JZ Says: WWF Royal Rumble 1996 (Bret Hart, Undertaker)

Selland Arena – Fresno, CA – Sunday, January 21, 1996

Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect are on commentary. On the Free-For-All before the pay-per-view broadcast, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese beat Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, and as a result Droese will enter #30 in the Rumble and Helmsley will enter at #1. This match is not on the DVD despite what the box says. I feel cheated!

MATCH #1: Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson

I was a HUGE Ahmed Johnson fan in 1996. This match was set up when Jarrett attacked Ahmed after his match with Buddy Landel at last month’s In Your House 5: Season’s Beatings. Ahmed charges the ring and the fight is on. Jarrett tries to bail but Ahmed chases him around the ring. Back inside Jarrett tries to capitalize but Ahmed simply overpowers him. Ahmed charges at Jarrett but misses, hitting the ropes. That gives Jarrett the advantage he needed. Jarrett throws Ahmed into the steel steps. Back in the ring Jarrett presses the advantage but Ahmed starts to Hulk Up. Ahmed catches Jarrett coming off the second rope with an inverted atomic drop. He follows with a hard clothesline. Ahmed lands the spinebuster, usually the setup for the Pearl River Plunge. Jarrett wisely rolls to the floor and Ahmed takes him out with a suicide dive. Ahmed goes up to the top rope and misses a somersault senton, hurting his knee in the process. Jarrett puts on the Figure-Four Leglock, and Ahmed powers his way out. A frustrated Jarrett grabs his guitar and goes to the top rope, and he brings it down hard on Ahmed’s head for the disqualification at 6:38. The action was fine while it lasted, but it was pointless in the end, and I don’t think this feud was ever resolved.
Rating: *½

MATCH #2: World Tag Team Championship Match – The Bodydonnas vs. The Smoking Gunns

Billy and Bart Gunn have been the Champions since 9.25.95, and this is their seventh major defense. Skip and Zip have Sunny in their corner of course. Billy and Skip start the match. They cut a fast pace and Billy seems to be in control but misses a clothesline and tumbles to the floor. Skip and Zip throw Bart outside as well. The Gunns quickly make the comeback and give the challengers a taste of their own medicine. We reset back in the ring with Billy and Skip again. That goes Billy’s way, so tags are made. The Gunns continue to frustrate the Bodydonnas at every possible turn. Sunny gets up on the apron and gets knocked down when Skip sends Billy into the ropes. Billy is a good cowboy, so he checks on her, allowing Skip and Zip to attack, igniting a brawl on the floor. Sunny is apparently fine, and her men now have control of the matchup. After several minutes of abuse Billy makes the tag. Bart is a house afire, and Billy has regained some strength as well. The Gunns hit Zip with the Sidewinder but Sunny has the referee distracted so no count is made. Skip comes off the top rope with an elbow on Bart and covers him for two. The Bodydonnas go for a double suplex on Bart but Billy takes out Zip with a Spear and Bart grabs Skip in an inside cradle to get the pin at 11:13. The tag team division was a bit of a mess at this time, but these two teams were solid and went out and did the tag formula thing fine.
Rating: **¾

MATCH #3: Intercontinental Championship Match – Goldust vs. Razor Ramon

Ramon has been the Champion since 10.22.95, and this is his fourth major defense. Goldust has Marlena and his usher in his corner. Ramon dominates the early going, as Goldust has angered him with his homoerotic antis in recent weeks. That continues here, as Goldust executes a go behind and feels Ramon up. This is wild stuff for 1996. Ramon continues to be aggressive and Goldust continues to play mind games. Out on the floor Marlena distracts Ramon long enough for Goldust to finally take the advantage. Back in the ring Goldust continues going to work, wearing Ramon down. The mind games have paid off handsomely I’d say. Goldust uses a sleeper to try and put Ramon out, but that backfires when Ramon gets the referee out of position and kicks Goldust in the junk. Oddly it’s Goldust crawling over to make the cover, and he gets two. Back on their feet Ramon has fired up, and he hits a Chokeslam for two. Ramon follows with the Fallaway Slam for another two-count. Goldust pokes Ramon in the eyes and goes up top but Ramon knocks him down. Ramon hits the belly-to-back superplex, but Marlena is in the ring distracting the referee. The 1-2-3 Kid sneaks in and drills Ramon with a spin kick from the top rope, and that’s enough for Goldust to get the pin and win the title at 14:17. The match was decent, but Goldust was all gimmick at this point and not great in the ring (which is strange given how much fun he is to watch now). Granted the gimmick was unique and working, so the match was fine enough.
Rating: **½

