When it comes to wrestling, the '90s were perhaps the most important decade in the history of the business. At the very least, it was a time when we saw the culmination of the progress the industry had made on a national level, from the preceding decades. By the middle of the '90s, wrestling had become one of the most popular shows on network television. WWE, WCW, and ECW all had room to make a significant impact, each presenting a unique style.
We all remember the massive superstars of the era, and how could we forget; Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Hollywood Hogan, Sting--this was a time that was loaded with some of the biggest names in the history of the business. With that however, came a slew of wrestlers that have been largely forgotten with the passing of time. Some of them were more relevant than others, but all were staples of the era in some form or another. All three major promotions of the time had large rosters of talent, and inevitably, a portion of them haven't remained in the public consciousness. Let's take a look at who they are.
Ranked below are 15 wrestlers from the 90s that you had totally forgotten about.
15 The Patriot
Portrayed by Del Wilkes, this gimmick could be seen everywhere from WWE, to the AWA, WCW and in Japan as well. A former offensive lineman at South Carolina, Wilkes was able to get the gimmick over, and actually use it for the vast majority of his wrestling career. He captured the WCW Tag Title with a young Buff Bagwell on multiple occasions during the mid-90s.
In a gimmick that would have been a detriment to some other wrestlers, Wilkes actually made it work for the most part, and successfully took it to some of the biggest promotions of the day. He may not have been a frontline main event talent, but he ended up with some recognition, and a few titles along the way, which is much more than many other wrestlers accomplish.
14 Norman Smiley
One of the more strange and intriguing characters in WCW during the '90s, Smiley actually got his start in the Mexican promotion CMLL during the early part of the decade. He would go on to WCW, and then make an impact in the burgeoning hardcore division of the time. He was unorthodox to say the least, but Smiley was actually one of the more identifiable wrestlers of the time, to devoted fans.
Smiley's character had a stable of dance moves that he would break out did during his time in WCW, and would often implement them during the match. He wasn't a top-flight talent, but he was a fun mid-carder in the hardcore division of the time. Smiley is now a trainer for WWE's developmental territory NXT. Ironically so, because WWE was the one major promotion of the '90s that he never wrestled for.
13 Brian Christopher
One half of Too Cool in WWE along with Scotty 2 Hotty, Christopher debuted for the company in 1997 in the then-new light-heavyweight division. His in-ring work was solid, even if the tag team itself was mainly a comedy act to begin with, and it eventually bordered on self-parody after a while. Known as Grandmaster Sexay while in Too Cool, it was one of the more popular mid-card tag gimmicks of the era.
Christopher is also the son of Jerry "The King" Lawler, and it's no surprise that his rise to some level of prominence happened so quickly. Other than his time in WWE, he spent most of his time in Memphis-based territories, which makes a lot of sense, given Lawler's stardom in that area of the country.
12 Axl Rotten
Rotten embodied the ECW ethos with his rugged, defiant demeanor, and tendency for hardcore wrestler. He was always a safe bet for someone who was going to use weapons in the ring, and he helped establish the initial notoriety of ECW with his reckless style of wrestling.
In all, he spent the better part of a decade in the ECW ranks, and became one of the cult heroes within the promotion over that time. While he never did win a title, he still captured the fans' interest on a regular basis, and became one of the names most associated with the company. He would then focus mainly on the low- to mid-level indy scene after his ECW run instead, but sadly passed away in 2016 at the age of 44.
11 Ludvig Borga
A power-lifting native of Finland portrayed by Tony Halme for a short period of time, Borga was one of the rising stars in WWE. He had a well-know (at the time) feud with Lex Luger, and it was considered one that would push Borga to the next level. It should have culminated in an Intercontinental Title run for Borga, but instead he suffered an injury and the plans for him were halted by early 1994.
Borga never really did overcome that injury, and he was out of wrestling by the last few years of the decade. Maybe his would-be WWE push would have resulted in nothing more than a couple of feuds, but it's still an interesting curiosity to this day. Ultimately, it wasn't meant to be for the oftentimes-troubled Borga, who died in 2010 at 47 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
10 Flash Funk
One of the most prolific wrestlers of the decade as a whole, 2 Cold Scorpio was a staple of WCW, WWE and ECW at various times during the 90s. He was never one to hold a bevy of titles, but he did capture the ECW Television Title on four separate occasions during his three-year run with the company. Other than that, he was mainly utilized as a tag wrestler, and excelled in that role on the mid-card level.
In WWE, he portrayed the Flash Funk gimmick, which certified him as someone who wasn't going to move up the ranks during the Attitude Era, but it was a fun persona all the same. He then reverted to the Scorpio ring name, and made up part of Al Snow's J.O.B. Squad stable. All in all, Scorpio was great in the ring, but never reached the same level of accolades that some of his peers of the era did.
9 Erik Watts
When you're the son of a renowned promoter, the road to landing a job in a mainstream promotion like WCW is definitely easier than it would be otherwise. This applies to Watts in full, who was the son of former WCW booker "Cowboy" Bill Watts. The only reason that he got his shot with the company, virtually in the very beginning, of his career is because of nepotism.
This was proven when Watts didn't have any elite talent in the ring, but was able to maintain a job in WCW whenever he wanted. He went to WWE in 1995, where he was a bottom-of-the-barrel tag wrestler, before returning to WCW in the late-'90s. He never had a good run at any point his career, and once WCW folded, he was relegated to no-name indy promotions, mostly in the South. Watts was overrated because of who his dad was, and never had any real talent.
