wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon The Greatest Wrestling Storyline Ever?

October 6, 2017 | Posted by Mathew Sforcina
WWE Steve Austin Vince McMahon

Welcome to the only wrestling column that isn’t going to say it totally called it, but it totally called it.

Although really, calling that isn’t that big a deal. It’s no predicting Jeff Jarrett busting out a cello in a match, but I’ll take it.

Just like I’ll take any question sent to [email protected] that’s wrestling related.

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Mickie James’ Photos: Again, stuff like that is not an automatic deal breaker, provided you are upfront about it with WWE at the time, they will consider it when deciding if they want to hire you. Obviously with Mickie, they were considered obscure enough to still want to hire her, although that was a while ago and standards may have changed/people making the decisions might have changed as well.

Someone like Trina Michaels, I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it would be a very big red mark on their resume, but if they showed enough talent and ability and someone high up went in to bat for them… It’s possible, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

People Asking About Vince’s Death: You’d almost think he’s an old man who people have lost faith in his ability to deliver an overall good product that they wish to consume and want confirmation of their belief that it can and will improve once he steps aside or something.

And I’m not saying my answer was revolutionary or insightful, I had at least one guy write in an email that clearly lacked a Chandler, simply because there is no grand insight about what will happen, since unless Rod McMahon swoops in there’s no real outside player that can make an impact on the issue beyond removing someone involved, and the people involved are playing it close to their chest so we have no way to know beyond waiting and finding out.

The Trivia Crown

Who am I? I lost to the above in a debut match for someone in a specific promotion. I was trained by a man who’s trained multiple world champions. My first title was won off a guy also mentioned above. My first televised match was a win over a guy with a similar name, while my last televised match, so far, involved a celebrity and a political candidate, among others. I’ve turned heel on a swerve, returned and debuted in two different invitationals, and my current finisher is weather related. Who am I?

Captain Mcgloo had most of it, I’ll fill in a blank for him.

Who am I? I lost to the above in a debut match for someone in a specific promotion. (They fought in his first Chikara King of Trios) I was trained by a man who’s trained multiple world champions. (Larry Sharpe trained Big Show and Sheamus) My first title was won off a guy also mentioned above. (South Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Ken Shamrock) My first televised match was a win over a guy with a similar name, (Pat Tanaka) while my last televised match, so far, involved a celebrity and a political candidate, (Andre the Giant Battle Royal with Kane and Shaq) among others. I’ve turned heel on a swerve, (turned on Lex Luger to join the Million Dollar Corp) returned and debuted in two different invitationals,(returned to WWE for the Eugene Invitational, made sole TNA appearance in Jay Lethal’s Invitational) and my current finisher is weather related. (Wakinyan is Lakota for Thunder) Who am I? You are Tatanka

Who am I? One of the angles mentioned above was a flow on angle from an angle I was part of despite not being a part of WWE at the time, but which wasn’t anything to do with with both guys involved in my match being Triple Crown champions of different companies (although to be fair, one of us hadn’t gotten it yet). I have a kayfabe brother in wrestling, but you’ve probably never heard of him. I once formed a stable that took its name from the show it was formed on. I beat The Nexus to an angle by a few years. I’ve been a Mister, a part of a 2.0, and a religious figure, and I once followed an alcoholic beverage. A guy currently in WWE in some fashion, I am who?

Getting Down To All The Business

Danny starts us off with a quick follow on from last week’s intro.

Don’t you think Aleister Black and Neville would be an amazing tag team?

… Sure, since they’re both really good at the wrestling thing, and they have a similar look and have complimentary styles. They could totally work as a team.

But it’s probably some personal bias, but I really LOVE tag teams that don’t have a similar style. Your Hart Foundations, your Jeri-Show/ShoMiz, YokOwen, Luger & Giant and so on. The idea of two people who don’t work exactly the same, you have a tech and a power guy, a high flyer and a ground specialist, the notion of a team that can fight multiple styles appeals to me. Plus it makes it so much more logical and easy to understand face in peril if one guy is twice the size of the other.

Yes, Black is larger than Neville, but I think Neville and Braun have a similar attitude to things and their styles are different but could well mesh well, plus worst case scenario, it would allow Braun to have a manager without having a manager…

Ray Van wonders if wrestling is a little too outside the sphere for your modern corporation.

A question in this week’s column got me thinking – if someone does buy WWE (disney, NBC, whoever), someone corporate that’s been corporate for a while, and politically correct and averse to controversy, think WWE wrestlers will remain independent contractors who should really be employees? Would they make them actual employees? Or would they make them truly independent (ie, give them freedom to work anywhere they want, so long as they’re fulfilling their WWE contracted duties)? And what about the fact that they’re abusing their bodies almost nightly for a “fake sport”? Would any modern corporation really have interest in taking that on?

