Vintage Vault Repost: Royal Rumble 1994

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Vintage Vault Reposts are Pay-Per-View recaps with Justin and Scott’s commentary, including star ratings. Please note, these were written in the past and may have dated references. Each repost comes with the audio for the Place to Be Podcast episode where the show is reviewed.  Please scroll to the bottom to find your listening and downloading options!

January 22, 1994
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Ted DiBiase
Attendance: 14,500
Buy Rate: 0.9

 

Dark Match

Brooklyn Brawler (Steve Lombardi) beat Jim Powers (Robert Mooneyham)

 

1) Tatanka (Chris Chavis) pins Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow) with a cross-body block in 8:09

Fun Fact: This was originally supposed to Tatanka vs. Ludvig Borga, but Borga was out with an injured ankle, and Bigelow was announced as his replacement on WWF Mania that very morning. It fact the Coliseum Video box still had Tatanka vs. Borga on it. Borga was still mentioned on WWF TV through Wrestlemania, but due to injuries he was never seen again. There are actually rumors out there that say Undertaker was supposed to take the World Title here, lose to Borga on RAW and Borga would lose to Luger at Wrestlemania X. Not sure if those were ever verified or just internet hearsay, but still pretty interesting.

Scott: The opening match for a very hot Providence crowd pits two wrestlers who within a year will be on the same side of the tracks, and 5 months after that, one will hop over to the other side. A very entertaining match, considering it was thrown together at the last-minute due to the absence of Borga. Bigelow continues to be one of the most underrated big men in wrestling history. He was also good in either a face or heel role. Here with Luna Vachon at his side he continues a solid heel run, a run that in over a year would put him in the main event of the grandest stage of them all. This is also the first time a majority of wrestlers are doing double duty, being in individual matches and the Rumble, mostly because there weren’t many guys to go around. Roddy Piper was in both in 1992, but that was more for the storyline at the time of him winning the IC title and the World Title in the same night. This is a solid opener for both. Grade: **

Justin: A decent opener that is fueled by the HOT Providence crowd (and I am NOT biased in saying that, the crowd was jacked for their first PPV event, and we knew live that we were the building block for Wrestlemania X). Considering they could have taken it easy because they were doing double duty, these two put on an impressive showing as they wrestle a pretty fast paced and stiff match. I was always liked the sequence when Tatanka started coming back and does the war dance and Bigelow crushes him with an Enziguri. This was a fun and solid opener that started off a very memorable show. Grade: **1/2

2) The Quebecers defeat Bret & Owen Hart to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when the match is stopped due to Bret’s knee injury at 16:48

Fun Fact: The Quebecers regained the tag team titles from 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty just a week before at a 1/17 house show at Madison Square Garden. The Quebecers had lost the titles to the upstart duo two weeks prior on the 1/10 Raw in what was considered a huge upset at the time.

Scott: This was one of the best told storylines of the 1990’s, and it certainly made things easier to watch in the watered-down WWF landscape. Right from the beginning of the match, things get juicy, as Jacques starts fucking with Owen’s head, telling him ditch your brother, he’s a loser. The action was exceptional, with both teams getting very stiff moves in. There were a few moments when you thought Bret & Owen were going to win the titles, but then Bret injures his knee when Johnny Polo pulls down the top rope on an Irish whip and Bret crashes in to the barricade. Bret, instead of tagging out to Owen, tries to lock the Sharpshooter on Pierre, and is in too much pain. So, the referee stops the match. Owen, furious, berates Bret, and then kicks his leg out from under him. We get a five-star effort of announcing by Ted DiBiase as, just like Jesse Ventura at Wrestlemania V, his rhetoric almost makes you feel bad for Owen. Then the classic “stage fright” line in the post-match interview, when Owen tells Bret “I kicked out your leg, from your leg.” This was the first big showcase for Owen Hart, and other than the interview flub, he passed, which sets up the Wrestlemania battle of brother vs. brother. We won’t discuss that now, as it deserves its own stage for analysis. Grade: ***

Justin: What an awesome match and storyline. Bret sold like a fuckin’ champ throughout the whole match, pretty much to the point where you can actually understand why the ref needs to stop the match. The Quebecers played the Dick role to perfection, continually antagonizing Owen and relentlessly pounding on Bret’s knee for the whole match. I remember the shock of the crowd when Owen kick Bret’s leg from….his….umm…leg. It was pandemonium in the Civic Center, and I remember the unpredictable feeling in the building as Bret was being wheeled out on the stretcher and he was watching Owen screaming at him on the Titantron. What an awesome moment, and one of my favorite live moments of all time. Grade: ****

Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon take over for the next match

3) Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) defeats IRS (Michael Rotundo) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with a Razor’s Edge at 11:48

Fun Fact: This match was set up because IRS had stolen Razor’s gold and stored it in his briefcase.

