3 Moments When Pro Wrestling Got Real (Part 3)
In pro wrestling, if things are done according to the script, it’s known as a “work.” When a wrestler goes off-script and/or goes into business for themselves, it’s known as a “shoot.” Shoots can happen either in a match or even in an interview, and they can happen for any number of reasons. Sometimes a shoot is justified; other times, someone just wants to be a dick. Either way, the shooter usually winds up punished for it, and these gentlemen certainly weren’t exempt.
1. The Bash at the Beach “Worked-Shoot”
By 2000, the writing was pretty much on the wall with WCW. Fans had walked away in droves thanks to not only rival company the WWF putting on a far superior product, but the insane booking of one Vince Russo, who had been put in charge of creative for WCW at the time. Russo was in love with the idea of “worked shoots,” or angles that are totally fixed but made to seem like they are real. As a result, he was also in love with swerves, leading fans to believe one thing, only to completely turn things around on them. While this part may not sound that bad, in Vinnie-Ru’s case, it always led fans to become pissed off. The swerves and worked-shoots never led to any kind of conclusions, with angles being dropped left and right as a result.
One of these famed work-shoots, however, did see a conclusion, and that was the company’s highest-paid star leaving WCW forever.
At Bash at the Beach 2000, Hulk Hogan was scheduled to face Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World Championship and lose. Hogan did not want to lose, and was entitled to such claims, thanks to a creative control clause in his contract (don’t you love alliteration?). The clause was exactly how it sounds, allowing Hogan to veto any angle or feud he didn’t like, as well as propose his own ideas. Along with Eric Bischoff, he proposed the idea where he would win the belt by having Jarrett “lay down” (intentionally allow himself to be pinned). Hogan would then throw a fit about how the company was being run and leave with the belt. Russo would then set up a tournament to crown a new champion, and Hogan would return at a later date with his belt, claiming he was the real champion and set up a match to declare a definitive champion. It’s a trope that’s been used in wrestling before, and generally goes over pretty well (Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon in 1993-94, or CM Punk/John Cena in 2011, for example).
Well, at the the event, everything seemed to be going smoothly. Jarrett lay down, Hogan made the reluctant pin, Russo threw the title at him, and Hogan stormed out of the building. Russo would later come out and run down Hogan for being so unprofessional, which was also part of the angle. However, Russo decided that wasn’t good enough, and proceeded to verbally shred Hogan to bits, calling him both a “piece of s**t” and a “big, bald, sonofabitch” before saying that he vowed Hogan would never work in a WCW ring again if he had anything to say about it. He then booked Jarrett vs. Booker T for the title on the same show, with Book coming out as the new champion when the smoke had cleared.
Hogan found out about Russo’s rant later on, and sure enough, refused to come back to WCW, never working an event for them again. Going one step further, Hogan sued WCW for breach of contract, as well as defamation of character-the “bald” comment apparently put him over the edge. Seriously. I guess no one ever told Hogan he was bald. Although Russo wasn’t punished, since he pretty much ran the show at that point, WCW on a whole was, as this was just one instance in a series of events that led to WCW losing boatloads of money on a regular basis, eventually causing them to be bought out by the rival WWF for the paltry sum of about $2.5 million.
2. Saturn loses his mind, so WWE makes that his gimmick
Sometimes, accidents happen in the ring. Known as “botches,” these are moves that, for one reason or another, don’t go as planned. Generally, the end result is a wrestler(s) falling awkwardly, the fans chant, “You f****d up,” and the wrestlers get it right on the second try. While it may or may not be the fault of one of the performers, a botch can usually be rectified pretty quickly before any damage is done. However, sometimes botches can lead to injury. Other times, they can just lead to a wrestler getting pissed off.
Such was the case in 2001 one when, during a taping of WWF Jakked, Perry Saturn was booked in a squash match with perennial jobber Mike Bell. Pretty standard fare, with the match designed to make Saturn look good. Things were going fine until Bell botched an armdrag, causing Saturn to nearly come down on his head. It looked bad, but it was pretty obvious it was an accident, and Saturn was okay. However, he didn’t see it that way, and decided Bell needed to learn a lesson.
