NOTE: If you missed earlier parts of this series, I suggest you check them out. I've examined five of the worst years already, including 1991, 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2011.
Last week, I examined the year that brought the word "pipebomb" into the pro wrestling vernacular off a vicious worked shoot on an episode of RAW in the early summer. It was followed by perhaps the most anticipated match in recent memory that ended up far surpassing any hype going into it. It was immediately followed by the WWE throwing money away-again-with their mishandling of the Summer of Punk. This came months after Mike Mizanin bombed as a main eventer, more CENAWINZLOL, and the Attitude Era coming to the rescue because the current crop had little or no star power whatsoever. Meanwhile, TNA's biggest storyline revolved around three people in their fifties and two in their sixties. Worst year ever?
Survey says no, though one Cagesider picked up a new insult thanks to my last Worst Year Ever post. What's next?
The early 1990s saw a dramatic shift in the world around us. Unfortunately, as it's usually the case, professional wrestling is slow to catch up to change. Soon enough, lagging behind came to bite them in the proverbial posterior. Prepare to be shocked, boys and girls: we're travelling back in time to the year of Power Rangers, Jurrasic Park, and Cheatum the Midget, 1993.
THE CASE FOR 1993 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
(photo via tvtropes.org)
Hulk Hogan. This mofo right here.
Let's start with the Orange Goblin himself. With the heat dying down from the steroid scandal-at least for now-the time was right-no, scratch that. Hulk Hogan maneuvered his way back into Vince's life and the WWF in general. Meanwhile, the WWF and the fans at large have seemingly moved on. Gone were the bulky men that populated the company during their heyday. In were smaller performers who could actually work a match and know more than five moves. Hell, they even put the WWF Championship on one of them in Bret Hart. He was to be the face of a cleaner, leaner WWF.
Except fans didn't exactly flock to see the "Hitman" in arenas nationwide. While Bret was more than deserving of being the WWF Champion (after all, he'd been there since 1986 and actually worked his way up the card), he didn't exactly jump off the screen as their #1 guy, nor translate at the box office. Enter a panicked Vince McMahon and a returning (looking much smaller, by the way) Hulk Hogan. Hogan, last seen making awful movies, returned to the company in February 1993, and whipped out his creative control card. His match at the forthcoming Wrestlemania IX (a tag title match between the Mega-Maniacs and Money Inc.) was promoted over Bret's WWF Championship match with Yokozuna. We probably should have seen the end game coming, but we didn't.
Wrestlemania IX, in and of itself, one of the worst wrestling shows ever, ended with neither Bret Hart nor Yokozuna with the WWF title, even though both men held it at some point in the last half hour of the show. The show ended with a 21-second title match where Hulk Hogan emerged as the WWF Champion for a record fifth time. After the cameras stopped rolling, Vince hugged Hogan thinking happy days were here again.
During Hogan's ten-week run as the WWF Champion, he never appeared on TV in front of a live crowd once. At least not in the States. In fact, just a few taped promos, probably taped over a one or two-day span, were about all we heard from the Hulkster.
Yes, that is Hulk Hogan in Japan talking about an IWGP heavyweight title match against The Great Muta. And yes, that is Hulk Hogan calling the WWF Championship belt a toy. Pretty sure Vince shat a chicken if or when he saw the footage. Upon his television return, Yokozuna defeated Hogan in the middle of the King of the Ring PPV (yes, the world title match went on in the middle of the show) with Hogan's leg drop no less and won the title. And that ends the Hogan story in the WWF. At least until 2002.
But Vince McMahon, undeterred, was going to find his next Hogan. The next All-American to vanquish the evil foreigner. That task would go to one Lex Luger, briefly WCW world champion, but otherwise career choke artist. Originally signed for Vince's other pet project the World Bodybuilding Federation, Luger's natural (insert eyeroll here) physique made him an easy choice to be the next big star of the WWF.
Well, not at first. See, he actually started the year as "The Narcissist" Lex Luger and had a gimmick of being a vain bodybuilder (or a bodybuilder). Then, out of nowhere, on the 4th of July, Luger arrived via helicopter aboard the USS Intrepid looking to do what dozens of others could not: slam the 500-plus pound WWF Champion. Despite claims of some being a hip toss, Luger slammed Yokozuna and got himself a WWF title match at Summerslam. And they pushed this thing HARD. They gave him a bus and everything. And the WWF title match was billed as one and only shot. If he blew it, there would be no do-over. And surely enough, Lex Luger blew it. He won by countout, but it was as good as a loss. Luger was out of the running in the WWF title hunt, and the label of him being a choke artist reared its ugly head again. Luger blowing the big match made the former "Total Package" look like a complete moron. Fans don't get behind morons.
