July 24, 2006
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Royal Rumble
January 19, 1991
Miami Arena
Miami, Florida
Attendance: 16,000
Buy Rate: 2.4
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper

Dark Match

1) Jerry Sags (Jerry Sagonovich) beat Sam Houston (Michael Smith) in 5:25

Actual Show

1) The Rockers defeat the Orient Express when Marty Jannetty (Marty Oaks) pins Pat Tanaka with a sunset flip at 19:14

Fun Fact: This Orient Express has changed slightly from the one we last saw at Survivor Series. Sato has exited stage left, and Kato enters. The masked man isn’t really named Kato, in fact he’s not even Asian. It’s Paul Diamond, who used to be Pat Tanaka’s tag team partner in AWA. Formerly named Badd Company, they were a formidable team in AWA, winning the tag team titles on multiple occasions, once defeating the Midnight Rockers for the straps. Kato appeared on various house shows throughout the summer, but first appeared alongside Tanaka on the 12/22 Superstars.

Scott: The first PPV match of the year is a re-match from last year’s Wrestlemania, but you can tell immediately the difference from the plodding, choppy first match at Skydome, and this one. The crowd from South Beach is red-hot, and from that both teams are really pushing it to the limit. Shawn Michaels had been hobbling around for the second half of 1990 with a bum knee, and Shane Douglas had been subbing for him on the house show circuit. Shawn’s back and healthy, and it definitely shows here. The Rockers were going through the motions in 1990, including a phantom title win over the Hart Foundation that was reversed. The Orient Express were a solid mid-card heel team but with the change of personnel they seem to also re-energize. This match has non-stop action, and superb double team counter-maneuvers by both teams. I had mentioned in the Summerslam 90 review that Roddy Piper was definitely out of his element as a color commentator. Over time he honed his talent, and after an average Survivor Series he’s really bringing the energy of the event. The reversal/sunset flip that ends this is one double team tactic I hadn’t seen before or since, and it needs to be seen to be believed. This is a great opener and one of the best PPV openers in WWF history. It starts a great year for the Rockers. Grade: 4

Justin: The new PPV year opens with a tremendously hot tag team match that features some old friends. As 1990 came to and end, so did Sato’s run with the Orient Express. To replace him, Vince imported Tanaka’s old teammate from the AWA, Paul Diamond and threw him under a mask as Kato. As soon as they reunited the former Badd Company, they decided to throw them in there with their old nemeses, the Rockers and let them go at it. At go at it they do, as the four men put on an absolute tag team clinic that gets the crowd rocking right off the bat. The match keeps a great, fast pace for the entire 20 minutes and, as Scott said, the ending is amazing and just must be seen to be believed. After a lethargic and disappointing year, the Rockers seem to have gotten their legs back under them and are back to putting on beautiful double teams and smooth in ring action. 1991 will be a weird year for the Rockers, and as we go along we will chronicle their great highs and eventual demise. This match is just a hidden gem on an oft forgotten show and is one well worth tracking down. Grade: 4

** Randy Savage announces that if Sergeant Slaughter wins the WWF World Title against The Ultimate Warrior, Slaughter guaranteed Savage a title shot. Sensational Sherri brings Ultimate Warrior out onto the interview area and attempts to “seduce” him into offering Savage a title shot. He refuses, and Savage flips out. Remember that. **

2) The Big Boss Man (Ray Traylor) defeats the Barbarian (Sionne Vailahi) with a reversal from a clothesline off the top rope at 10:04

Scott: The run of Heenan Family members continues as the most surprising of Heenan’s charges takes a shot at the Cobb County corrections officer. I say surprising because since he became a solo competitor at Wrestlemania, Barbarian has been an exceptional in-ring talent. He’s no Mr. Perfect or Bret Hart, but for a lumbering big man mired in tag team purgatory the past couple of years he’s really been bringing it in the ring. This match was good for Boss Man as well. He’s on the best run of his career, workrate-wise and popularity-wise. Put these two in the ring at this time, and it’s surprisingly better than what you would have expected. You could tell this was the end of the line for Bobby Heenan as a manager. His Family was getting systematically beaten down by the Boss Man, and the end was near. A match that was the perfect length and a great ending meant that only one obstacle remained before the Family was done. The crown jewel of Bobby Heenan’s charges: Mr. Perfect. Grade: 3

