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Ask 411 Wrestling: Who Should Enter First in the Royal Rumble?

January 1, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Royal Rumble 2024 Image Credit: WWE

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.

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James is setting off some buzzers:

If you were booking the upcoming Royal Rumbles, who do you bring in as numbers one and two?

First off, you said “Royal Rumbles.” If I were booking, there would not be two Royal Rumble matches. There would be one and only one, because I think two of the matches on the same show dilutes their importance becomes repetitive to watch. Some people argue that you need both men’s and women’s matches on the show to have gender equality but, really, I think it’s just as “equal” to either alternate years between the two divisions or just give the match to the division in which having it makes the most storyline sense from year-to-year.

With that out of the way, let me now answer the question as though I had a gun to my head and was forced to book two Royal Rumble matches despite my objections to the entirety of that concept.

I will say that I think it’s become a bit of of a cliché to build a storyline around the individuals who enter at number one or number two almost wanting those spots so that they can have an impressive run that lasts the whole match. Thus, when reading these selections, keep in mind that is NOT my goal. I think that story should be given a rest for a few years before it is used again.

That said, in the men’s match I would go with Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso. This move is meant to be similar to the 1989 Royal Rumble when Ax and Smash of Demolition were the first two entrants. The fans should theoretically give us a big pop and be immediately invested in the match due to the novelty of seeing two wrestlers who they normally wouldn’t envision as opponents facing one another. It would be an exciting moment but not necessarily something that the rest of the match would have to be built around.

On the women’s side of things, I would go with Iyo Sky and Piper Niven if Sky loses her women’s championship between now and the pay per view. These two are rivals from way back, having shared the ring quite a bit when they were in the Japanese Stardom promotion together. However, they have never had a singles match in WWE, and even their crossover in non-singles matches has been fairly limited. Given the chemistry they exhibited earlier in their careers, I think they could do a sprint of an opening sequence that would really get the crowd off its collective feet.

If Sky keeps the title, perhaps switch her out for Nikki Cross for many of the same reasons, though her history with Niven goes back even further to the Scottish independent scene.

Tyler from Winnipeg is feeling the bang:

What moment was DDP’s crown jewel?

April 6, 1997. WCW Spring Stampede. In the first televised match between the two, Diamond Dallas Page pins “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Though Page wouldn’t become a world champion until later in his career, this was the victory that put him on the map as a main eventer and one of the small number of legitimate superstars that World Championship Wrestling made as opposed to picking off stars from the WWF.

Drew just renewed his subscription to Peacock:

My question is a surprising bit of history I didn’t know about ECW. I saw a video from 1999 of Kamala in ECW, simply called Uganda. And while he toned down the usual belly slapping and savage gimmick, he was still wearing his usual leopard ring gear, barefoot and the body paint. And above all else, he was having a match with Rob Van Dam for the TV title at the height of RVD’s popularity. More surprising was how the match was actually good, nothing great but a solid larger power house versus smaller high flier. I think he also had a match with Tommy Dreamer but I might be wrong.

How did a legendary wrestler from 80’s with a gimmick of the times join the most counter culture pro Wrestling company ever? How long did he wrestle there and who where his opponents besides RVD? And overall how did the usually rabid ECW audience accept him? He surprisingly got over well in his RVD match.

Here’s the thing: That wasn’t Kamala . . . or at least not the guy that most people think of when you say “Kamala” without any further explanation.

The guy who was Kamala Mid-South, World Class, WWF, WCW, and many points in between was born Jim Harris and wrestled for several years as Sugar Bear Harris before the Kamala gimmick was dreamed up for him in Memphis. (Where else?)

The guy who you saw in ECW as “Uganda” was a wrestler named Ben Peacock. Peacock made his pro wrestling debut, as near as I can tell, in 1984, when Harris had already been Kamala for a couple of years. Peacock seemingly tried to cash in on doing his own version of the Kamala gimmick from the very start, originally wrestling as the New Guinea Man Eater for several years until World Class Championship Wrestling brought him in as the Botswana Beast in 1988.

