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Monday, 28 January 2008

Royal Rumble Live Notes

00.58am The Royal Rumble. My favourite Pay Per View all year, and I’m really excited about tonight’s event, which has a great looking card. As long as the finishes involved stand up to scrutiny, this could be the best WWE PPV for sometime.

01.02amWe’re at MSG, and I’m delighted that the stage is set up with the aisle in front of the camera, as it was in 2000. The NYC crowd in the Garden are almost always electric, and lest hope tonight is no example.

01.04amRic is out first, to a great reception, and I’d totally forgotten that Coach was the SD commentator (I haven;t seen Smackdown for a few weeks). Customary “Wooooo” and another great Flair promo to start the night. Making everything feel like a huge deal every time he has a match now is a very wise move, because you want to think that when Ric finally goes that it will have that special feel. It won’t be tonight though.

01.06amNice touch to get MVP to walk that aisle (sorry Ric) and have his music hit when Flair was still talking, generate more heat for him, as if he needed it. Ironically, the words of MVP’s theme song says “Can you hear the clock ticking?” and “I want you to remember me”. Prescient words?

01.15amRelatively short match, but an appropriate beginning to the show. Flair goes over clean, and in a match which was certainly more than adequate. Some nice spots, expcially whe Flair was counted out for the fall, but ironically it was referee, L’il Naitch, Charles Robinson who saw his mistake and noted Flair’s foot on the ropes.

Flair wins with a Figure 4 and continues the angle of his retirement. Who will be next? (I don’t mean Goldberg)

Vince gives Hornswaggle a pep talk backstage, telling the little bastard that he shouldn’t trust anyone. Certainly not his make up lady. Who keeps putting dirt on his face, dammit?

Back to ringside, and JR introduces us to Mike Adamle (that is his surname, I know it looks like half a name) who looks terrified, frankly, despite JR telling us that he is an experienced broadcaster. His job is to introduce the vignette about the Y2J/JBL rivalry. I think so, anyway, because all I can look at is his hair. Its about a foot high on his head. An all this in the very famous arena where, at Wrestlemania 10, Cy Spurling, of the Hair Club for men make Howard Finkel a wig. Spurling for the Hall of Fame celebrity wing 2008!

Jericho is on his way to the ring, and if you are watching this in Liechtenstein (I got my ‘Stein reference in before King this time) it is 2.22am. How fitting.

As we thought, this one ends in a DQ, with Jericho landing a chairshot on the head of JBL. Jericho bladed like a mad thing in this one, and this one had some believable offense from both guys. However, the actual wrestling was sub-standard, and because the outcome was fairly expected, the edge was lost form the match.

In fact, the biggest reaction came after the match when Jericho hung JBL with a cable, much like JBL did to Jericho a couple of weeks ago. I’d expect a strap match to come between these two next. The obvious plan is to go more than one PPV with this programme, and you get the feeling that a NO DQ stip will help them no end.

Santino gets a few seconds on camera, maybe more than he’ll get in the actual rumble match. He berates Ashley for trying to recruit Maria to her ‘boobie’ magazine. Haha, this is ironic because Ashley clearly does not have boobies, but instead has two fitted plastic contraptions on her chest.

We have the announcements for the World Title match, and I’d say that Edge is more over than Rey here. Split crowd, but like when I talk about Cena, at least people have an opinion. Michaels Cole is normally full of horse you-know-what, but this, as he said, really does feel like it has a ‘big match feel’.

That was nearly a classic. Very well thought out match, with the story being Rey having a hurt leg, and having to make a comeback with moves other than his usual. This led to a fantastic spot where Mysterio did a baseball slide to Edge on the outside, but slid head first and pulled Edge into a DDT. To me, the ending was both exceptional and annoying. I loved the final spot, where Edge speared a mid air Rey, who was bouncing over the ropes with a springboard attack. However, I think this ending was strong enough without them having to do a spot before this, where Rey had the 3 count over Edge, only for Vickie to pull the ref. I don’t think it was necessary to hurt Edge in that way. If he is supposed to be a legit contender to take on Taker, shouldn’t he be able to beat a one legged little fella?

Fun little segment backstage with Kennedy, Flair, Batista, HHH and HBK. Maybe Flair will put KK over at Mania?

Fantastic in-ring segment. Basically the premise was that Ashley asked Maria to do Playboy, which of course prompted Santino to emerge. Good lord that man is superb on the stick. He got cheered massively when he came out, only to have the whole arena booing his within seconds. Genius.

Orton v Hardy is next. Wait, no, its Jeff HARVEY apparently, as the new, experienced broadcaster gets the number one contender and the hottest guy in wrestling right now’s name wrong.

MSG pops big for Jeff, but I’m now fearing my own rule. I said in the preview that if this match was pre-Rumble then Orton would win. Post Rumble and I’d go for Hardy. Its pre, so as much as I hate it, I think Orton will go over.

Damn. I suppose it was always the most likely scenario, but even though I’d written how I thought that Orton would win, in my heart I still thought Jeff could do it. And although the ending was neat – RKO from the Twist of Fate – there was very little warning. I know that you want a bit of an impact at the end, but Jeff never even got a few false finishes to make his fight seem credible.
I’d suggest that Jeff will go very close in the Chamber then win the Money in the Bank. They have to give him a shot, surely, at some point.

Michael Buffer (WCW guy) is here to tell us the rules we all know, the rules of the Rumble – we probably know better than you, Michael. He has to read it off of a card.

A nice video aired to hype the Rumble.

Buffer does some Triple H gimmick infringement (I kid, I know he did it first) Man, I would have marked if Buffer has said “Suck it”.

The Rumble will be 90 seconds for entry this year, and now we know why. Undertaker has drawn number one, and takes 26 minutes to reach the ring.

So either the Deadman is going ‘coast to coast’, or my prediction will go up in smoke. And, oh my HBK is number two.

Santino is three, and to a big pop. The next big pop is HBK’s boot on his jaw. Taker throws him out. Still love you Santino.

02.58am – and that’s the last of the timechecks.....

Khali is four, and once again he is gone before the next guy comes in. Big “you can’t wrestle” chant for the big Punjabi block of wood, and Taker gets rid of him. HBK is sneaking up on Taker but getting nowhere.

Hardcore Holly is 5, and it seems the ring may begin to fill with midcarders?

Yep, here’s Morrison at 6. Michaels throws Morrison but the former Mr Nitro does a cool survival spot. HBK hits a top rope elbow, but looks like he has a busted mouth.

Big reaction for Tommy Dreamer as number 7. He might be the most over guy in the ring right now. I am not kidding.

Batista is 8 and beats on guys until facing up to Taker. Interrupted by Dreamer, who gets thrown out by the Animal. Big Dave with a spear to Morrison, and we go back to standard Rumble action.

Comedy at 9 – its Hornswaggle. And, to a good call from JR, shades of Jerry Lawler as l’il Horny hides under the ring. Batista and Taker going at it a lot here, HBK does another standard piece of athleticism, i.e going over the top and under the bottom.

Palumbo completes the first third of the match. Santino, Khali and Dreamer the only men out so far.

These 90 seconds feel quick. Predictably, Noble is out next to face up to Chuck, and gets quite a decent ‘Jamie Noble’ chant. It doesn’t last long, because he is gone within a minute.

In one corner Palumbo is beating down Undertaker, perhaps telling him that he is best at the biker gimmick. Which of course may or may not be true.

Great reaction for Punk, who lands a load of knees before getting levelled by Taker. Palumbo marginally survives on the apron before Punk knocks him down.

Cody Rhodes is number 13, and it means both he and Holly are in the ring. Cody helps Holly from a Taker beating, and actually gets Taker to sell........eventually. By the way, Michaels has done another clever piece of survival since I last reported on, but I can’t be bothered to do it every time, so just assume it keeps happening.

Umaga is 14, and is in brand new blood red tights. He lands a few stiff looking shots all over the place, and then Samoan Spikes Hardcore right out of there. Beatdown for Batista by Umaga, before UT breaks it up.

Snitsky at 15 as HBK continues to fly around the place like he is on a pneumatic bungee rope. Cody does a nice spot trying to eliminate Snitsky quickly, with both of them going over the top but holding on. JR compares Morrison to Michaels, and in fairness Morrison has looked good so far.

The Miz, complete with “X-Pac heat” goes right for Punk. Undertaker and Umaga are spending a lot of time matched up at this point – remember that this feud has been talked of for a while.

Can’t believe we are up to 17 already, and its Shelton. Massiev vertical leap to the top rope to knock both Miz and Morrison down. I don’t know what they were doing up there, I guess fighting each other.

However, despite Shelton being a likely candidate for going a long time, he is superkicked out by HBK. I guess there is some stopping him.

From a superkick to a superfly? 18 is.......Jimmy Snuka? Ok, the husk or the corpse of the Superfly anyway. He gets a few shots in, and has already lasted longer than Shelton. What’s the point of that?

Huge pop for number 19 (including me) as Piper is next. A nostalgia section, perhaps. Everyone has stopped to see Piper and Snuka get it on. Piper hasn’t brought a coconut to hit Snuka with.

Party pooper time. As everyone gets back into it, Kane is next, and dumps both Piper and Snuka. Massive chokeslam for Miz. Seriously, that was fantastic to see Roddy back. Hopefully his health issues are also eliminated.

Taker teases a chokeslam for Kane but goes after HBK the spider monkey instead. Carlito is 21, and has some nice interaction with Morrison and CM Punk.

22, wow this is going quick, is Mick Foley. Notables still to come are Triple H, Ken Kennedy, Big Daddy V, Mark Henry and Finlay. There are literally bodies flying everywhere, and it should be pointed out that although #2 Michaels is flying everywhere, Taker hasn’t looked like being threatened.

23 is Mr Kennedy, to a big reaction and chant. I don’t care what he says in interviews that make him look an idiot, I love Kennedy. I still say he is the next Steve Austin. He eats a chokeslam pretty quickly here though.

Taker clatters Umaga and Snitsky, and then HBK and Morrison. Second wind for Taker.

Speaking of seconds, here is a man who likes to go back for seconds, Big Daddy V.

And as he arrives, the complexion of the match changes. Taker throws Snitsky, is blindsided by a Michaels superkick which eliminates the Deadman, but Kennedy gets rid of HBK.

Taker takes out frustration on Snitsky outside with a legdrop on the table......apparently, because it wasn’t shown on TV.

Mark Henry is next, and as Miz is hanging over the ropes, Hornswaggle emerges to pull Miz out. He then dives back under the ring, and we then get a replay of Taker’s leg drop on Snitsky.

If you believed that ECW was an equal brand, forget it now because Chavo is 26. So a world champion wants to win a match to get a word title shot.

Morrison is out, and as Hornswaggle tries to pull another one out, Mark Henry pulls him in. Big V and Henry look ready to squash Horny, but Finlay comes in with shillelagh to pound them. The two boys in green leave, but haven’t been eliminated.

JR now tells us that Finlay is DQ-ed for jumping the gun. Don’t know about Hornswaggle. Burke is 28, so Triple H is still to come, and I guess Finlay was 27, because we’ve jumped a number. So much for lucky 27 this year.

Triple H is 29, so minimal workload for him, but there are a lot of midcarders to squash. Gone is Cody first of all. Gone is Big Titty V. Triple H and Foley hook up, and Trips throws him out, straight into Burke who gets taken out in the melee. Batista got a spike from Umaga a few minutes ago and is still on the floor. I also missed CM Punk getting eliminated.

Number 30 is...........John Cena!! Everyone is stood back and watching, as Trips stands mid ring. Still mixed reaction for Cena, but its getting more positive as he throws out Chavo, Carlito and Henry.

Cena nd Trips get it on with Trips hitting a spine buster. Umaga, Kane, Kennedy and Batista are the only ones left. Except Hornswaggle I guess. Good god.

