Rock Star Gary reflects on…WWF Royal Rumble ’89

WWF Royal Rumble ‘89

Live from Houston, TX

Airdate: January 15, 1988

Attendance:  19,000

Hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Question to the masses: If a baseball game lasts until 3am on a work night, can we still blame Vince McMahon? Ponder on that while enjoying the show.

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Rock Star Gary reflects on WWF Royal Rumble ’88

Live from Hamilton, Ontario

Airdate: January 24, 1988

Attendance:  16,200

Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

“Why pay for a bunkhouse when there’s a free Rumble on TV?” – Avid wrestling fan in the late ‘80s.

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What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1998

Another great black and white video package
hypes the Royal Rumble match and puts over everyone from Steve Austin to the
Headbangers as a threat
.
Jim Ross and Jerry
“the King” Lawler are in charge of commentary and they are live from San Jose,
California.

Opening
Contest:  Vader pins The Artist Formerly
Known as Goldust (w/Luna Vachon) with a Vader Bomb at 7:52:
Goldust is wearing a green wig and a jobber-style striped
attire for tonight’s match.  This is the
blowoff for the feud between these two that began at the Survivor Series and it
is the second year in a row that Goldust is in the opening match at the Royal
Rumble.  It is the first time at the
Rumble that he is not wrestling for the Intercontinental title.  The crowd is hot, as they loudly boo Luna’s
interference and pop each time Vader hits a power move.  Goldust blocks a Vader Bomb with a low blow,
but Vader quickly rebounds and goes for another.  This causes Luna to rush into the ring and
jump on Vader’s back.  The referee nearly
botches the finish by calling for a disqualification, but the bell does not
ring, so Vader delivers the Vader Bomb with Luna on his back in an awesome spot
to get the win.  If you want to see a
match with no stalling from Goldust, this is it.  Entertaining opener, but this feud probably
should have ended at the last In Your House since it seemed well past its
expiration date.  This was Vader’s last
victory on a WWF pay-per-view.  Rating: 
**½
Call
1-900-737-4WWF to get reactions from the participants in tonight’s
matches.  It’s all on option five and
will cost you $1.49 a minute!
Steve Austin blows
off Michael Cole after arriving at the arena. 
After Austin goes into the arena, the Godwinns are on his heels.
Sunny comes out to
be the guest referee for our next match.
-Nova, Mosaic
& Max Mini defeat Battallion, Tarantula & El Torito when Mini pins El
Torito with a La Magistral cradle at 7:48:
So, we get a minis tag match to save some of the guys for
the Rumble and Mike Tyson is shown watching it from a special press box.  Lawler cracks a funny joke about how he saw
Max Mini reading Little Women in the
locker room.  I will be happy when these
mini matches disappear from the company because they are so business exposing
and the participants love to spam arm drags from multiple positions.  Sunny looks really rough here and she
abandons her impartiality by helping Mini do some attacks on his
opponents.  After the 150th
arm drag (or so it seems) they decide to do a spot where everyone does a top
rope attack, but that gets old by the third guy and everyone looks silly
standing there waiting for someone to do a move.  Mini gets the win because he always
does.  Rating:  DUD
The Nation of
Domination is looking for Steve Austin and Faarooq tells Mark Henry that he
needs to show him something by leading the way. 
The Nation burst into Austin’s locker room, but just find a chair with a
middle foam finger in it.
Kevin Kelly hypes
the WWF’s America Online chatroom.  Jim
Cornette is there and hypes the traditional wrestling of the National Wrestling
Alliance.  He pledges to make us like
wrestling.
Mike Tyson is
shown chatting with Vince and Shane McMahon in his box.  This is the first time we are exposed to
Shane McMahon in an executive capacity and back in 1998 he did appear to be the
heir apparent of the company.  How times changed…
The announcers
hype the upcoming Intercontinental title match between the Rock and Ken
Shamrock.
