*** 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 1992: To Be the Man…
January 19, 1992
Albany, New York
Buy Rate: 1.8
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan
1) The New Foundation defeats the Orient Express when Owen Hart pins Pat Tanaka with a splash off the top rope at 17:21
Fun Fact I: This would be the final PPV match for one tag team and the first for another. First for the exiting team, this would be the final match in the WWF for the Orient Express as Pat Tanaka would leave the WWF in February 1992.
Fun Fact II: This would be the first PPV match for the rebirth of the Hart Foundation…kind of. In late 1991 after the Hart Foundation had broken up and each team member had started a singles career, Jim Neidhart lost a singles match to Ric Flair via the figure four leglock. In kayfabe, the hold injured Neidhart and he had to be helped from the ring. As this was happening, the Beverly Brothers made their entrance for their tag team match. They took the opportunity to further injure Neidhart, who was out for a month. When he returned, he had backup in the form of Bret’s brother, Owen, who had recently signed with the WWF. The two formed a new tag team and were dubbed the New Foundation.
Scott: We begin the year with maybe one of the most anticipated PPVs in recent memory. For the first time the Royal Rumble match is for the ultimate prize: The Undisputed WWF Championship. More on that later. We open the show with a PPV debut of sorts. I say “of sorts” because technically this isn’t Owen Hart’s PPV debut. He of course was the Blue Blazer three years earlier at WrestleMania V in a great five minute sprint with Mr. Perfect. He now debuts as himself with his brother-in-law against the technically expert Orient Express, who one year earlier had one of the greatest PPV matches of all time against the Rockers. Neidhart reportedly wasn’t supposed to have a job right now, but he is the perfect tutor for the younger Owen. This Albany crowd is jacked up for the opener. The taxi cab-clad babyfaces were dictating things, until a Fuji cane shot to Owen’s throat gave the heels the advantage. The Orients now can expertly execute double team moves on the less experienced Rocket. A majority of the Gorilla/Bobby byplay involved Ric Flair, but they would really get into this match. This is the apex of Gorilla and the Brain as a broadcast team. They just get better and better as the show progresses. This section of the match shows what an underrated team the Orient Express was and that maybe they could have had a run with the tag straps. Anvil finally tags in and the faces clean house, ending with Owen hitting the Rocket Launcher on Tanaka for the win. That was a really fun match with both teams bringing their all to this very game crowd. Grade: ***
Justin: We kick off a new calendar year of PPV outings with an interesting tag team opener. A year ago, the Orient Express stole the show alongside the Rockers and now find themselves in a similar spot twelve months later. The New Foundation was created to help bring along newcomer Owen Hart at a similar pace as his brother Bret had been for years. So, the idea was to put Owen with Jim Neidhart and let him work his way up the ladder. I liked the idea and it was the perfect use of Neidhart. I don’t know if it was an illusion from the baggy pants but Neidhart looked to be in pretty decent shape here. Well, for him anyway. Owen would start thing off with Kato, frustrating the man from the Orient by working the arm amongst various reversals that showed off his smooth agility. The Anvil picked up where Owen left off, except he used his brute power to chuck Kato across the ring. Tanaka entered and ran into the same problems as his partner. In a nice double team spot, Anvil snapped Tanaka over with an Alabama Slam and Owen met him on the mat with an elbow off the middle rope. The OE have some odd gear on tonight as Kato looks to be wearing tight sweatpants and Jerry Seinfeld’s sneakers while Tanaka has on some sort of baggy Bill Belichick cutoff sweatshirt. Fuji would get involved, jabbing his cane into the throat of Owen to give the OE control of the match. It was a good idea to let Owen play face-in-peril for many reason, top of the list is of course his selling and timing. In a nice spot, Owen whipped Tanaka to the corner, but Tanaka met him coming in with a crescent kick to the face. The OE were really damn good when in control, working fluid tags, sneaky double teams and effective cutoffs on comeback attempts. In possibly the best spot of the match, they baited Anvil in to distract he referee, allowing Fuji to hang his cane in the corner. They then shot Owen into the corner, with his shoulder snapping through the cane. That looked really cool and I am surprised they didn’t do it more often. Owen would mount a comeback with a double dropkick to both men and then tagged in Anvil in while slingshotting him into both Kato and Tanaka. Kato would get dumped to the floor and then met with an Owen dive. Back inside, Owen scaled the top rope and Anvil launched him onto Tanaka for the win. What a really fun opener. Not quite on the par of 1991’s installment but it was really good. Owen was great in peril and the OE is just fun to watch on offense. It was clear that Owen had the chops to hang, the question now is when does he get the chance. Grade: ***
2) Roddy Piper defeats the Mountie to win WWF Intercontinental Title with a sleeper at 5:18
Fun Fact I: This is Roddy Piper’s first singles title in the WWF, and first singles title overall since holding the NWA US Heavyweight Title in 1983.
