Mike Reviews – WWF Royal Rumble 1998 (18th January 1998)

Good day one and all!

This was the first wrestling pay per view I saw in full, as prior to that I’d only been able to catch the odd thing on terrestrial TV here in the UK (which wasn’t much after the mid-90’s). My friend Jim brought a tape of this round to my house and I was pretty much hooked from that point onwards, reading the magazines and getting whatever little scrap of wrestling action I could on video until both WCW and the WWF got slots on Channels 5 and 4 respectively, meaning I could finally watch wrestling on the telly.

The WWF seemingly had three targets they wished to achieve here. Get Stone Cold ready for the WrestleMania Main Event, introduce Mike Tyson as that year’s big WrestleMania celebrity guest, and also heat up The Rock as the hottest Heel in the mid-card. Let’s see how they got on with that.

The event is emanating from San Jose, California on the 18th of January 1998

Calling the action are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

The opening intro video is very good, running through everyone’s credentials to win the Rumble in classic dramatic voice over style.

Opening Match
The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust w/ Luna Vs The Man They Call Vader

This one came about because TAFKA Goldust and Vader had a falling out at Survivor Series back in November and it’s been bubbling around ever since, with this match being set up to conclude it. TAFKA Goldust had dumped Marlena and taken on a new even weirder persona, leading to Luna being added as his valet. It was all building to a feud with Marc Mero and Sable so that Sable could have her first big anticipated match at WrestleMania XIV.

Vader is super over with the crowd here and had only recently turned babyface, although the WWF never really did much with his newfound momentum outside of a brief feud with Kane that was designed for Vader to put Kane over. This is a straightforward opening match, with Vader getting a shine to start before TAFKA Goldust cuts him off and works a bit of heat. The action isn’t great or anything, but both men play their roles well and the crowd is into the match, so it ends up being a decent opener.

Being that this was the opener on my first pay per view event I have strong nostalgic feelings for this one, especially as it essentially turned me from someone who liked wrestling but didn’t follow it every week into a diehard fan. For that reason it ranks pretty high on my list of favourite matches, even though it’s kind of just two fellers having a match. The finish is pretty awesome though, as Vader makes the comeback and then preps for the Pump Splash off the second rope. Luna tries to stop it by climbing on Vader’s back, but Vader just does the move anyway in an impressive visual, leading to the three count and a gigantic pop from the crowd.

WINNER: VADER
RATING: **1/2

Kind of the perfect opener in some ways, as they worked a competent match that successfully warmed up the crowd but they also didn’t do stuff that would outshine everyone else on the card. Of course these days the criteria for what an opener needs to be has shifted somewhat, but for 1998 this was just what an opener needed to be, so they nailed their brief

Stone Cold arrives and refuses to speak to Michael Cole. He also tells Cole to park his car. That’s probably the best use of Michael Cole in the WWF to be honest. The Godwinn’s show up and try to chase Austin down.

Match Two
Mexican Mini’s Match
Guest Referee: Sunny
El Torito, Battalion and Tarantula Vs Max Mini, Nova and Mosaic

Sunny was in between management gigs here, so they mostly had her do guest referee and ring announcing spots in an effort to find things for her to do. Mosaic is such a cool name for a masked wrestler that I really wish someone would bring it back if it hasn’t been done already. It would also make a great name for a supervillain in a comic book.

Sunny was with Chris Candido at the time, so the commentary team makes sure to get in a comment that she likes short men. This is decent action for the most part, and the crowd responds to it positively for the most part. Sometimes these Mexican mini matches would die out there because American crowds tended to see it as a comedy break whereas the guys in the match were actually going out there to wrestle, so there was sometimes some dissonance when it came to what the match was trying to achieve Vs what the crowd expected it to be.

Arm drag aficionados will certainly enjoy this one, as it’s mostly all the Tecnico team do due to the Rudo squadron being so much bigger than them. Torito in particular is practically Vader-sized when put up against Max Mini. The Rudo’s work over Max for a bit, which leads to Sunny helping him out at one stage, which gets a pop from the crowd but raises some ethical questions. Perhaps the Rudo team would have a case if they decided to press it with WWF officials?

We of course get the parade of dives, because Lucha, and they look good with the crowd popping for them. This has genuinely been a lot of fun. They go with the big upset for the finish, as Max Mini runs wild on big Torito and then puts him away with a cradle for the three count.

WINNERS: MAX MINI, NOVA & MOSAIC
RATING: **3/4

This was actually a decent little match (no pun intended) and the crowd kind of got into it at points. I liked the fact they didn’t really play it for comedy and instead went out there with the aim to have a good match

Sunny gives Max a hug following that, just to make all the lads (and indeed some of the ladies no doubt) very jealous.

The Nation of Domination goes looking for Stone Cold in his locker room, but he isn’t there. In a cute visual, he’s left a foam middle finger on a chair.

Mike Tyson is in the skybox having a chat with Shane McMahon and Vince McMahon. Jerry Lawler talks about wanting to fight Tyson, and if this were Memphis in the 80’s then that would be the match they would be building to.

Michael Cole is backstage with The Rock. Rock cuts a solid promo to hype up the next match. He wasn’t quite at the level he would eventually reach charisma wise, but by this stage he was definitely getting there.

Match Three
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: The Rock Vs Ken Shamrock

They did a nice storyline for this where Shamrock was working his way through The Nation with his dangerous ankle lock submission hold, both getting the hold and himself as a challenger over in the process. However, Rock managed to get some heat on Shamrock by orchestrating a Mark Henry Heel turn in the build-up, leading to a Nation beat down on Shamrock.

I think I mentioned this in a review a few months back, but Rock Vs Shamrock falls very much into the “I get why it’s good, but it’s not really for me” category. I don’t know why, but I find their matches with one another to be a bit dull, even though the work is usually solid and the storytelling is always on point. The crowd likes Shamrock and hates Rock, so the match has decent heat and the wrestling is fine, but it’s not that exciting a match either.

I can appreciate what they’re going for though, as they work a decent 10 minute long match, with Shamrock getting to shine in the early stages before Rock manages to cut him off to work some heat. Shamrock makes sporadic attempts at a comeback, but Rock always manages to cut him off again, including his signature swinging DDT at one stage. Shamrock actually sells well in the heat and they manage to keep the crowd invested throughout, so it ticks all of the boxes.

One thing you can definitely say is that both guys are working hard here, and Ross does a good job getting them both over on commentary talking about how this “isn’t the senior tour” to position them as fresh stars of the future whilst also having a jab at WCW’s roste. Shamrock does eventually make the comeback with a nice rana and the crowd is into it.

Kama and D’Lo come down to help Rock, but Shamrock fends them off. This allows Rock to hit Shamrock with some brass knux, but Shamrock kicks out and then gets a Belly to Belly Suplex for the three count. However, Rock put the knux in Shamrock’s tights before making the pin attempt earlier, so when the ref finds them he reverses the decision.

WINNER BY DUSTY FINISH: THE ROCK
RATING: **3/4

Solid match with good heat from the crowd. The finish was cheap, but it directly built up a rematch for WrestleMania XIV, so it served its purpose

Shamrock beats up Mike Chioda following that to get his heat back.

In a home video exclusive, Shamrock attacks Rock backstage and has to get carried off by the referees and security.

Los Boricuas are looking for Stone Cold but beat up a Harris Brother by mistake, triggering a brawl with The Disciples of Apocalypse. That’s another funny little twist in a series of them tonight actually.

Hawk and Animal have promo time backstage with Michael Cole. Animal admits that the doctors told him not to compete tonight due to his back, but he isn’t going to listen so that he and Hawk can get some revenge. Hawk delivers one of his better lines by saying the New Age Outlaws think they’re cooler than the other side of the pillow, but they’ll be really cool after tonight when he and Animal put them on ice. All it needed was for him to finish with “and then we’re coming for family members boys!”

Match Four
Champs: The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) Vs The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal)

Dogg and Gunn cheated The Roadies out of their belts and then did a big beat down on them with the assistance of Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Animal even ended up going through a table whilst Hawk had his head shaved and chewed on an Alka-Seltzer. Of course Ross now has to eat his words a little bit by putting Hawk and Animal over as “timeless legends” even though he was just railing about the senior circuit in the previous match. Thus are the pratfalls of knocking the competition for doing things that you do yourself.

Funnily enough my only real experience of The Road Warriors prior to watching this era of the WWF was from playing Wrestle Fest in the arcade, where I always thought they were Heels because they were the end of game bosses, so I was kind of surprised to learn that they were actually babyfaces. Hawk and Animal run wild to start, with the idea being that they want to clobber the Champs in order to get revenge for the previous beat down.

The Outlaws spend most of the early part of the match selling and bumping around, which they do a good job at, whilst Ross really tries super hard to put The Roadies over, talking about all the great teams they’ve defeated including ones from outside the company. I’m guessing he either got that signed off or just decided he’d do it anyway. Road Dogg is soon bleeding from the mouth, which suggests some live rounds are getting thrown.

Road Dogg eventually manages to drag Animal outside of the ring and send him into the ring steps, leading to some heat from the Champs back inside. Neither Road Warrior was especially well known for their selling, but Animal does a decent enough job here. The match doesn’t really have a lot of interest from the crowd though, probably because this feud was already starting to run its course and we still had more matches to come in it as well.

Hawk tries to help his partner but ends up taking a blind charge into the ring post, leading to Road Dogg handcuffing him. This leaves Animal at a 1 Vs 2 disadvantage with the Champs, although he still almost wins the match on his own, leading to The Outlaws having to get themselves DQ’ed in order to save their belts.

WINNERS BY DQ: THE ROAD WARRIORS
RATING: *1/2

Kind of a meh match really. They sort of booked themselves into a corner here as well, as the storyline and build-up kind of required that The Roadies get their revenge here if they were to remain even remotely effective as an act going forwards, but they didn’t want to take the belts off The Outlaws, so the DQ finish made the most sense. However, the way they went about it just made The Outlaws look kind of weak, as Animal was all set to win that match all by himself with a bad back whilst his partner was outside the ring until the DQ finish

The Outlaws keep beating on Animal following that, but Hawk breaks the cuffs and makes the save, thus meaning this feud MUST CONTINUE, which I think it did up until something like May when they finally turned The Outlaws babyface and moved The Roadies into a feud with Disciples of Apocalypse.

Mildred Bowers from Nashville, TN has won a special Stone Cold truck.

Match Five
The Royal Rumble
Entrant #1 is Cactus Jack
Entrant #2 is Chainsaw Charlie

Cactus and Chainsaw were tagging together at the time, but are still happy to clobber one another. Chainsaw is actually Terry Funk, with him supposedly pitching the wacky gimmick himself. In a funny moment, Cactus hits Chainsaw with a chair but then feels bad about it and gives Chainsaw a free shot, which he gladly takes. Less funny is the fact they’re absolutely waffling one another in the head with unprotected shots.

Entrant #3 is Tom Brandi

Brandi doesn’t last very long and gets chucked quite easily.

Tom Brandi eliminated by Cactus (1) and Chainsaw (1)

This allows Cactus and Chainsaw to go at it again, with Cactus giving Chainsaw a suplex through two chairs, which gets a pretty big “Oooooo” reaction from the crowd.

Entrant #4 is The Rock

Cactus and Chainsaw have laid each other out, which allows Rock to easily work them over for a bit. They recover though and put a metal bin over his head before hitting it with a chair, sending him tumbling through the middle ropes, so he’s still in. It should surprise no one that Rock was supremely entertaining as he stooged for the two babyfaces there.

Entrant #5 is Headbanger Mosh

I think Mosh was still a babyface at this stage, but he happily goes right after Chainsaw whilst a recovered Rock scraps with Cactus. Chainsaw actually comes off the top with a moonsault attempt to Mosh, but he misses most of it and Mosh decides not to sell it that big as a result.

Entrant #6 is Phineas I. Godwinn

Phineas was a Heel at this stage and The Godwinns had feuded with the Headbangers quite a bit, so Phineas goes right for Mosh before getting diverted. Not much really happens though, as guys pair up and just kind of punch and choke one another in the corners.

Entrant #7 is 8-Ball, which I guess means it was Skull who got clobbered earlier

Goodness me the lack of depth in the WWF mid-card at the time is pretty glaring here. Cactus goes for Chainsaw, but gets low bridged and he’s out.

Cactus Jack is eliminated by Chainsaw Charlie (2)

Rock tries to quickly dump Chainsaw following that, but Chainsaw does a good job of clinging on and survives.

Entrant #8 is Blackjack Bradshaw

Bradshaw was still teaming with Blackjack Windham at this stage I believe, although Windham’s turn wasn’t far away. Chainsaw keeps being the main star of the match thus far, hanging on and surviving numerous elimination attempts. Rock seems to enjoy working with him as he keeps going back over to work spots with him.

Entrant #9 is Owen Hart

Jeff Jarrett attacks Owen Hart on the way down to the ring, which was a feud I don’t think lasted very long and they would of course be Tag Champs in less than a year following this, in one of the more egregious examples of alliances flipping and flopping during the Attitude Era. Owen gets carried away as a result of that.

Entrant #10 is Steve Blackman

Blackman was kind of being presented as a “rookie” here, although he had wrestled previously to this run but had taken some time away from wrestling due to suffering with malaria. 8-Ball gives Chainsaw a piledriver, whilst everyone else just punches and stomps one another.

Entrant #11 is D-Lo Brown

D-Lo is the second Nation of Domination member in this tonight, with all five eventually going to enter as the night goes on, making this one of the most diverse Rumbles ever at the time I think (although there had been quite a few Mexican guys in the 97 Rumble as well). D-Lo quickly cheap shots Rock to get across the whole “Every man for himself” thing.

Entrant #12 is Kurrgan

Kurggan is here to do the big monster spot, with Chainsaw quickly trying to make friends with him in a funny moment. Kurrgan no sells everything and just clobbers guys whilst yelling unintelligibly. Mosh stupidly goes for a ten punch on him and quickly gets dumped out as a result.

Headbanger Mosh eliminated by Kurrgan (1)

Blackman tries a spinning kick on Kurrgan, but Kurrgan either sidesteps it or just plain no sells it (I think it was supposed to be the former) and then slowly kills Blackman in response.

Entrant #13 is Marc Mero w/ Sable

Mero was doing the boxer gimmick at this stage and eggs on Kurrgan as he chucks out Steve Blackman.

Steve Blackman eliminated by Kurrgan (2)

Rock and D-Lo continue fighting with one another, which is probably the most interesting thing to happen in this section outside of Kurrgan no selling Bradshaw’s chops.

Entrant #14 is Ken Shamrock

Shamrock is the first guy to knock Kurrgan down to a big pop, which leads to six guys all teaming up to dump him out to another big pop.

Kurrgan eliminated by Bradshaw (1), Ken Shamrock (1), Chainsaw Charlie (3), 8-Ball (1), Rock (1) and Phineas Godwinn (1)

I know Kurggan wasn’t much of a wrestler but they did a very effective job of making him look like an unbeatable monster there, so when Shamrock knocked him down it got him instantly over and the crowd immediately bought into his elimination as being a big deal due to how well he’d been protected in the match itself. Say what you want about Vince McMahon’s booking abilities, but “make a big dude look scary so it matters when he loses” has always been one of his strongest skills. The only downside is that Don Callis doesn’t get a pay per view pay off by coming down to talk Kurrgan out of killing everyone. Rock actually drops the People’s Elbow on Chainsaw at one stage following that, but the crowd barely even registers it.

Entrant #15 is Headbanger Thrasher

Thrasher doesn’t do much and everyone kind of just walks around punching. Mero does dance around whilst avoiding fighting anyone which is kind of funny at least. The crowd doesn’t really care that much either.

Entrant #16 is Mankind

That makes our second face of Foley to appear tonight. Mankind quickly batters and eliminates Chainsaw as revenge for Cactus.

Chainsaw Charlie eliminated by Mankind (2. We’ll just do a Foley overall tally I think)

Shamrock unloads on Rock with some punches in the corner, whilst D-Lo and Mankind get to go at it in a combination I don’t think we saw that much of.

Entrant #17 is TAFKA Goldust w/ Luna

There’s actually some talented guys in there now, but a bit of drift wood could probably do with being cleared out of the ring as there’s about 8 guys in there. Mankind doesn’t get to be in there for very long, as Goldust hip tosses him out.

Mankind eliminated by TAFKA Goldust (1)

Entrant #18 is Aztec Warrior Jeff Jarrett w/ Jim Cornette

Owen Hart re-joins us now and injects some life into proceedings by pin balling Jarrett all over the play and dumping him out to a good pop from the crowd.

Jeff Jarrett eliminated by Owen Hart (1)

Entrant #19 is The Honky Tonk Man

Annoyingly we don’t get to see much of Owen in this one, even though he’s a talented dude and he being in there has really perked the match up. However, they were building up his feud with Triple H at the time, so Triple H comes out on crutches and hits Owen with one to eliminate him. Just before it we also get Rock hitting Shamrock right in the octagon before chucking him out for good measure.

Ken Shamrock eliminated by The Rock (2)

Owen Hart eliminated by outside interference from Triple H

Entrant #20 is Ahmed Johnson

Ahmed had been kind of a big deal about a year prior to this, but he’d been out with so many injuries by this stage that he was pretty much just another guy in the mid-card and he’d be gone a couple of months after this. I’m not sure if he quit or got sacked, and don’t really care to check, but feel free to furnish us with the info in the comments section if you know. Not much really happens here, as we’ve got something like 10 guys in there just milling about.

Entrant #21 is Mark Henry

Henry was freshly Heel turned as a member of the Nation of Domination, and they have him manhandle Ahmed with ease to get across the idea that he’s the premier strongman of the two. It’s kind of amazing just what a load of absolute nothing Ahmed’s spell in this match has been. Honky Tonk and Mero get to renew their unfinished WCW rivalry at one stage.

Entrant #22 no one comes out, so I’m guessing that was supposed to be Skull

Meanwhile, Mark Henry throws some white powder in Ahmed’s face (make your own jokes) and then dumps him out, essentially turning Ahmed into one step above enhancement talent as a result. Henry also gets to dump out Phineas straight after, leading to Ahmed and Phineas brawling to the back so I guess Ahmed can kind of get his heat back?

Ahmed Johnson and Phineas I. Godwinn eliminated by Mark Henry (2)

Entrant #23 is Kama Mustafa

Ahmed is still hanging around the entrance way and tries getting into a fight with Kama, who basically brushes him aside and keeps making his way to the back. Was Ahmed going into business for himself there or something or was he actually supposed to brawl with Phineas and then try to fight with Kama as well?

There are just way too many guys in there and the ring needs cleaning out ASAP. It doesn’t help that most of the guys in there are mid-card wrestlers that the crowd doesn’t really care about or buy as potential winners. They could have at least kept Owen in there. The most interesting section here is a little bit where Rock and Honky Tonk man go at it, which might be the only time that happened in an official match.

Entrant #24 is Stone Cold Steve Austin

Austin of course gets the monster pop, and shows why he got over in the first place by coming in through the crowd whilst everyone is watching the entrance way, leading to Mero getting chucked instantly.

Marc Mero eliminated by Stone Cold (1)

Everyone feeds for a punch from Austin, which leads to 8-Ball being the next to go.

8-Ball eliminated by Stone Cold (2)

Austin goes after Thrasher next. Is this like a Highlander thing but with bald guys and there can be only one? They should really have Austin dump a couple more here as well just to free things up in there and pop the crowd. It’s not like Bradshaw and Thrasher are really adding anything and you can then have The Nation members quadruple up on him for a bit now there are less distractions.

Entrant #25 is Henry O. Godwinn

Henry hates Austin and goes straight for him, clobbering away and choking in the corner. Outside of everyone going at Austin once he entered, most of the guys have now paired up again. There’s still 10 guys in there and they could easily drop that down to 6 quite happily based on the guys in there.

Entrant #26 is Savio Vega

Savio and Los Boricuas all hate Austin, so they run in to attack him as a group, but Austin fights them off successfully, because he’s the top babyface and that’s what top babyfaces do. Austin kicks TAFKA Goldust right in his Shattered Dreams following that, as we now get a 12th man in the ring.

