wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Was Hogan vs. Flair Supposed to Headline Wrestlemania VIII?

December 12, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair Image Credit: WWE

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.

Hey, ya want a banner?

I’ve been told I should promote my Twitter account more. So, go follow me on Twitter.

Lately, I’ve received a couple of questions on more-or-less the same topic, the double main events at Wrestlemania VIII. Let’s lay out both the questions, and then I’ll give a combined answer. Ticking Time Bomb Taz starts us off:

Was the original plan really for Hogan to face Flair at WM 8 as the dirtsheets have reported? If so, who were Macho Man and Sid slated to face?

And the second half of this one-two punch comes from Michael:

Do you find the alleged reason of Vince not booking a major feud between Hogan-Flair in 1991 as bad house show attendance as flimsy as I do especially in light of how well they drew for WCW in 1994? Plus, why do you think they drew so well for WCW in 1994? Was it because fans were finally getting the dream match they wanted on PPV or was it because WCW had a different fan base than WWF? Is this the biggest missed booking opportunity in WWF history? I mean this was THE undisputed dream match for wrestling fans for years prior.

Hulk Hogan versus Sid Justice was the plan for Wrestlemania VIII roughly a year out from from the event. Dave Meltzer covered this in a post on the WrestlingClassics.com message board back in 2006. It is true that the main event for the card was originally announced as Flair versus Hogan on WWF television, but Meltzer explained that this was meant to be an angle to set up Hogan/Sid from the start. The idea was that the Hulkster’s personal issue with Justice was so hot that he would be willing to go along with forfeiting a WWF Championship match.

It’s also worth noting that, as discussed in the February 3, 1992 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, going with Hogan/Flair for the championship at Mania made no sense. It was generally known that Hulk was going to take several months off after Wrestlemania, and there was some speculation, though not widely believed, that he could be approaching retirement. Given how wrestling was booked in that era, you had to have Hogan go over Flair if they were going to face each other for the championship at Mania, and you also weren’t going to do a quickie title change to get the belt off Hogan right after he won it. Either of those things would have been possibilities even ten years later, but it’s not how wrestling operated at the time.

Moving on to Michael’s question, we’ve already undercut the notion that Hogan/Flair was the scheduled bout, but it is true to say that the men’s house show matches did not have the legs one would have expected at the box office. The matches did well early but dropped off over time. However, the men’s first WCW encounter went over like gangbusters with paying audiences. Why?

I think Michael hits the nail on the head for this one. It’s a different audience, so they’re going to react differently. I suspect that the difference is due to the fact that, even though the WWF and WCW had largely separate fan bases, the WWF was the larger company on a national basis. People who primarily watched WCW were thus more likely to be familiar with the WWF and Hogan than WWF fans were likely to be familiar with WCW and Flair. Thus, it’s only natural that WCW fans are going to be receptive to this one as the dream match of dream matches, whereas there was going to be a group of WWF fans who saw Flair as just another heel in a long line of them.

He’s not on a team or a member of a gang. He’s Tyler from Winnipeg, also known as Mr. Bang Bang:

What was the first match like between Abbdulah The Butcher and Cactus Jack?

There actually weren’t that many Abdullah versus Cactus matches that I was able to find record of and no singles matches that were taped for television or otherwise recorded for official release.

The first encounters between them that I’m aware of took place in April 1990 on a series of WCW house shows, with the bout that was on the tour being a tag match featuring Abdullah and Norman the Lunatic on one side of the ring and Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan on the other.

Fast forward a year and a half, and Abby and Foley were put together as a team themselves, wrestling some squashes en route to being part of the heel squad in the infamously dreadful Chamber of Horrors match at Halloween Havoc 1991. They continued to team for the rest of the year, including a loop of house show matches against the duo of Van Hammer and El Gigante, which I can only imagine were somehow worse than the Chamber of Horrors.

Then, in a match taped on January 7, 1992 and airing on WCW Worldwide January 18, Jack and the Butcher lost to the Steiner Brothers when Abdullah accidentally hit his partner with a foreign object. The duo of wild men brawled after that, and a feud was on . . . sort of.

