JZ Says: WWF Royal Rumble 1998 (Shawn Michaels, Undertaker)

San Jose Arena – San Jose, CA – Sunday, January 18, 1998

Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler are on commentary.

MATCH #1: The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust vs. Vader

This was during Goldust’s very weird period, accentuated by having Luna in his corner. Vader charges but Goldust cuts him off and tries to take the early advantage. Vader overpowers him so Goldust takes a powder, which does nothing for him because Vader follows him out and clobbers him. Both men are slated to compete in the Royal Rumble match later. Back in the ring Vader continues to dominate. Luna grabs Vader’s foot to distract him, allowing Goldust to hit a stiff clothesline. That gives Goldust control, and he beats on Vader both in and out of the ring. Luna interferes whenever she can of course. Goldust hits mounted punches in the corner and then kisses Vader, which is a big mistake. Vader decks Goldust with a clothesline. He follows up with a vertical suplex and then a splash for two. Vader hits a short-arm clothesline and looks ready for the Vader Bomb, so Luna distracts the referee and Goldust punches Vader in the dick. That advantage doesn’t last long, and Vader is back on offense. Vader squashes Goldust with a vertical splash. He goes for another Vader Bomb, and this time Luna gets in the ring and jumps on his back. No matter, as Vader just delivers the move with her on his back, and that’s enough to get the pin at 7:52. That was fine enough for an opener, and they wisely kept it short. Kudos to whoever came up with the finish though, because that’s memorable.
Rating: **½

MATCH #2: Six-Man Tag Team Match – Battalion, Tarantula & El Torito vs. Max Mini, Nova & Mosaic

Sunny is the guest referee for some reason. Nova and Tarantula start it off. This is the typical minis match, with tons of armdrags and headscissors. Mini and Battalion tag in for some more armdrags and headscissors, but different variations of those moves. Torito tags in to battle Mosaic. Stuff continues to happen, and the crowd doesn’t much care. Tags are made and different guys pair up. More armdrags and headscissors abound. Mini and Tarantula spill to the floor and nothing happens. Torito kicks Mini in the head and Battalion kicks him in the face. Mini comes back by using Sunny to his advantage. Mosaic comes in and sends Battalion to the floor, and then wipes him out with a dive. Torito follows, then Mini, then Tarantula, then Nova. Torito and Mini are the first two back in the ring. Mini goes up top and delivers a headscissors, and then turns an armdrag into a cradle to get the pin at 7:49. That was typical WWE minis action, which is fine but hardly necessary or memorable or anything.
Rating: **

MATCH #3: Intercontinental Championship Match – Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock

Rock has been the Champion since 12.8.97, and this is his second defense. Both men are a little cautious in the early going. Rock tries to take a cheap shot, but Shamrock blocks it and decks Rock instead. Everything Rock tries Shamrock has an answer for, so the Champion takes a powder. Back in the ring Rock lands a few shots. Shamrock tries a hurricanrana, but Rock drops him throat-first on the top rope. Every time Shamrock tries to build momentum Rock cuts him off. Rock hits the float over DDT for a two-count. Both competitors will also be in the Royal Rumble match later. Shamrock hits a release Northern Lights Suplex and both men are down. Back on their feet Shamrock is firing up. Shamrock hits a powerslam for two. He unloads on Rock with right hands. Shamrock hits the hurricanrana he went for earlier, and now the Nation of Domination makes their way out. Rock produces some brass knuckles and decks Shamrock with them. He covers but Shamrock kicks out at two! It’s important to note that Rock stashed the knux in Shamrock’s tights. Shamrock hits Rock with the belly-to-belly suplex to get the pin at 10:53! Ever the crafty jerk, Rock tells the referee to check Shamrock’s tights, and sure enough the ref finds the knux and reverses his initial decision! Rock wins the match by disqualification and retains the title! The match was decent enough, but they didn’t get a real solid rhythm established. I like the screw job finish because it was clever and builds to a logical rematch and a big payoff for the babyface. Not that that happened (well, the rematch did but not the payoff), but that would have been my thought at the time.
Rating: **¾

MATCH #4: World Tag Team Championship Match – Legion of Doom vs. The New Age Outlaws

