Between the boom periods of Hulkamania and the Attitude era there was a time in the WWF better known today as the New Generation.
Exact start and stop times of each “era” vary, but generally this period is defined as being from Hulk Hogan’s last WWF appearance in 1993 to shortly after Survivor Series 1997 and the birth of the “Mr. McMahon” character. The New Generation was self-named by the WWF as a crop of stars such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, and Owen Hart were pushed to the forefront of the company and became the main focus of shows due to the departure of several main event caliber stars.
In 1993 the WWF was rocked by a steroid trial that initiated a strict drug testing policy and started a shift in the company to focus on smaller stars such as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. In a short period some of the biggest stars from the 80s all left the WWF- some directly due to the drug testing policy, others hung around for a while until their contracts expired but in a short space of time, the company’s roster drastically changed.
This drop in big-name attractions resulted in a low period for the WWF with fan interest being the lowest it had been for a long time. A lot of people look back at the mid-90s in a negative way, but I want to point out 5 hidden gems that could make you think again about this period.
It wasn’t all garbage men, hockey players, and cowboys and Indians during this time. Don’t get me wrong, there was a barrage of WWF wrestlers seemingly moonlighting as taxmen, plumbers, and other day jobs, but scattered in between those questionable gimmicks were hidden gems featuring some of the best in-ring talents there has ever been.
So here are 5 hidden gems you might not have been aware of from the WWF’s New Generation.
5. Owen Hart vs 1-2-3 Kid – King of the Ring 1994
At 03:43 long this may be the best short match you will ever see.
This was the semi-finals of the 1994 King of the Ring with a final against Razor Ramon up for grabs. After beating his brother Bret at WrestleMania X and being on his way to becoming the “King of Hearts”, Owen was on a hot streak at the time.
The match kicked off in high gear and didn’t let up. Within 30 seconds we had Owen hit a basement dropkick through the ropes, a suicide dive and a big splash off the top rope. Neither put a foot wrong as they moved along and flew around at an electric pace. The Kid got in some high flying of his own: a cross body off the top, a standing flip dive to the outside and a Northern Lights Suplex that got a visual three count- only for Owen to have his foot on the bottom rope and the referee to immediately rescind the count.
The story of the match was Owen being able to counter most of the Kid’s high flying. He caught a spinning heel kick and turned it into a German suplex, and the finish saw him block a moonsault attempt and powerbomb him before locking in the Sharpshooter.
Even Art Donovan’s commentary can’t dampen this one. And at less than 4 minutes bell-to-bell you have no excuse not to have a quick peek and check it out.
4. Bret Hart vs Hakushi – RAW, 24th July 1995
In the summer of 1995, Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler were entwined in a bitter feud. Hart and Lawler fought at both In Your House 1 and King of the Ring, and Hart would go on to battle Lawler’s newest acquisition Dr. Isaac Yankeem DDS the following month’s Summerslam. But this clash with Hakushi served as an excellent addition to Hart’s summer encounters with characters of all shapes and sizes (which would also include Jean-Pierre Lafitte, today’s PCO).
Hart and Hakushi were previously involved in the In Your House 1 match with Jerry Lawlor, but as you can imagine with any match between Hart and Hakushi (Jinsei Shinzaki) this was technically excellent from bell-to-bell.
Hakushi hit a beautiful handspring moonsault to the floor and Bret even burst out some high flying of his own- climbing to his favourite middle rope and Vader bombing both Hakushi and his manager Shinja on the outside.
Bret hit a big superplex at the end and locked in the Sharpshooter to pick up the win but Jean-Pierre Lafitte appeared at ringside and stole a model of Bret Hart’s head that Hakushi had been carrying with him (don’t ask).
3. Alundra Blayze vs Bull Nakano – RAW, 3rd April 1995
Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano battled at various times throughout the New Generation, however this collision the night after WrestleMania XI could be seen as one of their best. They both crammed as much action into a 6 minute TV match as they could, not stopping to catch a breath at any point. A title switch added that extra piece of drama too.
