This is the 11th Royal Rumble and the first one where Steve Austin officially became “the man” in the WWF. It was 1998 and business was really starting to turn around for the World Wrestling Federation. They had a lot of momentum thanks to the rise of Steve Austin as a future main event star. This show was two months after the very memorable Survivor Series 1997 PPV that led to Bret Hart leaving the company while Shawn Michaels continued his reign as the WWF Champion.
If you asked me what Royal Rumble match had the most predictable outcome ever, I would answer without hesitation and say 1998. Austin 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. Everybody knew what was coming in terms of a Stone Cold victory, but it’s not like fans complained about it because Austin was red hot. It was the right thing to do.
This show was used to set up WrestleMania 14 (read my review here).
WWF Royal Rumble
January 18, 1998
From San Jose Arena in San Jose, California
The opening video package featured voiceover guy talking about WWF superstars wanting to be the champion. It was well done.
There was some pyro in the arena to start the show as Jim Ross welcomed us to the 11th annual Royal Rumble. Jerry Lawler joined Ross on commentary and they were the main commentary team for most of the next decade. What’s really noticeable during the opening is that there are way more signs in the crowd this year compared to the previous years. There was also a Spanish and French announce team at ringside.
They showed boxer Mike Tyson in a private box and the crowd booed when he was shown on screen.
Goldust entered manager Luna for the first match. Goldust was wearing some ridiculous purple/green attire and green hair. It was an odd point for his career. They showed highlights of Goldust dumping his wife Marlena/Terri, then Goldust dressed in weird attire like a baby and in lingerie as if he was Sable. Vader entered as the opponent and he got a pretty good pop.
“The Artist Formerly Known As” Goldust (w/Luna) vs. Vader
Pre-match notes: Goldust was the heel and Vader was the face. I like both guys a lot, but they were not at great points in their careers for this match. Vader was on fire two years earlier when he started in the WWF, but he lost a lot of momentum by this point.
Vader ran over Goldust with a running splash two times and Goldust bailed to the floor. Vader sent Goldust into the stairs as the fans chanted “Vader” for the big man. Back in the ring, Vader hit a back body drop, Luna grabbed Vader’s foot and Goldust hit a clothesline to knock Vader down. Vader missed a splash and Goldust hit another clothesline. Goldust hit an elbow drop off the middle ropes. Vader went to the floor, so Goldust followed by whipping Vader into the steel steps. Luna got in some cheap shots on Vader on the floor. Goldust punched Vader against the turnbuckle, then Goldust kissed him and Vader came back with a huge running lariat that knocked Goldust down. Goldust tried a body slam, but that failed and Vader hit a suplex. Vader hit a splash for two followed by a clothesline. JR: “Vader is thick.” That’s an obvious observation. Vader went to the middle ropes for the Vader Bomb, Luna distracted the referee and Goldust punched Vader in the groin to knock him down. Vader avoided a Goldust charge, Vader with another clothesline and Vader stopped a sunset flip attempt by splashing Goldust. Vader went to the turnbuckle, Luna jumped on his back and Vader jumped off the ropes with a Vader Bomb for the pinfall win at 7:51. Luna held onto Vader, then landed hard as Vader hit the splash. The crowd popped big for the finish.
Winner by pinfall: Vader
Analysis: *3/4 They got through it, but it wasn’t a good match. I will give them credit for coming up with a creative finish that popped the crowd, so at least they ended on a high note. Vader winning was the right move since he was attacked repeatedly by Goldust, so it was Vader getting the heat back. This was one of Goldust’s worst years in the company and there were not a lot of highlights especially early in the year. It was nice to see the crowd solidly behind Vader.
They showed “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the Stone Cold pickup truck with Michael Cole there trying to interview him. Austin told Cole to park the car and not scratch it followed by Austin walking into the arena. The Godwinns showed up asking where Austin went.
Analysis: The story was that Austin was a big favorite, so every wrestler was looking for him to try to take him out of the Rumble match.
Sunny made her entrance for the minis match. The short shorts she was wearing were popular. The minis entered for the match.
Max Mini, Mosaic and Nova vs. Battalion, El Torito and Tarantula
Pre-match notes: Max Mini’s team were the faces and the other team were the heels. This is not the El Torito that was in WWE in the 2010s.
Nova with a headscissors on Tarantula, who missed a charge and hit the mat. Nova with a dropkick that sent Tarantula out of the ring. Max with three arm drags that sent Battalion out of the ring and as soon as somebody was sent out of the ring, another wrestler could go into the ring as the legal man. I don’t make the rules. Torito with a press slam on Mosaic followed by Torito launching Mosaic in the air. Mosaic with an arm drag that sent Torito out of the ring. Tarantula with a running clothesline on Mosaic. Nova with a dropkick on Battalion to send him out of the ring. Nova with a hip toss on Torito, then several arm drags. They showed Mike Tyson laughing about it. Mosaic with a headscissors on Battalion three times to send him out of the ring. Max tagged in leading to Tarantula kicking him down. Tarantula with a clothesline on Max, who went to the apron and then up top with a headscissors. Max is 87 pounds according to JR as Max slammed Tarantula down. Max sent Tarantula out of the ring, Max slapped him to knock him and Torito kicked Max in the back. Battalion with a kick on Max. Lawler was firing off short jokes during the match. Torito knocked down Max with a punch, then they did a comedy spot where Sunny picked up Max to help him kick the heels down. Mosaic with an arm drag followed by dive onto Battalion on the floor. Torito with a dive onto the floor. Max hit a springboard corkscrew off the middle ropes, Tarantula with a suicide dive and Nova hit a moonsault off the middle ropes. Back in the ring, Torito missed a splash on Max, who went up top and Max hit a headscissors takeover, arm drag and a cradle pin was enough for Max to get the win at 7:48. It sounds like WWE dubbed in fake crowd noise for the finish.
Winners by pinfall: Max Mini, Mosaic and Nova
Analysis: ** This was decent. If you like armdrags this is the match for you because there were about 20 of them in this match. It was a match to kill time. They didn’t have a deep roster, so they put on these matches featuring the minis occasionally. It wasn’t that interesting.
The Nation of Domination was shown backstage by Steve Austin’s dressing room, they went into the room and there was a foam middle finger in there, so Austin was telling them to F off.
They showed Mike Tyson in his private box along with Vince and Shane McMahon sitting with him. A fan behind the announcers had a “Hey Tyson Bite Me” sign because it was after Tyson famously bit Evander Holyfield in a boxing match, which led to Tyson getting suspended from boxing.
There were highlights shown of Ken Shamrock beating three members of the Nation of Domination three straight weeks in a row. On the Raw prior to the Royal Rumble, Mark Henry turned heel on Shamrock and Henry joined the Nation of Domination group.
The Rock was interviewed by Michael Cole where Rock gave a shoutout to President Clinton and his problems with Paula Jones while saying when you lay down with a dog you’re going to get fleas and told him to “cover it, Willie.” Rock told Ken Shamrock that he was going to beat him one on one, but don’t worry because somebody will carry Shamrock out of the building.
The Rock entered to the Nation of Domination theme song. Rock was wearing the Intercontinental Title around his waist. Rock was not joined by any Nation of Domination members for the match. Rock said that you may chant “Rocky Sucks” but the fact is he is the Intercontinental Champion and he’s the best damn Intercontinental Champion there ever was.
Ken Shamrock got a good pop for his entrance. Shamrock was really winning over the crowd and one of the top faces in the company.
Intercontinental Championship: The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock
Pre-match notes: The Rock was the heel IC Champion that was only 25 years old at this point. Rock was gaining a lot of momentum every week. Ken Shamrock was the babyface challenger. This match was about one month into Rock’s second reign as IC Champion.
There was a slow start early as Shamrock got in a punch, then Rock backed away, Rock connected with punches and Shamrock came back with a kick followed by a punch that led to Rock bumping over the top to the floor. When Rock got back in the ring, he took control with a clothesline. Shamrock came back for two clotheslines, but when he went for a hurricanrana, Rock countered by sending him into the top rope for a two count. Good counter wrestling there. Rock stomped on Shamrock against the turnbuckle to keep the challenger grounded. Shamrock came back with a cross body block followed by a Fisherman’s Suplex for two and Rock came back with a clothesline. They left the ring with Rock sending Shamrock into the steel steps and then back in the ring, Shamrock came back with punches. Rock countered a clothesline attempt with a tremendous floatover DDT that Rock would do many times in his career. Rock slapped on a chinlock to ground Shamrock for about a minute. Rock tried another DDT, but Shamrock countered into an overhead suplex. JR sad this is not the senior’s tour because they were young athletes in their prime (a direct shot at WCW having older guys on their show) as Shamrock decked Rock with a hard punch to the face. Shamrock sent Rock into the ropes followed by a powerslam. Shamrock sent Rock into the turnbuckle followed by a hurricanrana, which was impressive. Kama and D-Lo Brown of the Nation of Domination went down to the ring, Shamrock punched both of them (D-Lo’s foot was even caught in the ropes for a few moments) and while that was happening, Rock pulled brass knuckles out of his tights. The referee was busy trying to free Brown, so Rock punched Shamrock with the brass knuckles on his hand. Rock put the brass knuckles in Shamrock’s tights, Rock covered, the referee counted and Shamrock kicked out to a huge pop from the crowd. Shamrock hit a belly to belly suplex on Rock leading to the pinfall win at 10:52.
Shamrock celebrated with the IC Title while Rock told the referee Mike Chioda that Shamrock had brass knuckles in his tights. The referee checked the tights, then Shamrock pulled out the brass knuckles and Shamrock said he didn’t do it. The referee reversed the decision to a disqualification victory for The Rock.
Winner by disqualification: The Rock
Analysis: **3/4 It was a good match with a cheap finish that was done to keep the feud going for another match at WrestleMania 14. I give them credit for coming up with a creative finish because it wasn’t the kind of thing you see often, so if you’re going to screw the face Shamrock out of the title, you might as well do something unique. It was a way to keep the title on Rock, add more heat to the rivalry and build the crowd support for Shamrock. I remember at the time thinking the feud would continue because of the finish and that’s what happened.
Post match, Rock left with his buddies. Shamrock grabbed referee Chioda and gave him a belly to belly suplex to a huge pop from the crowd. Shamrock slapped on the Ankle Lock on Chioda, who was quickly tapping the mat. The fans chanted “Shamrock” for Ken, who was pissed off in the ring.
Analysis: It was a good post match angle that popped the crowd because they were mad that Shamrock lost. As I said above, it was a creative way to end it and the fans cheered Shamrock for attacking the referee because they know Rock was the one that cheated, not Shamrock. It worked in terms of making Shamrock more popular. I think this rivalry really benefitted both guys in the long run.
Mike Tyson was shown watching the show from the press box with Shane McMahon joining him up there.
The Boricuas were shown backstage looking for Steve Austin, they went into a room and attacked a bald guy. It was one of the Disciples of Apocalypse guys, so that led to a brawl between the two crappy stables.
A video package aired to set up the New Age Outlaws defending the Tag Team Titles against the Legion of Doom. It put over LOD as legends while NAO are current stars that are a cocky, brash team that have mocked LOD and even shaved Hawk’s head.
The New Age Outlaws duo of Road Dogg and Billy Gunn were wearing Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers jersey to piss off the fans that liked the San Francisco 49ers since the Packers eliminated the 49ers from the playoffs that year.
Legion of Doom were interviewed by Michael Cole, who said that Animal had a back injury and doctors didn’t want him to compete tonight. Animal said he wasn’t going to miss this. Animal said that New Age Outlaws will get their butts kicked. Hawk did his “well” routine and ended it with “what a rush” as usual. LOD made their entrance to a pretty good ovation.
WWF Tag Team Championships: New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Road Dogg) vs. Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal)
Pre-match notes: The Outlaws were the heel champions while LOD were the face challengers. Hawk was almost 41 and Animal was 38, so they weren’t that old in wrestling terms, but in this storyline it was pushed as the old guys vs. the younger team. This was two months after the New Age Outlaws first won the titles.
It started out with Animal hitting a Powerbomb on Dogg for two as Gunn made the save on the pin attempt. Gunn and Dogg tried to walk away, but LOD brought them back in the ring. Hawk with a running shoulder block on Dogg, corner clothesline and a boot to the face. Animal tagged in with a back elbow followed by a choke as Dogg was bleeding from the mouth. Hawk tagged in with a neckbreaker. Dogg with an eye poke, Gunn tagged in and Hawk took him down with a Thesz Press followed by punches. Animal tagged in with a belly to back suplex. Hawk tripped up Gunn into a STF submission briefly, Animal back in, Dogg tripped him and Gunn punched Animal out of the ring. Dogg whipped Animal into the steel steps to make him the face in peril. Hawk hit both Outlaws with a double clothesline even though Animal was the legal man. Hawk missed a corner charge and hit the ring post with his shoulder, which led to Hawk bumping to the floor. Dogg got handcuffs and he cuffed Hawk to the ring post that was connected to the bottom turnbuckle. The Outlaws went after Animal, who came back with a double clothesline. Animal with a jumping shoulder tackle on Gunn for two. Gunn with an eye poke on Animal, Gunn up top and Animal turned it into a powerslam. Dogg hit Animal in the back with a chair, so that led to the DQ finish at 7:57.
