The Rise, Near Fall, And Rise – The WWF in the 90s – 1990

The Rise, Near Fall, And Rise – The WWF in the 90s – 1990

Vince McMahon knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish when he took over the family business in the middle of 1982. To many, it was a grandiose and over-ambitious plan that would see the young upstart go down in ruin. The plan was to take the already strong North-Eastern promotion national, which meant stepping on plenty of toes. However, with the help of chosen champion Hulk Hogan, the death knell soon sounded for many of the established territories around the country.

But now, ‘The Hulkster’ was becoming distracted by the lure of Hollywood. Ironically, it was Vince who financed and produced Hogan’s first starring role – ‘No Holds Barred’ – in 1989. Hogan starred as good guy wrestler Rip Thomas, who stood up to an evil and corrupt promoter (played by Kurt Fuller, not Vince McMahon), and his hired gun, Zeus (Tiny Lister). The plot of the film then transferred to the wrestling ring when Zeus showed up for real, partnering with ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage (and later Ted Dibiase) against Hogan and Brutus Beefcake.

Thus, as an insurance policy, McMahon decided to move up an equally popular, musclebound babyface on his roster – The Ultimate Warrior. This comic book character come to life debuted for the company in 1987, and the following year, blasted through long-time champion Honky Tonk Man at Summerslam 88 to become Intercontinental champion. After losing to ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude at Wrestlemania V – where Hogan also dethroned ‘The Macho King’ for a second WWF title run – Warrior got the belt back from Rude at Summerslam 89.

Even today, it is rare to see two fan favorites battle, and even more-so in the main event of Wrestlemania. Nevertheless, the seed was planted at the Royal Rumble on January 21, 1990. Hogan and Warrior threw everyone else out and the crowd instantly responded as they sensed what was to come. The reaction had to have displaced any concerns Vince and his advisers may have had about putting the two top babyfaces on a collision course. After a short sequence of moves – enough to whet the appetite of the fans – they put each other down with simultaneous clotheslines.

The match went on when a new man came in, and as Warrior teetered on the ropes, Hogan hit his assailants from behind, which caused the Warrior’s elimination. An enraged Warrior stared down Hogan, but no further incident took place and he ran to the back. Hulk went on to win the Rumble after last pitching out Mr. Perfect. The scuttlebutt suggests that Perfect was originally going to win, but the decision was changed on short notice. Ted Dibiase set a Rumble time record of over forty minutes when he had to enter at number one. It was a reversal of fortunes for ‘The Million Dollar Man,’ who the previous year sold his undesirable number for the plum final spot (although even then, he still lost).

On the November 25, 1989 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hogan suffered a shock loss to The Genius by count-out. Even more shocking was when Mr. Perfect stole the WWF title belt and in a backstage interview with The Genius and Mean Gene Okerlund, smashed it to pieces with a hammer. Perfect promised to continue hounding Hogan until he got a title shot, but then, that plan also changed. Instead, Perfect transitioned to a feud with Beefcake at the Royal Rumble, when Beefcake cut the hair of The Genius, which brought out Perfect. He assaulted ‘The Barber’ with a steel chair until an army of referees were able to break it up.

During a segment of The Brother Love show, Sherri and Sapphire confronted each other, along with ‘The Macho King’ and Dusty Rhodes, respectively. This would set up a ‘first ever’ mixed tag team bout for Wrestlemania, and saw Miss Elizabeth return to be in Rhodes’ and Sapphire’s corner.

In other Rumble bouts, The Bushwhackers prevailed over The Fabulous Rougeaus, Ronnie Garvin got by Greg Valentine in a submission match, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan pinned The Big Bossman. Tony Schiavone left shortly after the Rumble when his one year deal expired, and went to WCW, where he remained until the end.

The long rivalry between the former Mega Powers Hogan and Savage came to an end on the February 23, 1990 edition of The Main Event. The match was originally to be refereed by Mike Tyson, but that plan was derailed when Tyson was sensationally knocked out by Buster Douglas, who got the gig instead. On the same programme, The Ultimate Warrior defeated Dino Bravo, and was then attacked by Earthquake until Hogan made the save. The Warrior however, didn’t appreciate the help and the two almost came to blows. Similarly, the Warrior helped Hogan when he was wrestling Bravo and blindsided by Earthquake on Wrestling Challenge.

