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The Rick Says...  For the LAST TIME!
Originally Written October 18, 2001

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


[Note from Rick:  I originally wrote this column on October 18, 2001, thinking it'd be published on WrestleLine...  of course, that wound up being the day they closed up shop, so it never saw the light of day.  When I decided to strike out on my own shortly afterwards, I did send this "Lost The Rick Says" out to the initial OO mailing list, but there are a lot more people reading this site now than signed up for that list, and a bunch of them are clamoring to read this over on the Message Boards...  so here it is, in a fancy web format for the first time anywhere!  Please, make sure you realize that the info I put in here was accurate -- or as accurate as The Rick ever was -- as of last October, and some of the content may now be dated.  I know that, and you know it, so please don't bother sending me corrections!  Also, this column should also be the only time you see me use the word "frick" here on OO.com!]

I don't know why I had Ken Anderson on the brain last week...  but that's the name that leapt to the front of my head when I wanted to include Slick's real name in the Unstumper.  Alas, I was close...  but wrong.

Slick's real name is not shared with a former Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback...  his real name is actually Ken Johnson.  Thanks to those who set me straight without resorting to calling me names!  And the rest of you...  oh, you're going on my list.  You better believe it.

This week, will I find a way to include the tasty tidbit that the Sandman's real name is actually Jim Breech?  Or that  Pitbull #2 was named Anthony Munoz?  Or that...  ummm....  oh shit, I'm out of 1981 Cincinnati Bengal references!  What do you expect?  I was only like in 1st grade when they went to the Super Bowl that year!

Keep reading anyway, to find out which inaccuracies you can fix this week!


The Rick Says....

Yep, that's pretty much the gist of it...

Bret Hart's on everybody's mind this week, I gather, since this was among the Hart-related questions that made up a pretty significant part of the newer items in the Rick's In-Box...  this is just about the five year anniversary of Hart's decision to return to the WWF (to feud with Steve Austin) rather than to jump to WCW, and also about the 4 year anniversary of the Montreal Screw Job (which was, in a small way, commemorated by the WWF taping tonight's SmackDown! in Montreal...  the first TV event there since the screwjob).

To set the stage:  Bret Hart was a free agent in mid-'96.  He wrestled and dropped the WWF Title to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12, earlier that year, and then disappeared.  He fulfilled a few final overseas obligations, but other than that, made it clear he was through with the WWF.  At least for now.

Bret had plenty on his plate, with a family and a fledgling acting career... he didn't NEED wrestling.  But wrestling needed him.  WCW and the WWF got into a huge war over Hart's services.  It got to the point where the money being bandied around was so big that Bret did have to take notice and begin planning his comeback.  But to where?  WCW saw signing Hart as the "final nail in the coffin," after having had great success with acquiring Scott Hall and Kevin Nash earlier in the year.  The WWF saw signing Hart as their last chance to stay afloat and take another stab at WCW.

WCW, of course, had all the money in the world to offer Hart, and were actually briefly considered the favorites to gain Bret's services.  The WWF launched a new storyline that served a dual purpose:  Steve Austin began mocking Bret Hart, basically challenging him and calling him out; if Hart did decide to come back to the WWF, he had a built-in first feud.  But if Hart did jump, Austin could take immediate credit for "scaring off" the Hitman with his bold claims, and Hart would be buried, to some extent, in the fans' eyes..

Right when WCW was just about ready to start thinking up ways to intro Hart, Vince McMahon made a last ditch stab to keep Bret with the WWF.  It included a trip to meet him face to face in Calgary.  And it included committing the WWF to something that WCW did not offer Bret:  long-term stability.  WCW offered a gaudy sum of money to Bret over the course of a three year contract...  Vince offered up a three-year active wrestler deal for significant percentage of the same dollar amount; but then he tacked on a 17 year commitment in which Hart would remain on the WWF's payroll, albeit not necessarily as an active wrestler.  The total dollar amount of that contract exceeded WCW's and meant Bret would never have to worry about money again.

So Bret decided to stick with the WWF.  He did the feud with Steve Austin, but eventually found himself in the role of heel, while Austin became a major babyface.  Toss in Hart's real life animosity for Shawn Michaels (who was, at the time, a major main event player), and it seemed like Bret Hart's value to the WWF was diminishing.

So sure enough, about a year after promising a lifelong relationship with the WWF to Bret Hart, Vince McMahon used a clause written into the 20 year deal that permitted him to sever the contract.  The end result was a tumultuous few weeks, leading into the 1997 Survivor Series in Montreal, where Bret Hart was "screwed" out of the WWF title under devious circumstances.

