wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Would the Broken Hardys Work in the Attitude Era?

August 11, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Hardys Broken Universe Broken, Matt Hardy

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling!

Due to some commitments outside the wacky world of wrestling, this edition of the column is going to be a little bit abbreviated, but hopefully we’ll get back up to full steam next week.

If you’d like to help me do that, be sure to send your questions in to [email protected].

Night Wolf the Wise has risen from the lake of resurrection or some such bullshit:

Do you think if the Hardyz would have debuted the Broken Hardyz gimmick during the Attitude Era it would have gotten over more then it does now in WWE? Obvious it would be a bit different since Matt Hardy’s wife (Reby Sky who is 31) would have been too young to be his wife.

Yeah, Matt Hardy being married to a 12 year old Reby Sky in 1998 probably would break one of the few taboos that even the Attitude Era wasn’t willing to touch.

Seriously, though, I’ll give a bit of a caveat before I answer this question: I am answering this having seen very little, almost none, of the Broken Hardys’ work in TNA, where the gimmick was originated and most of it took place. I just flat out don’t watch TNA.

However, based on the minimal amount of the characters that I have seen and my general understanding of what the gimmick is about, I’m going to say “no” to this one.

There are two main reasons that I don’t think that the Broken Hardys would have worked well during the Attitude Era. The first is that the whole concept of the two being mentally and physically “broken” makes more sense once they’re older and fans have followed them for a decade, seeing in both a kayfabe and real world sense the toll that the wrestling industry has taken upon their bodies. If a couple of guys in their early 20s were running around claiming that they had been “broken,” it wouldn’t have the same impact.

The second issue with the gimmick in the Attitude Era is that a large part of what got it over in TNA was a series of lengthy, scripted segments that took place outside of the arena (e.g. the Final Deletion match). Those segments probably wouldn’t have been allowed on 1990s WWF television, in large part because nothing in the midcard or undercard of an episode of Raw from that period of time was getting more than about five minutes. The Crash TV mentality of Vince Russo kept everything short and choppy, not long and drawn out as the Hardy compound segments were. The other issue is that, if we’re talking about the Attitude Era, we’re talking about a time during which there was a legitimate ratings war taking place on Monday nights, and I don’t know that the WWF would be willing to roll the dice on such an out of the box concept when they knew that they could just as easily do something more conventional and draw just as well with it.

So, I’m not sure that Broken Matt and Brother Nero would’ve meant much if they arrived twenty years before their time.

Aaron is new to New Japan:

I recently started following New Japan via Czonka’s reviews and YouTube. Two questions (one fact, one opinion):

1. Is Gedo acknowledged as the booker like Vince is acknowledged as the chairman of the board? Or in kayfabe, is he just a part-time wrestler and Okada’s manager?

Not that I’m aware of. The focus in Gedo and Okada’s promos, to the extent that I’ve seen them translated, is much more on Okada’s standing in the promotion than it is anything that Gedo does. If you think about it, this makes sense, because if Gedo is a storyline authority figure and Okada is his “chosen one,” it undercuts everything that Okada accomplishes. The heat on that point is on Gedo and not Okada, which is not how Japanese promotions are structured.

2. Three mid-card belts (U.S., Never Open and Intercontinental) seem like a lot. The U.S. I understand based on the desire to get into the U.S. market. The Never Open I get based on having matchups between juniors and heavyweights. That leaves the Intercontinental. Is there a reason to keep this title? Does it have a rich history?

Yeah. If most promotions had the number of championships that NJPW does, I would say that it was too much, but I think that they do manage to keep most of the tiles strong in their own divisions. (Except for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. I’ve never understood those belts.)

Regarding the Intercontinental Title specifically, it really doesn’t have that storied of a history. Similar to how the IWGP United States Title was created to help promote the company’s California show in 2017, the IC strap was created in 2011 during NJPW’s first ever tour of the United States, which took place between May 13 and May 15 that year.

For the first year or so, the Intercontinental Title was pretty meaningless, but Shinsuke Nakmura won it in July 2012 and continued to make it his focus in the promotion until he departed in early 2016. It was really Nakamura’s five championship reigns and the high-level matches he put on against a variety of challengers that elevated what had basically been a novelty belt into a legitimate second-tier championship for NJPW.

If the IC Title has gimmick, it’s that it seems to pretty frequently be defended against (and thus held by) wrestlers who are from outside Japan. Former champions include MVP, La Sombra (now Andrade Almas), Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin, and now Chris Jericho. Tetsuya Naito has held the belt on a couple of occasions as well, and, though he is Japanese, he is acknowledged as somebody with quite a bit of overseas experience. However, there aren’t any official rules requiring that the belt be defended in international pairings; it’s just something that seems to have happened fairly often.

