The Rise, Near Fall, And Rise – The WWF in the 90s – 1993

The Rise, Near Fall, And Rise – The WWF in the 90s – 1993

The start of the year saw an old institution make way for the new. Prime Time Wrestling, which debuted back in 1985, aired for the last time, to be replaced the following week by Monday Night RAW. Airing live from the Manhattan Centre on January 11, the show was hosted by Vince McMahon, Randy Savage and comedian/actor, Rob Bartlett. Bobby Heenan made several attempts to get into the building, but was rebuked every time by Sean Mooney. In the opening bout, Yokozuna defeated Koko B. Ware, Shawn Michaels beat Max Moon to retain the Intercontinental Title, The Steiner Brothers walked through The Executioners (Barry Hardy and Duane Gill), and The Undertaker pinned Damien Demento.

At the end of the programme, Vince spoke with a strange clown that had begun appearing in the crowd and in the aisle during matches. When he began messing with children at ringside, it earned the attention of Crush, who roughly told him to stop it. The clown was light-hearted about the incident when speaking with Vince, despite having his arm in a sling. Crush confronted him again, before he was squirted in the face with a water pistol.

The following week on Superstars, Crush was stopped in the aisle by an apologetic clown, who offered him a flower. Crush accepted the flower and handed it to a ringside fan, when he was attacked from behind with a prosthetic limb. The big Hawaiian was left unconscious by the beating and taken to hospital. In an interview with Ray Rougeau, the clown revealed his name to be ‘Doink.’ The man under the grease-paint and green wig was veteran Matt Borne, who had signed late last year and worked matches under his real name before being repackaged. As a result of the injuries suffered, Crush would not be one of the thirty men vying for a WWF title shot in the Royal Rumble.

Indeed, for the first time, the winner of the Royal Rumble would get a shot at the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania (a stipulation that continues to be used to this day). On January 24, sixteen thousand fans packed the Arco Arena to see the mighty Yokozuna book his ticket for Las Vegas on April 4. He eliminated five other competitors on his way to victory, including the equally large Earthquake, and lastly, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage.

Bob Backlund made a low-key return to the WWF at the end of 1992, and when he came out to start the Rumble with Ric Flair, little was expected of him. However, he got a nice ovation from the crowd, when he was eliminated just over an hour later, beating Flair’s record from the year before. Flair was eliminated after eighteen minutes by Mr. Perfect, giving Perfect a psychological edge over Flair going into their ‘loser leaves town’ match the following night on RAW. Flair had made the brazen challenge when they each got involved in each other’s matches on the January 18 edition of RAW, saying that the WWF wasn’t big enough for the both of them.

Harvey Wippleman’s promise to drop a “big bomb” led to his unscheduled appearance during the Rumble, when he led down a near eight-fall tall monster in a costume that made him look like a Sasquatch. Wippleman had been seeking revenge on The Undertaker after beating his man Kamala at last year’s Survivor Series. In the weeks leading up to the Rumble, Wippleman and Kim Chee physically and mentally abused Kamala, which raised the ire of Reverend Slick, who convinced Kamala to leave his antagonists.

The giant chopped The Undertaker down to size before knocking him out with a chokeslam. He then dragged Taker into a corner and repeatedly battered his legs against the ring post. After a series of attempts, The Undertaker finally sat up and hobbled his way to the back. Giant Gonzalez was formerly El Gigante in WCW, who had initially played for Ted Turner’s NBA franchise the Atlanta Hawks, before injuries curtailed his basketball career. Due to his size, he was figured to be perfect for professional wrestling.

Continuing his hectic schedule as champion, Bret Hart faced down the cocky and aggressive newcomer, Razor Ramon. ‘The Hitman’ had been challenged in December and then attacked by Razor and Ric Flair. Ramon made it even more personal when he beat up Bret’s brother, Owen. In a hard-fought battle, the champion triumphed when he submitted Razor with the Sharpshooter.

Shawn Michaels defeated former tag team partner Marty Jannetty to retain his Intercontinental title. Despite splitting in January 1992, it was their first one-on-one encounter, as a result of outside legal troubles delaying Marty’s return. In October 1992, Marty disguised himself as a fan and confronted Shawn. He snatched away Shawn’s mirror and aimed to give him a taste of his own medicine, but Shawn cowardly pulled Sensational Sherri in front of him. Sherri took a sabbatical, and then announced she would return to be either in the corner of Shawn or Marty at the Royal Rumble. She revealed who’s corner she was in when Shawn approached her and Sherri slapped him across the face.

But, just as quickly as Marty returned, he was gone again. He was blamed for the match being disappointing, due to being ‘intoxicated.’ Some believed Shawn spread the story which led to Jannetty being fired again. Thus, the plan for a rematch at Wrestlemania was scrapped, and replaced with Shawn defending against Tatanka, who earned himself a shot when he defeated Shawn in a non-title match in February.

Right before the Royal Rumble match, Bobby Heenan revealed his latest protégé, ‘The Narcissist’. For weeks, Heenan built him up as a man who was “beyond perfection.” ‘The Narcissist’ Lex Luger had signed with Titan Sports the previous year, but not to wrestle. Instead, he worked as an announcer for Vince’s other project, the World Bodybuilding Federation. Luger was scheduled to participate in the second WBF Championship in June 1992, but was injured in a motorcycle accident. Despite Heenan being a huge advocate, ‘The Brain’ never did officially manage Luger, and continued his role as a ‘broadcast journalist.’

