The mid-1990s were not a great period for the WWF in terms of business, but the rise in the late 1990s was coming. I like to think of this period as the transition years when they were building up new stars, trying a lot of weird shit and getting their asses kicked by WCW at the same time. There were some all-time great performers leading the way like Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, the British Bulldog and Owen Hart to name a few.
In case you missed it earlier in the week, I posted the reviews for the Royal Rumble match in 1988, 1989 and 1990 on Thursday, then the reviews for 1991, 1992 and 1993 went up on Friday and that brings us to the three years in the mid-1990s. For more Royal Rumble match reviews (if you can’t wait for me to re-post them in order), check out the archive section we have set up as well.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 22, 1994
Providence, Rhode Island
The announcers are Vince McMahon and Ted Dibiase, who are not a great announcing duo. Dibiase didn’t do that much announcing as far as I can remember. 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. The clock has a sponsor this year; it’s Casio. Way to cash in on the clock, Vince. Rick Steiner is #3 as the crowd barks like a dog for the Dog Faced Gremlin. Belly to belly by Rick. They try to eliminate Samu, but it’s not really effective. Samu charges in, the Steiners both duck and Samu hangs himself on the top rope. His head gets stuck! That was not on purpose. He gets out, then Scott shoves him in the chest and he’s eliminated. The Steiners wait for #4 to get there. It’s Kwang, who we would later know as Savio Vega. He’s got a mask on here. Vince must have thought this was a great gimmick. It was not. #5 is 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. He goes for Rick Steiner right away and they pair off. Vince tries to sell excitement, but it’s not that thrilling. Owen manages to lift Rick Steiner up and out. Wow, one of those slow eliminations worked? Those never work!
The #6 man is 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 eliminates Bart Gunn and Scott Steiner rather quickly. He throws out Owen Hart too. Kwang misses a kick, so Diesel clotheslines him out. He’s all alone in the ring. It’s Bob Backlund at #8, who lasted the longest in the previous year’s Rumble. He has a lot of energy, but he can’t get him out. Diesel turns it around and eliminates Backlund in about 45 seconds to remain the only man in the ring. He’s 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 tosses Billy out in 14 seconds. Backstage, they show 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. The #10 competitor is Virgil, who Dibiase doesn’t like of course. Diesel hits 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. He gets a huge babyface pop from the crowd. Savage actually takes control and beats him down to his knees, but he can’t get him 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. He wants to use the WWF as a stepping stone to Nashville, Vince tells us. Yes folks, that was his gimmick. He gets a punch off the top rope on Savage and he follows it with a strut. He tries to toss Randy out, but Savage knees him in the back and he throws Jarrett out of there. The #13 entrant is Crush, who would be the WrestleMania opponent of Savage. He hits the elbow on Crush and hits his vintage double axehandle off the top rope and he hits another just for the hell of it. Crush comes back with a backbreaker and the heels double team Savage. Huge pop for #14, Doink the Clown with Dink. Crush dumps Savage out rather easily. That was pretty surprising. Doink sprays water into the eyes of Crush and Diesel. It’s Bam Bam Bigelow with Luna at #15, who was a heel. Vince says he’s got a tremendous history with Doink. I remember a feud. I don’t know that any of it was tremendous. Bigelow press slams Doink and launches him over the top. Diesel & Crush try 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 starts chanting “Whoomp there it is” because Men on a Mission were babyface hip hop stars. He takes care of all three heels, squashing them each in turnbuckles. There’s “Sparky Plugg” Bob Holly at #17. It’s his debut in the WWF, says Vince. He ended up lasting there well over a decade. Who knew, right? Crush avoids an elimination. It’s Shawn Michaels at #18. He was the heel Intercontinental Champion here. Diesel was his bodyguard. Diesel teases attacking him and they shake hands. Bigelow, Crush and Mabel push Diesel out. Vince claims that Shawn pushed him out too. It’s Mo from Men on a Mission at #19, who is a short fat man, which doesn’t make him a threat. Michaels nearly gets eliminated a couple of times, but he skins the cat back in. Why? Because he can. It’s Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at #20. He’s near the end of his career here. His long blonde hair is looking lovely at least. Congrats for that, Hammer. Nothing happens during this period.
