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Ask 411 Wrestling: Was Shawn Michaels Almost the nWo’s Third Man?

June 14, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
nWo

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.

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Steve is here . . . but whose side is he on?

I recently rewatched the Outsiders vs. WCW main event at Bash at the Beach 1996, where the big mystery was who Scott Hall and Kevin Nash’s partner would be against the team of Sting, Randy Savage and Lex Luger. We all know what happened that night, and as I watched, it struck me that with 25 years of hindsight, it seems inevitable that it would be Hulk Hogan. After all, why else wouldn’t WCW’s biggest star be part of the team defending WCW against its most-serious existential threat? The story was that Sting, Savage and Luger were selected in a drawing to represent WCW — but we were already well post-kayfabe in 1996, and most fans knew that the guys in the match were the guys the bookers wanted in the match, which strongly suggests the Hulkster was slotted to betray WCW.

But I was at the height of my fandom in 1996 and was as plugged into the internet wrestling scene as I am now, and as I recall, there was legitimate suspense as to who the third man would be. Hogan was certainly the subject of speculation, but as hard as this probably is for some fans to understand today, a Hogan heel turn was just unthinkable (which incidentally was why it had such an impact when it happened).

I’m wondering if you can reach back a quarter century and recall who the major candidates were, which wrestlers the fans and the wrestling media were speculating about. Was anyone hinted about on TV, even? To me the most obvious one — and probably the only one who I would speculate seemed more likely than Hogan at the time — would be Shawn Michaels, not only Nash and Hall’s real-life friend but also probably a bigger name than either of them, which would have justified his position as the big reveal. While his contract was probably locked up, surprise jumps happened all the time back then, so nobody would have been too confident about his status.

Am I right about Hogan and Michaels as the top two possibilities? If so, who was considered more likely? And what other names were being tossed around?

I honestly don’t recall much if any speculation about Shawn Michaels being the third man unless it was by fans who were truly out of the loop, because the Heartbreak Kid was the WWF Champion at the time and was actively being promoted for a match at the Fed’s In Your House: International Incident pay per view the very same month that Bash at the Beach was taking place. Even though you are correct that there were some surprising promotional jumps at that time, everybody was pretty well aware that a company was going to have its top champion locked down.

As far as actual candidates for that slot are concerned, the original plan was apparently that the third man was going to be Lex Luger, according to the June 3, 1996 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which is the issue that covered Scott Hall’s first appearance on Nitro. That Observer noted that Kevin Nash was on his way into the promotion as well and that the plan was for those two men to team with Luger at the Bash at the Beach against Sting, Randy Savage, and either Ric Flair or the Giant. Luger made sense from a storyline perspective, in part because Hall and Nash were supposed to be “WWF guys” in the original angle and Luger had been there not all that long ago and in part because Luger’s whole gimmick at the time was that he walked the line between being a babyface and a heel.

The June 10 Observer stated that Luger was “probably” going to be the third man and shot down rumors that were percolating at the time that it would be either Ted DiBiase or Jeff Jarrett, since DiBiase was clear he would not be returning to the ring and Jarrett’s contract with the WWF wouldn’t quite expire in time. Interestingly, the same issue noted that Hulk Hogan was not scheduled to return to WCW pay per view events until Road Wild, i.e. the match after the Bash at the Beach.

In July, the reporting started to change a bit. The July 1 Observer stated that the identity of the third man was a true “secret.” By that point, Luger had been officially named as the third man on the WCW team along with Savage and Sting, and Meltzer wrote that a mid-match turn by Lex seemed unlikely since that angle had just been done on the Great American Bash pay per view the month before, when Steve McMichael turned on Kevin Greene to join the Four Horsemen in their match against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.

In the same July 1 issue, there was reporting on internal conversations between Hall, Nash, and Eric Bischoff about who the third man should be, and apparently the names raised included Mabel (a.k.a. Viscera/Big Daddy V), Crush, and even Bret Hart, though it was noted that by that point WCW had made several overtures to the Hitman and he had rebuffed each one.

Finally, in the July 8 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it was reported that Hulk Hogan was in all likelihood going to be the third man, as word had leaked on the set of a movie that the Hulkster was working on.

So, by the end, everybody who was in the know pretty much knew it was going to be Hogan – but there was some pretty odd speculation along the way.

Tyler from Winnipeg is proving that things are not always as they seem at first glance:

What was the main event on the 100th episode if WCW Monday Night Nitro?

You would think that this would be a fairly simple question to answer, but there is a complicating factor here, and it relates to which episode of Nitro actually qualifies as the 100th.

When WCW was first airing Nitro, they referred to the August 4, 1997 episode as being the 100th installment of the program, which was also the first three-hour long edition of the show. The main event that evening was Lex Luger defeating Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Title in a match that I feel like we’ve discussed several times over the course of my run with this column . . . lots of Luger stans in our readership, oddly.

