A Look Back At: The 1994 PWI Awards
How did the fans of Pro Wrestling Illustrated vote for the year 1994 in wrestling? Find out and let us know if you agree!
1994 Rookie Of The Year: 911 (12,701)
1st Runner Up: Bob Holly (10,567)
2nd Runner Up: Abbudah Singh (6,957)
3rd Runner Up: Mikey Whipwreck (6,321)
For most of his career, 911 mainly just went around and deliver a choke slam to people and the fans enjoyed it way more than they should have. 911 certainly didn’t have the in-ring skill to win the award but his popularity was undeniable. Bob Holly was a rookie in the since of national spotlight. Holly was a solid hand in the ring for his first year, but his NASCAR gimmick likely held him back some. Whipwreck had a respectable showing for a guy who lost his matches and rarely had any offense.
1994 Inspirational Wrestler Of The Year: Bret Hart (19,498)
1st Runner Up: Terry Funk (19,122)
2nd Runner Up: The Guardian Angel (12,904)
3rd Runner Up: Dave Sullivan (11,456)
He had his younger brother turn on him at the Royal Rumble, and then that same night co-won the Royal Rumble. He lost to his brother Owen at Mania, but that same night he regained the WWF World Championship. Bret Hart inspired a lot of people with his refusal to stay down despite all the odds thrown at him. He defended the belt against anyone much like he had done during his first reign in ’93. A fighting champion inspired just enough people to beat out Terry Funk for the award.
1994 Most Improved Wrestler Of The Year: Diesel (23,004)
1st Runner Up: Johnny B. Badd (13,013)
2nd Runner Up: Sabu (10,097)
3rd Runner Up: Owen Hart (8,329)
After a disastrous run in WCW, Kevin Nash jumped ship to the WWF to become the bodyguard of Shawn Michaels and promptly had the most effective year of his career. An impressive run at the Rumble and winning the WWF Intercontinental Championship in April. Sure, he lost the belt back to Razor Ramon at SummerSlam, but by November Diesel would be the WWF World Champion by squashing Bob Backlund at the Garden. Though he wasn’t putting on stellar matches, he found a routine and his powerful ways led him to a long successful career that many didn’t think was going to happen.
Johnny B. Badd had a turnaround year with matches against DDP, Steve Austin and Lord Steven Regal throughout the year. His exposure against top tier talent in comparison to who he was wrestling the year prior propelled him to a level of popularity he had not reached prior. By far the most improved talent for WCW during the year.
Sabu unique style of wrestling and hardcore nature of ECW likely played a factor in his vote getting. At this point, Sabu was at the top of his game and his name was on the rise for ECW. Owen Hart had only been known as a member of High Energy and the younger brother to Bret, but his incredible matches with Bret throughout the year elevated Owen to the top heel for most of the year and provided a legitimate argument to who the better Hart really was.
1994 Comeback Of The Year: Hulk Hogan (12,489)
1st Runner Up: Bob Backlund (10,004)
2nd Runner Up: The Undertaker (7,890)
3rd Runner Up: Alundra Blayze (7,536)
For having not been on American television since June of ’93 and upon his debut in WCW winning the WCW World Championship in a dream match with Ric Flair, it’s not a surprise that Hogan would win the award for his comeback. The Hulkster had an entertaining if not one-sided feud with Flair and easily took care of the Butcher at Starrcade to show that he still had what it takes in the ring.
So did Bob Backlund who hadn’t been competing in wrestling for several years. Over the summer, Backlund wrestled Bret Hart on the 7/30 Superstars that led to a defeat. Nonetheless, Backlund would regain the WWF World Championship at the Survivor Series in November by beating Hart, but his reign would not last long at all.
After being knocked out of action by Yokozuna at the Rumble, Taker wasn’t seen for seven months before returning at SummerSlam to defeat a fake Undertaker. At Survivor Series, Taker got his revenge and his comeback was a success when he defeated Yokozuna in a casket match.
1994 Manager Of The Year: Jimmy Hart (16,432)
1st Runner Up: Ted DiBiase (11,982)
2nd Runner Up: Col. Robert Parker (8,.940)
3rd Runner Up: Paul E. Dangerously (8,871)
When you’re managing Hulk Hogan, it’s going to be hard not to win this award. So, well done Jimmy Hart. DiBiase didn’t get into the manager game until the summer when he recruited Tatanka and Bam-Bam Bigelow to be part of his corporation. The Million Dollar Corporation grew with Nikolai Volkoff for a brief time to go along with a fake Undertaker. DiBiase’s group was being presented fairly well by press time.
1994 Feud Of The Year: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (17,004)
1st Runner Up: Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair (16,898)
2nd Runner Up: Randy Savage vs. Crush (11,209)
3rd Runner Up: Sabu vs. Terry Funk (8,098)
Honestly, it’s the most memorable feud for me as well. Owen and Bret worked so well together and Owen carried himself very well on the microphone to make the feud that much better. At first not wanting to wrestle Owen to then accepting the challenge and losing, Bret made his brother Owen. WrestleMania X and SummerSlam are matches everyone should watch and appreciate wrestling at its finest.
Hogan and Flair had been a match everyone wanted to see back in 1992, but it never happened. Two years later in a different company the feud happened and it was all Hogan. The matches were entertaining but completely different from what Bret and Owen were offering. Flair never seemed to be on the same level of Hogan and it hurt the feud between the two of them. The dream match that never happened in ’92 would be a match that fans would grow to dislike seeing in WCW over time.