During the Free
for All, the Nation of Domination argued over who was going to win the Royal
Rumble.  The Rock gives an interview to
Cole and gives President Bill Clinton some advice over the Paula Jones sex
scandal.  If I remember correctly this
was just before Monica Lewinsky came onto the scene.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  The Rock (Champion)
beats Ken Shamrock by reverse decision at 10:52:
This is the first encounter between the Rock and
Shamrock, who will be engaged in a feud for the next six months.  This is an underrated feud that worked very
well because the company pitted the cocky heel that needed his comeuppance
against the legitimate badass in the company. 
The Rock utilizes all of the traditional heel tactics in this one,
incorporating stalling, eye rakes, cheap shots, complaining to the referee,
etc.  After both men equally exchange offense,
Shamrock hits a belly-to-belly, which brings out the Nation and Shamrock fights
them off.  The Rock blasts Shamrock with
brass knuckles and puts them in Shamrock’s tights, but Shamrock recovers and
pins the Rock after a belly-to-belly suplex. 
Shamrock appears to have won the title, but the Rock tells the referee
that Shamrock hit him with brass knuckles. 
The referee finds the knuckles in Shamrock’s tights and reverses the
decision, so Shamrock snaps and puts the referee in an ankle lock.  A good first chapter of the feud between
these two and this finish kept Shamrock strong, while putting more heat on the
Rock.  Rating:  **¾
Call 815-734-1161
to buy all of the Faces of Foley t-shirts for $49.99 (plus $9 shipping & handling)!
Los Boricuas are
shown searching for Steve Austin and they enter his locker room.  They beat up someone that they think is
Austin, but they actually attack a member of DOA and that creates another gang
war in the locker room that WWF officials have to break up.
A video package
hypes the upcoming tag team title match between the New Age Outlaws and the
Legion of Doom
.
Cole interviews
the Legion of Doom.  Animal says that he
is competing against doctor’s orders over his back and Hawk promises that the
New Age Outlaws are going to be put on ice.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  The Legion of Doom
defeat The New Age Outlaws (Champions) by disqualification at 7:55:
The Outlaws wear Green Bay Packers jerseys to the ring
because the Packers had just defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC
Championship Game.  The Legion of Doom
come out swinging early, but the Road Dogg trips Animal and Hawk ends up going
shoulder-first into the ring post on a blind charge.  This messy sequence results in Hawk being
handcuffed to the ring post.  Animal
catches Billy Gunn with an awkward powerslam, but before the referee can
register a three count, the Road Dogg blasts him with a chair and that lets the
champions preserve the titles.  After the
bell, the Outlaws do a beatdown on Animal before Hawk can break free of his
handcuffs.  The first couple of minutes
were okay, but everything from there went south in a hurry.  Rating:  *¼
Ross announces
that Mildred Bowers of Nashville, Tennessee wins the Steve Austin 3:16 truck
.
A video package
chronicles why Steve Austin is a marked man in this year’s Royal Rumble.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin wins the 1998 Royal Rumble by eliminating the Rock at 55:27:
This is the third consecutive year that the Royal Rumble
is placed in the middle of the card instead of the main event.  This is a great Rumble to put on your
television if you are suffering from insomnia because after a small hardcore
match at the beginning between Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, who draw one and two,
almost nothing happens.  Tag wrestler,
tag wrestler, and more tag wrestlers and lower midcarders come out and no one
tosses anyone else, so the ring just fills up for a clear out that never
comes.  Owen Hart, who was attacked while
making his entrance as #9, comes into the match later and eliminates Jeff
Jarrett for one of the biggest pops of the night.  Owen is eliminated shortly thereafter by a
Triple H and Chyna dual crutch attack so that feud continues.  They tease Austin not making an appearance,
as #22 does not show, but he does show up out of the crowd as #24 and quickly tosses Marc Mero and 8-Ball.  Los
Boricuas, trying to get revenge for Austin’s defeat of Savio Vega at
WrestleMania XII, all try to toss Austin when Savio enters the match, but that
fails.  The Nation of Domination proceeds
to practice the worst strategy in Rumble history, as they have all five members
in the ring as the field narrows and decide to fight each other rather than
work together.  Men start flying shortly
after Vader enters at #30 and Vader gets tosses by Goldust in less than three
minutes.  The final four turns into a
small tag match between Austin and Dude Love and Faarooq and the Rock, but
Austin turns on his partner and the Rock then turns on his and we have a brief
clash of the future main event stars before Austin hits a Stunner and tosses
the Rock to win his second consecutive Rumble. 
This Rumble was worse than 1995. 
The star power here was worse and at least the
1995 atrocity had a one minute clock so the pain and suffering was
reduced.  1995 had a more entertaining
finish too.  Rating:  ¾*
Mike Tyson is
shown celebrating with Shane McMahon after watching Austin’s victory.  He proceeds to give an unintelligible
interview with Cole.
A video package
hypes the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker casket match.
Casket Match for
the WWF Championship:  “The Heartbreak
Kid” Shawn Michaels (w/D-Generation X) defeats The Undertaker at 20:38
This was the end of the five month feud between these two,
which would resume more than ten years later over the Undertaker’s WrestleMania
streak.  Ninety seconds into this is
where Michaels takes the awkward backdrop out of the ring and onto the edge of
the casket that temporarily ended his career. 
Interestingly enough, you could make the argument that the Undertaker
was responsible for both of Michaels
departures from wrestling.  This match
isn’t as brutal as Hell in a Cell, but Michaels delivers a devastating
piledriver on the steps to his opponent. 
In a funny spot near the end, Michaels dumps the Undertaker into the
casket and tries to give him the D-Generation X crotch chop, but the Undertaker
grabs Michaels nether region and rallies. 
The Undertaker misses a flying clothesline and goes into the casket and
Michaels delivers a flying elbow drop into it, causing the casket to close on
both of them.  By casket match logic,
shouldn’t that lead to a draw?  The
Undertaker hits an insane super Tombstone into the casket from the apron, but
Chyna takes out of the referee and the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas hit the
ring in shades of 1994.  The crowd goes
insane as the lights go out and Kane shows up and clears the ring.  However, after his pyro malfunctions he
attacks his brother, which turns into some serious crowd heat, and he
chokeslams his brother into the casket and closes the lid, giving Michaels the
victory.  The usual good match between
these two that became excellent in the last five minutes.  It also featured some great spots that you
had never seen in a casket match before. 
Rating:  ****
After the match,
Kane and Paul Bearer, who has wandered out, seal the casket, place it by the
entrance, and Kane smashes an axe into it. 
They then douse it with gasoline and set it on fire as we go off the
air.  Well, that blows 1994 out of the
water.
The Final Report Card:  I find it hard to rate this show because on
the one hand, the main event was awesome and the crowd helped provide a
pay-per-view atmosphere to the event. 
The opening contest was entertaining as well, but on the whole the
Rumble really drags down the show.  It
might have been predictable that Austin was winning, but the booking for it was
very poor and the company did not have enough star power at the time to make
that match interesting.  It didn’t help
either that Triple H was on the shelf and they had Owen Hart and Ken Shamrock
eliminated early in the contest.  Based
on the awesomeness of the closing segment and the impression that it leaves,
I’ll give this show a neutral rating, but if you do watch the show, just fast
forward through the Rumble.  The show
comes off much better without it.
Attendance: 
18,542
Buyrate: 
0.97 (+.27 over previous year)

