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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Ric Flair the First Wrestler to Have a Trademark Bump?

November 16, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Ric Flair

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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Nick from the AIWL Chat during a random Commish episode 20 years ago has an oddly specific handle, and I can’t help but wonder if it means anything:

Was Ric Flair the first to have a trademark bump? When did he start doing it? Did he ever catch some flack backstage for having kind of a “wink wink, nudge nudge” type of spot back then?

First off, I would say that the Nature Boy actually had at least two trademark bumps. I assume Nick is talking about the “Flair Flop,” featuring Slick Ric falling face-first after taking some of his opponent’s offense. However, there was also the “Flair Flip,” involving Flair being shot into the turnbuckles and going upside down and flipping over the top rope to the apron, where he would then either run to an adjacent corner for a move off the top rope (often intercepted) or attempt to make that run only to get clotheslined along the way. I suppose that you could also call the unique way that Flair took a standard back bump – more to the side than flat-backed – a trademark bump, but that was never really commented on in matches.

When it comes to the flip and the flop, were they the first trademark bumps that a wrestler ever had?

The answer to that one is no. One example that I can think of offhand which predates Flair is Harley Race, who had a trademark bump in which he would get whipped into the turnbuckles but then launch himself out over the top rope and to the arena floor, a spot that Triple H adopted for his own career.

Granted, Race wasn’t necessarily taking that fall in every single match he wrestled, but it was often enough that, if you paid attention, you could see that it was something repeated and that was unique to him as opposed to other wrestlers.

Was Flair given flack for flopping and flipping? Not that I’m aware of – at least not by the people who were actively working with him. You have to keep in mind that he was considered one of the best in-ring performers of all time and one of the biggest draws of his era. Not many people are going to get on the wrong side of a wrestler of that stature.

There were some people in rival promotions who criticized the repeated use of these spots by the Nature Boy, perhaps most notably Bret Hart, who stated that the repetitious spots in Flair’s matches made them seem less than realistic . . . but, then again, the Hitman was running chest-first into the turnbuckle in every single match when few to no other wrestlers were, so perhaps he’s not one to throw rocks in glass trademark bump houses.

Brad is nomming on nomenclature:

We have a herd of cows, a pride of lions, a scurry of squirrels, a tower of giraffes, etc. What should we call a group of referees when they comically try to break up a backstage scrum between two wrestlers? A dazzle of refs, as in a dazzle of zebras? Something else?

It’s called an incompetence of referees.

Night Wolf the Wise is crunching the numbers:

My question is about the WWE roster. According to my research, there are 207 wrestlers signed to the WWE across Raw, Smackdown, NXT, NXT U.K. and 205 live. Since WWE doesn’t use a lot of its wrestlers on T.V. do you think should be greatly reduced? If so, how many wrestlers should there be for all 5 brands?

Since this question was submitted, that number has been cut back, with at least two waves of substantial releases.

First off, let me say that there is nothing wrong with a professional wrestling company employing wrestlers that it does not use on television. You need people to wrestle on dark matches, you need people to be substitutes in case of injury or other unavailability of talent, and, depending on the number of house shows you’re running, you might need some bodies to pad out the lower card of those non-televised events while your television stars are split between shows. There are always going to be some people under contract who are off TV for those reasons, and it’s totally fine.

As you might have been able to guess from those comments, I don’t think that there is such a thing as a “perfect” number of wrestlers to employ. If a promotion has the money to pay them and if the wrestlers want to be employed even though they may not be featured on weekly programming, what’s the problem?

Appropriately enough, HBK’s Smile has a question about mouths:

As a follow-up to your 10/25 column regarding Dr. Sam Sheppard originating and then Mankind adopting the mandible claw, have any wrestlers refused to take the hold? Having someone stick their fingers into your mouth, gloved or not, can be considered pretty nasty. And if so, were there any ramifications to that refusal?

I’m not aware of anybody ever having refused to take the move. It’s also worth noting in response to this question that the fingers actually don’t go into the mouth in several versions of the hold. If you’re good enough at it and hold your hand firmly enough against your opponent’s face, you can just fold your fingers into your palm and an audience will not know the difference. This was actually easier for Mick Foley to do in the later parts of his career, as Mr. Socko went a long way in obscuring exactly what his hand was doing.

Tyler from Winnipeg is trying to make connections:

Have you discussed wrestling with either Dave Meltzer, Wade Keller or Justin Powell?

