wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Should Wrestlemania 37 Have a Live Audience?

December 28, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE WrestleMania 37, WWE ThunderDome

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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We’ll start with Jon, who is asking me to wade into territory that I cannot imagine possibly being controversial at all. Nope. Hit it, Jon:

Not so much a question but I’d love your opinion on this:

WWE should hold Mania in an arena with a crowd. In order to make it safe, they should offer all tickets free to first responders who have already been vaccinated (by March, millions of them will fit that description). It would be years of good publicity for the company, and as far as cost goes, there’s no doubt they could get sponsors to cover it- they’d want that publicity as well.

My opinion in a word:

Nope.

My opinion in multiple words:

Nope nope nope, noppity nope nope nope.

My rationale:

I get where you’re coming from with the idea. Really, I do. At first blush it sounds like a worthwhile publicity stunt and/or just a nice thing to do. It certainly would be if you could just magically transport an arena’s worth of first responders to a major venue and then have the entire building prepped, staffed, and struck by a bunch of automatons incapable of contracting viral diseases.

Unfortunately, you can’t. In order to fill an arena with vaccinated first responders who are going to be willing and able to attend a wrestling show, you’re almost necessarily going to have to fly people in from all over the United States. They’re going to have to stay in hotels. They’re going to have to eat in restaurants. They’re going to have to ride in taxis and buses and do all of the other things that tourists necessarily do when visiting an unfamiliar town. Then, once all of those fans get to the arena, there are going to have to be security guards, concession workers, cleaning crews, and all of the other sorts of people who make a major event venue work.

Even though the first responders attending this hypothetical show might be vaccinated, the way things currently look for the rest of the country, that won’t be the case for the hotel clerk, the waitress, the security guard, or any of the other hundreds of people who would have to be doing their jobs in order to pull off this proposed Wrestlemania. Projections from public health officials that I’ve seen as of late indicate that we probably won’t be approaching some semblance of normalcy until the end of 2021 or early fall at the best.

Taking all of that into consideration, there is almost nothing that would result in me signing on to the concept of having a sizable live crowd at next year’s Mania. No event of that magnitude should be occurring until a substantial percentage of the population is vaccinated, not just the population of first responders.

Chris is going old school with two questions that are unrelated other than the fact that they both involve Memphis wrestling:

You had Rock & Roll Express, Midnight Rockers, and Rock N Roll RPMS. Who was the first “Rock and Roll” team and did they ever have legit heat with each other for stealing gimmicks?

They didn’t use the phrase “rock n’ roll” or any variant thereof in their name, but the team that is commonly credited with originating the gimmick that all of these duos copied to some extent is the Fabulous Ones, consisting of Stan Lane (later of the Midnight Express) and Steve Keirn (later Skinner). I have never read any account of any of these teams having heat with each other because of the similarity of their acts. As a matter of fact, Jerry Lawler, who was involved in booking the Memphis territory in which both the Fabs and the RnRs originated, has gone on record as saying that the reason the Rock n’ Roll Express was created was so that the promotion would have a team similar to the Fabulous Ones who could work on cards for which the Fabs were not available. In other words, there was enough of a demand for all of these teams that it’s not as though the existence of one prevented the other from getting bookings.

I’ve been watching CWA (Memphis) from the mid 1980’s and I see this guy Mr. Liberty (a masked wrestler). He always loses matches but he seemed capable and have the “look”. Was he someone else under a mask to get paid double?

I have not seen too solid a source on this, but I was able to find one review online that made the claim Mr. Liberty was Joe Stark, who is another undercard wrestler that you would see in and around Memphis in the early and mid-1980s. It’s hard for me to definitively say that Stark and Liberty are one and the same, because, looking at the limited footage of the two men, Liberty appears to have significantly better muscle tone and mass than Stark. However, the Stark matches online are at least four years older than the Liberty matches online, so there’s nothing saying that the guy couldn’t have hit the gym and got into better shape in those intervening years.

That’s not the greatest answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got. If anybody has something more solid, I would love to hear about it.

Tyler from Winnipeg is talking dream matches . . . or is he?

If there was a match in the next two months in your hometown, how much would you spend on a general admission ticket to watch Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Eugene?

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t go. I don’t want to yuck anybody’s yum, but watching local pro wrestling shows with nostalgia acts brought in to headline just isn’t my thing. Heck, watching local pro wrestling really isn’t my thing. Again, that’s not to knock anyone or say that you shouldn’t support it if it’s a source of enjoyment for you. You just won’t see me there.