Show Evaluation:  Neutral

A bit of shameless self promotion…..

If any of you are in the New Orleans area or just visiting for it, I’ll be having a table set up at Wizard World’s Comic Con on Nov 30 to Dec 2. I don’t have anything to sell other that promoting my show. At the table I’ll have a Retron 3 hooked up with Pro Wrestling on NES and Royal Royal Rumble for SNES.  Stop on by and play some old school games and chat about wrestling or movies or what have you.  Besides the Pro Wrestling tournament, I’m going to be doing random drawings where people will win other prizes, but for now this is the one thing I have set in stone. Hope to see some of you there!

What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1997

by Logan Scisco
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and Ross is sporting the
black cowboy hat that will become his trademark for the first time.  Lawler tells McMahon that he’s in the Royal
Rumble, but McMahon doesn’t believe him.

Free for
All:  Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. & La
Parkita defeat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind after Sagrada pins Mini Vader with
a La Magistral cradle at 4:30:
I must admit that it’s hilarious seeing Mini Vader and
Mini Mankind come down to the real Vader and Mankind’s theme music.  1997 and early 1998 were a year when the WWF
had midget wrestling serve the role that the Divas division currently serves,
namely to provide a bathroom break during the show and a way to cool down the
crowd before big matches.  There isn’t a
great flow to this match, as it’s just the minis jumping around, but Mini
Mankind does pull out the Chris Hamrick bump to the floor.  This was quasi-entertaining, but the allure
of it wore off fast.  Rating: 
Now onto the show,
where the Spanish announce table is featured prominently.  The poor guys would have their announce table
broken on many shows in the coming years.
-A video package
hypes the Hunter Hearst Helmsley-Goldust Intercontinental title match
.
Opening Contest
for the Intercontinental Championship: 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion w/Curtis Hughes) defeats Goldust
(w/Marlena) with a Pedigree at 16:50:
This is an interesting choice for an opener since both
guys don’t set the world on fire, but looking at the lineup for this show, I
have to concede that their options were limited.  Mr. Hughes returns to the WWF with this
contest.  He wouldn’t be around for long,
as Chyna would replace him by WrestleMania. 
Adding a manager really improved Helmsley’s credibility, since his track
record as a singles was very lackluster in 1996.  Goldust, still angry over Helmsley’s advances
at Marlena over a month ago (and they call Marc Mero jealous) rips into
Helmsley during his entrance and uses the ring steps as his weapon of choice.  Unfortunately, after the first couple of
minutes the match just dies, as Goldust works over Helmsley’s knee and
Helmsley’s offense can’t put a lot of heat on the match.  The crowd pops more when they see shots of
Marlena and the people in the front row are too busy showing NWO signs.  Hughes interferes to keep Helmsley from being
pinned after getting nailed with the Intercontinental title and when Goldust
confronts him, Helmsley seizes advantage and gets the victory.  They tried to combine technical wrestling
with brawling in this one, but it just wasn’t clicking with the crowd and it
hurt the match.  Rating:  *
Bret Hart says he
might be a marked man in this Royal Rumble, but that’s nothing new to him and
he’s going to win.  Mankind says the
Rumble is a time for him to hurt people he doesn’t like.  Hard to disagree with that reasoning.
Kevin Kelly and
Sunny are working the WWF Superstar Line tonight, so call 1-900-737-4WWF to
hear comments from the winners and losers!
A video package
chronicles the Ahmed Johnson-Faarooq feud
.
Ahmed Johnson
defeats Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation interferes at 8:43:
After over four months of hype, this is the long awaited
confrontation between Ahmed and Faarooq. 
Faarooq might have set a wrestling record for the size of his
entourage.  There’s some great continuity
in the early going, as Faarooq targets Ahmed’s kidneys.  The crowd heat for this one blows the last
match out of the water, which more than makes up for some of the slow spots in
the action.  Faarooq is a great character
and pulls out some hilarious spots where he yells at the crowd and Ahmed is
able to capitalize and regain the advantage. 
Ahmed destroys the Nation after they interfere and in a spot that becomes
