wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: What Is The Rock’s Best Match?

February 27, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE The Rock Hollywood Hogan WrestleMania Image Credit: WWE Network/Peacock

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.

We’ve got a special column this week. I was recently advised that our column’s most prolific question-asker, Tyler from Winnipeg celebrated his fortieth birthday in February 2023. This column is most likely running in March as opposed to February due how I had other things scheduled out, but I learned about Tyler’s birthday a bit late in the game.

In order to help Tyler celebrate the big 4-0, here are answers to forty questions that he’s asked in the recent past:

1. Is The Rock’s best match vs. Hollywood Hogan in Toronto?

It’s certainly his most iconic moment in between the ropes and will be remembered better than just about any other match he has ever had. If that’s your definition of somebody’s “best match,” then, yes, this one would top the list.

That being said, if you want to take a look at pure in-ring action, the Rock had many, many matches that were better than his encounter with the Hulkster, typically when he was in the ring with a guy closer to his athletic prime than Hogan was in 2002.

Though I don’t think anybody would be interested in me sitting here and listing every Rock match that was better than his Hogan bout, offhand I can say that every one of the Rock/Steve Austin matches at Wrestlemania were better than Rock/Hogan, and Rock’s best feud from a pure in-ring perspective was probably the one against Chris Jericho in 2001 rolling over into early 2002.

The best combination of that hot crowd, big match feel with a high level athletic performance probably comes from Rock vs. Austin at Wrestlemania XVII.

2. If The Rock called out Triple H for one more match, would Triple H accept?

I have a hard time believing that. Crazier things have happened, but Triple H seemed pretty adamant that his recently-revealed heart episode prevents him from ever returning to the ring.

3. What size of basketball/running shoe would The Big Show wear?

By most sources, he wears a 22 EEEE.

4. Who is your favorite referee?

I feel like I’ve answered some variation on this question in the column before, but I can’t find it in the archives, so I’ll do it again. The answer is Tommy Young. He had a great physicality to him and a knack for always being in the right place at the right time . . . well, at least until he got his neck broken in the ring.

5. Al Snow had it all in my opinion. Very solid mat wise, good talker, good ego; was it political that hindered him from being a featured attraction? He had no flaws, I know he got a good Tough Enough gig but I think he could have had more main events.

I think that a lot of the problem with Al Snow was that he just got overlooked in the early part of his career. Not many people realize this, but he started wrestling in 1982 when he was just shy of 19 years old, but he really didn’t even get a minor break until 1995. If he had found his way into a major territory in the 1980s, I feel like he could have found his footing and slowly established fans both backstage and in the audiences, similar to the way that a small-for-the-era yet technically proficient wrestler like Bret Hart did. If he had that kind of background, he could’ve been a WWF or WCW main eventer by 1994 when the bottom largely fell out of their respective talent pools, and he would be much more fondly remembered than he is now.

However, as it is, he was not really in a position to be a featured performer until circa 1998 and, by then, no matter how good Snow was, he was not going to be pushed over a Steve Austin, a Rock, a Mick Foley, or even a Triple H.

It just seems like there was poor timing overall in his career.

6. Did Shawn Michaels ever have his nose broken?

Yes. Check out the 2008 Royal Rumble match. Michaels and the Undertaker are in the ring together in the early stages of the affair, and then Hardcore Holly enters. As Holly is running wild and getting his shine immediately upon hitting the ring, he catches a prone Michaels right on the nose with the flat of his boot, and HBK pretty obviously comes up with a broken nose.

Shawn and Holly did work together a few other times during that match, and it doesn’t look like Micahels ever tried to give Hardcore a receipt, so most likely he chalked it up to being just one of those things that happens from time-to-time as opposed to an actual error by the Alabaman.

7. Which wrestler is the best, technically, that just had a grasp in the ring ability, to every time, just have a consistent, good match with no fuck ups?

I hate to say this because of where he ended up in life, but I legitimately do not think there was ever such a thing as a bad Chris Benoit match. He even got passable performances out of Sid, which is something that a wrestler even the caliber of Bret Hart struggled with.

8. Is Bill Apter a HOF reporter?

Calling him a reporter seems a bit of a stretch, because he never really did “reporting” as most of journalism understands that word. However, did he make hall of fame level contributions to the professional wrestling world?

