*** Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***
Royal Rumble 1991: Listen Up Maggots
January 19, 1991
Buy Rate: 2.4
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper
1) Jerry Sags beat Sam Houston in 5:25
1) The Rockers defeat the Orient Express when Marty Jannetty pins Pat Tanaka with a sunset flip at 19:14
Fun Fact: This Orient Express has changed slightly from the unit we last saw at Survivor Series. Sato has exited stage left, and Kato enters. The masked man isn’t really named Kato, in fact he’s not even Asian. It’s Paul Diamond, who used to be Pat Tanaka’s tag team partner in AWA, under a hood. Formerly named Badd Company, they were a formidable team in AWA, winning the tag team titles on multiple occasions, once defeating the Midnight Rockers for the straps. Kato appeared on various house shows throughout the summer, but first appeared alongside Tanaka on the 12/22 Superstars.
Scott: We open the 1991 PPV schedule with a tag team match between two hot teams. The Orients switched things up, getting rid of Sato and replacing him with Kato. Kato is actually Paul Diamond, who used to team with Pat Tanaka in the AWA as Bad Company. So the chemistry meter went up tenfold on that team. The Rockers are set for a very dramatic year and it begins with this one. They met back at WrestleMania VI in Toronto and it was not a great match, with injuries being sold and a lot of around the ring stalling. A few minutes into this match and you know it’s going to be very different. The Rockers come out red hot and had the Orients on their heels. After a while, some miscommunication led to Kato hitting Shawn Michaels with a double axe handle while Tanaka was in a sleeper. Now we will see some excellent heel work from two guys who know each other very well. Roddy Piper is definitely doing a better job analyzing the action than he did way back at his debut at SummerSlam when all he did was yell and invent words. I love how Gorilla used to stretch out durations of matches than what they really are. Piper asked how long the match was going and Gorilla said about 15 minutes, but in reality it was like six minutes. After a few minutes the babyfaces regain the advantage. I think the reason this match is so great is because both teams had great extended heat segments. Similar to the way an NWA tag match was booked back in the day. In the WWF the heels did most of the work in the middle and the hot babyface tag ended it. Here both the faces and heels got extended heat segments on the other and it made the action so unique for the time in that company. Shawn is the face-in-peril but when the Orients try to cheat with the strap, Shawn jumps on it and the Orients knock noggins. The Miami Arena is going crazy and if they stay this hot we are in for a great show. Every time the Rockers were going to end the match the Orients would distract and cut off the move. I wasn’t sure who was winning this match but the crowd was hot for the Rockers and I had a feeling the bookers wanted to get the show off to a hot start. Michaels has been thrown out of the ring but he recovers and hits a Sunset Flip on Kato for the victory. What a fantastic match and clearly the best opener in PPV history to this point. Grade: *****
Justin: As we open up another year, it is time for another Royal Rumble PPV and we are back in Florida for it once again. Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper are back in the booth and the Americana is running hot as Desert Storm was in full effect and the entire country, and WWF, were wrapped up in taking down Saddam Hussein. For the third straight year, we open with a tag team match but this was set up to be the best of the three on paper. The Orient Express has gone under some changes as Sato was kicked to the curb and replaced by Kato, which definitely changes the style of the team a bit. Sato wrestled a fairly bland, basic heel style where Kato could take to the air a bit in addition to his well established double team chemistry with Tanaka. They also have baggier karate pants instead of the old tights. The Rockers limped through the end of 1990 and are looking for a fresh start here with the turn of the calendar. They are also looking to pick up their first PPV win…ever, which is cray to think about. Well, their teams won at consecutive Survivor Series but they were eliminated both times, so no dice. The OE attack at the bell, but the Rockers fend them off and double team them right to floor to regroup. The jacked up crowd busts into a “USA” chant, not waiting for the true enemies to show up later. The Rockers kept the OE grounded, wearing them down until Tanaka cracked Michaels with a forearm. Piper is giving some analysis here, which is nice to hear. He is definitely getting more comfortable by the week and has come a long way since SummerSlam. Shawn battled back and grabbed a sleeper but Kato snuck in and clobbered him from behind. The crowd is really into this one, as am I. Shawn made a really good comeback, including a moonsault to an interfering Kato. Things broke down from there with all four men throwing down, capped by a Rocker double dropkick and cross body blocks off the top rope to floor on both OE members. The only thing that kept the OE alive was Tanaka getting a desperation neck snap on Michaels, whipping his throat off the top rope. You really can immediately see the change in OE’s style and energy as there is less plodding and a lot more fluid offense and selling. In a nice spot, Kato whipped Michaels hard to the corner and after Shawn flipped up and over onto the apron, Kato thrust kicked him back into the ring. Great timing and teamwork here. After a double team backfired, Michaels made the hot tag and the Miami Arena exploded as Jannetty came in on fire. Both teams would trade a flurry of double team attempts that ended in a fantastic sequence capped by a Jannetty sunset flip to pin Tanaka. Whew, what a great closing sequence. That was a tremendous opener and it was great to see the Rockers go over strong and pick up that first PPV win. Also, having the OE refreshed like this added more depth to the division. At first glance, this would be the best opener in WWF PPV history to this point. Grade: ****
*** Backstage, Randy Savage chats with Sean Mooney and reveals that Sgt. Slaughter has promised him a WWF Title shot if he wins the strap tonight. Savage then says that Sensational Queen Sherri was on the case to get Ultimate Warrior to make the same promise. Back in the arena, Sherri, decked out in a lovely evening gown, leads Mean Gene Okerlund to the podium and then calls the Warrior out to accept Savage’s challenge. After some baiting by the Queen, the Champion made his way out to confront her face-to-face. I should take a moment to mention Warrior’s pimp USA leather jacket that makes him look like an Olympic bobsledding coach. Warrior ignored Sherri’s question, so she decided to sex things up. She started to compliment the champion, while seductively taking his jacket off and caressing his arms and chest. With Warrior still standing in silence, Sherri dropped to her knees, basically offering up a hummer as Warrior sneering and smiled. Warrior finally answers by yelling “Nooooo” in Sherri’s face and walking off. Back in the locker room, Savage starts destroying things before charging out to the arena, but Warrior was long gone. ***
2) The Big Boss Man defeats The Barbarian with a reversal from a clothesline off the top rope at 10:04
Fun Fact: This match is part of the ongoing feud between the Big Boss Man and the Heenan Family which started in the fall of 1990. During this time, Bobby Heenan made repeated derogatory comments about the Boss Man’s mother. As an act of revenge, the Big Boss Man vowed to take out every member of the Heenan family.
