Ask 411 Wrestling: Was a Ladder Match Suggested For Survivor Series 1997?

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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Michael hears the dong:

I know the Taker vs. Fake Taker Mania match is justifiably disdained, but do you think with some minor tweaks it could’ve worked?

Personally, I liked the concept of the fake Taker, but I think by making him an exact mirror of the real Taker’s then ring style it was doomed as Taker was just the slow, plodding dead man with limited moves.

I think if fake Taker had an ultra aggressive ring style and moved like a normal wrestler it could’ve worked. Then at Mania it’s the real Taker overcoming yet another monster, this time, his evil alter ego. Maybe have DiBaise turn on Brian Lee (Fake Taker) for losing, then Lee destroys DiBaise and either turns face or stays a tweener who still wants to prove he can beat Taker but as himself? Or they keep the Fake Taker gimmick and have him keep destroying dudes until they have a final match(probably a casket match)?

Point being, I think the angle had better options than what we got and perhaps could’ve branched out into something else than just a one and done.

The problem with the angle had little to do with the in-ring style of the wrestlers. It had everything to do with the fact that it made it impossible for anyone with more than five functional brain cells to suspend disbelief. I know that there are some folks who let goofy stuff slide when it comes to the Undertaker, but I’ve never been one of them, particularly given the cognitive whiplash it caused when you also had Bret Hart headlining the company at the same time and trying to promote a somewhat realistic style of wrestling.

I think that you could book a version of the UT vs. UT story that would work, but it would take some doing. So, indulge me, as I attempt to save one of the most infamously bad storylines in professional wrestling history.

The issues with the story began with the way that the Undertaker was written out of the WWF at the 1994 Royal Rumble, when every heel on the show destroyed him and he then “ascended from the heavens,” which you can’t even explain away as Taker playing mind games with his opponents because he would have to have known the bad guys were going to attack and bury him in a very specific way in order to set up the special effects that followed.

I’ve got no problem with all the goon squad uniting to take out Taker, but I would remove all the supernatural gaga and Marty Jannetty in a harness. Just have the Dead Man vanish after the attack and have the announcers explain that nobody knows where he’s gone and if he’ll ever be back.

After a couple of months, Ted DiBiase can start promoting the fact that the Undertaker will be returning and that the Million Dollar Man will be in his corner. Then Brian Lee does show up, and he does wrestle as DiBiase’s Undertaker.

How would I do this differently than what actually happened?

In my version of the story, nobody actually believes Ted DiBiase has the real Undertaker. As soon as Lee walks out, every babyface announcer immediately says this is a different guy, a knockoff of the genuine article. Even DiBiase wouldn’t pretend it’s the same man. He might not explicitly say this isn’t the original Undertaker, but, when confronted about the difference between the two, he could say something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter WHO he is, it matters that he’s the only Undertaker here, and he’s the best Undertaker you’ve ever seen. [Insert Million Dollar Man laugh.]”

In other words, rather than making the story about whether some kind of zombie clone is walking around, you’re making it about the opportunistic heel manager trying to cash in on a popular character when the genuine article is on the shelf.

Then, you can announce the real Undertaker will in fact be at Summerslam to face DiBiase’s Undertaker and end him, which makes clear what the match is supposed to be. It is explicitly the real Undertaker versus the Million Dollar Man’s impostor, not a match promoted as Undertaker versus Undertaker with the announcers and others speculating as to what exactly that means.

Of course, I would also extricate all of the spooky lights and smoke from the match itself and 86 the Leslie Nielsen skits, no matter how much I liked the Naked Gun movies.

And that’s my take. I’d still probably just avoid doing Taker/Taker altogether, but this would make it more palatable.

Tyler from Winnipeg is next:

Who wrote Goldberg’s music?

I assume you’re talking about Goldberg’s original WCW theme, since that’s the music that is still probably most associated with the character.

One of the things that some may not know about Goldberg’s theme is that it wasn’t actually written for professional wrestling. It was a piece of production music. Production music, for those not in the know, is music that is written not as popular music but rather written by companies whose entire business model is based around licensing songs to TV and film studios for use as background or incidental music in their productions, all at a rate significantly cheaper than using pop songs.

