By Mark Worrall
As the 2017 Royal Rumble approaches we sometimes go back and remember previous events of that nature. With a card that looks well stacked of talent all looking for that elusive Wrestlemania main event spot in Orlando this year, I decided to write a review about a past Royal Rumble that still takes a special place in my heart. The Royal Rumble most would agree takes second place in the WWE event pecking order, following only Wrestlemania, although some may say Summerslam is the number two WWE show. For me the Royal Rumble is the most exciting of all WWE shows and regularly has a habit of throwing out surprises, exciting moments and some controversial to say the least. In 1992 the Royal Rumble was still in its infancy has a Pay per View. Most Rumbles would be open to almost any of the roster to take the title as Rumble champion as there was no real benefit to winning the event except prestige! Hulk Hogan would win the 1990 and 1991 Rumble’s and for him to win again would seem slightly predictable. A change in the structure of the tournament was needed and with the shenanigans that happened in the Tuesday in Texas fiasco, an opportunity presented itself and the prize for the winner was to become the undisputed WWF champion. This opened the rumble up to many possibilities, and a new era and a Rumble match that broke records, literally! This is the story.
The event opened to the pay-per-view audience with the usual opening tag match. Just as the previous year the Orient Express lost the opener, this year to the New Foundation, a team that consisted of Jim Neidhart and Owen Hart, the Hart foundation they were not, however, this was a decent opener with the brothers-in-law picking up a nice win.
Second on the card saw the Mountie lose his two-day reign as Intercontinental champion to Rowdy Roddy Piper, who himself won his first, and only WWF singles title. This match went five minutes with the victor never in doubt as Roddy took the title win and used it as momentum to go thirty-five minutes in the main Rumble match itself.
A pretty weak tag match went third as the Beverley Brothers, accompanied by the Genius defeated the Bushwhackers who had Jamieson at their side, surprisingly this match lasted nearly fifteen minutes and was much too long.
The final match before the Rumble match itself saw the WWF champions Legion of Doom lose by count out to the Natural Disasters Earthquake and Typhoon where nobody took a pin and both teams remained strong.
ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH – THE STORY
The Fink explains all the rules prior to the start of the match and declares the winner of the Rumble match will become the undisputed World Wrestling Federation champion. This leaves Bobby Heenan on commentary nervous and apprehensive about his guy Rick Flair and his chances of winning the Rumble himself as Gorilla Monsoon goads on his co-commentator.
After a brief statement from Kayfabe WWF President Jack Tunney the match officially begins as The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith is announced as the wrestler who drew number one as Heenan tells the listening audience of The Bulldog’s victory at the twenty man battle royal at the Albert Hall in London a few months back. Second man out his Ted Dibiase who obviously was not able to buy his number this time and his pounced upon by the Bulldog on entry has Smith lands some punches to Dibiase who retaliates and counters those strikes and unleashes several suplexes on the Bulldog before thinking he has thrown the Bulldog out of the ring and raising his triumphant arms looking onwards along the walkway to see who would be next to enter from the curtain, unaware that Davey has not left the ring, who responds by sending Dibiase out of the ring and out of the match with a strong clothesline.
Enter contestant number three! Cries of NO! From Heenan as his man Ric Flair enters the match with the arduous task of being drawn so early into the rumble as Monsoon reminds the listeners that nobody who has drawn the numbers one to five as ever won the Rumble. ‘kiss it goodbye Brain!’ Flair and Bulldog lock up as Heenan apologizes to the people as, he states that he may not be able to be objective! ‘Take a walk’ cries Heenan has Flair is press slammed by the bulldog who controls Flair who literally begs the Bulldog to stop as the fourth entrant makes his way to the ring in the form of Nasty Boy-Sags, who comes to the aid of Flair who is locked in the turn pad whilst Bulldog unleashes fists upon the Nature Boy! Sags and Flair begin to double team upon the Bulldog who counters their attack with a double clothes line before throwing Sags over the top rope, however, Sags holds on and stands aloft the apron before Bulldog sends him into row z with a drop kick!
