From 1992 to 1996, this was a whole new era of professional wrestling that tries it’s best to differ away from relying on Hulk Hogan and many of their old stars for the purpose of creating a new image for the company and try to keep up with the times. This was the era of wrestling that started Monday Night Raw and went in a televised ratings competition against WCW Monday Night Nitro. This was also an era where they delivered more pay per views than ever before with the awesome and underrated “In Your House” PPV’s. At first this was going to look like World Wrestling Federation’s path to the right direction, but unfortunately, this short lived era of wrestling has dealt with the worst characters, story lines, and even booking decisions that really damaged the company’s popularity and finance. The audience were not interested in super clean and G-rated materials that almost had the company go out of business. WCW really kicked WWF’s ass by using WWF’s former stars against their own stars, story lines were more tasteful, and the product was more appealing to the wrestling fans. But for some odd reason, I just have a great appreciation for what is known to be the WWF’s worst era. I started to become a wrestling fan in this era with Wrestlemania X being my first ever wrestling viewing, but it’s not just nostalgia that this era has over all the other eras in wrestling. When you focus on the good from this era, this was actually a time where wrestlers delivered a more physical, technical, and high flying style of wrestling as opposed to slow paced wrestling seen in the Golden Era of Wrestling. All of the sudden, the new generation era offered a much more diverse roster instead of a line of wrestlers that were jacked with steroids. We had matches that was all about more than one signature moves, strategies of how to win matches to make the experience varied, and even the spectacle felt down to Earth. I can easily say that this is the most underrated and under appreciated era of wrestling and you should watch some of the best matches that came from this era to realize what wrestling today lost that this era had. With that being said, here are the ten wrestlers that help made this era special to many wrestling fans around the world!
Number 10. – 123 Kid
Starting this list, we finally have our first member of the Kliq. The 123 Kid character was inspirational for the fact that he was an underdog that tries his very best to be good. He was a little guy with big dream and what’s so inspiring is that even though all the odds are against him, he still chases after them. He was the original common man that we know that he can’t win, but we route for him because his heart was in it. He took bumps that made you sympathetic and he captures your emotions by trying to hard. It’s one of the reasons why when he defeated Razor Ramon in an episode of Monday Night Raw, it was a big deal. You feel like you’re like the 123 Kid and whenever he makes success in his career, it makes our day. Not only that, but he has a unique style of martial arts and high-flying moves that shows how much of a talent he really is. He even had great matches against legends like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and so many big stars in the business. Sure, Shawn Waltman had a better wrestling character names with Syxx, X-Pac, and so many more, but I still have a deep soft spot for the Kid.
Number 9. – Macho Man Randy Savage
Macho Man was my number 1 pick for as the best wrestler in the Golden Age and it’s a shame that he didn’t have that many great moments in the New Generation Era, even though he stuck around. One of the biggest mistakes Vince McMahon has ever done has been putting Macho Man in commentary. Admittedly, I love to hear Macho Man’s voice all day, but he was born to perform. However, Macho Man did indeed contributed to the New Generation by putting new talents over like Yokozuna winning the Royal Rumble 1993, Shawn Michaels, Crush, and many more. To show some important to the New Generation era, he was WWF Champion when the era started. Even though we didn’t get much to see him and Miss Elizabeth like we did in the Golden Age, Macho Man Randy Savage was still the same hero that we all know and love. Hell, he even made those famous slimjim commercials that made him an icon in the wrestling world. But for the fact that Vince McMahon put him in commentary (and issues with the Kliq), is one of the big reasons why he never came back to the WWF and made better matches in WCW. But for the fact that Randy actually did help some of the talents to make this era stand out, he deserves to be on the list.
Number 8. – “The British Bulldog”
Davey Boy Smith
Where do I even begin with the late, great Davey Boy Smith? He was built like a freight train and was as strong as an ox. He was EVERYTHING Vince McMahon looks for in a World Champion. He had the look, power, charisma and he was over in a big way. People loved The British Bulldog. Once he branched out of his tag team with the Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith was thrown into the upper mid card almost immediately. He had some great feuds with Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow and most notably Bret Hart and their incredible match in England at Summerslam in 1992, where Bret would drop the Intercontinental Championship to The Bulldog. If you get a chance, you must watch the crowd’s reaction, it was AMAZING. Needless to say, that match was the highlight of The Bulldogs career which is really just sad to say. Even though he never goth a better spot in the wrestling world, he did contribute to the New Generation Era by giving some of the best mid card machos in the mid 90s. If you seen how he wrestled, it made watching all of his matches worth your time. Such a talented, athlete and a guy with a phenomenal physical presence. In the end, his internal demons got the better of him and Davey Boy has since past. However that won’t tarnish his legacy as one of the top WWE SUPERSTARS of the 90′s.