Fun Fact II: The Mountie defeated Bret Hart to win the IC Title two days before at a house show in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bret was sick with the flu and had a 102 degree fever, but said he would at least get in the ring and drop the title. The other reason for the switch that has been floating around is that Bret and the WWF were in the midst of contract negotiations, and the WWF wanted to make sure that if Bret did leave the company that the belt was protected. He obviously re-signed, and would soon be in the hunt to get the title back.
Scott: For old school fans, this was a historic moment in WWF history. Other than his epic feud with Hogan in 1985, Piper never really went after any championships during his WWF career. In Springfield two days earlier, Bret Hart lost the title to the Mountie in a house show upset. The kayfabe reason was due to a 102 degree fever, but in reality Bret was in contract negotiations and the company wanted to protect their title. Piper came out to protect Bret from a post-match beatdown and got a belt shot from the new champion. Thus we get our match here. I remember thinking this was a holdover title defense for the Mountie and Bret was going to get his rematch at WrestleMania. However when Piper ratcheted up the Sleeper, and suddenly the Mountie was out. Holy crap, Piper is the new Intercontinental Champion. My brother marked out, and frankly I did too. What a cool moment to see a guy who easily was one of the most popular in the company becomes a singles champion. The match really wasn’t much but it didn’t matter, the moment was pretty cool. So does that mean we will have a triple threat at Mania? Or will we get the unique Bret/Piper match? Stay tuned. Grade: **
Justin: I still remember watching Superstars the morning of this show and finding out that Bret Hart had lost his IC title to the Mountie and wouldn’t be competing at the Rumble. It was really quite shocking. But it kicks off a pretty great series of moments. It was cool seeing all the house show footage of the title change and post-match fracas inserted in here. Nice touch. The Mountie did have a pretty strong 1991 but it was still quite a surprise to him take the gold off the Hitman the way he did. And Piper being slotted in was weird too as he had only been mainly battling Ric Flair around the circuit and didn’t seem lined up for any type of serious push or action. Piper’s entrance is always so awesome. The beat of the bagpipes and his manic fast paced walk while leaning forward always felt so big and important. The hook during the entrances centered around Piper’s golden chance to potentially win both the IC and World Titles here in Albany tonight. Piper jumped the champ off the bell, peppering him with a wild series of punches to drive him to the floor. Piper smothered Mountie, slugging away and poking eyes, until he made a mistake by whiffing on a dropkick. Mountie got in some of his disjointed offense until Piper made a quick comeback, capped by miscommunication between Mountie and Jimmy Hart that led to a sleeper hold. Mountie tried to fight it off before eventually succumbing to the hold, giving Piper the win, his first WWF singles title and a massive pop from the crowd. The match was a whole bucket of nothing but the historical value of the moment and win was pretty awesome and bumps the grade. After the bell, Piper zapped Mountie with the shock stick and raised the gold proudly above his head. This match was on zero radars just two days earlier, but here we are with Roddy Piper as IC Champion and a chance to win double gold still to come. Grade: **1/2
3) The Beverly Brothers defeat the Bushwhackers when Blake pins Butch following a double axe-handle off the top from Beau at 14:56
Fun Fact: After the Genius had interfered in and cost the Bushwhackers several matches against the Beverly Brothers, the Whackers brought in a manager of their own named Jamison Winger. Jamison was a socially-inept nerdy character that originally entered the WWF as a sidekick of Bobby Heenan’s on Prime Time Wrestling before moving to ringside to second Butch and Luke.
