The New Generation is not the ugly step-sibling of WWE’s modern historical Eras, but rather a black sheep that deserves better.
Alongside our good friend ‘The Doc’ Chad Matthews, my crusade to quash preconceptions about the New Generation Era began with our ongoing series ‘The WWF New Generation’s Top 50 Matches.’ It continues here, with the second of my Honourable Mention companion pieces.
Compromises were made in the construction of mine and Doc’s list, such is the nature of a collaborative project. There were matches, however, excluded from the finalised 50 that I still feel are worthy of your attention, of historical reconsideration or, in some cases, of just being discovered by a wider audience.
With that in mind, here are my personal five Honourable Mentions of 1994.
Read the ‘92/’93 Honourable Mentions here, the full New Gen series introduction and #46 – #50 here, read #41 – #45 here, read #36 – #40 here, read #31 – #35 here, read #26 – #30 here and read #25 – #21 here.
The Quebecers vs. 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty for the Tag Team Championships, Monday Night Raw, 10th January 1994
In the dying days of 1993 and earliest months of 1994, The Quebecers, with Johnny Polo in their corner, led something of a tag team revival all their own, over two decades before Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson would carve their infamy out of insanely consistent over-achieving match quality. While the end results weren’t quite so accomplished, they deserve historical recognition – it is the lack of which that has reinforced my opinion that the Quebecers are possibly one of the greatest tag teams forgotten to time.
While the same can’t quite be said of the somewhat utilitarian partnership of perennial babyface underdogs Marty Jannetty and the 1-2-3 Kid, what can be said is that their fleeting partnership had all the makings of a longer-term success had the company opted to keep the two men paired together. Instead, their partnership ended almost in line with their exceedingly brief Tag Team Championship reign – a reign that kicked off with this very simple but extremely effective title bout from the one year anniversary of the flagship brand.
It is mastery of basics that pays off dividends in this surprisingly excellent tag team affair. The moral alignment of heroes and villains is as pure as you could hope for. The crowd is deeply partisan towards the underdogs, shunning the Quebecers vociferously and with gleeful zeal. The two teams play up to those roles beautifully too. The agility and Rocker-style tactics of Jannetty and Kid frame them as the frustrating Cinderella story the champions struggle to find an answer for, while the antics of the defending champs frame them in turn as the undeserving and hateable enemy – group hugs, staged walk outs, calls for non-existent time outs all see the Quebecers in best form.
The famous false finish from the equally famous Bret Hart / 1-2-3 Kid WWF Championship Match later the same year is deployed here first, during an advert break, only for the match to be restarted with the live crowd appropriately whipped into frenzy. Kid takes a pasting from that point on until the fans are begging for the tag to be made. When it comes, the rest doesn’t last long, and the feel good (if very fleeting) victory of the underdogs generates a truly huge response from the live crowd.
Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid, King of the Ring 1994
There are only a handful of pairings that made the main list with more than one entry, and this combination of two of the best to ever fly high in WWE was almost one of them. While Doc and I opted instead to include their lesser known, considerably longer effort from some months later on Monday Night Raw, there is a reason why this much shorter effort in the middle of the King of Hart’s own run at the King of the Ring title lives in infamy: it might just be one of the best and shortest examples of storytelling in the company’s history, and a benchmark for that age old adage, “maximise your minutes.”
Clocking in at less than four minutes long, what Owen and the Kid manage to achieve is remarkable.
Masterfully, this Semi-Final takes the story of Bret Hart’s run the previous year and inverts it. Instead of the Hart entering valiantly as a hero fighting in spite of injury, the Hart here enters cunningly as a villain seeking to exploit his opponent’s injury. Kid, fighting despite suffering multiple piledrivers from a Jeff Jarrett he had frustrated in the Quarter Finals, staggers with a glazed expression to the ring, and finds himself immediately ambushed by a hungry Hart.
What follows is blistering. ‘Blink and you miss it’ has become a wrestling cliché, but it applies completely in this instance. Kid survives an initial onslaught and gains enough bearings to go tit for tat with the King of Harts. Scientific chain wrestling combines with thrilling high flying aesthetics and stiff strikes to fashion immersive content, while a false finish that pays tribute to Kid’s title bout against Owen’s older brother Bret slaughters the crowd with hope. That the Kid’s performance is allowed to flip between survival and comeback crowns what is, frankly, a compact three minute take on the mythical Randy Savage / Ricky Steamboat WrestleMania III iconography.
Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, Monday Night Raw, 1st August 1994
Interestingly, there is nothing on the line here. This is just a means to pass TV time before Razor Ramon challenges Diesel for the Intercontinental title at Summerslam, with Michaels himself reduced primarily to the role of bystander in a different feud. That doesn’t prevent him from going all in with this no-stakes televised encounter with his long-time New Gen nemesis Ramon, which electrifies immediately with a stare down that speaks to a pairing aware of their own gravitas – memories of their famed WrestleMania X encounter still lingered fresh in the memory.