8 Scott Norton
Perhaps pound-for-pound one of the strongest wrestlers of all-time, Norton was also better in the ring than your average muscle-head. He was a very good powerhouse wrestler who could brawl with the best of them. He spent a lot of time in WCW, but he had more success in Japan, when WCW had a working talent exchange with NJPW in the '90s.
It was there that Norton ended up winning the prestigious IWGP Heavyweight Title, and the IWGP Tag Team Title, both on two separate occasions. He was always marginalized to a degree in WCW, but he ended up finding his greatest audience in Japan, where his style of wrestling was better received. To this day, Norton is underrated and deserves more praise for his efforts overseas.
7 Curtis Hughes
Few wrestlers ever managed to be so mediocre for so long, but Hughes excelled at it throughout the years. He wrestled for each of the big three (WWE, WCW and ECW), and never really came close to winning a single title in any one of them. Hughes just didn't have any talent, and resembled a poor man's version of Stevie Ray from the Harlem Heat, more than anything else.
Maybe the most noteworthy thing he ever did was serve as Chris Jericho's "bodyguard" just after he came to WWE in 1999. It was the last gasp from Hughes in any one of the major promotions, and ended up being an unspectacular exit, even if it did involve one of the best wrestlers of the era in Jericho. Hughes was dead weight, and ultimately a hopeless talent.
6 Savio Vega
A staple of '90s WWE programming, Vega is probably most known for his brief feud with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, just as Austin had adopted that character in 1996. Vega himself had numerous gimmicks while with the company, including Kwang, and was a member of such stables as Los Boricuas and The Nation Of Domination.
Vega never amounted to much in WWE, but he's gone on to great success in the Puerto Rican-based WWC, where he's captured numerous titles. He was never a major player in WWE, but he was a consistent member of the mid-card who happened to have a notable feud with one of the company's biggest rising stars at the time. Vega would end up sticking around until 1998.
5 Chris Kanyon
For a brief period of time, Kanyon was considered a rising star in the business. After a terrible tag team gimmick (Men At Work, simply awful) in WCW, Kanyon was slotted into. member of The Flock, where his potential was finally able to be observed on a real level. He was able to parlay that into being a member of The Jersey Triad, along with Diamond Dallas Page and Bam Bam Bigelow.
He would go on to have a noteworthy feud with Page, which was one of the only watchable things on WCW programming in the late-'90s/early-2000s. Kanyon may have gotten his career off to a great start in the '90s, but later on, a plethora of injuries that he suffered in the ring would force him to retire, and by the late-2000s he was finished. Still, he was one of the few bright spots from late-'90s WCW.
4 Jerry Lynn
Lynn really started gaining ground in the mid-'90s, when he went under the name Mr. JL during his time in WCW. He was able to do some work in Japan, which really fortified him as one of the best young light-heavyweights in wrestling at the time. He would only continue to build upon that reputation, and became a member of the ECW roster by 1997, where he went on to do his best work.
He would eventually capture the ECW Heavyweight Title, and have some of the best matches in the company at the time. Feuding with the likes of Justin Credible, and Rob Van Dam, Lynn had made a name for himself as one of the top stars in the wrestling world. Unfortunate, in today's wrestling landscape, Lynn has never gotten enough credit.
Far and away one of the most underrated wrestlers of his era, Saturn had a look, and an in-ring presence that were all his own. He could excel in any role he was given; winning tag titles as a member of The Eliminators, and going on to his own solo success in WCW. He wrestled for all three major companies, and while he never received the major push he truly deserved, he was still one of the best talents in each of them.
Unfortunately, due to an absence from the public eye to correct substance abuse issues, and to cope with injuries from wrestling, much of Saturn's accomplishments have been forgotten in the modern era. In reality, he was one of the most talented wrestlers of the '90s, and should have been a much bigger star than management allowed him to be.
2 Tracy Smothers
Smothers wrestled for WWE, WCW and ECW during the 90s, and was actually one of the better workers in each of those companies. It was clear early on that he would never be a superstar on the level of some of his peers, but he put in quality work wherever he was at.
Most famous in the '90s for both his Southern Boys tag team with Steve Armstrong in WCW, and as a member of the Full Blooded Italians in ECW, Smothers seemed to be everywhere during this era, and was a decided fan-favorite of the time. He still wrestles occasionally on the Indy circuit today, and has had one of the more consistent careers out of anyone from his era.
1 Mikey Whipwreck
A homegrown favorite of the original ECW, Whipwreck's story is actually pretty amazing. He was a member of the ECW ring crew before he was a proper wrestler, and after seeing him practice some moves in the ring before the show started, booker Paul Heyman allowed him to be trained and join the ECW roster. As a result, Whipwreck went on to a great career in ECW as a scrappy, underdog character, and had six different title runs.
He would also spend some time in WCW during the later part of the decade, but Whipwreck was always best in ECW, and was always more over with their fans. He would return to the promotion until it closed in 2001, and the hit the indy scene for the rest of his career.
Whipwreck's story is a testament to getting a good break, and then doing something with it. He became one of the most popular wrestlers in the original ECW, and has unfortunately gone on to receive a decreased amount of recognition as the years have gone by, and the rights to ECW are firmly in the grasp of WWE control.