Ask 411 Wrestling When Was Triple H at His Most Over?

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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Kyle is all about the game:

I was dipping in and out of WWE TV during most of his time on top, but it seems to me Triple H was only ever over when he was coasting on someone elses heat (first with Shawn Michaels in DX, then with the huge baby faces of the Attitude Era, then with various factions). Whats the most over hes ever been on his own, without the aid of a faction or a significantly more over opponent like Austin, Rock or Cena?

I would say that the answer has to be early 2002, when he returned at the Royal Rumble following the torn quadriceps and subsequent surgery that kept him out of action for the majority of 2001 and the entire Invasion angle. The WWF did a great job of building up his comeback, making him seem like a legitimate tough guy with supreme dedication to the wrestling industry as a result of the fact that he gutted through the match in which he was injured and got to the planned finish. That’s the sort of thing that wrestling fans, particularly during that era, were really going to get behind.

(As an aside, I would say that if this return were booked for 2020, it would almost assuredly be done as a surprise in the Royal Rumble match instead of getting built up on television first, which wouldn’t have been near as effective. There are some things in wrestling that are significantly better when you know that they’re coming.)

Unfortunately for Trips, when he was in the upswing of what could have been the biggest run of his career, he was overshadowed by the return and subsequent babyface turn of Hulk Hogan, who sucked all of the air out of the room and as his match with the Rock was the true main event of Wrestlemania XVIII. Of course, Hogan then defeated the Game for the WWE Championship just over a month after he took it off of Chris Jericho at Mania.

Tyler from Winnipeg is keeping his question simple this week:

Who’s the tallest wrestler?

That depends on what your definition of wrestler is.

If you’re talking about somebody who has worked matches on a fairly consistent basis for several years, the answer probably won’t come as much of a surprise to many of our readers. It’s most likely Jorge Gonzalez, who wrestled in WCW and New Japan as El Gigante before going to the WWF under the name Giant Gonzalez. Though WWF billed him as eight feet tall, in reality he was 7’6, which was documented in the professional basketball career he had before getting caught up in wrestling. In fact, WCW would only ever bill him as 7’7, as he had gotten mainstream publicity in Atlanta after being signed by their NBA team, so they didn’t think they could artificially increase his height as they do with most wrestlers.

The only other regular professional wrestler who I have seen with a legit height being listed anywhere close to that of Gonzalez is Max Palmer, a big man from Mississippi who worked all over the country from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, sometimes wrestling under his real name but more frequently being billed as Paul Bunyan. Some of Palmer’s clippings billed him at over 8′ tall, but more legitimate sources seem to peg him as being around 7’7, essentially the same height as Gonzalez.

However, if you take a broader definition of wrestler and include anybody who has ever set foot into a ring, then the distinction of being the tallest wrestler ever might got to Edouard Beaupre, who hailed from Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan, Canada and mostly made his living on the circus and freak show circuit but did have at least one documented professional wrestling match on March 25, 1901 against strongman Louis Cyr according to the Montreal Gazette. Beaupre is listed as 8’2 by some sources and 8’3 by others. I’m a bit suspect of that number simply because it’s from the early 20th Century when fact checking was more difficult and circus promoters exaggerated just about as much as wrestling promoters, but I also have not seen anything definitively stating that Beaupre was shorter than his billed height.

Dylan is looking for the master of the WWE Universe:

I believe that The Brian Kendrick has had matches on Raw, Smackdown, NXT, NXT UK and 205 Live. Has anyone else accomplished this feat?

First off, by way of confirmation, Dyan is absolutely correct about Brian Kendrick. Obviously he had numerous Raw and Smackdown matches when he was part of WWE’s main roster in the 2000s, and he was one of the featured performers in the early days of 205 Live, including losing the Cruiserweight Title to Rich Swann in the main event of the first episode. He also wrestled Finn Balor on an episode of NXT taped on February 12, 2015 and had two matches for NXT UK, one against Travis Banks on January 17 of this year and A-Kid on January 18.

There are three guys who kind of qualify if you cheat. The first two are Finn Balor and Cesaro, who have been all over Raw and Smackdown in addition to being NXT regulars at different points. Cesaro has had one match for NXT UK (vs. Ilja Dragunov on August 31, 2019) while Balor has had two (vs. Alexander Wolfe on March 6, 2020 and vs. Kenny Williams on March 7, 2020). However, the cheating comes into play when you try to say that they’ve wrestled on 205 Live. They’ve never been on the show proper, but they’ve both been in dark matches that followed 205 Live tapings, meaning they’ve technically wrestled in a 205 Live ring, just not on television.

