wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Should AEW Sign Tenille Dashwood?

July 12, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Emma Tenille Dashwood

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 has a giant of a question:

Back in 2007, I saw a Memphis wrestling show. The main event was Hulk Hogan versus the Big Show. Big Show was announced as Paul “The Great” Wight. He stated that Big Show was his slave name and he didn’t want to be owned anymore. What’s the full story behind that? I also heard a rumor that at the time, Big Show was training to be a boxer. Was there any truth to that?

The show in question took place on April 27, 2007 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee and drew 2,200 people, which had to be a disappointment given that the Forum has a capacity of slightly over 18,000 when configured for a basketball game. Hulk Hogan versus the Big Show was actually NOT the originally scheduled main event of the evening, which was Hogan versus Jerry Lawler. However, that went sideways in a spectacular fashion.

Before we get to that point, though, let’s flesh out the backstory just a little bit.

Even though Night Wolf’s question is mainly about the Big Show, this story has a lot more to do with Hulk Hogan.

As many people reading this will recall, 2007 was the year of Wrestlemania XXIII, held at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. This came twenty years after Wrestlemania III, held in nearby Pontiac, Michigan. Given that these two Manias were occurring twenty years apart in more-or-less the same city, many WWE fans and executives were clamoring for something to occur on the WM23 card that would commemorate the Hogan/Andre matchup. According to several issues of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter from early 2007, the hope was that Hogan versus the Big Show would be on the card, though that was described as a long shot because Show had taken some time off to let injuries heal in December of ’06 and ultimately he and WWE allowed his contract with the promotion to expire in February 2007. There were two backup plans for the Hogan/Show match, the first being Hogan taking on the Great Khali (which I would’ve loved to have seen from a morbid curiosity standpoint) and the second being Hogan wrestling, of all people, SHANE MCMAHON, with Vince McMahon in Shane’s corner and Donald Trump in Hogan’s (with the Vince/Hogan interaction eventually becoming part of the Bobby Lashley/Umaga match that served as Mania 23’s main event).

However, when Wrestlemania 23 rolled around, Hogan was nowhere to be found on the card, with the only real homage to his encounter with Andre the Giant being Kane bodyslamming the Great Khali in the otherwise-forgettable match between those two.

Why wasn’t Hogan on the show? There are two possible reasons.

The first is that, in mid-January, Hogan made an appearance on his friend Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show and, while he was on the air, he received a telephone call from Ann Russo (no relation to Vince Russo), a WWE secretary who worked primarily for John Laurinaitis. Russo was calling Hogan to get his opinion on possible inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame for that year. She read him a list of roughly twenty-five names and asked him to pick ten, a request which Hogan obliged. While doing this, the Hulkster had the audio of his call with Russo broadcast on Bubba’s radio show, without any prior approval from WWE and without Russo knowing that she was having anything other than a one-on-one conversation. When Vince McMahon heard about this, he was reportedly furious and claimed that he was never going to do business with Hulk Hogan again.

Of course, there have been several times during Hogan and McMahon’s thirty-plus year relationship that one has said they’re no longer doing business with the other, so eventually Vince did cool off and there was continued negotiation with Hogan, though the Wrestlemania match still never came to fruition, allegedly due to disagreements regarding Hogan’s pay and positioning on the card.

Interestingly, throughout early 2007, Memphis Wrestling, at that point essentially an independent promotion with a strong local television program due to the insane popularity of Jerry Lawler in the city, was making allusions to the possibility of a Hogan/Lawler match. At the time, many questioned whether this would ever happen, in large part because Hogan always started making noise about the possibility of doing something outside of WWE during Wrestlemania season in hopes that it would increase the odds that the promotion would bring him in at a higher price point than they might otherwise.

