wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Will CM Punk Return to Face MJF?

May 1, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
MJF CM Punk AEW Dynamite Image Credit: AEW

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.

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Ticking Time Bomb Taz wants to finish the story. No, not that story. The other one:

Do you think CM Punk returns to AEW to challenge MJF for the title? I think the story writes itself.

I do think that there is more of a story to be told with CM Punk and MJF and that the story will be revisited some day.

However, I don’t think that it’s where you go for Punk’s first program back.

I say this for two reasons. First, MJF currently is and for the foreseeable future should remain a heel. We don’t actually know how the AEW audience will react to Punk upon his return. Though there’s a chance the fans will follow however the promotion chooses to book him, there is also a possibility that the Elite loyalists in the crowd will boo him no matter what, effectively turning him heel. It would be a disservice to MJF to let him become a face by default simply because fans want to jeer CM Punk.

Second, the money is really in Punk facing the Elite, if the two sides are willing to work together. This is a rare instance in which I would just put the wrestlers out there and let the audience decide who the heels and who the faces are and then run with the fans’ reaction that after they’ve made that initial decision.

If the Elite don’t want to do business, then the rumored CM Punk / Chris Jericho program might be the best alternative, with Jericho effectively serving as a proxy for the Elite, similar to how Kane was a stand in for Matt Hardy in a feud with Edge when Hardy was unavailable.

Tyler from Winnipeg is digging down to my foundation in wrestling:

Which five wrestler names do you remember hearing first?

Oh boy. This is heading deep into the memory banks.

My first memory of pro wrestling goes back to when I was five years old and in kindergarten. I wasn’t in to wrestling at the time, but I had a friend who I rode the school bus with, Nick, and he was a fan and regularly brought the official WWF Magazine with him to school. I have distinct memories of Hulk Hogan being on the cover of one of those magazines, so he’s probably the first.

Around the same time, I recall an elementary school phys ed teacher trying to encourage me through the sit-up portion of the Presidential Physical Fitness test by repeatedly saying, “You’re a Hulkster, Ryan, you’re a Hulkster!”

The second wrestler I remember hearing the name of is noted homophobe the Ultimate Warrior, because I went to one of Nick’s birthday parties, and his older brother decided that putting Warrior face paint on everyone would be a good activity.

From there, it fast forwards a couple of years. Nick moved away and I didn’t have much exposure to wrestling anymore, but I was big in to video games. As a result, the next wrestler I heard of was Captain Lou Albano, because he played Mario on the Super Mario Brothers Super Show.

The fourth memory I have goes to when I actually started watching wrestling myself. I’ve told this story on 411 before, but the short version is that we didn’t have cable and only picked up four or five TV stations over the air. One Saturday afternoon, I was bored and flipping back and forth between them and came across a Roddy Piper promo on syndicated WWF television, and he’s the one who hooked me in.

From that point, my memory gets a bit more dicey. I don’t know who I saw next after that Piper promo, but there would have been others because I started watching every week. The next distinct memory I have is my dad learning that I was getting into wrestling and telling me that he used to go to matches when our family lived in Florida, which was long enough ago that I don’t actually recall living there myself. He specifically mentioned seeing Lex Luger in his story, though I had no idea who Luger was, because we were only getting WWF television and he hadn’t jumped there yet.

Ask 411’s AWA correspondent Bruce checks in:

I’ve heard a number of times that Verne Gagne paid his people well. I do not know if that’s true at all or not, but in the territory days, who were the best and worst at paying their talent?

The person who I have repeatedly and consistently heard mentioned as the best payoff guy in the territories is Don Owen, promoter of the Portland territory.

In terms of worst paydays, the name Nick Gulas springs to mind as being consistently mentioned. Gulas promoted in Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee with the Jarrett family but was later left with just Knoxville when the two sides had a falling out.

Regarding Gagne, the rep I’ve heard on him was that the money was good but maybe not great. However, he was honest and, if he said you were getting paid something, you were in fact getting paid that amount, unlike some other promoters who had reps for shorting talent.

Of course, I never actually worked for any of these people. I’m just going off of second hand reports I’ve heard over the years.

Kristian wonders if TNA will still be around after the nuclear apocalypse, with cockroaches and Keith Richards:

It’s no secret that WWE has had competition over the decades whether is was Ted Turner’s WCW/NWA programming, and then when it got shut down and bought, there was TNA.

