February 7, 2007
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

***Note from Justin - As a precaution, I will probably be overly optimistic and biased towards this show, as I was there live, and it was the first MAJOR show I was in attendance for, so it holds a special place in the wrestling section of my heart. I will try to be somewhat objective, but being there live has skewed my view of it, and I will whole-heartedly admit that. I will be talking more about the crowd feel and basics of the stories, while Scott talks more about the matches…also, even though it was 10 years ago, I will try to remember what was going on live in the arena, and will add those tidbits marked off by *** as we go***

Royal Rumble
January 22, 1994
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Ted DiBiase
Attendance: 14,500
Buy Rate: 0.9

***Around this time, Justin, his friend Josh, his cousin Matt, his father Tony, his sister Jenna and his Uncle Dominic were making their way to their seats and anxiously awaiting the big show. Their excitement level is already through the roof, as they had just been standing in the outer part of the arena chanting “WWF!” with the rest of the jacked-up crowd. Providence was READY for their first PPV. ***

***Josh, Matt and Justin wonder who will be the color commentator, as Bobby Heenan was gone and Jerry Lawler was on trial***

Dark Match

Brooklyn Brawler (Steve Lombardi) beat Jim Powers (Robert Mooneyham)

***Josh, Matt and Justin go nuts for the return of Ted DiBiase, and realize already that they are in for a special night***

Actual Show

1) Tatanka (Chris Chavis) pins Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow) with a cross-body block in 8:09

Fun Fact: This was originally supposed to Tatanka vs. Ludvig Borga, but Borga was out with an injured ankle, and Bigelow was announced as his replacement on WWF Mania that very morning. It fact the Coliseum Video box still had Tatanka vs. Borga on it. Borga was still mentioned on WWF TV through Wrestlemania, but due to injuries he was never seen again. There are actually rumors out there that say Undertaker was supposed to take the World Title here, lose to Borga on RAW and Borga would lose to Luger at Wrestlemania X. Not sure if those were ever verified or just internet hearsay, but still pretty interesting.

Scott: The opening match for a very hot Providence crowd pits two wrestlers who within a year will be on the same side of the tracks, and 5 months after that, one will hop over to the other side. A very entertaining match, considering it was thrown together at the last minute due to the absence of Borga. Bigelow continues to be one of the most underrated big men in wrestling history. He was also good in either a face or heel role. Here with Luna Vachon at his side he continues a solid heel run, a run that in over a year would put him in the main event of the grandest stage of them all. This is also the first time a majority of wrestlers are doing double duty, being in individual matches and the Rumble, mostly because there weren't many guys to go around. Roddy Piper was in both in 1992, but that was more for the storyline at the time of him winning the IC title and the World Title in the same night. This is a solid opener for both. Grade: 2

***Josh and Justin have mixed emotions as this match starts, as they were huge Tatanka marks, but even bigger Ludvig Borga fan. However, they quickly got over Borga’s absence and rooted enthusiastically for the Native American. ***

Justin: A decent opener that is fueled by the HOT Providence crowd (and I am NOT biased in saying that, the crowd was jacked for their first PPV event, and we knew live that we were the building block for Wrestlemania X). Considering they could have taken it easy because they were doing double duty, these two put on an impressive showing as they wrestle a pretty fast paced and stiff match. I was always liked the sequence when Tatanka started coming back and does the war dance and Bigelow crushes him with an Enzuiguri. This was a fun and solid opener that started off a very memorable show. Grade: 2.5

2) The Quebecers defeat Bret & Owen Hart to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when the match is stopped due to Bret’s knee injury at 16:48

Fun Fact: The Quebecers regained the tag team titles from 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty just a week before at a 1/17 house show at Madison Square Garden. The Quebecers had lost the titles to the upstart duo two weeks prior on the 1/10 Raw in what was considered a huge upset at the time.

Scott: This was one of the best told storylines of the 1990's, and it certainly made things easier to watch in the watered-down WWF landscape. Right from the beginning of the match, things get juicy, as Jacques starts fucking with Owen's head, telling him ditch your brother, he's a loser. The action was exceptional, with both teams getting very stiff moves in. There were a few moments when you thought Bret & Owen were going to win the titles, but then Bret injures his knee when Johnny Polo pulls down the top rope on an Irish whip and Bret crashes in to the barricade. Bret, instead of tagging out to Owen, tries to lock the Sharpshooter on Pierre, and is in too much pain. So, the referee stops the match. Owen, furious, berates Bret, and then kicks his leg out from under him. We get a five star effort of announcing by Ted DiBiase as, just like Jesse Ventura at Wrestlemania V, his rhetoric almost makes you feel bad for Owen. Then the classic "stage fright" line in the post-match interview, when Owen tells Bret "I kicked out your leg, from your leg." This was the first big showcase for Owen Hart, and other than the interview flub, he passed, which sets up the Wrestlemania battle of brother vs. brother. We won't discuss that now, as it deserves its own stage for analysis. Grade: 3