However, once Mania XXIII was no longer in the cards for the Immortal One, plans for Lawler versus Hogan went full speed ahead. The match was announced during the first week of April, just a few days before Wrestlemania. Originally it was going to take place at the Mid-South Coliseum, but instead it was moved to the larger FedEx Forum, in large part because the Coliseum was in bad shape at the time and there were concerns about getting it up to code prior to the event taking place. Hogan was scheduled to appear on Memphis TV to do some final promotion for the show, and everything appeared to be a lock until . . .

Vince McMahon intervened.

At the time this was all going down, Jerry Lawler was employed by WWE. He was under an announcers’ contract as opposed to a wrestlers’ contract, though, and WWE announcers’ contracts at the time said that they were free to work independent dates. (This may have been a provision that existed primarily for Lawler’s own benefit, because he’s always wanted to wrestle as much as possible.) Even though the King was free to book whatever dates he wanted for himself, when he showed up for Monday Night Raw a little over a week before the Hogan/Lawler match was to happen, he was told by WWE that the company did not want him or any other WWE talent appearing on cards that also involved Hulk Hogan. Though there’s a chance the Lawler likely would have been within his legal right to work the match regardless of what WWE told him, he decided not to make any political trouble for himself and pulled out of the encounter with the red and yellow.

(For what it’s worth, Lawler’s story is that he had to pull out of the match because of pressure from the USA Network, who the King claimed didn’t want a personality from a show on their station, Monday Night Raw, appearing on the Hulkster’s then-popular reality show, Hogan Knows Best on VH-1. However, Lawler’s version of events is questionable, because in the past there had been many appearances by then-current WWE personalities on Hogan Knows Best. In fact, Hulk himself had been on Raw at times when Hogan Knows Best was airing.)

With Lawler out of the picture, the entire show could have fallen apart, but, for whatever reason, Hogan decided to move forward and appear in Memphis. He called in a favor to his good friend Paul “Big Show” Wight, and Wight worked the show as a last-minute replacement for Lawler. In all likelihood, this resulted in the show doing much worse business in the Memphis market than it would have otherwise, because, as noted above, Lawler was still an icon in the city and seeing him against Hogan would have been huge for Memphis wrestling fans. Without the King, the only real attraction on the show was the novelty of seeing Hulk Hogan live, and not nearly as many people were willing to plunk down their hard-earned money on that.

As noted at the outset of this answer, the ultimate attendance was a disappointing 2,200 fans, and Hogan never did business with Memphis Wrestling again.

In an interesting side note to the story, Memphis Wrestling promotor Cory Maclin wound up suing WWE, claiming that their role in blocking Jerry Lawler from appearing on the show and thereby reducing the business that he could have done was a violation of anti-trust statutes, the laws that exist to promote competition in business and prevent monopolies from being established. The suit was filed shortly after the show, and Maclin and WWE settled it out of court in May 2008 for an undisclosed sum of money. As an aside to this aside, Maclin sadly died in July 2013 at the age of 43 when he was involved in a single-car auto accident.

And that is the full story of why Hulk Hogan and Paul Wight wrestled each other at a seemingly random Memphis wrestling show in 2007.

Night Wolf also asked about Big Show’s potential foray into the world of professional boxing around this time. My answer here has already gone long, so, for more on that, I will refer you to this 2016 article from David Bixenspan, which covers the whole affair of Paul Wight’s boxing “career” in far more detail than I could hope to.

I’m not sure what Tyler is getting at:

Is this year’s, 2019, Ric freaking Flair’s social media posts unwatchable?

Honestly, I don’t pay attention to most wrestlers on social media, so I have no idea whether what Flair is doing is unwatchable or not.

Uzoma has two AEW-related quickies:

1) Your thoughts on AEW Double or Nothing?

I haven’t seen it. It aired when I was on vacation, and I haven’t looped back around to watch it yet. We’ll see if I ever do.

All of the reports on the business it has done make it sound like a far greater success than I ever expected it would be, though.

2) Should Tenille Dashwood (f/k/a Emma) sign with AEW?

