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Ask 411 Wrestling 03.21.13: Andre the Giant, Lou Albano, Japan, and more!
Posted by Ryan Byers on 03.21.2013

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your temporary party host, Ryan Byers, getting ready to hit on all sixes with another installment of the last surviving column on 411mania that isn't built around some sort of list or countdown.

If you haven't been following along with the column regularly over the last couple of weeks, you might be asking where Mat Sforcina is. With apologies to those who have been here and are getting sick of hearing me explain this every week, Sforcina suffered a bit of an injury around a month ago which has limited his capacity to type. He should be back late this month or in early April.

With the formalities out of the way, let's hit the banner . . .

And what's a good banner without a good Twitter?



Your Turn, Smart Guy

Last week's question was . . .

We are a professional wrestling tag team, though, from our name, you would think we had a different job within the industry. We were trained by a former world heavyweight champion, and we have worked in a variety of different promotions, including one that the author of this column watches and one that he does not. Our finisher is a variation on the moonsault, and one of our most noteworthy feuds was with a bunch of drug addicts. Who are we?

The answer, which several people got, is the Spanish Announce Team. The name is pretty self-explanatory. As to the former world champion who trained them, I always knew them as Mikey Whipwreck trainees, but apparently Mike Awesome also had a hand in breaking them in, as he factored into just about everybody's answer somehow. Regarding the promotions they have completed for, I was referring to TNA (which I don't watch) and All Japan (which I do). Their finish, the Spanish Fly, is obviously a variant on the moonsault, and their noteworthy feud against drug addicts was the early Ring of Honor rivalry with Special K, the stable of ravers.

This week's question is . . .

I have one of the nastiest looking foreheads in professional wrestling history and I was blackballed from numerous promotions for allegedly molesting a woman. Who am I?

Short and sweet. Try to answer in the comments section down below.

Questions, Questions, Who's Got the Questions?

We start off where I left off two weeks ago, picking up the second half of a question from Brandon Ray

I think one of the problems with modern WWE is their lack of managers. The conflict always has to be between two wrestlers, and once one is defeated, it's kind of over. The manager can't find a new monster to crank up the threat level and carry on the feud. With stables and managers, wrestlers could go through multiple opponents before blowing off a feud. Even tag teams could help add to the body count, though not as effectively as stables.

So my question is: What are the best examples you can think of where a stable or manager was able to extend out a feud by bringing in other wrestlers to feud with? Also, is this only ever a heel tactic, or has there ever been a face manager who has brought in a series of "secret weapons" to help even the odds and continue the feud?

This manager-centric way of booking professional wrestling was actually what the World Wide Wrestling Federation was built around in its earliest days, and I would have to consider those examples of the angle the best given that they laid the foundation that made the territory a highly successful one and allowed it to eventually evolve into a global powerhouse. The WWWF during its peak had three managers, all of whom developed stables of wrestlers (though not exactly modern stables where the members cooperated with each other) the goal of which was to produce the wrestler that would take the championship off of Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, or Bob Backlund, as well as taking the tag team titles off of whatever babyface duo might have been holding them at the time.

There were three heel managers who were all engaged in these virtually identical storylines at the same time, and they were known behind the scenes as the "Three Wise Men of the East," which obviously references both the Bible and the geographic location of the WWWF territory. They were Captain Lou Albano, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling (Ernie Roth), and "Classy" Freddie Blassie. All of them managed numerous wrestlers in the WWWF/WWF from the 1970's through the early 1980's, so much so that a comprehensive list would take quite some time to put together and would really be outside of the scope of the question that was asked.

The era of the Three Wise Men came to a close in 1983, when Ernie Roth passed away. Bobby Heenan essentially took his slot when he defected from the AWA in 1984. The remnants of the Wise Men took a further blow in 1986, when Freddie Blassie went into retirement and was replaced in storyline by the "Jive Sole Bro" Slick, while Albano had turned babyface in late 1984 and was never again a bad guy in the Fed.

The WWF tried to reuse this sort of storyline in the 1990's, but it either never really got off the ground or wound up being lacklustre. Oddly, the Undertaker has been involved in most of these attempts in some way. In 1993, Harvey Whippleman brought the Giant Gonazlez into the WWF to go after Taker, which was supposed to be Harvey's revenge for the Dead Man defeating his protégé Kamala in a prior feud. However, after Gonzalez, Whippleman didn't have a replacement rival for UT. The Undertaker also engaged in an extended battle with Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation, as DiBiase put IRS, King Kong Bundy, "The Supreme Fighting Machine" Kama, and eventually his own bogus Undertaker up against Undie in a series of pay per view matches. Finally, in an angle that just about everybody would like to forget, Steven Richards managed Kronik as part of the WCW/ECW alliance in 2001 against the Brothers of Destruction as revenge for Kane and the Undertaker demolishing Stevie's prior stable, the Right to Censor.

