wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Was Vince McMahon Always Meant to Be The Higher Power?

November 27, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Vince McMahon Higher Power

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.

Lee in Liverpool is assuming the position:

How accurate was Gorilla Monsoon’s use of medical terminology?

This may not be the answer you were expecting, but it actually wasn’t that bad.

As I can recall, there were four anatomical terms that the Gorilla would regularly bring up when doing his announcing, most of which he would use accurately.

When a wrestler’s midsection was attacked, Monsoon would often refer to a blow to the solar plexus. The word “plexus” generally refers to an area where several different nerves connect to each other, and there is one such area just below the sternum. Though more formally called the celiac plexus, the solar plexus is, in fact, an older, colloquial term for this area.

Moving downward to the legs, Gorilla would often correctly identify the patella as the kneecap, and he would name ligaments in the knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and medial collateral ligament (MCL), all of which are, in fact, parts of your knee. Granted, the big ape probably couldn’t have told you which of the four ligaments specifically was being injured from his position at the announce desk, but it’s not as though he was inventing body parts out of whole cloth.

Finally, perhaps the most famous anatomical catchphrase of Gorilla Monsoon was the “external occipital protuberance.” I seem to recall an old issue of WWF Magazine that I had when I was a kid that claimed this term referred to the armpit, which is categorically incorrect. However, that’s not how Monsoon used it. Instead, he busted out the term when a competitor was dropped on the back of his head, which is more or less correct. The external occipital protuberance is in fact a small point on the back of the skull, near the base, which juts out slightly, almost like a small spur. The actual protuberance is so small that a wrestling slam or suplex would be unlikely to target it specifically, but Gorilla knew what he was talking about.

It’s not entirely surprising that Monsoon knew all of these things, either, as prior to his professional wrestling career he attended Ithaca College and majored in physical education.

Here’s the latest in a series of questions about overseas title defenses from Stu in the UK:

Which title (not necessarily a “world” title) has been defended in the most countries?

Honestly, I really only looked at the histories of two championships to answer this question, because my instincts tell me that there are only two real contenders here: the WWE Championship and the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Of all of the titles that have existed, they’re the ones that have been in existence the longest while being affiliated with promotions that have an international reach. There are some titles in Japanese and Mexican promotions that are just about as old, but belts from those countries don’t tend to circulate internationally as often as those based out of the U.S. do.

So, if anybody out there thinks that I have missed a contender and wants me to look into its defense history, I am glad to . . . but for the time being this is just going to be an NWA Title versus WWE Title comparison.

And, believe it or not, the NWA Title wins it pretty handily, as that championship has been defended in 23 different countries as compared to the WWE Title’s 11 countries. Below I’ve listed out the countries each championship has been defended in, and, for some extra trivia, every time a country outside of the United States or Canada is included, I have listed the date of the first title match in that country as well as who competed in it.

NWA World Heavyweight Title
1. USA
2. Canada
3. Cuba (3/14/52 – Lou Thesz vs. Mighty Atlas)
4. Mexico (5/21/1954 – Lou Thesz vs. Gori Guerrero)
5. Australia (8/29/1957 – Lou Thesz vs. Ricky Waldo)
6. Singapore (9/28/1957 – Lou Thesz vs. King Kong Czaja)
7. Japan (10/7/1957 – Lou Thesz vs. Rikidozan)
8. Jamaica (7/6/1963 – Lou Thesz vs. Mike Paidousis)
9. Bahamas (8/3/1969 – Dory Funk Jr. vs. Hans Mortier)
10. New Zealand (8/13/1973 – Jack Brisco vs. Mark Lewin)
11. Barbados (9/2/1982 – Ric Flair vs. Carlos Colon)
12. Dominican Republic (12/19/1982 – Ric Flair vs. Carlos Colon)
13. Trinidad (4/19/1983 – Ric Flair vs. Victor Jovica)
14. Malaysia (3/5/1996 – Dan Severn vs. Repo Man)
15. The Netherlands (11/28/1999 – Naoya Ogawa vs. Rob Peters)
16. U.K. (10/20/2001 – Steve Corino vs. The Sandman)
17. Finland (8/30/2003 – AJ Styles vs. Kid Kash)
18. South Korea (1/22/2005 – Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles)
19. Italy (6/4/2005 – AJ Styles vs. Petey Williams)
20. Portugal (1/5/2007 – Abyss vs. Christian Cage)
21. Germany (1/21/2012 – Adam Pearce vs. Emil Sitoci)
22. Taiwan (4/12/2014 – Satoshi Kojima vs. Rob Conway)
23. China (4/14/2018 – Nick Aldis vs. Colt Cabana)