But that Screw Job has been covered extensively and elsewhere, and isn't really part of this particular chapter of the tale of the Hart/WWF relationship, now is it?  Nope...  the part of the 20 year deal has been duly answered, and just in time for its five year anniversary!


The Rick Says....

It's simple:  SmackDown! is taped.

Maven is still the greenest of green rookies.  Granted he hasn't looked bad yet, but consider he's been working with the same one guy for a few months...  if he was good enough to win Tough Enough, he's good enough to look convincing against a single opponent after months of practice.

But just because he hasn't slipped up yet doesn't mean that he won't.  Even the vets screw up sometimes, and with Maven, it's a bigger likelihood.  So that's why, so far, they've only put him on SmackDown!, where the show is taped, and live screw-ups can be edited out or entirely re-done.  If this continues, not only will we be able to say that Maven HASN'T looked bad; we'll also be able to say that he WON'T look bad.

There's plenty of precedent for the WWF altering taped segments to make them look better on TV, too, so don't think they wouldn't.  In the past, whole promos have had to be redone because somebody in the back didn't like they way they sounded the first time; awkward for the live crowd, yes, but by the time it's edited for TV, 99% of the audience doesn't know any better.  If a mid-move match is botched at a taping, the ref will simply be told in his earpiece to tell the guys to do it again; then the flub is edited out, and the re-do is seamlessly inserted.

Hell, just a month or so ago, a part of the Austin-piledrives-Angle-on-the-floor angle was slashed...  the spoiler reports said Austin delivered TWO piledrivers on Angle, though the as-aired version only had one.  Probably a case where the first didn't look so good, so they did it again.  The magic of editing can change a lot between Tuesday and Thursday.  You get the idea, right?

As to the other part of the question:  RAW may be on cable, and thus, you might think that somehow, that audience is going to be more closely similar to MTV's audience for TE...  but that might actually be faulty logic, too. SmackDown's audience has -- for a while -- been as big or bigger than RAW's, which means if fewer people are watching RAW, then it's gonna be less likely to find a TE viewer among those numbers (since TE itself was only viewed by about half as many people, on average, as either RAW or SD).

On top of that, SD! aired on Thursday's immediately leading into Tough Enough...  the segment of WWF viewers who watched TE were more likely to be coming in from SmackDown than they were to be the "cable only" crowd who watch RAW and not SD.

In either case, it's not like Maven was going to be bringing viewers in with him... he's being used right now because it's a unique opportunity for the WWF to do a storyline showing how hard it is for a bona fide rookie to break into the business, while at the same time keeping the "Tough Enough" concept alive in our minds until TE2 gets underway early next year.

It's all marketing, folks....


The Rick Says....

There's always a low-level buzz of e-mail from people who don't like the popular face du jour...  it didn't take long after the Rock went back to being a babyface for the "Die, Rocky, Die" sentiment to start back up, and it's still a noticeable minority of fans.  Kind of harkens back to the days of Hulk Hogan being considered a hero among the masses, though he was despised by "smart" fans.

Now, the target of this vocal minority of Rob Van Dam.  Apparently, he was harmless until the last few months.  Sure, the critics and intelligentsia would sometimes ride him about the lack of meaning or psychology in his matches (which did tend to be spot-fests), but ultimately, he wasn't worth lambasting, I guess.

Now he's on the cusp of a WWF PPV main event, and I'm seeing a half-dozen "Will you quit kissing RVD's ass, you damned mark!" messages in my mailbox every day.  That's like 2 percent, and even more than the anti-Rock lobby is contributing... although I admit I haven't gone back and cross-referenced to make sure it isn't the same 5 or 6 people mailing in every day!

It started out with them upset that RVD was getting such a push... more recently, it graduated to people being upset that their anti-RVD viewpoint was not being represented in columns such as this one (like writers were ignoring them).  Well, here you go:  I'm mentioning your point of view. Others out there who don't like RVD now know they are not alone, and may seek each other out to congregate and hold whatever anti-Van Dam ceremonies they see fit.

But to answer the question -- phrased many different ways among the dozens of e-mails that prompted me to include this item today -- I didn't mention RVD's shortcomings because I, as a fan, dig what he's doing.  What you see as a pot-induced lack of charisma, I see as a "real guy" hook that is so much more interesting than something like Kurt Angle's driven and charismatic -- but also forced, bogus, and affected -- character.  What you see as unnecessary flipping and flopping, I see as a unique style that deviates so much from the rest of the in-ring performers that it's fun to watch; afterall, this isn't a real fight, so as long as the moves are KIND OF plausible, I'll let it slide.

