wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Who Should This Year’s Surprise Royal Rumble Entrants Be?

January 9, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Royal Rumble Logo Image Credit: WWE

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5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . JAMES!

You’re booking the Royal Rumble and are allowed five surprise entrants for each match. Who do you pick?

First off, if I’m booking the Royal Rumble, there aren’t going to be two Royal Rumble matches. It overexposes the gimmick and makes the whole thing seem less special. I understand wanting equity among the men’s and women’s divisions, but that doesn’t require men and women always having the same gimmick matches on every show. Alternate years, give the match to the division that makes more sense in a given year in light of ongoing storylines . . . there are plenty of ways to do this without doing two virtually identical matches on the same show.

But, since it’s what James wanted, I’ll go ahead and list off surprise entrants for both men’s and women’s matches. Note that I am only listing individuals who I think that WWE could realistically get their hands on, meaning that no top stars from AEW, nobody who hasn’t shown at least some interest in working at least occasional wrestling shots in the last couple of years, and nobody has irreconcilable differences with the company.

That said, here are my picks, in no particular order:

Scott Steiner: Yeah, Big Poppa Pump hasn’t always had the best relationship with the guy who is currently heading WWE creative. However, I think there’s a good reason to put those differences aside here. Why? Because, within a few days of the Royal Rumble, we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Monday Night Raw. Steiner is the last person who wrestled on that first Raw show who is still somewhat active as a wrestler, and having him in the Rumble as an extension of that 30th anniversary celebration could make for a cool moment. Plus, if you have Bron Breaker in the Rumble, uncle and nephew could interact for a memorable spot.

LA Park: The Royal Rumble is back in the Alamodome, and the first Rumble at the Alamodome was in 1997 when the show was jointly promoted with AAA and featured some of Mexico’s biggest stars at the time. What about a nice callback to that show by having a surprise luchador show up here in 2023? LA Park, also known as the original La Parka, fits the bill because he’s still wrestling regularly and popular with Latino fans, in addition to providing some WCW nostalgia for those who were watching during the Monday Night War.

Titus O’Neil: I’m breaking my own rule about only including people who still wrestle somewhat regularly, but at least Titus is (as far as I know) still under sort of WWE contract, even though he hasn’t had a match in years. My idea for Titus is making him the designated comedy spot of the match, doing a callback to infamous Greatest Royal Rumble slide underneath the ring, which now occurred almost five years ago. Have him slide under again only to disappear and never actually be seen in the match.

Zach Gowen: We’re now at a point in history where nostalgia acts from the 1980s are nearing impossibility and even nostalgia acts from the 1990s are growing more difficult. Thus, we turn to nostalgia acts from the early 2000s. Who haven’t we heard from that could be a big surprise but could do something somewhat impressive? What about Zach Gowen? Gowen was still active as a professional wrestler in 2021 and 2022, and even fans who don’t remember him are likely to be impressed by what he’s capable of doing with in the ring with his disability.

The Rock: It has been reported that forces within WWE are really been pulling for this one to happen, and I’ve already gone on record in this column saying that, if this can be done, it absolutely should be done, and Rock should win the match. Associating the biggest action movie star on the face of the earth with your product is unquestionably what is best for business.

You’ll notice that I didn’t list Cody Rhodes, which some people might consider an omission. That’s because, if Cody is going to be in the Rumble, I wouldn’t book him as a surprise. I would let people know in advance he was going to be there, because I think there’s a better story to tell in advance of the match about his rehab from injury, similar to how Triple H came back from his torn quad as an announced participant in the Royal Rumble match in 2002. It could be a “Beautiful Day” for Cody as well . . .

With the men taken care of, let’s move on to the women’s version of the souped-up battle royale. This is actually a bit harder than the men’s match because the prior women’s Royal Rumbles have relied so heavily on past stars returning to the ring, and I don’t know that I’d be interested in just strutting out the same crew of former stars again.

Eva Marie: Because some men just want to watch the world burn.

Meiko Satomura: Admittedly, there’s quite a bit of personal bias here, because Satomura is one of the last surviving links to an era of joshi that I really enjoyed. She’s still under WWE contract as far as I know and is not doing anything of note, so you may as well throw her into this match, where she could help direct traffic as perhaps the single most experienced member of the company’s women’s roster.

Max the Impaler: I haven’t used any of these picks yet to suggest that WWE sign and debut a brand new wrestler, but I’m doing that here. Dubbed “The Nonbinary Nightmare,” Max has made appearances in AEW and ROH and has recently been picking up some critically important experience in Japan. They also have developed an incredible look that is all their own and would immediately stand out to WWE fans even if the crowd does not have any prior familiarity with their work. Plus, it’s been a little while since the WWE women’s division has had a monster heel, and this would be the prefect opportunity.

