Renewing my recent run of Rumble reviews, let's go back to 1991, where the World Wrestling Federation was looking into what to do after the Ultimate Warrior experiment ended. It was the 4th annual WWF Royal Rumble event, the first event that really had a factor in deciding what would happen at Wrestlemania in a few months. It was also at a high point, heatwise, for the Iraq skirmishes (Desert Storm), which, of course, was exploited by Vince as Sgt. Slaughter became a Iraqi sympathizer and, soon after, began receiving death threats. What fun! Let's get to it.
WWF Royal Rumble '91 |
Posted by the Accelerator, February 1st, 2007
- I have to note the box for my Coliseum Home Video, which was the first to showcase an artistic rendering of some of the biggest participants in the Rumble (as well as the WWF Title match). It's always been one of my favorite covers, although now it's a little more melancholy, seeing as how nearly half of the 11 wrestlers displayed (Mr. Perfect, Road Warrior Hawk, Kerry von Erich, Earthquake, & the Big Boss Man) have passed on by '07, only 16 years after the event.
- After the National Anthem is played, the Rumble begins much like the '90 version, with Vince McMahon reciting each and every participant in the match (with video clips showing each man). We're then introduced to the announcers for the night, Gorilla Monsoon(RIP) and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. This was during a phase, btw, where Piper had basically retired from active wrestling. He would return soon after, and win the IC Title at the next Rumble. But that's for another day.
The Orient Express (Kato & Tanaka) w/ Mr. Fuji vs. the Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty):
Tanaka quickly attacked Jannetty when he was posing on the ropes, sending him from the ring to allow the Express to get a double-team on Michaels. Of course, Jannetty only stayed down a few seconds before he came in and made the save with some "Crescent Kicks". The Express then went to the outside of the ring, but the Rockers, of course, nailed them both with outside dives. Mr. Fuji is not amused. Things got back under control, with Jannetty & Kato going at it. Kato, btw, is actually Paul Diamond, Tanaka's old tag-team partner in Badd Company. Anyone else here know that? No? Moving on.
Jannetty and Kato had a nice series of moves, with the Express getting the advantage thanks to Tanaka distracting Jannetty. It only lasted a few minutes before Jannetty got the upper hand on Tanaka and tagged in Michaels, who traded his own moves back-and-forth with Tanaka. Four very good wrestlers here, although only one would go on to bigger things in the WWF. The crowd goes wild as Michaels gets a sleeper on Tanaka, but Jannetty stupidly distracts the ref, allowing Kato to get a flying chop on Michaels to break it up. No wonder Michaels later ditches him. Michaels takes a bunch of hits from Tanaka, but comes back, then even manages to take out Kato with a moonsault splash. All four men come in, leading to a wild series that eventually sends the Express to the outside again. And once again, it doesn't work, as the Rockers both leap on their respective opponents again, this time from the turnbuckles.
The Express got the advantage back thanks to Tanaka yanking Michaels throat-first from the outside, then positioning Michaels to allow Fuji to nail him in the throat with his cane. Ouch. Michaels takes a ton of abuse, but keeps kicking out of the pins. He eventually reverses a double-team from the Express (trying to clothesline him with a belt), and Jannetty's a house of fire on his way in with the hot tag. With Kato down, the Rockers went for a double-team, with Jannetty set up to slam Michaels onto Kato. But Tanaka gets involved, kicking Jannetty and sending Michaels outside the ring. The two men double-teamed Jannetty, setting up for a slingshot into a kick, but Michaels returned, hitting Tanaka, then forcing Kato into the slingshot maneuver! Jannetty flips over Tanaka and gets the sunset flip pin, as Michaels holds onto Kato to keep him from interfering.
Ace Thoughts: Very impressive match. After so much slow wrestling from the '90 Royal Rumble (which I reviewed a few days ago), it was nice to see something fast-paced and exciting, especially the ending. This was a great showcase for all four wrestlers, and really shows the future potential of Shawn Michaels. Of course, it also shows Jannetty's potential. Oh well. Great Match.
- "Macho King" Randy Savage wants a guaranteed WWF World Title Shot after the Rumble, so he sends his valet, "Sensational Queen" Sherri to a nearby interview area in the arena to let loose the challenge. Apparently, Sgt. Slaughter has already said yes. When tbe Ultimate Warrior finally comes out, Sherri tries to seduce him, and the Warrior seems to like it (ugh). But after more seduction, the Warrior spits and begins to shake, screaming in Sherri's face, "Nooooooooo!" Savage, of course, runs out to the area in a rage, but the Warrior has already stormed off. It's a good story-building angle, but it's also tough to watch.