Scott: We continue the feud of Boss Man running through the Heenan Family for insulting Boss Man’s mother. Barbarian had a solid end of 1990 since becoming a singles wrestler, but this match begins maybe his best year as a wrestler. He has consistently good matches and it starts here. Boss Man turned face last February and has been one of the most popular in the company since. It also led to Boss Man shedding some of that unnecessary girth and become a very swift worker for someone his size. Just like the opener, the babyface gets the early advantage but eventually Barbarian takes control and works Boss Man over. Barbarian has incredible strength as he lifted Boss Man up on the outside and rammed him into the steel post. Boss Man is getting beat down so bad his shirt comes loose. Then Barbarian works a bear hug in until Boss Man finally breaks it and both men are down but Boss Man had no wherewithal to get a leg hooked on a pin. After some pin attempts by Boss Man they Irish Whip and butt chins. Both guys are down and out. This match is so much better than I ever remember it being. Boss Man is throwing bombs but Barbarian puts his hand on the ropes two different times. Barbarian pulls a piledriver out of nowhere and this match is getting better and better. It ends when Barbarian goes for a cross body but the momentum pushes Boss Man over him and he gets the three count. Wow what a great match and we are two for two on this night. Boss Man will continue his war with the Heenan Family, with one member remaining: The Crown Jewel. Grade: ***1/2
Justin: As the crowd cools down a bit from that erotic interview, we are set up for the continuation of a grudge feud between the Big Boss Man and the Heenan Family. Of course, this originally started with Rick Rude, but he is long gone, so Boss Man is instead trying to mow down the Family to get to both Heenan and Mr. Perfect’s Intercontinental Title. After dispatching of Haku at Survivor Series, Heenan’s enforcer The Barbarian stands in Boss Man’s way next. Barbarian is coming off a nice showing at the November PPV before falling to Hulk Hogan at the end. As much as Boss Man deserved to be in the Rumble, continuing this feud here made a lot of sense, especially since Barbarian really as the gatekeeper to the Brain. After some feeling out, the two began to trade right hands until Boss Man cracked Barbarian with a nice big boot and reverse elbow combo. After regrouping, Barbarian tried to come back in off the top, but Boss Man caught him with a punch to the gut and then sent him flying back outside with a huge clothesline. Once he made it back in, Barbarian caught Boss Man and took him over with a perfect vertical suplex. Boss Man got in further trouble when he got his leg caught betwixt the ropes, allowing Barbarian to just hammer on hm. Both guys are working with some real urgency here, which makes every move seem so heavy. After ramming Boss Man into the post, Barbarian started to work the back, showing off his power while he did it. Boss Man fought his way out of a pair of energetic bear hug attempts, rocking Barbarian with headbutts followed by an enziguri! Both of these guys have their working boots on tonight. Barbarian would score a close near fall on a roll up but Boss Man kicked up and then snapped him off the top rope with a stun gun for another good two count. Things stayed hot as Barbarian hit his top rope clothesline, but Boss Man got his foot on the rope to prevent the loss. I love that because it keeps that finisher protected nicely. Boss Man struggled to his feet and caught Barbarian with his sidewalk slam, but Barbarian repaid the favor by grabbing the ropes as well. As if this match wasn’t really good already, Barbarian spiked Boss Man with a jumping piledriver, rattling his spine. Barbarian again ascended to the top, this time coming off with a cross body, but the momentum was too much, which allowed Boss Man to roll through for the cover and win. After the bell, Heenan immediately ran to the back and out of harm’s way. That was a hell of a match. The crowd was really into it and the storyline was there as well. It was worked very smartly and built to the perfect finish. Both guys looked like aces and busted their asses out there. Barbarian is on quite the surprising hot streak in the ring. Boss Man keeps picking off Family members with his eye on the ultimate prize. Grade: ***
3) Sergeant Slaughter defeats the Ultimate Warrior to win WWF World Title with an elbow drop after Randy Savage hits Warrior with the scepter at 12:46
Fun Fact: Over the past couple months, Sgt. Slaughter really amped up his Iraqi sympathizing ways, drawing strong heel heat week by week. After debuting his new manager, General Adnan, late in 1990, Sarge began receiving special gifts from Iraqi kingpin Saddam Hussein. The most important gift he received came on the 12/29 Superstars: a pair of point-tipped wrestling boots, as they helped draw some heat during matches, as they would always play up the boots being loaded. The World Title match against the Warrior was officially announced on the 12/15 Superstars.
Scott: I remember very well thinking at the time that this was just a holdover match for the WWF Champion and we were getting ready for Hogan-Warrior II at WrestleMania. However with Operation Desert Storm underway, something tells me they were going to ride the patriotic wave and call an audible. Warrior starts things off like gangbusters and throws Slaughter all over the place. Yet when Sensational Sherri comes out, you knew where this match was going. Sure enough Sherri pulls Warrior’s leg and gets the Champion to chase her down the aisle. Then out of the shadows Randy Savage (who got pissed earlier when Warrior refused to give him a title shot) attacks Warrior and hits him with a light stand. Slaughter’s got on the curl-tipped boots given to him by Saddam Hussein, which was a great heel touch. The crowd is at a fever pitch as Slaughter works Warrior over and we get our second bear hug of the night. I love Warrior’s red, white and blue ensemble on this night, as even the crazy ones have patriotism. Slaughter hooks the Camel Clutch on but Warrior’s legs are draped over the apron and the referee isn’t even moving. Gorilla was always tough on referees (except his son of course). Warrior starts getting some momentum and energy and the Champion is making his big comeback. This is where I thought the match was over and we would see the Champion retain the title. However, again out comes Sherri to distract Warrior. He drags her in and as Savage runs down the ramp Warrior throws her out of the ring. Slaughter knees Warrior into the back and Warrior falls into the ropes. With the referee distracted Savage cracks Warrior in the head with the scepter that Sherri brought down. Then out of nowhere Slaughter drops an elbow and gets the pinfall. Gorilla and Piper clearly think the pin will be thrown out and a disqualification called. After some confusion, Slaughter is the new WWF Champion and Gorilla and Hot Rod are beside themselves. What a huge upset and great storytelling, but the Ultimate Warrior’s title reign is over. The turncoat is the champion, and right now (besides him) there’s no bigger heel in the company right now than Randy Savage. Awesome. Grade: **1/2
Justin: For the first time in his title reign, I feel like we can say the Ultimate Warrior finally has a real interesting challenger, even if that challenger was quite surprising and out of left field. Sgt. Slaughter was clearly getting lined up for a push but coming off that Survivor Series performance it was still jarring to all of a sudden have him announced as the top contender for a major PPV title match. Warrior would play up the Americana, charging to the ring decked out in red, white and blue tights and paint. During the build up to this match, Slaughter had really amped up the allegiance to Iraq, picking up a new manager in General Adnan and receiving a special gift of point-tipped boots from Saddam Hussein. Add in the growing tension over the war and suddenly Sarge was building some serious heat from fans…and Roddy Piper. Warrior got off to a red hot start, chucking Adnan on his ass, running Sarge off and then tearing up the Iraqi flag to a huge pop. He would then use the flag remnants to choke and clothesline the Sarge before just clubbing him from pillar to post and back to the floor. As the beating wore on, Sensational Sherri showed up at ringside and tripped the champion up, drawing him out of the ring. As Warrior chased her down the aisle, Randy Savage sprung from behind the guardrail near the entrance and waxed him, including an awesome shot with a light stand. As Warrior was laid out on the floor, Sarge kept stopping the count to allow him to get back in. That seems like spotty logic, but Piper seems to think it is a great tactic. Once he had control, Sarge started to methodically pick apart the Warrior, alternating between levying blows and playing to the crowd, a crowd that was quite rabid and buzzing with boos the whole time. Sarge’s offense was as basic as it gets here, but thanks to the heat and stakes he really didn’t need to do much more at all. Warrior would survive a lengthy bear hug but Sarge gave him no room to breathe, dropping elbows to the back to set up his Camel Clutch. Warrior would finally rally, hulking up and running through Sarge with clotheslines. It certainly looked like the road had come to an end for Team Iraq across the board. However, it was then that Sherri showed back up. Warrior dragged her in the ring and then press slammed her into the arms of Savage, who had just arrived on the scene as well. It was a pretty nasty toss. With his back turned, Sarge was able to bury a knee into the back of Warrior, driving him into the ropes. As the ref backed Sarge off, Savage pelted Warrior with a stiff scepter shot to the head and then bolted like a thief in the night. Warrior would crumple back, and Sarge pounced with an elbow drop and a cover for the win. Well, it seemed it anyway…as they delayed the announcement to build confusion around whether there would be a DQ, similar to at Survivor Series, so that was a nice touch. Warrior would recover and charge to the back as Fink announced that we had a NEW WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPION in Sgt. Slaughter. Piper and Monsoon were livid as Sarge stomped around the ring with the purple belt held up high. I definitely remember watching this live and expecting Warrior to just squash Slaughter and run off the evil foreign sympathizer before heading to Mania as champion, so it was a major upset to me. I can’t see I disagree with the decision, though. There was no way Warrior/Hogan II could have held up to the SkyDome clash and with Sarge building heat and capitalizing on the Iraq stuff, it was worth the roll of the dice to set him up for Hogan. The downside, however, is the thud of the door slamming on Warrior’s disappointing reign. There was so much promise back in April, but here we are in early 1991 and the reign really accomplished nothing in the end. It is clear that Warrior may be even better off without the strap at this point. The match here was fine thanks to the heat and Savage stuff boosting it up, and really that was all they needed to make it work. Grade: **1/2
4) The Mountie defeats Koko B. Ware with a sidewalk slam at 9:12
Fun Fact: This match was not included on the original Coliseum Home Video release, but is available on the WWE Network version.
