Reviews

TJR Retro: WWE Royal Rumble 1994 Review

It was 1994 with the World Wrestling Federation moving in a different direction. The Hogan Era was officially in the rear-view mirror as the Hulkster would join WCW later in 1994 and it was up to Vince McMahon to create some new stars to lead his company. Yokozuna was firmly entrenched as the top heel while names like Bret Hart, Lex Luger and The Undertaker were trying to be the top faces. Some stuff worked while other things did not (hey Lex Express!).

The Rumble match itself featured new title contenders during a time when the WWF wasn’t at its best. The period from 1993 to 1996 was as bad as any for the WWF. As you’ll see in the recap, the talent on the roster isn’t very deep, which was a problem for most of the mid-90s. The winner of the Royal Rumble was supposed to go to WrestleMania X to face the WWF Champion, but it ended up being complicated after all. Let’s find out what happened.

This show followed Survivor Series 1993 and was used to set up WrestleMania 10. My additional 2021 thoughts are in blue font as well because there’s always more to say.

WWF Royal Rumble
January 22, 1994
Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island

The show began with Vince McMahon yelling at the top of his lungs to welcome us to the Royal Rumble.

The announce team is Vince McMahon and Ted Dibiase. I think by 1994 I knew Vince was the owner of the company because I was smartened up by then when I was 13. Dibiase didn’t do that much announcing as far as I can remember. Just because somebody is a great heel promo like Dibiase doesn’t mean they are a great announcer.

Tatanka entered for the opening match and got a decent ovation from the crowd. Bam Bam Bigelow was next with Luna joining him. This was before Luna’s boob job. I’m observant like that.

Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Luna Vachon) vs. Tatanka

Pre-match notes: Bigelow was the heel while Tatanka was a face. Tatanka was losing some momentum as a face. He turned heel later in 1994.

Bigelow with a dropkick that sent Tatanka to the ropes, Tatanka came back with a clothesline, shoulder tackle and dropkick. Tatanka with a cross body block for two. Tatanka came back with a leaping DDT. Tatanka went up top and missed a cross body block when Bigelow moved out of the way. Bigelow with a running splash into the corner led to a “what a maneuver” call from Vinny Mac. Tatanka came back with a chop, then a sunset flip and Bigelow sat on him to block it. Tatanka tried to get some momentum with punches, but Bigelow hit him with a dropkick. Bigelow slapped on the dreaded bearhug and Tatanka broke it after about one minute. Bigelow with a shoulder tackle to remain in control followed by a running shoulder tackle. Tatanka came back with an impressive powerslam for a two count. They each ran the ropes leading to a double cross body block that knocked them both down. Tatanka did his no selling routine to set up the comeback, but Bigelow stopped that with an enziguri kick to the head. That was funny. Bigelow went up top, he took way too long and Tatanka moved to avoid the moonsault attempt by the big guy. Tatanka went up top and he hit a cross body block for the pinfall win at 8:12.

Winner by pinfall: Tatanka

Analysis: **1/2 It was an average match where they built up to the finish well and told a nice story throughout the match. The story was the classic wrestling match with the heel Bigelow controlling most of it, Tatanka made the big comeback and found a way to win. They could have come up with a more creative finish because it was just Tatanka hitting a big move after Bigelow missed a moonsault. The result didn’t matter that much in terms of the future. They were both in the midcard level for most of their careers aside from Bigelow main eventing WM11 in 1995 against NFL legend Lawrence Taylor.

(It was just a decent match here. I think putting this match on first was a poor choice because it wasn’t that interesting or fast paced. Tatanka was well-liked, though, so maybe that’s why they went on first.)

There were some videos showing what happened at Survivor Series 1993 when Owen was the only Hart brother pinned in the Family Feud match. Owen was not happy with older brother Bret. In December 1993, Owen commented on how he was sick of living in Bret’s shadow and Owen wanted a match with Bret. A week later, Bret said he never ducked any kind of a challenge, but said he would “positively, not ever step into the ring with his own brother.” Bret was adamant that he won’t fight his own brother. A promo aired from Bret and Owen on January 1, 1994 with Bret saying he knows they can channel that energy against The Quebecers. Owen said that 1994 is going to be their year while adding they will make this a memorable year. The team of Marty Jannetty and 1-2-3 Kid won the Tag Team Titles from The Quebecers, but then The Quebecers won the titles back on January 17th, so it was less than a week before this show.

Analysis: Owen saying 1994 was going to be their year was true in a lot of ways because Bret vs. Owens was the feud of the year and they had some of the best matches of the year as well. That story started at Survivor Series 1993 and continued here.