Although I have not now nor have I ever run a major corporation outside of a few business sim games, I do have a degree in the business field from an actual university here, so I’m only about 85% unqualified to speak about this topic.

Uh…

Imagine Big Creative Corp Inc. They are a publicly traded company, billions of dollars in revenue, they own a whole bunch of stuff, TV network, bunch of websites, radio stations, record company, the works. They come to whoever is running WWE on the day, and literally back a Brinks BCCI Truck full of money to their home and buy control of the WWE. What happens next?

As far as the employee/independent contractor issue would go, I would assume that the benefits would quite possibly improve, but they’d remain independent contractors, since that’s technically what they are now. Jerry Lawler talked about it on his podcast recently, there is technically no reason why you can’t have John Cena on your next show in the local high school gym. WWE contracts basically lock you down for all WWE appearances that they specify, and you give WWE control over your ability to book third party appearances, i.e. they become your agents. So if Tiny Championship Grappling wants Kalisto for a show, they call WWE, and if WWE doesn’t have a booking for Kalisto on that day, they will set the price, which will probably be outrageous, and if TCG says they can pay that, WWE then goes to Kalisto and says they have an offer of amount, minus WWE’s cut, for you to work on this day in this place. And Kalisto is free to say yes… But when you’re on the road for WWE, you’re pretty much travelling and working 5-6 days a week, so to lose one of your few days off to work somewhere else, it’s easy to see why it’s so rare.

I suspect a corporation might trade off that freedom for benefits, but that would take them into employee territory. It would be a question for the legal and HR teams, but I suspect that they would probably keep it as is, unless their legal team was worried that now there were billions behind the company, that made lawsuits more likely and so they switched over pre-emptively.

The abusing their bodies for ‘fake sport’ is not something that would deter too many corporations, I don’t think. Believe me, if there weren’t rules specifically forbidding corporations from owning NFL teams, most of them would be part of corporate empires by now. Down here football teams are owned by Fox’s local arm, albeit due to the messy way we got to our current Rugby League situation via a rebel league formed by said local arm a while back now.

Obviously not every company is going to want anything to do with Wrestling, given that it is a violence based product at its heart, albeit now a family-friendly one, but how many stunt shows are going on in Disney theme parks each day? How many injuries get broadcast on ESPN a week? When the stunt driver died on the set of Deadpool 2, Fox didn’t shut down all their film productions. Risk management is part of every creative endeavour, and while it will deter some people and some companies from being a part of it, I don’t see it being too much of a stretch for one of usual suspects in this question to come in, if they choose to do so.

Wrestling is violent, but it’s violence where the people involved are trying not to hurt each other for real, so it’s better than Football or Boxing or MMA, so in some ways it’s an easier sell, actually. And in the end, like with all corporate media, it’s just about money.

Greg from Greece has a whole bunch of questions. Let’s see how many I can bang out here.

Starting from a simple (maybe too simple?) one, why do wrestlers try to win cage matches by climbing off the top instead of just exiting through the door (other than to do some cool spots)?

We’re obviously talking only about cage matches where escape is an option, and where the door is a viable method of escape. In those cases there are a few different kayfabe explanations that all tie into the main one, which is about weighing trade-offs. When you go for the door, sure it’s quicker, and safer, but the flip side is that you’re still on the same level as your opponent, and if they can move at all, they can easily grab your leg and hold you down, keep you from winning, and if they have their hands on you, they can lock something in on you, or at the least prevent you from winning while they recover.

Whereas climbing, climbing a cage is harder, so if you’ve managed to ring their bell, or hurt their arms, or legs, or ribcage or what have you, it’s much harder for them to get upright and then get a hold of you when you’re several feet in the air. And even if they do, you could knock them down, and they suddenly fall several feet and hit the mat, which could take them out all over again. And if you’re skilled at jumping on people, then suddenly you’re in a perfect place to ensure victory, or defeat, by jumping off the cage.

So you make it harder for them to get you, and increase the damage you can inflict on them if they do try, with a trade off of it being harder for you, and increasing the damage inflicted on you if they win. Risk V Reward…

Has anyone ever won a last man standing match by having their opponent locked in a submission hold, thus making them unable to get on their feet?

