The SmarK Retro Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 1994
– I’m stuck with the Anthology DVD version, which at least has much better video quality than my original VHS dub, so blame that for any inconsistencies with the original review. At least that means the full PPV version and not the Coliseum edit.
– Live from Providence, Rhode Island.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Ted Dibiase. This actually now makes more sense to me given the rotating color commentators on RAW after the departure of Bobby Heenan. Back in the day, it was totally random to me because I only got to watch Superstars.
Tatanka v. Bam Bam Bigelow
Originally scheduled to be Ludvig Borga here, but what turned out to be a career-ending injury removed him from the show. Slugfest to start and Bigelow dropkicks Tatanka into the corner, but misses a charge and gets powered down. Tatanka with a crossbody for two and he works the arm, then catches Bigelow with his head down for a DDT. To the top, but he whiffs on a cross body and Bammer takes over. Avalanche in the corner, but another try hits boot and Tatanka goes up again with a sunset flip off the top, blocked by Bam Bam’s ass. Tatanka tries to slug him down, but Bam Bam gets a jumping kick for two. Bigelow with the bearhug, but Tatanka is GOING NATIVE! Bigelow puts him down again with a shoulderblock, but another try results in a Tatanka powerslam for two. They both go for a crossbody and collide for the double KO, but it’s comeback timeâ€¦until Bam Bam pulls out the enzuigiri, which again draws a big pop from the heel fans in the crowd. The Lunasault misses, however, and Tatanka goes up again with a crossbody for the pin at 8:12. Kind of an anticlimactic finish, but it was a fun match put together on short notice. ***1/2
WWF World tag team titles: The Quebecers v. The Hart Brothers
The Quebecers were fresh off regaining the tag titles at MSG and the Harts were fresh off a ***** match against the Steiners for Coliseum video, so it was a good week for both. Pierre gets a quick slam on Bret, but runs into a knee. Owen comes in and hiptosses Pierre into a slam for two. A sign at ringside declares "Yokozuna RIP" which unfortunately proved clairvoyant. Jacques comes in to slow things down, but Owen suplexes him and dropkicks him back to his own corner again. Another try, and this time Owen gets the enzuigiri for two. The Harts get a Demolition elbow for two. Bret with a small package for two. Sunset flip gets two. Rollup gets two, but Pierre nails Bret and it’s BONZO GONZO. The Quebecers try to whip the babyfaces into each other, but Owen catapults himself into a rollup on Jacques for two instead. Very nice. The champs bail for some advice from Johnny Polo ("Always insist on cash from Paul Heyman."), and back in Owen gets a leg lariat on Pierre for two. Overhead suplex gets two. Legdrop gets two. It’s awesome seeing the Harts able to cut loose for once, as Jacques was able to keep up with whatever crazy stuff they could come up with. Bret comes in and walks into a Pierre powerslam for two, and Jacques allows some choking in the corner. Quebecers double-team Bret with an elbow and Pierre pounds on him in the corner, and it’s more quality cheating while hotheaded Owen tries to come in. Pierre comes off the middle rope and lands on Bret’s foot, and it’s hot tag Owen. Backdrop for Jacques, belly to belly suplex for Pierre, and he goes to finish Jacques with the Sharpshooter, but Pierre bulldogs him behind the ref’s back to break. And so Owen is your face-in-peril. They drop him on the top rope for two, but Owen quickly tags Bret back in and he fights off both Quebecers alone. Backbreaker and legsweep for Jacques and noggins are knocked, then he gets rid of Pierre and looks to finishâ€¦but Johnny Polo pulls down the top rope and Bret blows out his knee on the way down. The Quebecers swarm in and work over the knee outside until Owen chases them off. Back in, Jacques beats the hell out of the knee and goes to a Boston crab, while the announcers implore Bret to go over and make the tag. The Quebecers switch off on the knee and Vince declares that it’s not skill, it’s HOOLIGANISM. They should have marketed a Vince McMahon Word Of The Day Calendar. Bret tries a Sharpshooter on Pierre, but can’t complete the move, and the ref stops the match at 16:48. Who is he, Steve Mazzagatti? Terrible finish, but a great match up until the storyline took over. **** Speaking of storylines, Owen berates his brother for not tagging, and then KICKS THE LEG FROM UNDER HIS LEG. You know, it’s funny, because years later that would be the least horrific thing that members of that family would do to each other. At least Bret didn’t sue for that or write a tell-all book about it.
