Sunday, November 6, 2016

Royal Rumble 1998 Review

Royal Rumble 1998
January 18th, 1998 | San Jose Arena in San Jose, California | Attendance: 18,542

After a thrilling 1997, the WWF was about to head into the “Austin Era”. Before he could win the big one at WrestleMania, he had to compete in the Royal Rumble. During the build up to this Royal Rumble, the focus was almost 100% on Steve Austin, kind of giving away the outcome. Mike Tyson is a special guest at this event and it’s a pretty historic show for multiple reasons (Mick Foley’s multiple appearances, Tyson and HBK’s last match before semi-retirement). This would be the 11th Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View in history.

The opening video package is well done, hyping the WWF Title match and the Royal Rumble match itself. Commentary is Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, as you would expect for this era.

The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust w/ Luna Vachon vs. Vader
Over the past few weeks, Goldust had dressed stranger and stranger with his outfits ranging from a baby to Sable and tons of odd stuff in between. Jim Ross tries to say that Goldust needs to use his quickness, but he’s in pretty bad shape and isn’t moving fast. He is in control at the start until Vader wallops him with a charging shot. As he starts to comeback, Luna distracts the referee, allowing Goldust to hit a low blow. Vader still is near winning so Luna leaps on his back. Vader just climbs and hits the Vader Bomb with Luna on his back. It’s a cool visual and the fans react accordingly as Vader wins.

Winner: Vader in 7:47
Up until the cool and creative finish, this was nothing. Both guys were in the midst of disappointing runs and seemed to be going through the motions throughout. I gave it a slight bump for the visual of the finish. 

Battalion, El Torito and Tarantula vs. Max Mini, Mini Nova and Mosaic
Sunny is the special referee here since they can’t find anything important for her to do. These guys tend to have relatively fun matches, but it felt pretty out of place in this era. Max Mini seems to be billed as the top star as he gets in most of the high flying stuff. The fans can’t get into it despite the efforts of the workers. They never gave these guys any personality and they are here as a novelty act so the fans don’t have a reason to care. Also, Jerry Lawler makes tons of TERRIBLE short jokes throughout. Sunny gets involved, assisting Max Mini at one point. JR gets in a dig, saying that he heard Sunny liked short guys, which could have bene a shot at one Chris Candido. Mini wins for his guys with a rollup.

Winners: Max Mini, Mini Nova and Mosaic in 7:49
Actually, this was rather fun. The fact that the fans weren’t interested, Sunny looked like she didn’t want to be there and Jerry Lawler made awful jokes hurt my feelings towards it, but they did their job. Put on a fast paced match that was a bit of fun. **½

Some Nation of Domination stuff is shown. They try to find Steve Austin to attack him but his locker room is empty. Then the Rock is interviewed before his upcoming match. You could just sense that he was ready for big things.

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Rock (c) vs. Ken Shamrock

Just one month ago, Ken Shamrock beat the WWF Champion on PPV via disqualification. I like the dynamic between these two early on. Rock is the brash heel and Shamrock is the badass dude that is gonna put him in his place. We have to listen to Jim Ross talk about Rock’s football career for a while. He sure does go to that well often. Rock gets two on that stupid float over DDT he used to do. I always felt like it was a cool idea that never looked very good. You could tell that Shamrock was pretty damn over. He goes into his rally and everything gets a pop. He also had a pretty good hurricanrana. The Nation run out and Shamrock takes them out, only to get hit with brass knuckles. Rock grossly puts them in Shamrock’s tights but he kicks out. Shamrock hits a belly to belly and scores the victory. BUT WAIT! Rock complains to the referee and says to check the tights. Mike Chioda missed the belly to belly and thinks Shamrock used the brass knuckles to win, so he reverses the decision.

Winner via disqualification: The Rock in 10:53
This wasn’t a bad match and would have probably gotten an average score from me up until the finish. That was a pretty dumb ending and it hurts the score of what was a solid little match. Their matches would get better over time. **¼

WWF Tag Team Championship
The New Age Outlaws (c) vs. The Legion of Doom

During the build to this, the Outlaws and DX took out the LOD, putting Animal through a table and shaving Hawk’s hair. It was the first sign of what DX would become. The Outlaws aren’t insanely over just yet. They pull the basic heel stuff with an attack from behind and, when that backfires, they try to head for the hills. This is very much all LOD as it should be considering the story they’ve been telling during the feud. The Outlaws turn things around by beating up Animal, They wisely then manage to handcuff Hawk to the ring post, making Animal ripe for the picking. Or so they think as Animal starts kicking their ass, causing the Outlaws to have to get themselves disqualified.

Winners via disqualification: The Legion of Doom in 7:56
While the actual ring work wasn’t great here, it was a pretty smartly executed bout. They knew the idea was to have the LOD kick ass but for the Outlaws to be cunning. They did that well but the match was rather dull and the finish wasn’t the best. 

Royal Rumble Match
The first two entrants are Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, who are tag partners and hardcore icons. As they beat each other with chairs, Tom Brandi arrives third and lasts about 10 seconds. The Rock draws number four after Cactus suplexes Charlie onto two open chairs. Rock slowly walks while they fight until Charlie knocks down Cactus and hilarious falls on his own. Rock takes a beating from both anyway until Mosh draws the fifth spot. Phineas is out next, citing Jim Ross to say that he is what you get when first cousins reproduce. Wow. The jobbers keep coming as 8-Ball is next. Couldn’t he have just drawn 8? Cactus gets eliminated by Charlie. Blackjack Bradshaw is left. Are there nothing by tag team wrestlers in this thing? Since the Rock showed up, things have been pretty boring. Owen Hart gets a solid pop next but Jeff Jarrett attacks him from behind. HEY, YOU GUYS ARE GONNA BE PARTNERS NEXT YEAR! Owen is taken to the back leaving the Rumble in a boring spot. Charlie is skinning the cat all over the place. Steve Blackman shows up ninth.