An underrated feud between Crush and Randy Savage comes in at third place. Crush had been friends with Savage but turned on the Macho Man after an attack by Yokozuna. The heel turn took place on RAW in October and when Crush dropped Savage face first across the guard railing. Their feud would continue to WrestleMania X where Savage won his final Mania match beating Crush in a falls count anywhere match. For a time there, Crush had been elevated to a serious heel threat.
1994 Most Popular Wrestler Of The Year: Sting (19,048)
1st Runner Up: Bret Hart (13,774)
2nd Runner Up: The Undertaker (11,503)
3rd Runner Up: Hulk Hogan (11,479)
Sure Hulkamania came into WCW, but the popularity of Sting didn’t seem to miss a beat. Throughout 1994, Sting competed for the WCW World Championship up to June. He lost the belt to Flair at the June Clash of the Champions. He won feuds against Rick Rude, Vader and aligned himself with Hulk Hogan. Oh,and he was still pretty good in the ring and his charisma connected with the fans. That probably helps, too.
Bret Hart comes in a distant second and I couldn’t tell you why. He was on the top of his game and working very well with Owen throughout the year. I suppose Sting was just THAT over with the fans of the magazine. Not so shockingly, The Undertaker continues to rise up the ranks of the most popular acts in wrestling largely to the persona.
What is shockingly is that Hulk Hogan was almost on the honorable mention list of the award. The times be a changing in the world of good guys in professional wrestling and the act of Hulkamania was clearly wearing thin with the fans.
1994 Most Hated Wrestler Of The Year: Bob Backlund (20,908)
1st Runner Up: Owen Hart (14,201)
2nd Runner Up: Big Van Vader (13,569)
3rd Runner Up: Jerry Lawler (10,512)
Backlund went insane and started talking to his hands. He also targeted Bret Hart, who was beloved by the WWF fans. Oh, and Backlund went on a rampage on RAW by putting the ever dangerous chicken wing submission on various people including his former manager Arnold Skaaland, whom he blamed for costing him the WWF World Championship back in 1983. There wasn’t much to like about Mr. Bob Backlund.
From kicking his brothers leg out of his leg and winning at WrestleMania X, Owen Hart was easily the most hated guy for the first half of the year in the WWF. Follow that up with the King of the Ring victory and nearly winning the WWF World Championship at SummerSlam. Though he didn’t win the title, he helped Backlund win the title at Survivor Series when he tricked his mother to toss the towel in.
Vader may have not won the WCW World Championship in 1994, but he was still a monster heel that people didn’t appreciate beating their favorite wrestlers up. Vader took care of the Boss/Guardian Angel for most of the year and by the end of the year he pinned Jim Duggan to win the WCW United States Champion. He made it evident at the end of the year that he was gunning for Hulk Hogan and the WCW World Championship.
1994 Match Of The Year: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (18,880)
1st Runner Up: The Nasty Boys vs. Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne (13,502)
2nd Runner Up: Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan (12,093)
3rd Runner Up: Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano (10,341)
It’s still one of my favorite matches when Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon squared off in the first ever ladder match to take place on pay per view. Michaels provided some great moments and Ramon held his own and came out on top as the undisputed WWF Intercontinental Champion. A deserving match to win this award for 1994.
The Nasty Boys and the team of Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne had a wild brawl at Spring Stampede that provided violence that had not often been seen in a national wrestling company. The match went all over the place and solidified all four men as the toughest guys that WCW had to offer.
I’m not surprised that the Hogan/Flair match at Bash at the Beach came in third place due to there still being that desire to see the match take place. For the first time in a long time WCW had a big match with proper build and antiquation, and they delivered a quality bout.
1994 Tag Team Of The Year: The Nasty Boys (18,904)
1st Runner Up: The Headshrinkers (14,069)
2nd Runner Up: Public Enemy (12,012)
3rd Runner Up: The Rock N Roll Express (9,047)
They had wild brawls with Cactus Jack, Maxx Payne and Kevin Sullivan during the first half of the year. Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags were hated by WCW fans but by the fall, the Nasty Boys aligned themselves with Dusty Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes to combat the Stud Stable. By the end of the year, the Nasty Boys were feuding with Harlem Heat and were without question the top baby face team in WCW.
While the Headshrinkers won the WWF World Tag Team Championships in June by defeating the Quebecers, their reign wasn’t memorable and ended at a house show in August. The WWF had a rather weak tag division for most of the year, thus a rather easy victory for the Nasty Boys this year.
1994 Wrestler Of The Year: Hulk Hogan (20,721)
1st Runner Up: Bret Hart (16,341)
2nd Runner Up: Razor Ramon (14,002)
3rd Runner Up: Ric Flair (13,912)
Yeah, Hulkamania may have only been running wild for six months, but apparently that was enough to give Hogan the Wrestler of the Year award. To be honest, he isn’t exactly deserving of it due to really only wrestling Ric Flair and the Butcher.
The guy I would have given the award to is Bret Hart, and it wouldn’t even be close. 1994 may be the best year Hart had as a singles star for the WWF. His matches with Owen are so damn good I feel like watching them again right now. His television match with the 1-2-3 Kid in July on RAW was spectacular and made Kid look like a threat even for a minute to the gold. Bret constantly defended the belt and worked and insane amount more than Hogan did the whole year. Hitman should have been credited with the award. Of course, this award was given to Hogan at Starrcade and there was a huge press conference for it, so perhaps there is something more to the story than I’m aware of.
What are your thoughts the 1994 Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards? Would you have given the awards to anyone differently?
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Thanks for reading.