wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Has Anyone Owned a Wrestling Promotion Longer than Vince McMahon?

July 4, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Vince McMahon 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.

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Brad is in-Vince-able:

Thinking about how Vince McMahon is coming up on 40 years of WWF/WWE ownership made me wonder: Is he the longest owner of a wrestling territory/company in U.S. history? I’m not counting time spent as an assistant or family member of the actual owner. Was there someone who owned a territory for 40+ years back in the 20th century?

If you want to get technical, Vince McMahon hasn’t been the sole owner of the WWF/WWE for a while, if he ever was. When McMahon acquired his father’s wrestling territory, he established a corporation, Titan Sports, Inc., and, though I do not have a history of the ownership of that corporation, I do not believe that Vince was ever the sole owner. I believe that, at the very least, his wife Linda would have also owned some stock for most if not all of the corporation’s existence.

And, of course, in 1999, the former Titan Sports, Inc. (by then known as World Wrestling Federation, Inc.) had its initial public offering and shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange. As a result of that maneuver, the WWF wound up with multiple owners, and we’re currently at a point where Vince McMahon doesn’t even have majority ownership. He owns a bit over 40% of the corporate stock, though because different classes of stock have different voting power, he retains over 70% of the authority over the company.

Looking at all of that, calling him the “owner” is a bit of an oversimplification.

However, if that is the label you want to paint him with, I would say that, yes, he is the longest serving continuous owner of a wrestling promotion in the history of the United States. In fact, almost every other U.S. wrestling promotion in history hasn’t even lasted long enough to have a one continuous owner for four decades.

In fact, you can toss the qualifier “in U.S. history” out of the question, and the answer is probably still “yes.” I’m not aware of any one owner of a wrestling promotion anywhere in the world who has had a longer reign than Vince McMahon. Even Mexico’s CMLL promotion, which has been in existence for quite a bit longer than the WWWF/WWF/WWE has passed through the hands of multiple members of the same family over the decades.

Jacob thinks it’s ladies’ night:

Long time reader of Ask 411 Wrestling, been following the site for a good 10+ years (I remember the days of Small for All and Friday Meethinks Freethinks (or something like that)), Hidden Highlights was a classic, and the old PPV roundtables where about 8 people did PPV predictions (really enjoyed that, I hope it comes back one day).

Anyway, I don’t often comment and I think this is actually my first question for about 8 years.

At Hell in a Cell this year we had three women’s singles matches taking place. Excluding the all women’s show after the Saudi ‘we like to watch men slap meat only’ show, has there ever been a WWE main roster PPV with three or more women’s single matches taking place? This is also excluding the women’s tag titles as I know we sometimes get two women’s matches singles and a tag title match. This question is purely three singles matches or more.

First off, let me say that I normally cut the parts of questions in which people praise the column, because I think that, if I included all of them, they would get repetitive for the reader. However, I had to keep this one in because it shouted out Meethinks, and John Meehan was one of the nicest guys that you could hope to know.

Moving on to the question, there have absolutely been other WWE main roster PPVs that feature three women’s singles matches.

The earliest example that I found (and I’m open to being corrected if there was one earlier) is the 2017 Elimination Chamber pay per view from Phoenix, Arizona. On that card, Becky Lynch defeated Mickie James in the opener, Natalya Neidhart and Nikki Bella wrestled to a double count out, and Naomi beat Alexa Bliss to win the Smackdown Women’s Title.

Depending on how you want to count it, Money in the Bank 2018 actually featured not three but FOUR women’s singles matches. There was an MITB match for a shot at one of the women’s titles, Carmella retaining the Smackdown Women’s Title over Asuka, Ronda Rousey beating Nia Jax via disqualification in a match for Jax’s Raw Women’s Title, and Alexa Bliss pinning Jax for that same championship.

Of course, I say there are four women’s singles matches “depending on how you want to count it” because you may or may not want to consider the MITB contest a singles match and because Bliss/Jax was Alexa’s cash-in of her Money in the Bank contract, running just over thirty seconds. Thus, some would consider it more of an angle than a proper match.

