COMMENTARY | As is the case with every form of entertainment, the professional wrestling industry has experienced its share of both high and low points through the years.
However, pro wrestling fans remember the greatest years very well. Sometimes, wrestling's best years were characterized by a plethora of incredible matches. Other outstanding years are remembered for shocking storyline developments. On the other hand, some fans consider wrestling's greatest years to be times when multiple top promotions pushed each other to raise the bar to heights never seen before.
Take a look back at the 10 greatest years in professional wrestling history.
In 1963, Vince McMahon, Sr. pulled his Capitol Wrestling promotion out of the NWA and founded the WWWF. That same year, Bruno Sammartino began his eight-year run as WWWF Champion. Meanwhile, Lou Thesz won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for the third time and the AWA Championship changed hands six times.
Although the WWF had taken great strides to become the top wrestling promotion by 1989, this year was great for many other reasons besides the WWF. Ted Turner's upstart WCW promotion and the NWA joined forces to compete with the WWF. This year also saw Ric Flair have two legendary feuds with both Terry Funk and Ricky Steamboat.
Long title reigns were the norm in this era of pro wrestling, but fans must have been wondering if Bruno Sammartino's WWWF Championship reign would ever end. However, Ivan Koloff finally defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF title in 1971. Besides great wrestling in America, Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki were an incredible tag team in Japan.
The first hints of a new era of pro wrestling were on the horizon in 1978. WWWF cards at the Philadelphia Spectrum and Madison Square Garden could be seen on cable. Meanwhile, Georgia Championship Wrestling aired on WTBS on the weekend. This year also saw several incredible matches take place between stars of different promotions.
1983 saw the juxtaposition of two eras of wrestling come to a head. Vince McMahon took his WWF promotion and the industry as a whole in a new direction by signing Hulk Hogan. The NWA kept the pressure on this year with its first installment of Starrcade. Regional promotions such as Mid-South and WCCW flourished this year as well.
In the opinion of many fans, this year's installment of WWF WrestleMania is the greatest in history. Andre the Giant passed the torch to Hulk Hogan in the main event. However, Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage stole the show earlier that day. Over 90,000 wrestling fans attended WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan.
The significance of this year in the annals of pro wrestling is that the National Wrestling Alliance began in 1948. The organizational structure improved the quality of wrestling, brought the industry to national television, and increased revenue. Contrary to popular belief, Orville Brown, not Lou Thesz, was the first NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Eric Bischoff caught lightning in a bottle with The Outsiders invasion storyline in 1996. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash terrorized WCW that year leading up to Bash at the Beach. If this storyline wasn't great enough on its own, Hulk Hogan turned heel and formed the NWO. This year was also the beginning of the Austin 3:16 era in the WWF.
Vince McMahon struck gold in 1985 with WrestleMania. His new vision of pro wrestling as sports entertainment worked to perfection in the build to WrestleMania. Celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Liberace, Cyndi Lauper, and Mr. T brought a new generation of fans to wrestling this year. In the NWA, Flair was champion for the entire year.
Unlike most of the previous years, 1998 was great for many reasons. Mike Tyson's involvement in Steve Austin's WWF storyline was outstanding. This was also the year that The Undertaker threw Mick Foley off the top of the cell. In WCW, Goldberg rose to prominence. And ECW kept the pressure on with a new style of hardcore wrestling.
Without question, 1998 was the greatest year in the history of pro wrestling.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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