Hello everyone and welcome to my final article on 1990. In this special piece, we will take a look back at some of the best matches in both the WWF and NWA/WCW. First of all, I will mention the top five matches for each company, followed by a top five list for both companies overall. After that, we will see who were the wrestlers in both companies (followed by overall, much like with the matches) that got more points. This will be according to the point system I use on every show, which you can see here.
Before starting, I have one last announcement regarding the point system. I thought it would be fair to award points to the wrestlers involved in the top five matches of the year, so I will. Here’s how it will be done: the wrestlers involved in the 5th best match of their particulary company get 1 point, those in the 4th best get 2 points, those in the 3rd best get 3 points, those in the 2nd best get 4 points, and those in the best match of the year will get 5 points. As for the overall list (both companies put together), the points will double – meaning the participants in the 5th best match will get 2 points, and so on.
TOP 5 WWF MATCHES
Note: The Royal Rumble match is not eligible for this list. I will always give the edge to regular wrestling matches, since it’s pretty hard (not impossible, but pretty hard) to see a Rumble match that isn’t fun. Thus, I don’t include it in order to open the door for other matches.
5) The Dream Team vs. The Million Dollar Team (Survivor Series)
Kicking off the list is a very special traditional Survivor Series elimination tag match from the eponymous event. With Dusty Rhodes and Ted DiBiase as the respective team captains, some would say the match reached legendary status even before the opening bell sounded, with The Undertaker making his iconic debut. Even though that’s what people remember the most from this bout, the action in the ring that came afterwards was very good as well. Undertaker got to showcase his actual in-ring abilities and even got a pinfall win over the legendary ‘American Dream’, while Bret Hart and Ted DiBiase delivered a spectacular mini-match in the bout’s closing moments, with ‘The Million Dollar Man’ coming out on top. A very good match that elevated two future legends’ singles careers. (Rating: ***1/2)
4) Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WWF World & WWF Intercontinental Championships (WrestleMania VI)
In what unquestionably is the most memorable match from this year, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior met for both the IC and World Championships in the main-event of WrestleMania. It truly is a bout for the ages, and will keep being talked about regardless of how much time passes. As is the case with most matches involving any of these two legendary names, it has many naysayers. And even though it’s a match elevated by the awesome crowd reaction, the actual in-ring match itself is good and easily one of the best in both Hogan and Warrior’s careers. I consider this to be Hogan’s finest hour in the ring, with him taking the relatively inexperienced and exhausted Warrior all the way to the finish line. Absolutely legendary, and obviously the #1 on this list if we were talking memorable alone. (Rating: ***3/4)
3) The Hart Foundation vs. The Rockers (Saturday Night’s Main Event April 28th)
After a disappointing WrestleMania that is only (rightfully) remembered for the aforementioned main-event, the WWF needed to start the new “season” with something good. Enter these four! Despite Demolition’s involvement causing a non-finish, the two awesome teams put on an exciting fast-paced contest that had every single fan in that arena on the edge of their seats. It showed that tag team wrestling, if done right, is fantastic and that both these teams deserved more than being in ten-second matches against the Bolsheviks at WrestleMania. And by the end of the year, they’d be going at it over the WWF’s tag team straps! (Rating: ****)
2) Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana – WWF Intercontinental Championship (Saturday Night’s Main Event July 28th)
Here is what I’d probably call the WWF’s ‘hidden gem’ of 1990. Once Warrior had to vacate the IC title due to his World Championship win at WrestleMania, a tournament was held to crown the new champion. Perfect would best Tito in the final on Superstars to capture the gold, revealing Bobby Heenan as his new ‘perfect manager’ that night. The two would meet in a rematch at the following edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, and to say they tore the house down would be the understatement of the year. It was a dramatic back-and-forth match, featuring a brilliant performance by Heenan as well, that had the crowd believing Tito (a veteran undercarder for years at this point already) would somehow shock Mr. Perfect and win. Perfect managed to weasel his way into a cheap victory in the end, but Santana looked like a million bucks for the first time in a really long time. Absolutely… perfect. Sorry, had to do it! (Rating: ****)
