What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1996

PPVs, Reviews

Royal Rumble 1996

-The tag for this show is “You’ve Been Warned”, so there you have it.

-Unfortunately, my copy of this show does not have the Free for All, but on that show Duke “the Dumpster” Droese defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley by reverse decision and he gets to be #30 tonight. Helmsley gets to be #1 because he lost.

-Sunny, who is in a bubble bath, warns us that tonight’s action will be graphic and viewer discretion is advised.

-Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect are in the booth and they are live from Fresno, California.

-Opening Contest: “Double J” Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson:

For those that haven’t been reading my reviews of Monday Night Raw, Jeff Jarrett was the first man to declare himself eligible for the Royal Rumble, but Gorilla Monsoon took him out of the match to face Ahmed Johnson since Jarrett attacked him at In Your House 5. I don’t know why he couldn’t do both, but Monsoon seemingly banned doing double duty at this year’s show. Ahmed rushes the ring, but Jarrett bails. Back in, Ahmed brutalizes Jarrett with some not so safe looking power moves and a powerslam gets two. Ahmed dives at Jarrett, but Jarrett ducks and Ahmed goes over the top rope. Outside, Jarrett hits a flying clothesline from the apron and whips Ahmed into the apron and the steps. Back in, Jarrett pounds away and Ahmed goes to the Tatanka school of hulking up. Ahmed hits a spinebuster and when Jarrett bails, he follows up with a plancha. Back in, Ahmed does a cannonball off the top rope, but it misses and Jarrett applies the figure-four. That gets two, but Ahmed quickly turns it over and forces a break. Jarrett goes back to the knee, but when he tries to apply the figure-four again, Ahmed kicks him to the floor. Frustrated, Jarrett grabs his guitar and smashes it over Ahmed’s head from the top rope to get disqualified at 6:37. Ahmed sells that for about five seconds and proceeds to chase Jarrett back to the locker room. This would be the last we’d see of Jarrett until 1997. Both guys ran through their usual stuff, but this was an abbreviated Superstars match. Rating: *½

-Call 1-800-TITAN91 to get your signature series sweatshirt of Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, or the Undertaker. You can get one and a free WWF hat for $34.95 (plus shipping and handling)!

-Todd Pettengill interviews Diesel and Diesel says that he doesn’t care who wins tonight’s title match between Bret Hart and the Undertaker because all he wants is his title back.

-WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns (Champions) vs. The Bodydonnas:

This was supposed to be the Smoking Gunns against Sid & the 1-2-3 Kid, but Sid left the company and this match done instead. Billy and Skip start and he hits a quick shoulder block for two. Skip gets a headscissors and when Billy dives at him, he pulls down the top rope and Billy crashes to the floor. The Bodydonnas toss Bart out of the ring, slingshot Billy in from the apron, and hit a double elbow. They try to do the same to Bart, but Bart slingshots them out and then pulls down the top rope so Billy can plancha the challengers. That’s one way to make that move easier. Back in, Sunny tries to get the Gunns attention with her body and that gets your usual hoots and hollers from the crowd. Bart overpowers Zip, but Skip gets a blind tag and clotheslines him. Billy tags in blindly and the Gunns deliver a Hart Attack. Sunny gets on the apron and when Billy runs the ropes she crashes to the floor. Billy goes to check on her, but she’s just faking and the Bodydonnas beat him down. Back in, Skip suplexes Zip onto Billy for two. Not to be outdone, Zip gutwrench suplexes Skip onto Billy for two. Skip hits a fist drop from the second rope for two. The Bodydonnas deliver a double flapjack for two. A three way collision creates a double (triple?) KO, which I’ve never seen before, and Bart gets the momentum swinging tag. Bart cleans house and blasts Zip with an elbow for two before Skip interrupts. All hell breaks loose and the Gunns give Zip a Sidewinder. However, Sunny distracts the referee and Skip flies off the top rope to break it up. Skip covers Bart for two, which would’ve been the finish if the Bodydonnas were getting the belts here, and the Bodydonnas hit a double back drop, but when they go for a double suplex, Billy tackles Skip and Bart small packages Zip to retain the titles at 11:12. There were some interesting spots in this match that I’d never seen before, but the Sidewinder break up spot should’ve been the finish. Rating: ***

-Billionaire Ted’s skit where he asks why he can’t buy the WWF is shown. These things never fail to make me laugh.

-A video package that recaps the Goldust-Razor Ramon feud is shown.

