wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Should WWE Hire Gina Carano?

May 9, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
The Mandalorian Gina Carano

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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Bryan J. knows the way:

You think the WWE would have any interest in hiring former MMA fighter and former Mandalorian star Gina Carano for a match? Her right wing views got her In trouble with Disney but is it possible the McMahons would be interested in her specifically for that reason? Like HHH could say at a press conference “The WWE uh, doesn’t uh, cave in uh, to political correctness..uh” or would hiring her hurt them as a publicly traded company?

WWE should not do business with Gina Carano.

The company is currently making boatloads of money off of its streaming deal with NBC Universal’s Peacock service, and it’s clear from recent edits they’ve made to archived WWE material that NBCU doesn’t want anything to do with professional wrestling’s seedier elements from the past. Bringing in Carano and particularly bringing in Carano specifically to market her as a controversial figure because of her past tweets is exactly the sort of old ‘rasslin carny B.S. that does not fly in modern corporate America.

You do not bite the hand that fees you, and WWE should not do anything to jeopardize the over one billion dollars that they are getting out of this streaming deal.

CJ is spanning generations:

I’ve been trying to work out how many wrestlers have held the same company’s major title in three or more decades and I can only think of three:

Hulk Hogan – 80s, 90s, 00s
Triple H – 90s, 00s, 10s
Randy Orton – 00s, 10s, 20s

Are there any I’ve missed?

If it helps, I’m working on the basis that they don’t necessarily have to have held the exact same title, just the same company’s main event title, so someone could have won the WWf title, the WWE World heavyweight and the Universal title and have it count.

It has to be the same company, so winning the NWA title in the 80s and the WWF title in the 90s and 00s wouldn’t work, but I’m willing to class the NWA and WCW as basically the same thing.

As a bonus, is there anyone who’s achieved this feat in more than three decades.

This certainly is a unique feat, and it’s not just because of the wrestlers. In some respects, this is difficult because even when wrestlers last for several decades, promotions don’t. When it comes to what we normally think of as “major” promotions, WCW and ECW didn’t even exist in three decades, starting in the 1990s and dying in the 2000s. TNA, ROH, and Dragon Gate have existed in three decades but just barely, starting off in the early 2000s and making it through the 2010s and just now kicking off the 2020s.

Also, singles championships aren’t nearly as a big of a deal in Mexican promotions as they are in Japan and the United States, at least not up until the 2000s when AAA created its Mega Heavyweight Title. As a result you’re not going to see any of them represented here.

As far as major promotions that did last long enough, nobody ever achieved this in the AWA, which was open in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

You did miss a couple of contenders in the WWWF/WWF/WWE, though there are some caveats. The first is Bob Backlund. Backlund won the WWWF Title for the first time on February 20, 1978, and he was actually champion when the second “W” got dropped to make it the WWF Title. Though the WWF has gone back and forth on whether it recognizes this as a title change, the championship was held up due to a controversial finish in a Backlund defense against Greg Valentine on October 19, 1981, and some sources list Backlund as starting a new reign when he defeats Valentine in a rematch on November 23, 1981. Combine that with Backlund defeating Bret Hart for the title at the 1994 Survivor Series, and Mr. Backlund has captured the promotion’s main championship in three different decades.

The second is Randy Orton. Orton won his first WWE Championship in the 2000s and also held that title in the 2010s. Most recently, he won it from Drew McIntyre on October 25, 2020, which you could argue means he held the belt in a third decade. I say “argue” because, technically, the year 2020 is not the first year of the ’20s. It’s the last year of the ’10s, because there was no year “0.” However, in pop culture, people often start a new decade with the round-numbered year, even though that’s not the correct thing to do if you’re a fan of accurately counting.

So, what about outside of WWE?

Let’s start with Lou Thesz, one of wrestling’s classic world champions. Though it was the belt of a consortium of promotions and not the major title of one single promotion, he held the NWA World Heavyweight Title in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, perhaps making him the first person in the history of the game to unlock this achievement.