1) Demolition vs. The Hart Foundation – 2/3 Falls Tag Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship (SummerSlam)
In my honest opinion, when it comes to the WWF in 1990, this was the very best match. The story was that the recently-turned-heel Demolition had three members with the recent signing of Crush, and they would be waiting to pull a switcheroo at any point. Once the bell rang and the two great teams started going to work, the fans got lost in the action and completely forgot about the heels’ intentions. And that’s when it happened! After a dramatic and emotional final fall that ultimately saw LOD expose Demolition’s tricks, The Hart Foundation finally captured the belts back, for the first time as babyfaces. A spectacular match that is 100% worthy of this spot. Give it a look if you haven’t already! (Rating: ****)
TOP 5 NWA/WCW MATCHES
5) The Steiners vs. Doom – NWA World Tag Team Championship (Capital Combat)
We kick off the NWA’s side with an intense and physical fight between four badass wrestlers over the World Tag belts. The challengers Doom were coming off a really weird run as a “mysterious” masked team (even though everyone could tell who they were…) and thus needed to establish themselves as soon as possible. Add the fact that the Steiners were in the other corner of the ring, and you got yourself a battle of the bulls between four motivated guys determined to hit each other as hard as possible and to earn their spots at the very top of the card. Awesome match. (Rating: ***3/4)
4) The Midnight Express vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (WrestleWar)
This shouldn’t come as a shocker to anybody, as we’re talking about arguably the two teams with the best chemistry in the entire history of tag team wrestling. Is it the greatest match ever between them? Of course it isn’t, far from it. But even if there’s bad management and no clear direction, these two will always deliver inside the ropes. And not forgetting Jim Cornette’s awesome managerial work at ringside, always being able to make his presence felt at ringside without stealing the spotlight from the action going on. Great match between four (or five) workers who could have a classic with their eyes closed. (Rating: ****)
3) Ric Flair vs. Sting – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (The Great American Bash)
This match is to the NWA/WCW in 1990 what Hogan vs. Warrior from WrestleMania is to the WWF. Unquestionably the first match that will come to mind of 99% of the fans, featuring the iconic moment that was Sting’s first World Championship victory. The technical aspect of the match itself was strong, way stronger than WWF’s Hogan/Warrior, with Ric Flair knowing exactly how to carry a story like this in order to make his opponent’s moment ten times more memorable than it would already be. By far the top NWA/WCW moment of the year, and one of the best matches as well. (Rating: ****)
2) Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (WrestleWar)
Speaking of Sting’s moment, it was actually originally set to take place at February’s WrestleWar PPV. However, earlier that month at Clash of the Champions, Sting suffered a serious injury during a segment with the Four Horsemen and the moment would have to be delayed. The reigning US champion Lex Luger was the one chosen to fill in that void left by the injured Sting, turning babyface and temporarily challenging Flair for the Big Gold Belt. They had two PPV matches while Sting was out, but WrestleWar is by far the greatest. Even though the match had a non-finish in order to protect both wrestlers, Flair did everything in his power to put Luger over like a billion bucks. Even though Luger didn’t win the title, he was off to the races afterwards as one of (if not the) most popular babyfaces on the whole roster that year. (Rating: ****1/2)
1) The Midnight Express vs. The Southern Boys (The Great American Bash)
And finally, the greatest match of not only the NWA/WCW, but from both companies overall in the year 1990. The young duo of the Southern Boys, Tracy Smothers and Steve Armstrong, challenged the veteran duo of the Midnight Express for the US Tag Team Titles and put on a true masterpiece. Whatever you name it, this match had. The younger team upsetting the cocky champions in the beginning, forcing the heels cutting the ring in half and trying their best to always keep their team in control, the essential babyface comebacks and hope spots and even a number of entertaining spots. Particularly a martial arts exchange between Stan Lane and Tracy Smothers that saw the babyface (again) get the better of the cocky heel. And again, not to forget the awesome work of Jim Cornette at ringside. In the end, the legendary Midnight Express were able to steal a cheap win and retain their straps, but the young duo of the Southern Boys won the respect of many fans and critics. A classic! (Rating: ****1/2)