Over in WCW, things weren't a whole lot better. In fact, they were a whole lot worse. I know, I know. I feel like I've said this before. But could you imagine WCW being out of business before Hulk Hogan and friends ruined it? Well, it was a very real possibility, and I'll tell you why in a moment.
1993 began with Bill Watts being kicked from WCW after some homophobic and racist comments he made in the past got in the ear of one Henry Aaron. Some of you may know him as Hank, the man who at the time hit more home runs in American professional baseball than any man walking the Earth ever. Pretty startling considering that under Bill Watts, Ron Simmons became the first African-American world champion in major professional wrestling history.
(photo via crazymax.org)
It also didn't help matters Watts wasn't trying hard enough to get one Ric Flair back in their fold after Flair had left the WWF early in the year. The assumption was that Tony Schiavone would get the gig to head up the company, but the honor went to third-string announcer Eric Bischoff. One of Bischoff's first acts was to phase out longtime announcer Jim Ross, who did not particularly care for Bischoff. Ross took a buyout and left for the WWF.
At least Vader became WCW world champion again. Ok, Vader wasn't any more of a draw in 1993 than Ron Simmons, but people were familiar with Vader. People were AFRAID of Vader. Naturally, Ric Flair would be a challenger to Vader, but... Flair couldn't wrestle for a while because of a little something called a no-compete clause. So while Flair bided his time, he got a talking segment, "Flair for the Gold". I'm also going to revisit this too.
So Vader built up challengers in Sting and Davey Boy Smith in the mean time. How does WCW build up the bouts? Mini-movies. I kid you not. Mini-movies with horrible acting and worse special effects and everything. I mean, this isn't even B-movie. It's like F-movie. It could be so bad, it's good. But it's still bad. And by bad I mean TERRIBLE. And it's not even the worst of the screwups. Far from it.
Mick Foley, aka Cactus Jack, was made into a sympathetic figure after he was powerbombed onto cement during a match on WCW Saturday Night in one of the sickest bumps anyone's ever witnessed. Fans and wrestlers alike are in complete shock. Even the commentators left the booth to check on him. And here's where they lose the plot: Lost in Cleveland. I see you cringing, longtime wrestling fan. For the unfamiliar, it was a series of comedy skits showcasing Cactus Jack as an amnesiac. He was a mental patient who thought he was a sailor. He was a homeless person. He had a frumpy wife (for posterity, here's a picture of Mick's wife. She's on the right. And here's the woman they used as Cactus' wife for the skits. The one on the left.) You would think they would blow off one of the most emotional feuds in recent memory with the returning Jack winning the WCW world title, right? Nope. Vader wins with a taser assist from Harley Race and Jack's snuffed out as a main-event player. Until he heads to the WWF (but not before a stopover in ECW).
WCW found some unexpected gold in the Steve Austin-Brian Pillman pairing. Together, the Hollywood Blondes became the top team in WCW almost by default, as their tag division was about as depleted as WWE's is today. Their rivalry with The Dynamic Dudes 2.0 (Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas) often produced some of the best bouts in WCW. So, of course WCW split up the Blondes, but not before among the most bizarre of television tapings went down in Orlando.
Another of Bischoff's early moves was to move their television tapings down to the Disney-MGM Studios at Universal Orlando. Cost-effective? Yes. Kayfabe-exposing? Oh, hell yeah. During these marathon sessions, every championship except the United States Championship was worn by more than one person. Three different teams wore the tag team title. There were different WCW and NWA world champions. Those tapings would indeed come back to bite them in the ass in more ways than one. Brian Pillman got injured, essentially breaking up WCW's hottest act and forcing the company to explain how Steve Regal of all people was holding one half of the tag titles. The NWA world title being worn by Rick Rude was something the NWA brass were not happy with and decided they weren't going to recognize Rude as their world champion. WCW in turn said they weren't going to let their wrestlers work other promotions. WCW divorced from the NWA at their annual convention in September and kept their world title in the divorce. Not much the NWA could do since they didn't have the money to fight Turner. Oh wait...Rick Rude, NWA world champ. What to make of it? Well, Rude was called (and I shit you not, kids, the WCW International World Champion. After they called it The Big Gold Belt.
Paul Roma, Horseman. I'll give you a moment to vomit.
Harlem Heat were almost promoted as...well, working slaves for a plantation owner, for lack of a better word. They were originally going to be called The Posse. I wish I could make this up.