Batista eliminates Kennedy and Umaga, then Batista and Triple H throw Kane out. Fast eliminations, and its Cena, Triple H and Batista remaining.

If anything, I think the crowd is behind Cena. They are certainly rabid for the staredown. Each man does their ‘taunt’, and Triple H’s crotch gets the biggest cheer. Shut up, I meant a DX crotch chop.

This now resembles a triple threat, with Batista getting the upper hand. He Spinebusters Cena then counters a pedigree into one as well.

Cena backdrops out of a powerbomb and Triple H clotheslines Batista out.

Cena and Triple H. Wow I never saw this coming. This really is awesome. Nice spot as Trips points to the Mania sign in the arena. This is superb stuff but I’m terrified that they are going to do something with Hornswaggle.

Fistfight ensues and the crowd are behind the Game, firmly. Cena does a 5-knuckle, and I think JR called it as being like Van Hammer???? Each man counters the other’s finisher and we get a double clothesline. Both men down.

Trips runs at Cena on the tropes, but Cena gets his feet up. Cena tries to FU Trips out of the ring, but counter and a DDT by The Game.

Game puts Cena on the shoulder and tries to haul Cena out. Cena escapes and looks for the FU again. Triple H escapes but Cena gathers him up again. FU to the outside. Cena wins the Rumble.


I can’t believe I just typed that.

Fabulous Rumble match. Magnificently booked throughout, and if I have any gripes it’s that a few people were made to look very average indeed (Kennedy didn’t do much, Shelton lasted about 30 seconds, Chavo eliminated Punk) but generally fantastic.

The undercard of this PPV was a big letdown, but the main attraction was terrific. The Undertaker and Michaels elimination spot was handled very well indeed. The legends face off was pretty cool, and the crowd was ultra hot. In one way you’d like to have more than one Rumble a year, but it would lessen the impact. It truly is a great event.

Now if the WWE can just learn to stop booking the general storylines so bloody predictably we could be on the way back. The talent IS there. There are a lot of people over as well.

Now that people are back fit after injuries, look at the roster. Triple H, Edge, Orton, Cena, Batista, Taker, HBK, Kennedy, Umaga, Punk, Rey, Flair, MVP, Hardy. All are over, most are talented.

I’m only giving this PPV 7 out of 10 because I thought for nearly two hours that it was pretty poor. The Rumble match saved it.

I’m really looking forward to Raw, and will try to do a live recap of it if I can for you.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Royal Rumble preview

Ah, the Royal Rumble. Is, was and ever shall be my favourite ‘concept’ Pay Per View, and just chock full of great moments, some of which we have been living in the blog. It is obvious that I’m not going to be able to get through all the past Rumbles before this Sunday’s show piece, but I shall continue to do the retro reviews, and once I’m done with that, we may as well get started on Wrestlemania, I think!

Anyway, looking at this year’s event, and frankly, though I don’t say this very often, it looks a mouth-watering card. It’s very easy for people to sniff at WWE booking, and lord knows I do it enough, but as fans we should appreciate a positive when it comes along, and this has the potential to be just that.

Of course, we have had our expectations shattered before. But with a strong undercard and a loaded Rumble match we could be in for a hell of a night.

Worth paying attention to the match order here, potentially. The Jeff Hardy v Randy Orton match has been built up magnificently, and looks like the main event. Sometimes the Rumble match is on last, sometimes it isn’t, depending on the outcome. Look at 1997 which is the latest Retro Review – HBK in his hometown winning the title was the big babyface moment to round the show off. Put that in the middle of the show and end with Austin winning the Rumble and you change the complexion of the show.

I’d suggest that we see the Royal Rumble before Hardy/Orton then there is a stronger likelihood of Hardy going over, since you would think that to end with a huge babyface upset would be a better way of ending show than whoever wins the Rumble celebrating.

Will Hardy go over, that’s the tough one to call? Was he considered a real contender by us about 6 weeks ago? What about by the WWE hierarchy? I think that people misjudge the writing and booking sometimes, because I have seen loads of opinion pieces saying that the WWE are now looking at Hardy more seriously than before because of how the crowd have reacted in the last few weeks. What that argument conveniently forgets is that in the storyline Hardy earned his title shot by virtue of beating Triple H. Triple freaking H! Not a Beat the Clock, not a crooked GM making a match, but a clean pinfall victory over The Game.

I would suggest to you that if Triple H thinks enough of Hardy to job to him clean on PPV then Hardy may have been pencilled in for this monster push for longer than people think.

Jeff probably didn’t decide to Whisper in the Wind off the cage onto Umaga, or Swanton off the structure by himself, you know. That would have been written in as a device to raise his popularity, and it is working. The reactive forces within the WWE must now decide whether the reaction has exceeded expectations, met them, or fallen short. I think it is probably between the first two.

So does he get a run with the title? My gut reaction is that he won’t, but I certainly feel he should. One good Pay Per View will not arrest the slide that WWE has been experiencing, but this is an opportunity to open the year strongly, and we only have one more PPV between the Rumble and Wrestlemania, which has been the strongest show of the year in recent times. It certainly was in 2007.

There are three weeks after the Rumble until No Way Out which is scheduled to feature an elimination chamber match. Book a Smackdown superstar to win the Rumble go after the SD title. Have an elimination chamber match and book Trips to win. Stack the card with some other top matches and lets roll on to the six week build up to Mania.

I cannot see Jeff Hardy headlining Wrestlemania. I think they will go with Orton v Triple H, so let’s have Jeff beat Randy at the Rumble, and book a No Holds Barred contest at No Way Out and have Orton go over clean in a brutal one. That gives Jeff his big moment and spikes the crowd at the Rumble, and still gets you towards the proposed main event at Mania.

If you look at the PPV you have Edge v Rey which should be good. The emotion around JBL v Y2J has been well built, and I suspect this will not stop at the Rumble. Ric v MVP also has emotion and I’d expect both men to step up here and produce a good one. Then of course you have Jeff and Randy.

A big problem could come with clean finishes. Perhaps Ric will beat MVP on a DQ or count out so that he doesn’t retire and Porter keeps his belt. Edge could well have Chavo and Vickie help him screw Rey out of the belt. And Y2J and JBL might well go to a no contest to prolong the feud. Having 3 non-clean finishes may hurt the PPV, but having Jeff win a belt would probably temper this.

I’ll give my individual thoughts on each match, and tell you who I think will win and how I would book it. They will likely not correlate.

Ric Flair v MVP
I’ll be honest, I’m not really that drawn in to the whole Flair is Retiring angle, though I appreciate its value. The problem this I think most people seem aware that it will likely go to Wrestlemania, pending a huge swerve which would be completely self defeating. Therefore the heat isn’t so big. However much MVP has improved, Ric isn’t going to have his last match against him. However, the angle thus far has allowed Ric a little more mic time, which is of course where he shines.

Ric is not going to retire at the Royal Rumble next week. He may not even retire at Mania, but it ain’t gonna be end of his journey just yet. Mania might be Space Mountain, this isn’t even the Ghost Train at the local Carnival.

I predict: Ric to win by DQ
I would Book: a real shocker. I’d maybe channel the spirit of Dusty to put in a dodgy finish. I’d book MVP to win this 1-2-3 and retire Ric Flair..........until Raw. I’d have Ric have a leg under the ropes which the official wouldn’t see, and so on Raw the decision could be somehow reversed, perhaps by a one night only return of Linda McMahon. Make Raw a tribute show to Flair, look back at his career and say how fitting that he lost at MSG, home of champions. This would put the younger viewers firmly aware of the storied career of Ric Flair. I’d have HBK and Triple H speak with Ric and plead with Vince to overturn the decision. Ric, however, would show dignity and not beg, but accept it with pride. I’d then end the show with Linda McMahon giving the announcement that he is exonerated.

I think that this match has been very sketchily built up. JBL coming back was portrayed as a bigger deal than it ought to have been, I think, and his demolition of Jericho went way over the top, making Bradshaw look too dominant over a guy that only a month or so ago was battling for the WWE title.

However, their promos have been superb, particularly Jericho’s last week on Raw, when he pitched it perfectly. It seemed heartfelt and intense, but without resorting to shouting and hollering and generally making it look false. It was a major league promo, a money promo, and I don’t think this feud will end at the Rumble.

I’m a little surprised that they booked a match, and didn’t put both guys in the Rumble, costing one another the win.

I predict: Y2J will win by DQ. JBL to get frustrated that he can’t put Jericho away, so ends up just smashing him with a chair or something. This then leads to a NO DQ match at Mania.

I would book: something largely similar, but I’d have a double count out or simply a no contest. Just have the pair of them fight up the aisle and in the crowd and so forth. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the in ring action, but I’d have Jericho hit JBL with some serious punishment as a receipt for what JBL did to Jericho on Raw the other week. This gives Jericho the upper hand in terms of dominating on the night, but not giving either man the clean win just yet.

Rey Mysterio v Edge
Likely to be a **** match or thereabouts. Edge rarely has a bad match, and if Rey Mysterio is on and they add a touch of decent psychology then we could have a belter. I’m far from a huge Rey mark, as I felt his initial title run was to begin with implausible and then distinctly mismanaged. I also think he is a bit of a spot monkey. Don’t get me wrong, he is entertaining an hugely talented, but not always my cup of tea.

However, Edge is fantastic in the ring and I think the strongest hand that the WWE has right now. He deserves to be in the main event at Wrestlemania, and barring injury he likely will be.

I predict: Edge to win, probably with a little assistance from Vickie and/or Chavo and/or the Edgeheads . Hopefully not much more than a distraction.

I would book: Edge to win cleanly. I don’t see a problem with booking heels to be quality wrestlers who are hard to beat. I’d make it close so that Rey doesn’t lose face (mask?) and perhaps makes a bad decision, rather than getting outclassed, but since I would be trying to book this Rumble very strongly because of reasons explained above, I’d try to have the main title encounters go over clean, especially since I don’t see this feud going any further.

Jeff Hardy v Randy Orton
Very little to add after the thoughts added above really.

I predict: Orton will win. And I think they’ll do it cleanly as well. I’m almost predicting so that I don’t mind being wrong, but I just don’t see them putting the belt on Jeff yet. I also think that if Triple H is to regain the title at Wrestlemania, he won’t want Orton dropping it in order to regain it, just to lose it to The Game.

I would book: Hardy to win. I’d switch it back at No Way Out, but I’d give Jeff his moment (three weeks) in the sun. He’s worked for it, he is best superstar to watch at the moment, and he is so over it is incredible. Let him have a run.

The Royal Rumble Match
It’s a strange sort of Rumble line up, this. There are lots of people who could win, but not many who you’d say would win.

Time to breakout the patented McNichol Eliminator v2.0 - I’ve gone through the confirmed entries and listed 8 candidates below, including people that might take it as a surprise.

A Mystery Entrant – The official website at lists 24 entrants thus far, and as I recall from reading Smackdown spoilers there is no other entry, unless Jimmy Yang being Domino was a qualifier. Even then, I don’t think he would be on the shortlist.

One of the extra entrants might well be CM Punk, who I’ve listed below separately. Filling up the list are likely to be the odd mid-carder from somewhere in the company, returns of former stars for the nostalgia pop (see Honky Tonk Man in the past) or maybe those that have signed new contracts.

The last example includes, of course, such names as Ron Killings, Chris Harris and Big Show. The latter is the most likely to show up. This is mainly because he doesn’t need any build up, and will be recognisable from his music. Harris and Killings, firstly are not guaranteed to have signed, and even if they had I think WWE would try to build their characters using vignettes rather than ploughing them into the Rumble straightaway.

I can’t see the Big Show or any other surprise winning the day, even if that is a wildcard like Hogan or someone. Or maybe it’s a conspiracy to bring back Lashley!

CM Punk – Now this would be a shock, especially since he hasn’t really been pushed to the moon since his arrival, even though he was given the ECW strap. At this stage he is surely not ready to go to a Main Event at Mania, although it is good to see him being pushed to matches with the likes of Edge. I’m interested in him losing the belt, wondering whether this means he will switch brands.