***Josh, Matt and Justin enthusiastically belt out “We’re not the Mounties,” as the trio of fans’ favorite trio makes their way to ring. As much as they all liked the Harts, they were humungous Quebecer and Johnny Polo fans***

Justin: What an awesome match and storyline. Bret sold like a fuckin’ champ throughout the whole match, pretty much to the point where you can actually understand why the ref needs to stop the match. The Quebecers played the Dick role to perfection, continually antagonizing Owen and relentlessly pounding on Bret’s knee for the whole match. I remember the shock of the crowd when Owen kicked Bret’s leg from….his….umm…leg. It was pandemonium in the Civic Center, and I remember the unpredictable feeling in the building as Bret was being wheeled out on the stretcher and he was watching Owen screaming at him on the Titantron. What an awesome moment, and one of my favorite live moments of all time. Grade: 4

***Josh, Matt and Justin keep repeating Owen’s flubbed “I kicked your leg” line as the crowd boos the SHIT out of Owen***

Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon take over for the next match

3) Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) defeats IRS (Michael Rotundo) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with a Razor’s Edge at 11:48

Fun Fact: This match was set up because IRS had stolen Razor’s gold and stored it in his briefcase.

Scott: Another great storyline that leads to a Wrestlemania match that has few equals. Shawn Michaels was suspended by Vince and stripped of the IC title in late September 1993, for alleged drug use, and pretty much being a dick. So, there was an IC title battle royal in the fine city of New Haven, CT. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the last two, so they fought in the final match with Razor winning. Shawn comes back, with his own IC belt, saying he is the true champion. In this match, the referee is knocked out, Shawn comes in, whacks Razor with his fake belt, and IRS covers him to become new IC champion. BUT, Dave Hebner comes rushing out to inform Joey Marella of the chicanery perpetrated by Shawn Michaels, and the match is restarted. Razor nails IRS with the Razor’s Edge, and gets the win. The match itself isn't spectacular, but it does set up a match for the Intercontinental title that is maybe 1/10000000 of a notch below Steamboat vs. Savage as the greatest IC title match in WWF history. But that's for another review. Grade: 2.5

***Justin looks around for Jim with his binoculars, he can’t find him, probably because he has the WORST seats in the place: directly BEHIND the Titantron. Nothing personal, but Justin is glad he had his Uncle get the tickets, and not Jim. ***

Justin: A pretty pedestrian match that is remembered more for Shawn Michaels’ interference, which carried on the feud that would eventually culminate at Wrestlemania. I believe this is IRS only singles title match on PPV in his WWF career, and he almost steals the belt, but the officials break out the occasional instant replay rule and restart the match. The crowd was kind of flat for this match, but really exploded when HBK ran out and they stayed hot for the rest of the match. We see a nice win for the Bad Guy to help build some momentum to what will end up being his career making match. Grade: 2.5

***Josh, Matt and Justin are deflated by the ending of the match, as they thought they had seen their first title change at a live event. Justin and Josh were thrilled, however, to see one of their favorites, Shawn Michaels, interject in the match. Josh and Matt would never see a live title change. Justin and Jim would witness their first live title change on December 29, 1998 when Mick Foley beat the Rock at the Worcester Centrum Centre. Justin is glad he didn’t pop his title change cherry on IRS and that he saved himself for Foley. ***

4) Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a casket match to retain WWF World Title when he and 9 other heels put Taker in the casket at 14:24

Fun Fact: Undertaker “dies” here in order to have a long (and much needed) vacation. He would return at Summerslam in August.