Justin: What started as a feud between Big Boss Man and Rick Rude has been switched to a feud between the Big Boss Man and Bobby Heenan. Boss Man proclaimed that he wanted to take the main prize of the Heenan Family away: Mr. Perfect’s Intercontinental Championship. Heenan told Boss Man he would have to get through the rest of the Family before facing Perfect. Boss Man eliminated Haku at the Survivor Series and is on to the next step here: the Barbarian. After an impressive showing at our last outing, Barbarian brings the goods once again, as he and Boss Man put on an energetic and fun 10 minute brawl. After a weird second half on 1990, the struggling mid-card is now being rebuilt with new feuds and some new characters, many of whom we will see later. The Boss Man would now become one of the most over and consistently entertaining of those mid-carders over the next couple of years. Barbarian’s roll will continue, but for now, this is another underrated classic which helps this show chug along. Grade: 3

3) Sergeant Slaughter defeats the Ultimate Warrior to win WWF World Title with an elbow drop after Randy Savage hits Warrior with the scepter at 12:46

Fun Fact: Over the past couple months, Sgt. Slaughter really amped up his Iraqi sympathizing ways, drawing strong heel heat week by week. After debuting his new manager, General Adnan late in 1990, Sarge began receiving special gifts from Iraqi kingpin Saddam Hussein. The most important gift he received came on the 12/29 Superstars: a pair of point-tipped wrestling boots, as they helped draw some heat during matches, as they would always play up the boots being loaded. The World Title match against the Warrior was officially announced on the 12/15 Superstars. Scott: In one of the most shocking title changes in history to this point, the Iraqi sympathizer and US traitor wins the coveted gold after Warrior was shellacked with the Macho King’s scepter. Warrior came in like gangbusters and beat the snot out of Slaughter the first few minutes, and it looked like this one was over, until Sherri came down to ringside. Warrior chased her down the aisle, and then is ambushed out of nowhere by Savage. He gets a few shots in, and then beats him with a light stand. Warrior crawls into the ring and Slaughter gains the advantage, but Warrior makes a comeback and is on the verge of retaining the title, when Sherri and Savage come out again, and interfere further, costing Warrior the title. This was a big shock, as Slaughter wasn’t seen as more than a mid-card heel. Now he’s public enemy #1, and Warrior’s title reign is over. No credible heels, no singles feuds, no real charisma. Those were all the problems that derailed what could have been a real lucrative title reign. Instead the title is moved to someone you’d normally least expect to be WWF Champion, and the question remains. What could have been? No matter, for the moment Warrior has another objective: take out the Macho King. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Well, Warrior’s reign with the title ends with a thud as Savage smacks him with the scepter and Sarge pins him after dropping an elbow. It is kind of sad to see how poorly Warrior’s reign went considering how much promise it showed at Wrestlemania, but we have already analyzed that situation at our last outing. Slaughter got really lucky here, as he was right place, right time. Not much wrestling wise here, as you would expect, but it is a pretty big title change, and the match continues the Savage-Warrior feud that had started late last year. Warrior brings the energy here, and a solid defense at this show heading into the big show could have saved his title reign, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The weird part about this feud was that it really wasn’t built up much. Slaughter was named number 1 contender by Jack Tunney, there was some interview buildup, but no real heat from Sarge on Warrior, as this was just an odd ending to an odd title reign. Sad ending aside, this match had great crowd heat, solid action, a shocking finish, good story progression and some KILLER commentary by Monsoon and Piper who sell the Title change like the devil himself had just won the belt. It is too bad Slaughter’s run was rooted in such cheap heat, because he was an effective heel and could have had a great reign, but the writing was on the wall the second he won the belt. Also, once the smoke finally clears, one major plot point arises from all this: the newly red-hot feud between the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage. Grade: 2.5

*** In a match cut from the Coliseum Video version, the Mountie defeated Koko B. Ware in 9:12. ***

4) Ted DiBiase & Virgil (Mike Jones) defeat Dusty Rhodes (Virgil Runnels) & Dustin Rhodes (Dustin Runnels) when DiBiase pins Dusty with a roll-up at 9:57

Fun Fact: This is Dusty Rhodes’ final WWF PPV appearance. His final record is 3-5. He was 0-2 at the Royal Rumble, 1-1 at Wrestlemania, 1-1 at Summerslam and 1-1 at Survivor Series.

Fun Fact II: Over the winter, we began seeing the first hints of possible dissention between Virgil and Ted DiBiase. On the 12/8 Superstars, DiBiase, Virgil and Dustin Rhodes appeared on the Brother Love Show. DiBiase tried to pay off Dustin, claiming he could be bought, just like Virgil. DiBiase then began insulting Virgil, and forced his bodyguard to clean his and Brother Love’s shoes, which he did. Dustin turned down the money and stormed off, but the seeds for a new storyline were now laid. Over the next few weeks, new vignettes began airing of DiBiase forcing Virgil into doing humiliating things, such as cleaning his toes, wiping cow manure off his boots and other demeaning actions. As the weeks passed, Virgil became slightly defiant each time, but DiBiase would mention a secret to Virgil, and Virgil would cave in. As the weeks passed, color commentator Roddy Piper began defending Virgil and started begging him to quit and leave DiBiase. A week or so before the Rumble, Piper admitted he took Virgil out to dinner and tried to get him to quit, but it seemingly did not work, as this match was signed and Virgil stood by his boss.

Scott: This is a case where one storyline ends, and another begins. First, the battle between Ted DiBiase and Dusty Rhodes that started at Summerslam ends here. Based on what we’ve seen of Rhodes since he lost that match to Randy Savage, it’s no surprise. This would be Dusty Rhodes’ last PPV appearance in the WWF to date. Within a month he’s back in WCW. This was a tale of two runs. From mid-1989 until Wrestlemania VI, he was one of the top mid-card faces in the promotion. From last April until now, he’s become a joke. There must have been rumblings that Rhodes was leaving, because Vince totally changed the tone of Rhodes on TV. As for his son, Dustin makes his big time debut here, and there wasn’t much to say. He was OK; he held his own and was actually in the ring more than his dad. The other storyline is just getting started. Ted DiBiase and Virgil have been together since December 1987. Finally, noise was being made that Virgil should tell DiBiase off and break out on his own. DiBiase is berating Virgil throughout the match, and then at one point after Virgil accidentally hits DiBiase with a move; DiBiase lays into Virgil with some punches and tosses him out of the ring. After DiBiase pins Dusty to win the match, he orders Virgil to put the Million Dollar Belt around his waist. Reminding him of his family and his mother, DiBiase turns around; Virgil looks at the belt, and wallops DiBiase with it. The crowd, Roddy Piper, everyone goes insane. Virgil drops the belt on him and walks out a proud man. This was a nice fresh feud that had been building for a while. It may turn into one of the year’s best feuds. Grade: 2

Justin: It is the end of the Rhodes era for sure. It is almost like they are a complete afterthought in this match, as the DiBiase/Virgil eruption had been brewing for a few weeks, and that was the real story here. It seems like DiBiase just has to get Rhodes out of the way during the match so he can get to the real story. This is notable for Dustin’s first PPV match, but his run ends here, and he would pop up with his daddy in WCW by mid-1991. You can split Dusty’s WWF run right down the middle. From his debut in August 1989 until around June 1990 he got a solid push and won every PPV match he was in (except the Royal Rumble), but from June 1990 until January 1991, he was completely buried and made to look like a fool. While I was researching the DiBiase/Virgil issue, I noticed that Dusty went on a run of house shows where he jobbed to Virgil in under a minute in every match! That is insane, and is a complete burial. Now, let’s get to the real meat of this match. The Virgil/DiBiase split was a long time coming, and the fans pop huge when Virgil finally whacks Ted with the belt. Piper’s reaction is awesome and really adds to the angle. Piper was great here and REALLY contributes to this feud through his commentary. He really was Jesse-esque during those matches. The DiBiase/Virgil feud will rock on through 1991 and will provide some great moments and matches. As for the Rhodes’, it would be 14 years before Dusty would return to Titan, but we will see Dustin just a little bit sooner. Grade: 2

5) Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) wins the Royal Rumble

Order of entrance, followed by who eliminated them:

1) Bret Hart: Undertaker
2) Dino Bravo (Adolfo Bresciano): Greg Valentine
3) Greg Valentine (John Wisniski, Jr.): Hulk Hogan
4) Paul Roma (Paul Centopani): Jake Roberts
5) Texas Tornado (Kerry Adkisson): Undertaker
6) Rick Martel (Richard Vigneault): British Bulldog
7) Saba Simba (Anthony White): Rick Martel
8) Bushwhacker Butch (Robert Miller): Undertaker
9) Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith, Jr.): Rick Martel
10) Hercules (Ray Fernandez): Brian Knobbs
11) Tito Santana (Merced Solis): Earthquake
12) Undertaker (Mark Calloway): Hawk/Animal
13) Jimmy Snuka (James Reiher): Hawk
14) British Bulldog (David Smith): Earthquake/Knobbs
15) Smash (Barry Darsow): Hulk Hogan
16) Hawk (Michael Hegstrand): Rick Martel
17) Shane Douglas (Troy Martin): Brian Knobbs
18) No Entrant (Was supposed to be Randy Savage)
19) Animal (Joe Laurinatis): Earthquake
20) Crush (Brian Adams): Hulk Hogan
21) Jim Duggan: Mr. Perfect
22) Earthquake (John Tenta): Hulk Hogan
23) Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig): British Bulldog
24) Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea): Winner
25) Haku (Uliuli Fifita): British Bulldog
26) Jim Neidhart: Rick Martel
27) Bushwhacker Luke (Luke Williams): Earthquake
28) Brian Knobbs (Brian Yandrisovitz): Hulk Hogan
29) Warlord (Terry Szopinski): Hulk Hogan
30) Tugboat (Fred Ottman): Hulk Hogan

Longest Time: Rick Martel (52:17)
Shortest Time: Bushwhacker Luke (:04)
Most Eliminated: Hulk Hogan (7)

Fun Fact: Some PPV debuts and returns of note in this Rumble. Saba Simba is obviously Tony Atlas re-packaged. This is Atlas’ first PPV appearance since the battle royal at Wrestlemania II. This is also the PPV return of the British Bulldog, who was wrestling in England and Canada with his partner the Dynamite Kid before breaking out on his own and returning to the WWF. If you read the Dynamite Kid’s book, this move to a solo wrestler rankled Kid and ended their friendship. One man making his PPV debut is Shane Douglas. From Pittsburgh, a student of Domenic DeNucci, Douglas had been teaming with Marty Jannetty as the “New Rockers” while Shawn Michaels was rehabbing a knee injury in the fall of 1990. The other debut is Brian Knobbs, one half of the new tag team known as the Nasty Boys with Jerry Sags, who jumped ship from WCW to Stamford along with the Legion of Doom.

Scott: After the unthinkable title change with Slaughter and Warrior, you probably would assume that the show should go out on a high note. The crowd really helps this rumble along, as they’ve been hot all night. Even the Warrior loss doesn’t damper their spirits. Now in the main event, we have the aura of who’s going to win this thing. The flow of this Rumble is slow at times, meaning there’s times were there is 11 or 12 guys in the ring, and very difficult to keep track of the actions or eliminations. There were some gutsy performances, in particular Rick Martel, who was in there for the longest, with plenty of close eliminations. The comedy highlight was Bushwhacker Luke, who trots into the ring, gets tossed out the other side by Earthquake, and trots right out. However, with patriotism at an all-time high, the choice was easy. Once Hulk Hogan came down the aisle we all knew he was set to win this thing. Sure enough, he tosses Earthquake (finishing off that feud in the process) and wins the big one, waving Old Glory and whipping the Miami fans into a frenzy. I know we’ve bashed Hogan now and again over the past couple of years, but here this was the only thing to do. From here it was definitely clear that Hogan was setting his sights on one man: the Sarge and the WWF Title.

Justin: Well, 12 long months have passed, but the more things changed, the more the stayed the same. Hulk Hogan wins his second straight Rumble, and is once again the King of the Face Mountain. With the Gulf War raging on, Vince was ready to capitalize on the patriotism that was running throughout the country. I can’t argue with Hogan winning here, as there was really no other good choice to walk out on top. Now, it is also a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they had plenty of time to build up someone who could have feasibly won this thing, but instead they went back to the well and had Hogan reclaim his spot. One unexpected result here is that Vince held off on Warrior-Hogan II and instead went back to his tried and true heel/face Main Event for Wrestlemania. Maybe they thought Warrior would clearly be booed this time around, so it wasn’t worth the risk? Not sure, but I guess it all worked out in the end. Something I liked about this Rumble was how much time many of the mid-card guys got in the ring. Hercules, Martel, Smash, Santana, Valentine and Douglas all got nice runs in the match and it made for an exciting Rumble having so many guys make long runs in it. Now, one negative that once again rears its head is that the Rumble match sorely needed a prize. In hindsight, it was obvious that Hogan would be facing Slaughter, but heading into the show it wasn’t, and the Rumble match still just had pride on the line. Vince would tweak things in a big way in time for our next Rumble, and that was a good thing, as the concept was getting a tad stale with nothing on the line. Anyway, the Rumble is pretty damn solid and is a fun hour to watch if you have time to kill and want to be entertained.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: After a sluggish end to 1990, this show seems fresh and exciting. The Miami crowd is hot right from the start, and that great opener helped. The flow of the show was crisp, and the energy really never wavered. The matches weren’t five stars, but they told a story and served their purpose. The title change was a big shock, and many thought it made no sense. Obviously over the long haul it did, whether it was classless or not. It was nice to see Randy Savage back in a big role after his character was delusional in 1990. As for the Ultimate Warrior, his fall starts here losing the title, and not get another title shot for a while. The road to Wrestlemania begins, the smell of patriotism is in the air, and the staleness of the product is gone also. This show was a good start to the year, even if the title is in the hands of a turncoat heel. Final Grade: B

Justin: A pretty solid show that features two excellent matches, a title change, solid storyline advancement and a really fun Rumble. You would think I would complain about Hogan winning again, but really, it was the only ending they could do. After they already had Slaughter screw Warrior out of the title, they needed to send the crowd home happy. Plus, there were no other MAJOR faces in the Rumble, so it was Hogan’s to win, which is fine with me. The only other option would be to push a new, fresh guy (Bulldog, Bret) to a huge Rumble win, but they have never really pulled the trigger on something like that, and you can’t blame them for not trying it at this point in time. The Title change was HUGE at the time, and was really quite a big upset when you think back. Sarge’s title reign starts off with him being a surprising champ, but his reign will take shape and he will actually have an entertaining Title run. There was really nothing bad about this show, and it has some pretty important moments, historically speaking, but it is often overlooked. The Royal Rumble kicks off what will be a great PPV year and gets 1991 off on the right foot. Grade: B

MVP: Rockers/Orient Express
Runner Up: Sgt. Slaughter
Non MVP: Ultimate Warrior
Runner Up: The Rhodes Family

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