Chris has me confused:

I have recently been reliving my childhood in these times of sheltering-in-place, specifically rewatching old NWA/WCW programming. My fquestion is this: Arn and Ole Anderson were the reigning National Tag Team Champions in late ’85-early ’86. When they were shown during interviews, Arn would sport the belt but Ole wouldn’t. Why was this?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. The interview above is from December 1985, and, as I understand it, the National Tag Team Titles were pretty much over and done with in January 1986, when Ole was injured by Dusty Rhodes. If you look at the video – as well as other videos from around the same time period – both Andersons have their belts. Maybe you just caught a show or two where the belt had been misplaced or Ole forgot to bring it with him on the team’s travels. It appears to have been there on a pretty consistent basis, though.

Mohamed is talking the demise of a once-great promotion:

What was the perception around WCW in early 2001 when the product was improving. Was there any hope for the company or was it all over?

In early 2001, it was pretty well known that Time Warner was done with WCW and it was not going continue in its current format. However, at least from my experience, just about every professional wrestling fan was of the mindset that somebody was going to swoop in and buy the company in order to keep it alive. In fact, even when WCW’s television programs were canceled and it was announced that, as a result, the Eric Bischoff-lead group of investors was not going to be making the purchase, there were still a LOT of fans (and even some wrestlers) running around crowing about how this had to be a work or part of some master plan by Bischoff to bring WCW back bigger and better than ever. Of course, it was not.

Legitimately up until the point that the purchase of WCW by the WWF was announced, my perception was that there was a strong, strong percentage of wrestling’s fanbase that could not accept the notion that the company might be facing its swan song.

In a recent edition of the column, I brought back the concept of tracing a lineal championship, which is something we did a few times a couple of years ago but put on the shelf for a while. I was going to put the lineal championship questions back into mothballs for another while, but then, in the comment section, The Saint(ess?) suggested another one that I found intriguing:

I got one for you. The World’s Greatest Tag Team. Of course Haas and Benjamin would start it, but based on the tag scene in WWE at the time, and how many of those people are no longer with the company it might get interesting, also it will be your first tag team one.

This caught my interest because, as noted, we’ve never traced a tag team title before, and all of the men’s singles titles we’ve looked into have an odd habit of winding up in more or less the same place. So, let’s see how things work out with the “title” of the World’s Greatest Tag Team.

Before we get there, a quick reminder of our rules for these title histories:

1. The title can only change hands in one-on-one matches, or, in this case, matches featuring only tag teams of two men each. No six or eight man tag matches, three-ways, four-ways, or the like count.

2. The title can only change hands by pinfall, submission, or complying with the stipulation of a gimmick match (e.g. escaping the cage in a cage match with escape rules).

3. The results that I’m using all come from CageMatch. There’s a chance they could be missing some results, but checking multiple databases/sources could become pretty unwieldy pretty quickly.

The original “World’s Greatest Tag Team” was Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. They were originally known as Team Angle, though that changed after they split with the titular Angle – Kurt. The first match where they are named as TWGTT occurred on June 21, 2003, so that is where our lineal championship begins as well.

Very shortly after becoming the World’s Greatest Tag Team, Benjamin and Haas win the WWE Tag Team Championship, and they hold both titles until the September 16, 2003 Smackdown tapings, when Eddie & Chavo Guerrero (Jr.) defeated the former Team Angle to win both the real belts and our fake title.

The World’s Greatest Tag Team continues to be linked to the WWE Tag Team Titles, as Doug and Danny Basham upend Los Guerreros to take both titles on the October 21, 2003 Smackdown tapings in Albany, New York.

In a match with the WWE Tag Titles were not on the line, Rikishi and Scotty II Hotty defeat the Bashams on the December 2, 2003 Smackdown tapings to become the World’s Greatest Tag Team.

Rikishi and Scotty lose some three-and-four-way WWE Tag Team Title matches over the next several weeks, but they don’t get defeated in match involving only two teams until the tapings for WWE Velocity that occur on January 20, 2004 in Minneapolis. That loss comes at the hands of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, who retake the title of World’s Greatest Tag Team.

Less than a month later, The Basham Brothers beat Haas and Benjamin in a house show match on February 1, 2004 in Pittsburgh. The Bashams also retain their WWE Tag Team Titles in this bout.

On the February 3, 2004 Smackdown tapings, Rikishi & Scott II Hotty again become the World’s Greatest Tag Team and earn the WWE Tag Team Titles when they go over the Bashams.

Though the WWE Tag Titles are not on the line, the APA of Faarooq & Bradshaw beat Rikishi and Scotty on the February 24, 2004 Smackdown tapings, making them the World’s Greatest Tag Team for the first time.

Rikishi and Scotty II Hotty get their win back on the March 16, 2004 Smackdown tapings in Boston, also retaining the WWE Tag Team Titles in that match. In an interesting bit of trivia, this is also the last match that the APA ever had as a team.