-Intercontinental Championship Match: “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon (Champion) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena & The Usher):

This was Marlena’s WWF debut. For this match, McMahon just says she’s a random woman who thankfully doesn’t have her cigar lit. I guess Vince was always on that anti-smoking crusade, just look at those vignettes from the 1980s that littered all of the Coliseum Videos. Goldust acts weird after the opening bell rings, so Ramon tosses a toothpick in his face, but this just makes Goldust act even weirder. Lots of stalling commences, as Goldust plays mind games. Ramon slaps Goldust around and slaps him on the rear, but Goldust eats that up. I hate the stalling, but I love these spots. After more stalling, Ramon clotheslines Goldust over the top rope and judging by the crowd reaction, you’d think he just won the World title in his hometown. Goldust hides behind Marlena and Ramon moves her out of the way, but that allows Goldust to attack him from behind and pound away. Back in, Goldust hits a bulldog for two and a slingshot side suplex gets two. Marlena blows gold dust in Ramon’s eyes and Goldust hits a swinging neckbreaker for two. Sleeper time and Ramon escapes with a mule kick to give us a double KO. Goldust crawls over and covers for two. Ramon makes the comeback and a chokeslam gets two. A fallaway slam gets two. Goldust climbs to the top rope for some reason, but Ramon crotches him and gives him a side suplex off the second rope as Marlena comes into the ring to confront the referee. She feigns a twisted ankle when both men hit the canvas and the distraction allows the 1-2-3 Kid to run in from the crowd and hit Ramon in the back of the head with a spinning heel kick off the top rope. Goldust quickly covers and ends Ramon’s last Intercontinental title reign at 14:18. The stalling at the beginning zapped the match of a lot of its energy, but the action that was here was okay. Rating: *

-Shawn Michaels personal physician Dr. Jeffrey Unger says that he’s ready for the Royal Rumble. Owen Hart, Jake Roberts, Jerry “the King” Lawler, Barry Horowitz, Vader, and Shawn Michaels cut promos for the Rumble.

-Perfect picks Vader to win the Royal Rumble. Ray Rougeau tells people to call the Superstar line and hear comments from each participant moments before they come to the ring. At $1.49 a minute, that’d be a really expensive phone call if you stayed on for the entire match. Imagine an extra $80 or so on your phone bill in addition to whatever it cost you to buy this show.

-Royal Rumble Match:

Hunter Hearst Helmsley is #1 and his rival Henry Godwinn is #2. Helmsley Flair flips and Godwinn sits there and does NOTHING as Helmsley just sits there on the top rope. He also puts Helmsley in a gorilla press position, which I hate to see in a Rumble unless you actually dump a guy over the top rope, but Helmsley goes to the eyes to escape so I can give it a pass. #3 is Bob Backlund, holding the same number he drew in 1993, and he saves Helmsley from elimination. A three way brawl breaks out to show that there are no friends in the Rumble. #4 is Jerry Lawler and it looks like Godwinn isn’t going to get any help. Lawler grabs Godwinn’s slop bucket, but before he can slop him, Godwinn kicks him in the gut, grabs the bucket, and all of the heels bail. Godwinn just waits until the heels group up on the floor and then tosses the slop in their direction. I feel bad for the fans in the front row because that slop was thrown horizontally, not vertically. #5 is Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly and he goes after Lawler.

#6 is King Mabel and he goes after Godwinn because royalty and farmers don’t mix or something like that. #7 is Jake Roberts and the crowd loves that. Roberts brings his snake down to the ring and tosses it into the ring, causing everyone to flee except Lawler, who gets grabbed and has the snake thrown on top of him. I can’t recall seeing two bail out spots in a Rumble before. The action resumes, but Lawler is missing from the participants. The announcers don’t really care, though. #8 is Dory Funk, Jr. and he and Backlund relive the 1970s. McMahon says that Terry Funk was invited to compete, but is in Germany so he couldn’t make it. We’re setting a Rumble record at this point, as we’re fourteen minutes into the match and there have been no eliminations. We finally find Lawler, who is following the Jimmy Hart strategy of staying underneath the ring. #9 is Yokozuna and he attacks Backlund, who has Funk trapped in the crossface chicken wing, and tosses him out. Mabel and Yoko have a big man showdown, which the crowd eats up. #10 is the 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon chases him into the ring. If you aren’t watching closely, you won’t see Roberts casually toss Godwinn over the top rope. WWF officials finally force Ramon to go back to the locker room and when the Kid gets into the ring he goes after Funk.

#11 is Omori, who gets the Orient Express entrance music, and he ties up with Mabel. #12 is Savio Vega and he and Mabel renew the finals of the 1995 King of the Ring. Yoko tosses Mabel when that encounter is finished and when Omori tries to eliminate Roberts, Roberts lands on the apron and tosses him out. #13 is Vader and he beats on Holly. Savio backdrops Funk out, but he reward is getting manhandled by Vader. #14 is Doug Gilbert from the USWA and he battles with Helmsley. Roberts tries to DDT Gilbert, but Vader nails him with a clothesline and Roberts defies the laws of physics by flying across the ring and over the top rope. The crowd doesn’t like that one at all. #15 is Headhunter A, who is referred to as a SWAT Team member by McMahon, and he goes after Yoko. Gilbert is just a bumping machine for Vader and after a while Vader mercifully gorilla presses him out. Vader tosses Headhunter A and since no one will tussle with he or Yoko, he goes over to Yoko and starts pounding away.

