The ZX-9R debuted in 1994. Kawasaki developed the model in response to Honda's introduction of the CBR900RR FireBlade for the 1992 model year. Along with Kawasaki's own GPz900R, Suzuki's GSX-R750, both of which preceded it, and Ducati's 916 and Yamaha's YZF-R1 which followed it, The FireBlade (CBR900RR in North America) is widely considered one of the five pivotal sport bike designs of all time.
Prior to the advent of the FireBlade, large-capacity Japanese sports motorcycles had become polarised. On one side were the 750 cc sport bikes, influenced by Endurance racing and the World Superbike Championship. On the other, the "big-bore" 1000cc-plus sports-tourers had become the natural evolution of the performance bikes of the preceding 20 years. In simple terms, the 750's had the handling, the big-bores had the power. In both categories, Kawasaki ruled. The ZXR750 offered the technology and the performance of ultra-expensive racing-homologation models from Honda and Yamaha at half the price, and it outclassed the similarly-priced GSX-R750 of the time, which still featured a perimeter frame and an oil-cooled engine, while the ZZ-R1100 held the title of the fastest production motorcycle on Earth.