The third guy who can qualify through this loophole is Alexander Wolfe, who has been a regular in both the U.S. and U.K. versions of NXT in addition to having matches on Smackdown during Sanity’s painfully short main roster run. He also wrestled once on Raw on November 8, 2019, teaming with the rest of Imperium against Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and the Street Profits. He was also in one post-205 Live dark match as Sanity fought the New Day to a double DQ on July 8, 2018.

This brings us to one last person, one person who has wrestled on all five shows with no cheating necessary. He’s the only man other than Brian Kendrick to accomplish this feat, and he is:

Oney Lorcan.

Almost everybody reading this will know of Lorcan’s work on NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live. His appearances on Raw and Smackdown have been less frequent, but they’ve been there. On the April 6, 2020 Raw, he and regular partner Danny Burch lost to Cedric Alexander and Ricochet, and the next week Lorcan was in singles action, losing to Aleister Black. On the Smackdown side, he’s had two matches, one of which was a loss to Kalisto on November 15, 2016 and the other being a bit of a surprise a loss to the Great Khali on December 29, 2009 in a match where Lorcan was billed as The Carolina Panther and wore that football team’s jersey in a play for cheap heat.

DangerBones (yes, really) has me outnumbered:

Do you know of any time where there has been a triple threat handicap match? Or for a clearer view, any 3 team match with varying amounts of team members? And I’m guessing it’s a no, so why hasn’t anyone thought of a 2 vs 3 vs 4 triple threat tag team tornado elimination match?

Yes, there have been handicap matches involving multiple teams. The example that came to my mind immediately upon reading this question was the fourth-ever TLC match in history, which took place on the October 7, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw. It was supposed to feature World Tag Team Champions Kane and the Hurricane defending their titles against the teams of Christian & Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy & Rob Van Dam, and Bubba Ray & Spike Dudley. However, before the match could happen, the Hurricane suffered an injury, leaving Kane to go it alone against three teams of two men each. He won as well, because this was part of the mega-push that saw him feuding with Triple H over the World Heavyweight Title before the Katie Vick angle derailed everything.

APinOZ is looking to have me cross over with another column on this very website:

I set myself a project to watch the weekly Mid-South show on the Network, which Adam Nedeff is currently reviewing. It’s quite probably the best weekly TV show I’ve seen!

However, on the Network the show basically stops at the end of 1985, except for a couple of random shows in early 1986. My question is, what happened to all the other shows? Mid-South ran right up to the end of 1987 I believe, albeit with a name-change to Universal Wrestling Federation. Does WWE not own the rights to Mid-South shows after ’85? This gets further muddied because there are a number of matches that appear on the WWE-produced DVD release “Legends of Mid South Wrestling” that occur AFTER 1985.

The answer is that the Mid-South tape library WWE purchased had some holes in it.

WWE’s acquisition of the library took place in 2012, and the person that WWE bought it off of was Ene Watts. Who is Ene Watts, you ask? She is the ex-wife of Bill Watts, the owner and promoter of the classic Mid-South territory. Why did WWE buy the tape library from Bill Watts’ ex-wife instead of the big Cowboy himself, you ask? Because she became the owner of the library as part of her divorce settlement with Bill.

Ene, who was assisted by her son Micah, actually held out on selling to WWE for several years, as they tried to go into business for themselves, selling Mid-South DVDs on their own, independently run website. However, at a certain point, their sales leveled off, and handing the tapes over to the McMahon family was the only rational business decision.

The acquisition by WWE was such big news in wrestling circles at the time that it actually got a lengthy write-up in the June 18, 2012 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. According to the Observer, the materials WWE purchased included almost every episode of Mid-South’s flagship TV show from 1981 to 1985 and the b-show Power Pro Wrestling from 1984 to 1985. Also included was quite a bit of raw house show footage and some UWF shows from 1986 and 1987 but not the complete collection, with several of those shows just consisting of unedited match footage.

So the answer appears to be that the shows AP is missing on the WWE Network were just never purchased by WWE. Why were those shows not included in the Ene Watts’ collection? That part isn’t as clear. The only explanation that I can think of is that it has something to do with how the Watts’ divorce played out, either with the award of library to her excluding some footage or with Bill just not finding some of the tapes in time to hand them over to her.

