Has wrestling ever better than it was in the ‘90s? Some of the most famous names in the business came about or entered their prime during this time, and thus some of the most iconic images in wrestling history emerged from this decade.
However, we’re not here to reflect on the biggest moments in the ring or on TV, but instead all the moments that happened when the cameras weren’t rolling, but someone still managed to snap a candid shot of wrestlers hanging out, palling around, posing in humorous ways, and hanging out with their friends, family members, and fans.
During the ‘90s, kayfabe was strictly adhered to at all times, but now that the curtain has been pulled back, we can finally fully enjoy all of the silliness associated with professional wrestlers and professional wrestling.
As a final note, I’d like to point out that although this article is about WWE wrestlers, not all of the snaps below were taken when the wrestlers pictured were in the WWE. A few are of wrestlers when they were younger, or approximately around their time in the promotion. Still, they all involve WWE wrestlers and all were taken between 1990 and 1999.
21 Stone Cold Heartbreakers
Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels shared time in WWE’s spotlight in the mid and late ’90s, and have since gone down as two of the best wrestlers in the promotion’s history. Austin joined in 1995 (when Michaels was already in his prime) and began his most successful years (the infamous Austin 3:16 days) in 1996. Although the duo wrestled as a tag team for numerous matches (nabbing the Tag Team Championship in ‘96), they were also pitted against each other at WrestleMania XIV, in a WWE Championship bout that saw Austin claim the title.
Here, however, the two were happily mugging for the camera in a candid shot that looks to have been taken on vacation somewhere in the late ‘90s. Given that rumors emerged in 1998 that HBK had a problem dropping the title to Austin, you wouldn't expect to find a picture like this.
20 Davey Boy's Lobster
It’s unfortunate that Davey Boy Smith never won a WWE Championship, but he sure looks like a champ while tearing apart this giant lobster at a seafood restaurant sometime in the mid ‘90s (aside from Davey’s short hairdo, the fanny pack is a dead giveaway of the time period). Given the size of the crustacean, we’re guessing this was some sort of eating challenge where diners need to consume the whole thing in a certain amount of time. However, we’d like to believe that Smith just went into a restaurant and ordered the biggest lobster in the tank.
As for exactly which promotion he was working with at the time, other than brief WCW stints in 1993 and 1998, the British Bulldog spent the entire ‘90s decade with the WWE.
19. Follow Your Hart
I almost didn’t include this photo of The (new) Hart Foundation, with members Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, Brian Pillman, and The British Bulldog. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that it initially looked more like a promotional photo than a candid snapshot. I mean, they’re all posing and mugging for the camera, trying to look tough. However, none of the guys are really in costume (other than the matching t-shirts), and one is even wearing a fanny pack. Not that wearing a fanny pack was uncommon in those days (especially for wrestlers, who rarely wore pants with pockets), but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d do while trying to be a badass. Then again, what the hell do I know about that?
19 Results May Vary
The best part of this photo is how odd the assortment of wrestlers is. In front, you’ve got Jim “Hacksaw” Duggan, trying to look tough in his crisp, long-sleeve polo while brandishing a two-by-four. Immediately flanking him are Slick and Virgil, for reasons unknown. (Then again, we’re surprised to see Virgil anywhere other than alone at an autograph signing.) And it only gets weirder from there, as lurking in the background are two Bone Street Krew alumni, The Godfather and The Undertaker.
At first, it seems like this is some sort of publicity photo, but that thought is fleeting, because the scene is all over the place. Some are in costume, some are casual. Some are smiling, some are serious. And why the hell would they want these five to pose together for anything? In the end, we’re lost...and laughing.
18 Head Over Heels
Heels are supposed to be strong and scary, and even with some of the outlandish characters that existed in the ‘90s, this was still often true. Even if you didn’t actually fear any of the wrestlers, you still knew who the bad guys were. That’s why a candid photo of so many heels in one place is so amusing and awesome - especially since they’re mean-mugging in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. In fact, most of the guys are actually smiling.
How many times have you even seen Bam Bam Bigelow’s teeth in a photo? (The ones he hasn’t managed to lose, at least.) Owen Hart, IRS (Mike Rotunda), Yokozuna, and even Crush (Brian Adams) are also flashing their pearly whites in this goofy, backstage shot.
17 Style and Flair
I admitted this in another photo-based article and I’ll do it again here: I’m terrible at guessing the age of small children. Which is really unfortunate, because I have three little nieces all around the same age. Charlotte (a.k.a. Ashley Elizabeth Fliehr) was in this photo taken with her dad, Ric Flair. (Or, at least, I think they’re around the same age...like I said, I’m a bad estimator.) Likely taken in the very early ‘90s, this photo is great because it shows Ric still in the prime of his career, prior to passing the torch to his daughter (as well as two sons), who would later debut in the WWE on July 13, 2015, and had an incredible run recently as the RAW Women's Champion. Who ever thought Ric would one day be accompanying Charlotte at ringside?