Not really. The closest that I ever came was calling in to Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer’s podcast, on one occasion several years ago. (They no longer take listener calls.) If I recall correctly, I had just watched the documentary Lipstick and Dynamite, which is about women’s professional wrestling in the heyday of people like Penny Banner, Mildred Burke, June Byers, and the Fabulous Moolah, and I asked if Dave could give me some more background on a couple of the wrestlers featured in it who I did not have prior familiarity with. I believe Ella Waldek was one that I was specifically curious about.

Big Al (probably not the guy Tank Abbot pulled a knife on in WCW) is in a fight to the Finnish:

I recently saw a video that featured Ludwig Borga. What I remember him most for was ending Tatanka’s undefeated streak on an episode of Raw. Tatanka was one of my favorite wrestlers as a young teenager and I remember this streak lasted for a long time. He even beat Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania (albeit via countout). One thing I remember is that when Ludwig Borga ended the undefeated streak the announcers said nonchalantly “and that ends the undefeated streak of Tatanka.” What I don’t understand why was this treated as not a big deal when this should have been huge?

First off, a minor correction. Ludwig Borga didn’t end Tatanka’s undefeated streak on an episode of Raw. It was on WWF Superstars, in a match that was taped on September 28, 1993 in Worcester, Massachusetts and then aired on or around October 30 depending on when your local television station decided to play it. The two men did have a rematch which aired on the December 20, 1993 episode of Monday Night Raw (taped on November 29 in White Plains, New York), which Tatanka won by disqualification due to interference from Mr. Fuji and Yokozuna.

As to why the conclusion of Tatanka’s streak wasn’t made out to be a bigger deal, I was not able to find a definitive answer to the question, but my educated guess is that the company had just given up on Tatanka being anything other than an upper midcarder. Lex Luger was obviously being positioned as the main event star at this point, and Borga was his primary opponent throughout the fall of ’93. They felt that they needed something to put Borga over the top as a threat to Luger, and snapping Tatanka’s undefeated streak just happened to be right there. If you want a further indication that the company had given up on the Native American superstar, you need to look no further than what happened to the main event match on the ’93 Survivor Series, which came not long after the streak was broken. Tatanka was initially supposed to be part of the babyface team and Borga part of the heel team, but Tatanka was “injured” in the buildup to the match and ultimately replaced by the Undertaker, even though keeping Tatanka on the team so that he could seek revenge against the Finnish strongman was a natural story to tell.

I hope The Man Who Met Andy Griffith got an autograph:

Why are wrestling pay-per-views on Sundays when boxing and MMA are typically on Saturdays? Is it because wrestling doesn’t want to compete directly with legit combat sports? Something to do with the wrestling work week centering on Mondays for decades? Besides Takeovers and the occasional oddball Tuesday show, i.e- Taboo and In Texas has it always been this way? I thought Survivor Series began as a Thanksgiving night tradition though that was certainly before my time.

With some exceptions, the bulk of professional wrestling pay per views have always been on Sunday, so long as there has been such a thing as professional wrestling pay per views.

As our questioner points out, the Survivor Series was a notable deviation from this norm early its life, as was Jim Crockett Promotions’ Starrcade, as both of those events initially took place on Thanksgiving, or, later, on “Thanksgiving eve.” This grew out of a tradition from the pre-PPV era of territorial wrestling which saw major live events taking place on Thanksgiving and/or one of the days adjacent to Christmas, with the idea being that nobody had to work, families could go together and, tickets to the show would make for an easy holiday gift. When PPV started to replace live events as wrestling promotions’ main driver of income, it only made sense that you would try to put them on a similar schedule to those major live shows.

However, putting those holiday traditions aside, Sunday was the primary day (albeit not exclusively at first) for these shows. Why?

It’s because Sunday is traditionally a good day for television audiences. People are working during the week and socializing on Fridays and Saturdays, whereas on Sunday they’re more likely to stay home in front of the tube as they rest up before work starts anew.

It’s not necessarily a matter of wrestling not wanting to compete with boxing and/or MMA, because MMA didn’t exist when wrestling pay per views became prominent. Boxing existed and got into the PPV game around the same time as wrestling, so that in theory would have been some competition – but not so much in the early days, because there were far fewer wrestling PPVs in the 1980s. Though I’m not as familiar with UFC and boxing, my suspicion is that they have tended towards Saturdays because their shows are more popular as social events that draw together groups of people as opposed to wrestling shows, which haven’t seemed to have a lot parties associated with them outside of the mid-to-late-1990s, which are an outlier. MMA may also have been seeking to distinguish itself from from wrestling, which was already well-established on pay per view by the time that the newer sport was breaking through.

