It’s time to wrap up the 1990s Royal Rumble events with the last three Rumble matches from the decade. By this point, a lot of the key stars that would be main eventers in the company were finding their way. Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and Mankind went from being midcard talent when they started to being some of the biggest names in the business as WWE ushered in the very exciting “Attitude Era” that saw the compass surpass WCW in the Monday Night Wars.
In case you missed it, I posted the reviews for the Royal Rumble match in 1988, 1989 and 1990, then the reviews for 1991, 1992 and 1993 went up and the mid-90s reviews went up for 1994, 1995 and 1996 as well.
This is the 10th Royal Rumble match. We are onto 1997 and the World Wrestling Federation is about to turn the corner to being a highly successful company once again. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Steve Austin, who was now Stone Cold and was gaining a lot of steam as the guy that everybody in the business was talking about. He was coming off a classic match against Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1996 (I loved it so much that I’d rank it as one of the best feuds in the history of the company) that would make the two of them the focus of this match. The rest of the roster was getting better too, after some awful talent filled the previous four Rumble matches. The company wasn’t at their best yet, but they were about to get there.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 19, 1997
San Antonio, Texas
The announcers are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This would be the last Rumble where Vince is announcing. This was in the Alamodome in San Antonio, so they had over 60,000 fans. The intervals for entrants is 90 seconds. I like 90 seconds more than the typical 120 seconds and a lot better than the one year they did 60 seconds. There’s a better flow to the match when it’s 90 seconds between entrants.
It’s Crush of the Nation of Domination at #1. This is the third different gimmick of Crush that has been in a Rumble. He’s a heel here. It’s Ahmed Johnson at #2, who was an upper midcard babyface that was feuding with the Nation in this time period. Crush tried to eliminate him, but he couldn’t do it. There was a problem with their clock, but the #3 man is the fake Razor Ramon and Ahmed quickly eliminates him. What a stupid gimmick idea that was. Johnson nearly eliminates Crush. Then he sees Faarooq, jumps over the top rope and eliminates himself. Randy Savage did that in a previous Rumble and they said you can’t eliminate yourself, but that changed. “He is an idiot,” says Lawler. That’s an accurate observation right there. It’s Phinneas I. Godwinn aka PIG at #4. We would come to know him as Mideon in the future. This was not an exciting 90 seconds. Then the glass breaks at #5 for Stone Cold Steve Austin. Suddenly the match becomes a lot better. Thank you Stone Cold. He gets a heel reaction although it’s not deafening. The turn would come in a few months. Phinneas takes him down with a clothesline. Austin goes to double team Phinneas, but he hits Crush and Phinneas throws Crush out. Austin hits a Stunner (without the kick at this point in his career) on Phinneas and throws him out.
With Austin all by himself in the ring, the #6 entry is Bart Gunn of the Smoking Gunns tag team. He hits a sloppy leg drop on the back of the head. He charges in, Austin ducks, Bart holds on and Austin clotheslines him out. Austin does pushups in the ring and then sits on the top rope waiting for the next guy. In a classic move, he looks at his wrist as if he’s looking at his watch. I’m such a huge Stone Cold mark. It’s Jake Roberts at #7, who is in his 6th Rumble. He throws the snake in and then he applies a wristlock for about a minute before hitting the short clothesline. With Davey Boy Smith coming in at #8, Austin throws out Jake Roberts. Bulldog hits a running powerslam. There’s Pierroth at #9 from Mexican promotion AAA, according to JR. Austin hits a double axe on him, but they get Austin down. The #10 entrant is The Sultan, who was also Fatu and Rikishi. He’s wearing a mask now and he’s got the curved toe boots like his manager The Iron Shiek. It was not a gimmick that would last a long time. Austin nearly gets eliminated by Bulldog, but he hangs on.
Our fifth man in the ring is #11 Mil Mascaras. The San Antonio crowd is familiar with him because he was a Mexican wrestling legend. Lawler immediately talks about somebody unmasking him. He goes after the Sultan while the other three guys don’t do much on the other side of the ring. It’s Hunter Hearst Helmsley at #12. He retained the IC title earlier in the show. Bulldog eliminates The Sultan. Austin throws out Hunter, but he’s able to hang on. These two might have a future. It’s Owen Hart at #13, who was one of my favorites at this time. He was the tag champ with Bulldog at this point. They’re heels, of course. Bulldog tries to eliminate Austin, so Owen comes up from behind and shoves Bulldog out. Owen claims he was going for Austin. “Owen hasn’t told the truth since The King was a Prince,” says JR. Haha, that’s a good line. It’s Goldust at #14, who was a babyface feuding with Triple H here. Mascaras tries to get Owen out. He’s able to hang on. All six guys start fighting eachother before they pair off again. There’s Cibernetico at #15. They had a thin roster, so they brought in these Mexican stars since the San Antonio crowd was familiar with them. Helmsley hangs on from a near elimination.