Later in the same year, there were once again three women’s singles matches on the same PPV, this time occurring on TLC 2018. Those matches were Natalya Neidhart versus Ruby Riott in a tables match, Ronda Rousey retaining the Raw Women’s Title over Nia Jax, and Asuka winning the Smackdown Women’s Title in a triple threat TLC match against champion Becky Lynch and co-challenger Charlotte Flair.

There were even more women featured on that card, as the show opener was Carmella & R-Truth winning season one of Mixed Match Challenge over Alicia Fox & Jinder Mahal.

The 2019 Royal Rumble qualifies if you count the Rumble match itself as a singles match. Also on that card was Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Title and Asuka vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Title.

Moving on to Summerslam 2019, you’ve again got three one-on-one women’s matches, as Becky Lynch kept the Raw Women’s Title over Natalya Neidhart in a submission match, Bayley retained the Smackdown Women’s Title against Ember Moon, and Charlotte Flair submitted Trish Stratus.

Again, if the Rumble match counts, the 2020 Royal Rumble also makes this list, as it again was a Royal Rumble and two title bouts, with those championship matches being Bayley over Lacey Evans for the Smackdown Title and Becky Lynch over Asuka for the Raw strap.

Finally, we’ve got Summerslam 2020, with Asuka wrestling twice on the same card, first defending the Smackdown Women’s Title against Bayley and then defending the Raw Women’s Title against Sasha Banks. In addition to those championship matches, Mandy Rose beat Sonya Deville in the middle of the card.

Gilles (not from Quebec) really wants us to know that he’s not from Quebec for some reason, but he does want to ask about a famous Quebecois wrestler:

Is there truth to the story that Rick Martel wanted a contract worth three times more than the contract Tom Zenk had when Martel and Zenk formed the Can-Am Connection? And why is Rick Martel not in the WWE Hall Of Fame?

Regarding the Zenk/Martel story, it’s hard to say. If you believe Zenk’s version of events, it’s not that Martel asked for a contract that was much larger than his, it’s the Martel actually HAD a contract that was much larger than his. However, it doesn’t sound as though Zenk ever actually confirmed that with either Martel or the office. He just used some deductive reasoning, figuring that, because Martel did not want to leave the WWF for All Japan Pro Wrestling to take a deal that would have resulted in Zenk making more money than he was in the WWF, that Martel must have been making more money in the WWF than Zenk was. You can read a more detailed account of Zenk’s claims at Pro Wrestling Stories, a website that compiles tales from wrestlers’ shoot interviews.

However, in the December 25, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which contained Zenk’s obituary, Martel was quoted as saying that Vince McMahon always made sure that members of a tag team received the same rate of pay. This was confirmed by Don Callis, who at one point in the 1990s was scheduled to come in to the Fed with Martel as a tag team called the Supermodels and was surprised to find that he would be making just as much as Martel despite Martel being a much bigger star.

As far as a WWE Hall of Fame induction for the Model is concerned, Bruce Prichard addressed this on his “Something to Wrestle With” podcast in 2019. He said that he was not entirely certain as to why it hadn’t occurred but that he was under the impression that Martel had closed the book on the pro wrestling chapter of his life and would likely not even be interested if asked. It does not sound as though there is any true ill will between the two sides that would prevent it from occurring.

Bret is keeping us on the subject of Canadians and the Hall of Fame:

Do you think Owen Hart will ever be in the WWE Hall of Fame? I was hoping by now his widow Martha would let it happen. I know she’s still hurt and bitter about what happened. But he has so many wrestlers that talk about him. I know Bret and the family would love for it to happen. He was there for Martha the whole time after it happened. You would think she would take that into account.

No, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Martha Hart has been incredibly clear on her stance and, now that Owen’s children are adults, my understanding is that they unequivocally back her in that choice. Those are the three people in the world whose opinion matters the most on that subject, and the wants and desires of any other family member, promoter, wrestler, or fan need to take a backseat. We should honor the wishes of the immediate family. Period.

In his last question in the column Tyler from Winnipeg asked about the infamously twinned Doink. This week, he’s got a different question about twinning:

Are Pete Gas and Colt Cabana related?

