Ask 411 Wrestling 01.22.14: Wrestlemania Stats, Demolition, Unrecognized Title Changes, and more!
Posted by Ryan Byers on 01.22.2014
Why didn't the WWF give the Ultimate Warrior gimmick to someone after he left? Does the Rock have the most repeat WrestleMania opponents? How did Steve Austin become Stone Cold? All that and more covered this week in Ask 411 Wrestling!
Welllllllcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Ask 411 Wrestling!
Several months ago, people lauded the return of Mathew "Don't Call Me Matthew" Sforcina to the virtual pages of this column, but many people forgot that the return of Mathew Sforcina also meant the return of me filling in for Mathew Sforcina when he had something else to do, and that is exactly what has happened this week.
So, sit back and enjoy the ride, as somebody from the Northern Hemisphere guides you through your pro graps question and answer session this week . . .
I generally don't like to answer feedback to other people's stuff, so this segment should return in the not too distant future. Besides, this frees up my time to answer more questions . . . and the list is at damn near 100 pages as I sit here, so I'm sure Sforcina would appreciate that.
The Trivia Crown
Hey hey, it's a new question! I'm writing this one as opposed to going to the people because, darnit, I miss doing this.
Who am I? You might think that my name is a typo, but in reality it's a proclamation of my heritage . . . but not my place of birth. I am a former associate of Paul Heyman, though you couldn't refer to me by the normal term for his cronies. I also have the rare distinction of holding a world championship while simultaneously acting as the manager of a world champion. Who am I?
Plop down an answer in the comment section, and we'll see who gets to the correct one first.
Getting Down To Business
Matt Borruso (who almost didn't get his question answered because his name is a bit too close to "Russo") has a two-fer. We'll do the easy part first . . .
My question is in regards to the multiple Ultimate Warriors rumour that has always existed among casual wrestling fans. People claim it was Kerry von Erich which we all know is false. However, I was watching Wrestlemania 7 and wondered when Vince did give Warrior the axe, why didn't they give the gimmick to Kerry? He had the perfect look and I think he could have pulled it off. Shaking the ropes and freaking out down the aisle isn't exactly rocket science. Do you think Kerry could have pulled it off? I mean the children might have bought it at the time. Or do we all just vastly underappreciate the talents of Jim Hellwig er, ah, WARRIOR WARRIOR?
First off, I think that you actually mean Wrestlemania VIII and not VII, as that's where the Warrior return occurred and where the Kerry-placement rumour sprung from.
That said, I would imagine there are two significant reasons for not handing the gimmick off to another wrestler.
The first is that, quite simply, that sort of thing wasn't done at the time. Aside from replacing Randy Culley with Barry Darsow in Demolition (more on that team later), I honestly can't think of a WWF performer replacing another WWF performer in a non-masked gimmick, and it's not as though the Ultimate Warrior was an unknown commodity who had only been in a couple of televised matches, as was the case with the two Smashes. By replacing a very popular wrestler (recall that we were only two years out from Wrestlemania VI with Warrior pinning Hogan) with performer, the Fed would likely be setting itself up for a massive backlash when people figured out that there was a difference. After all, look at what happened when WCW attempted the fake Warrior gimmick with Rick Wilson as the Renegade.
And, yes, I realize that there is some irony in saying that a fanbase would recognize and turn on a fake Ultimate Warrior when a portion of this same fanbase failed to identify the REAL Warrior as being himself, leading to the rumor.
The second reason that I doubt the switcheroo wouldn't have been tried comes down to legalities. Granted, society wasn't quite as litigious in the early 1990's as it has become today, but Jim Hellwig (as he was known at the time) would at least arguably have some legal claim to the ownership of the Ultimate Warrior character. I don't know what sort of contract he signed and what sort of statements it would have made about ownership of intellectual property, but, if his contract was silent on the issue, Warrior easily could have been thought to own the gimmick. Though he didn't become "Ultimate" until he joined the World Wrestling Federation, the look and most key aspects of the character were lifted from Hellwig's run elsewhere as the Dingo Warrior, so he created and would in theory own them. In other words, by haphazardly slapping the gimmick onto somebody else, Vinnie Mac could've been setting himself up for a lawsuit.
And now the harder part . . .
Will the Rock have faced the least amount of original Wrestlemania opponents in relation to his number of Wrestlemania matches? In other words, will he have the most repeat Wrestlemania opponents of any Wrestlemania competitor? Feel free to do total numbers, or a percentage, or whatever else you prefer. I personally wouldn't hold a battle royal appearance against the competitors (something like that might add 20 extra names onto a Bret Hart list for instance) but rule on it as you care to.
In coming up with an answer to this question, I did some research and counted only straight, one-on-one singles matches, mainly because it was already a bear of a project and including tag matches, three-ways, four-ways, and the like would make it even more insane. I also didn't count dark matches or pre-show matches, only those matches that were on the Wrestlemania card proper.
With those criteria established, it turns out that Matt's guess is . . . absolutely correct. The Rock has had five unique opponents in eight matches, meaning that 62.5% of his Wrestlemania singles matches have been against unique opponents.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the individual who finishes next to the Rock is his most prolific Wrestlemania opponent: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Austin has had one fewer 'Mania singles match than Rock, with seven in all. Five of those are against unique opponents, making his percentage 71%
Third place is actually a name that surprised me a bit: Yokozuna. He had four Wrestlemania singles matches during his career and two of them were against Bret Hart, meaning that his percentage of unique opponents was 75%.
Regarding other wrestlers who have participated in Wrestlemania rematches, the Undertaker has had 16 unique opponents in 20 matches (80%); Kane has had 6 unique opponents in 7 matches (86%); Triple H has had 12 opponents in 14 matches (also 86%); John Cena has had 7 opponents in 8 matches (87.5%); Bret Hart has the same record as Cena; Hulk Hogan has 9 unique opponents in 10 matches (90%); and Shawn Michaels has 12 unique opponents in 13 matches (92%).
