You know that old saying, “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”? Nothing could be closer to the truth when analyzing the year that was 1995 within the World Wrestling Federation. Prior to their massive spike in popularity that would arrive in 1998, Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire was crumbling in the face of a determined young upstart by the name of Eric Bischoff with his Ted Turner financed wrasslin’ company, WCW. Author James Dixon looks at the budget cutbacks, decreased wages and stagnant programming that plagued the global entertainment juggernaut as its promoter Vince McMahon struggled to find a way to compete as well as increase the company’s fledgling audience.
While mainly concentrating on 1995, the book also delves into the WWF’s various lawsuits of the early 1990s, the steroid trial initiated by the United States government and McMahon’s struggle to compete with WCW signing away his brightest stars. There’s even a portion dedicated to the long rumored Randy Savage/Stephanie McMahon scandal, calling attention to whether or not anything actually transpired between the two. Hard evidence is given through quotes from those who were backstage during the time and an eerily specific rant given from Savage himself seemed to give it credence.
For hardcore fans like myself, there may not be much in here you don’t already know. However, it does reinforce how horrific the morale was among the workers backstage. A group known as “The Kliq” comprised of top stars Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1,2,3 Kid” Waltman and Paul “Triple H” Levesque continually occupied the top of the card, thus receiving large payouts and creating a glass ceiling of sorts for those hoping to ascend to main event status.
Of those comprising The Kliq, Shawn Michaels was without a doubt the worst of the bunch. If the man hadn’t been so undeniably talented, there’s no way he could have gotten away with half of what he did. Seemingly all of the events that occurred within the company during that period either ended or started with Michaels “losing his temper”. The gang would terrorize others backstage, sabotage matches if they happened to be working with a performer they didn’t like as well as constantly having the ear of McMahon lobbying to remain on top. The atmosphere became so bad that a rival group was formed under the guidance of locker room veteran Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway, whose chief job would be to police the Kliq making sure things never came to the point of violence.
Dixon’s book is tightly researched taking content from shoots (interviews with a performer out of character), podcasts, memoirs and documentaries (all of which are cited in the rear of the book). Dixon even had Jim Cornette, a man at the forefront of the madness in 1995, write the foreword. Recommended to me through what could be considered an excellent companion podcast, The New Generation Project Podcast, “Titan Sinking” is a great look at a difficult time for what is now the gold standard of wrestling.