Royal Rumble: Through The Years (Part 2, 1994-1999)
by Scrooge McSuck
Last time we started where it all began, a USA Network special that went opposite a poorly planned Crockett PPV, and carried our way through the end of the Hulkamania era, ending with the 1993 Rumble, the first to feature the prize of a guaranteed Championship Match at WrestleMania for the winner, and also the first in a long string of mediocre and/or poor Rumbles. We pick things up in 1994, the dawn of the "New Generation", and work our way through the rest of the 90ís...
1994 (January 22nd, The Civic Center @ Providence, RI)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Scott Steiner, 2. Samu, 3. Rick Steiner, 4. Kwang, 5. Owen Hart, 6. Bart Gunn, 7. Diesel, 8. Bob Backlund, 9. Billy Gunn, 10. Virgil, 11. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, 12. "Double J" Jeff Jarrett, 13. Crush, 14. Doink The Clown, 15. Bam Bam Bigelow, 16. Mabel, 17. Sparky Plugg, 18. Shawn Michaels, 19. Mo, 20. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 21. Tatanka, 22. The Great Kabuki, 23. Lex Luger, 24. Genichiro Tenryu, 25. NO ARRIVAL (Bastion Booger), 26. "The Model" Rick Martel, 27. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 28. Fatu, 29. Marty Jannetty, 30. Adam Bomb
1. Samu (by S. Steiner), 2. Rick Steiner (by Owen Hart), 3. Bart Gunn (by Diesel), 4. Scott Steiner (by Diesel), 5. Owen Hart (by Diesel), 6. Kwang (by Diesel), 7. Bob Backlund (by Diesel), 8. Billy Gunn (by Diesel), 9. Virgil (by Diesel), 10. Jeff Jarrett (by Savage), 11. Randy Savage (by Crush), 12. Doink (by Bigelow), 13. Diesel (by Mabel, Crush, Bam Bam, and Plugg), 14. Mabel (by Crush, Bam Bam, Sparky, Shawn, Valentine, Tatanka, and Kabuki), 15. The Great Kabuki (by Luger), 16. NON-ARRIVAL OF #25, 17. Crush (by Luger, Bigelow, and Plugg), 18. Sparky Plugg (by Hart), 19. Greg Valentine (by Martel), 20. Rick Martel (by Tatanka), 21. Adam Bomb (by Luger), 22. Mo (by Fatu), 23. Tatanka (by Bigelow), 24. Bam Bam Bigelow (by Luger), 25. Marty Jannetty (by Michaels), 26. Genichiro Tenryu (by Luger & Hart), 27. Fatu (by Luger), 28. Shawn Michaels (by Hart), CO-WINNERS: BRET HART and LEX LUGER
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
Rumble Match Rating: The trend of lackluster Rumble matches continues. You had the memorable sequence with Diesel dominating the ring (and becoming a traditional spot in Rumbles going forward), Bret Hartís "improbable" return from injury, and the double finish, but other than that, it was nothing to really get too hyped about. The biggest problem is the lazy way the ring just fills up in the second half, with 13 people still in the ring for the finale. Did Sparky Plugg need to be in the ring for 20 minutes, only to be eliminated nonchalantly? Or how about Mo? Greg Valentine and Rick Martel get extended ring time for being washed up acts, and in Valentineís case, a one-time appearance (not counting his masked role at Survivor Series í93) Iím not saying the last half is entirely void of interesting match-ups and eliminations (Jannetty vs. Michaels), but thereís so little mixed in that it gets lost in a sea of nothingness. **3/4
- Substitutions for 1994: Ludvig Borga (broken ankle), 1-2-3 Kid (hamstring injury), and Kamala (who the fuck booked and/or advertised KAMALA for this?!) are replaced by Kwang (making his debut), Sparky Plugg (also making his debut), and Virgil. Seriously... they advertised Kamala, even though he had been off TV since the early days of Summer, and wouldnít make an appearance in the WWF again until the WrestleMania X-Seven Gimmick Battle Royal.
- For the first time, the timed intervals are officially 90-seconds, due to the undercard running long underneath. I mustíve missed the announcement or just took it for granted, because when we noticed the accelerated clock, we didnít understand why. "Pay attention" seems to be a good lesson for anything and everyone.
- Rick Steiner looks so life-less and bored making his entrance. Rumors were that the Steiners were supposed to fight after eliminating Samu, but broke script. As if their relationship with McMahon wasnít already on thin ice.
- Owen Hart solidifies his heel turn from earlier in the night by going after Rick Steiner, who was just blinded by Kwangís mysterious green mist and cannot defend himself.
- Diesel is the first person to really dominate the ring, clearing out Scott Steiner, Bart Gunn, Kwang, and Owen (complete with a total babyface pop), and then picking off new entrants Bob Backlund, Billy Gunn, and Virgil, before Randy Savage breaks his streak up. The 7 eliminations was easily the most by one Superstar in this Rumble.
- Speaking of Virgil... for old timeís sake, Ted Dibiase on commentary running down Virgil for the 30-seconds heís in the ring.
- We get a few brief sequences between feuding Superstars, first Savage and Crush, and just a few moments later, Bam Bam and Doink. In each case, the heel threw out their rival, after a little bit of double teaming, of course.
- Mabel breaks the record for the united efforts for one elimination, topping Earthquakeís 1990 elimination by needing the strength of 7 men (Crush, Bigelow, Michaels, Plugg, Kabuki, Tatanka, and Valentine).
- For old timeís sake, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels do their standard sequence in a Battle Royal setting.
