The fifth installment of looking back at the PWI 500 starting the beginning in 1991 continues with the 1995 edition. This year, the grading period was from August 1st, 1994 to August 1st, 1995.
To view the complete list of where the wrestlers were ranked click HERE
Here are the notable rankings for the year 1995.
The Top Ten:
2.) Shawn Michaels
4.) Bret Hart
6.) Hulk Hogan
7.) Big Van Vader
8.) Randy Savage
9.) Razor Ramon
10.) Mitsuharu Misawa
Early on in the grading period, Diesel was one-half of the WWF World Tag Team Champions with Shawn Michaels, who is ranked number two. Diesel would win the WWF World Championship in eight-seconds by pinning Bob Backlund on November 26th in Madison Square Garden. Diesel would continually defeat Backlund on the house shows. Diesel wrestled a near thirty minute classic with Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble that ended in a draw. Diesel successfully defended the championship against former friend Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XI in what was the lone bright spot on the show. Diesel’s reign continued with a feud against Psycho Sid that lasted most of the summer. Diesel pinned Psycho Sid at the July In Your House that was competed under a lumberjack stipulation. Diesel was a dominating champion for the grading period.
Michaels run started in 1995 when he won the 1995 Royal Rumble after being the first entrant in the match and last eliminated the second entrant, Davey Boy Smith. Michaels came up short in his WrestleMania title match against Diesel, but still stole the show despite the loss. Michaels would feud with Psycho Sid after Sid turned on him after Mania. Michaels would defeat Sid in a cage match at a June MSG house show. The end of the grading period saw Michaels win his third WWF Intercontinental Championship when he pinned Jeff Jarrett at In Your House #2.
Despite not being in the main event scene during the grading period, Sting was still ranked as the best WCW wrestler in the publication. Early in the grading period Sting focused on a feud with Avalanche and Big Bubba teaming Randy Savage often times. Struggled in a feud against Big Bubba losing at UnCensored but got a victory at Slamboree. At the Great American Bash, Sting won the WCW United States Championship when he defeated Meng in the finals of a tournament. Meng was an undefeated heel monster since debuting for WCW. Sting won a rematch against Meng at the Bash at the Beach pay per view in July. It was evident that Sting was playing the third tier baby face behind Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
The Hitman was the WWF World Champion at the start of the grading period and successfully defended the championship against Owen Hart at SummerSlam inside a steel cage. Bret would lose the belt to Bob Backlund at Survivor Series. Hart was unable to regain the championship at Royal Rumble. Bret continued his feud with Bob Backlund winning an I Quit match at WrestleMania XI. Hart was also able to end his long-running feud with Jerry Lawler at the King of the Ring when he won a Kiss My Foot match. Hart would win memorable matches against Hakushi throughout the spring, as well. Hitman remains in the top five after consecutive back to back number one rankings in 1993 and 1994.
Sabu getting into the top five is a huge accomplishment for ECW as the company was still a company based mainly out of Philadelphia but gaining traction. Early in the grading period, Sabu got big victories over 2 Cold Scorpio and Cactus Jack in the fall. He won the ECW Tag Team Championships with Taz by defeating Public Enemy in February ’95. Sabu would leave ECW and head to Japan where h ewon the IWGP junior heavyweight championship from Koji Kanemoto on May 3rd. Sabu was a battered man who often would wrestle despite broken bones and was loved by fans for doing so. He would soon return to ECW as it will be addressed in the next edition of the series.
Hulkamania slips a few spots but remains in the top ten of the PWI 500. Hogan started the grading period beating Ric Flair in a steel cage match to force Flair into retirement. Hogan won the main event at Starrcade against the Butcher, his former best friend. Hulk started a long feud with Vader in 1995 wrestling on pay per view many times. Hogan would win at Superbrawl by disqualification, defeated Ric Flair (who was still retired) despite wrestling Vader in a strap match at UnCensored. Hogan brought his friend Randy Savage into the feud to defeat Vader and Flair at Slamboree. Hogan ended his feud with Vader by winning a cage match at the July Bash at the Beach pay per view.
Vader was unsuccessful in his attempt to win the WCW World Championship from Hulk Hogan throughout 1995, but he never suffered a pin fall loss to the Hulkster. Vader ended 1994 by winning the WCW United States Championship from Jim Duggan at Starrcade, but vacated the belt to go after Hogan’s gold. After the failed attempts, Vader turned into a good guy by siding with Hogan against the Dungeon of Doom though Vader would leave WCW soon afterward and would never return to WCW.
Last year, the Macho Man was ranked number forty-four in the PWI 500. Savage returned to in-ring competition on a full-time basis and ranked up to the eighth spot. Randy teamed with Sting to win a feud against Big Bubba Rogers and Avalanche. Had a brief singles feud with Avalanche winning a match at Uncensored. Savage would go back to feuding against Ric Flair losing to Flair at Great American Bash but winning a rematch at Bash at the Beach in July with a lumberjack stipulation.