Her Ring of Honor contract reportedly expired at the end of March and she has not signed with any other promotion to my knowledge. As far as her own career is concerned, if she’s looking to sign somewhere, she should sign wherever she can get the most money for doing the sort of work that she will find fulfilling. I do not know what her career aspirations are, the type of promotion that she wants to work for, etc.

Personally, I would not be interested in signing Tenille if I were part of AEW management. That’s not a knock on her as a performer, as I’ve always found her to be a very capable wrestler, having watched her going back to her first appearances in SHIMMER. However, I think that a new promotion in AEW’s boat should be leery of signing people who were lower and midcard wrestlers in WWE and promoting them as stars, because in my opinion it makes the promotion look second rate. (This is why I’m not a big fan of them pushing Shawn Spears.) I think that they would be better served by focusing on the women who they have already been using, many of whom are just as talented as Tenille, if not moreso.

Talent Gaming is harkening back to the days of Randy Savage and Tully Blanchard:

I know wrestling titles don’t mean much in this day and age, but I’ve always had a special attraction to midcard titles like the Intercontinental and United States Championships more than the WWE or Universal Title. What should WWE or wrestling promoters all over the world do to make these midcard titles just as important as the promotion’s world title? What would you do as a booker?

First, I don’t think that midcard titles should be “as important” as world titles. However, they should definitely be portrayed as important and serve as stepping stones to advance wrestlers’ careers. Otherwise, there is no point in having them around.

In my mind, there are three main steps to increasing the profile of a midcard title to where it ought to be:

1. The vast majority of the midcard title holders should be people who the bookers see as having the potential to advance up the card and eventually hold a main title. I do accept that, every now and then, you may need to put the belt on somebody who doesn’t have the same potential for upward movement in order to advance a storyline, but most champions should be up-and-comers. That way, when your former midcard champion breaks through and wins the big belt, it reflects well on the lower-tiered title and adds to its legacy.

2. Compelling storylines need to be created for the people who hold midcard titles. One thing that really bothers me is seeing fans claim that wrestling promotions “need” midcard titles because it gives people who aren’t in the main event scene “something to do.” Trading a title back and forth without direction isn’t “something for wrestlers to do.” Participating in a meaningful storyline is something for wrestlers to do. If you can make a midcard title part of that storyline, great. If you can’t come up with compelling storylines to book around your midcard titles, you may as well just not have the titles.

3. Midcard champions should never be booked to lose against people who are part of the world title division. Everybody knows on some level that a midcard title isn’t as prestigious as a world title, but you shouldn’t actively be telling your audience that the midcard wrestlers who are holding those titles aren’t good enough to mix it up with the world title contenders. If anything, you should keep the competitors in those divisions separate from each othe the vast majority of the time and portray them as being very strong in their own divisions so that fans can speculate amongst themselves about who would win if the midcard champ and world champ ever met up. (For a great example of this, look at Rob Van Dam’s ECW TV Title reign.)

And those are some quick thoughts about midcard championships. For further reading, visit your local library.

Greg H. hustles hella hard, never celebrates a holiday:

I don’t know too much about the now-defunct Japanese promotion HUSTLE, but having scoured sites like cagematch and profightdb, I’ve noticed that a lot of the performers (mostly masked from what I gather) have remained largely unidentified. Any chance you’d be able to ID some of the men behind some of these HUSTLE gimmicks?

Greg then went on to list A LOT of different characters from HUSTLE that he wanted to know the identities of. Before we get on to those, though, let’s give a little bit of background on the promotion as a whole for those who may never have heard of it.

Most people reading this will have heard of Japanese mixed martial arts promotion Pride Fighting Championships, which essentially put MMA on the map while UFC was still attempting to save itself from obscurity imposed in large part by the morals of U.S. politicians.

After several years of dominating the mixed marital arts game, Dream Stage Entertainment, the parent company of Pride FC, decided that it was going to branch out into professional wrestling, and the result was the founding of HUSTLE in 2004.

