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Plotting the roots of the attitude era is an interesting debate given that many of the puzzle pieces in 1994 were with the wrong company. Below I will document the 1994's of eight men who would be amongst the biggest stars of the late 90s.
Steve Austin - Read More: Did WCW misuse Steve Austin?
Austin's 1994 is covered in WWE history as the year WCW lost the plot with him. You've seen the story - he had some great matches with Steamboat then lost that match to Jim Duggan and the world fell around him. By the turn of 1995 Austin was still contracted with WCW, and the company still had plans for him but internal politics and other priorities had denied him both winning back the US Title and a run with Sensational Sherri as his new manager, and injury denied him a run with Harley Race by his side.
He entered the year as Terra-Ryzin, and ended it as a Frenchman called "Jean-Paul Levesque". He was seen in the company as one of two rising stars alongside German Alex Wright - the two even shared a match on pay-per-view at Starrcade. January 1995 would see him hand in his notice to join the WWF, but in 1994 the belief was Levesque would be a name for the future. They were right with him, even if they were wide of the mark with Wright!
Mankind - Read more: How Cactus Jack turned water into wine in 1994
Cactus Jack, out of him and the two names above, is probably the one who's departure from WCW is least memorable, but he can probably count himself the most unlucky. Unlike Triple H (an undercard guy they had high hopes for) and Austin (a mid carder they saw something in), Jack had tasted what the dinner was like at the top table in WCW in 1993. But by 1994, despite having some great matches in WCW, he was phased out. He instead became a regular in ECW, striking up an unlikely partnership with Mikey Whipwreck, and wowing ECW's hardcore audience with promos that only Ric Flair on the WCW roster could say they realistically topped.
Undertaker - Read more: Feud in Review - Undertaker vs Undertaker
It would not be stupid to look at the Undertaker in 1994 and wonder how he made it. He entered the year as one of the most over acts in the company, but a series of hair-brained booking decisions really would've killed anyone else. In January he was beaten after interference from a dozen wrestlers in the WWF title match against Yokozuna, he then missed Wrestlemania entirely, before facing himself at Summerslam. It was even worse than it sounds. Oh well, at least WWF didn't let him go!
Still a defensive lineman at this stage, according to his University of Miami card he could bench press 400 lbs and squat 500 lbs. His teammate at the University of Miami called him a “specimen”. He wouldn't start wrestling until 1995.
Hulk Hogan - Read more: Was Hulk Hogan a success for WCW in 1994?
Began the year on the set of Thunder in Paradise, ended it as WCW World Heavyweight Champion. Was a star acquistion for WCW, even if his contract was insane, and won the title in his first night against Flair at Bash of the Beach before eventually “retiring” Flair at Halloween Havoc. Still a babyface at this stage, but was getting mixed reactions in certain markets.
Kevin Nash - Read more: The Rise of Diesel
1994 was the year of Diesel in the WWF. Record number of eliminations in the Royal Rumble? Check. WWF Intercontinental Champion? Check. WWF Tag Team Champion? Check. And, yes, WWF Champion? Check. Diesel had quite the rise in 1994, culminating in defeating Bob Backlund for the WWF title in less than ten seconds at a live event (incidentally, the last non-Televised WWF/E World Title change). He entered 1995 on top of the world.
Razor and Shawn Michaels put on a masterclass at Wrestlemania X, a ladder match that would define the ladder match. Otherwise, Razor can perhaps look at 1994 as a frustrating year, one where he was one of the more over acts in the company, and one of the better wrestlers too, but the bad guy ended it as he started it, being a guy but not the guy...
Sting - Read more: 1994 - a Year to Forget for Sting
Much like The Undertaker, he was the only person to start 1994 in the right place, but he can also point to a year of disappointment, even if it was more a year of irrelevance than it was incompetance. On paper, his year doesn't look all that bad, featuring in the main event of Slamboree and regularly being in major storylines. But too often he was an afterthought, and once Hulk Hogan arrived he often struggled to make it onto pay-per-views, let alone in the main event. Ended 1994 in a feud with Avalanche that, despite only being in its opening month or so, felt like it would never end.
Defensive tackle at the Atlanta Falcons. His football career still had another year in it, starting in 1990, but we were still a couple of years from him even stepping in the squared circle.