(Originally written 01.19.20)
The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 1991 – 01.19.91
The Rumble season is upon us again and this one is next in my list of shows that I haven’t watched in more than two decades. Plus the whole “crazed Republican warmonger taking on the Middle East” theme has suddenly become culturally significant again. Sadly.
Live from Miami, FL, drawing about 16,000 and a 2.4 buyrate.
Once again, I really like Vince excitedly reading off the list of participants before the show. SABA SIMBA! LUKE THE BUSHWACKER! THE WARLORD! SHANE DOUGLAS!
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Rowdy Roddy Piper & AMERICA!
The Rockers v. The Orient Express
Of course, the Orient Express are from Japan, which is not America and thus is not OK. The Express dumps Marty right away and hits Shawn with a double backdrop, but the Rockers come back with a double press slam on Tanaka to clear the ring. They follow with a stereo dive onto the treacherous Japanesians, who probably voted DEMOCRAT like a couple of commies, and everyone regroups. Back in, Marty works a headlock on Kato, but gets taken down with an armdrag and they reverse into a couple of near-falls and a backslide from Marty for two. The Express tries to double-team Marty, but he evades them and takes Tanaka down with an armdrag to retain control. Shawn continues down that path, but walks into a flying forearm and Tanaka gets two. You know, I’ve heard that Tanaka might actually be claiming to be Hawaiian, and you know what Hawaii was famous for? Pearl Harbor! BUT I BET TANAKA DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT, HUH? Likely story. Shawn comes back with a high knee and goes to a chinlock, but Tanaka fights out, so he switches to a sleeper instead and that backstabbing Kato hits him from behind the ref’s back to break the hold. Tanaka sweeps the leg…
…and the Express takes over and goes to work. The Rockers are both in for a double-team, and they both dropkick the Express out of the ring, fake highspots to psych them out, and then hit them with stereo dives to the floor.
Back in, Marty goes to a headlock on Kato and Shawn follows with a delayed suplex for two, but he tries a monkey flip and Tanaka clotheslines him on the top rope and Shawn is your face in peril. Tanaka chops him down and the Express works him over in the corner as Tanaka goes to the dreaded Oriental nerve pinch. That gets two. Over to Kato, who sends Shawn in for the Flair Flip in the corner, and Tanaka boots him back in via a superkick, which gets two. Shawn’s clearly on the good shit tonight. AMERICAN DRUGS! Imported from South America. But still AMERICA. Well, they are in Miami. Maybe Razor Ramon was their dealer? The Express tries to use their belt to double-team Shawn, but he rams them together and it’s HOT TAG Marty. It’s BONZO GONZO and Marty tries a backslide on Kato, but Tanaka cuts him off with a superkick. Shawn trips up Kato, however, and Marty gets two off that. Double superkick on Kato and they set up for a Rocket Launcher, but Tanaka breaks that up and Shawn bumps to the floor. Kato slingshots Marty into a chop from Tanaka, but then they try it again and Shawn breaks it up, allowing Marty to sunset flip Tanaka for the pin at 19:21. Shawn missed his cue on the first try there but it was still a cool finish. Rockers were having a sneaky great in-ring renaissance in 1991 before self-destructing and this match was GREAT. ****1/4
Meanwhile, Randy Savage is confident that he’s secured a title shot at Ultimate Warrior and promises that Queen Sherri is gonna bait the Warrior into giving him said title shot. She’s a master baiter, I’ve heard.
Queen Sherri joins Mean Gene at the interview stand and makes her case for Randy Savage getting a shot at the winner of the WWF title match tonight. We all know that Slaughter is a man of his word, but she’s got doubts about the Ultimate Warrior. Turns out she was right. So Warrior comes out to answer and Sherri demands to know if he’ll give the Macho Man a title shot. When that doesn’t work, she tries the more seductive route. Which raises the question: Would Macho Man seriously pimp out Sherri in exchange for a title match? Actually, yeah, probably. Sadly for her, though, Warrior gets a weird leering smile on his face and then denies her. Given that he was beating Savage around the horn anyway, he probably should have just hit it and quit it and given Savage the title shot. So Savage freaks out backstage and charges out to the podium, but Warrior is already gone. Man, that whole deal worked out pretty badly for Warrior. He got no sex out of it AND lost the title!