I don’t think so, because that’s somewhat against the rules. You can apparently tie people down or bury them under stuff, or you can lock in a submission hold and make them pass out, but even if you locked in a submission hold which somehow saw you standing and them lying flat down (put their legs in a figure four position and then stand one foot on each side of the bent leg for pressure?), the rules of a last man person standing match seem to be that you cannot be in contact with your opponent while the count is going on, they must be unable to answer a ten count with not stopping them in any way, touching someone breaks up the count. You see it sometimes, if someone is up to 6 and they’re stirring, a wrestler will break the count by attacking them anyway, rather than giving them the extra few seconds rest on the off chance they don’t make it.

Otherwise guys like Yokozuna would just knock people down, sit down on their backs and win all the time that way.

What kind of gimmick matches are the easiest to have a false outcome due to a botch? Battle royals, tables and first blood matches come to mind. What else?

Table matches don’t tend to have false outcomes due to botches, more that they have extended matches when they don’t break on impact. You don’t normally have spots in table matches were you go against the table with the assumption that it won’t break, you usually make sure you plan the match to avoid such an occurrence, and are then screwed up when they don’t break.

First blood is a weird one, it seems like it should be a problem, but really isn’t, because actually getting bust open to the degree that you can’t wave it off, while nowhere near impossible, is not as easy as you would think, assuming you’re not a potato throwing machine. Bleeding to the extent that people think of in a first blood match needs a blade job, usually, so as long as you go easy on throwing hard shots to the head, you should be ok, and even if you bust your nose or some such, you can always just wave it off as not serious enough in the ref’s discretion.

Battle Royals are probably the winner just because the method of winning is one that you usually tease as part of the match, like you do with most gimmick matches, and unlike most of them, gravity can and will screw you over if you’re not careful. I mean, we have at least one televised example of a battle royal won by the wrong person, after all.

Most other matches that have had botches lead to false finishes tend to be about equipment failing, like the X falling own in Ultimate X, countdown timers being off a few seconds and such, battle royals are where gravity is the main issue, and that is something you can’t triple check your way out of. So unless someone has a better idea below, it’s the Battle Royale/Royal Rumble that takes the prize.

Which is, in your opinion, the best storyline ever told in professional wrestling? I’m not talking about in-ring quality of matches, only about the story.

Austin V McMahon.

You start off with a man who is violent, sadistic, cares only about himself, and is somehow very popular despite… Because of this. You have a guy who is his boss, who doesn’t really like the way this guy acts, but deep down sees that he’s popular and thus worth keeping around, but hopes he can reign him in. The asshole gets a bad break when someone he’s pissed off breaks his neck, and he goes on a rampage, as the reasonable steps taken in response to this lead him to attack people higher and higher on the food chain.

And then it comes to a head.

It’s a slow burn at first, it takes a while, with Austin going about his business of raising hell, and Vince trying to be reasonable, until something snaps for Vince, perhaps in part due to the stress of having to deal with Austin, forces him to do something morally questionable to stop his company from getting ruined by a man who has betrayed him and his country and his company.

And then in the vacuum caused by this, not only does Vince begin to fall into the dark side since taking this one step saves his company and in fact in some ways helps it and so why not take a more hands on approach, Austin begins to rise up. He wins the IC title and then gives it up to the guy Vince would rather be champ in The Rock, then disrespects the belt on his way up to winning the title, retiring the guy who was the centrepiece of the company up to that point, and still being a guy who you can’t market like you could a Hogan, a Bret, or even a HBK, who at least loved the limelight. Austin just wants to kick ass and drink beer. But ok, he’s the champ now, not the ideal, so let’s work with him.


OK, so he won’t play ball. Fine, he’s had to get his hands dirty with Bret, so he’ll do the same with Austin. First he tries Foley, a man who knows Austin and whom he hopes to use to get the belt off Austin simply and easily.

But it doesn’t work, so he has to get bigger and bigger, he brings in more people, Big Boss Man, he ropes in Undertaker and Kane. But with more people, he becomes more maniacal, and his desire to control the company by direct means grows and grows. By the time he gets The Rock the Title, he now has an army, and an army needs to fight, so his desire to screw over Austin leads to Vince now exerting control over the entire company, which leads to more fights, more rebellion, more issues.

So he tries to execute a run around, and creates a vast conspiracy designed to get everything in place how he wants it, with a massive group by his side, the WWF title on an acceptable man, and everything under his control… But to do that, he has to use his daughter as a patsy, which leads to Austin gaining control, and in the back and forth of getting Austin back under control, he loses everything, and is banished from his company.

But the time away helps Vince gain perspective, his losing to Austin gives him time to appreciate just how far he’d fallen. So when he does come back, he’s a changed man, and maybe, just maybe, he and Austin can get along. But then Austin is injured, and Vince’s daughter, corrupted by being around her father all this time and, deep down, being a McMahon, betrays him.