Also, since I had to put this data together anyway, I thought it was interesting to note that Randy Savage has the record for most Wrestlemania singles matches with no repeated opponents, with ten matches in all. Of course, Savage's figures are somewhat artificially inflated since he went all the way to the finals of the Wrestlemania IV title tournament, allowing him to rack up multiple matches in the same night.
Jake Roberts and Chris Jericho are tied for second place behind Savage with seven unique opponents in seven matches. Savage's Wrestlemania IV opponent Ted DiBiase rounds out the group with six unique opponents in six matches.
Scott Hudson's brother Chris Hudson has another two-fer, again consisting of an easier question and a harder question:
How exactly did Steve Austin physically transition from the Ringmaster to Stone Cold? The Ringmaster had hair and was clean shaven, Stone Cold was bald and had a goatee. I'm not asking about "Austin 3:16" at King of the Ring and all that, I'm asking how did he PHYSICALLY change to Stone Cold? Did he just show up one day bald with a goatee?
I will first come out and admit that I am basing this answer 100% on my recollection of watching at the time and have not gone back and conducted research. My recollection is pretty strong here, but obviously I am fallible, so somebody correct me in the comments if I am wrong
The answer is yes, he just showed up one day bald with a goatee. Nobody made a big deal out of it. In fact, the same was true with his transition from being the Ringmaster to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He just walked out for a random, fairly unimportant match one week while still being managed by Ted DiBiase, and the announcers said something to the effect of, "We understand that the Ringmaster now wants to be referred to as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin."
For what seems like such a crucial moment in the career of one of the biggest stars in wrestling history, it was treated as a complete non-event. And, if you look back on Austin's position in the WWF at the time, you can understand why. Austin himself has stated on his podcast numerous times that, when the company hired him, they did not see him as a big time player. They saw him as a utility wrestler who would mainly be there to make other people look good. So, there was no reason for the WWF to make a big deal out of the changes to his name or appearance. It was essentially the equivalent of Kofi Kingston's character deciding one day that he is from Ghana instead of Jamaica (which also happened).
I was watching an old episode of RAW from 2001 and surprisingly, Austin, Rock and the Undertaker all were pinned on that episode. My question is, has that ever happened since? Has there ever been another card (TV or PPV) where Austin, Rock and Undertaker all lost via pinfall?
First off, even though you did not mention the date, I believe that I located the episode of Raw that you're referring to. It should be the September 17, 2001 edition, on which the Dudley Boys beat the Brothers of Destruction off of interference from Kronik, Test & Stephanie McMahon defeated the Rock in a handicap match, and Kurt Angle & Chris Jericho were successful against Steve Austin & Rob Van Dam when Angle pinned Austin.
Despite research of some pretty comprehensive results databases, I could NOT find another event subsequent to September 17, 2001 in which all three men went down in defeat. However, you have to keep in mind that, after that date, there were a lot of circumstances that kept those wrestlers from appearing on the same shows at all, let alone losing on the same shows. The inaugural WWE draft occurred in March 2002 and put the Rock and the Undertaker on different rosters, to say nothing of Rocky popping in and out for movie deals. Also, Austin walked out on the company due to the Brock Lesnar incident about halfway through 2002 and never really returned as a full-time wrestler.
Also, in looking at the results, it appears that, even when these three men were wrestling on the same show together, it was often in a scenario in which two of the three of them were either facing off or teaming together, making it impossible for all of them to lose. In fact, though I did not take specific notes on this point, from my recollection of viewing the results generally, it seemed to me that there were more shows which couldn't meet your stated criteria because some combination of the three guys was working together than there were shows which couldn't meet your stated criteria because the three guys were all in separate matches that they all won.
Jon wants to talk about paranormal activity featuring championship belts:
When I was a kid growing up in Denver, there were always playground rumours started by fellow classmates that they had gone to see wrestling at the Coliseum or the old McNichols Arena, and they had personally witnessed Hulk Hogan go down in defeat to, say Hercules, or lose by pinfall to The Big Bossman. Obviously having never seen the title change hands or acknowledged on television--and not being privy at the time to the concept of the house show circuit--I assumed their stories were either made up or embellished remembrances of what had actually happened. As an adult, though, I have often heard stories of phantom title changes (Backlund "losing" the WWWF Title to Greg Valentine at MSG, which was only recognized in New York City, or the NWA Champion dropping the belt in Puerto Rico one night, and picking it back up on the way out of town two nights later,) and I've come to wonder if the WWF practiced shenanigans like this in the late '80's. Now, obviously such a ploy wouldn't be possible in the internet age, but I wonder if the house show circuits of the 70's and 80's, especially of the WWF but not limited to them, was rife with phantom title changes, "overturned decisions," or nationally unacknowledged switches of WWF, Intercontinental or Tag Titles, or AWA or NWA titles. Have you any insight into this possibility?
It's really the NWA World Heavyweight Title that is most frequently associated with these phantom title changes or title changes that occur in one geographic area but are not recognized in another.
Probably the most prolific period for changes like this was 1982 through 1984, during Ric Flair's first run with the belt. Flair had picked up the championship in September of 1981, and, in 1982, he found himself in the Dominican Republic defending his championship against local wrestler Jack Veneno, who was a big star in the D.R. . . . and also owner of the local promotion. In the first title match between the two men, Veneno had a sleeper on Flair, with the planned finish being that time would expire with the hold on, leading to a draw. However, when they did the finish, the crowd reacted like Veneno won the championship, and the reaction was so vociferous that it was decided to actually acknowledge him as champion. When Naitch returned for a rematch in which he was going to "win the title back," he feared potential violence from the Dominican crowd so much that he reportedly stayed down on one of Veneno's pin attempts. In other words, Jack Veneno not only won the NWA Title in a match that he wasn't scheduled to win it in, but then he also went on to retain it in a match that he wasn't scheduled to retain it in.