TOP 5 MATCHES OVERALL
5) Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana – WWF Intercontinental Championship (Saturday Night’s Main Event July 28th) [WWF]
4) Ric Flair vs. Sting – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (The Great American Bash) [NWA/WCW]
3) Demolition vs. The Hart Foundation – 2/3 Falls Tag Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship (SummerSlam) [WWF]
2) Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (WrestleWar) [NWA/WCW]
1) The Midnight Express vs. The Southern Boys (The Great American Bash) [NWA/WCW]
TOP 10 WWF WRESTLERS
Note: this is based on my point system used throughout each and every show of the year
10) Dusty Rhodes (19.75 points)
We start our list with the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, baby! Even though Dusty is not a name that you associate with the WWF when thinking of him as an active wrestler, he had a solid 1990 mostly feuding with Randy Savage and Ted DiBiase. He might just be a common man, but he did just fine to earn a spot in our list!
- Dusty’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Million Dollar Team (Survivor Series)
9) Rick Martel (20.5 points)
Here’s the guy that was perhaps the most improved worker of the year. After turning heel on Tito Santana way back at WrestleMania V in 1989, Martel spent the rest of that year on stand-by while waiting for something to click. After a short-lived partnership with Slick that wasn’t really it, Martel finally got there once he debuted the “Model” gimmick. Apart from being a good worker in the ring, what made Martel stand out was Arrogance (his fragrance shown in the picture) and allowed him to have a very interesting midcard feud with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.
- Martel’s best match in 1990: Vs. Tito Santana (The Main Event IV)
8) Tito Santana (23.5 points)
We’re going from one Strike Force member to the other! Santana spent most of his year as the veteran “jobber to the stars”, particularly losing to both former Powers of Pain members Barbarian and Warlord at WrestleMania and SummerSlam, respectively. He was even in the “final match of survival” in the main-event of Survivor Series, being eliminated by Ted DiBiase. However, what earns him this spot on the list is unquestionably his work with Mr. Perfect over the spring/early summer, having some fantastic matches (including our #2 WWF match of the year). Santana lost to Perfect multiple times for the Intercontinental Title, helping the rising star on his way to the top. Santana is one of the most underrated star-making performers of all time, and a legend in his own right. Arriba!
- Santana’s best match in 1990: Vs. Mr. Perfect (SNME July 28th)
7) Mr. Perfect (26.5 points)
Well, speaking of him! I swear I didn’t script the way this list would go!! Mr. Perfect’s presence on this list should come as no surprise to anyone with half a brain. And speaking of brains, the chemistry this man had with Bobby Heenan is absolutely beautiful to watch. It didn’t start that way, though, as Perfect went into 1990 still being managed by The Genius. That was already a good duo, but him and Heenan together are just pure gold. I expected Perfect to be even higher on this list, but the fact he criminally lost EVERY pay-per-view match he was apart of (Rumble match, Beefcake at WM, Tornado at SS, Team Warrior at SVS) kicked him all the way down to #7. His incredible in-ring ability and charisma allowed him to thankfully still be apart of this list, where he belongs. Why? Because this man was exactly what he said he was. Absolutely perfect!
- Perfect’s best match in 1990: Vs. Tito Santana (SNME July 28th)
6) Demolition Smash (30.5 points)
Now here’s one you probably weren’t expecting. In a year of ups and downs that saw Demolition win the tag titles from Andre the Giant & Haku at WrestleMania, gaining a new third member in Crush, turn heel for the first time in two years, lose the belts to The Hart Foundation (in our WWF match of the year) at SummerSlam, briefly change their look only to quickly go back to the original facepaint and ultimately lose Ax after Survivor Series, the one constant was Smash. He deserves credit for doing so well in what was a weird year for Demolition, and for playing a huge part in that epic match at SummerSlam.