- "Heís (Tenryu) there to do a job, heís not there to win." Dibiase speaking the truest words in WWE history.
- As soon as Bret Hart came hobbling out for the 27th entrant, I think it became quite clear he was going to win this, after the entire build up was centered around Lex Luger.
- This yearís Iron Man is Bam Bam Bigelow, spending about 30-minutes in the ring, with Shawn Michaels right behind him with 29-minutes of ring time. The shortest tenure of 1994 belongs to Billy Gunn, spending about 15-seconds in the ring. Last yearís Iron Man and record holder, Bob Backlund, only had 30-seconds of ring time before being dumped out by Diesel.
- The Double Elimination Finish. Thankfully when they did a rehash of this in 2005, they didnít just go "oh well" and give them both the victory, but might as well have since I recall both men getting the Title Matches at that yearís WrestleMania.
- Tatanka def. Bam Bam Bigelow in a decent opener. This canít really be considered a blow-off to their Summer feud, since Bigelow had already moved on to feuding with babyface Doink, and was a last minute substitution for Ludvig Borga, who broke his ankle at MSG earlier in the week. [**1/2]
- The Quebecers def. Bret and Owen Hart to retain the Tag Team Championship when the referee stopped the match, believing Bret Hart was unable to continue when his knee buckled while attempting the Sharpshooter. Post-match, Owen completed his heel turn, kicking Bretís bad knee and cutting a bitter promo, stumbling over his words in memorable style. [***1/2]
- Razor Ramon def. Irwin R. Schyster to retain the Intercontinental Championship, despite outside interference from "real Intercontinental Champion" Shawn Michaels. [*1/2]
- Yokozuna def. The Undertaker in a Casket Match to retain the WWF Championship after interference from (deep breath) Crush, Tenryu, the Great Kabuki, Bam Bam Bigelow, Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, The Head Shrinkers, and Diesel. They also stole the urn and unleashed a disgusting green smog that hovered in the air for the rest of the show. And the coup de grace, the Undertaker cut a promo from inside the casket and vowed NOT to rest in peace before the giant screen flashed an explosion and the Undertaker elevated into the rafters... yes, this all happened. And it wasnít even the worst WWF match of 1994. [-*]
1995 (January 22nd, The USF Sun Dome @ Tampa, FL)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Shawn Michaels, 2. The British Bulldog, 3. Eli Blu, 4. Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, 5. Jimmy Delray, 6. Sionne, 7. Tom Prichard, 8. Doink The Clown, 9. Kwang, 10. "The Model" Rick Martel, 11. Owen Hart, 12. Timothy Well, 13. Luke, 14. Jacob Blu, 15. King Kong Bundy, 16. Mo, 17. Mabel, 18. Butch, 19. Lex Luger, 20. Mantaur, 21. Aldo Montoya, 22. Henry Godwinn, 23. Billy Gunn, 24. Bart Gunn, 25. Bob Backlund, 26. Steven Dunn, 27. Dick Murdoch, 28. Adam Bomb, 29. Fatu, 30. Crush
1. Jimmy Delray (by Bulldog), 2. Owen Hart (by Bulldog), 3. Duke Droese (by Michaels), 4. Timothy Well (by Bulldog), 5. Rick Martel (by Sionne), 6. Tom Prichard (by Michaels), 7. Doink (by Kwang), 8. Kwang (by Sioone), 9. Sionne (by Eli Blu), 10. Eli Blu (by Sionne), 11. Luke (by Michaels), 12. Jacob Blu (by Michaels), 13. Mo (by Bundy), 14. King Kong Bundy (by Mabel), 15. Butch (by Michaels), 16. Mabel (by Luger), 17. Bob Backlund (by Luger), 18. Mantaur (by Luger), 19. Bart Gunn (by Crush), 20. Billy Gunn (by Crush), 21. Steven Dunn (by Montoya), 22. Adam Bomb (by Crush), 23 Aldo Montoya (by Michaels), 24. Fatu (by Crush), 25. Dick Murdoch (self-eliminated), 26. Henry Godwinn (by Luger), 27. Lex Luger (by Michaels & Crush), 28. Crush (by Bulldog), 29. British Bulldog (by Michaels), WINNER: SHAWN MICHAELS
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
Rumble Match Rating: If not for the "Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog start and finish" storyline, this Rumble has almost nothing else going for it. The minor sequences with Mabel/Bundy and Bret Hart going out for revenge on Owen and Backlund can only go so far, and you could say the latter hurt the match more than it hurt, by taking out two of the three only credible heels in the match. The reduced run time definitely helped keep the pace going, but even that didnít stop the last few minutes of ring clutter from being a complete snooze. **
- The substitutions for the 1995 Royal Rumble: Rick Martel taking the place of Jim Neidhart, who received his pink slip a couple of weeks before the PPV. This would also mark the final (televised) appearance of Martel in the WWF. The Smoking Gunns took the spots originally reserved for the 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly.
- The big selling point of the Royal Rumble? Pamela Anderson, looking bored out of her mind. Nice to see future stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco getting screen time, accompanying her to the ring. Honestly, other than just being there, she served no purpose. She wasnít a guest ring announcer, time keeper, nothing. Just "sit at ringside and look pretty."
- For the first, and only, time in Royal Rumble history, entrants arrive at 60-second intervals. The reasoning? The undercard being the focus of the show and the weak roster necessitating it. Seriously, who wanted to see 2-minute intervals with the parade of JTTSí in this thing?!
