The Attitude Era is often looked back upon as one of the most creative and explosive time periods in WWE history. On the backs of such bombastic superstars as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and countless others, throughout the late 1990s World Wrestling Entertainment was deeply entrenched within mainstream popular culture. Monday Night Raw was a program devised around being the most cutting edge wrestling on television, and the company that produces the show has done everything they can to keep that reputation alive both in the ring and on the screen. Although Raw technically debuted in the New Generation era, even that time period was meant to represent an ever changing and evolving landscape, so there was plenty of innovating and exciting wrestling for WWE to cash-in on and take to global heights.
Of course, not everything that happened in the 1990s was somehow legendary by default. Indeed, there were plenty of WWE moments in both the New Generation and Attitude Era that already feel outrageously dated not two decades removed from when they first aired. WWE has always had a sustained interest in celebrity guests and mainstream relevance, and while sometimes these desires collude to create historic moments that last the test of time, others make it very clear when the segment was created. Certain guest stars were there exclusively for the money, and some gimmicks only worked for a few months (if that) before feeling old and out of place, and typically these wrestlers get forgotten by history. Our job is digging them up, so keep reading to learn about 15 WWE moments during the 1990s that feel extremely dated today.
15. Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament
For anyone who doesn’t live off of weird childhood toy based nostalgia, Karate Fighters were not actual competitive gladiators, but instead they were a cheap knock off of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. Every WWE produced event needs to be sponsored by one product or another, and many of them are flash in the pan cash-ins like this, but we can’t blame them. That’s pretty much just how the entertainment and television businesses work. The problem with Karate Fighters sponsoring Survivor Series isn’t that they were a lame toy that only worked for a specific audience during a short period of time. The problem is that in an attempt at vertical integration, WWE held a Karate Fighters tournament between its superstars. Again, they didn’t fight karate-based matches, they played with the toys.
The tournament lasted several months in late 1996, and every major name in the company was dragged down by way of playing with these silly toys. The final was supposed to see Sable face Sid, but Sid was the World Champion at the time, and people were starting to realize it was a pretty dumb idea overall, so the company removed Sid from the tournament. Jerry Lawler took his place, and the resulting segment was an embarrassment to everyone involved. Amazingly, they ran the tournament again the next year, and that time Sunny defeated the reigning King.
14. The Ugandan Savage Kamala
Kamala is a legendary wrestler known for his wild and controversial gimmick as an African savage. It wasn’t that controversial at the time, as people were less politically sensitive, especially when it came to their professional wrestling. In hindsight, it was obviously racist from the beginning, as Kamala was in fact a former juvenile criminal from Mississippi prior to becoming a wrestler. Painting his face in tribal patterns and wearing a giant ring through his nose, Kamala represented a problematic and derivative picture of African society to say the least. When he appeared in the early ’80s in Southern independent promotions, he easily blended it with the outrageous and controversy-bait gimmicks those areas are known for. Even in the 1980s WWE when he feuded with Andre the Giant and Jake Roberts, it wasn’t too out of place for the era.
Kamala left WWE in 1987, and made his return to feud The Undertaker in 1992. Kamala was now managed by Harvey Wippleman, and as racist and questionable as his gimmick was before, five years of political correctness started permeating into the wrestling world, and it felt even worse in the more evolved ’90s. Kamala turned face, and the vignettes focused around Reverend Slick attempted to “humanize” and “civilize” Kamala equally reeked of negative racial undertones.
13. The Patriot Loves America, Little Else
Del Wilkes is most famous to wrestling fans as The Patriot, a Captain America type who is always fighting for the forces of good and the love of his country. Although his character is pretty one-note, it made sense at first for him to enter WWE in 1997 to feud with the pro-Canada, anti-American Hart Foundation. Patriot wasn’t bad in the ring, either, and he had previously earned tag team championship success in both WCW and AWA, so he wasn’t exactly unknown to fans, either. The problem was Patriot’s mask, which although adorned in the red, white, and blue that he proudly represented, was anachronistic and got in the way of his frankly quite tepid promos.
The idea of a masked wrestler representing the ideals their ring gear implies worked for decades in Mexico, and Lucha Underground is actually doing a lot today to bring back the general ethos. Not that The Patriot would survive there, either, as his general character was too hokey, and his patriotism didn’t seem to have any particular basis in the first place. In retrospect, Patriot feels dated and strange for an entirely different reason—he had the same theme music that would later get used by Kurt Angle.
