Place to Be Nation is extremely excited to present This Week in 90’s Wrestling, courtesy of our good friend Charles from Pro Wrestling Only. We’ll highlight the best of professional wrestling in the 90s – WWF, WCW, Memphis, USWA, All-Japan, and more – for each day of the year! You can find the complete archive of this series here.
In what might have been the last great match of the legendary Jumbo Tsuruta-Genichiro Tenryu feud, Jumbo teamed with Tiger Mask (the future Mitsuharu Misawa) and the Great Kabuki to take on Tenryu and The Footloose in a ****1/4 affair. The match was interesting not only as one of the last notable matches in the Jumbo-Tenryu saga, but also as an indirect prelude to the Misawa-Kawada rivalry which would take center stage in All Japan in a few years.
AJW held a card in Kawasaki which was most remembered for a *** hair match pitting Jungle Jack (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura) against Bull Nakano & Kyoko Inoue. While the match featured a very sloppy performance from a young Kyoko, it was still quite the emotional rollercoaster. It is most famous for Aja Kong’s head shaving, which made for a chilling post-match scene, and was another imortant step in her journey to become The Woman in AJW. The in-ring highlight of the show was a **** match between Manami Toyota and Akira Hokuto. Those who are not normally fond of Toyota’s go-go-go style would probably enjoy watching this more deliberately-paced match, as she targets her inner Arn Anderson by focusing on Hokuto’s injured arm with big time aggression.
Clips of yet another wild Jeff Jarrett-Robert Fuller vs Moondogs match aired on USWA TV, this time from the January 6 show at Mid South Coliseum. This was followed by an interesting promo from Jeff Jarrett and Robert Fuller. Talking was never really a strong point for Jeff Jarrett, but Robert Fuller was outstanding, and even had a “R.I.P. Richard Lee” (the manager of the Moondogs) customized chair that he used to emphasize the point.
WWF Superstars saw Ric Flair as a guest on The Funeral Parlor, where he hyped the upcoming Royal Rumble and furthered his issue with Hulk Hogan. I found it distracting when someone pointed out that Ric Flair almost always wore his robe in the WWF, even when he was not about to have a match.
WWF Monday Night RAW debuted, airing live from the Manhattan Center in New York. The especially excited crowd gave the program an intimate feel that was very different from the usual WWF aesthetic. The show was hosted by Vince McMahon, Randy Savage and Rob Bartlett, whose horrendous announcing has become legendary in some circles. Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan spent the entire show attempting to sneak into the building while donning multiple disguises and a Woody Allen-Mia Farrow cage match was jokingly announced for the following week’s episode. The show drew a 2.5 rating, but the importance of RAW in the early days is usually overstated through WWE revisionist history. While RAW was a successful program, it was WCW Monday Nitro that changed wrestling by igniting a wrestling boom and thus forcing the WWF to take on a fresh creative direction, something that would not happen for another few years. You can watch this show on the WWE Network.
The WWF held a Wrestling Challenge TV taping in Florence, SC that was loaded with bonus matches for the live crowd. Fortunately, they taped and released the two most intriguing matches on the Wrestlefest ’94 Coliseum Video release. In the first match, new WWF World Tag Team Champions 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty faced The Headshrinkers. The match was a *** affair, most notable for Afa taking a far more active role than usual, actually working a full sequence with the 1-2-3 Kid that showed that he could still go, at least for short periods of time. This was the only successful title defense for Kid and Jannetty that made tape. Also on the card, Bret and Owen Hart faced the Steiner Brothers in **** dream match come to life. If you can tolerate Gorilla Monsoon’s desire to get himself over on commentary as smarter than everyone in the ring, you will likely enjoy this match.
Terry Funk announced on ECW television that he was about to make “one last run” before retiring from pro wrestling. This was a storyline that would culminate at Barely Legal, the first-ever ECW pay-per-view, on April 13, but the idea of Funk legitimately retiring from pro wrestling at this point was hardly credible considering how many times he retired before this. Meanwhile, Raven and Sandman brawled through the crowd and into the locker room after Raven challenged Sandman to fight. When Stevie Richards tried to cheer Raven on, Raven pushed him out of the way, which was one of the first steps that was planned to turn Stevie Richards and the Blue World Order, breaking them away from Raven.
WCW Saturday Night aired one of many expectations-exceeding matches between Steven Regal and Psicosis. The match may seem like a clash of styles on paper, but the two had great chemistry every time they faced each other. The show was taped on January 8 in Gainesville, GA, and did a strong 2.8 rating.