one of the most memorable of the event, he quasi-Pearl River Plunges a Nation
member through the French announce table. 
This was a drawn out TV match, but you would expect that since it’s the
first match in the Ahmed-Faarooq feud.  Rating: 
**
Terry Funk says
that he’s ready to rumble tonight
.
Todd Pettengill
interviews Faarooq and the Nation of Domination.  Faarooq chastises some Nation members for not
helping him when he was in trouble and he says that he’s going to end Ahmed
Johnson’s career.
Vader defeats The
Undertaker with a Vader Bomb at 13:20:
When this match was first booked, there were some
questions about why the WWF was making this money making match a midcard event
at the Rumble.  Unintentional hilarity
ensues during the entrances, as the lights do not come on when the Undertaker
gestures up towards the sky.  The
Undertaker continues to show the new flexibility of his character by giving
Vader a Rock Dropper in the early going and outslugging the big man.  You would think that these two would have
some great chemistry, but that’s not the case here as we get a slow and
plodding big man match.  The match gets
so dull that Pettengill goes into the crowd and interviews a Shawn Michaels fan
that bought her tickets by babysitting lots of kids in the San Antonio
area.  Ross drops a creative hint that
Jim Cornette and Vader are no longer working together because the referee
working the match is one that Vader injured a year ago and Cornette would not
allow that to happen.  Minor plot points
like that is just something you don’t see anymore.  Paul Bearer eventually wanders out and hits
the Undertaker with the urn and that enables Vader to score the upset and
thereby provide us with the reason why this match was used in the midcard:  to continue the Undertaker-Bearer feud.  For me, the association of Vader with Paul
Bearer is the day that Vader ceased being a serious contender to the WWF
championship.  After the match, the
Undertaker, angered at the result of the match, takes out his frustrations on
the referee and chews out McMahon at ringside. 
The whole tirade is eerily similar to what we would see in Montreal
eleven months later with Bret Hart.  The
match was too stop and go for my taste and there were way too many dead spots
between meaningful action.  Rating: 
*
Steve Austin and
the Bulldog give reasons why they are going to win the Rumble.  I like the Bulldog’s the most:  he’ll win because he’s “bizarre.”
Perro Aguayo,
Hector Garza & El Canek defeat
Fuerza
Guerrero, Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada when Aguayo pins Guerrero after an
elbow drop at 10:54:
This is our customary AAA match of the show and despite
being just north of the border, the crowd cares very little for this match and
sits on their hands.  At least it
functions as a way to cool the crowd down for the Rumble match.  Vince and Lawler are completely out of their
element calling this match and Ross takes over many of the announcing
duties.  Think of him as playing the role
that Mike Tenay did in WCW when it came to the cruiserweights.  Unfortunately, a lot of his material doesn’t
relate to the WWF’s audience, since he talks about Canek’s battles with Lou Thesz.  Aguayo keeps teasing aerial maneuvers to the
floor during the match and the one that he does do, a simple dive from the apron,
goes awry.  It takes us about eight
minutes to get a semblance of a heat segment, but it takes Garza’s corkscrew
body press onto Estrada on the floor to illicit a reaction.  This match had no flow to it, with different
combinations of guys fighting each other in ninety second increments before
switching off, and I had to utter a sigh of relief when it was finally put out
of its misery.  Rating:  ½*
To show you how
far the crowd is gone, they don’t even pop when Finkel announces the WWF’s
worked figure for the crowd:  60,177
.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin wins the 1997 Royal Rumble by eliminating Bret “the Hitman” Hart
at 50:26:
For the first time since 1994, wrestlers in the early
part of the show are working double duty in this match, which shows how shallow
the depth chart was in the company at the time. 
Also, like 1994, this Rumble did not have a clear winner coming in,
which was nice.  The buzzer and clock are
malfunctioning in the early going, thereby depriving the crowd of part of the
fun of the Rumble match. While the King of the Ring victory in June was nice,
this is really Austin’s coming out party, as he lives up to the pledge he made
prior to the show by tossing ten “pieces of trash” over the top rope.  Much like Diesel’s run in 1994, the crowd