In other matches, The Steiner Brothers defeated The Beverly Brothers, and Bam Bam Bigelow pinned The Big Boss Man. This would be Boss Man’s final WWF pay-per-view appearance before leaving the company in mid-March. (He returned on December 4 to be the special guest referee at a house show in Anaheim, California, but then signed with WCW).

Yokozuna triumphant in the Royal Rumble

Millions of fans around the world mourned the passing of André the Giant, who died on the afternoon of January 28 (Paris time) of congestive heart failure at the age of 46. André had returned to France to see his ill father Boris, who then passed away on January 15. He remained for his father’s funeral and his mother’s birthday on the 24th, and caught up with family and friends. After playing cards at a coffee shop in Ussy-sur-Marne, he retired late to the Hotel de la Tromoille in Paris, where he died in his sleep.

The news of André’s death spread quickly, and was heavily reported, particularly throughout North America and Japan; sadly, little was said in his home country. The WWF held ten-bell salutes at the next few house shows, concluding on the February 1 Monday Night RAW in the Manhattan Centre. All Japan held their own ceremony on January 31, followed by New Japan on February 1; UWA held a moments silence on their 18th anniversary event on the 31st.

After a small ceremony in France on February 5, André’s funeral took place on February 24 at his ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina, where his ashes were also spread. He had stated in his will that he wished to be cremated; with no facility big enough in France, André’s body was flown back to the United States, where a crematorium close to the ranch in Pinehurst, NC performed the task. His estate was left in the name of his daughter, Robin. Two months after his passing, the WWF announced the creation of a Hall of Fame, with André the sole inductee for 1993.

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Ric Flair was sent packing when he was defeated by Mr. Perfect on the January 25 episode of Monday Night RAW. Flair had requested his release at the end of last year and it was granted, on the proviso that he put over Perfect on the way out. With Jim Herd no longer in charge, ‘The Nature Boy’ went back to WCW. Before Perfect could face down ‘The Narcissist,’ there was still some unfinished business with Razor Ramon. The two got into a brawl after Ramon defeated Typhoon on Wrestling Challenge.

Before taking on ‘The Hitman’ for the WWF Title, Yokozuna went head-to-head with Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The patriotic Duggan had grown tired of Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji’s anti-American stance, and a special challenge match was made for the February 6 Superstars. If Duggan could get Yokozuna off his feet, he would be declared the winner. After several attempts, Hacksaw managed the feat but the celebration was short-lived. Yokozuna blinded him with salt and delivered a series of Banzai Drops. The injuries suffered would put Duggan on the shelf for the next two months.

It had been a long road, but Brutus Beefcake was finally able to step back into the ring, after his career – and almost his life – had been cut short in the middle of 1990, due to a serious parasailing accident. On the February 15 edition of Monday Night RAW, Beefcake was slated to take on one-half of the Tag Team champions, Ted Dibiase.

The week before the bout, Dibiase and partner IRS ominously discussed what they would do to Brutus and his fragile face, which surprisingly got a negative reaction from their manager, Jimmy Hart. When Dibiase and IRS blasted Brutus with a steel briefcase, Hart was disgusted and put his own body on the line to protect Beefcake. This in turn led to Hulk Hogan coming back to do an in-ring interview with Vince on the next edition of RAW to denounce Money Inc. After bringing out a bruised Beefcake, ‘The Hulkster’ vowed to strip Dibiase and IRS of all their assets, starting with their manager, Jimmy Hart. Now decked out in the red-and-yellow, Hart pledged himself a reformed Hulkamaniac. Calling themselves The Mega-Maniacs, a challenge was issued to Money Inc. for their Tag Team titles.

Yokozuna tried to gain an edge when he attacked Bret Hart at the official contract signing of their WWF championship match. After the contract was signed, Yoko pushed the table into Bret’s knee and splashed him in the corner. He followed it up with a crushing Banzai Drop, but as referees and officials separated them, the champion fought his way back to his feet.

Repo Man debuted a new look, with a different mask and attire, but by the end of March, he was gone from the company. Arguably, Repo Man’s most significant angle of the year had been back in January, when he stole ‘The Macho Man’s’ hat on Monday Night RAW. The former Demolition Smash signed with WCW.

Hogan captures a record fifth WWF championship

Wrestlemania 9 was billed as the “world’s biggest toga party,” as the commentators and crew dressed as Romans, including a debuting Jim Ross. The future hall of fame announcer got out of his contract with WCW when he was taken off the air by new Executive Vice President, Eric Bischoff. It also marked the first outdoor Wrestlemania, with fans clustered around a faux-Roman Coliseum at the back of Caesar’s Palace. ‘The Macho Man’ made a grand entrance, carried to ringside on a couch while being fed grapes, while Bobby Heenan somehow ended up riding backwards on a camel.

Bret Hart was on his way to defeating Yokozuna, when he found a way to trap the massive sumo’s legs in the Sharpshooter. But with the referee out of position, Fuji blinded ‘The Hitman’ with a handful of salt, and moments later, Yokozuna became the new WWF champion. Hulk Hogan came to the ring to help Bret and protest the decision. Mr. Fuji foolishly challenged ‘The Hulkster’ to face the new champion, but accidentally threw salt in Yoko’s eyes this time. Hogan became a then-record five time WWF champion, and helped Yokozuna to the unenviable record of shortest WWF championship reign in history.

