Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan are in the booth, live from Albany, New York. According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the show drew a crowd of 17,000 fans. Despite more than a month of hype, the show drew a disappointing 1.80 buyrate (an estimated 260,000 buys), which was a sizeable drop from the 2.40 buyrate (440,000 buys) of the previous year’s Royal Rumble.
Opening Contest: The New Foundation (1-0) beats the Orient Express (w/Mr. Fuji) when Owen Hart pins Tanaka after the Rocket Launcher at 17:18:
The Orient Express have not wrestled together on television since the September 16, 1991 edition of Prime Time Wrestling. Tanaka has not appeared on television this year so far, mourning the death of his father. Mr. Fuji also reconnects with the squad for a pay-per-view payday after abandoning Kato to lose singles matches. Monsoon informs fans that there are some substitutions in the Rumble as Marty Jannetty and Brian Knobbs will not be in the match, replaced by Haku and Nikolai Volkoff. Most of the match is an Owen showcase as he pops the crowd with hurricanranas, spinning heel kicks, and flying elbow drops for eight minutes before being placed in peril after a Fuji cane shot. Since Bret is off the card, Owen also steals his brother’s chest-first corner bump to illicit sympathy. A false tag after a Tanaka blind charge almost gives the Express the upset after they whip Owen into the corner where Fuji has laid his cane and Owen splits it upon impact, only saved by placing his foot over the bottom rope. A great piece of Owen being in peril is that he nearly wins the match alone, getting to two and nine-tenths after using a crucifix and catching Tanaka with a belly-to-belly suplex, with the last bit forcing Kato to save his partner. Owen finally goes under a double clothesline and dropkicks his foes to give Jim Neidhart the hot tag, who slingshots in and wipes out the Express. Owen pops the crowd one last time by having Neidhart throw him through the ropes for a suicide dive, where he takes out Kato, and Owen scrambles back to the ring, where Neidhart throws him off the top rope onto Tanaka for the win. As the description attests, this was a great opener that was on par with the great match the Express had with the Rockers the previous year. The only thing that held it back was that the crowd did not buy into the Express as a threat, so they only bought the corner cane spot as a possible finish. Rating: ***¾
Lord Alfred Hayes narrates some footage from Springfield, Massachusetts that shows the Mountie defeating Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship. Also shown is the Mountie’s post-match beatdown and Roddy Piper’s intervention.
Sean Mooney interviews Intercontinental Champion the Mountie and Jimmy Hart. The Mountie promises to take Piper’s integrity and manhood in their upcoming bout.
Gene Okerlund talks with Piper. Piper dismisses the Mountie as a member of the Village People before having a nice rebuttal of the Mountie’s promo, noting that trying to find his integrity is like “Jacques Cousteau trying to find a dry spot in the ocean.” And in terms of manhood, Piper says he does not know what the Mountie is talking about because he is there for a fight. He then notes that the Mountie has been having wet dreams and Okerlund quickly wraps things up.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Roddy Piper (2-0) defeats the Mountie (Champion w/Jimmy Hart) (1-0) via submission to the sleeper hold to win the title at 5:18:
The Albany crowd is hot for Piper, showering him with a massive pop and chants for his name before the opening bell. Piper jumps the Mountie before the bell and although the Mountie is able to kick out of a bulldog, he never puts Piper in a compromising position to lose. At the end of the match, Piper atomic drops the Mountie, who flies over the top rope as Hart gets on the apron. The Mountie is able to skin the cat back in but heel miscommunication occurs, allowing Piper to trap the Mountie in a sleeper and capture his first title in the WWF. The execution of the finish was not great because Hart recovered while Piper had the sleeper locked in, had the shock stick in his hands, and just stood there while his man was defeated. Rating: *
After the bell, Piper grabs the shock stick from Hart and shocks the Mountie. In a nice touch, Howard Finkel’s announcement of the new champion is delayed until all of this is over to give Piper a chance to revel in the crowd’s cheers.
Okerlund talks with the Bushwhackers and Jamison. Luke screams about them getting ready to fight “The Beverly Sistas” and that their upcoming battle will be the Beverlys final fling.
The Beverly Brothers (w/the Genius) (1-0) defeat the Bushwhackers (w/Jamison) (1-0) when Blake pins Butch after a Beau flying double axe handle at 14:56:
Early on, there is a lot of stalling from each team so Heenan fills time with Jamison jokes and paranoia about Ric Flair’s Rumble draw. When action picks up after a few ring clears by the Bushwhackers it just leads to Luke getting put in peril. The match is an indictment of the Beverly as the crowd does not care for their relatively weak offense. Butch gets a hot tag because the formula says he has to, but he gets tripped by Beau when he runs the ropes. Luke saves his partner from being pinned but is escorted back to his corner by the referee. That allows Blake to hold Luke in place for a double axe handle from Beau and that is enough to put Butch down for the three-count. This was the antithesis of the opener as it was full of stalling and lacked exciting action. Rating: DUD
After the bell, the Bushwhackers act like sore losers in attacking the Beverlys and taking them out with Battering Rams. They flip the Genius into the ring and hold him place so Jamison can wind up and kick the Genius in the shins and butt. The crowd goes flat for that as they wanted Jamison to knock the Genius down with a punch. Also, Jamison took so long to do anything to the Genius that for a second it looked like he might turn on his teammates.