Scott: We get a pure filler match here with a new swank heel tag team, and like the Orient Express they are AWA imports. Named “The Destruction Crew” in Verne’s territory, Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos were an expert team and came here when the AWA folded. Luke and Butch were just floating around (like they always did) and attached themselves to the annoying character Jamison, an unsightly goof who was on “The Bobby Heenan Show”. The match was an ungodly 15 minutes which was mostly saved by Bobby’s great rips on Jamison, like about how he smelled like Sardines and his parents wrapped his lunch as a kid in a road map. The Beverlys win but Jamison gets a free shot on the Genius with a kick in the shin. This was mostly fluff to eat some time, so let’s move on. Grade: *1/2
Justin: Similar to 1990, when you load up the Royal Rumble, it leaves the undercard to suffer a bit. And in this case, more than a bit. I love the Beverly Brothers, but this just screams “filler match” and almost feels like it exists just so Genius and Jamison would play off each other. Jamison was a good that had a decent run as Bobby Heenan’s foil on Prime Time, but by this point he was fairly useless and had run his course. Heenan went right to work hammering Jamison as both teams stalled a bit. OK, more than a bit yet again. It was a lot of stalling, mainly thanks to the Bushwhackers stomping around aimlessly. Finally things got going with Beau jumping Luke and working over his back. The Bushwhackers would double team their way back into control, which led to another seemingly endless stalling segment. And rinse, repeat from there as the Beverlys again got knocked to the floor, allowing the Whackers to stomp around and play to the crowd. The comedy finally ended as the Beverlys started to work over Luke again. Even Gorilla and Bobby checked out of this match, ranting about anything outside of the action. Outside the ring, Genius sauntered over to Jamison and slapped him across the face. By this point, the match slid up the scale from bad to just kind of bland. Luke would catch Beau with a clothesline and tag in Butch, but he immediately got trapped as well. With Luke forced to his corner by the referee, Beau hit an axe handle blow from the top rope for the anticlimactic win. That was rough stuff and what a random, useless finish. Things got dumber when the Whackers beat up the Beverlys and then allowed Jamison to get some revenge by kicking Genius in the shin. This was a mess and the Beverlys deserved better. Grade: 1/2*
4) The Natural Disasters defeat the Legion of Doom by countout at 9:23; Legion of Doom retains WWF Tag Team Titles
Fun Fact: This feud began back at SummerSlam 1991 when the LOD came out to save Andre the Giant from an attack at the hands of the Disasters.