- Smash’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Hart Foundation (SummerSlam)
5) Ted DiBiase (31 points)
After a relatively timid 1989, ‘The Million Dollar Man’ quickly went back to being one of the highlights of the WWF in the first year of the new decade. He started the year off in the best possible way, putting on a respectful performance in the Royal Rumble match as its “iron man”. From there some of his most notables moments included buying Sapphire from Dusty Rhodes, facing the young Dustin Rhodes in a ten minute time-limit challenge in which he was humble enough to let the rookie survive, carrying The Ultimate Warrior to one of the greatest matches of his career in a bout for the WWF title, stealing the show with Bret Hart at Survivor Series and, of course, introducing the debuting Undertaker on that same show. For those wondering why someone else isn’t in the WWF’s top five for 1990 instead of DiBiase, always remember… everyone has a price!
- DiBiase’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Dream Team (Survivor Series)
4) Jim Neidhart (37.5 points)
Jim Neidhart had a very strong year, being apart of some of the greatest matches alongside the likes of Demolition and the Rockers and having a good run as tag champ as a member of The Hart Foundation. The year didn’t start as well as it could’ve, with Anvil and Bret wrestling a twenty second match at WrestleMania against the undercard team of the Bolsheviks. From there things only went up, culminating with a fantastic match against Smash & Crush of Demolition at SummerSlam, which saw the legendary Hart Foundation capture the WWF tag belts for the second time.
- Neidhart’s best match in 1990: Vs. Demolition (SummerSlam)
3) Bret Hart (39.5 points)
After Neidhart, it’s only fitting that ‘The Hitman’ would join him on the list. There’s not much to add from what I already mentioned in Anvil’s entry, as they were a tag team for the whole year. Individually, Bret’s highlight of 1990 was his breakthrough performance at the Survivor Series against the legendary ‘Million Dollar Man’. Bret scored two more points than his partner due to him winning most of the falls in their tag matches after the Hart Attack, which is one of the way to earn an extra half a point in SmarKDown’s point system.
- Bret’s best match in 1990: Vs. Demolition (SummerSlam)
2) Hulk Hogan (46.25 points)
Hulk Hogan is always a top contender for these lists, participating in a lot of main-event matches and mostly scoring victories (and championships). In 1990, Hulk Hogan continued to be the undisputed top guy in the company by far, personally. Despite only holding the WWF Championship until WrestleMania, Hogan’s feud with Earthquake in the summer felt different from everything he’d been doing up to this point and had massive heat. You already know about the match and the feud with Warrior heading into WrestleMania, but some other highlights of Hogan’s 1990 include winning the Royal Rumble, the aforementioned feud with Earthquake and their often-forgotten SummerSlam match, being one of the “ultimate survivors” alongside Warrior at Survivor Series and a very fun match against Mr. Perfect (who else?) at SNME following WrestleMania.
- Hogan’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VI)
1) The Ultimate Warrior (57.25 points)
And here he is, the number one WWF wrestler in 1990. It should come as no surprise to see Warrior ahead of everyone in the point system, considering he spent most of the year as champion and won pretty much every match he was apart of. Even though I am not a massive fan of his title reign, particularly before SummerSlam and until the feud with Randy Savage started being teased (that’s when it got better), I can’t deny that Warrior had a number of memorable moments. A repetitive feud with Rick Rude took a bit of a backseat to Hogan/Quake, but their match at SummerSlam was good. The feud with Randy Savage and Sherri late in the year also produced some quality segments. His title match with Ted DiBiase at The Main Event IV was another highlight and, of course, the feud with Hogan heading into WrestleMania is what everyone will always remember. I can see this being controversial, but be frank, it was ultimately inevitable!
