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WRESTLING COLUMNS

They Should Have Been Champs
August 9, 2006 by John Austin


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Hi everybody........Miss me" Just when you thought it was safe to start writing articles again, the "King of Controversy" returns to claim his throne. If you are newbies to this site and don't know why or what I am ranting about, I was the one who wrote the "Warrior" article that generated the most responses this site has ever gotten. Although I seem to be a magnet to this sort of thing, I think that I will focus my attention on another subject. A few weeks ago I read an article by an individual that was about some of the greatest performers in this business never to hold the WWF/WWE or the WCW/World Heavyweight Title. Although I agree with some of the wrestlers he mentioned, and some I find ridiculous, I thought I should add my own opinion to this particular subject.

So without further ado...............

The first choice on whom, im my opinion, is by far the greatest wrestler never to hold a major World Championship, is the PERFECT choice. Yes, I am referring to the late, great, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. I used the term "major", because although he was AWA World Champion, the AWA was on it's way to becoming defunct at the time. For all you old-schoolers out there, you have got to agree with me on this one. There are VERY few wrestlers that possessed the combination of athleticism, microphone skills, and dedication to this business that he did. The guy could "sell" moves like nobody before him, and I'll even go so far as to say better than anybody in the business today. Plus, the guy was funny as hell. Who can forget all the promos of him hitting half-court shots, playing run-and-toss (to himself mind you) with NFL greats, and hitting hole-in-ones" It is sad that his career was cut short by his back injuries, as well as the fact that he died well before his time. He could have easily had an impact on this business nowadays playing a GM role or even managing full-time. Remember how instrumental he was as a manager for Ric Flair's second (yes, "second", look in archives for my first article if you wanna dispute that) WWF/WWE run" He had a following, whether heel or face, which would have made it easy for him to be a more than credible champion, if not a "perfect" one. Besides of his "cut-too-short" feud with Hulk Hogan, I don't remember him getting any more title shots. I even think that him taking the title off of Hogan at the time would have been good for the business. But as we all know that would have never happened. It's sad if you think about it though, how much this man's potential and unmistakable talent was overlooked.

The second person that comes to mind is the "Original Phenom", "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. Going back to the comment that I made about Curt Hennig having un-paralled athleticism, the only person in that era that could possibly match that level is THIS man. It's not easy to compare the two, seeing how they wrestled completely different from one another, but these two men were tops in their respective styles. All I have to do, is say is "Steel Cage", or "Don Muraco", and every long-time fan gets the same picture in their head that is flashing through mine right now. What bothers me the most about the Fly being shafted in the WWF/WWE is that he was never even Intercontinental Champion or Tag Team Champion. Add that to the fact that I can't remember him even getting any title shots (If anybody remembers differently, feel free to correct me). Then there is the fact that he constantly jobbed to wrestlers what weren't fit to lace his boots, if he had ever wore them. His microphone skills were unique and definitely unorthodox, but they were catchy, and the fans ate up everything this man did, whether it be him jumping off the top rope, the twitches he did whenever talking, which made him appear to be so full of adrenaline that he could explode at any moment, or the famous "I love you" hand gestures to the much appreciative crowd. Anybody else remember that he did the whole "invincible thing" WAY before Hogan did"

Although I could go on with this subject forever, I will only mention one more person. This one is guaranteed to get a mixed reaction, but trust me, I will stick by this one: "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff. The unique thing about this situation, is that WCW offered him the title, and the opportunity to be the top guy in 1993 but he refused, due to the schedule. I also read that at the time he was dealing with the beginning of the back injury that would eventually cause his retirement from the business. But in his prime, he was the definition of "Unstoppable Wrestler". Way before the "Ultimate Hypocrites", Bill Goldbergs, and Brock Lesnars, Nikita Koloff was the epitome of this statement. He had the total package: power, speed, and undeniable charisma, Add that to the fact that he was portraying a Russian, considering the fact that he was/is about as Russian as I am, and that he was able to take this character to an unbelievable height. Don't forget either, that this was around the middle of the Cold War. Think of all of the vignettes during the mid 80's where you saw people market off of the idea of a "Russian Super Villian", (Think Rocky IV) and that up north Nikolai Volkoff was at his most hated as well, but this guy was able to make this character into a beloved one in a time when it seemed impossible.

Like I said before, I can think of many other wrestlers who weren't given the accolades they so deserved, but fortunately, this subject deserves a lot of discussion, and hopefully I just jogged the mind of the next person to tackle the subject. Until next time, folks.

by John Austin ..