For the first time, Wrestlemania went international on April 1, 1990 when the Skydome in Toronto provided the venue for over sixty-three thousand fans. Despite concerns that the match would be a trainwreck, Hogan and Warrior had one of the most iconic bouts in company history. After a long and grueling encounter, Warrior avoided the leg drop and hit his splash to record a rare, clean pinfall victory over ‘The Hulkster.’ It was seen as a passing of the torch moment. However, Hogan admitted that his real motive for taking the belt from Howard Finkle and handing it to the Warrior was designed to steal the moment.

Bobby “The Brain” Heenan lost more than the Tag Team titles, when Demolition downed his Colossal Connection. Andre the Giant was undoubtedly one of professional wrestling’s true legends, a man who dominated the sport in the 1970s-early 80s, and became a mainstream star. However, the terrible effects of untreated acromegaly had caught up to Andre in recent years, and he could no longer perform to an acceptable standard. He spent most of the match on the apron while his partner Haku carried the match. Andre fell backwards and got his arms tied in the ropes thanks to an errant kick from Haku. Demolition double-teamed and pinned Haku shortly after to win the titles for a third occasion.

While the roof of the Skydome was raised by Ax and Smash’s victory, it was not over yet. Heenan callously berated Andre and blamed him for the loss. Finally the giant was awoken from his slumber when ‘The Brain’ rashly slapped him across the face. Andre slapped Heenan around and sent him packing. He served up the same for Haku and left on the cart to a rapturous reception. This would be Andre’s final televised match in the Federation, although he would make some non-wrestling appearances at the end of the year and into 1991.

Brutus Beefcake looked set for a major push when he defeated Mr. Perfect, who was billed as being undefeated until that point. After the match, The Genius was given another haircut and would quietly part ways with Perfect. WWF President Jack Tunney ruled that Warrior could not hold both singles titles, so the Intercontinental championship was declared vacant, with a tournament to decide the new champion. That man would be Mr. Perfect, who defeated Tito Santana in the final, and then took on Bobby Heenan as his “perfect manager.” Perfect and Beefcake worked the house show circuit with the view of having a title match at Summerslam. However, in July, Brutus suffered a serious facial injury while parasailing, and would not return to in-ring action until 1993.

Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire defeated ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage and Queen Sherri in a mixed tag match when Sapphire pinned Sherri, after Elizabeth caused a distraction. The Hart Foundation made a bold statement when they dispatched The Bolsheviks in less than thirty seconds, and in a match that was made after an incident in the Rumble, Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown battled to a double count-out. Piper bizarrely painted his entire body and face half black, which backfired when as a rib, solution was put in the paint that made it extremely difficult to remove.

Jake Roberts and Ted Dibiase had been feuding since the previous year over Dibiase’s Million Dollar Belt. Jake stole the unrecognised title and kept it in the bag with Damien watching over it. Dibiase won their Wrestlemania match by count-out with the help of his bodyguard Virgil, but Jake had the final say, DDT’ing him after the bell. In possession of several C-notes, Jake dispersed it to lucky ringside fans, which included actress Mary Tyler-Moore. Virgil continued his good works by getting back the Million Dollar Belt and preventing his boss from having Damien placed upon him.

Not long after the Royal Rumble, Big Bossman turned babyface when he refused Dibiase’s money and split with manager Slick, and tag team partner Akeem. The Twin Towers had been a dominant force the previous year, and feuded with The Mega Powers. Now, Bossman turned to the good side of law and order, but this slight would not be forgotten. After Akeem and Slick had made their way to the ring, Bossman entered next but was cut off by Dibiase, who had hidden himself under the ring from the previous match. Despite the attack, Bossman came back and ended his former Twin Towers partner with the Bossman slam in a quick match.