Kamala and the Botswana Beast actually overlapped in WCCW, even having at least one match as a tag team. According to a shoot interview that Kamala did with Dan Mirade’s Boston Wrestling, Peacock never asked his permission to do a variation on the character that had made Harris a success but, once Harris learned Peacock was doing it, he said he could try to make a run with it. From the tone, it didn’t sound like Harris was officially blessing Peacock’s use of the gimmick, basically just giving approaching it with a “you do your thing, and I’ll do mine” mentality.

Though that may have been his original approach, Kamala did get a bit hot under the collar when it came to Peacock’s bookings in Japan. The original Kamala started appearing in All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1985, wrestling under a slight variation of his American ring name, calling himself the Giant Kimala.

In February and March of 1989, Kamala was booked for AJPW and became the tag team partner of Abdullah the Butcher. In the same Boston Wrestling shoot mentioned above, it became apparent that Kamala had no love lost for Abdullah and accused him of trying to keep other Black talent out of Japan – or at the very least controlling the booking of Black wrestlers in AJPW so that Abby could take a cut of their pay.

It is not exactly clear how the animosity between Abdullah and Harris plays into this situation but, when it came time for All Japan’s September 1990 tour and the later 1990 Real World Tag League, Harris was out as the Butcher’s tag partner, and he was replaced by Peacock, who started using the name Giant Kimala himself – though this was later updated so that he was referred to as Giant Kimala II. Harris made it clear that, though he didn’t seem to mind Peacock copying his gimmick, he was pissed at Abdullah for giving Peacock his ring name and presumably costing him bookings in the process.

That being said, whatever animosity existed appears to have been smoothed over for a time because, beginning in May 1991, both Harris and Peacock were booked on the same AJPW tours as Giant Kimala 1 and Giant Kimala 2, both tagging with each other AND wrestling in six man tags with Abdullah as their partner. This would continue through early September ’91, though that would be Harris’s last tour with All Japan. (He did return to the country for the Japanese indy group W*ING a bit later on.) Peacock would actually continue wrestling for AJPW as Giant Kimala through 2003, lasting significantly longer as Japan’s Kamala than the original did.

When he was in between All Japan tours from late July through mid-September of 1999, Peacock did have a run in ECW under the name “Uganda,” presumably adopted out of concern that Harris and/or some other person who claimed ownership of the Kamala name would attempt legal action if he used it in the U.S.

Of course, that’s a lot of backstory without actually getting at the meat of the question, which is what this gimmick – regardless of who was playing it – was doing in ECW in 1999.

I think the answer is that people forget about the extent to which Paul Heyman was willing to utilize some older school, perhaps less athletically gifted big men in order to get his stars over. Yes, Heyman gave breaks to people like Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Rey Misterio Jr., and Juventud Guerrera. However, when he was booking ECW, you also had guys coming through like 911, P.N. News, Sid, and Brakus who had roles to play but didn’t fit what a lot of people today might think of as the ECW mold.

Uganda was just another one of those guys. He wasn’t factored in to major plans or pushed to the moon. He just came in for a couple of months and was fed enhancement wrestlers like David Cash (before he became Kid Kash), Tom Marquez, and Vito LoGrasso (before he became Big Vito) so that he would be a credible opponent for Rob Van Dam, who he put over in several matches, including one on television. He also lost a quick match to Spike Dudley during Spike’s “Giant Killer” phase while he still had some steam left in the promotion. (Despite Drew’s recollection, there was no match with Tommy Dreamer that I could find a record of.)

And, really, Uganda as portrayed by Ben Peacock in ECW wasn’t quite as dated and hokey as the original Kamala had become by the late 1990s. Yes, he still had the traditional Kamala look – which I admit was HIGHLY problematic – but Joey Styles on commentary wasn’t referring to him as a savage from deepest, darkest Africa. Instead, Styles and others talked up Peacock’s experience in pro wrestling, putting him over as a star in All Japan, which he had been at that point for almost a decade. Plus, Uganda incorporated more modern highspots into his matches than what the original Kamala did, including a top rope splash, a somersault senton, and even an impressive-for-his-size standing dropkick. He was also willing to take some fairly large bumps for a super heavyweight.