Jonathan Preston wrote:
Loved the article and you made some very valid points. However, you forgot a few wrestlers. Owen Hart for starters. However, I think he would have been champ eventually if it wasn't because of his unfortunate accident. You also forgot Mr Wonderful Paul Orndorff. And last but not least, Rowdy Roddy Piper. The fact that he was only Intercontinental champ one time in his entire career was a crime. Enjoyed the article though. Good stuff!!
Javier Nieves wrote:
I do believe Snuka had many title shots... Before the famous leap off the top, steel cage match between him and, Don "The Rock" Muraco... Jimmy "SuperFly"Snuka had a title shot at WWf champion Bob Backlund, inside a Steel cage. In fact it was during this match that he originally leaped off the top of the cage, but missed.. Also, the Steel cage match he had with Don"The rock" Muraco, was for the Intercontinental championship...
Travis Hileman wrote:
First of all, I do like the idea of your article. There were definitely a ton of guys who deserved to hold major titles who didn't. While I do agree with your logic, I think there are some holes there as well.

Mr. Perfect was the Intercontinental Champion on two separate occasions, in a time when the IC Title was much more important than today's watered-down version. Today, the Intercontinental Title is put on someone to give them a minor push. Back then, the wrestlers had to earn it. For Hennig to hold it twice says something about his character in the eyes of WWF management. As far as the feud with Hogan, he never won because it simply would not have been believable. Hulk Hogan was (and still is) bigger than life in the late 80's/early 90's, and he was the most popular wrestler by far. For the WWF to take the title off Hogan and give it to anyone with a lower status would have been a mistake. Say what you want about Hogan, but at the time, he was the biggest draw in wrestling history.

Jimmy Snuka was undoubtedly a great wrestler. I would argue that during his first run with the WWF (ending in 1985) he had several title shots, most notably against Bob Backlund for the World Title and Don Muraco for the Intercontinental Title. Upon his return, he was too much of a cartoon character to be taken seriously. I always remember him being on the same level as the Bushwhackers, as someone who everyone loved, but nobody took seriously.

Nikita Koloff did, in fact, beat Magnum T.A. for the NWA Heavyweight Title. He took a leave of absence from wrestling when his wife was dying, and when he returned, he never got the same push.
Jon Rosaler wrote:
Well, Jimmy Snuka won the ECW title in 92. I know it was Eastern Championship Wrestliong at the time, but he was still considered the first.
Cruz Barnard wrote:
I absolutly agree with your column! Curt Henning was a true wrestler and in my opinion should have won more titles then Hogan. Kurt Angle should be getting comparisons to Henning but his name is never metioned. Jimmy Snuka also should have gotten more Titles then Hogan. Did you know that if the whole "Hulkamania" thing didn't work out Jimmy Snuka would have been the WWF's main guy"
Shaggy Dog 307 wrote:
I agree with all 3 of them that they should have been champs but.... you forgot 2 of the best too ever step in the ring....well...maybe you might only agree with 1.The one that you should agree with is Owen Hart....he is one of the best wrestlers ever...he had great mic skills and great ability,the other one might be questionable is British Bulldog....he had great in ring ability just his mic skills were never really that good.
Joseph Nicolino wrote:
Good article. But I'm going to have to go ahead and sort of disagree with you about Curt Henning not being a world champion, most wrestling people consider the AWA title a world title, the AWA wasn't in that bad of shape, I think they started to go down after Jerry Lawler was stripped of the title. The other two I do agree with, if Vince wasn't able to get Hulk Hogan from the AWA, Jimmy Snuka would've been a great champion. As for Nikita Koloff, he had a great gimmick and he could have a good run as world champion in JCP or WWE. But as far as workrate goes he really needed to be carried.
Cowboy Up Joker wrote:
I thoroughly enjoyed the article by John Austin. I agree with all the above mentioned, all were great but never given the reins to their respective companies. One I always think of as well is Rick Rude. Never giving a title run, but he had so much heat all the time it was ridiculous.
Juan M. Suarez wrote:
Great article - your could a ton of names to that list. I read somewhere, believe it was one of Mick Foley's books. That Jimmy Snuka was scheduled to get a monster push and a possible run with the title, but Jimmy got into some legal problems and the WW[W]F put a halt to the push.
Ben Johnson wrote:
Good article I agree that those guys all should have most definately been champs. Owen Hart should have been a champ too he was a great wrestler and worked extremely hard. What about Rick Rude, Teb Dibiase, and Scott Hall. These guys were all great wrestlers and the best heels of their time. Then theres Jake Roberts. Great ring skills and great mic skills enough said
Andrew Webber wrote:
I agree that Mr. Perfect should have been a World Champion. In 1990 he was on fire. He was clearly the top heel. They could have had him defeat either Hogan or Warrior afterall he did feud with them both. Looking back on those feuds Mr. Perfect was a far better wrestler and it would have been awesome to see Bobby Heenan finally manage a world Champion. Jimmy Snuka I disagree with. He was no doubt a phenom and i respect that and think he had a huge impact in the early 80's, but considering he was around when Backlund and Hogan were on top of their games I say no. If Snuka would have taken the title from either Hogan or Backlund it would have damaged their legacy. The only reason why I gave Perfect a pass is because Hogan already had his huge run and Warrior well I never bought into Warrior being the man. Nikita Koloff is an interesting one you brought up and i agree. I just disagree on the timing that you stated WCW wanted him to be the top guy. It would have made no sense for him to be champion in 1993. Vader and Sting were the step in the new direction and by this time Koloff wasn't as intimidating as he was in the 80's. Nikita could have easily knocked off Flair or Garvin in the Mid 80's and the fans would have bought it. Wrestling is all about timing in my opinion. Perfect and Koloff had ther perfect time they just werent given the chance to hold the major World belts. Snuka unfortunatly was stuck between Backlund and Hogan. I just dont believe it would have made sense to put the title on him. That doesnt take anything away from him. He is not overrated i just think he never had a the right time, but then agan just my opinion
Jason "Xtremefalls" Simmons wrote:
I read your column its alright but Curt Hennig won the AWA Belt. Falling apart or not he's still a world champion. Case in point Booker T and Rhino.
John Austin (Original Author) wrote:
First of all, I just wanted to say thank you to everybody who took time out to respond to my article. I hadn't written one in a while, and it's nice to know that I can still recieve this kind of response. I did want to respond to some of your comments:

To everyone who mentioned the wrestlers that I left out, I did so intentionally because I was curious as to whom would be mentioned by you all, as I said at the end of the article. I noticed Roddy Piper, but he was NWA World Champ. So was Rick Rude. I also noticed that a lot of people mentioned Owen Hart. I totally agree with everyone there, that Owen had everything necessary to be a champion, but I guess that is similar to what Andy Webber stated about Koloff: Timing. Mentioning that, I think that Koloff was originally supposed to be the "Mystery Opponent" that Ron Simmons was, who ended up de-throning Vader. At this time, Vader had already crushed Sting and was practically unbeatable, so it was plausible for some powerhouse to come out of nowhere and stop the "unstoppable" Van Vader, which was supposed to be Koloff originally. And I'm also pretty sure that it was the U.S. title that Koloff took from Magnum T.A. and not the World Heavyweight.

As Far as Mr. Perfect goes: I counted the AWA title, and that makes this another unique situation, but like I said, at the time, the AWA was nearing its end, and was no longer a major organization. Hogan leaving the AWA dealt them a blow that they never recovered from. Hennig was a dominant Intercontinental champion, but the belt was not a World Title, if you will. On another note, the thought of Henning defeating Hogan was not so far-fetched. If you remember, Mr. Perfect defeated Hulk Hogan in their first meeting, and although it was a count-out victory, How many other people can you remember having any form of victory over Hogan in that era" Hogan could have lost the title instead, and Hennig could have had a short reign, lasting a month or so, but it would have been significant for his career at least. My words on this subject were from being a fan of Mr. Perfect, not a hope of changing the past.

Now on to Jimmy Snuka: I think that he could have beaten Bob Backlund and it wouldn't have done anything to damage Backlund's "legacy". I think that Bob Backlund was a great wrestler, but he just didn't have that "spark". The guy could have went move for move with Kurt Angle in a wrestling shoot in his prime, but was about as charismatic as a bottle of eye-drops. Notice that everybody around that era is in the Hall of Fame, but Backlund, interestingly enough, is not" He was the guy who was easily enough replaceable, more of a "stand-in-champ" between Billy Graham and Hulk Hogan, two legitimate legends who have a more-than-obvious legacy, and I think that if Vince Jr. had gotten his hold on the business sooner, that Backlund wouldn't have been champ as long as he had been. Heel or face, the Fly would have been a better champ than Backlund, hands down. Him having a reign would have been a Hell of a lot more interesting than Backlund's. Most boring champion ever.

But thats enough ranting on my part. Once again, thanks for your responses guys. Until next time................
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