The botch occurs at about 2:20, and Saturn almost immediately goes berzerk, nailing Bell with real punches before nearly breaking his neck by launching him head-first to the floor. If that wasn’t enough, he then picks up Bell and rams him back-first into the metal ring steps. Saturn seems to calm down at this point and continue the match as planned, but the damage was done. Bell was banged up pretty badly in the aftermath, but amazingly incurred no serious injuries.
Regardless, WWF was not happy with Saturn’s behavior, as it was completely unprofessional, not to mention dangerous (the fact that Bell was not a contracted employee and could have sued them as a result didn’t help). Although Saturn kept his job, WWE punished him at the next RAW taping by having him take two stiff double powerbombs from the tag team the APA-Bradshaw and Faarooq-which then turned into a storyline where Saturn suffered brain damage and began talking to a mop.
To his credit, Saturn did the storyline with no complaints, and even more to his credit, he played up the entire thing to the hilt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to repair the damage, and Saturn was quietly released from the company about a year later. Aside from some time in Japan and a meaningless angle in TNA, this pretty much spelled the end of his career in mainstream wrestling in the US.
3. Tony Kozina brutalizes a rookie, then robs a promotion
Tony Kozina is not a name known to a lot of wrestling fans, but he’s still been pretty influential in the sport, being the trainer for current TNA star Davey Richards, a man routinely cited as one of the best pure wrestlers in the world, as well as current ROH star Kyle O’Reilly (more on both of these guys in a minute). Kozina also has some MMA experience, and likes to implement that into his wrestling persona with various strikes and holds. He’s a 16-year veteran of pro wrestling. And he’s also apparently a total dick.
On July 28th, 2012, Kozina was booked on a Magnum Pro show in Iowa, against a 16-year-old rookie named Ryan Kidd. Apparently, before the show started, Kidd cut a promo on Kozina that Kozina took personally. Kozina hears the promo, then calls Kid a “fake wrestler” before challenging him to a “real match.”
The “real match” consists of Kozina acting like the aforementioned dick, putting in one of the most unprofessional performances I’ve ever seen. He acts like the entire match is a joke for the first few minutes before hitting Kidd (a wrestler who had only been alive as long as Kozina had been in the business, mind you) with several stiff throws, piledrivers and full-contact kicks before locking in an unprotected headscissors, resulting in Kidd legitimately being choked into unconsciousness.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kozina dialed up the douche-o-meter to a full 11 with his actions the next night while booked on an event for a completely different company. Adrenaline Pro, another independent promotion in Iowa, booked Kozina, along with the aforementioned Richards and O’Reilly, collectively known as Team Ambition. Ambition made the booking, but keeping the unprofessional behavior alive for the weekend, showed up about ten minutes before showtime, a huge no-no in professional wrestling. That would be bad enough, but Team Ambition then demanded their money, received it, then immediately left the venue, robbing the promoter, as well as the fans that had paid to see them in the process. Promoter Jason Stryfe ran all three men down to close the show later that night, with fellow area promoters supporting him in the aftermath.
Richards and O’Reilly, who were both contracted to ROH at the time (considered the third largest promotion in the US, behind WWE and TNA), openly mocked the theft like it was no big deal for several days until ROH demanded they apologize and return the money. All three men were unofficially banned by all local promoters from further appearances.
Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, most notably seen on Camel Clutch Blog, where he has reviewed nearly every single episode of WWE Smackdown since mid-2011. He also reviewed TNA Impact for 3 years, but finally had to quit when the show became completely unwatchable. (Dustin: Congratulations, Dixie. You finally broke me.) When he is not obsessing over Firefly and the New Warriors (which is often), he is also an extensive gamer and contributes video game reviews for adult site BurningAngel.com. You can follow him on Twitter, look at his Facebook page, or even hire him as your personal trainer. Yep, he’s fit, too.