Some people say his stiffness/sloppiness/irresponsibility is a problem, and should land him back on the b-team until he can work without injuring an opponent...  I say, maybe so, maybe not.  Until I'm the guy taking an RVD kick to the face, it's not my decision to make whether or not that's a problem or just something that smarks are blowing out of proportion.

So:  I salute you if you're balls-out enough to say you don't like RVD in the face of his overwhelming popularity.  There were people who didn't like Hulk Hogan when his fantastic physique and blustering promos won over a nation 15 years ago.  There were people who didn't like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash when they recreated the business with their "I'm too cool for you" attitudes in the NWO five years ago.  And now there are people who don't like RVD.

Like I said, I salute you...  but if a few vocal critics didn't stop Hogan, Hall, or Nash from making a lot of money and selling a lot of tickets, then I don't think giving your opinion some play is gonna stop RVD from starting down that same road.  Just relax, settle down, and realize that just cuz something's popular doesn't mean you are obligated to like it.

Oh wait... now you'll probably ignore my advice cuz I sound too much like RVD:  "Just relax, take it easy man...  it's all under control."  Is it 4:20, yet?


WHY DON'T THE DUDLEYS SAY "WHASSUP" BEFORE THE WHASSUP SPOT ANYMORE?  TOO MUCH LEGAL HEAT FROM BUDWEISER, RIGHT?  Hell, no!  It's simply because they are heels now, and heels shouldn't have easy-to-relate to catch-spots...

AREN'T CHRISTIAN YORK AND JOEY MATTHEWS GOING TO MAKE IT TO THE WWF SOON?  The two were under a developmental deal, but I'd heard they were unlikely to be kept on after their current deals expire (expired?)...  in any case, a match between the Hardys and two of their protégés does not seem imminent at this time.

ARE JERRY LAWLER AND STACEY "THE KAT" CARTER REALLY DIVORCED?  I don't think it's final yet, but the proceedings are definitely underway...

IS IT TRUE THAT A FORMER WCW VALET DID A PORN VIDEO? You're either thinking of Chastity (who also worked in ECW before WCW), who did a bona fide adult film, or of Gorgeous George (Randy Savage's valet), who had a home video of hers circulate, and who is now dancing as a feature performer at gentlemen's clubs the nation over.

WHY DID KING KONG BUNDY INSIST ON A FIVE COUNT INSTEAD OF A THREE COUNT WHEN HE WON MATCHES BACK IN THE 80s?  Cuz he was a bad-ass, and wanted to prove that when he beat a guy, he STAYED down...  pretty cool gimmick, now that I'm grown up and don't hate the guy for squashing the Hulkster!



That's about as explosive an expletive I can emit here on WrestleLine... but I'm steamed.  Mostly at myself.  Something about the old cliché "Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer"...

Only this time, it's more like:  ask an impossible question, and it's impossible to get a straight answer.  Or something like that.

Last week, we closed out the column by wondering if Booker T -- who had recently won his 11th WCW Tag Title -- was the most decorated champion in Big Two history (meaning WWF and WCW/NWA).  With 11 tag titles, 5 WCW Titles, and some US and TV titles tossed in, Booker's had to be right up there, and quite possibly even ahead of Ric Flair.

But I was too lazy to do my own research, and turned to you folks.  The end result:  dozens and dozens of conflicting data, and a mess that could just end up being as bad as the time I tried to take a ton of different interpretations of the lyrics to Triple H's old theme song and condense it into one set.

Counting only WWF and WCW/NWA belts (but discounting the WWF Hardcore Title, for obvious reasons), it does seem clear that the answer to "Who is the most decorated champion ever?" has to be either Booker T or Ric Flair.  The difficulties come in when you start trying to untangle all the different disputed world titles held by Flair (including how to count the whole split of the NWA and WCW titles mess on top of how to handle Flair's regional title wins), and also whether you count things like Booker's "phantom" title wins into his count.

So here's what I'm gonna do:  I'm going to say flat-out that since this is my column, we'll use my count for Flair.  That means 8 NWA World Titles (while that title meant something), then 2 WWF World Titles, then back to WCW for 5 WCW World Titles.  You'll usually hear numbers ranging from 14 to 17 for Flair's number of world title wins (some even make it up to 20!), but my answer is FIFTEEN, and if you want my reasons why, then go to the Rick's Archives, and read the May 18, 2000, edition of The Rick Says. I know it's a year and a half old, but seeing as how Flair didn't win any other world titles since then (the column was timely, as it was written just 4 days after Flair had won the strap... for the last time, as it turned out), it's still valid.