Number 7. – Mr. Perfect
Mr. Perfect was the best intercontinental champion and one of the best technical wrestler the WWF has ever had. Even his name lives up to his reputation even despite the fact that he never won a WWF Championship. Mr. Perfect is the wrestler that introduced technical wrestling to the golden age and that opened door to the New Generation Era with the similar style and attitude. As one of the most famous in ring technicians, everyone loved working with Curt. He could have a great match with anybody. His charisma shined through every time you saw him. Not only that, Mr. Perfect had one of the best personality that suits incredibly well for a heel. He always constantly love to brag about how perfect he is just to anger everyone. Whether that’s true or not (and most likely isn’t), it makes for a good story. What makes it so interesting is trying to picture anyone else as Mr. Perfect. It didn’t matter if it was baseball, basketball or bowling, he was simply the best. Perfect could have been an all-star in any sport, but he came to the WWF to show off his skills. While he had a great run in the AWA, it was Hennig’s cocky Mr. Perfect persona in the WWF that truly made him worthy of the Hall of Fame. It’s almost sad to write about such an amazing man, athlete and competitor who is no longer with us. Especially knowing he deserved to be treated so much better while in the WWE. Mr. Perfect is easily one of the most under appreciated talents in wrestling history. Hopefully by you reading this, you can get a glimpse of just how good he was. One thing’s for sure, the 2007 WWE Hall of Famer will never be forgotten.
Number 6. – The Undertaker
The Undertaker was all spectacle that everyone wanted to see. He was that character that haunted our nightmares, but we couldn’t stop watching because the believability was all in there. However the reason why I can’t put him any higher in the list is because he didn’t have that many good matches in the New Generation Era. But we forgive Undertaker’s slow pace wrestling that didn’t get physical till the Attitude era because his character was so precise and demeaning that we put our fullest attention upon him. What he brought in the wrestling world is the bizarreness and unusual storytelling in his matches. Such as Paul Bearer losing his urn to control the will of the Undertaker, dealing with creeps like Mankind, and even doing untraditional gimmick matches like bury alive matches & casket match. This was the first time ever where a wrestler could ever stay so much into character and made all of use believe that he was from beyond the grave. It scared all of us fans of WWF and little did fans know the terror he would unleash for over two decades. He has a long lasting streak in Wrestlemania and brought satanic references in pro-wrestling, which is all innovative. In his early days, he almost looked as he was impervious to pain. When he was ambushed by Yokozuna and half the roster in Royal Rumble 1994, he was put in a casket, but the whole arena blacked out to show a titan-tron of Taker still in the casket saying that he’ll return and then he popped out of the screen ascending over the crowd was actually the scariest moment in pro-wrestling.
Number 5. – Yokozuna
Yokozuna has got to be that wrestler that’s under everybody’s radar. This is the heel that DESTROYED Hulkamania after Hulk Hogan departed to WCW and reigned as WWF Champion. Whenever somebody defeats Hogan for the WWF Championship, it really means that this guy is a big deal. It was incredibly amazing what the guy could do in the ring early on in his career with his enormous size. The only huge wrestler that can move as much as Yoko can is Bam Bam Bigelow and Big Van Vader, but Yokozuna has more significance than any large man since Andre The Giant. He won the Royal Rumble in 1993, won the WWF Championship twice, main event Wrestlemania twice, and even squashed countless opponents using the best finisher of all time; The Banzai Drop! Yokozuna is an important figure to the New Generation Era where he displayed culture to the main stream wrestling. Even though he was Samoan in real life, Yokozuna embellished the Japanese culture with his manager, Mr. Fuji by showing what Sumo Wrestling training is all about, the behavior a honorable Japanese athlete acts, and even shows a unique style of intensity only seen outside of North America. But what I really admire about Yokozuna is for a guy that large, he has moves like side kicks, running leg drops, belly to belly suplexes, and of course, the feared banzai drop that nobody has ever broke out of it. The fact that he was so massive and could still keep up with Bret and The Undertaker and make the matches interesting proves he was good in the ring. Whenever he collapses from a big move, it really has a huge impact. And unlike any other heels, he didn’t Mr. Fuji interfering in his matches to save the day all the time; Yoko carried all of his matches and he was not a chicken-shit heel that we constantly see in wrestling. He deserved to be the main heel spot for that period of time and one of my favorite times with Yokozuna was when he partnered up with Owen Hart, making it one of the most underrated tag teams of all time. He deserves to be on this list because he was inspirational that not all wrestlers need to be jacked or close to 7’feet tall. Because he showed that even obese wrestlers can even make it to the same spotlight is why he’s this high on the list!
