The period of time that followed when professional wrestling was flung into the national spotlight with WWE’s very first WrestleMania in 1985 is commonly referred to as the “golden age” of the industry. Vince McMahon saw fit to take a lesser known form of entertainment and make it mainstream. It was a gamble that might have ended in the biggest wrestling corporation in the world today never having survived the ‘80s, but it paid off big. Over three decades later and the spectacle that started with the golden age continues to thrive.
That era carried us into the early 1990s until household names like Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage went somewhat silent for several years and the next thing most casual fans can recall is the famed “Attitude Era,” a time of adult-oriented wrestling chaos in the late 1990s which saw WWE’s biggest business boom in history. But those lost years between the golden age and the Attitude Era provided some of the most memorable WWE Superstars and moments from wrestling’s past.
WrestleMania may have gotten its legs beneath it during the ‘80s, but the meat and potatoes of that annual franchise came about during what was referred to by fans and WWE itself as the “New Generation.” So many of WrestleMania’s greatest contests took center stage in the years from the early to late 1990s featuring a plethora of revered Superstars. It was a crucial point in the evolution of the wrestling business from what it was in the ‘80s to what it is in 2016. To honor the men and women who were known as the New Generation, let’s take a glance at what some of them are doing today.
15. Koko B. Ware
As one of the most colorful WWE Superstars to ever enter the ring, Koko B. Ware’s career started long before the New Generation era rolled in. With his often multicolored hair and his pet macaw named Frankie accompanying him to the ring, he carried an infectious charisma that captivated the WWE Universe. At the outset of this era, Koko wrestled alongside the late Owen Hart and the duo became a beloved tag team known as High Energy. Ware would see a brief return to singles action around 1994 before his time in WWE came to an end.
Koko was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 by former WWE Superstar Honky Tonk Man and wrestled at a 2014 event benefiting Lou Gehrig Disease. Koko B. Ware has been in the news as recently as 2015 when he, along with other former wrestlers, were named as defendants in a lawsuit by WWE as the company intended to block concussion-related lawsuits against the organization.
14. Johnny Polo
Raven might have been the biggest star to hold the ECW World Heavyweight Championship in the company’s original run, but what about Johnny Polo? Before Raven’s arrival in ECW, he was a part of WWE’s New Generation as Johnny Polo, manager to Jacques and Pierre, The Quebecers. The trio was heavily featured on WWE programming at this time and The Quebecers won the WWE Tag Team Championship on three occasions. Polo may not have approached Raven’s levels of success, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a hand to lend to WWE.
Whether you refer to him as Johnny Polo, Raven, or his real name, Scott Levy, he left an impact on professional wrestling in the 1990s. He continues to wrestle today on the independent circuit, but is apparently not on very good terms with WWE due to Levy attempting to sue the company in recent years for issues related to healthcare.
13. Bull Nakano
In a clear example of how successful women wrestlers can be when their abilities are highlighted over their girl next door looks, Bull Nakano became an icon in the 1990s when she was embroiled in a classic rivalry with WWE Hall of Famer Alundra Blayze over the WWE Women’s Championship. The battles between Nakano and Blazye are the stuff of legend and many female Superstars of today credit those matches as having inspired their careers. Bull had a terrifying look about her and her wrestling skills were as good as any female wrestler to work for WWE. Together, Nakano and Blayze defined an era in women’s wrestling.
Bull Nakano’s WWE career was rather short, but she had a successful wrestling career in Japan before that. Today, she is retired from professional wrestling, though still makes special appearances. One of those appearances recently featured the reunion of Nakano and her longtime rival Alundra Blayze. She also became a professional golfer, which is incredibly impressive as well.
12. Irwin R. Schyster
Mike Rotunda, also known as Irwin R. Schyster, or I.R.S., was a well-known wrestler before the New Generation got under way, but the early to mid ‘90s tax collector gimmick would become his most successful. I.R.S. would accompany The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, as a tag team partner and tax consultant, often carrying a briefcase. The team, known as Money Inc., won the WWE Tag Team Championship on three separate occasions and famously feuded with Hulk Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake when I.R.S. used his briefcase to smash the face of Beefcake, who had recently returned from a real life, serious facial injury.
Rotunda is largely out of the wrestling limelight these days, though he has made the occasional appearance on WWE television over the years, once as recently as 2014 and works as a road agent for the company. Two current WWE Superstars, Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt, are Rotunda’s real life sons. Rotunda was in the news recently when his father-in-law, WWE Hall of Famer Blackjack Mulligan, passed away in 2016.