Many WCW theme songs during the Monday Night War era were production music, including the tunes used not just for Goldberg but also Rey Misterio Jr. and Chris Benoit. The WWF also got in on the game, as themes for the Holly cousins and also an early Hardy Boys theme were production tracks.

With all that said, Goldberg’s theme is a track entitled “Invasion,” which originally appeared on a 1994 collection of production music entitled “Heroic Adventure” and marketed as consisting of songs meant to evoke action and high drama films. The collection was released by a French company called Kosinus, and the composers are listed as Christian Poulet and Jean-Yves Rigo.

Bryan asks a Montreal question, but at least it’s an original one:

Do you think the TV show The Young Rock, is ever going to reenact Montreal? Or is it forbidden? I know the Rock wasn’t involved in the angle but it was a major event he was in the building for. I’d like to see how they’d reenact it, but I wonder if wrestling fans are so sick of it the show creators don’t even want to try. What’s your opinion?

It’s not as though it’s forbidden. This is the Rock’s project, and he’s got enough cachet to do whatever he wants. It’s possible some in WWE or the wrestling industry at large might prefer he not touch that subject matter, but just about everyone in wrestling needs the Rock more than the Rock needs them, so I don’t see any restrictions in that regard.

However, I still doubt we’ll ever see the subject broached on Young Rock. It’s not a story that directly involves him or any members of his family, and there is too much backstory and too many characters that would need to be set up inside of 22 minutes for things to make sense to non-wrestling fans.

Mark wants us to just keep the Montreal thing going:

Do you know if in 1997 anyone suggested that the Survivor Series WWF title match be a ladder match between Bret and Shawn? I believe that they had had a ladder match previously (which Bret won), and since that point HBK was thought to be the king of the ladder match. Could this have been a way for Bret to lose the title without getting pinned or submitted and HBK winning the title in spectacular fashion? It would also allow the Hart Foundation and DX to interfere, and if need be, have New Age Outlaws join DX early and ‘screw’ Bret out of the title?

Do you know if there were any discussions about doing this sort of match? If not, do you think it would have worked? To be completely transparent, I do fall more on the Bret side than the HBK side when it comes to this rivalry.

If there was any suggestion of this sort of match, it wasn’t taken seriously enough to make it into the historical record. If you read the two issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that came out immediately after the screwjob, there is a very comprehensive breakdown of how the negotiations for the finish of the match went, day by day. Holding a ladder match at the Survivor Series was never mentioned.

Interestingly, one of the things that was mentioned as a potential direction by the McMahon camp was Michaels winning the title in Montreal and having a rematch between the two men at the Royal Rumble that would be a ladder match. (Obviously, this was before there was a final deal between Hart and WCW that would see the Hitman join that company in December.) So, people were thinking about ladder matches, just not for the Survivor Series.

I also don’t think that a ladder match in Montreal would have worked. Bret was not dropping the title to Michaels in Canada, regardless of the means. Other schmozz finishes with lots of interference were proposed, and they weren’t accepted. It wasn’t just about Hart saving face. It was also about Hart not wanting to do business with Michaels when Michaels made it clear that he would not do business with Hart if the positions were reversed.

The other thing to consider is that Hart probably wouldn’t have agreed to a ladder match due to safety concerns. He was already worried about the possibility of Michaels taking a cheap shot at him in their regular one-on-one match and was taking measures to protect himself from that. If you’re already worried someone might try to sucker punch you, you’re not going to put yourself in a situation where he could knock you off a ladder in an unsafe manner and try to explain it away by saying that it was an unexpected botch.

And, just to be clear, I’m not saying Michaels would have done something like that. I’m saying Hart would have been concerned about it and would have declined a ladder match as a result.

BA thankfully moves us on to a different subject:

Why was Billy Robinson never World Champion?

He actually was a World Heavyweight Champion, depending on what you want to count.

From the mid-1960s through the early 1980s, there was a significant promotion in Japan called International Wrestling Enterprise or IWE, and they had their own version of the World Heavyweight Title. Robinson held that belt and was actually the first champion, winning a round robin tournament for the strap on December 19, 1968. He dropped the strap to Thunder Sugiyama in May 1969 but regained it in June 1974 before losing it two months later to “Superstar” Billy Graham.