James Ellsworth: Yes, James Ellsworth. Hear me out. Several years ago, Carmella utilized Ellsworth’s services to win a women’s Money in the Bank match, so why not do a callback to that moment for a quick comedy spot in the middle of the Rumble? Carmella has been MIA for a while, so have her music hit, after which she enters . . . but not to wrestle in the match herself. Instead, she announces that Ellsworth will be pinch hitting for her. He hits the ring and is immediately dog piled and tossed out by all the women in the ring at the time.

Jazz: I mentioned earlier that WWE has over-used most of the women from prior eras that they have access to, but that’s not the case with Jazz. She’s never really been brought back to the company in a “legends” capacity despite having some solid women’s title runs in the past. It would be a nostalgia pop, but at least it would be a new nostalgia pop.

In a rare question from the comment section, it’s Jason S (Brooklyn):

Piggybacking the Studd-Bundy question, what was the reason for Studd’s WWF sabbatical from early-1987 until the end of 1988? (when he was announced for the premiere Royal Rumble PPV*) Was he starting to have some health issues around this time? Without Internet, I don’t know if he had a run on the indies or went to Japan or Mexico.

*–Talking about the Rumble debuting as a PPV, not that it’s the first ever RR.

First off, in case you missed it, Jason is following up on a question that I answered about two weeks ago about a potential King Kong Bundy / Big John Studd match at Wrestlemania III.

The answer to Jason’s question is a pretty simple one.

Studd just stopped wrestling during that period of time because he was hoping to take his career in a different direction, becoming an actor. Prior to his hiatus, he had some acting roles, including bit parts in the 1984 film Micki + Maude, a Jackie Chan movie called The Protector, and a wrestling-themed episode of The A-Team that primarily featured Hulk Hogan.

He actually got a fair amount of acting work during his hiatus from wrestling, including television episodes of the NBC detective series Hunter, the cult fantasy show Beauty and the Beast, and The Dirty Dozen (based on the 1967 WWII film of the same name).

He was also in a made-for-TV family friendly spy movie called Double Agent in 1987, which aired as part of The Magical World of Disney, an obscure science fiction movie entitled Hyper Space (or sometimes Space Rangers: Hyperspace), and a women-in-prison exploitation movie entitled Caged in Paradiso.

He would also go on to have several more acting roles after he hung up his wrestling boots for good in 1990, including what may have been his biggest non-wrestling part in 1991’s Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, in which he mixed it up with Mickey Rourke – including Rourke biting Studd’s arm, Ace Steel-style.

Now let’s revisit an old question by Greg:
I don’t know too much about the now-defunct Japanese promotion HUSTLE, but having scoured sites like cagematch and profightdb, I’ve noticed that a lot of the performers (mostly masked from what I gather) have remained largely unidentified. Any chance you’d be able to ID the men behind some of these HUSTLE gimmicks?

After that, Greg rattled off a long list of HUSTLE gimmicks. This is the type of question that I really enjoy answering, but, frankly, it takes so much time and effort to dig into these obscure characters that I have barely made a dent in that list. My biggest dent came in January 2022, when I did some detective work to unmask Piranha Monster Z. It was, no fooling, one of my favorite things I’ve ever written for this website, and I have been here since 2004.

(As an aside, if you have no idea what HUSTLE was, this edition of Ask 411 from 2019 provides some backstory.)

At the end of the year, I had some extra time on my hands, so I decided to revisit Greg’s list. Almost at random, I decided to select one of the characters from it and settled on:

Flying Vampire #7. There were several masked wrestlers throughout HUSTLE’s history who used some variation on the “Flying Vampire” gimmick, with the name usually followed by a seemingly random number. The Flying Vampires listed in Greg’s question included #16, #23, #25, and #28, along with two Super Flying Vampires and one numeral-less Flying Vampire.

This time, though, we’re focusing on Flying Vampire #7. Here’s the interesting thing that I discovered about Flying Vampire #7’s identity:

There is no Flying Vampire #7.

What do I mean by this? If you look on wrestling database websites CageMatch and ProFightDB, as Greg said he did when drafting the question, you’ll see that they do list a Flying Vampire #7 in HUSTLE results. Specifically, they state that as part of the HUSTLE-4 show on July 25, 2004, Flying Vampire #7 was part of a six-man hardcore rumble match which was won by Masato Tanaka and also included Kintaro (W*ING) Kanemura, Steve Corino, Tomoaki Honman, and Tomohiro Ishii. However, this is the only appearance of this particular vamp, and neither database identifies who FV7 was underneath the hood.