Road Dogg and Billy Gunn have been the Champions since 11.24.97, and this is their third defense. It’s a pier-six brawl to start and just guess who has the advantage there. The Outlaws take a powder and the LOD goes out after them. Back in the ring the challengers are dominating. Hawk and Animal are just manhandling the Tag Team Champions. Finally, the Outlaws use some cheap tactics to take control on Animal. The referee loses control and this match is just happening all over the place. Road Dogg produces a pair of handcuffs and cuffs Hawk to one of the ring posts. The Outlaws try to double-team Animal, but he overpowers them both. Billy slams Animal and goes up top, but he leaps right into a powerslam. Dogg breaks up that cover with a steel chair to draw the intentional disqualification at 7:54. That was a pretty typical LOD match for the time. Hawk and Animal were so limited, but at least they seemed willing to really put the new team over (for them).
Rating: **

MATCH #5: Royal Rumble Match

Cactus Jack is #1 and his tag team partner Chainsaw Charlie is #2! That’s quite the pairing to start it off. They brawl for a while, even recklessly using chairs and chainsaws, but the two friends join forces when #3 Tom Brandi comes out. Cactus and Chainsaw eliminate Brandi in a matter of seconds and then resume beating each other unmerciful. Intercontinental Champion The Rock comes out at #4. Cactus and Chainsaw team up on The People’s Champ, trapping him in a trash can and hitting him with a steel chair. Rock tumbles through the ropes, so he is not eliminated. Chainsaw then turns on Cactus and hits him in the junk. Headbanger Mosh is #5. Next up at #6 is Phineas Godwinn. The ring continues to fill up as 8-Ball comes out at lucky #7. Chainsaw eliminates his tag team partner Cactus Jack. Blackjack Bradshaw is #8 and he immediately starts throwing bombs. The random brawling continues as the fans continue to wait for Stone Cold to come out. Owen Hart is #9 and they show Mike Tyson and Shane McMahon in their skybox standing up excitedly. Unfortunately for Owen, NWA North American Champion Jeff Jarrett and Jim Cornette come out and attack Owen, leaving him lying. My friend Sean Reisig’s favorite wrestler, Steve Blackman, is #10. D-Lo Brown of the Nation of Domination is the #11 entrant. The gigantic Kurrgan is #12, and he quickly throws Mosh out. Lucky #13 is Marc Mero, accompanied by Sable. Kurrgan dumps Blackman out. Next up is Ken Shamrock at #14. That’s bad news for The Rock. Shamrock attacks Kurrgan first, and with the help of 8-Ball, Phineas, Bradshaw, Chainsaw, and Rock, they throw Kurrgan out! That’s a big threat gone. We reach the halfway point with Headbanger Thrasher at #15. Oddly enough #16 is Mankind, who quickly eliminates Chainsaw Charlie. The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust is #17. Goldust tosses Mankind to the floor. Jeff Jarrett is back as an official entrant, #18. Owen makes his way back to the ring and unleashes hell on the man that attacked him earlier. Jarrett tries to throw Owen out, but Owen skins the cat and dumps Jarrett to the floor! Former Intercontinental Champion the Honky Tonk Man is a surprise entrant at #19. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and Chyna come out with him, and then The Rock eliminates Shamrock. Chyna and Triple H use the injured HHH’s crutches to pull Owen to the floor. I guess that counts as an elimination. Next up is Ahmed Johnson at #20.

Mark Henry is #21, and Jim Ross gets in the most unintentionally hilarious line of the night, noting that Mark Henry is “handling the big Johnson.” Henry throws powder in Johnson’s eyes, and dumps him out with Brown’s help. When #22 is called no one answers, leading Ross and Lawler to speculate that it was Austin’s number. Henry then tosses Phineas, and a referee gets injured in the process when he gets struck with Phineas’ boot. For some reason Ahmed decides to attack Phineas and they brawl to the back. Next up is Kama Mustafa at #23. Now the Nation is four strong. For some reason the Nation has spent a lot of the match fighting each other rather than work together. The entire Rumble literally comes to a standstill as the glass breaks and Stone-Cold Steve Austin is #24! Austin sneaks in from behind and immediately dumps Mero and then 8-Ball. The crowd is losing their collective mind. Next up is Henry Godwinn at #25. The brawling continues and Savio Vega us #26. The rest of Los Boricuas come with him and Austin gets rid of all of them. The leader of the Nation, Faarooq himself, is #27. Faarooq goes right after The Rock, dumping him through the ropes. Austin had also been sent through the ropes so he and Rock brawl. Dude Love is #28 and he dumps Bradshaw out. Rock hits D-Lo with the People’s Elbow, and Austin punishes him with punches. The next entrant at #29 is Chainz. Faarooq eliminates D-Lo. The field is complete when Vader comes out at #30. Vader tosses Honky Tonk Man. Austin dumps Thrasher out, and then Kama. He gets rid of his old nemesis Vega next, and then Goldust gets rid of Vader. Dude Love tosses Godwinn, Chainz gets rid of Goldust, Austin dumps Chainz, and Faarooq eliminates Mark Henry.