Fun Fact II: This match is the first PPV match for a recently rebranded superstar. Jacques Rougeau, Jr. had been wrestling in the WWF with his brother Raymond as the Rougeau Brothers tag team since 1985. In 1990, Raymond retired from wrestling and Jacques left the Federation for about a year. Jacques debut was marked by vignettes depicting his new character, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or..a Mountie. His character was known for carrying a cattle prod that he would use after matches to shock his opponents.
The character ended up causing a stir in Canada and was the subject of litigation. As a result, when Rougeau wrestled in Canada, he was not allowed to wrestle under the “Mountie” name, instead having to be called by his real name. Announcers would even go so far as to emphasize while in Canada that he did not represent the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Scott: We need a match to give the crowd a spell after the emotion and drama of the last match. Continuing the trend of evil wrestlers representing other countries, we have a heel Canadian. The Mountie is clearly Jacques Rougeau, but no one is supposed to know that. This match is nothing more than for Koko to make the new heel look good and put him over. This match (before the WWE Network) is pretty rare because it was cut out of the Coliseum Home Video release. Similar to the Haku/Harley Race match two years earlier, it was a lost gem before 2014. The match itself isn’t really much, just some character advancement while Gorilla and Piper still lament over the Ultimate Warrior’s loss in the previous match. Mountie would become one of 1991’s better heels and it starts here. Overall a decent enough match and it gets the Mountie on his way. Grade: **
Justin: You know it is a good PPV when the Birdman is in the house! Koko has really gotten some decent run over the last year but he had an interesting challenge ahead of him with this one. Jacques Rougeau had been off TV since his brother Raymond hung up the trunks a year ago. After resting up, he came back retooled as The Mountie, an angry Canadian law enforcement officer that was more interested in zapping people with his cattle prod than just about anything else. He still has Jimmy Hart by his side, which is a nice touch. Both the crowd and the announcers were still in a state of shock, which won’t make things much easier for these guys. Koko landed a few strikes early but Mountie was really looking to stall more than anything out of the gate. I will say those giant leather boots and the outfit overall make Jacques looks much taller and just bigger overall than he did previously. The fans are totally checked out here and the pacing of the bout is not helping at all. Mountie did try to mix in some control techniques into his repertoire, another nice touch to the character. The highlight of this one has to be Jimmy taunting Frankie as Koko is worked over. Mountie just pelted him, burying kicks and using those control holds to keep Koko tied up. The Birdman found some daylight with a neckbreaker to wake the crowd up a bit and followed with a missile dropkick but Jimmy ran some interference to prevent the pin. As he continued to rally, Mountie shut it down with a sidewalk slam off a charge to put Koko down for good and grab his first PPV win as a solo star. Match was nothing but the gimmick and man behind it definitely have some potential. Grade: 1/2*
*** Randy Savage is interviewed by Gene Okerlund and gives his reasoning for his actions. During the interview, Ultimate Warrior starts banging on Savage’s door, so the Macho King bolts. ***
5) Ted DiBiase & Virgil defeat Dusty Rhodes & Dustin Rhodes when DiBiase pins Dusty with a roll-up at 9:57
Fun Fact I: This is Dusty Rhodes’ final WWF PPV appearance for nearly 16 years. His final record is 3-4. He was 0-2 at the Royal Rumble, 1-0 at Wrestlemania, 1-1 at SummerSlam and 1-1 at Survivor Series.
Fun Fact II: Over the winter, we began seeing the first hints of possible dissention between Virgil and Ted DiBiase. On the 12/8 Superstars, DiBiase, Virgil and Dustin Rhodes appeared on the Brother Love Show. DiBiase tried to pay off Dustin, claiming he could be bought, just like Virgil. DiBiase then began insulting Virgil, and forced his bodyguard to clean his and Brother Love’s shoes, which he did. Dustin turned down the money and stormed off, but the seeds for a new storyline were now laid. Over the next few weeks, new vignettes began airing of DiBiase forcing Virgil into doing humiliating things, such as cleaning his toes, wiping cow manure off his boots and other demeaning actions. As the weeks passed, Virgil became slightly defiant each time, but DiBiase would mention a secret to Virgil, and Virgil would cave in. As the weeks passed, color commentator Roddy Piper began defending Virgil and started begging him to quit and leave DiBiase. A week or so before the Rumble, Piper admitted he took Virgil out to dinner and tried to get him to quit, but it seemingly did not work, as this match was signed and Virgil stood by his boss.
