The 12th Royal Rumble came at a time when the World Wrestling Federation was thriving. They were now officially kicking WCW's ass and the main reason was because of the red hot feud between top babyface Steve Austin and top heel Vince McMahon, who just two years earlier was the announcer of this event.
The Rock, the heel corporate champion, won the WWF title earlier in the night so the thinking was that Steve Austin would win this match to set up the title match. It was a big deal to have Vince McMahon in this match because prior to this he never wrestled.
Going into the match one of the big things was the $100,000 bounty that Vince placed on Austin. The announcers really drove that point home. It was part of "stacking the odds" against Stone Cold. I didn't like this Rumble a lot when I saw it live in 1999. Do I still have those same opinions? Let's find out.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 24, 1999
The announcers are Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler due to Jim Ross being away with his Bell's Pallsy illness. He'd return to call the main event at WrestleMania XV a few months later and would remain in that seat for years to come. During The Fink's intro of the Rumble, Lawler yells at him about going on too long. Pretty funny.
The #1 participant is Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was embroiled in the very hot feud with #2…Vince McMahon. Lawler was heavily on Vince's side, which makes this great. He points out that Vince has never lost a match in his life while Cole says Vince has never had a match. Vince comes out with no theme music and looks really ripped. He's also oiled up quite a bit. Did I just offer a description of a shirtless Vince McMahon? Shoot me. Austin opens up by stomping on Vince in the corner. Bodyslam by Austin and a stomp to the nuts. There's Golga (aka John Tenta aka Earthquake) of the Oddities at #3. Austin hits a Thesz Press on Vince. Austin throws Golga out quickly. Vince rolls out of the ring under the bottom rope. Austin chases him into the crowd where they start brawling. Vince runs up the steps to get away from him. The camera shows Austin beating up on Vince in the lobby. Vince runs into the ladies room and the Corporation is in there. They beat up Austin as the camera fades out. Meanwhile the #4 entry is Droz of Legion of Doom. He waits in the ring by himself and it's Edge at #5 making his Royal Rumble debut. He gets a pretty good pop. He shows a lot of fire, but not much happens.
Here's a threat to win at #6, the man called Gillberg! The crowd does the Gillberg chant (a parody of Goldberg in WCW), which is also a part of his theme song. This was classic. Edge dumps him out in about seven seconds. The camera shows the ladies room where all the guys in the Corporation stand over Austin, who is laid out on the floor. Back in the ring, Droz nearly eliminates Edge, but he is able to hang on. The "Lethal Weapon" Steve Blackman is #7 and he gets a good pop. This crowd was hot for Blackman. Of course, every crowd the WWF had in the era from 1998 to 2001 was usually really good because it was the hottest time in the history of the company. They show Austin getting looked at by the EMT's and getting placed on the board. It's "The Beast" Dan Severn at #8, who wrestles wearing a shirt because I doubt Vince was impressed with his physique. They show Austin getting wheeled away while fans chant for him. There's Teddy Long as a ref too. They're outside the arena now. It's Tiger Ali Singh at #9, whose gimmick was "the elitist that doesn't like America" as Michael Cole tells us. They show Austin leaving in an ambulance as Cole wonders where Vince is. It's The Blue Meanie from the JOB Squad at #10. The talent in the ring isn't very good aside from Edge. It should be pointed out that McMahon and Austin are still in the match despite not being in the ring. I think Edge just slapped Meanie in the belly.
The #11 man is supposed to be Mosh, but they show Mabel beating him up backstage. Of course due to his size the announcers wonder how he can be eliminated. Mabel eliminates Severn, Blackman and Singh in succession. Mabel eliminates Droz and Meanie as #12 comes out, The Road Dogg, who was a babyface as part of DX. He eliminates Edge, who takes a bump into the announce table. Mabel and Road Dogg start fighting as the lights go out and Undertaker's music begins. The Acolytes (Bradshaw & Faarooq) and Mideon get Mabel out of the ring and beat on him. The Undertaker comes out where he talks to Mabel in the aisle. This led to Mabel being turned into Viscera, who was a part of the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness. There's Gangrel of The Brood at #13. He doesn't last too long as Road Dogg tosses him over the top to the floor. Cole claims that Lawler picked Blackman and Gangrel to win, among others. There's Kurrgan of the Oddities at #14. He's a threat to win of course because he's 7 foot, 300 pounds. A year earlier he was a serious heel and now he's a goofy babyface. He hits a sidewalk slam on Road Dogg. "What does everybody want?" HEAD! It's Al Snow without the Head at #15. The Head was stolen by Goldust a couple of weeks earlier. There's a "Head" chant as they try to get Kurrgan out, but they can't seem to do it. Road Dogg shoves Snow out of there rather easily.