That being said, crowds didn’t really take to him. According to one live report that I found in a Wrestling Observer Newsletter from the time, crowds greeted him with a “show your tits” chant.

There you have it. More than anybody probably wanted to ready about Ben Peacock/Giant Kimala II/Botswana Beast/Uganda in 2023.

(Side note: In researching this answer, I realized that Peacock doesn’t have a Wikipedia page despite many wrestlers who I consider far less noteworthy having pretty extensive profiles. If there are any Wikipedians out there who want to take a crack at creating the page, I think I just gave you your first source.)

I’m getting on Michael‘s last nerve:

Is there anything in the course of a match that the competitors do that bugs you? So not the crowd, not the announcers, not the managers, etc, just the actual wrestlers? Mine is when the wrestlers do a series of counter moves and then stand and stare at each other hoping the crowd will clap as a sign of respect. I guess because “Hey, he reversed my move and I reversed his too so clap!”

I’m tired of strike battles . . . you know, the spots where wrestlers stand in the middle of the ring and exchange chops, forearms, or any other blow without making any effort to defend against their opponent’s shots. The first few times that I saw this in the 1990s, I actually thought it was a pretty cool way of displaying the wrestlers’ “fighting spirit,” but it pretty quickly became overdone and, the more you saw it, the more you realized that it was unbelievable as part of what was supposed to be a realistic fight.

Also: This is probably more the agents’ fault than the wrestlers, but I am also done with the battle royale finish in which a competitor goes out in between the ropes and is safe from elimination, hiding out until one last competitor is left in the ring. Again, it was totally fine the first time or two that I saw it occur, but, after a while, it felt like it was the only finish to a battle royale that any company could book. It needs to go into the trash heap.

Aaaaaaand, I’m on a roll, so let’s go with one more example. You don’t see this one much anymore, but it bothered me so much when it was common that I still immediately thought of it when I read this question. There used to be a move that several wrestlers would do – though for some reason it is mostly tied in my head to Dustin Rhodes – in which the attacking wrestler would take their opponent’s head and stick it in between the attacking wrestler’s legs, similar to the setup for a piledriver or the pedigree. Then, the attacking wrestler would jump in the air and land on his feet, and the wrestler being attacked would sell it as though he was injured . . . somehow. It’s been at least 30 years since I first saw this maneuver, and I am still totally unclear on what it was supposed to do in terms of causing pain, because it was really just a guy jumping a couple of inches in the air while his penis was resting on the back of his opponent’s head.

Jonfw2 on the top of the heap:

What is the Mt. Rushmore of real life controversies in pro wrestling?

I feel like these are pretty self-explanatory and well-known, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing them. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Chris Benoit kills his wife, his child, and himself.

2. Bruiser Brody is murdered in a locker room in Puerto Rico.

3. Rikidozan is killed by a member of the Yakuza.

4. Jimmy Snuka allegedly kills Nancy Argentino and avoids prosecution for over 30 years.

The other reason that I didn’t go into detail on the descriptions of these Mt. Rushmore entries?

Freakin’ depressing, man.

Michael is going back to basics:

Who’s your favorite wrestler of all time (or at least one of your top favorites), and why? What qualities put them in that category for you?

You know, this is a more difficult question than it might seem at first blush.

For much as my life as a wrestling fan, I would not hesitate to answer this question with “Ric Flair.” In my mind, he had every quality that you could possibly want in a professional wrestler between his athleticism, his style, his swagger, his promos, and his work ethic. Though I’ve never comprised such lists before, if I had to rank my ten favorite in-ring moments and my ten favorite out-of-ring moments as a fan, the Nature Boy would probably factor in to at least fifty percent of them.

So, why is there some difficulty associated with answering this question?

It’s because, over the last many years, I have really lost a lot of respect for Flair as a result of details that have come out about his personal life. Though some people have no problem separating a the real person behind a performer from his performance, I’m not one of those people. It has made some of those old segments difficult to watch.

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.