We have Tatanka at #21. He was a midcard babyface. Michaels does some ridiculous spin bumps after receiving a punch. Poor Mabel looks 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 is 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 gangs up on Mabel…except Mo. And there goes Mabel. He’s eliminated. Michaels hangs on while two guys try to get rid of him. A big pop for Lex Luger at #23, who comes running out even though he was shown getting attacked earlier. Shouldn’t he come out limping a little? He immediately goes after one of his attackers, Kabuki. He eliminates him. Luger’s offense is 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. He chops away at Luger in the corner. We don’t get #25 right away as the announcers theorize that it’s Bret Hart, who injured his knee earlier in the show. It turns out that Bastion Booger was supposed to be in that spot and according to the Wiki page 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. He’s 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 tries to get rid of Crush, but he hangs on. Bret spends much of the match lying on his back as everybody goes after his knee. Crush eventually falls as Bret helps them out. It’s Marty Jannetty at #29, he’s a babyface that goes after Michaels. They brawl like crazy and the crowd goes wild. In a weird move, they cut backstage to talk to Crush while the match is going on. Randy Savage comes out of nowhere and they brawl. 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.
Bret Hart dumps Sparky Plugg out of there. Vince mentions 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 eliminates Valentine slowly. Tatanka ducks and Martel gets eliminated. Adam Bomb charges Luger, Lex ducks and there goes The Bomb man. Mo got tossed out and Bam Bam throws Bigelow over the top to the floor. We’re down to 7 men. Bigelow charges at Luger, does the upside down Flair corner bump and Luger clotheslines him out. Michaels flips Jannetty out although they didn’t really get a good shot of it. Down to five. Tenryu does a noggin knocker on Michaels & Fatu, but only Michaels goes down because Samoans have ridiculously strong heads. That’s a fact in wrestling. Luger and Hart work together to eliminate Tenryu.
The final four are Michaels, Luger, Hart and Fatu.
They all go to separate corners. I pick Fatu to win. He did it for The Rock. Wait, we’re six years early for that. Michaels works with Hart. Luger slams Fatu’s head, he no sells and kicks Luger down. Hart’s doing a great job of selling the left knee. He’s barely been able to stand the whole match. Luger hits a big clothesline on Fatu. He didn’t sell the beating from earlier in the show. No ill effects at all. Bret whips Shawn, Lex whips Fatu, Shawn leapfrogs him and Lex throws Shawn out while Bret throws Fatu out. That’s the best elimination right there. Really cool spot. The two biggest babyfaces face off, realizing they’re the final two. The crowd’s going nuts. Luger picks Bret up for a slam. Bret fights him off, they tumble into the ropes, they go over the ropes and they touch at the same time!
At first, they announce Lex Luger as the winner. Then they change it to Bret Hart. Neither ref was around to see the guys fall. The WWF President Jack Tunney shows up to try to calm down both guys. They show some different angles. Vince & Dibiase each think it’s one guy, so they bicker 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
The match ended at 55:08.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I never liked the finish. However, 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. I know the next two or three years 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.
– I really missed The Berzerker and Repo Man in this one. They are my favorite 90s jobbers.
FACTS & OPINIONS
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 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.
Match Rating: *** It was a good Rumble. Not great at any point, but very solid throughout. The finish was different than what we’re used to.
This would be a historic Rumble due to the fact that there would only be 60 seconds between entries. I’m not sure why they did that although maybe Vince realized his roster sucked so much that he didn’t want all these bad wrestlers in there for nearly an hour? I’ll go with that reason. Now let’s get to the match.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 22, 1995
The announcers are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. The King would be in that chair for many Rumbles going forward and he was a very good heel announcer, second only to Bobby Heenan for me. They’ve got Pamela Anderson at ringside because she was going to appear at WrestleMania as well. This was in the middle of her Baywatch run. She is Canada’s greatest export. You’re welcome, world.
The #1 entrant is Shawn Michaels, who is a heel here. The British Bulldog is #2 and he’s a babyface rocking the dreadlocks. He takes control over Michaels early. Shawn does a flip bump in the corner. Vince calls it the fastest Rumble ever. It’s Eli Blue at #3. The crowd doesn’t react at all. Not a lot happens and we’re onto #4 Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. Vince marks out for him, making garbage references. Yep, he loves this gimmick too. He slams Michaels and gives him a bearhug because trying to eliminate the guy would be intelligent. Vince is overselling everything. It’s Jimmy Del Ray of the Heavenly Bodies at #5, who is a heel. Michaels sells a punch by going to the top, but he hangs on.
This really is a fast Rumble as #6 comes out, Sionne. It’s the guy that used to be The Barbarian. I barely remember him as Sionne. It was not a long lasting gimmick as part of the Headshrinkers for him. The Bulldog eliminates Jimmy Del Ray. We’re already onto #7, Tom Pritchard of the Heavenly Bodies. The crowd freaks out as Michaels nearly gets eliminated again. It’s about the only time the crowd wakes up. It’s Doink…with Dink…The Clown at #8. He gets a big babyface pop. I’m not joking. They love him. Time for #9, Kwang. I’m shocked that he made it into two Rumbles since it was such a terrible gimmick. Like I wrote in 1994, we’d later know Kwang as Savio Vega. We’ve got 8 people in there as The Model Rick Martel enters at #10. Vince points out that this is Martel’s 7th Rumble, the most all time. There are 9 guys in the ring and nobody’s really doing anything in terms of action. It’s fast paced, but there’s nothing happening.
We’ve got Owen Hart at #11, who was a top heel. As he’s walking down to the ring, Bret Hart attacks him in the aisle due to Owen’s actions earlier in the night that cost Bret the WWF title. Officials break it up. Bret walks away as the clock run downs for our #12 entrant Timothy Well from that awful tag team Well Dunn. Owen got tossed out by Bulldog although we never saw it. Then there are a bunch of fast eliminations as Well, Droese, Martel and Pritchard all get eliminated in succession. We’re down to 6 guys in the ring. It’s now 5 as Doink gets kicked out of there. Eli Blue and Sionne take eachother out. They emptied the ring right there. Bushwacker Luke comes out at #13 and Michaels threw him out quickly. We’re down to Michaels & Bulldog again. Then we get Jacob Blue at #14, he charges Michaels like a dumbass, Shawn ducks and there goes Jacob. We’re back to two guys again. That rapid elimination was good for getting rid of some of the marginal talent. Bulldog gets close to eliminating Michaels, but of course, Shawn hangs on. Here’s a threat to win at #15…King Kong Bundy. Now they show a clip of Bulldog backdropping Owen out earlier in the match.
The #16 competitor is Mo of Men on a Mission. He’s eliminated in 3 seconds by King Kong Bundy. Bulldog tries to slam Bundy. He can’t do it, though. Back when I was a 15 year old watching this I wondered can we get a shot of Pamela Anderson? More MOM time as Mabel enters at #17. He does a big man confrontation with Bundy. Vince loves it, of course. Bundy avoids elimination from Mabel. Eventually, he falls. It’s Butch of the Bushwhackers at #18. Michaels throws out Butch. Luke lasted 12 seconds and Butch lasted 19 seconds. Bulldog and Mabel double team Michaels while Lawler says if Michaels gets tossed out then Mabel is his pick to win. Lex Luger comes out as Captain America at #19. He throws Mabel out. Now Lawler picks Luger. It’s a running joke with Lawler. Wow, we’ve got one of the worst gimmicks ever Mantaur at #20. He’s a fat dude weighing 400 pounds. Does Vince love him? Of course.
It’s time for another terrible gimmick at #21…Aldo Montoya! You might know him as Justin Credible. It’s amazing how you can have two of the worst gimmicks ever back to back like that. Vince says we’ve got a favorite at #22 Henry Godwinn. You think I’m the one that makes threat to win jokes? It’s because of the ridiculous claims by the announcers every year. There we go, a shot of Pamela Anderson! I googled it and she was 28 years old here. She’s ridiculously hot. It’s Billy Gunn at #23, part of the Smoking Gunns. They’re babyfaces. There’s Bart Gunn in the #24 spot. We’ve got two bad mustaches in there now. It’s Mr. Bob Backlund at #25. This time he’s a heel, doing the gimmick where he snaps. There’s Bret Hart in the ring to attack Backlund. This would set up a WrestleMania match with them.