16 You’ve Gotta Want It!
In retrospect, if you had to sum up wrestling in the ‘90s with three people, it’s hard to get much better than Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, and Bret Hart. Initially, I was unsure of the exact timing of the photo, but since Hart is wearing his black jacket with the big ol’ shoulder tassels, it had to at least be in the late ‘80s, but clearly sometime prior to Hogan’s WWE departure in 1993. Then I realized that the Hulkster was wearing an ICOPRO shirt, meaning this clearly took place in the early ‘90s. Remember the ICOPRO supplement and its commercials? If you don’t, “You’ve gotta want it!” was the catchphrase, and it was pushed extensively by McMahon and his men around this time. Unfortunately for Vince, no one wanted it.
15 R-Truth and Tupac
Before he became a pro wrestler, Ron Killings (a.k.a. R-Truth) was just a kid who dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue a career in music. However, he also sold weed for extra money, which landed him a 13-month prison sentence. Even after his release, Killings still tried to make it work as a musician, but ended up getting recruited by Jackie Crockett of the National Wrestling Alliance and made his in-ring debut in 1997, later joining the WWE in 1999.
This is a great snap of R-Truth in his aspiring musician days, pictured next to arguably the biggest rapper of the ‘90s, Tupac Shakur. It’s safe to say this was taken in that decade, as Shakur didn’t really get his break until the early ‘90s, and was tragically gunned down on September 3, 1996 at the age of only 25.
14 Nitro & Raw Cross Paths
In the mid and late ’90s, there were no bigger wrestling shows than WCW’s Monday Nitro and WWE’s Monday Night Raw. The two promotions battled week after week in the ratings (often referred to as the “Monday Night War”), and sometimes wrestlers controversially switched between one company and the other. However, this doesn’t mean the wrestlers themselves weren’t friendly with each other. In fact, many were friends and former colleagues. This photo, taken sometime in the ‘90s, captures a day when Nitro and Raw both happened to be in the same city on the same night - and it shows some of top talent at the time. Among others, the photo features guys like Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Big Show, Steve Austin, and the British Bulldog.
13 Back of the Bus!
It’s always great to see a candid shot featuring some of wrestling’s greatest legends hanging out together, and this one has quite the line-up. Clockwise from the top, you’ve got The Undertaker, Steve Austin, Phineas Godwinn, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman, Paul Bearer, Gerald Brisco, Triple H, Henry Godwinn, and Kevin Nash. That’s a whole lot of talent. And, as usual, Paul Bearer looks to be having the most fun out of anyone. As for the backstory, the photo was apparently snapped during a WWE overseas trip to Germany in the mid ’90s, toward the beginning, on a night that was especially crucial in building a bond between the wrestlers. And in case you were wondering who took this now-famous photo, it was none other than George “The Animal” Steele.
12 The Motliest of Crews
In the ‘90s, if you were walking down the street and happened upon a crew that consisted of people such as Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, Tatanka, Doink the Clown, Lex Luger, Mabel (a.k.a. Viscera), and Alundra Blayze, it would be a good reason to run the other way… Possibly in the direction of the nearest police station. These were some bad dudes - exactly the type of crowd one shouldn’t be associating with. Which is why it’s a hilarious bit of nostalgia to see this group goofing around with each other, laughing and smiling for the camera. This is exactly why candid photos from this era are so awesome. It reminds you that they’re not bad people, they just (occasionally) play them on TV.
11 A Snapshot of the ‘90s
During the ‘90s, our kayfabe-filled world told us that wrestlers were constantly at odds with each other both in the ring and backstage. Some had committed horrendous offenses against others, and it was shocking that they even managed to save their anger and aggression for when the cameras were rolling. Thankfully, we didn’t see potentially Earth-shattering photos like this at the time, which depicts a large section of the roster posing happily together.
Oh my, how easy it was to forget that these guys all ride around in the same buses and planes and stay in the same hotels (sometimes even the same rooms). To name just a few, it’s easy to spot guys like Hulk Hogan, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Owen Hart, Bam Bam Bigelow, Jimmy Hart, Yokozuna, and Mr. Fuji among the madness.
10 Out on the Town
I’m no historian, but I reckon the numbers in the bottom right-hand corner of another photo taken the same night indicates that it was taken on July 20, 1994. (Although, to be honest, I saw it listed somewhere as 1993 - so who knows? Plus, it was sometimes tricky to set the dates on those old cameras.) Either year would make sense, as all of the dudes pictured - among them The Undertaker, Paul Bearer, Sean Waltman, Bret & Owen Hart and Tatanka (with Julie Hart in there too, for good measure) - were with the WWE at this time. It was prior to Tatanka and Waltman’s departures from the promotion in 1996, and also prior to Hart’s exit after the famous Montreal Screwjob incident in late 1997.
9 Way Too Much Fun
It’s a good thing WWE was entering the Attitude Era when this photo was taken, as Vince McMahon probably wouldn’t have been too pleased to see his wrestlers posing at a bar with a bunch of booze and a topless girl if they were in the sterilized, censored PG-era. He probably wasn’t too fond of this snapshot regardless, but what do you expect from a quartet consisting of Viscera, Rikishi, The Godfather, and Ron Simmons? (Although Simmons is totally missing out on the action taking place behind him.)
