Royal Rumble 92
January 18, 2002
Graham Cawthon

Imagine one of wrestling’s biggest names…now imagine another…and another…and another…and another. As a matter of fact, imagine thirty of them and throw them all together into one single match. Vince McMahon did and thus the Royal Rumble was born.

The Royal Rumble, one of the WWF’s most ingenious and anticipated annual events, is the one time of the year when friends battle friends, foes battle foes, and almost every member of the roster is involved at some point in the hour-long battle. The rules are simple – two men begin the match and every two minutes thereafter another man comes to the ring depending on what number he drew. So, in theory, tag team partners could be drawn as #1 and #2 and be forced to battle (it’s happened; Demolition in 1989). Or it could be that hated rivals begin the match by pummeling each other with a blind rage (Stone Cold Steve Austin & Vince McMahon; 1999). The ultimate goal is to stay in the ring and avoid elimination, which comes by being tossed over the top rope to the floor until all 30 men have entered the match. The last man standing once all 30 men have entered is the winner.

In the first few years of the Rumble’s existence there was no prize for the winner other than bragging rights. However, over the past 10 years, the Rumble has been known for catapulting the winner into an automatic WWF World Heavyweight Title match at that year’s WrestleMania. Such stars as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Yokozuna have all made the most of their Rumble wins and went on to capture the richest prize in wrestling thanks to that victory – solidifying their legendary status within the WWF.

The 1992 Royal Rumble had a different prize on the line, one even more coveted than a title shot. For the winner of the ’92 Rumble would become the new WWF World Champion.

In the later part of 1991, Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker found themselves in a vicious battle over the title. The undefeated Undertaker seemed to be too much for the Hulkster to deal with and, surprisingly, defeated Hogan for the title on Thanksgiving Eve thanks to help from Ric Flair. Six days later, Hogan regained the title in a similar controversial fashion. Following these two battles, WWF President Jack Tunney declared the title vacant and would award it to the winner of the Royal Rumble, which was still seven weeks away.

If the payoff itself didn’t increase interest in the Rumble, then the talent included was sure to. These were 30 of wrestling’s biggest stars at the time. Much like the upcoming 2002 edition (which will be held this Sunday), it features all the biggest names of the time as well as several major stars from yesteryear. Save a handful, each and every single one of these men were established, even legendary, stars – while several others would soon grow to be such.

What would happen if Hulk Hogan finally got his hands on the treacherous Ric Flair? Or ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts found themselves in the ring together? What about the ‘dark horse’ of the match – Shawn Michaels? Could he smash his former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, through a plate glass window and in a week turn around to win the world title in his first try? Would Roddy Piper have what it takes to capture both singles titles in a single night? Would the hugely popular Sid Justice be able to come back from an injury that put him on the shelf for months and walk away champion? All those questions would be answered in the most grueling hour in wrestling.

The date: Sunday, January 19, 1992
The setting: Albany, NY; Knickerbocker Arena (now Pepsi Arena)
The commentary team: Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan

Before the first match even gets in the ring, we are informed that there is a new WWF Intercontinental Champion. The Mountie, who was to challenge Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart for the title on this night, defeated Hart two nights prior at an untelevised event in Springfield, MA. Hart had been suffering from a high fever and simply did not have the strength to sustain a lengthy title defense. The new champion would not have an opportunity to sit back and enjoy his victory as he would put his newly won title on the line later in the night against the new #1 contender – ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.

The New Foundation (Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) vs. The Orient Express (w/ Mr. Fuji)

This was a battle between two of the WWF’s most talented tag teams yet a battle that really had no sense behind it. The New Foundation was actually formed following a beating Jim Neidhart sustained at the hands of the Beverly Brothers in November ’91 so I would think a match between those two teams would make more sense. However, this match I’m sure is the more exciting of the two. The Orient Express were at the lowest end of the tag team totem pole at this point and were on their way out of the company. Despite this, they were easily one of the most talented. I would compare them to Kai En Tai of today’s WWF – two smaller size Japanese wrestlers that usually get squashed by their much larger opponents.

The undefeated New Foundation was a classic combination of strength and speed – Owen as a young high flyer that could do things off the top rope that no one else in the WWF could, and Neidhart who was simply a tank inside the ring – rolling over the competition. It’s that combined effort that helps the New Foundation dominate the first several minutes of the match – keeping their opponents offguard with Owen’s inziguri kicks and leaps off the top along with Niedhart’s immense power. Mr. Fuji eventually involves himself in the match, finally opening the door for his men to take the advantage.

Owen is kept in the ring for much of the battle, with the Orient Express making quick tags and double-teaming him behind the referee’s back. Owen’s shoulder becomes a focus point after he’s sent crashing through Mr. Fuji’s cane. ‘The Rocket’ battles back by hitting a double dropkick and making the long anticipated tag to his partner. Neidhart immediately cleans house, knocking his opponents for a loop, and the New Foundation soon picks up a win with the ‘Rocket Launcher’ splash off the top.

