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1994 was a year of two halves for WCW. The pre-Hogan part was high on in ring quality and action, the run after Hogan joined saw a sharp and certainly not coincidental drop in the quality of matches up and down the card, as Hogan's friends from WCW began to dominate up and down the card. But fear not, there are some really, really good matches to sink your teeth into from 1994.
1. Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne vs The Nasty Boys – Spring Stampede – Chicago Street Fight
Take a hot crowd, four big guys who are all better at brawling than they are at wrestling and a style of wrestling that hasn't been exposed (yet) to the audience and you get an easy match of the year candidate. Pool cues, shovels, tables, fake merchandise stands and more all get involved in a walking brawl fit for the attitude era. Cactus Jack did his trademark concrete spot, and the match mercifully ended involving a table breaking too soon. An all out war. Read more about the Jack/Nasty Boys feud.
2. Vader vs The Boss – Spring Stampede
Vader is great, this is known. Ray Traylor can be hit and miss (his run as Guardian Angel that began at the conclusion of this match was more of the latter). But this was a phenomenal hard hitting match between two of the best “super-heavyweights” around. If you're like me and your wrestling comes with big guys slugging eachother to death you'll love this match – Vader's athleticism stood out here.
3. Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan vs The Nasty Boys (with Dave Schultz as special guest ref) – Broad Street Bully Match
Much of the same as the match at Spring Stampede this one. Another war. What's interesting about this one is that it seems as if the original plan was for Kevin and Dave Sullivan to face the Nasty Boys here, with Cactus replacing the injured Dave (rather than Kevin replacing Maxx Payne). Either way, it was certainly worth it. Not quite as good as their first, although essentially the same type of match with a more satisfying conclusion as both Dave Sullivan and Maxx Payne came out afterwards to give the Nasties their commupance.
4. Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat – Spring Stampede – WCW World Title Match
The main event of the best show of 1994, this was the classic wrestling match at the end of a high energy show full of brawls and violence. These two were both faces in this match, although Flair was in the process of turning heel, and they wrestled a classical match, not quite at the level they'd reached in the 1980s, but very good all the same. Not entirely sure why this match needed to end in a double pin (which bizarrely saw Flair stripped of the title as it was vacated, only to win it back a few weeks later). Just watch Spring Stampede!
5. Ric Flair vs Hulk Hogan – Bash At The Beach – WCW World Title Match
The highpoint of the year for WCW, the build was very difficult to get wrong (and to be fair, they pretty much nailed it) but the question was to whether the match could live up to the build. Flair and Hogan had about a good a Flair vs Hogan match here as you could possibly expect, and it was a great way to welcome Hogan into the company. Both worked very hard in your typical Hogan babyface match – the clean finished topped it off as Hogan won the title.
6. Brian Pillman, Sting & Dustin Rhodes vs Steve Austin, Rick Rude & Paul Orndorff – Superbrawl
A very entertaining match this one, probably quite unlucky to only go 14 minutes (Regal and Arn Anderson went 28 minutes on this show, so not like they were rushed) but this was a fun to watch match involving six of WCW's upper mid card at the time. A stand out performance from Steve Austin in this one, too.
7. Dustin Rhodes vs Vader – Clash Of The Champions XXIX (November)
Two of WCW's best wrestlers in the middle of a very lack-lustre post Flair retirement Clash of the Champions – this was very good. A great moment near the start where Vader spits in Dustin's face, who flips out, dump tackles Vader to the mat then slugs him with left and rights. Just a really good match and a relatively clean finish. Really good match this.
8. Dustin Rhodes vs Bunkhouse Buck – “Bunkhouse Match” - Spring Stampede
You're beginning to get an idea why we chose Spring Stampede over Wrestlemania for the show of the year. Despite the interesting sounding name, this was basically a weapons match that very little build, but with a lot of blood and two hard working performances this match definitely earns its spot on the top ten WCW matches of 1994.
9. Vader vs Sting – Fall Brawl
For the sake of being official, technically this was a “triangle match” that involved Vader eliminating The Guardian Angel before the Vader and Sting match began, but the nomination very much belongs to their pairing to working incredibly hard and propping up and otherwise average Fall Brawl PPV that didn't include Hogan or Flair. It might not look like a great pairing on paper, but Sting and Vader just don't seem capable of having a bad match.
10. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) vs Terry Funk and Bunkhouse Buck (with Col. Robert Parker and Meng) – Halloween Havoc
A bit of fun on the end. You might watch this match and hate it but I thought it was a proper riot. Funk is great, Buck is great – their confusion at the start is really funny, and this is the Nasty Boys at their best too. And any match that ends with a piledriver onto a pumpkin gets my vote.