MATCH #4: Royal Rumble Match

Hunter Hearst-Helmsley of course drew #1, and his rival Henry O. Godwinn is #2. Godwinn takes the early advantage and throws Helmsley around the ring. Next out at #3 is former two-time WWF Champion Mr. Bob Backlund. Not much happens and Jerry “The King” Lawler is #4. The three heels try to slop Godwinn with his own slop bucket, but Godwinn is crafty enough to get control of his own bucket. Backlund, Lawler, and Helmsley run to the floor (but not over the top rope), and Godwinn throws the slop on them! That is gross. Next up is Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly at #5. More royalty comes out next, with #6 being the gigantic King Mabel. The random brawling continues as no one has been eliminated when Jake “The Snake” Roberts comes out at #7! This is his first match in WWE since 1992. Roberts has a new snake with him and all the wrestlers try to bail, but the unlucky Lawler ends up with the snake all over him! Lawler crawls under the ring and the match resumes. Next up at #8 is the legendary Dory Funk Jr., and McMahon mentions that he is a former NWA Champion, and that Terry Funk was also invited to compete tonight. I wonder why he didn’t. It’s interesting to see Funk and Backlund in the ring together. The biggest man in the match, former two-time WWF and World Tag Team Champion Yokozuna, is #9. Yokozuna immediately tosses Backlund for the first elimination. The #10 entrant is the 1-2-3 Kid, and Razor Ramon is close behind, still furious at Kid for costing him the Intercontinental Title earlier. Officials herd Ramon to the back and Kid joins the fray. For some reason All Japan’s Takao Omori is #11. I believe this is his first and only WWF appearance. Roberts knocks Yokozuna off his feet and gets a nice pop for it. Savio Vega is #12. Yokozuna single-handedly eliminates Mabel, and Roberts dumps Omori. Lucky #13 is Vader, and he goes right after Holly, curiously not eliminating him for some reason. Vega eliminates Funk. Doug Gilbert of the USWA is out at #14. Perfect talks about Doug’s brother Eddie, as the commentary continues to blow my mind. Roberts hits Vega with a DDT, but seconds later Vader eliminates Roberts with a hard clothesline. Another odd entrant, Squat Team I is #15. Vader eliminates Gilbert and then tosses half of the Squat Team. The creatively named Squat Team II is #16, and the eliminated brother decides to get back in the ring. Vader throws one of them to the floor and Yokozuna eliminates the other one. Next up at #17 is Owen Hart. Yokozuna and Vader work together on Vega. The odds-on favorite Shawn Michaels is #18. Vader eliminates Vega. It’s worth mentioning that three Clique members are in the ring at the same time. Finally, Vader and Yokozuna come to blows, and when they fight up against the ropes Michaels eliminates both behemoths! Michaels tosses the Kid next. Next to the ring at #19 is Hakushi. Meanwhile Vader beats up Yokozuna on the floor. Vader gets back in the ring and beats on Michaels, press slamming him over the top rope to the floor. He throws everyone to the floor, causing complete chaos. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon and other assorted officials come out to try and get control. Monsoon and Vader face off but there is no confrontation yet. All of Vader’s post-elimination eliminations don’t count, even though in other years people have been able to eliminate others after they were out, but whatever. Tatanka is #20.