I began looking for clues as to the mystery man’s identity. I figured that I would start with HUSTLE-4 itself, and I was able to find full video of the show on The Internet Archive. I scrubbed to the six man rumble and waited for the bloodsucker to make his entrance. When he did, I saw the following image (which I’m linking to through my Twitter account due to 411’s current policy on embedding photos):

Look at the chyron listing the wrestler’s name. Do you see the number 7 anywhere there? Nope. What number do you see? There is a definitive number 16 in the graphic.

That’s right. Despite what these English-and-German-language internet wrestling databases say, this match doesn’t involve Flying Vampire #7. It involves Flying Vampire #16.

For what it’s worth, I’m not the first or only person to point this out. Former 411mania wrestling video reviewer Arnold Furious wrote a full review of HUSTLE 4 and also noted the discrepancy between the on-screen graphic and the CageMatch listing. There are also several other sources that list the HUSTLE-4 competitor as Flying Vampire #16, including PuroLove, BAHU’s FMW World (specifically his profile on Kaemura), and several tape trading lists and forum posts. The only references that I can find online to Flying Vampire #7 are either from ProFightDB, CageMatch, or websites that appear to cite ProFightDB or CageMatch.

It is not clear how this error came to be or how it was perpetuated in both of these results databases, but hopefully it can now be corrected. (My Piranha Monster Z research did result in updates to ProFightDB, so anything is possible.)

It’s also worth noting that the identity of Flying Vampire #16 does not appear to be in dispute. FV16 is commonly acknowledged as being a pro wrestler who gained his most notoriety under the ring name PSYCHO. PSYCHO was trained by TAKA Michinoku at TAKA’s Kaientai Dojo and wrestled regularly on K-Dojo shows between 2001 and 2012. In later years, he would also wrestle under the names Marines Mask (the second wrestler to use that gimmick) and Gabai-jichan.

Websites like ProFightDB and Wikipedia already list PSYCHO as being Flying Vampire #16, though admittedly without citation. However, he has a fairly unique lanky build and a way of moving about the ring, to the point that I am willing to say that they are the same guy based on comparing match footage.

There you have it. There is no Flying Vampire #7, and listings to the contrary appear to be the result of an unknown error that has been perpetuated for many years. The Flying Vampire in the supposed FV7 match is actually Flying Vampire #16, and Flying Vampire #16 is PSYCHO, a.k.a. Marines Mask II, a.k.a. Gabai-jichan.

Thus concludes this year’s edition of our favorite rarely-reoccurring segment of Ask 411 Wrestling – Ryan Byers: HUSTLE Detective.

Bryan is belting it out:

I know the NWA got the Big Gold Belt in 1986, and prior to that they had a more rectangular shape. But when the NWA was still with WCW from 1986-1990, where was that rectangular belt, because isn’t that the same one the NWA is currently using by Tyrus?

First off, let’s clarify some terminology: The “more rectangular” belt design is usually referred to as either the “Domed Globe” belt or the “Ten Pounds of Gold.” I personally prefer the latter name, because it just sounds classier.

In fact, there has been an entire book written about that belt and the men who held it, entitled Ten Pounds of Gold. It has been well-reviewed by both fans of that era of wrestling and wrestlers themselves.

(I should note that this is not paid promotion – I have no connection to to the authors, publishers, or any other stakeholders in the book.)

But let’s get to the actual question: What became of he original Ten Pounds of Gold?

The answer appears to be that it fell into the hands of WWE. In 2014, the blog associated with the previously mentioned Ten Pounds of Gold book published an article detailing the fact that Ric Flair, the last man to hold the original belt, had a custom display case made for it. Presumably, the belt remained in Flair’s personal collection for many years, until WWE had it on display at Fan Axxess prior to Wrestlemania in 2012. After that, it moved into Triple H’s office at WWE HQ.

Regarding the belt that Tyrus is running around with when he isn’t spewing bile on insufferable Fox News panels, it’s the same design as the Domed Globe/Ten Pounds of Gold, but it would be a different physical belt than the original.

Rex is wondering what may have been:

Why didn’t the Undertaker and Chris Jericho ever have a match at Wrestlemania? And did they ever have any one on one matches?

There’s not any any great reason that they never faced each other at Wrestlemania. It’s just one of those things that, in terms of their relative positions on cards, heel/face alignments, and assignments during brand splits never came together.

Regarding singles matches, despite their long overlap as WWF/E employees, they only wrestled each other three times in one-on-one situations, and they all fell within the same time frame. Their first match was on November 10, 2009 and taped for Smackdown, with Taker defeating Jericho in Sheffield, U.K. Two weeks later in Bridgeport, Connecticut, also for Smackdown, the Deadman beat Y2J again, this time via disqualification. Finally, on February 9, 2010, Jericho managed to get his comeuppance by defeating Undertaker, also on Smackdown but this time from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This last one was a no disqualification match, which saw Edge interfere and spear UT to set up Jericho’s victory.

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.