It’s “Wildman” Marc Mero at #16. While this is going on, Mascaras eliminates Cibernetico, and then Pierroth and then he leaps over the top to take out Pierroth, which eliminates himself. He so crazy! Goldust eliminates Triple H with a clothesline. We’re about a year away from Sable’s breasts being among the most talented superstars in the company. It’s Latin Lover at #17. That’s another import from AAA. He drills Owen with a superkick. Goldust tries to throw Owen out, but Owen skins the cat back in. He eliminates Goldust with a club to the back. There’s Faarooq at #18 as a heel. The Latin Lover charges at him and Faarooq dumps him out with a backdrop. Ahmed Johnson comes into the ring with a 2×4. It’s Hacksaw Ahmed Johnson and he knocks Faarooq out of the match. I never liked that when an eliminated guy can eliminate a guy that’s in the match. Austin gets rid of Owen & Mero. We’re down to just Austin in the ring now. The clock counts down and here’s #19…Savio Vega. They had a feud in 1996. Vince calls their strap match a classic, which is a major stretch. Vega gets him down with a spin kick. Austin catches him with a Stun Gun (a big move of his in his WCW days) and clotheslines Vega out of the ring. The crowd reacts to Austin being alone again. He waves for the next guy to come. He has about 30 seconds before the next guy enters. It’s #20 Jesse James, who is not yet the Road Dogg. He would be in a year. He gets a clothesline on Austin as well as a strut. Austin kicks him in the ribs, throws him over the top, JJ holds on and Austin knocks him out with a back elbow. He’s all alone again. What a great performance by Austin.
The entrant at #21 is his biggest rival in the company…Bret Hart. Vince starts yelling “YES! YES! YES!” Austin has a classic expression on his face, showing some fear. That’s an awesome moment right there. Then he gets ready and they start slugging away. Bret hits an atomic drop and clothesline. He beats on Austin in the corner. Austin’s selling fatigue while Hart is all over him. He puts him in the Sharpshooter. The music plays for #22 and it’s Jerry Lawler, who is at the announce table. He takes off his jacket, jumps into the ring, Bret punches him once, Lawler doesn’t go over, but he hits him again and Lawler is out. The announcers say they think he broke a record. Nope. This was four seconds or so. Warlord still had the record at two seconds. There’s “Diesel” at #23, who is actually Glenn Jacobs aka Kane and Isaac Yankem. He looks like Diesel and dresses the same as him. It’s Terry Funk at #24, who was in the WWF fairly regularly at this point. Vince was so excited about Diesel almost throwing out Bret. The announcers tried to put over how Bret was complaining about being in the match. It was the start of his heel turn. Funk hits Bret with a very sloppy piledriver. At #25 take it away Vince: “Here comes Rocky Maivia, the rookie! This man can win this thing!” You think they believed in his potential? It’s Austin and Rocky brawling. This was The Rock’s very early babyface run that the fans would eventually hate and turn him heel. Bret tries to throw Funk out, but he hangs on. Rock tries to get Austin out. Can’t do it. Those are four of the best wrestlers ever right there. And there’s Kane too. That’s five legit Hall of Famers, really. King doesn’t remember that he was in there. That’s pretty funny actually.
The #26 man is Mankind, who is another Hall of Famer. That’s a lot of talent in the ring there when you think about it. Mankind tries to get rid of Funk, but he can’t do it. Big suplex by Austin on Hart. It’s Flash Funk aka Too Cold Scorpio at #27. He was a newcomer to the WWF at this time. Hart hits an awesome piledriver on Austin. Flash takes out two guys with a crossbody block. We’ve got three guys left and at #28 it’s time, it’s time, it’s Vader Time. He’s a heel in the upper midcard. Mankind holds on from elimination from Terry Funk. Vader destroys Flash and then squashes Austin just for fun. It’s the hog farmer Henry O. Godwinn at #29. Vince is excited. He’s probably doing the “don’t go messing with a country boy” dance right now. We all know who the last man is. It’s a big name at #30…The Undertaker. The lights go out and he enters the fray rather slowly. He’s a babyface here. I honestly think that 1997 was the best year of Undertaker’s career. He was healthy the whole year, he had a lot of good matches and didn’t really have the ridiculous feuds that hurt him over the years.