Number 4. – Owen Hart
In my opinion is the most underrated wrestler of all time. Maybe it’s because he was stuck behind his big brother Bret (at least, storyline wise, it was to Owen) or maybe not, but critics often look past Owen when mentioning the major stars of the 90s and right to the older Hart. He was an amazing heel, was involved in some of the greatest matches of the mid-90’s with Bret, HBK and Bulldog, and could cut a great promo to boot. His style in the ring was also detrimental to the evolution of the quality of matches in professional wrestling. His natural sense of humor also took his on screen character to new heights (stealing slammy’s was priceless). Let’s not forget his achievements in the ring; 2 Time Intercontinental Champion, 4 Time Tag Team with Yokozuna (my favorite underrated tag team) and British Bulldog, 1 Time European Champion, King of the Ring Winner, Match of the Year with brother Bret in 1994 in Summerslam 1994 Cage Match, and 2 Time Slammy Award winner. He was also involved in huge storylines with The Hart Foundation and Nation of Domination. He went toe to toe with HBK, Bret Hart, Stone Cold, The Rock and pretty much any other big name in WWF during his time with the company. I honestly cannot recall ever seeing a bad Owen Hart match. He was a high quality wrestler, a high quality worker and an overall great superstar of the 1990’s that got overlooked by far too many critics while he was alive. I miss Owen with a great passion. Seeing him wrestle against Bret in Wrestlemania X was my first wrestling match that I’ve ever seen and it got me emotional to see two brothers fighting each other, while I was watching the whole storyline with my younger brother with me. I always blame Vince’s decision to make it an on and off decision in deciding to put him as Owen or the Blue Blazer. Either way, Vince had the perfect opportunity to make Owen a star, but he had too many bigger fishes in the pond with him. I will alway honor and remember what Owen delivered in the wrestling world and without him, the New Generation Era wouldn’t be a special as it once was.
Number 3. – Shawn Michaels
I’m really conflicted about Shawn Michaels during the New Generation Era. On the one hand, he was the most talented and best in-ring worker of whole company. On the other hand, he was a spoiled brat that gave Kliq a bad name. Back when he took the name Heartbreak Kid and departed his ways with Sensational Sherri, he was one of the coolest bad guys since Razor Ramon. His streetwalker gimmick attracted a lot of female audiences to tune into Monday Night Raw and see him dance and move around. His team up with Kliq member Diesel was some of the best wrestler-body guard partnerships that I’ve ever seen in wrestling. Though I refuse to put Diesel in the list because having him as WWF Champion for an entire year in 1995 was both selfish and stupid, his team up with HBK was highly entertaining. Not only that, but he was an innovator by being the first to win the Royal Rumble more than once, being in the WWF’s first Ladder Match, and so many more! As a fan, I really enjoyed watching Shawn Michaels with my family because he did high flying technical wrestling like nobody else. It’s amazing that he’s able to wrestle this style throughout the rest of his career in the 2000’s which is proof why he’s one of the best of all time. But his personal rivalry with Bret Hart is what I find most uncomfortable. Shawn Michaels was getting really spoiled with demanding a lot of attention, getting all credit, and putting a lot of guys down in the roster. It’s no wonder why Kliq’s backstage politics is infamous among all the wrestlers who suffered during their reign. If you don’t believe me, look at Shawn when he defeated Bret Hart in Wrestlemania 12 and told him to get out of my ring ,or when he faced Vader in Summerslam 1996, he kept shouting him “Move” like an immature man-child. Nevertheless, whenever he’s well behaved during the New Generation era, watching him wrestle is gold. Shawn Michaels just had everything that you can consider talent and it’s the reason why people watches wrestling today! Shawn Michaels just continue to live on the legacy giving us terrific matches many years to come.
