wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Who is Wrestling’s Biggest Bullshi**er?

December 17, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Vince Russo

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Long-time Ask 411 contributor Night Wolf the Wise is sick of revisionists:

Here’s an interesting question for you. Who is the biggest bullshitter when it comes to all things wrestling? Whether it’s reporting on wrestling news or remembering accurate history in wrestling, is it Eric Bischoff, Bruce Prichard, Vince Russo or Dave Meltzer? These four to me always pop up when getting wrestling history wrong or telling their own version of what happened instead of what really happened.

I don’t know that I would call any of the four guys you’ve named in the question “bullshitters,” because to me the term “bullshitter” implies that somebody is actively lying about a particular issue.

Eric Bischoff doesn’t come off as a liar to me. To the extent that his version of wrestling history differs from what others believe, it seems that he’s honest but just doesn’t have the greatest memory in the world.

Bruce Prichard is currently a WWE employee and, even when he’s not actively employed by WWE, he’s got such a history and relationship with the promotion that he is going to err on the side of towing the company line. Really, unless and until Vinnie Mac launches his own podcast, listening to Prichard is probably the closest we’re going to get to a Vince McMahon version of wrestling history.

Vince Russo appears to have legitimately bought into his own hype and believes that his methods for writing wrestling television truly are the best, even though they’ve only worked in very limited circumstances and have fallen flat on their face every other time that he’s tried them. However, he really does seem to *believe* that everything he’s saying is true, even when it’s demonstrably false. By my definition of the word, “bullshitter” doesn’t really apply to that scenario.

Though I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flack for this, Dave Meltzer is somebody who I 100% respect and trust. A lot of venom gets sent his way online these days, but I find that, if you ask one of his critics whether they’ve ever subscribed to his newsletter or listened to his podcasts, 99% of the time the answer is “no.” In other words, most of his critics take shots at him based on third-party accounts (many of which are inaccurate), not by reading what he’s actually written. If you do look into Meltzer’s material, you’ll find that he’s right much more often than he’s wrong and that, even if you don’t appreciate his reporting on current events backstage, his knowledge and understanding of pro wrestling history is second to just about no one. He’s also been honored for his journalism work by legitimate news publications like the Los Angeles Times and Sports Illustrated in addition to receiving awards from people actually in the wrestling industry, including the Cauliflower Alley Club and the Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Of the men named, I suppose I would select Russo for the “bullshitter” award, because, of the four of them, I think that what he does comes the closest to outright dishonesty, but, again, I get the impression that he, in his heart of hearts, believes the vast majority of what he’s saying, even if it doesn’t match up with the perception of the majority.

Going outside of the four people who Night Wolf suggested, I would personally nominate Hulk Hogan for this dubious distinction. He’s got a long history of spinning yarns, whether it was his discussion of steroid use on Arsenio Hall, the constant mythologizing of his match against Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III and the size of the crowd that was there, his two pretty laughable autobiographies, and, perhaps my favorite implausible Hogan story, that he was originally tapped to be the celebrity endorsing what became the George Foreman Grill but missed the phone call because he was picking his kids up from school, brother.

Really, in an industry like professional wrestling, which was in many ways built on lying to people, you’re going to have no shortage of bullshitters. However, in large part due to the sheer volume of whoppers that he’s told and in large part due to his prominence in the industry, I think that the Hulkster has to take the cake.

Night Wolf goes on:

Speaking of Bruce Prichard: what do you make of this article?

I think Prichard is lying here. I can’t imagine Randy Savage not wanting to wrestle again and only doing commentary work. I think he could of elevated a lot of the newer guys who were there, like HBK, because he was one of the few mainstays left from the Hulkamania era. I feel that he could have carried the WWF in the few years before the Attitude Era. Your thoughts?

It appears that Savage did, in fact, claim in shoot interviews before his death that he left the WWF in part because he wanted more of an opportunity to wrestle. This 2012 Bleacher Report article recaps a 2000 interview with Savage by IGN and another interview with the E! Network, with the Macho Man saying in both that he wanted to be a more active in-ring participant than what the WWF was willing to allow at that point. However, the links to the IGN and E! interviews within the body of the Bleacher Report story are now dead, for whatever that is worth.