We’re onto the final 5 competitors with #26 Steven Dunn of that awful Well Dunn tag team I mentioned. Backlund gets into the ring and Luger clotheslines him out rather easily. Lawler complains about Bret taking out Owen & Backlund. With Backlund out of the match, Bret goes after him again. There’s Dick Murdoch at #27, who was a veteran heel here. Mantaur’s still in there! So is Aldo! Wow. They are my picks to win. It’s Adam Bomb at #28, who gets a decent babyface pop. There’s Fatu (Rikishi) at #29. He goes after Billy Gunn, but he hangs on. Luger tosses out Mantaur. There goes Mantaur’s boyhood dream. The #30 entrant is Crush, who is Lawler’s new pick. He dumps out Billy & Bart Gunn.
There’s a nice shot of Pamela Anderson’s legs. More please. Aldo eliminates Steven Dunn before that. I was distracted. There are 9 guys left as Lawler picks Michaels, Crush & Luger. Vince says last year was the only time two men won the Rumble and he would suggest that’s the only time it would happen. It’s like he can script this thing or something! And if it happens again he’ll tear his quad in the ring after it happens. I added that part in. I can see into the future. Michaels nearly gets tossed out again. There’s a headbutting contest with Murdoch and Fatu, which Fatu wins. Samoans don’t feel headbutts. Crush eliminates Adam Bomb. They’d form the team Kronik in WCW (and even in the WWF during the Invasion angle) years later. Michaels throws out Montoya. Murdoch goes to eliminate Michaels. Crush eliminates Fatu leaving us with six. Michaels is so great that he walked into Murdoch giving Godwinn the airplane spin and took a bump by running into Godwinn’s feet. Murdoch gets eliminated by Godwinn as they spill into the ropes. We’re down to five men. Luger sure loves throwing clotheslines doesn’t he? Godwinn charges him, Luger ducks and eliminates him with a backdrop.
Final Four: Luger, Michaels, Bulldog and Crush.
At least you’ve got three borderline main eventers plus Crush, who was an upper midcarder during this era despite having consistently awful matches. Crush and Michaels work on Luger. Lex fights them off and starts punching Crush in the corner. He gets on the middle ropes and punches Crush, so Michaels sneaks up behind and hits him in the back to eliminate Luger. Michaels tells Crush they should work together to rid of Bulldog. They attack Bulldog with a double clothesline. Crush’s hairstyle is awful. He turns on Michaels, press slamming him. Michaels escapes that, Bulldog charges in and eliminates Crush with a clothesline. We’re down to the final two being the same two guys that started: Michaels and Bulldog. There goes Michaels with some near eliminations. Press slam and HBK gets crotched. Bulldog hits a clothesline, you can see Michaels right hand already between the top and middle rope. He uses it to hang on and he puts his left hand on the middle rope. Then he does the dangling that was so famous. Vince declares Bulldog the winner and his music starts playing. He climbs the ropes, Michaels comes back in and hits a double axe to the back, knocking him out. The ref raises Michaels hand as the announcers are shocked.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
The match ended at 38:41.
The Fink gets on the microphone to announce that only one of Michaels’ feet hit the floor. They showed a replay of it. It was a well done finish and they had the cameras in place for it. His right foot touched the ground, but never both feet at the same time. Refs Earl Hebner and Tim White were there to see it. After it’s over, Anderson goes in the ring with Michaels. I don’t think she enjoyed it too much. She did show up at WrestleMania, though, and so did Jenny McCarthy. The teenage John Canton loved both of them.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– This one wins the award for worst star power ever. It’s brutal to see how many bad gimmicks are in there.
– I truly enjoyed the finish. They did an awesome job of making it appear as though Bulldog won, even playing his music and Vince overselling it. I’m sure Michaels practiced that spot where he hangs on because he really did a masterful job of it.
– Michaels was head and shoulders above everybody else in this match. The only one in this match close to him was Owen Hart, but he didn’t have a major role in it. Bulldog was solid, but too inconsistent for me.
– The match needed Owen’s talents to help carry it because he was one of the better workers in the company. I do understand why they had the Bret interference, though. It fits with the story. It’s just that Owen would have made it better.
– The unintentional comedy of Vince saying there will never be another tie winner for the Rumble was great. You know he regretted that finish from the 1994 Rumble.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog at 38:41.
Most Eliminations: Shawn Michaels with 8.
Best Performers (3): Shawn Michaels – The obvious best performer. Not even close.
