wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Do Wrestling Companies Do Stable Reunions?

December 1, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
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Wotcha. Welcome to Ask 411 Wrestling. I’m Mathew Sforcina, the guy who’s here to answer the questions you lot send in.

For now.

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The Cyborg Ask 411 Wrestling: I think the most common question topic by that stage will depend on the model of the author. The questions tackled by the Q-Bot 5000 would be much different to those chosen by Hex-Grapple Program 77 61 74 72 79 73 75 63 6b 73.

Montreal As A Work: In a court of law, while discussing the somewhat recent passing of Owen Hart, Bret said it was a shoot. If you honestly think Bret would maintain THAT gimmick at THAT time for THAT company, I can’t help you.

Broken Matt Hardy Sucks!: … I’m sorry that you’ll hate the next few months of Raw then, maybe.

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I share a connection to the above, albeit not one shown on-air. My first tag title reign was ended by one of the guys I beat to win the belts, and a new partner he had. A guy who replaced me in a title match won the title, which turned me heel and saw me win the title off the guy who replaced me, and then later on the inverse happened when someone replaced me in a title match and that turned me face. I debuted in one company on the night of a major birth. I once won a vacant singles title by beating an ECW high flyer, a multi time world champion, an IC champ, and a guy who really sucks in the final. A man whose last appearance on WWE TV was overshadowed by what was on my face, I am who?

Keldor King and Rogue tag teamed this one, in a way.

I share a connection to the above, albeit not one shown on-air (both trained by Hiro Matsuda). My first tag title reign (NWA world tag with Jimmy Snuka) was ended by one of the guys I beat to win the belts (beat Baron Von Raschke & Greg Valentine), and a new partner he had (lost to Raschke & Paul Jones) A guy who replaced me in a title match won the title (Jake Roberts beat the Grappler for the North American title), which turned me heel and saw me win the title off the guy who replaced me (beat Jake Roberts for North American title), and then later on the inverse happened when someone replaced me in a title match and that turned me face (Bob Roop stole his title shot) I debuted in one company on the night of a major birth (the night Hogan beat Iron Seak and Hulkamania was born). I once won a vacant singles title (WCW TV) by beating an ECW high flyer (2 Cold Scorpio), a multi time world champion (Cactus Jack), an IC champ (Johnny B Badd / Marc Mero), and a guy who really sucks in the final (Erik Watts). A man whose last appearance on WWE TV was overshadowed by what was on my face (an awesome moustache) I am who? (Paul Orndorff)

Who am I? I’m joined to the above by a year. I’ve worked with lots of people over the years, including over a dozen or so world champions of various companies. All my title reigns have been singles titles. In one regard, I’ve beaten John Cena by 11. I’ve been connected with shooting an animal, holding a strap, Sexy Boy, and I almost managed R-Truth one time. A guy not related to someone I once teamed with despite our names, I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

Sean asks a tricky question to start us off.

With Sarah Logan being called up to Smackdown this week is she the first performer to not have any wins at the developmental level and still get called up. Thanks!

No, since she had plenty of wins on NXT’s live circuit. Televised she was winless, yes, but that’s not all that NXT does.

I’m obviously not going back to pre-NXT days, since that’s a giant minefield to dig through, but part of the problem is, do you count people who trained in NXT but didn’t wrestle on the shows? Braun never wrestled a match on NXT TV, but he was on a bunch of shows as a Rosebud, and he got called up with no wins. That count?

Other than that, I couldn’t find anyone on the list of NXT alumni that wrestled in only losing affairs on NXT TV and then got a call up. Unless someone below can correct me, I guess Sarah does win that no-prize.

Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo has a simple enough question.

I just rewatched Fall Brawl 1998 (the War Games). Why was Stevie Ray the 3rd nWo Hollywood member, instead of Scott Hall (or anyone else)?