Earlier, The Mega-Maniacs of Hogan and Beefcake lost by disqualification to Money Inc. when Hogan used Brutus’ metal mask as a weapon. The referee had been knocked down, so Jimmy Hart turned his jacket inside-out to reveal a black-and-white striped lining, and made the count himself. A second referee – Danny Davis – arrived and called for the match to be thrown out. Hulk sported a black eye, which was explained away on television that he had been jumped by Money Inc. goons while at the gym. (To this day, there is speculation that the injury was caused by Randy Savage concerning Elizabeth).

Along with Jim Ross, another debut took place in the form of Luna Vachon. She accompanied Shawn Michaels to the ring for his Intercontinental title bout to nullify Sensational Sherri, who seconded Tatanka. The bout ended with Michaels being counted out, and then Luna viciously attacked Sherri. Later, Luna attacked Sherri again in the medical station backstage.

‘The Narcissist’ Lex Luger made good on his promise by defeating Mr. Perfect, albeit by using the ropes illegally to leverage the pin. After the bell, he knocked out Perfect with his controversial running forearm. There had been calls for the move to be made illegal by President Jack Tunney, as Luger had a metal plate put in his arm after a motorcycle accident. Earlier, at the Wrestlemania brunch, Luger had used that very same forearm to assault Bret Hart. Perfect went after Luger in the back but was blindsided by Shawn Michaels.

An ‘illusion’ foiled Crush when he was on his way to beating Doink. As in the tag team title bout, the referee was incapacitated. As Crush held Doink in his Cranium Crunch submission, a second Doink (Steve Keirn) appeared behind him and slugged him with a prosthetic limb; the referee recovered and counted three. There was another controversial finish in the Undertaker/Giant Gonzalez match, when Gonzalez rendered Undertaker unconscious with a rag he placed over his nose and mouth.

In other matches, The Steiner Brothers defeated The Headshrinkers and Razor Ramon pinned Bob Backlund. A scheduled bout between Kamala and Bam Bam Bigelow didn’t take place due to time constraints.

Shawn and his new bodyguard, Diesel

Bam Bam Bigelow became embroiled in the increasingly violent rivalry between Sherri and Luna after Sherri hijacked his interview time on the April 24 Superstars, to call out Luna. Bigelow looked set to hit Sherri when Tatanka arrived on the scene. In a separate incident, Bigelow would go so far as to cut Tatanka’s sacred red mohawk.

A number of new arrivals to the WWF appeared in the middle of 1993. Firstly, the team of the Smokin’ Gunns made their debut the day after Wrestlemania in an un-televised match, defeating Barry Horowitz and Reno Riggins. Vignettes began airing on the April 25 Wrestling Challenge, and their first match on TV took place on the May 15 episode of Mania, beating Damien Demento and The Brooklyn Brawler. Meanwhile, The Nasty Boys were suspended a few weeks after Wrestlemania after Brian Knobbs made some drunken comments backstage. They were never brought back and signed with WCW.

A menacing individual who wore business attire and dark sunglasses even when he wrestled, Mr. Hughes demolished JD Stryker on Wrestling Challenge, and instantly got the attention of the managers in the WWF. Hughes would sign with Harvey Wippleman and help with his manager’s on-going feud with The Undertaker. Previously, he worked as ‘Big Cat’ and later as Lex Luger’s bodyguard in WCW, before departing in the summer of 1992.

A wild brawl erupted and almost spilt onto the streets of New York between Shawn Michaels and Mr. Perfect before the May 10 edition of Monday Night RAW. Michaels was being interviewed about his Intercontinental Title defense later against Hacksaw Jim Duggan when Perfect appeared out of nowhere and laid into Michaels with punches. As the enthralled fans looked on, Perfect hurled Michaels onto the bonnet and windshield of a car, before officials arrived on the scene. (The hapless owner of the vehicle was Howard Finkel, who was later compensated for the damage).

Marty Jannetty made a big return (again) on the May 17 Monday Night RAW, as Shawn Michaels was being interviewed in the ring by Vince. Shawn’s cockiness got the better of him, when he stated that he would take on anybody, anytime. Once again he posed as a fan to surprise his former partner. On the spot, Marty challenged Shawn for his Intercontinental Title. A stuttering Michaels backpedaled, and used the excuse that Marty was not in his ring attire. When Marty said it was in the back, and Vince reminded Shawn about his open challenge, the champion was reluctantly roped into having a title match later in the programme. With a little help from Mr. Perfect, Jannetty rolled up Shawn and became the new Intercontinental champion.

Sadly, it would not be a long title reign. Marty dropped the title back to Shawn in a non-televised match on June 6 in Albany, New York, with the help of Shawn’s brand new bodyguard, Diesel (Kevin Nash). This came just three days after Nash worked his last match with WCW. He had gained a release after Michaels had seen him on WCW television as ‘Vinnie Vegas,’ and contacted him about coming to the WWF. WCW were led to believe that Nash was retiring from the business. Diesel made his first WWF televised appearance the next night on RAW.