British Bulldog – He did well. Had some good power spots.
Lex Luger – He sure loves the clothesline.
Best Elimination: Michaels eliminating Bulldog was a great finish.
Match Rating: **3/4 It was very average although Michaels & Bulldog had their working boots on to try to make it a respectable Rumble.
It’s 1996 and the World Wrestling Federation is coming off one of the worst years in the history of their company. This year wouldn’t be that much better in terms of money, but they were starting to build a better roster.
This was the year when future main eventers like Steve Austin and Triple H made their Rumble debuts while Shawn Michaels was in position to get that big babyface push after years of being a heel. We also saw a guy named Rocky Maivia and another named Mankind show up later in the year. All of that means things were getting better for the WWF. There are still a lot of bad gimmicks in this Rumble, though, so be warned because some of the names might scare you.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 21, 1996
The announcers are Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect, who was just okay as an announcer. Perfect picks Vader to win since he’s one of the biggest and strongest. The first entrant is Hunter Hearst Helmsley due to losing a match to Duke The Dumpster Droese in the Free For All match before the show. Droese gets the #30 spot. It would be the first Rumble where we’d get the wrestlers music on their way to the ring. We’re back to 2 minute intervals after the 1995 Rumble had 1 minute intervals.
We’ve got Hunter at #1 and his rival at the time, Henry O. Godwinn at #2. Of course, Hunter’s the snobby rich heel while Godwinn’s the babyface. There’s not a whole lot going on with these two. At #3 is the heel Bob Backlund with the “Hail to the Chief” theme song. I loved how crazy Backlund was at this point in his career. It was hilarious. Mr. Perfect tries to theorize that Backlund’s from Princeton University because he’s from Princeton, MN. Not exactly the same thing. Backlund gets close to eliminating Hunter, but he can’t do it. There’s Jerry Lawler at #4, who of course is a heel like usual. There’s a “Burger King” chant for Lawler, who gets Godwinn’s slop bucket. Lawler tries to slop him, but he can’t and all three heels bail to the floor and Godwinn dumps the slop onto Lawler. There’s a “Vince 4 Prez” sign in the crowd. It’s Bob Holly at #5, “start your engines” says Vince. What a brutal gimmick Sparky Plugg was. Not a lot happening.
At #6 is King Mabel, who was no longer a rapper. He was a heel here, after winning King of the Ring the year before and having one of the worst PPV main event matches ever versus Diesel at Summerslam 1995. Vince marks out for Mabel’s size. It’s Jake Roberts as a babyface at #7. This was his comeback attempt. He takes out the snake. It’s huge. Everybody bails. He puts the snake on Lawler, who freaks out. An attendant takes the snake away. We’ve had no eliminations to this point. Lawler’s still outside the ring while the other six guys go at it in the ring. There’s Dory Funk at #8. I looked it up and he’s 55 years old at this point. The roster was really thin in these days considering Vince had to call in Dory. That’s not a disrespect thing. It’s just that he’s not exactly spry at this point in his career. The crowd chants DDT. The camera shows Lawler hiding under the ring. It’s Yokozuna at #9. He’s a heel former WWF Champion. He throws Bob Backlund out rather quickly. Mabel splashes Yoko and Godwinn in the corner at the same time. Then he splashes Godwinn on the ground just for fun. Poor Godwinn. It’s the 1-2-3 Kid at #10, who you might know as X-Pac or Sean Waltman. Razor Ramon chases him because Kid cost him his IC title match earlier in the show. Kid’s too fast for Ramon, so he never gets his hands on him. Then they went out and got shitfaced after the match.