Then, in 1983 in Trinidad, another local wrestler, Victor Jovica, beat Flair for the championship, though this one was explained away through what would now be called a "Dusty finish," as Jovica's victory was reversed after the show due to his foot being on the rope during the decisive fall. Last but certainly not least, Flair lost the championship to Carlos Colon in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1983, though in this instance the Nature Boy actually did win the belt back in the ring, beating Colon just four days later. The Colon reign was not widely acknowledged by the NWA.
That wraps up Ric Flair's Caribbean tour of phantom title changes, but his second stint as NWA Champ involved an additional unrecognized title switch. On March 20, 1984, Harley Race reportedly defeated Flair on a show in New Zealand to give the local fans something to talk about. To my knowledge, there is no record of a match in which Flair won the belt back, though the same tour included tours in Singapore just a few days later, and Naitch was acknowledged as the champion on those shows. Legend has it that Flair and Race just decided to do this switch on their own without authorization from the NWA brass, which may explain why there was no formal change back from Race to Flair.
However, Flair wasn't the first NWA Champion to be involved in unrecognized or disputed title changes. The practice went back almost thirty years prior to Slick Ric holding the ten pounds of gold.
Specifically, on March 22, 1955, there was a match in which Lou Thesz defended the NWA World Heavyweight Title against Leo Nomellini in San Francisco, with Thesz losing by disqualification. Even though Thesz was the officially recognized champion, because it was not uncommon for championships to change hands on a DQ in that era, some promoters did claim Nomellini was champion and booked him as such on their shows until Thesz defeated him in a rematch. In fact, Nomellini successfully defended his "championship" at least once.
There was a similar yet more prolonged situation in 1957, when Quebecois star Edouard Carpentier also beat Thesz by DQ and staked a claim to the title, which he held and defended for almost four months while Thesz was still acting as champion in other parts of the world. Ultimately, Thesz was given undisputed recognition as champion back when Carpentier and his manager left the NWA, and now his reign is not recognized in most modern title histories.
Moving on to 1962, Bruno Sammartino technically beat Buddy Rogers to win the NWA Title in Toronto on August 2, but Sammartino made the ultimate babyface move by refusing the championship because he did not think that it would be right to exploit an injury that Rogers suffered during the match which allowed Sammartino to pick up the victory. Of course, Sammartino and Rogers would go on to be involved in the first change of the WWWF Title (now the WWE World Heavyweight Title) a couple of years later.
But Jon didn't just ask about the NWA! Oh no, he also asked about the World Wrestling Federation and the American Wrestling Association. Let's see what we can dig up there.
The WWF played a fair number of games with its top championship as well. It all started in 1979, when Bob Backlund toured Japan as WWF Champion and apparently lost the belt in Tokushima to Antonio Inoki. The two men rematched a week later and Backlund first pinned Inoki off of the interference of his rival Tiger Jeet Singh, though the decision was changed to a no contest when officials overruled the referee, who had missed the run-in. The belt would have gone back to Inoki on a no contest, but he refused to accept it because . . . uh . . . fighting spirit or something. Back in the United States, Backlund beat Bobby Duncum Sr. to "win" the "vacant" title that most people in the U.S. never knew he lost. Though I swear that WWE has acknowledged Inoki's brief reign as official during some points in its history, the official title history up on WWE.com as of this writing does not acknowledge it.
Greg Valentine was once almost recognized as the WWF Champion, again as a result of a match with Backlund. In 1981 in Madison Square Garden, the referee was bumped in a Valentine/Backlund title match, and he was bumped so hard that he actually handed the Hammer the belt when Valentine acted like he had won the fall even though it was Backlund that pinned him. (I've never watched the match in question, but that finish sounds so, so remarkably stupid.) In any event, this was more of an angle to set up a rematch than anything else, and Valentine was never even arguably recognized as champion. Backlund did win the rematch, as you would expect.
Everybody reading this knows that, in 1988, Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title on Saturday Night's Main Event and attempted to "sell" the belt to Ted DiBiase, only for DiBiase's supposed reign to be nullified by President Jack Tunney. However, what you may not realize is that, though they were not nationally televised, there were official WWF shows that billed DiBiase as the champion. On February 6 and 7, DiBiase wrestled in tag matches and was acknowledged as champion during his entrance, and, on February 8, he actually had a singles match in Los Angeles in which he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in what was billed as a title defense.
Then we fast forward to the 1990's, when Owen Hart was actually the WWF Champion for all of one minute when he defeated brother Bret for the belt on August 17, 1994 in Portland, Maine off of interference from Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. However, the encounter was a lumberjack match, and the babyfaces surrounding the ring convinced the official to watch the tape to see the run-in. Of course, the ref bought into it, and the match was immediately restarted. Though I've never actually watched it and though it was not played up on WWF television at the time, the match was discussed in Vic Venom's column in WWF Magazine (Venom being an early pseudonym for Vince Russo - seriously) and was included on the Coliseum Home Video release "Wham, Bam, Bodyslam!"
And, finally, the AWA!
Our first entry for this promotion comes to us from Omaha, Nebraska, when "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods defeating AWA World Heavyweight Champion "Mad Dog" Maurice Vachon. Woods was billed as champion for almost a week, when his title reign was nullified by officials who realized that his foot was on the ropes for the title change. Interestingly, Vachon beat Woods the same day in a rematch, which leads me to question what the point of overturning the title reign in the first place was.
