Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Did Dusty Rhodes Become a Monster Truck Announcer?

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.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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Drew was sure to send this question in on a SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY:

My question is for something interesting that happened not necessarily with pro wrestling but with what has been called pro wrestlng’s sister sport: Monster Trucks. I remember back during the Monday Night Wars when Turner channels would play Nitro & Thunder, either one of those channels or another Turner channel used to play weekly monster truck rallies.

The question I wanted to ask was about a certain event when the two sports seemingly became more closer then ever: On a random night for Monster Trucks, the event just stopped suddenly and there was footage backstage of a bunch of guys coming in and just wrecking shit all over the place. Honestly it felt very reminiscent of NWO which was still going fresh at the time. But the biggest tie to it all was when a bunch of flash lighted trucks came into an arena with a grand entrance and the late great icon himself Dusty Rhodes was there and gave some brief speech.

Then next week there was their attempt at a storyline where the interview lady who would interview monster truck drivers had been taken away during the previous weeks chaos and someone else was trying to find her out on like the Miami strip or something. Along with that was Dusty now doing commentary for the truck competitions and someone acting like an authority figure came to complain about how they’re doing their job which made Dusty get confrontational.

What was this attempt with a Monster Truck show to add in Pro Wrestling like storylines? Who thought it up? How did Dusty get involved? And honestly since I don’t remember watching much after this, how long did this go on for before they just gave up on it? Sorry for the long question but this one always stuck with me. I hope it makes for a fascinating research project.

The show that you’re referring to is Motor Madness, which was a three-hour long block of motor sports programming. It aired not on one of the Turner networks but rather on TNN, back when it was still known as The Nashville Network and before it was home to any professional wrestling content. The Motor Madness show did feature monster trucks some weeks, but it was actually a mix of several different motor sports, also including events such as demolition derby and swamp buggy racing.

The show debuted on TNN in 1997 and was a straight racing show for its first season. Then, in 1998, there was a format change that resulted in the pro wrestling-style skits and storylines that Drew referenced above. In fact, they started with a kidnapping angle involving one of the program’s original announcers, a woman named Katie Haas. Apparently, the faux kidnapping was a cover for a pregnancy that kept her off the air for a while. It was during this time that the American Dream joined the commentary team.

There is not a lot of information about the history of the show out there. The most comprehensive summary of the Dusty Rhodes era that I was able to find was written back on 2015 on a comedy website called The Interrobang.

How did this crossover between pro wrestling and motor sports come to be? I’ve not seen anybody spell it out 100%, but there’s enough information out there that we can make some educated guesses.

According to the July 12, 1999 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the producer of Motor Madness was a gentleman by the name of Will Byrd. Byrd previously had some involvement in professional wrestling, helping with production of WCW pay per view events from 1993 to 1997 and acting as a producer on Monday Nitro from its debut until 1997. The February 2, 1998 Observer contains a brief reference to Dusty Rhodes coming to work on Motor Madness for the first time, indicating that the show would begin to incorporate pro wrestling storylines. It is also noted that Rhodes got the Motor Madness job for himself, as opposed to it being something that was worked out as a formal cross-promotion with WCW.

Nowhere have I seen it mentioned how Dusty landed the job, but he and Will Byrd would have been working together on WCW events for several years prior to this, and it is reasonable to assume that their connection with one another not only lead to Rhodes landing the role but also in Motor Madness adopting some of the hallmarks of pro wrestling. However, it’s not clear whether that idea originated with Byrd, Rhodes, or some combination of the two.

For what it’s worth, motor sports fans did not seem to take kindly at all to Dusty’s commentary and the skits, and they were eventually phased out of the show. At an even later point, Motor Madness stopped airing any motor sports other than monster truck races, and it was more commonly referred to as Monster Jam.

As an aside, Will Byrd would find himself in the wrestling world once more after all of this, as he was assigned to be a producer of the ECW on TNN show when it debuted in 1999. In fact, Motor Madness/Monster Jam was often a lead-in for the ECW program. In one last wrestling crossover, one of the men who became an announcer for Motor Madness when it was in its later Monster Jam era was Mike Hogewood, who would go on to become the porpoise-slapping voice of Ring of Honor on HDNet.

Andy from Melbourne is a bit confused, but I think I can help straighten him out:

I love the Ask 411 article, I learn so much from it!

