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.
Familiar foes Eric Embry and Gary Young worked a ***1/2 match at the Dallas Sportatorium. In the most memorable territory program of 1989, Eric Embry feuded with Devastation Inc., which was headed by Young and manager Skandor Akbar. Embry was absent from the USWA for most of 1990 after his run as the booker ended. This match was not so much an attempt to revive the feud as it was a one-off match that was about to send them both in a new direction. This match later aired on the USWA’s weekday afternoon show on ESPN, as Jerry Jarrett had negotiated a deal to air select matches from Dallas. Jarrett had just recently regained control of the Dallas market after Kevin Von Erich forced him out. For the last three months of 1990, Kevin Von Erich promoted the Texas Wrestling Federation (TWF) at the Sportatorium with many of Jarrett’s crew, but they had no television, so none of the matches ever made tape. To make a long story short, Jarrett lost local television on KTVT the previous year because he ran a few too many controversial angles. The matches that aired on ESPN were often good, but they were tamer than the matches that were shot specifically for the local crowd, which was made evident when the USWA would occasionally air highlights of the more violent non-ESPN matches on WMC-5 in Memphis when they were running a feud that spilled into both territories.
About six minutes of clips of another wild melee from the Jeff Jarrett-Robert Fuller vs Moondogs feud aired on the January 18 USWA television show, this time from January 13 at Mid South Coliseum. This was Fuller’s last appearance in this feud, as Jerry Lawler would be Jarrett’s partner from here forward. The feud never skipped a beat in the transition, although Fuller was a good worker and fantastic talker, so his presence was missed all the same.
Hulk Hogan gave us the hard sell for the Royal Rumble on WWF Superstars, in an interview conducted by Gene Okerlund. Hogan talked about his history against Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Earthquake, Sgt. Slaughter and the Undertaker, and clips were interspersed in the interview of him defeating them all. Historical context was something the WWF rarely provided at the time, which made this interview a special one. Also on the show, the finish was shown from a Bret Hart-Mountie match the night before where Bret dropped the Intercontinental title, with the storyline excuse that he had a 104-degree fever. While the decision was made to transition the title to Roddy Piper via The Mountie weeks earlier, Bret was also negotiating with WCW at the time, and had in fact agreed to bring the WWF Intercontinental title on the live Clash of the Champions XVIII special only days later. WCW offered and Bret accepted guaranteed money which would earn him far more than he made in the WWF, but he had to backtrack when his contract rolled over and automatically renewed itself without his knowledge, leaving him unable to give notice for a few more months. At the time, the prevailing belief was that Bret was still WCW bound within a few months, which had it happened would have made the decade very different for both the WWF and WCW. WCW had the attention of many WWF wrestlers at this time when new Executive Vice President Kip Frey signed Rick Rude to a deal for $300,000 per year with only 142 required dates.
The streak of good television matches continued for the Dangerous Alliance when Rick Rude, Steve Austin and Bobby Eaton teamed to face Sting, Ricky Steamboat and Marcus Bagwell in a ***1/2 match on WCW Pro. The match was taped on January 14 in Columbus, GA.
Psicosis faced Ultraman on an AAA show in Tijuana in a ***1/2 match that both showed ECW’s increasing influence over lucha libre and raised serious questions about Psicosis’ sanity, as he took unbelievable bumps that have to be seen to be believed. They were including but not limited to an attempted piledriver on a table in the middle of the ring where the table collapsed before he could execute the move; a powerbomb from the apron onto a ringside table; a head-first bump from the top rope to the floor when he missed a diving headbutt; and an attempted DDT from the top rope on to a chair where he lost his grip and took the worst of the move on the back of his head. The match was an almost complete trainwreck but was also an incredible and scary display of self sacrifice.