- Jacob and Eli Blu (formerly the Bruise Brothers) are making their debut in this match. The funny story about that is when hyping the match, pictures were never shown of them, so when one was eliminated and another came out, I was convinced it was the same guy. It didnít help that Vince McMahon had NO CLUE who Eli was when he came out at #3.
- Creative (a.k.a lazy) booking: Owen Hart comes out, gets attacked by Bret Hart, and eliminated. Next person is one half of Well Dunn. Later in the match... Bob Backlund comes out, gets attacked Bret Hart, and eliminated. Next person is the other half of Well Dunn. Speaking of Well Dunn, Timothy Well (a.k.a jobber Rex King) flubbed his elimination, trying to do a flip in the corner turnbuckle a la Michaels or Flair, and messing it up. YOU HAD ONE JOB!
- King Kong Bundy and Mabel have the traditional (but not yearly) Battle of the Bulge ô. It mustíve gotten over well backstage, because they actually did a "Over The Top Rope" Rules Match a few weeks later on Monday Night Raw.
- For old timeís sake... Dick Murdoch. Just Dick Murdoch. Iím amazed Vince was willing to acknowledge the existence of the late-Adrian Adonis when bringing up Murdochís past.
- Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith set the Iron Man record of the match, with both starting and finishing the match at a time of 38 minutes and 41 seconds. Even with accelerated clocks and less time to be in the ring, Mo of Men on a Mission and Owen Hart both spent the least amount of time in the ring, running in and being thrown out in 3-seconds. Other notable times are both Bushwhackers lasting between 15-30 seconds each.
- Shawn Michaels with the most eliminations (obviously), throwing out 8 of the other participants. The Bulldog and Luger both tallied 4 eliminations. Speaking of Bulldog and Luger, it seems like a weird coincidence that after doing a lot of work together here, they were suddenly paired up as a tag team known as the "Allied Powers." Itís almost as dated of a reference as "League of Nations."
- "Double J" Jeff Jarrett def. Razor Ramon to win the Intercontinental Championship. They did a false finish where Ramon was counted out, but Jarrett demanded continuation. The typical finish on the house show circuit was Ramon somehow squeaking by with the victory, but in this case, Jarrett pinned him with an inside cradle. The Roadie (Brian Armstrong, a.k.a Road Dogg) made his PPV debut here and was a key factor in Jarrettís victory. [**3/4]
- The Undertaker def. Irwin R. Schyster in the never-ending feud between the Undertaker and the Million Dollar Corporation. Next up... King Kong Bundy. [1/2*]
- WWF Champion Diesel and Bret "Hitman" Hart wrestled to a No Contest after the third instance of outside interference. Great match with Bret working a mostly heel style, targeting the legs relentlessly. The second time on PPV Bret and Diesel had an inconclusive finish. [****1/4]
- The 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly def. Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka in the Finals of a Tournament to crown NEW Tag Team Champions. Heel miscommunication lead to Bigelow taking the final, and post-match he had a physical confrontation with NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. [***1/2]
1996 (January 21st, The Selland Arena @ Fresno, CA)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, 2. Henry Godwinn, 3. Bob Backlund, 4. Jerry "The King" Lawler, 5. Bob Holly, 6. King Mabel, 7. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 8. Dory Funk Jr., 9. Yokozuna, 10. The 1-2-3 Kid, 11. Takao Omori, 12. Savio Vega, 13. Vader, 14. Doug Gilbert, 15. Squat Team Member #1, 16. Squat Team Member #2, 17. Owen Hart, 18. Shawn Michaels, 19. Hakushi, 20. Tatanka, 21. Aldo Montoya, 22. Diesel, 23. Kama, 24. The Ringmaster, 25. Barry Horowitz, 26. Fatu, 27. Isaac Yankem D.D.S., 28. Marty Jannetty, 29. The British Bulldog, 30. Duke "The Dumpster" Droese
1. Bob Backlund (by Yokozuna), 2. Henry Godwinn (by Roberts), 3. King Mabel (by Yokozuna), 4. Takao Omori (by Roberts), 5. Dory Funk Jr. (by Savio), 6. Jake Roberts (by Vader), 7. Doug Gilbert (by Vader), 8. Squat Team Member #1 (by Vader), 9. Squat Team Member #2 (by Yokozuna), 10. Savio Vega (by Vader), 11. Yokozuna (by Michaels), 12. Vader (by Michaels), 13. The 1-2-3 Kid (by Michaels), 14. Hakushi (by Owen), 15. Aldo Montoya (by Tatanka), 16. Jerry Lawler (by Michaels), 17. Tatanka (by Diesel), 18. Bob Holly (by Ringmaster), 19. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (by Diesel), 20. Barry Horowitz (by Owen), 21. Owen Hart (by Diesel), 22. Marty Jannetty (by Bulldog), 23. The Ringmaster (by Fatu), 24. Fatu (by Yankem), 25. Isaac Yankem (by Michaels), 26. Duke Droese (by Kama & Diesel), 27. The British Bulldog (by Michaels), 28. Kama (by Diesel), 29. Diesel (by Michaels), WINNER: SHAWN MICHAELS
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- The official substitutions of 1996: Bam Bam Bigelow was advertised for the match, but was gone immediately after Survivor Series, so maybe they were hoping something could be worked out, but fell through. According to the WON, the likely replacement was either Bob Holly or Aldo Montoya. The latter seems more likely.
- With an even more depleted roster in 1996 (in 1995 they still had a ton of bottom-feeder tag teams to pad out the Rumble), offers were sent out to names like Warrior (who eventually signed by the time of WrestleMania XII), Vader (fresh off being terminated by WCW but in need of shoulder surgery), Jake Roberts (brought in originally as a one-shot deal), Rick Martel (shame he didnít make a token appearance), Sabu (ECW star who wanted to put himself through a table for a self-elimination), and Dan Severn (Mixed Martial Arts Champion), among others.
