– Live from Tampa, FL.
– Your hosts are Mr. McMahon & The King
– Welcome to the great downward slide of the WWF, as this is the first of many financially disasterous PPVs featuring Kevin Nash as World champion and a cast of characters that no one gave a crap about.
– Opening match, Intercontinental title: Razor Ramon v. Jeff Jarrett. Case in point, this match, since Vince was so determined to get Jarrett over as a heel that as soon as “Roadie” Jesse Jammes gave Jarrett even the slightest heel heat, he got moved to the next level. 75% of the heat was for the Road Dogg, however, as evidenced by the Milli Vanilli storyline. Ramon’s fruity color of choice tonight: Banana yellow. Ramon hits a quick fallaway slam and chokeslam, causing Jarrett to bail. Stall session follows, as Jarrett plays headgames. We get a test of strength 5 minutes later and an armbar. Jarrett hits three dropkicks to finally get this horse kicking. Lariat gets two. Jarrett controls with some basic stuff that gets a few two counts. A swinging neckbreaker and feet on the ropes get more two counts. Ramon quickly slides out and posts Jarrett, and hits a messed up flying bulldog for two (Jarrett turned around to face Ramon before the move). Jarrett dumps him to the floor, and Ramon blows out his knee (and Roadie clips him for good measure) and is counted out at 11:44. Call it **1/2 for some decent stuff between the stalling. Jarrett does the standard thing for Ramon matches he challenges him to quit being a chicken and continue, a situation that would usually take place on house shows and result on Ramon getting a quick Razor’s Edge to retain for real. However, that finish was pretty much squeezed dry six ways from Sunday, so they changed it up a bit as we head into
– Intercontinental title match #2: Razor Ramon v. Jeff Jarrett. Ramon gets a quick cradle and a small package, but Jarrett viciously goes after the knee. Figure-four gets Jarrett a few two-counts. Ramon makes the superman comeback and hits a backdrop superplex for two. Razor’s Edge, but the knee collapses on the way down and Jarrett covers for the clean pin and his first I-C title at 6:18. Second match was as good as the first, short as it was. **
– IRS v. The Undertaker. Massive stall session to start. Into the ring, more stalling. UT tosses him around. That’s pretty much the first 5 minutes right there. Dibiase jumps onto the apron and IRS collides with him, so Dibiase summons those ever-mysterious Druids (Jimmy Del Rey of the Heavenly Bodies and a Harris brother in black robes, so don’t bother Asking The Rick) to run some interference, but UT just ignores them. Finally they manage to triple-team him long enough to give IRS the advantage. So what does he do? An abdominal stretch. Geez, no wonder the guy never made it past mid-card. He misses a splash and UT comes back. Those pesky Druids keep interfering, however, forcing Undertaker to keep fighting them off until he can hit a chokeslam for the pin at 10:45. Well, that’s 10 minutes I’ll never get back again. Ã‚Â¼* King Kong Bundy waddles in and IRS takes the opportunity to steal the urn and kick off another fascinating 8 month storyline for Undertaker.
– WWF title match: Diesel v. Bret Hart. Diesel’s big feat was winning all three titles in the same calendar year, something not only duplicated by Steve Austin in 1997, but improved upon as Austin won all three titles TWICE. Well, I guess the second WWF title came about a month shy of one calendar year after he won he first tag title (May 97 June 98) but as my chem teacher used to say, good enough for government work. Bret works the knee to start. He gets a figure-four early, but Diesel makes the ropes. Bret goes for it again, Diesel escapes again. Big D takes a breather, so Bret follows with a dive through the ropes and takes him down. Diesel whips him into the stairs and takes control back in the ring, working on Bret’s back. Sideslam gets two. He continues working on the back and tries a body vice, but Bret reverses out. Big boot and elbowdrop gets two. Bret bails and ends up using his wrist tape to tie Diesel’s legs around the post, giving Bret the upper hand. Bulldog gets two, and we go into THE FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Okay, quick moment of clarification for those who keep asking: The FIVE MOVES OF DOOM (always written in all caps, of course) are as follows Bulldog, vertical suplex, russian legsweep, backbreaker and second-rope elbow. They are the setup moves for the Sharpshooter, although it doesn’t always follow them right away. Diesel bails after the elbow and Bret tries the dive again, but gets caught in mid-air and rammed back-first into the post. Diesel gets a good face pop for that, then tosses Bret back in and powerbombs him for the wait a sec, here’s Shawn Michaels in to break up the count and attack Diesel’s knee. The ref decides to continue the match. Bret goes back to the leg, which Big Kev starts selling pretty convincingly. Figure four again, Diesel breaks it with shots to the ribs and lower back. See, that’s some WICKED psychology there, kids. They inflict injuries on each other and then use them to counter each other’s moves later on. He goes to work on Bret’s ribs and back in the corner, and a gut-wrench suplex gets two. Diesel gets caught in the corner and Bret posts him, then takes a swing at his leg with a chair, drawing heel heat. Sharpshooter, but now Owen comes out to break it up, and again the match continues. Diesel covers the unconscious Bret for two. Slugfest and Diesel goes for a chair, but changes his mind, which allows Bret the time to survey the situation and decide to play possum. Diesel goes for the powerbomb, but Bret small packages for two. That would end up being the finish for the eventual rematch at Survivor Series for that year. But in this case, Diesel kicks out, and then the ref gets bumped and EVERYONE runs in for the no-contest at 27:21. That was a pretty shitty ending right there. ****, more if it had a finish that didn’t suck. That rating kind of shocks me because I wasn’t thrilled with the match back in 95 when I first watched it, but it was way better than I remember it.