With Vader running through basically everyone, there was one viable challenger left: the other Master of the Powerbomb, Sid Vicious. The two were going to battle it out at Starrcade, with Sid winning the WCW world title (hell, this was exposed already in the Orlando tapings). But a funny thing happened on the way to Starrcade. And by funny, I mean not at all funny. During a WCW tour in England, an argument ensued between Sid and Arn Anderson at a hotel bar. The argument escalated into a fight. The fight nearly turned fatal. Arn's grooming scissors was used as a stabbing weapon, with both men getting wounded several times (Arn nearly lost an eye and his kidney). Despite no charges being filed, the locker room was in full-on revolt. They decided they'd rather not work than work with an attempted murderer. WCW was left with no option but to fire Sid. In a side nugget, Davey Boy Smith was also fired due to an unrelated bar incident just before Starrcade.
And speaking of Starrcade, it would be the swan song for Missy Hyatt. She was involved in a disqualification finish for the WCW tag titles, but her involvement included a wardrobe malfunction live on PPV (for posterity, this is what she wore on the show). If you're thinking that got her fired, you'd be wrong. A picture of said wardrobe malfunction somehow ended up on a bulletin board at CNN Center in Atlanta (where WCW Headquarters was). Missy, as she should, complained about this to Eric Bischoff. The complaints go unanswered, so she goes over his head. And that's how Missy got fired. Missy sues WCW and gets a huge payday when the sexual harassment suit is settled three years later. In a side nugget, Missy lost more than her top for a website she briefly ran in the early 2000s.
But back around to Ric Flair's talking segment. In August, to set up for Fall Brawl and the War Games match, Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Dustin Rhodes would introduce their replacement fourth member (Road Warrior Hawk was on the disabled list). The introduction is perhaps the most famous blooper in professional wrestling history.
Flair For the Gold - Shockmaster Debut (WCW... by zep81videos
It shocked the world.
He is... THE SHOCKMASTER! And Fred Ottman, last seen in the WWF as Typhoon, fell on his fucking arse, bedazzled Stormtrooper and all. The supposedly menacing gimmick was shelved in favor of a humorous klutzy gimmick. It didn't work, and Ottman was soon out of WCW.
When the music stopped on Ric Flair's 11th world title win at the end of Starrcade, WCW lost a reported $23 million(or $37.6 million in 2014 dollars). The folks at Turner looked at the books and WCW's demise was imminent, that was, until Eric Bischoff talked them off the ledge. His feeling was if they could just get into the national conscience among casual fans, everything will be alright. We all know the "yeah, but" that followed.
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Andre the Giant died, you guys.
Holy shit. 2000 plus words and I've barely written anything good about this year. Did ANYTHING GOOD HAPPEN?
THE CASE AGAINST 1993 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
I know, hard to believe. Something good did happen in 1993.
On January 11, WWF replaced their long running Prime Time Wrestling series with a little something called Monday Night RAW. It basically changed the way professional wrestling was presented on television. Instead of pretaped matches joined together by commentary in a studio (basically, all of the WWF shows outside of PPVs or the occasional Saturday Night's Main Event) or done on a soundstage (like WCW Worldwide or WCW Saturday Night), angles and matches played out before a live audience in a live arena with live commentary.
An early episode involved one Ric Flair losing to Mr. Perfect in a great "Loser Leaves Town" match. Another early episode saw the emergence of one Sean "The Kid" Waltman. His upset win over Razor Ramon is still among the most talked about moments in wrestling history. That same episode saw the long-awaited EXPLOSION of The Rockers as Marty Jannetty won his only singles championship in the WWF when he defeated Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship. Monday Night RAW was the show that brought professional wrestling out of the "dark ages" and into the modern era.
1993 also saw the return of Ric Flair to WCW. And needless to say, he got a hero's welcome. After all, Flair WAS WCW. He seemed out of place in the over-the-top WWF even though he won their world title twice in the year and a hafl he was there. But he couldn't wrestle right away when he returned home. He had to wait out his no-compete clause. But when he returned to the ring in the summer...
WCW Clash Of The Champions XXIII - Ric Flair... by Bluthor
it was as if Flair never missed a beat.
1993 seemingly was the year of the big guys as the WWF had Yokozuna mowing down the competition for much of the year, while WCW the 450-pound mastadon from Colorado Vader reasserting his place as the lead dog. After turning away one challenger after another, only one man stood between him and absolute domination of WCW: the face of the company, Ric Flair. In fact, for Flair, it was an all or nothing proposition in his hometown of Charlotte atStarrcade. If he failed, his career was over.
And surely enough, with everything on the line, Ric Flair did not fail. WCW's most tumultuous (and costliest) year on record ended with a glimmer of hope: The Nature Boy was their world champion again.
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Bret Hart: King of the Ring.
I've stated my case. Now it's your turn. Was 1993 the worst year ever for professional wrestling? Vote below and comment and such. Next time, we're back in the 21st century.