Blayze, German suplexed Nakano in and around the ring before finally keeping her down for the pin after her fourth attempt.
Although it was short, this was another hidden gem where they put on a real display of what they could pull off despite the time restriction. Nakano showed off her submission skills throughout but it did not interrupt the hectic pace these two had set. She locked Blayze in a modified hovering bow and arrow leg lock to try and keep the high flying Blayze on the ground, but it didn’t work as Blayze took to the air when she could, hitting a crossbody to the floor and a host of dropkicks.
Nakano did her fair share of flying too- but this ultimately was her downfall. She hit a legdrop off the top rope but later on missed both a suicide dive to the floor and a moonsault from the top.
These two had a much more famous collision at Summerslam ’94 but this should challenge that on in-ring action and should be slotted in as a hidden gem to check out.
2. Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon – RAW, 1st August 1994
Between the two famous ladder matches at WrestleMania X and Summerslam 1995 was this little gem of a match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon on Monday Night Raw.
Ramon was on course to face Michaels’ bodyguard Diesel later in the month at Summerslam ’94 and that up-coming encounter played a part throughout this near 20-minute battle. Diesel got involved behind the referee’s back and also was on hand to put the boots to Ramon after the bell to soften him up for Summerslam. Diesel didn’t have it all his way though, Ramon slingshot Michaels over the top rope into his bodyguard as a little bit of payback.
This was Michael’s first encounter since their famous WrestleMania X match and the commentary team of Vince McMahon and Macho Man Randy Savage used this as an excuse anytime that Ramon was on offence.
Michaels nearly had the match won after a pre-Sweet Chin Music superkick but Razor rallied and was looking to finish Michaels off until Diesel got involved. Michaels distracted the ref with the Intercontinental title belt and that allowed Diesel to big boot Ramon and let Michaels roll him up for the win.
The match continued the ongoing storyline involving Diesel but acted as a nice stepping stone between the classic ladder matches between Ramon and Michaels.
1. Shawn Michaels vs Jeff Jarrett – In Your House 2
Probably the most famous “hidden” gem on the list, but it felt wrong not including this in an article highlighting the New Generation.
After a short hiatus after his WrestleMania XI loss to WWF champion Diesel, Michaels returned as a fan favourite and looked to benefit from his time off. He came with a bit more muscle mass and as often happens, the crowd were eager to see him in action after his time off.
This match was paced perfectly with a slow build that included just enough explosive sparks to keep everyone’s eyes on the action until the very end. Jarrett had the Roadie with him but even his interference didn’t get in the way of these two putting on a great match.
Michaels certainly had his working boots on for this one selling in and out of the ring for both Jarrett and the Roadie. He bounced around and made Jarrett look as strong a champion as he could including a backdrop over the top to the floor, an upside-down Irish whip to the corner spot and a flying clothesline from the Roadie on the outside.
Jarrett kept up with him throughout and as Michaels kept mounting his comebacks Jarrett was there to perfectly cut him off at the right times. With each comeback the crowd got louder and louder as anticipation slowly built each time.
Michaels hit all his signature moves at the time: skinning the cat, high crossbody to the floor, his flying forearm and of course his big elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music. Michaels picked up the win and the Intercontinental title for the third and final time.
There you have it. Five matches you maybe did not know about and could hopefully show a different side of a time in the WWF that some look at in a negative light.
No “era” is perfect, and the New Generation certainly wasn’t. But it certainly did have the in-ring action and competitors to rival any other era there has been.
The New Generation gave debuts to the likes of Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. These four would go onto become the biggest stars in the highest-grossing period in history (until that point) in the late 90s.
In what is starting to become somewhat of a habit of mine, maybe a “part 2” could be on the cards focussing on the later years of the New Generation and the slow evolution into the Attitude era.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @oli_iai. Thanks for reading!