Umaga – I wouldn’t think the Samoan Bulldozer is the most likely candidate to win, especially since main eventing Mania would probably involve, you know, talking and stuff.

However, look for him to have a good run, probably into the last 4 or 5, with it taking one of the big guns to get rid of him.

Mr Kennedy – its been a hell of a year for Young Kenneth. Winner of the Money in the Bank Ladder match at Wrestlemania 23, he looked destined for a big year, but injury and stupidity have held him back. He couldn’t help the first one, but he could have kept his big mouth shut about not taking steroid before being suspended for exactly that.

However, that big mouth is probably the best asset of Ken Kennedy-Kennedy (KKK? Ouch) because he is perhaps the best talker around at the minute. He is in the frame, I would expect a decent run for him, and you should remember that when he won the Money in the Bank he promised to hold it back until Wrestlemania to cash it in. They obviously had it in mind that he could be at the level they wanted by this March. If you are thinking they’d hold him back because of his misdemeanours, remember who is in the main event at the Rumble.

Not this time, Kenny boy, but soon.

Batista – Hmm. The Animal is one of 4 previous winners in the contest, and it is these four who are likely to be the four most likely to take this contest. I have it in my mind that the winner will be from Smackdown, not only because the Elimination Chamber match is supposed to be a Raw main event (Trips, Hardy, Jericho, JBL, Kennedy, HBK?) but also because it seems likely that Triple H will be the contender at Wrestlemania for the WWE title, and you could see Vince and co. spending longer trying to halt his progress.

Batista is on the shortlist, without a shadow of a doubt.

Undertaker – And so is the Deadman. The biggest albatross round his neck is that he won last year, and it isn’t very creative having him win twice. The other people who have won twice were the hottest properties in the business – Hogan being everything about the WWE in 90/91, HBK being the biggest rising star in 95/96, and Stone Cold rising through the Stratusphere (not Trish) in 97/98 – Undertaker is not exactly a new, up and coming star. Rather, he is the most established star in the company. He is one of the most over and he has existing issues with Edge.

I would like to think that as this business is all about entertainment and not really about achievements, that Undertaker would relinquish the Wrestlemania streak. And who better than Edge, with his own Mania streak, to be put over the Deadman on the biggest stage of all? Taker is at the stage where one defeat doesn’t really hurt him, but beating him means a lot to his opponent. The above scenario is not beyond possibility.

Shawn Michaels – Aiming to be the second man to win this three times in his career, HBK was second to Taker last year, and has had a decent year, bringing John Cena through some belting matches in their programme, and is part of a entertaining series Kennedy. They have had some interesting battles, but too many matches for this programme to go to Mania. JR even called their Raw match this week a ‘rubber match’. I think their programme could be over, so perhaps HBK could be back in the title picture.

The thing is, there is no reason for him to go after Edge, and I can’t see the babyface combo again this year if it were to Jeff Hardy, and he has had extensive exposure to Orton. Add all this into the equation with my theory about Raw guys, and I’d say HBK will not win

Triple H – Very dependant on the involvement of Mr McMahon and co and of course the path of Randy Orton, but Trips would be the most likely to scupper my “Smackdown will win” theory. Not much can be said about Triple H that hasn’t already been said, but I really think his issue with Vince will drag on and he’ll win in the chamber.

The Verdict:
I desperate want to say anyone but the man I will predict, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to go with what everyone seems to be saying. Simply looking at the most likely scenario, The Undertaker has to be the selection here. Taker v Edge makes sense, Batista v Edge doesn’t. The Raw spot looks like being Triple H, and of course into the equation has to come the Elimination Chamber.

I’d love to see a Kennedy or a Punk come out of nowhere to win (although I think Punk could be in line for the Money in the Bank briefcase this year) but I really can’t see it.

I think it should be a great event. If I wasn’t excited before writing this, I certainly am now. I’m be watching the event live and will provide my usual as-live commentary, typically posted within minutes of the event finishing.

Enjoy the Rumble

Retro Rumble : 1997

The 1997 Royal Rumble took place in San Antonio, Texas, at the Alamo Dome.

San Antonio is the home of Shawn Michaels. If you are keeping up, the last two Rumbles that we have reviewed have seen Michaels win the prestigious Royal Rumble match. The first time, he went to Wrestlemania and lost to Diesel.

The second time around, though, as a Babyface and the ‘leader of the new generation’ around whom the company was building, he was put over Bret Hart after a gruelling Ironman match.

By the time we rolled around to the Rumble in 1997, Michaels had lost the belt to Sid Justice/Sid Vicious/Psycho Sid/plain old Sid at the Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden, and as the Rumble approached it was to be the rematch.

It seems that we do not have a pre-show Todd Pettengill waffle-fest this year, but we go straight to the commentary team of Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross.

We begin the show with Goldust, and this year it’s a babyface Goldust, though still with the same music, effects, and indeed the same lady on his arm. He is going to be taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who we are informed has an expanding ego since he won the IC title. Ego? Trips? Nah.

After a brief video charting the rivalry between Triple H and Goldust, The future Game emerges, and as JR says, he is not alone. He is accompanied by a man quickly indentified by our commentators as Curtis Hughes, or Mr Hughes as he was normally known. He had a brief run in 1993, but as I recall only appeared at one PPV, that being King of the Ring of that year.

Anyway, Hughes is alongside Triple H as his ‘butler’ apparently. JR says he heard Helsmley bragging about his new Butler earlier on in the day.

Well, bodyguard or butler or whatever, Hughes has a negligible effect early on, as Goldust has the advantage in the opening exchanges. He even blatantly drops the steel ring steps onto Helmsley’s back, which albeit a cool spot makes no sense because not only does Goldust not get disqualified but Hughes doesn’t protect his charge.

Triple H has a brief flurry, but back on the outside he misses a charge against the rail, hurting his knee, and Goldust once again uses the steps on the knee of Hunter.

Back in the ring the match slows down, and the crowd are dead. Until, that is, the face of Marlena appears on screen, whereby we hear cheers. Well, Terri was quite the hottie back then, so I’ll give them credit.

Goldust continues to work the knee, and slaps on a figure 4. The commentators talk about the wear on tear on these guys since they are in the Rumble later on. JR gives a sensible insight into the fact that each man could draw a late number in the Rumble. Ross was superb back in these days. Vince was the presenter and held everything together, and basically called upon King for heel commentary and JR for babyface analysis. It worked nicely.

Goldie audibly calls Hunter a ‘piece of shit’ drawing a cheer, and once again uses the steps. Still no DQ.

Triple H gains control, but the ref stops him using the director’s chair, for some reason. In the crowd, Pettingill interviews a country singer who I don’t know, and it seems by this point they’ve sent him out into the crowd to stop him bothering Vince. He’s also grown a goatee. Maybe he was Coach Mark One.

Goldust regains control, but misses a top rope elbow. Hughes throws the IC belt to Triple H, who kisses Marlena and swings at Goldie. He misses, and Goldust hits the belt shot. Hughes pulls Hunter to the outside during the pinfall attempt, and Goldust puts out Marlena’s cigar on Hughes neck. Goldust turns into a clothesline and then a Pedigree. Even then it was a move that no-one dared move after receiving. Except the Warrior. But we don’t talk about him, do we.

Helmsley wins and leaves with Hughes. Hunter’s face is covered in lipstick after his kiss with Marlena. So much so he looks like a man in drag. Although these days he has bigger breasts.

Next up in Ahmed Johnson v Farooq.

It is easy to forget just how over Ahmed was. Since we saw him beating Jeff Jarrett by DQ the year previous, he had a brief IC title run, but feuded with Farooq (Ron Simmons) during the time where he had legit Kidney trouble. This was inserted into the storyline, and this was their first meeting, back in the day when people could feud for some time before having a PPV encounter. See, we don’t have that anymore. The occasionally liver enzyme issue, but that’s it.

Simmons is accompanied by members of his Nation of Domination, which was a thinly veiled rip off of a Black Panther-like movement. Although one with a tough guy enforcer who is white (Crush) and two white rappers. The ring is surrounded by gentlemen in suits acting as back up, including an at-that-point unnamed D-Lo Brown.

This match, like the first features action whereby there should be disqualifications. Chairshots, choking, belt whipping. But no bell is rung. Farooq has the upper hand with the story being that they eventually get to grips with Johnson’s kidney and wear him down.

The match is far from a classic. Very stop start match, and in fact is stop – for good – when Ahmed hits a spinebuster and Farooq instructs his followers to attack. Ahmed holds them off while Simmons slinks away. When Ahmed follows, he is attacked by an unnamed ‘nation member’ (not D-Lo), and Ahmed stalks this guy, grabs him and eventually Powerbombs him through the French announce table.

And that’s it. Very uninspiring stuff and the post match interview with Simmons is basically uninspiring. Yeah, stick to, ‘Damn’ in future.

Vader is next out, and we are told that he is not accompanied by Jim Cornette because Undertaker Tombstoned him on Superstars. JR wonders if Vader is a free agent. Not a planted line at all.

Taker follows to a huge ovation, and its circa 1997 leather trenchcoat, tear on the face Taker, as opposed to the undead zombie Taker, Satanic Taker or American Bad Ass Taker.

Taker gets to the corner but the lighting guys are not on the ball, as he does the arm raising but the lights don’t come on. JR talks about Undertaker giving away weight ‘unusually’ although in the previous few years on PPV taker had fought Kamala, Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy, Mabel and Giant Gonzales.

Vader had been around for a year at this point, but he was never built up as he could have been, and the way he looks shit-scared of Taker here is exactly why he never took off as a character. The chest-beating monster from the Ricky Mountains should have taken it to Undertaker and shown no fear. He could then have been a monster heel and it wouldn’t have taken anything away from Taker.

The opening exchanges of this are all Taker. Occasionally Vader gets a move in but Taker just does his sit up and Vader wusses out. Vader eventually takes control but we go to Todd who is the crowd with a teenage female fan. Not of his, obviously. She says he follows Shawn Michaels everywhere she goes (that’s a stalker, not a fan) and that she saved up the money by babysitting.

King gets annoyed about the fact that we had a boring segment about babysitting rather than watching Vader kick ass, and I think that was quite a genuine statement. JR does another cracking insight (I really am not being sarcastic) when he talks about the absence of Cornette, making mention of the fact that the referee (Jack Doan) was attacked by Vader ‘early last year’. JR is using continuity from nearly a year ago!

Vader powerbombs Undertaker eventually, but Taker no-sells it and starts a comeback. Old School, Chokeslam......but Paul Bearer, at this stage estranged from Taker approaches ring side. Taker throws Vader outside and goes to get Bearer. Right hand, then throws Bearer inside. He blocks a Vader attack, and they all end up outside again.

Taker sets up Vader in front of the frenchies who have a new table. But he misses a dive onto the railings after Bearer pulls Vader aside. Vader distracts the ref in the ring while Bearer strikes Taker with the urn.

Vader slides Taker in, and lands the Vaderbomb. Vader wins and leaves with Bearer. Taker, being a clean babyface, chokeslams the ref. Man, Doan couldn’t get a break then. I sort of forgive him now for being given all those divas matches where Stacy and Torrie rolled all over him.

Taker destroys some of the surrounds of the ring, and storms off. Another slow match, and so far we are no exactly cooking.

Next up is a special feature of six Mexican superstars, namely Jerry Estrada, Fuerza Guerrera & Heavy Metal v Perro Aguayo, Canek and Hector Garza.

The problem is that it would be all very well having a showcase match full of high-flying incidents as a basic spotfest. However, at this point, all the high-flying lucha guys were in WCW, so this is basically the leftovers. There is a nice exchange between Heavy Metal and Hector Garza, who had more success in the US that anyone else in match, with stints in WCW and TNA, but much of this is very ordinary fare, with JR trying desperately to hold it together on the commentary. Meanwhile the crowd are distinctly dead.