PG-13 faced Flash Flanagan and Steven Dunn in a longish *** studio match on USWA television, highlighted by Flash Flanagan taking a powerbomb off the top rope. The announcers sold that Flanagan had a neck injury from the move which was further aggravated when PG-13 gave him a spike piledriver on the floor. A mysterious woman showed up and handed Wolfie D a cane during the melee, who we later learned was his mother. PG-13 were working a Nation of Domination gimmick in Memphis at the time, which was far superior to and had a completely different tone than the WWF version. They were accompanied by Reggie B. Fine during their interview, whose new Nation name was Kareem Olajuwon. Also on the show, Jerry Lawler gave a State of the USWA of sorts where he expertly handled a few studio hecklers trying to mess up his promo.
Ricky Morton made a cameo on ECW TV, teaming with Tommy Rich in a bloody match against The Gangstas before getting into a post-match brawl with Rich which Joey Styles heavy-handedly calls “Southern style”. Also on the show, lackey Stevie Richards gave Raven a superkick during his match with The Sandman in a satisfying moment of retribution, as Raven took advantage of Richards for years.
Vince McMahon confirmed on Shotgun Saturday Night that the rumors of Goldust being “with child” were off the mark during Goldust’s match against Steve Austin, which headlined the show at a bar in San Antonio, TX. A video was actually produced of Goldust giving birth to a child, but the WWF opted not to run it and tried to tone down the show after receiving criticism from wrestlers that Shotgun was too campy. The real highlight of this episode, however, was the unexpected appearance of Terry Funk, who did not go along with Vince’s effort to tone anything down. Funk called everyone in WCW “scum-sucking snakebags”, tried picking a fight with Steve Austin and called Todd Pettengill’s mother a whore, Vince McMahon a “Yankee bastard” and Jim Ross an “Okie bastard”, language that angered Vince enough that he vowed to never use Funk in the WWF again, a promise that he would not even keep through the end of 1997 as it turned out.
The WWF held the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in San Jose, CA, in front of 18,542 fans. Steve Austin won the Rumble for the second consecutive year, last eliminating Rocky Maivia, his future greatest rival who drew number four that evening and was the year’s marathon man. Mike Tyson watched the match in the skybox next to Shane McMahon and cheered on “Cold Stone”, as he called him, when he won. The in-ring highlight of the show was a ***1/2 casket match between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Michaels took a bad bump on the ringside casket that further aggravated existing injuries and kept him out of the ring until WrestleMania XIV on March 29. While his injuries were cumulative and the result of a wild lifestyle and high-risk ring style, that specific bump kept him out of WWF rings following WrestleMania XIV for over four years. The match is also remembered for the post-match angle where Kane, after chokeslamming Undertaker into the casket to give Michaels the win, smashed the casket with an axe and doused it in gasoline before setting it on fire. In exclusive home video footage after the pay-per-view went off the air, WWF officials put out the fire and opened the casket, only to find that it was empty and Undertaker had disappeared. The show did 351,000 buys, which was a significant increase from the previous year and the highest Rumble buyrate since 1991, a sign that the WWF was beginning a turnaround. You can watch this show on the WWE Network.
WCW Monday Nitro aired live from Columbus, OH, headlined by Goldberg facing Scott Hall and Bam Bam Bigelow in a triangle match. Also on the show, David Flair defeated Eric Bischoff in a match where Bischoff put his hair at stake against Ric’s presidency and the Lex Luger and Kevin Nash feud with Rey Misterio Jr. continued with Rey facing Luger in a singles match and getting bullied and attacked by both in a post-match angle. The show did a 4.4 rating.
WWF Monday Night RAW aired, which was taped on January 12 in Beaumont, TX. The show was headlined by The Rock vs Kane, which ended in a disqualification when The Corporation attacked Kane. Another great Vince McMahon vignette aired, this time with him working out in a wrestling ring and giving his training partners (including Dr. Tom Pritchard) Stone Cold Stunners. The most controversial angle of the night, and one of the most controversial angles of the year, saw Chyna play video of Mark Henry making out with Chyna’s friend Sammy, only to discover that Sammy was a man and start puking. Mark Henry’s “mom”, who was at ringside, grabbed him by the ear and took him to the proverbial woodshed to wrap up the segment. Speaking of Chyna, she faced Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco in a handicap match which was highlighted by Pat Patterson throwing powder in her eyes and fondling her breasts. The show did a 5.6 rating.