12. Cartoon Monster King Kong Bundy
King Kong Bundy could be considered a WWE legend, in that he wrestled in the main event of the second ever WrestleMania. Bundy was also an important figure in World Class Championship Wrestling before he debuted with WWE in the mid 1980s. He feuded with WWE Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, working WrestleMania 2 with the former and headlining “The Colossal Jostle” at Madison Square Garden against the latter. Bundy was a gigantic presence and solid on the microphone, and fit in well with the territorial days of monsters dominating the ’80s, but when he returned to WWE in 1994 he quickly found out he no longer fit in.
Bundy re-debuted amidst very goofy vignettes that saw him climbing skyscrapers and stomping buildings, then appeared on television as a member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. DiBiase’s team was kind of considered a joke, and although they did their best to position Bundy as a huge addition to the fold, all he actually accomplished was solidifying the second-rate nature of the group. WWE attempted to push Bundy as a serious threat to win the 1995 Royal Rumble, but he lasted only a few minutes before getting eliminated. He lost to The Undertaker at WrestleMania XI and was rarely seen from again.
11. John Wayne Bobbitt Bonds With Val Venis
Val Venis would be a controversial gimmick in any era, as the idea of an adult film star who steals every woman he meets isn’t exactly the key to family-friendly entertainment. There’s no denying it could titillate certain audiences, though, and the Attitude Era was exactly the wrestling audience that would want to see that sort of thing. As a result, Venis was far more popular than his gimmick would have lead anyone to suspect, but there were some huge missteps along the way. At the time, the faults in the career trajectory seemed like poor character development, but looking back at them and thinking about what they were trying to do, it seems more like a bad, dated idea in general.
John Bobbitt became famous for the worst reason imaginable in 1993, when his wife Lorena cut off his penis while he was sleeping in a fit of jealous rage. Val Venis nearly suffered a similar incident in 1998, when Mr. Yamaguchi-san attempted to do the same thing to him as revenge for Venis sleeping with Yamaguchi’s wife. Venis survived the attack, but later met with Bobbitt for a special interview on Monday Night Raw. The initial parts of the angle were stupid, but by the time Bobbitt was actually involved it starts to feel extremely of its time, and moments like this are all but impossible to explain to new fans.
10. Sawyer Brown Wastes Pay-Per-View Time
When Jeff Jarrett made his debut in WWE, it was under the questionable guise of a man who wanted to become a successful country music star, and therefore became a wrestler first. Fans had trouble seeing the connection, but Vince McMahon must have loved the idea, because he pushed Jarrett to the WWE Intercontinental title in no time. Jarrett held the belt for some time, and lost it in a classic match against Shawn Michaels at the second In Your House. Jarrett wrestled a few more matches for WWE after that, but before long he made his way to WCW in 1996. Jarrett returned to WWE in late 1997, and for over a year he floundered in the mid-card with increasingly confusing gimmicks that almost uniformly felt out of their time.
Jarrett was stuck with the revived NWA for a short while (more on that later), and then reprised his role as a wannabe-country music singer. Only a few short years after he initially used the gimmick, the wrestling world and WWE had changed so drastically that Jarrett’s country music ambitions seemed even sillier than before. This didn’t stop him from singing “Some Girls Do” with Sawyer Brown at Unforgiven 1998, a band and hit song nobody remembers today in the first place.
9. Billionaire Ted, The Huckster and The Nacho Man
The war between WWE and WCW was the most important thing going for the wrestling world during the 1990s. Both companies produced countless hours of television, and within that television is both fantastic and mindless content, but the point is people were watching it and talking about it more than ever before. WCW capitalized on the fact the real world drama was the most important part of the fake show by creating the new World order, and voicing their frustrations and potshots towards their enemy through their unique and groundbreaking creation. WWE went a much pettier route, as the McMahons sometimes are wont to do, and created Billionaire Ted, The Huckster, and The Nacho Man.
Billionaire Ted and company were on-the-nose parodies of Ted Turner, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage, the owner of WCW and two of the biggest WWE names to jump ship. Their segments were pre-taped low-rent comedy that seemed only to calm Vince McMahon’s ego in relation to the fact some of his former friends were teaming up with a new financier to kick his ass for a few years. The skits didn’t go anywhere, and the fact Ted Turner doesn’t have anything to do with wrestling anymore puts a button on just how petty the vignettes were in the first place.
8. The Headbangers Have Limited Interests
Mosh and Thrasher, the Headbangers, exist in a curious place within WWE history. Fans of their brief heyday during the Attitude Era know that the two metal heads were unquestionably popular with fans, if for no other reason than they had a unique look and seemed energetic about the crowd in an unpredictable era when wrestlers not giving a damn about the crowd made them more popular than ever. Still, dancing with the crowd always works to get a mid-card act over, so the Headbangers were able to rise up and become popular enough to win the WWE Tag Team titles at Badd Blood 1997 with the help of Stone Cold Steve Austin, no less. The Headbangers lost the belts to The Godwinns, more on them later, in less than a month.
