wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: What if Benoit Didn’t Do It?

November 18, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Chris Benoit - Ask 411 Wrestling

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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Bobby T. is revisiting perhaps the most-asked-about topic in the history of this column (or perhaps it’s second to the Montreal Screwjob):

If somehow there was evidence discovered today that proved Chris Benoit didn’t murder his family and that it was actually a triple homicide involving an outside party, how do you think WWE would handle Chris Benoit?

Do you think he would receive a hero’s welcome, with an induction into the Hall of Fame, or do you think they would slowly incorporate him back into history? Maybe they wouldn’t do either, and assuming the damage is already done, just keep pretending he never existed.

First off, I think that WWE is already past the point of pretending that Benoit never existed. Footage of him is left in programs uploaded to the WWE Network, which means that he’s getting just about as much coverage as any other wrestler of comparable stature whose career spanned the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Granted, you’re not going to see any footage of his Wrestlemania XX main event victory incorporated into packages of ‘Mania’s greatest moments, but I think that’s probably the only place you’d see him these days if his death had been by other means.

So, what happens if the man who committed perhaps the most heinous crime in professional wrestling history was suddenly exonerated?

I honestly don’t know how much WWE would market the guy after that. I guess they could put him into the Hall of Fame, but the purpose of the HOF isn’t to honor people. The purpose of the HOF is to make money by selling tickets to the event during Wrestlemania weekend and reminding fans of old-timers so that new merchandise featuring them can be circulated. If they can also use it to get a current talent over (e.g. a family member of the inductee), that’s an added bonus. Even putting the murders aside, Chris Benoit just doesn’t seem like that marketable of a guy in the current WWE environment. He wasn’t an over-the-top character who easily lends himself to t-shirts and action figures. He also doesn’t have any real family or other connection to anybody currently on the WWE roster, though his adult son David did appear to be pursuing an in-ring career at one point in time.

There is one place where I could see WWE using Benoit’s story if he were exonerated, though:

A true crime documentary.

Think about it. We’ve had Making a Murderer, Scandal, and numerous lesser properties following in their footsteps that have made true crime an insanely popular genre in 2018. It’s also a genre that WWE has never really tackled before, despite branching out in recent years to reality TV, animation, sketch comedy, and several other far-flung areas that people would never connect to wrestling. If Benoit were no longer the killer of record for his wife and child, it would seem a lot less distasteful for WWE to do their own feature-length documentary or limited series exclusive to the Network that profiled exactly what happened on that fateful evening in 2007.

Brad asked a question last week about whether the Crown Jewel main event was the tag match with the highest combined age in WWE history. Now he’s asking another question about old wrestlers. I’m not sure what Brad’s thing with old wrestlers is, but here we are:

Another hopefully interesting question popped into my head. Could you summarize which WWE Hall of Fame members have had WWE matches after their induction and what the results were? I imaging it’s a fairly short list, since many members were already at an advanced age, physically limited, or deceased when inducted. Plus the various managers and celebrities don’t really qualify.

Brad, you have the distinction of asking this week’s award for asking a question that seemed simple when I originally received it but turned out to produce a far, far longer answer than what I ever would have expected. There have been A LOT of former WWE Hall of Famers who have worked matches, and in fact it appears that the majority of HOFers have wrestled after their inductions.

What follows is a summary of who those folks are and a few notes about their matches, though the matches were too numerous for me to list each and every one of them. Match stats here are being provided by CageMatch.de, so don’t yell at me if something is missing.

Let’s go!

Some of the Hall of Famers who came back to wrestle have done it fairly recently and on a big stage, so most people reading this will already know about them. However, for the sake of completeness, let’s fire them off quickly: Shawn Michaels was inducted in 2011 and came back to wrestle this year at Crown Jewel; Trish Stratus was inducted in 2013 and wrestled in this year’s women’s Royal Rumble as well as at the Evolution pay per view and the next night on Raw; Lita was inducted in 2014 and had all the same post-induction matches as Trish Stratus, though she also appeared in an oddly random eight-person tag match for Maryland Championship Wrestling on March 3, 2017 (all of the other wrestlers in the match were locals); Beth Phoenix and Jacqueline were in this year’s women’s Royal Rumble; Madusa and Ivory were in the battle royale at Evolution; Mark Henry was in the Greatest Royal Rumble after his induction this year; and 2017 inductee Kurt Angle has had several matches in the last year and a half, including at Survivor Series 2017, Wrestlemania XXXIV, the Greatest Royal Rumble, and Crown Jewel in addition to less notable matches on the October 8, 2018 Raw (in a battle royale) and the November 5, 2018 Raw (against Drew McIntyre) and a house show match in Birmingham, England on November 7, 2017 teaming with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins against Samoa Joe and the Bar.