They gave over ten minutes to this fiasco, and it ended with a double stomp from Aguayo, which missed. Aguayo looked about 70, running around the ring, and my favourite spot was when he ran the ropes, got to the other side, stopped, climbed through the ropes then jumped onto (he missed) a guy on the outside. And apparently this guy is an absolute legend in Mexico.

Anyway, after that debacle, it’s onto the main spectacle, if not the main event. If you see what I mean. The Royal Rumble is possibly the most beloved match of the year, and after Fink does the rules the Nation of Domination music hits.

After initial speculation that it’s Farooq, we see that it is Crush. Crush looks distinctly annoyed to see that Ahmed Johnson is number two. A brawl breaks out and after 90 (ish) seconds out comes another guy. The clock is broken and there is no music, but this guy wouldn’t have a got a reaction anyway. It’s “Razor Ramon” except of course it isn’t, its Rick Bogner pretending to be Scott Hall, after a distinctly lame-ass gimmick whereby JR tried to claim that Diesel and Razor were back, except that it was two lookalikes. Who didn’t look like Nash and Hall.

He doesn’t last long, thrown by Ahmed, but Johnson soon eliminates himself, jumping over the top rope to chase Farooq who had snuck up to ringside.

Number four would be Phineas Godwinn, later to be known as Mideon, and shortly following him is a sound of breaking glass, and it’s a chap by the name of Stone Cold Steve Austin. He has a smattering of cheers, but he is a heel at this point, having lost to Bret Hart at the previous Survivor Series.

Crush holds Phineas for Austin, who comes off the second rope for a clothesline. He misses, hitting Crush, allowing Phineas to throw Crush out. Austin hits Phineas with a stunner, and removes him. Bart Gunn is next, but lasts a very short time.

Next is Jake Roberts, and a rematch from the King of the Ring final the year before, on the day that Austin first said the infamous 3:16 line. Austin comically preys before Jake gets there, and the two lock up.

Perhaps the aging Jake was a little off the pace here, because eventually he gets backdropped out of the ring, but does so while the British Bulldog is emerging as the next entrant. At this point Bulldog and Austin were at odds, with both men tweeners of sorts. Bulldog was poised to break up with his tag partner Owen Hart and Austin getting cheered increasingly.

They fight for the 90 seconds with Bulldog largely on top, and are joined by the number 9 entry Pierroth, again a Mexican import brought in for this match. There will be more to come.

GIMMICK ALERT NO.1 – Rikishi, dah, I mean Junior Fatu, dah, I mean The Sultan is on his way to the ring at 10, complete with pointy toes and face mask.

And speaking of masks, the man of a thousand masks is in, as yet another Mexican import for this Royal Rumble, although Mil Mascaras is a bit more a household name, and a huge star in Mexico. Don’t forget this Rumble in San Antonio is very close to the Mexican border, so the big crowd will have a large Hispanic element.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley, sans Mr Hughes, is next, slightly selling the leg injury he picked up in the Goldust match earlier in the evening. Bulldog clotheslines The Sultan to eliminate him.

On the way to the back Sultkishi passes Owen Hart on his way to the ring, where he instantly takes on Austin. When Stone Cold gets the upper hand Owen tag partner and brother in law Davey Boy helps him, but while Bulldog tries to oust Austin, Owen decides to undercut his brother in law. As I recall, they never did follow through with the Owen and Bulldog break up, although they teased it for a while. When Bret reformed the Hart Foundation their differences were patched up.

Goldust is next, and is followed by Cibernetico, another Mexican, who goes straight for Mascaras. I know we knock the modern product, but frankly I’m happy to have Mysterio, Guererro and so forth rather than this mob.

Marc Mero is on his way next. Hilariously, Jerry says “here comes trouble” and Vince quips “Yeah, Sable” and laughs. Oh if only you knew, ’97 Vince.

In a fantasic piece of countrymen sticking together, Cibernetico is eliminated by Mascaras and Pierroth, before the latter is thrown out by the former. Then, the experienced Mascaras, like a tool, does a plancha onto Pierroth. Yes, over the top. So they are all gone now.

Goldust clotheslines Helmsley out, and gets into with Mero, as Latin Lover, the last of the Latin entrants. Owen clumsily botches throwing Goldie out, before having to do it with a simple shot to the back. Farooq is next, and quickly gets rid of Latin Lover, but soon Ahmed is back, and has a 2x4 which makes Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s look like a pencil.

Simmons comically looks for a way out of the ring (try through the dopes. Damn!) but Ahmed unloads with devastating shots (and when I say devastating I mean not really connecting) and Farooq is gone.

The camera then sensibly watches Farooq leaving along with his Nation cronies, thus missing Austin eliminating both Mero and Owen.

Austin is back on his own again. Next to face him is Savio Vega, and to be fair the booking is sound here because in this match they have given Austin Jake, Bulldog and Savio, all of whom he had a history with. Savio is gone before the 90 seconds is up, and next is “Double J” Jesse James, who was of course the Road Dogg later on. Here he is just a jobber though, so Stone Cold slings him quickly.

Austin sits on the turnbuckle to indicate that he has a lot of time, but next up is Bret, with Austin doing a terrific facial to show fear. Bret dominates a tiring Austin, and slaps him in the sharpshooter. King’s music goes and Lawler is a shock entry. He says “it takes a King” and drops his headsets. Bret releases the Sharpshooter and hits Lawler with two right hands. The second puts King over the top. Lawler returns to the commentary booth to complete his sentence “to know a King, McMahon”. As the match progressed he would continue with a short-term amnesiac gimmick pretending he didn’t know he wa sin the match. Exciting.

King almost forgets he isn’t allowe to use certain words as the next entrant arrives. It is “Diesel” who is actually Kane who is actually Isaac Yankem who is actually Glen Jacobs. King calls for ‘Big Daddy Cool’ to “Murde....lize him”realising he isn’t allowed to say murder on family friendly WWE.

Terry Funk doesn’t have any music despite being a ‘Texas legend’ according to Vince. I love the irony that two supposed babyfaces in the ring right now are Funk and Bret, who Vince is putting over. The two hate the guy now. Gratitude for you.

Vince goes into ultra-hype mode next as Rocky Maivia – yes, The Rock – is entry 25. He goes straight for Austin and you wouldn’t know at this point that these two would carry the company for the next 5 years.

Mankind is next, and the audible gasp from the audience and commentating team show you just what a good character Mankind was to begin with. Foley and Funk would spend much of the ensuing match beating the shit out of each other, seemingly for real.

Flash Funk (no relation to Terry, unless they do a future Dudley’s gimmick) is next and isn’t Too Cold Scorpio who isn’t related to Stone Cold whose real name is Steve Williams who isn’t related to Dr. Death who isn’t a doctor. Clear?

Bret piledrives Stone Cold, and if only Owen was taking notes at this point, Austin might still be wrestling now.

Vader is next, and the legitimate contenders to win are appearing. We see a cool visual of Mankind choking the life out of Terry, as Vader comes in to batter Bret then squash Austin.

29 is Mark Canterbury looking legitimately tough even with a shitty Hog farmer gimmick. He takes it straight to Vader, knocking him down. Perhaps the highlight of his career.

Next comes 30, predictably, and its The Undertaker. Vince announces him as the winner of the 1997 Royal Rumble before he enters the ring. Ten years out, Vinny Boy.

Vader eliminates Flash Funk with a pretty cool fall away slam to the outside, and after they all battle for a few minutes, Godwinn is slung out. Look at who is left in the ring, and although at the time they mightn’t all have been legendary, think of the star power now:

Bret Hart, The Undertaker, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Vader, Kane, Terry Funk and Vader all in the same ring. That’s pretty cool.

From here the match is decent. I know this is 11 years ago, but I remember this being a match where you got to this stage and genuinely had no idea who would win.

Every now and again the commentators are quiet and all you can hear is Mick doing his weird noises as Mankind. Damn I loved that character. Did I mention that? Oh, I did. Did I mention he personalised a shirt of mine and gave me a hokey thumbs up. Well he did. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

Foley uses the Mandible claw to eliminate Rocky, then suplexes Funk out. Shortly after thing Taker boots Foley out, and he and the Funker depart still knocking the hell out of one another. But this is a ploy. The referees are watching the Funk/Foley brawl, so miss Bret throw Austin the hell out.

Austin sneaks back in having avoided being seen, and pushes Taker and Vader out. As Bret gets rid of ‘Diesel’ on the other side, Austin then pushes Bret over and that’s your lot. Austin wins despite being eliminated, but even though that sounds bogus, it was a really creative ending.

Bret loses it and knocks a couple of refs down before going to the outside to threaten Vince. They were just beginning to recognise Vince as the owner at this stage, and his position would increasingly affect storylines from now on.

Austin wasn’t in the main event at Mania, but he was in the best match, where he took on Bret Hart in a genuine classic. The belt would switch through various wrestlers. From here, the next In Your House event would be named as Final Four, where Bret, Undertaker and Vader took on Austin for the vacant title. Without giving away the winner of the upcoming title match, erm............well it was vacant because “someone” got “injured” and “lost their smile”. I knew that quote mark key would come in good use here.

Anyway, Bret would go on to win at Final Four, but Sid would win it back, before dropping it to Taker at Mania, through interference from Bret who beat Austin. I am doing this deliberately, so don’t worry about feeling confused, however it goes to show how much they hotshotted the belt at that time.

I’ve written all that stuff since the end of the actual Rumble match, and that took the time that Michaels did to get to the ring. Good God it took ages. Obviously he is considerably over in his home town, and although Sid has his supporters when he emerges, he is largely booed. I never rated Sid in the ring, but I loved his character at this time, because he really looked as though he could destroy you.

The story here was that Shawn was champion after beating Bret at Wrestlemania, but lost to Sid the previous Survivor Series, when Sid displayed increasingly heel attributes but was cheered anyway. The tide was turning even before Austin’s antihero took off.

So on the night of HBK’s rematch, he apparently has flu, and this is supposedly legit, but since this is Michaels we are talking about, even the boys never knew if he was being genuine, so we’ll call it kayfabe.

Sid dictates much of the early match, and although Shawn has the odd flurry, the Vicious one has the advantage. He plays up to the crowd fantastically, eliminated the remnant cheers he is receiving. Lots of restholds here, probably for the benefit of both Michaels and Sid.

Michaels has Jose Lothario, his mentor (I don’t think babyfaces are supposed to have managers) in his corner, although Jose has Shawn’s cowboy hat on – because Mexicans and Cowboys get on like a house on fire. Or set each others houses on fire, something like that. Jose’s son Pete is also at ringside, after having been put through a table earlier in the month. Just because.

More mini comebacks from Shawn, with decreaing gaps between them, and to be fair the crowdare just eating this up. I don’t know whether the Rumble was placed in San Antonio before or after Survivor Series, but after the MSG crowd shit all over Michaels, he benefited greatly from being in his home town here.

Michaels looks like having done enough to take control, but we cut to the outside and Sid powerbombs Michaels on the floor. He grabs Jose by the throat, and then grabs Pete as he attacks. Sid even manages a kick for Tony Garea, the WWE official trying to break it up.

Back inside a ref bump gets rid of Hebner, an Sid hits a chokeslam which Vince calls as a Goozle – I don’t think I’ve heard anyone by Tazz call this as a Goozle. That should be a wrestling move search engine in my opinion.

Ref down, so a visual fall gets nothing, and as another officials comes down Michaels kicks out. Sid pie faces the new ref in a nonsensical move which even JR calls stupid, and Jose jumps onto the apron. Now, I should point out that Sid hit Jose with a camera at MSG, causing Michaels to be more worried about his mentor than the match, and earning him scorn by New Yorkers for being caring and a camera shot into the bargain.

Here, as Jose distracted Sid, Michaels grabbed a camera and levelled the big man with two weak looking shots. Oh-So-Slow count gets 2, but a Superkick earns the victory.

