clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Worst Year In Wrestling Ever: The Case For -- And Against -- 1995

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Last week, I began looking into one of life's great and unanswered questions: what was the worst year in professional wrestling history? Last time around, I looked at 1991, a year marred by major changes in WCW and scandal in the WWF. And of course, we asked you, the Cagesider if it was the worst year ever.

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt=" photo 1991WorstYearEverPoll.png"/></a>

And you overwhelmingly decided that it was not.

This week, I'm looking into the year that usually comes out of the mouths of many longtime wrestling fans as the worst ever. Avert your eyes while you still can: we're diving into the cesspool that was 1995.


Let's be honest. The case for 1995 being the worst year in professional wrestling ever is an easy one to make. They've written books about it. Plenty of them. At least three of them by my count. Hell, if Wrestlecrap had a physical Hall of Fame, then 1995 would get its own wing. That's how bad the year was. But I suppose you want some hard facts, so... here you go.

Let's start with the mess that was the World Wrestling Federation. Bret Hart spent most of 1994 as the WWF Champion, and though he connected with fans, it didn't translate in the box office. (Case in point, average monthly house show attendance only topped 4,000 once in Bret Hart's first two runs as WWF Champion. Granted, the PR mess they were dealing with for the early part of the decade had a lot to do with it, but still). So Vince McMahon in a panic turned to the charismatic seven-footer Kevin "Diesel" Nash. And business got worse. In his full year as champion, house show attendance averaged less than 3,000, bottoming out 1,940 per show in September 1995. Not only live attendance was down, ratings were down, PPV buys were down, and merchandise sales were down. Nothing was working and Vince was in a constant state of panic. In fact, 1995 in a nutshell was throwing things at a wall and seeing what stuck...which wasn't much. How could it? WWF in a world that was getting increasingly darker, looked more and more like a relic of the old days. New Generation, indeed.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The Royal Rumble match went just 40 minutes, making Shawn's wire-to-wire performance less impressive in retrospect (considering at least two men went longer before 1995 and LOST). Wrestlemania XI took place in a strip mall, and was headlined by a soon-to-be Hall of Fame (and soon-to-be troubled... a lot) football player against a career mid-carder (in the two big feds. He did have a brief run as ECW champion in 1997). The In Your House era began to much disappointment. Your King of the Ring: a nearly 600-pound man (who would nearly crush said world champion Diesel two months later on PPV. Literally.). Speaking of which, the WWF somehow managed to employ TWO of them. British Bulldog turned heel (and remained as such for the remainder of his WWF run-save for about three weeks in 1999). There was much infighting amongst the WWF roster. Locker room morale was at an all-time low. If you weren't a Kliq favorite, you were on the outs. And if that wasn't bad enough, WCW was breathing down their necks with many of the faces that headlined the WWF in the 1980s.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Oh, don't get too excited yet, WCW faithful. Because as it turns out, things weren't exactly a whole lot better for you. As it turned out, nobody was exactly going to their shows either. At no point in the year did WCW monthly house show attendance average 3,000 fans. I know, impossible, right? I mean, you had Hulk Hogan and a good-sized portion of the Hulkamania era on your roster. How could it possibly fail, right? For starters, they made Ric Flair and Vader, two people that propped up a crumbling WCW in the mid-1990s, look like complete idiots over and over again (Flair in drag, anyone?) The Renegade. No, not that Renegade. That was awesome. THE Renegade, who won the WCW TV title three months after his debut. The Dungeon of Doom. A wrestling event on the beach that generated $0 in ticket revenue. Son of Andre. The monster truck sumo match that ended with attempted murder, yet said victim returned without a scratch. The King of the Road match that got both people fired for blading, yet one of the bookers said it was ok to bleed. Oh, and... like to know how your year ended up? With your biggest draw a healthy scratch (because Hulk Hogan and his creative control, BROTHER), a 7-on-7 World Cup of Wrestling that casual US audiences didn't give two drops of egg nog about, much less the crowd in Nashville (AKA right in the heart of red-state America, you know, the audience you catered to for all these years). I almost forgot to mention: in 1995, WCW let walk Terra Ryzing (no big loss at the time), Cactus Jack (big loss), and Steve Austin (big fucking loss) and fired Ricky Steamboat. Needless to say, they'd all hit it big in new surroundings. Not Steamboat though. He retired comfortably. I hear one of them's kinda sorta running the company now.

Oh, and 1995 had this. Yes, that is exactly what it looks like.

Todd. Pettingill.


This is almost an impossible case. Let's be honest, 1995 is borderline impossible to defend. However, 1995 did have the awesome Randy Savage-Ric Flair feud that was arguably as good as their WWF one three years earlier. While Diesel was stinking the joint up, fellow Kliquer Shawn Michaels was clearly being groomed for the big time. After a brief stopover in ECW, Steve Austin finished the year as The Ringmaster. Ok, that probably belongs in the case for 1995 being the worst. But Steve Austin the Ringmaster became a stone cold legend.

Remember that Summerslam that saw Mabel crush Diesel (and nearly get fired)? That same show had the Wrestlemania X rematch between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. Is it better than the original? In some ways, yeah.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Oh, and WCW did start this little television program to go headsup with Monday Night RAW that more or less changed the professional wrestling business not only by presenting live wrestling every week, but smaller wrestlers that wrestled differently than their heavier counterparts. And to prove WCW wasn't playing around, they plucked one of WWF's top babyfaces right from their house show circuit and just have him stand there and look pretty on the debut show. Everybody shit a chicken.

And a little wrestling promotion in Philadelphia was sold to a guy that bashed people's heads with brick-sized cell phones. And he was going to do big things with it.

I turn to you now, Cagesiders. I presented both sides; now it's on you to decide. Was 1995 the worst year in wrestling ever?

Next up, I tackle the year where three deaths changed the business: 2007.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats