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A Look Back At: The 1991 PWI Awards

92-03

The second installment of looking back at the PWI Awards takes us to the year 1991. WWF had a lengthy battle between an Iraqi turncoat and an American Hero. A once loved superstar turned on fans to win the WCW World Championship.

How would the fans vote when it came to the Wrestler of the Year? Who was the most improved wrestler for the year? Read the results and let us know if you’d vote any differently!

1991 Rookie Of The Year: Johnny B. Badd (19,387)
1st Runner-Up: The Patriot (11,856)
2nd Runner-Up: Terri Power (7,259)
3rd Runner-Up: Lightning Kid (3,176)

Of the choices provided for the year, I understand Johnny B. Badd coming out ahead of everyone else to be the ROY. However, had the Patriot been competing in WCW or WWF, would he had won the award? At the time, he was the biggest baby face in the GWF and was still able to get some decent voting to get the second place spot. From what I recall seeing of Badd in ’91, he wasn’t overly impressive, so it wouldn’t have been hard to dethrone him.

Lightning Kid, considering his style, probably would have jumped up a couple of spots had he been snatched up by WCW. I don’t see him having a shot in the WWF at this point like he would get in two years. He was having stellar matches with Jerry Lynn in the early 90s in Minnesota.

The Patriot inspired others to do the right thing.

The Patriot inspired others to do the right thing.

1991 Inspirational Wrestler Of The Year: The Patriot (17,182)
1st Runner-Up: Jerry Lawler (14,284)
2nd Runner-Up: Sid Justice (12,283)
3rd Runner-Up: Bill Dundee (8,124)

He felt like he didn’t win the GWF North American Championship fairly, so he returned the belt and won the belt with a clear conscience soon afterward. That’s what the Patriot did to win the award for ’91. Patriot was all about playing by the rules and winning the right way, and apparently fans appreciated the mindset when so many others would have taken the championship win no matter how they achieved it.

Sid Justice was a hated wrestler in WCW, but once he jumped ship to the WWF and aligned himself with Hulkamania, that must have inspired people. Also, being the special referee for SummerSlam must have helped. Seems like an odd guy to vote for, honestly. Bill Dundee had to deal with his punk kid Jamie Dundee for most of the year but the personal father/son feud had a positive ending when they reconciled due to Bill Dundee not giving up on his troubled son.

1991 Most Improved Wrestler Of The Year: Dustin Rhodes (13,293)
1st Runner-Up: Ron Simmons (12,923)
2nd Runner-Up: The Undertaker (8,274)
3rd Runner-Up: Crush (5,293)

It’s not often that a son doesn’t tarnish the legacy that their father earned in wrestling, most notably in WCW. Dustin “The Natural” Rhodes proved that when it came to competing inside the squared circle, he had a lot to offer and people were taking notice. 1991 was his breakout year to show fans that he would be a staple for the promotion for years to come. He was able to show a little bit while in the WWF in 1990, but Dustin had a lot of success in the mid card ranks of WCW and ended the year as a NWA/WCW Tag Team Champion.

Ron Simmons split from Butch Reed in early ’91 and by the end of the year Ron was challenging for the top prize in WCW. Was Ron’s rise a surprise to fans in ’91? The Undertaker may not have been the greatest wrestler ever, but he certainly embraced the deadman character enough to become an iconic character in professional wrestling. The former Mean Mark in WCW had quickly become a main event attraction for the WWF.

Paul Bearer, the third runner-up.

Paul Bearer, the third runner-up.

1991 Manager Of The Year: Bobby Heenan (16,196)
1st Runner-Up: Harley Race (14,712)
2nd Runner-Up: Alexandra York (11,377)
3rd Runner-Up: Paul Bearer (8,812)

Teddy Long, the previous years winner, ended up coming in fifth place. Heenan wins his second award in three years. While he managed WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect, his biggest accomplishment and reason for winning the award is due in large part for bringing Ric Flair into the WWF so that fans would be able to see the dream match between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, which would happen a few times towards the end of ’91 with the likelihood of a showdown at WrestleMania VIII. There’s no way that doesn’t happen, right?

Harley Race came in second place thanks to managing the WCW World Champion, Lex Luger. Race was the man behind Luger’s heel turn at the Great American Bash in the summer of ’91. Had Harley won the award, he would have been the first man to be Wrestler of the Year (1979) and Manager of the Year.

1991 Feud of the Year.

1991 Feud of the Year.

1991 Feud Of The Year: Ultimate Warrior vs. The Undertaker (15,332)
1st Runner-Up: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter (14,829)
2nd Runner-Up: Sting vs. Abdullah the Butcher & Cactus Jack (13,102)
3rd Runner-Up: Lex Luger vs. Ron Simmons (11,919)

This one is rather interesting to me. Warrior and Undertaker had a feud over the summer, but their matches were not aired on television and they didn’t have a pay per view blowoff. Yes, they had a match at MSG in July, which was aired on the MSG Network, but the feud was mainly exclusive to house shows. Despite that, fans clearly were interested enough in the promo work and the moment when Taker locked Warrior inside a casket. The feud obviously captivated fans.