Far from a classic, but a story well told, with the right ending and if Michaels really was struggling – which to be fair he probably was. I mean the guy was a snake back then but he was always been an awesome worker. If he had have been well he’d have been flying all over the place here – it was a creditable performance.

A mixed PPV. A series of average to very poor matches preceded perhaps the best Rumble match there had been at that point, and a decent main event.

It is a very significant PPV as it showed the evolution of the whining Bret character, the advancement to Stone Cold’ s persona, and as far as our trip through Rumble history goes, a very significant milestone. Just wait until you see how different next year is.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Retro Rumble Review - 1996

1996, Fresno, and good lord Todd Pettengill is still doing these pre-show things.

It seems that this year’s ‘bonus’ waffle is called the Free for All, and Todd is joined by Dok Hendrix, who is the bizarre incarnation of Michael PS Hayes.

They promise some words with HBK, Vader and Jake Roberts, and then we go over to Vince and Mr Perfect who hype a match between Triple H and Duke Droese which will determine which man gets number 30 and which man gets number 1.

Backstage, “Dok” is with Vader and James E Cornette. This was Vader’s debut, and Jimmy does his normal awesome job on the stick to hype his new man. Vader shouts for a bit, and then we are off to Todd with Jake.

The master of the DDT was one of wrestling’s great promo guys, but he only gets a few seconds, and mentions something about having had ‘demons’. He must be talking about a horror film he saw, because I’m sure Jake is a clean living guy. Obviously.

A quick promo about Taker is next, and then Vince and Curt talk about the main event – Bret Hart v Undertaker. Hennig says that he thinks Taker will win, but also promotes Bret as being great. Perfect was a great co-commentator, because he had the right balance between being a heel and talking sense.

A preview of the Bret/Taker match is shown, detailing the history between these guys, and showing Diesel being unhappy about the situation. Todd’s voiceover says that Taker has a 9 inch advantage. But I don’t know him that well. Generic words from Taker, and back to the arena.

Posh music plays and Triple H is a of the curtain tonight, as Hunter Hearst Helmsley is out to open the show. He talks to Todd, and throws in a good line about telling the fat lady she’s on in 5 minutes. I didn’t even know Bertha Faye was in that show.

The match is a reasonable affair, I suppose. Triple H, dah, I mean Helmsley, does a lot of working on the arm. Duke is surprisingly over.

Droese begins a comeback after Hunter misses the old ‘off the top rope with no move, and get levelled by the prone guy’s foot’ – I couldn’t think of a snappier name. Vince and Perfect fail to call the unbelievably obvious use of a foreign object, despite the camera zooming on it.

Hunter gets the pin after levelling Duke with a loaded right hand, but Gorilla Monsoon, who was the storyline president at this point, reverses the decision. Something that of course made sense, but means that every match that has ended in controversial fashion ever since should have been reversed as well. Luckily, not many people watched this Free for All.

Montage shows the history of Razor Ramon v Goldust, which is the Intercontinental title match later tonight.

HBK hits the ring, and Todd rather stupidly asks Shawn what number he has. Long-windedly, Michaels tells us all that he will come in the ring when he wants, and leave when he wants. At this point, Michaels had been out for a couple of months. He had legitimately been attacked outside a nightclub in Syracuse, New York, and really had suffered injuries. However, there was a lot of controversy about how he ‘forfeited’ his title, handing it to Dean (Shane) Douglas. Some say Shawn refused to job to Douglas.

In a match with Owen Hart, HBK received an enzuigiri kick, and late ring the match collapsed. This was, of course, a work, and Michaels was out from then until the Rumble.

Michaels wraps up his interview, still talking about how he will win, and then we go backstage to Triple H again. Man, it used to be so different in ’96. HBK hogging the spotlight and then HHH talking for ages. Wouldn’t see that now.

Trips talks about how there is no instant replay in the WWF, and how Gorilla’s interference post-match was uncalled for. And since he is now in charge, things like that are carefully avoided.

Free for All ends, and Royal Rumble itself begins. After the obligatory deep-talker doing the intro video, we have Vince and Perfect again. Vince says if there was ever a Perfect Royal Rumble, its tonight. Well, that’s a flat to lie to open the evening.

As last year, Jeff Jarrett opens proceedings, and a video shows the action with Jarrett attacking Ahmed Johnson at the previous In Your House event. Ahmed is out, and despite the fact that reputation says that he is a hard to work with, misogynistic, poor worker, the dude was over at this point. He had bodyslammed Yokozuna at the Survivor Series the previous November.

Ahmed, of course, dominates the early proceedings with power moves, until he gets his hand caught in the ropes, and Double J takes control.

It isn’t long, though, before Ahmed gets back in charge, with a version of Hulking Up last seen performed by Tatanka, although Johnson decides against the foot stomping. Clothesline and a Spinebuster, before Jeff slides to the outside. Ahmed follows him with a huge dive to the outside, with sick looking landing.

Back in the ring, Ahmed ascends the turnbuckle but hits an empty pool. Figure 4 from Flair Jarrett fails to get the win. After trying, and failing, to apply it again, he brings in the old gimmick guitar, and hits a Greco-roman Musical Instrument to the head. Johnson wins by DQ, and Jarrett scarpers with Ahmed in pursuit. Very unsatisfactory opener.

Backstage, The Smoking Gunns are talking about their upcoming title defence against the Bodydonnas. Bart Gunn achieves what was previously thought impossible, by being so boring he makes Billy Gunn sound charismatic.

Diesel is interviewed by Todd, and shocking he thinks he will win the Rumble. Cocky bunch, these wrestling fellows, you know.

Back to the ring, and its decent workers in a crappy gimmick, as Skip (Chris Candido) and Zip (Tom Pritchard) are on their way to the ring. However, they are taking their manager with them, the gorgeous Sunny, so no-one cares about the two guys. They are thinking about how they would like to take Sunny up the aisle. Ahem.

She cuts a promo about how her team will win, and even uses the old “ladies and Gentleman and children of all ages” line. So Road Dogg got it from Tammy Sytch. The line I mean, not Chlamydia.

Smoking Gunns, the champions, are out next, and I guess somewhere Ang Lee was taking notes for a cowboy movie he would make at some point. Or maybe not

Candido spends most of the match bumping like a madman, and it is actually not a bad encounter. Sunny is the story of the match, as the story often involves the Gunns being distracted by her. At one point, she blows kisses and hitches up her skirt. The cowboys ignore her. Yep, they were the prototype for Brokeback after all.

Billy inadvertently knocks Sunny down at one point, and as she feigns injury, the Bodydonnas pounce and take charge.

The usual heel domination of a match occurs, until the hot tag from Billy to Bart. Bart cleans up, the Gunns hid their ‘sidewinder’ finisher, but the Bodydonnas turn the tables as Sunny distracts the ref. Eventually they go for the double team, but Billy hits the ring for the save, and despite the botched small package, Bart picks up the win. And probably a man at the after show party.

Maybe it was Goldust. After a compilation of “Billionaire Ted’s wrasslin’ war room” – which Vince describes as very popular, in yet another blatant lie – we see the same Razor and Goldust compilation from earlier.

You obviously won’t know this by simply reading, but I’m back after a significant break, because my video (yes, VIDEO, as in VHS) machine decided to malfunction, possibly out of spite for me still living in the 20th century. No, I don’t yet have the Royal Rumble DVD compendium, because I very, very tight fisted man.

Anyway, Dustin Runnells/Rhodes/Black freakin’ Reign is out here, and this is during his initial run as Goldust. Frankly, although a little over the top, this was a great character, very well played, and I believe it is why Dustin still gets work, because people remember how good he was as Goldie in his first run.

Goldust is out first, accompanied by Terri, who was then known as Marlena. Actually, I stand corrected, as Vince and Mr P don’t know who she is. They just determine that she is an ‘attractive young lady’ and that ‘when you think you have answers Goldust changes the questions’. Which is all announcer talk for “Huh? We thought he was a faggot, and he has a chick! What the f....?”

Goldust goes through all kinds of machinations, crouching in the corner and doing his little inhaling thing. I suppose you’ll have to have seen this to know what I mean.

Razor eventually manages a lock up and quickly gets an armbar. He bashes Goldust around for a bit before they break again.

Next time they lock up Razor manages a go behind. Goldie reverses and gets one of his own. He then rubs his hands all over Razor’s chest. Ohhhhhkay.

Soon after, Goldust has Razor in the corner (so to speak), and strokes his face. Razor pushes him down. Funny moment when Vince asks Perfect what he would do. “Kick him in the face” says Hennig.

Razor then decides to hit a couple of right hands, one to the face and one to the, err, gluteus maximus. And that isn’t the guy from Gladiator eating a lot of sweets.

By the way, if you are thinking this is all very gay and disturbing, it is virtually the same match as Trish v Mickie at Wrestlemania 22. Only that was, of course, two hot chicks. So it was way better.

Goldust eventually gets on top (so to speak – oh look I’m not apologising for everything that sounds like an innuendo) after Dustin hides his lady, who is now in a directors chair.

Goldie pounds him for a bit (leave it, honestly) while Vince and Curt rave about his fabulously technical skills. He was hit a bulldog and a neck breaker. That’s it. Goldust applies a sleeper, and Ramon is fading away. “Razor’s going down” says Hennig, and knows exactly the connotations of his last statement. Dirty boy.

Ramon fights up, and distracting the official nails a low blow............he kicked him, you perverts.

Standard Scott Hall comeback. Clothesline, goozle, fallaway slam, 3 months in rehab, AA meetings, Belly to Back suplex, driving ban, and then he signals for the Razor’s Edge.

Meanwhile, “this woman” is in the ring, ‘twisting’ her ankle, and the 1-2-3 kid appears from the crowd, climbs the top rope, and hits a spin kick from the top rope which genuinely looked devastating. The Kid by this point was aligned with Ted DiBiase, by the way.

Goldust gets the win, and for the second year in a row Razor is stupid enough to get railroaded into losing his IC title.

Next up, it’s the Rumble, and some of the participants talk up their chances. Wait, there’s a doctor in it? Oh no, it’s Dr Unger, Shawn Michael’s physician apparently. He has a blackboard behind him which says Hepatitis on it, so he must treat Bob Orton as well.

Some legends talk about their chances. Huge names like Vader, Owen Hart, Jake Roberts, Jerry Lawler and..........Barry Horowitz? Ok then. Roster was pretty slim, huh?

Trips is out as the number one entrant as decided earlier, and number 2 is Henry O Godwinn. Genius creative.

Within a minute, Triple H does the Flair/Michaels somersault in the turnbuckle, but very sensibly, in an over the top match, Godwinn waits for the future game to fall back into the ring, before pressing him. Hunter escapes, and they continue to trade blows for another minute or so.

To the strains of Hail to the Chief (not Jay Strongbow) Bob Backlund, allegedly campaigning for political office, is number three. A three-way battle ensues, and Backlund sells like a kid on a rollercoaster for the first time. Just lots of ‘whoa’s really.

4 is The King. In the ring, Trips hits a high knee but Vince fails to notice that it is borrowed from Harley Race, which JR does every bloody time. Lawler gets in the ring, but soon goes outside to fetch Godwinn’s slop bucket. Hunter and Bob hold Henry while King gets ready to swing, but Big Henry fights off the three men, who bail to outside. They seem to think there is a force field as they just wait on the outside as Godwinn launches the ‘slop’ all over them. Well, actually he misses and hits a lot of the front row. Ha, you paid more and got covered in sick!

Mind you, normally when a big guy called Henry is in the ring, the vomit is coming from my mouth as I throw up watch Mizark’s terrible work rate.

Bob Holly, still in Nascar mode, is number 5, and then 6 is King Mabel. Dammit, I just talked about Mark Henry and they sent me Big Daddy V. Thankfully he is still in the old yellow and purple so we don’t see him flopping titties.