Clips aired on WWF Shotgun Saturday Night of The Sisters of Love being arrested for solicitation in front of the Disney Store on 42nd Street in Manhattan. This was followed by a few hilarious mugshots. As a result of the arrest, the good sisters were not on the show. Further pushing the envelope, a hilarious-if-somewhat-disturbing “Fondle Me Elmo” skit was shown. The premise was Sunny engaging in a tryst with Sesame Street’s Elmo. Continuing the show’s head-first descent into absurdism, we learned that Goldust was pregnant, with a spoof on Demi Moore’s famous nude-while-pregnant Vanity Fair magazine cover to accompany it.
WCW Monday Nitro aired live from Knoxville, TN in front of 13,000 fans. In the main event, Kevin Nash pinned The Giant who was WWF bound, in his last WCW match. Internet rumors at the time were that Giant would be billed as Titan after jumping ship, so Eric Bischoff took a chance to hijack the announce booth so he could tell the audience watching at home that the Titanic was sinking. Also on the show, a series of pre-taped Goldberg promos aired where he addressed all of the twists and turns surrounding the Fingerpoke of Doom the previous week. The damage was done by this point, and Goldberg was never the same. The show began with Ric Flair reinstating JJ Dillon to his storyline role as the head of the Executive/Championship Committee (WCW could never keep the name of the committee straight) and making a plea to the LWO to disband and declare their loyalty to WCW. In a funny moment, Flair got Juventud Guerrera excited by promising that he would take him to Tijuana if he left the group, but sadly, there were no subsequent vignettes of such a trip. Perhaps they would not be suitable for the airwaves anyway. Speaking of Flair, a series of vignettes aired with him barking orders at Eric Bischoff while in his capacity as the President of WCW. Flair ended up putting Bischoff on the ring crew where he was supervised by the legendary Klondike Bill, who Tony Schiavone discussed in his recent appearance on The Ross Report. Bischoff gimmicked the ring when no one was looking, which played a part in the finish of the Nash-Giant match. This was one of the first Kevin Nash-booked vignettes that aired on Nitro in 1999. They were attempting to emulate the success of the WWF’s vignettes set in unique settings, but they had major production problems at the time, which lessened the impact and made WCW look awfully low rent. They would often use multiple cameras to film single vignettes, switching the point of view multiple times, which made for a jarring viewing experience. But more than that, announcers were apparently unable to see the vignettes like the audience at home, so they had no idea what was happening. Other highlights of the show included an angle where Norman Smiley threw Chavo Guerrero Jr.’s face in a birthday cake (which was there to celebrate his hobby horse Pepe’s birthday) before tossing Pepe into a wood chipper; a tease of a Raven-Roddy Piper program which never materialized; and Konnan’s ejection from the NWO. A Luger-Nash vs Rey-Konnan feud was set up, which was an interesting and fresh mix of personalities, but Luger was soon injured and the end result of the program killed whatever special aura Rey Misterio Jr. had in WCW. The funniest moment of the show was a vignette where Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash reflected on the Fingerpoke of Doom on the previous week’s Nitro, with Nash asking if the finger poke would be “one of those Bruce Lee things where I die in twenty years”. The show did a 5.0 rating, the strongest rating they had done since September.
WWF Monday Night RAW aired live from Houston, TX. The show is most remembered for an awful, but envelope-pushing angle where the Undertaker placed Dennis Knight on his “symbol” and drew blood from his wrist, which he forced Knight to drink. He then used a knife to carve a Satanic symbol in Mideon’s chest and rechristened him as Mideon, thus forming the Ministry of Darkness. On the brighter side, we saw a tremendous vignette of Vince McMahon training for the Royal Rumble match by jogging in the snow and throwing punches at carcasses, a la Rocky, while Shane shouted words of encouragement. In the main event, we had a “Corporate Rumble” where the winner would automatically be the #30 entrant in the Royal Rumble. A victory for Vince McMahon was heavily teased after he made a late entrance, but Chyna eliminated him after a distraction from Steve Austin. The show did a 5.5 rating, meaning the combined rating of wrestling shows on that particular Monday night was a whopping 10.5 rating.
In The “To Watch” Queue:
Mayumi Ozaki vs Cutie Suzuki (JWP 01/11/94)
Mayumi Ozaki & Chikayo Nagashima vs Dynamite Kansai & Cutie Suzuki (JWP 01/11/98)