Okerlund interviews WWF Tag Team Champions the Legion of Doom. They talk about how they want to throw the Natural Disasters weight around.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Natural Disasters (w/Jimmy Hart) (2-0) beat the Legion of Doom (Champions) (1-0) via count out at 9:22:
The opening minutes feature some fun spots as Hawk blasts Typhoon with his patented flying clothesline, forcing Earthquake to make a save. Typhoon proceeds to shrug off the blow like a shoulder block. Hawk then dropkicks Earthquake and goads the big man into trying the move, side stepping when the big man tries it. Animal and Earthquake then get into a slugfest and Animal gets a big head, thinking he can slam Earthquake, but instead Earthquake crashes on top of him for a near-fall. Hawk then tries a flying body press and that goes about as well as one would expect, so he ends up in peril as the Disasters work over his back with bearhugs. Hawk refuses to submit and knocks Earthquake down with an elbow smash off the second rope, giving Animal the hot tag. Animal takes out both Disasters with clotheslines and the battle goes to the floor, where the Legion get counted out after Typhoon rolls back into the ring. The booking of this was weird because the match layout was better suited for the beginning of a feud, not a program that has been going on since SummerSlam. It was a fun hoss battle while it lasted, though, and it is the first time that the Legion have lost a televised match since entering the company in 1990. Rating: **
Following the match announcement, the Legion get some heat by using a chair to take out Earthquake.
Mooney interviews the Natural Disasters and Jimmy Hart, who are mad that they are not the tag team champions. Earthquake’s ire at only winning via count out is silly because he held Hawk in a long bearhug and prevented him from re-entering the ring, so the count out is his fault.
Okerlund chats with Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper, who hypes how he can win two titles in one night.
Mooney interviews Shawn Michaels, wearing sunglasses and a white leather jacket. After footage of the Rockers breakup angle airs, Michaels says he did Marty Jannetty a favor by saving him from a beating from 29 other men.
In Rumble promos, Randy Savage says he wants to get his hands on Jake Roberts and become WWF champion again, Sid Justice talks with intensity about how he is going to win the WWF title, Repo Man gives a funny promo about he is out to steal the belt, the British Bulldog refers to his victory in Royal Albert Hall last year and how that sets him on a path for success in the Rumble, Roberts tells Savage that he is going to be waiting for him in the Rumble and will have enough left to prevail, Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect talk about how to be the man you have to beat the man and Flair is the man to beat, the Undertaker and Paul Bearer reiterate that 29 caskets await the carnage that is to come, and Hulk Hogan tells his fans that the power of Hulkamania will be proven in the Rumble.
Ric Flair wins the Royal Rumble after eliminating Sid Justice and wins the WWF Championship at 62:02:
WWF President Jack Tunney gives a poor speech about how the match is for the WWF Championship and that the best man will win it. The only good thing from it is Heenan quipping “[Tunney is] the best president since Noriega!”
While the previous year’s Rumble suffered from a lack of star power that is not the case this year. As proof of that, the British Bulldog and Ted DiBiase lead off the contest and Ric Flair follows at number three, freaking Heenan out on commentary because to this point the earliest entrant to win a Rumble was 13, and that was when Hacksaw Jim Duggan won it in a field of 20. In the 30-man era the earliest winner had been at 24, when Hulk Hogan won it the year prior. Flair goes through hell as most entrants take a shot at him, including Haku, El Matador, the Texas Tornado, Greg Valentine, and the Big Bossman. Flair finds a second wind to dump the Bulldog, Tornado, and the Bossman in the middle but then has to go one-on-one with rival Roddy Piper. The facial expressions of each man – Piper smiling with glee at the opportunity and Flair closing his eyes and begging for mercy – sell the moment well. Heenan crying and losing it with every near-Flair elimination adds to the match as well, with some nice humor added in when Heenan praises Jake Roberts for breaking a Piper sleeper hold on Flair and cursing him for going after Flair and going for a DDT. Then, when Piper goes after Roberts for a while, Heenan screams “I’m sorry! It’s a kilt, not a skirt!” only to change course when Piper goes after Flair again, calling him “A skirt wearing freak!” Another funny moment happens when Flair gives the Undertaker a low blow and Heenan claims Flair was trying to lift the Dead Man. Unfortunately, Monsoon fails to keep up with some of it, getting Flair confused with Rick Martel near the end.
Aside from Flair and Piper, other feuds continue into the Rumble. Roberts and Randy Savage collide after Savage draws #21. Savage, focused solely on revenge, dumps Roberts and then has a botch where he jumps over the top rope to continue attacking his enemy. That should eliminate Savage, but Heenan covers for it by saying that Savage can re-enter the match because no one threw him over the top rope. The Undertaker also tries to disguise it by going to the floor to cut off Savage’s attack on Roberts and tossing Savage back in. Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker also interact in the last quarter of the match because of the preferential draw each man received (the Undertaker draws #20 while Hogan draws #26). However, it is not much of a face off as Hogan quickly fights out of a three-on-one attack by the Undertaker, the Berzerker, and Irwin R. Schyster and clotheslines the Undertaker out. That ends their brief feud in Hogan’s favor.