The #11 entrant is “the Wildman from Japan” Omori as Vince calls him. I don’t remember this guy at all. There’s really nothing happening in this match. Lawler’s still under the ring. Roberts got Yoko down, which drew a pop. Here’s Savio Vega at #12, looking happy that he doesn’t have to be Kwang anymore. He takes Mabel down. Yoko dumps Mabel out. Omori gets eliminated by Roberts. Here’s a big threat to win at #13 Vader, who was making his WWF debut after they promoted him hard. I’m not joking about him being a threat. He was fresh in the WWF at this point because they signed him from WCW where he was a World Champion. He’s managed by Jim Cornette. Vega dumps out Funk. Vader hammers Vega with fists. I loved Vader’s punches. He was always a favorite of mine because he was believable as a badass big man wrestler. They never booked him perfectly in the WWF, though. It’s Doug Gilbert at #14!! I told you the roster was really thin. Roberts hits a DDT on Vega, but the camera doesn’t even show it. The crowd popped huge. Vader knocks out Roberts with a clothesline. There’s still no Lawler in the ring. He’s under the ring, we guess. It’s one of the Squat Team guys at #15. Who? Vince says he’s making his debut. He’s a very fat black man with face paint. He’s no Kamala, that’s for sure. You might know the Squat Team from ECW where they were known as The Headhunters. Vader hits a stiff chokeslam on Gilbert and then throws him out easily. Vader throws out the Squat team dude. In ring we’ve got six guys, plus Lawler out on the floor.
There’s the other Squat Team guy at #16. They’re identical twins, Vince tells us. They both get in the ring, going right at Vader. He fights them off with fists. He clotheslines him out of the ring. Yoko threw out a Squat Team guy. Yoko looks VERY tired. There’s Owen Hart at #17. He’ll be the best worker in the match as soon as he gets in there. Man, Yoko looks to be in really bad shape. He looks so tired just standing on the ropes. Vader whipped Yoko into Vega and then Vader splashed Vega in the corner too. Vader splashes Vega and Yoko legdrops him. Here’s Shawn Michaels at #18 to a huge pop. He’s a babyface here, coming back from the concussion storyline and the “Tell Me a Lie” video. Vader throws out Savio. Yoko starts brawling with Vader, which makes Jim Cornette angry because he manages both guys. The two big guys are teetering against the ropes, so Michaels grabs their legs and flips them out. Huge pop for that. Michaels eliminates Kid. There’s Hakushi at #19, who is a heel. Vader is pissed off, so he decks Yoko and goes back in the ring. He beats the hell out of Michaels. He press slams Michaels and throws him over the top to the floor. He does the same to Owen, Holly and HHH. In past (and future) Rumbles if a guy that got eliminated went back in the ring they were still able to eliminate people. In this case, it was an angle to put over how dominant Vader was. They toss Vader out of the ringside area. That was really well done in terms of establishing as a new force in the WWF. Michaels flips Cornette over the top and we’ve got #20 Tatanka. There are six guys in the ring, plus Jerry Lawler also in the match. HHH is close to eliminating Michaels. I wonder if those two would have good careers. They look like they have potential. Owen eliminates Hakushi.
Cue the terrible music as #21 Aldo Montoya (Justin Credible) enters. Perfect: “He’s got his jock on the wrong part of his body.” Vince: “I don’t think so.” I guess Vince loved the gimmick. He’s the only one. The mask looks like a jock. Michaels takes a walk around the ring looking for Jerry Lawler. He finds him. No Hornswoggle yet, folks. He throws Lawler back in. Tatanka eliminates Montoya and Michaels throws Lawler out. Here’s a threat at #22, Diesel aka Kevin Nash. He throws out Tatanka right away. He was the World Champ for most of 1995. He would leave for WCW four months after this. He decks Michaels with a punch because he was turning heel around this time although as he entered here he was still a babyface. It’s the “Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama at #23. You might remember him from such gimmicks as Papa Shango, The Godfather and The Goodfather as well. There are six guys in the right now: Michaels, Holly, Diesel, Kama, Owen and HHH. They had Diesel “inadvertently” hit Michaels. It’s STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD! at #24. I almost had a joygasm right there. No…sorry…it’s the “Ringmaster” Steve Austin. He’s a few months away from being Stone Cold. I’ll never understand why they gave him a mouthpiece like Ted Dibiase when he was always a strong talker. Thankfully he became Stone Cold soon after this. Austin eliminates Holly with a knee into the back. Barry Horowitz! Barry Horowitz! Barry Horowitz! The pat on the back! He’s in at #25 and his music in the “can-can” song. I love this man. For those that don’t know, Barry was a lifetime jobber who was in the WWF for a long time. They did an angle where he actually won a match and it got over pretty big. He also gave himself a pat on the back all the time. It was silly, but you had to love a lifelong jobber like Barry. Diesel launches HHH out. That was random. They had Triple H last the longest in the match at 48:01, but guess how many eliminations he officially had? Zero.