Because the third man for the nWo was going to be the one who took the pinfall because DDP was going to win by himself after Hogan and Warrior, the real stars, did their deal, and thus no-one who was actually important wanted to take it, so they instead made it seem like a big deal that the guy who had just joined the nWo was going to be a player by putting him in, and then it didn’t matter that he lost the match because he wasn’t a real star like Hogan or Hogan Friend #135.

No Chandlers, that’s legit the reason, really. I’m sure the WCW booking committee would claim otherwise but that was the logic.

Back to matches on specific brands, with David.

I was watching the survivor series kickoff show and Shawn Michaels kept saying throughout the show he’s always been a raw guy. I know he was injured before smackdown even started and when he came back in 2002 he was always on raw. I know he was on the first smackdown as a special referee and other smackdowns he appeared on. My question is did Shawn Michaels ever wrestle a match on any smackdown in his career?

He must have, on one of the specials, surely?

Or, alternatively, in the build up to HBK/Taker 2, he wrestled Rey Mysterio to a no contest, Tue, Jan 29th 2010 (filmed on the 26th).

There’s a few other SD appearances too, tag matches and such. So while he was ‘always’ a Raw guy, he has worked Tuesdays occasionally.

Chuck questions some past booking logic.

Hi Mathew, Big fan of your column. So I have two questions about 2 WWE storylines from the past that I was wondering if you could shed your insight on.

1) 1999 Corporate Ministry/Higher Power Angle
I’ve been rewatching some old Attitude Era RAW episodes and I’m currently at the post-WM XV shows that focused on the whole Corporation/Ministry of Darkness feud with McMahon, the Rock, Austin and the Union. IMO, I thought the angle was fantastic. In storyline sense, having Shane work with the Undertaker to exploit Vince’s love for his daughter to gain power was a logical move given the McMahon family’s power trip. Having Vince mount a counterattack and actually side with Austin was also great. Seeing these two men who hated each other uniting to wage war on Shane was captivating. If I’m not mistaken, they were also some of the highest rated RAW episodes ever. My questions: Why did they decide to use Vince as the Higher Power? Weeks before Shane even admitted to being the Higher Power. On the Raw before he was revealed as the Higher Power, Vince won a match against the Undertaker to give Austin a title shot again. If he wanted to screw Austin wouldn’t that have been the place to do it? It made no sense and even the kayfabe explanation on RAW was weak at best. It seemed like they killed a great idea. Did this turn make sense to you? And do you think this had anything to do with the passing of Owen Hart? Could it have been Vince’s knee-jerk reaction to real life making him look like the bad guy so he turned his character heel as a result?

Yeah, this was not a great ending for a storyline, all things considered. I wrote it all out at one point back in the day, where retroactively, the man Vince hated and didn’t want to get the title, Steve Austin, got multiple shots at said belt thanks to both Shane AND Vince in their efforts to… Screw Austin over and keep him from winning the title.

I mean, you can argue that Vince knew he couldn’t truly break Austin, and thus if he could keep Austin on a treadmill to nowhere, chasing shadows, maybe that would distract him… But no the whole thing sucked, with that reveal.

Taking your questions in turn, they decided to go with Vince fairly late in the game, I believe, as they supposedly ran through a few options prior to going with Vince. According to Russo/Ferrera/Pritchard, the original plan was for Christopher Daniels to be the guy, he’d been doing the Fallen Angel gimmick on the indies at the time, and he was under some sort of contract (he worked as one of Edge & Christian’s Conquistadors), and so they’d debut him as a new face of evil and so on. Vince didn’t like how short Daniels was, and so it was nixed. That’s the most recent name to come up. Traditionally, ignoring the storytelling compliant but not feasible ideas like DiBiase (under WCW contract) or Roberts (under the influence), the story goes that they considered Michaels but didn’t really chase him, then offered it to Foley who turned it down due to not wanting to work as such a big heel at that time, then just went with Vince as the default choice fairly late in the game.

It didn’t have anything to do with Owen, I don’t think, it was just that they established a mystery and then were stuck with options that weren’t acceptable either due to the talent involved not meeting a standard, or just not able to do it, so they went with Vince.