- Warrior’s best match in 1990: Vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania VI)
TOP 10 NWA/WCW WRESTLERS
10) Steve Armstrong (26.5 points)
As one half of the young and exciting tag team of the “Wild Eyed” Southern Boys, Steve Armstrong manages to earn a spot in the NWA/WCW’s list of top ten wrestlers in 1990. Even though the team was not being pushed above the elite teams such as Doom, the Horsemen, the Steiners, the Freebirds or many others, they got over with the audiences as babyfaces and were able to create some good moments when given the opportunity, including participating in the match of the year.
- Armstrong’s best match in 1990: Vs. Midnight Express (The Great American Bash)
9) Sting (26.75 points)
At a low ninth position comes Sting, the reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion for pretty much the entire second half of the year. I can see many of you being surprised to see him in this spot, but remember he spent the first half of the year away due to injury. And once he finally came back and won the big belt, his reign wasn’t exactly one that would set the world on fire. A dumb, boring, confusing and just plain stupid storyline with the mysterious Black Scorpion is what he spent the majority of the time doing, with a PPV title defense against a greener-than-a-bean Sid Vicious sandwiched in the middle. The feud with Flair and the Horsemen was awesome though, injury aside. Let’s hope for better things for Sting in 1991, preferably with more logical storylines, so he can occupy a better spot.
- Sting’s best match in 1990: Vs. Ric Flair (The Great American Bash)
8) Stan Lane (28.75 points)
Even though Lane and Jim Cornette left the promotion immediately after Halloween Havoc, they were absolutely killing it even without the best management to support them. Each and every single one of the Midnight’s matches were good (at the very least), when not classics – The Great American Bash. Apart from being in that year’s greatest match with The Southern Boys, another memorable moments include the match against their arch rivals Rock ‘n’ Roll Express at WrestleWar, Ricky Morton & Tommy Rich at Halloween Havoc in their final night in the territory, or putting the up-and-coming Steiner Brothers over for the US tag straps in the summer. Not the best year creatively, but the Midnight Express showed that even with some shaky circumstances, they will keep knocking it out of the park and are unquestionably one of the greatest tag teams in history.
- Lane’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Southern Boys (The Great American Bash)
7) Ron Simmons (29.75 points)
He might have made a career later on out of just saying “DAMN!” or as a member of the APA alongside Bradshaw in the WWF, but Ron Simmons was a fantastic wrestler in 1990 as a member of Doom with Butch Reed. With Teddy Long in their corner, Doom play the roles of badass thugs from the streets who are not afraid of anything and will beat you up as hard as they possible can. Doom had many great matches throughout the year against legendary opponents such as the Horsemen or the Midnight Express, but personally their best work was against the Steiners. They truly deserve to be on this list, and I highly recommend everyone who sees the future Faarooq as nothing but a ‘GIF’ and a funny undercarder playing poker and drinking beer backstage to check out this era of Ron Simmons as a member of Doom. It is THE tag team that I always associate Ron Simmons with, not the APA. More than deserving of a spot on this list.
- Ron’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Steiners (Capital Combat)
6) Butch Reed (33 points)
From one Doomer to the other! Much like with the Hart Foundation on the WWF’s list, everything I said about Ron Simmons applies to his tag team partner, Butch Reed. Reed got more points because possibly he got more pinfalls and/or took less pinfalls in their tag matches. Reed also took on Ric Flair in a singles match in the main-event of Clash of the Champions XIII.
- Reed’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Steiners (Capital Combat)
5) Bobby Eaton (33.5 points)
Being a member of The Midnight Express until very late in the year (October), I’ve also said pretty much everything there is to be said about Bobby Eaton in Stan Lane’s entry a while ago. Once his partner and manager left the company, Eaton settled as a singles competitor and defeated ‘The Z-Man’ Tom Zenk in the opener of StarrCade.