There are some other nice touches to the match. The Undertaker resumes his hatred of Jimmy Snuka, quickly dumping him from the match after entering. Piper and Virgil fight each other for a few brief moments, putting aside their year-long friendship because the WWF Championship is on the line. Piper, predictably, gets the better of that exchange. Rick Martel goes after Ric Flair in a desperate attempt to preserve his iron man record from the previous year and Piper and Hogan resume their feud from seven years ago, briefly exchanging blows.
After the Warlord blows the best draw in the biggest Rumble in history at #30, getting tossed in less than two minutes by Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice, the match comes down to Hogan, Sid, Savage, Piper, Martel, and Flair. When Martel and Piper fight near the ropes, Sid dumps them. Sid also throws Savage out without much fanfare. The big man intelligently sits back as Hogan and Flair go at it and when Hogan is stomping Flair, Sid tosses him over the top rope. This gets a big pop in the arena, but the WWF later hides that pop on Coliseum Video to fans booing the elimination. A sore loser, Hogan grabs onto Sid’s arm and Flair pounces, eliminating him to capture the WWF Championship after surviving for a record sixty minutes.
Overall, the match told a good story of Flair going close to the distance to capture the WWF Championship and prove his claim to be “the real world’s champion.” Heenan’s partisan commentary enhanced it as well. However, the end of the match was rushed, the Savage botch should have just been allowed to stand because Savage was a non-factor the rest of the way, and there were some dead periods in the early going and when participants in the high twenties were coming out. The WWF learned its lesson from the previous year in not letting the ring fill up for extended periods of time but there were spots where nine men occupied the ring. That keeps it from being a perfect match, but it is still the greatest Rumble to this point in WWF history and, arguably, of all time. Rating: ****½
After the match, Flair does not get to celebrate with the WWF Championship in the ring as Hogan comes in and chases him off. Sid follows Hogan into the ring, and they get into a shoving match as a sea of WWF officials pour into the squared circle. Sid leaves, promising to kill Hogan.
Backstage, Tunney presents Flair with the WWF Championship Belt. Okerlund interviews Flair, who says he has a “tear in his eye” for the greatest moment of his life. He takes a shot at WCW, saying that the WWF Championship signifies the best in professional wrestling. Heenan and Mr. Perfect join Flair in wooing and gloating. Okerlund lends some humor to the moment by telling someone off camera to put out a cigarette.
The Last Word: This was booked as a one-match show and that one match delivered in a big way, giving the WWF another strong pay-per-view outing. The Rumble finish points to Hulk Hogan-Sid Justice as a future WrestleMania program, although fans once again cheering a Hogan opponent on a big pay-per-view is not a good sign for the WWF’s top star. The Rumble also gave Ric Flair a desperately needed boost as Flair had not won a big televised match to this point in his WWF career. In addition, Roddy Piper winning the Intercontinental Championship was a career highlight and seeing the crowd’s reaction to his title win is unforgettable.
Backstage News*: It is expected that Hulk Hogan will take time off after WrestleMania VIII and return for SummerSlam. Dave Meltzer believes that the WrestleMania main event will be Ric Flair defending the WWF title against Hogan because promotion posters shipped to Japan advertised that match, but if Hogan takes time off then he would not be winning the title in Indianapolis. The outcome of that title match could create the foundation for a Hogan-Sid Justice match for SummerSlam or, Meltzer speculates, WrestleMania IX in 1993. Hogan and Flair drew a sellout crowd in Boston, which was the first WWF sellout of a big building for a non-pay-per-view card in quite some time.
*Bret Hart was in negotiations with WCW when he found out that he was losing the Intercontinental Championship to the Mountie several weeks ago. WCW had hoped that Bret would still be Intercontinental champion so that they could have him bring the title to Clash of the Champions on January 21 and avenge the WWF bringing in Ric Flair last year with the WCW Championship Belt. WCW allegedly offered Bret a sizeable deal to jump but Bret had to decline because his WWF contract already rolled over for another year. It is uncertain whether Bret testing the waters with WCW will affect his future singles prospects in the WWF.
*There are also rumors that Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) is looking to jump to WCW, but he just signed a new contract to be an announcer on WWF television.
*In a dark match before The Royal Rumble went on the air, Chris Walker beat the Brooklyn Brawler via disqualification after WWF President Jack Tunney came out and reversed the referee’s decision after the Brawler won with a Flair pin. The purpose of that finish was to make the crowd cheer Tunney when he came out before the Rumble, but it did not work.
*Elizabeth will not be going on the road anymore with her husband, Randy Savage, because she is tired of traveling.
*In talent relations news, it has been confirmed that Lex Luger will be part of the WBF. To transition him to wrestling there will be an angle where he will lose to big bodybuilding names, get angry, and enter the wrestling ranks. The WWF will be using Kevin Von Erich at the next television tapings.
*Backstage news is courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 27.
Up Next: Prime Time Wrestling for January 20!