There's Goldust at #16, who was a babyface here. He hits a clothesline on Kurrgan and gets a DDT. Road Dogg tells Goldust to Suck It and sets him up for his Shattered Dreams, but Kurrgan blocks it. Goldust punches Dogg in the nuts just for fun. Pimpin' Ain't Easy at #17 as The Godfather enters the Rumble with ho's. He has entered the Rumble as a few different characters over the years such as Papa Shango and Kama. Godfather hits the Ho Train splash in the corner onto Goldust. Here's Kane making his Rumble debut as Kane at #18. In the 1996 Rumble he was Isaac Yankem and in 1997 he was fake Diesel. He quickly eliminates Road Dogg, Kurrgan, Godfather and Goldust in impressive fashion. The dudes with white coats come in and Kane beats them up. He was in the process of turning babyface at this point. He threw the coat over the rope and then he walked out of the ring, eliminating himself. He was chasing after the dudes with white coats. Vince McMahon shows up again, walking into the ring. There's Ken Shamrock, a part of Vince's Corporation, at #19. Vince steps through the ropes to avoid fighting Shamrock. He sits in at the announce table. He says Austin's not coming back. We've got Billy Gunn at #20, who is out there without a shoe on his left foot because Shamrock injured him earlier in the show in their IC title match. Gunn fights back with a back suplex, but Shamrock cuts him down by going after the ankle again.
It's Test of the Corporation at #21. Meanwhile, they cut backstage and show the Acolytes & Mideon putting Mabel into the hearse. Vince says he doesn't think Mabel will ever be the same. It's like he scripted this or something. Meanwhile, the ambulance comes back as Vince's face is one of shock. Austin's driving the ambulance. They show him walking through the backstage area as Vince has a sad face. He had the same face when his wife told him he had to pay the $50 million tab when she lost the election in 2010 (and 2012!). Gunn hits a double clothesline as Austin walks out. Vince drops the headset and runs. Shamrock stomps on Austin as Vince goes out the other side. The #22 entrant was The Big Boss Man also of The Corporation. Austin throws out Shamrock. Vince is back at the announce table. Break It Down for #23, Triple H, who hits the high knee on Test. Austin drills Gunn with a hard clothesline. Hello Ladies for #24, Val Venis. He quickly receives a clothesline from Triple H. Vince is yelling at the table about how somebody will get $100,000 if they get rid of Austin. He can't believe Austin is back in there. Austin throws out Gunn. More of DX at #25 with X-Pac, who was always a good worker. Val hits a double axe off the top on Austin. X-Pac hits a spinning heel kick onto Austin as the announcers put over how everybody's going after Steve so that they can get the money.
It's Mark Henry as Sexual Chocolate at #26. There's the typical comment about how it's hard to get rid of Mark Henry due to his 400 pounds. He goes after Boss Man. There's Jeff Jarrett at #27 with Debra. Have to say that 18 year old John Canton was a big time Debra fan. She's one of my favorite women in wrestling ever. You think Stone Cold was checking her out while she walked down? You never know. I think they started dating a few months after this and were married about a year later. Jarrett was a heel of course. X-Pac went after his DX buddy HHH and then hit the Bronco Buster on Boss Man. You better recognize #28, D-Lo Brown, who walks out with Pretty Mean Sisters (Terri and Jackie). Test is eliminated by Austin and Boss Man throws out X-Pac. Austin hits the Thesz Press on Jarrett. Triple H throws out Jarrett. There's Owen Hart at #29 and this is his last Rumble. Cue sad face by me. He goes right after Austin. Triple H saves a double team on Austin. Austin rolls out of the ring, takes a sip of water at the announce table and throws the pitcher of water in Vince's face. The last person in the match is the first woman ever in the Rumble, Chyna is #30. She earned the spot in the Corporate Royal Rumble. She was a babyface. She went after Mark Henry and quickly eliminated him.