I say “sort of” because it didn’t really just petered out. There were three tag team matches between the two on television through January and February of ’92, with the first being taped on the same night as their breakup and featuring Abdullah & Ron Simmons going over Jack & Larry Zbyszko. The next match was the same, just with Zbyszko being replaced by Mr. Hughes. Finally, in six man action, Jack’s team managed to pick up a win, as he formed a trio with Hughes and Vinnie Vegas against Abdullah, Simmons, and Big Josh. (How are those for some bizarre teams?)

And this is where the singles matches begin.

Between February 1 and March 15 of 1992, Cactus Jack and Abdullah the butcher had nine singles matches against each other on house shows. Abby won the first four, which included steel cage matches in Philadelphia and Atlanta. The other five were all either double count outs or double disqualifications.

Now here’s where things get a bit interesting. Remember when I said none of their singles matches were televised or taped for official release? That’s true, but somehow a FAN CAM video of the match the two men had on March 7, 1992 in Oakland, California has survived all these years and is currently on YouTube…

If you’re not going to watch it, I’ll just comment briefly to say that it’s not pretty. The two highlights in the five-ish minute affair are Abby unloading what look like some truly wild shots with a cane and, believe it or not, a MONKEY FLIP. If you gave me a thousand guesses, I never would have picked that move as occurring in this match.

I’d call it a one star match . . . maybe.

In any event, in April 1992, the two men just started teaming together again out of the blue, with television announcers shrugging off the feud and just saying that the duo had an “on again, off again” relationship like they were Ross and Rachel or something. They had only a few more matches before Abby left WCW altogether, heading off to wrestle in Puerto Rico for a while. The two would never share a ring together again, as partners or opponents, as far as I can tell.

Night Wolf the Wise is anything but s-w-a-f-t:

Let’s talk about something that caused quite a stir in the wrestling world. The Undertaker appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He called today’s wrestling soft. Needless to say there was a lot of backlash against the Undertaker. The younger generation was upset at his comments while others have come to his defense, saying his words were taken out of context. I would like you to weigh in on this Undertaker controversy. Did a lot of people take Undertaker’s comments out of context? Or did the Undertaker mean exactly what he said? Is he right about wrestling being softer compared to when he started? Or is he an old man who’s out of touch with reality and how things have changed? Your thoughts?

The Undertaker was not taken out of context. He meant exactly what he said.

We shouldn’t be made at him for saying this, though.

We shouldn’t be mad because…

He’s right.

Modern professional wrestling is soft compared to professional wrestling thirty years ago and beyond. If you look at the style overall, wrestlers don’t lay things in to nearly the same extent that they used to, both in terms of strikes and applying holds. It’s much easier to tell that the “opponents” are cooperating with one another. Wrestlers are only working a small fraction of the dates that they used to work. After a show, guys go to their hotel rooms and play video games instead of hitting the bars for all hours and ingesting god knows what substances.

You could take any one of those items and use it as a valid reason to call today’s version of professional wrestling softer than what came before it. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t enjoy modern wrestling more if that’s their thing, and there are certainly some upsides to having a softer product given the body count that the 1980s wrestling industry left behind. However, I don’t know how somebody can look at the two products and not call one “softer” than the other if you’re comparing them on that metric.

Oh, Brad. Oh, dammit:

Kind of famously, there are four people remaining who have attended every Super Bowl. Obviously there were no fans at Wrestlemania in 2020. Who (besides Vince McMahon) do you think has been to every Wrestlemania? My most likely guess is Linda, even though we don’t hear about her being associated with the company in recent years. Don’t know if they would have brought Stephanie while she was growing up. We know Shane was away for years. Surprisingly I learned Kevin Dunn started with the company way back in 1984, so he’s a possibility. Anyone else?

Charlie Adorno.

Who is Charlie Adorno, you ask?

He’s a fan, who goes by the nickname “Ringside Charlie.” Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic locking fans out of Wrestlemania XXXVI, he had been to every version of the event and, from what I understand, has picked the habit back up. Adorno even got his own video featurette on WWE’s Youtube channel a few years back:

HBK’s Smile is shining down on Georgia:

I apologize in advance for the opinion-style question but I didn’t see much of Tommy Rich’s career – pretty much his early-1990s WCW run and his managerial role in ECW. Was his career helped or hampered by his throwaway 4-day NWA Title reign? Would he have likely soared to greater heights without that reign, or was this the only way he was going to ever hold a World Title?

