Classic Wrestling Review BONUS: Best of the 90s Part 1 (1990 – 1994)

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Best of the 90s Part 1

(1990 – 1994)

I have been writing this blog for a year and a half. I’m closing in on one hundred entries. It’s amazing this weekend hobby has gathered a following. I am thankful to all of you who read on a weekly basis. I love hearing your feedback. I knew this was an ambitious project when I started. It will take until 2027 to complete all the material I am covering. I even have plans for what to do after that. (It’s a secret. You’ll have to wait.) So, this blog will be around for a while barring unforeseen circumstances. Thank you for sticking with me on this journey. There will be more fun and surprises in the coming year. Now, on with the show.

The 90s, so far: The amount of PPVs I’m covering is about to nearly triple. The WWF starts doing monthly shows in ‘95 and WCW adds a few more. Plus, I also have ECW events. So, I decided to split my Best of the 90s entry into two parts. I have now completed the first half of the decade, and it’s been interesting. We’ve seen the rise and fall and rise again of the Ultimate Warrior. Hulk Hogan did a little acting, lots of lying, and even some leaving. A boom period came to a sad end and old familiar faces moved to new homes. WCW struggled to find an identity while the WWF struggled to find new stars. Then, a fresh challenger entered the fray, but they’re very much a diamond in the rough.

We’ve seen the Wizard of Oz come to life in a wrestling ring and Robocop save Sting. The Undertaker got chloroformed by a hairy mountain man, became an American patriot, and then died and rose to the heavens. Then, he fought himself and became part of a Chuck Norris joke. There have been wrestling race car drivers, garbage men, accountants, and clowns!

GAH! No, I wasn’t talking about you, Happy Jack! Get out of here!! The nightmares have returned!! Sorry, I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes. We saw a wedding and a wedding reception with snakes! Then, we saw a snake bite a man. We also witnessed a man hold a snake to his face and pretend to be bitten. Wheels were spun. Deals were made. Careers began and ended. Also, masked mystery men were all the rage and deeply disappointing. Whether it’s a Black Scorpion, a Butcher, a guy in a storm trooper helmet tripping through a wall, it did not fail to disappoint. You know, I’m starting to think wrestling is a very strange place. However, I love it for all its absurdity and now I’m looking back on what I loved about the first half of the 90s.

PLEASANT SURPRISES AND CHANGED OPINIONS

In this section, I’m going to discuss wrestlers who surprised me or changed my opinion of them. I’ve found that covering all these events sometimes shatters old opinions and preconceived notions. I sometimes find myself enjoying a wrestler more than I expected. Here are a few examples.

#4 The Nasty Boys

When I was a teenager watching wrestling, I never cared for the Nasty Boys. I found them annoying. I did find amusement in Dusty Rhodes yelling about clubberin’, but the Nasties themselves were not my favorites. However, they surprised me while writing my blog. As long as no one lets them go twenty minutes, they can be entertaining. I found myself enjoying more of their matches than I disliked. It helped they were in the ring with people like Cactus Jack and Terry Funk. Terry’s reaction to Pity City greatly amused me. I am aware they will begin to annoy me again in the future. They overstay their welcome in WCW. For now, I find them alright.

#3 The Public Enemy

I’m not saying they’re great wrestlers. Their matches haven’t set my world on fire. However, their promos on ECW TV are a highlight. I was only familiar with their WCW work. I had no idea how funny they were. WCW never let their personality shine. Whether they’re stealing wrestlers’ wallets from the locker room or trying to sneak away with the ECW Title, they made me chuckle. When they stole a llama from Terry Funk’s ranch and said it was the weirdest horse they’ve ever seen, I legitimately laughed.

#2 Art Donovan

Yes, I’m being serious. When I first watched King of the Ring ‘94 as a teen, I couldn’t stand him. I found him annoying. However, watching the PPV for my blog gave me a new appreciation. He was endearing. He genuinely seemed impressed by what he saw, but he had no idea how to express that feeling. He didn’t know the product. He was a curious child wanting to know how much wrestlers weighed and why the scary lady was screaming. I almost felt bad the announcers were ignoring him. He made me want to know how much that fella weighed. Someone please tell him!

#1 Sabu

I was never a fan of Sabu. I only saw him in his latter days when he was a broken man. I knew him as the guy who botched most of his moves. Going back and watching his early work finally made me realize the appeal. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. He was presented perfectly as a madman. They dragged him to the ring in a Hannibal Lecter mask. Then, they unleashed him to wreck havoc. It was both intriguing and uncomfortable. You could see he was breaking his body to put on a show. I get why they paired him against Mick Foley. Both men had a disregard for their well being. I would still never call him a great wrestler, but I found myself enjoying what I saw.