Big Bossman v. The Barbarian
This is of course the penultimate chapter in the “Big Bossman v. Bobby Heenan family” feud, and it was probably supposed to be Rick Rude in this spot. Barbarian hits him with knees and slugs away to start, but walks into Bossman’s boot and goes flying out of the ring. Bossman follows and sends him into the post while Bobby hides behind the other corner in a nice touch, since he started the match by hiding behind Barbarian and yelling “If you want me, you gotta get through him!” Barbarian goes up and gets nailed by Bossman on the way down, and Bossman takes him to the floor again with a Cactus clothesline. Back in, Barbarian catches him with a suplex and then gets a nice short clothesline and slugs Bossman to the apron, where he gets caught in the ropes and beat up by Barbarian. Barbarian runs him into the post and they head back in for the BARBARIAN BAR-BEARHUG. Bossman breaks free, so Barbarian drops elbows on him for two. Back to the bearhug, but Bossman fights out and comes back with the enzuigiri. Bossman misses a charge and Barbarian gets a rollup for two, but Bossman catches him with a hotshot for two. They collide for the double down and Barbarian recovers first and goes up with the FLYING CLOTHESLINE OF DAMNATION, but Bossman gets his foot on the ropes. Barbarian charges and walks into the Bossman Slam, and that gets two. An intriguing twist! Barbarian comes back again with a piledriver, and a dandy one at that. He goes up to finish for good, but Bossman rolls through a bodypress and gets the pin at 14:15. And before Fink can even announce the winner, Bobby gets the hell out of there and runs to the back. This was a HOSS FIGHT and Bossman was working his ass off. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Sean Mooney interviews Sgt. Slaughter, who just takes it way over the top with a bug-eyed snarling promo while wearing a headdress. I actually preferred his khaki-colored military gear period leading up to Wrestlemania where it was toned down a bit. This just reeked of them trying WAY too hard.
WWF title: The Ultimate Warrior v. Sgt. Slaughter
So after the pre-match promo where he was wearing the headdress, Slaughter has now switched to a helmet. Great continuity there, guys. So of course, Slaughter has nuclear heat here, and Warrior charges in and tosses both guys right away before assaulting the Iraqi flag. Warrior beats on Sarge in the corner and shoves the remains of the flag into his mouth before running him into the post and choking him out. Warrior with clotheslines in the corner and Slaughter launches himself out of the ring, but now Sherri runs out (having changed her dress already!) and trips Warrior up. Warrior chases her to the back and Savage appears out of the darkness and CLOBBERS Warrior, dropping a light stand on him. Oh man, 1991 Scott was ENRAGED at this point. Slaughter keeps stopping the count because he doesn’t want the countout win, and then tosses Warrior in and goes to work on him to take over. Backbreaker and he goes to work on the back and the crowd is MOLTEN with anger, but Warrior comes back with a clothesline and both guys are down. Slaughter goes to the bearhug as they finally manage to quiet down the crowd, but Warrior fights out with a slam and Sarge drops elbows on his back to put him down again. Slaughter with the camel clutch, but Warrior was outside the ring and Slaughter thinks he’s won the title. This allows Warrior to make the comeback with the clotheslines and flying shoulderblock, but now Sherri comes out AGAIN. Warrior gets distracted like a moron again and tosses Sherri onto Savage, but Slaughter hits him from behind, and Savage wallops him with the scepter. And with that, Slaughter drops one last elbow on Warrior and wins the WWF title at 12:41. And ironically, after FINALLY getting Warrior over as the giant superhero they had been trying to make him for months, he gets beat and loses the title and never got it back again. On the bright side, Slaughter at least got rid of the fucking ugly pastel colored belts that Warrior was using and switched it back to basic black. Match was exceedingly simple but mostly well worked by Warrior’s standards. But man, given all the early 80s Slaughter I’ve watched on the Network in the past few years, I can’t help but think this would have been awesome even a few years earlier. **1/2
WRESTLEMANIA VII, which is totally coming to the LA Memorial Coliseum and selling 100,000 tickets! 100% a thing that’s happening!
Koko B. Ware v. The Mountie
Wait, what? This wasn’t on the Coliseum Video! This is literally a match that I’ve never seen before! How about that. I guess it makes sense because the show runs 3:06 on the original PPV version on the Network, and they would have had to cut it down to 2:50 to make it fit on one videotape. Koko dropkicks the Mountie out of the ring and goes to work on the arm to start, but Mountie backdrops him to the floor in an impressive bump. Jimmy gets his shots in on the floor, and back in Mountie uses a claw hold and runs Koko into the corner, demonstrating “passive control” in the words of Gorilla. Yeah, the black guy getting beat up by the cop, that’s a good look. Mountie chokes him out and tosses him as I’m rapidly understanding why this got left on the cutting room floor. Back in, Mountie tries the piledriver, but Koko backdrops out and comes back with a neckbreaker. Koko goes up with a missile dropkick that misses by a foot, but he goes after Jimmy instead of covering and then gets a half-assed bodypress for two. And then Mountie takes him down with…something? Something vaguely crossed between a slam and a clothesline, maybe? And that gets the pin at 9:18. Gorilla notes that he hit Koko in the carotid artery. Sure, let’s go with that. The carotid artery, yeah, that’s the ticket. This was like a bad Prime Time Wrestling main event. ½*
Meanwhile, Mean Gene chats with the new WWF champion and his purple belt. Gorilla and Piper are unimpressed. But apparently Hulk Hogan was going to do a tour of Saudi Arabia to spread the message of America and Hulkamania. I hear they really love their freedom over there.
Meanwhile, we get a series of soundbites from the Rumble competitors as the show hits the intermission in the arena, including BROTHER LOVE with the Undertaker! I actually thought they had switched to Paul Bearer already by then.
Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase does his pre-match promo, where he stresses that Virgil will do whatever he wants because he’s bought and paid for, no matter how degrading the acts might be.
Dusty & Dustin Rhodes v. Ted Dibiase & Virgil
Dusty was of course already on the way out the door and rumored to be the new booker for WCW at this point (although everyone was denying everything for legal reasons), so the result should hardly have been in doubt. And the polka dots are gone for good, as he’s back to his classic gear for his last WWF match. The heels attack to start and the Rhodes chase them out of the ring with elbows. So Dibiase orders Virgil to get back in the ring and TAKE DUSTIN OUT. Well, he’s still around today, so obviously he failed. Virgil pounds on Dustin, but gets dropkicked out of the ring, which prompts Dibiase to slap him around in disgust. Look, Virgil knew the deal when he was taking all that money. Olive Garden doesn’t come cheap. Back in, Dustin clotheslines Virgil out of the ring again and Dibiase is getting increasingly embarrassed by this performance. Me too, Virgil is terrible. So Dibiase comes in to show him what’s what and beats on Dustin with a clothesline before beating on him in the corner and adding a backdrop and fistdrop. The Rhodes come back with bionic elbows in the corner, however, and it’s over to Big Dust with a sleeper. Virgil breaks it up and Dustin comes in, but misses a running knee in the corner and the heels take over. Virgil slugs him down and puts the boots to him and they go to work on the knee in their corner. Virgil accidentally clotheslines his boss, however, and Dibiase disgustedly puts the boots to him and tosses him. Dusty gets a hot tag off that, but misses a blind charge and gets pinned at 9:57, looking like a complete geek on the way out. Well that was basically the end of his career anyway. *1/2
And then with the match portion done with, we get to the REAL point here, as the years-long slow burn comes to a head and Dibiase has had enough of Virgil’s bullshit, demanding that he get his Million Dollar belt back because money talks louder than Virgil’s pride. So Virgil retrieves the belt and throws it down, but Dibiase makes a vague threat about Virgil’s MOTHER. Well that never went anywhere. So Virgil grabs the belt again, and then knocks Dibiase out as Piper goes NUTS on commentary, setting up the storyline for the rest of the year. Unfortunately Virgil couldn’t back it up in the ring long-term, but this was a great moment.
Bret Hart is #1 and Dino Bravo is #2. Actually Bravo is more like #0 because DINO BRAVO IS THE WORST. They trade forearms and Bret gets an atomic drop and tries to clothesline him out, but Dino holds on, sadly. Bravo with the atomic drop of his own, but he misses an elbow and Bret slugs away. Greg Valentine is #3 at 2:00 and he goes after Dino and they slug it out, which I guess was Valentine’s babyface turn. Jimmy Hart is aghast at this turn of events, but Valentine tosses Bravo at 3:11. Hammer then goes after Jimmy Hart, but Bret gets the atomic drop and fights with Valentine on the ropes. Paul Roma is #4 at 4:00 and teams up with Hammer to beat on Bret, but then turns on Greg. Bret rams them together and they all scuffle on the ropes trying for the elimination. Texas Tornado is #5 at 6:00 and he runs wild and beats on Valentine, probably all confused and thinking that he’s Ric Flair. So they all do stuff and there’s not much going on, but Rick Martel is #6 at 8:00. Everyone kind of bunches up on the ropes again while Bret tries to get Martel out, but Roma goes low to save. And then he turns on the Model. That actually would have been a logical tag team that we never got. SABA SIMBA is #7 at 10:00, and he channels his African ancestors to beat on some guys. More nothing here. Butch Miller is #8 at 12:00 and it’s just a pile of guys punching and kicking on the ropes. Simba tries to throw out Martel, but Rick hangs on and Simba is out at 12:40, as it’s the CIRCLE OF LIFE and he’s gone. OK, I worked that one in, I’m good. Actually, no, I’ve got another one saved up for later and you’ll know it when we get to it.
Jake Roberts is #9 at 14:00 and he goes after Martel and destroys him for our first real hot segment, but Martel runs away as young referee Shane McMahon tells him to get back in there. I’d listen to him, just a hunch. Back in, Valentine attacks Jake and goes to work on him with elbows, but Jake breaks free and tries to get Martel off the apron. Hercules is #10 at 16:00 and he goes to work on Butch with partner Roma while Martel escapes the wrath of Jake again. And everyone is on the ropes again as Tito Santana is #11 at 18:00. He of course goes after the Model and Roma somehow gets eliminated at 18:30 off-camera. Like, come on, we’re almost halfway through and the entire match has been a logjam of midcard deadwood. Undertaker is #12 at 20:00 and this should give us some action. Bret is buried at 20:40, but that’s it for Undertaker’s run here. The babyfaces go after Undertaker and he no-sells it all and beats Tornado down. Jimmy Snuka is #13 at 22:00 as Undertaker tosses Butch at 22:30. Tornado tries a sleeper on Undertaker and everyone takes shots at him, but he swats everyone down. British Bulldog is #14 at 24:00 and it’s just a bunch of stuff going on. Smash is #15 at 26:00 and he’s immediately just a guy as there’s been no memorable spots or eliminations. Jake gets tossed by Martel at 27:00 but then it’s back to everyone laying on the ropes and punching. Hawk is #16 at 28:00 and he runs wild for a bit and then it settles back into boredom again. How could they go from such an awesome Rumble in 1990 and then just do a basic battle royal the next year?
