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The Worst Year In Wrestling EVER: A Case For -- And Against -- 1992

For the rest of the series, check out these years here. 1991199520072011200119932002200920101999


Previously, we asked you to weigh in on 1999. One that saw one of the most profitable years in wrestling history (if you were the WWF) or  the beginning of the downfall of its competition (WCW and ECW). Wrestling was in the mainstream and in the crosshairs. It brought in both triumph and tragedy. A year that produced some of the most watched wrestling programming in television history also produced some of its least coherent.

Worst year ever? Survey says...

Not even close. Worst of the Attitude Era? Very much so. But not worst ever. What's next?


Nothing affects a person's or a business' reputation quite like a scandal. When a person's darkest secrets come out, any good done by that person or business can be completely wiped out. They can become forever defined by their worst moments and how they react to them. Not one person's fault or another; it's simply how society is. Tearing into someone is way more fun than building it up. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But it is what it is. From there, that person or business can work back from the bottom to regain their reputation or be consumed by the scandal that affected their livelihoods.

Wrestling more often than not is quite bereft with scandal.  But not on the level it was in this next year of the Worst Year Ever series, 1992.



Scary, scary drugs, anyone?

Of course we're starting with scary, scary drugs. After all, it was scary, scary drugs that forced one of the biggest roster turnovers in modern professional wrestling history. The previous year, George Zahorian, the main doctor for the WWF, was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of selling steroids to wrestlers and weightlifters.

With the WWF's resident physician behind bars, the writing on the wall was clear: the federalies were coming for Vince McMahon, the WWF's boss, next. So Vince had to act: many of the WWF's more bulky performers were phased out of the company, including Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Sid Justice, British Bulldog, Kerry Von Erich, and the Warlord, many of whom were in featured roles with the company at their peak. With many of the most recognizable names gone, and the company still reeling from the backlash of exploiting the Gulf War, more and more people were tuning out of the WWF. PPV buyrates, live attendance, and merchandise sales, AKA three primary revenue streams major pro wrestling companies depend on, all fell. And the bad news just kept on coming.

In February 1992, Murray Hogson, then a 29-year old ring announcer, filed a lawsuit claiming he was sexually harassed by Pat Patterson, then fired after he turned Patterson down. Tom Cole, a ring attendant for the company at the time, accused and sued Mel Phillips, Terry Garvin, and Patterson, for sexual harassment. But people really began to take notice when ex-referee Rita Chatterton came out and said she was allegedly raped by Vince McMahon in the early 1980s Patterson and Garvin both resigned, while Phillips and Cole were fired. As for the lawsuits, nothing came of them as they were all dismissed or had been settled out of court. But as future WWF announcer Jim Ross would say, the damage was done. While the accused turned out to have no credibility, Vince McMahon had negative credibility.  It still doesn't mean he should get choked out (looking at you, Kevin "Nailz" Wacholz).

1992 is where the tag team division took a dive: gone were the days of the Hart Foundation, Legion of Doom, Rockers, and Demolition. Enter Money Inc., the Natural Disasters, the Nasty Boys, High Energy, and Baconstrips' favorite, the Beverly Brothers. I see you now look on in moderate to severe depression.

This is how Ric Flair won the WWF title for the second time in 1992. Needless to say, not nearly as good as the first. How do I know? Just look at the front row. Not impressed. Not. One. Bit. This is the first time the WWF Championship changed hands at a television taping since 1988, and this is what you do with it? Maybe it's me, but we all deserved better. Not that it mattered. I'll tell you why later.

Saturday Night's Main Event was left to die on the Fox Network.

And I know this is common sense, but how in the ACTUAL HELL did you not get the two biggest names in professional wrestling at the time in a match for Wrestlemania VIII? HOW?

On to WCW...

...which was still losing money hand over fist.

After two years on the job, Jim Herd decided enough was enough. So did head booker Dusty Rhodes. There was much rejoicing in the halls of WCW arenas and offices. Kip Allan Frye, a Turner executive, began the road to recovery for WCW by giving wrestlers raises and instituting bonuses for best match of the night. That road to recovery hit a major bump when Kip chose "Cowboy" Bill Watts to handle the day-to-day operations. And if you're a Bill Watts mark, I apologize for what I'm about to tell you: Bill Watts damn near ruined WCW. How so? Well, I made a list. And I wrote it all down.

