When do you feel the WWE roster was at its all-time strongest?
For me, I'll say it had to be 1991-92. The roster at this point in time was just stacked beyond belief. This is when they got Ric Flair in his prime, The Undertaker's streak was only beginning, Bret Hart's singles career was also just beginning, and the Road Warriors had arrived to compete in an already amazing tag team division.
The only major losses that come to mind are Rick Rude (who left in October of 1990) and Dusty Rhodes (who left after the 1991 Royal Rumble), but I think we can all agree that Dusty didn't quite fit in.
Here is their roster at the time and if I'm forgetting anyone, please don't hesitate to correct me.
Main eventers/upper card talent: Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage, Sid Justice, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Mr. Perfect, Sgt. Slaughter
Midcard talent: Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, Big Bossman, Ricky Steamboat, Davey Boy Smith, Kerry Von Erich, Ted DiBiase, The Mountie, Honky Tonk Man
Lower card talent: Virgil, Jim Duggan, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Koko B. Ware, Jimmy Snuka, Jim Neidhart, Irwin R. Schyster, Warlord, Barbarian, Col. Mustafa, Haku, Rick Martel, Bad News Brown
Tag teams: Legion of Doom, Bushwhackers, The Rockers, Demolition, Powers of Pain, Nasty Boys, Natural Disasters, Beverly Brothers, Power & Glory, Orient Express
So what could have been better or at least what would I have done differently? For starters, I never would have split up Demolition or Powers of Pain. 2 of my all-time favorite teams that had no business going their own ways. Who didn't see Repo Man failing from a thousand miles away? Out of these 5 guys, the Warlord was the one who had the look to actually become something on his own, but regardless he and Barbarian were excellent together.
Matches/feuds we missed out on? As great as the roster was, there were a lot if you ask me. Wrestlemania VII and VIII should have been among the best we've ever seen. The 1992 Royal Rumble will always be the greatest rumble match of all-time. So greatly played out. SummerSlam 1991 could have been so much better than it was. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but Ric Flair, Jake Roberts, The Undertaker, Sid Justice and the "retired" Randy Savage weren't even on the card for this one. Survivor Series 1991 always stands out as one of my favorites with The Undertaker tombstoning Hogan onto the steel chair placed in the ring by Ric Flair to win his first WWE Championship. The terrific feud between Randy Savage and Jake Roberts and the cobra biting Savage while he was tied in the ropes. These are some of my favorite memories from when I was a child. But as I said, it just feels like there was always more they could have done with the talent they had available to them.
Here is my short list of matches/feuds that never were bit always should have been:
Hulk Hogan and Mr. Perfect or Jake Roberts at SummerSlam '91 (WWE Championship)
Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII (WWE Championship)
"Macho Man" Randy Savage vs Jake "The Snake" Roberts at WrestleMania VIII (Steel Cage or Career Match)
Legion of Doom vs Demolition at WrestleMania VII (Tag Team Championship)
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat at SummerSlam 1991 (Intercontinental Championship)
Ultimate Warrior vs The Undertaker or Jake Roberts at SummerSlam 1991
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper vs Ric Flair at SummerSlam 1991
Legion of Doom vs Powers of Pain or The Rockers at SummerSlam 1991 (Tag Team Championship)
Mr. Perfect vs Ricky Steamboat or Davey Boy Smith at Royal Rumble 1991 (Intercontinental Championship)
There are plenty of other matches/feuds I would've loved to have seen and won't even be particular about the time:
Randy Savage vs Mr Perfect
Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair
Ultimate Warrior vs Sid Justice
Undertaker vs Sid Justice
Ultimate Warrior vs Ric Flair
Randy Savage vs Sid Justice
Roddy Piper vs Randy Savage
The Rockers vs Demolition
Demolition vs Nasty Boys
Demolition vs Natural Disasters
Randy Savage vs Bret Hart
Randy Savage vs Undertaker
Ricky Steamboat vs Jake Roberts
Oh what could have been...
02-03 had a pretty insanely stacked roster:
Austin, Rock, Taker, Goldberg, Michaels, Lesnar, HHH, Angle, Flair, Eddie, Edge, Jericho, Benoit, Kane, Show, The Dudleys, The Hardy's, Booker, Christian, RVD, Steiner, Mysterio,... not to mention up and coming names like Cena, Orton, and Batista.
Sure the Divas and Tag divisions sucked, but I would definitely say this was the roster that had the most accumulated star power without a doubt.
Today's roster by far. They just have the factors working against them in their overexposure in an industry that hasn't innovated enough for today's performers to look as talented as they really are.
They also aren't popping steroids as much as they should.
I can't say which year was the strongest talent-wise for the WWF--I'm far too lazy to do the amount of research I'd need to do to give a definitive answer. While I can't say for certain that it's the best year talent-wise, I can pimp the starpower of the WWF in 1984.
During the first half of '84, they still had Bob Backlund, a man who had just recently held their World Championship for six years. They also had Bruno Sammartino, who holds the record for their longest World Championship reign and also happens to be considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. Hulk Hogan-possibly the most famous grappler in history-arrived and became a mainstream phenomenon, embarking upon another of the WWF's greatest title reigns. To add to that list of great champions, they employed Andre the Giant, who was the biggest attraction in the world of wrestling.
There were also terrific foils for the above mentioned superstars. Rowdy Roddy Piper was one of wrestlings greatest ever heels and soon would be instrumental in the success of the historic first Wrestlemania. Big John Studd was a good opponent for Andre and Ken Patera and Dr. D were some of the most hated wrestlers of the time. The Iron Sheik, another World Champ, helped propel the popularity of Slaughter and Hogan. He then teamed up with the incoming Nikolai Volkoff, with the team becoming multiple World tag champs in early '85.
