Royal Rumble 1997
San Antonio, Texas
January 19, 1997
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry "The King" Lawler
Holy crap, who ever would have thought that these things would have made it to 1997? Away we go.
We kick things of with some Shawn/Sid hype and a package on the Hunter Hearst Helmsley/Goldust feud.
Intercontinental Title: Goldust vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Goldust did a half-assed face turn to set this up, which is basically the result of no worthy babyface Intercontinental Title contenders besides Marc Mero. Hunter started inexplicably courting Marlena, Goldust stood up for her and we have what I like to call instafeud. To complete the face turn, they had Jerry Lawler interview Goldust and ask him straight up if he was queer or not. Goldust replied with an emphatic NO, then punched him out. Hunter is accompanied to the ring by Mr. Hughes, so there you go: he and Jericho have had the same bodyguard. Goldust kicks some ass in the aisle to start. He slingshots him and slams the steps on top of him. Macho Hunter comes back with a top rope axehandle all the way to the floor, then takes Goldust into the post. Hunter goes for a high knee, but Goldust moves and his knee slams into the railing as a result. Goldust slams the steps into the knee, then tosses him in for the Figure Four. Helmsley weasles his way to the ropes to break, but Goldust clips him when he tries to stand up, then tells him to "Come on you piece of shit." Goldust does a kneebreaker on the stairs. Well, that was pretty innovative. Goldust goes for a crossbody, but Hunter ducks and Goldust goes flying all the way out of the ring. Hunter gains some revenge out there by taking his back into the railing and then the steps. We interrupt the match so Todd Pettengill can grab a word with Colin Ray in the crowd. What the hell? Back in, Hunter executes one of his few offensive moves at that point, a kneedrop, which is of course stupid because he hurts his own knee in doing so. Goldust scores a backdrop and heads up top but misses an elbow. Hughes tosses Hunter the IC Title belt and distracts the ref, but Marlena hops up on the apron to distract Hunter in turn. Helmsley grabs her and kisses her, but this sacrifice allows Goldust to take the belt and nail Hunter with it. Nice twist there. Hughes sees this and pulls the ref out of the ring to save his guy, prompting Goldust to go over and nail Hughes. This allows Hunter to recover and hit a clothesline and the Pedigree. That gets the three count at 16:49. They actually varied from the usual formula a lot there. Long match, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be given the participants. **1/4 Not the greatest match in the world, but the effort appeared to be there and that has to count for something.
When asked who's going to win the Royal Rumble, Bret Hart declares that "it's gonna be me." He's wearing the old school sunglasses in this promo, which just makes him look that much cooler.
Conversely, Mankind doesn't seem too worried about winning the Rumble, but does look forward to hurting people.
A Faarooq/Ahmed Johnson package is shown.
Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq
This is the long awaited blowoff match for the feud that lasted the better part of six months. Ahmed rushes him in the aisle and dominates the first few minutes. He whips him from pillar to post, as the old saying goes, both inside and outside of the ring. Faarooq finally manages a clothesline and slams Ahmed's kidney onto an unfolded steel chair. See, that's one of those spots I don't like because it doesn't look very impressive but it really is painful. It's too much risk for barely any return. The goal is to do the opposite. Inside, Faarooq hits a chinlock but Ahmed backdrops out. Faarooq hits the spinebuster, but Ahmed no-sells and answers back with one of his own. Before he can finish him, the entire Nation jumps in the ring for the DQ at 8:46. Ahmed beats up a bunch of lackeys as Faarooq retreats to the back. Ahmed puts one guy in a suit through the French (yes, French) announce table with a vicious Pearl River Plunge. Nice bump. *1/4
Terry Funk comments on the Royal Rumble match, but says nothing notable.
Todd interviews a pissed off Faarooq.
The Undertaker vs. Vader
The Undertaker no-sells all of Vader's offense and sits up on everything to pop the crowd. He starts on offense and hits a fameasser-type move. A leg drop gets two but the ropewalk is countered. Vader takes over and doges Taker's comeback attempt. He finally hits the Vaderbomb for two. Taker comes back with the ropewalk and a chokeslam and Paul Bearer comes down to ringside. They brawl on the floor and Taker goes flying at Vader, but the big guy moves and Taker smacks into the railing. Vader distracts the ref and Bearer clocks him over the head with the urn. Taker crawls in and the Vaderbomb gets a three count. Wow, the humanization of the Undertaker continues. He has Foley to thank for starting it all. Too little, too late for the Vader push, however. Vader and Paul Bearer leave together and The Undertaker chokeslams the ref in frustration.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin is confident going into the Rumble tonight, but so is WWF veteran, the British Bulldog.
