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.