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WWF Royal Rumble 1997
by Scrooge McSuck
- With the 2014 Royal Rumble fast approaching, I figured it's time to try and finish up the Royal Rumbles that for one reason or another have never been recapped on this here website. Honestly, who can blame me, or anyone else for that matter, for not wanting to touch the 1997 edition? Stay tuned, you'll figure out why shortly, depending on how fast your reading skills are.
- Originally broadcasted on Pay-Per-View on January 19th, 1997, from the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. The announced attendance stands at 60,525, but don't be fooled: This show was heavily papered, on top of ticket sales increased by excessive price cuts. I would love to see the numbers for tickets sold at incredible discount, considering about 15,000 of the attendance were freebies. So much for that hometown kid selling out a 60,000+ seat stadium. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross (having already dropped his bitter heel persona), and Jerry Lawler are at ringside to call all the action, unless otherwise noted. Free For All Match not featured here: Mascarita Sagrada and La Parkita going over Mini Mankind and Mini Vader. Feh.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley © (w/ Mr. Hughes) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena):
Yes, it's babyface Goldust, having come out of the closet... as a heterosexual. Seriously, part of the build up to this was Goldust having to out-himself as straight. Mr. Hughes is making his debut as Hemsley's bodyguard, but was let go almost instantly in favor of Hunter's manly, square-jawed girlfriend. Goldust attacks in the aisle to kick things off. For the opening match of a big PPV, the crowd is practically sitting on their hands, only popping occasionally. Helmsley goes for the Pedigree early, and gets flung over the top rope for his efforts. THIS JUST IN: George and Adam have been ejected from the building. Vince even says this in the "hush tone, serious" voice. If you don't know who they are, it's two stupid characters that were (allegedly) superfans of the WWF. Sorry, no Vladimir, no sale. Helmsley hurts his knee missing something, since all of his offense was based around the knee. The crowd has every right to be dead for this, it's pretty dull. Goldust dominates like he's the heel, but it probably means we're going to get a 20-minute stinker so they have to milk time for all it's worth. Biggest pop of the match: Goldust calling Hunter a piece of sh*t. Not good, Bruno. Even McMahon sounds bored out of his mind calling this! The tide finally turns as Goldust misses a body press and ends up on the floor. Things get so bad, Todd Pettengill interviews a Country singer in the crowd. MID-MATCH. AND HAS HIM SING. More stuff happens, I don't care. Helmsley locks lips on Marlena, but it does nothing for the finish. Hughes with a distraction, allowing to lay Goldust out with a clothesline, and finish him with the Pedigree at 16:49. * WWE Did You Know Fact: Goldust is currently working a regular schedule in 2013-14, working circles around his 30-year old 'self, and Triple H went on to being one of the best workers of the 21st Century. One of the dullest matches I've ever seen at any Rumble. Seriously, who booked this turd to go that long?!
Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq (w/ The Nation of Domination):
This match feels like it should be a big deal, but Ahmed has mostly been out of action since August, so it's hard to get into a program that has constantly been put on the back burner. So far, the Nation was just Faarooq, Crush, his white boy rappers, an unnamed D'Lo Brown, and a handful of other nobodies, as well as "manager" Clarence Mason. Ahmed bum-rushes the ring and pounds away to start. Faarooq tries taking a breather on the floor, but Ahmed follows to continue the punishment. Sign in the crowd: Farooq: Your Going Down. Speeling knot reekwired in San Antonio. Ahmed with a Thesz Press, followed by some belt lashings. Where's the Disqualification?! Faarooq sacrifices as Nation member to surprise Ahmed with a clothesline. He sets up a chair and lazily drops Ahmed across it. Faarooq continues to target the kidney area, doing little of note, other than a lot of trash talking. Faarooq stupidly stands over Ahmed to receive praise from the Nation, allowing Ahmed to power him up into an Electric Chair Drop. I never cared much for the "quivering legs sell" Faarooq would do. He somehow recovers first, climbs the ropes, and dives into a Powerslam. Ahmed signals for the finish, but gets caught with a Spinebuster. Ahmed no-sells, hits a Spinebuster of his own, and signals for the Plunge, but the entire Nation runs in for the DQ at 8:46. Faarooq runs, and Ahmed cleans house, finishing things up with a Pearl River Plunge on a random Nation member through a table. Some recaps insist it was D'Lo, but it's clearly not him. 1/2* Another terrible match in a series of them. Best part of the match was the table spot afterwards.