It’s also worth noting that, if Savage wanted to wrestle more, Prichard was not necessarily “lying.” What Prichard said on his podcast was that, if Savage wanted to wrestle more, Savage never said that to Prichard. The comments by Prichard on his podcast and the comments by Savage in the IGN/E! interviews can both be true.

Also, for what it’s worth, I went back and looked over the Wrestling Observer Newsletter issues from around the time that Savage was departing, and they mainly reported on the dollar figures involved in the negotiations without discussing what other non-monetary considerations may have been weighing on Savage’s mind.

We’ve left this question from APinOz solidly in the middle of the card:

Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler main-evented the Extreme Rules PPV in July 2018 and a month later were the opening match at Summerslam. Has it ever happened before that the same match went from main event to opening match at successive PPVs?

First off, let me say that I think this question is built on the premise that the match which closes the show is always the “main event,” which is not true. The main event is the primary match that a show is built and primarily promoted around. Usually, that match does appear last on the card, but not always. Somewhere along the line, some wrestling fans (and even wrestlers) have gotten very confused and decided that the word “main” means “last,” when in reality the word “main” means and has always meant “primary in size or importance,” as stated in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Plus, using the “last match” definition of “main event” leads to some absurd results, like a Dream Team vs. Lanny Poffo and Tony Garea being the “main event” of the second-ever Saturday Night’s Main Event show, when Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were wrestling earlier on the card in matches that were clearly more anticipated and important or calling John Cena and Shawn Michaels the “main event” of Wrestlemania XXIII when the entire show was promoted around and mainly purchased for Donald Trump and Vince McMahon’s encounter in the Battle of the Billionaires. (Just look at the show posters. Cena and Michaels are clearly secondary to McMahon and Trump.)

And don’t even get me started on the claim that The Big Boss Man and the Legion of Doom against IRS and the Natural Disasters was the “main event” of the 1991 Survivor Series over Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker.

However, this question is pretty obviously referring to a match closing a pay per view and then opening the next pay per view, so I’ll play along . . . and it is something that happened beyond the Dolph Ziggler/Seth Rollins example that AP cites.

CM Punk faced the Undertaker in the closing match of the 2009 submission-themed pay per view Breaking Point on September 13. Then, just a few weeks later on October 4, the two men opened the show on that year’s version of Hell in Cell. The two matches were even title bouts, with Punk retaining the World Heavyweight Title in a submission match at Breaking Point and then losing it to Taker in one of the titular matches at the Hell in a Cell show.

Also, though it’s not the same *match* moving from the last spot on the card to the first spot on the card, the same competitors moved from the final match to the opener between Hell in a Cell 2016 and Survivor Series 2016, as Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks were opponents on the last match of the HIAC show and were then partners in a Survivor Series elimination match that opened the November classic.

Another close call came between the 2018 TLC show and the 2019 Royal Rumble. That year’s TLC show was closed out by a three-way between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Asuka, while Asuka and Lynch would face each other in the Rumble opener, though it was a one-on-one match that removed Flair from the equation.

Andrew has me completely stumped:

Some years back I saw a clip of the Slickster singing the Soviet anthem instead of the late great Nikolai Volkoff. I have the WWE Network but have no frame of reference for finding this moment (assuming it’s on there). Any chance you could help?

I have ZERO clue on this and have not been able to dig anything up, so I can only assume that it was a one-off and not part of an ongoing gimmick.

Anybody out there in comment section-land have any guidance for Andrew and I?

Sadly, Christopher H. did not tell me whether he took the over or the under:

Help me settle a bet with a friend: True or false, not including tournaments, there have been at least 10 one-on-one heel vs. heel PPV matches in WWF/E history?

Unless I’ve missed something along the way, I believe the answer to the question is “False.”

I was able to locate ten matches that exclusively involved heels taking place on WWF/WWE pay per views. (Outside of tournaments, as the question stipulates.) However, as you will see below when we run them down, not all of them are one-on-one matches. Some are tag team matches, and one is actually a seven-person match, though all seven of those individuals were heels at the time.