In another big moment from the May 17 RAW, Razor Ramon battled preliminary wrestler, The Kid (Sean Waltman). Waltman got a contract after a tryout match (against Louie Spiccoli) the day after Wrestlemania 9. He changed his name from ‘Lightening Kid’ to ‘Cannonball Kid’ to simply ‘The Kid’ when he faced Razor. Razor dominated the match until Kid hit a standing moonsault off the top rope and remarkably got the three count. Razor was faced with chants of 1…2…3, thus giving Waltman a permanent name – The 1-2-3 Kid. Razor offered increasing sums of money to get a rematch with The Kid, until finally getting him back in the ring for ten thousand dollars. In another Razor dominated match, Kid eventually decided to take the money and run.

Ted Dibiase taunted Razor over the loss, and on the April 1 edition of Wrestling Challenge, ‘The Million Dollar Man’ went up against 1-2-3 Kid. Dibiase had no doubts about who would win the bout, and it looked over when he slapped on the Million Dollar Dream. Ramon made his way down the aisle which distracted Dibiase, and when he made a relaxed cover, Kid turned it into a pinning predicament for himself and won the match.

On a May 15, 1993 supercard in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, Stan Lane retired from in-ring duties and later turned up in the WWF as an interviewer and colour commentator. Lane was one-half of the second incarnation of the Midnight Express tag team with Bobby Eaton, before leaving WCW with Jim Cornette to help start up SMW. There, he was put into a team with Dr. Tom Prichard as ‘The Heavenly Bodies,’ before taking the fall in a cage match against The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express and leaving the company forever.

A new manager entered the ranks of the WWF on the May 22 edition of Superstars, in the form of spoiled rich kid, Johnny Polo. Formerly Scotty the Body and Scotty Flamingo, the future Raven worked for WCW after getting his first big break in Portland. After a brief stop at the USWA, he made his way to the WWF to manage Adam Bomb. Hailing from Three Mile Island (the site of a nuclear plant meltdown in Harrisburg, PA) Adam Bomb (Bryan Clarke) sported green luminescent eyes and a red tongue. Clarke had previously worked as ‘The Nightstalker,’ most prominently in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, but had also wrestled in the final days of the AWA, Abrams’ UWF and WCW.

On the June 12 edition of Superstars, the source of The Undertaker’s power was stolen from him by Harvey Wippleman and Mr. Hughes. The Undertaker defeated PJ Walker, and was then confronted by Giant Gonzalez. As the two battled, Hughes took out Paul Bearer, and then took the urn and used it knock out The Undertaker before departing.

A rather odd character named Friar Ferguson made his first appearance, before complaints from the Catholic Church resulted in him being rebranded ‘Bastion Booger.’ Mike Shaw’s previous resume included a decent stint with Stampede Wrestling as ‘Makhan Singh,’ and WCW as former asylum inmate, ‘Norman the Lunatic.’ As the name suggests, Booger was cast as the grossest and smelliest wrestler to ever step into the ring, with a bald head, missing teeth and a revealing costume, which even showed a ‘hump’ on his back. His ‘entrance music’ consisted of belches and other bodily noises. He made his televised debut on the June 19, 1993 edition of Superstars, losing to Virgil. The following week, Booger would get back his win by pinning Virgil.

Timothy Well (Rex King) and Steven Dunn (Steve Doll) worked their first match for the WWF on June 15, defeating Virgil and Tito Santana. Known as ‘Well Dunn,’ they came to the WWF after being suspended indefinitely by the USWA for their continued disregard for the rules. They made their televised debut on the July 8 Superstars, losing to The Smokin’ Gunns.

King of the Ring served as a redemption ark for Bret Hart after losing the WWF Title at Wrestlemania in April. Despite being added to the pay-per-view calendar in 1993, King of the Ring had been a regular, non-televised WWF event since 1985. Held in the “Heart of America” (Fairborn, Ohio) in front of 6,500 fans on June 13, ‘The Hitman’ took the crown and scepter after three grueling bouts. This technically made him a two-time winner, having also won the King of the Ring in 1991.

In the opening round, Bret and Razor Ramon had a rematch from the Royal Rumble. Razor injured Bret’s hand, which nullified the Sharpshooter, meaning ‘The Hitman’ had to find a different way each time to get his arm raised. When Razor went for his belly-to-back suplex off the second rope, Bret shifted his weight in mid-air and landed on top of the ‘Bad Guy’ to earn the three.

Another classic bout between Bret and Mr. Perfect was set up when Perfect got by Mr. Hughes by disqualification. Prior, Hart had a preference for wrestling Mr. Perfect, which Perfect took as suggesting an easier match. The two got into a spat during a backstage interview with Mean Gene about whose father was tougher – Stu Hart or Larry Hennig. The bout ended with Bret reversing a small package to rival the quality of the match they had back at Summerslam 1991.

Bam Bam Bigelow defeated Jim Duggan, who was still not entirely one hundred percent from the injuries suffered at the hands of Yokozuna. Lex Luger and Tatanka wrestled to the fifteen-minute time limit, which eliminated both men, giving Bam Bam a bye all the way to the final. After the match, Luger knocked out Tatanka with his controversial forearm. The odds were against Hart, as he faced down a fresher Bam Bam Bigelow in the final, and it appeared over when he was hit with a chair by Luna and pinned. However, Earl Hebner came to the ring and convinced Joey Marella to restart the bout, which Bret went on to win with a victory roll.