Then, in the early 1980s, Nick Bockwinkel's second and third reigns as champion were plagued by none other than Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster was declared champion first on April 18, 1982 in St. Paul and then again on January 10, 1983 in Minneapolis, though the victories were overturned for use of a foreign object and Bockwinkel being thrown over the top rope, respectively. In an interesting side note to these title reigns, during the mid-1990s, a former AWA employee named Dale Ganger (calling himself Dale Gange) essentially stole the name of the promotion and started running his own indy shows under the AWA banner, adopting the lineage of the old championships. In what can only be described as a publicity stunt, Ganger's group at one point put out a press release stating that his "AWA" was retroactively recognizing Hogan as a former World Champion based on the Bockwinkel matches that took place over ten years earlier.
Aaaaand, I think that just about does it. Before people go nuts in the comments section: Yes, I realize that there are plenty of examples of this occurring with secondary titles and regional titles as well, but I'm not going into those here because a) the question asked primarily about major championships and b) this answer has already gone on long enough.
There's a theme to Brian's questions . . . and it's themes:
I believe someone asked a couple of months back if Jim Johnston would make the Hall of Fame. I have a number of related questions regarding Johnston and themes in general.
Question 1. Clearly Johnston has authored the most theme songs in wrestling history (or at least most well-known, so as not for someone to trump me with a territorial days promoter who played his own bluegrass for wrestlers to enter to or something). Who has authored the SECOND most theme songs in wrestling history?
I'm not aware of any publically available source that would allow me to do a comprehensive search of writing credits for wrestling music, but, making an educated guess, I would have to say Jimmy Hart is the most likely candidate.
As many readers probably know, Hart was a music star before he was a wrestling star, being a part of the pop act The Gentrys in the mid-1960s. The group had a national hit with "Keep on Dancing," which I'm sure you've heard at least once if you think about it.
In wrestling, Hart penned music for both the WWF and WCW during his time with the companies. Probably the most recognizable song he created is "American Made," also known as the babyface theme for Hulk Hogan during his WCW run. That song, along with many others, came from the oft-mocked Hulk Rules album, which also featured one of my absolute favourite so-bad-it's-good songs in history, "Hulkster in Heaven." Jimmy's other notable WCW compositions include the themes for Three Count and the nWo Wolfpac.
The Mouth of the South was an even more prolific composer in the WWF, where his most noteworthy composition is Shawn Michaels' "Sexy Boy," on which he shares a co-writing credit with the aforementioned Jim Johnston. He also receives partial credit for Bret Hart's most iconic theme, and Ted DiBiase's ring music, among many others.
Question 2. What would you describe as the key factors to crafting a theme song that perfectly fits a wrestler?
Here's the secret to wrestlers' theme songs that I don't think many people realize: They don't actually have to be good songs in order to be good wrestling theme songs. Seriously. All you need is one good riff, hook, or sound effect that lasts for about ten to twenty seconds and captures the audience's attention from the first moment that they hear it. Beyond that point, you've got either crowd noise or commentary covering up the remainder of the song, so what the rest of it sounds like isn't too important.
In fact, that's one of the reasons why I don't care for a lot of wrestling theme CDs. Once you get past the first thirty seconds of many of the songs, the music tends to loop or otherwise not vary much. However, as noted above, there's not much incentive to create a fully fleshed-out song.
Question 3. How important do you think it is that tag-teams have their own theme songs as opposed to individual entrances?
I don't think it's important at all. If there's a song that does a good job of capturing the audience's attention and getting them to react, it doesn't matter if it was written for a single wrestler or a tag team.
Question 4a and b How often do you think a wrestlers theme song needs to be changed up? Is it important to change your theme when you flip from face to heel or vice versa?
It depends entirely on the situation. I don't think there's a real rule of thumb to follow. As long as a song is effective for its purpose (i.e. introducing the character), its use should continue. Sometimes that's six months and sometimes that's ten years. It all depends on when and how the character changes.
Question 5. How do you feel about theme songs for a stable of wrestlers? Does it help to promote the group or does it cost wrestlers their individual identity (for example, once Nexus got established, only Barrett developed an identity).
Again, it all depends on how effective the individual song is. If there's one awesome song that does a great job of setting wrestlers up, give it to the whole stable. After all, the nWo theme is iconic, and I don't think that anybody is going to argue that the angle or the wrestlers in it were less over because they were all using the same music.
Question 6. I know as fans we're supposed to accept when wrestlers shift from heels to faces and stop holding resentment toward the things that upset them as heels. But the fact that R-Truth has reverted back to his old theme music and singing the same song over it bothers me greatly, as this was a significant plot point for his serious character, and to my knowledge not something that was resolved by him specifically re-embracing the fans--he simply got hurt/beat up by Miz, they broke up, so now again he was a face, and the live singing came back eventually. Although it's not the most iconic of theme songs, R-Truth's motives were defined by his resentment for the theme he is again "choosing" to perform.
. . . is that a question?
Connor wonders why Ax was, well, axed . . .
Demolition were one of my favourite tag teams growing up. I always wondered whatever happened to Ax. It really wasn't the same when they added Crush. They seemed to lose that spark, and then Ax vanished, although I heard rumours he had a serious heart condition.
This is one of the few instances where we can get the answer directly from the source, as Bill Eadie, who played Ax, explains on his official website that his "health forced him to slow down." He does not directly state that he had a heart condition, but it was definitely a medical issue that first caused him to wrestle less in favour of Crush and ultimately depart the WWF altogether, finishing up after the December 1990 house show loop.
Despite health issues supposedly slowing Eadie's career, he immediately jumped to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he did tours throughout the first half of 1991, regularly teaming with the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow, Scott Norton, Chris Benoit, and Fit Finlay. His most regular partner became "Canadian Giant" Gary Robbins, who was billed at over 7' tall and still maintains an official website that is based mostly around his acting career.
