â€œWith a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment of my life.â€ â€“ Ric Flair, moments after winning the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at Royal Rumble 1992
The Opening Chapter
Itâ€™s no surprise to anyone who has read my work before that I am a huge fan of the WWE Royal Rumble. Itâ€™s my favorite event of the year and the build-up for it gets me more excited than the build-up to WrestleMania. So here I am once again hyping up the official start of the Road to WrestleMania.
In 2007 the company hyped that yearâ€™s Royal Rumble match as the â€œmost star-studded ever.â€ While I appreciate the effort and the hype job, but there should be no question in anyoneâ€™s minds what was really the most star-studded Rumble ever â€“ Royal Rumble 1992. It was the only event where the winner became the new WWF Champion and was the precursor to the whole â€œwinner gets a WrestleMania title shotâ€ thing. So by the numbers and through the play-by-play let me show you why Royal Rumble 1992 was something more than good; it was legendary.
By the Numbers
The year 1992 was an interesting time in the WWF. The majority of the territories had dried up thanks to the WWFâ€™s global domination, and a lot of the old territoriesâ€™ big stars were crowding up the WWFâ€™s roster. Meanwhile the company was building up new talent to fill in the blanks and prepare for the eventual loss of these established stars.
So while looking at Rumble â€™92 in that very moment it was easy to see who were the main event stars, who were the mid-level guys and who was on bottom, regardless of where their careers had taken them in the past. But to look at that roster now with seventeen years of history itâ€™s crazy to see what an utterly amazing group of talent those 30 men ended up being. Overall we are looking at ten World Champions (WWF, WCW, NWA, AWA), eight WWF/WWE Intercontinental Champions, seven NWA/WCW/WWE United States Champions, 16 WWF/WWE/World Tag Champions and a host over other Championship title holders spanning WWF/E, NWA, WCW, AWA, Mid-South and anywhere else you can think of. If you could put these thirty guys together on one roster when they were all in their primes, the money wouldnâ€™t stop pouring in.
So letâ€™s take a look at these guysâ€¦by the numbers.
When the smoke cleared, this match featured ten legit World Heavyweight Champions. Nine of them were previous Champions coming into the match, and two more became Champion not too long after.
Hulk Hogan â€“ He was the WWFâ€™s go-to-guy up until this point, although was slowly being phased out after four World Championships.
Ric Flair â€“ He was to the NWA/WCW what Hulk Hogan was to the WWF, and this what his coming out party for a new group of fans.
â€œMacho Manâ€ Randy Savage â€“ He had been a big star in the WWF for six years at this point and would be a top guy for another year or so before being phased down the card. Like his friend/rival Hogan, he would renew his star stature in WCW years later.
Sid â€“ Sid was an upper-card monster in WCW before this and pretty much took the same role in the WWF here. He would keep this upper-card role for virtually his entire career and would go on to win both WWF and WCW World Championships many years later.
The Undertaker â€“ He had only been in WWF for a year at this point, but had already picked up the WWF Title once. To pick up the World belt that early into his tenure was unheard of at that time, especially for someone with such a gimmick like his. His star would only continue to rise over the next seventeen years. Remarkably he is still in the WWE Championship hunt to this day.
Col. Mustafa â€“ The former Iron Sheik was the WWF Champion that transitioned Hulk Hogan into the Rock â€˜nâ€™ Wrestling Era. But by this point he was well past his prime and was close to retirement from full-time active retirement. The Colonel gimmick, which did acknowledge his past as the Sheik, was clearly a step down from his previous runs.
Sgt. Slaughter â€“ Slaughter, like his old rival/friend/rival, was also at the end of his career and was used as mid-card enhancement at this point.
Kerry Von Erich â€“ The former regional star from Texas was a former NWA Champion pretty much as a favor from the NWA, and his reign was barely a month long. By the time he arrived in WWF he was also ending his career and was pretty much mid-card fodder as well.
Rick Martel â€“ Martelâ€™s AWA World Championship is often forgotten about when talking about World Champions, as he had a lengthy reign in the mid-â€˜80s. By the time he came to the WWF he was used as a pretty boy tag team specialist and then a pretty boy heel antagonist. His past accomplishments were never touched upon and he never even sniffed the WWF main event scene.
Shawn Michaels â€“ Still a young pretty boy from Texas at this point, he had just broken out of his role as pretty boy tag team heartthrob. He was just embarking on his role as a young cocky heel, and would finally gain World Championship gold four years and ended up becoming one of the top five North American talents of all time.