FAVORITE MATCHES

#5 Chicago Street Fight: The Nasty Boys vs. Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne (Spring Stampede ‘94)

I’m a sucker for Falls Count Anywhere Matches. I especially like when they go all around the building. This fight didn’t venture too far from the ring, but it had some great spots and intense brawling. Plus, it’s impressive to watch Cactus take the bumps he did so soon after losing his ear. Bobby Heenan’s commentary also added to the match. He sounded legitimately scared for these men’s lives.

On a side note, you’ll notice a lot of these matches are from ‘94. I am kind of biased toward that year. Plus, the match quality improved a lot as the first half of the 90s progressed. It’s not surprising a lot of my favorites are from the tail end.

#4 War Games Match: Sting’s Squadron vs. The Dangerous Alliance (WrestleWar ‘92)

This was a prime example of a War Games match done correctly. I had great intensity and a good finish. Plus, it had blood. A lot of these later War Games I will cover weren’t allowed to have it. It also had good storytelling. They had the intrigue around whether Sting could trust Nikita. You also had the story of the Dangerous Alliance falling apart. Plus, it had the unique visuals of the Alliance dismantling the ring and Madusa climbing the cage.

#3 Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)

It didn’t have as many crazy spots as modern ladder matches, but it told a good story. I remember being in awe of this match when I watched it in the 90s. I think a lot of the spots still hold up, especially the baseball slide into the ladder. That one still looks painful. I also like the finish. It was a unique way to prevent Shawn from stopping Razor without having Ramon climb slowly.

#2 WCW Title Match: Ric Flair (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat (Spring Stampede ‘94)

I debated whether to make this #1 or not. It is the match that hooked me on wrestling. It’s not the best Flair/Steamboat match and it doesn’t have a decisive finish. However, I will always have a soft spot for it. This is still a great match. I was a new fan when I watched it and those hard chops astounded me. I had no idea wrestling could be hard-hitting. I grew up hearing it was fake. Seeing these two guys work their asses off made me a fan of wrestling.

#1 Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania X)

Flair/Steamboat hooked me on wrestling, but the Bret/Owen feud cemented that fandom. That’s why I put this match as #1. This match was a perfect mix of technical wrestling and storytelling. Plus, Owen’s surprise victory is still such a good finish. Also, Owen’s performance was great. I loved how he celebrated the smallest of things.

Honorable Mentions:

– Bret/Owen Cage Match (SummerSlam ‘94)

– Randy Savage/Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VII)

– Sting/Vader (Pick one. They’re all good.)

– Vader/Flair (Starrcade ‘93)

FAVORITE FEUDS

#4 Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect

This is a feud that is spread across years. They only had two PPV matches, but both were amazing. They are two men that always match up well against each other. I like that it was simple. It was about mutual respect—and also about whose dad could beat up the other’s dad. Leave it to Mean Gene to stir that pot!

#3 Sting vs. Ric Flair

An unfortunate injury delayed it, but it’s still a great rivalry. Yes, it included Robocop at one point. That can be overlooked. It is still a great example of long-term booking. The story they told from The Great American Bash ‘89 to Sting’s win at The Great American Bash ‘90 was great. It’s a shame that WCW dropped the ball on Sting’s title reign. He deserved better.

#2 Sting vs. Big Van Vader

This feud was less about the story and more about the matches. It was off and on for a couple of years, but it produced some amazing bouts. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think these two are capable of having a bad match with each other. They’ve had bloody brawls and good stories. They even overcame the silly mini-movie to make that White Castle of Fear match amazing. Plus, how can you not love a feud that brought us Cheatum the Midget?

#1 Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart

As I said earlier, this feud cemented my wrestling fandom. I’m a middle child, so the idea of a sibling rivalry spoke to me. Plus, this is a prime example of long-term booking done correctly. It’s amazing to realize how long this feud lasted. It began in late ‘93 and lasted until early ‘95. Owen was so good in his performance. He played the weaselly heel perfectly.

Honorable Mentions:

– Shockmaster vs. Gravity

– Michael Buffer vs. The word Hulkamania

– Vince McMahon vs. The Government (Just ask Stephanie about this.)

FAVORITE WRESTLERS

#5 Cactus Jack

I’ve always had a great respect for Mick Foley. He seems like a genuinely nice person. I also admire his willingness to sacrifice himself to entertain others. It can be uncomfortable to watch sometimes. It will only get worse as I progress through the 90s. However, I still love his work. Plus, he’s so entertaining. He never half-assed any character he was given, no matter how absurd it is. He played every role with full force.

#4 Sting

The argument could be made that the early 90s was Sting’s time. WCW mishandled his first title reign, but that didn’t stop him from having great matches and more success. I thoroughly enjoyed his wars with Vader and his match with Cactus Jack. He has an exciting energy that draws your attention. It’s a shame his run at the top was pushed aside when Hogan arrived, but he will return to that spot soon enough. Let’s hope WCW doesn’t screw it up again. They couldn’t possibly do that—right?

