The 1990s were a wild time in wrestling. While WWE, WCW and later ECW were dominating, there were still various smaller promotions hanging on. Things were a bit crazier, a lot more drug use and travel and thus plenty of conflicts went around. Tales are told of how guys could be addicted to a lot of stuff and cause tons of trouble, not just in the ring but behind the scenes as well. Put together guys with tons of egos and pride and it’s inevitable things would erupt big time. And with wrestlers, that means a lot of nasty stuff can abound.
“Backstage” isn’t just for the locker room but outside the arena too. In some cases, a fight can be just a few punches, and things settle down quick after they get it out of their system. But in many cases, it can be very epic, downright huge fights that become legendary in the business. The 1990s are packed with some of the most infamous and harshest backstage goings-on in the history of the business and that includes fights. Here are 15 times the battles outside the ring put the ones inside to shame and what happens when you get workers riled up.
15 Van Hammer vs. William Regal
One of the goofier characters of the early ‘90s WCW, Van Hammer was a “rocker” with long hair and guitar. He had a good size and such but his lack of real ring skills hampered the gimmick. Regal was starting his long WCW run as a dependable worker known for a stiff manner. The two had some clashes in 1991 with Van Hammer not happy that Regal wouldn’t sell for him properly while Regal treated the man as a joke.
It came up at a Christmas party as the two began a huge argument that culminated in Regal head-butting Van Hammer four times right by the punch bowl. The fight was short but ended with Regal clearly the victor and showed his infamously brutal style that made him more of a “hitter” than Van Hammer could ever be.
14 Ken Shamrock vs. The Nasty Boys
Even before he came to the UFC, Shamrock was a real tough guy, a top fighter and trained weightlifter. Picking a fight with him seemed like a bad idea but the Nasty Boys did so in 1990 when they ran into Shamrock at a bar. The Nasty Boys threw insults at Shamrock’s date, with Shamrock trying to shrug it off but as they continued, he decided enough was enough. Knobbs hit first with a bouncer grabbing Shamrock before he fought back. Still ticked, Shamrock went to the hotel the Nasty Boys were staying at and broke down the door to attack Knobbs.
Details differ depending on who’s telling it but it was a messy fight before Saggs and some other wrestlers came to break it up. Shamrock got the worst of it with his face black and blue and the Nasty Boys were close to throwing him out the balcony.
13 Sabu and Mike Awesome vs. The Yaukza
In Japan, the Yakuza are the Mafia but more of a true power on their own, who openly control politicians. Since pro wrestling has existed in Japan, the Yakuza have had major influence, even in pushing things behind the scenes. In the early 1990s, before their fame in ECW, Sabu and Mike Awesome were working for Japan’s FMW, where the Yakuza regularly bought up tickets to push attendance. Fifty members, including a top boss, were in the front row when Sabu did one of his usual leaps and hit them. They didn’t take to that kindly and started to attack Sabu, setting off a near riot. Awesome leaped in to help, knocking several Yakuza down and then grabbing Sabu to take him to the dressing room.
They had to wait two hours before leaving and both left Japan fast. Sabu may be known as “homicidal, genocidal, suicidal” but taking on the Yakuza is wild by even his standards.
12 Haku vs. Cops
Many believe the man also known as Meng may well be the single toughest man in the history of professional wrestling. This was a man who famously ripped out a guy’s eyeball then stuck it back in and shrugged off massive blows with no-sells as they really didn’t hurt. His biggest was the famed story of being at a bar in 1990 after a show, tossing back drinks.
A fan made the mistake of picking a fight and Haku soon laid him out. It escalated into a full scale bar brawl with the cops called in. In what has become the stuff of legends, Haku fought off eight police officers and was maced in the eyes but it had no effect on him. When they managed to cuff him, he broke the cuffs in half. It was like the Incredible Hulk brought to life and added to the legend of what may be wrestling’s ultimate bad-ass.