I don’t know if I have enough info for you to answer this question, but I’m trying to figure out the first wrestling show I ever watched. I’m in Australia, so it would’ve been a home video/PPV international release, and I reckon I would’ve watched it in 1993.

I remember the main event was Hogan vs Luger – at one point Hogan was in a torture rack with a commentator, who I now believe was likely to be Heenan (but I don’t know for sure) screaming that Hogan had submitted. As a dumb young kid I didn’t know he was a heel and that Hogan hadn’t submitted!

About the only other memory I have of the show is that Bret Hart was on it.

I’m fairly confident that I know what match you’re talking about, though you may be a bit turned around on a couple of the details. That’s not entirely surprising given that you’re talking about a match that you saw as a kid twenty-five years ago.

The reason I can say that I’m fairly confident is that, in the entire history of professional wrestling, there has only been one televised singles match between Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger in which Hogan was the face and Luger was the heel. (And Luger was more of a tweener overall at the time, but he was definitely positioned as the heel in this specific match.)

That bout came on the second ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro on September 11, 1995, just one week after Luger made a surprise appearance on the first episode of the show, shocking the wrestling world and particularly the WWF, who though they were in the process of re-signing him to a new contract.

The match contains the exact spot that Andy described in his email, with Luger trapping Hogan in the torture rack and Bobby Heenan on commentary insisting that the Total Package had won. In fact, you can see it right here:

As noted above, if this is the match, there are a couple of things that Andy has mis-remembered. First off, with the match taking place in 1995, there’s no way he would have watched it in 1993. Also, Bret Hart was still in the WWF at the time and nowhere near Nitro. There were only three other televised matches on this show, and they were Alex Wright vs. Sabu, Sting vs. VK Wallstreet (a.k.a. IRS), and Randy Savage vs. Scott Norton.

I’m also a bit curious as to how Andy watched this one. He is confident that he saw it on VHS or PPV, but I’m not aware of this match ever being released on home video in the 1990s (almost all WCW home video releases were PPVs with very few compilation videos), and I don’t know why a random episode of Nitro would be on pay per view. I’m not Australian, but a bit of googling tells me that, in 1995, Nitro would have been aired there on a station called Channel 9, so perhaps he did see it on conventional television.

VelvetAndroid from the comment section wants to ask a question that is a little bit inside baseball:

Sorry Ryan, it’s been bugging me gently for a while now but seeing all the names laid out in a list like that really drives it home – may I ask why you have such an apparent fixation for particular ‘off-brand’ names for certain wrestlers? “Mike the Miz” is the one that especially jumps out whenever you use it – has anybody, anywhere called The Miz that since he was a rookie? And bracketing him with “Johnny Nitro” who’s been known as John Morrison in WWE since, what, 2007 only emphasises it.

OK, we can all agree perhaps that some things like Antonio Cesaro and Elias Samson have just partly gone ‘missing in action’ along the line, and the wrestlers concerned haven’t rebranded as such. (But then, why keep Tucker and Otis’s dropped surnames yet not Erik and Ivar’s?) And OK, maybe if you’re an old-school WCW fan then I can understand why you’d persevere with “Rey Misterio Jr”… even though Rey Mysterio has been his WWE ring name since 2002. But why not talk about “The Giant” still, by that reckoning? And speaking of “Reckoning”, Mia Yim is listed under that moniker even though she’s only had it for a few months in a gimmick most people would wish they didn’t have to acknowledge – while Natalya hasn’t used “Neidhart” in a decade yet it’s still on your list. How come MVP is “Montel Vontavious Porter” but HHH isn’t “Hunter Hearst Helmsley”? So what gives, Mr Bias, re these random name biases?!

For those who may have missed it, this comment was left back on the February 7 edition of the column in which I answered a question that involved me naming every current member of the WWE roster.

The answer is different for different people that you’ve referenced. “Mike the Miz” and “Johnny Nitro” are actually both little in-jokes for people who have been reading me for a while on this site. When they first became “The Miz” and “John Morrison,” I originally hung on to their older names for a bit longer than the rest of the world by accident, just because I was used to the old monikers and it was difficult for me to drop them. However, there were some people who got really upset by this, to the point that they started calling me a moron in the comment section. I was amused by the unreasonable extent to which they got angered by somebody having the temerity to accidentally use a wrestler’s former ring name, so after a while I started intentionally using those two outdated names just to piss them off. I don’t get those sorts of comments anymore, but I’ve kept Mike the Miz/Johnny Nitro around as an homage to that time.