These guys actually have - or had - personalities that matched those of their characters. Even though someone in this scene clearly lost their shirt, thankfully (for everyone’s sake), Rikishi managed to keep his pants on. It's probably the least surprising to see The Godfather in a setting like this.
8 A Perfectly Boss Photo
Some of the best candid wrestling photos are the ones featuring faces and heels (or other foes) getting along with each other. Or, better yet, when they’re goofing off together. Take this photo for example. At the time, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was the reigning WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion (if you couldn’t tell by the hardware around his waist), which means this was taken in 1990 or 1991. In fact, based on the antlers and red nose sported by Big Boss Man, it may have took place around the holidays of 1990.
Either way, the two-man combo is hilarious, as Perfect and Boss Man feuded right around this time, including for the aforementioned Intercontinental title at WrestleMania VII. In fact, the belt pictured was probably the same one used by Andre the Giant to hit Hennig in the head during that match.
7 Lil’ Lesnar
It’s hard to imagine Brock Lesnar as anything other than a superhuman wrestler and MMA heavyweight, but there was, in fact, a time when Brock was a little more....little. “He hadn’t grown into everything yet. When he was in seventh grade, he wrestled at 98 pounds,” said John Schiley, Lesnar’s former high school wrestling coach, in an interview with USA Today. “Then he hit a growth spurt and started to fill out.” Since Brock is young but likely north of 100 pounds in this photo, we’ll estimate it was taken around 1991, when he was 14 years old.
Although it isn’t really a photo taken of a wrestler who was with the WWE in the ‘90s (Lesnar didn’t sign until 2000), it’s still technically a candid photo of a WWE wrestler from the ‘90s - so it totally counts.
6 Stone Cold Stares
Stone Cold Steve Austin capped his wrestling career at 14 years, but in the time between his debut in 1989 and his retirement in 2003, he amassed 19 championships and was a six-time WWE Champion, two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, and a four-time WWF Tag Team Champion - making him the fifth Triple Crown Champion in WWE history at the time. CM Punk, on the other hand, amassed 15 years before calling it quits in favor of MMA fighting, along the way becoming the fastest to ever earn the WWE Triple Crown.
Despite their careers briefly overlapping, neither were active in the same promotion at the same time, but the two did cross paths early on, as evidenced in this photo showing a young Punk at a meet-and-greet with Austin sometime in the late ‘90s. So many questions for CM here. Why so serious? Why the hair? What’s with your eye? We’ll never know.
5 Santa Meng
As we’ve documented numerous times in the past (including an entire article recently written by yours truly), Meng is likely the baddest dude to ever step foot into a wrestling ring. Regardless of the outcomes of his matches, every wrestler was very much aware that Tonga Fifita could absolutely destroy them in a real fight and made efforts to avoid this unfortunate event at all costs. Which is why it’s so entertaining to see Kevin Nash happily sitting atop the big guy’s lap like it’s a visit with Santa Claus. (He was probably asking for a World Heavyweight Championship belt, right?)
Considering the fact that both wrestlers were members of the WCW in the late ‘90s while in between WWE stints, this photo was likely taken during that time frame.
4 Recording Artists
This photo absolutely screams of the mid 90s and particularly, the New Generation Era of the WWE. Here, you have the five major names in the company of that time period, with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Razor Ramon and Diesel all in one shot. Judging from the microphone hanging over them, you have to assume they are in a recording studio. It could have been for one of the WWE's music albums they released back in the 90s (Full Metal) or perhaps their voices were used for promotional work.
Here you have five guys, from three separate backstage groups, all hanging out cordially and working together. There's HBK, Nash and Hall from The Kliq, Undertaker and Bearer from The Bone Street Krew and Bret Hart, from the Hart family.
Either way, when looking at this photo, it doesn't get any more "90s WWE" than this.
2 Killing Time
Does that casket look familiar? It should, as soon after this photo was taken it would be used in the famous segment of Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlor in which The Ultimate Warrior was locked inside it by Bearer and The Undertaker, and had to be frantically “rescued” and “revived” by a host of WWE personnel. Many of you probably remember watching this back in 1991 at a young age, and, like most of us, probably had the bejeezus scared out of you during the notoriously frightening incident.
Now, 25 years later, seeing Vince McMahon casually reclining in the casket is like having the curtain suddenly pulled back in Oz to reveal a big farce - except in this case it’s a lot funnier and infinitely more awesome.
1 Who’s Got Next?
Ah, it doesn’t get much more ‘90s than this: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mick “Mankind” Foley chilling backstage and playing Nintendo 64. The photo was actually printed in the December 1999 issue of Incite Magazine, but hey, that still qualifies for the decade. Despite the two being technically off the clock at the time, The Rock is clearly still in character, as he’s rocking his sunglasses and signature cocky attitude. Still, the duo aren’t breaking any kayfabe here, as their characters were friendly at the time and had teamed to form The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection in an attempt to take down WWF Tag Team Champions The Undertaker and Big Show. As for the game they’re playing on N64? Why it’s WrestleMania 2000, of course.