A part of me prefers this purer affair to the Ladder Match, in actuality. It cracks open with a scorchingly hot pace that does nothing but demonstrate the easy and natural chemistry the real-life friends shared between the ropes. It’s strange to consider the fact that Michaels and Ramon, in spite of their history, never shared a prominent singles match on one of the company’s biggest stages, even though this forgotten classic of their rivalry argues the reason why they should have. Put this on pay-per-view and throw in a WWF Championship and you have yet another instant all-time great.
Once the pace slows down to an exhausting grind with the Bad Guy honing in on Michaels’ lower back in a curiously precognitive demonstration, it facilitates a longer than average running time that finds itself peppered with creative sequences and imaginative use of Diesel’s ringside presence. The effectiveness of their rollercoaster storytelling throughout is reflected in the lively atmosphere, the live crowd remaining vocal even in the bout’s slowest moments, such as when Michaels has Ramon locked in a bear hug. Most amazingly of all, after wrestling their way through two advert breaks and through to the halfway point of the episode, their bodies aching and their hair drenched with sweat, they continue to fire up the ebb and flow of the action with more impeccably executed spurts of energetic choreography.
Throw in a definitive conclusion that flirts with Attitude Era-style shenanigans and avoids the New Gen’s worst habit of denying a TV match a true conclusion, and you have a true mid card classic nobody knows exists nestled quietly away in the annals of Monday Night Raw. Frankly, I’m disappointed in myself for not ensuring this barnburner made it onto the list-proper.
Razor Ramon vs. Yokozuna for the Intercontinental Championship, Monday Night Raw, 24th October 1994
It’s sometimes strange to think back on the most iconic characters of the New Gen and wonder why it was that so few of them seemed to cross paths on the company’s biggest stages, that instead the Era seemed to repeat different variations of the same combinations. Yokozuna and Razor Ramon is such an example – two characters intrinsic to the New Gen but who never competed on pay-per-view. Some may wonder if they ever competed at all.
Here is the answer. Still relatively fresh off of his domination of the World Championship scene, Yokozuna here challenges for the one championship he didn’t win during his run in the company and, in Razor Ramon, he finds an intriguing opponent. Ramon has the size, the power and the right hand to be able to hold his own against the behemoth that once took out The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan in a brawl and that’s exactly what he manages. The crowd respond as you might expect, with electric excitement. One wonders what might have been had Ramon gotten a shot at Yokozuna during the latter’s main event run.
It is in consideration of the size of these two men – Yokozuna bigger than he had been to that point but still much smaller than he would become, and of a size that didn’t yet prohibit a working effort from him – that makes the action here so impressive. Only in remaining cognisant of the context of both men’s physical attributes will you find this match to be superlative. There are clear demonstrations of power, but they come in tandem with surprisingly athletic aesthetics. At times, Ramon seems to instead take on a role more akin to the likes of Shawn Michaels in fact, and the results prove riotously surprising.
Ultimately this is a Yokozuna match, so you should expect long pauses in the action, a (very) long nerve hold and an emphasis on Yokozuna’s champion opponent heavily selling the simplest offense to convey the overwhelming power of the challenger. This may make a lot of fans, especially those more tuned in to contemporary styles, understandably balk. If you’re a New Gen fan though, you’ll get a kick out of just seeing Ramon vs. Yokozuna in the first place. And if you’re a fan fully capable of appreciating nuanced storytelling, you’ll find plenty to like in this curiosity of an Intercontinental Championship Match which is perhaps best considered as a (unfinished) blueprint for what the company would go on to do with Yokozuna’s relation Umaga many, many years later with the same title that’s up for grabs here.
The Teamsters vs. The Bad Guys, Survivor Series 1994
Here is a match that almost made it onto the proper list before being dropped at a late hour, largely thanks to my love for it. That might make some scoff. This is, after all, a one-note affair explicitly designed for a single reason: push Diesel. Indeed, this was very much Diesel’s final step into the spotlight that awaited him shortly thereafter with his squash World title win over Bob Backlund in the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden. Its linear purpose should not, however, detract from critical appraisals. Its vision may be a specifically limited one, but so too was it an important one that would come to define almost the entirety of 1995 and, by extension, the eventual design of Shawn Michaels’ own title run.
In essence, this match was the gateway to the second and most definitive half of the New Gen Era, and it was executed flawlessly.
The manner in which the villainous Teamsters collectively lose the match might make some more cynical eyes roll, and that’s certainly understandable. The sense of ‘Superman Push’ that underlines Diesel’s specific performance might also have an off-putting taste to many in this, the post-Cena, post-Reigns world. It would also be easy to allow negationist histories of Diesel’s title run to unduly heap criticism on this traditional Elimination Tag too. Boiled down to its simplest, though, what you have here is an electrifying presentation of a character whose popularity had been growing steadily and relentlessly over the course of the preceding eleven months, bringing to a climax a story that had already begun in January of that same year with one of the best big man dominations in Royal Rumble Match lore.
Watching the match grind forward in perfect stalemate between the two teams only for Big Daddy Cool to railroad the opposition in short order upon tagging in, his best friend Michaels seeking to take all the glory, is as linear a story as you could tell in a Traditional Survivor Series Match, but boy is it an infectiously fun watch that always threatens to reduce you to childish glee.
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