Rick Martel scored the only submission win of this year’s Wrestlemania over Koko B. Ware in the opener, Earthquake crushed Hercules, The Barbarian upended Tito Santana, Hacksaw Jim Duggan blasted Dino Bravo with his 2×4 on the way to a win, and the Orient Express got by The Rockers by count-out when salt was thrown in Marty Jannetty’s eyes. Ravishing Rick Rude and Jimmy Snuka got the unenviable death spot right before the main event, which was won by Rude.

The Orient Express were a new team put together by Mr. Fuji, and consisted of Akio Sato and Pat Tanaka. As questions arose about a conflict of interest – since Fuji already had The Powers of Pain tandem – the solution was worked out before Wrestlemania when Fuji sold the contracts of Warlord and The Barbarian to rival managers. Warlord ended up with Slick – who would soon put together a stable – while The Barbarian joined The Heenan Family.

Wrestlemania VI was the last time Jesse Ventura called a WWF pay-per-view, ending the classic combination of himself and Gorilla Monsoon. He continued to work on television before leaving in August over a dispute with McMahon. Ventura had the opportunity to have a proposed Sega Genesis game named after him called Jesse “The Body” Ventura: Wrestling Superstars. McMahon gave the idea the thumbs down, so Ventura walked. This would not be the last time that Ventura and McMahon would square off over a legal issue.

East Meets West: Vince McMahon shakes hands with All Japan’s Giant Baba

The WWF had a long working relationship with Antonio Inoki’s New Japan Pro Wrestling, with talent from both promotions regularly visiting each other’s shores. Inoki had even gotten a pinfall victory over WWF champion Bob Backlund in 1979, but the bout was ruled a no-contest (to this day, WWE does not recognise the title change). So it must have come as a bit of a surprise to Inoki when McMahon appeared in the ring on their rival All Japan’s January 27 card at Korakuen Hall, and shook the hand of promoter, Shohei ‘Giant’ Baba. An announcement was made that a unique event was to take place at the Tokyo Dome on April 13 – just two weeks after Wrestlemania VI – involving wrestlers from the WWF, All Japan and New Japan.

Appropriately called ‘The Wrestling Summit,’ Hulk Hogan defeated Stan Hansen in the main event. Andre got a measure of revenge on Demolition, when he formed a dream combination with Baba. Fortunately for Ax and Smash, the WWF Tag titles were not on the line. The Ultimate Warrior defended his newly won WWF Title against Ted Dibiase, Bret Hart worked a twenty minute time limit draw with Tiger Mask (Mitsuharu Misawa) and Genichiro Tenryu downed Randy Savage, among other bouts. Despite critical acclaim for this event, collaboration between the three companies would never happen again. Shortly after, Tenryu took several All Japan and New Japan wrestlers with him (among others) and started Super World of Sports (SWS); in October, the WWF ended their long association with NJPW and aligned with the new endeavour.

Whoomp! : Earthquake crushed The Hulkster to set up their big feud

The Ultimate Warrior might have been the WWF champion, but McMahon still struggled to move past Hulk Hogan. On the May 26 edition of Superstars, during a segment with Brother Love, ‘The Hulkster’ was attacked by Earthquake. The 450-plus pounder had first appeared the previous year in the WWF and was immediately pushed as a monster heel. He routinely injured his opponents with his Earthquake splash, and had got an impressive win over Hercules at Wrestlemania VI. He now crushed Hogan’s chest with his splash and put him out of commission – possibly for good.

After a sabbatical, in which it was rumoured that Hogan may retire, he returned on the July 14 episode of Superstars and announced that he would be ready by Summerslam to extract revenge. Each man would have someone in their corner to watch their back, with Hogan choosing Tugboat, and Earthquake going with Dino Bravo. However, on the August 18 edition of Superstars, Tugboat was injured and stretchered out after an attack by Bravo and Quake. On the Summerslam Fever special that aired on USA Network the next day, Hogan did another segment of The Brother Love Show, where he was joined by Quake’s manager Jimmy Hart, but no Quake. It appeared to be a similar setup to last time, but no further incident occurred. Big Bossman would soon be named as Hogan’s new corner-man, despite being rivals the previous year.