Making their first appearance in our lineal title history are Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley, who beat Rikishi & Scotty in a match where the WWE Tag Team Titles are not on the line on the April 6, 2004 Smackdown tapings in San Antonio, Texas.

Later that month, Rikishi & Scotty II Hotty become the four-time World’s Greatest Tag Team, as they defeat those damn Dudleys on April 25 at a house show in Wichita Falls, Texas.

And here’s where things get interesting. The April 25 win over the Dudleys is the last match that Rikishi and Scotty have as a team in WWE, as Rikishi is let go by the company in July 2004. Over the years, the two men have had two matches on the indy scene as partners, but they’ve won both of them, going over Arya Daivari & Mitch Paradise on August 21, 2009 for a company called “Heavy on Wrestling” in Proctor, Minnesota and beating Brian Nelson and Greg Glover by DQ on August 10, 2013 in Joliet, Illinois for Pro Wrestling Blitz.

Both Rikishi and Scotty II Hotty are still living, so we could theoretically just call this the end of the lineage of our fake title, declaring that they are still the World’s Greatest Tag Team. However, there is no record of Rikishi wrestling since March 2019 and no record of Scotty wrestling since November 2016, so it seems more equitable to consider them both retired for our purposes.

What do we do in that case?

Well, there’s a bit of precedence for this. If you go back to the very first lineal championship that I traced, something similar happened when the title of “The Man” (as in Ric Flair’s “to be the man, you gotta beat the man” catchphrase) wound up on little person wrestler Teo, who then disappeared from the sport without taking another loss. What we did in that circumstance was awarded the lineal championship back to the last person who had held it, giving it to them as of the date of the prior champion’s last match.

So, I suppose that’s what we’ll do here.

Invoking the “Teo rule” in this case means that Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley again become the World’s Greatest tag team effective August 10, 2013, the date of the last match on record for Rikishi & Scotty II Hotty.

The Dudleys are actually on a bit of a hiatus at this time, so they don’t lose a match as a team until March 8, 2015, when they are defeated by The Young Bucks Matt and Nick Jackson on a show for the indy group 2CW in Binghamton, New York. The Bucks are the first “World’s Greatest Tag Team” to have won that distinction outside of WWE and the first to have held it despite never working for that promotion.

The Bucks drop the World’s Greatest Tag Team designation on April 5, 2015 in Tokyo, when Trent Beretta & Rocky Romero, a.k.a. Roppongi Vice, beat the Jacksons on that year’s New Japan Pro Wrestling Invasion Attack show. The Bucks were also the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions headed into this bout, so TWGTT is now unified with that title.

Though Roppongi Vice lose the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles in a three-way, they don’t lose another match involving just two tag teams until July 24, 2015, when, on Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor XIII pay per view, they fall to Jay & Mark Briscoe in Baltimore, Maryland.

Two months later at ROH All Star Extravaganza on September 18, 2015, the Briscoes are defeated by the All-Night Express of Kenny King & Rhett Titus.

Exactly one week later in what is billed as a “Proving Ground” match, Matt Taven & Michael “Kanellis” Bennett, collectively known as The Kingdom, defeat the All-Night Express in order to become the World’s Greatest Tag Team. The Kingdom are also the ROH Tag Team Champions at this point, making this the third somewhat-notable real-world title our fake title has synced up with.

We now return to New Japan, where Tetsuya Naito & EVIL beat Taven & Bennett on November 23, 2015 in a match that was part of that year’s World Tag League tournament. Naito & EVIL are part of the stable Los Ingobernales de Japon.

For those of you not familiar with how NJPW’s tournaments work, most of them are round robin affairs, so we’re still in the tournament when Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii beat EVIL & Naito to become the World’s Greatest Tag Team on on November 30, 2015 in Fukuoka. Nakamura & Ishii are representing the faction CHAOS.

Still in 2015 World Tag League, Bullet Club members Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows defeat Nakamura & Ishii on December 6, 2015 in the Aichi Perfectual Gymnasium in Nagoya, Japan.

The future Good Brothers don’t lose again in the tournament, but they do lose at WrestleKingdom 10 at the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2016, also dropping their IWGP Tag Team Titles to the Great Bash Heel team of Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma.

We continue to follow the IWPG Tag Team Titles, as GBH loses those belts and the World’s Greatest Tag Team moniker to Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa (The Guerrillas of Destiny) at New Japan’s Invasion Attack show on April 10, 2016.

In a twist that I didn’t see coming, Jay & Mark Briscoe are the World’s Greatest Tag Team for the second time, as they take out the Guerrillas on June 19, 2016 at the NJPW Dominion card in Osaka. The Briscoes also take the IWGP Tag Titles here.

The IWGP Titles and the right to be the World’s Greatest Tag Team bounce back to G.O.D. on October 10, 2016, when Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa regain everything from the Briscoes at NJPW King of Pro Wrestling in Tokyo.