  • No top rope moves. This pissed off WCW fans. I'm all for good mat wrestling, but one of the easiest ways to pop a crowd is a good top rope move. Kids love top rope moves. Adults love top rope moves. EVERYBODY loves top rope moves (you love top rope moves, person shaking his head saying they don't love top rope moves. You're lying.). Also, this move practically killed its light heavyweight division dead.
  • No floor mats. Watts saw it as "too WWF-ish". Most other people see it as a preventative safety measure and good common sense.
  • No ringside brawling. Cheap heat, Watts said. Cheap heat is still heat. Anyone using the posts or guardrails as an offensive weapon would be fined. Yikes. Methinks Watts would not have survived the latter half of the 1990s.
  • Heels and faces could not fraternize with one another. EVER. EVER, EVER, EVER. This screwed up traveling and scheduling plans a lot. I'm all for protecting kayfabe, but by the time the '90s rolled around, most people pretty much assumed wrestling wasn't on the level. Watts would not make it in the wrestling business in the 21st century.
  • Wrestlers had to stay for the entire event and not sleep, play games, horse around, or otherwise dilly-dally. Anyone caught leaving early would be fined heavily, suspended, or fired. Have you ever tried leaving a wrestling show right after it ended? Fucking nightmare, right?
  • Wrestlers could not have their significant others or kids around in the building when they wrestled. What? So heels can't be good loving parents and spouses?
  • If a wrestler gets beaten up under any circumstances, he's fired. Gotta make everyone look strong, you know?
  • He hated the NWA so much he tried to remove it from all television and print.
  • He nearly cancelled the Great American Bash and did cancel a late summer PPV that would cap off the NWA World Championship tournament featuring WCW and New Japan wrestlers.
  • He also tried to cut down the number of Clash of the Champions events down too.
  • He pushed his void of charisma and talent son Erik. Nepotism, everyone.
  • His old UWF crew got pushes too, most notably "Dr. Death" Steve Williams and Terry Gordy, aka the Miracle Violence Connection.
  • Oh, and he cut pay too. Like drastically. And they didn't have a choice: they either had to take the pay cut or forced contract restructuring or be out of work. Did this bring in revenue? Yes. But for Bill, and not for WCW. Pretty sure that's illegal.

In a scene nearly reminiscent of Ric Flair's departure the previous year, Lex Luger left WCW for the WWF the day after SuperBrawl II. This is the second straight time their world champion left for Titan... though this time Luger actually dropped the title on the way out, and Luger actually joined the World Bodybuilding Federation (see, he had a no compete clause with the WWF). Three months later, Scott "The Diamond Studd" Hall left WCW on the day of WrestleWar. Had he stuck around, he would have joined The Dangerous Alliance, but Hall had enough of WCW's shit, and he took off. So did the Steiner Brothers after Bill Watts criminally lowballed them ($1,000 a match vs. the $300,000/year the Steiners wanted). Their thrifty ways kept them from getting Bret Hart fresh off his classic at Summerslam and Ted DiBiase, who didn't leave the WWF until the following year. He left for All Japan. Sting almost walked too.

Yet WCW had a half million dollars American to make this farce of a mini-movie to promote the "Spin the Wheel/Make the Deal" match between Sting and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. A match that could have possibly been a First Blood match or an I Quit match. Or a Texas Death Match. Or a cage match. Or a barbed wire match. Or a lumberjacks with straps match. But instead, the wheel lands on... Coal Miner's Glove. A fitting cap to one of the worst PPVs ever, Halloween Havoc 1992.

Oh, and Jake Roberts got fired almost right after the show. Scary, scary drugs. Jake, one of their biggest steals ever, was in WCW for all of four months.

Oh... almost forgot: Vince's first major non-wrestling venture, the World Bodybuilding Federation, goes belly up, capped off by one of the worst grossing events in the history of PPV.