Scott: Another great storyline that leads to a Wrestlemania match that has few equals. Shawn Michaels was suspended by Vince and stripped of the IC title in late August 1993, for alleged drug use, and pretty much being a dick. So, there was an IC title battle royal in the fine city of New Haven, CT. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the last two, so they fought in the final match with Razor winning. Shawn comes back, with his own IC belt, saying he is the true champion. In this match, the referee is knocked out, Shawn comes in, whacks Razor with his fake belt, and IRS covers him to become new IC champion. BUT, Dave Hebner comes rushing out to inform Joey Marella of the chicanery perpetrated by Shawn Michaels, and the match is restarted. Razor nails IRS with the Razor’s Edge, and gets the win. The match itself isn’t spectacular, but it does set up a match for the Intercontinental title that is maybe 1/10000000 of a notch below Steamboat vs. Savage as the greatest IC title match in WWF history. But that’s for another review. Grade: **1/2

Justin: A pretty pedestrian match that is remembered more for Shawn Michaels’ interference, which carried on the feud that would eventually culminate at Wrestlemania. I believe this is IRS only singles title match on PPV in his WWF career, and he almost steals the belt, but the officials break out the occasional instant replay rule and restart the match. The crowd was kind of flat for this match, but really exploded when HBK ran out and they stayed hot for the rest of the match. We see a nice win for the Bad Guy to help build some momentum to what will end up being his career making match. Grade: **1/2

4) Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a casket match to retain WWF World Title when he and 9 other heels put Taker in the casket at 14:24

Fun Fact: Undertaker “dies” here in order to have a long (and much-needed) vacation. He would return at Summerslam in August.

Scott: This is one of three world title matches Undertaker would receive at a Royal Rumble in which someone screws him. It will happen again 2 years later and 4 years later. Many people slam this match, particularly what happens afterwards, calling it overbooked and cheesy. I disagree whole-heartedly. I’ll explain. After about 9 minutes of wrestling, Yokozuna calls in pretty much every heel in the locker room, and they all beat Taker down until he finally goes in the casket and loses the match. Here are the run-ins in order: Crush, Great Kabuki, Tenryu, Bam Bam Bigelow, Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, the Headshrinkers, and Diesel. Then, what many call overbooking, but I call creativity begins. The urn is opened, and smoke comes out and then as the casket is being wheeled down the aisle, green smoke starts billowing from it. Then the lights go out, and Taker speaks on the large screen, as if he’s in the casket, and says the following: “Be not proud, because the spirit of the Undertaker lives within the souls of mankind, the eternal flame of life which cannot be extinguished, the origin of which cannot be explained. The answer lies in the everlasting spirit. Soon all mankind will witness the rebirth of the Undertaker. I will not rest in peace.” Then, an electrical effect overtakes the screen, and Marty Jannetty, dressed as the Undertaker, is lifted from behind the screen and is gone, music playing. Now, many thought this was over the top, blown out of proportion. I disagree. Undertaker was WAY over at this point, and this was the best thing to do short of winning the title. When it comes to the Undertaker, fans always expect a cool effect with lights, smoke, sound effects, etc. There needed to be a legitimate way to get him on vacation. He had worked non-stop since November 1990, and this was deserved. In any case, it also keeps Yoko’s major heel heat heading to WrestleMania. Grade: **

Justin: Well Scott gave you all the details, so I don’t need to go over those again. As much as this story and happenings may have seemed goofy on PPV, it was fucking awesome live. The commotion and excitement was off the hook. It was surreal watching the green smoke pouring out of the urn as Taker was shoved in the casket and wheeled down the aisle. The crowd watched in silent awe as Taker gave his speech from inside the casket and roared with admiration as he rose above the crowd and into the heavens. Taker rose pretty much over our heads, and directly over Jim’s head so it was really an awesome sight to see. I will always have fond memories of this match, no matter what so-called internet experts say about it. This moment made me happy to be a wrestling fan…because I was entertained and wanted more…it made me feel like I had witnessed something monumental. Grade: **

5) Bret Hart and Lex Luger win the Royal Rumble (55:00)

Order of Entry and who eliminated them:

1) Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner): Diesel

2) Samu (Samula Anoia): Scott Steiner

3) Rick Steiner (Rob Rechsteiner): Owen Hart

4) Kwang (Juan Rivera): Diesel

5) Owen Hart: Diesel

6) Bart Gunn (Mike Barton): Diesel

7) Diesel (Kevin Nash): Shawn Michaels

8) Bob Backlund: Diesel

9) Billy Gunn (Monty Sopp): Diesel

10) Virgil (Mike Jones): Diesel

11) Randy Savage (Randy Poffo): Crush

12) Jeff Jarrett: Randy Savage

13) Crush (Brian Adams): Lex Luger

14) Doink (Ray Liachelli): Bam Bam Bigelow

15) Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow): Lex Luger

16) Mabel (Nelson Frazier): Multiple Wrestlers

17) Thurman “Sparky” Plugg (Robert Howard): Shawn Michaels

18) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom): Lex Luger

19) Mo (Bobby Horne): Fatu

20) Greg Valentine (John Wisniski, Jr.): Martel

21) Tatanka (Chris Chavis): Bam Bam Bigelow

22) Kabuki (Akihisa Mera): Lex Luger

23) Lex Luger (Lawrence Pfohl): Bret

24) Tenryu (Genichiro Shimade): Bret Hart & Lex Luger

25) No One (Supposed to be Bastian Booger)

26) Rick Martel (Richard Vigneault): Tatanka

27) Bret Hart: Lex Luger

28) Fatu (Solofa Fatu): Bret Hart

29) Marty Jannetty (Marty Oaks): Shawn Michaels

30) Adam Bomb (Bryan Clark): Lex Luger

Longest Time: Bam Bam Bigelow (30:12)

Shortest Time: Billy Gunn (:14)

Most eliminated: Diesel (7)

Fun Fact: Vince wasn’t sure who he wanted to go to the Wrestlemania Main Event, so he booked this double finish and figured he would judge by crowd reaction. He was banking on the crowd being behind Luger, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. See, the Providence crowd has always been loyal to three Superstars: Tim White, Randy Savage and Bret Hart. The crowd was overwhelmingly cheering for Bret and half of us were booing Luger, thus forcing Vince’s hand on who should leave WMX with the Title. Also, from other reports people sitting ringside said Luger definitely hit first. While this was a shrewd idea, he did manage to piss off the crowd with the non-finish.

Fun Fact II: This show marks the debut for three wrestlers. The first is Thurman “Sparky” Plugg, a/k/a Bob Holly, who is subbing for the 1-2-3 Kid, who was out with a knee injury. Bob Howard was a welder, and did race for a short time, before being brought into Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain promotion in 1992. With a long NASCAR mullet and auto racing singlet, he is a far cry from what he is now. Sparky would make his WWF debut on the multiple RAW taping on 1/10, but Sparky/Holly makes his PPV debut here, and the long journey that led to his WWE title shot with Brock Lesnar 10 years later at the Rumble in 2004 starts here in Providence.

Fun Fact III: Our second debut is Kwang, portrayed by a little known wrestler named Juan Rivera. Rivera started his career in Puerto Rico in 1987 wrestling for Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council. He would portray the character of T.N.T. for four years, and would make his way to the WWF in early 1994. He made his debut as Kwang on the multiple RAW taping on January 1994, but this would be his PPV debut.

Fun Fact IV: This also marks the PPV debut for Double J, Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett is the son of the legendary Memphis promoter Jerry Jarrett. Jeff would begin work for his father in the Continential Wrestling Association in 1986 as a referee. He would become a wrestler a short time into his tenure. The CWA would then become the United States Wrestling Association. Jarrett would win the USWA southern heavyweight title ten times and the USWA tag titles 15 times over a four-year period. Jeff would then make his way to the WWF in 1993, and following several weeks of vignettes, Jeff made his debut on the 10/20 RAW, defeating PJ Walker.

Fun Fact V: Not only is this the PPV debut for three wrestlers, but we also bid farewell to Virgil, as this is his final PPV appearance. Virgil was a late substitute for Kamala, who was advertised to appear but supposedly no-showed. Virgil would stick around through August competing mainly on Superstars as a JTTS. He suffered an injury at a house show in August, and left the company shortly after, although he did return for a short stint in May 1995. Virgil would join WCW in 1996 as Vincent, the head of security for the NWO. The name was a clear mockery of Vince McMahon. His role would be similar, as he would suffer the brunt of beatdowns while his fellow members left him behind. He would see a hint of success with a few low profile wins on Saturday Night and even had a few PPV appearances. Virgil would see other personas, including being called Shane, another mockery of Shane McMahon, and one as Mr. Jones. Virgil would wrestle under his own name, Mike Jones, in 2000 before retiring. Jones would return to wrestling sporadically over the years and even returned to the WWE as the bodyguard for Ted DiBiase on the May 17th, 2010 edition of Monday Night RAW. Virgil’s final PPV record is 4-6.