I would say that he did. It’s hard to understate how significant the magazines that Apter contributed to were in terms of creating national wrestling stars in a time where there was little to no national wrestling television and obviously no internet. Guys were able to transfer territories and have a pre-established name based off of nothing but magazine coverage.

9. Will Adam “Hangman” Page wrestle for WWE?

Odds are yes. He’s 31 years old, so he’s still got plenty of time left as an in-ring performer barring an unfortunate injury. The last time that the United States had two significant national wrestling promotions of roughly comparable size, almost everybody of value jumped between the two sides at least once, and I see nothing about that pattern that won’t repeat between WWE and AEW if we give it enough time.

10. Is AEW’s ring smaller than WWE’s ring?

No. They’re both using 20′ x 20′ rings, though some have suggested that the placement of the ropes might be different so that AEW has a slightly larger ring apron and thus slightly less room in between the ropes.

11. What’s your favorite Bobby “The Brain” Heenan memory?

This isn’t exactly a hot take, but sometimes the honest answer to a question isn’t a hot take. My favorite Heenan moment is his commentary on the 1992 Royal Rumble, in which he served as a blatant cheerleader for Ric Flair in a way that helped put over the story of Flair’s journey in that match. It may not only be my favorite Heenan moment but also my favorite performance by a wrestling announcer ever.

12. Who’s a better talker: Rob Van Dam or Matt Riddle?

Due to when my wrestling fandom hit, I’ve seen a lot more of Van Dam on the mic than I have Riddle, so I may be biased. I greatly prefer RVD’s promos of the two. I say that mainly because, though I’ve occasionally seen Riddle break through this and deliver some good moments on the mic (e.g. during the buildup to his match with Roman Reigns), most of the time he sounds like he’s putting on an affected accent mimicking a character from a 1990s stoner film. Maybe it’s a Randy Savage situation and that’s not an affectation at all but rather it’s how the guy actually talks. However, that’s still how the man’s voice hits for me.

Rob Van Dam, meanwhile, was never what I would call a great promo, but he was still charismatic and at least managed to sound like a real human being and not a cartoon most of the time.

13. Which feud did you prefer: Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs Vince McMahon or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon?

Austin vs. McMahon and it’s not even close. I say this mainly because, even though no wrestling fan from the era will ever forget the Montreal Screwjob from 1997, there was no real “feud” in the traditional, worked sense between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon until 2010, when the Hitman returned to WWE. If you look at that as the feud, there’s really not much worthwhile to it, with the most memorable moment being their match at Wrestlemania – which is memorable for all the wrong reasons, as it was basically the pro wrestling equivalent of a snuff film.

14. Why does WWE ignore Rick Rude as a member of DX?

He was only in the group for a very brief period of time in its early days and really does not fit the motif of what the stable became after he departed.

15. Do you think if Kane debuted in 2022, he’d be more valuable than when he debuted in ’97?

No, because WWE has seemingly forgotten that you can and sometimes should push a new character as a main event level monster right out of the gate without having them “pay their dues” or engage in a bunch of boring midcard feuds before getting added to the top level mix. I suspect that, if Kane debuted today, he’d be just another midcarder, probably in a Damien Priest-esque slot.

16. What’s the ceiling on Ethan Page?

I’m pretty sure we’re seeing it right now. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Page, but I don’t see him breaking out and becoming a main eventer, either. He’s better than the average wrestler but just a few clicks below the best in the business.

17. How many more years those Ethan Page left?

Yes, this was sent in as a separate question from the above, a couple of weeks later. Page is currently 33, and wrestlers seem to have longer and longer careers these days, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility to say he’s got another 20 years in the tank, depending on how his body holds up.

18. For your age group, is Johhny Nitro top 125?

I’m not going to list 125 people who are better or more important in professional wrestling than Johnny Nitro, but my gut reaction is that if you look at the entire history of professional wrestling and look across the United States, Japan, Mexico, and other environs, it would not be a particularly difficult task to come up with 125 guys who are better.

19. I’d marry Terri Runnels, but what female wrestling star would you marry?

None, because my getting married a second time would really piss off my wife and be illegal.