- Less notable names included a 55-year old Dory Funk Jr (maybe Terry turned them down), Doug Gilbert (on loan from USWA), Takao Omori (on loan from All Japan), and the Head Hunters (given the name "The Squat Team", notable for their hardcore style in IWA and countless Indy promotions).
- For the first time in Royal Rumble History, specific spots in the match itself were at stake in a match, with Duke Droese "earning" the #30 spot and Hunter Hearst Helmsley punished with the #1 spot when President Gorilla Monsoon over-turned a decision in their match on the first Free For All (the 30-minute lead-in show featured on the Preview Channel).
- Not the greatest start when it comes to the actual wrestling, but natural rivals Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Henry Godwinn kick things off.
- It wasnít the first time they brought in a name from the past, but Jake Robertsí appearance feels like it set the template for later years when it came to legends. He comes out, does his signature spot, in this case by unleashing his snake on everyone, and pops the crowd better than most of the roster. After getting the Damien treatment, Jerry Lawler spends the next 25 minutes hiding under the ring, a throwback to a scenario used in Battle Royals usually used by semi-retired Managers.
- For OLD timeís sake: Dory Funk and Bob Backlund trading blows.
- We get a parade of Battles of the Bulge: Yokozuna and Mabel, Vader and Yokozuna against the Squat Team, and Yokozuna against Vader.
- The first elimination doesnít occur until nearly 20-minutes into the match. Definitely a record and definitely unbroken since.
- Doug Gilbertís role in the Rumble is to be Vaderís punching bag for 2-minutes. Once heís disposed of, Savio Vega gets to suffer.
- At "only" 500 pounds, seven people couldnít throw Yokozuna out in 1993. Here, the combined weight of Yokozuna and Vader approached 1,000 pounds, and was eliminated with ease by Shawn Michaels (who had a running start, so momentum). Got a great pop, at least. Vader re-entered the ring, eliminating most of the remaining participants, but Gorilla Monsoon waved them because he wasnít legal. Ahem.
- Hunter Hearst Helmsley is the Iron Man of 1996, lasting approximately 48-minutes before being eliminated by Diesel. Bob Holly with an impressive 39-minutes despite being a JTTS. As far as shortest time in the ring, most of the one-shots. Both Head Hunters lasted 30 seconds or so, and both Omori and Gilbert lasted a little over 2-minutes.
- Before the repackaging, weíve got Makiní a Difference Fatu, Kama, Isaac Yankem, and The Ringmaster in the ring. After the repackaging, itís Rikishi, The Godfather, Kane, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
- For old timeís sake #2, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels have their exchange despite both being baby-face. Some wounds never heal. Unless itís 2005, then the wounds have healed.
- The amount of time left in the match following the arrival of #30 is incredibly rushed, lasting less than three minutes. Shawn eliminating Diesel immediately after Diesel threw out Kama just seemed too anti-climactic, even for an 11 year old.
- Shawn Michaels with the most eliminations for the second year in a row, throwing out 7 Superstars (Vader, Yokozuna, 1-2-3 Kid, Lawler, Yankem, Bulldog, and Diesel).
Rumble Match Rating: Things keep getting worse for what used to be the most exciting "60 minutes" in the WWF. We can ignore the lack of roster depth, but even WWF guys who were in this thing were mostly met with indifference and shrugs from the crowd. I can honestly count all the "over" talent and fall well short of double digits: Michaels, Diesel, Jake Roberts (nostalgia pop), Owen Hart, Yokozuna, and Vader. We got a few cute spots early, like the slop thrown at Lawler and Roberts scaring everyone off with Damien, but the action was dull. Vader worked over a handful of outsiders and wasnít overly impressive. Michaels and Owen had a few decent exchanges, and we got the expected meeting of ex-partners with Michaels and Jannetty, but the total amount of positive is far outweighed by a sluggish mess, with bad commentary, and a mostly bored crowd. **
- The Undercard...