Winners by disqualification: Legion of Doom (New Age Outlaws remain the champions)
Analysis: *1/2 I thought this was boring for the most part. There was a weird format to the match with LOD on offense for too much of the first half of the match, then the heels worked over Animal for a few minutes and that led to the finish. It just wasn’t that interesting at any point. I don’t think these teams had very good chemistry because I remember other matches they had that were not good. It was a lame finish too.
After the match, Dogg hit Animal in the back with a steel chair multiple times. Hawk was helpless at ringside due to being handcuffed to the turnbuckle. Gunn hit a splash off the middle ropes onto the back of Animal. Hawk broke the handcuffs, he went into the ring and hit both Outlaws in the head with chairshots. The Outlaws left to boos while Hawk checked on Animal.
Analysis: The rivalry continued after that controversial finish although it did not get much better.
A woman named Mildred Bowers won the Stone Cold Truck. She’s from Nashville, Tennessee. They gave the truck away.
A video package aired about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin being a marked man in the Royal Rumble match. There were highlights of Austin hitting the Stone Cold Stunner on multiple people every week on Raw.
They showed Mike Tyson in the press box with Shane McMahon again. The fans booed when they saw Tyson on screen again.
30-Man Royal Rumble Match
Howard Finkel announced the rules for the Royal Rumble match. A graphic said that the intervals for entrants are 2 minutes each, but they were really between 90 to 120 seconds.
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 and he was 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 easily after about 12 seconds. 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 on 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. 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 even though he’s maybe 6’6” or so because you can tell he’s around the same height as other tall guys in the match. Anyway, the announcers treat Kurrgan as a threat to win! He’s a Canadian, but is not one of our greatest exports. Kurrgan 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 with Sable at #13. Sable 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 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. 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 eliminates 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 Austin’s music plays. They all look up the aisle, so Austin comes in through the crowd. Austin eliminates Mero and 8-Ball, then he chokes D-Lo with his jacket just for fun. JR has a few joygasms during all of 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 even though they were still allies. 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. Dude 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, who didn’t do much after being in there for nearly 20 minutes. 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.
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 with Faarooq close to eliminating him, so Rock sits down in the other corner. Rock 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 to Rock, who sells it by popping back to his feet in a daze and Austin throws him out to win the match. Huge pop for Austin’s win.
Winner: Steve Austin
The match ended at 55:24.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS about the Royal Rumble 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 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 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 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.
– Even though 1998 was a very successful year for the WWF thanks to the popularity of roster, they didn’t have a deep roster yet. That would come in the next couple of years.
FACTS & OPINIONS on the Royal Rumble match
Person that lasted the longest: The Rock at 51:32.
Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 7.
Best Performers (3): Steve Austin – He was ridiculously popular at this point. His peak would come a few months later at WrestleMania 14, but he was close to it here.
The Rock – He was put in the “star making” spot. It worked by being the guy that was in the ring the longest.
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. It also hurt the match that it was so predictable with Austin winning. It’s hard to get into it when the winner is that obvious although back in 1998, a lot of us were happy with Austin getting the win. I’m just saying the lack of unpredictability can hurt the match quality.
Steve Austin celebrates the Royal Rumble win while the fans pop huge for it. Mike Tyson was excited in his press box seat as well. Austin left to a big ovation.
Mike Tyson was interviewed by Michael Cole. Tyson said, “Cold Stone” was his man and he won, so he was happy about it. Tyson talked about how he was a fan of Undertaker for many years, he liked Shawn Michaels and he was looking forward to the match.
Analysis: Tyson botching the interview by saying “Cold Stone” was memorable. People made fun of him a lot for that. Of course, they didn’t make fun of him to his face. There’s also an ice cream company called “Cold Stone” out there, so people like to make jokes about that too.
