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Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Wasn’t Mankind’s First WWF Title Win on Live TV?

October 16, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Mick Foley Mankind WWE 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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This question was sent in by Mrs. Big Al‘s baby boy:

When Mick Foley won his first WWE championship in 1998 why wasn’t this episode live? I know due to financial reasons the episodes were taped with only every third or fourth one being live but the WWE must/should have known this would be a monumental moment so why would they have it taped, especially since Eric Bischoff was giving away the results on Nitro?

It’s because the WWF thought that having the title change on a taped show would help their business.

With all due respect to Big Al, one of the things that aggravates me a bit about modern wrestling fans is that they have developed the mentality that surprises are the greatest thing that can happen on a wrestling show. They’ve completely lost sight of the fact that wrestling wasn’t built on shocking your audience. It was built on knowing what your audience wanted to see, promoting to them the fact that they were going to see it, and then getting them to pay their money or change the channel to see something that they knew or were reasonably certain was going to happen.

In other words, the surprise wasn’t the draw – knowing what would happen in in advance was the draw.

. . . and that’s what the World Wrestling Federation was counting on headed into their January 4, 1999 airing of Monday Night Raw.

The Fed knew that evening was going to give them some stiff television competition, in part because WCW Monday Nitro was emanating from the Georgia Dome and would be a stacked card as a result. On top of that, the NCAA college football championship was airing that evening opposite both the wrestling shows, and major college or professional football games always put the hurt on pro graps.

In order to counter-program WCW and the NCAA, the WWF booked Mankind winning its top championship, AND it promoted in advance the fact that the title was changing hands. If you were a wrestling fan on the internet during the last week of December 1998, you were well aware that Mick Foley was winning the big one on the first Raw of the new year . . . and you didn’t just know that because of the Dave Meltzers and Wade Kellers of the world.

You knew that because, smack dab on the front page of WWF.com, there was a huge banner photo of Foley holding up the championship belt with D-Generation X hoisting him up into the air. I was well aware of what I was going to see when I turned on Raw that night, and knowing in advance made the show more exciting because of the anticipation of the big moment and a desire to see how it all went down.

Sometimes I wish the world was still like that. Instead of being a group of spoiler culture nerds who clutch their pearls every time the slightest hint about an upcoming plot point might be dropped, why don’t we just let these things come as they will and realize that the destination is just as important as the journey?

That might just put some asses in seats.

Tyler from Winnipeg is crunching the numbers:

There was around a 50,000 attendance drop of between Wrestlemania III and Wrestlemania IV, what gives?

It’s all about the venue.

As everybody knows, Wrestlemania III was held at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, which had a capacity of 80,311 people when configured for a football game. Wrestlemania IV, meanwhile, was held in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which is a convention center as opposed to a sports venue and is listed as having a capacity of 10,500 people. (And, yes, the WWF billed Mania IV as emanating from the Trump Plaza, which was across the street from Boardwalk Hall, but it couldn’t have occurred there because it was a hotel and casino – there was no place there that could actually host the event.)

Thus, there was always going to be a significantly lesser attendance for WMIV because it was a physical impossibility to fit anywhere near the same amount of people in the building.

However, if I just stopped the answer there, I suspect that Tyler and others would ask a follow-up question. If the WWF was able to sell over 70,000 tickets in Pontiac, why wouldn’t they book a similar facility for they next year’s event?

According to Bruce Prichard on his Something to Wrestle With podcast, the answer all comes down to money. The Trump company wanted Wrestlemania to come to its facility because it was a major event similar to a large boxing match that would bring eyeballs and credibility to the venue Trump controlled. Though Prichard didn’t mention specific figures, he made it sound as though the deal to use Boardwalk Hall was well worth the WWF’s while, even with greatly reduced ticket sales.

Richard U. wants to be the very best, like no one ever was:

Can one seriously be on a list of “All Time Best Wrestlers” if they have never competed in the WWE? I am particularly talking about wrestlers like Kenny Omega or Nick and Matt Jackson who live in the states where travel restrictions are not an issue.

It depends on your definition of “best wrestlers.” If you’re somebody who wants to focus on in-ring performance with no other criteria being taken into consideration, then you can be one of the all-time greats in front of five fans just as easily as you can fifty thousand.

Once you start incorporating other criteria into your definition, the analysis can change quite a bit.

Though I have caught a decent amount of flack for this in the comment section, I’ve always believed that the goal of any wrestler is to become the biggest star that they can, regardless of how skilled they are as a grappler or promo (though talent in those areas typically helps in the pursuit of stardom). If the best wrestlers are the biggest stars, then not working in the largest promotions certainly does hurt your chances of being named one of the all-time greats.

If star power is the main criterion, then I would be hard pressed to call anybody who hasn’t wrestled in WWE in the modern era an all-time great. Even AEW, the promotion’s closet competition, has roughly half its viewership.

Of course, that only applies to the current state of the wrestling industry. If we go back into the pseudo-sport’s history, WWE used to have competitors that were much closer to being on their level where wrestlers could develop their bona fides as all-time greats without going to work for Vincent K. McMahon.

HBK’s Smile is going the distance:

What was the last televised time limit draw on WWE programming?

On the September 5, 2023 episode of NXT, Axiom and Butch wrestled to a time limit draw in a Global Heritage Invitational tournament match.