Logically, of course it doesn’t make sense on a basic level, but overall… If, and it’s a hell of a big if, if you grant that the Vince/Austin relationship is one that is based on Vince subconsciously sabotaging his own interests in, well, self-interest, if you are willing to allow the notion that Vince deep down did know that Austin as champ made him money and brought him fame, and so with all his plans and schemes, in the end he would sabotage himself, then the whole run around does make sense in a weird way, in that while Vince was telling himself he was keeping Austin away from being on top, and that the title shots he had to give him were only enough to keep Austin from realising what was going on, if you agree that Vince was so weird and convoluted because deep down he wanted to fail, on some level… It can kind of work.

Don’t get me wrong, from a storytelling perspective it sucked, but it can be justified. Maybe.

2) 1988 Survivor Series double turn
For some reason, Survivor Series 1988 is one of my favorite PPVs. I love the 10 vs 10 Tag team match but what made no sense to me was the double turn at the end of the match. In kayfabe sense, would Fuji really dump the Tag Team Champions simply because Smash wouldn’t listen to him in that one instance? I don’t recall any events leading up to the match that would build dissension between Demolition and Fuji. Outside of the storyline, what backstage reasons did they have for doing this? The double turn did not come across very well and the fans seemed confused as to what was going on. After watching it recently, the fans in the arena seemed to think Fuji turned face not Demolition. What are your thoughts?

This double turn was one that made sense on paper, but which wasn’t executed too well, and more importantly had a crowd that wasn’t reacting the ‘right’ way.

See, Demolition were heels only in the sense that they were bad dudes, two ass kickers who, well, kicked ass, and didn’t bother taking names. And it’s weird, even back then, if you have two dudes with a cool look and a decent song who come out and kick ass and look tough and are tough and are badasses, people like them, eventually. They cheer them.

So Demolition were getting routinely cheers at house shows and such, people were digging them. Powers of Pain, supposed babyfaces, were getting some reaction in that regard, but not a lot, certainly not more than Demolition. So, wrestling logic says, if the fans are treating someone one way, you go with them. You turn Demolition face, you kind of need a big bad team for them to turn on, and the Powers were big guys, and since they weren’t working as faces all that well, you turn them both, and now everyone wins! So what if you break up the Demolition/Fuji team, that just adds emotion!

But as you say, the live crowd, that night, they weren’t a Demolition crowd. Sometimes a crowd is out of step with most everyone else, and occasionally, it comes at the worst possible time. Austin turning heel at WM should have been a shocking, riot-inducing moment. But it was in Texas, so instead, Vince turned face for a night.

WWE Network. It’s not just for Christmas.

From a Kayfabe perspective, it wasn’t just one night’s actions. Survivor Series was just the night Fuji had had enough. Afterwards, he talked about Demolition becoming disrespectful since winning the titles, while the Powers would be loyal and follow him.

In other words, as Demolition won more matches and held the belts longer and longer, they started to gain self-confidence and realised they were awesome. Fuji hated that, he wanted stooges, he wanted clients who would blindly follow him off a cliff if he asked them to. So he ditched Demolition for a team that wouldn’t bat an eyelid until they were halfway down the cliff.

Been a while since I’ve posted videos like this, but RavenCyarm is doing good work.

Plus, you know, Botchamania.

Nightwolf has a couple faction based questions.

1. I noticed an interesting theme in wrestling. A stable will debut: The 4 Horsemen, DX, Evolution, Main Event Mafia, The Shield ( For the purpose of this question, I’ll use these 5). They’ll dominate anything and everything in their path. They’ll get really big and popular, then BOOM they breakup. All the wrestlers in the stable will go on to singles career. At some point those wrestlers will get beat down. They’ll realize they need to reunite to fight a common enemy. The 4 Horsemen reunited to take on the NWO. DX reunited to take on Vince and Shane McMahon. Evolution reunited to take on the Shield. Main Event Mafia reunited to take on Aces & Eight. And The Shield reunited to take on Miztourage. Why do you suppose wrestling promotions go that route?