It’s Fatu (Rikishi) at #26 in his “man making a difference” gimmick. He was a babyface that was going to help the kids in the streets. It didn’t work very well. Barry Horowitz is still in there! “If Horowitz wins this match I quit,” says Perfect. He actually left soon after this for WCW! Owen tries to suplex Shawn out, but HBK hangs on. It’s KANE! No, Isaac Yankem at #27. The dentist music. Owen dumps out Horowitz. Yankem goes after Diesel, which is funny because after Diesel left they did a fake Diesel and he’s the one that played fake Diesel. Owen hits an enziguri to HBK and Shawn sells it like he’s hurt bad. It’s the same spot that hurt Michaels. They show a replay of that and while that happens Shawn & Diesel throw out Owen. Way to miss the elimination, director. Austin cheapshots Michaels and then he does the HBK flex pose. That was great. It’s Marty Jannetty, still coming out to the Rockers music, at #28. Michaels hangs on from a near elimination. Austin beats on Diesel and he taunts him too. Small pop for Michaels & Jannetty doing a double KO spot. It’s The British Bulldog at #29, who has the short hair here unlike the long hair from the year before when he was the runner up. He’s a heel now. Bulldog dumps out Jannetty. We’ve got 7 left. Yankem is still in there! Austin gets eliminated by Fatu although we never see it except in the background. It’s a preview of the angle where Rikishi runs him over in a car over 3 years later! Not exactly. Same two guys in different gimmicks, though. Perfect asks what happened to Ringmaster. Vince doesn’t know. Yankem eliminates Fatu. There are five men left with one more entrant, who is #30 Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. “Imagine that, a garbage man goes to WrestleMania to face the WWF Champion.” No Vince, nobody can imagine that. It’s a terrible gimmick. What the hell were you thinking?
Michaels and Bulldog go through the ropes. Owen Hart comes out to attack Michaels. This set up a match on the February PPV that was very good. Diesel saves Michaels from a Bulldog press slam and Michaels dropkicks Yankem out of the ring. Diesel and Kama eliminate Droese.
The final four are Diesel, Kama, Michaels and Bulldog.
They pair off, Michaels avoids an elimination from Bulldog, slides under the ropes and clotheslines him out. Kama clubs Michaels in the back, but Shawn skins the cat back in. What a sequence from HBK there. He’s too good. Diesel shoves Kama out. Diesel is standing by the ropes, he turns around and Michaels superkicks him to send Diesel over the top. He’s out.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
The match ended at 58:49.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The lack of talent wasn’t very good here, but it was slightly ahead of the 1995 Rumble. Some of the guys were a major reach in terms of their inclusion in the match. You could tell they called some people in for one time appearances. That’s a sign of a ridiculously thin roster. It was not the best of times for the WWF. Things would get better, though.
– Much like the year before, Michaels’ talent is so far ahead of everybody else in this match. In the second half of his career the roster was much better. There’s no doubt about that. It makes me think about how good the first half of his career could have been with better opponents. He had a few, but not as many as you might think. This was his last Rumble appearance until 2003, by the way. See ya soon, HBK.
– They booked Vader really well. He was the star of the first half of the match. It would have been cool to see him last a little longer just because he’s a great talent, but I understand picking his spot with him. He’s one of the best big men wrestlers ever.
– Poor Yoko. In 1993 he was in pretty good shape for a guy his size. He was mobile and fresh. By this point he looked even bigger and was tired almost as soon as he got in the ring. He lasted another year or so, but he wasn’t the force he was during his initial push. And he would die four years after this.
– I think Barry Horowitz deserves a pat on the back for his performance.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Hunter Hearst Helmsley at 48:01. He eliminated nobody!
Most Eliminations: Shawn Michaels with 8.
Best Performers (3): Shawn Michaels – Obvious choice.
Vader – Great debut for him.
Steve Austin – Because I’m biased and nobody else impressed me.
Best Elimination: Michaels dumping out Yokozuna and Vader at the same time was very impressive.
Match Rating: **1/4 It was not very exciting due to how obvious it was that Michaels was going to win.
Next up is the 1997 Royal Rumble, which had one of my famous endings ever, the 1998 Rumble may have been the most predictable Rumble match ever and the 1999 Rumble was not a favorite of mine.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.