Greatest Reign Ever?

Hi Scott, Let me start with the usual and say I’m a long time reader, first time emailer, so many thanks for the entertaining rants and reviews down the years. I was thinking about this the other day and thought your take would be interesting and all those on the blog might enjoy discussing who actually had the greatest single title reign in wrestling history? By this I mean a recognised World Heavyweight title reign anywhere in the world rated in terms of money made, future influence, match quality, storytelling, character development and other tangibles. But it must be a single title reign, so for example, while Austin’s run with the WWF Championship in 1998 was brilliant, it was split between two reigns so can’t count collectively but each of the two reigns could be considered on their own merits. Now apologies if I seem ignorant but my wrestling knowledge is really North American and late 80’s onwards, so if it was just about money made I’m sure Hogan’s 84-88 reign is the one, and I’m sure in terms of match quality, Ric Flair probably had a crazy good reign in the 80’s and finally in terms of drama and storytelling, Savage’s year with the title Wrestlemania IV to V is up there. But if you take everything into account, who had the greatest single title reign? I’ve been going back and forth between Savage’s Wrestlemania to Wrestlemania reign and Austin’s run from Wrestlemania 17 to Unforgiven 2001. Keep up the good work!

Yeah, the conversation pretty much begins and ends with Bruno Sammartino.  Eight years as WWF champion from 1963-71, and he pretty much invented the power wrestler template from which everyone else followed.  Drew money hand over fist as well.  Came back in the 70s and got another three years as champion just because Vince Sr. needed another couple of million dollars in his vault to dive into like Uncle Scrooge.  Runner-up:  Hulk Hogan’s first reign.  If you’re expanding to other, non-World titles, then I’d also nominate Honky Tonk Man. 

G+ Plug

Hi +Scott Keith you very kindly plugged my website when I first started, but there’s so many reviews on there now including all of the Harry Potter films, which frankly I feel I deserve a medal for sitting through. Any chance of one more cheap plug for old times sake, and I promise I won’t ask again. 🙂
http://www.thatfilmguy.co.uk/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-2

Well I can’t say no to a cheap plug. 

Good Times, We Got ‘Em

Hey Scott,Johnathan1988 from the boards
I keep reading about different "boom" periods in WWE, or times when business was bad, but different sources seem to give different information on which time-frames WWE was successful in (ratings, buyrates, attendance), and which periods things weren’t so good in. Seeing as I didn’t really take notice of such things until my conversion to smarkdom in 2001, I write you asking to clear it up.

I start with Hogan beating the Sheik for the belt. WWE was clearly on fire then, highlighted with Hulkamania and Hogan’s huge WM3 win over Andre. Does the fire start to die down a little in 88 and 89, or is it going just as strong up until WM VI in toronto?
Obviously things get cooler from here, but the mid 90s provide a constant source of argument between Bret and Shawn fans. Was Bret’s 94 run doing any good numbers? Was Shawn’s 96 title reign the closest WWE has come to going out of business? And where does Diesel in 95 fit in?
The Attitude Era was the next big boom, but my question is if Austin’s year long-absence (and thus the Rock taking over the top spot) made a difference in the numbers in 2000 compared to 99?
Finally, I heard an interview with Cena where he calls 02-06 "a down time" for ther business. So when does it start picking up again? Wrestlemania 23?
I know this is a convoluted question, but I figured you were a good authority to somewhat set the record straight.

OK, I’m game. 80s:  84-88 was huge, with Hogan-Orndorff in particular making money hand over fist every night for close to a year until they finally managed to burn people out on it.  It was INSANE the kind of houses they were doing after that piledriver.  Savage did really strong business on top as champion, leading to the all-time buyrate champion for a long time at Wrestlemania V.  Business starting dropping rapidly at that point, leading to Warrior’s horrible run on top (fault and causes are another argument, point being, business went south).  You can safely call 89-92ish a pretty big down cycle. The early 90s were a really weird period, and I’m going to play it safe and say it’s hard to categorize who would have done what with the title on top.  Diesel was unquestionably death for business, however, and I don’t think anyone seriously debates that.  As a personal anecdote, Diesel’s reign as champion saw them drop from running the hockey arena in Edmonton to the much, much smaller adjacent building, something that would have been unthinkable to me a few years prior.  Sid on top in 96 was a similar situation.  Bret always drew big numbers as champion internationally, so you pretty much had to keep him on top during that period when they were expanding like that.  Overall, 93-97 was a huge transitional period for the business in general, with Vince shifting his focus from promoting house shows on TV to promoting PPV on TV and finally just promoting TV for the sake of it.  2000 was the most profitable year for the WWF in their history, including today, so Rock must have been doing something right.   Really, by that time Austin wasn’t needed as a draw and HHH and Rock could carry things just fine on their own.  Austin’s peak years, 98-2000, were SOOOOOOO huge that he could have retired and still been comfortably rich for the rest of his life just based on them.  2000 was pretty much the peak of the entire business as far as WWF goes. As for the last one, business picked up specifically with the Batista-HHH main event at Wrestlemania 21.  That’s the show that turned WM from just the biggest PPV of the year into an event in itself.  It’s also the last time they really pulled the trigger and made 2 legitimate new stars (Cena and Batista), both in the same night!  However, outside of WM, PPV has been trending steadily downwards for a long time now, so we’ve been a down cycle for many years. 