I should note that numerous territories across the country were also set up this way, though I'm not going into specifics on them since the question asked about the WWF. (The best non-WWF example, though, has to be Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart in Memphis.) If you think about it, building your territory around a manager in those days made sense, because wrestlers typically jumped from region to region every couple of years, and having a manager who stayed put for a longer period of time kept you from having to build up brand new heat on a bad guy every time you wanted to start a feud. You just had the manager stick around, and new heels would automatically have heat based off of their association with him.

Are their examples of face managers putting together a stable to go after a particular heel or heels? Perhaps somebody in the comments can come up with one, but I really can't myself. If you think about this, it make sense. Assembling a stable or a gang for the singular purpose of going after one man is really more the move of a bad guy than it is of somebody that the fans are supposed to cheer.

Ian is a bit of a vampire:

Can you help settle a few arguments amongst long-time wrestling fans regarding blood in matches and whether the blood in question was caused from a real cut during the match (is this called "hardway"?) or whether the wrestler bladed? Listed below are the matches myself and friends constantly argue about so, if possible, we would like some final clarification. Also, if possible, accompany the explanation with pointing out exactly how / at what point during the match the "cut" occurred.

Wrestlemania 8: Bret Hart (bleeder) vs. Roddy Piper
Wrestlemania 8: Ric Flair (bleeder) vs. Randy Savage
Wrestlemania 13: Steve Austin (bleeder) vs. Bret Hart
Over The Edge '98: Steve Austin (bleeder) vs. Dude Love
Vengeance '03: Vince McMahon (bleeder) vs. Zach Gowen

As a final side note, if any of these are indeed real cuts during the matches, were there any changes made to the match due the injury? Or any ramifications after the event?

This is an easier question than it might appear at first blush . . . the answer is that every match you've listed involved a bladejob. I'm not sure what you want in terms of indicating at what point in the match the cut occurred. They occurred very shortly before the wrestler in question started bleeding, at a point at which he was either off camera or the motions of his hands across his forehead were otherwise obscured.

It should be noted that there was some controversy around the blood during the two Wrestlemania VIII matches that you've mentioned. During the time of that event, blood was actually banned in WWF matches (much as it largely is now). However, both Hart and Flair, who had "old school" mentalities about what a match should look like, decided that they were going to blade anyway and try to pass it off backstage like they had been legitimately busted open. Hart actually managed to get away with it, but Flair was caught and verbally slammed pretty hard by Vince McMahon backstage, which formed the basis of one of Flair's more memorable promos when he feuded with McMahon in WWF storylines in 2002.

Connor from England is a British guy asking about a Native American:

Regarding Tatanka, what was the reasoning behind his heel turn on Luger at SummerSlam in 1994? Did management just think he had gotten stale after the whole undefeated streak thing had ran its course? He takes too much hate in my opinion, not the greatest in the ring but he was over

You pretty much called it. If you were watching at the time, you could see that Tatanka was floundering with no direction after Ludvig Borga brought an end to his undefeated streak. There was little to nothing for him to do on the babyface side of the card, and the turn seemed like the perfect way to go. It was one of those angles where you could see the turn coming a mile away but it was still so well executed that the fact it was predictable didn't matter much if at all.

As far as the Lumbee (or "lumpy" as Bobby Heenan would say) Native American himself is concerned, I tend to agree with Connor's assessment. He was not an all-time great in terms of performance or popularity, but he did a good job of filling his role in the early 1990's WWF, even though he wasn't necessarily a guy who you would put the championship on. I was also surprised by how good he still was when he returned to the promotion almost a decade later in 2005, as he really had not lost a step despite being ten years older.

Brian H. is a pyromaniac:

1) I have noticed lately that since Raw 1000 and the Fire incident, WWE has been shooting off less and less pyro at shows. Is it a cost-cutting measure, or is WWE just trying to avoid another inferno?

It's a cost-cutting measure. Though WWE's key business indicators have been up over the last month or so due to the build to Wrestlemania and the involvement of the Rock and Brock Lesnar, the fact of the matter is that, since 2008, we've been in a weaker economy and interest in wrestling has waned. Pyro is a non-essential expense, so it should be one of the first things to go if you're looking at ways to save money within your professional wrestling organization.