- Duke "The Dumpster" Droese def. Hunter Hearst Helmsley via reverse decision Disqualification. The Winner of the match would get the #30 spot in the Royal Rumble, while the loser got the unfortunate spot of the #1 entrant. Why these two got to fight for the right is a question of its own. [*1/2]
- Ahmed Johnson def. "Double J" Jeff Jarrett by Disqualification when Jarrett smashed Johnson over the head with a guitar. The angle was quickly dropped as Jarrett once again left the WWF shortly after. [**]
- The Smoking Gunns def. The Body Donnas to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship. The Body Donnas are Skip (Chris Candido) and ZIP (originally named Flip, and Tom Prichard with a bleach blond crew cut). The Gunns always seemed to work hard, but could never get beyond a certain point of excitement in longer matches. Just an OK match. [**]
- Goldust def. Razor Ramon for the WWF Intercontinental Championship thanks to a helpful distraction from his new, unnamed "Director" (Marlena, his real-life wife at the time) and interference from the 1-2-3 Kid. As an actual WRESTLING match, this was one of the worst you could hope for, but the heat was ridiculous and it was more about the uneasy story telling of Goldustís... bizarre behavior than the wrestling, anyway. [*1/2]
- The Undertaker def. WWF Champion Bret "Hitman" Hart by Disqualification when Diesel interrupted a pin attempt after Undertaker connected with the Tombstone Piledriver. Bret Hart tried, and Undertaker worked the most "wrestling" style match of his WWF career, but putting them out there for nearly 30 minutes? Bret did the subtle heel work of the knee, but this was just too long for what they were going for, and with the lame DQ finish? Just a waste of time. [**]
1997 (January 19th, The Alamodome @ San Antonio, TX)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Crush, 2. Ahmed Johnson, 3. "Razor Ramon", 4. Phineas Godwinn, 5. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, 6. Bart Gunn, 7. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 8. The British Bulldog, 9. Pierroth, 10. The Sultan, 11. Mil Mascaras, 12. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, 13. Owen Hart, 14. Goldust, 15. Cibernetico, 16. "Wildman" Marc Mero, 17. The Latin Lover, 18. Faarooq, 19. Savio Vega, 20. "Double J" Jesse Jammes, 21. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 22. Jerry "The King" Lawler, 23. "Diesel", 24. Terry Funk, 25. Rocky Maivia, 26. Mankind, 27. Flash Funk, 28. Vader, 29. Henry Godwinn, 30. The Undertaker
1. "Razor Ramon" (by Johnson), 2. Ahmed Johnson (self-eliminated), 3. Crush (by Phineas), 4. Phineas Godwinn (by Austin), 5. Bart Gunn (by Austin), 6. Jake Roberts (by Austin), 7. The Sultan (by Bulldog), 8. British Bulldog (by Owen), 9. Cibernetico (by Pierroth), 10. Pierroth (by Mascaras), 11. Mil Mascaras (self-eliminated), 12. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (by Goldust), 13. Goldust (by Owen), 14. The Latin Lover (by Faarooq), 15. Faarooq (self-eliminated), 16. Marc Mero (by Austin), 17. Owen Hart (by Austin), 18. Savio Vega (by Austin), 19. Jesse Jammes (by Austin), 20. Jerry Lawler (by Hart), 21. Flash Funk (by Vader), 22. Henry Godwinn (by Undertaker), 23. Rocky Maivia (by Mankind), 24. Terry Funk (by Mankind), 25. Mankind (by Undertaker), 26. Vader (by Austin), 27. The Undertaker (by Austin), 28. "Diesel" (by Hart), 29. Bret Hart (by Austin), WINNER: STEVE AUSTIN
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
Rumble Match Rating: Another weak Royal Rumble, but a bit better than expected. The roster is decimated, obviously, but they do as much as they can to work around that by having Austin dominate the majority of the match up until the #21 entrant, including sequences with former rivals Savio Vega and Jake Roberts. The last 15 minutes or so is well done with a great collection of top of the card talent, but the poor finish hurts, as well as three separate incidents of someone eliminating himself, the most ridiculous being Mil Mascaras, who was pushing 60 and definitely didnít need protection. **1/2
- No Substitutions to my knowledge, ending a tradition of me talking about departed talent and who was deemed worthy enough of being #31 or #32 in a 30 Man Rumble Match.
- The weak roster problems continue, as the Rumble is filled out by a handful of guys working double duty and a bunch of AAA imports, Mil Mascaras, Pierroth, Cibernetico, and The Latin Lover, and Terry Funk. Jake Roberts is also dusted off for his final PPV appearance, being eliminated going for the DDT, a spot he seemed to do a lot.
- The British Bulldog is going to win the Rumble because heís bizarre.
- Natural rivals Crush and Ahmed Johnson start the Rumble, but holy crap, this might be the worst opening two when it comes to actual work-rate.
- The countdown clock and buzzer malfunctions for the first few entrants, so the crowd response is even weaker than normal for guys like "Razor Ramon" and Phineas Godwinn.
- Steve Austin has the honor of getting the Diesel treatment, getting two sequences where heís left alone and picks off a handful of new (undercard) entrants, and of course sets the new record for most eliminations in one Royal Rumble, 10: Phineas, Gunn, Roberts, Owen, Mero, Savio, Double J, Undertaker, Vader, and Bret Hart.
- The British Bulldog and Steve Austin get a sequence together, touching up on a storyline from a few weeks earlier where Bulldog saved Bret from a beat-down, only to get a cheap shot from Austin. Heís also teasing a break-up with Owen Hart, and wouldnít you know it, Owen is responsible for Bulldogís elimination.
- Mil Mascaras "didnít understand the rules"? Heís never been in a Battle Royal in his (at the time) 30+ year career?!
- This Rumble has to hold the record for most self-inflicted or illegal eliminations: Ahmed Johnson (goes over the top, chasing Faarooq), Mil Mascaras (eliminates himself going for a topeí), and Faarooq (goes tumbling over the top rope being attacked by Ahmed Johnson). If you want, you can also count everyone Austin illegally eliminates because the referees missed his elimination.
- Austinís "holy crap" reaction to Bret Hartís arrival might be one of the greatest facial expressions in the history of professional wrestling.
- Jerry Lawler leaves the announcerís table as a surprise entrant, saying "it takes a King...", hops in the ring, gets knocked out almost immediately, and returns to the table and finishes the line "... to know a King." Lawlerís short time spent in the ring became a running joke for the remainder of the match.
- For old timeís sake... Mankind (Mick Foley) and Terry Funk find themselves crossing paths often, including an elimination spot that distracted all the referees from witnessing the elimination of Steve Austin.
- Even though the roster depth was unimpressive, look at the collection of talent in the ring as #30 enters: Austin, Bret Hart, Undertaker, Mankind, Vader, pet project Rocky Maivia, hardcore legend Terry Funk, and soon-to-be-repackaged "Diesel", who was booked strong for his stay in the ring.