A lot had changed for Demolition since Wrestlemania. The highly popular tag team became heels and added a third member, Crush. McMahon was apparently concerned for the health of Ax (Bill Eadie) which necessitated adding another member. Eadie stated that he simply had an allergic reaction to shellfish, but nevertheless, the tactic kept the titles on Demolition. At Summerslam, they were put against The Hart Foundation in a best-out-of-three-falls contest. After constantly gaining an unfair advantage with the third man, Jack Tunney allowed only two members of Demolition at ringside for this bout.

On Summerslam Fever, The Anvil went one-on-one with Smash, the latter of which cheated to get the victory. Smash made the mistake of shoving the Tag title belt in Neidhart’s face, which was then used to waffle Smash. Neidhart took the belt and showed it off in the aisle, and was attacked from behind by Ax and Crush, with Bret Hart not in the building to make the save.

Individual matches involving Dusty and Sapphire – to take on Savage and Sherri respectively – was made for Summerslam. In the lead-up, Sapphire received expensive gifts from an unknown person. On the Summerslam Fever special, Sapphire did an interview with Mean Gene Okerlund, where footage was shown of her turning up to the building in a long, black limousine.

Despite a cage match being made for Summerslam between The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude for the WWF Title, a double main event was made to include Hogan and Earthquake. The latter seemed to be pushed as the ‘real’ main event, which severely hindered Warrior’s title reign and perception with the fans. While Rude was a worthy challenger, Warrior had already dispatched him in their previous feud, while fans were excited to see Hogan back, after teasing retirement.

Take That! : Warrior introduces Rick Rude to the steel in their ‘supposed’ Summerslam main event

Rude took the big match seriously, cutting his hair short and training hard as shown in a series of Rocky-style vignettes. It was still not enough for ‘The Ravishing One,’ and Warrior retained; the hobbled Warrior experiment limped on. After Summerslam, Rude was to feud with Big Bossman, after he and manager Bobby Heenan made insulting remarks about Bossman’s mother. So incensed was the lawman that during a television taping, he handcuffed Heenan to a guardrail at ringside. Several matches went by before Heenan was freed. But before the feud could get into second gear, Rude departed the WWF. Hogan managed to get by Earthquake by count-out, ensuring that the war between these two was not yet over.

With Beefcake out of action, Mr. Perfect’s opponent at Summerslam was newcomer, Kerry Von Erich. Kerry was one-third of the initial wave of brothers – along with David and Kevin – that took their father’s World Class Championship Wrestling by storm. Much like all the other territories however, World Class fell on hard times and Fritz Von Erich sold the territory to Jerry Jarrett. After messing around with Kevin in Jarrett’s new USWA, Kerry signed with the Federation in June 1990 under the name ‘Texas Tornado.’ Perfect and Heenan’s hubris were their undoing, as Kerry discus-punched Perfect and became the new Intercontinental champion.

Demolition took the first fall in the Tag Team title match with The Hart Foundation when Bret Hart was pinned following the Demolition Decapitation. The second fall went to the Hart Foundation when Crush got his team disqualified. With the referee distracted, Ax ran and hid under the ring, and replaced a tired Smash. After the damage was done, Ax went back under the ring and Smash resumed until the Legion of Doom came to ringside. They caused the distraction that led to the Foundation pinning Crush and winning the titles.

For the first time ever, a match was decided by forfeit, when Sapphire failed to appear for her match against Queen Sherri. This caused more concern for Dusty, who had not seen Sapphire since they arrived at the arena. He went to the ring alone for his match against Randy Savage, but the big mystery of Sapphire’s disappearance would soon be solved. Before the bell rang, Dibiase revealed he was the one responsible for the expensive gifts, thus buying Sapphire. Distracted and distraught, Dusty was easy pickings for the ‘Macho King.’ Sapphire would hang around for a short time before her contract expired and she departed the Federation.

