Come this weekend, my wife and I will be packing up with our dog Sunny and heading out for our yearly camping trip. This tradition started for me when I first started dating her and I continue to do so today. While I am not terribly excited to spend four days fishing I still love hanging out with everyone and drinking around a fire at night. I?m safe like that. The traditions we have as adults differ so dramatically from those we have as kids. 1993 is a year that makes me think of traditions as a kid wrestling fan. It was the year I began a weekly tradition of watching wrestling, collecting magazines, and indulging in wrestling fantasies.
My mom used to take my brother Dave and I into town most Saturdays to run her errands, and every so often we would get to stop at White Mart. One Saturday in the summer of 1993 my mom took Dave and I into town for another trip to White Mart where we would come across a treasure we had never before purchased with our allowance. Like Indiana Jones and Short Round, our quest for adventure and excitement had just reached a new level. There, on the self in the magazine aisle of White Mart, was the first wrestling magazine that Dave and I would ever purchase, for it would begin what would I can only describe as The Collection. Gracing the cover of WWF Magazine, Tatanka was one of our favorites at the time. I don?t know what it as about that half-naked Indian, but we bought the magazine and spent days and days going through it. I even remember that first magazine and how it had a complete recap of King of the Ring with an in-depth preview of Summerslam. The Collection would only grow from there. We gathered WWF, WCW, and all PWI magazines. Dave even bought a couple issues of Rulebreaker, which was a kayfabe magazine written by heel writers. Today we still have bins of magazines in our parents? basement. Every now and then when Cherie and I are home for the weekend or holiday, I will sneak down and go through the stack as I snort my sweet drug of nostalgia.
Being kids, Dave and I pulled out our G.I. Joe guys and pretended they were wrestlers. Duke’s figure made a perfect Lex Luger and/or Crush. We had pretend events with our guys in which dream matches such as Yokozuna vs. Ultimate Worrier and Lex Luger vs. Bret Hart took place. We built a pretend ring for the action figures out of children’s books and blocks. While I no longer dig out my G.I. Joe guys, I still have dream matches in the back of my mind like all of us do. We think of matches that we wish we could see, spots we long for wrestlers to perform, and champions we wish to see crowned.
Looking back at that time in wrestling, I am truly saddened by the events which would transpire that year. For all the progress made in 1992, 1993 would forever be a gloomy year in wrestling from the last few minutes of Wrestlemaina IX. The main event featured the champion, Bret Hart, defending against Yokozuna. Hart pulled out every stop to defeat the behemoth; it was even made a big deal when Hart got a one-count on the challenger. The announcers wondered aloud if Bret could even get Yoko is the sharpshooter, which Bret did at the end of the match only to have salt thrown in his eyes allowing Yoko to get the pin. After months of establishing his credibility as champion, Bret lost the title to Yokozuna only to see Hogan come in and defeat the new champ within seconds. What Bret couldn?t do in an entire match was done is a squash by Hogan. I?m about to use a word that is very harsh but fits what was going on at this time. Hogan could be both a cure and a cancer for a company. In this instance, the cancer metastasized and would spread to WCW the following year. Don?t get me wrong, I don?t hate Hulk Hogan. The guy was my hero. He just sometimes did things that set wrestling back in order to serve his own purposes.
That summer the Lex Express would take off. Lex Luger would rally to fight Yokozuna at Summerslam. The match was a huge deal with WWF forcing Luger to wear a pad over his forearm to prevent him from using the plate he had to beat Yoko. He tore the pad off and hit Yoko anyway, getting a count out victory.
Meanwhile, WCW was flourishing talent-wise. Vader had stepped up as the company’s top heel and the most dangerous man in all of wrestling. He defended his strap against the likes of Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Cactus Jack in pay per view main events. Steve Austin and Dustin Rhodes engaged in a feud for the U.S. title while Rick Rude became the International Champion. I first heard the Shockmaster when my brother told me he had watched a Clash of the Champions and saw him burst through a wall only to trip and lose his mask. So while cheesy angles were still being done in WCW, the wrestling quality was still up there.
During that year I became familiar with USWA. Here was an organization that I wish was still around today. Seeing Jeff Jarrett and Brian Christopher as rising stars I knew that they would one day be huge in WWF or WCW. Here was an organization that followed an old fashioned way of doing things. They would have a TV show displaying their talent, never having the champ, Jerry Lawler, wrestle on TV except for a few occasions (which was a big deal), and then use TV to hype up the big show they had which you would have to be their live to see. While the Monday Night Wars were good for wrestling in that they broke down a lot of those barriers, it has lost its novelty these days. Thinking of USWA makes me long for wrestling to slow down in order to preserve itself.
I hope you all have enjoyed this look back at the 90s so far. For me it has been a great trip down memory lane. I am excited about moving forward with this series over the next few weeks as wrestling moved into a different era during this time. Until next time take care and thanks for reading.