Ax's next stop after NJPW was the short-lived Global Wrestling Federation, where he competed as Axis the Demolisher to skirt the WWF's claimed trademark on the Demolition Ax name. In 1993, he toured Austria with a promotion that is not particularly noteworthy, and then he went back to Japan for deathmatch promotion W*ING under his old Masked Superstar persona, forming a team with Dick Murdoch and facing off against the Headhunters, which sounds like a match I need to see immediately. As far as I know, from that point forward, it's been some fairly nondescript independent promotions for the Ax man, including forming a new version of Demolition with a wrestler named Blast, who has taken his ring name and turned it into a Christian-based motivational speaking business. Not kidding. In more recent years, the Bill Eadie/Barry Darsow Demolition team has reformed to do whatever legends shows they can find.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that Eadie also sued the WWF at one point during the 1990's, claiming that he created and therefore owned the rights to the Demolition gimmick. He was reportedly not successful, though I'm basing that one third-party reports and not review of legal documents.
Carl Rood gets by with a little help from his friends.
I got to thinking about how factions in wrestling work and how they defy real world common sense. The heels, who should be untrustworthy, all have each others' backs, while a face can get the crap beaten out of him without a peep from his "friends". Obviously, this reason for this is drama, but it started me thinking. Has there ever been a successful face faction that wasn't either a real life family or formed in response to a heel faction?
Sure. The one that immediately springs to mind is the Triple H-led version of D-Generation X formed the night after Wrestlemania XIV and consisting of HHH, along with Chyna, X-Pac, and the New Age Outlaws. They were definitely a babyface stable that fits your criteria.
Charlene is another fan of statistics.
a) Who has been in the most consecutive WrestleManias? I would think it'd be someone around Cena, Kane, Undertaker, or HHH, but I'm wondering if there's any midcard guys or anything that were able to sneak on to a good streak of making the show, but it also depends on if you count pre-show matches cause I know Kane had a pre-show match at 19.
Well, this took entirely too long to figure out. Thank you, internet, for not having an answer that I could easily google. Oh well, I guess now I'm providing that for the greater good.
Disclaimer: I tend not to count pre-show matches when I answer questions like this, so I'm not doing that here, either.
I guess it shouldn't be all that surprising that the answer to the question is the Undertaker. He has appeared on an amazing THIRTEEN consecutive Wrestlemanias, beginning at Wrestlemania XVII and continuing through last year's Wrestlemania XXIX. Of course, he also has numerous Wrestlemania appearances before that as well, including a run of three consecutive appearances beginning with his debut at Wrestlemania VII and then a streak of five appearances between Wrestlemanias XI and XV.
Finishing in second place is Bret Hart, who people might not necessarily think of because many of his early Wrestlemania appearances were as a midcard act. He's got twelve consecutive appearances, beginning at Wrestlemania II and ending with Wrestlemania XIII in 1997, the year his long absence from WWF/WWE began.
Triple H is just behind Hart with eleven straight Wrestlemania shots, which for him unfortunately begins with his being punked out by the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania XII. The streak came to an end when he missed Wrestlemania XXIII, at which he was rumoured to have been scheduled to face John Cena in a rematch of the prior year's main event before an injury took him out and lead to Shawn Michaels taking the spot.
Speaking of John Cena, he is also in double digits with ten straight appearances, as is his long-time and current rival Randy Orton. Joining them is Kane. Interestingly, all three men started their ten-show streaks at Wrestlemania XX, which means that they've appeared on every one of the Mania shows from 2004 through present day.
Since I had to do a ton of research on this, I'm not stopping with the top three. Here are some quick hits with more statistics:
Hulk Hogan has nine straight appearances, on Wrestlemanias I through IX.
Eight straight appearances: Tito Santana (starting at Wrestlemania); Shawn Michaels (starting at Wrestlemania V); The Rock (starting at Wrestlemania XIII) and Shawn Michaels again (starting at Wrestlemania XIX).
Seven straight appearances: Randy Savage and Jake Roberts (starting at Wrestlemania II); Kurt Angle (starting at Wrestlemania XVI); Edge (starting at Wrestlemania XXI); and CM Punk (starting at Wrestlemania XXIII).
Six straight appearances: Brutus Beefcake and Andre the Giant (starting at Wrestlemania); Jim Neidhart and Hercules Hernandez (starting at Wrestlemania II); Rick Martel (starting at Wrestlemania III); Ted DiBiase Sr. (starting at Wrestlemania IV); Owen Hart (starting at Wrestlemania X); Chris Jericho (starting at Wrestlemania XVI); and Big Show and a second streak by Triple H (starting at Wrestlemania XXIV).
Five straight appearances: Greg Valentine (starting at Wrestlemania); Demolition Smash a.k.a. Repo Man (starting at Wrestlemania IV); Kane again (starting at Wrestlemania XIV); and Shelton Benjamin and Chris Benoit (starting at Wrestlemania XIX).
Four straight appearances: Ricky Steamboat, Junkyard Dog, and Nikolai Volkoff (starting at Wrestlemania); Dino Bravo, Ultimate Warrior, and Haku (starting at Wrestlemania IV); Big Boss Man (starting at Wrestlemania V); Yokozuna (starting at Wrestlemania IX); Goldust and Steve Austin (starting at Wrestlemania XII); Mick Foley (starting at Wrestlemania XIII); Matt Hardy (starting at Wrestlemania XVI); Rey Misterio Jr. (starting at Wrestlemania XIX); Fit Finlay (starting at Wrestlemania XXII); MVP (starting at Wrestlemania XXIII); Kofi Kingston (starting at Wrestlemania XXV); and Dolph Ziggler (starting at Wrestlemania XXVI).
Charlene also asked several other questions regarding Wrestlemania statistics, but that one took so long that I'm going to leave those for Mat to deal with. Good luck, big guy.