The Undertaker goes after Vader, Mankind and Austin, hitting Stone Cold with a chokeslam. He hits Vader with a chokeslam. Things slow down for a bit and then there’s an awesome elimination by Vader. Flash Funk jumps into him with a crossbody, Vader catches him and he chucks him over his head, over to the top and he goes crashing to the floor. That was fantastic. They mention Austin being in the ring for over 40 minutes while The King picks everybody to win. Rocky nearly eliminates Bret, but he hangs on. I marked out a little seeing Austin, Rocky and Bret interact right there. Those are Austin’s two best opponents. Imagine that as a triple threat dream match? Undertaker puts the double choke on HOG and throws him out of there, which leaves us with seven guys. Undertaker nearly dumps Austin, but he holds on. Mankind puts the Mandible Claw on Rocky and shoves him over the top to the floor. Funk and Mankind enjoy brawling with eachother. Mankind does the Cactus clothesline on Funk, but they both hold on. Mankind pulls him over the top, suplex style. Undertaker dumps Mankind, who starts brawling with Funk on the floor. We’re down to five. It’s going to be Diesel! He’s going to yank out your teeth and then drive over them with his truck! Oh wait a second. Bret throws out Austin to a big pop! The refs don’t see it, though, because they’re all on the other side of the ring breaking up the Funk/Mankind fight.
Austin sneaks back in the ring and he dumps Vader and Undertaker. Bret eliminates Diesel. Austin goes over to Bret and dumps him out of the ring for the win. The ref raises Austin’s hand as the winner of the match.
Winner: Steve Austin
Post match, Bret Hart’s furious about it. He tells the refs about how he eliminated Austin. He goes over to Vince and starts yelling at him. This was around the time when they would make mention of Vince being the owner of the company. It was part of the WWF becoming an edgier product. “Talk about unsportsmanlike conduct,” says Vince. JR says he’s got a heck of a grudge, but he points out that the referees never saw the elimination.
The match ended at 50:29.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I liked the finish. It was different and it made me want to see what was going to happen next. It also put over how great Austin’s character was. The Rumble’s about making stars. This helped propel Austin to the level that we’d all see him at for his main event run. They ended up doing the Final Four PPV with Austin and the three guys he illegally eliminated: Bret, Undertaker and Vader. It was supposed to be a number one contender’s match, but with HBK “losing his smile” it was for the vacated WWF Title. Bret won the match and then lost the next night to Sid, who reportedly shit in his trunks (if you want to believe that story) while he lost the WWF Title to Undertaker at WM13. Confused? It’s okay. We got the Hart/Austin WM13 match that I consider to be the best ever, so thanks to HBK for losing that smile.
– Austin was fantastic. The spots where he was alone in the ring were great. I remember popping huge when Bret’s music hit and Austin had this “oh shit” look on his face. It’s one of those images you never forget. Austin’s work in the ring was great, but his facial expressions were very key to his success too. It helped his personality really get over.
– If you look at some of the people in this match you can make the case for it being a match with the most sure thing Hall of Famers ever. A lot of them were yet to be elite by this point, they were about to get there in the coming years. It’s cool to be able to look back on a match like this and see future main eventers before they got to that level. There are a lot of legitimately huge names in the match. The booking isn’t necessarily the reason the WWF got huge again. The talent on the roster was very good from this point forward and into the early 2000s.
– I loved Jerry Lawler as a heel announcer. He really shined here with some of his jokes especially his comments about what he’d do if he got in there, which he said AFTER he got eliminated. The watered down version we’ve had to listen to the last few years is painful compared to what he was here. Also, I really didn’t miss Vince when he stopped doing commentary.
– The crowd was poor. They didn’t react to very much for such a big crowd. There must have been a lot of free tickets being given away. The reason they did it in San Antonio’s dome was because it was Shawn Michaels’ hometown and they wanted it to be big when he won the belt back. He didn’t have a great match with Sid, though.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Steve Austin at 45:07.
Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 10.
Best Performers (3): Steve Austin – This was the second best Rumble performance by a single person in the history of the Rumble to this point. Flair in 1992 was was better, but this was very close.
Bret Hart – I loved his chemistry with Austin. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Owen Hart – He was only in for about 9 minutes. Nobody else stood out. I enjoyed his heel shtick so much, though.
Best Elimination: There were some really good ones. My favorite was Vader throwing out Flash Flunk. That looked very painful.
Match Rating: ***1/4 It definitely had its slow points, but Austin really did an amazing job of carrying it. I’ve always liked this Rumble.
his is the 11th Royal Rumble and the first one where Steve Austin officially became “the man” in the WWF. He wasn’t at the main event level yet, but the outcome of this Rumble was probably the most obvious of any Rumble in the history of the event. There was nobody else.