Scott: Our second title match of the evening is the long anticipated match between the powerhouse tag team champions and their massive challengers for the gold. The LOD were red hot towards the end of 1991 but it seemed after this match their title reign cooled off, and eventually they dropped the titles. The Disasters were a welcome type of team in the mold of the Twin Towers, but not with that cool sense of awesomeness that Boss Man and Akeem had. Clearly the premise of the match was if Hawk and Animal had the strength to really work over the bigger Earthquake and Typhoon. With the Rumble match looming, it seemed like whatever match was before that was going to suffer as the crowd needed a second to get to the bathroom or concession stands. The match was average, but to see the Disasters win the match by countout was really strange, and also showed that Vince didn’t have the love and affection for the LOD like the other promotions did. Otherwise LOD would have won this thing clean if it was supposed to be a one-shot match. So overall the LOD’s pops dwindle as does their booking strength and the Disasters themselves are changed up before WrestleMania. This match isn’t much, so let’s head to what we are all waiting for. Grade: *1/2
Justin: This feud has been building for a while now, ever since the LOD got in the faces of the Disasters as SummerSlam. They clashed at Survivor Series but nothing was resolved and neither team left with much of an advantage. So, the Disasters get their desired title match here and the LOD are in for a long night with some stiff competition. LOD is still super over here, getting a monster pop from the Albany crowd. Hawk and Typhoon opened things up with some test of strength battles. That ended in a stalemate, so Quake tagged in and tried to up the ante with a dropkick (!) but came up quite empty. That even got a Sky Low Low reference from Gorilla. Animal would match that mistake by trying to slam Quake, which quickly backfired when the big crashed down on his body. The size advantage finally came into play now as the challengers started to lean on the champs, shifting their weight and using their power where they could. They worked over Hawk’s back angrily, including a Typhoon bear hug. The challengers have really worked a focused match here, executing on their clear game plan and feeling like favorites in some ways. The crowd would rally Hawk through it until he finally escaped Quake and made the tag to Animal, who came in on fire. All four men would spill to the floor and beat the piss out of each other out there. As Quake rammed Hawk into the ring post, Typhoon slid in the ring and barely beat the ref’s count to give the challengers the hollow victory. The Disasters would celebrate with the straps until LOD ran them off with chairs. Well, that was in interesting finish and a way to keep the Disasters strong and in the title hunt. The LOD stood tall and I enjoyed this match much more than I expected to, thanks to the crowd and the focused attack of the big men. Grade: **
5) Ric Flair wins the Royal Rumble, and the WWF World Title
Order of entry, followed by who eliminated them:
1) British Bulldog: Ric Flair
2) Ted DiBiase: British Bulldog
3) Ric Flair: WINNER
4) Jerry Sags: British Bulldog
5) Haku: British Bulldog
6) Shawn Michaels: El Matador
7) El Matador: Shawn Michaels
8) Barbarian: Hercules
9) Texas Tornado: Ric Flair
10) Repo Man: Big Boss Man
11) Greg Valentine: Repo Man
12) Nikolai Volkoff: Repo Man
13) Big Boss Man: Ric Flair
14) Hercules: Big Boss Man
15) Roddy Piper: Sid Justice
16) Jake Roberts: Randy Savage
17) Hacksaw Jim Duggan: Virgil
18) IRS: Roddy Piper
19) Jimmy Snuka: Undertaker
20) Undertaker: Hulk Hogan
21) Randy Savage: Sid Justice
22) Berzerker: Hulk Hogan
23) Virgil: Jim Duggan
24) Col. Mustafa: Randy Savage
25) Rick Martel: Sid Justice
26) Hulk Hogan: Sid Justice
27) Skinner: Rick Martel
28) Sgt. Slaughter: Sid Justice
29) Sid Justice: Ric Flair
30) Warlord: Hulk Hogan & Sid Justice
Longest Competitor: Ric Flair (59:26)
Shortest Competitor: Hercules (:56)
Most eliminated: Sid Justice (6)
Fun Fact I: Due to the controversial finishes at Survivor Series 1991 and This Tuesday in Texas, on December 4, 1991 (announcement airing on the 12/7 episode of WWF Superstars), President Jack Tunney vacated the WWF Championship. He also announced that at the 1992 Royal Rumble, the winner of the match would be declared the undisputed WWF Champion. Due to the controversy with the Tuesday in Texas title match, Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker were allowed to choose between numbers 20-30.
Fun Fact II: This Royal Rumble match featured nine past or future NWA or WWF World Champions, which is just shy of 30% of the field.