Jumping continents and heading to Japan, Suwama is another guy who has done this depending on what you want to choose as the start of a new decade. He won All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Triple Crown for the first time on April 29, 2008, for the third time on March 17, 2013, and for the seventh and most recent time on March 23, 2020. So, he’s in the same boat as Randy Orton. If you consider 2020 to be the start of the ’20s, add him to the list.

The same can be said for Go Shiozaki in Pro Wrestling NOAH. Shiozaki won the GHC Heavyweight Title for the first time on June 14, 2009, the second time on July 10, 2011, and the fourth and most recent time on January 4, 2020. Given where he’s at in his career, he will almost assuredly hold the title again in 2021 or beyond, which should remove the asterisk from his three decade accomplishment in due time.

Interestingly, despite being in business for almost fifty years, nobody has done this in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Marcus gets major props for asking a question about the Montreal Screw Job that has not been asked a million times before:

Has there ever been a documented case of a reverse Montreal Screw Job where a wrestler walked into a title match believing he would lose only to have people behind the scenes change the finish and make said wrestler champion without their knowledge?

Not exactly. I’m not aware of any circumstances in which a booker hid the finish from a guy who was going to win and only had it revealed to him in the ring, particularly in a championship scenario.

However, there is one match I can think of that has some similarities to what Marcus has posed.

On November 22, 1985, at a house show at the Philadelphia Spectrum (broadcast locally on the PRSIM Network), enhancement wrestler Ron Shaw was facing David Sammartino. The son of pro wrestling’s Living Legend had been told that he was going over in the undercard bout, but, when Shaw got a little bit of offense in and placed Sammartino into a bearhug, he quickly submitted, and the referee called for the bell. Even though tapping out had not yet been popularized and submissions were generally verbal, it is apparent in the video from Sammartino’s gestures and body language that he is giving up.

In a 2015 interview about his career with a local newspaper in Ft. Myers, Florida, Shaw plays coy and does not directly state what happened in that somewhat infamous match. Sammartino, meanwhile, has gone on the record in a 2019 interview with the Monte & The Pharoah radio show stating that he was told he was going to win but that, due to frustration with his lack of a push at the time, he told Shaw in advance that he would be throwing the match as a form of protest. For what it’s worth, Sammartino also says, in retrospect, that this was very immature of him.

It’s interesting to watch everybody’s reactions to the finish. Sammartino not only obviously submitted but really sold the bearhug after the bell, despite not being in it for a significant period of time. Gorilla Monsoon on commentary tries to cover for Sammartino, saying the kid would never quit and that the referee must have misheard something. Shaw, meanwhile, continues to put the boots to Sammartino after the bell, as though he does not realize the match was over and then spits on his opponent while leaving the ring in a sign of disrespect. Some have said that, despite Sammartino’s comments to the contrary, Shaw’s behavior is an indication that he did not know he was going o be winning. However, I think it is just as likely that Shaw was in on Sammartino’s plan but still reacted as he did so that he would have plausible deniability and avoid any heat being transferred to him.

So there you go. I’m always open to being corrected on something like this in the comments, but I believe that’s the closest thing that we’ve ever seen to a true “Reverse Screw Job,” unless you’re talking about something from a Val Venis skit.

Tyler from Winnipeg has a question about Lawler. No, not that one. No, not that one, either:

Who is Kevin Lawler?

Kevin Lawler is the son of Jerry “The King” Lawler and brother of Brian Lawler, who is better known as Brian Christopher and/or Grandmaster Sexay.

The first references that I found to Kevin having any connection to the professional wrestling industry were in late September of 1991, as the October 7 Wrestling Observer Newsletter of that year reported he was working as a referee on shows for the USWA promotion in Memphis, where of course his father and brother were wrestling at the time. Though he went unnamed for a period of time, he was eventually dubbed Kevin Christian on USWA television, and, by 1992, he was wrestling on independent shows in Tennessee promoted by Bill Dundee and also for a spell in Big D, the Dallas, Texas-promotion that attempted to fill the void left by World Class in the early 1990s.