The Bad Guy regained the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Diesel at SummerSlam with Walter Payton in his corner. Ramon held the title until the Royal Rumble when he lost the belt to Jeff Jarrett. Ramon regained the belt briefly by winning the title at a house show, but lost it two days later back to Jarrett. Ramon was also a USWA heavyweight champion during the grading period for a brief time. Razor was likely a contender to win the 1995 King of the Ring but was out of the tournament due to injury.
Misawa is the first Japanese wrestler to reach the top ten in the PWI to this point. Misawa won the Triple Crown championship from Stan Hansen on May 26th. Was voted as the best scientific wrestler in Japan.
11.) Jeff Jarrett
12.) Owen Hart
17.) Eddy Guerrero
18.) Rey Mysterio Jr.
20.) Ric Flair
Double J kicked off the grading period pinning Mabel at SummerSlam and continued to be lost in the shuffle in the mid card until early 1995 when he won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Razor Ramon. Jarrett and Ramon traded the belt in May with Jarrett coming out as the champion. Jarrett lost the championship to Michaels at In Your House #2 before departing from the WWF.
Owen nearly won the WWF World Championship at SummerSlam inside a steel cage but settled for costing Bret the championship at Survivor Series and helping Bob Backlund win the gold. Owen would team with Yokozuna at WrestleMania XI to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships from the Smoking Gunns.
Eddy Guerrero went from 141 all the way to the seventeen spot this year. Guerrero was really starting make a name for himself competing in NJPW and ECW. While wrestling in ECW, Eddy was having memorable clashes with Dean Malenko over the ECW Television Championship that many still regard as the best matches the company had ever put on.
Rey Mysterio Jr. also moves up the ranks as he won the Triple A light heavyweight championship from Juventud Guerrera during the grading period.
The Nature Boy was retired thanks to losing a cage match to Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc. His retirement lasted until May when he and Vader lost a tag match to Hogan and Savage. Flair did pick up a huge victory the following month by pinning Randy Savage while Randy’s father was at ringside. PWI was quoted as saying, “Career finally appears to be winding down.” That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
23.) Lex Luger
24.) Arn Anderson
26.) Tracy Smothers
28.) Shane Douglas
30.) Bam-Bam Bigelow
Luger was once seen as the likely WWF World Champion and second coming of Hulk Hogan, but failed to connect with fans and was thrown to the mid card ranks. Had an infamous feud with Tatanka that saw his former friend turn on him after a singles match at SummerSlam. The feud would continue on for many months with Luger winning a cage match prior to WrestleMania XI. Luger formed a tag team with Davey Boy Smith but failed to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships.
Despite losing a feud against Dustin Rhodes at the end of 1994, Anderson was able to win the WCW Television Championship from Johnny B. Badd in early 1995. Arn defeated Badd in a lumberjack match at the pre-show telecast prior to Superbrawl V. Anderson suffered a loss to Johnny at Uncensored in a boxer vs. wrestler match. Arn handed Alex Wright his first loss at Slamboree to retain the WCW Television Championship but would lose the belt the following month to The Renegade at the Great American Bash.
Smothers had a lengthy feud with Bryant Anderson which saw Smothers win numerous I Quit matches at the end of 1994. Formed a successful tag team with former rival the Dirty White Boy to win feuds against the Gangstas and the Headbangers.
“The Franchise” Shane Douglas threw down history when he won the NWA World Championship after winning a tournament on August 27th and renamed it the ECW World Championship. Douglas retained the title against the likes of the Tazmaniac, Ron Simmons and Mikey Whipwreck throughout the second half of 1994. Douglas would feud with Tully Blanchard during the first few months of 1995 retaining the championship. Douglas would lose the belt to the Sandman at the Hostile City Showdown on April 15th. Shane would leave ECW for the WWF, which wouldn’t end up as being a good career decision.
Bigelow had a memorable confrontation with Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble, which would lead to a main event match at WrestleMania XI. Bigelow would lose and soon his heel stable members would turn on him. Bigelow became a good guy and aligned himself with Diesel to defeat Psycho Sid and Tatanka at the King of the Ring in June.
31.) Cactus Jack
34.) Sid Vicious
36.) Lord Steven Regal
43.) Steve Austin
Cactus Jack didn’t have a great start to the grading period when he lost to Kevin Sullivan at WCW Fall Brawl 1994 causing him to leave WCW forever. However, the change of scenery ended up being a blessing in disguise as Cactus headed to ECW. While in ECW, Cactus won the ECW World Tag Team Championships with Mikey Whipwreck which they held from August to November ’94. Cactus had a lengthy feud with the Sandman which would eventually be over the ECW World Championship. Early in the feud, Cactus would get many wins, but when Sandman became champion, Jack was unable to defeat him. Cactus pinned Terry Funk twice in April of ’95, as well.