Regional Stars/WWF Main Event Mainstays
â€œRowdyâ€ Roddy Piper â€“ A true main eventer in every sense of the word, he was a huge star everywhere he went. He was the guy in the NWA, WWF, WCW and everywhere in between. In the era of Hogan and Flair, Piper was always just one step behind the top guy.
Jake â€œThe Snakeâ€ Roberts â€“ In a time when World Championship reigns werenâ€™t given out like candy, Roberts always played second fiddle to guys like Hogan, Savage or Ultimate Warrior. And his career winded on his drug and alcohol habits prevented him from become Champion anywhere else. He did gain his greatest championship success while working for Bill Watts in Mid-South Wrestling.
Ted DiBiase â€“ His career is much like Roberts in that he always was right behind someone else on the pecking order, only it was injuries rather than drugs that curtailed his World Title hopes. He also was quite successful in the Mid-South territory.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan â€“ Like Roberts and DiBiase, he cut his teeth in Mid-South and was more than ready for the bright lights of the WWF by the time he arrived. He was a seasoned mid-card guy who was constantly over and could fill in at the top of the cards as needed. Even today he can still pop a crowd.
Greg â€œThe Hammerâ€ Valentine â€“ He is the definition of a mid-card technician. Everywhere he wrestled he picked up mid-card and tag team gold and could be counted upon to put on to put on solid wrestling in the middle of the card. He just lacked the charisma to be a top-level guy.
Tito Santana â€“ He was the good guy equivalent of Valentine, which probably explained why they did such good business together and put on so many great matches with each other and with others.
â€œSuperflyâ€ Jimmy Snuka â€“ Couldâ€™ve been the top guy if Hogan didnâ€™t get there first. In his prime he was always a great number two babyface and a great top heel that was over enough on either side of the locker room where he didnâ€™t need a World Championship. He did do quite successful in the old NWA as far as mid-card and tag championship reigns went.
Nikolai Volkoff â€“ Like his fellow patriots like Sheik and Slaughter, Volkoff was on his way out of the business as a full-time hand, but donâ€™t forget his days as a main event level Russian heel through the late â€˜70s and early â€˜80s, back when that was the in thing to be.
Davey Boy Smith â€“ Smith, like Shawn Michaels, was the young tag team guy who was embarking on his first big-time face run. Perhaps it was only his issues with drugs and his untimely that kept him from winning a World Championship at some point in his career.
Haku â€“ The most legit tough guy on the roster was used to fill any hole on the card. He gained solid success as an upper mid-card heel and as a tag specialist, and like Hogan, Savage, Duggan and others, he found a career resurgence in WCW after his time in the WWF was up as â€œThe Monsterâ€ Meng. He was never a main event guy, but could easily be pushed into a World Title threat if the situation was needed.
The Big Boss Man â€“ A man who got his feet wet in the old NWA and Mid-South, he too was a seasoned pro by this time in his WWF tenure. He was also over like crazy and putting on the best matches of his career. This right here is probably Ray Traylor at his peak. He like many others in this match, found career resurgence in WCW, which then led another mid-card run in the WWF before his untimely demise.
Hercules â€“ Hercules was a WWF mainstay for years that worked as mid-level monster heel and surprising found a niche as a power babyface as well. He was at the tail end of his career by this point and was really his last swan song, barring his forgettable run as â€œSuper Invaderâ€ later in the year at WCW.
Regional Stars/Tag Specialists
â€œIrwin R. Schysterâ€ â€“ IRS, more famously known as Mike Rotunda, played many characters through his various runs in the NWA, WWF, WCW and the territories. While he gained a lot of success and earned a lot of money during his four year run as â€œIRS,â€ his accomplishments as Mike Rotunda (or other variations of that name) canâ€™t be discounted. His success as an active wrestler has now led him to backstage agent job at WWE.
â€œSkinnerâ€ â€“ Steve â€œSkinnerâ€ Keirn was a big tag team star as one of the Fantastics in his previous life and Florida mainstay. Barring a brief run in WCW in 1994, this was Keirnâ€™s swan song. And even though the gimmick sucked (like IRS) Iâ€™m sure he made more money in those two years as Skinner than he did anywhere else.
â€œRepo Manâ€ â€“ Barry Darsow, the former Kruscher Kruschev and Demolition Smash, had already been a big star in both the NWA and the WWF by this point, especially as a tag team specialist. He was nowhere as over or as near to the top of the card here as he was when he played either Krusher or Smash, but the company knew he still had value as a mid-card performer despite being saddled with a silly gimmick. After this run was over in late â€™93, WCW also realized his value as he finished out his career there working as enhancement under his real name and a variety of other gimmicks.