Even though Austin suffered a brutal neck injury at Summerslam 1997, he returned to the ring three months later at Survivor Series 1997 and by the time we got to the Rumble he was looking close to 100% again. He was clearly becoming the face of the company and as a result WWE would soon pass WCW as the #1 wrestling promotion in the world again. This was a step in that right direction.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 18, 1998
San Jose, California
The announcers are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. It says the intervals for entrants are 2 minutes each, but they are between 90 to 120 seconds. I should also add that Mike Tyson is sitting in a private box with Shane McMahon. He would be involved in the WrestleMania 14 main event (we didn’t know how at this point) while he was banned from boxing due to the ear biting incident with Evander Holyfield.
We start with Cactus Jack at #1, who comes out with trash cans. He’s a popular babyface. There’s Chainsaw Charlie at #2, who is of course Terry Funk with some pantyhose on his head. Also a babyface. He’s out with a chainsaw. Cactus throws chairs into the ring. Charlie hits him with the back with some chair shots and they do some dueling chairshot spots. Charlie begs for a chair shot and Cactus delivers a blow to the head. He stumbles around. Then Cactus gives Charlie a chair and he delivers two shots to his head. Chair shots to the head are banned in WWE today, which is a good thing. It’s Tom Brandi at #3 and they dump him out at #12. Jack & Charlie brawl some more. Cactus sets up some seated chairs and suplexes Charlie onto the two folding chairs. He can’t eliminate him, though. Keep in mind they’re both babyfaces as well as friends. They’d go onto to be tag champs later in the year. There’s The Rock at #4, who is the heel Intercontinental Champion and wrestled Ken Shamrock earlier in the show. He’s way better as a character here than he was the year earlier when he made his Rumble debut as Rocky Maivia the babyface. Rocky works on Chainsaw, so Cactus drills him with a trash can and they put it on his head. Then they punch him and hit him with a chair into the trash can. Rocky gets sent through the middle rope to the floor. It’s Headbanger Mosh at #5. He DDTs Charlie, who stumbles all over the place. Charlie hits a moonsault that barely hits Mosh. We can forgive him because it’s F’N Terry Funk.
We are joined by Phinneas Godwinn at #6, who is in evil farmer mode at this point. Things slow down a bit here. Poor Funk is simply sitting in a corner because he’s so tired. We have 8-Ball at #7 from the Disciples of Apocalypse group. This was a time when the WWF was crazy about having stables. Jack charges into Charlie, who ducks, and Cactus is eliminated. Rock tries to eliminate Charlie, but he hangs on. We’re onto #8, who is a future World Champion…Blackjack Bradshaw aka JBL. He’s not yet an Acolyte here. Everybody in the match is part of a stable or team except Chainshaw Charlie, who keeps hanging on from being eliminated. There’s Owen Hart at #9, but he gets jumped by Jeff Jarrett, who was representing the NWA at this time. He beats him up in the aisle. Owen was a babyface because his brother Bret getting screwed made him sympathetic as “The Black Hart.” It’s Mr. Personality Steve Blackman at #10. That’s a joke. He wasn’t a very charismatic guy. Charlie keeps hanging on! He’s a lot better at that then I remembered. Piledriver by 8-Ball onto Charlie. Funk is taking more bumps than anybody else in this match. He really is middle aged and crazy as they keep saying.
We have another Nation of Domination member, D-Lo Brown, at #11. What’s his job today? He’s a backstage agent for TNA. Brown and Rock work on Bradshaw. Then they start fighting with eachother even though they are both in the Nation. It’s Kurrgan at #12, who they bill as 7’0″ 350 pounds. A threat to win! He’s actually a Canadian, but is not one of our greatest exports. He dumps Mosh out of the match. Blackman goes for a kick, but that misses and Kurrgan pounds on him in the corner. There’s Marc Mero at #13. As I wrote in the last Rumble recap, Sable’s breasts would become very popular within a year and you can tell by the monster pop. It’s not for Marc. What’s she doing these days? Married to Brock Lesnar with kids. Ross says Marc Mero “needs one of those charisma bypasses,” which wasn’t a good endorsement for Mero. Kurrgan eliminates Blackman. Big babyface pop for #14 Ken Shamrock, who was in a hot feud with The Rock. They had a match earlier in the night and it would continue to WrestleMania. He gets Kurrgan down and then six or seven of them gang up to eliminate Kurrgan. It’s Headbanger Thrasher at #15 to a decent sized babyface pop. The Rock & D-Lo keep fighting eachother. The crowd gets bored, so they start chanting for Sable a bit. I don’t blame them. There’s not too much action in there.