The Undertaker vs. Vader:
I don't know what to expect from this... Undertaker was getting better, but it's still the Undertaker. Was there some kind of angle to build this one up? Damn if I can remember. Vader tries to rush n' attack, but Undertaker side-steps and dominates early. Vader uses his bulk to take over but 'Taker is no-selling like only he can. Undertaker busts out a Fame-Asser (kind of) and drops Vader with a slam. According to J.R., no one has delivered a leg drop quite like the Undertaker in the WWF. He also said red and yellow never looked so good in MSG, in reference to Flash Funk at the Survivor Series. 'Taker goes old(ish) school, but Vader counters. This crowd sucks. Just sayin'. We're so bored, Todd interviews a random girl who saved her money by babysitting. I AM DEAD F*CKING SERIOUS. J.R. Fun Fact: Referee of the match, Jack Doan, was the referee Vader brutalized in his first appearance on Monday Night Raw, the previous year. It's all about speculating that Cornette and Vader are no longer associated. Undertaker with a back suplex, but misses an elbow, allowing Vader to remain in control. Vader to the second rope, and he jumps into a Powerslam. Only saw that spot the previous match. He no-sells it anyway and plants 'Taker with a Powerbomb... for two. 'Taker no-sells the effects of it like only Hulk Hogan could, and comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline. Old school take two works, and Paul Bearer slowly makes his way to ringside. Undertaker lays him out because beating up your ex-manager is always more important than winning the match. Bearer bashes him with the urn, and Vader finishes with the Vader-Bomb at 13:19. Yes, Undertaker did a PINFALL JOB. Someone check hell for ice caverns. *1/2 Occasional spots of awesomeness, but moved with little structure, the crowd was dead, and just not very fun to watch. And this is our current Match of the Night. Undertaker beats on the referee to get his heat back.
- Several WWF Superstars give some pre-match comments about the Royal Rumble. The only highlight (and only reason for me mentioning this) is Davey Boy Smith, declaring he will win the Royal Rumble... because he's BIZARRE.
-In what might be the most misplaced match in the history of WWF Pay-Per-View's, we get a 6-Man Tag Team Match between Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal, and Fuerza Guerrera against the team of Perro Aguayo, Canek, and Hector Garza. It's bottom of the barrel "luchadore" action, as WWF draws attention to itself for not knowing how to properly use foreign talent, while WCW pretty much had every luchadore under contract at the time for their exclusive use in the States. I don't remember this even being mentioned as being part of the show, so as a 12 year old sitting through a boring PPV, I couldn't believe I had to sit through this instead of watching the Rumble Match. It sucks, goes on for about 12-minutes, and someone wins. I don't care who, look it up if you honestly care that much.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match:
Finally, the first match on the show I can try and find some enjoyment out of. Winner gets to face the WWF Champion at WrestleMania 13. Allegedly. You want to know how depleted the WWF Roster was at this point? Goldust, Helmsley, Vader, Undertaker, Ahmed, and Faarooq get to work double duty. Of the remaining 24 participants, we'll see they had to reach out even more to fill the spots. It's quite depressing to think how seriously WWF was having it's ass handed to them by WCW at the time, when they don't have enough workers of name value under contract to fill out the Rumble PPV without some drastic booking.