On its earliest shows, HUSTLE was a fairly straight up professional wrestling promotion built in large part around 1990s Japanese stars Shinya Hashimoto and Naoya Ogawa. They also threw around quite a bit of money to bring in major American wrestlers like Bill Goldberg, Mick Foley, The Outsiders, and Dusty Rhodes. The company also had working relationships with promotions like All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Zero-One, which lead to some interesting things like Foley’s one HUSTLE match being against Toshiaki Kawada for the prestigious AJPW Triple Crown.

Then, after less than a year in business, HUSTLE took a weird turn. Instead of focusing on being a straight up wrestling promotion, they morphed into a style that would eventually be described as “Fighting Opera.” I’ve seen some people describe Fighting Opera as an effort to bring American-style “sports entertainment” to Japan, but it was really so much more over the top than even what we would normally associate with that term.

The overarching storyline of HUSTLE was that former Pride star Nobuhiko Takada adopted the persona of Generalissimo Takada, dressing like a cartoonish version of Benito Mussolini and leading a faction called the “Monster Army,” which had the goal of forever destroying professional wrestling. This had somewhat of a basis in reality, as MMA promotions like Pride had been seen as one factor in the tanking popularity of traditional professional wrestling at around this time, so Takada could credibly be seen as a guy who had already worked to “kill” wrestling. Of course, there was also a heroic unit of babyfaces who had the role of attempting to save everybody’s favorite pseudo-sport.

There were so, so many offbeat storylines in the promotion that I could spend quite a while talking about, but here are just a few of the highlights in an abbreviated format: 1) Kawada became a lounge singer; 2) The Great Muta sprayed his mist into a woman’s crotch, which caused her to lay an egg which hatched Akebono, who (literally) proceeded to act like a giant baby; 3) there was a cyborg who shot his opponent with invisible lasers; 4) Dragon Gate’s Magnum TOKYO was a detective; 5) one of the lead stars was an exotic dancer whose primary offensive maneuver was crouching on her opponent’s face; 6) a wrestler’s first name was an emoticon; 7) Giant Silva wore an antenna on his head; 8) Abdullah the Butcher was trapped in a genie’s lamp; 9) Aja Kong and Amazing Kong became girly girls; 10) there were four or five different angles involving brainwashing and/or hypnotism; and 11) 1970s Montreal Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie stepped into the ring, because . . . reasons.

Looking back over that list, somebody really needs to write a parody song about HUSTLE using Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a base.

Though many of you reading this article might look at the above description of HUSTLE and think that it was some small, niche independent group like CHIKARA, but the reality is that, at least for a short time, this was VERY popular. The group’s HustleMania shows drew thousands to venues like the Yokohama Arena, and, at perhaps the height of the promotion, they packed over 20,000 in to the Saitama Super Arena. This was on top of the shows having regular television and pay per view distribution in their home country.

With that excessively long background out of the way, let’s actually get back to the question that brought us here.

Greg asked if I could identify some of the masked undercard wrestlers that appeared on HUSTLE’s shows. See, as part of the “Monster Army” motif, there were quite a few unorthodox characters on these cards, many of whom only appeared two or three times before vanishing without a trace. There were wrestling werewolves, wrestling horses, wrestling snakes, a frog doing a Brock Lesnar impression, flying vampires, and so many more.

Unfortunately, because HUSTLE only had a cult following among English-speaking wrestling fans and because these characters did not have many matches, there is very little record of who played who. Greg sent me a list of over forty names to look into, and, even though I did research every one of them, as you’ll see I was only about to come up with information about the true identities of a select few. I’m going to provide what background I can, and then, at the end of the answer, I’ll provide the remaining names in case anybody out there reading this has more information than I do.