From there, let’s go to perhaps the most famous Hall of Famer of them all: Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster joined the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and had quite a few matches after that, including his infamous Summerslam 2005 encounter with Shawn Michaels and several tag matches that built up to it. He also did his Memphis indy match against the Big Show on April 24, 2007 and promoted his own “Hulkamania” tour of Australia in 2009, which saw him wrestle Ric Flair in four different cities. Finally, Hogan joined TNA in 2010, where his matches were: a tag match with Abyss against AJ Styles and Ric Flair on the March 8 Impact, a singles match against Sting at Bound for Glory 2011, and two non-televised six man tag matches in Nottingham and Manchster, U.K., on January 26 and 217, 2012 both of them being Hogan, Sting, and James Storm defeating Bobby Roode, Bubba Ray Dudley, and Kurt Angle.

Perpetual Hogan adversary Ric Flair came out of his post-Hall of Fame induction retirement for the first time when he competed on the aforementioned Hulkamania tour of Australia. He also had numerous singles matches for TNA between 2010 and 2011, though he has abstained from wrestling since September 12, 2011, when he was defeated by Sting on an episode of Impact. In many respects, Flair ending his in-ring career against Sting seems appropriate.

Perpetual Ric Flair adversary Ricky Steamboat was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year that he participated in the legends’ gauntlet match against Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XXV, followed up by a ten man tag the next night on Raw and singles match with Jericho at Backlash. Interestingly, he had a run of house show matches during the summer of that year, where his three regular opponents were Jericho, Drew McIntyre, and Sheamus. He finished out his career doing two tag matches with his son, Richie Steamboat (a.k.a. Ricky Steamboat Jr.), one of which was against Hiram Tua and Orlando Colon (a.ka. Epico) for WWC in Puerto Rico on August 15, 2009 and for Florida Championship Wrestling on June 18, 2010 against the Dudebusters.

Speaking of WWC, its promoter, Carlos Colon, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, after which we have record of him wrestling three times: in a tag match on May 24 with Xix Xavant against Andy Levine and Invader #1, in a match for the WWC Universal Title on September 27, and against the Mighty Ursus on September 27.

The legendary Dusty Rhodes had his final match the same year that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. It was a bullrope match against Randy Orton at the 2007 Great American Bash pay per view on July 22 of that year in San Jose, California.

Kevin Von Erich, who was inducted into the HOF alongside the rest of his family in 2009 (sadly, the only member of that family not posthumously inducted), just wrestled in 2017. It was his first recorded match in 12 years, and it took place on July 9. In Tel Aviv, Israel. Even though the match took place in Israel, it was run through an indy group called Los Angeles Wrestling, and the match saw Kevin team with his sons Ross and Marshall against Russian wrestler Gery Roif, Israeli wrestler Jumping Lee, and, of all people, Marty Jannetty. The Von Erichs won the match. I assume this was booked to capitalize on the fact that, in the territorial days, World Class Championship Wrestling television ran in Israel and actually held at least one international tour in the country.

Here’s a name that you probably didn’t expect to see on this list: “Mean” Gene Okerlund. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006 and then had a match on the April 10, 2012 edition of Smackdown, when heel authority figure John Laurinaitis booked him to serve as the tag team partner of babyface Sheamus against the team of Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio. The match ended when Bryan, Del Rio, and Ricardo Rodriguez were surrounding Mean Gene and threatening to destroy him, at which point “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s theme music hit and he ran in (okay, “strolled” in is probably more like it) with a crew of other WWE Legends — including Dusty Rhodes, Pat Patterson, and Sergeant Slaughter — and distracted Daniel Bryan long enough for Sheamus to brogue kick him and pin him. D-Bry has a really bad track record with turning around from distractions into that kick.