20. Which episode of RAW was one of your personal favorites?

I think I’ve answered a similar question in this column before, and I have to go with July 16, 2001, the final episode of Raw before the Invasion pay per view. The storyline headed into the show was that Steve Austin, who had turned heel earlier in the year, was the only person who could help the WWF win at that Sunday’s main event, with even Vince McMahon begging him to bring back “The Old Stone Cold.” However, a conflicted Austin spent the majority of the show fifteen minutes down the street, drinking and shooting pool at Tim White’s Friendly Tap bar until a surprise appearance by the legendary “Classy” Freddie Blassie motivated him to leave and, conveniently, come to Team WWF’s rescue as they were being laid out by the WCW/ECW Alliance. It was a great show-long story arc, and going back and watching it today just shows you how far wrestling has fallen today in terms of feeling organic and eliciting genuine emotional responses from crowds.

21. What was the first event Bret Hart wore pink and black?

Bret briefly had a podcast in 2016, and he addressed this in one of the episodes of that show. According to the Hitman himself, the pink and black made its debut heading into a Saturday Night’s Main Event when he and Jim Neidhart needed new gear. Previously, they had been wearing black gear accented by a variety of different colors, including blue, yellow, and so on. They tried a pink variation on the suggestion of the woman who made their outfits, and, apparently, Vince McMahon loved it upon seeing it for the first time and told them to never change again.

On the podcast episode, Hart did not say which episode of SNME this occurred on, but the team’s first appearance on the show was the episode taped on November 15, 1986 and aired two weeks later. They wrestled the Killer Bees that evening and were in fact wearing pink and black, so this must have been the evening the Hitman was recalling.

22. In the 1980s, Randy Savage was just below Hulk Hogan. Turn to the 90s. I haven’t heard Savage wanted a huge raise, why did Vince force Savage to go to WCW?

The longstanding story is that Vince felt Savage was getting old and, though he didn’t necessarily want him to stop wrestling, he no longer wanted him to compete at a main event level. So, the Macho Man jumped ship to a company where he was promised that he would be used as a top guy.

I’m sure that the money didn’t hurt, either.

23. Any chance we see Joe Rogan at any future WM in the ring doing a special guest referee appearance?

I doubt it. Even though it has past relationships with people like Donald Trump, WWE has seemingly gone out of its way to remain apolitical lately, and Rogan is a bit of a political lightning rod. I suspect that they would avoid him for that reason alone.

24. Do you see any similarities between David Flair and Dominik Mysterio?

They’re both second generation wrestlers, but that’s about it. (I guess you could cheat a bit and say Dominik is third generation if you want to count his great-uncle who brought Rey into the wrestling business.) However, Flair was clearly thrown into the ring before he had even the slightest degree of professional wrestling training and basically had to learn how to do this on live television, whereas Dom had trained in advance and, though he has some rough spots to iron out, was more or less a perfectly acceptable professional wrestler from the moment he showed up in WWE.

25. Do you think Al Snow could add value today to WWE/AEW/Impact?

He has a reputation as a quality trainer, and I suspect any company could use him in that capacity. As far as an on screen talent is concerned, the time has passed for him as a full-time in-ring performer. I’m sure he would make for a solid enough announcer or manager, but I can’t see anybody running a wrestling promotion falling all over themselves to bring him in for those jobs, either.

26. Matt Striker commentated the second Wrestlemania matchup between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker. How did he get that spot?

He was one-half of the regular Smackdown announce team at the time, and the commentators for Wrestlemania were a combination of the Raw and Smackdown announce teams. I don’t think there’s much more of a story to it than that.

27. Not sure if I asked this before, but was the 1992 Royal Rumble the best?


28. How come Jim Ross can smoke cigarettes on his visual podcast with Conrad Thompson? Who smokes on a visual podcast?

The answer to the first question is that he’s a grown adult man who gets to make his own life choices, and there’s not a large corporate or government entity that regulates the podcast that can tell him to the contrary. For what it’s worth, during a December 2021 episode of his podcast, he was asked why he’s kept smoking despite some significant health issues, and his response was that he’d quit for over twenty years but then picked the habit back up in 2017 due to the stress of his wife Jan dying in a car accident.

And you know what? I can’t say I totally blame him for that, either. I am not now nor have I ever been a smoker, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to tragically lose a wife, so I say let the man do whatever he wants to cope as long as he’s not actively harming anybody else, especially at his age.

The answer to the second question is Jim Ross.