Bottom Line: An overlooked clinic in tag team wrestling
Winners at 17:17: The New Foundation

Following this match, we are shown footage from the show in Springfield, MA in which the Mountie won the WWF Intercontinental Title. Following the title change, the new champion attacked the weakened Hart with the title belt until Roddy Piper made the save for his friend. While Piper checks on the injured Hart, the Mountie climbs back into the ring and attacks Piper – until ‘the Rowdy One’ sends the new champion right out of the ring.

WWF Intercontinental Championship – ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs. The Mountie © (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Piper had to be considered the major favorite in this match – after all, this was a guy that main evented the first WrestleMania opposite Hulk Hogan. The biggest win of the Mountie’s career had come just two days earlier and even that would have to be considered a major upset. There was little doubt that Piper could win the title, but could he on this night or would Jimmy Hart get his man disqualified just so he can hang on to the title?

The match is a brawl from the start, with Piper controlling most of it. The Mountie collides with his manager on the ring apron and walks right into a sleeper from Piper. A few seconds later, we have a new champion. Roddy Piper had captured his first ever WWF title and would have the opportunity to win another one a few hours later.

Bottom Line: One title down, one more to go. Would Piper be as successful later in the night during the Royal Rumble match?
Winner at 5:20 and new champion: Roddy Piper

The Bushwhackers (w/ Jamison) vs. The Beverly Brothers (w/ The Genius)

The Bushwhackers had a pretty successful debut year in the WWF in 1989 but had done little that was noteworthy following that year. This bout would pit them against a fairly new team to the WWF -–Beau & Blake Beverly. While the Bushwhackers were the crowd favorites, it was clear that the Beverlys were the much more intelligent team that would stoop to any depths to win. Jamison, who was both a fan and a regular on WWF Prime-Time Wrestling, would be in the Bushwhackers’ corner to fend off any interference from the Genius (although we’re talking about a guy who probably wore Velcro shoes because he never learned to tie his laces).

In a fairly predictable turn of events, the Beverlys control most of the match by constantly double-teaming their opponents, cutting off the ring, and using illegal tactics when they can get away with it. The Bushwhackers counter by biting, stomping, punching, and using almost every Three Stooges move known to man. Eventually, a double axe handle from Beau puts Luke away for the win.

After the match, the Bushwhackers fight off their opponents and allow Jamison a free punch on the Genius (he ends up kicking the man’s shin instead).

Bottom Line: A stepping stone for the Beverlys
Winners at 14:56: The Beverly Brothers

WWF Tag Team Championship – The Natural Disasters (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Legion of Doom ©

This battle had been brewing since the very day the LOD won the titles during August 1991’s Summer Slam. On that day, the LOD saved an injured Andre the Giant from a further beating from Earthquake & Typhoon. That single act put the wheels in motion for a heated rivalry over the championship belts. The champions had survived to this point but neither team had scored any convincing victories in the battle, moral or otherwise.

It’s rare that a team like the Legion of Doom would be pitted against a larger team but that’s exactly what happens in this bout. Both Earthquake and Typhoon weighed nearly as much as the combined weight of the LOD. It’s that size advantage, along with the managerial help from Jimmy Hart, that was the biggest advantage for the challengers.

The challengers dominate much of the battle with their immense size and strength but the LOD eventually regains control following a tag. The battle soon goes to the floor where all four men begin brawling at ringside. Hawk pummels Typhoon before pushing him into the ring, allowing the Disasters to win the match on a count-out.

This was another indecisive finish of a feud that never really had a conclusive ending. The LOD retained the titles but the Natural Disasters proved why they were the #1 contenders.

Bottom Line: The end result is basically a draw for both teams
Winners via count-out at 9:22: The Natural Disasters

Prior to the main event, comments are made by several of the Royal Rumble participants – all having their minds set on walking out of the arena with the heavyweight title around their waist. From Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Davey Boy Smith, Sid Justice, Jake Roberts, and The Undertaker – each man voices his opinion on how the match is going to go.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match – winner becomes the WWF World Heavyweight Champion

WWF President Jack Tunney reads a statement before the match, wishing all the participants good luck in the match. He’s overwhelmingly booed, basically because he stripped Hogan of the title several weeks prior.

“He’s been the best president since Noreaga.” – Bobby Heenan

Order of entry:
1) ‘British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith (former WWF tag team champ; future WWF IC, tag, hardcore, and European champ)
2) ‘Million $ Man’ Ted Dibiase (future WWF tag team champ)
3) ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair (had held or would hold every important title in the business including an unprecedented 16 reigns as world champion)
4) Nasty Boy – Jerry Saggs (former WWF tag champ; future WCW tag champ)
5) Haku (former WWF tag champ, future WCW hardcore champ)
6) Shawn Michaels (future WWF world, IC, Euro, and tag champ)
7) ‘El Matador’ Tito Santana (former WWF IC and tag champ)
8) The Barbarian
9) ‘Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich (former NWA world champ and WWF IC champ)
10) Repo Man (former WWF tag champ as part of Demolition)
11) Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine (former NWA U.S. champ, WWF IC and tag champ, holds the second-longest Rumble length of lasting 44 minutes in the 1991 Rumble)
12) Nikolai Volkoff (former WWF tag champ)
13) Big Bossman (future WWF tag and hardcore champ)
14) Hercules
15) ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (current WWF IC champ)
16) Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts
17) ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan (future WCW U.S. and TV champ, winner of 1988 Rumble)
18) IRS (former NWA TV and tag champ, former and future WWF tag champ)
19) Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka (former NWA tag champ)
20) The Undertaker (former and future WWF world champ, future WCW and WWF tag champ, future WWF hardcore champ)
21) ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (former WWF IC and world champ, future WWF and WCW world champ)
22) The Bezerker
23) Virgil
24) Col. Mustafa (former WWF world champ as the Iron Sheik)
25) Rick ‘the Model’ Martel (former AWA world champ, former WWF tag champ, future WCW TV champ, held the record of lasting 55 minutes in the 1991 Rumble)
26) Hulk Hogan (former multi-time WWF world champ, future multi-time WCW world champ, winner of 1990 and 1991 Rumble)
27) Skinner
28) Sgt. Slaughter (former WWF world champ)
29) Sid Justice (future WWF world champ, WCW world champ, WCW U.S. champ)
30) The Warlord

Notable moments:
Bulldog makes short work of a man that could have gone a long way in the match, Dibiase … Shawn Michaels, arguably the Wrestler of the 90s, and Ric Flair, the Wrestler of the 80s, have a few interesting confrontations … Von Erich and Flair, who burned down Texas Stadium in ’84, have a good confrontation … Valentine locks Flair in the figure-4 leglock (a submission hold made famous by both men) … Flair is actually the only man in the ring for several moments until Roddy Piper makes his appearance (think Austin and Bret Hart at the ’97 Rumble) … Savage immediately targets Jake Roberts, eliminates him, and continues to attack him on the floor until the Undertaker comes to Roberts’ aid … Hogan eliminates the Undertaker and the Bezerker within the first minute he’s in the ring … the final three men in the ring are Justice, Flair, and Hogan … as Hogan pummels Flair, Justice comes from behind to dump the Hulkster to the floor … Hogan grabs Justice from the floor and pulls, with Flair coming up behind to dump Justice to the floor to win the match and championship

Flair, who had lasted over an hour in the match, had done the impossible. He not only broke all records pertaining to length spent inside the ring, he not only took the best the top talent had to offer, but he won the match and with it the WWF World Heavyweight Title. In a post-match confrontation, Hogan and Justice square off and are held back by officials – foreshadowing a WrestleMania meeting between the two months down the line.

Following the match, WWF President Jack Tunney awards Flair the title backstage. The new champion cuts one of the greatest promos of his life – and that’s definitely saying something. The man that carried the NWA / WCW on his back for over a decade says that the WWF World Title is the only title that matters…it’s the title that means the most…it’s the title that truly makes you THE man in the industry. And having him hold the title is a true wake up call to all the so-called ‘superstars’ of the WWF.

Bottom Line: The 60-minute man proves his worth
Winner and new champion at 1:01:58: Ric Flair

The 1992 Royal Rumble is truly memorable for Ric Flair’s tremendous performance. For a man that was weeks away from turning 43 to go into the ring and face the WWF’s biggest stars, last over an hour, have the snot beat out of him, yet dominate and win the match is amazing and a great testament to how rare a wrestler like Flair is. This was a man who had dominated the 1980s as the NWA / WCW World Champion. However, many felt as though his best days were long behind him after he jumped ship to the WWF in 1991. In one hour he quieted all critics and solidified his status as a superstar among superstars.

Perhaps more important than Flair’s performance is the great flow the Rumble match had. It’s rare for a match like this to be regarded as one of the year’s best – compared with all the other big confrontations later in the year – yet this match was voted as one of the top 4 matches of the year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

A lot of people regard Shawn Michaels’ 1995 performance as the best Rumble effort of all time, being that he entered at #1 and won the match. I completely disagree with that assessment for several reasons – 1) the match was much shorter and was won in under 40 minutes and 2) the talent included in the ’95 edition paled in comparison to this show. I’d much rather watch Roddy Piper and Jake Roberts fight in the ring than see Doink the Clown get it on with Mantaur.

If you think this year’s Rumble will be the most star studded with such names as The Undertaker, Rob Van Dam, Mr. Perfect, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Kane, and The Big Show – I would definitely recommend that you check this one out. Almost 10 years to the day separates the two shows but the two events are equally packed with huge name stars too many to mention.

Up until the past year or so, I would regard this Rumble as the greatest of all time. It’s hard to label a show as such in times where the WWF is constantly raising the bar of sports entertainment, but this is definitely a must see and one of the best ever Rumbles that the wrestling organization has produced.

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