Yokozuna’s stock in the WWF was quickly plummeting as his run as a main event player was coming to an end as 1994 came to a close. Yokozuna lost a casket match against the Undertaker at Survivor Series and wouldn’t be seen again until WrestleMania XI. At the event, Yokozuna was revealed as the surprise partner for Owen Hart and the duo won the WWF World Tag Team Championships from the Smoking Gunns. They would retain the titles over the likes of the Allied Powers, Savio Vega & Razor Ramon, and Men on a Mission. They were still the champions as of press time.
While on competing in WCW or the WWF at the start of the grading period, Sid was the USWA Heavyweight Champion which he won in July of 1994 and held until February of 1995 when he lost it to Jerry Lawler. After the loss, Sid would return to the WWF where he quickly turned on Shawn Michaels and unsuccessfully challenged for the WWF World Championship on two occasions on pay per view.
Regal lost the WCW Television Championship at Fall Brawl in September of ’94 and would continue a trend of losing singles matches against the likes of the Guardian Angel, Jim Duggan and Sting. By early 1995, Regal would form a tag team with Bobby Eaton known as the Blue Bloods. They got a decent push but failed to win the WCW World Tag Team Championships from the Nasty Boys at the Great American Bash.
Austin was once seen as a top rising star in WCW, but by the end of 1994 he was losing to Jim Duggan in under three minutes and was out of a job by the spring of 1995. I have no idea how Austin could have possibly been ranked so high considering he was also injured for many months.
54.) Alex Wright
60.) The Sandman
62.) Dustin Rhodes
Hakushi’s run in the WWF started off very well as he had an undefeated streak for half the grading period with victories over the 1-2-3 Kid, Bob Holly, and enhancement talents. He would suffer his first loss to Bret Hart at the first In Your House in May. Hakushi would continually lose to the Hitman for the remaining three months of the grading period, though they were some of the best matches the WWF aired during the year.
With his partner Mo out due to injury, Mabel tried his hand at a singles push that saw him lose to Jeff Jarrett at SummerSlam. Mabel would trade wins with the likes of King Kong Bundy and IRS to close of 1994. 1995 saw an attitude change by Men on a Mission and Mabel was the unlikely winner of the King of the Ring meaning he would be the number one contender to the WWF World Championship. He defeated the Undertaker and Savio Vega on his way to winning the crown.
Das Wunderkind was another wrestler who had a lengthy undefeated streak as he spent several months in 1994 establishing himself over enhancement talents. Wright finished 1994 with an impressive victory over Jean Paul Levesque at Starrcade. Alex continued his success by winning feuds against Bobby Eaton and Paul Roma in early 1995. Wright suffered his first loss to Arn Anderson at WCW Slamboree in a WCW Television Championship match. Wright had a great match with Brian Pillman at the Great American Bash, which he won. During the grading period, Wright also worked a few matches with Ric Flair but was not successful in defeating the Nature Boy.
At the end of 1994, Sandman was on the losing end of a feud with Tommy Dreamer. As noted before, Sandman struggled in a feud with Cactus Jack that lasted over six months in 1995. Despite his struggles, Sandman was able to win the ECW World Championship from Shane Douglas in April. Sandman would successfully defend the championship against Cactus Jack in a barbed wire match over the summer.
‘The Natural” won his feud with Arn Anderson at the tail end of 1994 that included teaming with his father Dusty Rhodes and the Nasty Boys to win War Games in September. Dustin would lose a singles match against Vader in November before returning to his feud with the Stud Stable, mostly the Blacktop Bully. Dustin lost both matches he had on pay per view losing to the Blacktop Bully at Superbrawl V and in a King of the Road match at Uncensored. Following the latter pay per view, Dustin was fired for bleeding in the match. He’d go under an extreme makeover in the next installment of this series.
76.) Bob Holly
79.) Jean Pierre Lafitte
82.) Big Bubba Rogers
84.) Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Previously known as Papa Shango, Kama made his debut in January 1995. His first six months saw Kama not lose on television and was involved in a lengthy feud with the Undertaker over the urn. Despite not losing on television, Kama would often lose to the Undertaker on the house show market.
Spark Plug was not getting much momentum at the end of 1994 as he was regularly losing to various mid card heels. However, Holly teamed with the 1-2-3 Kid to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships at the Royal Rumble. Their reign lasted all of twenty four hours when they lost the titles to the Smoking Gunns. In April, Holly won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Jeff Jarrett, but the title was held up and Jarrett regained the belt. Holly pinned Chris Benoit in what was Benoit’s tryout match.