During the coronation ceremony, Bret was confronted by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who claimed he was the only true king in the WWF. Lawler had been disgusted by the idea when King of the Ring was first announced by President Jack Tunney. Lawler blindsided Hart, and brutally assaulted him with the scepter and throne.

Starting in 1992, the WWF and USWA had started a talent exchange, with WWF wrestlers sent to Memphis for the Jerry Jarrett owned company. Although he was a despised heel in the WWF, Lawler was still a hero in his hometown of Memphis, where he had reigned for so long. Therefore, Bret and Owen were cast as heels in the USWA as part of a WWF army assembled by an evil Vince McMahon, years before he adopted the ‘Mr. McMahon’ character.

Hulk Hogan’s time as WWF champion came to a close when he was defeated by Yokozuna. It had been a strange period of time between Wrestlemania and King of the Ring, where despite being champion, Hogan made no appearances, instead filming another movie in Florida. Prior to the KOTR, ‘The Hulkster’ had raised eyebrows when he appeared on a New Japan card and at the press conference, referenced the WWF Title belt as a “toy” and a “trinket.” The end came when Hogan approached a cameraman who got up on the apron, and was hit in the face with a fireball (the part of the cameraman was played by Harvey Wippleman, but never acknowledged). Hulk wrestled on a European tour and left the company, seemingly for good this time.

In other matches, Crush lost to Intercontinental champion Shawn Michaels after being distracted by two Doinks, and The Steiner Brothers and The Smokin’ Gunns defeated Money Inc. and The Headshrinkers when Billy Gunn pinned Ted Dibiase.

Triumph for the United States on board the USS Intrepid

The Tag Team title became a hot potato after King of the Ring. The next day, The Steiners won the belts from Money Inc. Rick and Scott held them for just two days, when Dibiase and IRS regained the title. That reign lasted three days when The Steiners won them back a second time, and ended the see-saw effect for the remainder of their feud by holding onto the belts.

A new big man team in the form of Men on a Mission arrived the day after King of the Ring. Consisting of big Mabel – who stood around seven foot and weighed five hundred pounds – and the smaller Mo – still a hefty three-hundred pounder, they were managed by Oscar, who rapped positive rhymes and aimed to “make a difference.” This was the opposite of what Mabel and Mo represented when they worked as ‘Harlem Knights’ for the PWF and USWA as vicious heels.

Bam Bam Bigelow revealed another side of himself when interviewed by Bonnie Blackstone during the June 26 episode of Superstars. Bigelow claimed to have a “sensitive side” and that he had found love, in the from of ‘Tic.’ This was Luna, who confirmed that she was indeed Bigelow’s “main squeeze.” The following week, Bigelow confronted Sherri, after an altercation between her and Luna resulted in Vachon breaking her arm. Sherri slapped Bigelow after repeated insults and when he backed her into a corner, Luna choked her until Tatanka made the save.

Tito Santana’s long tenure with the WWF as an in-ring performer came to an end in August, when he worked his final match for the company. He would return a few years later as an announcer on WWF’s Spanish-speaking broadcasts. Meanwhile, a figure that few could have expected to turn up in the WWF did so on the August 2 edition of Monday Night RAW. As Bobby Heenan argued with Vince McMahon on commentary, a bespectacled man in a pink suit and brandishing a tennis racquet made his way into the ring. ‘The Brain’ suddenly stopped and was beside himself with joy upon seeing Jim Cornette make his unexpected debut in the World Wrestling Federation.

After calling him the greatest manager in the history of wrestling, Heenan asked Cornette why he was here. Cornette responded that he had done everything in his career, except work in the WWF. Now was the time, as he had the killer blow, a handpicked tag team known as The Heavenly Bodies (Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray). He tabled a challenge to WWF Tag Team champions The Steiner Brothers, which would take place at Summerslam. Cornette’s arrival was due to a working agreement between the WWF and Smoky Mountain Wrestling, which Cornette had started up in 1991 with the financial backing of music producer, Rick Rubin.

Despite having not long arrived in the company, Mr. Hughes was gone after losing to Tatanka by count-out on the August 9 RAW. During the course of the match, his sunglasses were smashed after colliding with the ring post. Hughes would appear in ECW, among other promotions, before making brief returns later in the decade.

Mr. Fuji announced that the official victory celebration for Yokozuna’s WWF title win would take place on July 4 (America’s Independence Day), on board the USS Intrepid. A bodyslam challenge was arranged in which American athletes were invited to try and slam Yokozuna, who was now billed as being 568 pounds. A line-up of WWF wrestlers, as well as stars from the NBA and NFL made the attempt, but to no avail. During the proceedings, Crush injured his back, but came the closest to achieving the feat. When all seemed lost, a helicopter landed and out emerged Lex Luger, now decked in the red, white and blue.

Storming past a startled Bobby Heenan, Luger answered the challenge and after hitting Yokozuna with his running forearm, managed to pick up and drop Yoko to the canvas. No longer a narcissist, Luger issued a challenge for the WWF Title. In the meantime, a ‘Call to Action’ campaign saw Luger travel in a red, white and blue bus (The Lex Express) right across the country garnering support for the upcoming bout, to take place at Summerslam on August 30.