- Steve Austin is the 1997 Iron Man, lasting around 45-minutes for his tainted victory. No one else even comes close to that. As far as the shortest amount of time in the ring, Jerry Lawler easily, lasting about 10-seconds. Bart Gunn, Savio Vega, and Double J also had very brief stays in the match.
- Mascarita Sagrada and La Parkita def. Mini Mankind and Mini Vader in a Miniís Lucha Libre Tag Team Match on the Free For All. [NR]
- Hunter Hearst Helmsley def. Goldust to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Mr. Hughes made his debut as Helmsleyís new hired henchman, but would be replaced a week or so later by the "Amazonian" like Chyna, Helmsleyís real life girlfriend. One of the dullest openers you will ever find. Goldustís baby-face run just didnít work well. [*]
- Ahmed Johnson def. Faarooq by Disqualification. Four months of a simmering feud and we get a waste of time 8-minute match? Post-match, Ahmed put a nameless Nation member through a table with the Pearl River Plunge. [1/2*]
- Vader def. The Undertaker, surprisingly by pinfall. Not treated as an important match, neither was it worked like one. [*1/2]
- Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo, and Canek def. Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal, and Fuerza Guerrera in a Six-Man Lucha Libre Tag Match. Total waste of time. Only used to draw local interest from the Spanish speaking fanbase. [DUD]
- Shawn Michaels def. Sycho Sid for the WWF Championship. Jose Lotharioís final appearance at ringside with Michaels, who was suffering from the flu (allegedly). Not nearly as good as their match at Survivor Series í96. [*1/2]
1998 (January 18th, San Jose Arena @ San Jose, CA)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Cactus Jack, 2. Chainsaw Charlie, 3. Tom Brandi, 4. The Rock, 5. Mosh, 6. Phineas Godwinn, 7. 8-Ball, 8. Blackjack Bradshaw, 9. Owen Hart, 10. Steve Blackman, 11. DíLo Brown, 12. Kurrgan, 13. "Marvelous" Marc Mero, 14. Ken Shamrock, 15. Thrasher, 16. Mankind, 17. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust, 18. Jeff Jarrett, 19. The Honkytonk Man, 20. Ahmed Johnson, 21. Mark Henry, 22. NO ARRIVAL (Skull), 23. Kama Mustafa, 24. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, 25. Henry Godwinn, 26. Savio Vega, 27. Faarooq, 28. Dude Love, 29. Chainz, 30. Vader
1. Tom Brandi (by Cactus & Charlie), 2. Cactus Jack (by Charlie), 3. Mosh (by Kurrgan), 4. Steve Blackman (by Kurrgan), 5. Kurrgan (by 6 Superstars), 6. Chainsaw Charlie (by Mankind), 7. Mankind (by Goldust), 8. Jeff Jarrett (by Owen), 9. Ken Shamrock (by Rock), 10. Owen Hart (illegally by Chyna & HHH), 11. NON-ARRIVAL of #22, 12. Ahmed Johnson (by Brown & Henry), 13. Phineas Godwinn (by Henry), 14. Marc Mero (by Austin), 15. 8-Ball (by Austin), 16. Blackjack Bradshaw (by Dude Love), 17. DíLo Brown (by Faarooq), 18. The Honkytonk Man (by Vader), 19. Thrasher (by Austin), 20. Kama Mustafa (by Austin), 21. Savio Vega (by Austin), 22. Vader (by Goldust), 23. Henry Godwinn (by Dude Love), 24. Goldust (by Chainz), 25. Chainz (by Austin), 26. Mark Henry (by Faarooq), 27. Dude Love (by Faarooq), 28. Faarooq (by Then Rock), 29. The Rock (by Austin), WINNER: STEVE AUSTIN
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
Rumble Match Rating: The Steve Austin Show continues, and itís not as memorable as a performance because of the lack of doubt in who would walk away the winner. There were a few decent spots, but this was mostly a half-hearted Rumble. The lack of depth for believable winners, keeping all 5 Nation members in the ring without doing much damage, the idea of having someone clearing the ring but only letting eliminations come few and far between... Itís unfair to call this "bad", but it was definitely uninspired. **
- The only Substitution(s) for 1998 that come to mind is pulling the Quebecers, Jacques and Pierre (yes, they were brought back at the end of í97), in favor of giving Mick Foley two additional spots so all three "Faces of Foley" could make an appearance. Might as well use this little tidbit to address the roster issues again, as weíve got four people pulling double duty to go with Foley working three spots. At least they didnít have to rely on outside talent again to pad things out.
- Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie/Terry Funk start with a hardcore-style showdown. The crowd is surprisingly cold for most of it. Maybe San Jose wasnít a big ECW town? Itís not like Foley and Funk havenít been around and toured everywhere.
- 8-Ball gets a decent pop, possibly because some of the casuals think itís Steve Austin.
- Iím addressing it now because it needs to be addressed... how do you book a Royal Rumble where ALL FIVE NATION MEMBERS are in at the same time at a given point and you donít have them clean out the ring? Same goes for Kurrgan, who was pushed as an unstoppable monster, and barely musters two eliminations in a sea of JTTSí. Even Austinís arrival doesnít mean itís time for everyone to jump ship. The obvious complaint here is bad booking and the ring being over-crowded for almost the entire match.
- Speaking of the Nation members, thereís a bunch of instances where they just start beating up on each other, Ďcause itís every man for himself.
- Whoís idea of a sick rib was it to keep Bradshaw, Phineas Godwinn, and 8-Ball in the ring for as long as they were? Especially Godwinn. He was gassed almost immediately and somehow was given the task of being out there for half-an-hour!