So Vince eventually falls off the wagon, and goes back to his old ways, and he wins some, he loses some, and then he seems to fade away… Until Austin comes back.

But this time Austin has changed. The time away made Vince see the error of his ways, and try to be a better man, while Austin’s time away made him realise he was on borrowed time. Sure, Austin could still kick ass, but he was hurting more than he used to, and he was unable to get the job done in three stages of hell against the man who took him out. Austin used to destroy people who looked at him funny, but he wasn’t able to beat the man who stole almost a year of his career.

Austin needed help, and so he swallowed his pride, and contacted Vince. And at Wrestlemania X7, the Attitude Era died when Vince finally won.

That would be a hell of an end for it, but then you have the InVasion, as right at the time Austin was finally under his control, Vince suddenly realised he needed the old Stone Cold, and his attempts to get him back pushed Austin away, and nearly cost him everything again, except thankfully his back up plan worked in Kurt Angle. But then that eventually led to Vince losing his control again, and get more and more incensed and out of his mind, while Austin eventually walked away.

It had some call backs later on, and it’s been duplicated too many times, and the ending wasn’t the best, but I still maintain that it’s the greatest story wrestling has so far told. Two men who in many ways created each other, both wanting to defeat the other man, never seeing how doing so would destroy themselves, how much chaos and pain was created around them, a story that started with a single Stunner and ended up reshaping the entire company to this very day, a story of control, power, prestige, money, pride, conformity, individuality, rights, privilege, family, love, blood, sweat, tears.

And yet, at the end of it, it’s just fun to see someone kick their boss’ ass.

Although ask me again tomorrow, and I might well say Jericho/Malenko, or Raven/Dreamer, or The Monday Night Wars overall.

Mark is a big fan and is a first time question asker.

My name is Mark long time reader first time asker (is that even a word) I know there have been people to win the US title that weren’t that great and also the Intercontinental title has had its share of bad wrestlers who were given a reign but I want to know who you think is the worse wrestler to hold both in their careers. As a side I want you to know that I really enjoy your article it’s the only article I ever read on 411 most of the time I’m just there for news

Oh that’s not fair, you should totally read Csonka doing my job or Watry doing my job or any of the fine writers not doing my job.

*1/3 of a Chandler*

Feel free to speculate which third of the chandler goes where.

So, ok, let’s make the list of people who have held both and go from there.

Big Show
Booker T
Bret Hart
Carlito
Chris Benoit
Chris Jericho
Curt Hennig
Daniel Bryan
Dean Ambrose
Dolph Ziggler
Eddie Guerrero
Edge
Goldust
Greg Valentine
Jeff Jarrett
John Bradshaw Layfield
Kevin Owens
Kofi Kingston
Kurt Angle
Lance Storm
Ric Flair
Rick Rude
Ricky Steamboat
Roddy Piper
Santino Marella
Scott Hall
Shane Douglas
Shelton Benjamin
Steve Austin
The Miz
Zack Ryder

Now, you can argue that Benoit wins by default because, you know, Benoit is a murderer and such. But if we’re only considering worst wrestler in terms of in ring stuff… there’s actually not too many bad wrestlers on that list. Lots of world champs, I think you can pretty much delete all those who were world champ. Yes, even Jarrett. But not Douglas, I’m doing this as a way to think about it and I suspect I may end up going with him.

Carlito
Curt Hennig
Goldust
Greg Valentine
Kofi Kingston
Lance Storm
Rick Rude
Roddy Piper
Santino Marella
Scott Hall
Shane Douglas
Shelton Benjamin
Zack Ryder

Then you have to exclude guys like Piper and Curt, the solid in ring careers that never or have yet to get a world title to their name, at least a debatable one…

Carlito
Greg Valentine
Kofi Kingston
Lance Storm
Santino Marella
Scott Hall
Shane Douglas
Shelton Benjamin
Zack Ryder

And then the border line names, the ones who have a flaw in their package but are otherwise mostly solid, not a great talker, unreliable… Hates Flair…

Carlito
Santino Marella
Zack Ryder

So now you remove the guy who’s just so amazing at one thing that it makes up for most of the other problems, a guy so entertaining it’s ok that he wasn’t super great technically.

Carlito
Zack Ryder

The Anti-Sophie’s choice.

I think I’m going to go with… Carlito, actually. I can’t help but like Ryder, although by all means if your logic is different and you come up with a different name that’s ok. In fact, why not say who your choice is below, since this is the end and all? See you all next week!