11 Randy Savage vs. Road Warrior Hawk
Savage was never known well for a calm attitude and neither was Hawk so it was inevitable that things got messy between them. Supposedly, during a tour of Japan in 1996 with WCW, Hawk learned that during a dinner two years earlier, Savage had come on to Hawk’s fiancée. Hawk confronted Savage just as they were about to go to the ring and when Savage denied it, Hawk smacked him across the face. The fact Savage had to go to a match prevented it from getting out of hand.
However, three years later, Hawk came to Savage at a Kid Rock concert to make peace only for Savage to pay him back by attacking him in a full bathroom brawl. The two never settled things and held a beef until their deaths to show how ugly some bad blood can get.
10 Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
On a 2011 DVD, Bret and Shawn both acknowledge how their mutual egos kept them from becoming friends. They always had a healthy respect for one another but that pride kept them clashing so much, not helped by Shawn’s infamously selfish attitude in the 1990s. Things heated up in 1997 as WWE was pushing each man against each other with Bret taking on his “Canadian hero/American heel” act and Shawn pushing DX. It all built up to a RAW in May of 1997 when Shawn made the infamous “Sunny days” comment during a promo, alluding to an affair between Bret and Tammy Sytch.
Bret was outraged and confronted Shawn backstage. Words were exchanged and the two were soon fighting it out with Bret tearing a clump of Shawn’s hair off his scalp. They were broken up but the animosity continued and played a major part in setting up Montreal, showing how far the heat between them went.
9 Brian Pillman vs. Sid
Brian Pillman was famous for being much tougher than he looked. A famous story is some guys trying to set him up by having him fight a much bigger bodybuilder only for Pillman to beat the guy to a pulp. That was only one of many stories told on the road about Pillman’s wild antics so it’s no surprise he and Sid didn’t get along well. Their beef went to when Sid botched a power bomb during War Games that nearly broke Pillman’s neck.
By October, Sid was in WWE when the two companies had shows in the same town and guys from both promotions were at a bar. With a few drinks in him, Sid trashed Pillman as being “too small” for WWE and the two were soon shoving. Sid left the bar only to return with the first weapon he could find; a squeejee. Things settled fast but the very fact this brawl got so big just added to Pillman’s legend and Sid’s reputation for pure nuttiness.
8 Road Warrior Hawk vs. 2 Cold Scorpio
This is pretty complex as it wasn’t either guy who started it. In 1995, WCW was doing a show in North Korea alongside New Japan with 2 Cold Scorpio having issues with Ric Flair. Scorpio was upset about Flair bad-mouthing him and felt Flair was pushing Scorpio down the card a bit. Given a choice of riding in a bus with the rest or a Mercedes, Flair picked the Mercedes with Hawk riding along. Hawk was boasting about it, which ticked Scorpio off. The two exchanged harsh words and then the fight began. Hawk was weakened by Hepatitis C and thus a bit weaker but still holding on as he and Scorpio brawled on the bus with Scorpio biting his thumb.
They were torn apart, and things tense for the rest of the tour but eventually settled down. Scorpio may not have been a huge star but beating down a Road Warrior showed he was far tougher than most would think.
7 Ric Flair vs. Nasty Boys
When you have a name like the Nasty Boys, it’s no surprise you get involved in some pretty wild brawls. Such a case was in late 1991 when the Nasties were in WWE, having finished a reign as tag champs. Flair was getting his big entrance into the company, hanging around a club in Manhattan with other WWE workers. A friend of Flair’s was getting rather drunk and soon began picking on Brian Knobbs, who responded by breaking the man’s sunglasses.
Flair took exception, words were exchanged and soon they were punching each other. Seeing his partner in trouble, Jerry Saggs leaped onto Flair’s back and got in a few shots. Flair was tossed while the Nasties stuck around and partied on his tab and showed they got the last laugh.
6 JBL vs. Steve Blackman
JBL is among the most infamous for backstage fights, with some of them occurring in the 2000s against the Blue Meanie or Joey Styles. However, even in his earlier days, Bradshaw could get into some hot water with other guys. A clear case was in 1998 as WWE was at the Kansas City Airport between shows. Getting his luggage, JBL was already hung over and was suffering from a lack of sleep which may be why he targeted Steve Blackman for some harsh insults. This included padding his behind with Blackman yelling at him to stop.