The contract signing took place on the August 9 RAW, with Jim Cornette surprisingly part of Yokozuna and Fuji’s entourage. Fuji stated that he was their newly hired “American Spokesperson.” After Luger came to the ring to sign the contract, Cornette revealed that a stipulation had been included, that Luger had one shot only. Lex would also have to put a pad on his controversial forearm, which he accepted. Yokozuna sent a message to Luger when he defeated Crush on the July 12 RAW. He then put Crush out of commission with repeated Banzai Drops until Randy Savage made the save.

Meanwhile, more foreign menaces entered the WWF at this time in the form of Ludvig Borga (Tony Halme), and The Quebecers. A bodybuilder and boxer who served in the Finnish army, Halme moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s. At the end of the decade, he trained with Verne Gagne and debuted with Herb Abrams’ UWF before working for three years in New Japan. A series of vignettes presented Borga as unimpressed with the American way of life, due to its pollution and decay.

The Quebecers – not The Mounties as their theme song stressed despite their attire – saw the return of Jacques Rougeau along with his new tag team partner, Carl ‘Pierre’ Ouellet. Ouelett had worked the independent circuit and then met Jacques while wrestling in Puerto Rico. Johnny Polo became their manager and they immediately issued a challenge to The Steiners for the Tag Team titles.

Luger won the battle but still not the title

Lex Luger’s quest to become WWF champion seemed all set to take place at Summerslam on August 30 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. In the lead-up to the pay-per-view, Luger had been presented as the WWF champion by Vince McMahon to gauge fan reaction, in an obviously un-aired segment. The ‘Call to Action’ campaign – with a fully decked out bus taking him around the country – came with a hefty cost to the company. Evidently though, McMahon cooled on the idea, as Luger only won the match via count-out. Still, he celebrated in the ring as if he had won the title, as red, white and blue balloons rained down from the rafters. In the locker room, Luger was confronted and challenged by Ludvig Borga.

Bret Hart pulled double duty when Jerry Lawler attempted to get out of his match with ‘The Hitman.’ ‘The King’ claimed that he had been involved in a car accident on the way to the arena, and now had to use crutches and an ice pack on his knee. In his place, Lawler offered his ‘court jester,’ Doink the Clown. Among those disgusted in the crowd were Bret’s brothers Owen and Bruce, the latter of which Doink doused with a bucket of water.

The joke would be on Doink though, when Bret trapped him in the Sharpshooter. A clearly uninjured Lawler broke it up with his crutch to cause a disqualification. Before they made it to the back, Lawler was informed by Jack Tunney that if he did not wrestle Bret tonight, he would be barred for life! A reluctant King returned to the ring, but despite again using a crutch and Doink’s water bucket, Bret got him in the Sharpshooter as well. After months of taunts and the memory of being assaulted at King of the Ring in the back of his mind, Bret kept the crippling hold on Lawler, despite several referees and officials trying to pry him off. Finally he let go, but only after Lawler had been given the win via a reverse decision.

Razor Ramon defeated Ted Dibiase, in what would be Dibiase’s final WWF match. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ left the company and worked some matches in All Japan before retiring. The Undertaker pinned Giant Gonzalez in a ‘Rest in Peace’ match to settle their feud. Harvey Wippleman made the mistake of berating Gonzalez, and got a chokeslam for his efforts.

Shawn Michaels defeated Mr. Perfect by count-out after Diesel attacked Perfect on the outside to retain the Intercontinental Title, and hometown favourites The Steiners got through The Heavenly Bodies to keep their Tag Team belts, as their mother and sister watched on. Marty Jannetty went down to Ludvig Borga (originally scheduled to be Marty against Rick Martel), IRS pinned the 1-2-3 Kid, and Tatanka and The Smokin’ Gunns defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and The Headshrinkers. The original plan was for a mixed tag bout between Tatanka and Sensational Sherri against Bam Bam and Luna. However, as mentioned earlier, Luna suffered an arm injury, and then Sherri was let go from the company after failing a drug test.

Razor Ramon becomes Intercontinental champion on RAW

After Summerslam, Doink became a fan favourite, after Jerry Lawler berated him for not beating Bret Hart. On the September 13 RAW, Bobby Heenan attempted to play a prank on Vince McMahon and Randy Savage by getting Doink to douse them with water, only for Heenan to become a drowned weasel. Doink dished out similar treatment to Lawler on the September 26 Wrestling Challenge during a segment of the King’s Court. The man behind the greasepaint also changed, as shortly after, Matt Borne was fired for failing a drug test. In the WWF, the character would be played by Steve Lombardi and Phil Apollo, respectively. Borne continued to use the Doink character on the independents, including ECW, before becoming ‘Borne Again’ and subsequently fired from there also.

Also taking place on the September 13 edition of RAW was the end of The Steiner’s reign as Tag Team champions. They had agreed to face The Quebecers in a ‘Province of Quebec’ rules bout, in which moves off the top rope were illegal, as was the piledriver. A disqualification would also cause the belts to change hands. Johnny Polo attempted to introduce a hockey stick into the fray, but it was taken off him by Scott. When the referee turned around, he saw Scott with the weapon and called for the bell. To further frustrate the brothers, Rick and Scott would have scant opportunities to get back the belts, as Polo stressed that teams such as Barry Horowitz and Reno Riggins were more deserving.