The M-Peranza: The M-Peranza was Yinling the Erotic Terrorist. That sentence probably meant nothing to 90% of the people reading this. One of HUSTLE’s more popular acts was a Taiwanese model named Yinling, who valeted and later did some very basic wrestling under the moniker “Yinling the Erotic Terrorist.” Eventually Yinling played the M-Peranza, which was supposed to have been a cyborg wrestler modeled after herself. It was the female counterpart to the Esperanza, which was a cyborg wrestler modeled after Nobuhiko Takada.

Katakari: Katakari was allegedly an African hunter who had a beef with Shinya Hashimoto and challenged him to a match in which, if Hashimoto lost, he would have to grow his hair into an afro. Hashimoto won, but he wound up growing an afro-esque hairstyle anyway. Katakari was actually played by Arizona/California indy wrestler Gabriel Gallo, who I at the time knew better under the name of Ghostwalker, one half of the UPW tag team Native Blood with Navajo Warrior.

Dark Von Maestro Eins & Zwei: The Dark Von Maestros were a masked tag team who dressed up as orchestra conductors and, in fact, “conducted” to the audience as one of their taunts. In a nice touch, keeping with the German theme of their names, the Japanese announcers actually referred to them as Dark Von Maestro Eins and Dark Von Maestro Zwei as opposed to Dark Von Maestro #1 and #2 (or ichi and ni). Under the hoods, the Von Maestros were brothers Shu and Kei Sato, also known as the Brahman Brothers. They are Dragon System products who have been staples on the Japanese indy scene for quite some time. They also wrestled in HUSTLE under a couple of other masked gimmicks, including the Neo Devil Pierroths and the faction of evil spiders called Onigumi.

HUSTLE Kamen Pink: The HUSTLE Kamen were a Power Rangers-esque group of high flying undercard babyfaces who usually wrestled in six or eight-man tags against masked “monster” wrestlers. The identities of most of the HUSTLE Kamen are fairly well-known, including a young Kota Ibushi appearing as the group’s orange ranger. However, information about the group’s sole female member, HUSTLE Kamen Pink, is less widely available. After doing some sleuthing, I was able to determine that she was most likely Miho Watabe, a joshi wrestler who is better known for her masked character “Baby A” in the Arsion promotion, which was altered slightly to “Baby M” when she started to compete elsewhere.

Sunshine Kid: This is the one answer where I’m taking a bit of an educated guess as opposed to confirming the wrestler’s identity through some other source. If you do some googling, there are promo pictures of the masked Sunshine Kid out there, and his physique and facial features visible through mask (particularly his facial hair) make him look quite a bit like KUSHIDA, who was part of HUSTLE at the time as a protégé of Tajiri. Plus, Sunshine’s one and only match that I am aware of saw him wrestling in an opening six man tag with RG and Tajiri against some fairly inconsequential members of the Monster Army, which is exactly the sort of position that KUSHIDA regularly found himself in during his HUSTLE career.

And that’s everybody who I was able to dig up at least some information on. In case you’re a HUSTLE fan who can shed light on to the identities of other performers Greg asked about, here are the remaining names that he gave me:

Choshu-Ka, Frog Lesnar, Flying Vampire #7, Flying Vampire #23, Flying Vampire #25, Flying Vampire #28, Golden Cup #1, Golden Cup #2, Inago Rider, KIDATA Low 2008, KIDATA Low 2009, Kinugawan Piranha Monster, Monster Soldier, Monster Soldier 001, Monster Soldier 002,
Piranha Monster, Piranha Monster Gamma, Piranha Monster Omega, Piranha Monster XX,
Piranha Monster XXX, Piranha Monster Z, Small Gama Daio, KATAKARI KING, KIDATA Low, KIDATA Low 2006, KIDATA Low 2007, A Tona Khai, Akamamushi Sandayu, Arimakinen, Kantaro, Kotetsu, Miyakinen, Satan the Santa, Satan the Santa 2005, Satan the Santa 2008, Sgt. Keroro, Suppon

It’s entirely possible that some of these characters are wrestlers whose names have already appeared earlier in this answer, because it’s not as though HUSTLE was above asking anybody to pull double duty.

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].