The Law Reviews: Royal Rumble 1992

royal_rumble_1992

1992 was the fifth Royal Rumble (the fourth on pay-per-view) but it’s the coming out party for the show. The previous Royal Rumbles were really just filler, bridging the gap between Survivor Series and Wrestlemania. The match was fun, but they were still perfecting the booking. And while winning did feel important, the winner didn’t get anything other than bragging rights.

1992 was different. This time, everything was on the line. The winner would be awarded the World Wrestling Federation Championship. The belt was vacated after Hulk Hogan cheated to defeat Undertaker (who had cheated to beat Hogan at Survivor Series) at Tuesday in Texas. The title was held up, and the announcement was made that the title would be on the line in the Royal Rumble. 30 men enter. One will be champion.

And what a field of competitors tonight: Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Undertaker, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, Sid Justice, and more.

Vince McMahon welcomes us to the show as he bellows out the names of the contestants in the Rumble match in his signature gravelly voice.

Now it’s Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan welcoming us into the arena. They make their picks for the Rumble tonight: Monsoon is going with Hogan, Brain with Flair.

The Orient Express vs. The New Foundation (Owen Hart and Jim Neidhart)

Owen and Neidhart have only been teaming for a few weeks at this point but are undefeated. They also look like complete tools. Would have looked a lot better in classic Hart tights. The Orient Express was the team of Pat Tanaka and Kato (Paul Diamond AKA Max Moon under a mask). They were managed by Mr. Fuji and were a stereotypical “devious” Asian team with expertise in the martial arts.

The Harts dominate the early stages of the match as Owen shows off his high-flying offense, which is still years ahead of its time. Fuji hits Owen with his cane behind the referee’s back, allowing the Express to take the advantage. They work Owen over for several minutes. Owen is still young here and hasn’t shown everyone what a shithead he is, so he evokes great sympathy from the crowd.

Owen eventually scores with a Double Dropkick and tags in Neidhart. Oy, this is a mighty spicy hot tag. Owen breaks out a Suicide Dive to take out Kato, then gets the pin with the Rocket Launcher. Long opener there, 17 minutes.

Rating: ***. Really good opener. Nothing that broke the formula, but I thought everybody played their roles well. Good win to establish the New Foundation.

Lord Alfred Hayes is in the back to explain the situation with Bret Hart and The Mountie. They faced off at a house show in Springfield, Massachusetts on Friday. Bret was sick with a 103 degree fever, but decided to wrestle against the advice of the doctors. Mountie pinned Bret with a Small Package to become the new Intercontinental Champion.

When Mountie attacked Bret after the match, Roddy Piper made the save. Mountie then jumped Piper from behind and hit him with the IC Title belt. Bret is still unable to wrestle, so President Jack Tunney has decided that Piper will face Mountie for the IC Title tonight.

Sean Mooney interviews The Mountie, who asks what Piper has done to earn a title shot. He actually has a point there.

Gene Okerlund is with Piper, who says a bunch of stuff and then makes a crack about Mountie having wet dreams.

Intercontinental Championship: The Mountie (c) vs. Roddy Piper

Piper beats the crap out of The Mountie for basically the entire match. Mountie does a good job bumping for him. Piper runs Mountie into Jimmy Hart on the apron, then locks him in the Sleeper Hold. Mountie is out, and Piper wins his first championship in the WWF at 5:21. The pop is absolutely enormous.

Rating: *. Really nothing special, but Piper winning was a great moment. For a long time this was his only WWF/E title reign, but then they had him and Flair win the tag titles in 2006.

Gene interviews the Bushwhackers and their manager Jamison.

Bushwackers vs. Beverly Brothers

Jesus, I had a birthday watching this match. 15 minutes for these guys? I get everybody’s in the Rumble, but couldn’t they have added a singles match to cut this down? The Beverlys win with a Double Ax Handle. Don’t watch this match.

Rating: Dud. Awful.

Gene interviews the tag team champions, The Legion of Doom.

World Tag Team Championship: The Legion of Doom (c) vs. The Natural Disasters

Slow match here, as you’d expect. Disasters go to work on Hawk. And work on him. For the entire match. About ten minutes in Hawk is counted out. Disasters win the match but not the belts.

Rating: ¼*. This is some premium filler.

Gene interviews The Disasters and their manager Jimmy Hart. Jimmy is hot, saying his guys should be the champions.

After some commentary from Monsoon and Heenan Gene interviews Piper, who is jacked up to have a chance to win two titles in the same night.

Sean Mooney interviews Shawn Michaels, who has recently turned heel by slamming Marty Jannetty through a barbershop window.

Rumble promos! We hear from Savage, Sid, Bulldog, Jake the Snake, Taker, and Hogan.

The Royal Rumble Match

As always, Howard Finkel explains the rules.

#1 is “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, who won a Battle Royal in London a few months ago. #2 is “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Hell of a pair to start with, and just wait until you see who’s number three. DiBiase has had several long runs in the Rumble in the previous few years. DiBiase tosses Davey Boy, but the Bulldog skins the cat, sneaks up behind the celebrating DiBiase, and tosses the Million Dollar Man! Huge pop for that.