Fun Fact III: As of 2015, 15 of the 30 participants are in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Fun Fact IV: This match is the final match in the WWF for Haku until the 2001 Royal Rumble where he was a surprise entrant. Haku’s final PPV record is 2-10 (2-3 at Royal Rumble – both wins in tag team matches, 0-3 at WrestleMania and 0-4 at Survivor Series).
Fun Fact V: This is the first PPV for Shawn Michaels as a singles wrestler. After having teamed together since 1985, first as the Midnight Rockers in the AWA and as the Rockers in the WWF, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels started having backstage disputes and decided to split in December 1991. In an infamous segment of The Barbershop, Michaels turns on Jannetty, first superkicking him in the face and then throwing him through the glass window of the set.
Scott: In what is easily the most stacked Royal Rumble match to this point, we have the ultimate prize on the line. I love how Jack Tunney gets booed when he comes into the ring, probably because he had to strip Hulk Hogan of the belt after This Tuesday in Texas. An interesting point early on is that while Tunney is talking, we see some ANTI-HOGAN signs. What?? That’s pretty unheard of, but it’s clear the WWF landscape is starting to change and the fans have multiple babyfaces that they’d like to see on top. Bulldog and DiBiase start off hot, but the minute Ric Flair walks in at #3 the needling by Gorilla starts. No one has ever won this early, and he drives Bobby bonkers for the rest of this match, which makes the commentary pure gold. This is Bobby Heenan at his absolute best, begging, pleading, dying for Flair to win this match. Flair spends the early portion of this match bobbing and weaving competitors as they come down to ringside. The crowd is at a fever pitch as Gorilla says with every entry that they all hate Flair and they will go after him first. One of Gorilla’s best lines: “Here comes the Barbarian, he doesn’t like Flair!” Tremendous, and this clearly shows how modern day commentary is truly lacking everything that Federation Era commentary thrived on: PUTTING OVER THE TALENT. Now it’s all about making sure you’re the funniest guy in the room. Anyway I digress. What’s great about the Flair angle is that some of these guys had feuds with Flair way back in the day. Texas Tornado comes out and I’m reminded of the World Title matches in World Class from 1982-84. We also have Greg Valentine, who both feuded with Flair and won NWA Tag gold with Flair back in the day. We get some fluff like Nikolai Volkoff, but also hot mid-card guys like Boss Man. Flair eliminates a couple guys in the middle, and Gorilla starts admitting Flair is battling his best in there. I love that everybody goes after Flair the minute they hit the ring, and Bobby keeps yelling at them, even the heels. When Piper, going for history himself, hits the ring the place gets unglued. Jake Roberts stays in and stays full heel, letting Flair relax and goes after Piper. Well, then Flair gets short arm clotheslined. The action continues hot and heavy while Bobby is having a heart attack. I love how Taker and Hogan, being the last two champions, got to choose between 20-30 and Taker gets 20. Taker’s still a heel, but he goes right after Flair first. Savage finally comes in and he wants Jake and nobody else and then gets the ultimate bittersweet moment: He eliminates Jake but then eliminates himself to go after the Snake more. Savage gets re-inserted though because of “the rules”. Rumble rules are like the wind, they change constantly. We will see that throughout the years.