2) On the other side of that coin, why did WCW use so MUCH pyro at events? I mean, I was watching some old videos of Nitro and my god, everyone seemed like they would get gobs and gobs of spark fountains and flash pots going off. I know this had to cost a fortune, so why did WCW do that?

It's pretty much the opposite of what you're seeing in WWE now. WCW had almost limitless financial resources at the time, and they were engaged in a promotional war with the WWF in which they wanted to seem like the higher end product, not only in terms of talent but also in terms of production values. The more flash and gloss they could add to their product, the better, and pyro was an easy and commonly accepted way of doing just that.

Matthew (not the one I'm filling in for) has a lot of things to say (or rather ask) about Japan:

>1) According to his Wikipedia page, Akira Maeda refused to work with Inoki and refused to lose to Andre, shooting on him with leg kicks, in the lead up to his infamous sucker kick on Riki Choshu. I'm just curious what you know about Maeda during this time. Did he just not want to lose to anybody? Was his issue with New Japan's style, wanting to work more shoot-based? And finally why the attack on Choshu and did Choshu ever get to give a receipt? Was it all a publicity stunt to leave and start his own promotion?

The short version of the answer: Akira Maeda was a dick.

Of course, there's a longer version as well. Regarding the match with Andre the Giant, there are two versions of the story, neither of which I have definitely seen proven or disproven . . . so either could be true or some hybrid version of the two could be true. The first version, which paints Maeda in the best light possible (though it's still not a great light) is that Andre showed up for the match both drunk and belligerent, with Maeda going after him as a form of revenge/punishment. The second, which makes Maeda look like a pretty huge jerk, is that Maeda, who was a legitimate former karate champion and a pioneer of the shoot style pro wrestling movement in Japan, always thought the style of wrestling promoted by the WWF was "weak." He would have firsthand knowledge of the WWF style, because he toured there in the early 1980's. In fact, he may also have had a grudge against the Fed because, according to some rumors, a call from Antonio Inoki to Vince McMahon after some bad blood between Inoki and Maeda resulted in Maeda being used primarily as a job guy during his North American run. In any event, the sum total of all of this was that Maeda did not want to lose to a WWF wrestler in Japan, and his solution that that perceived problem was to turn the entire match into a huge spectacle. You can see the match for yourself below.

The finish of the match, with multiple wrestlers running in, was Antonio Inoki's called audible to do something, anything to put an end to this awkward situation.

Regarding the infamous shoot kick to Riki Choshu, the story generally is that it was born out of frustration with the spot that Maeda was occupying in New Japan. Antonio Inoki was still booking himself as the top star, and Choshu was being booked stronger than Maeda as well, but Maeda thought he was more popular and should be the focal point of the promotion. His entirely rational, entirely mature response to this situation was to kick Choshu in the face as hard has he possibly could, fracturing his orbital bone.

Choshu never gave Maeda any kind of "receipt," because the incident resulted in Maeda being thrown out of New Japan, as it should have. To date, Choshu and Maeda have never met again in the ring, and they seem unlikely to do so again since Maeda has been retired for over a decade . . . though Choshu does still wrestle periodically.

2) If you could channel the average hardcore/IWC Japanese fan, taking into account the perception of which companies were "the best" at any given point in time, who would they rank as the top 10 Japanese wrestlers of all time (in order or not, your call) and top 10 gaijin wrestlers of all time?

That's hard a hard question for me to answer, for a couple of different reasons. The first is that I've never really followed Japanese professional wrestling with any real Japanese perspective. I've not been over there to observe what's going on personally, I don't speak the language so it's not as though I can easily do a direct reading of fan commentary on the results, and I don't have much direct communication with bilingual Japanese fans. The second complicating factor to answering this question is that, moreso than in the United States; pro wrestling fans in Japan are, from what I understand, more factionalized. They tend to stick to their own favorite companies as opposed to watching all the products out there, so a "ten greatest" list from an All Japan fan would probably look a lot different from the same list created by a New Japan fan. Also, unlike in the United States, I don't think that a "hardcore/IWC" fan's list would look all that different from any other fan's list, since the things that tend to separate causal from "IWC" preferences in the United States (e.g. in-ring ability) are given much more emphasis across the board in Japan.