(Also, “Mike the Miz” IS the guy’s Twitter handle, so somebody out there is still using it . . .)

Regarding Rey Misterio Jr., I originally learned it as “Misterio,” and that’s just what has naturally stuck in my head. I’m aware that WWE spells it the other way, but it’s just never clicked with me even though it’s been around for almost twenty years now. I also tend to leave the “Jr.” on because there have been multiple Rey Misterios. Keeping the “Jr.” helps distinguish him from his uncle and the four (!) different guys who the original Rey Misterio has had wrestle under the name “El Hijo de Rey Misterio” at various points.

I do also tend to keep the first and last names that WWE drops, mainly because I think the practice of dropping them is stupid. It makes people sound like they’re strippers, particularly when it comes to women. Also, there have been circumstances over the years where those dropped names have crept back in, so my head canon has always been that those are still part of the character’s proper name, even if they’re not commonly mentioned. This is particularly true with Natalya, as WWE has gone back and forth on using “Neidhart” with her, to the point that the title of her Wikipedia page (which by their standards is supposed to be the most common name associated with the performer) is “Natalya Neidhart.”

And, if you look closely, it’s not uncommon for me to refer to Triple H as “Helmsley,” though I do mix that in with his other names.

So, there’s an answer to a self-indulgent question about me which probably only one person really cares about.

Bane was born in the dark, molded by it:

I’m just wondering, has there ever been an explanation (kayfabe, of course) as to why wrestlers are able to get away with the various crimes they commit (assault, kidnapping, attempted murder, etc.)?

I’ve read that question seven or eight times now in the Bane voice. It never gets old.

In any event, yes, this has been explained in the past . . . though it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it mentioned. Back in the day, when a heel engaged in particularly egregious behavior directed at a babyface backstage, the announcers would typically explain that, though the heel should be subject to criminal penalties, the babyface has refused to press charges and has convinced the local authorities not to do so because, if the heel goes away to jail, the babyface will not be able to get his revenge in the ring.

Of course, over time, wrestling evolved to a point where there were so many angles that should have involved the police that this particular explanation didn’t hold water anymore (surely at least ONE face would want their attacker prosecuted), but that was at about the same time wrestling promotions gave up on the idea of trying to ensure that these things made sense.

HBK’s Smile is looking for a grand slam of sorts:

Was there a card between WrestleMania 2 and WrestleMania X that featured defenses of each of the WWF World, Intercontinental, Tag Team and Women’s titles? I’m pretty sure no PPV did during that span, but any card at all?

I was getting ready to say that there weren’t any, but then there were a couple that got in right at the bell. Believe it or not, there was no such card from Wrestlemania II on April 27, 1986 until February 18, 1994.

Why did it take so long? There are a few reasons. The first is that the WWF Women’s Title was put on ice in 1989 and wasn’t revived until 1994, so there were several years where it wasn’t even a possibility. Even when all four belts were active, the confluence of them all was going to be rare, because at the time the WWF was running multiple house show tours and would divide up the championships between them so that there would be something to help draw on each tour.

However, in 1994, the Women’s Title was back, and the WWF’s business had cooled off, so they were running fewer shows overall. That brought all of the championships back together on just one occasion prior to Wrestlemania X. This show was on February 18, 1994 at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, where WWF Tag Team Champions the Quebecers wrestled the Smoking Gunns, WWF Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze faced her rival Heidi Lee Morgan, WWF Champion Yokozuna tangled with Tatanka, and Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon closed the show against Shawn Michaels.

Tyler from Winnipeg is well-coiffed:

In your opinion, who is #1 for greatest of all time wrestling hair? Is it Jeff Jarrett when he sang with my baby tonight? Spend my day working hard on the go…

The answer is from a similar time frame, but it’s a completely different person. I’m going to go with the mid-1990s ‘do of Bull Nakano. It was unique and instantly recognizable, and I loved the way that the tower of hair would slowly collapse over the course of a particularly hard-fought match. Watching it go down was almost like watching the health bar of a video game end boss be depleted.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].

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