Meanwhile, Owen cuts a promo from backstage, telling Bret that he’s TOO SELFISH and coins the "kicked the leg from under your leg" phrase that people mocked him about for years afterwards. Owen and a live mic used to be a risky proposition.
WWF Intercontinental title: Razor Ramon v. IRS
IRS has stolen the gold from around Ramon’s neck to give this some minimal backstory, and Razor slugs him down and chases him out of the ring to start. Back in for an atomic drop, but they head out and Irwin sends him into the stairs. Back in for a quick chinlock and IRS legdrops him low, then drops an elbow for two. Back to the chinlock, but Razor fights out and slugs him down, then gets the blockbuster slam for two. And tragically, the ref is bumped, allowing IRS to grab the briefcase. Razor gets it away and puts IRS down for the pin, but of course there’s no ref. So Ramon puts him on the top rope for a backdrop superplex and sets up for the Razor’s Edge, but Shawn Michaels runs in and clobbers him with the belt, which gives IRS the pin and the title at 9:43?! Luckily, Earl Hebner runs out and demands the match be restarted, because if there’s one thing he won’t stand for, it’s injustice in a title match when Shawn Michaels is involved! Ramon hits the Edge in all the confusion and pins IRS to retain. Whew. Just kind of a junky RAW match. ** But hey, if this is the worst match tonight, it’ll still be an easy thumbs up, right?
WWF World title, casket match: Yokozuna v. Undertaker
Hang on, I need two Red Bulls and a bag of mushrooms to properly deal with this first.
Well, all I had was canned mushrooms, so that’ll have to do.
You know, thinking about Undertaker during this period, he really got stuck with the shittiest series of feuds that you could possibly think up. He had two PPVs against Giant Gonzalez with a house show feud against Mr. Hughes sandwiched in the middle, then got to face Yokozuna in this legendarily horrible match, then had to face himself at Summerslam. No wonder he had no incentive to get better. Anyway, Taker gets a flying clothesline and they fight to the floor, and Taker quickly no-sells everything and heads back in for the ropewalk. Back to the floor, UT beats on him with a chair, and Ted Dibiase notes that it’s going to get a lot more brutal. Indeed. Yoko comes back with a handful of salt and they head back in, where Yoko gets a clothesline and tries to roll him into the casket. Taker awakens and comes back for the slugfest, but Yoko puts him down with a belly to belly suplex. Taker no-sells it and gets a pretty decent chokeslam and follows with a DDT, and at this point it’s a pretty decent match.
BUT IT GETS WORSE.
So into the casket goes Yokozuna, but Crush runs out and attacks, preventing the finish. Taker gets rid of him, but now the Great Kabuki of all people comes in, followed by Tenryu. Yes, they have fucking GENICHIRO TENRYU booked for the show and this is what they use him for. And now Bam Bam Bigelow, as far more troubling is Yokozuna still unconscious in the casket after a single DDT two minutes previously. But now it REALLY gets silly, as Paul Bearer uses the power of the urn to inspire Undertaker to fight off four guys at once, so Jeff Jarrett and Adam Bomb now join the shitstorm. Oh, and the Headshrinkers. At least it makes sense for THEM to assist Yokozuna. Luckily, Yoko has now recovered from that devastating DDT and is walking around again. And the last man in is Diesel, and with 11 guys helping they STILL can’t close the damn casket lid.
BUT IT GETS WORSE.