No. There is a physical resemblance between the two men strong enough that even Colt commented on it when Gas appeared on his Art of Wrestling podcast back in 2017 to promote his autobiography, Looking at the Lights: My Path from Fan to a Wrestling Heel. However, it’s a coincidence and not the result of any familial relationship.

Pete legitimately grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and was legitimately a high school friend of Shane McMahon, while Cabana hails from the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.

IMissMarkingOut is down for the count:

Who have been some of the best special referees?

Some have worn the black and white more than others, but what makes the role a success? Some of the first ones that come to mind are HBK during the HHH/Rock title match on Smackdown or the HHH/Taker Mania 28 match. Both of which saw superkicks play a dramatic role. I also think of Mike Tyson, technically the enforcer at Mania 14, but he made the 3 count.

There is also The Rock refereeing a title match of HHH vs British Bulldog on 9/30/99 Smackdown, although he did not wear the white and black, he was highly entertaining despite making HHH and Bulldog look foolish.

In my mind, there are two reasons to have a guest referee. The first is that the guest ref is going to be involved in some sort of angle with one or both of the competitors in the match. The second is to give the match a sense of importance, that it’s going to be something so wild and out of control that a special troubleshooter needs to be brought in to reign in the chaos.

It is true that not all special referees are created equal, with some having more of an aptitude for the job than others. I would say that the qualities that make a great special guest referee are similar to those that make a great run of the mill referee, at least until such time that the guest ref is ready to engage in whatever spots are planned for them in the match. Really, much like a conventional official, you shouldn’t notice that the guest referee is even there until they’re absolutely necessary for the story. They should just fade into the background and let the wrestlers do their wrestling.

Who are the greats? There are several contenders listed in the question, most notably Mike Tyson, since his appearance in many ways helped kick off the Attitude Era. Here are a few of my own selections that weren’t previously noted:

Gene Kiniski – Ric Flair vs. Harley Race – Starrcade: Former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski didn’t do much to interject himself in this Race/Flair match for the championship he previously held, but I’ve always liked something about his physical presence in the bout. Gimmick matches were much more rare in this era than they are now, and having not just a steel cage match but ALSO a special referee in that steel cage match made things feel quite a bit more significant than they would’ve been otherwise.

Pat Patterson & Muhammad Ali – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff & Roddy Piper – Wrestlemania: I wavered on whether to include Pat Patterson on this list, because in some respects he was a guest referee and in some respects he wasn’t. He was a known commodity in the wrestling business who did not regularly ref, but it’s also not as though he was promoted as a guest referee or even identified all that much on commentary. Ultimately, though, I decided to give him the nod because he served his purpose well, which was keeping the match on the rails even though it involved a green as grass Mr. T. Ali should also be mentioned, because he lent his star power at ringside, similar to what Mike Tyson would do a generation later.

”Judo” Gene LeBell – Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki: Speaking of Ali and speaking of keeping matches on the rails, veteran grappler Gene LeBell deserves huge amounts of credit for refereeing one of the most unique matches in history and preventing it from turning into more of a debacle than it is already remembered as being. If you watch the full bout, you can see LeBell keeping an eye on Inoki and warning him in instances where he began to use moves of questionable legality, and you can also see him dissuade Ali from walking out altogether at one point .Plus, when the two judges assigned to the match each called it for one of the combatants, LeBell cast the decisive vote and made the official result a draw, which probably avoided all manner of nasty fallout.

Vince McMahon – Steve Austin vs. Dude Love – Over the Edge 1998: Austin/McMahon is one of the most heated feuds in the entirety of wrestling history, and this is where it was at its apex. Really, the angle made total sense. The WWF Chairman’s entire heel turn a few months earlier had been predicated on him being willing to screw over a champion he didn’t care for, and this was his opportunity to cut out the middle man and do it directly. As excellent as this angle and Vince’s performance was in the moment, I will say that this match did have a legacy that I would consider to be a net negative, as too many matches tried to copy it over the years and the strong heel guest ref became cliched.

If you’ve got your own favorite guest refs, be sure to mention them in the comments.

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]. 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.