The Barbarian w/ Bobby "The Brain" Heenan vs. the Big Boss Man(RIP):
Here's one of those power matches I talked about. This, I believe, was a feud that was caused due to Heenan's comments about the Big Boss Man's mother. For a while afterwards, the Boss Man was hunting down every member of the Heenan family. Thus, his match against the Barbarian. The Boss Man got the psychologial edge early on, sending the Barbarian out of the ring, then holding up the Barbarian's cermonial garb (definitely a dead animal of some sort). But the Barbarian soon took advantage with his great power, suplexing and bearhugging the Boss Man. He's coming out of his shirt! A second bearhug nearly caused the Boss Man to be out, but he, of course, raised his arm on the third try, then used 3 headbutts and a bite on the beak to get free. The Boss Man then dominated with some desperations moves, but couldn't keep the Barbarian down. A top-rope clothesline led to a 2 count for the Barbarian, and the Boss Man Slam led to a 2 count for the Boss Man. In the end, the Barbarian went for a high cross-body off the top turnbuckle (you heard me right), and the Boss Man reversed it, getting the pinfall victory.
Ace Thoughts: Actually, for a big man match, this was a lot more entertaining to me than a few other matches I've seen recently. It's too bad the Barbarian could never find a way to get himself fully over, because he always had wrestling talent. Another good match, making me 2-for-2.
- Sgt. Slaughter (w/ General Adnan) gave some comments about orders, becoming the WWF World Champion, and beating down "the Ultimate Puke". This is followed by "Mean Gene" Okerlund interviewing the Ultimate Warrior.
Ultimate Warrior: The orders you give, Sgt. Slaughter, only fall upon deaf ears. For I, Sgt. Slaughter, give no orders. I only take them, not from you, Sgt. Slaughter, but only from the Warriors who ride up on my back!
Okerlund: Alright. Sgt. Slaughter alluded to turmoil. What about the turmoil that this man allegedly caused you?
Warrior: The turmoil you have created is nothing but a grain of sand in a desert, a desert where a foxhole will be created, which will lead you down to defeat *snort*.
Okerlund: Y'know, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter talked about leadership. That indeed, if he were to become the World Wrestling Federation Champion, he would be a leader that people could look up to, that they could be proud of. He would be a leader they could respect. Just exactly what kind of a leader do you think Sgt. Slaughter would be?
Warrior: My Warriors would never, could never lower themselves to look up to someone like you. The only ones that would follow you are those that are demented. I walk into this battle as the Ultimate Champion. I walk away as the Ultimate VICTOR!! *yells the last word and walks off*
(Yep, I had to write another whole Warrior rant. I can't help myself.)
The Ultimate Warrior(c) vs. Sgt. Slaughter w/ General Adnan, WWF World Heavyweight Title Match:
The crowd, of course, is way behind the Warrior, as Slaughter is a turncoat. The Warrior earns more admiration by taking out both Slaughter & Adnan, then tearing up the Iraqi flag. Slaughter gets to taste part of the flag soon after. This one wasn't even close early on, as the Warrior dominated Slaughter all over the place. Of course, it was mostly with the flag, which is a weapon, right? So why was there no DQ? Oh, that's right, the Warrior was a face at the time, he could get away with it. The two men went to the outside, with Sensational Queen Sherri coming to ringside to be a distraction. When Sherri grabbed the Warrior's leg, the Warrior quickly chases her back down the aisle, only to have Savage (who was very well hidden for someone wearing pink tights) ambush him, smashing the Warrior with a lightpost. This allowed Slaughter to dominate for a while, using his Camel Clutch. However, the Warrior's legs were sticking out of the ring, causing the ref to call for the break (silly Slaughter; check your positioning!). Soon, the Warrior came back, taking Slaughter down with repeated clotheslines. Sherri comes back out to interfere again, with the Warrior throwing her to the outside. The distraction works, as Slaughter knees the Warrior from behind, sending him into the ropes. Savage uses his royal sceptor, breaking it over the Warrior's face to knock him out. An elbow drop later, and Sgt. Slaughter becomes possibly the most unexpected World Heavyweight Champion (until David Arquette and Vince Russo).
Ace Thoughts: Compared to the first two matches here, this one really doesn't look that great, I have to admit. Of course, I'm still smarting from when I was younger and was absolutely pissed that a traitor had the title. Bad memories. The only great moment in the match is Savage literally coming out of nowhere to plow into the Warrior, flying out of a darkened area to great effect. I remember going crazy when I first saw that. This match would lead to Hogan returning to the limelight to be the American Hero and take out Slaughter at Wrestlemania, while the Warrior and Savage had a tremendous "Retirement" Match that ranks in my Top 10 Wrestlemania Matches. BTW, not sure if Savage ever officially got his title shot (Jim Duggan got the title shot a week later on The Main Event V).
- "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase explains why Virgil does all his dirty work, showing the moola. No, not the Fabulous Moolah. Money, people, money!
"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes & Dustin Rhodes vs. "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase & Virgil:
This match was completely about starting another angle. DiBiase had messed with Dustin a few months back, leading to a feud between the Rhodes and DiBiase & his bodyguard, Virgil. Of course, Dusty & Dustin tried to convince Virgil to walk away from DiBiase's money, but he hadn't. Dustin and Virgil start things off, with Dustin showing off some of the skills he inherited from his father. This is long before Goldust showed his painted face. Virgil doesn't do well against either Rhodes member, so DiBiase gives him an earfull, then asks for the tag in. Not surprisingly, DiBiase dominates Dustin, but when Dusty gets tagged in, the Rhodes are back in control. At least until Dustin misses a charging knee into the turnbuckle, apparently badly injuring it. DiBiase & Virgil focus on the injury for a while, trying to take out Dustin. However, when Virgil accidentally clotheslined DiBiase, DiBiase attacked Virgil, throwing him outside the ring. This allowed Dustin to tag in Dusty, who beat on DiBiase in the corner. However, Dusty missed an elbow in the corner, with DiBiase getting the quick roll-up for the pin.
After the match, the real action started, as DiBiase badmouthed the Rhodes, then demanded that Virgil come back into the ring and put the Million Dollar Title around his waist. After some hesitation, Virgil came into the ring with the belt, then dropped it at DiBiase's feet. DiBiase, of course, told Virgil to pick it up and put it around his waist, reminding Virgil about his mother (who apparently needed money). Virgil drops to the mat and picks up the belt, as DiBiase reminds us that everyone's got a price. Virgil then clocks DiBiase with the belt, knocking him out, as the crowd (and Roddy Piper) goes crazy. Virgil walks off, having experienced the greatest moment in his wrestling career.
Ace Thoughts: Not much to say about the match, at it wasn't really the story. After all, both Dusty & Dustin were out of the WWF soon after the loss. The big story was Virgil finally turning on DiBiase after so many years. It's still a great moment in Rumble history, as the crowd explodes, loving it that the little guy finally struck back. Sure, the Virgil/DiBiase feud started at a high point and dropped from there, but it sure was a nice moment.
- Lots of people get interviews about the Rumble: Tugboat, Demolition Smash, Dino Bravo, Demolition Crush, and Mr. Perfect. Then, to let you know who the unbeatable favorite is, "Mean Gene" Okerlund gives Hogan an exclusive interview that goes a heck of a lot longer than anyone else's. Hogan dedicates the match to the Armed Forces overseas, adding to his invincibility. Okerlund also announced that Slaughter, as an unconfirmed report, had defaced the American flag. Of course, they didn't show it, but Hogan gets ticked off about it anyway (and screws up his interview because of it, stuttering over his words).
The Royal Rumble Match:
#1 is Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who was starting to become a fan favorite. #2 is "The World's Strongest Man" Dino Bravo(RIP), near the end of his own run with the WWF. Managers are again allowed to be at ringside for this one. After some back-and-forth action, #3 Greg "The Hammer" Valentine came to the ring, attacking both Hart and Bravo (who is stunned, since they used to be tag partners). The two men fought it out, with Valentine shockingly throwing Bravo out of the ring, eliminating him! A furious Jimmy Hart gets into Valentine's face, with Valentine throwing Hart down. This, of course, allows Bret Hart to get back into it after feigning still being hurt. Next up is #4 "Pretty" Paul Roma, who was tag-team partners with Hercules (Power & Glory) at the time. Roma & Valentine double-teamed Hart, but Roma quickly turned on Valentine, emphasizing the Every-Man-For-Himself rules of the Rumble. #5 is "The Texas Tornado" Kerry von Erich(RIP), who quickly uses his Tornado Punches on Roma and Valentine. I'm looking for it, and I still can't see the fake leg.