(I loved the build to Owen becoming jealous of Bret in this storyline. It was masterfully done from Survivor Series 1993 to this show and beyond as well.)

Bret and Owen Hart were interviewed by Todd Pettengill. Bret said that they are going give the other teams a shot at the titles when they win them. Owen said this was the happiest day of his life while saying that they’re going to bring the titles home to mom and dad. That match is next.

The Quebecers made their entrance with the WWF Tag Team Titles with manager Johnny Polo joining them. Polo was best known as Raven in his career. Bret and Owen Hart got a huge ovation as the babyface challengers for the title match. They were rocking the pink and black gear. I believe Bret put the sunglasses on one of his kids at ringside.

WWF Tag Team Championships: The Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre) w/Johnny Polo vs. Bret and Owen Hart

Pre-match notes: The Quebecers were the heel champions while the Harts were the babyface challengers. All four wrestlers are Canadians, so I like to see that. If you don’t speak French, Jacques means Jack and Pierre means Peter. Pierre is still wrestling in 2020.

Pierre with a body slam, Bret came back with a knee to the ribs and Owen tagged in with a double axe to the back. Owen with a hip toss on Pierre into a pin attempt. Jacques went into the ring, he wanted a handshake that was refused by Owen, who came back with a suplex and a dropkick. Owen with an enziguri kick to the head of Jacques for a two count. Bret tagged in with diving elbow for two followed by an inside cradle for two. Bret got two more two counts right after that. Pierre went after Bret, so Owen went into the ring too and Owens tackled Jacques while Bret tripped up Pierre. The heels retreated to the floor for a break. Bret worked over Pierre with a headbutt followed by Owen tagging in with a running clothesline. Gutwrench suplex by Owen on Pierre got a two count and so did a leg drop by Owen. Bret tagged in, ran the ropes and Pierre hit him with a powerslam for two. The heels took over with Pierre choking Bret with the tag rope while the referee was on the other side of the ring. Jacques knocked down Bret with a kick to the chest. Pierre with a running attack to Bret’s back while he was up against the ropes. Pierre jumped off the ropes with a move, Bret got the boot up to block and that led to Owen getting a tag against Jacques. Owen with dropkicks, a back body drop on Jacques and a belly to belly suplex on Pierre. Owen with a spinning back kick. Bret with a headbutt on Pierre. Owen with a Sharpshooter on Jacques, but Pierre gave Owen a bulldog to break that up. The Quebecers hit a double team stun gun that sent Owen throat first into the top rope. Owen ran off the ropes leading to a double dropkick on both opponents. That was great. Bret tagged back in, dropkick to Pierre and a side Russian legsweep on Jacques as well as a backbreaker on Pierre. Bret with an atomic drop to send Pierre over the top to the floor. Bret ran to the ropes, Polo opened the ropes and Bret went crashing to the floor. When Bret landed, he grabbed his left leg to sell an injury. The heels took advantage as Pierre jumped off the steps and landed on Bret’s left leg. Owen tried to help his brother, but that led to the referee trying to keep Owen back. Jacques hit Bret with a chair to the leg. Owen got into a fight with Pierre on the floor, so Jacques hit Bret in the leg with the putter of Polo. Owen rolled his brother Bret back in the ring.

The Quebecers made quick tags as they worked over the left knee of Hart. Jacques with a single leg crab submission, so Owen kicked Jacques to break it up. Pierre with a leg drop to the head. Dibiase laughed: “This is great.” Jacques tried to slam Pierre onto Bret’s leg, but Bret managed to roll out of the way. Bret locked in the Sharpshooter on the mat on Pierre while Dibiase said it was selfish because Bret had the opportunity to tag out, but he didn’t do it. When Bret tried to stand up, he collapsed. The referee Tim White decided to call for the bell due to Bret’s injury. The match went 16:48.

Winners via referee stoppage: The Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre)

Analysis: ***1/2 This was a great story that led to so much happening in the months ahead. The way Bret sold the knee injury was tremendous and I will always say that Bret may have been the best wrestler ever in terms of selling a body part and making it look believable. It’s rare to see a referee stopping a match due to injury, but it was believable in this case because of how Bret sold it. I also think the finish was brilliant because of what happened after the match. The Quebecers did an awesome job of working well together as a heel team that was relentless in terms of how they kept attacking Bret’s knee. I feel like they could have ended it after something else because it was Bret doing an offensive move that led to the ending rather than taking a move.

