Welcome to the Saturday edition of the Phat Daily Column. You know, for some odd reason, the Saturday columns are the most fun to do. Before, we had the ECW on TNN results, which was a blast because we didn't have to discuss the politics or whatever of the Big 2. Now, I can discuss the past wrestling times, which are always fun to talk about. Today, we discuss the WWF of the early/mid 1990s where they eventually dropped below WCW in 1996. So "all aboard" the Time Machine for today's PDC.
Sadly enough, a few problems came up. Notice how I said "peak", because the WWF slowly started to drop in the numbers. You see, long time Hulk Hogan fans and just WWF fans in general, were starting to, I guess, grow up and move on. My point here is that wrestling started to show itself as a trend, which I'll cover more in a second. Also, the WWF saw the Gulf War, and tried to ride off it. Yes, they did a good job here, as they turned Sgt. Slaughter into an evil heel and traitor to the United States by turning Iraq.
Now was the Ultimate Warrior the American hero to go up against this new WWF idea? Of course not. Hogan had been an "All American" for years, with his wonderful theme song and occasionally carrying the American Flag to the ring. So instead of riding on the back of their new star, the Ultimate Warrior, the WWF decided that Hogan could be rebuilt as the champion. The WWF basically wasted Randy "Macho Man" Savage for the past year, so they figured they could build him up too! Which they did by having him "screw" the Warrior of his world title at the Royal Rumble 1991 against Sgt. Slaughter. So they had the All American feud with Hogan and Slaughter, and a nasty blood feud with Savage and Warrior. Doesn't seem too bad, right?
The major problem was that the WWF didn't have much to work with after Hogan won the belt. What else could you do with Hogan after he gets the big blowoff win from Slaughter? Also, the Warrior was instantly depushed to non-main event feuds, after being put as the top start for Wrestlemania 6. Warrior got angry, and disappeared for a nice while(he didn't die!). So there were problems with the top star from Wrestlemania 6, and you had Hulk Hogan as world champ again. This federation slowly treaded water until they made some awesome decisions.
The WWF picked up the Nature Boy Ric Flair, who wanted to test the WWF waters for a while, I suppose, or that he was just tired of carrying WCW the whole time. You decide. Also, the WWF picked up Mark Calloway off of WCW's "waivers", and created the Undertaker. Two top, awesome stars becoming instantly huge at one time! So as the story goes, the Undertaker defeated Hogan at Survivor Series, then losing the title back at "Tuesday in Texas" to put the title in question. That lead to the World Title being put up at Royal Rumble 1992.
WWF made yet another great pick up! Sid Vicious, fresh off getting let go by WCW from some problems(including a fight with Brian Pillman), joined the WWF as Sid Justice. Now if you were a long time WCW fan, you'll know that WCW fans truly marked out for Sid for some odd reason at the time. No, I know the reason, because I marked out at the time. This man was HUGE, and probably the best big man in the business at the time. WCW made him look weak, and wrestling fans then knew if he'd go to the WWF, he would be HUGE! At first he was. He entered the Royal Rumble, and started a feud with Hulk Hogan since Hogan "screwed" Justice out of the World Title.
Flair was now your champ, as he's always loved and hated there, and the question of who got the title came into question. Hogan got the shot, but he later wanted Sid in a HUGE big man vs. WWF hero match at Wrestlemania 8...or so we thought. Before we go to the event, I want to say that at Wrestlemania 8, the WWF was in its "peak" talent position if you ask me. This federation was stacked head to toe of awesome performers that WCW didn't have. Hell, a nice chunk was former WCW stars. Anyway, this monster event went smoothly, until the botched up main event. If you don't remember, Papa Shango ran in this match, thus screwing this HUGE main event. Yes, the Warrior did return in this match, but the story is what happened after this. Sid had a few internal problems with the WWF, and he was immediately gone just after this show!