Because they like money.

Basically it’s a case of wanting more money at each step in the journey, but that pursuit leading to different choices along the way.

You start with a new stable, presumably you’ve not done one recently, and you push the crap out of them, make money with the new group and branding and merch machine, and you keep them together for a while because that’s what you’ve got as a product.

But then, be because you’re worried they’ll go stale, or due to outside factors or some other really awesome storyline idea, or the more common reason, that you suspect that you can make more money with each part of the stable separated, you break them up.

And it makes sense, if you have five guys, say, who are over as a group, you might sell one shirt of theirs, the groups. Maybe two of them if you have enough variations. But you split them up, suddenly you have five shirts. And sure, not everyone is going to like all five guys as much as they loved the group, but if they love two or three of them enough, they’ll buy a shirt for each of them, and now you’ve sold more shirts, plus you have a bunch of hot, easily told storylines to run on top for months, as you have the former allies now turned enemies, men who were like brothers now on a collision course for chaos, etcetc.

But then, eventually, they start to peter out. They lose some heat, as they’ve fought each other, and now they’re back to being just guys on the roster. Maybe some of them are higher up the card than they were, maybe one or two are big stars, but they just don’t have that heat they used to, they’re not making you enough money.

So then you bust out the nostalgia, and get the band back together! Everyone old is new again! Buy the new t-shirt, and a retro one that’s just like the old one but slightly different so even if you still have the old one, you better get this new old one too! Everyone gets the thing they loved, and they love the guys again just as much as they used to, until they no longer do so, then you split them up again.

And if they’re all still around in a few years, and their heat has dropped again, you reunite them again. And again. And again….

2. I can remember as a kid, one of the things that absolutely terrified me was when the Ministry of Darkness kidnapped Denis Knight. They tortured him, then Undertaker sacrificed him and he became Mideon. It look like something out of a movie. You’d almost believe it was real by the way they made you buy into it. Why has this become a lost art in WWE? Why don’t they try and really sell a point to fans? I know PG Era and all, but that shouldn’t matter. The speech Undertaker gave before he sacrificed Denis Knight, you’d almost believe he’s the Eater of Worlds instead of Bray Wyatt and his speech. WWE doesn’t sell their point anymore

Well see, some people might consider that cheesy and over the top. Different strokes and all that.

I think there’s a few different thinking processes sort of melding together here. The most obvious is that WWE is family friendly and all about putting smiles on people’s faces, as they keep saying, and with that comes this thinking that this means they cant show people having emotional reactions to things, at least not negative ones. If someone loses a big match and acts all sad or upset, that’ll put a frown on little Bobby or Bobbi or whomever’s face. Can’t have that. So faces have to laugh off any loss.

You couple that, with a booking system that seems to equate ‘family friendly’ with ‘child friendly’ and equates that with ‘acting like 5 year olds’ so that again, faces have to act a certain way and heels another, faces are impulsive and rude, heels adult and reasonable. So you can’t go too dark, might scare people too much.

And then, on top of that, if your roster is mostly people who either came up in the indy scene in the naughts, or people who have learnt only the WWE style and who also work mostly those same indy scene guys, if the in-ring stuff, with notable exceptions, is a grounded, realistic, hard hitting style, that doesn’t allow for too much over the top but serious storytelling.

Wrestlers are more grounded in reality, but that reality is childlike, and when the overall goal is not to upset anyone too much, that is not an environment that fosters deep, serious, hardhitting storytelling with emotional resonance. It gives you light, fluffy booking where faces get title shots when they want them and then don’t care if they lose.

Stu asks about a title being practically dead, then some wrestlers who, well, are actually dead.

How controversial at the time was Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA title?

Very, assuming you were following the NWA and/or independent wrestling at the time. Which is to say, a small group of people were fairly shocked, but not surprised.