The midcard was loaded with talent as well. Greg Valentine and Tito Santana are two of the all-time greatest Intercontinental champions. The British Bulldogs, one of histories best teams, arrived and the young team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo was loaded with promise. Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka and JYD were some of the most popular wrestlers in the country. Paul Orndorff battled Hogan early in the year and later became of one of Hogan's greatest rivals, selling massive amounts of tickets.
There are tons of stars I haven't even mentioned yet, guys like Adrian Adonis, the always underrated Bob Orton, Jr., Dick Murdoch, Jesse Ventura, the newly arriving Bret Hart, Blackjack Mulligan, and the Briscos. The WWF had also acquired Gene Okerlund to handle interviews and had some of the most successful managers ever with Bobby Heenan, "The Guiding Light" Lou Albano, Classy Freddy Blassie and The Grand Wizard on board.
I'm sure there will be some convincing arguments for many other years, but I think it will be difficult to find any that can match the legacies and sheer star power of Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Andre the Giant and Bob Backlund. Those guys have combined to hold the title over twenty-two years!
When you think about it, and admitted it's probably a bit biased; but the current day WWE roster is really strong and even the weaker wrestlers tend to have a redeeming feature to them.
You have great wrestlers not just in the main event, but also in the midcard to; people like Cesaro, Kevin Owens, A.J Styles, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, all of which have proven to be phenomenal workers that can be counted on to have a great match.
Admittedly the booking may not be the best for everyone, but even in other rosters mentioned as 'the strongest' such as 2002-03 and 1991-92 they probably had people complaining about why this person wasn't world champion or why that guy was getting pushed over everyone else.
From an in-ring talent perspective, the roster just seems to get better and better as time goes on. The 2017 roster is absolutely stacked with some of the best wrestlers in the world, all of whom come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, from the top of the card to the bottom. Big guys like Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe are delivering like they're half the size and are changing the ways in which big guys should be perceived in WWE. The top stars of the company, guys like John Cena, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, are consistently delivering top quality matches and are certain to deliver match of the year-worthy competition when the time is right. And as you go down the roster, it continues to impress.
From the perspective of legacy, and what particular stars meant at that time and what they would come to be, I suppose that the 1991/92 roster was indeed very stacked. The mid-card in particular had a plethora of talent, some very new and exciting, others a little more experienced and perhaps heading out the door in one way or another. But it was a very solid line-up. I agree that the 2002/03 roster was, in retrospect, very stacked too, though I'm not so sure which of the two will have a bigger legacy once the latter is as aged as the former.
I don't know if this truly qualifies, but I'd also argue that the roster in the very late 1990s, heading into the end of the Attitude Era, was quite special. Top stars like Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Kane, even Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho to a certain extent, are some of the best of all-time and all collided at the same time in a very short period. The shows were written in a way in which even the most irrelevant seeming guys, like say a Perry Saturn for old time's sake, would seem like a very important deal in whatever kind of way he was featured. That's part of what I think made that era very special, because everyone seemed to play an important enough part that they are still remembered, even when they probably wouldn't be as so in other times. I think it all depends on perspective and what you value in a roster.
Another match/feud I can't believe I forgot to include is the Hart Foundation vs Legion of Doom. I feel like the 1991 Royal Rumble or WrestleMania 7 would've been an opportune time.
Also, I've always wondered why in the world the Hitman and Anvil never feuded after they went their separate ways in 1991. They lost the tag team championships to the Nasty Boys at WM7, had one more match in July, and then of course Bret quickly was pushed on his own and won the IC Title at SummerSlam. It seems to me they should have turned Neidhart heel and they could have spent the next 3 months in a feud, maybe longer. I know Hennig was having back issues and they needed to get the title off him, and Bret was their guy, but that doesn't explain why they never took advantage of a good storyline opportunity in the months prior to SS. Maybe there is more to it that I'm not aware of, but I'm just confused why they wouldn't go the traditional route of having former tag team partners square off.
Plus neidhart has never been strong in singles...
Wikipedia says Neidhart wasn't fired until early 1992 for misconduct. I agree he was never strong on his own, but that goes for plenty of guys who were in tag teams and split up. There's more often than not a break out star of the team and then the "Jannetty" of the team. It just would've been a much better use of him to help put Bret over and be a stepping stone on his way to the IC Title.
I'm not counting Demolition as it took Crush over a year to start feuding with the Repo Man, and to my knowledge it was never mentioned on tv that they used to partner.
Add to that the fact already mentioned that Neidhart wasn't a great singles wrestler - indeed, he was put on commentary for a while before teaming with Owen Hart as the New Foundation, with only a handful of televised singles matches after the Hart Foundation split.
I always feel bad for Jannetty. His name has become wrestling parlance for the weaker tag team member who fades into obscurity after a split, but actually this is very revisionist. Watch early Raws on the Network and you will see a Jannetty who is heavily featured, in some of the best tv matches in 1993 and early 1994, won both the Intercontinental and Tag Titles, and only actually got taken off tv after a jobber sued WWE and Jannetty after breaking his neck in a botched Rocker Dropper by Marty a couple of years earlier.
Contrast that with Neidhart, who never really did anything of note after splitting with Bret, and who's comebacks usually lasted only a handful of months, and surely the failed tag team member should be known as the "Anvil" of the team?
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