Since the loss and exit from WWE, The Headbangers have received a pretty bad rap from the company. WWE.com once referred to the team as one of the worst duos ever to win the WWE Tag Team titles, and Mosh has been vocal about his problems with Vince McMahon, all but guaranteeing he wouldn’t ever wind up back in the company’s good graces. The thing about the Headbangers that lands them on this list, however, is the simplicity of their gimmick in general. We knew they were into metal because Jerry Lawler kept telling us they liked Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, but that was about it. Since neither of those bands are exactly topping the charts these days, the gimmick has no legs, and fans must be confused watching their matches on the WWE Network.
7. “Beaver Cleavage” Was Always Dated
The Headbangers were very of their time, but at least they were able to get over and earn Chaz Warrington some gold in WWE. Warrington is the wrestler who portrayed Mosh, but he’s better known by fans of the Wrestlecrap variety for a much more humiliating, confusing, and outrageously dated gimmick, which would have bombed in almost any era it could have appeared. When Thrasher was injured in 1999, Mosh morphed into the character of Beaver Cleavage, alongside his girlfriend/mother Marianna. The term “girlfriend/mother” really should say it all, but it gets even worse: Cleavage was a parody of Leave it to Beaver, a show that aired from 1957 to 1963. Again, this gimmick debuted in 1999.
Beaver Cleavage was so poorly received it ended in a manner of weeks, with Mosh offering worked shoot thoughts and walking out on one of the segments, calling it stupid and saying he was finished with it. There’s no telling what was going through the mind of Vince McMahon or whatever writer came up with this horrible idea, but the fact remains it never would have worked in any era they tried. Perhaps the ’90s was the only time they even would have had the chance.
6. The Godwinns And Their Merry Band of Hillbillies
Vince McMahon has invented more tropes within professional wrestling than possibly any other human being, with WWE acting as the standard bearer in wrestling for so long that at this point, the biggest influence to new WWE superstars is probably old WWE superstars, and its been that way for decades. Few people have caught on to one of Vince’s favorite repeat gimmicks, however, that being the idea of the wrestling hillbilly. Vince has always had a low-boiling contempt for his audience, which he views as low-class and uneducated, and he pokes fun at them with characters like Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke. The 1990s version of this cliché was Henry and Phineas, the Godwinns.
Henry O. Godwinn debuted first as a hog farmer, and had a retroactively notable feud against Connecticut blueblood Triple H before introducing his brother/cousin (they couldn’t decide), Phineas I. HOG and PIG somehow became a decently successful tag team, twice winning the WWE Tag Team titles. Cumulatively, their two title reigns lasted less than 10 days, so it wasn’t like they exactly changed the face of the business when they won the belts, but the success meant they were on television fairly often. This, in turn, means that fans looking back on the era need to scratch their heads a lot, and wonder how these two fit in.
5. Papa Shango, Voodoo Master
Charles Wright recently became one of the more controversial WWE Hall of Fame inductees, but fans wouldn’t recognize him by his real name. They may not recognize him by the Papa Shango moniker, either, because when WWE decided to give him the ultimate honor, he was only referred to by his most popular name, The Godfather. Wright actually went through several gimmicks in WWE as Papa Shango, The Godfather, The Goodfather, the Supreme Fighting Machine, and Kama Mustafa, and the true testament to his Hall of Fame career is that while these gimmicks varied in their success, Wright was committed to every role.
Although Wright was completely committed to performing the gimmick, the Papa Shango character had a few flaws that even a talented wrestler like him couldn’t easily overcome. Shango was a voodoo magician, who manipulated spirits or powers or forces or whatever exactly it is that can somehow cause The Ultimate Warrior to throw up by screaming at him. The feud with Warrior ended as quickly as it began and without explanation, but perhaps Shango’s ghostly disappearance was actually pretty fitting to his character. Unfortunately, that character couldn’t survive in the 1990s, and it’s hard to imagine when exactly a voodoo master could have been a popular wrestling character.
4. Rock And Roll Never Dies…Or Does It?
The Rock and Roll Express were quite possibly the most popular tag team of the 1980s, at least within the National Wrestling Alliance. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson made teenage girls scream louder than Matt and Jeff Hardy could ever imagine, and in certain parts of the country, men were more jealous of Ricky’s retroactively stupid mullet than Rick Rude’s physique. This status was able to survive in some of the areas they were at their most popular for years beyond their looks or abilities within the ring would have implied, but despite a great match at the 1993 Survivor Series, they were never able to become popular in WWE.