Memorable Eras

Hey Scott. Your recent post regarding the "Best Final Matches" of certain wrestlers got me thinking about the various epochs of professional wrestling in North America. But a comment in said thread really got the creative juices going.

Every major period in pro wrestling seems to have a clear beginning, a decisive point where the beginning of the end is seen, and a symbolic ending to it. In the NWA (or WCW), for instance, Ric Flair’s run as the true face of the promotion began at Starrcade ’83 when he toppled Harley Race for his second world title, and ended with the unceremonious firing by Jim Herd in the summer of 1991. I looked a bit deeper, though, and would be so bold as to say that while Herd’s firing of Flair was the symbolic end to his reign as the top dog in WCW (since he was never the same force in the promotion again), you could see the beginning of the end as early as 1990, when the new generation (represented by Sting) finally overcame him in 1990. Sure, he would win the title back in 1991, but it was really the beginning of the end for Flair’s reign as the undisputed King of the NWA.
In the WWF, you can see something similar to Hulk Hogan, who actually had not one, but three "definitive" endings to his first WWF run. With a universally agreed-upon starting point set in 1984 with his title victory over the Iron Sheik, you could run it out to WrestleMania VI, where he lost the title to the Ultimate Warrior and "passed the torch" in much the same way Flair had to Sting (since both Warrior and Sting ended up as disappointing champions their first time out). You could make a case for WrestleMania VIII, which was really the culmination of nine years on the road with the WWF as its top attraction. And you can certainly look at 1993’s King of the Ring, where Yokozuna crushed him and led to his turfing from the promotion. But looking closer, you could almost see the beginning of the end at the Main Event in 1988, with his title loss to Andre. It was the first time Hogan had been beaten. The superhero had been felled, even if it came as treachery. After that, Hogan’s stature was lessened a bit, because you had the Macho Man operating at the same level in the fan’s eyes for a time, and then you had the Warrior rise up not long after. Like Flair, Hogan would have success after the beginning of the end. But it was really an iconic moment that really foreshadowed the changing times.
As I looked back, I could count a number of these areas where you had clear starting points and symbolic endings, like Steve Austin’s start at King of the Ring 1996, his symbolic end at WrestleMania XIX, and the beginning of the end with his awkward heel turn at WrestleMania X-Seven. Or you could even use Bret Hart, whose Intercontinental Championship victory at Summerslam 1991 launched his solo career for good, the WrestleMania 13 double-turn the beginning of his downfall, and Montreal representing the symbolic end. Who else has such identifiable periods in their career that you can recall?

Those would actually be the major ones I could think of as well.  I think it’s much more notable that someone like the Rock didn’t have a “beginning of the end” phase.  It was all rising action, and then one day he went to Hollywood and never looked back.  Ditto for someone like Brock Lesnar, who was on top of the business for his entire career.  You could probably make a case for Goldberg having an era, who debuted strong, and then saw the beginning of the end with the stupid car punching injury, and finally the heel turn that killed him off for good. 

Not As Much Money In The Bank As Previously Thought

As per last night’s Observer radio show, initial numbers for Money In The Bank are coming in, and it looks like about 135,000 domestic buys.  Predictions based on the show’s response had originally put it at 150,000 or more, which would have been phenomenal.  This doesn’t cover international buys and numbers will probably change a lot when the finals come in next quarter, but as it stands it’s a bit of a boost over 2010’s show, but not a game-changing performance or anything.  It’s basically a B-show that did better than it would have.   Hopefully this won’t mean Punk will immediately lose his version of the title and then job to Fake Sin Cara every night, but given the impatience WWE has displayed with the angle thus far, you never know.  Really, what it goes to show is that PPV is a dying market for WWE and there’s very little that’s going to boost it again short of Rock and Steve Austin returning fulltime. 

Bret v. Shawn

Hi Scott, hope you are well. Here is the complete DVD listing for the WWE’s Wrestling’s Greatest Rivalries, Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart DVD…

