[Feature] The Bright Side of…the WWF in 1995
Mention 1995 to any long-time wrestling fan and the conversation will most likely go to how bad the World Wrestling Federation (WWE now, in case you’re insanely ignorant) was at that point in time. And make no mistake, with appallingly horrid main events and some of the worst characters in wrestling history, it was definitely not a banner year. But no matter how terrible a product gets, how wretched and nearly unwatchable it can be, there are still good moments to be found. So instead of whining about how bad 1995-era WWF was, I want to go the complete opposite: I want to highlight some of the good things that went on during that time. This is the Bright Side of the WWF in 1995, in no particular order.
Horowitz Wins! Horowitz Wins!
I have already written about this in great length on a different site, so let’s just quickly summarize the main points: Barry Horowitz was perhaps the best known of the WWF’s stable of “jobbers” at that period of time; for years, his job was simply to lose and make his opponents look good while doing so. But in 1995, possibly out of desperation on the part of the WWF booking staff, Horowitz’s fortunes would change: on an edition of the WWF show Action Zone, Horowitz shockingly defeated newcomer Skip (Chris Candido) and etched the first win his WWF career. He went crazy, the crowd went crazy, and Jim Ross made the famous call “HOROWITZ WINS! HOROWITZ WINS!” to the crowd at home. From there Horowitz got a couple of more wins, including another over Skip at Summerslam 1995 and finally broke free of the “jobber” stigma…for a couple of months. Soon enough Horowitz was saddled with a really insulting gimmick (nerdy Jew) and although he would still get wins here and there, he quickly moved back down the ladder and lost more and more.
But despite the way it ended, I can’t help but think this is one of the brightest moments of 1995-era WWF. Barry Horowitz, journeyman wrestler, a guy no one took seriously, finally got to have some measure of success in a field he was given a negative label in. Even as I kid I recognized what had happened: it was almost like a “thank you” from the WWF to Barry for his years of selfless work. 1995 had some bad moments, sure, but it also had one really feel-good moment sandwiched within as well as a hell of an underdog story.
Ladder Match II (Summerslam 1995)
At Wrestlemania X, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had a legendary Ladder match that many not only have voted as the best match of 1994, but one of the greatest matches of all-time. It was one that many probably thought at the time would never be attempted again by these two men. Well they were wrong because at Summerslam 1995, HBK and Razor decided to one up themselves with what I call “Ladder Match II”. And one up themselves they did; with both men extremely motivated, they stole the entire show (admittedly not hard to do at the time) and in my humble opinion, put on a better contest than the one that everyone continues to gush about to this day. If there is one match you need to watch from the 1995-era WWF, this is the one, hands down. No contest. In fact, I can almost guarantee you you’ll love this one more than the one from Wrestlemania X. Just goes to show that even in an era with wrestling garbage men and Puerto Rican ninjas, two superstars could still rise above the crap and put on a match that could rival anything happening in the entire wrestling landscape at that point in time.
…As an aside HBK’s attire for this match is also my personal favorite of his and when they released their “Bone Crunching Action” line of figures some time later I was elated that the HBK figure was wearing the blue pants with the white boots. Wrestling is about style too, guys!
Davey Boy Smith Turns Heel
Davey Boy Smith was no stranger to WWF fans, having first rose to prominence in the 1980’s alongside Dynamite Kid as The British Bulldogs and later with a brief but successful singles run in the early 90’s. After a brief stopover in WCW, Smith returned to the WWF in 1994 and…went nowhere really, forming a tag team with Lex Luger called The Allied Powers that seemed to exist because the WWF couldn’t think of anything better for them to do.
Smith seemed to be aimlessly shifting around the WWF until August of 1995 when on an episode of Monday Night Raw he turned against then-WWF Champion Diesel (not considered a “bright side” of the era) and joined Camp Cornette with Owen Hart, Yokozuna, and manager Jim Cornette. Smith embraced the turn, cutting his hair, getting more vicious, and more importantly getting more important matches. Right away he was thrust into the World Title picture, first against Diesel and then later against new champ Bret Hart. Smith would go on to have a great 96 and 97 as well, cementing this as the best run of his entire career (yes even better than The British Bulldogs run of the 80’s). Smith finally found his niche as a singles competitor and without his 1995 heel turn and feuds, it wouldn’t have ever happened. He truly became a headliner in 1995.
The Debut of…ssssssssssssss….Goool…dust
Just imagine you’re back in 1995, watching an episode of WWF Superstars when all of a sudden this vignette airs.
How do you react to someone like this? While the WWF had its share of stupid and ridiculous characters, Goldust was certainly not one of them. Something about him was different; he had it. Even though he looked stupid, his character seemed just off enough that it was almost a breath of fresh air during that time. And the WWF knew it had something different with Goldust and booked him accordingly; after making a splash that September, 1996 would be his breakout year, winning the IC Title that January, appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and getting banned (yes that’s a good thing), and being one of the company’s top stars. His androgynous persona and homoerotic mannerisms were unnerving for its time and Goldust became a character that many would point to as the start of The Attitude Era.
All of that began in 1995, with that vignette. So yes Goldust may have had better years, but 1995 was his beginning and the climate in the company allowed him to run with it and truly make something of himself.
These are just four bright spots in 1995-era WWF that I can think of off the top of my head, but I’m sure there were more (Hakushi being a prime example, based on in-ring ability alone). Doesn’t it feel nice to be positive for a change? I think so. And next time on “The Bright Side”, I’ll be tackling an era that makes 1995 WWF look like the days of “The Rock and Wrestling Connection”: World Championship Wrestling…in the year 2000. Join me then, and maybe I can point out to you that just because an era was bad doesn’t mean every part of it was bad.