However, many current episode guides online and I believe the WWE Network (when that was still a thing in the U.S.) list the numbering as being off by a week, making the August 11, 1997 Nitro the 100th episode. The main event of that show was Curt Hennig beating Randy Savage by disqualification.

So, what lead to this discrepancy?

An attempt to develop a new revenue stream.

See, on Saturday, June 28, 1997, WCW ran a special show called “Saturday Nitro.” This was not televised anywhere but was an experiment in doing online, audio-only pay per view – or more accurately pay per listen – events. You would go to the WCW website, pay them some money, and you would get to hear live, streaming commentary of the event through the magic of RealPlayer. WCW did a small handful of these shows over the years, and Saturday Nitro was the first one. It was a loaded card, featuring the Outsiders vs. Lex Luger & The Giant, Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page, Ric Flair vs. Roddy Piper, and Chris Jericho defeating Syxx to win the WCW Cruiserweight Title.

There was still a regular episode of Monday Nitro on TNT the following Monday, June 30, but WCW at the time still included Saturday Nitro as part of the official episode count for their flagship program. However, it’s generally been ignored in later attempts to archive the program’s episodes.

This all results in you having a couple of different options when you go to look up the main event of the 100th Nitro, though I’m more inclined to go with WCW’s original numbering and say that the main of that show was Luger/Hogan.

Down Under Dan has me going back into the archives:

My question is regarding Hulk Hogan and when, and who, made the decision for Hogan to go yellow and red full time during his WWF run 1983-1993? Although WrestleMania’s and ppv he was wearing the famous yellow and red, mist Saturday Night Main Events Hogan wore all white, and also a light blue/aqua colour. Also, many house shows he wore colours not yellow and red. Can you identify when the decision was made to go all in on yellow and red and whether this wound have been Hulks decision or whether Vince McMahon would have been the decision maker on this.

I actually covered more or less this exact same question when it was sent in by another reader back in January 2020.

Back in March, I ran a special two-part installment of the column in which I named the best pro wrestler from each U.S. state. You can read part one here and part two here.

After I concluded that list, several Canadians wrote in wanting their own version of the question answered. Of all the Canuks we heard from, let’s go to Patrick to set it up:

Count me as another vote for the Canadian version of the US states column. Should be quicker . . . the territories are blank, and a few provinces have like one person each. Rocky Johnson, Lanny Poffo and Ivan Koloff all being Canadian should surprise a few folks though.

First off, a reminder regarding our number one ground rule here. We are going with the place of each wrestler’s BIRTH, not the place where they spent the majority of their life or the place that they became most associated with during their career. This meant that, when we worked through the U.S., Ric Flair was counted towards Tennessee, where he was born, even though he grew up in Minnesota and most people would guess he was from North Carolina if they didn’t know any better.

Also, some of you who are more geographically inclined may be aware that, in addition to its ten provinces, Canada has three territories, though they are all fairly sparsely populated and have, making it easy for me to confirm the comment Patrick made in his letter that they have produced no professional wrestlers.

That said, here we go:

Alberta – Bret Hart – This was simultaneously a very simple selection and a very difficult selection, because the Hitman is the first wrestler that you think of when the name Alberta comes up . . . but then you start to question yourself and wonder if it’s a little bit too obvious. However, upon reviewing the names, I can confirm that the five-time WWF Champion is in fact the individual most deserving of this slot. (There’s another guy who I would’ve considered at one point in time, but then he killed his wife and child.) I will say that one interesting piece of trivia that I picked up while researching Albertan wrestlers is that technically Tully Blanchard was in contention here, as he spent most of his life in Texas but was born in Calgary while his father Joe was playing the Canadian Football League before beginning his own professional wrestling career.

British Columbia – John Tenta – I’m not sure why, but it seems like I’m writing about John Tenta quite a bit in this column in recent weeks. I do think that he’s a vastly underrated pro wrestler, as he often gets stuck on “worst wrestler” lists by people who don’t know any better merely because he was forced into a lot of silly gimmicks. However, when he was allowed to be serious and do his thing, he was a TERRIFYING heel who threw a helluva a dropkick for a 400-pounder and was even capable of hitting some moves off of the second rope when the situation called for it.

Manitoba – Kenny Omega – An absolute no-brainer here. Though some will claim that he has not lived up to his potential during his AEW run, the fact of the matter is that Omega is one-half of the greatest in-ring professional wrestling rivalries of all time, namely his series of matches against Kazuchika Okada. Combine that with his IWPG and AEW Heavyweight Championship reigns and early induction into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, and you’ve got quite the polished resume for a competitor who is not even 40 years old. I also have to give a small shout out to my personal favorite Manitoban wrestler, Robert Evans, whose work for CHIKARA as Archibald Peck in the early 2010s may have given us the best comedic gimmick of all time.