HBK’s Smile is in middle management:

How are managers paid? Was Heenan paid a base salary, was it based off who he was working with and where they were on the card? I imagine Heyman just gets a fee per appearance? But what about pre-in ring Lana, or pre-wrestling Trish Stratus? I’ve never really thought about it before, but I know refs and managers can be vital to the story being told and was wondering if they were compensated accordingly.

First off, it depends on the era.

In the modern WWE, pretty much everybody who is signed to a full-time deal with them is getting a downside salary plus incentive payments for things like merchandise sales and pay per view appearances. I’m not aware of managers’ contracts differing too much from wrestlers’ contracts in that regard.

However, if we’re talking about older school managers like Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette, they were not on salaries for the vast majority of their careers, nor were the wrestlers that they managed. In wrestling’s territorial era, before guaranteed contracts were a thing, all of the talent on the card was (allegedly) paid a portion of the ticket money for each show that they appeared on. Different territories (allegedly) had different formulae for how to divvy up the ticket money between upper-card and under-card wrestlers, and managers were usually factored in with the rest of the talent. According to various shoot interviews with Cornette, the managers’ share of the ticket money varied quite a bit from promotion-to-promotion, though later in their careers the Midnight Express went to bat for him and made sure that he was being paid the same amount as the Express were, because they viewed themselves as equal parts of a three-man team.

(Note that I use the word “allegedly” quite a bit in this answer when talking about wrestling pay in the territories, because there are quite a few rumors that some promoters were less than honest about how they handled their payoffs. I’m sure you’re shocked.)

We’re going to let Michael K. get in a trifecta of questions:

1. How exactly did the “loaded boot” in wrestling work? I know the Iron Sheik and the Grappler late in a match, when the ref was distracted, would stomp the toe of their boot into the mat and somehow this made the boot “loaded.” Was it ever explained how it worked? Plus, how would this denote the boot was loaded? Couldn’t they just claim they were stomping their foot or checking their boots for snugness? My opinion the lamest cheating method ever. (BTW, personally, if it was cheating, I’d do it in the back right before the match, walk in the ring, kick my opponent and get the quick win).

The idea behind the loaded boot is that, when the heel is doing his stomping routine, he is moving a piece of metal or something else heavy into the toe of the boot from someplace else. Once the foreign object is maneuvered into the toe, it has extra weight or hardness that can be used to deliver a more devastating kick. It’s the difference between kicking somebody with a regular boot and kicking somebody with a steel-toed boot. It’s not the most exciting gimmick in the world, but it’s time-tested and was effective for many years.

And the reason you can’t load your boot before the match is that, if the referee is doing their job, they’re checking the wrestlers for foreign objects before the bout and would catch something in the toe of your boot. Unfortunately, referees in major league promotions don’t actually check wrestlers anymore because major league promotions seem intent on doing everything that they can to eliminate the notion that wrestling is a simulated sport.

2. Steven Regal not jobbing to Goldberg is pretty famous. But it seems like because Regal is so beloved (great technician but bland as all hell as a wrestler) in here he gets a free pass. Guarantee if it was Reigns, Cena, HHH, etc. we’d never hear the end of it. Why do you think Regal gets a pass?

I’m not sure what you’re referencing when you say that Regal didn’t job to Goldberg. He lost to him clean in the middle in their one-and-only singles match, and he never refused to do so that I’m aware of.

What you may be talking about is the February 9, 1998 match between the two wrestlers, which has become infamous because of an urban legend that Regal took it upon himself to “shoot” on Goldberg or, at the very least, refused to cooperate with him. I’ll include the match below for any ten year olds reading the column who haven’t seen it before.

The reason that Regal gets a pass for his behavior in the match is that, in my opinion, he didn’t do anything wrong. His Lordship has addressed this match within the last couple of years on Steve Austin’s podcast, and he reported that the issue was that he had been asked by the agent to do a five minute match with Goldberg when all Goldberg had previously done were 90 second matches, so what you are seeing above is an experienced wrestler trying to lead somebody who is green as grass through a match that they just weren’t equipped to have. For what it’s worth, the account that Regal gave on the Austin podcast largely matches the reporting on the match from around the time that it occurred, as the February 16, 1998 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted that some people were angry with Regal, feeling that he had “exposed” Goldberg as not being ready for prime time but that the reality of the situation was that Regal was just trying to lead his opponent through a match.

Granted, Goldberg has still maintained that he was taken advantage of during portions of the match. On an episode of Jim Ross’s podcast, he refuted Regal’s claims that he had done nothing wrong. Though he did not give much in the way of specifics, he did mention a couple of kicks that landed when he was not protecting himself.

I’m not a wrestler and have never had any desire to get into the ring, but I have watched a lot of wrestling, and my interpretation of the video matches Regal’s description far more than it does Goldberg’s. If Regal were truly trying to “shoot” on Goldberg or trying to rough him up or trying to make him look like an idiot, there are ways that he could have done it much more effectively. If you’re trying to shoot on someone, you typically don’t hit him with European uppercuts, headbutts to the chest, or knee strikes that don’t come anywhere near the head, which is most of Regal’s striking offense in the match. Also, given their relative levels of experience, Regal likely could have taken Goldberg down and held him to the mat at will. However, he didn’t do that. The exchange of wrestling holds in the match doesn’t look anything like a shoot. It looks like veteran trying to walk a rookie through some basic exchanges and the rookie not being entirely certain where to put his body.