Austin clotheslines Chyna over the top because he just doesn't give a shit. Triple H goes after him. We have 7 people left now. Triple H throws out Venis. Austin hits a Stunner on HHH and clotheslines him out, leaving us with five although only four are in the ring since Vince is still at the announce table. It's Owen, Boss Man, D-Lo Brown, Austin and Vince. Brown hits Austin with a side kick. He misses a dropkick and Austin chokes him out. Brown gets the advantage on him, which leads to a huge "Austin" chant. Owen hits an enziguri on Austin. He charges in, but Austin ducks it and dumps him out.
The final four are Boss Man, D-Lo Brown, Vince McMahon and Steve Austin. Boss Man knocks Austin down with a punch. Brown hits a frog splash on Austin. Boss Man eliminates Brown and then Austin hits a Stunner on Boss Man, which leads to a clothesline that eliminates him too. We're down to just Austin and Vince now. The crowd is going nuts. Austin attacks him at the announce table. He hurls him over the barricade, beating on him some more. Austin grabs a steel chair and drills Vince in the head with it. You wouldn't see a chair shot to the head like that in today's WWE, which is a good thing. Austin rolls him back in the ring. Vince gets a low blow. Austin ducks a clothesline, hits the boot to the gut and hits a Stunner. He hits him with the FU elbow off the middle ropes. That's the cue for The Rock to come out with the WWF Title. Cole said: "Rock is the man Stone Cold will face at WrestleMania." Oops. He forgot to say "if he wins." Rock taunts him while Austin tells him to come in. Rock jumps on the apron, Austin punches him and Vince springs to his feet to eliminate Austin! Vince wins!
Winner: Vince McMahon
The match ended at 56:38.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- You know how I said at the start that I didn't like this Rumble? My feelings remain the same. This was the most overbooked Rumble ever. It's no surprise that Vince Russo had a lot of booking power by this point because it had all the run-ins that we're used to with him. Due to that the match never had a flow to it. Having Vince outside the ring for the majority of the match made sense for his character, but doesn't mean it's good for the match. All of the angles they ran with the likes of Mabel and Kane only hurt the match. Thankfully they learned their lesson from this Rumble because every one that follows is much better than this. How many camera shots were there away from the ring? The Rumble is about the in-ring action. Show the damn match!
- There's no question that the star of the match was Stone Cold. Much like the year before none of the babyfaces were close to him in terms of star power. That's a good thing in the sense that he was making a lot of money for the WWF, but it was bad in terms of trying to convince the fans that some other babyface could win.
- The crowd was fantastic, popping so well for everything they were supposed to. They even gave ovations to the midcarders that would barely get a reaction today. That's a sign of a company that was on fire. It doesn't mean this was a good match, though.
- I have to say Jerry Lawler was amazing here as he supported McMahon. It was almost like Bobby Heenan in the 1992 Rumble when he was backing Ric Flair the whole match. You listen to how good Lawler was here and you realize why a lot of fans, including me, miss his heel act.
- I'll never claim to be a Chyna fan, but watching her eliminate Mark Henry was a cool moment especially in its original viewing in 1999. By the end of the year I got sick of her in the ring. It was a fresh idea at this time, though.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Vince McMahon and Steve Austin at 56:38
Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 8.
Best Performers (3): Steve Austin – Obvious number one.
Vince McMahon – He drew some amazing heel heat. Even though he wasn't in the ring much he was by far the most over heel in the match. Not even close.
Jerry Lawler – Since no other wrestler stood out I'll give the nod to him. He was excellent.
Best Elimination: McMahon dumping Austin because none of the other eliminations really mattered.
Match Rating: ** That's tied with 1989 as the worst Rumble for me. I'll put it slightly ahead because I loved Austin so much and the crowd was ridiculously hot whereas in 1989 it was Big John Studd showing no emotion as he won. The booking was bad, though.
Ranking the Rumble matches in terms of star ratings:
Here's a link to previous 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
1992 Royal Rumble won by Ric Flair
1993 Royal Rumble won by Yokozuna
1994 Royal Rumble won by Bret Hart & Lex Luger
1995 Royal Rumble won by Shawn Michaels
1996 Royal Rumble won by Shawn Michaels
1997 Royal Rumble won by Steve Austin
1998 Royal Rumble won by Steve Austin
Next up is the 2000 Royal Rumble. The top star in the previous three Rumble matches was Steve Austin. He was injured for the 2000 Rumble, so who would step up? We'll find out next time.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org