Entrant #27 is Faarooq

Rock throws Austin through the middle ropes and then brawls with him out there, whilst Faarooq makes a point of attacking everyone else in The Nation, which is probably some kind of warped hazing ritual. I’m sure Bubba Ray and Mark Henry approve of it if that’s the case.

Entrant #28 is Dude Love

So now all three faces of Foley have entered the match, with Dude quickly throwing out Bradshaw.

Bradshaw eliminated by Dude Love (3)

Rock gives D-Lo the Peoples’ Elbow, and the crowd still could not care less about it. It’s a credit to Rock in a lot of ways that he just stuck with that move over and over again until it got over. These days he would probably be told not to do it anymore once it didn’t get over the first handful of times and that would have been that.

Entrant #29 is Chainz

Savio and TAFKA Goldust both clobber Austin in the corner, whilst Chainz just kind of ambles around punching random people. I’ve honestly lost count of how many guys are in there now, but it’s roughly 6 too many. I’m impressed that Honky Tonk Man has had such a run at least.

Entrant #30 is Vader

Vader is still over with the crowd, but his chances of winning are pretty slim. Honky’s run finally comes to an end at his hands. He would be back as a nostalgia entrant in 2001 though.

Honky Tonk Man eliminated by Vader (1)

Thrasher is next out via Austin, as is Kama.

Thrasher and Kama eliminated by Stone Cold (4)

Savio and Austin renew their nearly 2 year rivalry again, with Austin sending Savio out.

Savio Vega eliminated by Stone Cold (5)

TAFKA Goldust manages to get some revenge on Vader by dumping him out, but I don’t think the feud continued after this.

Vader eliminated by TAFKA Goldust (2)

Chainz quickly dumps him as his reward though

TAFKA Goldust eliminated by Chainz (1)

Austin sends Chainz out following that, with Chainz bouncing off the steps on the way down in an impressive bump.

Chainz eliminated by Stone Cold (6)

That leaves us with a Final Four of Rock and Faarooq of The Nation Vs former Tag Champs Dude and Stone Cold. Stone Cold and Dude actually team up to help one another at one stage and then do a nice quick segment together, which leads to Austin kicking Dude right in his Love Handle so that Faarooq can dump him out.

Dude Love eliminated by Faarooq (1)

Faarooq clobbers on Austin following that, with Rock getting in a great bit of character work by acting like he’ll help out, only to sink into the corner instead to buy himself some time before sending Faarooq out to keep that story cooking.

Faarooq eliminated by The Rock (3)

So that leaves us with Rock Vs Stone Cold, and they do an excellent segment with one another that really gets the crowd buzzing. Rock eats a Stunner and Austin chucks him out to win.

Rock eliminated by Stone Cold (7)

WINNER: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
MOST ELIMINATIONS: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN (7)
RATING: **1/2

Bit of a dull Rumble to be honest, with a lack of star power and the ring getting too crowded being the main strikes against it. I like that they didn’t get cute with the booking and had Austin win though, and Rock was definitely elevated by reaching the final two even if he didn’t win the match

Austin celebrates following that and Mike Tyson seems happy about it, although the two would end up in a pull apart on Raw following this to juice the Mania buy rate.

Speaking of Tyson, he tells Michael Cole that “Cold Stone” just won him a load of money. He also thinks Shawn Michaels is “an up and coming young hungry tiger”

Main Event
Casket Match
WWF Title
Champ: Shawn Michaels w/ Chyna and Triple H Vs The Undertaker

Kane had recently debuted in the WWF and had been battering Taker every week with the aim to goad his brother into a match. Taker refused to accept the challenge and then actually stood up for Kane when Shawn Michaels tried to get him to join D-X, which surprisingly led to Kane coming down for the rescue. Now that Kane seemingly has Undertaker’s back, there’s a great chance of the belt changing hands. Simple storytelling, but effective, especially as the fans legitimated hated Shawn back then and the idea of him having to go against Taker in a fair fight was a genuine selling point.

The segment where Taker come to Kane’s defence on the mic led to the famous clip that Maffew would use for his “you talk too much” segment over on Botchamania when Taker throttled a gum chewing Shawn.