Known as The Ugandan Giant, Kamala at one point terrorized the WWE roster and at another was a beloved bear of a man. Often accompanied to the ring by Kim Chee, who was his “handler,” Kamala was a wild beast with no human interactive skills. He wrestled with WWE for a few years before the New Generation of wrestlers started to pour in and only participated in the early stages of the era, but his time in the early ‘90s is remembered for when he ditched the villainous Kim Chee and Kamala’s softer side began to shine through.
Kamala’s post wrestling career has not been the kindest to him. In a 2014 interview, Kamala stated that diabetes had cost him both of his legs. He is apparently living month to month, dependent on his disability check and, at the time of the interview, could not afford to have his air conditioner or his truck fixed.
10. Papa Shango
In the early 1990s, WWE dipped into the surreal with a character named Papa Shango. Shango, who wore face paint and carried a smoking skull, would use voodoo to cast spells on his opponents. His was a gimmick which didn’t last long, but is one of the era’s more memorable. The character was portrayed by Charles Wright, better known as The Godfather, but before The Godfather starting pimping he would become another character in as a part of the New Generation named Kama, a fighter who used MMA-style techniques.
Whatever you refer to him as, he was definitely a star and one of the New Generation’s more memorable participants. The Papa Shango character was resurrected recently on an episode of the WWE Network prank show Swerved and under The Godfather name, he was inducted into the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame. He has competed sporadically on the independent scene over the years.
9. Adam Bomb
Adam Bomb arrived on the scene as the survivor of a nuclear incident, as evidenced by the pun in his name. He wore green contacts and his attire was nuclear themed. Bomb was one of the New Generation’s most popular villains and was involved in many high profile storylines, competing at Survivor Series in 1993, one of the biggest WWE shows of the year. He was involved with such legends as Diesel and Razor Ramon and eventually transitioned into a babyface role for a much less successful run.
Bomb, whose real name is Bryan Clark, wrestled in WCW after leaving WWE and became one half of the tag team known as Kronik alongside fellow former WWE employee Brian Adams (Crush). But though Clark has been retired for a while, as recently as 2014 he showed interested in returning to resurrect the Adam Bomb character for the annual WWE Royal Rumble. He’s also involved in the class action lawsuit that multiple wrestlers are filing against the WWE for brain injuries.
8. Razor Ramon
You would be hard pressed to find a wrestler who is a more quintessential example of New Generation talent than Razor Ramon. With greasy hair, gold chains and a fake accent, Ramon was a sleaze and he knew it. His wars with Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Bret Hart are legendary and, as a Hall of Famer himself, Scott Hall played the part of Ramon so well that it was impossible for WWE to keep portraying him as a heel. Fans wanted to cheer the four-time Intercontinental Champion, so he became a hero.
The story of Scott Hall’s stint in WCW as part of the New World Order is well-known. What might be lesser known are his myriad of personal problems involving substance abuse. Time after time Hall was arrested or spotted intoxicated in public. In recent years, however, Hall has been working on getting clean and sober with the help of former WCW star Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga routine. Hall has also been in the news recently due to a dispute with a wrestling promoter over a show Hall was scheduled to attend.
Despite all that, Scott Hall seems to be doing much better these days and he still makes appearances at various wrestling shows and conventions.
7. Marty Jannetty
Marty Jannetty will always be known as the half of The Rockers who isn’t Shawn Michaels. That said, the two men will go down as one of professional wrestling’s most beloved tag teams despite the break-up which would launch Shawn into the singles spotlight. Once the New Generation was picking up steam, Marty would actually have a brief, exciting singles run in challenging his former partner for the Intercontinental Championship, even winning the title at one point. The matches over the title were spectacular and became one of the highlights of the early episodes of Monday Night Raw.
Jannetty has made several special appearances for WWE, but his name has been on the lips of wrestling fans for a different reason recently. In 2016, after on-screen comments were made about him by Stephanie McMahon (who was in character), Marty responded viciously on Facebook, calling Stephanie offensive names and insinuating that her husband, Triple H, may not be the father of all her children. He won’t be welcomed back anytime soon.
If you’re looking for Marty, he still competes sporadically on the independent circuit.