The commentators talk up the ‘royalty’ in the ring. King Mabel, King Lawler, blueblood HHH and Mr. Backlund. Yeah, as an Englishman, I don’t think you really understand the monarchical system, guys. You have to be inbred, posh and German. Well, ours are.

7 is Jake Roberts, and the action in the ring stops. All participants stop and look at Jake’s bag. They don’t know what it contains. When Jake pours a snake out, they scarper? What were they expecting? Beer? Oh right, I suppose it could have been, but Scott Hall had finished his match by then, so he got into Jake’s stash.

Lawler gets the snake all over him, then disappears. 8 is Dory Funk, and Vince notes that Terry was invited too. No-one has been eliminated, but the King is not in the ring. Maybe Warrior kidnapped him.

We see a quick shot Lawler hiding under the ring, which is actually very smart, but very little is happening in the ring.

Ah, I suspect that will shortly change. Yokozuna is number 9. First to go is Backlund, as Yoko slings him. He then goes to Mabel, and the two gargantuan ‘athletes’ battle each other in the corner. Brilliantly, Henry Godwinn is by the turn buckle, as Yoko and Mabel, while fighting each other, take turns to squash the Hog Man.

123 Kid is next, and is hotly pursued by Razor Ramon. Or so the commentators say. I think he’s out to confront Jake to find out where the other beer is stashed.

Scott chases the Kid for a while, but to no avail.

A random Japanese Guy comes out at 11, who Vince says is Omori from Japan Pro Wrestling. Doesn’t say if it is All or New (it is actually Takao Omori, then of All Japan, now of Japan’s ZERO1-MAX) No explanation of why he is there whatsoever. Good Lord how thin was the roster.

What is not thin is Yoko, who at this point is hitting one chop then resting for five minutes. He gets knocked down by Jake. Well, I think he does – Jake hits a bunch of rights on screen, but the one that knocks the big guy down isn’t shown. Great directing.

Savio Vega is next, and he hits a spinning wheel kick on Mabel, who is then thrown out by Yokozuna. Jake then turns the tables and eliminates Omori who was in the process of getting rid of Jake. He misread Jake’s name and thought it said Jake “The Sake” Roberts, and thought Roberts was drinking the Japanese beverage. Another easy mistake to make.

Vader is next, and it’s the debut for the big guy from the Rockies. Perfect is putting him over like crazy, but Vince seems like he doesn’t know who the hell he is. He keeps calling him “The man they call Vader”

Sounds like my Mum when she doesn’t like someone – she always prefixes it with “That”. For example, “will That Michael Cole be commentating?” Oh no, wait that’s someone I don’t like.

I’ve missed some happenings now, so I’ll catch you up. Vega eliminated Dory Funk, Vader eliminated Jake (well I say that, he clotheslined him dead centre of the ring, and Jake staggered backwards and took a powder. I have no idea why Jake would have a poor sense of balance. Not a clue.)

Doug Gilbert is entry number 14, from USWA, and we are told he is the brother of the late Tommy Gilbert. Curiously, he doesn’t go straight after The King under the ring. I wonder what he thinks Jerry is doing.

Vader and Yoko go at it a bit, to the dismay of the perpetually apoplectic Jim Cornnette, and then the bizarrely sized entrant at number 15 is names as a member of the Squat Team. You may know them as The Headhunters, briefly in ECW. Vader throws Gilbert over like he was passing his robe to a referee. He quickly rids the ring of the Squat Team guy.

Vader and Yoko trade blows once more, before 16 is out, and it’s the other Squat Team member. They look exactly alike, and Vince helpfully tells us they are identical twins. Perfect and Vince wonder how they will tell the two apart, because they are both heading to the ring. This despite the fact they are wearing different shaped singlets.

Vince says “Which is the legal man and which is the illegal man?” to which Perfect responds “The one on the left”. Vince treads all over the gag by asking which left, as if Hennig has answered him properly. Idiot. But a genius, too obviously.

Anyway, Vader beats up both Squat team guys, and then clotheslines one out, while Yoko slings the other.

Owen Hart is next, giving Cornette three men out of seven in the ring. Vader and Yokozuna destroy Savio for two minutes, then HBK is number 18. Michaels, to a huge pop, comes in, and throws right hands to everybody, while constantly looking over his shoulder.

After Yoko and Vader are bored with killing Savio, they throw him out, and then lock up again. They are on the ropes when Michaels steams into them and eliminates both. No, you didn’t read that wrong. He eliminated both. About 950lbs of man eliminated by a 230 pounder returning from injury. Makes perfect sense. He then presses the Kid and gets rid of him too. Hmm, I wonder who’ll win this.

On the outside, Vader levels Yoko, while Hakushi is on his way out, which is hilarious, because his music sounds like a Japanese funeral. Wow, that Vader is strong, killing Samoans simply with clotheslines.

Vader comes back in the rings, and causes chaos. He beats up HBK and throws him over the top, then does the same to everyone else. They are apparently not eliminated because Vader isn’t legal. So Undertaker is still in the 1993 Rumble then?

Eventually Gorilla Monsoon is out and gets rid of Vader. Vader would destroy Monsoon the following night on Raw and get suspended (kayfabe) Michaels throws Cornette over for a laugh, and Owen Hart removes Hakushi.

Tatanka is next, followed by Aldo Montoya (Perfect : “He (also) has his Jock on the wrong part of his body”)

Michaels ends up on the outside, but went through the ropes, and he pulls King from under the ring back into play. Lawler is soon ousted, but hey, he lasted 36 minutes.

Diesel is next, and levels everybody. He slings Tatanka immediately. At this point Diesel and Michaels were best friends (again) but Diesel smacks him the first chance he gets, and HBK returns the favour.

Its HHH, Diesel, Holly, HBK and Owen in the ring at the moment, which means I missed the elimination of Montoya. I’m with the FBI then.

Kama is next, and soon HBK holds the Supreme Fighting Machine for Diesel to punch, an he of course misses and hits Michaels.

Number 24 is out, to no response, crap music (oh yeah, I forgot to mention this was the first year they used music) and even Vince doesn’t seem to know who it is. He’ll never make.

He is called the Ringmaster, I think. Steve something or other.

Actually, Perfect puts him over big style, and Stunning Steve gets rid of Bob Holly. Haha, 25 is out here now, to a much bigger reception. That’s hilarious; Barry Horowitz gets a mightier pop that Steve Austin. Anything can happen in the WWF, huh?

Perfect says that if Horowitz wins he’ll get back in the ring. He actually returned 18 months after this, in WCW. Maybe Horowitz won a secret battle royal somewhere in Georgia.

Diesel throws HHH out, for a 48 minute stint for the Connecticut Blueblood. Imagine Vince creating a snob character to poke fun, only for the character to poke his daughter.

Fatu is next, and his babyface gimmick at this point is of an anti-drugs campaigner. Maybe he should have been an anti-donut campaigner, because he is about 200lbs lighter there than he is now.

Isaac Yankum, by now on his second character in the WWE, is next, and Owen Hart nails HBK with the enzugiri. This is so impressive that the director decides to show us a double feature instant replay. Meanwhile, with the screen shrunk, Owen Hart is eliminated by Michaels. No problem, only the most significant elimination thus far.

Austin then levels HBK, and mocks his pose. Man Austin was good even then when no-one knew who he was. Or cared.

Janetty is next, and there are only two more entrants left. Soon, the former Rockers get it on, and eventually knock each other down. Bulldog is next, and he ousts Jannetty in pretty short order.

Bulldog goes to Marty’s old partner, and the man who pipped him to the post last year. Meanwhile, Fatu eliminates Austin. At least he didn’t run him down in a vehicle. That would be terrible......

Duke Droese, who pointlessly won the number 30 position earlier on complete the quota.

Michaels and Bulldog are now on the outside, and Owen reappears to level HBK again. Bulldog presses HBK, but Diesel makes the save. Michaels dropkicks Isaac Yankem out, and Kama gets rid of the Dumpster.

Down to four, and it moves fast from here. HBK is still coping with Bulldog, and Diesel has Kama to contend with. Bulldog tries to backdrop Michaels out, but HBK stops on the apron, propels himself back in under the bottom rope, then clotheslines Davey Boy out. Cool spot.

Kama hits Michaels in the back, sending him over the ropes again, but he hangs on, and is obviously waiting for action elsewhere to play out. Diesel pushes Kama out, but while doing so Michaels skins the cat and nails Diesel with a superkick to send him out. And when I say nails, I mean brushed the shoulder. Slightly weak ending to what was a very weak Rumble match.

Diesel takes some frustration out on The Bulldog in the aisle, before threatening to kill Dok Hendrix. He returns to the ring where for some reason Michaels is baring his backside to the crowd. So when people compare HBK to Flair, it’s basically because they like to get their ass out all the time.

Diesel threatens to level Michaels, although he simply high fives him.

This is basically a ploy so that Nash can stay out there. By this point, Diesel and Taker had a side issue, so when Undie is on his way to the ring for the main event, Diesel confronts him. They trade some weak blows, before officials spate them. Nash tells Taker that he isn’t afraid of the dark. What about undead zombies who killed their parents, Kev? Scared of them?

After all dies down, Bret comes to the ring. The crowd are split here. Neither Bret nor Taker get the huge pop they usually elicit, so it seems they can’t make their mind up. Perfect is already bigging up the Hitman, and since Hart and Hennig considered their match with each other at Summerslam ’91 to be one of the best they each had in their respective careers.

I should point out that Taker has a Phantom of the Opera-like mask on, which was to protect a legit facial injury. Although by this point it was healed, he had a pretty cool-looking accessory to go with his gimmick.

Bret by this point was by far and away the best in the business, but the company was being booked for Michaels to take over, and so the focus wasn’t necessarily on Bret in this match. Taker’s dark powers are at the fore here, and so much of the early going sees Bret taking a beating from the Dead Man.

Very slow pace, with Taker hitting the odd spot, such as ‘Old School’ or contemporary school as would have been known at the time – except it wasn’t. Mostly its rest hold city, but eventually Bret blocks a charge in the corner, hits a clothesline of the second rope, sends Taker to the outside and then dives over the ropes on top of Taker.

Vince does a nice comparison to the match Bret had with Diesel the previous Survivor Series, and then Bret jumps into the arms of Taker, who rams him into the post. He tries it again but Bret reverses, but the see-saw continues as Taker boots Hart in the kisser.

Bret goes into the rail, and damn Bret knew how to sell a beating. Perhaps the reason some people never really got Bret was then he rarely looked like a champion, but although Hogan did, there was little realism.

Bret whips Taker in the steps on the outside, and UT takes it legs first and flies over the top. Taker and Mick Foley always took them that way, and it looks so much better. Of course, it also allows Taker to sell the leg, and then Bret goes to work with the usual offense to left leg of the Deadman.

Bret gets a figure four, Taker then makes a brief comeback, but Bret stays on the leg. The psychology is about as good as it could be, but because Taker had been build as a zombie who could feel no pain, plus it’s a babyface contest, the crowd don’t seem into it.

Bret tries to wrench the ‘facial appliance’ off of Taker. Why must WWE complicate phrases? They can’t say hospital, they say ‘medical facility’; they can’t say cut, they say ‘busted open’. They can’t even say ‘mask’ here.

Brief ‘rest in piece’ chant, while its rest-hold in piece in the ring, before Taker fights out. Taker slings Bret to the outside, and then Bret meets the steel steps. Bearer then distracts the ref as Taker chokes the Hitman, so they seem to be trying to paint Taker as the heel now.

The bell rings. Is the because of a count out? Did Vince do a dummy run of Montreal? No, Taker just threw Bret into the timekeepers table. Chairshot by Taker with the ref still distracted. Back in the ring Bret ducks a big boot, and goes back to the leg again. The fans boo. It’s like they are both heels, not both babyfaces. Bret rams Taker’s leg into the steel post to a mixed reception this time, and frankly, though I’m the biggest Bret fan there ever was, this match is dragging somewhat.