During the final years of WCW’s battle with WWF, their quality of programming declined drastically before becoming an easily forgettable product that Vince McMahon bought and put out of business for good.

When TNA picked up where WCW left off, it eventually became a somewhat decent competitive product for WWE with a mix of new blood and WWE classic characters putting on an interesting alternative product to what WWE was producing. However, things started to go south, management didn’t know what they were doing, story lines were becoming bizarre and sometimes downright awful; almost very similar to what WCW was doing in their final years. Yet, somehow, TNA still lives on albeit with nowhere near as big as a shining star capacity as it once had and not anywhere close to the competitive threat it was towards WWE. I guess my question is:

How did TNA manage to stay in business after competing with WWE and failing miserably while WCW closed its doors and ceased to exist?

I answered almost this exact question back in December 2020. I don’t think the answer has changed any since then, so I will just leave you with my thoughts from that era.

Bryan has me going into “old man yelling at cloud” mode:

Do you think the world title match should ALWAYS be the main event and last match on PPV? I know in the early 90s when Hulk Hogan didn’t have the title the WWF would do DOUBLE main event, but I always felt no one is bigger than the belt. Not Hogan, not Taker, not The Rock, not Austin, no one. If there’s a champion they don’t think can main event Wrestlemania, well, tough, they should have thought of that before making him champ. To make a match not involving a title the main event would be like having the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys or any other sports team with a rich tradition and big fan base, playing an exhibition game AFTER the World Series or Super Bowl. It’s sports entertainment, key word . . . sport. What do you think?

First off, let me clarify some terminology, because I continue to see it misused across the internet.

The match that goes on last on a wrestling show is not necessarily the main event.

I even see some wrestlers adopting the notion that the main event is the last match, always. Those wrestlers are wrong. Fans who say the same thing are also wrong.

Let’s look at the definition of the word “main.” Find me one dictionary or other credible source that says the word “main” means “last” or “final.” I’ll wait, and I’ll be waiting for a while, because no such source exists.

Instead, the word “main” means “chief” or “principal” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Encyclopedia Britannica also uses “chief” or “principal” in its definition but adds “most important.”

In other words, the main event on a wrestling show is the most important match on the card. It’s the bout that the promoter is placing the most emphasis on and hoping will draw the most money or the most eyeballs to the show.

Most often, the main event DOES go on last, because that’s what makes the most sense in terms of structuring the card. You don’t want anyone else to go on after the most important match of the show, because chances are good that the crowd will be deflated after seeing the primary thing that they came to see and will either sit on their hands or, worse yet, leave.

However, there are also, occasionally, valid reasons for the main event to not go on last. Look at almost any episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event with Hulk Hogan wrestling on it. His match is obviously the most important because of who he is. It’s the main event. The Hogan matches are almost never the closer of SNME, though, because the show was airing on late night television, and the WWF knew that the audience would naturally taper off as fans – particularly younger ones – went to sleep. So, they put their main event on early to maximize the number of viewers it had.

You would also see this on house shows back in the territory days. The biggest match on a card might be positioned right before intermission, either because the stars wrestling in it had to get on the road quickly to make their next town or because the promotion didn’t want to give fans the opportunity to hound their top of the line talent in the parking lot after the show.

There are also occasionally logistical reasons for not putting the main event on last. Do you want to tell Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, or Nikita Koloff that Paul Heyman and Missy Hyatt in a steel cage main evented over them at Great American Bash 1991 just because it was the last match? No, you don’t, because saying that match was the main event is ridiculous. It wasn’t the main event. It just went last because of the production headaches of both assembling and disassembling a steel cage in the middle of a live wrestling show.

So, hopefully that dispels the mistaken notion that the last match on a show is always the main event.

That being said, let’s get to the meat of Bryan’s question. Should the world title match always be the main event? Should it always go on last?

If the main event is the most important match on a card, then the world title can’t always be the main event, unless you want to not book some matches that have the opportunity to make you money. Let’s take Wrestlemania XI as an example. The main draw on that show was always going to be Bam Bam Bigelow versus Lawrence Taylor, because Taylor was a bigger star than literally anybody in wrestling. So, if you’re the promoter, what do you do? Do you not book LT because he’s going to take the main event slot away from your world champ? Or do you book him, world title be damned, because it will in all likelihood make you more money than not booking him? Wrestling is a business first and foremost, so the answer to that question should be clear.

