The 1990s was a weird time for pop culture in general, but for the world of wrestling, it was a real whirlwind. The themes and subtexts that had permeated the business for decades prior were fizzling out and in need of change. The 90s saw the fall of traditional wrestling characters based on professional in favor of more authentic representations of society as a whole. This rang especially true during the later part of the 90s during the rise of the Monday Night War. As guys like The Goon faded into obscurity, stars like Shawn Michaels began to ascend the ranks. Even wrestlers who were once forced to play giant wizards were finally able to use their real names in the wrestling business.
It’s easy to get caught up in the transition that wrestling took in the 90s and forget about all the crap that we had to sit through as fans. Many wrestlers were great during the decade, yet upon further inspection now were wildly overrated. Now that isn’t to say that the overrated wrestlers weren’t good, but rather not as good as we may remember. Today we will be looking at 15 wrestlers from the 90s and giving updates on where they are today.
As always feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section. Oh and don’t be mad at number 15, it’s a little bit of a doozy.
15. Bret Hart
In my opinion, you can be the best in the world at something and still be overrated, and in the case of wrestling Bret Hart fits that bill. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is a real wrestling fan alive who doesn’t put The Hitman in their top 10, but to call him the best ever…ehhhhh. From bell to bell there is no denying Hart’s ability, but that was truly the only place the former WWE Champion stood out. In fact, you could argue that Hart couldn’t make it without the WWE, as his stock as a performer went down significantly following his departure from Vince McMahon in 1997.
Since retiring, Hart has made amends with the WWE, being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. More recently Hart was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. The Hitman underwent surgery to remove the cancer but is still monitored quarterly to ensure that cancer doesn’t return.
14. Buff Bagwell
There is no denying that Buff Bagwell was one of the biggest young stars in WCW during the late ‘90s. His charisma and look signaled that the former WCW Tag Team Champion was destined for bigger things. Even with all that working for him, Bagwell wasn’t that great in the ring and he often squandered the opportunities to engage audiences when it mattered most. The only reason anyone even knows who Buff is in 2017, is due to him creeping in the background whenever the nWo is featured on the WWE Network. Since being run out of wrestling, Bagwell has begun a new career as a featured male companion on the Showtime original Gigolos. The show seems scripted, so I was skeptical during my research, but apparently Buff is making bank as a Gigolo charging upwards of $25,000 for a week of companionship.
13. Kevin Nash
There is a raging debate online on whether or not Kevin Nash is overrated, underrated or somewhere in the middle. In my opinion, Nash’s performances in the ring didn’t justify his large paychecks or his backstage power. Don’t get me wrong, the nWo was extremely entertaining during the 1990s, but after the initial excitement it kind of fizzled out. Nash has never been a technician, so when the nWo wore out his welcome so did he in the eyes of many fans. Obviously, this is all nitpicky, but the truth remains that Nash is a WWE Hall of Famer who couldn’t really put on a great match without someone carrying him through it.
12. Lex Luger
For some reason, Lex Luger was pushed to the moon and back by both the WWE and WCW. Initially, Vince McMahon thought that the former Green Bay Packer would be the successor to Hulk Hogan, but Luger left the company less than two years after being elevated to main event status. After joining WCW (without McMahon’s knowledge), Luger continued putting on bad matches, yet somehow getting pushed up the card. The Total Package was far from technically sound, and couldn’t cut a promo to save his life and retired from full time wrestling in 2001.
Today, Luger is slowly recovering from a spinal stroke that he suffered in 2007, which left him wheelchair bound for years. Though he has regained some mobility and is even able to drive today, the former WCW Champion looks nothing like he did in his prime.
Sycho Sid was one of many big men to grace the world of wrestling during the 1990s. Unlike other big men in the business, Sid was actually athletic and could stand toe to toe with other stars of the era. Despite these two positive features, Sid never reached his true potential due to lack of passion for the business. The former WCW Champion often got into contract disputes with every major wrestling promotions and would no-show events so that he could participate in his softball league. Even today when Sid is scheduled for appearances, he frequently backs out at the last minute on promoters. Though he has had a few reported health problems in recent years, Sid still looks great and even competes in bodybuilding competitions.
Although she is considered one of the first Divas of the WWE, Sable was a woman who simply was in the right place at the right time. She got into the business because her husband was brought in, stayed in the business because it brought her fame and eventually tried to sue the business once she was through with it. Sable was athletic and was able to spark a career based off a single powerbomb to her then husband Marc Mero during the Attitude Era. If not for that single moment, Sable would have undoubtedly faded into obscurity in the WWE.
Today Sable is married to Brock Lesnar but remains out of the spotlight, spending her time with her children and grandchildren on the Lesnar compound. You can, however, catch Sable in the background of the cage if you watch Lesnar’s UFC fights.
There is a running theory among many wrestling fans that Stone Cold Steve Austin stole his most famous gimmick from another beer drinking and attitude ridden superstar; ECW original, The Sandman. While the two men shared many character traits, including both wearing the Heavyweight Championships for their respective promotions, that is where the comparisons stop. The Sandman was, in all reality, just a drunk dude swinging a kendo stick at people. The saving grace for the ECW alum was his entrance, which is easily one of the most memorable things to come out of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Today Sandman is still active on the independent circuit, and has lost a good bit of the weight that he put on during the late ‘00s. He has actually stated that as long as people are willing to come out and see him, that he will never put away the kendo stick for good.