He also held the Pacific Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Title, which was created to be the top championship of All Japan Pro Wrestling. Robinson was the third man to hold that belt, beating Tor Kamata in June 1978 and losing it to Abdullah the Butcher the following October. Eventually the PWF World Heavyweight Title would become one of the belts unified into AJPW’s legendary Triple Crown Championship.

Of course, he never held a World Title in a U.S.-based promotion. Why not?

He was never the NWA World Heavyweight Champion because, though he had some very well-reviewed matches with NWA Champion Dory Funk in Stampede Wrestling, during most of his time in the States he was an AWA guy, so the NWA belt was off the table. He was never the AWA Champion because Verne Gagne had a stranglehold on that title and only dropped it once during the entire decade of the 1970s, which were Robinson’s peak years in America.

Dave‘s here man:

<bRumors are Santana an Ortiz aren’t getting along. My question is how many other successful tag teams didn’t care for each other outside of the ring. I can think of one rocky Johnson an Tony atlas are there others.

The MegaPowers immediately spring to mind, given Randy Savage’s very real jealousy surrounding Miss Elizabeth which was mirrored in storylines. The Savage/Liz episode of Dark Side of the Ring covered this fairly well if you’re looking for more information.

This Ask 411 Wrestling question is a Stubbs. You can help Night Wolf the Wise by expanding it:

1. When everyone thinks of Mr. Perfect, they think of Curt Henning who went by that name from 88 to 96. But from my understanding, he wasn’t the first Mr. Perfect. Can you give us a short backstory on the Original Mr. Perfect Jerry Stubbs?

2. Did Jerry Stubbs and Curt Henning play the exact same gimmick or was Henning’s different from Stubbs?

Jerry Stubbs was a territorial wrestler active primarily in the 1970s and 1980s, though he continued to wrestle periodically, mostly on nostalgia and reunion shows, through the 2000s and had his last match I could find a record of in 2019. Stubbs is primarily known for two things. The first is his time in Mid-South Wrestling, where he was the masked Mr. Olympia. He had a run there with the Junkyard Dog during the height of JYD’s popularity. Initially, he was the Dog’s tag team partner but ultimately turned heel on him. Their feud headlined a major show at New Orleans’ Superdome in 1983, with Junkyard Dog defeating Olympia to win the North American Title in the confines of a steel cage.

The second thing Stubbs is known for is tag team with Arn Anderson in the Alabama-based Southeastern Championship Wrestling, which is commonly thought to be the run that really launched Arn’s career. Whether it was the team with Anderson or the feud with Junkyard Dog, just about everybody I’ve heard from who watched Jerry Stubbs during the peak of his career has said he’s perhaps one of the most underrated in-ring performers of his era, with him not receiving the renown he otherwise would have in part because he worked mostly for smaller promotions and in part because didn’t have the best look facially when wrestling without the mask.

As to how he “played the gimmick” of Mr Perfect, the “gimmick” was just that of an arrogant heel as far as I know. It didn’t get the same cartoonish treatment that Curt Hennig gave it in the WWF, in which he was essentially the best performer at every single sport known to man. Really, though, “Mr. Perfect” is one of Stubbs’ lesser-known ring names. If anybody is going to know Stubbs, it’s usually as himself or as Mr. Olympia.

It’s also worth noting that, in interviews, Stubbs has claimed that he bestowed the Mr. Perfect nickname upon Hennig. The former Mr. Olympia stated that, when both men were on a Japanese tour, they were sharing some Jack Daniels when Stubbs passed on the Mr. Perfect moniker to the younger wrestler. He told Hennig that he owed him a bottle of Jack if the name worked, and he said that, some time later, the new Mr. Perfect made good on that deal.

Though wrestling stories of that nature are often fabricated, I can confirm that Stubbs and Hennig were on the same All Japan Wrestling tour in January 1987, with Hennig becoming Mr. Perfect circa 1988, so the timeline works.

As an aside, I also find it amusing that Stubbs was wrestling on that tour under the name “A Sheik,” which I can only assume was done to trick less-than-observant fans into thinking that they were going to see a show featuring “The Sheik,” who at that point had last been seen in AJPW in 1981.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.

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