The 1990s was a time of glorious triumph and unfortunate failures for professional wrestling. Just as the business was on a downward spiral in the early parts of the decade, it rose like a phoenix and went out with a momentous bang. It can be argued that there’s never been another period of time of such dynamic quality in wrestling, especially for WWE which started off with its fair share of troubles but clocked out on top in 1999.
Just as many of the most memorable moments in wrestling’s colorful past came to be in the ‘90s, so did a sizeable portion of its most beloved stars. The WWE Hall of Fame is built on the legs of ‘90s Superstars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and more. It was a time when the cartoonish nature of wrestling began to fade and once WCW became legitimate competition for WWE and the Monday Night Wars began, both companies became edgier in order to outperform one another in the ratings.
The decade that brought us Friends, Forrest Gump and The Backstreet Boys also brought us some of the best, worst, and downright weirdest wrestling we’ve ever seen. With so many of these personalities playing such a large role in our childhoods it is human nature to wonder what has become of some of them.
Many unsung stars of the 1990s still work with WWE in some capacity, but those who don’t still sometimes follow some very interesting paths. Let’s take a look at where some of these stars are today.
If you watched wrestling in the mid 90s then you know Sable. She and then-husband Marc Mero were involved in a storyline that defined the early years of The Attitude Era. The couple’s bread and butter came when Mero began mistreating Sable and found a new girlfriend in Jacqueline. Sable’s popularity went through the roof and WWE reinstated the defunct Women’s Championship for the sake of the storyline. The WWE Universe was captivated with Sable’s personality and, even more so with her body, as evidenced by her wildly successful Playboy magazine appearance. Sable left WWE in 1999, but returned a few years later for another brief run with the company.
14 Val Venis
At the height of WWE’s Attitude era in the late 1990s, Monday Night Raw was getting pretty raunchy and it’s safe to say the programming was not aimed toward children. One perfect example of WWE’s adult mentality around this time was the introduction of Val Venis, an adult star character whose entrance video consisted of various risque shots best left for late night viewership.
13 Hardcore Holly
Whether you’re more familiar with the “Spark Plug” or the “Hardcore” side, you likely know all about Bob Holly if you watched WWE in the mid to late 90s. Some of Holly’s biggest success came when he became known as “Hardcore Holly” and started teaming with his on-screen cousin Crash Holly. As a team, the Holly cousins would carry a scale to the ring and, calling themselves heavyweights, made their opponents weigh in to see if they were worthy of fighting them. The cousins would frequently fight among themselves and both would go on to win the WWE Hardcore Championship many times.
Between the fangs and the goblet of blood he would drink from before a match, it’s easy to see why Gangrel was one of the most easily identifiable faces of WWE’s Attitude Era. Known mostly for his stints with Edge & Christian as The Brood, then with Matt and Jeff Hardy as The New Brood, Gangrel was a sight to behold. He and his partners would make their entrances each night by rising from underneath the stage into a ring of fire to one of wrestling’s most popular theme songs of all time. Gangrel was terrifying and was one of the most underrated personalities in late 90s WWE.
11 Alundra Blayze
The WWE Women’s Championship has had a rocky few decades, having been retired several times, but Alundra Blayze dominated the mid 1990s with three reigns as Champion and her battles with Bull Nakano are often cited by female Superstars today as inspiration for their own careers. She also broke down barriers in WCW, in many ways becoming the company’s version of WWE’s Chyna. Madusa often competed with the men of WCW, even winning the revered, male-centric Cruiserweight Championship.
10 Scotty 2 Hotty
You may remember Scotty 2 Hotty more for “the worm” dance move than his actual matches, but he was indeed a very successful tag team wrestler in the 1990s. Scotty and his partners, Grand Master Sexay and Rikishi, entertained audiences as the team Too Cool, dancing before, after, and often during their matches. Scotty 2 Hotty’s signature money-maker came at the height of the match when he would do “the worm” and drop an elbow on a downed opponent.
Whether you call him X-Pac, the 1-2-3 Kid, Syxx, or his real name, Sean Waltman, every wrestling fan of the ‘90s knows how big a deal it is for a wrestler to say he was one of the star members of both the New World Order and D-Generation X. Waltman may be most familiar to WWE fans as X-Pac, the persona which brought him the most success, but he’s been a show-stealer everywhere he’s been. As a former WWE Tag Team and Intercontinental Champion and having been part of so many legendary eras and factions, Sean Waltman is likely a shoe-in for the WWE Hall of Fame.