More directorial shenanigans as Taker seems to counter Bret while the camera is looking at the fans, and once again Taker takes charges. Legdrop followed by a straight clothesline. More cheering and booing.

Taker sets up for a Tomnstone, but Bret slides out and onto the apron. Taker knocks him to the floor, but Bret pops back up and manages to knock Taker away. Bret counters an Irish whip into a DDT, and a Russian Leg Sweep begins the tell tale run of moves leading up to the Sharpshooter. In between each move, though, Taker does the zombie sit up.

Bret has the Sharpshooter half on, but Taker comes out of it with Bret round the throat. Double clothesline knocks both men down for a bit. Bret gets up and removes a turnbuckle pad. He follows up with several straight rights to Taker, and then removes the ma......facial appliance. Perfect wisely calls that Bret would have more joy hits Taker’s unexposed face into the buckle rather than one with a protector on it.

Bret sells the new scary Taker (like he wasn’t before) but manages to ram Taker’s head into the buckle twice. Bret pounds a bit, but then runs into Taker, who Tombstones him out of nowhere.

Long hold before Taker covers Bret, but an interfering Diesel pulls the ref to the outside. This causes Bret to be disqualified, and Taker wins, but obviously that means no belt.

A smug Diesel raises the middle finger to Taker and leaves. Whatever you think, kids, about Austin being rebellious by doing that, I’m telling you Nash did it first. Undertaker follows Diesel out, and Bret’s music hits. As I said earlier, he doesn’t look much like a champion. It was pretty much a visual fall for Taker, and did nothing to make Bret look good.

A video airs of highlights during the evening, and we are out.

Very low quality Rumble. Devoid of star power, a telegraphed winner of the main battle royal and one of the poorest Bret matches you are likely to see wasn’t really backed up by an undercard of any note.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Retro Rumble Review - 1995

Welcome to the next in my series of classic Royal Rumble reviews – today we go back in time to 1995, one of the really low points on the WWF radar, and a time when things were not that rosy.

For the last review, I was about to skip Todd Pettengill’s free preview before the show, but couldn’t be bothered. As it happened, I rather enjoyed watching the build up to some of the matches, as my memory doesn’t always stretch that far back. Erm, why am I writing this again? I have a BLOG?!

Anyway, we try to block out Pettengill’s voice, as he runs down the card and starts to look at the Championship match between Bret Hart & Diesel. Can you believe that at some point in history, the powers that be decided that the title should be taken off of the Hitman and given to Kevin Nash. No, really, if you don’t remember it, they did. Via Bob Backlund, anyway.

This preview is quite in depth, showing even a match that Diesel and Bret had at the previous year’s King of the Ring, and a couple of sit down interviews. At one point Todd doing voice over says that Diesel may well be champion for a long time. Wow, no wonder viewers were switching off at the time.

Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett is next, and a few highlights of this are shown too. Pettengill refers to Razor as flamboyant, which I thought was a reference to people like, you know, Rico. Mind you, Scott Hall has probably been so wasted before that he may have done anyone......I mean anything.

Anyway, build up seems to concern the Roadie, whom we know refer to BG James, who we actually refer to that bloke who used to be The Road Dogg, who we also refer to as the less talented Armstrong family member.

Stephanie Wiand don’t remember her? No? Well think of the worst parts of Kevin Kelly, Todd Grisham and Sean Mooney, give it a wig and you have Ms Wiand. Good lord she was atrocious.) is conducting an interview with Razor Ramon, along with Linda and a kid from Make-a-Wish. I bet the kid wishes he’d got a different interviewer. Anyway, Razor says he’ll get Double J basically.

After this, we get some people backstage drawing Rumble numbers. Backlund talks nonsense, The Smoking Gunns pretend to be entertaining, and then HBK tells us that he’ll have an easy night. Ha, yeah right, like he’ll win it.

A quick review of the feud, of sorts, between IRS and the Undertaker. Basically, Irwin repossessed some gravestones and flowers from the grave of an alleged tax cheat, and this pissed off the Deadman. No, not the dead man, I mean the.....never mind. Anyway, remember that if you do anything wrong in any Graveyard in the world, Taker will unleash hell. Or heaven, something like that.

Back in the arena for the preview, Todd calls for the national anthem of the USA, and to play it is..........Man Mountain Rock. Wow, another blast from the past. Anyway, there is a reason why you forget people, and I’d completely forgotten this guy. In fact, for forgotten, read ‘blanked out’. Remember Van Hammer, Honky Tonk Man, Jeff Jarrett? They had guitars but didn’t play them. Well Man Mountain Rock played it, but it sounded like a school recital on his electric guitar.

Todd is then interrupted by Jerry Lawler, on his way to the commentary booth. How do I know this? Well, Todd asks him, and Jerry comes back with a classic, witty riposte. “Yes I am, Todd.” He says. Actually, not one of your best King. No puppies or anything.

Some ‘hilarious’ mix-ups ensue with Todd trying to speak to Vince but getting the Spanish guys, and then Todd introduces the celebrities. Well, one. He introduces Lawrence Taylor, who he describes as having played” Footbell”. I’ve not heard of that game.

After some time filling, involving Todd trying to whip up the crowd (badly) its time for........adverts? Apparently I should look into buying the new Spiderman game. I’ve heard about these new fangled SNES machines. They’ll never catch on.

Anyway, we’re off to the actual Rumble, after pimping of some merch. Then Todd pops up again and asks me to stop the video (yes, video, remember them?) because he has something important to say. If I stop the tape, Todd.I wont hear what you have to say. Actually, that sounds pretty good.

OK, since I stopped the tape, review over. Bye.

No? Ok then, I’ll carry on. Anyway, Todd just says to watch right until the end, because he give us some strategy tip or other. Exciting stuff.

We have Ray “not at all hired because I speak two languages” Rougeau tell us that we are about to see some exclusive thoughts of some of the Rumble participants. We see Bundy (who looks a lot like a Bald Big Show actually) then the manager of Fatu and Sione (that was actually the Barbarian replacing Samu) talks some complete gibberish, which is to be expected, frankly, because it’s Captain Lou Albano. Imagine that, a team called the Headshrinkers managed by a man with a shrunken brain.

More people pop up and say they’ll win, before we see a limo pulling up at the arena. Out steps Pammie, who sadly rejects the advances of a bunch of midcarders who are trying to entice her to join them. Actually, I think that she saw Tatanka nearest the door and saw that his breasts were bigger than hers.

Vince and King then welcome us to the show, and run down the card. Vince, people are not going to switch off, they’ve paid for the bloody thing.

First up is the IC title, with Razor Ramon defending against Jeff Jarrett. King makes joke about inbred people from Tennessee, which would be hilarious if not for the fact that he is from Memphis.

The opener is actually a very strong encounter, possibly due to Jarrett being hyped up after the biggest reaction of his career. It is still barely audible, but its big for Jeff, bless him.

The match psychology is basically Jeff being too quick for Razor, but when Scott finally catches him (give him a break, you try wrestling after 12 beers) he is too strong. The Roadie helps Jarrett get the upper hand, and I recall just what a good character he was. It’s a great concept, played to a tee by Brian James/Armstrong. Shame the guy he was running for kinda sucked.

Eventually, the Roadie chop blocks Razor on the outside, thus making him the most stupid manager known to Wrestling (and that is a hell of an achievement) because Jarrett wins by count out and doesn’t get the belt.

Jarrett then does a wandering, waffling, tedious promo aimed at getting Razor to come back and fight, thus making Razor a complete tool as well. Not wanting to be left out, the ref tries to dissuade Ramon from returning, and does this by.........walking back into the ring. If he had walked to the back, wouldn’t that have helped stop the fight? Man, I bet when Tim Wihite realised what he had done he must have felt like killing himself. Oh wait.

Jarrett takes control as soon as the match restarts, and at one point has Ramon by the ropes, when a fan in the front row holds up a foam Razor blade. I’m not kidding. You know those big foam fingers? Well they actually marketed razor blades made from the same material. Funny story, when Hall was in WCW he was asked to get colour during a match, but took 7 minutes because he was trying to use the foam blade rather than a proper one. Silly Scott.

Jarrett gets the win via a small packages after Ramon’s leg gives out on him in the middle of an attempt at a Razor’s Edge. Even the sound guy can’t believe it, as it takes about 10 seconds for Jarrett’s music to kick in.

Backstage, Stephanie Wiand sends us to Todd in Pamela’s dressing room. Wouldn’t it have funny if it was just a shot of Pettengill furiously masturbating? Actually, come to think of it, no it wouldn’t. It would have been immensely scary, and WWE would have had to pay for Counselling for all their viewers. Although, at that time, no-one was watching, so not too much.

Now I think about it, why would one furiously masturbate? I have been known to partake occasionally, I’ve always been reasonably chipper about the whole thing. I rarely have an argument with a telephone salesman or get a bill through the post and then think “I’ll go and have a look at the Mickie James picture on my divas calendar.”By the way, I’m single ladies (shocking, huh?)

Not very funny stuff with Pammie ensues, before not very interesting conversation develops between Wiand and Jarrett. Who’d have though that an airhead called Stephanie with an annoying voice and zero charisma would have a career on WWE TV? Oh, right.

Undertaker and IRS next, and its pretty poor fare, because although Mike Rotundo could work, he was never, ever pushed as a single, so he was hardly going to beat Taker, was he? That’s the Undertaker the walking zombie, who the previous year had beaten Yokozuna and his own clone, after reanimating himself. I don’t think the “Grim Reaper” was crapping his pants over the prospect of facing a guy whose gimmick used to be that of a ship’s captain.

This is more storyline than match, because Irwin spends more time on the arena floor than in the ring, including conferring with DiBiase and bringing out two ‘druids’ to assist him. He does get the upper hand, but Taker didn’t really sell back then, except to an abdominal stretch.

Taker does the sit up several times, and each time he does Vince makes a noise very akin to the aliens in the claw game in Toy Story. Maybe that’s why Vince sells to Foley so much. “It’s the claw, the mandible claw.” Maybe we might see a return of Baron von Raschke after all.

Taker wins with a fairly weak looking choke slam, and after the match gets attacked by IRS and the druids. He fights them off, but out comes King Kong Bundy for the distraction and beat down, and meanwhile IRS assaults Bearer and steals the urn. You know, when you think about it, it is amazing that Taker is such a legend, because he has been involved in so many matches with terrible opponents (not including IRS) and terrible angles (definitely including IRS) it is truly astonishing.

Next is Diesel v Bret Hart. And we are about to witness just why Bret Hart was so great at what he did. This will never go down as a ***** classic, but the Hitman took an average big man who had a neat character, but was thrust too soon into the limelight. The story of the match is basically Bret using his wrestling nous to attack Big Kev’s knees, after he loses a couple of early ‘slugfests’ as Vince and King call them.

In fact, Jerry Lawler’s commentary performance should be noted here, as it serves as a reminder of how colour guys should work. Lawler, as an ex-wrestler, or at least semi-retired offers his take on the match and the strategy behind it. That is how it should work. Tazz does this well on occasions, but does not have the linguistic ability, most of the time to make himself truly effective. King used to be very, very good at this, but after a transition to double entendre spouting babyface commentator, to me he has lost some value.

Back to this match, Bret works the leg for a while using slightly more aggressive tactics than you would usually see from him, before Diesel turns the tables, or at least, the ring steps.

Diesel runs through his repertoire for a while, as Bret takes his turn to play the babyface in peril, trying desperately to string a couple of moves together. The fans were clearly pulling for Bret as this point, as his comebacks were eliciting more pops.

That may have been about to change. Hitman pulls Diesel into the ringpost and actually ties his legs together, before returning to ring to stomp on the champion. Heelish behaviour from Bret, but he actually gets more cheers to his actions.