Bossman pulled double duty by not only being in Hulk’s corner in the main event, but also as the special referee for the match between Jake Roberts and Bad News Brown. Jake exposed in Bad News a fear of snakes, so in response, Bad News decided to show off his giant, Harlem sewer rats (actually an opossum). For their Summerslam bout, Jake as usual brought Damien in the ominous green bag and Brown a cage of ‘sewer rats.’ The match ended in disqualification when Bad News tried to use a steel chair. After the pay-per-view, Bad News quit the promotion over pay and the feeling he had been lied to by McMahon. In later interviews, Bad News said that Vince had once promised to make him the first black World champion, among other things.

The opening tag team match between The Rockers and the newly formed Power and Glory was a handicap match, when Shawn Michaels was taken out before the bell rang. Shawn had a legitimate knee injury which required surgery, putting him out for three months. Paul Roma had been knocked out by Dino Bravo on Superstars, and when he came to, he only saw The Rockers, who had arrived for the next bout. As they argued, Hercules came to the ring to support Roma, and together they blindsided Marty and Shawn. In quick time, they hired Slick to be their new manager. Jannetty fought valiantly but was overwhelmed and fell to the Powerplex. Later in the show, another Slick protégé – The Warlord – got a win over Tito Santana.

The WWF kicked off arguably one of their most controversial storylines, when the previously patriotic Sgt. Slaughter returned to the company as an Iraqi sympathiser. As tensions simmered in the Persian Gulf, Slaughter appeared on Summerslam during a segment of The Brother Love Show, where he said that America had grown “soft” and “weak,” and issued a challenge to Nikolai Volkoff. This was a complete role reversal of the storyline in the mid-80s where the Lithuanian Volkoff – who waved the Russian flag – teamed with the equally hated Iranian The Iron Sheik, and battled the hugely popular Slaughter.

Indeed, Volkoff had recently pledged his support to the United States and allied with the resident American flag waver of the WWF, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The two would steamroll The Orient Express in their Summerslam bout. Along with battling Slaughter, Volkoff also warred with former tag team partner, Boris Zhukoff.

To add even more heat to proceedings, Slaughter unveiled his new manager, General Adnan, who it was said was close with Saddam Hussein. While much in wrestling is exaggerated and overblown, they were not far wrong about Adnan. He was a real Iraqi, and had grown up with Saddam, before the dictator took control of the Ba’ath Party. Known previously under the names Billy White Wolf and more famously as Adnan al-Kaissie, he even organised some live events in Baghdad on the order of Saddam. Eventually, he would flee Iraq when he heard rumors that the dictator may be planning to do away with him, due to his increasing popularity. But of course, none of this was mentioned and the sheer thought that an Iraqi general was allowed on American soil caused much consternation to the fans.

An old hand from the previous decade was repackaged and returned to the WWF in August as Tony Atlas became Saba Simba. As explained during his televised re-debut on Superstars, Atlas had “rediscovered his roots” and changed his name. He also came to the ring with a large shield, spear and African-style head-dress. While the character may be disparaged today – as Piper did on commentary despite sitting next to Vince McMahon – it was – by Atlas’ own admission – what saved his life. He had been out of wrestling for a year and half and homeless when he got the call from Vince.

Phantom Win: The Rockers won the Tag Titles but the decision was made null and void

During their Tag Team title run, The Hart Foundation worked a number of matches with fellow fan favourites, The Rockers. The most unique of these took place during an October 30 taping of Saturday Night’s Main Event. During the match, the top rope snapped and could not be fixed by the ring crew. This made it near impossible to have any kind of a match; at one point Bret ludicrously hit the ‘rope’ for the Hart Attack clothesline.

While the match did not air for the obvious reason of the rope malfunction, the other reason was that The Rockers actually won the match and technically became Tag Team champions. The change was apparently made as Jim Neidhart was still in negotiations for a new contract that was about to expire. But when ‘The Anvil’ did re-sign shortly after, the change was over-ruled and the belts returned to The Hart Foundation. Footage of this phantom title change was not shown until 2007 on the ‘Heartbreak and Triumph’ DVD.