Hogan comes in and the crowd goes crazy, as everyone expects him to win his third straight Rumble. However, the biggest example of culture change comes at #29 when Sid Justice comes out. The crowd goes crazy for him and suddenly Hogan is practically forgotten, or worse, just another guy in the ring. He starts laying guys out all over the place. Then our ending, which becomes one of the most convoluted booking decisions that WWF had ever executed, with mixed results. Sid Justice eliminates Hogan from behind. Now that’s kind of crazy that Hogan was eliminated, but what’s worse is that after doing this exact thing to Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior in back to back years, Hogan has the nerve to get pissed off at Sid for eliminating him. On the original airing the crowd went crazy as many (like me) were pro-Sid at that time. So Hogan cries and bitches, then grabs Sid’s arm to try and get him out. That allows Flair to sneak up behind and dump Sid over the ropes and win the improbable Rumble at #3 to win the WWF Title. For the first time in his run, Hogan looks terrible here and the crowd isn’t falling for it anymore. So in the ensuing highlights on TV the boos would be edited out and cheers replace it. That is so pitiful. THE MAN is the undisputed WWF Champion and cuts a terrific promo at the end when Jack Tunney hands him the title. To this point (2015), this is still the greatest Rumble match ever. Grade: *****
Justin: For the first time in the history of this event and match, we have some really heavy stakes on the line for the Rumble winner. I loved this idea and concept that was put into place, and there has been no better year to do it thanks to all the controversy in the title picture. It also was the perfect stage for Ric Flair to attempt to prove he was the true marathon man and the Real World Champion. I thought the caveat of Taker and Hogan only choosing from the last ten numbers was a good one as well as it made sense with all the chaos that led to this moment. Jack Tunney opened the match with a proclamation but nobody seemed to give a shit about that. The match finally fired up with the British Bulldog drawing #1 and Ted DiBiase slotted in second. Gorilla and Bobby immediately referenced Bulldog’s recent battle royal prowess in England. DiBiase had a strong showing back in 1990 and he will have to rival that if he wants a shot here. Unfortunately those dreams ended very quickly as Bulldog shockingly eliminated him before the next entrant even showed up. What an odd use of DiBiase here. And then business picked up. Ric Flair powerwalked to the ring at #3, flanked by Mr. Perfect and drowned in boos as Bobby Heenan freaked out in the booth. Gorilla immediately started prodding Heenan, reminding him that nobody that has drawn between one and five has made it to the end. And Bulldog could have ended his night out of the gate as he hoisted Flair up for a press slam but tossed him to the mat instead of over the top rope. Sags was in at #4 and he helped Flair work over Davey Boy. Sags would have a short night of work, getting tossed right as Haku entered at #5. Haku and Flair would also work together before Flair turned on him in an unwise move. And the trend continues as Shawn Michaels arrived at #6, Bulldog dumped Haku to put a nail in his WWF run. Haku has been around since 1986 and has been a stalwart of these PPVs and will definitely be missed. Michaels enters here as a new man, having recently split with longtime partner Marty Jannetty. We saw the hints of it back at Survivor Series and as 1992 dawned, the fracture finally occurred. Jannetty would hit the shelf for a while and Michaels was repackaged as a vein, obnoxious, cocky heel, a role he seemed perfectly suited for almost immediately. He came in with some good fire but Bulldog grabbed him with a press slam before again just slamming to the mat for whatever reason. Tito Santana was next at #7 and he went right at Flair as well. It was pretty cool seeing all these vets tussle with Natch here. In a great desperate move, Flair cranked Bulldog with a stiff low blow but wasn’t able to take advantage and dump him. As Tito pelted Flair with his flying forearm, Barbarian showed up at #8, leading Gorilla to ominously proclaim “Barbarian doesn’t like Flair”. Also making his final WWF appearance is Texas Tornado, who entered at #9. He reignited his last feud with Flair, hammering him with wild punches almost immediately. Tornado’s drug issues would finally catch up with him as WWF released shortly after this show and he would sadly commit suicide a year later. This has been a strong first third of the match with some high quality talent going at it, especially when you consider DiBiase and Haku had already been tossed out. Repo Man was in at #10 and the ring was really starting to fill up with lots of elimination teases but nobody able to finish the job. However, the action was pretty good and consistent without the usual meandering around that we tend to see.
