How often do you find yourself looking back on what you think of as the good days? My parents will have a different time in mind than I do, as will my grandparents. I know I will be officially old when my nieces and nephews have those days in mind. For a wrestling fan, I couldn?t have asked for a better decade to grow up in than the 90s. Last week the Nosebleeds looked back at 1990. To find out what year from the 90s the Nosebleeds looks at this week, read the hints below.
1. The Minnesota Twins defeated the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series.
2. Writer Graham Greene passes away.
3. Jamie Lynn Spears was born!
4. An Iraqi sympathizer becomes World Champion.
5. Ric Flair shows up on WWF television with the NWA Championship.
This week’s look at a year from the 90s will not focus so much on an all-around history of wrestling during that year, but more of the experience of what it was like for me as a fan during that time. I grew up on Saturday morning wrestling and at this time only knew of the WWF universe. 1991 was the year that changed all of that and I began to see through the cracks, not always suspending disbelief.
Sgt Slaughter terrified me. I was distraught when he won the championship from the Ultimate Worrier, for dark days were ahead. The road to Wrestlemania that year was uneasy for me because I genuinely feared for Hulk Hogan in that match. I was just a kid, worried that his hero may fall to the guy representing the evil Iraq. It was as if Hogan was fighting Saddam Hussein himself. I was freaking scared of Iraq back then. While it felt a world away, here was a bad guy as World Champion on my Saturday morning show threatening to put down Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania. I didn?t get to see the match right away but was relieved when I saw footage of bloody Hogan waving the American flag after winning the title for the stars and stripes. It was still taking me a while to learn that Hogan would always get his man. At that time I felt that good had truly triumphed over evil. I was na?ve, but my losing myself in the world of wrestling felt so right. I felt no different reading a book or watching a movie, I just enjoyed wrestling more than film or literature.
Another terrifying time for me was the lead up to the 1991 Survivor Series. The Undertaker would be getting a shot at the title. At this time, Taker was an unstoppable, evil force who put his opponents in body bags. Not to mention that Paul Bearer really freaked me out. I used to have bad dreams about the clown from It. In a strange way I always thought of Bearer as that clown when I was that scared little kid. Hogan showed up on the set of Taker’s Funeral Parlor only to be beaten and have his crossed necklace ripped off his neck. The way Taker stared at that cross unsettled me a great deal. Once again I was concerned for my hero. The fall out show from the Series I watched was WWF Challenge. I didn?t get cable back then so I watched my wrestling on Saturday mornings like any good kid would. My fear for Hogan’s title and safety would be supplanted by feelings of ease and slight joy. The reason being the promo Taker did after winning the championship. While he was always slow and dark in his interviews, this one he was overly talkative for the Dead Man and seemed ecstatic to be champion. It’s strange but I sometimes wonder is my first moment of ‘smartness? as a fan came with that interview. Just a week earlier, I was terrified. The rollercoaster ride that is professional wrestling had just taken me for my first and I was beginning to open my eyes at the top of that ride.
While 1992 was the year Bret Hart became the top guy in the company, 1991 was the year to watch his climb. The Hart Foundation suffered a devastating loss to the Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania, but Bret would soon bounce back by winning the Intercontinental Championship from Mr. Perfect Curt Henning. Back in those days the I-C title was a big deal. So many wrestlers became synonymous with the championship as the great champions associated with that title went on to become legends. Men like Henning, Savage, Hart, Michaels, Jarrett, Edge, Rock, and Orton. Watching that match makes me long for that kind of wrestling again. It was storytelling and wrestling at its finest. Bret Hart had some of the most memorable matches of the 90s decade and this was the first.
By far the most shocking moment of the year was when the NWA title showed up on WWF television. Ric Flair was on his way over to the WWF but did not receive his deposit money back for the NWA championship. The NWA champions had to keep a $25,000 deposit down while he kept the belt. Flair was not given his money back right away so he sent the belt to Vince McMahon who put it out there on TV for the world to see. This would set in motion a slowly building match between the two champions, Hogan and Flair. Unfortunately, the match would not happen for a few more years, and it would be on WCW’s turf when it did. I remember seeing that title blurred out on television because it was too controversial to show it. I asked my brother Dave about it and he said it was a championship belt from another promotion. Quite the confused seven year-old I was as I had never heard of NWA, WCW, UWA, GCW, AWA, AAA, or NAACP. It would be a couple more years before I could truly grasp the magnitude of what Flair had done.
When I first started writing this column I thought of 1991 as a dark year for pro wrestling. While it may have been that way outside of the ring, you can always get lost inside it no matter what is going on, even if you can see through the cracks. I hope you join me next week for a look at 1992 and the significant changes wrestling underwent.
Thanks for reading!