With all of those disclaimers out of the way, the question regarding which companies were considered "the best" at any given point in time is almost impossible to answer, because there weren't that many people comparing them. However, ranking the major promotions in terms of popularity is actually pretty easy because, ever since there has been more than one major promotion in Japan (i.e. the formation of New Japan and All Japan), New Japan has been the company that did better business. You might be able to argue that, in the early 2000's, when NOAH was hot and NJPW was floundering, NOAH became the bigger promotion for a limited period. HUSTLE also enjoyed an insane level of popularity for a very brief time circa 2005, thought that was more of a fad than anything else. Similarly, in the late 2000's, there was a time when the "traditional" big three of New Japan, All Japan, and NOAH had all faltered and Dragon Gate was doing just as well as if not better than those companies. In other words, New Japan has really been the top company for the past forty years, with some minor blips on the radar where others have temporarily slipped past it.

As far as the top ten Japanese wrestlers is concerned, I would suspect that it would be Jumbo Tsuruta, Genichiro Tenryu, Jun Akiyama, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada from the All Japan side and Keiji Mutoh, Riki Choshu (actually Korean-born, but "Japanese" for purposes of this list), Shinya Hashimoto, and Tatsumi Fujinami from the New Japan side.

In sort of an "honorable mention" category, Rikidozan founded puroresu and everybody will give him props for that, though I haven't heard many reviews of him as a performer. Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba were obviously revered as icons in the country, though they're not as known for classic bell-to-bell matches as the other guys who I put on this list. Ditto for Masahiro Chono, who was a very good in-ring performer for New Japan but was known more for his personality/charisma when compared to his contemporaries Muto and Hashimoto. You could also potentially add some of the New Japan junior heavyweights who were excellent wrestlers, such as Jushin Liger and the original Tiger Mask, but I omitted them because the juniors are typically secondary to the heavyweights with the exception of one or two tours per year.

On the gaijin front, I'm including only those wrestlers who appeared regularly in the land of the rising sun as opposed to those who were only over for a handful of big matches (e.g. Ric Flair). The foreign regulars likely to be considered the best are Stan Hansen, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Vader, The Steiner Brothers, The Funk Brothers, The Destroyer, and Bruiser Brody.

There are some honorable mentions here as well. Tiger Jeet Singh and Abdullah the Butcher were both huge stars as foreign monster heels, although they weren't exactly renowned for their in-ring prowess. There were also numerous junior heavyweights from foreign countries who did well for themselves, including the Dynamite Kid, Chris Benoit, and the various Black Tigers.

3) Having both come up with Rikidozan, what was the genesis of the split between Baba and Inoki after his death and how did their relationship evolve over the years? I know they reached a detente in the mid-80's promising not to raid each others talent, but I'm curious if it was a respectful competition between rivals or if it was more contentious and cutthroat like the Monday Night Wars?

The history between the two men is often portrayed as Inoki splitting with Baba, but really that's a bit of an oversimplification. As noted in the question, the two were the top protégés of Rikidozan, and they were both top stars in his promotion, the JWA. Throughout the early 1960's, Baba was considered the bigger star of the two, a notion that Inoki was not particularly fond of. As a result, in 1966, Inoki left the JWA and became the top star of Tokyo Pro Wrestling, a new promotion operated by a former JWA executive. However, the Tokyo Pro experiment failed and the company closed up shop the following year, which landed Inoki right back in the JWA.

After several more years in the JWA, Inoki again decided that he didn't like playing second fiddle to Baba and attempted to stage a coup to take over the promotion. However, he was found out by the wrong people and fired in 1971. This is what lead to Inoki going out on his own and forming New Japan Pro Wrestling in June of that year. The JWA subsequently did very poor business, resulting in Baba and Rikidozan's sons departing in order to form their own promotion, All Japan Pro Wrestling, in October of 1971. JWA actually continued on as its own entity separate from both AJPW and NJPW, but it didn't stand much of a chance with its two biggest stars gone and closed up shop in 1973.

New Japan and All Japan were competitors, obviously. There were wrestlers who jumped back and forth between the two companies. However, what I've read about those jumps largely portrays them as being initiated by the wrestlers as opposed to being part of orchestrated "raids" between the two companies. Though they were certainly in competition, I am not aware of the two groups doing anything that was nearly as bloodthirsty as what was going on during the Monday Night War or even the wrestling wards of the 1980's, when WWF and WCW would run free shows against each other's pay per views in order to hurt their competitor's business.

4) I know the Yakuza has a long history of involvement in Japanese wrestling and I'm curious if they're presence is still quite pervasive or if after the scandal of 2002(?), has their presence largely been eradicated and if their absence could at least partially explain why business in Japan has become diffuse with so many companies and seems to have been in a depression ever since? Has WWE been able to tour Japan free of Yakuza influence?

