This show takes place at one of those weird places in wrestling history where everything was changing, but the changes hadn’t quite taken effect yet. Bret Hart was now the WWF Champion, a big step up from the previous year where he had just lost the IC Championship. Hulk Hogan was pretty much gone at this point, not having appeared on TV since Wrestlemania VIII. And new stars were beginning to take over: Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, and Shawn Michaels would all be prominently featured on this show.
This was the year of the now traditional stipulation where the winner of the Royal Rumble would get to fight for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania. Also on the card would be two big titles matches, with Shawn Michaels defending the Intercontinental Championship against Marty Jannetty and Bret Hart defending the WWF Championship against Razor Ramon.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan welcome us to the show and then kick it back to Lord Alfred Hayes, who gets a few words in with the Steiner Brothers.
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Beverly Brothers
I have a tendency to forget the Steiners were in the WWF. Never won the tag titles, didn’t really ever do that much of significance. They’re relatively new here, and this match is clearly designed to give them a dominant win over an established team. The match starts with Rick and Scott throwing both Beverleys around the ring with some impressive suplexes. The Beverlys get control and work over Scott, but after a few minutes Rick gets a hot tag and cleans house.
The Beverlys set Scott up for the Doomsday Device, but Scott escapes with a Victory Roll. Scott follows up with the Frankensteiner for the win at 10:45.
Rating: **. Pretty good opening match. Nothing special, but did its job of making the Steiners look like beasts.
Lord Alfred Hayes interviews Sensational Sherri in the locker room. Sherri was managing Shawn Michaels, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself from his former tag team partner Marty Jannetty. Sherri will be at ringside tonight, but it’s not clear whose side she is on.
Now we get a video package recapping the rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. They were one of the top tag teams in the world as The Rockers. Then Shawn got tired of sharing the glory with Marty, and slammed him through a plate glass window on The Barbershop.
Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Marty Jannetty
Jannetty starts off beating the shit out of Shawn. Just absolutely pummels him. Shawn finally catches Marty coming off the top and then rams his shoulder into the ring post. Jannetty sells the wrong shoulder, so Shawn slams that shoulder into the post too. Shawn works on the shoulder for a bit until missing a charge in the corner, injuring his shoulder.
Marty fires up and tries to Suplex Shawn, but ends up getting Suplexed out to the floor. Sherri slaps Shawn, which allows Marty to hit a Back Suplex. Only a two count. A series of counters ends with Marty hitting a big DDT for another close two count. Marty keeps coming up with pinning combinations and Shawn keeps getting out. The ref gets bumped, which brings Sherri into the ring. She swings her loaded shoe at Shawn, but he ducks and it’s Jannetty who goes down. Shawn levels Jannetty with Sweet Chin Music and gets the pin at 14:23.
Rating: ****. Awesome match. Marty looked so strong in defeat here. He would win the IC Title a few weeks later on Raw with an assist from Mr. Perfect.
Sherri is in the back in tears. Mean Gene tries to interview her but just ends up yelling at her to stop being so hysterical.
Lord Alfred Hayes interviews Undertaker and Paul Bearer.
Big Boss Man vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Was excited for this one, as these guys are both amazingly agile big men. But Boss Man was on his way out of the company and Bigelow had just come back, so this ends up being an extended squash. Bigelow destroys Boss Man and pins him in ten minutes after a Diving Headbutt from the top rope.
Rating: *¼. Not bad, just not up to the level I was expecting.
Recap of goings on from the morning show, where Razor Ramon attacked Owen Hart.
WWF Championship: Bret Hart (c) vs. Razor Ramon
Razor had only been around for a few months. This would be his only world championship match on pay-per-view in the WWF, and I believe one of only two in his career (Uncensored 1998 against Sting in WCW). He was just sort of filling in here since Flair was leaving and no one else was really in position for this match. Savage vs. Bret for the title here would have been awesome, but I guess they really wanted him in the Rumble.
As always, Bret gives his sunglasses to a kid in the front row. Razor responds by throwing his toothpick at the kid. Bret starts off working on Razor’s legs and quickly gets him in the Figure Four. Razor turns the tide by whipping Bret so hard across the ring that he slides on his knees ribs-first into the post. Razor goes to work on Bret’s ribs immediately. After several minutes Bret manages to Back Drop Razor over the top to the floor.
Bret scores with a Suicide Dive and then goes into the Five Moves of Doom. Razor stops the Sharpshooter by grabbing hold of the ref. A series of reversals ends with Bret getting two off a Backslide. He then grabs Razor’s legs and rolls over into the Sharpshooter! Awesome finish as Razor gives it up at 17:59.
Rating: ****. Absolutely tremendous match.
Ray Rougeau interviews Randy Savage about the Royal Rumble.
