One question that is often asked among longtime wrestling fans, whether on the Internet or not, is what was wrestling's worst year. Hell, if you scour the Interwebs enough, you'd think that this past year was the worst year ever (it's not. Trust me. I'll get to that soon enough). But in all honesty, I think it's about time we put this debate to rest. And you're gonna help. Over the next few weeks, I'll make a case for and against the years often cited as the worst years in wrestling ever, then you'll decide if it was the worst year ever.
First up, 1991.
THE CASE FOR 1991 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
Two words: steroid controversy. Ah, you thought I was gonna go Gulf War, didn't you? I'll get there, don't worry. But the shine that the WWF enjoyed for the better part of the 1980s would be gone by the turn of the new decade. A sizable portion (no pun intended) of the roster had to duck out of the company (or be forced out) due to the federal government circling the dying carcass of the WWF with the whole investigation into steroid distribution. That meant that Vince McMahon's venture, the World Bodybuilding Federation would be a bust before it even got off the ground (not that it had a lot going for it even without those scary, scary drugs).
And why was it a dying carcass? Among other reasons, because the WWF exploited an actual war. The company turned GI Joer Sgt. Slaughter into an American turncoat and Iraqi sympathizer AND put the WWF title on him. Yet, they expected to sell out a 100,000-seat (if you count potential ground capacity) Los Angeles Coliseum for his title defense against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VII. Well, no less than three things were working against this: Sgt. Slaughter was visibly past his prime, the Gulf War ended just a month after Slaughter won the title, and fans were tiring of Hulk Hogan's schtick. Though the company line was "security concerns", fans pretty much voted with their wallet and said no thanks to Slaughter-Hogan, forcing the WWF to move the event to the much smaller LA Sports Arena. Nonetheless, they continued to serve it through the summer.
A summer, by the way, that included Hulk Hogan lying on the Arsenio Hall Show about taking performance-enhancing drugs.
And quite an interesting summer it was. Though Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage set the world on fire with their Wrestlemania VII match, neither man would stick around. Savage really was retired and Warrior walked out... only to be brought back... only to be fired again.
Though storm clouds were quickly forming in the WWF, it was a full-on hurricane in WCW.
Following the mess that was WCW in 1990 (where they operated at a $7 million loss-a drop in the bucket compared to what they'd lose a decade later), Ole Anderson was kicked to the curb and Dusty Rhodes (after being fired by the WWF) was given his old job back. The man who brought him in was Jim Herd, who was a regional manager for Pizza Hut. He knew nothing about wrestling, but he knew a thing or three about money. He tried to grab the young audience with gimmicks that wouldn't even pass in the WWF-well, maybe not until about three or four years later-and even attempted to repackage old favorites.
Among those pegged for repackaging was Ric Flair, who was far and away WCW's most popular performer. Flair's contract was up and he was due for a renewal. However, Herd demanded that Flair (a) take a drastic pay cut, and (b) more or less give up his creative control. It should be pointed out that at the time, Flair was the NWA and WCW world heavyweight champion (since WCW was the primary affiliate for the NWA at the time, whoever was WCW champion was NWA champion too). The NWA champion part is of importance here. With the championship, he had a $25,000 deposit on the NWA world title belt, which, when he lost it, would paid back to him with interest. Probably no more than a couple grand, but still. Supposedly, it was to prevent people from taking a walk to other... competing... promotions... which is what Ric Flair did on July 1, 1991. Depending on who's telling the story, Ric either quit or got fired. Whatever the case, WCW was without a world champion and the NWA world title by the end of the summer was vacant for the first time in the history of ever.
Oh, and WCW was without its world champion right before a PPV. The Great American Bash 1991. I could write a few dozen or a few hundred words about how bad the show was, but words would not nearly do it justice. Let's just say Baltimore really wanted Flair. The crowd AND the roster were in full-on REVOLT.
Oh, and I didn't even get into the Chamber of Horrors match they had a few months later.
Or the stunt the WWF pulled in November during Survivor Series-using a three-hour PPV to basically plug a 90-minute PPV 10 days later.
THE CASE AGAINST 1991 BEING THE WORST YEAR EVER
Remember that Ric Flair fellow I was talking about up there? Well, guess where he landed? In the WWF. And he came with the NWA world title belt. Needless to say the NWA was none too happy about it; I say tough shit. Should have paid up (which they eventually did-reportedly way more than $25,000). Not sure what the WWF had planned at the top, but all that got put on hold after Summerslam. The very thought of Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair got wrestling fans around the world salivating. Ok, never mind the reality, but come on. Hogan vs. Flair HYPE!
As mentioned earlier, Warrior-Savage stole the show and our hearts at Wrestlemania VII (first with the match, then with the Savage-Miss Elizabeth reunion), then both returned at Summerslam, admittedly under very different circumstances (Savage renewed his vows with Liz, and Warrior returned to the ring-albeit for one night only).
Not sure if we consider this a case against, but come on, 1991 was the high water mark of Virgil's career. He was the Million Dollar Champion for a few months.
And Bret Hart won his first singles title too. His dad and mom were there and everything. It was awesome.
And any year that ends with Hulk Hogan not the WWF Champion can't be all that bad, right? Hogan's third title run came to an end by a most unexpected challenger: The Undertaker. Ok, Hogan won it back, but then it got vacated after that, and it set up the most awesome Royal Rumble ever.
So now, I turn to you, the fine Cagesider. Is 1991 the worst year in wrestling ever?
Next, I'll tackle the year many peg as the worst: 1995. What other years should I take on?