WWWF/WWF/WWE Championship
1. USA
2. Canada
3. Australia (4/15/1966 – Bruno Sammartino vs. Waldo Von Erich)
4. Japan (5/9/1975 – Bruno Sammartino vs. Giant Baba)
5. Mexico (5/1/1981 – Bob Backlund vs. Antonio Inoki)
6. France (10/7/1988 – Randy Savage vs. Akeem)
7. U.K. (10/10/1989 – Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan)
8. Germany (4/14/1992 – Randy Savage vs. Shawn Michaels)
9. Panama (3/9/2007 – John Cena vs. Umaga)
10. Iraq (11/4/2009 – John Cena vs. Chris Jericho)
11. Saudi Arabia (4/27/2018 – AJ Styles v. Shinsuke Nakamura)

Dave thinks it’s all about the little things:

I remember one of my favourite columns on 411 wrestling was the Hidden Highlights, showing the little touches that some wrestlers put into matches. William Regal was a regular in the columns but who in today’s wrestling world do you think would appear most often now?

There’s a pretty clear-cut answer to this. I don’t think it’s even close.

It’s Minoru Suzuki.

Suzuki spent a large portion of his career putting on worked shoot fights, so it’s no surprise that he became a master of inserting small details into his pro wrestling matches to make them look more realistic. His facial expressions are excellent, his body language is superb, and he’s one of the few wrestlers left that can make me question whether something I just saw in the ring was legitimate. I’ve never trained a professional wrestler, but, if I had to for some reason, Suzuki tapes would be required viewing as part of the curriculum.

Tyler from Winnipeg is inquiring about a fellow Canadian:

Do you see any similarities between Vampiro and Darby Allin?

Aside from the fact that they both wear face paint, no I really don’t. In terms of their in-ring performance, Allin is significantly more high flying and high risk. Though Vampiro did incorporate a couple of top rope moves into his repertoire towards the end of his full-time career, throughout the vast majority of it he was a standard heavyweight brawler and early on had a rep for being a bit of a stiff. Their personae are also pretty different, as Vampiro was supposed to be a literal vampire, whereas Allin is a skater boy with a heart of gold.

So yeah, aside from some superficial similarities in their looks, I don’t see them as having much in common.

Ticking Time Bomb Taz is pulling back his hood:

When the Undertaker and Shane McMahon revealed “the Higher Power” was the plan always for the reveal to be Vince McMahon or was it supposed to be someone else?

It was not always planned to be Vince McMahon, because apparently they started building towards the reveal of the Higher Power without knowing who would ultimately be in the role.

According to the June 21, 1999 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the decision to give the slot to Vinnie Mac occurred at the “last minute,” meaning that there was no long-term plan as to the reveal. The same issue of the Observer makes the claim that one of the key players being considered was none other than Mick Foley, which would have made just about as much sense as Vince McMahon.

Another candidate, according to Bruce Prichard on his Something to Wrestle podcast was the “Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels, who Vince Russo was championing for the role. However, the WWF’s other Vince apparently put the kibosh on that idea, thinking that the dynamic wouldn’t work because of the great size difference between Taker and Daniels. Now here we are over twenty years later, and even though at one point he was under consideration for one of the biggest moments in Raw history, we’ve still never seen Christopher Daniels on WWE television in anything other than an enhancement position.

Steve is mad about managers:

The standard line of thought about managers in wrestling is that they’re a tool to enhance the appeal of wrestlers who aren’t great talkers — but that’s not entirely true, is it? Certainly a lot of managers are used that way, but there have been plenty of top mic workers over the years who have had managers.