The horde takes out Paul Bearer and steals the urn, which causes (and I’m very embarrassed as a wrestling fan to type this) green smoke to flood out of it, presumably the spirits of Undertaker’s dead parents. So that, finally, is enough to get him in the casket and close the lid at 14:18. And you’re thinking OK, that was a horrible finish and an embarrassment to anyone who’s not Vince Russo or Ed Ferrera, but they can’t possibly sink lower, can they?
BUT IT GETS WORSE.
So while the heels celebrate the presumably dead body of Undertaker, the lights go out and we somehow get a camera shot from inside the casket, where Undertaker CUTS A PROMO FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. And you thought HHH was bad. Do any of the heels open up the casket and punch him in the mouth at this point? Of course not, they all stare blankly at the video wall while Undertaker delivers a dramatic soliloquy and then rises to the ceiling. Not a dream, not an imaginary story. I paid MONEY to watch this PPV in 1994 and then continued as a wrestling fan afterwards. If ever a match deserved the full negative monty, this is undoubtedly it. -***** Worst of all, none of this went anywhere until November, as you’d think it would set up Undertaker’s Kill Bill rampage of revenge, but instead he just took months off.
AND THIS WASN’T EVEN THE STUPIDEST FINISH ON THIS SHOW!
On the bright side, it was still better than the January 4 Impact.
Scott Steiner is #1 and Samu is #2. Steiner tosses Samu around and gets a butterfly bomb, but can’t muscle him over the top. Samu comes back with a clothesline and we’re doing 90 second intervals this year, as Rick Steiner is #3. The Steiners double-team Samu, as you’d expect, and suplex the crap out of him, but make no serious effort to get rid of him. Samu misses a charge and hangs himself in the ropes anyway, and he’s gone at 3:22. KWANG is #4 and he uses his MARTIAL ARTS on Scott and blows mist in Rick’s face, but Scott suplexes him anyway. Owen Hart is #5 to a big heel reaction and he immediately goes after the blinded Rick Steiner and puts him out at 5:50. Good for you, Owen! Bart Gunn is #6 and he goes after Owen, with no luck. Diesel is #7 and he hits everyone indiscriminately. Diesel dumps Bart at 8:57, then Scott at 9:00, then Owen at 9:09. Kwang tries to stop him and gets tossed at 9:25. DIESEL POWER begins here. Mr. Bob Backlund is #8 and nearly gets Big Kev out with a double leg, but leverage isn’t on his side. Diesel gets him out at 10:20 to clear the ring. No wonder he got over.
Billy Gunn is #9 and he quickly runs into a boot and he’s gone at 11:25. And now the crowd is firmly behind Diesel. But wait! This gives us a chance to watch footage of the Japanese contingent attacking Lex Luger in the locker room. That’s a shame. Virgil is #10 and I’m not giving him much of a shot. Diesel misses a charge and Virgil uses his fisticuffs, but Diesel gets rid of him at 13:19. Dibiase takes particular delight in that, a nice touch. And now Macho Man is #11 and that’s gonna be it for the big run. Savage pounds away on Kev and throws elbows in the corner, and Jeff Jarrett is #12. He clotheslines Savage out, but Macho skins the cat to hang on and then sends Jarrett back to the dressing room at 17:14. Crush is #13 and that’s trouble for Savage. Savage elbows him down and goes up with the double axehandle, then goes after Diesel as well and loses the battle. The heels double-team him and Doink is #14. Savage is out at 19:10 during Doink’s entrance, leaving the heels to pound on each other while Doink laughs at them. That gets him a beatdown, and Bam Bam Bigelow is #15. Crush & Diesel give Bam Bam free reign to assault Doink, so he sends him into the aisle at 21:14 with a Spike Dudley toss. Nice. The heels all turn on each other, and Mabel is #16. He hits Diesel with an Avalanche, then Bigelow, and SPARKY PLUGG is #17. Now we’re getting into the SERIOUS contenders.
