Revenge is a dish best served stone cold. With the Notes reaching the year of 1995 in its 90s gaze, Mr. Kennedy’s recent WWE release naturally made me think of Steve Austin’s 1995 release from WCW. With Austin being Kennedy’s wrestling idol and Kennedy being a unique star on his way to the top, the comparisons between he and Austin cannot be avoided. There has been a glimmer of hope that perhaps Austin could put the black boots on one more time to fight Kennedy. So with Kennedy being gone, those hopes are now dashed. But with Austin, his release from WCW resulted in the greatest revenge story in pro wrestling. Here was Austin on his way to the top of WCW only to be released after an injury and slight comeback. Over the next year Austin went to ECW and WWF and rebuilt himself. After the ignorant giant that was WCW failed to see the potential in him, Austin became one of the key figures in bringing WCW down. The same will likely not happen for Kennedy should he go to TNA or elsewhere, but we never know for sure.
Aside from Austin’s releasein ?95, WCW puzzled fans when they booked a match taking place on the back of a flat-bed truck at that year’s Uncensored. Dustin Rhodes and the Blacktop Bully were put in this horrendous bout that severely restricted what they could do to make a halfway decent match. So they decided to blade during the bout. With WCW forbidding any blood during that time, Rhodes and Bully were dropped from the company. Again, WCW had failed to see the potential in a guy like Rhodes. Dustin went on that year to WWF and broke out on his own as the controversial Goldust. When Dustin hangs it up, he will be remembered for the Goldust character and the lines he crossed more than anything WCW could have ever done for him.
Underappreciated mid-carders are nothing new to the sport/art of pro wrestling, but in 1995 the main stream promotions of America were serving them in bulk. Chris Candido was arguably the best worker on the indy scene in 1995. He and Tammy Lynn Sytch could have made for the most legendary wrestling couple since Macho Man and Elizabeth, but when WWF hired them, they were fitness nuts in blue spandex. A talented guy like Hakushi or Jean Pierre Lafitte could get a pay per view match with Bret Hart, but nothing past that. Instead we were treated to main events featuring Sid Vicious, Kevin Nash, and Mabel.
Over in WCW we had the fall of main event wrestling for the company. After Hogan had come in and retired Ric Flair, there remained the dream match with Vader. When they finally went at it in a series of bouts, Hogan no-sold Vader’s finisher, forever crushing the badass legitimacy he held. Quickly Flair was brought back in and once again showed his professionalism by doing whatever was asked in order to make lemonade out of horse manure. Vader would soon be gone from the company, but not before becoming a hulkamaniac. Vader never recovered, and neither did WCW’s main event scene, despite later efforts.
WCW began signing ECW talent like Malenko, Benoit, Guerrero, and Sabu. At Halloween Havoc Sabu went at it with Jerry Lynn. These two could have had an explosive match but were limited to three minutes so Hogan and the Giant could have a monster truck clash. Sabu who had been released from ECW that year, was allowed to return to his home where he once again could live out his potential. Malenko, Benoit, and Guerrero would join Perry Saturn in 2000 in leaving WCW without four of their most talented rising stars.
Fans watching the main events in American wrestling were starving for a true wrestling match but so little was that hunger satisfied. While Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, British Bulldog, and others were still on top, Mabel, Kevin Nash, and Sid Vicious were the guys getting the pay per view main events. Nash did have some great matches in 1995, but they were always against workers such as HBK or Bret. Nash was still knew to the main event scene and deserved to be in the ring with more seasoned veterans or simply more talented workers.
Those days in WWF and WCW could be downright painful to watch, but I found myself daring to keep the faith that maybe things would get better, that Sabu, Malenko, and Guerrero would soon enough be on top, wrestling the likes of Sting, Flair, Savage, and Hogan. Or maybe I was wrong and just needed to adjust. I thought maybe the promoters knew what they were doing and a monster truck war was the best thing they could do, that SMW’s time had come, and that I better get used to Mabel as the main wrestling villian and possible world champion. I find myself doing the same thing today. I wonder if I just don?t get it sometimes, that Triple H truly is the best worker of the decade, that pay per views headlined by Batista are the way to go, that ROH shouldn?t be as successful as I hope, and that TNA just doesn?t have it in them to compete with WWE.
As conflicted as I am, I choose to keep the faith. I have seen that faith rewarded before. Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero eventually became world champions. Even in the last year CM Punk and Jeff Hardy achieved that same goal. But more than anything, we crave longevity in our idols. We don?t want Hardy and Punk to only serve as transitional champions. We want to see them rise the way Austin did and take their rightful place at the top of the wrestling world. We can be as pessimistic as we want and with good reason, but when I doubt that the main event scene will shine again, I look back to years such as 1995 when we suffered through a Hogan monster truck battle and a Nash-Mabel pay per view match. Because by the end of the year Bret Hart and Ric Flair had taken back the top two championships in wrestling, proving that in the long haul, muscles and spectacle are no match for straight up wrestling talent.