The Observer went on to report that whatever was left of the library that did not go to Ene Watts, including much of the last year of the UWF, was given away by Bill Watts to Brian Last (yes, the guy who co-hosts Jim Cornette’s podcast) with Last paying only the cost of shipping. Last in turn handed those tapes off to Bob Barnett and David Bixenspan, who converted many of them to DVD. For what it’s worth, Last told the Observer that he felt he was just acquiring the physical tapes from Watts and not distribution rights, so, if that theory holds, the shows missing from the WWE Network are likely just in the hands of a private collector and may not see the light of day for a very long time.

Uzoma is decking the halls:

Since the 2020 WWE Hall of Fame might become the 2021 WWE Hall of Fame, do you think Undertaker will headline the 2022 class instead?

I haven’t read anything definitive about this, but my prediction is that this will depend largely on the availability of Dave Bautista. There are only so many wrestlers left in the world who can credibly headline a HOF ceremony. Batista and the Undertaker are two of them, and, given that headliners are in short supply, I have a hard time believing that the company will want to blow through two of them in the same year. Thus, I think that they will stick with the 2020 lineup for 2021 unless for some reason 2020’s planned main event, Batista, has another commitment during the weekend of the ceremony.

Bryan wants to talk about the one thing that may outlive Keith Richards and cockroaches:

An opinion question I have, are you surprised TNA impact has had a longer lifespan than WCW did? They have previously employed some of the same people blamed for WCWs death, and despite not having Ted Turners money, still exist. Any theories on how they have lasted this long?

I can tell you exactly how TNA has lasted this long.

When the company was initially founded, its primary television show was a weekly pay per view series. This was a shockingly bad business model, because PPV typically doesn’t work without some sort of free television to promote the shows and drive viewers to purchase them. Aside from their syndicated Xploision program, which debuted five months after the original PPV series, TNA had no way of convincing people that their main product ought to be purchased aside from internet word of mouth, a model that had never worked historically and still has never worked.

It didn’t work in TNA, either. The promotion was losing money hand over first and on the verge of bankruptcy until Dixie Carter, who had been working for the company doing P.R., told the promotion that she would talk to her father Bob about whether he would use his significant financial resources to bankroll it. Even with that backing and eventually obtaining a strong television deal on SpikeTV, the company was reportedly never profitable, and after losing Spike they were forced on to progressively worse television networks until they were saved again through a buyout by Anthem Sports & Entertainment.

When it became clear that Pop TV, which was airing TNA at the time of the Anthem acquisition, no longer wanted the program on their station, Anthem approached AXS television about picking up the television rights to the series. AXS declined, so Anthem was left with no choice but to move TNA to Pursuit, a television network owned by Anthem which primarily airs hunting programs and which nobody had ever heard of before.

As a result of initial conversations between Anthem and AXS about TNA joining the station, negotiations for Anthem to outright purchase AXS began, and the resulted in a deal. This in turn resulted in TNA getting a timeslot on AXS, even thought he network had rejected them before the two companies came under common ownership. According to reporting that broke in October of this year, TNA is drawing about 150,000 viewers per episode of Impact these days, down to about 10% of what their audience was during the height of their SpikeTV run. Though some still call them a major promotion because of their history and the fact that they do have some level of cable television distribution, the group is basically a glorified indy promotion.

So the history of TNA is that it started with a business model that never should have worked. In fact, it didn’t work, and they had to find somebody to pump money into them to keep them alive until eventually they did hit it big with a major television deal. Even then, they couldn’t turn the company in to what it ought to have been, and it only survived because they were willing to accept deals with progressively worse television networks and ultimately got bought out by a new parent company that bought a television network to put them on when nobody else wanted to air their show.

If WCW was willing to continue its existence as a promotion substantially smaller than what it was at its most popular, they probably could have cobbled together a last-minute deal with a fly-by-night cable network that was pretty high up on the dial, but as a subsidiary of Time Warner the owners had no incentive to do that, and the buyers who were interested at the end were interested because they thought that they could make the sort of money that could be obtained from running on the Turner networks. Thus, there was no incentive to run the company at anything other than a high level, whereas to a certain extent TNA has always seemed comfortable with the notion of existing just for the sake of existing, regardless of how much money they were actually making.

To loop back around to the original question, that means I’m not really surprised by TNA having a longer lifespan than WCW, because they’ve demonstrated a willingness to carry on no matter how small they get, whereas many other promotions would just voluntarily fold if they had to take the sort of tumble that TNA did.

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].

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