People do the "lay on the ropes and pretend to get each other out" thing to burn some time, until Shawn Michaels at #18. Interesting to think that he would go on to win the next two in the row. Everyone decides to go after Diesel, and he’s gone at 25:59. He’d have better days ahead of him. So with the crowd favorite gone, Mo is #19. There’s way too many people with purple tights in there. Bless the 90s. Shawn teases some eliminations and Greg Valentine is #20. Forgot about that one. He goes after Bigelow as deadwood is starting to accumulate. Tatanka is #21 and he beats on Shawn, but Mabel actually holds Tatanka so that Shawn can get some shots in. Shawn turns on him anyway. Kabuki is #22, but don’t union rules say we can only have one mist-spewing Asian per match? Everyone decides to gang up on Mabel and dumps him at 32:32. Probably wise.
Lex Luger is #23 and hopefully he’ll clear the ring for AMERICA. Kabuki goes back to Japania at 33:40! And that’s his whole babyface rampage, as Crush attacks him to stop the madness. Tenryu is #24 and he chops Luger right away, and they’re pretty awesome chops. He’s earned his money. #25 no-shows, and Vince is sure it was Bret Hart’s spot, although I believe later it was revealed to be Bastion Booger’s spot. So we continue on and Rick Martel is #26. Luger and Tatanka slug it out in an interesting bit of foreshadowing, and otherwise nothing is going on until Bret Hart is #27, still selling the leg injury from earlier. And the crowd goes nuts for him, especially with the limp. Crush immediately goes for the knee, aided by Tenryu. Fatu is #28 and there’s way too many guys, as the last elimination was more than 10 minutes ago. And Crush gets pounded out by Luger at 42:38. Marty Jannetty is #29, and it’s gung ho against Shawn Michaels to a big pop, as they trade like Frye and Takayama, but gayer. They exchange superkicks, but Marty can’t suplex Shawn out. And finally, Adam Bomb is #30.
Bret dumps Plugg at 45:21 to end the dream of Bob Holly in a Wrestlemania main event, and Tenryu is still chopping the shit out of everyone. Doesn’t he know that the object of a battle royale is to lay around on the ropes and crack jokes? Someone teach this guy how to work. Things slow right down with everyone in, and no one can still get Shawn out. Martel finally gets Valentine out at 49:19, and Tatanka dumps Martel at 49:39. Bomb charges Lex and hits the floor at 49:50. Finally, someone gave the "go home" signal. Tatanka goes out at 50:18 off-screen. Shawn and Marty continue their private war, and Bam Bam bumps out at 51:05 following a Luger forearm. Shawn gets rid of Marty at 51:14 for the moral victory, and holy cow Tenryu is still there. Cute spot as he runs Shawn and Fatu’s heads together, but only Shawn sells it. Tenryu just chops the shit out of Luger again, but Bret and Lex team up and dump Tenryu at 52:29.
Final Four: Bret Hart, Lex Luger, Fatu, and Shawn Michaels. Bret and Shawn battle on the ropes as Fatu superkicks Lex off my favorite headbutt no-sell spot. The heels put Luger on the apron, but he fights them off and makes the superhero comeback. And the faces backdrop the heels out at 54:49 simultaneously, giving us Bret v. Lex. And they fight to the ropes, and both are out at 55:08 for the most retarded Royal Rumble finish until 1999. Replays clearly show that Luger hit the floor first, but Bret got the last laugh anyway. I should also note that the crowd reaction to Bret’s fake win is MASSIVE compared to Luger’s. A very entertaining Rumble for about the first 40 minutes, then it got clogged up and died off bigtime, leading to the worst Rumble finish ever up until that point. ***1/2
It’s kinda sorta good if you can ignore the glaring spot in the middle surrounding the casket match, but it’s not an all-time classic or anything. Mild recommendation to avoid overall.
Tags: Bret Hart, casket match, Lex Luger, royal rumble, SmarK Rant, undertaker, WWE, Yokozuna