Number 2. – Razor Ramon
One of the biggest things that the New Generation Era that wrestling today doesn’t have is great characters. I can’t name a better character in wrestling that had the coolness factor to the max. Razor Ramon’s personality was similar to Scarface and his fake Cuban accent was none other than priceless whenever he spoke on the mic. Even the look of this guy was like an idealized version of a real man come to life. He made being a heel or “The Bad Guy” the coolest position in wrestling and it’s no wonder why he grew so much popularity. It was like Star Wars fans loving to route for the villains because they were so much cooler than our heroes. Throwing tooth picks at his opponents, feel relaxed whenever he speaks, and had a hard-hittle style, that even influenced The Rock to copy his style, shows how significant Razor really is. To me, Razor Ramon is the embodiment of The New Generation era. I still will always remember how mind-blowing his match against Shawn Michaels in Wrestlemania X is still one of my favorite matches of all time. They even had another ladder match together in Summerslam 1995 which was the best match in that horrible year in wrestling. Hell, his rivalry with his Kliq colleagues with Diesel, 123 Kid, and Shawn Michaels was some of the most entertaining things in wrestling! As a kid, I always routed for Razor Ramon to defeat the “Dudes With Attitude” because it was so much fun seeing the way they wrestled and handled the intense rivalry. To even show even more importance to Razor Ramon, he even made wrestling history in the Madison Square Garden Curtan Call Incident when he came in and hugged the Kliq members to establish the backstage faction. Sometimes I really wished that Razor Ramon can continue his journey to winning the WWF Championship instead of making history of the NWO in WCW, but what ever the case, Razor Ramon remains one of the best gimmick of all of wrestling!
“The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be” truly lives up to the name. Bret Hart is the milestone for the new direction for the WWF after the Golden Age has ended. It started when Bret Hart departed his ways with Jim Neidhart from the Hart Foundation and became one of the best solo wrestlers of all time. He began to win the Intercontinental Championship, win the first ever King of the Ring, won the WWF Championship multiple times, and even told the best story lines the WWF has had during this era. Bret Hart style really separated 80’s to the 90’s and he earned that spot to become the face of the company. Bret Hart was a really fantastic storyteller where he showed a lot of emotion whenever he get hurt that caused the entire audience to sympathize with him. It’s wondrous to see that when his character evolves, the company evolves along with him. He told really personal story lines such as Davey Boy Smith’s relationships with his sister, Owen Hart brotherly jealousy, and so many more. Not only that, but Bret Hart’s matches were the best parts of the New Generation Era. I don’t ever recall seeing a bad Bret Hart match from 1993 to 1997, even despite the fact that some of the story lines he’s been involved in were badly written. Heck one of the reasons why there was an attitude era to begin with was because of his involvement with Stone Cold Steve Austin knocking him out cold. Part of his in-ring storytelling being so good is that Bret has the best versatility of this era. Bar none while I think Bret’s best years were occurring when the WWF was not at its very best commercial success-wise. Bret was a competitor that made the WWF a watchable program even in the WWF’s dark ages where you had garbagemen, plumbers and hog farmers as the staples of the Federation. Bret Hart while in today’s WWE gets a lot of praise for his contributions it wasn’t until 2010 when he’s truly been given the acclaim he’s deserved. To me Bret Hart made every match just look like an all out actual fight, no matter who he was wrestling be it Yokozuna, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, Diesel, Shawn Michaels or Razor Ramon, Hart had a flare to show just how his style was a breath of fresh air after Hulk Hogan left the WWF and the title scene needed new faces. Bret brought the title scene back to something it had not seen since Bob Backlund’s days as the champion. People who might knock The Hitman’s lack of personality I implore to just watch his body language in the ring and the way he would perform his move set that are always different in everyone of his matches. Everything Bret did had a reason and a method and the way he’d react to a loss in the ring just spoke better than any words he could ever say. That combined with the fact that he wrestled three different matches at King Of The Ring with three very different opponents and they all ended in their own unique way. This led to him winning the tournament and in my mind this legitimized him just as much as his World Title win over Ric Flair if not more so to be honest. WrestleMania X was another showcasing of Bret’s resourcefulness in the story lines, he goes from losing one match to Owen (and showing the best reaction I’ve ever seen a wrestler display after a loss) and afterwards in the same evening avenging his loss from the year before by beating Yokozuna in a rematch to win back the strap. His subsequent World Title feud with Owen in a cage match was a great showing too and I remember those days just like they were yesterday. For this alone I don’t think there’s anyone better at working within different dynamics than Bret Hart, yes I do indeed hold in high regard individuals like Shawn Michaels and all the other from the New Generation Era, but when it comes to this category I don’t think anyone touches Bret Hart. I can only wonder what things would have been like had he stayed with the WWF further into the Attitude Era instead of leaving during its transition point. Bret Hart has always been my biggest hero and there hasn’t been another individual that did more for me as a wrestling fan than Bret Hart!
Now you know who are the best wrestlers of the New Generation Era, be sure to check out the Top 10 Matches of the New Generation Era!!