29. Is Lex Luger 2023 WWE Hall of Fame bound?

Cue my standard, “Sure, the WWE Hall of Fame is fake with no real criteria, so anybody can go in at any time” answer.

So, yes, it COULD happen. If I had to bet on whether it will happen, I would lean towards no. I say that primarily because Luger’s main tie to somebody active in the wrestling industry these days is Sting, who is an AEW guy. Thus, I suspect that if Luger were to do something in wrestling in 2023, it would be with Tony Khan’s company as opposed to the E.

30. Did Scott Hall face Goldberg in a prelim match before Goldberg defeated Hollywood Hogan on Nitro in Atlanta for the WCW Heavyweight Championship?

Yes. This question is so basic that I feel like I’m missing something.

31. An inside baseball kinda question: What was the bottom of TNA/Impact history when it comes to actually closing the company’s doors forever?

It was probably early in the company’s history when they were still on weekly pay per view and just hemorrhaging money, because weekly pay per view with no free television or other outlet to promote it was an idiotic business model. If you read the book that the late Jerry Jarrett wrote about the early days of TNA or listen to any interview with him on the subject, he makes it abundantly clear that the company was incapable of standing on its own and would not have lasted but for an infusion of cash from the Carter family.

32. Out of 10 points what does Batista’s entrance get?

Nine. It has almost anything you could hope for in a wrestling entrance. It looks cool, it syncs up to the theme music well, the pyro is nicely designed, and there are at least two distinct elements that fans can copy – most notably the air machine guns.

33. Who has the better woman’s division: AEW or WWE?

On paper, it’s AEW. The best women wrestlers in that company – Hikaru Shida, Emi Sakura, Riho, Mercedes Martinez, Serena Deeb, and so on – are better wrestlers than WWE’s top women. However, in practice, AEW doesn’t actually focus on its best female wrestlers that much, instead giving the spotlight to ladies who are good but not as great as the best, e.g. the Britt Bakers and Sarayas of the world. This actually results in WWE having the better division in practice, because the people they push are better than the people AEW is pushing, even though they’re not better than the people who AEW has signed but doesn’t push.

Could that be any more convoluted?

34. Did Matt Riddle have a good 2022?

He had to go to rehab at the end of the year, so I suspect he’s had to go through quite a few rough patches in the last twelve months, and I hope he is able to work on getting himself into a better space.

35. Thanks for your great column, are you a bigger fan of Bill Goldberg or Kurt Angle?

Angle. I like Goldberg just fine for what he is in wrestling, but it’s virtually impossible to claim that Angle isn’t the more complete performer of the two men.

36. What was the first “premium live event” as opposed to “pay per view”?

WWE started using the phrase “premium live event” during its show entitled “Day 1,” held on January 1, 2022 – so we’re at just over twelve months of having PLEs instead of PPVs.

37. Which wrestler actually born in Japan (not Yokozuna) has WWE/WWF pushed the hardest?

I answered a very similar question back in 2020.

The answer that I came up with is actually Asuka, and that’s not just recency bias talking. I also considered older stars like Antonio Inoki, Masa Saito, and Killer Khan, but I really do think that Asuka beats them all out – and she also beats out her contemporary Shinsuke Nakamura, for that matter.

I don’t think that has changed in the period of time since I answered the initial question.

38. I know Lita debuted with Essa Rios; how did WWE actually discover Lita and sign her?

Immediately before her time in WWE, she was performing in ECW under the names Angelica and Miss Congeniality. With the company not really having a women’s division, she worked mostly as a valet for the tag team of Danny Doring and Amish Roadkill, though she did have a handful of matches, mostly serving as a foil for Jazz, who at the time was alligned with the tag team of Chris Chetti and Nova.

39. When does Goldust go into the WWW Hall of Fame?

I suspect that, when his current contract as a performer with AEW expires, he will leave the company and Cody’s ties to WWE will get him an induction. There’s an outside chance that he could remain with AEW even after he retires from in-ring competition to work as a trainer or an agent, which would probably put the induction off longer, but I see him following his brother to have that moment.

40. How come JR wasn’t on play by play when Mankind won his first WWF World Heavyweight Championship?

Mrs. Foley’s baby boy took home his first WWF Championship turning a period of time when Jim Ross was sidelined by one of the several bouts of Bell’s palsy he’s endured during his life. He was actually out of commission for several months during late 1998 and early 1999.

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.