The #16 entry is Mankind, who is Mick Foley, who was also Cactus Jack earlier in the match. He eliminates Charlie. I remember marking out a little bit when Foley showed up with his second gimmick. It came at a time when he was switching between the three gimmicks fairly regularly, so it worked for this match. Shamrock starts working over Rock, which is great because I loved their feud. It’s The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust at #17 wearing this weird silver outfit with his blue hair, painted face and some other stuff that is hard to explain. Oh yeah, he’s got the orange shoes too. He’s a heel here as the announcers basically call him a crazy person. Goldust eliminates Mankind with a hiptoss. There’s Jeff Jarrett, the NWA North American Champion, in at #18. Owen Hart comes sprinting into the ring. He goes right after Jeff Jarrett, showing no pain from the attack earlier in the match. He hits a back heel kick on Jarrett. He got some really good reactions from the crowd. Jeff tries to throw Owen out, but Owen hangs on, Jeff does his strut and Owen throws him out of the ring to eliminate him. It’s The Honky Tonk Man at #19. Meanwhile, HHH and Chyna come out on crutches. He’s the Euro champ. Rock eliminates Shamrock. Owen starts yelling at HHH and Chyna. Chyna goes to hit him with a crutch, Owen catches it, so HHH drills him with a crutch while he’s standing on the apron. Owen gets eliminated. There’s Ahmed Johnson at #20. JR mentions Ahmed’s injuries slowing him down in his career. He looks injured just rolling into the ring. They show a replay of Shamrock’s elimination, which they missed originally. It was caused by Rock hitting him with a low blow.
The #21 entrant is the newest member of the Nation, Mark Henry! Do I even have to say he’s a threat to win? Lawler: “I’d say he’s an odds on favorite right now.” Enough said! Johnson looks like he’s in terrible shape here, really. He looks very immobile and winded already. Mark Henry threw some powder into Ahmed’s eyes. Is there anything Mark can’t do? There’s nobody coming at #22. It was supposed to be Skull from DOA, but he was attacked by Los Boricuas earlier because he looks like Austin with the shaved head. Brown and Henry eliminate Johnson, who really looks bad. For some reason, Ahmed starts brawling with Phinneas on the floor. Why? Ahmed was a drug user. That’s all I can do to explain that one. Henry is the one that eliminated Phinneas. It’s Kama of the Nation at #23. Four Nation guys are in there with Faarooq still to come. The announcers keep saying that Austin was #22, but that he might have been eliminated due to the bounty that was placed on him. Time for #24, you might know this guy…”Stone Cold” Steve Austin. By far the biggest pop of the night goes to him. Everybody in the ring stops as music plays. They all look up the aisle. He comes in through the crowd. He eliminates Mero. He eliminates 8-Ball. He chokes D-Lo with his jacket just for fun. JR has a few joygasms during all this. It’s Henry Godwinn at #25 as the announcers throw in the usual “he’s 300 pounds plus” comment. They mention Bradshaw being in there for 36 minutes.
The last five men are about to enter with all four members of the Boricuas going in after Steve Austin. It’s #26 Savio Vega and friends. Austin disposes of them one at a time while Savio stays in the ring. The action has slowed down a lot as the ring is full with too many people. JR keeps talking about Bradshaw, calling him a big young stud. JR was basically the guy in charge of hiring talent at this time, so you can tell he had a big hand in recruiting Bradshaw due to the comment. It’s Nation of Domination leader Faarooq at #27. He goes right after Rock for some reason. Austin and Rock start fighting on the floor after they go through the ropes. Rock whips him into the steel steps, which Austin takes on his lower back. Rock drops him jaw first onto the railing. Rock goes back in while Austin recovers. There’s Dude Love aka Mick Foley at #28. His third gimmick in one match. He eliminates Bradshaw. Austin whips Goldust into the steps and decks him with a clothesline. The Rock hits the People’s Elbow on D-Lo although it didn’t get the pop that it would in future years. There’s Chainz of DOA at #29. Not a threat to win. There are 12 guys in the ring right now with Vader entering at #30, who JR calls a “stinky, grizzly bear.” He was a face here, feuding with Goldust.
It’s time to start eliminating people. Vader throws out Honky Tonk Man. Austin throws out Headbanger Thrasher and Kama in succession. Austin fights Savio and throws him out too. Goldust clotheslines Vader out of the match. Dude Love eliminates Henry Godwinn. Chainz eliminates Goldust leaving us with six guys. Austin eliminates Chainz. Faarooq tries to eliminate Henry, but Mark hangs on! Yeah! He’s gonna win! Then he tries going back in and Faarooq knocks him out in a spot that looked screwed up. It’s okay Mark, I still love ya.
The final four are Austin, Dude Love, Faarooq and The Rock, so we have an even mix of heels and faces.
A good foursome to end it. It’s awesome how Foley started it with one gimmick and is at the end with another gimmick. Dude hits Sweet Shin Music on The Rock and a DDT. Austin goes after him, but Dude comes back with the Mandible Claw. Austin kicks him in the junk and Faarooq clotheslines him out. Faarooq goes after Austin. He’s close to eliminating him, so Rock sits down in the other corner. He waits for his spot and he dumps Faarooq out, who was the leader of The Nation at this point. JR says Rock’s going to go coast to coast here even though he started 5th. It’s okay. He’s excited. Austin throws him over the top, but Rock hangs on. Stunner by Austin, Rock sells it by popping back to his feet in a daze and Austin throws him out to win the match.