#16 is Headhunter B, who is the other SWAT Team member, and after reuniting with Headhunter A they go after Vader. Vader and Yoko take them out and toss them over the top with ease. #17 is Owen Hart and he helps Helmsley beat on Holly. Yoko and Vader take turns avalanching Savio in the corner and it makes me wish they had been a tag team. Their squash matches would’ve been the stuff of legend. #18 is Shawn Michaels and he hits anything that moves. Vader eliminates Savio and then slugs it out with Yoko. As they tie up in the ropes, Michaels runs over and dumps both of them. Michaels gorilla press slams the Kid to the floor. Without Vader or Yoko, the ring has tons of space in it now. #19 is Hakushi and as he makes his entrance, Vader re-enters the ring and attacks Michaels. Vader gorilla presses Michaels over the top rope and the crowd gets eerily silent because they think Michaels has been eliminated, but in this year’s Rumble that stuff isn’t going to count. We get our third bail out as no one wants to be around Vader and WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and WWF officials manage to get Vader to leave the ring. #20 is Tatanka and he pounds away on Hakushi. Michaels tries to hurl Jim Cornette out of the ring at 100 miles an hour, but Cornette gets tied in the ropes and a pissed off Michaels quickly hurls him to the floor. Hakushi tries to float over Owen on a blind charge, but Owen just grabs him and tosses him over the top rope.

#21 is Aldo Montoya and he receives a beating from the heels. Michaels goes to the arena floor and pulls Lawler out from underneath the ring and tosses him back in. Tatanka clotheslines Montoya out and Michaels knocks Lawler out with a right hand. #22 is Diesel and he hurls Tatanka out. Diesel nails Michaels and then saves him from elimination moments later. Quote of the night from McMahon: “Things don’t have to make sense, this is the Royal Rumble.” I’ll keep that in mind. #23 is Kama, who no longer has the funny hairdo, and he pounds away on Diesel in the corner. #24 is Steve Austin and no one cares. Austin goes after Holly and after landing on the apron when Holly tosses him over the top rope, he runs back in and eliminates Holly and giving him a high knee to the back. #25 is Barry Horowitz and even though he feels happy, he runs into Diesel. Diesel suddenly tosses Helmsley out, which ends his iron man mark in this year’s match at 48 minutes.

#26 is Fatu and he decides to start making a difference on Kama. I just realized that everyone in the ring right now had some impact on the Attitude Era except Horowitz. Poor guy. Owen and Shawn tease eliminations to show off. #27 is Isaac Yankem, D.D.S. and he squares off with Diesel, who he would imitate by the end of the year. Horowitz runs at Owen, but gets backdropped out. Owen nails Michaels with an enziguri, which quiets the crowd, but when he goes to toss him out, Michaels changes the momentum and sends Owen out. #28 is Marty Jannetty and he brawls with most of the guys in the ring. It doesn’t take us long to get another Rockers blowoff, though. #29 is the British Bulldog and he goes after Michaels to renew their issue from last year’s Rumble. Bulldog backdrops Jannetty out, Fatu tosses Austin, and Yankem tosses Fatu. #30 is Duke Droese.

So we’re left with the Bulldog, Michaels, Diesel, Yankem, Droese, and Kama. What a crew. Michaels and the Bulldog take their fight to the floor and Owen runs out and helps the Bulldog pound away on him. WWF officials, who are really busy tonight, get Owen to go back to the dressing room, and Michaels and the Bulldog head back into the ring. Michaels dropkicks Yankem out and Kama and Diesel dump Droese. Michaels slides between the Bulldog’s legs from the apron and clotheslines him out. Diesel dumps Kama, but Michaels quickly nails him with Sweet Chin Music and Diesel falls over the top rope to give Michaels the victory at 58:53. Talk about a quick finish. The WWF told viewers before this show that the match was guaranteed to go an hour so I want a refund! This Rumble was really lacking in star power and the ending was never in doubt. There were a few fun segments at the beginning, but halfway through you got really bored waiting for the ending. Rating: **¼

-After the match, Diesel nails the Bulldog in the aisle and walks back to the ring, where Michaels is doing his striptease act. After a few tense moments, they slap hands and Michaels celebration continues.

-Call 1-800-TITAN91 to get a Royal Rumble t-shirt! You can get yours for $18, plus shipping and handling.

