Professional wrestling at its absolute apex.
Besides the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is no classic more dear to my heart than old school WWF. There’s basically been five major periods in WWF history. The first is the early days, way way back. Before Hulk Hogan. Then you have the beginning of the modern era where Hogan, Macho Man, and the Ultimate Warrior bring it to the forefront. Next you have the giant steroid scandal which basically wipes out most of the major players and brings in the early 90’s era of Bret Hart. After that comes the dark ages of the mid-to-late 90’s. And then there’s the current era of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H, where anything goes and the extreme is the norm. I don’t think there’s ever a better time to watch wrestling than around age 10. You’re smart enough to know what’s going on and remember it all, but not quite smart enough to see through the obvious storylines. I know that there’s plenty of you out there who would think I’m an idiot to pass up on the prime years of the Hulkster, and name the early 90’s as the greatest era in wrestling. And maybe I am. I can’t really give a true opinion, since I never watched wrestling when Hulkamania was running wild, but for me at least, 1992 to early ’94 brought the greatest wrestling I’ve ever known. And so in the next paragraphs, I’d like to detail the more glorious moments of this wonderful era.
After a huge increase in popularity, the WWF had been hit by the steroid scandal. In an attempt to salvage the character of Hulk Hogan, Vince Mc Mahon built him up as the American Hero and pitted him against Sergeant Slaughter in the Main Event of Wrestlemania VII. In my opinion this was the end of the road for Hulk Hogan. Vince had rode this horse as far as it was going, and with Hogan’s victory for the USA, came the true end of Hulkamania. Sure, the Hulkster would return, but he would never reach the glorious status he held in the 80’s. And so it was fitting that man who became a legend by defeating “The Giant” would lose his title at the 1991 Survivor Series to the new giant, The Undertaker, and set the stage for the early 90’s era of the WWF.
I can remember few times in my life where I was as happy as sitting in the warm family room watching WWF Superstars on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon. It just seemed like everything was right in the world. And even though things seemed so right, there were times when the things that seemed so wrong made those times memorable. For example, there was that one moment which ushered in this glorious early 90’s era of the WWF, and it seemed horribly wrong. So let’s go to the place where it all started over a decade ago…Brutus the Barber Beefcake‘s Barber Shop….
Remember these two? The Rockers were everybody’s favorite tag team. I can remember playing with our WWF action figures during recess in fourth grade. When it came to tag teams, everybody wanted to be the Rockers. And so it turned our small worlds upside down the day the unthinkable happened. After a tough loss at the aforementioned 1991 Survivor Series, Shawn Michaels blamed Marty Jannetty for trying to take control of the team. This led to a rift between the two which made all of us start to worry about the future of our favorite team. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Shawn agreed to make peace with Marty in an interview hosted by Brutus the Barber Beefcake. We thought we could rest easy when it appeared the two had made up. But then without warning, Shawn Michaels super-kicked Marty Jannetty through the barber shop window. We gaped in horror as our faith in the Rockers shattered like the glass in that front window. And so began Shawn Michaels career as a singles wrestler…
When they retired the Intercontinental title at No Mercy this October, I wasn’t too pleased at all. For years the Intercontinental title was a staple of the WWF. It was the proving grounds for those who wished to contend for the World Title. So as we move along in this story, we’ll take a look at our hero, who after years of wrestling in the tag-team circuit with The Hart Foundation, has gone solo and captured Intercontinental gold.
While the main story line is the World Heavyweight feud between Ric Flair and Macho Man, Bret Hart is slowly capturing the hearts of fans everywhere. He reaches the pinnacle of Intercontinental fame when he is forced to defend his title against his brother-in-law, the British Bulldog at Summer Slam.
To everyone’s disappointment, Bret Hart loses the title. But there’s was always one thing to remember when dealing with extremely popular Intercontinental Champions – when their time comes to lose the belt, it frees them up for a shot at the World Title. Hart’s Summer Slam defeat gave him the opportunity to take on the legendary Ric Flair for the Title.
On October 12, 1992 Bret “The Hitman” Hart defeated Ric Flair to capture his first WWF World Heavyweight Title. And so begins the greatest story in the history of the WWF….
I remember the first time I laid eyes on the monster that was Yokozuna. He was a massive giant of a man. It seemed that he wouldn’t be able to wrestle because of his obvious obesity problem, but it was actually his 500 lb. frame that made him so deadly. When Yokozuna began to make his push for fame, he did so by attacking something that is dear to every wrestling fan, America. For weeks he and his manager, Mr. Fugi bashed the United States. It seemed like no one had the courage to confront this monster, until a challenge was issued by the most American of wreslters…Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
I absolutely loved Hacksaw Jim Duggan. I have had three favorite wrestlers in my life The Rock, Bret Hart, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He never really accomplished much, but when you are nine, being the best isn’t nearly as important as being cool. And I thought the crazed lumberjack with his 2×4 was pretty cool. I can remember waiting all week to watch Superstars on Saturday. My sister and I were so pumped up for that match. Could our American hero upset the undefeated Yokozuna and vindicate America? I can still picture vividly Hacksaw coming down the aisle waiving Old Glory. Kristen and I were chanting U-S-A along with the frantic crowd. And then one of the most horrific sights of my young life too place. Yokozuna leaping off the ropes, crushing the chest of Hacksaw as he landed. Back in those days, it was rare for the medical team to come out an offer assistance, and so when the ambulance crew was at ringside, my heart sank. That was the really the end of Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He made a token appearance here and there after that match, but he never again was the same crazed lumberjack waving the stars and stripes.
So Survivor Series comes around, and things are really starting to heat up. You have the classic Undertaker/Kamala Casketmatch. Then Yokozuna destroys Virgil. You remember Virgil? Had to be the worst wrestler ever. I think the only match he ever won was when he took the Million Dollar Belt from Ted Dibiase. When it came time for Yokozuna to end another career, the WWF didn’t have to look very far to find someone they could live without.
And of course, there was the first ever meeting between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. One day Shawn would rise to the top, but Bret sent a message that the time had not yet come and made the “Boy Toy” submit.
Next came the Royal Rumble. When it was announced that Yokozuna would be on of the 30 contestants, a collective gasp was heard from the locker room. How could anyone get the 500 pounder over the top rope? The Answer – they couldn’t. Yokozuna won the Rumble hands down, and earned himself a date with destiny at Caesar’s Palace when he would face the champion at Wrestlemania IX. Of course, the champion had not yet been decided as Bret Hart had to take on Razor Ramon. Who he beat handily.