- Itís a strong indication which "factions" are worth having around. All 5 members of the Nation are involved. All 3 members of DOA are scheduled. Then you only have Savio Vega from the Boricuas compete, but has his buddies try and interfere, and finally, Kurrgan is the only representative of the Truth Commission, and not so much as a mention for the other members, Sniper and Recon.
- What is the deal with the constant humiliation of Owen Hart during his baby-face run? He comes out to a great pop, only to be attacked by Jeff Jarrett. Owen returns for revenge, eliminates Jarrett, and then gets KOíed and eliminated by Triple H and Chyna. Then he chases after them and trips on his way through the curtain. Poor Owen.
- The Honkytonk Man makes his first in-ring appearance for the WWF since December 1990. No idea why he was put in this thing, and no idea why he was kept in for nearly 20-minutes. He really doesnít do anything worth mentioning, and it didnít lead to a return as an active member of the roster, either.
- Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler absolutely BURY Ahmed Johnson on commentary, mostly for his choice of wearing ear-rings for this match. Then he stinks up the ring with Mark Henry to really hammer home the point that Ahmed was just a waste of a roster spot at this point.
- Skull is a no show for the Rumble, having been attacked earlier in the night because he was mistaken for Steve Austin. Seriously, how can you try and tease Austin wasnít showing up when heís the only guy at the level where he would be a believable winner?
- Phineas Godwinnís leg wipes out referee Jack Doan as heís being eliminated.
- As a youngster (well, 13), I was convinced that Hulk Hogan would be coming back and make his return in the Royal Rumble Match.
- Decent final four with former Tag Team Champions Austin and Dude Love pairing up with Nation members Faarooq and the Rock.
- The 1998 Rumble Iron Man Award goes to The Rock for lasting about 51-minutes, entering at #4 and being the last eliminated. Other notable times are Bradshaw lasting 36 minutes, and Phineas, DíLo, and 8-Ball all hovering around 30-minutes. Tom Brandi has the honor of lasting the shortest amount of time, approximately 15-seconds.
- Steve Austin with the most eliminations for the second year in a row, taking credit for 7 (8-Ball, Mero, Savio, Rock, Thrasher, Kama, and Chainz).
- Vader def. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust after delivering a Vader Bomb with Luna hanging on to his back. Decent considering the black hole of work-rate that TAFKA Goldust was, but still nothing to really consider good, either. Vaderís stock had completely fallen since his debut at the Rumble two years earlier and was obviously going through the motions. [*1/4]
- Max Mini, Mosaic, and Nova def. Battalion, El Torito, and Tarantula in a Miniís Match, with Sunny acting as the special guest referee. Entertaining for what it was, but didnít feel like it belonged on this PPV. [NR]
- The Rock def. Ken Shamrock by Disqualification to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Shamrock had the match won, but Rock planted a foreign object on him to trick the referee into Disqualifying him. [**]
- The Legion of Doom def. Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws by Disqualification. The Outlaws handcuffed Hawk to the ring post and attacked Animal with a steel chair, but Hawk eventually broke free and ran them off. Terrible. [DUD]
- Shawn Michaels def. The Undertaker in a Casket Match to retain the WWF Championship. Only moments into the match, Michaels took a bad bump onto the casket, triggering a carer-threatening injury that put him out of action for over four years. Kane saved Undertaker from a repeat of 1994, only to turn on Taker himself. Post-match, Kane set fire to the casket as the PPV ended. [***1/4]
1999 (January 24th, Arrowhead Pond @ Anahiem, CA)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, 2. Mr. McMahon, 3. Golga, 4. Droz, 5. Edge, 6. Gillberg, 7. Steve Blackman, 8. Dan "The Beast" Severn, 9. Tiger Ali Singh, 10. The Blue Meanie, 11. Mabel, 12. Road Dogg, 13. Gangrel, 14. Kurrgan, 15. Al Snow, 16. Goldust, 17. The Godfather, 18. Kane, 19. Ken Shamrock, 20. Billy Gunn, 21. Test, 22. Big Boss Man, 23. Triple H, 24. Val Venis, 25. X-Pac, 26. Mark Henry, 27. Jeff Jarrett, 28. DíLo Brown, 29. Owen Hart, 30. Chyna
1. Golga (by Austin), 2. Gillberg (by Edge), 3. Dan Severn (by Mabel), 4. Steve Blackman (by Mabel), 5. Tiger Ali Singh (by Mabel), 6. The Blue Meanie (by Mabel), 7. Droz (by Mabel), 8. Edge (by Road Dogg), 9. Mabel (illegally by the Ministry of Darkness), 10. Gangrel (by Road Dogg), 11. Al Snow (by Road Dogg), 12. Road Dogg (by Kane), 13. Kurrgan (by Kane), 14. The Godfather (by Kane), 15. Goldust (by Kane), 16. Kane (self-eliminated), 17. Ken Shamrock (by Austin), 18. Billy Gunn (by Austin), 19. Test (by Austin), 20. X-Pac (by Boss Man), 21. Jeff Jarrett (by HHH), 22. Mark Henry (by Chyna), 23. Chyna (by Austin), 24. Val Venis (by HHH), 25. Triple H (by Austin), 26. Owen Hart (by Austin), 27. DíLo Brown (by Boss Man), 28. Big Boss Man (by Austin), 29. Steve Austin (by McMahon), WINNER: MR. MCMAHON
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- Nothing really interesting in regards to substitutions. Mosh of the Head Bangers was randomly given a spot in the Rumble, only for Mabel to attack him backstage and steal his spot.