Winner: Steve Austin
The match ended at 55:24.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The booking was poor here because there were way too many people in the ring at one time. It felt boring far too many times during the match.
– The whole “bounty on Austin” thing was a nice selling point, but other than everybody stopping when his music hit they never really went after him. They could have done a better job of making it Austin against the world.
– The difference between The Rock in this match from a year earlier is mind-boggling. He went from being just another random guy to being THE guy other than Austin. He made an incredible leap. It also helped that the WWF totally believed in him too.
– It’s amazing how at the time of this match 13 years ago I didn’t even flinch during the chairshot exchanges by Foley & Funk early on. Today, though, I cringed a few times because of all the information that’s out there now. It would never happen in WWE today and that’s a good thing.
– Fun fact. My boy Mark Henry eliminated TWO people here. He has eliminated zero people in Royal Rumble matches since then…according to people I trust. I’m not looking up Mark Henry stats. Other Mark Henry fans do that. He has legions of them.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: The Rock at 51:32.
Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 7.
Best Performers (3): The Rock – He was put in the “star making” spot. It worked.
Steve Austin – He was ridiculously popular at this point. His peak would come, but he was close to it here.
Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love – You could tell he was having a lot of fun on this night.
Best Elimination: Austin eliminating Rock just because I loved how Rock sold the Stunner.
Match Rating: **1/2 A very average Rumble. They had a lot of new wrestlers in the match as JR kept pointing out, so the star power wasn’t great.
The 12th Royal Rumble came at a time when the World Wrestling Federation was thriving. They were now officially kicking WCW’s ass and the main reason was because of the red hot feud between top babyface Steve Austin and top heel Vince McMahon, who just two years earlier was the announcer of this event.
The Rock, the heel corporate champion, won the WWF title earlier in the night, so the thinking was that Steve Austin would win this match to set up the title match at WrestleMania 15. It was a big deal to have Vince McMahon in this match because prior to this he never wrestled. Going into the match, one of the big things was the $100,000 bounty that Vince placed on Austin. The announcers really drove that point home. It was part of “stacking the odds” against Stone Cold.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 24, 1999
The announcers are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler due to Jim Ross being away with his Bell’s Pallsy illness. He’d return to call the main event at WrestleMania XV a few months later and would remain in that seat for years to come. During The Fink’s intro of the Rumble, Lawler yells at him about going on too long. Pretty funny.
The #1 participant is Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was embroiled in the very hot feud with #2…Vince McMahon. Lawler was heavily on Vince’s side, which makes this great. He points out that Vince has never lost a match in his life while Cole says Vince has never had a match. Vince comes out with no theme music and looks really ripped. He’s also oiled up quite a bit. Did I just offer a description of a shirtless Vince McMahon? Shoot me. Austin opens up by stomping on Vince in the corner. Bodyslam by Austin and a stomp to the nuts. There’s Golga (aka John Tenta aka Earthquake) of the Oddities at #3. Austin hits a Thesz Press on Vince. Austin throws Golga out quickly. Vince rolls out of the ring under the bottom rope. Austin chases him into the crowd where they start brawling. Vince runs up the steps to get away from him. The camera shows Austin beating up on Vince in the lobby. Vince runs into the ladies room and the Corporation is in there. They beat up Austin as the camera fades out. Meanwhile the #4 entry is Droz of Legion of Doom. He waits in the ring by himself and it’s Edge at #5 making his Royal Rumble debut. He gets a pretty good pop. He shows a lot of fire, but not much happens.
Here’s a threat to win at #6, the man called Gillberg! The crowd does the Gillberg chant (a parody of Goldberg in WCW), which is also a part of his theme song. This was classic. Edge dumps him out in about seven seconds. The camera shows the ladies room where all the guys in the Corporation stand over Austin, who is laid out on the floor. Back in the ring, Droz nearly eliminates Edge, but he is able to hang on. The “Lethal Weapon” Steve Blackman is #7 and he gets a good pop. This crowd was hot for Blackman. Of course, every crowd the WWF had in the era from 1998 to 2001 was usually really good because it was the hottest time in the history of the company. They show Austin getting looked at by the EMT’s and getting placed on the board. It’s “The Beast” Dan Severn at #8, who wrestles wearing a shirt because I doubt Vince was impressed with his physique. They show Austin getting wheeled away while fans chant for him. There’s Teddy Long as a ref too. They’re outside the arena now. It’s Tiger Ali Singh at #9, whose gimmick was “the elitist that doesn’t like America” as Michael Cole tells us. They show Austin leaving in an ambulance as Cole wonders where Vince is. It’s The Blue Meanie from the JOB Squad at #10. The talent in the ring isn’t very good aside from Edge. It should be pointed out that McMahon and Austin are still in the match despite not being in the ring. I think Edge just slapped Meanie in the belly.