The Barbarian â€“ The Barbarian, a guy who played The Barbarian everywhere he went for nearly his entire career, was solid addition to any rosterâ€™s mid-card. He worked well as a mid-card enforcer and was also successful with many different tag team partners, most notably Haku and The Warlord. He had a great look for a bad guy and was underrated in the wrestling department. His closest flirt to the main event was a WCW World Championship match against Ron Simmons at WCW Halloween Havoc â€™92.
The Berzerker â€“ John Nord got his big start in the AWA as Nord The Barbarian and â€œYukonâ€ John Nord before becoming The Berzerker in the WWF. He, much like the other Barbarian, was decent big man who looked impressive in the mid-card playing a wild man. Like so many others here he wound down his career in WCW.
â€œNasty Boyâ€ Jerry Sags â€“ Somebody had to round out the thirty man roster. He did have great success one half of the Nasty Boys with Brian Knobbs, picking up World Tag Championships in both the WWF and WCW.
Virgil â€“ Never has a guy made such a career by staying in the background. He spent years as Ted DiBiaseâ€™s backup in the WWF before embarking on a failed singles babyface career. And like half the guys on this list, he found himself in WCW after this WWF run was over, still playing backup to other more famous people.
The Warlord â€“ A personal favorite of mine, Warlord was a hulking mid-card monster powerhouse who always found himself with two or three other monsters ahead of him on the pecking order. He gained his most success in the Powers of Pain tag team with The Barbarian.
My Favorite Match
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby â€œThe Brainâ€ Heenan.
The match opens with â€œThe British Bulldogâ€ Davey Boy Smith and â€œMillion $ Manâ€ Ted DiBiase. It seems as if this would be a big opening to the match, but Bulldog gets rid of DiBiase quickly, before the opening two minutes is even up. I thought I read somewhere that DiBiase was legit injured at this point, and so it was imperative that he needed to get in and out quickly without killing too much of his heat. The buzzer rings for number three, and Ric Flair walks out as DiBiase heads back to the dressing room. Monsoon immediately writes off Flairâ€™s challenges as Heenan is outraged, claiming itâ€™s not â€œfair to Flair.â€ Flair and Davey Boy do battle until Nasty Boy Jerry Sags hits the ring. Bulldog eliminates Sags in short order, and Haku follows soon after. Haku battles both Bulldog and Flair, before Bulldog eliminates him as well. Davey Boy is starting off on the right foot to say the least.
Shawn Michaels comes out as number six, fresh from his break-up of The Rockers. Shawn and Flair go at it in early glimpse of the magic they have later on. Heenan has already begun to lose it on commentary as everyone attacks Flair. Tito Santana is next and of course goes right after Flair as well. Next up as Barbarian, which prompts Monsoon to ominously say â€œBarbarian doesnâ€™t like Flair.â€ Heenan retorts with, â€œBarbarian doesnâ€™t like anyone. When I managed him be barely liked me.â€ Kerry Von Erich comes out as number nine, to big pops from the crowd. Flair meets him center ring and they brawl in a nice throwback to their old feud in Texas that of course I had no recollection of when watching this as a young nine-year-old. Heenan claims the next man out should bring a â€œbig crescent wrenchâ€ with him to help even the odds.
Repo Man follows up next as the ring begins to fill up. His cartoon-ish gimmick stands out from the talent currently in the ring. They keep refreshing the crowd on how long Bulldog and Flair have been in the ring, as Greg â€œThe Hammerâ€ Valentine comes out. Naturally he and Flair start trading sick chops, as the ring is filling up ghosts of Flairâ€™s past. Monsoon and Heenan hype up Hammerâ€™s stamina and the length of time he was in the Rumble last year. The next man out is Nikolai Volkoff, who I believe was the replacement for the injured/fired/relapsed Marty Jannetty. Young Shawn Michaels is working in there working in some tall cotton amongst all these veterans. Valentine slaps Flair in the Figure Four in the middle of the ring to a huge pop, the same time as Repo Man eliminates Volkoff.
Big Boss Man is out as lucky number 13, and gets a big pop from the crowd. Repo also eliminates Valentine during the excitement of Boss Manâ€™s entrance. Boss Man hits everyone in the ring and then throws out Repo. Itâ€™s a pretty stacked roster in there right now. Flair then backdrops Davey Boy and Von Erich almost back-to-back to clean out the ring some more. As Hercules makes his entrance, Santana and Michaels eliminate each other. Flair is now in the ring with a bunch of monsters with Barbarian, Boss Man and Hercules. Flair begging of Barbarian after double-crossing him with a chop still cracks me up. Then as Barbarian tries to dump Flair, Herc sneaks up from behind and tosses him. Boss Man then does the same to Hercules, leavingt Flair and Boss Man alone in the ring. Crowd is rabid at this point. They duke it out until Boss Man misses a cross-body and eliminates himself.