Two remain as Davey Boy tells Flair that it’s me and you as Heenan cries ‘this isn’t fair to Flair’ a phrase that would be repeated throughout the match. Bulldog tries to lift the Nature Boy who counters with slaps to the chest of Bulldog who hits a power slam on Flair as the fifth entrant Haku enters the rumble match and immediately attacks the Bulldog, to the relief of Heenan as Haku and Flair double team on Davey before
Haku turns his attention on Flair who reverses the Samoans chops with his own until he realizes whom he is chopping and backs off and takes refuge under the bottom rope and walks away as Haku returns to unleash a well-executed pile driver on the Bulldog. Flair seizing an opportunity takes advantage and attacks Haku and this match becomes a triple threat! As the countdown for the sixth entrant closes in Bulldog eliminates Haku as Shawn Michael’s, now starting out on his singles run, enters the fray and immediately goes for Flair who suffers a huge back body drop from the boy toy followed by a superkick. Bulldog however delivers another press slam as Michael’s becomes the victim this time as the former Rocker is sent over the top rope, although he manages to hang on the apron and stay in the match as he is met with Flair who tries to lift him over the top rope but receives a thumb to the eye for his trouble. Bulldog sends Michael’s into the corner and bounces him on the top rope which sees Flair throw Michael’s over the top rope but somehow manages to stay in this match as entrant number seven enters the match in the form of El Matador Tito Santana, who is met upon arrival by Flair who unloads on Tito who counters with punches to the head of Flair before holding the Nature Boy over the top rope trying in vain to eliminate Flair until Michael’s comes to the rescue and begins to work on Santana until the Bulldog intervenes and tries once again to eliminate Michael’s as Flair delivers a perfectly executed side suplex to Santana. Flair hits Bulldog with a low blow, Flair style! and tries to eliminate Davey until Flair receives a patterned flying forearm from Santana as the countdown for the eighth entrant begins as the Barbarian enters and immediately goes for the Bulldog and holds him aloft the top rope as the Bulldog stretches a hand to hold on to the apron as he receives blows to the head from Flair who alongside the Barbarian cannot eliminate Davey. five men battle in the ring which sees Santana duck a Michael’s fist almost eliminating himself as we arrive to the ninth entrant. The late Kerry Von Erich enters the match and is met by Flair reliving past rivalries between the two as Von Erich unleashes punches upon the Nature Boy, turning then to Michael’s who continues to take a lot of punishment as he gets catapulted by Davey into the turn pad as the Bulldog hits the sixteen minute mark. We have the tenth entrant in the form of the Repo Man who sneaks to the ring and patiently rolls under the bottom rope as he joins the seven man battle fresh as tiredness begins to creep into the match as there have been no eliminations for six minutes now. Tito hits the Barbarian with a nice high cross body as we reach entrant number eleven as veteran Greg ‘the hammer’ Valentine, who himself had a great showing in last year’s rumble lasting forty four minutes. Flair and Valentine exchange chops throughout the next two minutes with the Hammer seemingly getting the better of the exchange as Flair does his patterned face down drop to the mat. Michael’s however dangles with his legs tied to the ropes as the Bulldog and Kerry try in vain to eliminate him as the twelfth entrant Nikolai Volkoff makes his way to the ring through a sea of boos for the recently turned face who is really sloppy, throwing weak punches to Repo Man with little effect until the Repo Man himself eliminates the would be Russian. As the ring starts to fill, and a cluster of tired bodies pound on each other, Valentine manages to put Flair into a figure four as Heenan yells from the announce booth. Unlucky for some, and the remainder of the guys in the ring is the thirteenth entrant the Big Boss Man as he unleashes hard time on the Royal Rumble combatants, Bossman delivers a punch to all the men in the ring as we lose Greg Valentine as repo Man eliminates the Hammer. A sequence of eliminations now follows as the Bossman eliminates the Repo Man with a huge throw to the outside. Flair and Bulldog go for it which sees Flair lift the Bulldog over the top rope and to the floor and repeats the same process to the Texas Tornado. As the countdown to entry number fourteen begins Shawn Michael’s and Tito Santana eliminate each other as Hercules enters at fourteen and goes after Flair with Heenan questioning why? ‘Maybe he remembers how you treated him!’ exclaims Monsoon. Barbarian hits Flair with a huge press slam and proceeds to eliminate Flair; however the Barbarian is pulled over the top rope by Hercules as Flair scrambles under the bottom rope to safety. Hercules rumble is short as the Boss Man eliminates him leaving him alone with Flair, who by the grace of god ducks a Boss Man attempted cross body, therefore eliminating himself leaving Flair alone in the ring as Heenan proclaims the Nature boy as the winner and new champion only for Monsoon to cut him off stating there are a lot more guys to come.