The Christmas Creature of Habit has a hybrid of factual and opinion questions that you'd think would prevent him from appearing in this section, but, like Mills Lane, "I'll allow it."
1. Is what seems to be obvious as obvious as we believe it seems? Are Punk and Bryan this timeframe's Guerrero and Benoit, or is there something that doesn't match that analogy (outside of the obvious differences in behaviour away from the mat)?
I don't believe that analogy works, for two reasons.
If you follow the trajectories of Benoit and Guerrero, they started off working in smaller promotions in North America. Then, they became huge stars in major promotions internationally, with both guys getting over like gangbusters in New Japan and being cornerstones of their red-hot junior heavyweight division, Guerrero being involved in one of the hottest angles of all time in Mexico for AAA, and Benoit also having some success in Mexico though not quite to the same degree. They both had brief stopovers in ECW before signing with WCW, at the time primed to become the largest wrestling promotion in the world, where they were criminally underutilized despite getting very over with the company's fans. Then, they both jumped to the WWF, where they were in fairly respectable upper-midcard/lower main event positions during the waning days of the Attitude Era before moving up true main event positions a few years later when the top stars of the Attitude Era were being phased out.
In that brief synopsis, I think there were two things that combined with the remarkable talent of Benoit and Guerrero to result in them being so beloved by "smart" fans: the first is the fact that they were major international stars who had proven that they could work in big league promotions before debuting the American big leagues. The second is that they were perceived as being held down by "the man" in WCW.
I think that both of those aspects are missing from the career stories of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. Yes, both men competed internationally, but not with the same level of success that Benoit and Guerrero had. Daniel Bryan did have decent runs in both New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH, but they were mostly at down times for those promotions and he wasn't nearly as big there as Benoit or even Guerrero. Heck, Punk didn't have any Japanese career of note aside from an unremarkable tour or two with ZERO1.
Also, I have a hard time believing that either Punk or Daniel was ever really "held back" in a big league promotion, at least not to the degree that Benoit and Guerrero were. Yes, we've all heard rumours about company brass or main event wrestlers in WWE knocking the indy darlings, at least early in their runs, and we were all a bit frustrated by the amount of time that they had to spend in developmental despite their obvious talents. However, if you chart both men's ascensions up the card in WWE, it's been a pretty solid upward curve. As much as people like to claim Bryan was "buried" by losing to Sheamus in eighteen seconds at Wrestlemania, the fact of the matter is that he was the WORLD CHAMPION coming into that bout and the company immediately capitalized on the extremely positive crowd reaction he received and has continued to capitalize on it ever since.
So, no, I don't think Punk and Bryan are equivalents of Benoit and Guerrero. Their stories don't parallel all that well if you examine them closely. Also, though some of this is obviously subjective, I don't think that Punk is in the same class as Benoit and Guerrero when it comes to being an in-ring performer. Don't get me wrong, I still think that he's very good, but I think he's a notch below guys like Guerrero, Benoit, and Bryan. However, he's definitely a better promo than either Benoit or Guerrero, so he may be more of a complete package as a WWE-style wrestler.
2. For the last year and a half we've heard arguments be made that WM 30 had to be bigger or special or have a great deal of sentimental throwback value to the previous eras. I can't say the WM 29 card did anything to dispel that, but otherwise, do we have any evidence this show is going to be treated any differently? Few of the "proposed" matches have much historical context, there aren't (yet) a bevy of legends lined up to be there, and they even dropped the whole NYC every ten years thing by doing it in Jersey last year, not this year. Is this something we've all come to assume, with little to back it up?
Current reports are that Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Ric Flair are all going to have roles on the show, and we're also probably going to see other part-timers like Triple H, Brock Lensar, and the Undertaker in the ring. Plus, though the Creature's question probably came in long before this, we now know that the Ultimate Warrior will be returning to the promotion for the first time in almost twenty years to go into the Hall of Fame.
So, yeah, there's going to be plenty of sentimentality on this show.
3. When big guys pin little guys, it should be in theory harder to kick out. Is that ever shown/noted/considered in professional wrestling? The only two aspects I can think of are when a giant-type individual is being pinned by a very small wrestler he will often throw the man off while kicking out, or when a large man has knocked a guy out and so he pins him by simply stepping his foot on top.
I can think of a few additional spots used to put this idea over:
1. The inside cradle or school boy, which is portrayed as a way that a small wrestler can catch a larger wrestler off guard and beat him with a "flash" pin.
2. Large men having to be hit with several big moves, essentially knocked out before they can be pinned by somebody smaller.
3. Fat dudes just flat-out sitting on people to pin them.
Also, though it doesn't necessarily relate to pin attempts, there have been many instances in which wrestlers with submission finishes have been going up against larger opponents with announcers speculating as to whether the big guy's proportions are such that he can't be caught in the hold. For example, I remember this being mentioned regularly when Bret Hart would face Yokozuna and attempt the Sharpshooter.
4. To me, there always seemed to be two steps necessary in re-establishing the legitimacy of the IC, US, and Tag titles.
The WWE seems to have done a better job recently with the first, longer reigns, with just one title change in the last six months for the tag and IC titles and no title changes for the US. I know that can be tough to accomplish with so many PPV and TV matches, but they seem to have come through. They'd actually done a decent job of this even before this year, saving for a few transitional champs: Cesaro held the belt for 2/3 of a year and Marella 1/2 of a year before that; Barrett held the belt for nearly half a year, minus one pre-show swap; and the previous tag reigns before the shield each lasted 245, 139, 106, and 146 days.