We’re down to the Final Four – The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Faarooq, and Dude Love. Austin and Love try working together, but Faarooq eliminates the Dude. Faarooq tries to eliminate Austin but Rock sneaks up from behind and tosses Faarooq out. Austin and Rock brawl briefly and then Austin hits a Stunner and heaves Rock to the floor to win his second straight Rumble at 55:23! Really the only story of this Rumble was Austin’s quest to get the title shot, and they did a really good job telling that story. The Rock also looked great in lasting all the way to the end after starting at #4. The rest of the Rumble was a little ho-hum, but the dominant story did a good enough job of making it mostly enjoyable.
Rating: ***

MATCH #6: Casket Match for the WWF Championship – Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker

Michaels has been the Champion since 11.9.97, and this is his third defense. He has the current European Champion Triple H and Chyna in his corner. Michaels is the aggressor early on, trying to stick and move as best he can. Undertaker uses his power to try manhandling the Champion and backdrops him to the floor. On the way out, Shawn’s back hit the casket, and it’s been said that was the bump that sent his back over the edge and caused him to be out for over four years. Undertaker starts throwing Michaels around both in and out of the ring. He hits Old School, and then continues focusing on Michaels’ injured back. Michaels is not done yet though, and he’s able to fight back and land a moonsault. They go back to the floor and Michaels reverses a whip that sends Undertaker’s knees into the steps. Michaels then drops the steps on Undertaker’s back. He follows up with the piledriver on the steps, which is always a great spot. Triple H take a series of cheap shots with his crutch, and Michaels follows him with a steel chair. Back in the ring Michaels has all the momentum on his side. Michaels tries to get Undertaker in the casket, but the challenger is not done yet. Undertaker can’t follow up though and Michaels hits a swinging neckbreaker and then locks on a Sleeper. It looks like Undertaker is fading but he’s able to break the hold with a back suplex. Both men rise, and Michaels hits the flying forearm. Michaels nips up and hits Hail to the King. He tunes up the band and drills Undertaker with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels puts Undertaker the casket and stands over it while delivering a crotch chop. That turns out to be a terrible move, as Undertaker fires up and starts throwing Michaels all over the ring. Undertaker charges but Michaels ducks and he tumbles into the casket. Michaels delivers a splash off the top rope and into the casket, and both men get trapped inside! That’s neat. Back in the ring Undertaker hits a massive Chokeslam. Undertaker signals for the end and delivers a Tombstone off the apron and into the casket! Then it looks like 1994 again as the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas rush the ring to attack. The lights go out and here comes Kane! The crowd is losing it. Kane clears the ring with ease, as Triple H and Chyna pull Michaels out of the casket. Undertaker rises to his feet and Kane turns on him! Kane Chokeslams Undertaker into the casket and Michaels slams the lid to get the victory at 20:34. That was a killer match with almost non-stop action from two guys who have always had amazing chemistry. The finish worked just fine for the story they were telling with Undertaker and Kane, so even that doesn’t bother me. I don’t think this match gets rated very highly, but I quite like it.
Rating: ****

Kane and Paul Bearer push the casket up by the entrance. This doesn’t look good. Kane grabs an ax and chops up the casket, and then pours gasoline on it. He then lights the casket on fire! That’s quite the image to go out on for the pay-per-view.

JZ Says
The main event is great, and Austin makes the Royal Rumble fun, so this is an easy to recommend show. The first couple of matches are not so good, but watching Rock put all the pieces together is always interesting to look back on.

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