– WWF tag team title, tournament final: Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka v. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly. Kid & Sparky were the upset kings of the tournament, although going over Well Dunn in the first round and the Heavenly Jobbers in the second hardly counts as upsetting anyone in my book. Tatanka calmly works Holly over, then Bigelow plows through Holly & Kid. Bammer tosses the Kid literally 10 feet in the air, but he reverses to a rana on the way down. Some miscommunication gives the underdogs a brief respite, but Bob Holly’s recurring case of jobberitis pops up and he gets murdered by Tatanka. Both teams do a miscommunication spot, but poor Bob gets the worst of the situation because NOTHING is working for him tonight. He pathetically crawls to the wrong corner and gets beaten down. He’s got some pretty good sympathy heat going, I’ll give him that. Both Holly & Tatanka go for a cross-body and collide, allowing Holly to make the hot (and I mean HOT) tag to the Kid. Missile dropkick for Bigelow, and somersault tope for Tatanka. Bigelow does a Spike Dudley job on the Kid, tossing him onto the floor with a thud. Ouch. Bigelow then goes for the moonsault, but Tatanka tries his own move coming off the ropes, and they cross paths on the way and Bigelow ends up out cold on the mat and Tatanka is out cold on the floor. 1-2-3 Kid covers for the pin and the tag title at 15:44. Match was a wee bit too long for the story being told, but very good otherwise. ***1/4 The honeymoon only lasted a scant 24 hours, however, as the returning Smoking Gunns claimed the titles the next night on RAW.
– The Big Angle of 1995 then follows, as ringside observer Lawrence Taylor makes fun of Bigelow for jobbing, and gets shoved down for his troubles. This was played as a shoot angle back then, but watching it today makes it pretty easy to tell it was a work. It led to the Bigelow-LT match at Wrestlemania XI, at any rate, so obviously SOME people bought it.
– Royal Rumble: This is the aggravating super-abbreviated version with 60 second intervals for time reasons. Vince hypes it as the “fastest-paced Rumble ever”, which is like when Microsoft finds a bug and calls it a “feature”. The move pissed off EVERYONE, however, and hasn’t been seen since. Shawn Michaels gets #1, and British Bulldog gets #2. For those who weren’t around, Shawn’s participation in the Rumble was equivalent to Rocky’s this year: A mere formality. So they gave him #1 to build suspense for his inevitable win. Bulldog manhandles Shawn quickly, with Shawn teasing elimination a few times. Spot I hate the most in the Rumble: Bulldog presses someone above his head, but instead of dumping them out, he just slams them to the mat. That’s just idiotic, and he (and Luger) do it EVERY YEAR they are in the Rumble. Eli Blu is #3. Duke Droese is #4. Jimmy Del Rey is #5. Mainly just punching and kicking going on. Shawn teases elimination again. Barbarian is #6. Bulldog knocks Del Ray out for the first elimination. Tom Pritchard takes his place at #7. This 60 second thing is ludicrous, there’s just no way to tell a story. Doink is #8 and everyone pairs off. Kwang is #9. Who would have ever thought that Savio Vega could actually be a step UP the gimmick ladder? When do you ever hear sentences like “Boy, he’s way better off with that Caribbean Legend gimmick now!” except in cases like Kwang? Rick Martel is #10 on the downswing of his career. Too many people in there right now. Kwang almost knocks Shawn out. Owen Hart is #11, and his loving brother Bret attacks him and kicks his ass. Crowd eats it up, and by the time he’s done we’re at #12 with Timothy Well of Well Dunn. Owen is tossed by the Bulldog immediately upon entry, followed by Droese, Well, Martel, Pritchard and Doink. Good riddance. Sheepf*cker Luke is #13 as Eli & Kwang eliminate each other. Speaking of semi-famous Eli’s, here’s one for The Rick: Whatever happened to UWF midcarder Eli The Eliminator? I used to think he was pretty cool back in my mark days. And may I just say thank god the hick Spokane station we got in Vancouver carried Bill Watts’ UWF, even it was at 2 in the morning. I think