However, the other step is having most title changes come on PPV. If you want people to care about the titles, the changes have to come at the end of a promotional period, either the midpoint or endpoint of a rivalry, and with people actually "paying" for the match. However, the 'E swapped the tag titles to the Brotherhood on Raw to boost the fans who were unhappy about the ending on the PPV, and/or to promote the angle the Big Show was in at the time (JBL sure keeps reminding us about his role in the Shield's loss). They gave Big E the IC title on Raw, which they seemed to have owed him, but didn't wait just another week to have the match on Survivor Series (a show where there was little chance the other two titles up for grabs were going to change hands). Kofi won the title on Raw, but seemingly just to ensure Ambrose would have a face to torment and win the belt off. To wit, this decade:
Tag Titles: 10 changes on free tv; four changes on PPV; and one change on a house show
IC Title: 9 changes on free tv; one change on a PPV pre-show; six changes on PPV;
Us Title: 8 changes on free tv (including a vacancy); six changes on PPV (to reach back to 2009, the US title once changed holders seven consecutive titles on free TV, and didn't change hands on PPV for 26 months)
Do you see this changing? Do you think it de-values the titles, particularly in comparison to the 1/2 big belts, which only change hands on tv during a MiTB cash-in?
No, I don't think that changing secondary titles on television necessarily devalues them. I think them. I think that secondary titles are devalued far more by other practices of WWE, specifically:
1. Secondary champions regularly being beaten by guys who are higher up on the card in non-title matches.
2. Secondary champions regularly being beaten by guys who are on the same level on the card in order to set up title matches.
3. Secondary champions not actually being elevated by their reigns. Instead, the titles just get swapped back and forth between wrestlers who are apparently always going to be stuck on the same level, like the Miz and Kofi Kingston.
All of those are much bigger issues than whether the championships are exchanged on television or pay per view. In fact, I think that free TV title changes can be effective from time-to-time, especially as it relates to secondary titles being used to get younger guys over, just because there are so many more people watching a free television match than there are a pay per view match.
Duane Duane (not to be confused with Gill Gill) wants to do the Texas two-step:
On September 11, 1997, ECW and WWF (seemingly) co-promoted a show in Amarillo, TX billed as WrestleFest: 50 Years of Funk. The show was meant to feature Terry Funk's final match in Amarillo (it wasn't!), where he challenged then-WWF champion, Bret Hart.
The show was made up mostly of ECW talent, but also featured stars from Japan, and an inter-promotional match between Mankind and Sabu. It was also notable for having clips of it featured on Beyond the Mat, and is the show that spawned the Dennis Stamp meme.
My questions are, who actually promoted the show? Who put it together? And who owns the rights to it? It was filmed, and initially available through ECW's website on VHS (with Joey Styles on commentary). There's now a DVD set from RF video. If it was actually cross promoted by ECW and WWF, it seems that it would belong to WWE now, but that doesn't appear to be the case. How did RF get their hands on it? Also, I was pretty sure WWE owned the name Wrestlefest. Coliseum Video released WWF match compilations under that name, not to mention the classic arcade game from Technos (and a recent iOS remake from THQ).
Besides my questions about the show, I'd also be interested in any other details you stumble upon.
My understanding is that Terry Funk's Wrestlefest was essentially an independent show promoted by Funk, featuring talent that he obtained as a result of having strong relationships with ECW, the Hart family, Mick Foley, and FMW in Japan. Sometimes it gets labelled as an ECW show online, but I believe that is mainly a result of people looking at the lineup and seeing it features mostly ECW talent as opposed to the northeast-based promotion being responsible for putting together this show, which took place in the Funker's home town of Amarillo.
As far as who owns the rights to the show is concerned, I don't know who actually owns the rights to the master tapes. However, if RF Video is selling it (and, per their website, they still are), they in all likelihood have the legal right to do so, because the site has essentially gone legit and isn't bootlegging other people's products anymore. I expect that, regardless of who owns the master tapes, the arrangement that allows RF to continue selling the show is the same sort of arrangement that allows RF to continue selling some ECW footage despite the fact that those master tapes would now at least in theory be owned by WWE. RF Video would have entered into a licensing agreement with ECW prior to the promotion folding that allowed them to sell the footage, and that agreement would have been worded in such a way that it survived the death of ECW and requires WWE as the new owner of the masters to allow it to continue. It's similar to the situation that allows ESPN to still periodically show old AWA footage on its networks without WWE approval despite WWE owning the AWA library. The agreement entered into with the AWA at the time said ESPN could continue to air the footage into the future (and may even give ESPN some degree of ownership), and there's nothing that WWE can do to block it without entering into a new deal with the network.
Regarding the name Wrestlefest, a basic search on the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office shows that the World Wrestling Federation registered the trademark "WWF Wrestlefest" in 1993 and allowed the trademark to lapse in 2000. They filed an application to register the trademark "Wrestlefest" again in 2011, and it appears that application is still pending. (It takes a while for these things to be finalized.) So, WWE is currently claiming ownership of the Wrestlefest name and definitely owned it in 1997 when the Funk show took place. Though I haven't confirmed this anywhere, I think it is reasonably safe to assume that the show was allowed to go on as named despite the WWF's trademark because the company wasn't nearly as protective of its intellectual property at the time, and they definitely weren't going to take a hard stance against Funk, who they've always been on good terms with as far as I know, particularly when they're already allowing their champion and Mick Foley to perform on the show and particularly when Wrestlefest isn't exactly the most iconic of WWF marks.
Brian Walcott is a Young Lion of puroresu fandom:
I'm watching New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 8 and I have one simple question. Is there a tradition behind the black trunks no kneepads look? I don't understand a lick of Japanese so my theory is that it has something to do with the level of experience. Like all rookies have to wear black trunks and no kneepads and they have to earn their own unique attires. Is my theory anywhere near accurate?