- It was announced ahead of time that Steve Austin had drawn #1 (through a rigged lottery), and Commissioner Michaels assigned Mr. McMahon #2. The Corporation tried rigging a Mini Royal Rumble where the prize was the #30 spot, but Chyna showed up unannounced and won by eliminating McMahon, making her the first female participant in Royal Rumble History.
- If you ordered this PPV, you would receive a free gift from the WWF: Action figures of Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon. The monthly give-away was a thing for a while, but this was the only time we took them up on the offer. Other than that, it was usually something lamer like a mouse pad.
- This PPV was the debut of the "No Chance in Hell" theme music.
- Jerry Lawlerís picks to win the Royal Rumble: Steve Blackman, Test and Gangrel. You have to love a good rib.
- To really put over the idea of Austin not winning, McMahon put a 100 thousand dollar bounty on the head of Austin, for whomever was able to eliminate him.
- John Tenta makes his first (and last) Royal Rumble appearance since 1993 as the masked (and allegedly horn having) Golga. Tenta had previous competed in the WWF as "Earthquake."
- Dead Time Alert #1: Austin and McMahon go through the crowd immediately after Golgaís elimination. Droz (dressed as a Road Warrior) comes out at #4 and stands around for 90-seconds, until Edge comes in at #5.
- Look at this collection of undercard garbage: Droz, Dan Severn, Tiger Ali Singh, THE BLUE MEANIE, and Steve Blackman. Somehow eliminating all of these guys doesnít get Mabel over enough to warm up a piece of toast.
- Cheap Eliminations Alert: Mabel is eliminated during a black-out by the Ministry of Darkness, which lead to him being renamed Viscera. Later in the match, Kane cleans house, but then goes over the top rope chasing after a bunch of scrubs dressed as Sanitarium orderlies.
- Speaking of the Ministry, why not have the Undertaker in there to give us at least one other person who has the credentials to win this thing? Only Austin and Kane are former Champions and potential headliners for a PPV, and of course, Kane ELIMINATED HIMSELF.
- Speaking of the Ministry again, watch Faarooq fall on his ass while the Acolytes and Mideon are beating up on Mabel as they go through the entrance.
- Dead Time Alert #2: Kane eliminates himself after clearing the ring, Ken Shamrock comes out at #19 to stand around for 90-seconds until Billy Gunn enters at #20. At this point, Mr. McMahon returns, only to join the commentary team and further drive home the point that this Rumble is a total sham.
- Triple H clearly calls out a spot with Val Venis about a teased elimination spot. Seriously, this match is terrible, so Iím digging this deep for just about anything to write about.
- Is it really worth doing a "Iron Man" Award for 1999? Austin and McMahon are both credited for spending over 50-minutes in the ring, although actual ring time would be something along the lines of 25 minutes for Austin, and 7 minutes for McMahon.
- Most eliminations courtesy of Steve Austin for the 3rd year in a row. He racked up 8 (Golga, Shamrock, Gunn, Test, Chyna, Owen, Hunter, and Boss Man) before the ridiculous finish. Mabel had 5 unassisted and Kane had 4, not including his self-elimination.
Rumble Match Rating: The absolute WORST Royal Rumble Match in history. Thereís almost nothing positive to say about this. You give us Austin vs. McMahon to start things off, have them leave the ring for most of the match, and then come back in whenever they feel like because suddenly itís allowed. The lack of Main Event depth means thereís no one who could logically win this besides Austin (SWERVE! McMahon won). A total lack of interesting programs, meaning most of the action was aimless time killing. Two incidents where thereís NOBODY in the ring, which means when someone enters, he just stands around for 90 seconds of dead time. Did I mention the awful swerve? The stuff with the Undertakerís Ministry kidnapping Mabel? [DUD]
- On the Live Sunday Night Heat, Christian def. Jeff Hardy, Job Squad members Bob Holly and Scorpio def. Too Much, and Mankind def. Mabel in a Warm-Up (a.k.a Punishment) Match.
- Big Boss Man def. Hardcore Champion Road Dogg in a Non-Title Match. Who books a Non-Title Match on a PPV? This wasnít very good. [1/4*]
- Ken Shamrock def. Billy Gunn by Submission to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Another so-so match. According to reports, Gunn was penciled in to win the Title, but gloated about it the night before while partying and showed up late for this show, badly hung over. You could say he pulled a Jannetty. [*1/2[
- X-Pac def. Gangrel to retain the European Title. Another rumor was that Gangrel was going to win here, but his real-life spouse, Luna, caused a nasty scene backstage. [**]
- Sable def. Luna in a Strap Match to retain the Womenís Championship. Mysterious Sable Fan (Tori) makes an appearance in an otherwise horrible match. [-**]
- The Rock def. Mankind in an I Quit Match to regain the WWF Championship. Brutal Match, with Rock handcuffing Foley and brutalizing him with countless chair shots to the head. Mankindís "quitting" was just a recording replayed from Sunday Night Heat. [***1/2]
Final Thoughts: Wow, that was a tough series of Rumbles to get through, progressively getting worse until we hit rock bottom in 1999 under the guidance of Vince Russo. Thankfully the turn of the new Millennium would also bring the return of quality Royal Rumbles, but that is for another time. Of all the Rumbles from this period, itís almost unbelievable Iíd recommend it, but Iíd have to say the 1995 Rumble is the only one that really stands out. 1994 almost got my pick, but damn did that match fall under the "lazy" files. Until next time...
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