A video package aired about the rivalry between the WWF Champion Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. It was a long term story that actually started at SummerSlam 1997, which led to Degeneration X being formed with Michaels, Triple H and Chyna and The Undertaker was determined to put an end to Shawn’s title reign. The last time they had a match was Badd Blood in October 1997 in the first Hell in a Cell match, which was an amazing match that ended with Kane’s debut costing The Undertaker. They set up a Casket Match for the Royal Rumble with Undertaker talking about his history in Casket Matches is legendary. There was a memorable moment where Taker beat up Michaels while in a casket. There was also a moment where Kane saved Taker from DX, so that made it look like they were on the same side.
Shawn Michaels entered first as the WWF Champion as the Degeneration X theme song played. Michaels was joined by European Champion Triple H and Chyna. Hunter was nursing a knee injury at the time, so he had a crutch with him.
The Undertaker was up next as the challenger and he got a huge pop from the crowd. That reaction was impressive, but also not that surprising. I liked Undertaker a lot in 1997 going into 1998 because he was less of a zombie Taker and more humanized, I guess you could say.
Casket Match for the WWF Championship: Shawn Michaels (w/Triple H and Chyna) vs. The Undertaker
There was a casket placed beside the ring. To win the match, you had to put your opponent in the casket and shut the lid.
Michaels was aggressive with punches, Taker came back with a choke, Michaels jumped into his arms and into a choke. Taker picked up Michaels for a press slam, but Michaels broke free. Michaels charged, then Taker gave him a back body drop over the top with Shawn’s lower back hitting the edge of the casket. That would be a bump that shortened Shawn’s career because in the days that followed, he experienced serious back pain and didn’t wrestle again until WrestleMania 14 two months later. After that, it was four years until Michaels could wrestle again (he did have one “match” in 2000 for his local promotion) and most of us didn’t think he would wrestle again after WM14. At the time of this match, Michaels showed no problems with his back, but it was that bump that really shortened his career. It was a spectacular bump by Michaels, who was known for doing stuff like that. I’m sure that if he could go back he wouldn’t have done that spot as JR pointed out that the edge of the casket hit the lower back of Michaels.
Taker was in full control as he slammed Michaels on the floor and kicked Michaels in the casket, but Michaels quickly got out of there. They went back into the ring with Taker decking Michaels with a punch. Taker did his rope walk followed by the punch to the shoulder with Michaels bumping across the ring. Taker whipped Michaels into the turnbuckle leading to Shawn bumping over the top to the floor. Michaels hit a neckbreaker using the top rope for an assist, then he jumped off the top and Taker countered it into a powerslam. Taker put Michaels in the casket, but Shawn prevented the lid from being closed and Michaels threw some powder in Taker’s face. They showed casket cam with Michaels throwing the powder in the eyes. Taker tried to come back with a Chokeslam, but Michaels fought him off and hit a moonsault press off the top into a two count. Michaels with a clothesline over the top, Taker pulled him out of the ring and Taker sent Michaels into the security railing at ringside. Michaels came back by whipping Taker knees first into the steel steps. That’s a brutal bump to take right on the knees. Michaels hit Taker in the back with the steel steps two times in a row. Michaels hit a piledriver on the bottom half of the steel steps. That was executed perfectly by Michaels. Triple H went over to Taker and beat him up with his crutch. Hunter hit Taker in the back with the crutch. Michaels hit Taker in the back with a steel chair and then told a fan to “suck it” because that’s what DX did. The fans booed Michaels as he posed in the ring. Back in the ring, Michaels with a running back elbow. Michaels rolled Undertaker into the casket, but then Taker came back with punches and Taker punched Hunter too.
