We are onto 1991 as the Gulf War is in full swing and Sergeant Slaughter became the World Wrestling Federation Champion at this event by defeating the Ultimate Warrior (thanks to the help of Randy Savage).
This would be the first Rumble that would feature the format that we became used to. The winner of this match went on to face Slaughter at WrestleMania VII. From this point forward, with a few minor exceptions, that’s what we’d see every year with the winner of the Rumble. Like with the first three Rumbles, I don’t think I’ve seen this one since it’s original airing in 1991. It’ll be fresh to me.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 29, 1991
The announcers are Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper. Every Rumble has had a different set of announcers so far. I’m a big fan of Monsoon, but Piper was just average as a color commentator. He wasn’t as good as Heenan (the best) or Ventura (very good). It’s the first year The Fink didn’t explain the rules. The announcers did it.
The #1 entrant was Bret Hart. This was the year where he’d start his singles career as a babyface, so it was a good chance to showcase him. In at #2 was Dino Bravo, managed by Dino Bravo. Bret nearly eliminated Bravo early on, but he was able to hold on. The #3 spot goes to Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who used to be an associate of Jimmy Hart. Valentine eliminates Bravo rather easily and Jimmy Hart is pissed off, so the Hammer knocks him off the apron. Bret tries to eliminate Valentine as #4 comes in…Paul Roma. And the crowd goes mild. Roma never really got over very well in the WWF or WCW. “No friends, only foes” say the announcers over and over. The #5 man is the Texas Tornado, who was a very popular midcard babyface also known as Kerry Von Erich. He decks Valentine with the tornado punch. What are the odds that the Texas Tornado in 1991 could pass a WWE Wellness Policy test? 1%. He was always a very good performer, but drugs sidetracked him and ended his life early too.
Rick Martel comes in at #6. He’s a heel with his “Arrogance” perfume. He’s so mean he’ll spray perfume in your eyes. Or cologne. Take your pick. Roma and Martel work together on Hart and then Roma decks Martel with a clothesline. Piper loves it when the heels fight eachother. The #7 man is Saba Simba, who you might know as Tony Atlas. The announcers take their time saying his name because you know they want to say Atlas. The Saba Simba gimmick was not successful. Tornado almost eliminates Martel, but he hangs on. The Tornado puts the claw on Roma in the corner. The #8 entrant is Bushwhacker Butch. He goes around the ring doing the Bushwhacker dance. Simba picks up Roma, goes to eliminate him, but Roma escapes and Simba’s gone after just over 2 minutes of action. The crowd loves the Bushwhackers! You do too. It’s okay. You can start doing the Bushwhacker dance. Nobody’s watching you. To a big pop, #9 is Jake Roberts and he goes right after Rick Martell, who would be his WM7 opponent in a Blindfold Match. The crowd wants the DDT. He hits the short arm lefty clothesline, but Martel leaves the ring through the bottom ropes. Jake chases him back in. The #10 participant is Hercules, who was Roma’s partner in the heel tag team Power & Glory. There are a total of 8 guys in the ring as we are 1/3 of the way into this match.
The #11 participant is Tito Santana. While he’s coming out, Roma charges in at Jake, he ducks and Roma goes flying over the top to be the next elimination. Santana’s close to eliminating Martel, Valentine tries to get rid of Tito, but Bret saves him. It’s real talk time with #12, The Undertaker. His debut came a few months earlier at Survivor Series 1990 and he was a heel of course. He’s managed by Brother Love here. Double choke on Bret and Undertaker eliminates him. That looked painful, but very impressive. They should have had him eliminate a few guys right off the bat. He no sells everything from Texas Tornado. It’s Jimmy Snuka at #13. Undertaker eliminates Butch. The facial expressions on Undertaker are pretty awesome. I almost forget the character in its inception because it’s been so long. Everybody takes turns punching Undertaker, but he doesn’t go down. It’s Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldog, at #14 and he’s a babyface at this point. With 9 guys in the ring there are too many people in there. By the way, Snuka’s wearing wrestling boots. That’s just wrong. He should always be barefoot. That’s what made me think he was tougher than most back when I was a kid. In at #15 is Smash from Demolition. Martel’s scaling the apron and he eliminates Jake. That was good setup for their WM7 match. Piper’s yelling a lot on commentary. Yelling isn’t necessarily good.
What a rush, it’s Hawk from Legion of Doom at #16. He can have a no selling contest with Undertaker. I don’t think Hawk ever liked selling moves. The #17 entrant is Shane Douglas, who I really don’t remember from WWE at this time. He’s an energetic young babyface here. Undertaker eliminates Tornado and Hawk eliminates Snuka. Apparently Douglas left the company soon after the Rumble to be with his ailing father. Undertaker’s eliminated three guys. It really should have been more by this point. Wow, what a sloppy exchange by Hawk and Hercules. “Here comes another one!” Piper is always so excited. For #18 we don’t get anybody. The deal was that since Randy Savage cost Warrior the WWF title earlier in the night he had to leave the arena to escape him and that’s why he never got in the match. The announcers eventually figured it out. The eye gouge is a very popular move in this match. In at #19 is Animal of Legion of Doom. Big fan of him because his son, James Laurinaitis, is the middle linebacker on my beloved St. Louis Rams. Legion of Doom eliminate Undertaker with a double clothesline to a huge pop. Then Hawk gets eliminated by a sneak attack from Hercules & Martel. Undertaker went over the top and landed on his feet. The guy is a great athlete. No doubt about that. It’s Crush of Demolition in at #20. Martel leads the match in terms of threatening to be eliminated, but never actually going out of the ring. “Forget arrogance, he can be modeling endurance,” says Piper. Good line or no? I’m not sure. Nine guys in the match. Not a lot of star power, really.