There are one or two shots that look suspect, like the point at which Regal palm thrusts Goldberg in the face, but that’s the sort of move that, though it may be stiff, isn’t going to hurt anybody and should be fairly easy to take for a guy as tough as Goldberg. It’s also the kind of thing that a guy like Regal would resort to if he were trying to add some excitement to a match that that was otherwise a stinker. Heck, look at how snug he and Chris Benoit were with each other, and they still would have had entertaining bouts without all the hard stuff.

My opinion is that you shouldn’t buy into the hype. This match doesn’t belong on the pantheon of worked bouts that degenerated into shoots.

3. What would you say is the lamest ending to a feud in wrestling history? Or maybe even a top 5? You can decide why it’s lame be it the final match sucked, the feud started hot then fizzled, there was no proper blow-off, etc.

I’ll pass on the opportunity to do a top five, because I’m not in a position this week to do comprehensive research and will instead just give a few thoughts off the top of my head. If anybody has additions to the list, they can feel free to shout them out in the comments.

Perhaps the worst way to end a feud is to not give it an ending at all. One of the most noteworthy examples of that came from Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988, when Larry Zbyszko, managed by Baby Doll, was feuding with Dusty Rhodes. The entire angle centered around Baby Doll allegedly having incriminating information about Dusty, which she carried around in a large manila envelope. Though Zbyszko and Rhodes did have a series of matches for Dusty’s United States Championship around this time, the television angle was dropped out of nowhere and Baby Doll vanished, seemingly for no reason. Though dropped angles would become more common in subsequent years, this one sticks in a lot of wrestling fans’ memories because it was one of the first major angles to vanish without a trace and in it involved Dusty Rhodes, one of the most popular wrestlers of the era.

Another one that I personally felt was bungled was the 2007 feud between former America’s Most Wanted tag team partners James Storm and Chris Harris in TNA. People like to claim that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff coming into TNA killed a great company, but I offer this as evidence that TNA was always crap. Despite the usual incompetence of the promotion’s booking team, AMW had an excellent five year run as a tag team, producing some classic matches and perhaps being the most popular act that TNA had created in house. The angle that broke the two up was pretty basic but well-executed, as Storm shattered a beer bottle on Harris’s head, blinding him and putting him on the shelf for a while. Then, when the Wildcat returned, the promotion decided to book the partners against each other in a . . . blindfold steel cage match. If that sounds awful, it’s because it was. Then, in the actual last match between the two, there was a double knockout, so the rivalry didn’t even have a decisive winner.

I think that I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the 2010 feud between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon, which had some great promos building to their bout at Wrestlemania XXVI. Though I didn’t expect Hart to be able to work an actual match based on his age, health, and insurance restrictions, what we got was an overly-long, almost torture-porn-esque chair beating of the geriatric McMahon. It was one of those circumstances in which a pro wrestling segment could have been twice as effective if it was half as long.

Andrew is totally out of time:

Has a TV-aired match ever ended immediately after returning from a commercial break? Say in less than 30 seconds? I would imagine it could at least happen by mistake (ex. ref accidentally counts 3).

Absolutely. Here’s a match between John Cena and Darren Young from March 18, 2013. The video picks up immediately after a commercial break, and the match goes about 40 more seconds before Cena picks up the win.

There have also been matches that ended DURING commercial breaks. On the March 8, 1993 episode of Monday Night Raw, Mr. Perfect defeated Rick “The Model” Martel while the show was off the air.

I seem to have a vague recollection of matches occasionally ending during commercial breaks on WCW or Crockett shows, though my research didn’t turn up any specific examples. The idea behind doing this is typically that it helps put over wrestling as being a real athletic competition, because if it were on the level a match would occasionally have to end when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Of course, as I alluded to earlier in this column, mainstream wrestling has pretty much given up on pretending that it’s a sport. However, in recent years, Kofi Kingston did defeat Antonio Cesaro during the commercial break of the June 30, 2014 episode of Raw, while Alexander Rusev submitted Sin Cara in a match that occurred entirely during a commercial break on the August 4, 2014 Raw.

Both of these finishes were planned to help promote fans using the WWE App for a “second screen experience” during Raw, which included exclusive action during the breaks. However, the app wasn’t pushed heavily for too long, reportedly due to blowback from advertisers who, believe it or not, actually wanted fans to watch the commercials.

And that ought to do it for this week. Don’t forget that your questions can be answered right here if you send them to [email protected], and, if I’ve gotten something wrong in this week’s column, you can call me an idiot down in the comments.