Times really were changing by the beginning of 1994. Hulk Hogan was gone from the WWF and on his way to WCW. Randy Savage was mostly retired and an announcer. Roddy Piper wasn’t around. Ted DiBiase was retired. The company had tried to recreate Hulk Hogan with Lex Luger and the Lex Express and it didn’t really work. Yokozuna had been WWF Champion since he defeated Hulk Hogan at the inaugural King of the Ring back in June. Tonight would crown his challenger for Wrestlemania.
The top two contenders were clearly Lex Luger, who defeated Yokozuna by count out at Summerslam, and the former WWF Champion Bret Hart. They would both compete in the Rumble on this night. Bret would pull double duty after teaming up with his brother Owen on the undercard.
The Rest of the Card:
-Tatanka defeated Bam Bam Bigelow
-The Quebecers defeated Bret Hart and Owen Hart to retain the World Tag Team Championship
-Razor Ramon defeated Irwin R. Schyster to retain the Intercontinental Championship
-Yokozuna defeated The Undertaker in a Casket Match to retain the WWF Championship
Two notes: Owen turned on Bret in the tag match, attacking his knee and injuring it. And this is the infamous Casket Match where Undertaker was attacked by all the heels on the roster, locked in the casket, and then “ascended” to heaven.
Vince McMahon and Ted DiBiase are on commentary.
Rumble promos! We hear from Randy Savage, Jeff Jarrett, Tatanka, Diesel, Doink, Shawn Michaels, and Lex Luger.
Scott Steiner is #1. Samu of the Headshrinkers is #2. #3 is Rick Steiner in another of those remarkable Rumble coincidences. Scott is on the ropes and about to be eliminated, but Rick still takes his time walking to the ring. They proceed to take turns Suplexing Samu before eliminating him. #4 is…Kwang? I have no idea who that is. He hits Rick with Poison Mist, blinding him. Research reveals Kwang is Savio Vega under a mask.
#5 is Owen Hart to a ton of heat. He eliminates the blinded Rick Steiner as Bart Gunn enters #6. #7 is Diesel. He hadn’t wrestled much to this point, mostly just serving as bodyguard for Shawn Michaels. He proceeds to toss Bart Gunn, Scott Steiner, Owen, and Kwang in the space of about a minute. Ring is cleared and entrant #8 is Bob Backlund, who is tossed within a minute. The year before he lasted an hour, so that’s quite a comedown.
Billy Gunn is #9, he’s gone in less than a minute. We cut backstage to a brawl where Tenryu and Great Kabuki have attacked Lex Luger. Anything to get Lex cheered. Same booking that’s failed with Roman Reigns 20 years later. Virgil is #10. Can you believe he doesn’t last long?
#11 is Randy Savage and business picks up. Savage manages to survive the interval and nearly has Diesel out when Jeff Jarrett enters #12 and stops him. Well, that’s stupid. He lasts about a minute before being tossed by Savage. Crush is #13. #14 is Doink the Clown. As Doink is entering Diesel unceremoniously tosses Savage. #15 is Bam Bam Bigelow and we’re cruising along here. He immediately Gorilla Presses Doink over the top to the floor. #16 is Mabel.
#17 is Sparky Plugg. Which is Bob Holly with a NASCAR driver gimmick. Yeah, these were bad times for the WWF. Shawn Michaels is #18. Him and Diesel stare down and it looks like Diesel wants to get his hands on him, but they end up shaking hands. Diesel gets ganged up on and eliminated, with Shawn helping. Diesel gets a big ovation from the crowd as he leaves to go along with a “Diesel” chant. This was a star making performance and he’d be WWF Champion by the end of the year.
#19 is Mo, Mabel’s tag partner from Men on a Mission. #20 is Greg Valentine. Man, they were really reaching at this point. #21 is Tatanka. Match has really slowed down, the ring is filling up. #22 is The Great Kabuki. Everyone gangs up on Mabel and they manage to toss him. #23 is Lex Luger. He gets a nice pop, but it’s not huge. He immediately tosses Kabuki. #24 is Tenryu. He goes after Luger, the storyline is that Tenryu and Kabuki were hired by Fuji to take out Luger. #25 is no one. Vince says that was Bret Hart’s spot but he is too injured to compete.
#26 is Rick Martel. Lot of guys in this match long after they were over. #27 is Bret! He’s limping, but he’s going to fight. Definitely a bigger pop for Bret than for Luger. Bret gets to the ring and gets worked over by Crush and Tenryu. #28 is Fatu, the other half of the Headshrinkers. Crush gets dumped by a big group including Bret and Luger. Marty Jannetty is #29. He and Shawn get into it right away to a big pop.
We go to the back where Ray Rougeau tries to interview Crush, but he gets jumped by Randy Savage. #30 is Adam Bomb. Vince says he’s going to win the Rumble. Somebody dumps Sparky Plugg. Vince says the non-entrant was Bastion Booger, who had an upset stomach. There’s a reason this company was tanking at this point.
Greg Valentine is eliminated. Looks like he might have slipped off the apron. Valentine gets an ovation. Martel got dumped, couldn’t tell who did it. Adam Bomb misses a charge and goes over the top rope. Bam Bam tosses Tatanka. Bam Bam gets tossed into the corner by Luger and does a Flair Flip to the floor. Amazing agility from a man his size. Shawn eliminates Jannetty. Bret and Luger eliminate Tenryu.
Final four: Bret, Luger, Shawn, and Fatu. Always seems like there’s one who doesn’t belong. Feels like the early years they liked to have somebody random in the final four to make it feel random. Bret eliminates Shawn with a Dropkick as Luger dumps Fatu. Bret and Luger square off. They famously tumble over the top rope simultaneously.
The referees argue. Finkel announces Luger as the winner. Then he announces Bret. They clearly did that so they could compare the pops, Bret got the bigger one. Jack Tunney comes down to settle Bret and Luger down as they’re about to go at it. They announce Bret and Luger as co-winners and play the Wrestlemania theme.
Rating: ***. Decent Rumble, but not one of the better ones. Diesel’s run was definitely the highlight. Bret clearly outshone Luger as they told the same story with both of them.
Both Hart and Luger were granted shots at the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania. A coin toss was won by Luger, which gave him the first crack at Yokozuna. Luger lost that match by disqualification when he grabbed Mr. Perfect, who was serving as special referee. Bret defeated Yokozuna in the main event to become WWF Champion for the second time. Bret would hold the belt until Survivor Series, where he lost the title to Bob Backlund after being screwed by his brother Owen. Backlund would dump the title a few days later to Diesel at a house show at Madison Square Garden in a match that lasted all of eight seconds.