This bad main event was really a first crack in the WWF's solid federation. Why? Hogan wasn't advancing really, as his popularity continued to slowly drop. Sid was now gone, and after that, Ric Flair "asked" to be let go from the WWF to return to WCW again. Yikes.
Remember that many of the younger fans were growing up, thus making wrestling a big trend back then. Also consider that WCW was really burying itself, and as I've said it many times, the WWF doesn't operate as well without competition, just like they do today. So a lot of the WWF's storylines were starting to get out of sync so to speak. Then 1993 hit, which in my opinion, is a very dark year in wrestling....
Hulk Hogan has taken a lot of time off, as he would every now and then to "anticipate" his return....like he's tried a million of times in WCW. The WWF then picks up Yokozuna in late 1992, and pushes him to the top. Now the title line is with Flair the champ in early 1992, Randy Savage as champ at Wrestlemania, Flair won it back, and Bret Hart gets his first HUGE win, by beating Flair for that strap in 1992. So things are going as planned, with Bret Hart now the new star, with a TOUGH heel on the rise in Yokozuna. Yuck, but a very bad idea came up!
Vince McMahon noticed the so called trend going down, so he figured he could get ONE MORE shot with Hulk Hogan, which in my opinion, put the WWF completely downhill. Wrestlemania 9 was already a horrible show, but it had a good featured main event. So if you had a good main event, you could impress fans, right? Vince thought he could do that, by having Yokozuna win the title and have Hulk Hogan win and immediate challenge, thus DESTROYING the credibility of Yokozuna, and putting Bret Hart in the back seat for ONE WHOLE YEAR.
Thank God Vince McMahon saw this bad move, and had Hogan ousted after King of the Ring 1993. By the way, this first loss was Hogan's first asking to start putting over the younger talent, which Hogan then refused to keep doing, thus retiring. Anyway, the damage was done. Sure, Yokozuna CRUSHED Hulkamania, but the point was that their should-have-been top star, Bret Hart was immortally destroyed. So Bret Hart wouldn't be able to challenge the big man for a while, so a "new" face was needed to step up. Oh God here it comes: All American Lex Luger.
Now, I liked Lex Luger's work in the early WCW and late NWA era. He came to the WWF as a heel pretty boy, and he was immediately shoved down our throats as the next "All American Hero". It did NOT work well though, although the WWF ignored the fans replies of not caring. However, they were at least smart enough to keep that World Title away from Luger, as evident in Summerslam 1993. So let's keep going until 1994. Oh yeah, don't forget this is a bad year in wrestling overall, as WCW almost folded with lots of financial problems and bad decisions.
We are now in 1994, and at Royal Rumble 1994, the WWF had a plan to put Bret back on top. Let's do a "double finish" for the Royal Rumble so that we could make Wrestlemania look really good. They did that, as Luger and Hart landed at the "same time"(well executed by the way WWF), and the stage was set. Wrestlemania 10 would be one of the most pleasant events of the year, and is probably the best Wrestlemania of all time if you ask me....."wrestling" wise. Some awesome moves were done here, so let's look at them individually:
A. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon: This match made both of these guys instant stars. Fans were just starting to like Razor, and Michaels always seemed to be an unproven singles wrestler. GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY did Shawn Michaels prove himself in the ladder match alright. He cemented himself into superstardom here, and "carried" Razor there as well. The Clique was starting to form then, and especially got stronger. More on the Clique in just one moment.
B. Owen Hart: Yet another unproven wrestler, who challenged his brother Bret to a match to show him up. This match cemented Owen when he got this HUGE clean win in the BEST opener to any Pay Per View ever. Bret put his bro over bigtime in one of my personal favorites ever.
C. Bret Hart: He defined adversity here, with overcoming a tough-ass match with Owen Hart, where he SOLD the injured leg, against Yokozuna to become your next World Champ. There is NO MORE HOGAN to screw him over on his chances again, so it's Bret's time to shine...thank God!
