(Originally written 05.17.20)
The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 1992 – 01.19.92
So a couple of months back I had redone Rumbles 89-91 to good reaction, but then I was checking my archives and I realized that I hadn’t done this one in close to 25 years. Yikes. So we’re definitely due for a redo, and probably Rumble 93 as well since we’re building up to it on the Superstars reviews. Gotta be fair to Flair.
Once again I like that Vince runs down exactly who is in the match at the start of the show. I do suspect that this is the Coliseum Video master because it’s cut to 2:40 and looks like it’s shot on videotape.
Live from Albany, NY, drawing a sellout 17,000 and a 1.8 buyrate.
Your hosts are, of course, Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan, in his peak as a color commentator.
The Orient Express v. The New Foundation
Although we frequently make fun of Owen’s ridiculous gear here, rightly so, the Orients also had switched from tights to simply wearing pajama pants to the ring. If you’re gonna job at least be comfortable I guess. Owen works on Kato’s arm to start while Gorilla grills Bobby on what number Flair drew, but Bobby has been stuck with Gorilla all day and doesn’t know. He’s sure that it’s fine, though. Owen takes Kato down and stomps on the wrist, but they do a test of strength and Owen has to bridge out of that. Rana gets two off that and Owen goes back to the arm again. Animal continues down that road and pounds Kato in the corner until he finally brings in Tanaka. He tries a slam on Anvil and gets punked out, and Owen comes in with a flying elbow for two. Backbreaker gets two. Meanwhile, it seems that Bret Hart entered the ring against the Mountie, with a FEVER OF 104 DEGREES MIND YOU, and lost the title. Against doctor’s orders! Oh great, maybe Bret was the patient zero for Covid. The Express double-teams Anvil for a bit, but Owen comes in with a flying bodypress on both guys. Snap suplex on Kato gets two as Gorilla calls tonight the first time ever that someone can possibly win both the IC and World titles on the same night. I guess if you’re not counting THE MAIN EVENT OF WRESTLEMANIA two years prior, sure. Finally Tanaka gets a cheapshot on Owen and Fuj the Stooge hits him with the cane and the heels get some heat. Man the spot on the pecking order for these poor geeks was pretty evident by this point. Kato gets a leg lariat for two and goes to a chinlock, but Owen fights back with a crucifix for two before Tanaka hits a superkick to put him down again. Gorilla noes that the Orient Express is tough to de-rail, “just like the Midnight Express”. I dunno, Jim Herd was able to do it pretty easily. You just need to fire the manager and offer one of the guys a singles push for more money. Owen fights back as this drags a bit, and we get the false tag to Neidhart, allowing the Express to use Fuji’s cane again as Kato gets two. Kato with a hammerlock slam and Tanaka works on the arm, but Owen gets a belly to belly for two. Another false tag to Neidhart and the Orients double-team Owen again for two, and then Neidhart manages to distract the ref AGAIN. What a terrible partner. Finally Owen hits a dropkick and makes the hot tag to Anvil, who slingshots in with a double shoulderblock and at least proves to be an effective hot tag guy. He tosses Kato and whips Owen into a dive on the outside, and then they finish with a Rocket Launcher on Tanaka at 17:20. Took FOREVER to get there but the finish was hot. Also, launching the Rocket with a Rocket Launcher? CLEVER. **1/2
Meanwhile, we head to Alfred Hayes via an obvious audio overdub from Gorilla, so yeah, this is the Coliseum Video version instead of the original PPV. Anyway, we get footage of Mountie winning the IC title from the feverish and near death Bret Hart, with Roddy Piper making the save and getting hit with a cheapshot from Mountie as a result. And then Alfred throws it to Sean Mooney and the Mountie, who feels like he should have just won the match by forfeit tonight. But he’ll beat Piper tonight anyway because he always gets his man. Of course, Bret Hart thought he was jumping to WCW because his contract was expired, but he didn’t realize it had rolled over and renewed automatically. Hopefully he pays closer attention to contract negotiations in the future.
Roddy Piper responds with a funny promo (“Take Piper’s manhood? I come here to fight, I don’t know what you come here to do. You’ve been dreaming and it sounds like they’re all wet.”)