Scott: We go now to a match that seamlessly transitions from one feud to the next. It’s the PPV debut of Dusty’s son Dustin Rhodes, who begins a lucrative yet bumpy wrestling career here teaming with his dad against the Million Dollar Man and his bodyguard. Over the past few weeks, DiBiase has been particularly harsh to Virgil and for the first time Virgil seems to not be tolerating it anymore. In fact before the match while Gorilla and Piper were filling for time, Piper mentioned that he and Virgil had lunch and that Piper was “explaining” to Virgil about pride and dignity in yourself. DiBiase laid into Virgil a few times during the match, clearly saying they’re not in the same league. DiBiase takes control of the lesser experienced Dustin early on as well. Speaking of Dustin, Dusty must be injured or something because he doesn’t get into the match at all and Dustin pretty much takes the beating. However, Virgil accidentally hits DiBiase on a double team and the Million Dollar Man starts beating Virgil down, then rolls up Dustin and gets the victory. With the Rhodes Family out of the way (Dusty is worried about Dustin’s injured knee) DiBiase orders Virgil to get back in the ring and put the Million Dollar Belt around his waist. Virgil is fighting the urge to deck him, but DiBiase reminds Virgil about his family and where all the money is going. Finally Virgil can take it no longer and while DiBiase is cutting a promo Virgil decks him with the belt and the place goes bonkers. This may be one of the most emotional PPVs in WWF history to this point with patriotism and pride and dignity everywhere, this storyline suits it to a tea. As for the Rhodes Family, we don’t see Dusty back for quite a while and Dustin doesn’t return for almost five years, in a very different gimmick. Grade: **
Justin: Buried in the final slot on this undercard is a match with quite a bit of intrigue surrounding it. The Rhodes Family had really hit a wall in late 1990 as Dusty continued to be jobbed out in the mid card, seemingly losing yet another feud as he wept over the defection of Sapphire. He and his son had been beaten and abused by Ted DiBiase and it seemed like revenge could be in the cards here, especially when you factor in the tension between DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil. Virgil had been a loyal soldier since the duos debut in 1987, but he was finally showing signs of cracking and he had been getting pressure from Roddy Piper to finally pull the trigger. The two stories running concurrently in this match were showed off immediately as the Rhodes Boys ruled the ring early, while DiBiase sniped at Virgil, barking orders in his direction constantly. Virgil got worked over and continuously tossed to the floor by Dustin, and as soon as he hit the deck, DiBiase was there to smack him around and berate him. Ted finally tagged himself in and started punishing Dustin while also taunting Dusty. Man, he really upped the prick quotient over the last couple of months. I love seeing the swagger back so strong. Dusty was able to catch the hot tag and he came in to rattle DiBiase with elbows and a sleeperhold. Dustin got in on the action as well, but Virgil was able to keep making the save where needed. And eventually, the young Rhodes got caught again and really struggled to shake off a targeted knee attack by DiBiase and Virgil, who were now starting to work pretty well together. And that ended quickly. Virgil accidentally decked DiBiase, causing his boss to snap and hammer him before dumping him to the floor. Piper began to sadly explain that he did all he could to save Virgil, but that this is what he gets for not standing up for himself. Dusty tagged back in, but DiBiase survived the flurry and rolled Big Dust up to win the match and send the Rhodes Family packing for Atlanta. It was such a sad, quiet departure, as they literally vanish as soon as the match ends and would be on WCW TV before the month was up.
Now, after the bell, DiBiase tossed a little more dirt on the Rhodes grave before demanding Virgil bring his Million Dollar Belt into the ring and strap it around his waist. Virgil hesitated and then threw it on the ground, but DiBiase hit hard with reminders about the hardships of his mother and family. Virgil crumbled at the thought, dropping to a knee and picking up the belt. But then…the man finally had enough as he popped up and smashed DiBiase in the face with it, delivering one of the most memorable moments of the early WWF PPV era. Piper and Monsoon celebrated along with the fans as Virgil finally broke through and stood up for himself. That match was really just a bunch of nothing but the storyline afterwards was wonderfully done thanks to years of build and built-in emotion. Grade: 1/2*
6) Hulk Hogan wins the Royal Rumble
Order of entrance, followed by who eliminated them:
1) Bret Hart: Undertaker
2) Dino Bravo: Greg Valentine
3) Greg Valentine: Hulk Hogan
4) Paul Roma: Jake Roberts
5) Texas Tornado: Undertaker
6) Rick Martel: British Bulldog
7) Saba Simba: Rick Martel
8) Bushwhacker Butch: Undertaker
9) Jake Roberts: Rick Martel
10) Hercules: Brian Knobbs
11) Tito Santana: Earthquake
12) Undertaker: Hawk & Animal
13) Jimmy Snuka: Hawk
14) British Bulldog: Earthquake & Knobbs
15) Smash: Hulk Hogan
16) Hawk: Rick Martel
17) Shane Douglas: Brian Knobbs
18) No Entrant (Was supposed to be Randy Savage)
19) Animal: Earthquake
20) Crush: Hulk Hogan
21) Jim Duggan: Mr. Perfect
22) Earthquake: Hulk Hogan
23) Mr. Perfect: British Bulldog