Deadman Debuts: The Undertaker made an immediate impact at the Survivor Series

Going into the final pay-per-view of the year – Survivor Series on November 22 – several revisions had to be made due to departures. Rick Rude was set to team with Earthquake and his Natural Disasters, but as already explained, ‘The Ravishing One’ left shortly after Summerslam. His spot was taken by Heenan Family member, Haku. Also gone from the company was Akeem, and he was replaced by Boris Zhukoff in Sgt. Slaughter’s Mercenaries. However, the most impactful substitution was to take place on Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Team.

For the first – and only – time, an ultimate survival match was scheduled for the main event. The concept would see the babyfaces who survived in their team elimination matches go up against the surviving heels. Hulk Hogan’s feud with Earthquake continued, as The Hulkamaniacs did battle with The Natural Disasters; Hogan was the sole survivor. This provided some light for the babyfaces, as in the previous bout, Rick Martel and his Visionaries became the first in Survivor Series history to go through undefeated.

After a brief feud with Bad News Brown, Jake Roberts was blinded on The Brother Love Show by Martel’s atomiser, which contained his signature scent, ‘Arrogance.’ When Jake returned – again on The Brother Love Show and still unable to see – he was taunted by Martel and Brother Love until Roberts grabbed a hold of Brother Love and gave him a DDT. His sunglasses came off and revealed the extent of the damage Martel had done. Roberts was still not one hundred percent at the Survivor Series, and paid the price, but this war was far from over.

Speaking of war, and despite Sgt. Slaughter’s boasts, his Mercenaries had a tough time against Nikolai Volkoff’s Alliance. The Sarge however did prove his mettle, as he was left alone against multiple opponents, and came close to surviving. Eventually he fell to Tito Santana, who would later join ‘The Hulkster’ and The Warrior in the final survival match.

After the loss of the Tag Team titles at Summerslam, Demolition vented their anger not towards The Hart Foundation, but the Legion of Doom. While Demolition would go on to become a success in their own right, there was still chatter in the wrestling magazines and fans who knew the scene outside the WWF, that Ax and Smash were simply Road Warrior rip-offs. Once McMahon finally pinned down the Road Warriors – whose name was changed to the Legion of Doom – it was the beginning of the end for Demolition.

All three members of Demolition aligned with team captain Mr. Perfect against WWF champion The Ultimate Warrior, Intercontinental champion Texas Tornado and LOD. Perfect gained a measure of revenge against the Tornado by eliminating him, but for the most part, it was a tough night for The Perfect Team. Ax had already been pinned early by the Warrior, the remaining two members of Demolition and LOD were all disqualified in one hit for continued brawling, and then Warrior rolled over Perfect.

With Bad News gone from the company, this left a void in the Million Dollar Team. The man Ted Dibiase revealed would shake up the landscape of the WWF for the next thirty years. Prior to joining the WWF, Mark Calloway was plying his trade in WCW, when he was signed from the USWA to become one half of a new Skyscrapers. Long sold his contract to Paul E Dangerously, and went under the name ‘Mean’ Mark Callous. With WCW showing little interest, he made the move to Titan.

Originally called ‘Kane the Undertaker,’ the fans did not know what to make of this very unique looking superstar, but they quickly found out how lethal he could be. Without raising a sweat, he pinned Koko B. Ware, the first victim of the Tombstone. Later, he beat Dusty Rhodes, and then fought with him up the aisle, where he was counted out. But the damage was done, and he had made an immediate impact.

It came down to Bret Hart and Ted Dibiase, who had a fine singles match before Dibiase rolled him up and got the victory. It was a brave effort from ‘The Hitman,’ who dedicated the bout to his brother Dean, who had passed away the day before of kidney disease at the age of just 36. Thus, in the final wrap-up, it would be Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Tito Santana against Ted Dibiase and the entire Visionaries team. Despite the odds, and the history between Hogan and Warrior, the two worked together, and save the elimination of Santana, triumphed over Dibiase and co.