Intercontinental title: The Mountie v. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Much the Orient Express is from “Japan”, the Mountie is from “Canada”. As if the uniform wasn’t enough of a giveaway. Piper chases Mountie to the floor, but Jimmy Hart runs interference and allows Mountie to get a cheapshot and take over. Back in, Mountie chokes away, but Piper drops a fist to block a monkey flip. Piper with a bulldog and a fistdrop for two. Bobby is already having an aneurism on commentary about Flair and Gorilla is happy to egg him on. Piper wins a slugfest, but tries a dropkick and misses by a mile as Mountie gets two. Mountie takes him to the corner for some police pacification techniques, and adds a dropkick for two. Piper comes back with a sunset flip while Bobby relates the time he had a 113 degree fever but took ½ of a children’s aspirin and he was fine. Fun fact: You can’t get those anymore because of stupid people eating them like candy. Piper puts Mountie out with an atomic drop, but he skins the cat back in and charges. Piper moves, Mountie hits Jimmy Hart, and Piper puts him away with the sleeper at 5:14 to win the title. And this gives us one of the most masterful Finkel calls ever, as he waits for Piper to clear the ring and beat up the heels, lets the fans build up anticipation, and then announces Piper as the new champion in one of his best ever calls. And now he’s gone, and Piper’s gone, and the ref is gone, and both announcers are gone, and I’m having mixed feelings. Well that got dark, sorry. *1/2
And then we cut to Hulk Hogan in the back, who confirms that this is for Coliseum Video. Seriously, why would you not just do the full PPV version on the Network? Did the Rumble Anthology DVD sets have the full versions, I wonder? I actually don’t own those, for those wondering, although I do have all the Wrestlemania and Summerslam ones.
The Beverly Brothers v. The Bushwhackers
I’ve mentioned several times before, but Jamison never made TV on the Canadian syndicated shows so I had no idea at the time who the guy was and why he was with them here. Bobby continues trying to negotiate with Gorilla to leave and check on Flair: “I know just how you like your hot dog…EXTRA BUN!” Anyway, we get a very long stall to start while the Bushwhackers try to lead the crowd in a “Sissy” chant, which goes nowhere. Beau finally makes contact 3:00 in, beating Luke down in the corner, but the Whackers clean house and we get some more stalling to slow down the torrid pace. More antics from the Bushwhackers, but Luke gets caught in the corner and double-teamed with kicking and punching. And this drags ON and ON with so much nothing and Luke just laying there and selling. Genius goes over and slaps Jamison and there’s just nothing happening. Beau goes up with a double axehandle for two and Blake gets a neckbreaker and stomps away. Hot tag Butch, thank god, and he hits the Bevs with clotheslines and a headbutt on Blake for two. But then Beau trips him up and Blake drops an elbow for two. And then Beau gets another double axehandle from the middle and Blake pins Butch at 15:10 of boredom. -** So after losing the match fair and square, they beat up the Genius afterwards and then we get a big comedy bit where Jamison winds up a punch for hours and then finally just kicks him in the shin instead. Awful on every possible level.
Mean Gene chats with the Legion of Doom about defending against the Natural Disasters. They’re not about to start losing now!
WWF tag team titles: The Legion of Doom v. The Natural Disasters
Really, if Hawk wasn’t being such a baby about everything at this point, they could have done business here and set up a giant rematch at Wrestlemania, instead of ending up working with a literal dummy by the summer. So, the commentary here brings up ANOTHER point against this edit, because “F” is edited out when Gorilla says “WWF”, so this is not only the Coliseum edit, it’s the version that was then FURTHER edited for WWE 24/7 and then finally dumped on the Network! How damn lazy can you be? Hawk can’t overpower Typhoon, but Earthquake comes in and misses a dropkick, which has Gorilla riffing on him for even trying it. Like Gorilla ever did a dropkick at that size. Animal comes in and we get a double-down with Quake off a clothesline, and Animal tries a slam but Quake falls back on top for two. Typhoon gets an avalanche, but Animal comes back with a clothesline out of the corner. Over to Hawk and he won’t sell for Typhoon until a backbreaker turns the tide and the heels go to work on his back. Quake beats on him in the corner and stomps away, then goes to a bearhug while Gorilla and Bobby do a little improv with an imaginary intern who Bobby tries to send as a runner to Flair. Gorilla just playing along and having the “guy” thrown out is great. Hot tag Animal and he hits Quake with a shoulderblock and puts the Disasters down with a double clothesline, and everyone brawls to the floor for no adequately explored reason and Typhoon beats the count at 9:25. Slow and lame as the LOD’s relationship with the company deteriorated and they clearly did not give a SHIT. ½*
We get words from Shawn Michaels and a replay of the Rockers’ breakup, and Alfred chats with Flair, who reveals that he drew #3, and then we get the series of promos from the intermission with all the guys doing their pre-Rumble promos. The editing here is just all over the place, as they awkwardly have Gorilla throw back and forth to the various interviews via post-production.