A chance for Ric to take a breather as number Fifteen counts down, and the expression on Flair’s face is priceless as the newly crowned Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper, for who Flair has been feuding, make his entrance into the match and unleashes on Flair with a back body drop, drop kick and a huge clothes line on the ring floor. Flair’s offence is futile as Piper is red hot as Heenan loses it in commentary as he can only watch as Piper puts Flair to sleep as entrant sixteen enters in the form of Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts who politely makes his way to the corner and allows Piper to continue punishing Flair before unleashing on Piper himself and makes his way and helps Flair to his feet only to hit the Nature Boy with a short clothesline and throws out a DDT sign to the crowd until he himself is hit with a clothes line from Piper as Heenan thanks the Hotrod and proclaims ‘it’s a Kilt not a skirt!’ Flairs follows up with a figure four on Roberts and locks the hold well, however, Piper takes advantage and initiates kicks to both Flair and Roberts as they remain locked in the hold as Heenen announces Piper to be a skirt wearing freak!! Another triple threat ensues until Number seventeen, Hacksaw Jim Duggan makes his appearance, heading straight for Flair as most new entrants seem to and unleashes before turning to Roberts as Piper gets involved giving Flair a chance to catch his breath, however Flair continues to get involved and shows no let up and takes no easy options as he really shows he has something to prove and hits Piper with a well-executed side suplex. A slap fest ensues between Flair and Piper as the Eighteenth entrant IRS enters the match, who takes his time to enter the ring before Duggan utilizes the tie of I.R.S. to throw punches to his head as I.R.S. counters to unleash on Hacksaw. Meanwhile Piper fights to hang on to the top rope as Flair and Roberts try to send the Hotrod to the floor as Flair enters his thirty-sixth minute of the match and Piper gains salvation from Duggan who knocks the heads of Roberts and Flair together sending Flair face first to the canvas in the only style that Flair can! Piper then tries to send Flair over the top rope as I.R.S. assists and we begin another ten count as number nineteen makes his entrance and it’s the late great Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka who immediately stops the punishment that Duggan is inflicting on Flair who is now bouncing on the top rope as Heenan cries ‘the WWF title isn’t worth it no more, how much can one man take, this could be career ending for Flair’. Six men stand in the ring as Piper unleashes vicious slaps on Flair who seems to be a glutton for punishment as he battles the onslaught from Jake the Snake as he tries unsuccessfully to tip Flair over the top rope.