Flair is left alone in the ring as Heenan screams that â€œFlair is the Champion of the World.â€ Flair gets a much needed ten second breather, until the buzzer rings and number fifteen â€œRowdyâ€ Roddy Piper runs to the ring like a madman. Flair immediately begs off, as Piper is a â€œhouse of fire.â€ The crowd is nuts at this point, as they brawl around the ringside area. Piper then puts Flair out with a sleeper hold as super evil Jake â€œThe Snakeâ€ Roberts slides into the ring and coolly just watches Piper put Flair to sleep. Roberts and Piper brawl with each other as Flair is laid out in the middle of the ring. Heenan continues to excel on commentary as he thanks Roberts for helping Flair, and then takes it back moments later for turning on Flair. He then sucks up to Piper for saving Flair, only to chastise him seconds later. Hacksaw Jim Duggan is out next as Heenan claims Flair was â€œjobbedâ€ in the number drawing and claimed Hulk Hogan had something to do with it. IRS is out at number eighteen and draws a healthy round of boos. He too goes right after Flair. It just dawned on meâ€¦are all these guys going right to Flair to call spots from the back? The announcers begin hyping up how The Snake is paranoid of â€œMacho Manâ€ Randy Savageâ€™s impending arrival, finally giving the match a secondary storyline. The next guy out is Superfly Jimmy Snuka, and guess who he attacks first. The announcers start hyping up all the main event talent we have yet to see in order to kill time. They also make note that Hogan and Undertaker, as the last two WWF World Heavyweight Champions, got preferential treatment in the draw and could only pick from numbers 20 â€“ 30.
Sure enough Undertaker is out next at #20. He takes Snuka out immediately before turning his attention to Flair. Heenan decries itâ€™s all down the toilet as â€˜Taker chokes out Flair, and then thanks Duggan in the same breath for the save. There are a lot of heels in there now so sure enough The Macho Man is out next to even up the odds. He sprinted down the aisle to get to Roberts, but gets intercepted by Undertaker and IRS as Roberts high-tails it out of the ring. Savage finally gets a hold of Roberts, kicks his ass for a while and then eliminates him. Savage then jumped over the top rope to continue to attack The Snake. Oops, he shouldnâ€™t have done that. Undertaker then rolls out to save things by getting Savage back in the ring and saving Roberts. On the fly Monsoon and Heenan make a save for Savageâ€™s over-the-top rope botch by claiming that a man needs to be propelled over the top by someone else in order to be properly eliminated. Savage is back in like nothing happened as Berzerker is out as #22. They hype up Berzerkerâ€™s penchant for throwing people over the top rope in regular matches, and the possibility of Piper, the current Intercontinental Champion, becoming a dual titleholder. Virgil is the next entrant; oh yeah he will clean up the dead wood. Heenan makes me laugh by wondering how many bags Virgil went through in the back while waiting for his number to be called. The hits keep coming as Col. Mustafa is number #24. The match slows down as the crowd is getting restless waiting for Hogan to appear. And next up is Rick â€œThe Modelâ€ Martel as Heenan laments the late draws for other main eventers like Hogan, Sid and Sgt. Slaughter. Savage eliminates Mustafa to little fanfare during the chaos. The match is definitely in a slow period, so Duggan wakes up the crowd with some U-S-A chants.
Finally Hulk Hogan makes his appearance and the crowd goes bat-sh!t crazy. He goes for Flair right away, but then gets ganged up on by Berzerker, Undertaker and IRS. Meanwhile Heenan is praying for a Flair victory. Then just like that Hogan clotheslines out Undertaker and backdrops Berzerker to the floor in quick succession; all before ripping off his t-shirt. During Hoganâ€™s celebration Virgil and Duggan eliminate each other as the dead wood continues to go. Just as I say that thought, Skinner comes out as #27. Heenan continues to pray for Flairâ€™s victory, as they announce hat Flair has surpassed he all-time Rumble longevity record set my Rick Martel the previous year. Sgt. Slaughter is out, just as Martel eliminates Skinner. Sarge naturally goes after Flair as they announcers make note that four former World Champions are all currently in the match. They are now just killing time awaiting the next guyâ€™s arrival, who happens to be Sid Justice. Sid, not surprisingly, gets a huge pop. Both Gorilla and Heenan are doing a great job of putting over Flairâ€™s effort here. The crowd freaks when Sid gets a hold of Flair, hoping for an elimination.