But, for as crappy as the undercard has been, it’s time for the real reason to watch the show…
Jack Tunney earns his pay by welcoming everyone to the match and stumbling over his words, while Bobby jokes that he’s on the take. Yeah, “jokes”. British Bulldog is #1 and Ted Dibiase is #2 and we’re off. Bulldog attacks to start, but misses a charge and hits the corner, allowing Ted to hit him with chops and pound on him for a bit. Gut wrench suplex follows and Dibiase drops the fist, but he can’t throw Davey out, and Bulldog clotheslines him to the floor at 1:20 for the first elimination. And of course, Ric Flair is #3 at 1:50 and Brain is PISSED. “You can kiss it goodbye, Brain!” declares Gorilla with glee. Bulldog overpowers him as Heenan notes that he probably can’t be objective for this. Bulldog gets a press slam and hits Flair with a clothesline out of the corner, but Flair pokes him in the eye and then asks for mercy. Jerry Sags is #4 at 4:00 as Bulldog beats on Flair in the corner, but Sags makes the save and the heels do some double-teaming. Bulldog clotheslines them to escape and throws Sags to the apron, then dropkicks him out at 5:25. So it’s back to Bulldog and Flair, and Ric throws chops as Haku is #5 at 6:00. So the heels double-team Bulldog again, but then Haku turns on Ric and they exchange chops in the corner until Flair wisely runs away from that fight. So Haku hits Bulldog with a piledriver instead, and then Flair jumps Haku from behind and drops a knee on him. That just makes him mad and Haku beats on Flair in the corner until Davey throws him out at 8:00. Shawn Michaels is #6 at 8:00 and he exchanges chops with Flair and backdrops him out of the corner before hitting a superkick. Hopefully he told him that he loved him and he was sorry. Davey comes back and clotheslines Shawn to the apron, but he holds out and superkicks Bulldog. Flair tries to throw out Shawn, but Shawn pokes him in the eye, getting right into this heel thing already, before Bulldog drops him on the top rope and beats on him. Tito Santana is #7 at 10:00 and he goes right after Flair as expected, but can’t get him out. So we get Flair & Shawn v. Tito & Bulldog in what would be a hell of a Prime Time main event, and Flair goes low on Bulldog in epic fashion and tries to throw him out. Tito saves with the flying forearm, however, and Barbarian is #8 at 12:00. “Barbarian doesn’t like Flair” notes Gorilla. Flair and Barbarian work together and try to get Bulldog out, but Tito saves. Texas Tornado is #9 at 14:10, and of course HE doesn’t like Flair very much. Flair takes the discus punch and does a Flair Flop for a great little spot, while Shawn continues trying to win the “best bump” award for the show. Everyone slugs it out and Tito stomps Flair down, and Repo Man is #10 at 16:10.
Repo sneaks in on the back side while Flair tries to muscle Bulldog out and then decides to chop Kerry instead. And just as it slows down a bit, Greg Valentine is #11 at 18:10, hopefully warmed up first in the dressing room. And then we get another cool callback as he exchanges chops with Flair and teams up with the Bulldog. Shawn continues taking crazy bumps off everything but you’re not outshining Flair in this one. Nikolai Volkoff is #12 at 20:10 as we load up the ring to hopefully clear it with the next guy, and sadly there’s not a lot going on here. Valentine does put Flair into the figure-four as Volkoff gets tossed out at 21:29. Big Bossman is #13 at 22:10 and he goes right after Flair and just slugs away on everyone, and Hammer is tossed at 22:33. Shawn continues bumping like a ragdoll physics demo and Repo gets thrown out by Bossman at 23:03. And then Flair backdrops Bulldog out at 23:41, followed by Kerry at 23:50, to clear out the ring a bit. Tito and Shawn tumble out at 24:09, and Hercules is #14 at 24:10. And he attacks Flair as well until Barbarian makes the save. And then Flair turns on him as well, which proves to be a problem as Barbarian slams him and tries to put him out. Hercules dumps Barbarian out at 25:20, however, and Bossman dumps Herc at 25:30, leaving us with Flair and Bossman. They slug it out and Flair gets killed, but he dodges a charge and Bossman is out at 25:55. And Flair is left all alone. But not for long.
Rowdy Roddy Piper is #15 at 26:20 and he of course does not care for Flair. Flair takes a backdrop out of the corner and runs away to the floor, but Piper chases him and they brawl out there. Back in, Flair necks him and Piper no-sells it and slugs away in the corner, then no-sells an atomic drop and hits the eyepoke for a giant pop. This sets up an airplane spin and the sleeper, but that doesn’t help in a Rumble. Jake Roberts is #16 at 28:20 and he just lets Piper put Flair’s lights out, but then saves when it’s to his advantage and beats on Piper in the corner. Flair offers a truce, so Jake turns on him and Bobby is just INCREDIBLE on commentary, with his mood changing with every ebb and flow of the match. “Thank you Roddy, it’s a kilt, not a skirt!” he notes when Piper saves Flair. And then when Piper turns on Flair, Piper is a “skirt wearing freak” again. Jake tries to get Piper out, but Hacksaw Jim Duggan is #17 at 30:36 as the reactions get bigger with each entrance. And he beats on Flair, but then Piper attacks him and we get some interesting combinations until everyone is down and out.