24) Hulk Hogan: WINNER
25) Haku: British Bulldog
26) Jim Neidhart: Rick Martel
27) Bushwhacker Luke: Earthquake
28) Brian Knobbs: Hulk Hogan
29) Warlord: Hulk Hogan
30) Tugboat: Hulk Hogan
Longest Time: Rick Martel (52:17)
Shortest Time: Bushwhacker Luke (:04)
Most Eliminated: Hulk Hogan (7)
Fun Fact I: Some PPV debuts and returns of note in this Rumble. Saba Simba is Tony Atlas re-packaged. This is Atlas’ first PPV appearance since the battle royal at WrestleMania II and his final PPV appearance for well over a decade. This is also the PPV return of the British Bulldog, who was wrestling in England and Canada with his partner the Dynamite Kid before breaking out on his own and returning to the WWF. If you read the Dynamite Kid’s book, this move to a solo wrestler rankled Kid and ended their friendship. One man making his PPV debut is Shane Douglas. From Pittsburgh, a student of Domenic DeNucci, Douglas had been teaming with Marty Jannetty a bit as the “New Rockers” while Shawn Michaels was rehabbing a knee injury in the middle of 1990. The other debut is Brian Knobbs, one half of the new tag team known as the Nasty Boys with Jerry Sags, who jumped ship from WCW to Stamford along with the Legion of Doom. They had been embroiled in a feud with the Steiner Brothers but were working on a handshake deal and bolted at the chance for a contract in Stamford.
Fun Fact II: Hulk Hogan becomes the first winner of back-to-back Royal Rumbles.
Fun Fact III: Shane McMahon was one of the ringside referees for the Royal Rumble match.
Scott: So was this Rumble that clear cut? With the evil Iraqi sympathizer as WWF Champion, was Hulk Hogan the #1 choice? It definitely seemed like Warrior was on a collision course with the Macho King for WrestleMania. Then when Mean Gene mentioned to Hogan that Slaughter was defacing the American Flag that pretty much said where WrestleMania is going. We open the Rumble with two solid Canadians, the Hitman and the Strongman. At #3 is Greg Valentine so we open the match with three hard hitters. Valentine had surprisingly turned babyface recently and went right after Bravo. In comes the Glory in P&G, Paul Roma. The crowd is a little flat, other than rooting for Bret. 1991 will end up being the year that the rip cord is finally pulled on the big singles push. For now he is still co-holder of the Tag Team Titles. Texas Tornado comes in to even the odds but then Rick Martel comes in at #5 to give the heels the advantage. Then the equation goes out the window as Martel tries to eliminate Roma. Bret’s actually chilling out on the corner while two faces battle and two heels battle. The battle really heats up when Jake Roberts comes in and he and Martel continue their blood feud and go crazy on each other. Hercules comes in and now P&G are working together. Tito Santana is next as Roma is eliminated. The eliminations are few early on, as it’s more interesting to see the pairings that shook out. For instance, Santana and Martel renew their rivalry with some work in the ring.
At #12 is the Undertaker and once again he looks like the most imposing wrestler on the entire roster. The returning British Bulldog comes in and the battling in the ring continues. The crowd is stirring but we haven’t had much star power other than Jake, which means this is pretty bottom heavy in terms of numbers. We get halfway through and some tag team wrestlers work their way in, from Demolition Smash to Hawk of the Legion of Doom. Again no real clear cut favorites yet, which means those still remaining must be some of the bigger players. Then in great continuity, Randy Savage was slated to come in at #18 but because he was running for his life from Ultimate Warrior he no-showed the slot. Undertaker is finally eliminated but we all know he will have more Rumble moments over the next 20 years. Rick Martel is still in the match as his reputation grows as a Rumble longevity stud. Earthquake comes in at #22 at there are 11 guys in the ring right now, most to this point. The crowd is at a fever pitch and again no babyface favorite, yet another heel favorite comes in, as Mr. Perfect comes down the aisle. He has a likely date with Big Boss Man at Mania but then at #24 comes the Hulkster and the crowd goes insane. Considering who is left and how the bookers seemingly hadn’t really thought about heels winning the Rumble match yet, it’s probably a matter of time before Earthquake and Hogan are the last two in the ring. The comedic moment of the match is when Bushwhacker Luke comes in, gets eliminated in :04 and walks out like nothing happened. Very funny. What’s not funny, but rather is historic is the length that Rick Martel is still in there. Bulldog finally eliminates Martel after being in there for 52:17, a record to that point. The last three are Hogan, Quake and Knobbs, so as expected Hogan is getting worked over by the two heels. Hogan makes his comeback, and eliminates Knobbs before trying to vanquish his rival the Quake. Quake works Hogan over with some elbows but the Real American hulks up, tosses Quake and gets this second of back-to-back Rumble wins. This one is huge and expected, for the road to WrestleMania is paved with red, white and blue. Some notable moments in this rumble match and it’s not a bad one to watch on its own. Grade: ** ½