Tommy Rich was going to wind up exactly where Tommy Rich wound up, NWA World Title or no NWA World Title. His career didn’t flounder because he was seen as a flash-in-the-pain world champion. His career floundered because he had substance abuse issues that resulted in him being unreliable and taking away the pretty boy good looks that helped make him a major star.

Also, Rich himself has admitted in some shoot interviews that he wasn’t the biggest fan of traveling nationally, which my have been something that hampered him even without the problems mentioned above.

Night Wolf the Wise is chomping on a toasted ravioli:

Who is Sam Muchnick and why do people call him the Pete Rozelle of wrestling?

Muchnick was a wrestling promoter who was active from the 1940s through the early 1980s, most heavily associated with the St. Louis territory and Wrestling at the Chase. He was also one of the handful of promoters who was involved in the formation of the National Wrestling Alliance, which in turn lead to the creation of a nationally touring world champion that became one of the biggest drawing cards in the sport.

Prior to reading this question, I had no idea who Pete Rozelle was. (Hey, this ain’t Ask 411 Football. Go find Steve Cook for that shit.) I did some googling, and apparently he is a former commissioner of the National Football League who oversaw great expansion of the league in terms of both geographic territory and popularity.

My assumption is that people make the comparison because Rozelle’s expansion of the NFL is comparable to Muchnick’s role in the creation and expansion of the NWA.

Bryan may or may not be his real name:

When Sasha Banks guest starred on the Mandalorian she was credited as Mercedes Varnado. When wrestlers star on TV shows or movies, are they not allowed to use their ring names? Hogan and Piper starred in movies after they left wrestling and still used their ring names. Furthermore, wouldn’t WWE get more publicity if they let her be credited as Sasha Banks. And if they don’t want her using the name why let her star In it to begin with when she could get hurt and cost them money?

I think that there’s an angle here that you’re not considering. Though WWE does own current wrestlers’ ring names, for the most part, and can control when they are used, there’s also a good chance that Sasha Banks didn’t want to be credited as Sasha Banks. She has a career after professional wrestling to consider, and she may or may not be allowed to take her more widely known moniker with her when she goes. She would be smart to try to build up some cache behind her real name in case she needs to utilize it once pro graps has passed her by.

M.N.M.N.B. closes us out with two unrelated questions:

We hear about wrestlers wanting out of their contacts – sometimes they’re let out, sometimes they aren’t.

Then you have AJ Lee.

How did she just leave WWE? I don’t remember it being reported that she asked for/was granted a release, she just declared herself retired and never came back.

Is that a loophole? If you declare yourself retired, you don’t have to honor the rest of your contract? Or did WWE actually give her a release and I missed the news at the time?

She did honor the rest of her contract, in the sense that she did not go to work for anybody else. That was the catch. She was allowed to “retire” and stop wrestling so long as she honored the portions of her contract that kept her from working outside of WWE in related fields.

Plus, keep in mind that her retirement came amid the allegedly WWE-backed lawsuit by Dr. Chris Amann against her husband, Phil Brooks. That was an awkward situation for everybody involved, and there were people in WWE who probably wanted to get away from it just as much as Lee did herself.

Also, how did William Regal keep his name? I was watching wrestling when he debuted in WCW, and I don’t remember him ever using the name “William” before WWE. I looked it up in wikipedia, and didn’t see any reference to “William” before his WWE run. And I don’t remember seeing any news here about WWE letting him continue to use that name after he left, like we saw with Billy Gunn (granted, “Billy Gunn” was a wholly wwe-created name, and Regal was Regal before wwe, just not William).

Personally, it wouldn’t have phased me at all if he showed up in AEW as “Steven Regal” – I was more shocked that he was still William.

Regal explained on a recent episode of his “Gentleman Villain” podcast that he was able to continue to use the name William Regal because he owns the rights to the name William Regal. It’s as simple as that. Plus, Regal has long been part of Triple H’s inner circle, so to he extent that any special dispensation was needed, I’d say he would be significantly more likely to receive it than most professional wrestlers.

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.