Regarding going on last, my vote is to put the most significant match of the card on last, even when the most significant match is not for the world title. (Barring some of the exceptions to that general rule I mentioned above.) If you do otherwise, you’re just shooting your world title match in the foot by letting it get a crowd reaction that may well pale in comparison to the match that the fans really came to see. Perhaps the best modern example of this is Chris Jericho and Triple H dying a death in their world title match at Wrestlemania XVIII because they had to follow the true main event of the show: Hulk Hogan versus the Rock.

With all due respect to Bryan, I don’t think his comparison to legitimate sports works here. Normally I’m someone who says wrestling should be presented as a simulated sport more often than not, but this is one of those exceptions that proves the rule.

Bryan is correct that events like the World Series and the Superbowl come last and that very few people would want to watch a regular season game after the championship. However, there’s a key difference here. The World Series and the Superbowl HAVE to come at the end of their sports’ seasons, because the seasons determine who plays in those games. You can’t do it in any other order. It’s a false comparison.

Wrestling Fan Since 1977 is getting a bit un-stable:

Do you think the Bullet Club is the only faction ever that has had four offshoots in four different promotions? NJPW, WWE, TNA, and AEW

First off, you’re actually selling the Bullet Club a bit short, because there also have been splinter groups of the B.C. in Ring of Honor and even south of the border in CMLL, so that’s a whopping SIX promotions that have played host to some form of the Club or another.

There is only one pro wrestling stable that I can think of that has done something similar, though they’re nowhere near as well known as the Bullet Club.

I’m talking about the Apache Army.

For those of you who are not familiar, Apache Army was a stable in Japan that was originally headed up by hardcore wrestler and noted sex pest Kintaro Kanemura (a.k.a. W*ING Kanemura). Kanemura had been part of FMW, which was a promotion founded on hardcore matches that, in the 1990s, became the third or fourth largest wrestling company in Japan during the height of its popularity. It was effectively that country’s version of ECW, although it predated ECW and probably inspired quite a bit of their direction.

When FMW had financial difficulties and folded in 2002, its then-booker Kodo Fuyuki started his own promotion called World Entertainment Wrestling (WEW) using many of the former FMW wrestlers. However, in a stroke of tragedy, Fuyuki was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2003 and died in 2004, at the age of just 42 years old.

There was an effort to keep WEW going after Fuyuki’s death, but that failed. At that point, Kanemura, who had been part of the WEW roster, put together the Apache Army group, which initially consisted of many former FMW/WEW wrestlers but eventually added others to its ranks, becoming an independent wrestling stable.

Given that they were freelance wrestlers without contracts tying them to a major company, Apache Army would appear in several different promotions, oftentimes portrayed as outside invaders. The first and perhaps largest promotion that they did this in was ZERO-ONE, though they also did it in Riki Choshu’s World Japan Pro Wrestling. When World Japan folded and was replaced by another promotion called Riki Pro, the Apache Army was there as well. They also appeared in Big Japan Wrestling, Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR in its later days, and WMF, which is another company that sprang up to try to be an FMW successor.

Probably Apache Army’s crowning achievement was interacting with New Japan Pro Wrestling in the mid-2000s. The Army had a rivalry with the NJPW stable Control Terrorism Unit (CTU) which was lead by Jushin Thunder Liger and also included Gedo and Jado, who had previously worked in FMW alongside many of the Apache Army members. AA was on mainline NJPW shows during this time and was featured prominently in LOCK UP, one of New Japan’s two efforts at creating specialty sub-brands in 2006.

In addition to all these guest shots, Apache Army would also start to act as its own wrestling promotion and run its own shows.

So, if I counted correctly, that’s eight promotions that Apache Army appeared in: ZERO-ONE, World Japan, Riki Pro, Big Japan, WAR, WMF, NJPW, and the Apache Army promotion itself. You could also argue that they were in HUSTLE because Kanemura would wrestle there wearing Apache Army gear, but they never really involved the rest of the stable to the extent other promotions did.

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, CM Punk, MJF, Ryan Byers