(Great work by everybody involved. It’s not an all-time classic match, but all four wrestlers did their job very well and told the story that needed to be told. From Bret’s selling to The Quebecers being aggressive and Owen’s frustration, it was perfectly done.)

After the match, the official gave the titles to The Quebecers. It was announced by Howard Finkel that even though there was no submission from Bret Hart, the official has elected to end this match. Owen was pissed off about it and yelled at the referee for the decision. The Quebecers left with their titles.

Owen was angry in the ring as he kicked the ropes and stood over his fallen older brother. Owen was telling Bret that he should have tagged out. Dibiase said he was right while Vince said he didn’t think Bret deserved this. Bret used the ropes to get back to his feet and when he did, Owen kicked the left leg of Bret! Huge boos for that. Owen stood on the ropes, pointed at himself and the fans booed him some more. Owens walked to the back saying all he had to do was tag out. Owen: “But you’re too damn selfish.” Dibiase agreed.

Analysis: This was a huge heel turn to me. It was an “oh my god” moment. I can remember watching this live, I always liked Owen because I’m a younger brother like him and when he kicked Bret’s leg, I can remember cheering because I thought it made sense for Owen to be mad about it. They could have won if Bret tagged out, but he didn’t and Owen was right to be angry. The best heel turns are the ones where you can look at it from the wrestler’s perspective and feel like they are right in doing what they did.

(I absolutely LOVED the Owen heel turn. I remember cheering while I watched this because Owen was so entertaining and I wanted him to be featured more. I didn’t hate Bret at all. I just liked Owen a lot at this point.)

Bret was in the ring getting checked on by officials and producers. Ray Rougeau showed up with a microphone, Pat Patterson told him that Bret is hurt and there wasn’t much of an update. Bret was taken away on a stretcher.

Owen Hart was interviewed by Todd Pettengill. Owen: “Bret Hart, you’re nothing but a selfish person. I went in there with a tag team match, the biggest match of my life, my dream come true I thought I had the best partner in the world in my own brother. But you’re too selfish like I said all along. Your ego is too big and you only worry about yourself. You don’t care about me. I don’t care about anybody. I was concerned about myself and my whole family, the biggest opportunity of my life, I had a chance Bret, you stripped it away from me and you took it away from me Bret because you’re too selfish. My hand was there – just tag me! Just tag me. I knew your leg was bad, I was aware of that…just tag me. But you’re too selfish and you just want to put your Sharpshooter on. I could have won the match. I don’t need you with a bad leg doing it. Bret, you’re too damn selfish and that’s why you’re sitting there with a bad leg. And that’s why I kicked your leg out of your leg.” Oops on that last line!

Owen said there is no selfishness in him. Owen said that Bret cost them the titles and he said Bret didn’t care about Owen, who has never won a title before. Owen said he didn’t care about Bret not having a chance in the Royal Rumble and he said he’s going to win that Royal Rumble.

Analysis: I loved that promo from Owen. It was so huge for him. This was his breakout performance. The sad thing about it is he had the “I kicked your leg out of your leg” line that was obviously a mistake and makes no sense. It’s what people remember, they laugh about it and make fun of this promo for it. However, if you listen to the whole promo, hear how many times Owen called Bret “selfish” it’s another example of how you can justify the heel turn in Owen’s eyes. This whole thing was booked brilliantly and the post match promo was excellent. Yes, Owen screwed up one line in the promo. Other than that, I thought it was perfect.

(It’s one of my promos in wrestling history. Sadly, Owen’s memorable mistake when he said “I kicked your leg out of your leg” is going to lead to people laughing about this. However, the parts where Owen kept on saying that Bret was “too damn selfish” was so great. It was exactly what Owen’s character should’ve said there because it told the audience how Owen felt about his brother always getting the spotlight. The other side of it is that Owen did the heelish thing with the cheap attack that hurt his own brother, so that’s what made people hate him too. Once again, brilliant storytelling here.)

It was back over to the announcers with Dibiase applauding while saying it was the smartest thing he’s ever heard Owen say. Vince said it was a big difference because it was Owen turning on his brother, not just a tag team partner. Dibiase said Owen did what he did to be number one.

Analysis: This was the angle that played a major part in Owen’s rivalry with Bret that dominated 1994. It was the feud of the year thanks to their five star matches at WrestleMania and SummerSlam.

Irwin R. Schyster did a pre-match promo telling the fans to pay their taxes. The announcers for this match were Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon. Razor Ramon entered as the babyface champion and he got a big pop from the crowd.

Intercontinental Championship: Razor Ramon vs. Irwin R. Schyster

Pre-match notes: Razor was the babyface champion while Irwin was the heel challenger. I’ll type “Irwin” during the match writeup instead of Schyster. It’s easier. In case you don’t know, Irwin is the father of Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. This was about three months into Ramon’s IC Title reign.

Razor was aggressive with punches, Irwin came back with punches and Razor decked him with a punch, which led to Irwin bailing to the floor. Back in the ring, Razor with an atomic drop followed by a clothesline. Irwin came back by launching Razor over the top to the floor. Irwin with a running clothesline on Razor on the floor. Back in the ring, Irwin with an elbow drop. Irwin with a knee to the ribs followed by a leg drop to the lower abdomen. The fans chanted “Irwin” because that upset the tax man. Irwin with a leg drop for a two count. Irwin slapped on a chinlock for over a minute, Razor fought out of that with punches and patented fallaway slam for two. Irwin whipped Razor into the corner and that led to Razor bumping into the referee Joey Marella (Gorilla Monsoon’s son) against the turnbuckle. Irwin tried an attack with the steel briefcase, Razor ducked it and Razor hit Irwin in the head with the briefcase. There was no referee to count the pin attempt. Razor set up Irwin on the top rope and gave him a belly to back superplex that was a signature move that Razor did in his career. Razor signalled for his finishing move, the Razor’s Edge. When he was setting that up, Shawn Michaels went out to the ring with his Intercontinental Title. Michaels hit Ramon in the back of the head with the title, Michaels left and all three guys in the ring were down selling as if they were out. Irwin realized Razor was out, so he crawled over to make a cover and the referee counted the pin with a slow count of one…two…and three.

While Irwin celebrated with the IC Title, referee Earl Hebner went into the ring to explain to the original referee Joey Marella what happened. As Irwin celebrated, Razor picked him up and gave him the Razor’s Edge. Razor covered Irwin and referee Marella counted the pin to give Ramon the victory at 11:30.

Winner by pinfall: Razor Ramon

Analysis: **1/4 This was a decent match with Razor finding a way to get the win to retain the title. I thought the finish was a bit flat, but it did set up Ramon/Michaels at WrestleMania 10 in the epic ladder match, so that’s why they did it. The finish was one of those things that you can pick apart because there are cheap finishes all the time when another referee doesn’t inform the active referee of what happened, but then there are incidents like this where a referee helps the active referee. Anyway, Irwin wasn’t really over enough to win the title and it was smart to have Razor retain the title.

Post match, Razor Ramon held up both Intercontinental Titles and left with them.

(This was fine. The babyface Razor found a way to overcome the cheap attack from Michaels to win, so that would set up the WrestleMania 10 classic to crown the true Intercontinental Champion.)

They showed videos of The Undertaker building caskets ahead of his WWF Title match against Yokozuna. Every time a video was shown, Yokozuna acted like he feared being put in a casket. They did a spot where Undertaker was in the casket, then Yokozuna away and was scared of him.

Yokozuna made his entrance for the Casket Match. Yokozuna was the WWF Champion joined by Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette. It was noted by Vince McMahon that this was the first time the WWF Title was on the line in a Casket Match.

There was a huge pop for The Undertaker as Paul Bearer wheeled out a huge, double-deep, double-wide wooden casket and The Undertaker made his entrance.

Casket Match for the WWF Championship: Yokozuna (w/Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette) vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)

Pre-match notes: Yokozuna was the heel WWF Champion while The Undertaker was the babyface challenger. This was their first PPV match against eachother. I remember this being a terrible match and I haven’t watched it in over 25 years.

The way to win the match is to put your opponent into the casket and close the lid to leave with the WWF Title.

Undertaker sent Yokozuna into the turnbuckle followed by three clotheslines and uppercut that led to Yokozuna bumping to the floor. Yokozuna even bumped into the ring post. Undertaker no sold being sent face first into the steel stairs and when they went back in the ring, Taker did the rope walk leading to a punch to the shoulder. Yokozuna grabbed a chair, Undertaker grabbed it from him, Taker hit Yoko in the back and in the head with the chair. Taker japed a chair into the face of Yokozuna. Yokozuna grabbed the Fuji Dust (aka salt) and threw some of the salt in Undertaker’s face. Yoko with a chair to the back followed by a chair to the back of the head that looked brutal. Wow, I didn’t remember that chair shot, but that looked rough. Yokozuna put Undertaker over by the casket and told them to close the lid, but Taker fought back with punches. Yokozuna stopped his momentum with a side belly to belly suplex. Undertaker sat up, throat grab and he hit the safest looking Chokeslam ever since he could barely lift up Yoko. At least they tried, I guess. Undertaker hit a running DDT that looked a lot better than the Chokeslam did. Taker called for the casket to open, he rolled Yokozuna towards the casket and Yokozuna was in the casket. Undertaker tried to close the lid, but Crush showed up to attack. Dibiase laughed about it as he reminded us there are no disqualifications. Undertaker with a running punch and an uppercut that sent Crush out of the ring. The Great Kabuki went into the ring to go after Undertaker and Genichiro Tenryu was there too. Bam Bam Bigelow joined the party. The story was that Mr. Fuji and Cornette got other heels to help beat up Undertaker. Fuji even stole the urn from Paul Bearer as well. Yokozuna finally got up, Bearer grabbed the urn back and knocked down Fuji and Cornette.

The Undertaker did his best to fight them off, but then Adam Bomb joined in the fun Bigelow’s attack with the salt bucket failed, Jeff Jarrett was next in the ring and Undertaker beat up everybody with punches. Samu and Fatu of the Headshrinkers tag team joined the party with double superkicks. Yokozuna was back in the ring. There were nine heels in the ring going after Undertaker and Diesel joined the party as well to make it ten heels. Undertaker was put in the casket, but when they tried to close it, Undertaker managed to fight back some more. Yokozuna grabbed the urn from Bearer and hit Bearer with a punch. Yokozuna hit Undertaker with the urn to knock him down. Yokozuna opened the urn as some green smoke emerged from the urn. Crush gave Undertaker a suplex as Vince claimed the power of the urn was escaping. Jarrett hit a fist drop that didn’t come close to connecting. Diesel with an elbow drop and Bigelow with a headbutt off the top. Samu and Fatu each hit splashes off the top rope on Undertaker. The ten men in the ring dragged Undertaker over to the casket, Yokozuna kicked Undertaker and sent him into the casket. The lid closed to give Yokozuna the win at 14:20.

Winner: Yokozuna

Analysis: 1/2* Bad match, but I don’t hate it as much as I did in 1994 when I first saw it. It was a very cheap win for the WWF Champion Yokozuna by using other heels on the roster to beat up The Undertaker and nobody tried to help Undertaker at all. It was as unfair as it got with so many guys attacking Undertaker. I thought it was really lame by the end of it. The first half of the match with Undertaker and Yokozuna brawling was actually decent, but then it just turned into a shitty match. This was not a great period in The Undertaker’s career because he had several bad feuds in a row.

(It was an example of classic WWE booking where their babyfaces are booked like supermen sometimes and it takes a lot to beat them. In this case, I thought it was a little too much because of how many guys beat up Undertaker without anybody else out there to try to help Undertaker. As a story it worked to build up sympathy for Undertaker, though, so I guess in that sense it was fine.)

The heels wheeled the casket up the aisle and then Yokozuna’s music stopped playing as The Undertaker’s “gong” sound hit. There was smoke coming out from the casket as the lights went out in the arena. There was a camera inside the casket and it was shown on the video screen. The Undertaker said his spirit lives in the soul of all mankind and it’s an internal flame of light that cannot be extinguished. The Undertaker said all of mankind will soon witness the rebirth of The Undertaker and he said “I will not rest in peace.” That led to some cheap graphics on the screen as an image of The Undertaker ascended to the heavens. Paul Bearer held up the urn while standing by the casket and Vince was shouting about how The Undertaker vowed to be reborn.

Analysis: This was cheesy, but I guess that’s fitting for 1994 WWF shows. That led to a seven-month break for The Undertaker that saw him miss WrestleMania 10 and make his return at SummerSlam 1994 to defeat the fake Undertaker. That match sucked too. After that, Undertaker got his revenge on Yokozuna as well. The Undertaker was given time off to rest some injuries including a sore back.

(This really was classic mid-1990s WWF with the casket camera. It’s a creative idea, so kudos to whoever came up with it.)

It was promo medley time with WWF superstars talking about winning the Royal Rumble match. Those superstars were Randy Savage, Jeff Jarrett, Tatanka, Diesel, Doink with Dink, Shawn Michaels and Lex Luger. That’s it.

(Love the Royal Rumble promo medley! Please bring it back.)

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

They had The Fink explain the rules. The entry time this year was 90 seconds for each competitor instead of the usual 2 minutes per entry. I like the 90 second entries better anyway.

It’s Scott Steiner at #1 and Samu at #2. Steiner was a lot smaller here than he was in his WCW run that would happen in the late 90s. He was also a very good worker who could move and bump well. I was always a huge Scott Steiner fan. Both of these guys were part of tag teams. There was an awesome butterfly suplex by Steiner. Nice clothesline by Samu. Hey, the clock has a sponsor this year; it’s Casio. Way to cash in on the clock, Vince. Rick Steiner was #3 as the crowd barks like a dog for the Dog-Faced Gremlin. Belly to belly by Rick. They tried to eliminate Samu, but it’s not really effective. Samu charged in, the Steiners both duck and Samu hung himself on the top rope. His head gets stuck! That was not on purpose. Samu was free, then Scott shoved him in the chest and he was eliminated. The Steiners waited for #4 to get there. It’s Kwang, who we would later know as Savio Vega. He had a mask on here. Vince must have thought this was a great gimmick. It was not. #5 was Owen Hart, who is now a heel after turning on brother Bret when they tagged earlier in the night. They lost the tag title match due to Bret’s injured knee. Owen went for Rick Steiner right away and they paired off. Vince tried to sell excitement, but it was not that thrilling. Owen managed to lift Rick Steiner up and out. Wow, one of those slow eliminations worked? Those never work!

The #6 man was Bart Gunn of the Smoking Gunns tag team. This was early in the Smoking Gunns tag team era. Not a whole lot goes on during this 90 second period. We have a threat to win at #7, Diesel aka Kevin Nash. He would get the big push later in the year, holding the WWF Title. Diesel eliminated Bart Gunn and Scott Steiner rather quickly. He threw out Owen Hart too. Kwang missed a kick, so Diesel clotheslined him out. Diesel was all alone in the ring. It’s Bob Backlund at #8, who lasted the longest in the previous year’s Rumble. Bob had a lot of energy, but he can’t get Diesel out. Diesel turned it around and eliminated Backlund in about 45 seconds to remain the only man in the ring. He was alone for a while again as #9 is an Ass Man, Billy Gunn. With a terrible mustache and long hair too. Diesel with a big boot and he tossed Billy out in 14 seconds. Backstage, they showed Lex Luger getting beat up by The Great Kabuki and Genichiro Tenryu because Luger’s the American hero and they’re Japanese, so of course they hate him. That’s vintage foreigner booking, pal. The #10 competitor was Virgil, who Dibiase doesn’t like of course. Diesel hit him with some big forearms and there goes Virgil over to the top to the floor.

The #11 spot goes to Randy Savage, who would be wrestling in his last Rumble here. Savage got a huge babyface pop from the crowd. Savage actually took control and beat Diesel down to his knees, but he can’t get Diesel out of there. The Casio clock brings us to #12 “Double J” Jeff Jarrett. It’s J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E- Double T. Jeff wanted to use the WWF as a stepping stone to Nashville, Vince tells us. Yes folks, that was his gimmick. Jeff got a punch off the top rope on Savage and he followed it with a strut. Jeff tried to toss Randy out, but Savage kneed him in the back and he threw Jarrett out of there. The #13 entrant was Crush, who would be the WrestleMania opponent of Savage. Randy hit the elbow on Crush and hit his vintage double axehandle off the top rope and he hit another just for the hell of it. Crush came back with a backbreaker and the heels double-teamed Savage. Huge pop for #14, Doink the Clown with Dink. Crush dumped Savage out rather easily. That was pretty surprising. Doink sprayed water into the eyes of Crush and Diesel. It was Bam Bam Bigelow with Luna at #15, who was a heel. Vince said he’s got a tremendous history with Doink. I remember a feud. I don’t know that any of it was tremendous. Bigelow press slammed Doink and launched him over the top. Diesel & Crush tried to get Bigelow out, but that didn’t work.

There’s a threat to win at #16, Mabel of Men on a Mission. You might also know him as Viscera. The crowd started chanting “Whoomp there it is” because Men on a Mission were babyface hip hop stars. Mabel took care of all three heels, squashing them each in turnbuckles. There’s “Sparky Plugg” Bob Holly at #17. It was his debut in the WWF, says Vince. Holly ended up lasting there well over a decade. Who knew, right? Crush avoided an elimination. It was Shawn Michaels at #18. He was the heel Intercontinental Champion here. Diesel was his bodyguard. Diesel teased attacking Shawn and they shook hands. Bigelow, Crush and Mabel pushed Diesel out. Vince claimed that Shawn pushed him out too. It was Mo from Men on a Mission at #19, who was a short fat man, which didn’t make him a threat. Michaels nearly got eliminated a couple of times, but he skins the cat back in. Why? Because he can. It’s Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at #20. Valentine was near the end of his career here. Hammer’s long blonde hair was looking lovely at least. Congrats on that, Hammer. Nothing happened during this period.