HOWEVER, some interesting problems arose after this Pay Per View. The Ladder match put a lot of confidence in Shawn Michaels. Backstage, a group of up and coming wrestlers were forming their own little group, or "Clique" if you'll call it. Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and Diesel formed their own little trio, to where they were gaining power by the month. But keep in mind, all 3 were popular wrestlers in the WWF. BUT, other great wrestlers, like Bret Hart, would get majorly affected by their influences.
But before we go on here, let's remember that Hulk Hogan has now joined WCW, and the buying power of Ted Turner is NOW increasing. Guys like Gene Okerland, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Randy Savage, and slowly, so many others were joining the MONEY bandwagon here. Also, Vince McMahon was going through the famous steroid court case, which ruined a lot of the WWF's credibility in many minds. So the WWF is starting to get really rocky, right?
Right. The Clique made it MUCH worse. You see, Bret Hart started a classic feud with the returning Bob Backlund, and Backlund got a HUGE heel World Title victory after that. However, the Clique was gaining ground, and Vince decided that Diesel was his NEXT Superstar! So let's piss all over Bret Hart, once again, for letting Diesel defeat Bob Backlund in around 8 seconds. That will draw the ratings, right?
Wrong. Diesel didn't quite gain attention as the face World Champ as Vince probably hoped for. He did get some decent attention in the Wrestlemania 11 match with HBK, with some added public attention in the Lawrence Taylor - Bam Bam Bigelow match. After that, WCW stepped it up, and challenged the WWF with their new show, Monday Nitro. Welcome to the birth of the Monday Night Wars.
However, this is WCW we are talking about in the early / mid 90s, and Dusty Rhodes was in charge of the booking. Thanks to his MILLION Dungeon of Doom run ins, RAW was keeping up with the new challenge. In fact, the WWF kicked it into gear, leading up into Wrestlemania 12 in 1996. This show was "loaded" by the WWF, and probably stronger than anything WCW put up. I believe, however, that Kevin Nash gave the WWF his notice that he would be taking millions in WCW, so he was slowly on his way out of WCW at this point. So after relying on Nash, there's one that bites the dust! Scott Hall shit on a plate, handing it to Sunny on an airplane...so he wasn't very welcome in the WWF, especially since he had a small stint in rehab, therefore, he was told that he was not going to be resigned by the WWF. So two Clique members out of 3 will now be gone, and this after they caused a lot of booking trouble within the WWF.
Since the Clique controlled a lot of the booking, it lowered locker room morale, so that's in bad shape for the moment. Then, Bret Hart would want to take time off to "think" about his future, so he was going to lose this match to HBK, who was ultimately shoved down our throats as a pretty boy face. WCW grabs Hall and Nash, and make an awesome booking decision with Hulk Hogan to form the New World Order. BOOM, the WWF is no longer the king of the mountain anymore!
So for a good year and a half, the WWF was at the bottom of the barrel. The second half of 1996 and for most of 1997, the WWF went through a lot of trouble readjusting to the long awaited kick in the ass they've received. It would take a whole new direction of booking and a slowly failing WCW to get back on top again in 1998.
If you ask me, the WWF is sort of starting to scare me with the 2000 product. Look back in 1992. The WWF had all of the top talent, but it was slowly in decline. 1992 had a struggling WCW about to hit rock bottom. WWF 2000 is against a WCW which is just like the 1992 WCW, where it was about to lose lots of money in 1993. Sort of ironic, don't ya think? Of course, then, WCW had Ted Turner spending away to win the Wrestling wars. Now, the WWF has the opportunity to by WCW, with the owners of WCW(Time Warner) giving up on the cause.
Those who fail to look back on the past will be condemned to repeat it!
Next Week: The GREATEST Wrestling Feud of ALL Time! Well, at least in my opinion....
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@That's all for this History type column, as we will look at an awesome wrestling feud next week. I'm sure a few of the oldschool fans might know of this one, but if not, I'll try to present a good read about it. Maybe pictures of it if I'm lucky. :) I'll be back tomorrow with No Mercy predictions.
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