Previously known as Quebecer Pierre, Jean Pierre Lafitte made his debut as an evil pirate would get victories over the likes of Virgil, Duke Droese and Doink the Clown during the grading period. His only memorable feud was with Bret Hart due to stealing Hart’s ring jacket and his sunglasses, though no match between the two had happened as of press time.
He was known as the Guardian Angel who wasn’t quite able to get into the WCW World Championship scene. Angel ended up turning on Sting by the winter and would team with Avalanche in a feud against Sting and Randy Savage. Bubba found some success in his feud against Sting, winning a singles match at Uncensored, but wasn’t able to continue the momentum into anything that was noteworthy.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley made his debut in April and was primarily working with undercard wrestlers such as Doink and Bob Holly. Hunter hadn’t suffered a loss as of press time. He had worked as Jean Paul Levesque in WCW for a portion of the grading period, but wasn’t heavily push aside from a loss to Alex Wright at Starrcade.
100.) Brian Lee
113.) Jim Duggan
A breakout year for Psicosis as he won the Mexican welterweight championship from El Hijo del Santo. The victory is seen as the moment that made Psicosis a superstar in Mexico.
Meng hadn’t made his in-ring debut until March of 1995 where he defeated Jim Duggan at Uncensored. Meng received a good push and made it to the finals of the WCW United States Championship tournament, which he lost to Sting at the Great American Bash and a rematch at Bash at the Beach. The brief run showed that Meng still had something to offer in the ring after leaving the WWF a few years prior.
Lee lost the tag titles with Chris Candido to the Rock N’ Roll Express just a few days into the grading period. Lee played the fake Undertaker role at SummerSlam, where he lost to the real Undertaker but returned to SMW. After being fired by Tammy Fytch, Lee would feud with Chris Candido and they would trade victories although there was not a conclusive end to their issues.
Unabomb teamed with Al Snow to win the SMW Tag Team Championships from the Rock N’ Roll Express in April of 1995. They’d hold the belts until July when they lost the titles to Tracy Smothers and Dirty White Boy. Would debut in the WWF by the summer as Dr. Isaac Yankeem to help Jerry Lawler in his feud with Bret Hart.
Hacksaw didn’t waste any time in winning a championship in WCW when he pinned Steve Austin at Fall Brawl to win the WCW United States Championship. Duggan remained champion until he was destroyed by Big Van Vader at Starrcade. Duggan feuded with the Stud Stable mainly Bunkhouse Buck and Meng. Lost to Kamala at the Bash at the Beach pay per view in July.
120.) La Parka
122.) Crash the Terminator
126.) New Jack
237.) Kevin Sullivan
Raven made his debut in January and targeted Tommy Dreamer as his first rival. Throughout the eight months of the grading period, Raven dominated his feud with Dreamer, though Dreamer did get a pin fall victory over Raven on April 14th, which is seemingly forgotten about. Along with Stevie Richards, won the ECW World Tag Team Championships on June 30th by defeating the Public Enemy.
Parka was previously a heel but was turned into a baby face during his feud with Jerry Estrada, whom he lost the Mexican lightweight championship to.
Crash the Terminator was the PCW Heavyweight Champion and was feuding with Johnny Gunn. Apparently, Crash had a WWF tryout but did not sign with them.
New Jack first arrived in Smoky Mountain Wrestling where he and Mustafa made Jim Cornette and the Rock N’ Roll Express lives a living nightmare. By the fall of ’94, the Gangstas were the SMW Tag Team Champions. He was champion for about two months before losing them back to the Express in December. By the summer of ’95 Jack made his debut in ECW and was involved in a violent feud with Public Enemy.
Sullivan’s main focus was to eliminate Hulk Hogan but failed to do so throughout the year. Kevin was successful in defeating his brother Dave Sullivan in one of the least interesting feuds that WCW had to offer. Sullivan became the leader of the Dungeon of Doom, the infamous group that had many people from Hogan’s past to eliminate him from wrestling forever.
245.) The Renegade
306.) Luna Vachon
423.) The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior ripoff, the Renegade, made his debut in March of 1995 aligning himself with Hogan and Savage. Won the WCW Television Championship at the Great American Bash by defeating Arn Anderson in June and was still champion as of press time. Successfully defended the championship against Paul Orndorff at Bash at the Beach in July.
Moadib, who would be better known as Ahmed Johnson by the end of 1995, was making a name for himself in the Texas independents as a rule breaker.
Luna Vachon was busy working in ECW mainly teaming with Tommy Dreamer to take on male tag teams and was doing pretty well in defending herself in the land of Extreme.
Apparently, the real Ultimate Warrior only had one match as he returned to in-ring action to defeat rival the Honkytonk Man.
What are your thoughts on the PWI 500 for 1995? Would you have ranked anyone higher or lower?
Leave your thoughts below!
For more wrestling reviews and columns, head over to WRESTLING RECAPS.
Thanks for reading.