Bobby Heenan has left the announce table for the “unveiling” of “The Narcissus.” Turns out it’s Lex Luger, who doesn’t get that much of a response. Heenan goes on and on about how beautiful Luger’s body is, what amazing shape he’s in. It’s hilariously homoerotic and presumably written by Vince. Anyway, Luger challenges Mr. Perfect, rival of Heenan, to a match. They would end up meeting at Wrestlemania.
Rougeau is in the back with Razor Ramon, who says he’s the people’s champ. Always love when catchphrases get used way ahead of their time.
The Royal Rumble rules are read by “Julius Caesar” and “Cleopatra.” Goofy and unnecessary. In case you’ve forgotten, Wrestlemania IX was at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The Royal Rumble Match
Winner goes to Wrestlemania to face Bret Hart for the WWF Championship. Ric Flair is #1, Bob Backlund is #2. Backlund had just returned and Vince apparently thought he was big money. Which is odd, since he never drew in his prime and was now almost 45 years old. Papa Shango enters #3 and gets tossed by Backlund. Ted DiBiase, reigning Tag Team Champion with IRS, is #4. Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs is #5. Virgil is #6 and he of course goes after DiBiase. #7 is recently debuted Jerry “The King” Lawler, still rocking the mullet well into the 90s.
Max Moon is #8, he doesn’t last long before being eliminated by Lawler. #9 is Tenryu. He had previously competed at Wrestlemania VII where he and Koji Kaito defeated Demolition. Tenryu and Flair trade nasty chops. #10 is Mr. Perfect, who goes after Flair. Crowd is going crazy for Perfect getting his hands on Naitch. Perfect and Flair would face off the next night on Raw in a Loser Leaves Town match. Perfect would of course win and Flair wouldn’t be seen in the WWF again until 2001.
#11 is Skinner. Perfect sends Flair over the top with a Clothesline. Koko B. Ware is #12 as Perfect eliminates Skinner with a Dropkick. Headshrinker Samu is #13. Berzerker is #14. Not much going on right now. Perfect sends Lawler out with a Dropkick. Lawler comes back in and he and DiBiase team up to eliminate Perfect.
Ring is getting full, so it’s a perfect time for Undertaker to enter #15 and clear things out a bit. He eliminates Tenryu and Samu. Terry Taylor is #16. DiBiase eliminates him and Koko. Taker Chokeslams DiBiase and then eliminates him. Taker dumps Berzerker as well to clear out the ring. Harvey Whippleman comes out with the debuting Giant Gonzalez, who is absolutely enormous. He towers over Taker. Damian Demento is scheduled to enter #17, but he stays out of the ring to let Taker and Gonzalez go at it.
Gonzalez proceeds to destroy Taker and throw him out. IRS enters #18 as the match begins to resume. #19 is Tatanka. #20 is Nasty Boy Jerry Sags. #21 is Typhoon, #22 is Headshrinker Fatu. Really thin on stars this year. #23 is Earthquake, who ends up eliminating his tag team partner Typhoon. #24 is Carlos Colon. Another guy the crowd doesn’t know. Colon eliminates Demento, who has actually in there for awhile. #25 is Tito Santana. IRS gets eliminated by Earthquake. #26 is Rick Martel. He fights with his old Strike Force partner Tito.
#27 is Yokozuna and business finally picks up. He throws out Tatanka and Colon. Owen Hart is #28. Yoko eliminates Earthquake. #29 is Repo Man and everyone teams up to try to eliminate Yokozuna but can’t do it. #30 is Randy Savage, who gets a huge reaction.
Yokozuna dumps Santana. Owen eliminates Sags with a Dropkick. Owen charges Yoko and gets thrown out with a Backdrop, injuring his knee in the process. Final four are Martel, Backlund, Yokozuna, and Savage. Yes, Backlund is still in there despite having done nothing of interest the entire match. Backlund eliminates Martel, then goes after Yoko. That goes as well as you would expect and Backlund is done. He lasted 61 minutes, setting a record that would stand until Chris Benoit beat it in 2004.
We’re down to Yoko and Savage. Savage hits a pair of Ax Handles that bring Yoko down to a knee. Yoko comes back with a Side Kick and then a Leg Drop. He goes for an Avalanche in the corner but misses, hits his head on the post, and goes down. First time he’s been knocked off his feet. Savage hits the Flying Elbow and…goes for a pin. Yoko powers out so strongly that Savage is propelled over the top to the floor. Yokozuna wins the Royal Rumble in 66:40.
Rating: ***. Not awful, but not one of the better Rumbles. Lots of filler participants, Backlund as the long runner didn’t do much for me, and things got boring after Flair and Perfect were eliminated. But it did make Yoko look strong, so mission accomplished on that front. Never liked that finish with Savage, going for a pin just made him look stupid.
We go backstage where Bret and Yoko go face to face. Nice tease for Wrestlemania.
Overall: Strong undercard, not the greatest Rumble, but a good show overall. Two really awesome matches in Bret/Razor and Jannetty/Michaels. It’s fun to see a show that so strongly showcased the future and put new talent over.