#3 Big Van Vader

When I first started watching wrestling, one of the most impressive things I witnessed was Vader doing a moonsault. I knew then he would be one of my favorites. Everything he did looked believable and brutal. You couldn’t look away when he was on screen. It also helped he was entertaining. His promos were the perfect level of over-the-top.

#2 Owen Hart

Owen was one of those wrestlers who was athletically impressive, but also was able to make you hate him as a heel. He was outstanding at playing the sneaky and annoying pest. He could cut a promo that made you want to see him beaten, but also put a smile on your face. Plus, his matches were amazing. He is also one of those you knew was a genuinely good person outside the ring. I will someday do an entire blog entry about him, but that’s down the line.

#1 Bret Hart

He is one of the four wrestlers who hooked me on wrestling. The others are Flair, Steamboat, and Owen. I put Flair as my #1 in the Best of the 80s, so I had to put Bret as my #1 in the 90s. The early-90s might have been Sting’s time, but the mid-90s was Bret. He is another whose ring work looked so believable. Everything was crisp and well performed. He also knew how to adapt to who he was working against, as we will see in my Rumble ‘95 review.

FAVORITE PPVs

#5 SuperBrawl II

It started with Pillman/Liger, which is one of the best PPV openers ever. There was also a fun Cactus Jack match and other good to great matches. Plus, they had the amusing ninja stuff with Missy Hyatt and Paul E. The main event was a bit disappointing, but it did see Sting return to the top. Overall, it was a fun PPV.

#4 King of the Ring ‘93

This PPV was a surprising gem in the middle of a lackluster year. We saw multiple Bret Hart matches, including a classic with Mr. Perfect. It also gave us the end of Hulk Hogan’s initial WWF run. So, that’s a memorable moment. The show was a good mix of action and story.

#3 Royal Rumble ‘92

This show is known for the Rumble Match itself, but it’s still a solid event. There is only one bad match and the rest is good to great. The Rumble was packed with big names and included a masterful performance by both Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan on commentary. It’s a highly recommended show, but just skip the Bushwhackers match.

#2 WrestleMania X

It is basically a two-match show, but those two matches are amazing. Plus, it saw Bret Hart return to the top. The rest of the show isn’t bad and there is a great atmosphere to it. It also helps that it is one of the earliest PPVs I watched. I didn’t see it live, but I did watch it later. As I said before, I have a soft spot for 1994. That brings me to my #1 favorite.

#1 Spring Stampede ‘94

This was the first PPV I watched live. My Uncle had one of those black boxes, so he always watched the events. I had only been watching wrestling for a month or so, so I jumped at the opportunity when my cousin invited me to watch this show. Top to bottom it is a solid PPV. There isn’t an actively bad match on the card and most of them are quite good. It has a good mix of technical clinics and bloody brawls. It’s a great example of variety in wrestling.

Final Thoughts:

The first half of the 90s has been a mixed bag. There have been ups and downs and I know I’m entering a lull in wrestling history. 1995 is going to be tough to cover, but I’m looking forward to it. Sometimes the worst shows can make for the funnest reviews. Lord knows I’m about to cover some stinkers. I’m looking at you, King of the Ring ‘95. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once I get through ‘95, I can cover the nWo, the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Attitude Era. It’s going to be fun. Come along for the ride!

READER CHALLENGE

I posted a reader challenge on the Facebook page and Twitter. I only got responses on Facebook, but there were some good ones. The challenge was to give me wrong answers as to what was really inside the egg at Survivor Series ‘90. Here are some of the answers.

Donny Stancato said, “Mae Young’s hand child.” (I guess it had to incubate for ten years first.)

Kenneth Park said, “Bruce Hart.” (We could only be so lucky. He’d probably punch his way out of the egg.)

Matthew Dunfee said, “It was me Austin!” (Aw, son of a bitch! I should have known!)

Scott Mullen said, “The Red Rooster’s love child.” (That would make sense, but that’s also deeply disturbing.)

Aaron Beck said, “Shawn Michaels’ lost smile.” (So, that’s where it went!?)

Michael David Hole said, “The Black Scorpion.” (I thought he came down in a spaceship, not an egg.)

Finally, Bradley Lorenz had this great pun, “YOLKazuna.” (That made me chuckle. I love a good pun.)

Thank you for reading. You can like and follow the Facebook page here and the Twitter page here. Also, you can buy t-shirts here. There will be a Black Friday sale going on from Nov. 22nd to Dec. 1st. You can get up to 40% off and some special free giveaways.

My next review will be Royal Rumble ‘95. Look for it this Saturday!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I am chronologically reviewing all the pre-network era WWF/WCW/ECW PPVs from Starrcade '83 to WrestleMania 30. Join me on this journey every Saturday!
Like and Follow the Facebook page for this blog here: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicWrestlingReview.
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