It was Tatanka at #21. He was a midcard babyface. Michaels did some ridiculous spin bumps after receiving a punch. Poor Mabel looked so tired after ten minutes of being in the ring and barely moving. Don’t worry, though, because he’s a threat to win. Michaels was able to avoid elimination again. We’ve got 8 guys in the ring at the moment. It’s The Great Kabuki at #22. I had no memory of him at all, so I looked him up and saw this was the only match he ever had in the WWF. It was a sign that the WWF’s roster was really thin at this point, so they had to call in random people. Everybody ganged up on Mabel…except Mo. And there goes Mabel. Michaels hung on while two guys try to get rid of him. A big pop for Lex Luger at #23, who came running out even though he was shown getting attacked earlier. Shouldn’t he come out limping a little? Lex immediately went after one of his attackers, Kabuki and Lex eliminated him. Luger’s offense was all clotheslines, punches and double axehandles. I was never a huge Luger fan. A year earlier he was The Narcissist. Then Vince wanted to make him his new Hogan, so here he was as the American hero. It’s Tenryu at #24. Barely any reaction for him, but Vince tells us he’ll be ready. Tenryu chopped away at Luger in the corner. We don’t get #25 right away as the announcers theorize that it was Bret Hart, who injured his knee earlier in the show. It turns out that Bastion Booger was supposed to be in that spot and later in the match, Vince said he didn’t show up because he was sick. That’s a shame because Booger had all the THREAT TO WIN qualities that I love.

We’re down to the final five with Rick Martel at #26. There are 10 men in there. Not much is going on again. There’s a slight delay at #27 as Bret Hart limps his way down to ringside. That’s how you sell an injury. Bret was selling that knee injury big time. I love it. He had already been the WWF Champion in late 1992 and into early 1993, so he was arguably the most popular babyface on the roster. It’s Fatu as a Headshrinker at #28. You might know him as Rikishi. We’ve got 12 guys in there. Luger tried to get rid of Crush, but he held on. Bret spent much of the match lying on his back as everybody went after his knee. It’s Marty Jannetty at #29, he was a babyface that went after Michaels. They brawl like crazy and the crowd went wild. In a weird move, they cut backstage to talk to Crush while the match was going on. Randy Savage came out of nowhere and they brawled. That was odd. It did set up a WrestleMania X match, but why cut away from the ring for that? Then they have “technical difficulties” and cut back to the ring. That was silly. There’s Adam Bomb at #30, who Vince thinks is going to win the match. Of course, he does. This is by far the most crowded Rumble after the last participant. I believe it was 11 people in there.

Bret Hart dumped Sparky Plugg out of there. Vince mentioned Booger didn’t come out because he was sick. You can tell Vince had high hopes for Adam Bomb, but he never really took off. I liked him as a kid for some reason. He was below average, though. Martel eliminated Valentine slowly. Tatanka ducked and Martel was eliminated. Adam Bomb charged Luger, Lex ducked and there goes The Bomb man. Mo got tossed out and Bam Bam threw Tatanka over the top to the floor. We’re down to 7 men. Bigelow charged at Luger, does the upside-down Flair corner bump and Luger clotheslined him out. Michaels flipped Jannetty out although they didn’t really get a good shot of it. Down to five. Tenryu did a noggin knocker on Michaels & Fatu, but only Michaels went down because Samoans have ridiculously strong heads. That’s a fact in wrestling. Luger and Hart worked together to eliminate Tenryu.

The final four were Michaels, Luger, Hart and Fatu. They all go to separate corners. I pick Fatu to win. Just kidding. He did it for The Rock. Wait, we’re six years early for that. Michaels worked with Hart. Luger slammed Fatu’s head, Fatu no sold and kicked Luger down. Hart was doing a great job of selling the left knee. Bret was barely able to stand the whole match. Luger hit a big clothesline on Fatu. Luger didn’t sell the beating from earlier in the show. Bret whipped Shawn, Lex whipped Fatu, Shawn leapfrogged him and Lex threw Shawn out while Bret threw Fatu out. That was the best elimination right there. Really cool spot. The two biggest babyfaces faced off, realizing they were the final two. The crowd was going nuts. Luger picked Bret up for a slam. Bret fought him off, they tumbled into the ropes, they went over the ropes and they touched the floor at the same time! The match ended at 55:08.