Okay, in all this mess, something good did happen in 1992, right? Short answer: yes. But is it enough to keep it out of the worst year ever column? Let's find out.




So... how's this for a start to 1992?

A Royal Rumble with some seriously high stakes. Stakes like... the WWF Championship. A couple controversial bouts with between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker left the title vacant through the holidays, with the blockbuster decision of the winner of the coming annual 30-man battle royal gauntlet thing becoming the unquestioned WWF Champion. Of course we kinda all assumed it would be either Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker or maybe Sid Justice. After all, Vince McMahon loves him some big men. Well, we were so wrong. So, so wrong.

The Rumble's last man standing is one Richard Morgan Fliehr. He survived a literal one-hour gauntlet to become the WWF Champion. He outlasted Hogan, Sid, Undertaker, Savage, Piper, and basically every major name in the company at the time. Suck it, WCW. Take it and love it, haters. Ric Flair was on top of the world, and nobody was gonna tell him different. Okay, granted, it didn't last long. But he got there.

The steroid scandal of 1992 opened the door for smaller stars to shine, and two shined brighter than the rest: Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Michaels, on the heels of his very public breakup of the Rockers with Marty Jannetty, the future "Heartbreak Kid" struck gold on his own, and by the end of the year, he was in featured bouts and was the WWF Intercontinental Champion, defeating The British Bulldog in November 1992...

...three months after Bulldog was carried through the match of his life with Bret Hart in a thrilling main event at Summerslam in Davey Boy Smith's homeland of England. With more 80,000 in attendance, Bulldog, allegedly hopped up on drugs, and Hart put on perhaps the greatest match in the history of Summerslam. But while Bulldog got the victory and accolades on that night... was Bret Hart that benefited the most. That same bout was the one that gave Vince McMahon the green light to put the WWF Championship on the "Hitman". Yeah, scary, scary drugs may have played a part in the decision, but for once, someone who busted his ass to become the face of the company... well, became the face of the company. Like his brother-in-law Davey Boy did that summer, he reached his crowning glory in his homeland of Canada. Saskatoon to be exact. Cynical me says that it was pretty much the only viable option Vince had left with all of "his guys" phased out or fired, and this was little more than a sleight of hand. Non-cynical me says this is a guy rewarded for his hard work over the years.

So a moment for a bit of irony.

Many people because of his comments made in a February 1992 interview--comments that didn't get out until a year later--believe that Bill Watts is a racist and a homophobe. Hard to dispute that since those racist and homophobic thoughts got him fired from his job when one Hank Aaron, baseball legend and Turner executive, got a hold of said comments. Which is why what Watts did in August of 1992 all the more ironic. Watts, who made Sylvester Ritter, aka The Junkyard Dog, a featured player in his version of the UWF, decided to put the WCW world title on Ron Simmons. Watts, who was none too shy about wanting to take it to Vince McMahon, beat him to history. Simmons is the first African-American to win a recognized world championship in professional wrestling history. Unfortunately, history wasn't kind to Ron in the following months, as he was often defending the world title in mid-card bouts against the likes of The Barbarian and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.

But the first half of the year belonged to these guys. Forming in late 1991, Paul Heyman, aka Paul E. Dangerously, and his band of misfits, including Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Eaton, and Madusa, had one mission in life: destroy Sting, the face of WCW. Anyone who blocked their path would be run down. Over a six month span, this motley crew captured every championship but one: the WCW world heavyweight championship.

The group's deathgrip on WCW came to an end in May with perhaps the greatest WarGames match in the history of ever: The Alliance against Sting's Squadron, consisting of Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, and old rival Nikita Koloff. For about a half hour, these ten men pounded flesh, tore tendons, and probably took years off their careers and lives. Oh, and the ring broke. Like really, the ring broke. One of the metal rods played in the match's outcome: a mistimed strike to Bobby Eaton's shoulder, followed by a simple ARMBAR gave the victory to the Squadron. The Alliance cracked and eventually dissolved.


I've made my case. Now it's your turn. Vote in the poll below and judge for yourself if 1992 is the worst year in wrestling ever.

Up next: the final year of the series. I smell a recency bias.

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