assemble the four greatest good guys, in no particular order:

Miss Elizabeth: Though she had a run as a heel in WCW, if I say “Miss Elizabeth” to a wrestling fan, they’re thinking of her time as a face involved with the Macho Man and Hulk Hogan. Though she wasn’t exactly a stellar promo like most great managers, her presence and look make her iconic, which in my mind is the main reason to put somebody on a Mt. Rushmore.

Paul Bearer: Again, though Bearer vacillated from heel to face and back again during his run, in my mind he comes down on more of the face side. He’s also probably one of the better promos of a manager who spent a significant amount of time as a good guy, taking up the mantle for the Undertaker during his time as a silent killer.

Paul Ellering: Again, Ellering had stints as a villain but also spent a fair amount of time seconding the Road Warriors while they were dominant babyfaces. Hawk and Animal didn’t really need the help on the microphone that some others do, but Precious Paul still balanced them out, bringing a more cerebral tone to what were otherwise manic promos.

KeMonito: Now we head south of the border to CMLL, where the 2’7” blue monkey named KeMonito has spent decades accompanying top babyfaces to the ring, originally under the name Alushie. In addition to being athletic and willing to take big bumps to get heels over, KeMonito gets high marks from me for his ability to sell and convey emotion through body language despite the fact that he is covered head to toe in a mascot suit.

And that is my Mt. Rushmore of babyface managers. Looking over the lineup again, I would love to see this group carved into an actual mountain.

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.