If you’re only interested in the main roster, you have to look at the April 22, 2022 Smackdown show, when there was a Beat the Clock challenge in the women’s division. Ronda Rousey defeated Shotzi Blackheart in one minute and forty-one seconds to set the time to beat. After that, Aliyah wrestled Charlotte Flair, and, when neither woman beat the other in 1:41, the bout was called a time limit draw.

Should you not want to count Beat the Clock matches, then you have to go all the way back to June 12, 2017 and Monday Night Raw, where the Hardy Boys wrestled The Bar of Antonio Cesaro and Sheamus to a draw in a best two out of three falls match for The Bar’s Raw Tag Team Titles.

Michael promotes no more tears:

In terms of stupid booking decisions during a feud, don’t you think WWF/E having Edge mock Kurt Angle for crying after winning the Olympic gold medal is rather ridiculous? I mean, athletes have been emotional after winning events for decades, and still are to this day, so I always thought it was a really stupid route to go.

I don’t know that I would have booked it myself, but, in the pantheon of stupid professional wrestling decisions it’s pretty far down the list. It’s not as though it’s a Fingerpoke of Doom or a Steve Austin heel turn that actively hurt business.

Sha asks the unanswerable:

Do you know of a time frame on when Randy Orton will make a comeback? Inquiring minds want to know.

When I initially answered this question for this column, I essentially wrote a fancier version of “nobody knows.”

However, between the time I wrote that answer and the time I did my final edits of the column before posting, news broke from Fightful Select that WWE is gearing up to have Orton return before the Survivor Series, presumably with his first big match back occurring on that card.

Jon wants an unusual listicle:

What is your Mt. Rushmore of relatives of wrestlers?

This is . . . odd. Jon didn’t define the question any more than this, so I am assuming what he means is relatives of wrestlers who are not themselves involved in pro wrestling. This means that I won’t put Terry Funk on the Mt. Rushmore of relatives of wrestlers because he’s related to Dory Funk Jr. I’ll be sticking to individuals who are well known for other things.

With that, I’d say the Mt. Rushmore is . . .

Dany Garcia: Garcia is the ex-wife of the Rock and the mother of Simone Johnson, currently known in NXT as Ava Raine. Through her longstanding business relationship with her ex, she has made herself into a major player in the entertainment industry, managing Rocky’s career and by extension serving as a producer or executive producer on many of his films.

Jennifer Hudson: Anybody who watched WWE between 2010 and 2015 knew that Hudson was the fiancee of lawyer turned pro wrestler David Otunga, though the two divorced in 2017. Jennifer Hudson, for those of you who live under a rock (not to be confused with Dany Garcia’s ex-husband The Rock), is an entertainment powerhouse, with her acting, singing, and producing careers making her one of a handful of EGOT winners walking the earth.

Snoop Dogg: Here’s an interesting one, where our Mt. Rushmore relative has found himself in the WWE Hall of Fame in his own right, albeit in the celebrity wing. Snoop Dogg, the rapper who has made many guest appearances in the E, is the first cousin of former WWE star Sasha Banks.

Frank Eudy: Frank is the son of Sid “Vicious” Eudy, and he gained notoriety in his own right when he joined the cast of the fourteenth season of reality show Big Brother, where he was voted the viewership’s favorite cast member. He was so popular that he was also brought back for the eighteenth season of the show, though he didn’t make it too long in that competition.

Dylan has another question about family in wrestling:

With AEW recently signing a couple of brothers of Mexican wrestlers already on the roster it made me realize that there are at least half a dozen sets of brothers on the roster.

Has there ever been a point in time where there were more sets of brothers in the same major wrestling promotion at the same time than there are in AEW currently?

By my count, there are currently seven sets of brothers in AEW, those bieng: 1) The Young Bucks; 2) The Lucha Brothers; 3) Top Flight; 4) Bandido & Gravity; 5) The Gunns; 6) The Hardy Boys; and 7) The Boys.

Anytime anybody asks me how some aspect of a current roster stacks up against roster of the past, one of the first places I tend to look is Monday Night War era WCW, since that roster was absolutely stacked with boatloads of wrestlers. So, I spent time looking at various rosters from that promotion and that era and, lo and behold, I found that circa 1998 they also had seven pairs of brothers wrestling for them at the same time:

1) Harlem Heat; 2) Brad, Steve, & Scott Armstrong; 3) Randy Savage & Lanny Poffo; 4) Eddie & Hector Guerrero; 5) The Steiner Brothers; 6) Villano IV & V; and 7) Barry & Kendall Windham

So, for at least a period of time, WCW rivaled AEW on this metric. In fact, WCW actually surpassed AEW if you want to categorize AEW and Ring of Honor as two separate companies.

Bryan almost signed an endorsement deal to promote the George Foreman Grill, but he was dropping his kids of at school when the company called:

Here’s an opinion question for you. Whose claims are more unbelievable:

Marty Jannetty’s on killing bowling alley employees and getting a million dollar contract in 2006


Hogan’s various claims of being in Metallica, bringing Simon Cowell to the US, etc.?

I would say that Hogan’s claims are less credible, in part because there have been far more of them over the years than there have been from Jannetty and in part because there is more objective information from third parties available to dispute Hogan’s claims. We have detailed histories of the careers of Metallica and Simon Cowell that immediately invalidate the Hulkster’s claims, whereas nobody has authorized an official biography of the drug dealing bowling alley employee that Marty allegedly offed . . . or at least that biography has not been authored to my knowledge.

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.

article topics :

Ask 411 Wrestling, Mankind, WWE, Ryan Byers