gets louder and louder for Austin as he tosses midcard talent like Phineas
Godwinn, Bart Gunn, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts in the early going and Savio
Vega and “The Real Double J” Jesse James much later.  Austin’s one-on-one runs through the Rumble
are stopped by the British Bulldog, who he kept sneak attacking during this
period, and Bret Hart, which gives us a great visual of Austin looking bug eyed
towards the entrance.  Aside from
Austin’s performance, the storyline about dissension between the British
Bulldog and Owen Hart continues, as Owen eliminates his partner from the
match.  Mexican legend Mil Mascaras is
also loathe to give a WWF superstar a rub from eliminating him, so he opts to
eliminate himself with an ill advised flying body press to the floor.  The last major highlight of the match is
Jerry Lawler being the wild card entrant. 
Lawler tells McMahon that “It takes a king…” before heading into the
fray, but he’s quickly dispatched by Bret Hart, enabling Lawler to go back to
the announce table and say “…to know a king” to complete his phrase and he
proceeds to keep commentating like nothing happened.  In a plot point that becomes important for
the next pay-per-view, Austin’s Rumble win is shrouded in controversy as Bret
tosses him near the end of the match, which the referees don’t see because they
are trying to break up a brawl between Mankind and Terry Funk, and Austin comes
back in and tosses Vader, the Undertaker, and Bret to win the match.  Bret throws a tantrum after the match,
pushing around the referees and yelling at the commentary team.  We’ll cover more fallout of Austin’s victory
when we recap the next edition of Monday Night Raw.  The Bret-Austin showdown was the big
highlight of this Rumble, but there weren’t a lot of other memorable moments
and most of that is due to the quick pace of eliminations in the first half of
the match.  Rating:  **¾
A video package
recaps the Sid-Shawn Michaels feud
.
Pettengill
interviews Shawn Michaels, who says that despite having the flu he’s going to
use the power of San Antonio to win back the WWF title.
WWF Championship
Match:  “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn
Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) pins Sid (Champion) with Sweet Chin Music to win the
title at 13:48:
This was Lothario’s swan song as Michaels manager and it
was long overdue, as his presence was not needed during Michaels first run with
the title.  This is the reverse crowd
dynamic that was present in Madison Square Garden at the Survivor Series when
Sid won the title.  With crowd dynamics
like that, it’s somewhat disappointing that they didn’t try to have a rubber
match at a more neutral site that would have an equal share of smarks and
marks.  Sid concentrates on the back for
nearly ten minutes, but Shawn shrugs it off during his comeback, which is
something that really gets on my nerves since it renders that portion of the
match meaningless.  In another ridiculous
spot, Sid powerbombs Michaels on the arena floor, but Michaels recovers mere
moments later to get back into the ring. 
In a nice piece of continuity with their Survivor Series match, Michaels
blasts Sid with a camera after the referee gets bumped.  The finish to this match was never in doubt,
since the main selling point of the show was to see Michaels regain the title
and the WWF, unlike WCW, had a knack for sending the crowd home happy.  This was not on the same level as their
Survivor Series match, since the back and forth action was limited, potentially
by Michaels illness, and it’s hard to buy into Michaels winning a match in Hulk
Hogan-like fashion.  At the time, logic
held that Sid had fulfilled his purpose as a transitional champion and after
this show would do some jobs to some of the main event and upper midcard
talent.  However, that reasoning proved
very premature.  Rating:  **½
The Final Report Card:  On paper, you would think that the Alamo Dome
would provide a great setting for a pay-per-view.  It’s a large venue and most times when you
pack a large number of wrestling fans into an arena you are going to be
guaranteed a great atmosphere.  However,
aside from the main event and parts of the Rumble, this is the quietest crowd
for a big time pay-per-view that you will ever see.  In terms of the show, nothing stands out
except for Austin’s spots in the Rumble and at the time that wasn’t worth the
price of admission since Austin would have bigger moments in 1997.
Attendance: 
60,525
Buyrate: 
0.70
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down