The other thing to keep in mind when reviewing this list is that, in many of these cases, one of the wrestlers (or teams) did work the match primarily as a babyface for the purposes of that evening. I’m listing matches where the competitors were heels more generally at the time the match occurred, even if they temporarily took on a face role or were the “less hated” or “cool” heel for that one particular bout.

Though there may be a couple more examples that I missed, here are the ten heel PPV matches that I was able to locate:

1. Shawn Michaels vs. Rick Martel – Summerslam 1992: With two face versus face matches headlining the pay per view, the undercard for this show was a bit thin on good guys, which prompted these two men fighting for the affection of Sensational Sherri, who made them promise not to hit each other in the face.

2. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart – Survivor Series 1997: Many people forget that this match, one of the most infamous in history, was at least arguably a heel versus heel match. Though Bret was received as a massive face in Canada, where the card occurred, both he and Michaels were heels in the United States, which is where the primary audience for the PPV resided.

3. Undertaker vs. Kane – Judgment Day 1998: Though Taker and Kane have faced each other many times, usually with UT as a babyface, this match took place when both were “in cahoots” as heels feuding with Steve Austin. They simultaneously pinned him in a triple threat WWF Championship match on the prior pay per view, and this was a match for the vacant title between the two “brothers” with Austin as referee.

4. Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man – Wrestlemania XV: With the villainous Corporation and Ministry of Darkness on bad terms, it was decided that two of their representatives would face each other in a Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania. Of course, this one is best known for the ending, which saw the Boss Man hung from a noose and apparently killed . . . though he was back on television and showing no ill effects, aside from an even more explosive temper, a short time later.

5. Edge & Christian vs. Road Dogg & X-Pac – Backlash 2000: Though Road Dogg and X-Pac were wearing D-Generation X colors at the time and that faction always got cheered somewhat, they were technically part of the McMahon-Helmsley Faction at this point and operated primarily as heels, including a hearty “X-Pac Sucks” chant at the beginning of this bout. E&C, meanwhile, had recently turned heel after their original feud with the Hardy Boys was a face versus face affair.

6. Kurt Angle vs. Triple H – Royal Rumble 2001: The Royal Rumble match itself is really the draw for this pay per view, and sometimes WWF/WWE has taken advantage of that fact to book some unusual singles matches that might not have much appeal on their own, including this WWF Championship match between two guys who were heels but had spent much of the last year feuding over the affections of Stephanie McMahon.

7. Stephanie McMahon vs. Trish Stratus – No Way Out 2001: Tying in to the previous match on this list, Stephanie and Trish Stratus unloaded on each other in this surprisingly good (though not spectacular) bout which arose in part from some scenarios in which it looked like Trish might be horning in on Triple H but moreso from her very open storyline affair with Vince McMahon.

8. Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger vs. Fandango vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Antonio Cesaro vs. Damien Sandow – Money in the Bank 2013: WWE has tried some interesting gimmicks with its Money in the Bank matches over the years, and this twist in 2013 was particularly unique in that it saw seven heels, each of whom were considered some degree of up-and-comer, vying for a World Heavyweight Title opportunity. Just as interesting is the fact that, a mere six-and-half years later, of this group only Cesaro remains a member of the company’s main roster.

9. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family – Elimination Chamber 2014: Though they were teetering on the brink, the Shield had yet to “officially” turn at this point, when they did battle with WWE’s other fairly hot three-man faction of the era. Sadly, just about everybody in this match was more over then than they are now, particularly Roman Reigns. (No, he was not “pushed down our throats.” Initially he got over organically, as seen here.) If the trios had been handled as effectively for the rest of their careers as they were on this night, the wrestling world could be a lot different place now.

10. Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan – Survivor Series 2018: Just a little over a year ago, Bryan and Lesnar collided in a match where Bryan very obviously took up the babyface mantel, despite the fact that he was a heel in all other programs at the time. I can’t say that I blame the company for booking the match despite the mismatched alignments, as it’s one that definitely needed to happen at some point, and, with his limited schedule, you never know when you’ll next see Brock.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].