Perro Aguayo, Canek & Hector Garza vs. Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal & Fuerza
I got the names off the internet because it's not like the WWF actually thought theye were relevant. JR does most of the commentary, as the crowd dies. They go through lots of spots, and at least it's unique, but I can't say that it makes for a good match. Perro Aguayo scores the pin on Heavy Metal at 10:57 to end it. Um, I guess that was worth about *. Next!
Royal Rumble Match
#1 is Crush and #2 Ahmed Johnson. Well, Ahmed didn't have to wait long to get his hands on the Nation. There are ninety second intervals this year. The fake Razor Ramon is #3 and Ahmed mercifully dumps him in about twenty seconds. Ahmed spots Faarooq in the aisle and eliminates himself to go after him. #4 is Phineas Godwinn. Boring. #5 is Steve Austin. Good. Phineas eliminates Crush and walks into a Stunner. Austin eliminates him and waits for #6, who turns out to be Bart Gunn. Bart scores with a Fameasser, but Austin recovers and clotheslines him out. He does some pushups as he waits for the next entrant. After the pushups he checks his watch. Heh. #7 ends up being Jake "The Snake" Roberts. #8 is the British Bulldog. He enters as Austin dumps Jake out. The Bulldog hits the Running Powerslam on Austin to thwart his momentum. #9 is Piro. Quien? Bulldog actually sells for him briefly, but then he and Austin stomp the crap out of the guy. #10 is the Sultan, with Lo Down's music and the Iron Shiek. He and Austin go at it, and Austin gets the better, which would ultimately result in him running the guy down with a car three years later. The guys that suck (Sultan and Piro) pair off, and the guys that rule pair off (Bulldog and Austin). Works for me. #11 is Gil Mascaras. If there are 60,000 people in the arena, how come there's no noise? #12 is Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He goes after the Bulldog, as Davey Boy eliminates the Sultan. #13 is Owen Hart. Wow, Owen, Bulldog, Austin, and Helmsley are all in there at the same time. them and the Mexicans. Still, that's pretty notable. Owen and Austin trade punches, and then Owen sneaks in and dumps his ally, the Bulldog, from behind. #14 is Goldust. Austin takes him on as Gil tries to get rid of Owen but fails. #15 is Cibernetico. He goes straight for Gil. Okay, enough with the freaking Mexican wrestlers already!
#16 is Marc Mero. Mascaras dumps Cibernetico, then eliminates himself by following with a plancha. Goldust eliminates Hunter to try to make up for his earlier loss. Well, that was a given. Owen enziguris Austin to my delight, and Mero and Goldust lock up. Sable and Marlena cheer on their respective men. #17 is Latin Lover from AAA. Argh, screw the AAA! Owen skins the cat back in and eliminates Goldust. #18 is Faarooq, who dumps the Lover on a charge. Austin and Faarooq brawl but it's not long before Ahmed Johnson charges the ring and nails Faarooq with a huge 2x4 before eliminating him from the competition. Okay, so a wrestler that had already been eliminated from the Rumble just came into the ring and eliminated someone still legally in the Rumble. Remember that. Austin dumps Mero and Owen, leaving him as the only man left in the ring. #19 is Savio Vega, his old foe. Savio scores a heel kick and a slingshot into the corner, but Austin stunguns him, clotheslines him out of the ring, and waits for #20. #20 is Jesse James. Austin makes short work of him and is left alone again. #21 is finally Bret "Hitman" Hart, as the crowd goes wild. A slugfest is won by a fresh Bret, and he soon hooks the Sharpshooter on an exhausted Austin. Jerry Lawler's music plays at #22, and Lawler stands up from his commentating post. He gets in the ring, and Bret punches him right out of the ring in five seconds. Bret leg sweeps Austin, as Lawler returns to commentary and picks up in mid-sentence as if the previous events never happened. That's classic. #23 is the Fake Diesel. Lawler: "Bret Hart shouldn't even be in the WWF." Give it ten months, Jerry. #24 is Terry Funk, who brawls with Austin. The rookie Rocky Maivia is #25, and now he and Austin go at it! That's pretty cool to see. That's quite possibly the first time they locked it up. #26 is Mankind, who fittingly battles it out with the Funker. Austin suplexes Bret. Bret responds with a sleeper, but Austin jawbreakers out of it to counter. #27 is Flash Funk. Bret piledrives Austin. Flash, no relation to Terry (I know, I was surprised too), hops up top and clotheslines both the real Funker and the fake Diesel. #28 is Vader. He goes after Bret Hart. #29 is Henry Godwinn. The ring is filling up. The