At first, they announced Lex Luger as the winner. Then they changed it to Bret Hart. Neither ref was around to see the guys fall. The WWF President Jack Tunney showed up to try to calm down both guys. They showed some different angles. Vince & Dibiase each think it’s one guy, so they bickered about it. The Fink: “The winner of the 1994 WWF Royal Rumble…” and he pauses, going to Tunney. He continues: “The winner of the 1994 WWF Royal Rumble…the winners are Lex Luger and Bret Hitman Hart.” Then they play the “WrestleMania” song.

Winner(s): Bret Hart & Lex Luger

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS on the Royal Rumble

– I never liked the finish that much, but I always understood it. They pushed Luger hard for the second half of 1993 and had to give him a win. Then they must have realized he wasn’t very good, so they put Bret in there and gave him the belt at WM10. In the end it worked out because we got that awesome Bret-Owen match to lead off WM10.

– I wrote during the 1993 Rumble that it might have been the worst roster the WWF ever had. This one might have topped it. And I know the next two or three aren’t great either. The mid 90s were rough, fella!

– Owen Hart should have been in there longer. It would have been cool to see him go after Bret with the Hitman hurt. They did a good job of saving the first match for WM, but I would have liked to see a tease here. Maybe Bret doesn’t want to fight him, so Owen charges, Bret ducks and Owen goes flying out of the ring? It would have earned a huge pop too.

– Shawn Michaels was a bumping machine a year away from being the true star of this match. He had a very good showing in this match.

– The booking of Diesel was very strong. You could tell he was on to bigger things later in the year (when he won the WWF Title) based on how they utilized him in this match. It was actually a really smart way of booking a newer guy to make him look like a big deal right away.

FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble match

Person that lasted the longest: Bam Bam Bigelow at 30:12.

Most Eliminations: Diesel with 7.

Best Performers (3): Bret Hart – He might be the best ever in terms of selling injuries. He was always so believable at it.

Shawn Michaels – His athleticism was second to none.

Diesel – I have not always been a big fan of his, but those spots with the eliminations were awesome.

Best Elimination: The double-elimination of Michaels & Fatu in the final four.

Match Rating: *** It was a good Rumble. It wasn’t great at any point, but very solid throughout. Let’s just say that I found myself less bored watching this Rumble compared some of the other ones in the same decade. The finish was different than what we’re used to with a tie finish that may be hated by some fans. I thought it was unique. They followed it up well at WrestleMania, so the tie finish didn’t bother me that much all these years later.

The show ended with Hart and Luger facing off in the ring. They shook hands. The fans cheered that. There were images from the Royal Rumble that were shown to end the show.

This event had a runtime of 2:41:53 on WWE Network.

(Some people hated the tie finish. I didn’t mind it that much. The wrestlers did it about as well as they could because it looked like a tie no matter how many times I rewatched it over and over as a teenager obsessed with WWE at that point in my life. I also think what they did at WrestleMania 10 worked really well with both Bret and Lex getting a title match, so I’m not going to complain about that. As for the Rumble match itself, it was a star-making performance for Diesel while Bret’s selling of the knee injury was terrific. It’s a solid Royal Rumble match overall)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show rating (out of 10): 6.5

(My original rating was a 5.5 out of 10, which I thought is a bit too harsh, so I bumped it up a bit.)

The show is a bit of a mixed bag because the Royal Rumble match has some good moments even if the roster wasn’t very deep in 1994. It’s an ending that people are going to remember forever whether they like it or not. Bret Hart had an incredible showing in the tag team match selling the knee injury and then tying with Lex Luger in the main event. There’s also the very good tag team title match along with Owen Hart’s heel turn, which I thought was excellent. Yes, he botched a line in the promo, but it was still an awesome promo! Everything else is average or really bad in the case of the Casket Match, but I realize some people might like the Yoko/Undertaker match more than me. The rest of the show is pretty average although I found myself appreciating a lot of the storylines on this show. That’s a good thing.

Best Match: The Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre) vs. Bret and Owen Hart (***1/2 out of 5)

Worst Match: Yokozuna vs. The Undertaker in a Casket Match (1/2*)

 

Five Stars Of The Show

  1. Bret Hart – I think that’s obvious.
  2. Owen Hart
  3. Shawn Michaels
  4. Diesel
  5. Lex Luger

Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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