Justin: The fourth annual Royal Rumble has arrived and we our #1 entrant is a choice that is maybe, finally a foreshadowing of things to come. We have talked multiple times about Bret Hart going solo, but each time the company pulled the reigns back and kept the Hart Foundation together. Here, he enters first, which could be construed as another test, so we will see how long he hangs in there. Dino Bravo was #2 and we get a few teases and strikes to fill the two minutes to #3, the recently turned face Greg Valentine. Gorilla really did not believe anyone that entered early had much of a shot and pretty much guarantees neither of these guys would win. Valentine’s face turn seemed a bit odd considering where he was at in his career, but it was good to let him battle a former stablemate to really get it over. Bravo’s time in the sun also was starting to come to an end here as he had been riding those Earthquake waves long enough without really contributing anything. Valentine would dump him fairly quickly and briefly get his hands on Jimmy before Bret got a hold of him. Paul Roma was next, still repping the great Power & Glory, and he was followed by the now former Intercontinental Champion Texas Tornado at #5. The four would go at it with Hammer playing a de facto heel role to fill the time. #6 was Rick Martel, who was still embroiled in his heated feud with Jake Roberts. Despite the real lack of action, the crowd was really amped here as they had woken back out of the brief coma since the Virgil turn. The depth of the roster is also on display here, as most of these guys were considered on the lower end of the mid card for the most part, but are all really good, solid veterans. Saba Simba jogged to the ring at #7 and took the fight right to Roma. Simba was portrayed by longtime star Tony Atlas and was a fairly racist tribesman gimmick by any definition. I do remember being really excited for a match between him and Akeem in late 1990 though. Butch was out at #8 and he literally marched in a circle, whacking his hands before touching anyone. While he did that, Martel dumped Simba, and he is not seen on PPV again for a long time. Business would finally pick up when Roberts charged out at #9 and made a beeline for Martel. Jake was relentless hammering the man who blinded him and the crowd was right with him, frantically calling for the DDT. Martel would escape and slide to the floor and was eventually saved by Valentine. They would get their hands on each other again in between getting interrupted by the other entrants. Hercules was out at #10, which gave us a complete Power & Glory and shifted the balance of power in the match. Unfortunately for them, it was short lived as Roma charged Jake, but the Snake ducked and Glory went flying to the floor.
More bad news for Martel came at #11 as Tito Santana jogged out and went right at his long time rival. The ring was pretty full here, but again, it was stocked with smart veteran workers that all elicited responses from the hot Miami fans. Things got a bit dark when Brother Love led Undertaker out at #12. Taker had been rolling since his November debut, mowing through jobbers and barely showing any semblance of pain. He struck immediately, dumping the gallant Hitman after a really strong 20 minute run. Maybe that push was coming after all? Taker kept rolling on here, just stalking and crushing anyone in his way. As Jimmy Snuka came out at #13, Taker chucked Butch to end his night. I like the balance here as whenever someone new comes in, somebody gets tossed. It keeps the ring looking full without getting it too bloated. Taker has just been punishing poor Tornado, but wasn’t able to put him out just yet. At #14 was the returning British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith. And he was jacked up. It was good to see him back, though, to help keep the face/heel balance in the midcard heading into the new year. Smash would bring us to the halfway point at #15, looking flabby and somewhat uninterested. What has happened to my Demolition? In the longevity watch, Martel, Tornado and Valentine were still chugging along. And speaking of Martel, he was hanging out on the ring apron and was able to yank Roberts over the top and to the floor to continue to maintain the upper hand in that feud. Hawk was in at #16 and came in so hot that everyone stopped in their tracks and ganged up on him. I liked that both faces and heels stopped to beat up the fresh guy. That really helps the concept work. Youngster Shane Douglas came out at #17, just as Taker said goodbye to Tornado and Hawk pitched Snuka. Douglas had been around since mid 1990, working some tags with Marty Jannetty while Shawn Michaels was hurt. Otherwise, he was just low card fodder trying to work his way up the ladder. This was a good spot for him, though, as he is in the mix with the strong collection of veterans. #18 was…nobody? For the first time in Rumble history, we get an empty slot. More on that shortly as we whittle down the field. I think it was during this Rumble match that Gorilla and Piper really started to develop a strong chemistry. They have balanced each other out nicely here as Piper keeps improving. Animal was in at #19 and he stepped right in to help Hawk battle Taker. They hammered him with rights and then rattled him with a double clothesline to send him to the floor. That was a big elimination right there and a good spot for LOD to show their power while also keeping Taker strong. However, right after that, Martel snuck in and chucked Hawk, ending the LOD’s run as a unit on this night. Crush hit the ring at #20 and for the third time tonight we had a complete tag team in the fray. They went right to work, clubbing Bulldog with forearm blows.
