This is the Royal Rumble that many consider to be the best ever. The World Wrestling Federation Title was up for grabs due to controversial results in title matches involving Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. The winner of this match got to be champion with Hogan and Undertaker being promised spots anywhere from number 20 to 30.
In terms of star power it was one of the most stacked Rumbles ever. It holds up well today too. Unlike the previous four I've reviewed I have seen this one a few times since its original airing. I recommend this match to anybody that hasn't seen it and even if you have seen it go watch it again to remember how awesome it was. For now, though, let's see what happened that made it so damn good.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 19, 1992
Albany, New York
The announcers are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who are the best announce pairing from this era. The Fink went over the rules here. For the first (and only) time, the WWF Title is on the line in this match. It makes this match even more important, which I love.
The #1 entrant is the British Bulldog, a babyface, and #2 is Ted Dibiase, a heel, who is managed by Sensational Sherri here. Dibiase dominated early, he went to throw Bulldog out, but then Bulldog hung on and then he clotheslined Dibiase out. That was about 90 seconds of Dibiase. Not enough of him. In at #3 is Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan goes "No! Damnit!" This was Flair's first Rumble since he came to the WWF late in 1991. He was a heel of course. Gorilla tells Heenan to kiss him goodbye. Gorilla points out that nobody that drew numbers 1-5 have ever won the Rumble. Brain freaks out. Mr. Perfect is with Flair. Heenan was an associate of Flair. "I'm going to apologize to the people, I don't think I can be objective," says Heenan. Gorilla fires back: "When have you ever been objective?" Haha, love these two. Press slam by Bulldog. He hits him with a couple of clotheslines. It's Jerry Saggs of the Nasty Boys at #4. They double team Bulldog. Saggs almost gets thrown out, then he celebrates on the apron and Bulldog dropkicks him out. "This is not fair to Flair!" yells Heenan. He says that many times. It's Haku at #5 as the announcers go over the "every man for himself" decree once again. The heels double team Bulldog again. So far it's been four heels with just Bulldog as a babyface. The crowd hates Flair so much that they cheer Haku for attacking him. Flair bails and Haku piledrives Bulldog. Heenan's awesome here, telling Flair to stay down. Bulldog eliminates Haku just as the next entrant is about to come in.
The #6 entry? Shawn Michaels. He was newly turned heel after throwing Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window. He even hits a superkick on Flair about 10 seconds in. It wasn't his finisher, though. Bulldog clotheslines Michaels, but he hangs on and superkicks Bulldog in a sloppy way. Did I just criticize HBK? I think I might get hit by a bolt of lightning now. Michaels is so great at the over the top bumps. Some say it's bad, but I always enjoyed it and made him stand out to me as a superior athlete. It's Tito Santana at #7. He goes right for Flair as Heenan freaks out. Ha, Flair did a double uppercut to Bulldog's nuts. Classic Nature Boy. Wooooo! Flying forearm by Tito on Flair. Michaels would make that move even more famous. The #8 man is The Barbarian, who Heenan freaks out about because he's big. By this point Michaels has nearly been eliminated four or five times. He's showing off. Why? Because he can. The #9 competitor is The Texas Tornado, who would leave the WWF soon after this. And he'd die a year later. He does the Tornado punch and Flair does the Flair flop. Michaels does a spinning bump as well as a face first flop too. Two of the best ever right there, haha. Prior to this, Flair and Tornado (Kerry Von Erich) had some classic matches in other companies. Flair had classic matches with everybody, though. Hey it's one of my favorite bad gimmicks ever in at #10: The Repo Man. You might remember him from previous Rumbles as Demolition member Smash. He's sneaky about getting in the ring. What a gimmick. Vince probably thought it was genius and then blamed the wrestler for not getting it over. We've got 7 men in the ring now.