- Eaton’s best match in 1990: Vs. The Southern Boys (The Great American Bash)
4) Scott Steiner (38.5 points)
Scott Steiner was easily the most exciting wrestler of both the NWA/WCW and WWF, putting on good matches regularly and being able to easily get everyone off their seats with his awesome FrankenSteiner. Alongside his brother Rick, Scott held two championships in 1990 – starting the year as the World Tag Team Champions and ending it as the US Tag Team Champions. Apart from the awesome work with Doom that I’ve already mentioned, they also had good matches against the Andersons (Arn & Ole), The Fabulous Freebirds, The Great Muta & Mr. Saito, The Midnight Express and others.
- Scott’s best match in 1990: Vs. Doom (Capital Combat)
3) Rick Steiner (39 points)
It’s quite obvious Rick would follow Scott, isn’t it!? Scott might have been the highlight of the team, but the veteran Rick played his role brilliantly as the vicious ‘Dog Faced Gremlin”. The way Rick took the Steiners’ opponents’ heads right off their shoulders with his nasty Steinerline, or sent them flying into the other corner of the ring with his dangerously quick suplexes was awesome and made him stand out as a unique character himself.
- Rick’s best match in 1990: Vs. Doom (Capital Combat)
2) Lex Luger (40 points)
Speaking of exciting, very few people were as over as Lex Luger. Holding the United States Heavyweight Championship for most of the year (my personal favourite US Champion of all time), Luger cemented himself as one of the top up-and-comers of NWA/WCW. He had some fun tussles over the US title with Mean Mark aka WWF’s The Undertaker, Ric Flair or the brutal Stan ‘The Lariat’ Hansen, while also doing a tremendous job when asked to fill in the void left by the injured Sting in PPV World Title matches with the iconic Ric Flair. Another great year for Lex Luger and a much deserved second place.
- Luger’s best match in 1990: Vs. Ric Flair (WrestleWar)
1) Ric Flair (52.25 points)
Who else could it be? Even though Flair had a more timid year compared to the greatness he produced throughout the 1980s, he was still involved in some of the best matches – including being in two of our top five overall list. As the NWA World Heavyweight Champion in the first half of the year, Flair was involved in bangers with Lex Luger and Sting before eventually putting the Stinger over for the belt like a true pro. Despite having a more quiet second half of the year, Flair was still involved in some really good matches with the members of Doom alongside his fellow Horsemen, particularly Arn Anderson. The less said about the whole Black Scorpion crap at StarrCade, the better. Ric Flair once again showing that, even with dumb creative, he is without any shadow of a doubt one of the greatest wrestlers that will ever live. WOOOOO!
- Flair’s best match in 1990: Vs. Lex Luger (WrestleWar)
TOP 10 WRESTLERS OVERALL
10) Butch Reed – 33 points (NWA/WCW)
9) Bobby Eaton – 33.5 points (NWA/WCW)
8) Jim Neidhart – 37.5 points (WWF)
7) Scott Steiner – 38.5 points (NWA/WCW)
6) Rick Steiner – 39 points (NWA/WCW)
5) Bret Hart – 39.5 points (WWF)
4) Lex Luger – 40 points (NWA/WCW)
3) Hulk Hogan – 46.25 points (WWF)
2) Ric Flair – 52.25 points (NWA/WCW)
1) The Ultimate Warrior – 57.25 points (WWF)
And there you have it! What are your thoughts on the lists and your opinions? Do you have any early predictions and/or expectations for 1991? Let me know via email at email@example.com
And with this article we officially leave 1990 in the archives of the SmarKDown blog, as we now move on to the second year of the 1990s beginning with the WWF’s Royal Rumble event. This also marked the last year of the NWA-WCW association, with the company officially becoming just ‘WCW’ in January 1991.
Thank you so much for you support and for reading! Make sure you don’t miss any article and keep following the blog so we can find out more about 1991 together. Stay safe, everyone!