Greg Valentine chugged out at #11 as Gorilla reminded us of his great run a year ago. He would go right at Flair as well, trading some old school NWA level chops in the corner. At #12 we have a random surprise entrant in good ol’ Nikolai Volkoff, who is still pushing his Russia/US unity via his trunks. I like to think he has been over there brokering peace during his time off. He will have much more time to broker that peace since he got tossed out in under two minutes, ending his short comeback effort. Charging in at #13 was the Big Boss Man and the crowd erupted as he came in and started smacking anyone that got in his way. Valentine would get chucked next, followed by Repo and the ring was starting to thin slightly. Flair would get some air and get hot, dumping Bulldog and Tornado back-to-back. A moment later, Santana and Michaels tumbled over the top, eliminating each other. Bulldog had a nice run and looked strong, seemingly lining up a big 1992. Hercules entered at #14 and the ring has really emptied out now. I love how Flair couldn’t help being a douchebag and kept turning on his allies even though it was a terrible decision every time. It almost cost him with Barbarian, but he survived yet again. Herc and Barabrian both got dumped in succession, leaving Boss Man to work over Flair. Just when things looked bleak, Boss Man charged at Natch but overshot his mark and careened off the top rope to the floor, snapping his neck off the bottom rope in a nasty bump. This is great booking, how all these guys have chances to toss Flair but keep making fatal flaws, allowing Natch to hang around. Flair would catch a breather while left alone but the arena roof blew off as Roddy Piper flew to the ring at #15. Piper mauled Flair, dodging any sort of Flair offense and beating him all around the ring with abandon. The field got stronger at #16 when Jake Roberts made his way out. In a great piece of psychology, Roberts just slunk into the corner and watched Piper wear out Flair, waiting for a clean opening to strike. Masterful booking and work here. Jake lined up a DDT on Flair but Piper saved him for some reason. He would then turn the tables by busting up a Flair figure four, causing Bobby to freak out, alternating between praising and hating on Piper. Jim Duggan was out at #17 and the crowd is just rabid at this point. Those four had a super fun exchange of offense leading to IRS slowly coming down the aisle at #18. He was followed by Jimmy Snuka at #19 as the ring started to fill back up for the final stretch. What a loaded field. It really is impressive to see the mix of Hall of Fame and strong veteran level entrants in this one. Undertaker came in at #20, meaning he got the worst possible draw he could have gotten.
In an homage to WrestleMania VII, Taker walked in and pitched Snuka to the floor before going right at Flair. Heenan was completely flabbergasted by this point, begging and praying and selling his soul to the devil to save Flair. Taker would land a strong low blow on Duggan as Gorilla notes that Flair has passed the 36 minute mark. Randy Savage sprinted down the aisle at #21, targeting Roberts with all the hate in his body. Roberts would bail to the floor as Taker stepped in front and smacked Savage down. Roberts would slither back in and land a few shots on his rival, but Macho turned the tide around right away and eliminated Jake after a flurry. In an odd decision, Savage leapt over the top and started choking Roberts on the floor until Taker made the save and pitched him back inside. Gorilla and Bobby were confident that Savage had eliminated himself but then they quickly correct themselves and say he wasn’t thrown over so he can reenter. I am guessing Savage fucked that one up. The low blows continued as Flair cracked Taker with one, but it didn’t seem to resonate much. Berzerker was in at #22 and Heenan reminded us all that he loves tossing guys over the top to the floor. We will see if they keep his strong push in tact from November. Flair was a real machine in there, never stopping and bringing the fight to guys repeatedly, much to the consternation of Heenan. In one cool spot, Piper and Taker teamed up to choke Flair but Taker then started choking Piper too. As Virgil showed up at #23, Gorilla notes that Ric Flair has surpassed Greg Valentine’s time in the ring from 1991 as he continued to march towards the record. In an interesting touch, old friends Virgil and Piper really laid into each other with some tough strikes. No friends here! Running on fumes at #24 is Col. Mustafa, led by General Adnan. Amazing that these two dudes were still lingering way past their expiration date. Mustafa would go right for Duggan, but Hacksaw fought him off and stayed alive. The current longevity record holder Rick Martel charged out at #25, decked out in pink trunks and sporting short hair after a little layoff in the back end of 1991. Mustafa would get dumped but outside of that, the ring stayed packed with everyone paired off and hammering away at each other. The Albany crowd erupted as Hulk Hogan finally emerged at #26 and he wasted no time going right after Taker. Hogan fended off a double team by Taker and Berzerker before eliminating both back-to-back. Pretty interesting that they had Hogan just mow through Taker like that, but I guess they wanted to really put that feud to bed. Virgil would get eliminated just before Skinner showed up at #27. Hogan almost tossed Flair, but Natch hung on as Heenan continued to pray, beg, bargain and deal for his man. Sgt. Slaughter emerged at #28 as Skinner was pitched to the floor. Even though his days as a threat are about done, Sarge being in here does add some cool cache to the match. As he tried to force Flair to the floor, Monsoon officially announced that he had surpassed Martel’s record and is the new gold standard in Rumble longevity. The crowd popped again big time at #29 as Sid Justice emerged, finally making his WWF PPV in ring debut. I love Sid’s shiny bright blue trunks. There is some real strong star power in there right now, including the massive Warlord, who slowly sauntered out at #30 to close out the field.