Entrant number twenty is now upon us as The Undertaker, who alongside Hulk Hogan had received an exemption in the Rumble match up and would not be drawn until numbers twenty to thirty after their recent feuding over the WWF title over the past few months and what went down on a certain night in a certain state back in November ’91. The dead man enters the ring and heads straight for Snuka who suffers elimination from a strong clothes line from The Undertaker who is then attacked by Flair, who soon regrets his move and is held in a persistent choke hold as Heenan remarks ‘it’s over, all over, everything down the toilet’ as Monsoon suggests that maybe Heenan should go ringside and throw in the towel! Fortunately, Duggan stops the onslaught on Flair. The twenty-first entrant begins its countdown as we see both Flair and Duggan in a double choke hold from the Undertaker as The ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage sprints to the ring as the next entrant and immediately looks for Jake Roberts who has slid under the bottom rope and hides ringside as The Undertaker attacks Savage giving Roberts the chance to re-enter the ring and take over from the Undertaker and beat on Savage, who counters and is able send Roberts out of the ring with a high knee, thus eliminating Roberts and a small victory for Savage who is currently feuding heavy with Roberts as the crowd goes nuts for this rivalry. However, Savage seems uninterested in the rumble match himself and leaps over the top rope and seemingly eliminating himself, or so Monsoon thinks, however, Heenan remarks that to be expelled from the rumble you have to be thrown out so Savage remains, although he seems more content to beat on Roberts until the Dead man throws Savage back into the ring enabling Roberts to escape. Flair still continues to throw offense, regardless of his fatigue and hits the Undertaker with a low blow as Heenan proclaims that Flair tried to lift the Dead man! Considering that the Undertaker has only been in this match for four minutes, he seems to be the center of most of the action which is a testament to how much this character had grown in such a short life span and is no surprise that he still remains relevant twenty-five years later.
Entrant number twenty-two is The Bezerker who straight away goes for the Undertaker before laying offense on every one left in the match until Duggan counters dropping an Atomic drop on the Bezerker. Flair, still dishing out offence, incredibly after forty-five minutes attempts a suplex on Savage from the apron but is unsuccessful as Savage reverses leaving more punishment for the so-called ‘real worlds champion’! Number twenty-three is about to end its countdown and Virgil, the former stooge enters the royal rumble match as Heenan remarks on how many bags out the back Virgil had been through! Virgil attacks I.R.S. before he his outnumbered as he faces the onslaught of the other competitors. Amazingly Flair continues to issue the offence on the Undertaker who reverses the attack and chokes the life out of Flair and then hangs the Nature Boy over the top rope as his Royal Rumble dream looks like coming to an end, however, and that seems to be the story of this Rumble, Flair somehow manages to hang on and lands on the apron allowing himself to roll back in as the countdown begins again and the twenty-fourth entrant in the form of Colonel Mustafa makes his way to the ring. Nine men now battle in the ring and the match begins to look clustered as men walk around throwing punches as Piper and Flair battle in one corner with Monsoon reverting to Flair as Martel as the match excitement builds as we head to the twenty-fifth entrant as the current Royal Rumble record holder Rick ‘the model’ Martel makes his entrance. Fifty-two minutes and thirty-four seconds is the current records Monsoon reminds us as Martel goes straight for Flair who is two minutes away from breaking his record (clever booking having Martel come out now) and assisted by I.R.S. tries hard to eliminate Flair who, once again survives on the apron whilst we almost miss Savage eliminate Colonel Mustafa.