#1 is Crush
, and #2 is Ahmed Johnson
. I prefer when the opening entrants have a history or reason to fight. Ahmed no-sells Crush's clubberin' and dishes it out. Crush goes for the kidneys and they already resort to boring rope-hugging. The buzzer isn't working, so #3, with zero fanfare or music, is "Razor Ramon
." He goes after Ahmed, and gets tossed out almost immediately at 2:15. I'm sure most of the fans didn't even know what Fake Razor was. Suddenly, Ahmed hops the ropes and eliminates himself at 2:57, allegedly because Faarooq was standing at the top of the entrance area. #4 is Phineas Godwinn
(with Hillbilly Jim, who I much would prefer to see in the ring, unfortunately). #5 is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
, to a delayed reaction. Phineas dumps Crush at 6:13. Austin with the Stunner on Phineas, and he tosses him like a sack of crap at 6:27 to a decent pop. #6 is Bart Gunn
, but he's a Jobber, so Austin makes short work and tosses him out at 7:11. Austin checking his imaginary watch is something I will admit I stole from this performance. #7 is Jake "The Snake" Roberts
, probably in the best shape of his run (not saying much), and making his last PPV appearance. He goes for a DDT and gets back dropped out at 9:33. #8 is the British Bulldog
, and he has some unfinished business with Austin as of late. #9 is Pierroth
, and nobody cares. He's a borrowed talent from AAA, but WWF fans don't care about lucha. Pierroth goes for a cover on Davey Boy, and slaps on a chinlock... did anyone explain the rules to this guy? #10 is The Sultan
, with the Iron Sheik bringing up the rear. Watch your ass, he might f*ck it to make you humble. Yes, I still get a kick out of that joke! Lots of rope hugging going on.
#11 is Mil Mascaras, and gets a mild reaction once the crowd can actually see who's coming out. He gets pops for putting a hurt on the Sultan, but then more hugging. #12 is Hunter Hearst Helmsley, still selling the knee. Almost all heels in the ring... who planned this thing out? Bulldog (acting as a tweener) clotheslines Sultan out at 16:21. Austin and Helmsley go at it... just sayin'. #13 is THE SLAMMY AWARD WINNING Owen Hart. He goes after Austin for the hell of things. Bulldog tries tossing Austin, and Owen "accidentally" tosses Bulldog out at 17:52. He swears it was an accident, though. #14 is Goldust, and surprisingly goes after Helmsley. #15 is some goober named Cibernetico. #16 is "Wildman" Marc Mero. Before he can make it to the ring, Cibernetico is tossed at 21:35, Mascaras throws out Pierroth at 21:43, then goes to the top rope and eliminates himself with a plancha onto the pile at 21:50. Goldust clotheslines Helmsley out at 22:26. #17 is some gobber named the Latin Lover. Crowd doesn't care, I don't either. I wonder if he's any relation to Madonna's Boyfriend. Owen tosses Goldust out at 24:16. #18 is Faarooq. He pounds on the Latin Lover and back drops him out at 25:02. Austin and Faarooq slug it out, and here comes Ahmed to eliminate Faarooq with a giant 2x4 at 25:23. Owen and Mero fight on the ropes, and both are shoved out by Austin at 25:52. Austin wants more, so he gets Savio Vega for #19. They do a decent exchange until Austin gives him a stun gun, and clotheslines him out at 26:57. He wants more, and out comes #20, Double J Jesse James. His luck is even worse, and Austin tosses him at 28:12. Austin keeps signaling for more as the countdown ticks away.
#21 is Bret "Hitman" Hart, and Austin's reaction is priceless. Austin goes right for him, and takes a beating for it. Bret with an atomic drop and clothesline. Whip to the corner, and Hart with another clothesline. He slaps on the Sharpshooter as #22 enters... it's Jerry Lawler. He leaves the table, declaring "it takes a King", enters the ring, gets knocked out immediately with an uppercut at 31:05, and puts his headset back on to say "to know a King." Hilarious. #23 is "Diesel", formerly known as Isaac Yankem, best known these days as the big red machine/monster, Kane (Editor's Note: who?). #24 is Terry Funk, just because. He made a one-time appearance on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night to explain this appearance. So, 24 people in this match that didn't work earlier in the show: four of them are lucha wrestlers, one is a one-and-done appearance of Funk, one is a guy calling the action, and one is Jake Roberts, who was only making occasional appearances before falling off the face of the WWF Universe (reportedly to smoke some crack). #25 is Rocky Miavia to little reaction. He goes after Austin in a "this ended up being the WrestleMania Main Event only two years later" moment. #26 is Mankind, and damn if there isn't some serious (future and at the time, current) star power in that ring. #27 is Flash Funk (well, that killed the streak of awesome), #28 is Vader, #29 is Henry Godwinn, and filling out the field, #30 is The Undertaker (complete with lights going out for his entrance), without any eliminations since Lawler. At the time, my money was on Bret Hart winning it all.