The main feud for the WWF came in second place. The Iraqi turncoat Sgt. Slaughter won the WWF World Championship in January and terrorized fans for three months until Hulk Hogan entered WrestleMania VII and defeated the villain to win the WWF World Championship. They would have several brutal brawls on the house shows that followed and their feud came to an end in August at SummerSlam. Fire played a part in the feud as Slaughter had burned Hogan gear and almost did the same to the American flag. Oh, and he tossed a fireball into Hogan’s face a few weeks after his Mania loss.

1991 Most Popular Of The Year: Sting (17,287)
1st Runner-Up: Hulk Hogan (16,183)
2nd Runner-Up: Sid Justice (13,184)
3rd Runner-Up: Steiner Brothers (12,834)

Despite losing the WCW World Championship in January, Sting maintained his popularity amongst fans. By the end of the year, fans were anticipating a showdown between the Stinger and the Total Package, which would occur in early ’92.

Sure, he defended America’s honor and regained the WWF World Championship, but Hulk Hogan wasn’t able to surpass the Stinger to be the most popular wrestler for ’91. Also in a surprising showing, it took Sid Justice only a handful of months in the WWF as a good guy to garner a second runner-up showing.

Very few people liked Sgt. Slaughter.

Very few people liked Sgt. Slaughter.

1991 Most Hated Wrestler Of The Year: Sgt. Slaughter (22,467)
1st Runner-Up: The Undertaker (17,293)
2nd Runner-Up: Lex Luger (11,249)
3rd Runner-Up: Jake Roberts (7,976)

“Listen up you little pukes.” Not something a lot of fans enjoyed hearing throughout ’91. The once popular and pro USA superstar betrayed fans by turning his back on America to become an Iraqi sympathizer. Slaughter main motive was all about money, apparently, and when he asked for forgiveness it didn’t sit well with many readers of the PWI. Slaughter may have been one of the few guys to guarantee an overwhelming positive reaction for Hulk Hogan in the 90s.

I suppose locking the Ultimate Warrior inside a casket and subsequent beatings didn’t win over WWF fans, thus locking the Undertaker into the first runner-up spot for the most hated wrestler of ’91. Taker dominated 1991 and even had a brief WWF World Championship reign when he pinned Hulk Hogan. Taker’s partner in crime, Jake Roberts got fewer votes than I was expecting. After all, Roberts tormented the Warrior for several weeks, ruined the Savage/Elizabeth wedding and had his snake bite the arm of the Macho Man. All of that seems like an easy way to get the fans to despise him. You can never trust a snake.

1991 Match Of The Year: Steiner Brothers vs. Sting & Lex Luger (23,919)
1st Runner-Up: Bret Hart vs. Curt Hennig (12,845)
2nd Runner-Up: Lex Luger vs. Ron Simmons (11,992)
3rd Runner-Up: Cactus Jack vs. Eddie Gilbert (6,124)

It may have been only eleven minutes, but the tag match between the Steiner Brothers and the team of Sting and Lex Luger provided non-stop action and kept fans interest the entire time. Four friends battling it out on pay per view and giving it all while maintaining a friendship. Clearly, most fans appreciated the efforts. The breakout moment for Bret Hart’s singles career came in second place when he beat Curt Hennig for the WWF Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. A lot of credit goes to Hennig who wrestled the match with a busted back.

The third runner-up was a best two out of three falls match that saw a falls count anywhere match, stretcher match and a steel cage war. The match is on YouTube and is quite brutal.

The Enforcers, 1991 Tag Team Of The Year.

The Enforcers, 1991 Tag Team Of The Year.

1991 Tag Team Of The Year: The Enforcers (15,662)
1st Runner-Up: Legion of Doom (14,914)
2nd Runner-Up: Steiner Brothers (14,827)
3rd Runner-Up: Robert Fuller & Jeff Jarrett (6,523)

A close call between three tag teams with the least likely team, in my opinion, managing to win the award. Larry Zbyszko and Arn Anderson had been a tag team for less than a six months and managed to win the award. Meanwhile, the Legion of Doom ran over all the competition in the WWF and easily dethroned the Nasty Boys to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam ’91. The Steiner Brothers got plenty of votes despite Scott Steiner missing several months due to injury, but it’s likely the Superbrawl tag match impressed fans that much to give the Steiner’s a good showing the this award as well.

Hulkamania continues to run wild.

Hulkamania continues to run wild.

1991 Wrestler Of The Year: Hulk Hogan (18,238)
1st Runner-Up: Lex Luger (15,249)
2nd Runner-Up: Bret Hart (12,814)
3rd Runner-Up: Sting (12,248)

He won his feud with Sgt. Slaughter winning the main event at WrestleMania VII and won the 1991 Royal Rumble. By the end of the year, Hogan competed in several matches with Ric Flair, managing to be on the winning side of contests. The matches weren’t aired on national television, but they were regularly talked about.

Luger turned on the fans and won his first WCW World Championship at the Great American Bash, but still got enough votes to come in second place for the award. Bret Hart broke through as a singles wrestler winning the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Despite being the most popular wrestler, Sting didn’t achieve enough in the ring in fans eyes to be seen as the wrestler of the year.

What awards surprised you? Would you have voted any differently than how the PWI readers voted in 1991?

Leave your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading.

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