-WWF Championship Match: Bret “the Hitman” Hart (Champion) vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer):

If you are puzzled as to why this match is going on last, just wait. Diesel confronts the Undertaker on his way to the ring and they brawl until WWF officials break it up. How many brawls have these guys had to break up tonight? They are running this procedure into the ground. Bret fires away, but the Undertaker shrugs it off and chokes away. The Undertaker applies a claw and gets a couple of near-falls from it. The crowd is trying to stay with this thing, but the Rumble took a lot out of them. A blind charge eats boot and Bret clotheslines the Undertaker over the top rope. Since the Undertaker lands on his feet, Bret follows with a pescado. Bret dives at the Undertaker from the apron, but the Undertaker rams his back into the ring post. They methodically brawl on the floor until Bret whips the Undertaker into the steps, which hurts the Undertaker’s knee. Bret targets the injured body part and rolls the Undertaker back in, where the assault on the knee continues. Bret applies a figure-four on the wrong leg and gets a couple of two counts. The Undertaker turns the hold over and Bret gets into the ropes to force a break. Bret goes back to the knee and while I appreciate psychology, they are completely losing the crowd. Hebner gets so bored refereeing the thing that he forgets to count the Undertaker’s shoulders down when Bret wrenches the knee some more. The Undertaker proceeds to sell the wrong knee as he makes a comeback and it’s an unorthodox comeback as he takes Bret to the steps, chokes him with microphone wire, takes him to the timekeepers bell, and uses a chair on him. Back in, Bret takes out the knee and works it some more and that draws boos. The Undertaker fights back to his feet, which I don’t think should be possible with how much Bret has worked on his knee in this match, and goes for a Tombstone, but Bret slides off his shoulders and falls to the floor. Back in, the Undertaker puts his head down too early and Bret hits a DDT for two. Bret’s usual moves follow, which the Undertaker sits up from, and he goes for the Sharpshooter, but the Undertaker grabs Bret by the throat to stop it. A double clothesline gives us a double KO. Bret gets up first and removes a turnbuckle pad and then the Undertaker’s facial apparatus. Bret takes the Undertaker to the exposed steel twice, which gets some big heel heat, but when he tries a body press off the ropes, the Undertaker catches him and plants him with a Tombstone. However, Diesel pulls Hebner out of the ring as he’s making the count and that gets Bret disqualified at 28:32. So they gave these guys 28 minutes for that finish? After the match, Diesel flips the Undertaker the bird. A really boring match, where the psychology led nowhere and Bret looked like a weak champion. Rating: *½

-Pettengill interviews Monsoon, who says that at In Your House 6, Bret Hart will defend the WWF title against Diesel. So Diesel becomes the #1 contender for screwing over a guy who should be champion? That’s WWF logic for you.

-Dok Hendrix interviews Shawn Michaels. He says that the Kliq is behind him and he’ll face whoever he faces at WrestleMania XII.

-Monsoon reminds Pettengill that Michaels gets to face whoever wins at In Your House 6. That was already clarified Gorilla. An angry Undertaker confronts Monsoon and tells him that it’ll be a cold day in hell before Diesel wears the WWF title again. Monsoon says that since that’s the case he’ll put Diesel and Bret in a cage match at In Your House because you know, anything that’s in the cage stays in the cage.

-Hendrix interviews Diesel and Diesel delivers a cocky interview where he says that he’s the best thing going today and that he’ll do whatever he wants in the WWF. He says the only thing he fears is the tax man. Who ever knew that Diesel feared I.R.S. A great promo that solidified Diesel’s status as a heel.

-Pettengill interviews an irate Jim Cornette and Vader. Vader tosses chairs around as Cornette says that Vader is the real winner of the Royal Rumble.

-A video package shows the highlights of tonight’s show.

The Final Report Card: A promising undercard failed to deliver on this show, as the Ramon-Goldust match was a staller’s dream and Bret-Undertaker went nowhere. Bret was caught in the middle of the Undertaker-Diesel storyline during this period and on two consecutive pay-per-views he was shown to be a weak champion. The Rumble could’ve been more entertaining if they allowed some of the bigger guys like Yokozuna, Vader, Owen Hart, and Jake Roberts to make the final four or five, but they eliminated most of the big names too early and then blitzkreiged the finish. A definite thumbs down.

Attendance: 9,600

Buyrate: 1.1

Show Evaluation: Thumbs Down

Logan Scisco has been writing wrestling reviews for Inside Pulse since 2005. He considers himself a pro wrestling traditionalist and reviews content from the 1980s-early 2000s. Most of his recaps center on wrestling television shows prior to 2001. His work is featured on his website (www.wrestlewatch.com) and he has written three books, available on Amazon.com.