The #11 man is Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. He goes after Flair too. There's not a whole lot going on at this point. Not a threat at #12 with Nikolai Volkoff as the announcers make mention of the fall of the Soviet Empire. Valentine puts the Figure Four on Flair. Crowd loves it while Heenan freaks out. Repo Man eliminates Volkoff. Yep, Repo Man is a threat to win! The Big Boss Man comes in at #13. He's a babyface here. He threw some of the best punches ever. Repo Man eliminates Valentine. Repo Man is on fire! Michaels nearly flies over the top after a bunch fromBossMan.And Boss Man throws out Repo Man. Why watch from this point? The top guy is out. I'll keep on going for you, reader, but my heart has left the match with Repo Man out. Flair eliminates Bulldog with a backdrop. He also eliminates Tornado with a backdrop. Michaels and Santana eliminate eachother. The ring has just three people in with Flair, Barbarian and Boss Man with Hercules entering at #14. Barbarian drops Flair with a press slam. He goes to eliminate Flair, but Hercules dumps Barbarian. Boss Man throws out Hercules leaving us with just Flair andBossMan.Boss Man charges in, Flair ducks and Boss Man goes out. Brain freaks out: "YES! Flair wins it! Flair's the champion of the world!" Haha that's awesome. Gorilla explains there are still 16 more entrants. Wow, Flair does the face first flop as the clock counts down from ten. Joining Flair at #15 is Roddy Piper, who is a babyface here. "This isn't fair to Flair" says Heenan again. Flair bails to the floor, so Roddy chases him and clotheslines him. Eye poke by Piper! Airplane spin. Classic stuff that the crowd loves. Sleeper hold.
The second half of the Rumble begins with #16 Jake Roberts. He lets Piper keep the sleeper on Flair for a bit, but he breaks it up. Roberts was a heel, doing his "trust me" gimmick that I absolutely loved. He was such a great heel. Short arm clothesline on Flair after Ric tried to get him to help. "This is definitely not flair to Flair," yells Heenan. Flair puts the Figure Four on Roberts, but Roddy kicks both of them. HHHHHOOOOOOO! time with #17 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, who was the winner of the first Rumble in 1988. Pay your taxes because #18 is Irwin R. Schyster aka IRS. Hacksaw does the double noggin knocker on Flair & Roberts leading to another Flair flop. Flair's been in for 36 minutes by this point. It's "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka at #19. He's got the boots on again. That's just not right. There hasn't been much going on in the last few minutes. It's because there are a lot of big names coming up. Real talk time with #20, The Undertaker. He's so cool walking down the aisle. By the time he gets there the next man might have to come out. One punch and Snuka is eliminated by Undertaker. He chokes Flair as Heenan freaks out. Piper with the eye poke on Roberts. I mark out for those Piper eye pokes!
There's a huge pop for #21, Randy Savage. He was a babyface here. His feud was with Jake Roberts. He looks for Jake, but he bailed to the floor. Undertaker grabs him, so Roberts takes some shots on him. He misses the clothesline as Savage freaks out on him. Double axe off the top by Savage and then he knees him in the back to eliminate Roberts. Then Savage leaps over the top to the floor. Undertaker goes outside the ring to punch Savage. He throws him back in. Is he eliminated? I guess not. Savage goes after Jake again. The announcers say nobody threw him out, so he's able to go back in. My guess is Savage wasn't supposed to get out of the ring over the top and he just did it out of instincts. They wanted him in the match longer, so in he goes. The rule in later years was if you go over the top to the floor you're out even if you do it yourself. Undertaker's offense in this era was really just choking people out since he was a young wrestler at this point. Flair with a low blow to Undertaker. He barely sells it. The Berzerker at #22! His specialty is throwing people over the top. YES! My favorite bad gimmick ever. HUSS! HUSS! Mark out! Heenan's yelling at Flair to take it easy instead of fighting Savage. Savage hits a suplex on Flair. Undertaker and Piper choke Flair. Then Undertaker chokes Piper. Great offense, big man. It's Virgil at #23, who is clearly not a threat to win. He's a babyface wrestler at this point in his career. Come on Berzerker. Let's go! More choking by Undertaker on Flair. It's Colonel Mustafa at #24, who is the Iron Shiek. I always thought it was ridiculous that they would turn a former World Champion like Shiek into another gimmick. You can do it with lesser name, but not former top guys. Piper's pounding on Flair in the corner, so Undertaker punches Piper in the ribs just for fun. The Berzerker is still in there, folks! The current endurance record holder Rick Martel is #25. Get out the Arrogance, folks. What's great is that everybody goes after Flair when they get in there, including Martel here. Flair's been in for 50 minutes now. There goes Mustafa at the hands of Savage. Flair hangs on again.
The #26 spot belongs to Hulk Hogan to a huge pop. He goes after Undertaker and Flair. Heenan is freaking out about it. Heenan: "Just let Flair win, I'll be a different person. I promise you!" Classic! Hogan clotheslines Undertaker out. He lands on his feet, staring at Hulk. Hogan with a backdrop on The Berzerker. My heart hurts. How can I continue now? Duggan and Virgil get eliminated at the same time after a Virgil cross body. That was a very entertaining two minutes. And here comes another bad gimmick, Skinner, at #27. "The alligator man is fresh and ready to go," says Gorilla. I think that says it all. We've got 7 men in the ring with another 3 guys due to enter it. This two minute stretch was pretty slow. It's Sergeant Slaughter at #28, who a year earlier won the WWF Title as a heel Iraqi sympathizer. He was a babyface here, having turned back soon after the loss to Hogan at WrestleMania VII. Skinner gets eliminated. Slaughter follows suit with everybody else by going right after Flair. We've got Sid Justice at #29. He's a babyface at this point in his career although that would soon change. He doesn't go after Flair like everybody else does right away, but he does soon after. The last man at #30 is The Warlord.