The Warlord is lucky number 30, leaving him, Sid, Slaughter, IRS, Piper, Martel, Savage, Hogan and Flair as the last nine participants. Flair and Hogan brawl on the outside of he ring. Sid gets rid of Slaughter with Slaughterâ€™s famous â€œhit-the-buckles-too-hard-and-sail-over-the-topâ€ spot that he did in every battle royal I ever saw him in. Piper then pulls out IRS by yanking on his tie, which draws a big pop. Sid and Hogan double team Warlord and send him packing. Sid cleans out the rest of the jobbers by dumping both Piper and Martel.
Which leaves the greatest final four ever with Sid, Savage, Flair and Hogan. Sid sets Savage up on the ropes, only to catch a knee in the back from Flair. The momentum causes Justice to dump Savage to the floor. Flair then goes to back to work on Hogan. Hogan takes control and starts putting the boots to Flair, so Sid comes up behind and throws Hogan out. Hogan, naturally throws a sh!t fit on the floor, like the good babyface he is. Hogan then grabs Sid to pull him out so Flair comes from behind and dumps him.
Flair is announced as new WWF World Heavyweight Champion as Bobby Heenan is beside himself in the broadcast booth. Naturally Hogan and Sid end up back in the ring arguing like a couple of schoolgirls, taking away from Flairâ€™s victory. Meanwhile Flair goes to the back to get his Championship from President Jack Tunney and delivers the promo of his lifetime alongside Mr. Perfect and Bobby Heenan. He delivers the quote listed at the top of the article, and then namedrops Hogan, Savage, Piper and Undertaker as his next legitimate contenders. Meanwhile Gene almost steals the interview by telling someone off camera â€œto put that cigaretteâ€ out as the trio continues to celebrate his victory.
It should be noted that while Flair put on the match of a lifetime with some of the most famous wrestlers in history, Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan should be commended for their fantastic announcing duty. They put over ever talent that came through the curtain as a viable contender, but made sure to keep the heat on the Flair going the distance storyline. They also kept fire on the other storylines like Savage-Roberts, Piperâ€™s quest to dual titles and the longevity reign. They natural witty banter kept the match flowing during the few slow spots and just completely added to the entire experience, the way commentators should.
It was the event that showed Ric Flair wouldnâ€™t just be a legend to the fans of the NWA and WCW, but to a whole â€˜nother generation of fans in the cartoon world of the WWF. And he did by battling a host of top quality talent that any wrestling promoter would kill to have all under one payroll. This doesnâ€™t even include all the talent included in the undercard, like Owen Hart, Bret Hart, â€œMountieâ€ Jacques Rougeau and The Road Warriors. At this point WWF really did have the best of the best under one roof. I mean, The Bushwackers versus The Beverly Brothers? That really is a main event anywhere in the country.
For this week the vault is closed…
Linked to the Pulse
Pulse Wrestlingâ€™s Top 100 Wrestlers feature is finally back in full swing with the top 25 picks. Check out our picks for #25, #24 and #23.
This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.
1925 – Wayne Munn defeated Ed â€œStranglerâ€ Lewis for the World’s Heavyweight Wrestling title
1962 – Mr. M (Dr. Bill Miller) defeated Verne Gagne for the AWA Heavyweight title
1984 – Don Kernodle & Bob Orton, Jr. defeated Dory Funk, Jr. & Jimmy Valiant in a tournament final for the NWA World Tag Team title
1990 – Jerry Lawler defeated King Cobra for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title
1994 – Far Too Wild defeated PG-13 in a tournament final for the USWA Tag Team title
1995 – Arn Anderson defeated Johnny B. Badd for the WCW Television title
1998 – WCW Thunder debuts on TBS
1998 – Juventud Guerrera defeated Ultimo Dragon for the WCW Cruiserweight title
2000 – Midknight & Diablos Macabre defeated Justice Pain for the Combat Zone Wrestling Tag Team Titles
1937 – Farmer Burns died at age 75
1947 – Bushwacker Luke was born
1978 – Jacey North was born
Itâ€™s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestlingâ€™s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational, but very entertaining.
Yeah I kinda forgot all about that â€œCanadiansâ€ book. You might get a review of it next time.
For more relevant wrestling information from your truly, check out my paying gig over at Examiner.com.
Tags: Ric Flair, royal rumble, WWE