wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Will The Wednesday Night War End Like the Money Night War Did?

August 17, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Wednesday AEW WWE NXT, Shane Douglash

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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Jeepers, peepers, how did Michael K. get those eyes?

During your Nitro girls summary a few weeks back you mentioned how Chris Jericho didn’t hold up on his punch to HBK’s wife Whisper during their amazing feud. As you recall, at the beginning of this feud, Y2J threw HBK into his TV screen which allegedly injured HBK’s eye. During their subsequent match, it was stopped as the ref feared for HBK’s safety due to that same eye which led to HBK announcing his retirement at Summerslam where the fateful botched punch happened. It was obvious to everyone that HBK started getting a lazy eye around this time, so was this eye injury angle a way to explain/cover for his lazy eye or was it just coincidence?

It certainly wasn’t a coincidence, though I wouldn’t call it an explanation or a cover as much as I would making the best out of a bad situation.

Michaels initially suffered an eye injury during his match with Kane at the Unforgiven 2004 pay per view which caused his blinker to go a little bit wonky. Though it was not particularly noticeable at first, the lazy eye gained prominence over time, though HBK would do things to hide it. There were a lot of strategically placed cowboy hats around this period of time.

Because HBK already had a developing disfigurement, the decision was made to work it into his 2008 feud with Chris Jericho, again, not necessarily because the lazy eye needed an explanation, but because it was something that was happening anyway and you might as well get a little bit of extra heat off of it when you have the opportunity.

This sort of thing is really a time-honored wrestling tradition. Kurt Angle is going bald and wants to debut a new shaved head look? Might as well have him lose a hair versus hair match leading into it. Rey Misterio Jr. needs to get off WWE TV for a bit while he tries to work out a new contract with the company? Better to have him taken out of commission by Seth Rollins than to just have him up and disappear one day.

And get heat off of it they did, with the entire story of Michaels and Jericho’s 2008 match at the Bash PPV revolving around the eye, and, as Michael mentions, the injury supposedly leading to Shawn contemplating retirement before Jericho popped his old lady square in the kisser.

It certainly wasn’t a coincidence. When you’ve got two old school wrestlers like Jericho and Michaels with great minds for the business, there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

SPLANCK makes an accurate prediction, then asks a question:

Simple question, maybe simple answer: what was up with WWE and TOUT? I remember Michael Colle shilling it like there was no tomorrow for weeks and then it just died suddenly. What was this all about?

For those of you who may not recall, Tout was a social media platform launched in 2010 that allowed users to share brief video clips, similar to what Vine was doing around the same time, though Tout seemed to have had more of a focus on quickly disseminating information and so-called “microblogging” as opposed to Vines, which were more entertainment or meme-based.

The reason that WWE promoted Tout so heavily was that the E actually owned a stake in the company. Every few years, WWE tries to diversify its portfolio by investing in some sort of non-wrestling venture, and its relationship with Tout was one of those efforts. The wrestling promotion bought up quite a bit of stock in Tout’s parent company and entered into a two-year cross-promotion deal that would see Tout heavily incorporated into WWE programming, with seemingly every wrestler Touting even though almost nobody in the real world used the service.

Eventually, the two-year deal lapsed and was not renewed, so WWE stopped touting Tout. I remember going to Tout’s website a couple of years after the WWE partnership ended just to see if they were still a going concern, and it seemed like they were making an effort to rebrand themselves as a service geared towards breaking news stories. However, they never quite found their foothold, and Tout as a whole closed its doors in 2019.

Bryan J. is gabbin’ about Gabbard:

Considering how many wrestlers have come from Samoa, do think the WWE would ever try to create a character based on Samoan-born Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard? I happen to be a fan of hers both politically, and . . . well, watch her workout videos. Anyway, someone who is a Pacific Islander, with extensive martial arts experience and an Army major, sounds like something the WWE would try to make one of those homage characters off of. Would that work, or is a wrestler based on a politician too divisive?