Bret goes through his usual set up preparing for the Sharpshooter. Backlbreaker, Russian Leg Sweep, flying elbow, etc. But he can’t put it on. He knocks Diesel to the outside, but Nash catches him on the way out, slamming Bret into the ringpost.

Back in the ring, Diesel hits the jack knife powerbomb, and Earl Hebner does the slowest count possible, as Shawn Michaels just.....just makes it to break the count. What? Shawn Michaels? Helping Bret? And getting reprimanded by Hebner? Wow.

Anyway, HBK works Diesel over a bit, attacking the injured leg, before being ejected by officials. Bizarrely, Hebner announces that the match has to continue. And I think that is the first mistake in the match. You see, that makes no sense at all. Diesel basically had the match won, it was a visual fall, and it got interrupted. That is a clear DQ. It should have been Bret to get the Sharpshooter on Diesel first, and then for there to be interference. Then Diesel would not have had to quit, and the restart would be more logical because the explanation could have been that Bret would not win the belt on a DQ.

I should also note that the people went crazy (most the ladies, right enough) when Michaels arrived on the scene. More irony as Lawler asks if Bret and Shawn could be in cahoots. Vince says that is ridiculous. Oh, the humanity.

Bret takes control, working the leg again, and after a brief flurry by Diesel, then gets the upper hand again. This time, Bret drags Diesel once more to the ring post, and not only slams a leg into the post, but hits Big Daddy Cool with a chair. He clearly misses, and to Vince’s credit he disagrees with Lawler’s assertion that it hit the kneecap.

Boos now ring out for the heelish Hitman, but this soon changes to cheers as Bret locks in the Sharpshooter. Predictably, Owen Hart is out to break up the hold, and rams Bret into an unprotected turnbuckle. Once again, the match is ordered to continue. See what I mean? It should have been the opposite way around, it would have made so much more sense.

Match restarts, and turns into an out and out brawl. Bret gets tangles in the ropes and Diesel is about to use a chair, but Bret squirms free. Hitman gets in the ring, stands up, then falls clutching his knee. Vince and King do a good job of speculating about how injured Bret is, and sure enough Bret is playing possum and scores a near fall with a small package. Great psychology here.

However, we get a ref bump, and both Michaels and Owen return to attack their respective bĂȘte noirs, and are joined by Bob Backlund going after Bret, as well as Jeff Jarrett and the Roadie attacking Diesel.

It degenerates into chaos from there, and the match is declared a draw. After the ring is cleared once, they get back in and go at it again, with Bob Backlund applying the chicken wing to Bret, and the other four attacking Diesel. Nash eventually gets free, and clears the ring, leading to him and Bret facing off. Bret shows even more genius when Diesel reaches for his arm to raise it a mark of respect, he sells it, because he has just been in the Chicken Wing.

Eventually, Bret accepts a handshake and a lift of the other arm. And they are friends. Bless.

After another lame Pammie/Todd effort, Stephanie Wiand interviews Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly and the 123 Kid, who apparently are the ‘Cinderella’ story. Which is ironic, when you consider that Waltman would go on to make a video with one of the Ugly Sisters.

The back story was that Diesel and Shawn Michaels were tag team champions, but after HBK had nailed Diesel a few times with accidental superkicks, the duo split, vacating the titles. A tournament was scheduled, with the Smoking Gunns pulling out due to injury. The Kid and Holly replaced them, and had got to the final.

The ensuing match is actually very good, and the 123 Kid was at his high flying best at this point, and Holly was agile too. The story of the match is power against agility, and the contest is back and forth throughout. At one point, Bam Bam hoists the Kid miles above his head, and the man who would later be X-Pac hooked a huracanrana on the way down.

Soon, they do a spot which involves the Kid trying to save Holly from a pinfall, but Tatanka moves and the Kid nails his partner. The ref gets Waltman out of the ring, but meanwhile Tatanka nails Bam Bam by accident. When Holly reaches the corner, the Kid is not there, because he is going after Tatanka.

From there, Holly gets beaten for about 5 minutes straight, which the story being the lack of experience of Sparky and the Kid as a team.

Eventually the Kid is tagged in, and performs an array of high flying moves, but eventually Bam Bam beats him down. As Bigelow ascends to the top rope for a moonsault, Tatanka runs the ropes but knocks Bigelow off. Holly throws the Native American to the outside, and eventually the Kid pins Bam Bam.

So Bob Holly is tag team champ. Think how far he has come in 12 years, when he is now.........tag team champ. Hmm. Upward mobility, huh?

As the new champions celebrate, Tatanka and DiBiase leave in disgust. This of course is setting up Wrestlemania. As Bigelow remonstrates with fans, telling them that his losing is not funny. He eventually squares up to Lawrence Taylor, the former New York Giants player, sat at ringside, which was only mentioned about 12 times by Vince and the King previously.

Bam Bam pushes LT over, and at the time it was a pretty cool moment, because no-one knew, allegedly not even some of the boys, that LT was set to work Mania. He ended up doing a pretty good job.

After we see a couple of interviews with HBK and Luger, plus some footage of last year, its time for Pamela Anderson to finally get away from Todd Pettengill and come to ringside. Fans are outstretching their arms as per usual, but some guy is swatting them away. Oh, right, that’s Pat Patterson. Quelle surprise.

Note to Lillian or whomever does this year’s Rumble announcements. Finker simply said it’s time for the Rumble, and Michaels’ music hit. We didn’t need a long winded explanation of the rules, because those that are watching either know, will work it out, or the announcers will tell them.

The Bulldog is out at two, and we’re underway very quickly. Vince tells us that this Rumble will see competitors enter at 60 second intervals, making it the fastest, most furious Royal Rumble ever. And absolutely not because the talent pool was so shallow that it couldn’t be allowed to go over an hour. Nope, no way.

Also, I should stress, that making the interval time 60 seconds was not very considerate of poor bastards like me trying to review in real time 12 years later. My keyboard now already has smoke coming off it.

Michaels and Davey Boy go at it with HBK selling like crazy for about 58 seconds, before the countdown reaches and its..............well, nobody knows. Basically, its one of the Harris brothers, in their guise at the time of Jacob and Eli Blu. The reason no one knew who it was was because they hadn’t debuted at that point.

Wow, loads have entered just while I was typing that. Duke ‘the Dumpster’ Droese is 4, Jimmy Del Ray of the Heavenly Bodies number 5, and Sionne the Headshrinker is 6. Del Ray gets tossed out, and on his way to the back passes his tag team partner, Tom Pritchard, on his way to the ring as number 7.

8 is Doink, and fortunately nothing is happening much in the ring for me to tell you about other than people entering the fray. Eli seems to spend his whole time shouldering peoples stomach.

9 is Kwang, and this is like a parade of wrestlers with loads of gimmicks, except for Michaels and Bulldog. Sionne/Barbarian, Tom Pritchard/Zip, Eli Blu/Grimm Twin/Skull/8-Ball/God knows what else and Kwang/Savio Vega.

10 is Rick Martel, to a staggeringly weak reception, but I don’t think he had been on TV for months before this, so that would explain.

11 see Owen Hart enter, and this leads to Bret attacking him before he reaches the ring, making this the first spot in the entire Rumble so far, a third of the way through, and not even in the ring.

Next is Timothy Well of Well Dunn. Now, you probably don’t remember him, so it’s puzzling why he gets a huge pop. In fact, he didn’t, it was for Owen being thrown over. Which the camera missed. So that’s two spots, but only one on TV. Good stuff.

I can’t tell you the next set of eliminations, because it is basically everyone in the ring except Bulldog and HBK. The list includes number 13, one of the Bushwhackers, who lasts about 5 seconds.

14 lasts longer, and that is Jacob Blu. He is there for about 10 seconds. Number 15 heads out, and its King Kong Bundy. A replay confirms that Bulldog was the man who tossed out Owen.

Bundy works on Bulldog, and then hits HBK with a right hand which Shawn sells like he was shot out of a cannon. Love the bumps, Shawn, but tone it down a little.

Mo of Men on a Mission lasts exactly the same amount of time as I liked listening to their raps (2 seconds) before his partner comes out to square off with Bundy. Eventually Mabel eliminates the mammoth Bundy, and 18 is the other Bushwhacker. This one is Butch, so I guess the last one was Luke.

Of course, this New Zealander last the requisite short time, and Michaels goes back to his octopus impression as Bulldog and Mabel work on him. Luger is next, and proves he is strong by eliminating Mabel straight away then proves he is an idiot by press slamming Michaels in the ring.

Moooo. Its Mantaur at 20, I make it, and aside from being a lame wrestler and a lame gimmick, what the hell is a Mantaur anyway? Isn’t a human body and a cow head a Minotaur?

Animal based monikers are about the order of the day now, as the Portuguese man o’ war is 21, and Hog Farmer Henry Godwinn is 22. Maybe everyone was so bad in order to Luger look better. It still didn’t work.

Billy Gunn is next, and his only contribution really to slide most of the way across the ring. He goes after Mantaur, and I wonder if that is an effort at continuity since he is a Cowboy. Geddit? Bart is next and does the same thing.

Vince says if Lex wins he’ll be a deserving individual. King asks why, but Vince evades the question. Funny that. Backlund is next and Bret is out again to attack an enemy. Backlund hasn’t made the ring as the next guy comes down. It’s Steven Dunn, complete with scarecrow hair. Backlund crawls in but is eliminated by Luger, before Bret fights Bob back up the aisle.

Dick Murdoch is next, to more exclamations of “who?” to the uninitiated. Sadly, Murdoch would pass away shortly after this PPV. Adam Bomb is next (28 I think) and emits a very high pitched cry on the way to ring, for no reason. Maybe that radiation affected his vocal cords as well as his eyes.

Fatu is 29, and Luger actually pulls off a pretty cool elimination of Mantaur as he bounces him up and down on the ropes before slinging him. Crush is the last man, and spends most of the time fighting his future Kronik partner, Adam Bomb.

Vince says that never again will two guys go out at the same time like they did last year. Nope, not until three years ago when Cena and Batista did it. In fact, if they hadn’t, Vince might not have charged to ringside like a lunatic and bust his knee in front of a worldwide audience, casuing him to try and look tough while sat on his ass.

The Gunns go at it and get thrown out, King asks if we saw Dunn get eliminated (I didn’t, but so long, anyway) and then Bomb is bombed. HBK eliminates Aldo, who I left out of the earlier list of gimmick changes (he was Justin Credible). Crush throws Fatu, and then Dick Murdoch throws a dropkick. He airplane spins Godwinn, and big Hank’s feet knock HBK over, similar to Funk’s spot with the ladder.
Godwinn turns the tables on Murdoch, sending him out, and we are down to Bulldog, Lex, Shawn Crush and Henry Godwinn. Anyone think Henry will do it?

Nope, as he charges Luger, who lowers the boom. Michaels and Crush double team Luger, while periodically returning to nail Bulldog. Luger turns the tables, and then shows he is an even bigger idiot than I had him pegged for, as he ascends to the second rope for the 10-punch, but Michaels hits him from behind, eliminating him.

Crush and Michaels strike a deal to team against Bulldog, but Crush soon turns on Shawn, Pressing him and is actually about to throw HBK out before Michaels rakes the eyes, and Bulldogs clotheslines Crush out.

So we are down to the two who started. Could we not have just had a match for 45 minutes between these two? After Bulldog and Shawn go through some spots they did 3 years previously, Davey Boy clotheslines HBK out, and his music plays. So Bulldog has won, right?

No so fast, pal. Shawn returns to throw Davey Boy out, and a guy in the front row wearing a sleeveless sparkly vest goes crazy. Err.......Jericho?

So, it turns out Michaels only hit the floor with one foot, and he is the real winner. The losers are the other 29 guys. And those in attendance and watching on TV. A few decent matches, but a very poor Rumble, which is basically the selling point of the Pay per View.

Well, you made it to 1995. Well done. I promise it gets better after this.