8. The Rock
Despite being the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, The Rock was wildly overrated as a wrestler. Think about the Hulk Hogan match at WrestleMania X8; I guarantee you that what just popped into your head was the visual of the two men standing face to face. How about the actual match? How about any match? In truth, The Rock had the look and the promo but was never really a technician in the ring. His actions between the ropes were repetitive, and if not for his comedic elements between spots he may have never caught on with the crowd.
With all that being said, The Rock is the biggest star to ever come from the world of wrestling. The Rock was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine in 2016 and was also named the highest paid actor in Hollywood that year. He recently graced the cover of GQ and has even openly pondered the possibility of running for president.
7. Ahmed Johnson
When Ahmed Johnson debuted in the WWE, he was presented as the next great superstar in professional wrestling. Johnson, who only spent two years with the WWE, was actually slated for a title shot in ‘96 but had to bow out due to real life kidney injuries. The former Dallas Cowboy linebacker holds a place in wrestling history as the first African-American Intercontinental Champion in WWE history, which may be why he is looked upon with rose colored glasses. In reality, Johnson looked like a million bucks but was a clumsy and dangerous worker who could barely cut a promo.
Today Johnson has kept a pretty low profile, besides showing up at wrestling conventions he has remained under the radar. His most recent headline involved him joining the class action lawsuit against Vince McMahon in July of 2016.
It’s sort of ironic how much people got behind Goldberg during his return to the WWE in 2017 given how much he was hated by the end of his full-time wrestling career. The former WCW Champion developed a schtick upon his debut and stuck with it his entire career – Gorilla Press Slam, Spear, Jackhammer and repeat. Usually, these types of entries are written in exaggerations, but I can assure you that in the case of Bill Goldberg there wasn’t much else. In fact, by the time he WCW closed its doors, the former Atlanta Falcon was being booed heavily by the paying crowd. Today Goldberg spends his time working out at his gym, running his Combat Crate business and appearing in films/television. Oh and he recently said that he wouldn’t rule out another run in the WWE.
5. Hulk Hogan
Well, let me tell you something brother, when the Immortal Hulk Hogan left the WWE in 1993 everyone knew that the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion was going to eventually show up again. What most didn’t know though was that the Hulkster would end up signing with the WWE’s main rival WCW. Though he initially received a warm reception from the Atlanta-based organization, it was only a matter of time before the crowd turned on Hogan’s tired gimmick. There is no denying that Hogan’s impact on wrestling and pop culture during the 1980s was legendary, but a decade later fans were tired of the red and yellow. Even as one of the founding members of the nWo, Hogan was still stuck in the ‘80s delivering old promos and refusing to put over younger talent. Obviously, this is all very nitpicky for a guy who is arguably the most recognizable figure in the sport of wrestling, but hey what are you gonna do? Today Hogan is counting the money from his $31 million settlement with Gawker for releasing a sex tape featuring the wrestling star-making racist comments back in 2012.
4. Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn was the New Age Outlaw that many thought would eventually break out on his own and get the big singles push, but every time WWE tried, Gunn just couldn’t reach the next level on his own. His weaknesses were hidden while with Road Dogg, as Road Dogg would usually carry the promos, while Gunn was seen as the more athletic of the two. Gunn even won the 1999 King of the Ring shortly after splitting from Road Dogg temporarily but it soon became clear he wasn’t ready to be a singles star. He even got another run as The One Billy Gunn a year later, but it drew little to no reaction.
Gunn was recently working with WWE as a coach, but was let go after violating the Wellness Policy after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone at a powerlifting event. He’s since returned to the independent circuit and has most recently had a few matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
3. Mick Foley
It pains me to put Mick Foley on this list because, in the end, Foley is God… but not a wrestling God. Sure, there is nobody on planet Earth who can entertain an arena of people with his body more than Foley, but he was average at best in matches where no gimmick was involved. The hardcore style is a style that was mastered by the former WWE Champion, but hardcore is a niche branch of wrestling that not everyone is into. Also keep in mind that Foley named himself the Hardcore Legend, and he likely wouldn’t have had quite the highlight tape if he hadn’t have fallen off that Hell in a Cell. Let me break the fourth wall here and just say Foley is one of my favorites, but obviously, he has his faults and is way overrated by Attitude Era fanatics.
2. Jeff Jarrett
For years Jeff Jarrett wanted to be a main event player in both WWE and WCW. He ascended as high as a mid-card champion working for Vince McMahon, and eventually won the WCW Heavyweight Championship under Vince Russo, but at that point, the title was a shell of its former self. When Jarrett started his own company (TNA) in 2003, he didn’t wait to elevate himself to the top of the card. Double J not only pushed himself in the company as a champion but did so despite having better talent all around him.
I mean the guy thought it was a good idea to make himself the first ever “King of the Mountain” Champion for crying out loud, talk about a large ego. Today Jarrett is celebrating finally regaining intellectual control over the wrestling company he created following the merging of Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) and Global Force Wrestling.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin
There is no doubt that Stone Cold the hottest wrestler of the 1990s. I mean the word hot doesn’t even begin to describe how popular Austin was during the height of the Attitude Era. But in retrospect, Austin benefitted from being in the exact right place at the exact right time. His injuries actually prevented him from working as consistently as the WWE portrays, and when he did have matches they were often one dimensional due to his broken neck. Many fans also cite Austin’s repetitive nature on the microphone as a negative towards him.
Despite all of those criticisms, Austin is a bonafide global icon and national treasure…at least according to him. He keeps himself busy these days by making podcasts, promoting his signature IPA beer and hosting various reality television shows.
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