The WWF was struggling bad with their roster in the New Generation Era and 1996 wasn’t much different. They had quite a number of debuts in the year but lost a lot of top stars to injuries and other companies. Despite all the tough circumstances these 5 wrestlers managed to keep the WWF afloat:
Vader had become a legend in the wrestling world by the time he entered WWF and fans were very excited to see him finally wrestle in a WWF. However after a monstrous debut at the Royal Rumble, Vader had to be written off TV due to a shoulder surgery. His first feud was against Yokozuna where he completely destroyed his ankle and looked very strong. He also challenged later in the year for the WWF Championship against Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam and was in fact supposed to win it but plans changed thanks to Shawn. Even though Vader wasn’t as great as he used to be and his booking wasn’t the best, it was a good year for Vader and certainly better than the other years he had with WWF.
4. The Undertaker
Since his debut in 1990, The Undertaker quickly gained popularity and became one of the most popular wrestlers of the time. However, Undertaker barely had good matches but that would change in the year 1996. This was the first great year Undertaker had in terms of match quality. Starting off with a great Diesel feud, Undertaker had an awesome rivalry with Mankind which provided us tons of great matches and helped The Undertaker a lot. It was also in 1996, that The Undertaker went on his own for the first time after Paul Bearer turned heel on him. The year was so good for the Deadman that he was given the WWF title the following year.
From The Undertaker to his best rival that year, Mankind. After a series of “earie” vignettes. Mankind made his debut on the RAW after WrestleMania XII and it didn’t take long for him to make a mark. His finishing maneuver, the Mandible Claw quickly got over as a very deadly and paralyzing move. Mankind didn’t take long to attack Undertaker and start a feud as he did that on his debut night. In between the feud, Mankind also had a mini program with Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship and had an awesome match at In Your House: Mind Games. By August, Mankind saw himself paired up with his rival’s former manager, Paul Bearer. Overall, Mankind showed great character work and had great matches in the year and he proved the company can put faith in him in the future.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
This was the debut year of Steve Austin but it didn’t take him long to cement himself as one of the top guys. Austin debuted as “The Ringmaster” with Ted Dibiase as his manager but it was not long until his name was changed to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin started off with a great feud with Savio Vega however it was at King of the Ring, where his popularity skyrocketed. His king of the ring speech is very famous and still to this date, is one of the best promos ever. Even though the WWF didn’t capitalize on the buzz instantly as he was left out of SummerSlam, soon enough Austin started a feud with none other than Bret Hart. They had an awesome match at Survivor Series and it was just the beginning of one of the best wrestling feuds ever.
1. Shawn Michaels
There is absolutely no doubt who the MVP of the WWF was in the year 1996, “The Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels. After spending years in the mid card division, Shawn was finally given the WWF title at WrestleMania XII. Even though the ratings and PPV buys were disastrous during the reign, no one can deny the match quality Shawn had. He had great matches with everyone, from Bret Hart to Vader to Sycho Sid to Mankind and many more. What’s even more impressive is the fact that all these opponents work different styles and Shawn had different matches all the time. The only problem with Shawn Michaels was his backstage attitude problems however on screen, in the ring he was definitely the guy to watch.
And that’s all for today’s post, thank you all for reading. Stay tuned for further updates. Have a nice day!