As the big man slid into the ring, Hogan and Flair spilled through the ropes to the floor, where Hogan took Natch over with a suplex. Back inside, Sid sent Sarge crashing up and over the top turnbuckle and hard to the floor. It is rare in Royal Rumbles that you can be down to the final eight and have five legit possibilities to win. Piper would yank IRS out by his tie and Hogan and Sid teamed to dump Warlord as the contenders dwindled. Poor showing Warlord. Sid continued to stay hot, tossing both Piper and Martel and leaving us possibly our strongest Final Four of all time. Sid had Savage teetering and Flair came over to give him a final push, bringing us to our final three. As Hogan worked over Flair by the ropes, Sid picked his spot and dumped Hogan to the floor to the shock of everyone. Hogan freaked out, as he always does, and grabs Sid’s hand, yanking him towards the ropes. Flair saw this, ran over and shoved Sid to the floor to do the unthinkable: win the Royal Rumble from the #3 slot, running through a stacked field to win the WWF Championship. Hogan continued to bitch and moan as Flair and Perfect escaped to the locker room. Sid and Hogan would have a shoving match in the ring, but the real star of the show was already celebrating. Woooo!
What more can you say about this Rumble match? It was loaded with great action, stayed constantly active, featured damn near perfect booking, was led by immaculate commentary and had multiple stories threading throughout it. It is the gold standard of Royal Rumble matches in every conceivable category. Even the finish was both predictable and shocking at the same time. This will be a hard one to top. Grade: *****
*** Jack Tunney presents Ric Flair the WWF Championship. Flair, Heenan and Perfect would gloat as the press looked on. Put that cigarette out!”
Scott: This was a very fun show with a classic Rumble match and even a solid undercard. For years I thought the undercard was flat because all the big players were in the main event. However watching again, even those two tag matches had something entertaining about them. It was fun to see Roddy Piper get a long awaited singles title after years of periphery feuds. Hulk Hogan’s kingdom is quickly crumbling and he’s trying his best to keep it together. Ric Flair is the man, and Sid gets shunted to the side as well. We have a long road ahead between now and April 5 in Indianapolis. Let’s see how this convoluted main event situation works itself out. Top to bottom, this is a show that can be watched at any time and still make you smile. Final Grade: A
Justin: What a fun show. Outside of the dull Bushwhackers/Beverlys mess, this card flowed right along with purpose and excitement. The rest of the undercard was just fine and did its job to set the stage for the main course. And when you factor in that the Rumble took up over a third of the PPV time, I weight the overall grade accordingly. The Rumble match was amazing and Flair’s performance is easily one of the best on WWF PPV to date. The Road to WrestleMania is underway but things are quite murky. The one thing we do know is that the Man has officially arrived and is the new king of the WWF. Final Grade: A+