In more announcers-as-wrestlers news, Jim Ross had three matches in 2011 after receiving his Hall of Fame ring in 2007. He defeated Michael Cole via disqualification on the April 25 episode of Raw, he and Jerry Lawler were defeated by Cole and Jack Swagger in a strap match at the Extreme Rules pay per view that year, and, finally, Ross gained a measure of revenge by teaming with John Cena to defeat Cole and Alberto Del Rio on the October 15 Raw, which emanated from Mexico City. Meanwhile, Jerry Lawler has had a whopping 150+ matches since becoming a Hall of Famer, with many of them being on WWE television and many more being on the indy circuit. Of course, he’s also kept wrestling after dying on national TV, so nothing is going to stop this guy.

Another odd inclusion is Lou Albano. Granted, Captain Lou was a wrestler before he was a manager, but he had given up wrestling on a regular basis for quite some time before his Hall of Fame induction in 1996. However, he did wrestle three matches in 1997 for an indy called Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling. All of the matches were against “Judd the Stud,” who appears to have been a local manager.

The last manager we’ll talk about here is Jimmy Hart, a 2005 inductee. Jimmy teamed with the Nasty Boys to face Bubba Ray, D-Von, and Spike Dudley on the March 9, 2010 edition of TNA Impact, which was just as good as it sounds. He also participated in two legends battles royale, one for Pro Wrestling Syndicate in 2012 and the other for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in 2011. Yes, that’s right: Jimmy Hart of all people has technically had a PWG match.

Despite being almost 80 years old at the time, 1996 inductee Killer Kowalski had two matches in 2006 and one match in 2008, all of them for an independent group called Top Rope Promotions in New England. Indy wrestlers Gregory Edwards and Gino Giovanni were his opponents.

While Kowalski only had a handful of matches, there are some other guys who are wrestling constantly. 2004 inductee Tito Santana has had almost 150 matches since his induction, mostly indy events in the northeast, though he has also toured Canada occasionally. Jimmy Snuka got inducted in 1996 and wrestled 144 times after that, including matches for the WWF, WCW, and, of all places, FMW. Greg Valentine is also a 2004 inductee and also has had over 100 indy matches since then, as well as one match against Rob Conway on Sunday Night Heat in 2005. Jim Duggan is another guy with 100+ matches since his 2011 induction, including a run as a semi-regular in early 2012 that started with a Royal Rumble appearance. Tony Atlas is one match shy of being in the century club, as he’s got 99 post-induction matches, the most recent occurring on August 18 of this year.

Nikolai Volkoff had 54 recorded matches between his 2005 induction and his 2018 death, with his most recent bout being in June 2017. Legendary luchadore Mil Mascaras has had 42 matches since he was inducted in 2012, including several trips to Japan. Sgt. Slaughter has had over 30 matches since his 2004 induction, including quite a few on WWE television and pay per view. Bob Orton Jr. is sitting pretty with 27 matches after being put in the Hall in 2005. Koko B. Ware is one shy of Orton with 26 matches after his 2009 induction. Jake Roberts has had about 20 matches since his induction in 2014, though he couldn’t convince anyone to give him that Royal Rumble appearance. Roddy Piper also had about 20 matches, the vast majority of them being with WWE, after his 2005 HOF induction.

Brothers Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr. have reputations for not being able to retire, so you had to guess that they would be making appearances on this list. They were inducted into the Hall of Fame as a unit in 2009, and both continued to wrestle semi-regularly for several years. Terry’s matches have been more sporadic, and the biggest ones have been rematches against his longtime rival Jerry Lawler. Dory runs his own wrestling school and small promote in Florida called BANG, and he has continuously wrestled there. Both brothers are also legends in Japan and have appeared on puro cards, with Terry doing a nostalgia match on WrestleKingdom IV in 2010 and Dory appearing on a surprisingly high number of tours for All Japan, most recently in 2017.

On the other side of the spectrum, some wrestlers only went back to the ring once after their Hall of Fame induction. Those grapplers include: Paul Orndorff (2005 inductee / one indy tag match on May 3, 2017); Don Muraco (2005 inductee / one indy tag match with his son Joe on August 27, 2005); The Iron Sheik (2005 inductee / one indy tag match on March 10, 2007); and Larry Zbyszko (2015 inductee / one indy tag match in 2015).