IRS is #18 at 32:30 and he’s probably already sweating. And IRS goes after Flair on the way in, but Duggan slugs away on him and then rams Flair and Jake together. Everyone slugs it out, but Jimmy Snuka is #19 at 34:34 as the intervals are actually getting longer. And of course he beats on Flair with headbutts right away and chops him down. Jake tries to power Flair out, but Undertaker is #20 at 36:34 and he immediately swats Snuka out at 37:20 for a badass elimination. Flair foolishly attacks him, but Randy Savage is #21 at 38:34 and Jake runs away in terror and lets Undertaker do the dirty work. Then Jake goes after Macho, but that goes badly as Savage beats on him with the double axehandle and sends him flying out at 39:30 with the high knee before (possibly) eliminating himself at the same time. And then Undertaker follows them out via the bottom rope and beats on Savage before throwing him back in, because Savage wasn’t thrown out over the top by someone else. Yeah, that would be contradicted several times over through the years. That was probably just Savage getting too excited and forgetting the rules. Flair goes low on Undertaker to little effect (“He just tried to lift the Undertaker!”) and Berzerker is #22 at 42:00. Was the timekeeper napping? That was four minutes! Flair foolishly tries to suplex Savage from the apron, but Savage suplexes him back in, which is equally dumb. Taker chokes Flair out, which gives us the funny spot of Piper doing his own zombie choke before an annoyed Undertaker turns on him and chokes him out. Virgil is #23 at 43:56, and he is one of the few to not attack Flair. Undertaker keeps beating on Flair and chokes him out in the corner while we get a mini-drama with Piper having to duke it out with student Virgil.
Col. Mustafa is #24 at 46:00 and he takes the low-hanging fruit of Virgil while Piper keeps running afoul of Undertaker. Rick Martel is #25 at 48:00, so no record run for him this year. He also goes after Virgil, but Flair starts something with him and they slug it out in the corner as our “former World champion” quotient is getting pretty damn impressive in there. Mustafa is tossed at 48:53 to lower it a bit, but there’s still Flair, Martel, Savage, Undertaker and if you want to count parents of future World champions, IRS. Hulk Hogan is #26 at 50:00 as Bobby is losing his mind, and he too goes after Flair. Bobby starts begging to the gods and promises to be a better person if Flair survives, but Gorilla isn’t convinced. Hulk clotheslines Undertaker out at 51:02, then backdrops Berzerker out at 51:10. Duggan and Virgil tumble out together at 51:32, leaving us with an impression concentration of star power. Skinner is #27 at 52:00 to dilute the match again, and IRS saves Flair from elimination via Orange Goblin. Flair and Martel try to get Piper out with no luck. Flair stops to Woo and gets clotheslined by Hogan, as Sgt. Slaughter is #28 at 54:00 to boost our World champion levels again. Skinner gets dumped out at 54:20 and that’s no big loss. Hogan and Piper have a fun little sequence raking each others’ eyes while Flair passes the longevity record. Sid Justice is #29 at 56:00 and you’d think he’s get some shine, but he just kind of wanders around hitting people. And finally, Warlord is #30 at 58:00 and we’ve got our field. Hogan and Flair fight on the floor and Hulk suplexes him out there, while Sid sends Slaughter into the corner for the Slaughter Bump and out to the floor at 59:00. Really Slaughter going out any other way would be a complete waste. Piper grabs IRS by the tie and pulls him out at 59:52 for another great elimination. Warlord is tossed out by Hulk at 60:17. Piper and Martel fight on the ropes and Sid throws them out at 60:41, and we’ve got our finals.
Final Four: Sid Justice, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan & Ric Flair
Flair puts Savage out with a high knee at 61:06 and then slugs it out with Hogan, ending up on the apron while Sid watches. And then Sid throws out Hogan at 61:36 while Hulk bitches and moans about it (complete with lame overdubbed boos!), only for Flair to put Sid out at 62:00 and win the Royal Rumble and the WWF title. I’m gonna be honest, I was doubting the standard ***** rating for the match given a bunch of slow spots, but **** for the match and an extra * for the Bobby Heenan’s commentary means this is still a ***** classic and one of the best Rumbles of all time. It’s only fair to Flair.
And of course, we head to the back afterwards, as Flair accepts the title WITH A TEAR IN HIS EYE while Bobby and Perfect celebrate. And put that cigarette out!
Life might be sad right now, but this show still makes me happy. WOO!