As I thought about this, I tried to categorize the reasons managers have been used, and I was able to come up with a whole bunch, which I’ll list here with one example. These aren’t mutually exclusive — a manager can serve more than one of these roles with a single wrestler:

1. To compensate for a wrestler’s weak mic skills (Zeb Colter managing Jack Swagger)
2. To talk for a wrestler who could talk for himself but probably shouldn’t (Paul Heyman managing Roman Reigns)
3. To provide a rationale for otherwise unrelated wrestlers to be allied with each other (Paul Heyman managing the Dangerous Alliance)
4. To enhance a wrestler’s gimmick (Miss Elizabeth managing Randy Savage)
5. To serve an angle (Paul Bearer managing Mankind)
6. Because the wrestler is legit friends with the manager and likes having him around (Jimmy Hart managing Hulk Hogan)
7. To make fans hate a wrestler they want to like (Paul Heyman managing CM Punk)
8. To make the manager’s higher status rub off on the wrestler (Sensational Sherri managing Shawn Michaels)

I originally assumed the reasons for managers would fall into three or four categories, but the more I thought about it, the more categories came up. Even so, there are a bunch of manager-wrestler combos I can’t come up with any rationale for at all. Why did Sensational Sherri manage Ted DiBiase? Why was Mr. Perfect with Ric Flair? JJ Dillon with the Four Horsemen? Bobby Heenan with Rick Rude or Nick Bockwinkel?

I’m not saying these combos didn’t work. Some of them were great. But I have a hard time imagining why they came about in the first place. Take Curt Hennig — if you’ve ever watched late-’80s AWA, you know he was by far the best talker in the company. Bobby Heenan worked great with him, sure. But what did Heenan give him that he wouldn’t have had on his own? Why wasn’t Heenan used with someone else who needed it more?

Are there any categories I missed? And what drives the decision to put a manager with a wrestler when it doesn’t fall into one of those categories?

There’s a lot to unpack here, though I’ve identified two main questions, and I think that the answer to one of them feeds into the answer to the other.

I cant think of three additional categories of manager that you’ve not mentioned in your writeup. Those are:

1. The promotion wants to give the manager a job for reasons unrelated to his talent and there’s not much else he can do except stand around and interfere in matches. (Mr. Fuji)
2. The manager is actually the top heel of the promotion and he cycles through a bunch of charges to challenge the top babyface (The Grand Wizard)
3. The manager and his charge are both awesome in their own right, but putting them together still creates an act that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

And, really, that third category covers a lot of the pairings that you couldn’t understand the rationale for. Did Ted DiBiase need Sensational Sherri? Did Ric Flair need Mr. Perfect? Did Nick Bockwinkel need Bobby Heenan? The answer to all of those questions is an obvious “no,” but were all of those duos better than the wrestlers would have been if they were on their own? Absolutely. A good manager can enhance an act regardless of whether he is truly needed to cover for a wrestler’s shortcomings, and sometimes that’s enough of a reason for a pairing.

Rodney Roper wants to follow up on a question about ring ropes from our November 9 column:

I was reading this week’s column, and saw Bryan asked about ropes, so I thought this would be a good time to send a similar question.

In your answer, you said “In a pro wrestling ring, the ropes are the boundary lines, and if you’re tangled up in them, things need to stop so that the referee can put you back into the field of play.”

Does that mean a pinfall/submission is not a legal/valid attempt if one of you is in the ropes?

That’s correct. If any part of a competitor is touching the ropes or is outside of the invisible plane formed by the ropes (for example a leg sticking out underneath the bottom rope), then the referee should not count the pin or should force a break on the submission hold.

I know the ref counts to 5, and can DQ a wrestler if they’re using the ropes while trying to pin/submit their opponent, but what about in a no-DQ match? Obviously if wrestler A is using the ropes to get an unfair advantage over wrestler B, they can’t be disqualified, because no-DQ, but is it a valid pinfall or submission attempt if they’re using the ropes? Or is it just that they can use the ropes to their heart’s content without being disqualified, but can’t win the match while still in the ropes? And if the person being pinned/submitted reaches the ropes, can they still lose while in the ropes?

Since it’s a no-DQ match, and not a falls count anywhere match, the ropes would still technically be outside the field of play, right?

This is one thing about professional wrestling that has never been uniformly enforced and has never been explained. I have seen plenty of no disqualification matches in which the referee has still enforced rules regarding rope breaks, even though technically it should not matter. Even in falls count anywhere matches, I’ve seen a ref give a competitor a rope break when you could theoretically take somebody out and pin them in the parking lot.

The one thing that is consistent about the rules of professional wrestling is that they’re not consistent.

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].