it was KCPQ, but I could be off. Help me here, fellow Lower Mainlanders from the 80s! Shawn dumps Luke, leaving him and the Bulldog. Jacob Blu is #14 and a blind charge at Shawn ends his night. Back to Shawn & Bulldog. King Kong Bundy is #15 and the crowd seems worried for Shawn (who was actually a heel at this point, but getting sympathetic face pops by the bucketful). Mo is #16, and soon he’s no mo’. Mabel is #17, and I guess the gravitational pull of both him and Bundy is too much, because they collide and do a showdown. Sheepf*cker Butch is #18 as Mabel & Bundy put more stress on the ring ropes than is mandated by law, and so the poor thing screams in pain until one of them falls out in this case, Bundy. That darn gravitational pull acts up again, taking Butch with him. The man is so fat he’s a menace to the laws of physics. Mabel & Bulldog almost get Shawn out, but Lex Luger makes the save at #19. He tosses Mabel out, which is admittedly pretty impressive. Luger & Bulldog go after Shawn now, but speaking of fat people, here’s Mantaur (PN News’ little brother and future ECW reject Bruiser Mastino) to help out at #20. Aldo Montoya (and really, how many jokes can be made about the poor guy?) is #21 and Shawn nearly knocks the jockstrap off his face with some rights (okay, so I’m weak ). HOG is #22. Billy Gunn is #23, Bart Gunn is #24, and my jobber sense is tingling as the match goes nowhere. Mr. Bob Backlund is #25, but Bret attacks HIM too, to the delight of the crowd. Luger’s elimination of him is academic. Steven Dunn is #26. Dick Murdoch gets the honor of being the Token Old-Timer at #27 and does pretty good for himself. Too many guys in there right now again. Adam Bomb is #28. Fatu is #29 as Mantaur goes out via Luger. Crush gets the honor of being #30. Interesting note: Although Vince tried to resuscitate Crush’s singles push after a horrible 1994, life intervened as Crush was arrested on weapons charges soon after this and didn’t return until 1996 as the ex-convict themed Crush. Crush dumps both Gunns at once. Dunn is done. More milling around to use up PPV time. Somewhere in here, Vince and Jerry are discussing the co-winner situation from the previous year, and there’s a funny exchange later on:
– Lawler: “I’m changing my official prediction to Shawn & Crush!”
– Vince: “You can’t have two people winning the Royal Rumble!”
– Lawler: “Well, it happened last year!”
– Vince: “[Pauses] Well, that’ll NEVER happen again, I promise you.” The audible cringe in Vince’s voice is pretty funny.
– Murdoch almost tosses Shawn, but Luger saves him. Crush backdrops Adam Bomb out, then Shawn gets rid of Aldo. Luger saves Shawn from Murdoch again. Crush dumps Fatu. Murdoch tries an airplane spin on Godwinn, but gets dizzy and falls out. Godwinn is still dizzy himself, so Luger gets rid of him.
– Final Four: Shawn, Bulldog, Luger & Crush. Pretty good field for the final four. Luger tries the 10-punch count on Crush, and that’s so idiotic that Shawn can’t resist simply pushing him over and out. Shawn & Crush strike a bargain and beat up Bulldog, then Crush turns on Shawn and is about to press him out of the ring, but Bulldog charges and knocks Crush out of the ring and Shawn down to safety. So we’re back where we started at the beginning: Shawn v. Bulldog. Bulldog kills him and clotheslines him out for the win, but Shawn plays hot-potato with his feet, and eventually crawls back in and dumps the celebrating Bulldog out for the real win at 38:39. Replays show that indeed, Shawn managed to somehow only have one foot touch the ground. Good Rumble for the huge flaws imposed on it. ***1/2 Pamela Anderson celebrates with Shawn and looks none too thrilled to be a part of it. Yeah, because god knows BAYWATCH has way more critical acclaim and highbrow appeal than wrestling does
The Bottom Line:
I’m torn on the recommendation, because actually everything is quite surprisingly great on this show, with the only weak match being the UT-IRS stall-fest. On the other hand, the show is so bland and historically meaningless that there’s no real reason to run out and watch it.
Still, a recommended show for the wrestling alone.
Tags: royal rumble, WWE