Number Twenty-six as the crowd pops big time as the still amazingly over Hulk Hogan enters the match and at this point would seem to be the overall favorite to take the Rumble win. Hogan heads for Flair and the Undertaker and knocks their heads together as the rest of the field descend upon Hogan as they know he is such a threat to win this match as Heenan begins to beg once again announcing that he is ‘sorry for everything he has ever said and done, please let him win, I’ll change I promise’! Hogan unleashes on Flair then turns his attentions to The Undertaker and a simple clothes line sends the dead man out of the match as he lands on his feet! The Bezerker feels the wrath of the Hulkster as he faces the next elimination and Duggan eliminates Virgil and then himself as the momentum of the elimination carries him to the floor as we reach entrant number twenty-seven and the alligator man Skinner makes his Rumble debut. No eliminations through the next two minutes as Flair continues to throw offense around as if he is a new entrant and not a man sixty seconds away from beating Martel’s record. The twenty-eighth entrant enters in the form of former WWF champion Sergeant Slaughter, who has changed his way and asked for his country back and like most other new entrants immediately heads for flair but struggles to eliminate the new Rumble record holder as he surpasses Rick Martel’s current record, as Martel himself eliminates Skinner! ‘Give him the title’ proclaims Flair as he passes the rumble record! However, his thoughts change as the twenty-ninth entrant makes his entrance, and its… SID! ‘Oh no! cries Bobby as he sees everything falling apart once again! Sid heads straight for I.R.S. and attempts to eliminate the tax man who somehow is able to remain on the apron sliding back into the match. At this point fatigue is setting in and it can be seen as the match slows down a little with mini brawls around the ring as Flair hits fifty-eight minutes and continues to unload on Hogan showing no fear at all as The Warlord is the thirtieth and final competitor to enter the match and now it is all on the line as one of the nine men left standing in the ring will become the undisputed WWF champion. Flair and Hogan battling outside the ring as Hogan reverses a suplex attempt from Flair and sends Ric to the floor with a suplex of his own. Sergeant Slaughter is the first of the nine men to be eliminated as a huge Irish whip from Sid sends Slaughter over the turnbuckle and to the floor as a series of eliminations occur as this match comes to a close. I.R.S. who has had an impressive rumble is eliminated as Roddy Piper uses his own tie against him to drag the money man out. Sid and Hulk double team to eliminate the Warlord. Sid then eliminates Martel and Piper at the same time as they battle each other over the top rope enabling Justice to use that to his advantage, this sees Piper notch up a time of thirty-five minutes which is outstanding for a man that wrestled and won the Intercontinental title earlier that evening! So we are down to the Final Four as we have Hogan, Flair, Justice and Savage left, one of those four men will be the new champion. Unfortunately for Savage, a high knee from Flair saw his Rumble over as he battled Sid. Flair then goes on to slap Hogan, who snaps and unleashes on the Nature Boy as Sid stands and watches, waiting for his opportunity, finds it and eliminates Hogan, which shocked everyone, including me! (my initial watch all those years back!) Upset by this Hogan shows his bad losing side as he grabs hold of the arm of Justice which enables Flair to tip Justice over the top rope and we have a new WWF champion!!!!
Heenan does his best Daniel impression as cries of YES! YES! YES! Echoes from the announce table as ‘I told you so! also remind us of Booby’s prediction as he leaves commentary and makes his way to the back where he celebrates with Flair and Mr. Perfect as they hold an interview backstage. In the ring Sid and Hogan square up, both unhappy with each other’s elimination, this would end with a main event match at Wrestlemania eight.
This Royal Rumble match had everything. Drama, suspense, humour and an exciting and somewhat surprising end, well to some anyway. Three things about the Rumble match stand out for me:
RIC FLAIR: Surely the star of the show, he never hid, attacked everyone entering the ring, showed incredible strength and stamina when you consider he lasted over an hour, and at the age of 42! An absolutely incredible performance that was for me his best showing ever. Yes Ric was already a star before this match, but for most wrestlers approaching their forty third birthday, they would be considered to be down scaling their career, here Flair reinvented himself and really showed a new audience who were not really appreciative of his NWA days of what a star he really was. His promo at the end of the match alongside Bobby Heenan and Mr Perfect is worth a watch in itself.
BOBBY HEENAN: On a par with Flair as star of the show, the perfect double act. Without Heenan’s outstanding and side-splitting commentary, the Rumble would not have seen as great as it was to the television audience. I remember being in fits of laughter as Heenan begged for Flair’s victory, and that is why I added some quotes in the review as the Monsoon and Heenan commentary double act was as usual, in another league.
WWF CHAMPIONSHIP: After the Tuesday in Texas fiasco and the title switching between the Undertaker and Hulk Hogan the WWF championship was left vacant. Putting the belt on the line for the winner of the Rumble was genius and opened what actually still is used today, the championship match opportunity at Wrestlemania. Having thirty men battling for the WWF championship gave the Rumble match the prestige it needed and made for a more exciting match. Having Flair win the belt here was perfect as only Flair could have carried this win off like it did.
Be sure to check out this match, although there surely cannot be many people who have not seen this yet.