Since they were never popular in WWE in the first place, by the time their abilities were fading and they were brought back into the company in 1998, they felt more out of place an anachronistic than ever before. Ricky and Robert became a major focus of the much-maligned Jim Cornette NWA invasion storyline that lasted only a few months, and saw the most popular team in NWA history lose their company’s tag team titles to the Headbangers (who we already covered). They also continued their once legendary feud against The Midnight Express, now represented by “Bodacious” Bart Gunn and “Bombastic” Bob Holly, which could earn its own spot on this list if we weren’t afraid of being repetitive.
3. Abe “Knuckleball” Schwarz Goes On Strike
Steve Lombardi was never exactly a “winner” in WWE, but he wrestled for the promotion for over 30 years, making him one of the longest tenured employees in company history. Lombardi is best known for portraying The Brooklyn Brawler, a tough and obnoxious New Yorker who once was a client of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan only took on The Brawler as a client to prove he could make anyone into a star, but apparently the strategy worked, as Brawler lasted from his debut in the early 80s to earlier this year in 2016, even earning a fluke victory over Triple H while he was WWE World Champion along the way.
While The Brooklyn Brawler is a lovable in-joke within the wrestling community, some of the other characters played by Lombardi are less positive to reminisce about. Lombardi portrayed Doink The Clown after Matt Borne was fired for repeated drug offenses, and his version of the character is what turned a once great idea into an unexpectedly terrible punch line. Lombardi also portrayed a character known both as MVP and Abe “Knuckleball” Schwarz, a baseball fanatic who furiously turned to wrestling in lieu of the 1994-95 MLB strike. Sports historians will remember that during this year, MLB players refused to play and canceled nearly an entire season’s worth of baseball, but since nothing like that has happened since, it’s almost impossible to relate to today.
2. Tiny Tim Sings To Jerry Lawler
Host segments are the bread and butter of episodic wrestling television, as using a performer as both an interviewer and a regular wrestler is a sure-fire way to get at least two people over at the price of one with every segment the host conducts. One of the longest lasting host segments in WWE, and the segment that defined Monday Night Raw during the early 1990s, was The King’s Court, as hosted by Jerry Lawler. Before Lawler was the color commentator on Raw, he was still a conniving, sneaky, and manipulative wrestler, who couldn’t resist but poke fun at the expense of every person who crossed his path. If this was a wrestler or at least wrestling personality, great. At least twice, it wasn’t, and those two times are not coincidentally the top two moments on our list.
The first horrible episode of The King’s Court came within the very first year of Raw, on July 19, 1993. Tiny Tim was a popular novelty musician in the late 1960s for his cute renditions of classic songs like “Tiptoe Thru the Tulips” and “Earth Angel.” Tim was also a consummate musician who continued releasing albums for years, but he fell out of the public eye shortly after his first album was a minor hit in 1968. 25 full years later, Jerry Lawler interviewed him about nothing in particular. Tim even released a crazy album that year called Rock, but the focus of the interview was, as always, Tim’s weird appearance, and Lawler deciding to break Tim’s ukulele. While this is no doubt classic heel fare, even at the time most of the audience had no idea who Tiny Tim was, making this one of those moments that felt dated in any era.
1. William Shatner Talks TekWars
As we just mentioned, The King’s Court was the preeminent wrestling talk show of the 1990s. No doubt there are people who preferred The Heartbreak Hotel or The Barber Shop, but it was Jerry Lawler’s talk show that boasted the biggest guest each and every week on Monday Night Raw. And in celebration of Monday Night Raw’s 2-year anniversary on January 9, 1995, Lawler brought in the big guns to be his most famous guest yet.
William Shatner is an actor who needs no introduction to any part of popular culture, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll define him as the creator, co-writer, producer, and occasional director of the TV series TekWar, based on his novels of the same name. Of course, anybody with the slightest familiarity with Shatner knows this is an utterly bizarre way to introduce him, as TekWar didn’t last very long, and The Shat is known for dozens of other astronomically more successful affairs. However, TekWar aired on the USA Network immediately after Raw during its brief run, so it was all Lawler and Shatner had to discuss.
Fans of Captain Kirk still had found some fun to be had when he beat up Lawler with a hip toss and managed Bret Hart against Jeff Jarrett the next week, but the initial interview was something that could only happen in January of 1995. It seems out of place even on the WWE Network, where nostalgia awaits every wrestling fans at the click of their fingertips.