When you think about the WWE from 1990-1991, you really have a lot going on. The Ultimate Warrior dethroned Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title, Sgt. Slaughter turned his back on America and backed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Macho King reverts back to the Macho Man and marries his long time manager Elizabeth, and finally the real World’s Champion Ric Flair makes the jump from WCW to WWE with the NWA title. The time period is really stacked with memorable moments which over time have over shadowed the topic that I’m writing about today. However, even with all this stuff going on, I am of the opinion that the most hated man of the time period (especially among children) was none other than Earthquake.
Earthquake arrived in the WWE in late 1989 sitting in the crowd during an interview segment between Dino Bravo and the Ultimate Warrior. Bravo challenged the Warrior to a push-up competition and Jimmy Hart suggested that they select a member of the audience to sit on their backs as they do it to increase the difficulty. Jimmy Hart looked around the crowd until his eyes stopped on the giant “John from West Virginia”, Hart brought this gigantic man down to the ring and Dino Bravo did his push-ups with “John” on his back. When the Warrior started to do his push-ups, “John from West Virginia” jumped on Warrior’s back and crushed him. After a beat down of Warrior by this dastardly duo, “John” gave the Warrior several splashes and left him lying in the ring. With Jimmy Hart in his corner Earthquake, as “John from West Virginia” was known thereafter, dominated his competition, he was an unstoppable monster whose opponents often had to be taken out of the arena in a stretcher.
Following Wrestlemania VI, Earthquake’s career would catapult to the top of the card. In May of 1990, Hulk Hogan was a guest on the Brother Love show. During this interview Earthquake ran on to the stage and attacked the Hulkster with a steel chair knocking him out and then repeated crashed down on his chest with his patented Earthquake splash. Hulk Hogan had to be carried out on a stretcher following this attack and the WWE really played up the fact that Hogan was truly injured and that he may have to retire. “Mean” Gene Okerlund was broken up after seeing this and Hogan’s friend Tugboat would give updates on him from the hospital. Tugboat let the fans know that the Hulkster needed their moral support to get back into the ring and suggested that everyone write cards and letters to him. Earthquake following this would mention week after week that he put Hulk Hogan out of action and the WWE put together a very dramatic video package hinting that the Hulkster’s career might be over. Of course, after all the support from the fans, Hulk Hogan would return and set the stage for a match with Earthquake at Summerslam.
Earthquake and the Hulkster carried their feud from Summerslam all the way to the Royal Rumble. After the Rumble, both Earthquake and the Hulkster went in separate directions. Hogan was destined to defeat Sgt. Slaughter, but where could Earthquake go? After a short feud with newly turned good guy Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Earthquake found a way to become even more hated by the children who viewed the WWE. Even more heinous in the eyes of the child fans (and I suspect many adults) than nearly ending their hero Hulk Hogan’s career is what he did to Jake “the Snake” Roberts.
In April 1991 on Superstars of Wrestling, Earthquake and Jake Roberts were set to have a match. As soon as Jake Roberts tried to enter the ring the Earthquake jumped Roberts to try and gain an advantage. Jake was able to turn the advantage quickly and almost immediately released Damien from his bag. Earthquake, like all large wrestling giants, was deathly afraid of snakes, so Earthquake decided to walk out of the match. Before Earthquake left ringside, a second official came down and told Earthquake to take the match because he would take care of the snake. The new referee ordered Jack to re-bag the snake and place it under the ring. Once the snake was under the ring, Earthquake jumped Roberts again threw the bagged snake into the ring and tied Roberts in the ropes. After weakening Roberts and ensuring that he couldn’t escape, Earthquake moved the snake into the center of the ring and signaled that he was going to hit his patented Earthquake splash. The Earthquake ran off the ropes and right before he was about to land on Damien, the camera feed was pulled off the ring and you saw Sean Mooney with the most disgusted look on his face and you knew what had happened. The WWE cut back to the match only to see the Earthquake go for a second splash and they once again cut back to Sean Mooney as soon as Earthquake was about to land. Once Jake was finally able to escape the ropes and Earthquake left ringside, Jake started to cry and then looked inside the bag. The reaction on his face once he was able to open it let you know exactly what happened… Earthquake had killed his pet.
This horrifying incident was not all the Earthquake had in store though. Later Earthquake appeared on the Prime Time Wrestling show and he was going to make his famous Quake Burgers for the hosts. At the end of the show Earthquake came out with a tray of burgers with Heenan making smart remarks and Lord Alfred Hayes remarking that he liked the burger. Finally after a few more jokes by Bobby Heenan, Vince McMahon’s demeanor changed and he realized what he was eating. Earthquake had served up Jake’s pet snake Damien as a meal.
Looking back on this stuff now, over 20 years later, I imagine the people who saw this as children laugh it off as part of the farce that is professional wrestling; however I imagine that at the time they were horrified. This giant man had almost crippled and retired their hero and followed that up by killing a man’s pet and eating it right before their very eyes. When you are 6 or 7 years old that is a ton to process. How many parents had to comfort their kids because they saw either of these on television? How many kids cried after seeing these? Earthquake was exactly what a monster is supposed to be, he frightened children. These actions make Earthquake the most hated man of this time period, in my opinion. That being said, I imagine that a lot of parents had to buy tickets to live events so their kids could see Hulk Hogan or Jake Roberts get their revenge on the Earthquake for his heinous acts.
*** Please check out my last post on how wrestling feuds do not need to be complex: http://clintoniyh.blogspot.com/2012/07/it-doesnt-need-to-be-complex.html