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It’s amazing how times flies when you are an adult yet drags on day by day when you are young. After all when you are young you just want to be old and when you are old you just want to be young. Looking back, I realize that I used to associate moments in my life with moments in wrestling when recalling the time that a specific event happened. For instance, I remember the year when I couldn?t stand to get up in the morning and go to school since I was being picked on because it was the same year that Shawn Michaels won his first world championship. When I would be reminiscing about an event with my friends or family, I would think to myself that my brother Dave was living in another town in 1999 because I was hosting my first pay per view at ECW’s Hardcore Heaven 99 and Dave wanted so badly to be there to watch Jerry Lynn vs. Rob Van Dam, but he couldn?t because of his job at the time. Nowadays things seem to blend together. Maybe it is just me getting older but 2005 doesn?t seem that long ago yet it felt like a huge difference between 1992 and 1996 and so on. Wrestling was a big part of my life growing up and it shaped how I view wrestling today much like how my view of the world was formed during that time. For that reason I have decided to pay tribute to the 90s in this multi-week event which examines pivotal events throughout that decade and why they matter to this day. Recently, WWE came out with a 90s DVD. Personally I have yet to see it and will refrain from doing so during the duration of this series so as not to find myself debating or copying the documentary. I welcome all open and honest feedback and hope you enjoy.
1990. The year of the Horse. Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the Gulf War kicked off and Moscow opened its first McDonalds. The most historical moment of the year took place on April 1st in Toronto, Ontario. The event was Wrestlemania VI. The Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Worrier, challenged the World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan, in the main event. We look back now and judge the ability of both men and how they really couldn?t do much in the ring, but this match was fantastic. It was simply a blockbuster. It is definitely the most significant match in the second quintet of Wrestlemanias. Hulk Hogan had been the face of wrestling for the past five years ad with the kickoff of the 90s WWF decided to go with a fresh face. Worrier was perfect for this role at the time. Seeing two good guys battle it out for the championship was a breathtaking changing of the guard story. Sure the poster for the show looked like the cover of a sci-fi porno flick.
But this show would stand as a symbol for what was about to happen throughout the 90s decade as transition was the theme while older stars scratched and clawed to hang on to their glory. No Wrestlemania main event would come close to this for quite some time. The rest of the card had some interesting moments like Dusty Rhodes and Randy Savage in a mixed-tag match with Sapphire and Sherri as their perspective partners, and a young Dallas Page driving Honky-Tonk Man and Greg Valentine to the ring in a pink Cadillac. While Worrier was a fun champion, Hogan would remain the main star as he headlined Summerslam against Earthquake while Worrier and the championship played second fiddle along with Rick Rude in a steel cage.
Want to watch a match from Wrestlemania? How about this one from Mr. Wrestlemania himself, Shawn Michaels?
Towards the end of the year WWF held its annual Survivor Series but with a twist. While the event normally featured several tag team elimination matches this year would culminate with all of the survivors from each bout pitted in a match against each other, all the good guys on one team, the bad guys on the other. So at the end of the night we had Hulk Hogan, World Champion Ultimate Worrier, and Tito Santana against Ted Dibiase, Paul Roma, Hercules, Rick Martel, and the Warlord. While it was a fun match for Hogan and Worrier fans, it was pretty much a squash match otherwise. Tito and Warlord were quickly eliminated leaving Hogan and Worrier to face four men. In about seven minutes Hogan and Worrier had demolished the bad guys and left the Survivor Series standing tall. But the 1990 Survivor Series is not remembered today for this match but the eerie debut of a tall man in black named the Undertaker. Much like Steve Austin, Undertaker would close out the decade as one of names most synonymous with pro wrestling. Oh, and another moment this event is remembered for is a giant egg hatching on the stage. Out of this egg came a man-sized turkey which danced around the ring with Mean Gene Okerlund. Don?t you wrestling fans just miss those days?
1990 marked the one and only Capital Combat pay per view. It was actually on my seventh birthday. The hype around the show focused on the return of Robocop. Yes Robocop. During the event the Four Horsemen locked Sting in a cage at ringside. What were they going to do to him? Well thankfully we never had to see that since Robocop came to the rescue. This is no joke for those of you unfamiliar with the show. A grown man came out dressed as Robocop, ripped the cage open for Sting, and then chased off the Horsemen.
Aside from the Robocop fiasco the show featured a pretty good main event with Ric Flair defending the World Championship against Lex Luger in a cage match. Thankfully, Robocop didn?t make another appearance when this cage was lowered.
The time around Capital Combat was when Ric Flair was supposed to drop the title to Sting, but because of an injury Sting suffered, WCW wanted Flair to drop the belt to Luger. However, Flair refused, not out of selfishness, but out of a promise he made to Sting. Flair vowed to Sting that he was to be the next big baby face champion and Flair knew dropping the belt to Sting would be a great move for everyone. So when Sting came back from his injury, Flair dropped the strap. Isn?t it crazy how professional Flair was yet many accuse Hogan of scheming for years to make up that loss to Worrier at Mania?
Many are familiar with an angle NWA/WCW did towards the end of the year where a mysterious masked man from Sting’s past appeared. The Black Scorpion.
No not that Black Scorpion.
That Black Scorpion.
Ric Flair ended up being the man behind the mask even though that was not the original plan. As atrocious as the angle was, it truly spoke to Flair’s professionalism and how he could make lemonade out of cow manure. This would not be the first and last year Flair had dealt with some pretty awful creative writing. As a matter of fact, the year would close with one of the most degrading angles he had ever been involved with, and once again Flair would be making lemonade.
Another of the most notable feuds of 1990 was Chris Adams against the 1990 PWI Rookie of the Year Steve Austin. Most of the people who saw Austin back then knew one day he would be huge. How huge he would become and how he became a big star was unforeseen. The 90s would close out with Austin as the biggest draw since Hulk Hogan, with Austin being the biggest name associated with the change that wrestling underwent at the end of the decade.
Other events in 1990
Vince McMahon opens the World Bodybuilding Federation.
Rick Rude departs from WWF
Hulk Hogan wins his first Royal Rumble
Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk, The Midnight Express, and the Steiner Brothers all hold the NWA Untied States Tag Team Championship. The Steiners would be the last team to hold the gold as it was later renamed the WCW United States Tag Team Championship.
Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons) become the first officially recognized WCW Tag Team Champions.
Sgt. Slaughter becomes an Iraqi sympathizer. We?ll talk more about this next week!
Mean Mark Callous (Undertaker) defeats Jonny Ace (John Laurinatis) at Capital Combat
Mr. Perfect becomes the Intercontinental Champion, becoming one of the most synonymous names with the title for the early 90s.
1990 was a transitional year for wrestling. You had WCW slowly growing within the NWA, and both major organizations looked to new stars. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair stepped aside for Ultimate Worrier and Sting, whom were a former tag team. Obviously the entire year cannot be packed into one column and my apologies to those of you who feel I left something huge out of the rundown. Nevertheless, 1990 was a great year for wrestling because of the strides it took to change and build new stars for the rest of the decade. While it may have worked for the short term, 1991 would fall back to the old ways of the 80s.
Thanks for reading!