It’s time for the 2016 World Tag League in New Japan, where Hiroshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima beat G.O.D. on November 18, 2016. The IWGP Tag Team Titles are not on the line here, so our World’s Greatest Tag Team title is separated from that lineage.

Eight days later, another World Tag League match sees Tenzan & Kojima lose to War Machine of Raymond Rowe & Hanson, who these days are known as the Viking Raiders in WWE.

We’re still in the tournament, and Rush & Tetsuya Naito, representing Los Ingobernales, defeat War Machine on December 1, 2016 in the relatively small town of Beppu, Japan.

Six days later, Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa regain the World’s Greatest Tag Team mantel in another World Tag League tournament match, defeating Rush & Naito in Mito, Japan.

Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma are back in the driver’s seat as the World’s Greatest Tag Team, as they beat G.O.D. in the finals of the 2016 World Tag League on December 10, 2016 in Rifu, Miyagi, Japan.

Believe it or not, Makabe & Honma wind up holding our fake title for a looooooong time. Some of this is due to the fact that Honma was seriously injured in a match on March 3, 2017 and did not wrestle again until June 23, 2018. Even after his return, he’s been fairly limited in the ring, meaning that he’s often in six-man or eight-man tag matches, where he and Makabe cannot lose TWGTT.

However, all good things must come to an end, as GBH does lose a standard tag team match on November 16, 2019, when they are defeated by Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare in a bout that is part of the 2019 World Tag League tournament.

The very next night, also as part of the World Tag League, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, members of the Bullet Club, defeat Tanahashi & Henare in Korakuen Hall to become the World’s Greatest Tag Team.

In a rare Bullet Club versus Bullet Club encounter necessitated by the brackets of the World Tag League tournament, Yujiro Takahashi & KENTA (formerly known as Hideo Itami) beat Fale & Owens on November 18, 2019, meaning that we’ve had three new World’s Greatest Tag Teams on three consecutive days.

In another Bullet Club versus Bullet Club match in the 2019 World Tag League, faction-in-a-faction G.O.D. (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa), defeat KENTA & Takahashi on November 21, 2019 in Kofu, Japan, making them a four-time TWGTT.

Another team representing Los Ingobernales de Japon goes over G.O.D. on November 24 in Nagoya to become the World’s Greatest Tag Team. This time, Los Ingobernales are represented by EVIL & SANADA.

In a result that I would call an upset if not for the fact that they were on a hot streak in the 2019 World Tag League, the high-larious team of Colt Cabana & Toru Yano defeats LIJ’s EVIL & SANADA on November 27, 2019 in Hamamatsu, making them the World’s Greatest Tag Team.

On December 2, 2019, the Bullet Club’s KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi become a two-team World’s Greatest Tag Team, as they go over Cabana & Yano in another World Tag League match, this one taking place in the Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

It’s yet another World Tag League battle, as the gaijin team of David Finlay & Juice Robinson beat out KENTA & Takahashi on December 6, 2019 in Mashiki, Japan.

Finlay & Robinson go on to win the entire 2019 World Tag League, meaning we don’t have to deal with any more of those rapid-fire title changes, and they also win the IWPG Tag Team Titles on this year’s WrestleKingdom show. However, they drop those titles and also our fake title of World’s Greatest Tag Team on February 1, 2020, losing to Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa, now a five-time TWGTT.

We continue to track the lineage of the IWPG Tag Team Titles, as the pretty boy duo of Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi upend G.O.D. on February 21 at Korakuen Hall.

Tanahashi & Ibushi hold both the real and fake title for several months, aided in large part by the relative lack of shows during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when NJPW starts to run somewhat regularly again, they lose the IWGP Tag Team Titles and the moniker of TWGTT to the Dangerous Tekkers of Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi on July 12, 2020 on the company’s Dominion show in Osaka.

And now we get in to the 2020 World Tag League! SANDA & Shingo Takagi, representing Los Ingobernales, become the World’s Greatest Tag Team when they deal the Dangerous Tekkers their first two-on-two loss in four months, defeating them on November 19, 2020.

On November 28, 2020, David Finaly & Juice Robinson beat LIJ, regaining the World’s Greatest Tag Team mantel that they last held during last year’s World Tag League.

Then, on December 11, 2020 – literally the day that I am writing this answer – Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa defeat FinJuice in the finals of the Tag League, winning the tournament for the first time despite this being their fourth trip to the finals. Given how New Japan’s booking typically works, G.O.D. are likely to remain the World’s Greatest Tag Team until at least January 4, 2021 as they will probably remain undefeated until the big Tokyo Dome show, where they may or may not win the IWPG World Tag Team Titles.

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].