They were back in the ring with Michaels hitting a swinging neckbreaker. Michaels jumped on the back of the big man while applying the sleeper hold. After bout one minute of that, Taker hit a belly to back suplex to start the comeback. Michaels came back with a forearm, then Michaels went up top and hit a lefty elbow drop off the top rope. Michaels set up in the corner and connected with the Sweet Chin Music superkick to put Undertaker down. Michaels rolled Undertaker into the casket, he did a crotch chop, Undertaker grabbed him in the groin and the comeback began. Taker with a back body drop, turnbuckle bump by Michaels and Taker hit a clothesline. Taker with a boot to the face, then a running clothesline missed because Michaels moved, Taker went falling into the casket and Michaels went up top and jumped off with an elbow drop into the casket. Both guys were in the casket as referee Earl Hebner closed the lid. Michaels tried to crawl out, but Taker pulled him back in the casket and punched him. Taker punched Michaels to knock him out of the casket and then they went back in the ring. Undertaker hit a huge Chokeslam in the center of the ring. Taker picked up Michaels, stood on the apron and hit a huge Tombstone into the casket. Chyna sent the referee into the steps. That’s when the New Age Outlaws and four Los Boricuas attacked Taker, so it was six guys attacking him. The lights went out, fans popped and Kane’s music hit as JR assumed that Kane was there to help his brother The Undertaker.
Kane walked into the ring, he punched the four Los Boricuas guys and two New Age Outlaws to send them all out of the ring. Kane was alone in the ring with Taker while Hunter and Chyna got Shawn out of the casket. Kane teased setting off the pyro, but then he punched Taker. JR yelled about it while Lawler shrieked “what” to wonder what happened. The fans were booing loudly. Kane gave Taker a Chokeslam off the apron into the casket and Michaels shut the lid of the casket. That meant a win for Michaels at 20:37.
Winner: Shawn Michaels
Analysis: ***3/4 This was a very good match with a cheap finish due to Kane’s presence, but that ending made sense because of what would happen at WM14 with Undertaker and Kane. This was the third PPV match between Michaels and Taker with Shawn winning twice (the other was a non-finish), but both of those wins were assisted by Kane. It was the classic story of the heel Michaels in control for most of it, then Undertaker got a lot of momentum with the comeback and it was exciting by the end. They did a good job of utilizing Hunter and Chyna in the match as well. It would have been nice if they used weapons more to make this feel like more of a brawl, but I still like the story that was told.
Post match, Kane and “daddy” Paul Bearer locked up the casket to prevent Undertaker from getting out of the casket. They went over to the entrance. Kane brought out an axe followed by a case of gasoline. Kane took the axe to the casket and cut some holes into the top of it. Kane broke through a hole and put the axe into the casket. Kane poured gasoline all over the casket. Bearer had a match, lit matches and Kane tossed them onto the casket. JR: “The casket’s on fire! The casket’s on fire! The Undertaker is on fire.” It sure was. That’s how the show ended.
Analysis: It was a big angle to set up Undertaker vs. Kane at WrestleMania. Of course, The Undertaker was perfectly fine after this and the match was one of the best built matches of WrestleMania that year. It was one of those Hollywood stunt type of tricks that WWE liked to do once in a while. It certainly looked interesting and was the kind of thing that makes you wonder how they pull it off. I thought it was very creative. I believe on the VHS copy of the show they had more footage where WWF people put the fire out, but that wasn’t shown on WWE Network.
This event had a runtime of 2:45:14 on WWE Network.
Show rating (out of 10): 5
It was another average Royal Rumble event that was lacking in terms of great matches aside from the main event. When it comes to that Undertaker/Shawn match, while it was very good, it’s not their most famous match or their best match. The other undercard matches were poor, so that hurt the card quite a bit. In addition to that, the Royal Rumble match was probably the most predictable Rumble ever with Steve Austin winning. Aside from a few fun moments, it wasn’t very interesting at all. The crowd was engaged most of the night, so that’s a positive and I also felt like they built up the top WrestleMania matches pretty well. At least Mike Tyson botching his interview and saying “Cold Stone” made me laugh.
Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker in a Casket Match (***3/4 out of 5)
Worst Match: Legion of Doom vs. New Age Outlaws (*1/2)
Five Stars Of The Show
- Steve Austin
- Shawn Michaels
- The Undertaker
- The Rock
- Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love
The previous WWE Royal Rumble PPV reviews are here:
1997 Royal Rumble (Won by Steve Austin)
1996 Royal Rumble (Won by Shawn Michaels)
1995 Royal Rumble (Won by Shawn Michaels)
1994 Royal Rumble (Won by Bret Hart and Lex Luger)
1993 Royal Rumble (Won by Yokozuna)
1992 Royal Rumble (Won by Ric Flair)
1991 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)
1990 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)
1989 Royal Rumble (Won by Big John Studd)
1988 Royal Rumble (Won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan)
Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.
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