#6 is "The Model" Rick Martel, making it three-against-two in favor of the heels. Of course, the faces vs. heels mentality really started breaking down in this Rumble, so numbers didn't really matter. And, as I write that, Martel tries to toss Roma over the top with a Fireman's Carry. Next up at #7 is Saba Simba (Tony Atlas), a horrible gimmick that didn't last very long. Still, Simba quickly used his power to beat on Roma, as well as others. The Tornado gets the Claw on Roma, his powerful submission hold. #8, Bushwhacker Butch, celebrates on the way down, quickly getting hit by Valentine. Meanwhile, Simba tries to drop Martel out, only to flip over and go out himself (while Martel lands on the apron). #9 is Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who charges after his rival at the time, Martel, with Roberts dominating the Model. Roberts even bit at Martel's hand at one point, trying to get him out. #10 is the Mighty Hercules, who teams up with his tag-team partner on Butch.
#11 is Tito Santana, who, of course, goes after his old partner (years ago now), Martel. The crowd immediately goes crazy, as they want to see Martel get thrown out. Seriously, every time he's on the verge, the volume goes way up. In the background, Roma flies out of the ring after missing a cross-body. There are 8 guys in the ring right now. #12 is the Dead Man, the Undertaker, with Brother Love leading him down. It takes all of 5 seconds for the Undertaker to pick Bret Hart up in a Two-Handed Chokeslam and send him out of the ring. The Undertaker is no-selling everything, even shaking off a Tornado Punch. #13 "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka comes out next. He gets to see Bushwhacker Butch for about two seconds before he flies out, courtesy of the Undertaker.
Gorilla Monsoon: Please.
#14 is "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith(RIP), as he joins in on the assault on the Undertaker with the Texas Tornado. A British Bulldog and a Texas Tornado. Interesting combination. #15 is Demolition Smash, bringing the field to 10 in the ring. Smash goes at it with Davey Boy, with Davey Boy winning the battle with a clothesline. Meanwhile, Martel uses his brains, coming from the outside to pull Jake Roberts out of the ring, eliminating his rival. #16 is Hawk from the Legion of Doom(RIP), attacking everyone, and subsequently getting double-teamed by Hercules & the Undertaker. Nobody likes a show-off. #17 Shane Douglas comes next (yes, Shane Douglas, not that Dean Douglas character... not yet). In the background, the Tornado misses a Tornado Punch and gets thrown out by the Undertaker. A few seconds later, Hawk sends Snuka over the same side, slimming down the bulk in the ring somewhat. Douglas, for a virtual unknown, is doing pretty well in there, going toe-to-toe with Valentine. Out comes #18... or maybe not. Nobody appears in the entryway, so we return to the ring, leading people to wonder who's missing. Since they don't come out by the next number, they're gone from the Rumble.
#19 soon comes down at a dead run, showing himself as Legion of Doom's Animal. Not surprisingly, the two team up, joining with Hawk to pound on the Undertaker. The Dead Man comes back with a double choke, but they fight it off, then team up to eliminate the Undertaker! Unfortunately for Hawk, his celebration allows Martel & Hercules to quickly hit him from behind and send him out as well, ending the LOD team-up. The announcers talk about Valentine and Martel, both of whom have had a very long run in there. #20 is Demolition Crush, who joins Smash in beating down the British Bulldog. Martel's almost gone again thanks to Santana & Valentine, but he once again slithers back in, continuing his time in the Rumble.
#21 is "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, giving a nice "Hooooo" to the crowd in attendance. He leaves the 2x4 behind, as this is before the age of hardcore. Too bad, that'd definitely give him an edge. As a note, we have one full tag-team in there (Demolition), but they're wandering separately for the most part, which has to be a mistake. I'd choose a corner and stay together, myself. #22 is a big man, the Earthquake(RIP). He walks slowly to the ring, but immediately stands off with Animal. Animal actually seems to be winning for a minute, but a missed clothesline sends him to the outside, with the Earthquake next focusing on Hacksaw. #23 is Mr. Perfect, led out by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Perfect conserves his energy coming to the ring, where Hacksaw is trying to fight off a double-team from Demolition (there ya go). Duggan then attacks Perfect when he comes in, but Duggan opts to charge, and Perfect sends him out over the ropes. According to Monsoon, Valentine is over 43 minutes, while Martel is at 40.
#24, Hulk Hogan, sets the crowd on fire (not literally), as he storms to the ring. Not surprisingly, he immediately gets attacked by Smash & Perfect. But since Smash didn't have his partner with him (where were you, Crush?), Hogan throws Smash out. Hogan then battles with his rival at the time, the Earthquake. The shirt's still on, by the way. Perfect helps Earthquake turn the tide, pounding on Hogan and trying to toss him, as the crowd chants for him. They love the Hulkster, that's for sure. Up next is #25 Haku, even as Hogan ends Valentine's run by tossing him out. It was over 45 minutes, at least according to the announcers.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper: No sir. There ain't no seconds, there ain't no thirds!
