–Todd Pettengill is live from Tampa, Florida from the location of the Royal Rumble. Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon are in the booth calling the taped matches which are still from Liberty, New York. As long as it gets Todd out of the booth it is fine with me.
–Opening Contest: Tatanka (w/Ted DiBiase) pins Bob Holly after the End of the Trail at 7:25:
This is the second of two “preview” matches for the WWF Tag Team Championship Tournament that were held on the Action Zone in the lead up to the Royal Rumble. Bam Bam Bigelow defeated the 1-2-3 Kid on last week’s show to really put over the fact that the babyfaces were significant underdogs. Heel Tatanka had so much potential in 1994 but it went nowhere since Tatanka still wrestled in his usual gear and kept elements of his entrance music. It would have been far better if he had renounced his heritage for the almighty dollar but that was a little too risqué for the company around this time. Tatanka runs through a lot of bodyslams to work Holly’s back and it pays off when Holly tries a crucifix and Tatanka counters into his finisher (completely ignored by the commentary team) to win. This could have gotten more heat from the crowd but they appeared to be somewhat burned out by this point in the tapings. Rating: **¼
–After the bout, Tatanka tries to do a beatdown on Holly but the 1-2-3 Kid saves his partner and they double team Tat
–J.J. Dillion and other WWF officials are shown preparing the tumbler for the Royal Rumble draw. It is kind of humorous because there are six officials surrounding the tumbler which makes one wonder how many people it takes to actually stage a Rumble draw.
–Pettengill conducts a live interview with WWF Champion Diesel and Bret Hart. Diesel highlights how he is reading Sunday cartoons (with a smile for added vomit inducing effect) and Bret responds by saying he hopes Diesel can read the cartoons after their match. Diesel gets the better of Bret in this one, especially after Bret says he has been dreaming and thinking of long legs – obviously implying how hard it is going to be to apply the Sharpshooter to Diesel – but Diesel just snaps back “What? Are you thinking of Susan Anton (an actress on Baywatch during this period)?” Bret does not even know how to respond to that and Pettengill quickly ends the segment.
–Duke “the Dumpster” Droese (3-0) defeated “Iron” Mike Sharpe with an elbow drop after 2:12:
Droese slams and tosses around Sharpe, who loudly groans as per usual. Groaning in a chinlock does not really work, though, since that move is supposed to suffocate you to where you cannot breathe. Monsoon cracks a joke about Sharpe’s forearm support which “he has been wearing for almost eleven years” and how it indicates his lack of recuperative powers. Droese teases finishing this match off with a schoolboy but instead opts for an elbow drop over his usual Trash Compactor finisher. This win makes Droese the first WWF superstar this year to get a win on all four syndicated shows.
–Pettengill tells us that WWF rules prevent anyone from revealing their number after they draw it, which sort of takes the fun out of this entire exercise. Bob Backlund tells Pettengill that the number he drew was “completely irrelevant” because he will win from any position. He also notes that he hates Pettengill’s tie.
–Call 1-900-737-4WWF to get hourly updates from Tampa and then thirty minute updates during pay-per-view. The call will cost you $1.49 a minute for that information, though!
–King Kong Bundy (w/Ted DiBiase) (4-0) pins Dave Thornberg after the Avalanche at 1:43:
Thornberg does not appear to be very experienced as he bumps very tentatively and awkwardly for Bundy, barely walking into an elbow off the ropes and then crumbling in a heap to the mat. Bundy does not appear to stiff him for any of this, though, and he cruises to another easy win.
–Shawn Michaels tells Pettengill that he will win the Royal Rumble and gives few allusions to the fact that he really drew the first number.
–Lex Luger (1-0) beats Mike Bell via submission to the Rebel Rack at 2:22:
Luger is still being hyped as a main event star by Ross and Monsoon but his gimmick is very dated as he has been wrestling in U.S. flag tights for a year and a half by this point. Luger shows off his power by wrenching Bell’s arm and then racks him for the win. Luger gets the firework treatment after his win so this may have been the last match of the Liberty tapings, which filled lots of television time for the company.
–Pettengill catches up with the Smoking Gunns, who refuse to show each other their numbers after they draw them because the Rumble is “every man for himself.”
–The Heavenly Bodies (w/Jim Cornette) (0-2) defeat Corey Student & Bob Knight after Jimmy Del Ray pins Knight after a moonsault at 2:25:
Student has interesting ring gear, wearing a black singlet with a white t-shirt underneath. It is something that you might see in a backyard federation. The Bodies sleepwalk their way through this bout, not even bothering to cut off the ring when working over their opponents. However, they do not even have to worry when facing these two lowly jobbers as they pick up their first televised win of the year.
–An Undertaker promo from the Holiday Wish Tour, conducted with the help of Jim Ross, is shown. The Undertaker’s match with Irwin R. Schyster has gotten play on the Royal Rumble reports but neither man has wrestled on television this year. The Undertaker says IRS will go down just like all of the others that tried to attack “the physical being of the Undertaker.”
–Pettengill interviews the British Bulldog, who appears to have been disappointed with his number. He pledges to become “The Royal Rumble Champion.” See, this is a problem with the face-heel dynamic. The heel (Shawn Michaels) wins and blows it off where the face (the Bulldog) draws the next highest number and pouts about it.
–Owen Hart (1-0) defeated Mike Khoury via submission to the Sharpshooter at 3:18:
Technical wrestlers usually have weird squashes because they cannot do the high impact maneuvers that biggest guys can do to attract attention. Similarly, they cannot give their opponent lots of offense because then they look weak. This dilemma is what always created problems for Owen Hart squashes, although he tried to ramp up the arrogance to the max by celebrating minor moves like elbowdrops and avoiding maneuvers. The crowd cares enough to muster a “We want Bret” chant but that helps Khoury little as he is submitted to the Sharpshooter. Khoury actually taps out to the move, which is one of the first times I recall seeing that on WWF television.
The Last Word: This show did a good job hyping the necessary acts for the Rumble and emphasizing that the chances of Bob Holly and the 1-2-3 Kid of winning the tag team tournament were slim. For smarter fans they probably knew that something was up with all of the foreshadowing but regular fans probably bought into Holly and the Kid’s long shot odds. In addition, anytime you get six matches in an hour that is time well spent so this was the best Action Zone episode of the year up to this point.
Up Next (on Friday): Wrestling Challenge from January 22, 1995