8 Road Dogg
He’s a former WWE Intercontinental Champion, one-half of one of the most popular tag teams in wrestling’s history, and a former member of an iconic faction of legends we all know as D-Generation X. The “Road Dogg” Jesse James’ microphone skills were rarely matched as he could get the audience to their feet with just the start of his theme song, which directly incited fan participation. Whether wrestling beside Billy Gunn as The New Age Outlaws or flying solo, James was one of the architects of The Attitude Era.
Known for epic battles with wrestling legends like Sting and Mick Foley as well as for his uncanny agility at his size, Big Van Vader wrestled all over the world and became a ‘90s icon. His moonsault is still talked about today, memorable for the fact that Big Van Vader pulled off the move (usually reserved for much smaller wrestlers) while clocking in at well over 400 pounds! But that’s not to discredit one of the most popular finishing moves in wrestling: the Vader Bomb.
6 Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock joined WWE in 1997, already an MMA star, as a special referee in the infamous WrestleMania 13 match between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bret “Hitman” Hart. His in-ring career soon blossomed and Shamrock became one of the many hands that helped build The Attitude Era. He became an Intercontinental Champion and was so popular WWE gave him a fictional sister, Ryan Shamrock, and he was involved in storylines with many of the biggest names in wrestling, including The Rock.
5 Jeff Jarrett
“Double J” Jeff Jarrett had endless successes in his wrestling career during the 1990s. He competed in both WWE and WCW, but Jeff’s defining moments of that decade came in the form of a string of battles with the late Chyna over the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Jarrett’s character was that of a sexist jerk who liked beating up any woman he crossed paths with, even his own valets Miss Debra and Miss Kitty, and Jeff playing the ultimate villain provided the platform for Chyna to save the day and become the first female in WWE to hold a men’s Championship.
Male wrestling fans of the ‘90s will remember Sunny as the biggest childhood crush they ever had. Sunny, whose real name is Tammy Sytch, should be regarded as perhaps the most charismatic wrestling manager to ever serve the sport, garnering a huge following by captivating viewers with her stunning good looks and confidence. Known for her tag team managing prowess, she saw teams like The Bodydonnas and The Legion of Doom achieve great success.
3 Ted DiBiase
Everyone knows the maniacal cackle that kicks off the entrance music of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, as it’s iconic. DiBiase’s wrestling career certainly started before the 1990s but spanned the duration of it and saw him play many different roles. He held the WWE Tag Team Championship with Irwin R. Schyster (or simply IRS) as the team Money Incorporated, and then managed a plethora of other wrestlers such as King Kong Bundy and Sycho Sid in The Million Dollar Corporation. DiBiase is also known for managing “The Ringmaster,” who later came to be known as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In WCW, Ted became the fourth member of the legendary New World Order.
2 Bret “The Hitman” Hart
As undoubtedly one of the most celebrated WWE Champions of all time, Bret “Hitman” Hart was at the pulse of professional wrestling in the 1990s. Hart won title after title in WWE and throughout the course of the decade helped build WrestleMania into the grand spectacle it is today by competing in some of the most memorable matches in the annual event’s history, such as a bloody war with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and perhaps the greatest match of all time, a sixty-minute Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels.
No doubt, Bret Hart is one of the most respected wrestlers to ever compete, but we believe he deserves even more credit than he receives for his work in the 90s. Many current wrestlers were inspired by Hart and Hart should be even more revered for his work.
1 Diamond Dallas Page
As perhaps the unsung hero of WCW, Diamond Dallas Page became a megastar in the mid to late ‘90s as one of the few home-grown main event talents in the company. WCW became known for building its show around former WWE stars, so when DDP came along and rocked the WCW audience, he became a bit of a rarity. His Diamond Cutter finishing move as well as his popular hand gesture and “Self High Five” theme song helped make DDP an icon before even stepping foot in WWE years later.
Today Page has become something of a yoga guru, launching his own successful fitness program called DDP Yoga. The program has been used by several top wrestling names such as Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, Scott Hall and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Roberts in particular claims Diamond Dallas Page is responsible for saving his life, having battled addiction for many years.
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