In the ring, Martel finally rips off Hogan's shirt for him, if only to choke him out with it. Others use the shirt to their advantage as well. #26 is Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, who attacks Hercules. Meanwhile, Santana is punching away at Earthquake, but he's aiming for the belly, not the best way to go. In fact, seconds later, Santana goes out after an Earthquake headbutt. There are still 10 guys in the ring, as eliminations have been few and far between. #27 Bushwhacker Luke makes his way down, doing the Bushwhacker walk. He goes in one side of the ring, then gets tossed out on the other by the Earthquake, about two seconds later. He then continues the 'strut' back to the dressing room. He got paid well for that, by the way. And now, whenever someone's quickly eliminated, it's called the Bushwhacker award. #28 is "Nasty Boy" Brian Knobbs (his partner, Jerry Sags, wrestled in a dark match, and was left out of the Rumble for some reason). Knobbs runs around and attacks several people. All of them follow, though, beating him down. Knobbs does manage, though, to send Hercules out of the ring. The final three left to come out (for the last two spots) are Randy Savage, Tugboat, & the Warlord.
Speaking of, #29 is the Warlord, who assaults the Bulldog. Mr. Perfect can be seen down near the ringropes, getting his face toweled off by Heenan. Crush opts to go up to do the 10 punch on Hogan, but Hogan tosses him over, with Crush hitting the apron hard on his way down. Mr. Perfect and the Warlord then double-team the Hulkster, but Perfect accidentally chops the Warlord, then walks away, apologizing. Perfect goes back to Heenan to talk things over, even as Hogan manages to reverse a toss and send the Warlord out of the Rumble. #30 Tugboat comes in next, showing that "Macho King" Randy Savage was #18. Obviously, Savage ran away from the Warrior's rage, right? Tugboat goes at it with Earthquake (future tag partners at war!) Off-camera, Knobbs throws out Douglas, ending the youngster's run. Douglas get an ovation on his way out, but doesn't do much else in the WWF.
We're down to Hogan, Earthquake, Knobbs, Haku, Tugboat, Neidhart, Perfect, Martel, and the Bulldog. Perfect gets chopped down by Hogan and falls backwards, with the Earthquake quickly stepping on him. Ouch. Tugboat assaults the Hulkster, truly showing that friendships aren't a factor. Tugboat nearly throws Hogan out, but Hogan comes back in and throws Tugboat out instead. The Bulldog then sends Perfect out with a dropkick, continuing to clean out the ring. Neidhart surprisingly gets tossed by Martel, who has to be exhausted by now. The Bulldog then gets another elimination, ducking a charge from Haku (people just NEED to learn not to charge!) and sending him out to get us to 5 left. Knobbs & the Earthquake team up to attack Hogan, while Martel and the Bulldog go at it. Martel screws up by climbing the turnbuckle, and the Bulldog sends him out, ending Martel's run at 52:17. Soon, though, Knobbs & the Earthquake attack Davey Boy and toss him, making it a Handicap situation for Hogan. With the toss, Knobbs has 3 eliminations. Hard to believe that Knobbs had that many, with no possible singles run coming.
Knobbs & the Earthquake soon dominate the Hulkster, with the Earthquake using his running sit-on-the-chest maneuver, which can break ribs. Not surprisingly, though, Hogan Hulks up, booting Knobbs out and making it Hogan vs. Earthquake. Hogan takes care of Jimmy Hart, then goes for the bodyslam, but the Earthquake squashes him. Earthquake then pounds on him again, dropping elbows and landing a painful-looking powerslam. Once again, though, Hogan Hulks Up (I thought he could only do that once in a match? Oh well). He takes a few shots from Earthquake, does the point (which always causes the guy to swing again), lands the Big Boot, then tries to relive Wrestlemania III by bodyslamming him. It's just not the same. Soon after, Hogan sends the Earthquake out to win his second straight Rumble. Hey, the crowd's happy, especially as Hogan waves the American flag.
Ace Thoughts: It was an entertaining Rumble, as most of them are (at least to me). It's definitely dated, though, as it was hard to watch Hogan come back again and again. Hogan would go on to win the WWF World Title from the turncoat, Slaughter, at Wrestlemania, making the fans happy again. At the very least, back then, the fans got what they wanted. You have to admire that. Good show, always worth checking out.