Steve Cook continues his trip down memory lane with a look back at 1995, and everything that goes with it!
1995 was a pivotal year in the life of your humble correspondent. I graduated from elementary school and made my way to middle school, which introduced me to a new crowd of kids. It was weird. I have nothing but fond memories of my time at my humble little elementary school right down the block from my house. The kids were nice, I felt comfortable expressing myself however I liked and had plenty of friends going back to kindergarten.
That changed when I went to middle school. The new kids I was introduced to…well, most of them were jerks. They weren’t inclined to like a chubby kid with glasses that had nerdy interests & some difficulty opening up to new people. Unfortunately, this included some of the friends that had made the move with me. Folks that had treated me well in 5th grade suddenly wanted nothing to do with me in 6th grade. School politics, I suppose. They wanted to be popular at their new school, and being friends with me wasn’t going to help their cause. (Most of them tried to re-enter my life later on like nothing had happened. I let them, for the most part. I never forgot.)
The only friends I made in 6th grade were some kids that happened to be wrestling fans. And let’s be honest: 1995 wasn’t one of wrestling’s more popular years on the playground. Things would change on that front in a couple of years, but there were some rough times early on at Woodland that I never really recovered from in a social sense. I became more withdrawn, less inclined to associate with other people. I became more inclined to spend a lot of time at home. Which, once technology advanced in my neck of the woods, opened things up for me in other ways. I certainly wouldn’t have spent as much time online reading about pro wrestling if I hadn’t closed myself off socially after sixth grade.
Would I be here doing this series of columns, or any columns, if not for those kids? Probably not, but I’m not going to try to find any of them and let them know what I’m up to these days. We’re not going to dwell on their silliness, instead we’re going to look at my five most lasting memories as a pro wrestling fan in 1995.
5. The Diesel Experiment
The WWF Champion for most of 1995 was a man that had previously been known as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard. Once Diesel started getting in-ring opportunities, he racked up the victories pretty quick. He managed to win the Intercontinental, Tag Team & WWF Championships during 1994, and seemed to be WWF management’s choice of the future. Big Daddy Cool got off to a good start, but things didn’t quite go the way we hoped.
For one thing, once Diesel won the title, he stopped being Diesel. He became a fun-loving good guy that was all about smiling all the time. That wasn’t how he got over to begin with. He also got saddled with opponents like King Mabel that he wasn’t going to have a good match with, and like Shawn Michaels that were going to overshadow him. It was a nice idea, and you can’t even blame the WWF for trying. But Kevin Nash needed to be Kevin Nash in order to become an icon.
4. The Bodydonnas
1995 saw a lot of ridiculous gimmicks begin to make their way to the WWF. We saw a giant wrestling dentist, a Mantaur, just all sorts of silly things. One that should have pretty much been dead on arrival was The Bodydonnas. Skip & Sunny were here to get us into shape, and a look at my waistline over the next twenty-five years after their debut will tell you they failed on that account. They were later joined by Rad Radford & Zip at various points, and eventually broke up on screen, if not off screen.
So why do I have such fond memories for this gimmick? Well, it was the first time I really had a thing for one of the ladies of pro wrestling. Sure, Allundra Blayze had started defending the Women’s Championship around this time, and I had seen the likes of Sensational Sherri & Missy Hyatt before. Maybe it was something about me hitting the age where one stops worrying about cooties…or maybe it was the way the WWF promoted Sunny. Whatever it was, I was all about it. Lord knows I wasn’t the only one.
3. “The Thrilla’ in Phila”
Pro wrestling wasn’t the only thing I regularly watched as a kid. Another staple in the Cook house was ABC’s TGIF lineup. Family Matters, Step by Step and countless other family-friendly shows made up the lineup through the years, but none struck a chord with me like Boy Meets World did. I found it easy to relate to Cory Matthews and always enjoyed his adventures with Shawn, Topanga, Eric, Mr. Feeny & the whole gang.
The show had plenty of great guest stars, but none provided a bigger “mark out” moment for me than on the May 5, 1995 episode of the show where VADER made an appearance as school bully Frankie’s father. WCW being what it was, the appearance hadn’t been hyped beforehand, so it came as a complete surprise to me. Vader would make a couple of other appearances, most notably during Topanga’s Sweet 16 birthday party in Season 4 while he was employed by the WWF. That one got the full WWF treatment, complete with Cory, Shawn & Frankie appearing at ringside for a match pitting Vader against Jake Roberts.
You gotta love it when one of your favorite wrestlers appears on one of your favorite TV shows.
2. Discovering ECW
I had learned about Extreme Championship Wrestling in the Apter magazines. Of course I did, where else would I have? 1995 was arguably the creative apex of the promotion, coinciding with the re-emergence of Cactus Jack & Steve Austin, who had been released from WCW during that phase where Hulk Hogan’s friends were replacing all the wrestlers that I liked. Once I heard Jack & Austin were in ECW, it just made me want to watch the promotion that much more.
Finally, I found a way to watch it. Low-powered Channel 25 in Cincinnati carried ECW’s weekly show at 8 PM on Tuesday nights. Unfortunately, only one TV in my house had an antenna, and it was a thirteen inch black & white set in my parents’ bedroom. It was one of those ones where you turned the knob on the side too, and it was a tough time picking up most channels on the set. I did manage to catch a year or so of ECW on it before the thing crapped out for good. Kids these days just don’t have these interesting stories of watching wrestling on weird channels with crappy TV sets, do they?
1. The Monday Night War Begins
Up until September 4, 1995, WCW’s main weekly broadcast was Saturday Night, which aired at 6:05 PM every Saturday night. The length of the show depended on whether or not the Atlanta Braves had a game at 7. This was when most of WCW’s major angles would take place and was appointment viewing throughout the Southeastern United States for over a decade. That all changed when Ted Turner decided to give his wrestling promotion a choice prime time slot on his other entertainment cable channel, TNT.
The catch? It was on Monday nights at 9 PM. That just so happened to be where USA had been airing WWF Monday Night Raw for the past two and a half years, and Prime Time Wrestling some years before that. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the news, as I would have preferred to watch the two shows at different times and my mom usually had the VCR tied up on Monday nights. 90210 & Melrose Place, naturally. So there was a lot of flipping back & forth going on for me the next few years.
What was an inconvenience back in the day is now something I look back on fondly. Switching between Raw & Nitro made Monday nights more interesting than they had been before. I definitely had the fear of missing something important, and I typically would each week. It was a good time. Even if school the next day had its ups and downs.
Join us next week when we look back at 1996! One important milestone for me will be discussed…don’tcha dare miss it!