Meanwhile, the Godfather (2015 inductee / indy matches on November 27, 2016 and February 24, 2018), Ivan Putski (1995 inductee / Raw match with son Scott Putksi against Jerry Lawler and Brian Christopher on July 14, 1997 / and singles indy match against King Kong Bundy on February 27, 1999, and Booker T. (2013 inductee / February 21, 2015 and April 23, 2016 indy matches) have had to matches following their HOF inductions.

Bob Armstrong has wrestled three fairly nondescript indy matches since he was put into the Hall in 2011.

2015’s “let’s throw our Japanese fans a bone” inductee Tatsumi Fujinami has kept up a pretty busy in-ring schedule since his HOF induction. For those of you who don’t know, Fujinami actually promotes his own indy group in Japan called Dradition, and Dradition’s whole gimmick is basically that you get to see legends of wrestling in the main event (usually in six man tags) while the undercard is populated by younger wrestlers. Fujinami regularly wrestles on his own shows in addition to miscellaneous other indies, occasionally teaming with his son, who wrestles under the name LEONA.

Speaking of Dradition, they brought in Bob Backlund to work on two of their shows earlier this year. Backlund and Fujinami teamed up with Riki Choshu to defeat Jinsei Shinzaki (a.k.a. Hakushi), Kazma Sakamoto (formerly Lord Tensai’s valet in WWE), and Tajiri on April 20, while Backlund, Hiro Saito, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara were bested by Choshu, Fujinami, and Masakatsu Funaki on April 24. Those appear to be the only matches that Bob Backlund has had since he went into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

2014 inductee Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall pinned Chuck Taylor on June 17, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa for F1RST Wrestling to win the Iron Man Heavy Metal Weight Title from the DDT promotion in Japan, which is essentially the Japanese version of the WWE Hardcore Title during the 24/7 era, albeit taken to ridiculous extremes. (Other former holders of the title include a small dog, a ladder, and a poster.) As you can see from the video clip above, this really wasn’t all too much of a match, but it is technically recognized as a title change. Later the same evening, Colt Cabana won the title from Hall when he tricked Hall into reading the phrase “I give up” off of a sheet of paper.

Hall’s Outsiders tag partner Kevin Nash was inducted in 2015, and he has had about seven matches since that time. Most of them have inexplicably been for a New England indy called Big Time Wrestling. I say “inexplicably” because there’s no connection between Nash and that company as far as I can tell . . . though they seem to like him fairly well, because he won their Heavyweight Title on August 10, 2018 in a gauntlet match that also included Darren Young and James Ellsworth.

We all know that Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah wrestled until they physically couldn’t anymore, and we covered some of their late careers in last week’s edition of the column. Moolah was inducted in 1995 with the second full class of Hall of Famers, so her entire Attitude Era run – including a Women’s Title reign – occurred after she was a Hall of Famer. She also had three indy matches between April and June of 2000 for Maryland Championship Wrestling, all of which were tag matches with Mae, including one six person match in which their other partner was Gillberg. Young wasn’t put into the Hall until 2008, so only two of her matches count for purposes of this answer, and we discussed both of them last week.

Pat Patterson was in some ways similar to Moolah, as he was a popular wrestler in the 1970s and early 1980s who later turned into a comedy character in the 1990s and early 2000s. Patterson’s HOF induction occurred in 1996, after which he became a “Stooge” and had several matches with and against Gerald Brisco in 1998 and 1999, culminating in the godawful hardcore evening gown match held on June 25, 2000 at the King of the Ring pay per view.

Though he wasn’t a comedy figure, Bret Hart‘s post-HOF WWE run is similar to Young and Patterson, as he didn’t have anything left to give in the ring (and was in fact limited by his insurance policy to the point that he could barely do anything), but he wrestled almost a dozen matches in WWE after the screwjob, including one bout in which he won the United States Championship from the Miz.