The difficulty here is finding a female wrestler of Samoan or other Pacific Islander ancestry to whom to give the gimmick. The only three wrestlers of that extraction who I am aware of are Tamina Snuka, Nia Jax, and Lei’D Tapa. Snuka and Jax are too well-established in front of national audiences to be repackaged in this way, whereas there’s no record of Tapa wrestling since 2017, which is a pretty good indication that she’s out of the game. The Rock’s daughter, Simone Johnson, began training at the WWE Performance Center earlier this year, but her family lineage would make it difficult if not impossible for her to be portrayed as anybody other than who she really is.

So, let’s say that you have the performer. Would the gimmick work?

I don’t see any reason that giving a character a similar backstory to Gabbard, matching her personality and history, would be too controversial. If you were to go on to say that character was also a congresswoman or had some sort of political career, that would be pretty goofy and probably a bridge too far – not because basing a wrestling gimmick on a politician would be controversial but because I can’t think of a useful purpose that would be served by making the claim that a wrestler was a politician. Also, as screwy as WWE’s relationship with kayfabe is these days, it would strain credulity to claim on a wrestling show that somebody is a politician when there is no real-world record of them every having run for or held office.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that something similar hasn’t happened in the past. Let’s not forget that TNA once brought in the former Daffney Unger and called her “The Governor” because she could be made up to look kinda sorta like Sarah Palin if you squinted and stood twenty feet away. (Though admittedly the story there was that the heel Beautiful People were too dumb to realize she wasn’t actually Palin.)

The fans aren’t cheering for Kyle; they’re cheering for the Offspring:

I was debating this with a friend and would like your definitive input: What wrestler has seen the greatest distance between how over his or her entrance is versus how over they are in the ring? So someone whose entrance got a huge pop but whose actual matches got crickets. I assume the champ of this division must be some mid-card Attitude Era guy like Godfather or Val Venis, right?

Venis I could give you as a potential answer here, but I always thought that the Godfather did a pretty good job of keeping the crowd engaged in his matches through spots like the Ho Train, where people could continue to chant along with him well after the entrance.

Part of the reason that it’s difficult to answer this question is that, if you look at the guys who get over based on their entrance but truly can’t do anything else, they don’t last too horribly long, as my examples below will demonstrate.

The first guys who came to mind after I read this question were Antonio “The Promise” Thomas and Romeo Roselli, collectively known as the Heart Breakers in OVW. They got their goofy entrance over to the point that a bunch of folks in Louisville, Kentucky of all places were cheering and emulating a duo with an ambiguously gay gimmick. The entrance got so over so quickly that the two men were almost immediately brought up to the main roster, where they were rechristened the Heartthrobs so as to avoid confusion with Shawn Michaels. However, they were brought up before they were ready for prime time, and that lead to them being mired on b-shows where nobody even saw the entrance that got them over in the first place.

Adam Rose has a similar story, except that he had been in wrestling for over a decade before he finally stumbled across the gimmick and corresponding party-themed entrance that got him extremely over with the NXT crowd at Full Sail University. Once again, that early success saw him rocketed to the main roster, where things didn’t work out as soon as fans realized that Rose’s act was all sizzle and no steak.

Taking this concept to an even smaller audience, when I think of “only over for their entrance” guys, I do always think of Matt Bentley during his mid-2000s run in TNA. Certain audience members in the Impact Zone one night decided that they were going to do something called the “Bentley Bounce” every time the man entered, which basically just consisted of them bobbing back and forth with about as much rhythm as you would expect from a group of white southern wrestling fans. They didn’t seem to have much time for him when he was actually wrestling, though, despite the fact that he had a fair amount more talent than either the Heart Breakers or Adam Rose.

Those are my thoughts. Feel free to drop your own down in the comment section.

Night Wolf the Wise works in shades of gray:

Will we ever see an antihero in the same vein as Stone Cold ever again?