Scott: After an unforgettable Rumble in 1992, and a very forgettable Rumble in 1993, this was kind of both. Many points to analyze here: First, there was a very slow start. Most Rumbles have a lot of action, surprises, and moments early. This one really didn’t. Next, the continuing feud between Randy Savage and Crush hits its breaking point here. It started back before Survivor Series, and ends at Wrestlemania. Savage’s WWF career winds down in 1994, and Justin and I will detail his tumultuous and unforgettable career for the Summerslam ’94 review. Then there’s the dominance of Diesel. Going into this rumble, the fan reaction to Kevin Nash was zilch, none, zero. He was about to be fired, forever to go back to WCW as Oz or Vinnie Vegas. However, on this night in the home of the Friars, Diesel made his statement. The Providence crowd gives a bigger pop with each jobber he pitches out. His “boy” Shawn Michaels finally pitches him out, but the damage had been done. Diesel gets an unbelievable pop as he leaves the arena, and Vince gives him a second chance, a chance that would change the wrestling world. So, you can look at it two ways. His career was saved, but in the process, fate gave us quite possibly the worst year in wrestling in 1995. Justin tries to qualify it by saying Nash’s popularity would lead to bigger things down the road, and he’s partially right, but boy do we have to suffer before jumping that hurdle. More on that in future reviews. Here, Kevin Nash gets his renaissance. Finally, we get to the lame ending. Not knowing who should face Yokozuna at Wrestlemania, bookers decide to have both men fall out at the same time, and have the crowd decide who gets the shot. Well, there was a problem. The crowd was so disgusted over the crappy ending; they didn’t give an advantage to one over the other. Now many say if you look carefully, Luger’s feet hit the ground first, but of course, they’ll never give you the best shot to show you. Then, Fink announces each wrestler as the winner, which gives the bookers a chance to see who gets the better pop. Many say it was inconclusive, Justin would have a better idea since he was there, but from the many times I’ve watched it, I think Bret got the better pop. Luger not winning the title at Summerslam perceived him as a choker, and no one wanted to see him ride the stupid bus cross-country again. So, we have the tie and the mini-tourney for Wrestlemania X. Originally, Lex was supposed to win, but we’ll explain why he didn’t in the next review. But for now, the Providence crowd is left with a sister-kisser for the finale, and none too pleased.

Justin: I love this Rumble. I know I am being biased, but to me it was exciting and you weren’t sure who was going to win the thing. They had a great segment with Diesel destroying everything in his path, and that one booking decision saved the man’s career. Also, having Bret come out valiantly after his knee injury was awesome as well, as the crowd was behind him big time. Vince must have known that, because they showed Kabuki and Tenryu attacking Luger backstage before he came out, so maybe he figured the crowd would get behind both men since they had been inured earlier in the night. If the match had a definitive ending, it would have been that much better, but as is, it is still one of my favorites.

Final Analysis

Scott: In my opinion, this Royal Rumble is a complete 180 degree turn from the ’92 Rumble. The Rumble is the showcase, and in ’92 that had the greatest rumble in history, with a very weak undercard, mostly because all the studs were in the rumble. Here, with wrestlers performing double duty, the undercard was pretty solid, and the Rumble, except for Diesel’s performance and the tie, was really just average. One good thing about this show was that you’re finally seeing some new talent pushed to the forefront. The “Hogan Hangover” was finally wearing off, and Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels, and others finally had the spotlight to themselves, which made for one of the best PPV shows ever coming up, and no one saw it coming. Final Grade: B-

Justin: Great show. It was awesome live, and I still enjoy watching it on tape. It had some solid matches, a good Rumble and some memorable moments. It also jump-started one of the greatest feuds ever: Bret vs. Owen. It was nice to see Vince pushing some new guys and was a refreshing show in general, and one of my fondest memories as a wrestling fan. I won’t say too much else, except this was a great jumpstart to the Road to Wrestlemania X. Final Grade: A-

Author: Vintage Vault

Vintage Vault Reposts are a collection of reviews that Scott and JT have written over the years.