Your theory is pretty damn close to correct. Recent graduates from the New Japan dojo, sometimes referred to as "Young Lions" are given pretty generic looks right out of the gate and typically spend a couple of years wrestling in opening and second matches, both facing each other and mixing it up with more experienced stars in either singles or tag competition. Also, for reasons that even I don't fully understand, you often see young wrestlers in this position go down in defeat to some variation of a crab hold (or Boston crab in the U.S.).
Of course, there are also some fairly prominent Japanese wrestlers who wear plain black trunks (and even sometimes no kneepads) who AREN'T Young Lions. Minoru Suzuki immediately springs to mind. There, it's not a case of experience so much as it is a wrestler not having come up through the traditional NJPW dojo system or just deciding that look is the best one for him.
A couple of other things that you might be interested in knowing are: 1) what happens when the Young Lion is ready to graduate to a more meaningful role in the promotion and 2) what the rookies are doing before they even reach Young Lion status.
We'll take the second aspect first. Obviously, before competing as Young Lions, the rookies are training in New Japan's official dojo. However, what you might not realize if you're new to the puroresu scene is that trainees and young wrestlers often act as seconds to more experienced stars during major matches. So, if you're watching footage and see a main eventer heading out to the ring flanked by a bunch of athletic, younger looking men (often in matching tracksuits if we go back to the 90s), those are typically wrestlers-in-training, often referred to at this stage of their careers as "young boys." This makes for a fun game when you go back and watch historic puro footage, as you can look at the main eventers' seconds and try to pick out who the future stars are, many of whom look much different in this role than they do in the later portions of their career.
What happens when a young boy has progressed to being a Young Lion and is then ready to take the next step? In most cases, New Japan sends them away for an "excursion" of about a year, maybe two, in which the young wrestler travels to a foreign country and continues to learn to wrestle there in whatever promotion will take them. This is why the Great Muta first came to North America to wrestle during the late 1980s, or, in a more recent example, why the tag team of NO LIMIT (Tetsuya Naito & Yujiro Takahashi) spent 2009 and 2010 in TNA and CMLL. If you watched Wrestle Kingdom VIII, you saw the new masked character El Desperado debut and challenge Kota Ibushi to an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match, and Desperado is actually Kyosuke Mikami, a New Japan trainee who just returned from his excursion to Mexico.
So, that's the long and short young wrestlers in New Japan.
One Man's (Important) Opinion
Anthler asks about a question near and dear to my heart:
If the WWE had the opportunity to sign Hiroshi Tanahashi, a definite draw in Japan, would they sign him and push him to the moon (or at least as hard as ADR) to capitalize on the Japanese market, or do they think signing him will have a negligible effect on their Japanese sales?
Hey, more Japan!
I think that if WWE wanted a Japanese star that they could push in an effort to draw in that country, they would have had one by now. Though New Japan has had a resurgence in terms of popularity and business over the last few years, the fact of the matter is that the wrestling business in Japan is not doing nearly as well as it was fifteen years ago, and I'd be willing to bet that just about anybody in any company in the country could make more money in WWE (even if many would not jump ship out of loyalty to their home promotions). So, there would be SOMEBODY they could snap up, even if it's not Tanahashi.
After all, the promotion does have a Japanese-born, Japanese-trained wrestler on their roster: Yoshi Tatsu. Tatsu, though obviously not on the level of the elite performers in NJPW right now, is more than talented enough to hang with the current crop of WWE main eventers, and he's barely even seen on c-level television shows like Main Event.
Night Wolf the Wise (who if I recall correctly has been around these parts for quite some time), chimes in with two opinion questions:
1. There's a question that has bothered me for awhile. Do you think it would have made better sense for the Rock to have faced John Cena before he left WWE in 2003? I mean did them waiting almost 10 years to face each other really do anything? I mean John Cena was already established as the Face of the WWE and he had nobody hand him the torch. And really it should have made sense for Stone Cold to face John Cena to hand him the torch because Austin was the Face of the WWE, not the Rock.
John Cena facing the Rock in 2003 would have made no sense, because Cena wasn't WWE's chosen one in 2003. He debuted with the company during June 2002 and didn't start doing the "white rapper" gimmick - which is what lead to his upward ascent - until Halloween 2003. In between those two dates, though he had early feuds with Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho, he was mostly a very low card Smackdown wrestler, appearing mostly on Velocity and feuding with Billy Kidman of all people. Simply put, he was not yet in a position where a feud with the Rock would have been meaningful.
What WWE and the Rock did do is have Rocky put over Brock Lesnar on his way out the door (on a full-time basis, anyway) at Summerslam 2002, which is the move that made the most sense at the time given that Brock was at that point presumably going to have a long career as a main eventer for the company.
EDIT/CORRECTION: A commenter pointed out after the column originally went up that I have my timeframe confused a bit and Cena actually adopted the rapper character in 2002. He's correct. However, my overall point in the original answer still stands - Cena wasn't really elevated to a level where having him face the Rock would have made sense until after the Rock left, i.e. in late 2003/2004.
2. Vince McMahon gets pissed when a wrestler not named John Cena brings in low ratings. I mean its his own fault. Triple H ruined the Summer of Punk, and Triple H ruined the Summer of Daniel Bryan. Both those wrestlers were red hot during their respective runs. The fans were behind them like you would not believe, then the WWE screws it up. So yeah the fans are going to be pissed and yeah the WWE is going to get low ratings. So why doesn't Vince McMahon listen to the WWE Universe? Don't you think they deserve to get their voices heard? He has no right to be pissed when its his own fault.
I think that a lot of internet fans fall into the trap of confusing loud crowd responses in arenas to the type of popularity that will cause people to tune into a television show or buy a pay per view. They're not always the same thing, and, if you're going to talk about how a wrestler should be pushed based solely on his pop, you're not looking a the whole picture.
Aaaaaand, with all of that said, it's time for me to check out. Mathew will be back in just seven days. Thank you for indulging me.