In tenth is D-Lo Brown. YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE! Despite being there and helping Rock, they end up trading blows. Kurrgan enters at 11 in the midst of a slight push as an unstoppable monster. He eliminates Mosh. The crowd pops next due to the arrival of Sable as Marc Mero draws 12. Kurrgan dumps Blackman and doesn’t get taken off his fest until Ken Shamrock comes in next. This leads to everyone ganging up to get rid of him. Good. Thrasher comes in but the best thing is seeing D-Lo shake his head while trash talking and choking the Rock. To the confusion of many fans, Mankind is next, as Mick Foley makes some history. He gets rid of Charlie. The crowd starts to pop as Shamrock works over Rocky for earlier. Goldust draws number 17 and eliminates Mankind. In a funny moment, everyone is fighting and Mero is in the middle so he just starts to celebrate. Jeff Jarrett struts out next with Jim Cornette. Owen Hart runs out and goes right for Jarrett. The fans respond so positively to him eliminating Jarrett. Honky Tonk Man is 19 for some reason. Triple H and Chyna show up to distract Owen. They use Hunter’s crutches to hurt and eliminate Owen even though he isn’t in the match.

At twenty, Ahmed Johnson steps out. At a point that the camera missed, Rock used a low blow to help eliminate Shamrock. I feel Shamrock should have lasted far longer. Mark Henry, 10+ years away from his best run, enters at 21. JR tells us that 17 people in this thing are making their Rumble debuts. Things continue to stand still until the buzzer goes off for 22 and we get nobody coming out. Ahmed is eliminated like he’s worthless as does Phineas. How did he last so long? Ahmed attacks Phineas for no reason outside. Commentary barely even acknowledges it. D-Lo continues to go after his Nation buddies. Kama draws 23 and shoves Ahmed when he comes out. Ahmed goes to fight back but just stops and turns away. It looks super funny. The glass breaks at 24 and EVERYTHING in the ring stops as everyone wants Austin. He comes through the crowd to dump Mero and then 8-Ball. Some people gave up on trying to fight him but not D-Lo, who eats two low blows. Henry Godwin runs out next. Savio Vega comes out with all of Los Boricuas but they do nothing of note. Lucky number 27 is Faarooq, currently the leader of the Nation. The crowd goes nuts since he goes right after the Rock. Another pop as Dude Love draws 28, giving Foley the complete triple header and he eliminates Bradshaw. The former Underfaker comes in at 29, now going by Chainz. Somehow Honky Tonk Man is still in. Our final entrant is Vader.

Honky finally goes. The ring is far too full and it’s just pretty plodding. As if they hear me, the eliminations start coming in rapid fire form. The final four comes down to former Tag Team Champions Austin and Dude Love opposite from Nation members Rock and Faarooq. Austin and Love work together until Austin is all like “DTA”. Faarooq then tosses Love and Rock turns on Faarooq to get rid of him. It’s down to two of the biggest stars in history. Crazy to think that these two had a PPV Intercontinental Title match a month prior and are now the final two. A Stunner allows Austin to win.

Winner: Steve Austin in 55:24
Not one of the better Royal Rumbles. Early on it was fun but between entrants number 5 until Austin showed up, everyone was kind of just there waiting. Then, even after Austin showed up, too many people stayed in the ring and it made for relatively boring TV. Cool points for Foley’s triple duty and ending with the two next mega stars, Austin and Rock, but other than that, this was disappointing. **¼

WWF Championship Casket Match
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. The Undertaker

These two had an all-time great at Hell in a Cell three months prior where Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn, only to lose because of Kane. Here, it seemed like Kane and Undertaker may be on good terms. Early on, this follows Hell in a Cell as Undertaker is in control and we see the infamous casket bump that would take out HBK for four years. Since he can’t make Undertaker’s power, Shawn takes to the air but it doesn’t help much. Shawn finally takes some control with a major piledriver on the steel steps. It gets the kind of reaction they wanted. They do a few casket teases. Arrogant Shawn tries to crotch chop Undertaker while standing over the open casket and it backfires big time. Shawn does an ugly elbow onto Undertaker into the casket and dumbass Earl Hebner closes it on both guys. Shawn crawls out and we get the awesome camera shot of Undertaker dragging him back in. Similar to the mugging at the 1994 Rumble, a bunch of heels show up to attack Undertaker. It’s the Outlaws and Los Boricuas. When Kane’s music hits, the crowd loses their minds. Kane makes the save, only to assault his brother. He then puts Undertaker in the casket to give Michaels the victory.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels in 20:37
While I don’t think this was a mark on their best work, it was still probably the best casket match in WWE history. Solid work from both guys, especially considering the amount of pain Shawn might have been in. ***¼

Overall: 4.5/10. I really wanted to like this show more. 1998 was a big year for the WWF, but Pay-Per-View wise, it didn’t get off to a great start. It does however start a trend for the WWF during this era. The undercard is not very good, while the main event scene is the best thing about the shows. Only recommended if you want to see it for the historical stuff. Other than that, this is an easy skip. According to my randomizer, the next “Random Network Review” is set to be Fastlane 2015!