We are down to the last ten entrants with #21 being “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. He comes out destroying everybody and the crowd loves him of course. HHHHHHHHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! And nobody gets eliminated. The booking here sucks. The crowd wants to get really amped up, but they never really give them a reason to. Here’s a BIG favorite at #22, Earthquake. He was in the Rumble a year before, but this year he was getting more of a push. He goes against Animal and backdrops him out of there. Now Quake goes after Hacksaw. Nobody else gets eliminated. Another favorite is at #23, Mr. Perfect. He’s managed by the great Bobby Heenan. He comes out very slowly unlike every other person in the match, who came out quickly. Wow, Brain caught his towel and it was behind him! First bump Perfect takes is a flip one in the corner. What a guy. He eliminates Duggan quickly. They do the time check on Valentine at 43 minutes and Martel at 40 minutes. The #24 spot is Hulk Hogan. Biggest pop of the night, of course. He goes nuts on Smash, tossing him out. He does the ten punch on Earthquake in the corner. Hogan gets double teamed and Earthquake squashes him in the corner. The camera doesn’t even show anybody else while Hogan is in there. Think he’s the biggest star? It’s Haku at #25 to no reaction whatsoever. Valentine is tossed out after 45 minutes. He barely made an impact, though. Earthquake tries to eliminate Bulldog, but that fails. They really don’t have anybody doing a bunch of eliminations at once. As a result you’ve got 10 guys in there again.
The final five entrants start with Jim Neidhart at #26. Great spot with Tito punching Quake a bunch, he no-sells it and chucks Tito out. I should add too that the more Rumbles you watch, the less hair Hogan has. Poor guy. There is not a lot going on, so have to give props to the managers outside the ring. I love managers. Especially this crew of them. Oh classic spot with #27 Bushwhacker Luke. He comes in doing the Bushwhacker walk, Quake grabs him, throws him out and he’s still doing the Bushwhacker walk. That was great! It’s Brian Knobbs at #28. Let’s hope he’s not in there long. Everybody beats him up. That’s pretty random. Martel keeps hanging on. Knobbs eliminates Hercules. The back body drop is a common elimination on this show. The Warlord is at #29. He goes after Bulldog because Vince must love their muscles. You can definitely tell this was when the steroid era was at its peak. Hogan eliminates Crush in a nasty fall near the turnbuckle. That’s why you do the eliminations away from the turnbuckle. Hogan eliminates Warlord with a clothesline. Reminiscent of a couple of years earlier when he eliminated him in 2 seconds. For the #30 spot it’s Tugboat, who is a THREAT TO WIN! The announcers realize Savage was #18 and he probably left because Warrior wanted to get revenge on him, which is what I mentioned earlier.
We have nine guys left and no more entrants. Shane Douglas got eliminated, by the way. Announcers put him over, so I guess they had high hopes for him. Didn’t happen for him in the WWF. Wow, Hogan does a near elimination spot. Not bad. It was Tugboat who tried to do it, so Hogan threw him out on the other side of the ring. Mr. Perfect got eliminated too. Martel dumps Neidhart. Bulldog backdrops Haku out. We’ve got five left. Martel slams Bulldog, then goes up top, Bulldog crotches him and clotheslines him out after nearly 53 minutes, which the new record.
Final four: Hogan, Earthquake, Bulldog & Knobbs. Earthquake and Knobbs throw out Bulldog to make final three. I think Knobbs might be the worst wrestler to ever be in the final three. They work together with Quake doing the splash on Hogan. Crowd is dead silent. The heels celebrate, but Hogan pops up. Boot to Knobbs eliminates him. Punches on Quake, then the boot dazes him and Hogan punches him down. Then he knocks down Jimmy Hart. He calls for a bodyslam, but Quake falls on top of him. Big elbow. Gorilla talks like Hogan is done as Quake drops another elbow. Earthquake with a powerslam. Hogan Hulks Up. Stick the finger in the face, punch, punch, punch, big boot and another bodyslam works. Hogan slams him. Clothesline to the back and Earthquake is out.
Winner: Hulk Hogan
The match ended at 65:17.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The booking was weak throughout. Every Rumble needs a moment where one guy throws out a bunch of people. This one didn’t have that moment and it definitely hurt the quality of the match. I do agree with Hogan winning it. He got the title shot after this.
– They didn’t make The Undertaker look strong enough. He should have eliminated 4 or 5 guys upon entry. I am glad that it took a tag team to throw him out, though. That makes him look strong.
– Why the hell was Knobbs booked into the final three? Seriously, Brian F’N Knobbs? That was just weird.
– They must have had high hopes for Martel because he was booked so strongly. His career never really went very far, though. He was always a midcard talent and though he lasted the longest here it was not a star making performance. I will honor him with a best performer nod only because nobody stood out.
– The star power was a lot worse here than it was in 1990 or what we’ll see next time in 1992.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Rick Martel at 52:17.
Most Eliminations: Hulk Hogan with 7.
Best Performers (3): The Undertaker – He had such star power. He stood out from the pack. You could tell why he became the star that he became. Like I said he could have been booked even better.
Rick Martel – He was booked to be in there the longest and he did a great job with the false eliminations.
Hulk Hogan – Like I wrote in previous Rumbles his energy in this kind of match is welcome. I don’t mind him in Rumble matches.
Best Elimination: The Bushwhacker Luke elimination is legendary! The Bushwhacker walk in, the walk in the ring, then he gets tossed out and keeps walking. Hilarious! Classic.
Match Rating: **1/4
Ranking the Rumble’s in terms of star ratings:
I’ll see you next time for a look back at the 1992 Royal Rumble, which is the best Royal Rumble match ever in my opinion.