Actually, there was a fairly major scandal just last year in which former Pro Wrestling NOAH performer Jun Izumida wrote a tell-all book that exposed the Yakuza ties of two of the company's executives, who apparently used them to help sell tickets to major NOAH shows. This resulted in both of said executives being fired from the company, but it's hard to believe that this would be the only involvement of the organization in modern professional wrestling, especially since, if you listen to shoot interviews of foreign wrestlers who have been to Japan in recent years (Bison Smith comes to mind), they talk about mysterious "sponsors" who are "business people" in Japan that really like wrestling and take the gaijin out for big meals and nights on the town.

I have not heard of WWE having any issues with organized crime in Japan.

5) I'm very curious about the business side of Japan and this question might be too complex or long to thoroughly answer, but I'm very curious as to which companies either were or were perceived to be the top dog throughout the last 40 years. Basically as much detail as you have is much appreciated or if it's simpler to break time down in 5 year increments (ex: 1970-75 All Japan, 1975-80 New Japan, etc). Basically, I'd just like to hear what you know about the history of the business side and which companies have been on top, when, and for how long? And if there were any historical footnotes (Hogan in NJPW, Tsuruta retiring, etc.) that would explain shifting tides.

I essentially covered this in response to one of the prior questions. New Japan has pretty well been the top dog for forty years, aside from an occasional exception to the rule here and there. Those were typically very short-lived when they occurred, though.

Shawn wants to cover the little-discussed topic of event security:

1. I recently attended an Indy show, but during one of the matches, the Heel had, of course mocked the local area and even singled out a few people on the bleachers. Now, being in a school gymnasium you either paid for front row seat or a bleacher seat. So the guys came down to the front row to talk trash back, which was fine during the promo. When the match began their buddies ran down and they began to fan out in front of the front row. Of course this became an issue and I had the pleasure of hearing their argument that since they weren't trying to take the front row seats they were fine. Eventually they were made to go back to their original seats because they had also pushed the guardrail well onto the mat outside of the ring. One guy was escorted out for arguing back with the officials, so my first question is how far, if any, would they have made it, if any length to the front row if they had only purchased seats further back at a WWE event?

I have a feeling that they could have walked down to the front row without any interruption at a WWE event, but, once somebody realized that they didn't belong there, they would have been tossed back to the cheap seats, particularly if it was a television taping. WWE is very protective of their image and micromanages a lot of things that go on in the crowd (most notably confiscating signs), and they're going to make sure that any sort of disruption is squelched pretty quickly.

2. My buddy disagreed with promotion for kicking the guy out for two reasons. 1. He had not yet become violent (my buddy says he was just trying to have a good time) and 2. The guy had a front row seat on one of the other sides of ring (why he never returned to it is beyond me). My buddy made the argument that the promotion had such a small turn out that turning away someone may hurt a future return to the area when that person doesn't purchase ticket again. My argument is they would have hurt worse if they didn't take control of the front row situation to those who had paid the price for those tickets and they would most likely return, which means more money since the purchased the higher priced tickets anyway. Would they even consider that or do you think it based more from the decision that the guardrail was pushed so close to the ring or maybe even some of both?

Based on the way you've described it, they absolutely needed to get rid of the guy. He hadn't gotten violent yet, but he was apparently disrupting the show and rearranging things in the ringside area, in addition to arguing with event security. Under those circumstances, the promotion needs to salvage the experience of those individuals who paid for their tickets and AREN'T acting like morons, in addition protecting the performers from any possibility that this individual might become violent. There was no reason to keep him around, and, if he's going to act like this at a show, you don't want him coming back anyway . . . so why worry about him being ticked off?

Sean C. has a little question (GET IT?!):

I know this isn't really that relevant but I'm sure I'm not the only one who is curious. Was there ever a RAW or PPV where Hornswoggle was in the ring while an e-mail was received from the anonymous RAW GM?

I was unable to find any record of this occurring. The Anonymous General Manager character was introduced in June 2010 and July 2011, and Hornswoggle was actually not on Raw for the majority of that time. He was technically a member of the Smackdown roster for most of that run and, though the brand split was largely irrelevant by that point, he was one of the characters who did not cross over much. In fact, he wasn't even on Smackdown all that much, as he was instead featured on the internet-and-international-only version of NXT.

That's it for this week's Ask 411. If you can't get enough of Ryan, follow him on Twitter here.


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