While the earlier debut of The Undertaker would go on to become a huge success, one other debut appearance would set the tone for everything fans hated about the WWF in the early 90s. Leading up to Survivor Series, a giant egg had been displayed at various WWF events. Speculation abounded as to what was inside, and unfortunately, it was a giant flop. What emerged from the egg was the infamous Gobbledy Gooker – Hector Guerrero in a turkey costume. As the Gooker cartwheeled and danced around the ring with Mean Gene Okerlund, commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper tried in vain to get it over. However, the resounding boos drowned them out. The Gooker made some other appearances before being put in the pen, although the suit has been dusted off on occasion in more recent times, such as the Wrestlemania X-7 Gimmick Battle Royal.

Costly: Marty’s Rocker Dropper which paralysed Chuck Austin

Heading into 1991, the Macho King continued to lobby for a WWF title shot, but the Warrior declined every time. On The Brother Love Show, Queen Sherri had called out the Warrior, to which he responded by saying that the King hid behind his Queen’s skirt. Savage attacked the Warrior on Saturday Night’s Main Event with the scepter, but still, he could not get his title match. He had more luck with Sgt. Slaughter, who it was announced would face Warrior for the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble on January 19, 1991. In the leadup to that, Slaughter cut another scathing promo congratulating Saddam Hussein for “conquering” Kuwait, and opened a box – wrapped in a USA Today newspaper article on Hussein – containing brand new spiked-toe wrestling boots, a gift from the Iraqi dictator himself.

In September, a new dimension to the Dusty Rhodes/Ted Dibiase feud was added when Dusty’s son Dustin arrived on the scene. While cheering for his father as a ringside fan, he was assaulted by the Million Dollar Man. So sure was he of his own ability, that Dibiase challenged Dustin to a match with a ten minute time limit, promising to beat the youngster in quick time. If however Dustin lasted the full ten minutes, he would be made the winner. This he accomplished, despite being put in the Million Dollar Dream in the final moments.

On The Brother Love Show, Dibiase claimed he saw potential in the young man and tried to buy him off. After repeatedly knocking him for being a Texan, Dustin smacked the notes from Dibiase’s hand and was set upon until the Texas Tornado made the save. This would cost the Tornado dearly, as on the December 15 episode of Superstars, he lost the Intercontinental Title back to Mr. Perfect after interference from Dibiase. After a short time away, Dusty returned to television and a tag bout was made for the Royal Rumble that would see father and son take on Dibiase and Virgil.

An old face in new packaging was set to return in the form of The Mountie. A series of vignettes were shown of Jacques Rougeau in his new duty as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during December, leading into his in-ring return in January 1991. Jacques had been one-half of The Fabulous Rougeaus with brother Raymond, who retired in 1990. A new act in the form of The Nasty Boys – managed by Jimmy Hart – turned up on the December 29 edition of Superstars. Formerly from the AWA, they worked in WCW for around a year before jumping to the Federation.

After Demolition interfered and attacked the Legion of Doom during their match with Orient Express, Mr. Fuji would return to managing the Demos. This version was sans Ax, who left shortly after the Survivor Series. Speaking of the Orient Express, by the time the year was out, Sato was gone and replaced by Kato, a masked Paul Diamond. This would re-unite Diamond and Tanaka, who were Badd Company in the AWA.

The year ended on a bad note, when preliminary wrestler Chuck Austin was paralysed during an event in Tampa, Florida. Austin – who had six months training – turned up at the arena and offered his services, and was booked in a tag match with Lanny Poffo against The Rockers. During the course of the bout, Austin took a Rocker Dropper from Marty, and spiked his head into the mat. Despite communicating to Marty and the referee that he was hurt, Jannetty dragged Austin in position and tagged Shawn – who likely had no idea he was injured – and hit a top rope move to finish the bout. He sued the WWF and Jannetty, and the case took place in 1994 (spoiler: it cost the company and Jannetty a good amount of money). From that point on, the company changed their policy on whom they hired for preliminary matches.

Other Articles in the Series – 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993

How will the WWF fare in 1991? Will the Warrior continue to rampage as the chosen WWF champion? Will Iraq conquer the United States and the World Wrestling Federation? Did Saba Simba get over? That and a whole lot more will be coming soon as we continue The Rise, and 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.