George “The Animal” Steele wrestled A LOT after his Hall of Fame induction in 1995, so much so that I’m not going to be able to list all of the matches here. He was doing occasional indy shows in 1998, 1999, and 2000, mostly in the northeastern territory where he battled Bruno Sammartino at the height of his career. George also served as a tag team partner for TAKA Michinoku of all people in a tag team match against Brian Christopher and Jerry Lawler on the December 29, 1997 episode of Raw, and he fought Jeff Jarrett on the January 10, 2000 episode of Nitro as part of an angle in which three legends were brought back to battle Double J. Perhaps most notably, the Animal had a brief run as a semi-regular member of the WWF roster in late 1998 and early 1999, where he was brought in as part of the Oddities stable, billed as the “Original Oddity.” He wrestled about half a dozen matches on WWF television during that stint.

Rikishi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, and he has also been fairly regular in-ring competitor since his induction, though it has not been on a particularly large stage. From reviewing a couple of sources that track these things, it appears that he’s had at least one independent match per month in that time period, including at least one tour of Canada.

Jeff Jarrett is a relatively young Hall of Fame inductee at age 51, so he has been in the ring quite a bit since receiving the honor earlier this year. Most of his matches in 2018 have been in Mexico for AAA, where he won the company’s World Title in a three-way with Rey Wagner and Rey Misterio, Jr. in June, dropping it a couple of months later to Fenix at Triplemania. Jeff also managed to get himself booked on a tour of Germany just last month, where he defeated Hotstuff Hernandez in Hannover.

Interestingly, there is a series of tag teams that were inducted into the Hall of Fame that feature one member who wrestled after the induction while the other did not. Bushwacker Luke Williams, who is 71 years old, has had no fewer than 46 matches since he was inducted in 2015, with indy appearances in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. His partner Butch Miller has not wrestled since the induction. The Roadwarriors are also split in this way, as Roadwarrior Animal had a WWE match against Heath Slater on the July 17, 2012 episode of Smackdown, about a year after his 2011 induction. Of course, Hawk had passed away before then. Afa of the Wild Samoans came out of retirement in 2013 and 2014 to work tag matches for the WXW promotion that he runs in connection with his wrestling school, one of which was with his son Afa Jr. (a.k.a. Manu). Fellow Wild Samoan Sika has stayed out of the ring, though. Jimmy Valiant has had almost 100 matches since he was inducted in 1996, including a long run in the late 1990s as the masked “Master of Terror” in Ohio Valley. He appears to have most recently wrestled in October 2017, while “brother” Johnny Valiant has done nothing. Finally, Bubba Ray Dudley has been a regular in Ring of Honor and Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore group ever since his Hall of Fame induction, whereas D-D-Von Dudley has remained out of the limelight.

One tag team that will never break up (except for that one time that they did) is the Rock n’ Roll Express, who have both wrestled approximately once per month since they became Hall of Famers in 2017. Ricky Morton wrestles a bit more frequently than Robert Gibson, but they are both still fixtures on the southern independent circuit.

And that does it. I hope that’s all the information you were hoping for, Brad.

Emperor Genghis Khan wants to talk about death and destruction, as is his lot in life:

Say that the WWE losses the top 75% of the roster the day before a PPV. What would they do?

Honestly, the show would probably just go on with a drastically altered card. WWE currently has about 150 wrestlers on their roster between the men’s division, the women’s division, and NXT. That means that if they lost 75% of their roster, they would still have about 37 names to work with, which is still more than enough to field a pay per view.

Granted, you said the TOP 75%, so it might be a PPV solely consisting of midcard or lower than midcard matches, but it would be difficult to justify totally cancelling a show. There is also the possibility that WWE might try to get some big name freelancers who are familiar to their audience (e.g. somebody like Rey Misterio before his recent re-signing) in order to help out at the top of the card.

Also, even though we all know wrestling cards are subject to change, if you had an alteration of a card that big, I can’t imagine WWE wouldn’t do something down the road as a make-good on it, not unlike what they did during the unusual In Your House: Beware of Dog situation in the 1990s. They would most likely return to the same market with a high-level card as soon as their mysteriously-eliminated roster members were replenished.

And that will do it for this week. I apologize that the number of questions answered was relatively low, but the HOF question took longer than I thought it would, and I’ve also been travelling a bit this week.

We’ll be back in seven days. Be sure to send your questions to [email protected]