There are 9 men left in the match as Flair pulls Hogan out on the floor with him. Hogan suplexes him on the floor. Sid eliminates Slaughter by whipping him hard into the turnbuckle and Slaughter went over stomach first. That looked painful. Hogan hits the big boot on Flair. Hogan and Sid eliminate Warlord together. "What a surprise!" says Gorilla. See, Warlord was always a threat to win even though he sucked. Sid eliminates Piper and Martel at the same time.
The final four are Hogan, Flair, Sid and Savage. That's a good group to end the match in terms of star power. Not like the year before with Knobbs being in the final three. Sid's got Savage close, so Flair runs over, delivers a knee and Savage is out. It's Flair against two bigger babyfaces. Flair does the Flair bump in the corner. Hogan kicks away at him. Sid looks over and flips Hogan out of the ring. The crowd cheers that! Yep, they are cheering against Hogan. Sid was a babyface at this point and was popular, but it was shocking that they'd boo Hogan at all. Hogan's pissed off, saying they were working together. Sid tells him it's every man for himself. Hogan, while on the floor, grabs Sid's right arm and Flair dumps Sid. "YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!" That's Heenan's reaction. Flair wins.
Winner: Ric Flair
The match ended at 62:02.
After the match, Hogan and Sid argue with eachother. That would set up a match at WrestleMania VIII between them. A match that was terrible, by the way. Not a shocker there.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- Watch this Flair promo that aired at the end of the PPV. It's the classic "with a tear in my eye" speech that is one of the best ever. Classic Nature Boy:
In a video that's classic in a comedic way, here's The Berzerker and Mr. Fuji talking about winning the Royal Rumble.
- The booking for this Rumble was so good. They really featured Flair as the guy to carry the match. That's exactly what he did. A lot of the guys attacked him when they got in the ring whether they were heel or face. He did so many Flair flops and had so many moments where it looked like he was going to get eliminated. He always found a way to hang on, though. He's one of the best wrestlers ever. A lot of people say he is the best ever. He showed it here. It was Flair at his absolute best.
- The star power was really strong with a lot of legitimate top guys with Hogan, Flair, Savage, Sid, Dibiase, Piper, Slaughter and Undertaker to name a few. Then they had a good mix of young, up & comers and rounded it out with the bad gimmicks. The star power really helped though. I think it had more star power than any Rumble in the 90s.
- Undertaker wasn't very impactful here. He was in the WWF Title picture to end the year, but they really limited his involvement here. I thought he should have lasted a lot longer.
- No more Hulk Hogan in Royal Rumbles after this. Like I wrote in previous recaps he really did a good job in the Rumbles because they focused on his strengths, which are the power moves and comebacks.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Ric Flair at 59:26
Most Eliminations: Sid Justice with 6.
Best Performers (3): Ric Flair - Very easy call. He was the story of the match with everybody going after him and he was able to survive them all.
British Bulldog - I really liked his interaction with Flair early on. It would have been better if the had him last longer because he performed well.
Bobby Heenan - It's rare to stick an announcer in this spot, but he deserves it. Honestly, it might be the best announcing performance in any one match in wrestling history. I absolutely love The Brain here. It's Heenan at his best.
Best Elimination: Tie for the last two eliminations with Sid flipping out Hogan and then Flair flipping out Sid. I remember it as a kid so well. I thought Hogan was winning again, so I was so shocked (and happy) when Flair won. Yep, I liked the heels.
Match Rating: ****1/2 Best Rumble ever? At the time, yes. It still is.
Ranking the Rumble's in terms of star ratings:
Here's a link to previous Royal Rumble recaps:
1988 Royal Rumble won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan
1989 Royal Rumble won by Big John Studd
1990 Royal Rumble won by Hulk Hogan
1991 Royal Rumble won by Hulk Hogan
I'll see you next time for a look back at the 1993 Royal Rumble. A lot of things changed in WWE by the time we got to the 1993 Rumble match (thank the steroid trial) and the roster was a lot different.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org