Tetsuya Naito is essentially doing an antihero gimmick in New Japan right now.

That’s Tyler from Winnipeg! He doesn’t work here, King!

Who under WWF/WWE contract held the “WCW” World Heavyweight Championship?

This question seems so simple that I almost feel like I’m misinterpreting it, so apologies if that’s the case.

Essentially everybody who held the WCW World Title after the WWF bought out WCW held the WCW Title while under WWF contract. That’s Booker T., who was champion at the time of the buyout, followed by Kurt Angle, followed by Booker T. again, followed by the Rock, followed by Chris Jericho, followed by the Rock again.

After the Invasion angle was blown off at the 2001 Survivor Series, the championship stuck around but was only referred to as the World Heavyweight Title with no promotional designation. The Rock was still holding it at the time, and he lost it to Chris Jericho at Vengeance 2001 before Jericho went on to defeat Steve Austin later on the same show to unify the former WCW Championship and the WWF Championship.

Ben is jumpin’ ship:

With the current AEW/WWE mainlining going on these days (needless to say, I haven’t been a “viewing” fan for several years but… I LOVE this), one common thread caught my attention. I wonder if it caught yours….

From a historical retrospect, it appears that the Monday Night Wars began on the cusp of several wrestlers being dissatisfied with WWE and jumping ship to WCW (namely “The Outsiders”), leading to Eric Bischoff cashing in heavily (thus creating a formidable “opponent” to WWE)…

And now with AEW…. The most obvious “defecting disgruntled” appears to be Cody Rhodes on many fronts. Costuming, creative (enter “MOX”) and the like. Do you agree with this pattern and, can you see it having the same desired and end affect as the “Wars” turned out to be?

There’s are a few key differences between the Outsiders jumping to WCW and Cody Rhodes and Jon Moxley jumping to AEW that I feel like you’re missing.

First, the motivating factor for the defections were different. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were by most reports fairly satisfied with their positions in WWE, but they left because Eric Bischoff was promising them more money. (Or, if you believe Bischoff’s version of events, the same money but guaranteed and for fewer dates.) Nash is even on record saying that, before he jumped, he went to Vince McMahon and told him that he would stay put if the WWF offered him the same deal, but that was not forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Cody Rhodes and Jon Moxely weren’t leaving WWE over their finances. Though by all reports AEW contracts are fairly lucrative, I’ve not read about anybody going there strictly because of the money. (And, actually, when Cody left WWE, there was no AEW and the initial events which gave rise to AEW had not even been conceived, let alone taken place.) Their departures were more based around creative frustration than they were finances.

So, I wouldn’t agree that there is a pattern. There are some superficial similarities, but they don’t stand up when you give it more thought.

The second difference is that, when Hall and Nash jumped – to say nothing of Hulk Hogan – they were among the biggest stars that the WWF had to offer at the time. If you look at the guys who are jumping ship to AEW, whether it’s Cody, FTR, Brodie Lee, or Matt Cardona, they were upper midcarders in WWE at best and in most cases were much worse off than that. Though you could easily assemble guys of that ilk and put on an entertaining wrestling show, they’re not at the level of popularity that their promotion can immediately rival WWE in terms of star power.

The third difference is that WCW was bringing an established audience with it into the fight. WWE’s version of history tends to downplay the fact that WCW was a going concern before Hogan was signed and Nitro was launched, but there were a few million people already watching WCW wrestling on TBS before their TNT series aired, and there was not necessarily a lot of overlap between people watching the WWF and people watching WCW. This war didn’t start off with creating a bunch of new fans or fans being siphoned off of the WWF, though both of those things happened over time. It started off with existing WCW viewers being given a new primary television program to consume on a new night that just happened to be opposite of the WWF’s flagship weekly show. Meanwhile, AEW is starting from scratch.

Thus, even though AEW is off to a pretty solid start and I wish them all the best of luck, I don’t think that any comparison to their launch and what went on with Nitro is particularly apt.

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