Hart eliminates Hakushi as Aldo Montoya reveals himself as the #21 entrant. For some reason Michaels goes out to the floor to retrieve Lawler, who has been hiding for well over 20 minutes, I think. Michaels tosses Lawler out and then Diesel comes out at #22. Tatanka dumps Montoya to the floor. Diesel gets rid of Tatanka. Kama is #23. Next up is some jobber called The Ringmaster at #24. Ringmaster goes after Holly and fights with Diesel. He’s able to eliminate Holly. Jobber extraordinaire Barry Horowitz is entrant #25. Diesel unceremoniously dumps Helmsley to the floor about 48 minutes in. Fatu makes a difference at #26. Next man out at #27 is Isaac Yankem D.D.S., Jerry Lawler’s personal dentist. Owen dumps Horowitz to the floor. Diesel and Michaels join forces to eliminate Owen, Shawn’s chief rival. Speaking of Shawn’s rivals, his former partner Marty Jannetty is #28. It takes a minute and even though they are both babyfaces now, Michaels and Jannetty do tear into each other. The British Bulldog is #29. He goes right after Michaels. Diana Hart is watching on from the crowd. Lunatic. Bulldog dumps Jannetty to the floor. Fatu clotheslines the Ringmaster out, and then Fatu is next to go courtesy of Yankem. Finally, the field is complete when Duke “The Dumpster” Droese makes his way out at #30. Michaels and Bulldog go through the ropes and fight on the floor, and Owen Hart makes his way back to help his brother-in-law. Back in the ring Michaels eliminates Yankem and Kama eliminates Droese.

That leaves us with a final four of Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Kama, and British Bulldog. Michaels quickly eliminates Bulldog, and Diesel helpfully gets rid of Kama, and then Michaels superkicks Diesel to the floor to win his second straight Rumble at 58:47. Outside of Shawn Michaels coming back and Vader destroying everyone, there weren’t really any interesting stories in this Rumble. There also was very little drama in the end, as the Final Four segment lasted about 30 seconds. All that makes this one of the weaker Rumbles. After the match Diesel is angry and attacks Bulldog in the aisle. He goes back to the ring and gives Shawn a high five.
Rating: **¾

MATCH #5: WWF Championship Match – Undertaker vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart

The angry Diesel is still making his way to the locker room as Undertaker starts his entrance, and they get into a fight in the aisle! Officials break it up before anything too serious happens. Bret has been the Champion since 11.19.95, and this is his third defense. Undertaker is wearing the protective face mask because Mabel and Yokozuna broke his face a while back. McMahon mentions that this is Bret’s forty-third pay-per-view appearance. They just don’t mention cool little stats like that anymore.

It starts off as a slug fest, which does not go well for the Champion. Undertaker dominates the early minutes with his size and power advantage. This goes on for several minutes until Bret makes the comeback and sends Undertaker to the floor. Bret follows him out with a house show dive. He tries a dive off the apron, but Undertaker catches him and rams his spine into the ring post. The fight continues out on the floor as the referee is being very liberal with the count. Momentum shifts back to Bret, and he targets the knee, always a good strategy against a big guy and when your finishing move is the Sharpshooter. This goes on approximately forever before Undertaker makes the comeback. Undertaker throws Bret to the floor and chokes him with a TV cable and even uses a chair. Back in the ring Bret fights back and resumes work on the leg and knee. Undertaker fights back. Yawn. Bret hits a DDT for a two-count. He goes for the Sharpshooter, but Undertaker avoids it. Both men hit a simultaneous clothesline and both men are down. Back on their feet Bret removes Undertaker’s protective mask. Bret concentrates on the face, ramming it into an exposed turnbuckle. Undertaker gets angry and hits the Tombstone Piledriver, but Diesel returns and pulls the referee to the floor before a count can be made. That’s obviously a disqualification at 28:28. This is one of the worst matches between two great wrestlers. It went on forever and never got out of first gear, they just did stuff back and forth and it never went anywhere. Not to mention going that long for THAT finish is insulting. It also makes Bret, the Champion, look like a giant pussy. What a disaster of a main event.
Rating: *½

JZ Says
The main event is bad, the Rumble isn’t very good, and nothing on the undercard is remotely worth seeking out. This is an exceptionally weak Rumble show, and a poor effort for any pay-per-view.

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