By the time we got to 1994 the Hulk Hogan era was officially over. The World Wrestling Federation moved on and it was time for them to create some new top stars. Yokozuna was the WWF Champion, defeating The Undertaker in a Casket Match that is one of the most overbooked, boring matches in the history of the company.
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, so as you’ll see in the recap the talent on the roster isn’t very deep. The winner goes onto WrestleMania X to face the WWF Champion. Let’s see who it is.
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. Hey 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. 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.
– 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 – 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.
Ranking the Rumble’s in terms of star ratings:
Next up is the 1995 Royal Rumble, which was historic because of the entrant number of the eventual winner.