Shane Douglas is #17 at 30:00 and I bet he’ll teach some people a lesson. Tornado and Snuka both get thrown out by Undertaker at 30:30. The camera completely misses that as well. Randy Savage is supposed to be #18 but he’s fled the building, I assume, so no one comes out. So we just get more of the same nothing on the ropes until Animal is #19 at 34:00. The LOD teams up on Undertaker and clotheslines him out at 34:40, but Herc dumps Hawk at 34:42 while he’s showboating. Hey, something finally happened! At this point, Gorilla finally gives us our first mention of Valentine taking 15:00 just to get warmed up. Crush is #20 at 36:00 and Demolition works on the Bulldog while Martel and Valentine fight it out on the ropes while going for the longevity record. Man, Martel is RIPPED here. Hacksaw Duggan is #21 at 38:00 and he runs wild FOR AMERICA and then it’s back to nothing going on again. Earthquake is #22 at 40:00 and this should clear the ring. He beats on Animal and backdrops him out at 40:50. Duggan wants some of that, so Quake beats on him in the corner and then everyone just stops again. Mr. Perfect is lucky #23 at 42:00, and he backdrops a charging Duggan out at 43:00. He takes some bumps from the babyfaces but otherwise, just a bunch of fellas again.
Finally, Hulk Hogan is #24 at 44:00 to wake this shit up. Everyone attacks him and he tosses Smash at 44:30 and then beats on Earthquake in the corner for a bit, but Quake reverses him and they tussle in the corner. Jesus, even HOGAN can’t clear the deadwood? Haku is #25 at 46:00 as Hogan finally throws out Valentine at the same time. And we’re back to everyone laying on the ropes again. Jim Neidhart is #26 at 48:00 and that leads to nothing. Earthquake tosses Tito at 48:50, with the camera missing ANOTHER one. What, they were too busy filming all the guys laying on the ropes and telling jokes? Luke Williams is #27 at 50:00 and Quake tosses him right out again at 50:20. More punchy-kicky on the ropes and Brian Knobbs is #28 at 52:00. Why would you put him in that late? There’s just a ridiculous number of people in there this late in the match. Knobbs manages to toss Hercules at 54:00 as Warlord is #29. Hogan backdrops Crush in the corner at 54:50 to eliminate him. Hulk clotheslines Warlord out at 56:00 and Tugboat is #30. He attacks Quake while Perfect clings to the bottom rope and we’ve still got a dozen guys left in this thing. WRAP IT UP ALREADY.
So everyone kind of wanders around and trades shots here and there, but Tugboat tries to get Hogan out and Hulk turns on him and dumps him at 59:00. Bulldog throws out Perfect at 59:10 and WAIT FOR IT…WAIT FOR IT…
HE JUST GOT ELIMINATED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL.
OK granted that won’t make any sense in a year from now, but trust me, it’s hilarious in January of 2020. Martel goes to the top like a boob and Bulldog brings him down and out at 60:36 to end his record-setting run, and hey look, it’s the final four!
Final four: Hulk Hogan, Brian Knobbs, Earthquake & British Bulldog
Before I can even finish typing that, the heels toss out Bulldog at 61:20 and then go to work on Hogan. Quake gets the splash and Knobbs drops elbows to set up the butt splash from Quake, but Hogan hulks up, boots out Knobbs at 62:30, and then tries a slam on Quake but falls over. Quake drops elbows on him, but Hogan hulks up a second time, gets the big boot and slam, and then throws him out for the anticlimactic win at 65:15. Yeah this Rumble can suck on deez nuts, as it was basically an hour of all the boring deadwood pileups that I HATE with no particularly memorable spots or impressive runs for anyone. Plus the match went on FOREVER, with the stuff after the #30 position dragged out needlessly for another 10:00 when the show was already running long. The 90 version killed this one, and of course the 92 version somehow topped even THAT one, making this an early miss in the history of the show. **
Overall, I actually quite enjoyed the undercard (outside of the Mountie match) but the Rumble was a huge disappointment. And really the entire direction of the company early in 1991 was a completely misguided effort that bit them in the ass, so it’s not entirely surprising. On the scale of Burn It / Avoid It / Skim It / Watch It / Binge It, I’d say SKIM IT and stop at the Virgil babyface turn.