Mean Gene Okerlund was one of the most well known personalities in the WWF as the premier backstage interviewer, involved in countless classic promos. Mean Gene’s trademark voice, bald head and moustache was as famous as the visage of the company’s biggest stars. Okerlund’s contract ran out and he made his final appearance on the September 18 edition of Superstars. He would jump to WCW and perform the same role, remaining until the company folded in 2001 (with the exception of a couple of months in 1996 when his contract expired and he had talks to return to the WWF, before signing again with WCW). He made sporadic appearances back in the WWF, such as at Wrestlemania X-Seven as a guest commentator, hosted several programmes such as ‘Confidential’ and ‘Madison Square Garden Classics,’ and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

IRS and his tag team partner Ted Dibiase had made fun of Razor Ramon when he lost to the unheralded Kid back in May on Monday Night RAW. After initially being angry at the now-named 1-2-3 Kid, ‘The Bad Guy’ took the young sensation under his wing and tagged with him against Money Inc. As noted, Razor had caused Dibiase to be upset by the Kid, and a similar story played out on the September 20 RAW, when he distracted IRS and caused him to be beaten by preliminary wrestler, PJ Walker.

Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna fell foul of Doink’s pranks on the October 2 Superstars. Bigelow made short work of his opponent, and he and Luna took their time departing back up the aisle. Doink was scheduled to wrestle next and met them halfway to the ring. The Clown threw a bucket of confetti at Bigelow, who chose to walk it off after a stern warning. However, Luna got in Doink’s face and paid the price when she was doused with a bucket of water. Bigelow stormed after Doink in the ring, but the clown evaded him. Luna was consoled by Doink’s opponent, and paid the price at the hands of ‘The Beast from the East.’ This gave Doink time to set up his next trick, which caused Bam Bam to catapult over a hidden tripwire.

A failed drug test also caused Shawn Michaels to be suspended, and the Intercontinental title vacated. On television, it was explained by Jack Tunney that Shawn had failed to make appearances where advertised. A twenty-man battle royal was made for the October 4 RAW, with the final two having a singles match to decide the new champion. It came down to Razor Ramon and ‘The Model’ Rick Martel, and a week later, Razor pinned Martel after a Razors Edge to claim the belt. (The battle royal was also Giant Gonzalez’s last match, as his contract ran out a few days later).

Tension was evident between friends Crush and Randy Savage, as the Hawaiian prepared to make his return from injury. Two telephone conversations were aired in which Crush spoke with commentators Vince and Bobby Heenan, but was cold towards Savage. Crush reacted when Heenan stirred by saying that Savage had been the first named in the Intercontinental title battle royal, as Crush revealed he was ready to go but had not even been invited. Savage grew more frustrated but could not seem to get through to him.

Crush revealed that he had aligned with Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji, which caused Savage to arrange a ‘summit meeting’ on the October 18 RAW to clear the air. Crush’s main issue seemed to be that Savage had taken so long to save him when Yokozuna was squashing him on RAW, and for apparently not checking up on him during his time away. ‘The Macho Man’ appeared to have gotten through to Crush, before he was attacked from behind. During the course of the assault, Savage suffered a lacerated tongue when he was dropped across the guardrail. He was then dragged into the ring in position for Yoko to drop a series of Banzai Drops, which put him off television for several weeks.

Vignettes began airing at the end of October for Jeff Jarrett (spelt J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T). The son of wrestler-turned-promoter Jerry Jarrett, Jeff played the part of an arrogant but shunned country music singer who now wanted to use the WWF to gain the attention of country music powerbrokers in Nashville. A year earlier, Jeff had been a part of the USWA/WWF promotional war in Memphis and had also worked some WWF dark matches and a Wrestling Challenge taping on October 28, 1992, where he beat Rick Martel.

After the earlier departure of Mr. Hughes and parting ways with Giant Gonzalez at Summerslam, Harvey Wippleman attempted to resurrect his managerial career in October. He became the adviser of Well Dunn, and on the October 24 edition of Wrestling Challenge, walked out with Adam Bomb. No longer with Johnny Polo, Adam Bomb defeated Mike Davis and gave him an Atom Smasher after the bell. More damage might have been done had it not been for Gonzalez making a surprise appearance to chase away the antagonists. (Technically by this date, Gonzalez was no longer with the company. However, the episode was taped on September 29, right before his contract expired).

Tatanka’s impressive two year undefeated streak came to an end on the October 30 Superstars, when he was knocked out with a steel chair and pinned by Ludvig Borga. Yokozuna then squashed Tatanka with a series of Banzai Drops, which put him out of contention for the Survivor Series on November 24. The Native American had been slated to team with Lex Luger and The Steiners against Yokozuna, Borga and The Quebecers. In turn, Luger knocked out and injured Pierre, who’s place was taken by Crush. It seemed likely that Randy Savage would fill Tatanka’s spot, but instead that went to The Undertaker. The pace was now set for a Yokozuna/Undertaker feud, after Undertaker and Paul Bearer issued a challenge to the sumo champion, while Luger was mainly challenged now by Borga.

