I am watching the Best of the King of the Ring set, and arrived at the Davey Boy Smith/Shawn Michaels match from 1996. A spot in the match confused me and made me wonder if it was ever officially verified by the WWF at any point as to what the rules on over-the-top-rope DQs were in the promotion.
I can only think of three instances where it was directly brought up and each one was decidedly different.
Wrestlemania V–Hulk Hogan dumps Randy Savage clear over the top rope onto the floor, and Jesse Ventura nearly has a heart attack in outrage demanding an automatic disqualification be called. Gorilla Monsoon was indifferent to it. My assumption at the time was that this was a case of Jesse being the heel and Gorilla being the oblivious face and that the WWF just didn't have that rule.
Survivor Series 1993–The Heavenly Bodies regained the Smoky Mountain tag title beating the RNR Express in a match where the top rope rule was directly referenced as it pertained to Smoky Mountain. The main point was gotten across that it would have been a DQ in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but that it was being contested under WWF rules on that night and therefore it wasn't a DQ. So I thought that pretty much cleared it up. Until….
King of the Ring 1996–Smith has Michaels up in a military press position, walks backward, hits the ropes, and Michaels goes sailing down the floor. Vince McMahon immediately begins screaming that it should have been an automatic disqualification because Bulldog did it intentionally with guest commentator Owen Hart arguing that Bulldog was simply fatigued and Michaels slipped.
Under that rationale, it could be argued that the WWF had a much stricter guideline on what was and was not to be considered an intentional throw over the top rope. Thus having an over the top DQ rule, but that it had to be blatantly deliberate (unlike the NWA and other promotions where even an Irish whip ending up with a wrestler going over the top could have been grounds for a DQ by some referees.)
So was there ever a time where the top rope rule was made clear cut that you can recall?
Sure, over the top rope was never a DQ in WWE. Gorilla and Vince said stupid stuff all the time, like when Gorilla got mad that Randy Savage should have been disqualified for clotheslining Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3…DELIBERATELY. If over the top was a DQ, then George Steele and the Berzerker would have been disqualified in every match they were in, ergo, it wasn't ever grounds for disqualifying someone. Plus they liked to have the opposite rules as the NWA just to tweak them anyway.