6. Alundra Blayze
Alundra Blayze is often cited as the reason women’s wrestling in WWE held up over the course of the ‘90s, however inconsistently. Blayze was a three-time WWE Women’s Champion during her run in the New Generation era, playing a beloved hero and defending against such challengers as Bull Nakano and Bertha Faye. It was a time seen by many fans as one of the greatest eras in women’s professional wrestling and Alundra was the standard bearer.
As Madusa, she’d become more known for throwing the WWE Women’s Championship belt in the trash on live WCW television later, as well as becoming one of the few women to ever win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, but nowadays she’s famous for her monster truck driving career. She’s very active on social media and involved with the WWE Universe, frequently commenting on current happenings in Vince McMahon’s wrestling giant. Blayze was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
Most wrestling fans know Kevin Nash as one of the founding members of the legendary New World Order, a villainous faction that set WCW on fire in the 1990s. But before the nWo, Nash played the role of Diesel, the imposing bodyguard of rising star Shawn Michaels. Together known as “Two Dudes with Attitudes,” Michaels and Diesel raised hell during the New Generation era until Diesel broke off on his own and became one of the longest reigning WWE Champions in modern history. Diesel’s run with the title dominated the mid ‘90s and he became one of the era’s most iconic wrestlers.
In 2015, Kevin Nash was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He remains on good terms with the company and has made many appearances in recent years, including at WrestleMania 31 as part of an nWo versus D-Generation X face off. He has recently expressed interest in returning to WWE in a regular role.
4. Lex Luger
Though he would find the pinnacle of his pro wrestling career in WCW as their World Champion, Lex Luger gained a lot of mainstream notoriety competing as part of WWE’s New Generation. Initially unveiled as “The Narcissist,” he feuded with Mr. Perfect before being repackaged into an all-American hero character and challenging Yokozuna for the WWE Championship. Luger also teamed with Davey Boy Smith as the Allied Powers to compete at WrestleMania XI. Though Luger never won a title in WWE, the “Lex Express” left its mark on the New Generation.
After seeing his share of personal troubles, Luger seems to be doing well. In a recent interview with reporter Bill Apter, Lex revealed that he had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and had opened up a fund raising non-profit with fellow former wrestler Nikita Koloff called World Wrestling Outreach. It was reported recently that Luger is confined to a wheelchair, but he seems in great spirits nonetheless.
Tatanka was a Native American star who dominated during his New Generation run, with an undefeated streak that lasted for over two years. One of his highest profile matches came at WrestleMania IX when he challenged WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship. Tatanka won that match by count out, preserving his streak, but would not leave with the title that night. In fact, Tatanka never won a single title during his WWE tenure, despite his explosive popularity and all the wins he managed to rack up. However, he is easily a future WWE Hall of Fame inductee.
He would have another run with WWE in the mid 2000s along with a few other appearances for the company, including competing in a match at WrestleMania 32. In 2015, Tatanka announced he had signed a Legends contract with WWE, a role which typically involves ambassador appearances for the organization.
2. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has been a WWE staple since his days teaming with Marty Jannetty in The Rockers. His initial singles run (with Diesel as his bodyguard) saw him become one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions ever and he faced Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X in a classic Ladder match for the title. Eventually The Heartbreak Kid would go on to win the coveted WWE Championship after defeating Bret “The Hitman” Hart in an Iron Man match at WrestleMania XII. That WrestleMania match were one of the best of all time and Michaels’ singles title reigns would come to represent the bulk of the New Generation era in WWE.
Michaels was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. He is fully retired from professional wrestling but makes regular appearances for WWE and remains on good terms with the company. He still practices the Christian religion he became famous for throughout his later wrestling career and keeps busy with his own hunting show on the Outdoor Channel titled, “Shawn Michaels’ MacMillan River Adventures.”
1. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
There was no bigger or more successful wrestling star within the New Generation era than Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The singles career of Hart, who got his start as part of The Hart Foundation with Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, saw a major boom in the early ‘90s when he first had a couple of runs with the Intercontinental Championship before exploding onto the main event scene and eventually winning the WWE Championship on multiple occasions. His Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII and his Submission match against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 are still two of the most revered matches in the history of professional wrestling.
While other WWE Superstars of the New Generation saw varying success before and after, this era belonged to Bret Hart in so many ways. The Hitman was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 and several years later would make a return to battle Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XXVI. Recently, though, Hart has been fighting a battle with prostate cancer. He underwent successful surgery in 2016 and has stated that the situation is being monitored. He was also in the news in 2016 for making controversial comments about Triple H, during his new podcast, The Sharpshooter Show.
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