Disc 1
San Antonio vs. Calgary
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation
Heartbreak Kid vs.The Hit Man
Intercontinental Champion vs. WWE Champion
Showstopper vs. Excellence of Execution
Progressive vs. Traditional
Fantasy vs. Reality
Respect vs. Trust
Redemption vs. Reconciliation
Hope vs. Peace
Disc 2
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation
Madison Square Garden – 25th November, 1989
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Wrestling Challenge – 10th February, 1990
The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation
Tokyo Dome – 30th March, 1991
Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Portland, Oregon– 21st July, 1992
Intercontinental Championship Match
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Syracuse, New York– 29th April, 1992
WWE Championship Match
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Survivor Series – 25th November, 1992
Steel Cage Match
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Utica, New York – 1st December, 1993
Disc 3
Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania 12 – 31st March, 1996
WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Bret Hart’s Induction
Chicago, Illinois – 1st April, 2006
Bret Hart Returns to Raw
Raw – 4th January, 2010
WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Shawn Michaels’ Induction
Atlanta, Georgia – 2nd April, 2011
Blu-ray Exclusive Moments
Vince McMahon Interviews Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart
Raw – 3rd February, 1997
Bret Hart Promo In Ring
Raw – 12th May, 1997
Hart Foundation Promo In Ring
Raw – 19th May, 1997
WWE Championship Match
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Survivor Series – 9th November , 1997
Blu-ray Exclusive Special Features
The First WWE Ladder Match
SummerSlam 1992
Winning the WWE Championship for the First Time
Bret’s WCW Regrets
Cameras Rolling Between Takes

Credit: Pwinsider.com Thoughts?

They devote an entire DVD to Bret v. Shawn and DON’T EVEN PUT THE MONTREAL MATCH ON THERE?  Otherwise, that’s a whole lot of Bret v. Shawn.  After viewing that DVD, you could safely say you’ve seen all of them you’ll ever need.

Battlebowl

Hey Scott,
Here’s one thing that I was wondering about the other day: when WCW
used to do the Battlebowl/Lethal Lottery shows, were any of the
pairings really random? It would seem like a promotion with as many
talented workers as WCW had at that time would be able to start out
with some sense of who they wanted in the battle royale at the end,
and trust the guys to call the matches in the ring. Of course, if it
sounds silly asking whether something on a pro wrestling show was a
work or not, it’s worth remembering that this was a promotion that let
Sting and Jake blow off their big feud with a COAL MINER’S GLOVE
match.
Thanks

The pairings were all selected by the bookers, totally un-randomly.  They didn’t trust the guys to do shit.  The non-gimmicked wheel was just WCW stupidity, not an intentional effort to do anything unpredictable. 

Cities

Back in the day when WCW and WWE (F) were both going strong, i always
wondered how the two companies decided where to book shows. I grew up
in Fresno and WWF always came at least once a year. WCW never made a
stop. WCW always played the Cow Palace in San Francisco, I cant recall
WWF doing that. Have any insight on this?

Yup.  Back when the major promotions gave a shit about the individual promoters, each city would have a guy who set up the actual promotion from a local level, and basically they were either exclusively WCW or WWF (in exchange for whatever financial incentives, I’m sure) and god help anyone else who tried to break into that market.  There’s some pretty famous stories about WWF coming into NWA markets and triggering a giant war of words and threats to the arenas and such, and it was deadly serious stuff at the time.  Now, with WWE being the only game in town, things work totally different, given that they’re the only ones who can afford to run the bigger arenas anyway.  But back then, the WWF would work a set circuit covering the Northeast and Northwest, whereas the NWA would hit their cities in the south, and the AWA would cover the North and Midwest.  Everyone pretty much stuck to the same script.

Let the Buyrate Beware

With the quarterly WWE earnings report came the buy totals for second quarter pay-per-views.  I think that everyone assumed that Capitol Punishment would be the dog-of-dogs, but in fact Over The Limit, headlined by a cage match with Cena, Miz, and Morrison, had only 140,000 buys (down from 197,000 in 2010), whereas the CP PPV with Cena vs R-Truth had 170,000 buys (compared to 143,000 last year, when the event was known as Fatal Four Way)  A 25% drop from the previous year was reversed into a 20% gain this year, and I don’t think that all of that can be attributed to abandoning the Fatal Four Way concept.
So it seems that the R-Truth experiment that pretty much everybody panned when his push started has been a success.  I don’t see them taking the focus off of Punk/Cena(/HHH) any time soon, but do you think the guy deserves to remain in the main event mix going forward?

Anyone new is always a good thing, but the whole “half-assed push for new guys” thing has become such a self-fulfilling prophecy that they had already undermined Truth’s push before they even got to the PPV.  Dave Meltzer talks about this at length in the new Observer, and the buys listed are worldwide.  Domestically both OTL and Punishment were unmitigated disasters, with Punishment in particular landing in fourth place overall on the biggest bomb scale.  It’s really international PPV buys that are keeping the concept alive at this point.  So hell yeah, put Truth or Morrison or Miz or whoever you want on top, it’s not like the numbers can get any worse.  Still no word on numbers for Money In The Bank yet, but Punk is not moving house show numbers at all, and we all know what ratings have been like, so those banking on him becoming the next Rock or Austin are in for a rude awakening.  House shows generally respond really quickly to a hot angle, and there’s nothing of the sort going on.  Here in Saskatoon, for instance, there’s a RAW show with Cena and Punk both advertised pretty heavily around town, and tickets aren’t moving at all.