#3 is Ric Flair. Sadly, this was before they started having the guys enter with their music and the entrances just aren’t the same. Heenan is apoplectic on commentary, and Monsoon keeps rubbing it in. Flair gets tossed around by Bulldog. #4 is Nasty Boy Jerry Sags. Sags and Flair team up on Bulldog until Bulldog throws Sags to the apron and Dropkicks him out to the floor. Haku is #5. It looks like Haku and Flair are going to team up, but Haku hits Flair with a Side Kick. Haku hits Bulldog with a sick Piledriver. Bulldog recovers to eliminate Haku as #6, Shawn Michaels, enters.

Shawn and Flair, two of the best bumpers ever, make Bulldog look like an absolute beast. #7 is “El Matador” Tito Santana. #8 is The Barbarian. He and Bulldog had a long-running rivalry, so they go at it. #9 is Texas Tornado. That’s another rival of Flair’s. Tornado hits a Discus Punch and we get our first Flair Flop of the evening. #10 is Repo Man. First real filler entrant of the match. #11 is Greg Valentine, who lasted 44 minutes in 1990. #12 is Nikolai Volkoff. Match is slowing down as the ring fills up. Valentine locks Flair in the Figure Four as Repo Man eliminates Volkoff. #13 is Big Boss Man. Everybody starts getting eliminated: Valentine, Bulldog (by Flair), Texas Tornado (also by Flair), and then Michaels and Tito eliminate each other.

#14 is Hercules. We’re down to him, Flair, Boss Man, and Barbarian. Flair and Barbarian team up and high five, but then Flair takes a cheap shot. Hercules and Barbarian eliminate each other, and Boss Man skins the cat. Boss Man goes to work on Flair, who drops down and manages to eliminate him! Flair has cleared the ring halfway through the match.

Crowd is counting down for the next entrant…#15 is RODDY PIPER! Flair is in agony and begs for mercy. He gets none from Hot Rod. The crowd is absolutely on fire as Piper tunes up Flair. Piper locks on the Sleeper and puts Flair down. Jake Roberts is #16 and he takes his time getting in the ring. He waits until Piper turns his back before going after him. Jake goes for the DDT on Flair, but the Nature Boy blocks and goes to the Figure Four. Piper stomps them both. All three guys are going at it and it’s absolutely tremendous.

#17 is Jim Duggan. IRS is #18, Jimmy Snuka #19. #20 is Undertaker. Business about to pick up. He immediately throws Snuka out and then strangles Flair. #21 is Randy Savage! He makes a beeline for Jake Roberts. Savage manages to toss Jake, then goes over the top to go after him. He should be out, but for unclear reasons he ends up being allowed to stay in the match. Would have been perfect for him to have eliminated himself to go after Roberts. Flair hits Taker with a low blow, and we finally have found something that hurts the Deadman. The Berzerker is #22. #23 is Virgil. Coming down the stretch now, still no Hogan or Sid.

#24 is Col. Mustafa. #25 is Rick Martel, who lasted 52 minutes last year. Flair is only two minutes from breaking that record. Hogan is #26. He goes after Flair and Undertaker. Hogan Clotheslines Undertaker out! Then he Backdrops Berserker out.  Virgil and Duggan eliminate each other. #27 is Skinner. No response for him. Flair surpasses Martel’s record for longest run. #28 is Sgt. Slaughter. Martel eliminates Skinner. Sid is #29 as the crowd goes crazy.  The Warlord is our final entrant at #30.

Slaughter is eliminated by Sid. Piper tosses IRS. Sid dumps Piper and Martel and we’re down to our final four: Sid, Hogan, Flair, and Savage. Flair hits Sid with a knee to the back, knocking him into Savage, who falls over the top rope. Looking back he should have been eliminated with Roberts, he was invisible for everything after that.

Hogan tries to eliminate Flair, but Sid sneaks up behind him and dumps him out! Hogan’s gone! Monsoon praises Sid, saying it’s every man for himself. And the crowd cheers. Then Hogan, being a garbage human being, grabs Sid’s arm and tries to pull him over. That allows Flair to take advantage and eliminate Sid to win the Royal Rumble and become WWF Champion.

Analysis: *****. Best Rumble ever. Has stood the test of time. There are only a few down spots throughout the entire match. Flair’s performance is amazing, he spent an hour in the ring and was active the entire time. There have been guys in there for ⅓ of that time (like Reigns last year) who spent twice as much time on the ground.

Hogan and Sid get into it in the post-match and have to be separated. No question this was designed to set-up Hogan vs. Sid for Wrestlemania. They would announce Hogan vs. Flair a few weeks after this, but that was just an angle to make Sid snap. Notably, the crowd was behind Sid all night here.

Finally, we have Mean Gene in the back with Flair, Perfect, and Heenan. WWF President Jack Tunney presents Flair with the WWF Championship belt. Flair cuts a great promo, proclaiming that “with a tear in my eye…this is the greatest moment of my life.”

Overall: Good bookends, nothing in the middle. Really, the only thing you need to watch from this show is the Rumble. If you haven’t seen that, check it out right away. It’s still probably the best they’ve ever done (2001 and 2004 are close).

Grade: B+

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