Trouble for the Harts at Survivor Series

The main event of Survivor Series saw Lex Luger’s All Americans triumph over The Foreign Fanatics led by WWF champion Yokozuna, but the story that had everyone talking was the spat between Bret and Owen Hart. Luger was the sole survivor on his team when he pinned Ludvig Borga and then celebrated with Santa Claus. Earlier, The Undertaker and Yokozuna locked horns and would be both counted-out, foreshadowing the rivalry that would extend into 1994. Randy Savage caused Crush to be counted out as retribution for Crush doing the same to him earlier in the show.

Doink played the ultimate prank by not even turning up to the event to captain his own team. Instead, it was The Bushwhackers (still there) and Men on a Mission who donned the paint and green wigs to take on a bewildered Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger and The Headshrinkers. In a pure ‘comedy’ match, the Four Doinks got a clean sweep over Bigelow and co. After the match, the real Doink taunted Bigelow on the video screen.

Razor Ramon, Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty and The 1-2-3 Kid were victorious in the opening match over IRS, Diesel, Rick Martel and Adam Bomb. Jannetty and Kid were the survivors when they eliminated Rick Martel and Adam Bomb in succession with a pair of sunset flips. Earlier, Crush had distracted Savage which led to ‘The Macho Man’ being counted out. Savage was a last minute replacement for Mr. Perfect, which was announced by Razor before the match began. Ramon pinned IRS with the Razor’s Edge, but was then counted out after being hit with the taxman’s steel briefcase attempting the same move on Martel.

In the only non-elimination match, The Heavenly Bodies defeated The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express to become the new Smokey Mountain Wrestling Tag Team champions, after interference from their manager, Jim Cornette.

But as mentioned, the big story to come out of the pay-per-view was in the shadows of The Harts’ dominant victory over Shawn Michaels and His Knights. Michaels made his inauspicious return from suspension to cover for Jerry Lawler, who was removed from the card and from television for a time due to some legal problems. The three Knights wore masks, and consisted of Red Knight (Barry Horowitz), Blue Knight (Greg Valentine) and Black Knight (Jeff Gaylord). Bret and Owen picked up the eliminations while getting good support from Ross and Bruce.

However the breakdown occurred as Owen was battling Michaels. Owen hit the ropes, right where ‘The Hitman’ was standing on the apron. This caused Bret to fly off the apron and collide with the guardrail. Bruce and Ross tended to Bret on the floor, and as Owen looked down from the ring, he was rolled up and eliminated. ‘The Rocket’ showed immediate frustration, but made his way dutifully to the back. Not long after, Michaels saw the odds against him and bailed on the match. As the rest of the Harts celebrated, Owen ran back down the aisle and angrily confronted Bret.

In explaining his actions, Owen stated he was sick of Bret getting all the attention from the family, while he got none in return. He used the example of Bruce and Ross tending to Bret instead of him, which caused his elimination. Owen demanded a match against Bret, but ‘The Hitman’ pleaded with his younger brother to calm down and they’d settle things over the Christmas break.

Bye bye Brain, see you in Atlanta

It was the end of an era on the December 6, 1993 edition of Monday Night RAW, when Bobby “The Brain” Heenan made his final appearance for the WWF. One of the greatest managers and broadcasters in the history of the business, Heenan had been with the company since 1984. Throughout that time, he had been one of the focal – and vocal – points that helped guide the company through the national expansion years, managing a who’s-who of professional wrestling, before transitioning to colour commentary.

As a commentator – or broadcast journalist as he termed it – Heenan had great chemistry with Gorilla Monsoon. Together, they hosted or called a number of WWF programmes and pay-per-views. On air, “The Brain” was a constant thorn in Gorilla’s side. In reality, they were best friends, and so it was fitting that it be Monsoon to kick Heenan out of the WWF. After being thrown out of the arena, and his ‘belongings’ – stuff he had pilfered from the building – falling out of his bags, Heenan gave a tearful salute before walking off into the distance.

Heenan had wanted to retire, but was contacted soon after by WCW. Due to a light work schedule, health insurance and being close to where his daughter was attending school, he signed a contract and continued on as a colour commentator. In 2001, when WCW closed its doors, Heenan returned to the WWF fold by appearing at Wrestlemania X-Seven – alongside Mean Gene Okerlund – to call the Gimmick Battle Royal, and was inducted into the now-WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

In December, the WWF resurrected their Women’s championship, that they had deactivated in 1990. New company signing Madusa – now using the name Alundra Blayze – was the star of a six-woman tournament to crown a new champion. On a Monday Night RAW taping on December 13, the unaired final saw Alundra pin Heidi Lee Morgan to claim the belt. The former Madusa started her career in 1984 after being trained by Eddie Sharkey and worked as a valet in the AWA and WCW, respectively. As a wrestler, she was arguably taken more seriously in Japan, and as the year soon emerged into 1994, it was from the Orient that she would face her stiffest competition as Women’s champion.

Can Bret and Owen patch things up over the Christmas holidays? Who is the real Intercontinental champion – Razor or Shawn? Will Yokozuna avoid being buried by The Undertaker? Will Kwang be a Hall of Famer? Find out the answers to all these questions when we return with part five of the The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the WWF in the 90s!

Special thanks to the Wrestling With Paul YouTube channel which was a great help in constructing this article.