Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow & Brian Damage
In today’s Top Five Craig, Jamie and Brian share their favourite years in the history of wrestling and the promotion that made that year stand-out. So, whether it was the NWA/WCW during the 80s, the WWF during the Hogna years or the wrestling world during the late 90s, it’s all here.
5. WCW 1997: The nWo were at their peak and had yet to be full of guys that were effectively jobbers, Nitro was scintillating TV and the WWE was on the ropes. It was little wonder. Nitro stood apart. There was a healthy mix of jacked up superstars, mat based wrestlers and high flyers. Anything really could happen on Nitro and more often than not it did.
4. WWF 1994: It probably took until 1998 for the WWF to have a full solid good year after this year. And what a year it was. Wrestlemania X is still probably my favourite ‘mania and there was some great wrestling scattered through the year. Sure, the Rumble finish was a bit screwy and Undertaker versus Undertaker, with a cameo from Leslie Neilson wasn’t great but still plenty of good stuff on show in this year. It was also the beginning of the end for me, at the time, as a wrestling fan as I started to drift out of it. Watching it back now, it’s a shame I stopped when I did.
3. WCW 1993: Not a year I had been too familiar with prior to the 20 Years Ago Podcast but this is a year that featured some stellar wrestling. Vader was still seen as a monster, Cactus Jack was having some pretty crazy looking matches for that time, Ric Flair was back, Ricky Steamboat was on top form, Sting was starting to look like a big deal and there were superstars like Steve Austin and Brian Pillman ready to break out. Just stay clear of Battlebowl, it doesn’t make any sense!
2. WWE 1995: This one may seem like an odd inclusion but the rational is simple. Bad wrestling>boring wrestling. A lot of the stuff was laughable in that year. Sure there was the odd gem like Bret Hart v Hakushi and Shawn versus Razor pt. 2 but there was also Mabel winning King of the Ring and Hunter Heart Helmsley fighting Henry Godwinn in a Hog Pen. A fascinating year as we saw first hand the sway that the Kliq had and the difficulty the WWF was in at the time.
1. WWE 1999: A monumental year for the WWF and also the first full year I’d seen of TV programming with us having gotten Sky installed at the start of 99, just in time to see Mankind win the title on Raw, in fact. A moment that put my bum on the seat. Sure, much of it doesn’t make much sense or stand the test of time but as a fourteen year old guy – and I’m sure Jamie will agree – this was a great time to be watching WWE. I remember always rushing home on a Friday night, regardless of what social stuff was talking place, so I could be in for Raw starting at 10pm. It was unmissable!
5. WCW 1997
Probably the only full calendar year when WCW was shit hot from start to finish. I’ve only ranked it at five because my experience of this year is not as full as others. The nWo was on fire while the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio kept the mid-card interesting. What tipped the scale for me was the booking of Sting and the epic build towards Starrcade in December. As it turns out, Starrcade sucked. However the build to the epic showdown between Sting and Hollywood Hogan was immense.
4. WCW 1998
From the heights of 1997, the following year did provide WCW with a fall from grace – but I liked it. Those that followed our Monday Night Wars series of posts last year will know that I watched – and reviewed – every Nitro from 1998 in real time. While not WCW at it’s very best, the entertainment value in these three hour Nitros vastly out ranks the three hour Raws of this generation. The in-fighting within the nWo at the start of the year – particularly with Macho Man – was great, as was the meteoric rise of Goldberg. However, my favourite moments came from Hollywood Hogan and Ric Flair, and not always for the right reasons. Hogan was often at his delusional best and Flair, during his feud with Eric Bischoff, appeared to have lost his mind entirely.
3. WWE 1999
The year I got back into wrestling was always going to rank high with me. From an in-ring standpoint 1999 was pretty shit, but the entertainment levels were off the chart. Satanic weddings, blood baths, abductions, beer baths, fake policemen being hanged and dogs acting as lumberjacks in the weirdest cage match ever conceived. 1999, I miss you.
As a kid I was at my wrestling loving peek in 1992. Most of my WWE childhood memories hail from this year. The Royal Rumble was the best ever, Savage v Flair and Piper v Hart at Wrestlemania are two of my favourite ever matches. As a UK fan I will never forget Summerslam and I even fondly remember the Survivor Series as my childhood favourite – Bret Hart – defended his newly won WWE Championship against my favourite baddie – Shawn Michaels.
1. WWE 2000
For me this was WWE, and wrestling in general, at it’s zenith. The entertainment value was total. The early days of the Attitude Era saw just as many misses as hits, but in 2000 damn near everything turned to gold. Even low card acts like the Too Cool and Right To Censor were over like you wouldn’t believe. The Rock and Triple H were in their prime and in and around the title picture. The likes of Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle hovered between main events and the IC Title. The Hardyz, Dudleyz and Edge & Christian set the tag division alight. Heck, the European Title was even relevant due to Eddie Guerrero and his relationship with Chyna. In the ring and creatively, WWE in 2000 was easily my favourite year in wrestling.
5. WWF 1987
Call me crazy…but this is the wrestling I initially grew up on….actually….I didn’t have much of a choice because I didn’t have cable yet. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the voices of either Gorilla and Jesse the Body or Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino on commentary….good times.
I didn’t see this era live…but I had the privilege of reliving it on cable when WCCW aired on ESPN. The Von Erichs Vs The Freebirds was worth it alone…but other greats like Devastation Incorporated, Gary Hart and the Great Kabuki and Iceman King Parsons…..Dallas wrestling was red hot!
3. WCW 1997
In particular Monday Nitro….sure…you had all the nWo stuff, Crow Sting and Hulk Hogan as a heel…all of that was new and fresh and must see viewing…but it was the cruiserweights that really stole the show.
2. ECW 1995
Let’s be honest…. without ECW’s influence…the Monday Night Wars wouldn’t have been half as entertaining. The little promotion from South Philadelphia was red hot and innovative. It introduced the wrestling world to countless new stars and different wrestling styles. Around this time…it was still underground…but making noise internationally as well.
1. Jim Crockett Promotions/ NWA 1988
A great time to be a wrestling fan when you could see guys like Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen…The Midnight Express..The Road Warriors…Dusty Rhodes, Barry Windham and so many other greats.
You can read all previous Top Fives here.