Finally, he snapped, turning to nail JBL with several sharp punches that rocked him back. JBL was trying to get at him but tripped on a piece of luggage, giving wrestlers the chance to break things up. JBL apologized later but still showed his affinity for hard fights that would follow him around.
5 Paul Orndorff vs. Vader
Vader’s reputation for stiff work is infamous in the business so one might assume he would be on top in any backstage brawl. But such was not the case in this famed fight with Paul Orndorff. At the time, Orndorff had retired from in-ring competition to a management position with the company. Vader was running late when Orndorff urged him to hurry up and do some promo work. The two had clashed before and soon Vader was jawing off and insulting Orndorff on being a has-been. Orndorff fired right back so Vader hit him in the chest. Orndorff got back up to punch Vader, knocking him down and then stomping on him…while wearing flip-flops.
They were broken up and Vader would claim he didn’t hit back because Orndorff was management. Most see this as just a poor excuse for how one of the biggest bad-asses around got his tail kicked by a guy far older than him.
4 New Jack vs. Dances With Dudley
It’s been called the most brutal backstage fight in ECW history and that should say a lot. While fans know the Dudley Boys as just Bubba Ray and D-Von, they had a whole wild clan in ECW, complete with a “Native American” member called Dances With Dudley. New Jack and partner Mustafa were the Gangsters having just done a beat-down of the Dudleys. Never known as someone to play nice, New Jack waited until Dances came through the curtain and cracked him on the back of the head with a nightstick. Dances managed to fight back in a huge brawl with New Jack trying to shove Dances out a window 30 feet off the ground. Mikey Whipwreck suffered a huge gash on the back of the head slammed through the window himself. By the time it was broken up, New Jack had punched Tazz, Konana and the Pitbulls.
3 Vince McMahon vs. Nailz
It’s not like Kevin Wacholz is the first WWE employee to want to strangle Vince McMahon. But he is the first to actually go through with it. Brought in as Nailz, a supposed ex-con taking on the Big Bossman, Wacholz was given a decent push in 1992. However, Wacholz argued about his pay and took it to Vince. The argument escalated until Nailz attacked the boss, battering Vince around and trying to strangle him with his bare hands. He was torn off by various officials and other wrestlers, including Bret Hart and naturally, was fired. Wacholz fired back by suing WWE and taking part in the federal trial against Vince on steroid use. It failed but it's still notable for Nailz being one guy taking his beef with Vince to a new level.
2 Arn Anderson vs. Sid
We come to a very famous story and one that would impact WCW majorly. In 1993, the company was planning to have Sid beat Vader for the WCW Title at Starrcade and boost Sid up majorly. Never the most stable of men to begin with, Sid’s head began to get inflated, leading him to brag and throw his weight around backstage. This led to a conflict with Arn Anderson during a tour of Germany and things got heated. Soon, they were fighting it out, during which Sid grabbed a pair of scissors to stab Arn. Arn got them back to stab Sid as well in the arm before it was finally broken up with both in the hospital.
Sid was fired and WCW had to push Ric Flair into the title match instead to show how one dumb brawl could ruin so many carefully laid-out plans.
1 Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman and Davey Boy Smith vs. U.S. Marines
Shawn himself has cited this as the low point of his horrible 1990s behavior. In 1995, he, Waltman and Smith were leaving a show in Syracuse and decided to stop at a bar. Shawn made the huge mistake on hitting on a woman with a boyfriend…who happened to be a Marine, surrounded by his buddies. The number of assailants vary from eight to 15, depending on who's telling the story but regardless, everyone agrees that Shawn got his ass kicked majorly.
Indeed, the injuries were so big that Shawn had to give up the IC title at the next PPV. As the story had hit the news, WWE put out the spin that it was a bunch of “thugs” hired by Owen Hart to take Shawn out. Michaels himself is up front on how he’d been asking for it and the incident is notable for a time a wrestler bit off more than he could chew.
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