Kevin apparently became tight with Eddie and Doug Gilbert when he was working in Memphis because, during the summer of 1993 when they started working for Eastern Championship Wrestling –the promotion that would eventually become Extreme Championship Wrestling – Kevin made the trip to Philadelphia with them. In ECW, Lawler started off by refereeing under the Kevin Christian name but was later renamed Freddy Gilbert, the kayfabe brother of Eddie and Doug, all of whom were part of the Hot Stuff International stable. However, that fake relationship did not last too long, as there was an angle in August 1993 in which the real Gilberts turned on the fake one, revealing he was actually Jerry Lawler’s son and beating the crap out of him to write him off of television. (One would think that might be an angle bring the King in to ECW, but it was not.)

After his ECW run came to an end, Kevin went back to the south and worked on a variety of low profile shows, mainly under generic masked personae such as the Heartbreaker, the Southern Rebel, and the White Tiger. He did come back north and, in a rarity, worked under his real name on the February 3, 1996 NWA Eddie Gilbert Memorial Show in New Jersey, appearing in an undercard intergender six person tag team match. Around this same time, he also reconnected with the USWA, both helping out behind the scenes and wrestling as a masked enhancement talent called the Yellow Jacket.

Aside from continuing to collect a paycheck, Lawler did not do much of note in the USWA before it folded in 1997. In 1998, the company was replaced in the Memphis market by Power Pro Wrestling, a group that had an early developmental deal with the WWF. Kevin transitioned easily from the USWA to PPW, and his Yellow Jacket character wrestled there as well, perhaps resulting in the most historically significant match in Kevin Lawler’s career, as he faced Kurt Angle in what I believe was Angle’s televised professional wrestling debut:

It was certainly Angle’s in-ring debut for PPW, if nothing else.

Eventually Lawler would come out from behind the Yellow Jacket mask in PPW and start wrestling under his old Kevin Christian name, including becoming the on screen heel authority figure for the promotion for a time . . . because it was the late 1990s and every pro wrestling company needed an on screen heel authority figure. (They fact that they’re still relying on that stale, overplayed model over twenty years later is a problem we’ll discuss another time.) Power Pro went bust in 2001, and that was the last time that Kevin Lawler had a run with something that could charitably called a wrestling promotion of significance, though throughout the 2000s and 2010s his name would periodically be attached to efforts to revitalize some sort of local wrestling program in Memphis, sometimes with his father’s involvement.

Kevin also started to have some brushes with the law around this time. During the summer of 2005, he was arrested for aggravated burglary when he was found sleeping in a home that he allegedly broke into. However, according to local news reports that are still archived online, Lawler denied the allegations and stated that he had merely been mistaken for the burglar by a group of the homeowner’s friends. He was arrested a second time on burglary charges in 2008, with the victim alleging that Lawler had been an employee of a cleaning company hired to work at her home and that he surreptitiously made a copy of her key and later used it for his break in. Despite the arrests, I was unable to find any record that Lawler was ever convicted of these supposed crimes.

And that’s really about it. Kevin Lawler appears to have largely been out of the pro wrestling industry for the last several years, though he has still made an appearance here at there. The April 3, 2006 Wrestling Observer reported that he was supposed to be used as an extra on a Monday Night Raw episode around that time, specifically as a security guard in a John Cena/Shawn Michaels angle. However, the report goes on to say that Lawler was ultimately excluded from the show because he was deemed to be too small. More recently, the former Yellow Jacket was brought in by AEW for their January 14, 2020 show in Southaven, Mississippi where there was a special tribute to the legends of Memphis wrestling which ultimately aired on AEW Dark. Kevin was brought in as a representative of his family.

And that’s Kevin Lawler. By all rights he was a performer with some definite talents, though the fact that he was even smaller than his brother – who was already small per 1990s WWF standards – probably prevented him from going any further than he did , even prior to the personal problems that started to become more prominent in the 2000s.

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.