One can assume that Flash and Godwinn will be the first casualties of the remaining participants. Undertaker takes shots at everyone in his path, and plants Austin with a Chokeslam, because it's funny to work over the guy who's carried the entire match on his back. Vader dumps Flash over his head and out at 44:44 in probably the coolest elimination of the match. Undertaker sends Henry Godwinn packing at 47:47. Mankind traps Miavia in the Mandible Claw and eliminates him at 48:37. Funk crotches himself and plays teeter-totter, Harley Race style. Mankind and Funk continue to brawl until Mankind suplexes Funk to the floor at 59:15. Undertaker boots Mankind to the floor at 59:28. Mankind and Funk brawl some more, drawing the referee's into the chaos. Bret tosses Austin at 50:05, but nobody sees it, so Austin sneaks back in and dumps Vader and Undertaker at 50:18. Bret tosses "Diesel" at 50:23, and Austin tosses Bret to steal the Royal Rumble at 50:30. Bret pitches a fit afterwards, but the decision is final... until the next week, when Gorilla Monsoon declared a "Final Four" Rematch at In Your House: Final Four. **1/2 Pretty low in the quality department, but Austin made it watchable, and the last third of things was some seriously awesome star power to make up the difference for the Jobber Parade of entrants #1-20.
WWF Championship Match:
Sycho Sid © vs. Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario):
It's the rematch from Survivor Series we were all waiting for (seriously, I don't recall ever caring to see it, since it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Shawn was regaining the belt in his hometown, back when you WON in your hometown.) Shawn is allegedly suffering from the flu, but considering his drug abuse problems, I wouldn't be surprised if it was something else (crowd chants: SOMETHING ELSE! SOMETHING ELSE!). Sid shoves Shawn around like a bitch, and Shawn makes him pay for it by ramming the back of his head into the canvas. They slug it out on the floor, with Shawn using underhanded tactics to take control. He jumps into a powerslam, a spot that has been used too god damn much on this show. Sid with a camel clutch, just for the hell of it. Shawn finds his way out, but gets turned inside out on a whip to the corner, and winds up on the floor. Sid appears to call a spot in full view of the camera, whipping Shawn to the buckle, and catches him in a bearhug. Sid with a big leg drop for two, then goes back to a chinlock. Michaels from out of nowhere with a slam, followed by a diving forearm. He comes off the top with an elbow and sets up for Sweet Chin Music, but Sid blocks it. Shawn gets tossed to the floor, and Sid plants him with a Powerbomb. He goes after the Lothario's, but sets his sites back on Shawn. We get a ref' bump, Shawn retaliates for the Survivor Series by bopping Sid with a camera, but it only gets two. Shawn with Sweet Chin Music, and THAT is good enough for three at 13:48. *1/2 Yep, Sid definitely carried the load in this match. Half of it was rest-holds, the other half was Shawn working about half-speed, doing his occasional signature bump, and polishing Sid off with minimal fanfare.
Final Thoughts: You know what this show needed? Pee-Wee Herman looking for the Alamo's basement. There's very little to enjoy from this steaming pile. Other than Austin's performance in the Rumble Match, we were "treated" to what was possibly the Worst Rumble Ever (until 1999 took the crown), one of the worst undercards with little to no creative direction, and a Main Event that was never in doubt in terms of result, but under-performed, even when you take into consideration that Sid was involved. There are bad shows that are fun to watch, and then there's this: The absolute worst Royal Rumble PPV ever. Strongest recommendation in the world to erase it from history.
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