The #11 man is supposed to be Mosh, but they show Mabel beating him up backstage. Of course due to his size the announcers wonder how he can be eliminated. Mabel eliminates Severn, Blackman and Singh in succession. Mabel eliminates Droz and Meanie as #12 comes out, The Road Dogg, who was a babyface as part of DX. He eliminates Edge, who takes a bump into the announce table. Mabel and Road Dogg start fighting as the lights go out and Undertaker’s music begins. The Acolytes (Bradshaw & Faarooq) and Mideon get Mabel out of the ring and beat on him. The Undertaker comes out where he talks to Mabel in the aisle. This led to Mabel being turned into Viscera, who was a part of the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. There’s Gangrel of The Brood at #13. He doesn’t last too long as Road Dogg tosses him over the top to the floor. Cole claims that Lawler picked Blackman and Gangrel to win, among others. There’s Kurrgan of the Oddities at #14. He’s a threat to win of course because he’s 7 foot, 300 pounds. A year earlier he was a serious heel and now he’s a goofy babyface. He hits a sidewalk slam on Road Dogg. “What does everybody want?” HEAD! It’s Al Snow without the Head at #15. The Head was stolen by Goldust a couple of weeks earlier. There’s a “Head” chant as they try to get Kurrgan out, but they can’t seem to do it. Road Dogg shoves Snow out of there rather easily.
There’s Goldust at #16, who was a babyface here. He hits a clothesline on Kurrgan and gets a DDT. Road Dogg tells Goldust to Suck It and sets him up for his Shattered Dreams, but Kurrgan blocks it. Goldust punches Dogg in the nuts just for fun. Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy at #17 as The Godfather enters the Rumble with ho’s. He has entered the Rumble as a few different characters over the years such as Papa Shango and Kama. Godfather hits the Ho Train splash in the corner onto Goldust. Here’s Kane making his Rumble debut as Kane at #18. In the 1996 Rumble he was Isaac Yankem and in 1997 he was fake Diesel. He quickly eliminates Road Dogg, Kurrgan, Godfather and Goldust in impressive fashion. The dudes with white coats come in and Kane beats them up. He was in the process of turning babyface at this point. He threw the coat over the rope and then he walked out of the ring, eliminating himself. He was chasing after the dudes with white coats. Vince McMahon shows up again, walking into the ring. There’s Ken Shamrock, a part of Vince’s Corporation, at #19. Vince steps through the ropes to avoid fighting Shamrock. He sits in at the announce table. He says Austin’s not coming back. We’ve got Billy Gunn at #20, who is out there without a shoe on his left foot because Shamrock injured him earlier in the show in their IC title match. Gunn fights back with a back suplex, but Shamrock cuts him down by going after the ankle again.
It’s Test of the Corporation at #21. Meanwhile, they cut backstage and show the Acolytes & Mideon putting Mabel into the hearse. Vince says he doesn’t think Mabel will ever be the same. It’s like he scripted this or something. Meanwhile, the ambulance comes back as Vince’s face is one of shock. Austin’s driving the ambulance. They show him walking through the backstage area as Vince has a sad face. He had the same face when his wife told him he had to pay the $50 million tab when she lost the election in 2010 (and 2012!). Gunn hits a double clothesline as Austin walks out. Vince drops the headset and runs. Shamrock stomps on Austin as Vince goes out the other side. The #22 entrant was The Big Boss Man also of The Corporation. Austin throws out Shamrock. Vince is back at the announce table. Break It Down for #23, Triple H, who hits the high knee on Test. Austin drills Gunn with a hard clothesline. Hello Ladies for #24, Val Venis. He quickly receives a clothesline from Triple H. Vince is yelling at the table about how somebody will get $100,000 if they get rid of Austin. He can’t believe Austin is back in there. Austin throws out Gunn. More of DX at #25 with X-Pac, who was always a good worker. Val hits a double axe off the top on Austin. X-Pac hits a spinning heel kick onto Austin as the announcers put over how everybody’s going after Steve so that they can get the money.