Undertaker hadn’t yet succumbed to the litany of injuries that would see him struggle to even move for most of 1999, so he’s well up for it here and the result is a very enjoyable brawl. I’ll confess that I’ve always quite enjoyed casket matches, and I was chuffed when they put the match type onto one of the early Smackdown games for the PlayStation. I think the casket match is infinitely superior to the buried alive or last rites match, as you don’t need to drag someone all the way down to the entrance way to tease a false finish. The casket being at ringside means it’s much quicker to tease the finish, and the fact someone doesn’t have to stand around shovelling mountains of dirt means the teases don’t tend to drag.

Of course one downside of having a casket at ringside is that the best wrestler in the company can bang their back on it and need to take four years off as a result, which is what happens here. In some ways the match is remembered more for that fact than anything else, which I think is kind of unfair as it genuinely is a really good brawl and I’d say it holds up next to their In Your House: Ground Zero match pretty well, although it doesn’t come close to matching Hell in a Hell from In Your House: Badd Blood.

Taker dominates in the opening stages, with Shawn bumping all over the place to make him look good. Undertaker beating up prime years Shawn Michaels is almost always entertaining and this match is no exception to that rule. We get our second appearance of white powder this evening, as Shawn manages to throw some in Taker’s eyes to finally get a foothold in the match, leading to Shawn working some heat. The biggest spot of the heat segment is Shawn giving Taker a vicious piledriver on the metal ring steps, with it sounding like Undertaker’s skull gets cracked open like a boiled egg. That still churns my stomach to this day, even though it was perfectly safe.

Shawn is a fantastic Heel and does an excellent job playing up to the crowds hatred of him, but like most cocky Heels his arrogance ends up being his undoing, as Shawn has Taker in the casket but chooses to taunt rather than win and Taker grabs him right in the Waltman’s to put a stop to that. Shawn of course sells that big time and Taker makes a comeback, giving Shawn a back body drop that got so high I almost thought Shawn would come down with icicles attached to him. We of course get the mandatory spot where both men end up in the casket, leading to Shawn trying to crawl out only to get dragged back in like a victim in a horror movie. That was superb!

Taker destroys Shawn following that and looks to have it won, which is the cue for the 1994 finish, as a bunch of Heels coming running down to help out Shawn, including Los Boricuas and The New Age Outlaws. Taker sells it great, getting ever so close to closing the lid even with six guys clobbering him. However, Kane joins us to a monster pop and clears the ring, only for it to be a SWERVE as he Choke Slams Taker into the casket so that Shawn can close the lid and retain, deflating the crowd in the process.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHAWN MICHAELS
RATING: ***3/4

Kind of the forgotten match of their 97/98 trilogy, outside of people remembering Shawn getting injured, but removed from that it’s still a great match. I know some don’t like the twist with Kane beating up Taker, but it makes sense that Paul Bearer would come up with a ruse like this and it gave Undertaker a way of losing without looking weak

Kane and Paul Bearer lock Undertaker in the casket following the match and set it on fire, though it took a long time to set that up.

In Conclusion

This show has its issues, with the Rumble match suffering from being too predictable and the under-card not having anything you could consider to be a blow away great match. However, what this show does an excellent job of is laying the table for WrestleMania XIV by kicking the Rock/Shamrock and Kane/Undertaker feuds into a higher gear whilst shining Austin up nice and good for his coronation. Once they added Mike Tyson into the Shawn/Austin situation then it was essentially game over for WCW, as not only did the WWF have probably the better overall show at that stage but they also had the killer storyline to get people hooked.

I think you could probably go for a solid thumbs in the middle here, with the Shawn/Taker match being the only one I would suggest you go out of your way to see, which is easily done on the WWE Network. Outside of that, you’re probably better off watching the Austin/Tyson confrontation on Raw rather than sitting through the Rumble match, as that was really the money angle for Mania and established Austin as the top guy just as well as this Rumble does, if even better. If you do decide to watch it then it’s an easy enough watch, but that could just be my own personal nostalgia talking.

Not really recommended, but it’s not a bad show if you decide you want 3 hours to kill.