Winds of Change: 1992 WWF

This one will be a little bit different as we stroll down memory lane back to 1992. Today the top pro wrestling company is known as World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE if you will, but back then it was the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).  1992 was one of the most important years in company history as outside events almost overshadowed what went on in the ring. It led to a period of change from January to December that changed the face of the company.

By 1992, the World Wrestling Federation was in a state of change. The big news was noted steroid supplier Dr. George Zahorian was busted for distributing and soon WWF owner Vince McMahon would be next on the list. In early 1992, McMahon called a team meeting and said everyone needed to cut out the steroids or find another line of work. This meant guys such as Hercules, The Warlord and Hulk Hogan himself were in deep trouble. Hulk Hogan had been on national television claiming he had never taken steroids when it was painfully obvious he did. When the steroids wore off and fans took notice, he’d look like an even bigger fraud than ever. Since he was the greatest politician to ever play the game, he simply would retire after Wrestlemania 8 before the fans could turn on him.  As it was, Hogan was leaving as former WWF champion The Ultimate Warrior was coming back. The company would then lose its top two heels (bad guys) when Jake Roberts bolted for WCW to be with his father and Sid Justice left after his contract came up. Justice would be replaced by Papa Shango who had recently spent a stint in USWA and had to be pushed to the moon to make up for the loss of Roberts and Sid.

 While all this was going on undercard guys like Shawn Michaels, Bret “Hitman” Hart and The Undertaker (after he lost to Hogan at Tuesday in Texas he would work the undercard for a whole 2 years) were putting on the best matches of the night while “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair fought over the World title. While those two were both over 40, they still were in great shape and usually rocked the house when they wrestled.  As the summer approached, Vince knew that Flair and Savage weren’t going to cut it long term and he leaned heavily on the Warrior. Only problem was off steroids, Warrior was far from the superhero he had been portraying for the last three years. He could work better than he did a few years earlier but he was in no shape to carry a company that had survived without him for almost a year. Add to the fact that Shango had not gotten over due to his inexperience and goofy gimmick, the WWF was in deep trouble going into the summer.

 They tried anything they could, even signing a beast of man named Kevin Wacholz as the prisoner Nailz to feud with the Big Bossman. They brought in long time World Class Championship Wrestling and former WWF villain Kamala to feud with The Undertaker. Finally, the company had long time mid-carder “The Model” Rick Martel feud with Shawn Michaels and Tatanka to get them over as a future stars. The problem was they weren’t selling tickets because they had little time to prepare the new faces because the old faces were either just midcarders during the 80’s run (Hart, Michaels) or they had run their course and were only tag teamers (Earthquake, Ted Dibiase). Hogan, Savage and Warrior had squashed all the heels over the previous 8 years that Dibiase just wasn’t a credible contender anymore outside of Money Inc. Believe it or not, the top of heels going into Summerslam 92 were Flair, Nailz, Kamala, Money Inc, Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel. Not exactly Andre the Giant, “Macho King” Randy Savage, Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Earthquake, Sgt Slaughter or King Kong Bundy. Even the guys they were trying to push like Tatanka just didn’t have the spectacular move set like Bret Hart or the microphone skills of a Hogan to get over.

Summerslam, held in Wembley Stadium in London, England ended up being the passing of the torch. Vince McMahon wanted one of his best workers in Bret Hart to  put over “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith in order for Davey to reach the main event level. Things ended up backfiring as Davey Boy spent all summer smoking crack with brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Niedhart and forgot the match he and Bret Hart planned out. In front of 80,000 screaming fans, Bret carried Bulldog for 37 minutes in what was Davey Boy’s best match ever. What was supposed to launch Davey Boy ended up launching Bret instead. After Summerslam Ric Flair came down with an inner ear imbalance and Road Warrior Hawk decided to quit, eliminating the Legion of Doom from the roster. Now needing a new heel, Vince purchased the services of Scott Hall who was working in WCW as The Diamond Studd. Hall then came up with the gimmick Razor Ramon based loosely on the characters of the movie Scarface which Vince had never seen apparently. Since Hogan and Warrior had squashed every heel in the roster, Vince had no choice but to put Hall/Ramon immediately in the main events. Ramon cost Savage the title against Flair and tormenting the Hitman any chance he got.

Then came the reward for Bret Hart’s five star matches every night, he was getting the world title. With Ric Flair unable to work a full schedule and Savage’s time come and gone (in Vince’s mind, definitely not in Randy’s), Vince turned to Bret to carry the company in the wake of Hogan and Warrior. It was a novel concept, a wrestling champion who was just that….a wrestler. Not a 6’8 bodybuilder who moonlighted as an actor or a face painted, muscle-headed, living superhero that the fans were used to. Much to the chagrin of everyone, Bret’s title win wasn’t even shown on national television and virtually no one saw it coming. Still, it was a cause for celebration that someone who deserved to be champion had finally got his due when guys who broke their butts for years such as Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage (the heel years), Rick Rude and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat never got their chance.

Then it came time for the true change, the fall of ’92. As if McMahon didn’t have enough headaches with all the heels needing time to develop, his Thanksgiving eve Survivor Series pay-per-view was up in smoke before the event could take place. Vince wanted Davey to drop the Intercontinental championship (mid-card belt) to Shawn Michaels on a Saturday Night’s Main Event in order to set up a big rematch at Survivor Series and the main event was supposed to be Flair and Ramon teaming up to face Warrior and Savage. Then just weeks before the ppv, Warrior and Bulldog were shown the door. Feeling the heat from the upcoming steroid trials, Vince got word both Davey and Warrior received shipments of HGH and promptly fired them both. Now the ppv was out its top two matches and he was left scrambling for answers. He then managed to salvage the main event by inserting long retired Mr. Perfect into Warrior’s spot, turning him babyface (good guy) in the process. Then he realized without Davey Boy there would be no IC title match, so why not put Shawn and Bret together? Sure enough, the Savage/Perfect vs Flair/Ramon match was a wild affair while Bret and Shawn put on a 20 minute classic for the WWF title that seemed completely unthinkable just 7 months earlier when neither one of them were anywhere close to the title picture.

As the scene shifted to 1993, one can only be amazed at how things could change in one year. Going into 1992, The Undertaker was in the main events and by the end he was feuding with Kamala in a casket match. Jake Roberts, Jimmy Snuka. Roddy Piper, The Warlord, Hulk Hogan, Hercules, The Barbarian, The British Bulldog, Jim Niedhart, Sgt Slaughter, The Texas Tornado, The Road Warriors and Sid Justice would all bite the dust. This led to possibly the weakest field of Royal Rumble contestants in history for the 1993 edition. Although even more amazing, the winds of change between 1993 and 1994 were even more drastic than 92 to 93….but that’s a story for another day.

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