It’s Mark Henry as Sexual Chocolate at #26. There’s the typical comment about how it’s hard to get rid of Mark Henry due to his 400 pounds. He goes after Boss Man. There’s Jeff Jarrett at #27 with Debra. Have to say that 18 year old John Canton was a big time Debra fan. She’s one of my favorite women in wrestling ever. You think Stone Cold was checking her out while she walked down? You never know. I think they started dating a few months after this and were married about a year later. Jarrett was a heel of course. X-Pac went after his DX buddy HHH and then hit the Bronco Buster on Boss Man. You better recognize #28, D-Lo Brown, who walks out with Pretty Mean Sisters (Terri and Jackie). Test is eliminated by Austin and Boss Man throws out X-Pac. Austin hits the Thesz Press on Jarrett. Triple H throws out Jarrett. There’s Owen Hart at #29 and this is his last Rumble. Cue sad face by me. He goes right after Austin. Triple H saves a double team on Austin. Austin rolls out of the ring, takes a sip of water at the announce table and throws the pitcher of water in Vince’s face. The last person in the match is the first woman ever in the Rumble, Chyna is #30. She earned the spot in the Corporate Royal Rumble. She was a babyface. She went after Mark Henry and quickly eliminated him.
Austin clotheslines Chyna over the top because he just doesn’t give a shit. Triple H goes after him. We have 7 people left now. Triple H throws out Venis. Austin hits a Stunner on HHH and clotheslines him out, leaving us with five although only four are in the ring since Vince is still at the announce table. It’s Owen, Boss Man, D-Lo Brown, Austin and Vince. Brown hits Austin with a side kick. He misses a dropkick and Austin chokes him out. Brown gets the advantage on him, which leads to a huge “Austin” chant. Owen hits an enziguri on Austin. He charges in, but Austin ducks it and dumps him out.
The final four are Boss Man, D-Lo Brown, Vince McMahon and Steve Austin.
Boss Man knocks Austin down with a punch. Brown hits a frog splash on Austin. Boss Man eliminates Brown and then Austin hits a Stunner on Boss Man, which leads to a clothesline that eliminates him too. We’re down to just Austin and Vince now. The crowd is going nuts. Austin attacks him at the announce table. He hurls him over the barricade, beating on him some more. Austin grabs a steel chair and drills Vince in the head with it. You wouldn’t see a chair shot to the head like that in today’s WWE, which is a good thing. Austin rolls him back in the ring. Vince gets a low blow. Austin ducks a clothesline, hits the boot to the gut and hits a Stunner. He hits him with the FU elbow off the middle ropes. That’s the cue for The Rock to come out with the WWF Title. Cole said: “Rock is the man Stone Cold will face at WrestleMania.” Oops. He forgot to say “if he wins.” Rock taunts him while Austin tells him to come in. Rock jumps on the apron, Austin punches him and Vince springs to his feet to eliminate Austin! Vince wins!
Winner: Vince McMahon
The match ended at 56:38.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– You know how I said at the start that I didn’t like this Rumble? My feelings remain the same. This was the most overbooked Rumble ever. It’s no surprise that Vince Russo had a lot of booking power by this point because it had all the run-ins that we’re used to with him. Due to that the match never had a flow to it. Having Vince outside the ring for the majority of the match made sense for his character, but doesn’t mean it’s good for the match. All of the angles they ran with the likes of Mabel and Kane only hurt the match. Thankfully they learned their lesson from this Rumble because every one that follows is much better than this. How many camera shots were there away from the ring? The Rumble is about the in-ring action. Show the damn match!
– There’s no question that the star of the match was Stone Cold. Much like the year before none of the babyfaces were close to him in terms of star power. That’s a good thing in the sense that he was making a lot of money for the WWF, but it was bad in terms of trying to convince the fans that some other babyface could win.
– The crowd was fantastic, popping so well for everything they were supposed to. They even gave ovations to the midcarders that would barely get a reaction today. That’s a sign of a company that was on fire. It doesn’t mean this was a good match, though.
– I have to say Jerry Lawler was amazing here as he supported McMahon. It was almost like Bobby Heenan in the 1992 Rumble when he was backing Ric Flair the whole match. You listen to how good Lawler was here and you realize why a lot of fans, including me, miss his heel act.
– I’ll never claim to be a Chyna fan, but watching her eliminate Mark Henry was a cool moment especially in its original viewing in 1999. By the end of the year I got sick of her in the ring. It was a fresh idea at this time, though.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Vince McMahon and Steve Austin at 56:38
Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 8.
Best Performers (3): Steve Austin – Obvious number one.
Vince McMahon – He drew some amazing heel heat. Even though he wasn’t in the ring much he was by far the most over heel in the match. Not even close.
Jerry Lawler – Since no other wrestler stood out I’ll give the nod to him. He was excellent.
Best Elimination: McMahon dumping Austin because none of the other eliminations really mattered.
Match Rating: ** That’s tied with 1989 as the worst Rumble for me. I’ll put it slightly ahead because I loved Austin so much and the crowd was ridiculously hot whereas in 1989 it was Big John Studd showing no emotion as he won. The booking was bad, though.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.