Darius is a real judas:

I’ve always been a Mil Muertes/Ricky Banderas fan and I’ve always wondered why he never came to the WWE. Is there heat on him from management?

According to Bruce Prichard on his Something to Wrestle With podcast, Banderas did receive WWF/WWE tryouts at points, but he had a completely different style of wrestling that would not have fit in well with the Fed. Prichard did not give much detail beyond that.

For what it’s worth, Banderas did wrestle on a series of shows that the WWF had a hand in. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Fed cooperating with the IWA in Puerto Rico as a developmental territory of sorts, and the future El Mesias was featured on several co-promoted WWF/IWA shows in PR, including one match on December 15, 1999 in Caomo, in which he teamed with veteran Ricky Santana in a losing effort against the Hardy Boys.

Memphis B-Rad has a posse:

Some people look like they were born to be champion. Okada. Ric Flair. Charlotte. Bianca Belair. Andre the Giant was never truly the world champion. People say he didn’t need the title. Was already a massive star. Wrestling is a superficial industry. Don’t you think a major reason Andre never got a run at the top is because he simply didn’t look like the face of any company?

Nah. I get a lot of questions about the 70s and 80s asking why a particular wrestler wasn’t made world champion. Current fans seem to have a lot of difficulty with the concept of a top wrestler who has never held a company’s top championship, because for the last 25 years “main eventer” and “former world champion” have essentially become synonymous. That wasn’t always the case, though. Many years ago, you could draw and be a top flight wrestler without being a world champion, and Andre fell into that category.

You also have to remember that, pre-Hulkamania, Andre was not in any one territory on a full-time basis. He was essentially a WWWF guy and booked through Vince McMahon Sr., but even Vince Sr. didn’t have him working full-time because he realized that overexposure of the giant would result in him no longer being the special attraction that he had become. The transient nature of Andre’s career would have kept him from being a world champion even if somebody wanted him to serve in that capacity.

The Saint(ess?) is choosing sides in faction warfare:

I’ve been watching through WWE Timeline on Peacock, and it got me thinking. Aside from Evolution and SHIELD has any other faction ever had every member being World/WWE Champion at one point or another? As a follow up would you say SHIELD was more successful than Evolution in building stars? The SHIELD went from three unknowns, to all three being multi-time champions and not just with the WWE/World/Universal title. With Evolution Flair was the establish veteran and 16 time World Champion, Triple H was the current top player, and so while it did get Orton and Batista to that level. They had the rub from Flair and Triple H.

The only other stable in wrestling history that I can think of in which every member held a world title at some point was the original version of the nWo. Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash were obviously former world champions when the group first formed, and Scott Hall would go on to become a world champ in his own right during the dying days of WCW. Of course, the group would go on to add numerous members, many of whom never even came close to sniffing a world championship (Louie Spicolli, Disco Inferno, etc.), but the faction as initially conceived fits the bill.

There’s a good reason that not many factions hold this distinction. It’s because, historically, wrestling stables have not been set up for all of their members to operate at the highest level. Many factions contain members who exist to be the stable’s representatives in a tag team division, and many include at least one member whose primary purpose is to be the designated fall guy and take losses as part of the setup for a match between a rival and the faction’s main event star.

Evolution and the Shield buck this trend, with the Shield being a group of three equals and Evolution being a group that was put together for the primary purpose of elevating Dave Batista and Randy Orton off of the reputations of Triple H and Ric Flair. The different purposes of the two groups are what allowed him to have so many world champs among their ranks.

Moving on to the second question . . . was the Shield more effective at creating stars than Evolution?

I would say no. Yes, the Shield did make all three of its members main eventers without an established wrestler in the group, but you have to remember that, when the Shield was making its bones, they were affiliated with the larger group of the Authority, meaning that they were getting a rub of sorts from Triple H and other heels in that group. More importantly, I would say that Evolution was a bigger success in making stars because the stars that it made were bigger than the stars that the Shield made. Orton and Batista, though less popular than say a Steve Austin or even a John Cena, were on top when WWE was more heavily watched than when the Shield members were main eventing, plus Batista has gone on to become a fairly big name in Hollywood on the back of his Guardians of the Galaxy and James Bond roles.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. 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.