fake Diesel nails the fake Funk with a fake right hand. #30 is the Undertaker. Well there's a big break. He goes after everyone, including Vader and Mankind. Austin is greeted with a chokeslam, as is Vader. Rocky takes it to Vader. Vader shrugs it off and eliminates Flash. There's a long brawling period as they set up the final series of eliminations in preparation for the finish. The Undertaker eliminates Henry Godwinn. Rocky runs into a Mankind Mandible Claw and Mankind eliminates him. Mankind and Funk go at it, so Vader nails them both. Bret Hart occupies the Undertaker while Steve Austin takes a much deserved breather. Lawler: "I'd just love to see Funk and Mankind as a team." Vince is listening, Jerry. Mick gets the Catcus Clothesline on him, but neither hit the floor, so Mankind just suplexes him out instead. The Undertaker eliminates Mankind soon after, so Mick jumps Terry on the floor. They brawl, prompting all the referees to get over there and separate them. Meanwhile, Bret throws Austin out on the other side of the ring, but no referees notice because they're all occupied with Mankind and Funk. So Steve Austin sneaks his way back into the ring and eliminates the Undertaker and Vader at the same time while Bret Hart eliminates the Fake Diesel on the other side of the ring as the refs get their act together. Hart and Austin are all alone, but Bret is sure that he's already eliminated Austin, so he's none the wiser. Austin dumps Bret from behind, the refs signal for the bell, and Steve Austin wins the 1997 Royal Rumble at 50:26. What? I said Steve Austin wins the Royal Rumble. What? Bret Hart was SCREWED! Screwed I tell you! Bret is irate, as he should be, and gets in Vince's face about it at ringside. The next night on Raw, Bret would cut his famous "I was screwed" promo, targeting Austin, the WWF, and Vince McMahon as those who victimized him time and time again. This was really the start of the whiny Bret that ultimately led to his heel turn. Good storyline for the Rumble, and great performances by Austin and Bret, but the overall lack of big names hurt this one. ***
A Shawn Michaels/Sid video package is shown.
WWF Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Sid (Champion)
This is supposedly Shawn's crowning moment, as he gets to challenge for the WWF Title in his hometown. Somehow it doesn't quite carry the lure of the Harts wrestling in Alberta. I should mention that there's a really annoying girl whistling really loudly near the camera. This goes on for TEN MINUTES! But I'll ignore it and focus on the match. Shawn starts out with a flurry of quick offense, but Sid catches him coming off the top rope with a powerslam. Sid goes to a camel clutch, as Vince mentions that Michaels has the flu. Shawn Flair flips to the floor off a whip. The crowd gets hot for a comeback, but Sid takes Shawn's head off with a clothesline and taunts the crowd. Why has the heat segment started so early? Oh right, the flu thing. Sid goes to a bearhug, then lets go and hits a leg drop for a two count. Shawn comes back with a flying forearm and the kip up. He nails the top rope elbow and warms up the band, but Sid blocks the Superkick and and backdrops him to the floor. Sid powerbombs him out on the floor, which is always awesome to see. Sid grabs both Jose Lothario and Jose's son, but Shawn crawls over to save them. Back in the ring, referee Earl Hebner is bumped. Sid hits the chokeslam and Mike Chioda runs in to count two. Sid nails Chioda. Gee, he was just trying to help, dude. Lothario (Sr.) distracts Sid, and Shawn Michaels nails him with a television camera to gain some revenge from Survivor Series. Shawn covers and Hebner crawls over to count. two. The crowd can't believe it. Their disappointment doesn't last long, however, as Shawn scores the Superkick for the three count at 13:48 to regain the WWF Title in front of 60,000 people (though the top of the arena was pretty dark throughout the whole show, so I don't think they achieved their goal of quite that many) in his hometown. The crowd loves it. *** Shawn celebrates with his parents, the Lotharios, nephews, the crowd, Vince, and everyone as the show goes off the air. Even Vladimir gives him a hug.
So Shawn Michaels is the WWF Champion, and Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble in controversial fashion to earn a Wrestlemania XIII Title shot, though Bret Hart certainly has every right to have that shot as well. So what happened? The next two Flashbacks will cover the road to Wrestlemania and the pathetic mess that Wrestlemania itself was, so stay tuned.
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