New Brunswick – “The Spoiler” Don Jardine – I’m not sure where I thought Don Jardine was from, but, before I started doing research for this column, it sure as hell wasn’t Moncton, New Brunswick. From Moncton, Jardine launched a professional wrestling career that lasted almost forty years. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, he challenged at least four different NWA World Heavyweight Champions, including Lou Thesz in St. Louis, Gene Kiniski, Jack Brisco, and ultimately Harley Race in 1979. He also picked up quite a bit of notoriety in Japan, where, as opposed to his traditional Spoiler character, he was known as the Super Destroyer in AJPW, where he feuded with Dick Beyer in his popular Destroyer persona. After spending several years in All Japan, he jumped over to NJPW and had high profile matches against the likes of Riki Choshu and even Antonio Inoki.

Newfoundland & Labrador – Sailor White/Moondog King – There are only two individuals that I am aware of who could have filled this spot. One of them is A-1, who TNA fans will remember as the muscle behind Team Canada in the mid-2000s. However, I’m not giving this to A-1. I’m giving it to Sailor White, a rough and tumble wrestler who debuted in the early 1970s and became a star in the Canadian wrestling scene, particularly in the International Wrestling territory in Quebec, where he captured the promotion’s top championship. He also held gold in the WWWF, as he was one of the Moondogs who captured the promotion’s tag team titles. His partner at that time was Randy Colley, a.k.a. the original Demolition Smash.

Nova Scotia – Rocky Johnson – Yes, it’s the Soulman. Many modern fans will only know him as the wrestler who fathered the Rock, but the fact of the matter is that he had an impressive professional wrestling career in his own right, holding championships in just about every major territory of the 1970s and 1980s, including Detroit, Florida, Georgia, Continental, Mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest. On top of that, when I first started watching professional wrestling, he and Tony Atlas were promoted as the first Black wrestlers to hold championships in the WWF, based on their Tag Team Title victory over the Wild Samoans. (Of course, this was a half-truth, as there were Black champions a few years earlier when the promotion was still called the WWWF.) Almost twenty-five years after capturing that belt, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his significantly more famous offspring.

Ontario – Edge – This was a difficult call to make. Of what I would call “modern” professional wrestlers, Edge is head and shoulders above the rest from Ontario, which is a list including guys like his good friend and former kayfabe brother Christian, Lance Storm (billed from Calgary but born in Ontario), Vampiro, and many more. However, there’s also a glut of great Ontarians who were stars of the past, with Abdullah the Butcher, Tiger Jeet Singh, and Killer Kowalski all being great examples. Ultimately I decided to go with the modern camp and with Edge because, though you could argue that the old school wrestlers were bigger stars for what wrestling was in their era, Edge was both a big star AND an excellent in-ring performer, which Abby, Singh, and Kowalski were not, even if you account for the fact that wrestling styles have changed over the decades. So, for being more of a total package, the Rated R Superstar gets the nod.

Prince Edward Island – Hangman Hughes – The Hangman wins this category by default, because he’s the only wrestler from P.E.I. who I could find a record of. With all due respect to the gentleman, I had never heard of him before, and I suspect that I’m not alone in that regard. He is an independent wrestler who began his career in 1999 and who appears to have been active as recently as November of last year. The vast majority of his matches have taken place in Canadian indies, though earlier in his career he also gained some international experience, wrestling regularly with IWA Puerto Rico and also being booked on a single tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2005, where he was an early tag team partner for Davey Boy Smith Jr. and picked up a singles win over a young Yujiro Takahashi. He’s also wrestled at least once as an enhancement talent for WWE, getting squashed in tag action against Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli. Hughes’ largest project is Real Action Wrestling, a company he has helped promote on Prince Edward Island.

Quebec – Pat Patterson – Again, there are a slew of excellent wrestlers from Quebec, from the Rougeau family of decades past to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn right now. Ultimately, though, I settled on Pat Patterson, who in addition to being a great performer and a huge draw in wrestling’s territorial era had a significant impact on the industry that still resonates today. Though he gained the majority of his notoriety in the United States (including the San Francisco territory, the AWA, and the WWWF) as opposed to his homeland, there is no denying that he is Quebecois through and through, in large part owing to that unique accent. Even once he hung up the boots, he helped Vince McMahon guide the World Wrestling Federation to national and then international prominence, having a hand in the Mr. T angle and match for the original Wrestlemania, creating the Royal Rumble and acting as the architect for its first many installments, and serving as the behind-the-scenes protege to the man we all now known as the Rock.

Saskatchewan – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper – Yes, everybody’s favorite “Scottish” professional wrestler was actually born in Saskatoon before donning his kilt and picking up his bagpipes. He is one of the most recognizable North American wrestlers of the last forty years and would have to be a contender for this list no matter what province he hailed from. His only real competition in my mind is Stu Hart, who began his life in Saskatchewan despite later becoming associated with Calgary, Alberta. However, Piper’s greater national and international fame lead to my giving him the nod, even though Hart had substantial influence on the industry as well, as a wrestler, promoter, and trainer.

And that’s it for our list of best wrestler from each Canadian province. Do you agree with it? Disagree? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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.

article topics :

Ask 411, nWo, Shawn Michaels, Ryan Byers