Jim Duggan opened up the final third of the match at #21 and the crowd just exploded as he marched down and dove right into the action. One of the major favorites stomped out at #22 as Jimmy Hart led Earthquake down the aisle. Quake was really lined up as a major force for this match and by drawing a late number, those odds went up. When he climbed inside, we hit 11 men in the ring at once, but that shrunk back to 10 when Quake ducked a charging Animal. Checking in on our iron men, Martel, Valentine and Hercules were holding things down out there, putting in really impressive showings. The Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect was #23 and I always enjoyed when he tosses the towel over his head and Bobby Heenan catches it behind his back before as the saunter out. Perfect got no chance to breathe, though, as Duggan met him with a huge right hand. Perfect got immediate revenge by dumping Hacksaw to the floor, though. Bulldog is also having a nice showing in his PPV return bout. The crowd would explode again at #24 when Hulk Hogan emerged and started working on cleaning house, starting with Smash. I do enjoy how some little kid saw that it was Hogan before he emerged and spoiled it a split second before the Hulkster burst his way through the curtain. By the time Haku entered at #25, poor Hogan didn’t even have his shirt off yet. Hulkster would land a big blow here, tossing Valentine after a great run of 44:03. Tremendous showing for the Hammer. Hogan finally got his shirt off as the intensity started to pick up with everyone starting to sniff potential victory. Piper notes that while Valentine came up just short of the longevity record, Rick Martel was within striking distance. Jim Neidhart was #26 and being fresh, he was full of fire. A group of entrants tried to work together to eliminate Hogan but for some reason Douglas broke it up. Come on, Shane, you got a lot to learn! #27 was Bushwhacker Luke and he climbed in the ring, got grabbed by Quake and tossed right out the other side, nearing the record for shortest run set by Warlord in 1989. That was a nice moment of levity as we near the end. Brian Knobbs was in at #28, fresh off a jump from WCW. The Nasty Boys were really getting a strong push in Atlanta, but decided to head to the WWF for some stability and get off their handshake deal. They were immediately positioned as a top heel team. The action continued to rage on and it was pretty unique to see the ring be so full pretty much the whole way through this one. We never had that point where things filtered down since it started. Another iron man bit the dust here as Knobbs tossed out Hercules, ending his night after a 37:36 run. Good showing for him as well. Warlord kept Slick in business at #29 and with that entrance, Gorilla officially narrowed down the mystery #18 entrant to one of two possibilities. Hogan sent Crush to the shower as Gorilla noted that Martel has surpassed the longevity record officially by this point. Tugboat came out at #30, meaning it was Randy Savage that no showed earlier. That gave the quality of field a hit but made a lot of sense to help push his feud with the Warrior ahead. Gorilla assumed that Warrior ran him right out of the arena. So, with everyone having entered, we had a final field of nine battling for the victory.
Friends would become brief enemies as Tugboat tried to toss his buddy Hogan. He would actually get him over the top and to the apron but he turned his back without confirmation. That allowed Hogan to slide back in, charge right over to Tugger and dump him out as revenge. Perfect, Neidhart and Haku followed soon after as the field was whittled down to five. Quake and Knobbs formed a quick Jimmy Hart fueled alliance and targeted the Hulkster while Bulldog and Martel battled across the ring. However, after 52:17, Martel made a fatal error as he climbed the top rope. Bulldog was able to crotch him and shove him to the floor, ending his record breaking performance in disappointment. Quake and Knobbs quickly made a move and worked to force Bulldog out, leaving them to double team Hogan as the crowd chanting their hero on.Hogan would shake off a series of elbows and splashes before blowing out the Earthquake splash and Hulking Up. He sent Knobbs flying to the floor with a big boot but a slam attempt of Quake failed, giving the big man another opening to make a comeback. Hogan fought through another assault and this time, he made it count as he slammed the big man and then ran him right over the top to the floor to win his second consecutive Rumble match. He also effectively put a bow on his feud with Quake as well, leaving both men to move on. We may have debated last year’s win a bit, but this time around there was no doubt that Hogan was the right choice to take the victory. He had an evil champion to now dethrone.
This was a really fun Rumble match with a lot of high level workers to carry the match. I loved how they mixed things up and had a full crowd in the ring for the entire match. The crowd was super hot as well and kept in the match right through the final elimination. Toss in the memorable longevity runs and there was a lot to dig about this installment. Grade: ****
Scott: This is definitely the best Royal Rumble card to this point. Top to bottom there was a lot of good in-ring work and plenty of storyline advancement. The first title match in Rumble history wasn’t much in the ring, but there was plenty of added storyline to it and it created a great feud that would percolate through the next couple of months, as well as being maybe the biggest upset in PPV history. Hulk Hogan becomes the first back-to-back Rumbles and it may be (although somewhat veiled) the first time the Rumble winner was given a World Title shot. The opener may be the best in PPV history to this point and even Boss Man/Barbarian was a forgotten classic. We are on the road to a very patriotic WrestleMania with a shocking WWF Champion in place. Overall I recommend this show to anyone. It is an entertaining PPV from all avenues and a great lead-in to Los Angeles in March. Final Grade: A-
Justin: I have always had fond memories of this show as it was the first PPV I actually saw live. The undercard is really loaded up and when you factor in the red hot crowd, the memorable moments and a very good Rumble match, it could rank up there as one of the greatest Rumble PPV outings in company history. After a rather bland end to 1990, we have shaken things up and reset a bit with a brand new, and very unlikely, World Champion leading the way. It has been a really long time since we had a hated, evil Champion ruling the company and they would take full advantage of it. Warrior and Savage are also on a collision course after their brouhaha here. The WWF seems to be in great shape with a refreshed roster and a rabid fanbase as we open a new year. Time will tell if they can keep that momentum rolling. Final Grade: A-