Now, those aren't the only titles under consideration...  Flair was also a holder of numerous secondary titles in the latter part of the 70s, some of which eventually developed into the US and TV Titles.  But at the time, many report that they were regional belts, and not really beholden to the "Big Two" lineage (which tends to only "officially" date those titles back to around 1980).  Flair definitely gets two "official" runs as US Champ (in 1980, he beat Jimmy Snuka, and held on for almost a year before dropping the belt to Roddy Piper, and then he held the title again in 1996 beating -- I think -- Konnan).  There is substantial dispute whether three pre-1980 reigns were really "national" in nature, or were just a regional belt given the fancy "US Title" name.  I'm completely torn on what to do here, but since the majority of people who mailed in to help said "call it six, not two," I'll do the same.  Flair's up to 21 now (15 World + 6 US).

Flair also held the Mid-Atlantic TV Title a few times.  This is the belt that eventually graduated up to being the "NWA TV Title" around 1980, but at the time he held it, it was Mid-Atlantic all the way.  Can't count those. Sorry.

Flair's got one NWA Tag Title reign that also counts in my book (one with Greg Valentine), after reading what everybody mailed in.  It ain't "canon," but I'm counting it.  So I'm going to cap Flair at 22 total "Big Two" Title Reigns.  F'n impressive, considering this was 15 years before the era of trading belts every week on free TV.

Does Booker top 22?  Right off the top, I don't need any research to back up the 11 times Booker held the WCW Tag Titles (10 with Harlem Heat, one with Test), or the five times he's been WCW Champ.  All of those are verifiable just via recent memory.  So Booker's up to 16 without breaking a sweat.

Booker also gets one US Title, as he was -- if you recall -- a double champion upon the dissolution of a Turner-owned WCW.  Seventeen.

The TV Title is where it gets messy.  No doubt about Booker winning the TV belt for the first time in late '97 from Disco Inferno on Nitro.  He won it a second time in early '98, regaining the title after losing it to Rick Martel.  But then, there were a series of phantom switches, which is odd, because many people reason that the TV Title should not be up for grabs at house shows.  In spring of '98, Booker and Chris Benoit did a quartet of phantom changes.  The end result is that some people say you tack two more TV Titles onto Booker's total.

Booker won two more "undisputed" TV Titles, one from Fit Finlay (just days after the series with Benoit, actually...  but this one was on TV), and one from Scott Steiner in 1999.  Not counting phantom switches, that puts the Book at four TV titles, and 21 overall titles (one shy of Flair).  Count the two phantom switches and he's got six TV titles, and 23 overall (one better than Flair).

I know the semantics of a TV Title changing hands at a house show are messy... but I gave Flair credit for phantom switches among his 15 world titles, and I do feel that if a title change takes place in front of an audience, then it should count (regardless of whether it's mentioned on TV). With that in mind, I give Booker the six TV Titles, for 23 overall, and the title of Most Decorated Champion in Big Two history.

I'll stand by that claim, though I openly admit that a lot of old-timers or purists are probably gonna want to disagree based on the fact that I'm dismissing some of the major regional titles of the past in doing so.  Let me just say this:  for the sake of 99% of this readership, let's not confuse them too much further with all the major indie titles that really DID mean something back 20 years ago.  If we went off on that tangent, then we'd be putting Jerry Lawler and Dusty Rhodes right up there with Flair in terms of most "important" titles won.

Let the verbal bludgeoning of The Rick and his short-sighted view of history begin...  NOW!


This one is simple, and it's been asked a bunch of times.  I think I skipped putting it in here because it sounds like the sort of thing I should know, and yet, the answer evades me....  leaving me somewhat ashamed and embarrassed to be calling myself "The Rick."

So here it is:  Just where and when did Chris Benoit lose that tooth?  I mean, I'm right there with everyone else guessing it happened in the ring.. but I'm also assuming there's a date, a place, and a story to go with the bare facts.  Fill me in on the details, and they'll be right here in the column next week!

E-mail help if you can...  otherwise, more questions if you can't.  See you in seven....


Just for a bit of closure, in case The Rick fails to make another Ali-like comeback... I did get some answers from folks who received this column via e-mail back in October, and the story about Benoit's missing tooth is this:  he lost it while playing on a swingset with his kids.  It did NOT happen in the ring, much to my surprise.  

And with that, I re-retire The Rick...  for those of you who want to keep feeding your Wrestling Trivia Jones, I strongly recommend getting signed up for the OO Message Boards, where we've got a special "Ask the Rick" Folder (where your questions are more commonly answered by the many highly intelligent readers who beat me to the punch...  but hey, an answer is an answer, right?)!



Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


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