The whole Shane Douglas as NWA champ thing was very political and had plenty of bickering, and if you were paying attention via the Observer and the like, a doublecross was actually tossed about as a possibility, but it wasn’t clear what would happen and who would cross whom.

(I pause at this point to watch the Infinity War trailer a good dozen or so times.)

Anyway, where was I… Right, yeah, the NWA trying to reboot itself after splitting from WCW for good, there wasn’t a huge number of promotions left standing, the NWA board at that point was down to three men, Jim Crockett, Dennis Coraluzzo, and Steve Rickard, and from the get go there was bickering about who would be champ and where the tourney would be held. Tod Gordon, being the only NWA member with TV, was told by Crockett, supposedly, that he could hold the tourney for the new champ, with the plan that one of Gordon’s guys could win it, and then they’d drop it to one of Crockett’s guys from Texas. Gordon and Heyman weren’t thrilled at that, and the notion that the ECW Title was going to be a stepping stone for the NWA title, but they went along with it, announcing the tourney for TV to be held in New Jersey, Coraluzzo’s…

Sorry, Philly, the ECW mutants of the time complained.

Anyway, then it turns out that the NWA board, such as it was, hadn’t OKed this, and that Dennis and his associates weren’t happy. Gordon then said, since he’d announced it, he’d hold it with or without approval, so the NWA board pulled back and let them run it, but then there were arguments about who should win. Gordon wanted Douglas, Coraluzzo and friends wanted Benoit, and Crockett didn’t much care, apparently. After more arguments, the plan was Shane to win, hold it a little while, then drop it to Benoit later in the year.

That was where things were going in, with distrust and tense agreements all round. Gordon and Heyman said, at various times, they felt like the NWA was going to screw them over so they got in first, in such a way as to get some buzz for themselves plus set up ECW as counter-culture and hip and edgy and all that.

So yeah, it was controversial, but it’s not like it was out of the blue. Very much a case of people were expecting a shoe to drop, and then it turned out the shoe was ten pounds of gold instead.

If not for their untimely deaths, do you feel that Lance Cade, Test, Brian Pillman, Chris Candido and Reid Flair could likely have gotten further than they previously had in wrestling?

Cade, no. I’m pretty sure he’d peaked, he wasn’t much beyond being tall and good looking and such, maybe if his All Japan run somehow made him click with a new gimmick or something, but he’d had two chances with WWE, and unless a miracle occurred, I don’t think a third was on the cards.

Test, probably not, no. Yes, he was also tall and muscular and had good to ok hair, but again, lots of chances, and wasn’t that great in the ring… He probably would have gotten maybe another go round in WWE as a bodyguard role or tag team or something, maybe, but that would be it.

Pillman is interesting, in that he probably could have gotten further, but not in a way that he would have liked. Pillman’s body was broken, his ankle fused, and while he was able to transition his style from high flying to a grounded, meaner style, he seemed to be pretty much walking wounded all the way through his last few months. Maybe he’d get better, probably not, but I think that if he wanted to, and maybe toned things down a fraction, he’d have a long run as a color commentator and maybe even as a booker/writer/agent, he was a smart man after all. But that would require him to be happy with that role, and I’m not sure if he would be. It’s hard to say.

Candido was definitely working hard when his untimely death occurred, he was looking motivated and seemed to be heading on the right track, I’m not sure where his ceiling was, but I’d say that yes, he was most likely heading for better things, if it all went well. Like with any wrestler, there’s lots of provisos and assumptions and possible problems, but he’s a safe bet for upward mobility, sure.

Reid… That’s difficult. Regardless of the question of if the Flair wrestling genes only pass on to the females or not, unfortunately his personal issues probably would have scuttled him no matter what. If he’d managed to clean himself up and focus and all those clichés, then sure, he seemed to have some talent, but as is? No, he probably wouldn’t have strung together enough solid work across enough time to really make a go of it.

And on that depressing note, I bid you goodbye for now. I’m off to watch the Infinity War trailer a dozen more times.