Scott: This is one of three world title matches Undertaker would receive at a Royal Rumble in which someone screws him. It will happen again 2 years later and 4 years later. Many people slam this match, particularly what happens afterwards, calling it overbooked and cheesy. I disagree whole-heartedly. I'll explain. After about 9 minutes of wrestling, Yokozuna calls in pretty much every heel in the locker room, and they all beat Taker down until he finally goes in the casket and loses the match. Here are the run-ins in order: Crush, Great Kabuki, Tenryu, Bam Bam Bigelow, Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, the Headshrinkers, and Diesel. Then, what many call overbooking, but I call creativity begins. The urn is opened, and smoke comes out and then as the casket is being wheeled down the aisle, green smoke starts billowing from it. Then the lights go out, and Taker speaks on the large screen, as if he's in the casket, and says the following: "Be not proud, because the spirit of the Undertaker lives within the souls of mankind, the eternal flame of life which cannot be extinguished, the origin of which cannot be explained. The answer lies in the everlasting spirit. Soon all mankind will witness the rebirth of the Undertaker. I will not rest in peace." Then, an electrical effect overtakes the screen, and Marty Jannetty, dressed as the Undertaker, is lifted from behind the screen and is gone, music playing. Now, many thought this was over the top, blown out of proportion. I disagree. Undertaker was WAY over at this point, and this was the best thing to do short of winning the title. When it comes to the Undertaker, fans always expect a cool effect with lights, smoke, sound effects, etc. There needed to be a legitimate way to get him on vacation. He had worked non-stop since November 1990, and this was deserved. In any case, it also keeps Yoko's major heel heat heading to Wrestlemania. Grade: 2

***Matt keeps distracting Justin and Josh by acting like the Undertaker and raising his arms as Taker does it to bring up the lights in the arena. Josh is pissed because he missed ‘Taker do it as he watched Matt do his version instead. Justin knew better and just ignored Matt’s antics. ***

Justin: Well Scott gave you all the details, so I don’t need to go over those again. As much as this story and happenings may have seemed goofy on PPV, it was fucking awesome live. The commotion and excitement was off the hook. It was surreal watching the green smoke pouring out of the urn as Taker was shoved in the casket and wheeled down the aisle. The crowd watched in silent awe as Taker gave his speech from inside the casket and roared with admiration as he rose above the crowd and into the heavens. Taker rose pretty much over our heads, and directly over Jim’s head so it was really an awesome sight to see. I will always have fond memories of this match, no matter what so-called internet experts say about it. This moment made me happy to be a wrestling fan…because I was entertained and wanted more…it made me feel like I had witnessed something monumental. Grade: 2

***Josh, Matt and Justin revel in the fact that they just witnessed history. Justin glances over and notices Jenna is kneeling on the floor, head on the seat and is asleep. He thinks to himself “what a waste of a ticket.” ***

5) Bret Hart and Lex Luger win the Royal Rumble (55:00)

Order of Entry and who eliminated them

***Justin announces that he predicts Scott Steiner will be Number 1.***

1) Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner): Diesel

***Justin screams about how he called Steiner being Number 1 to the annoyance of Josh and Matt***

2) Samu (Samula Anoia): Scott Steiner
3) Rick Steiner (Rob Rechsteiner): Owen Hart
4) Kwang (Juan Rivera): Diesel
5) Owen Hart: Diesel
6) Bart Gunn (Mike Barton): Diesel
7) Diesel (Kevin Nash): Shawn Michaels

***Josh and Justin cheer loudly and vociferously for their favorite singles wrestler, Diesel***

***The crowd goes apeshit when Diesel pitches Owen***

8) Bob Backlund: Diesel

***Diesel! Diesel! ***

9) Billy Gunn (Monty Sopp): Diesel

***Diesel! Diesel! ***

10) Virgil (Mike Jones): Diesel

***Diesel! Diesel! ***

11) Randy Savage (Randy Poffo): Crush
12) Jeff Jarrett: Randy Savage

***Matt cheers for his favorite singles wrestler, Jeff Jarrett***

13) Crush (Brian Adams): Lex Luger
14) Doink (Ray Liachelli): Bam Bam Bigelow
15) Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow): Lex Luger
16) Mabel (Nelson Frazier): Multiple Wrestlers
17) Thurman “Sparky” Plugg (Robert Howard): Shawn Michaels

***Justin is excited that Sparky Plugg was added at the last minute, as he was a huge fan of him from his vignettes***

18) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom): Lex Luger

***Justin and Josh lead the crowd in a standing ovation for Diesel, thus saving his WWF job and indirectly leading to the resurgence of the Wrestling World as: instead of being fired, Diesel gets a push, wins the WWF World Title, signs a lucrative deal with WCW, starts the New World Order leading WCW to huge ratings thus pushing Vince to change his product and take it in the direction of Attitude, which led directly to the huge record breaking crowds and profits of 1999 and 2000.***

19) Mo (Bobby Horne): Fatu
20) Greg Valentine (John Wisniski, Jr.): Martel
21) Tatanka (Chris Chavis): Bam Bam Bigelow
22) Kabuki (Akihisa Mera): Lex Luger
23) Lex Luger (Lawrence Pfohl): Bret
24) Tenryu (Genichiro Shimade): Bret Hart & Lex Luger
25) No One (Supposed to be Bastian Booger)

***Josh, Matt and Justin immediately try and figure out who the missing entrant was supposed be. They settle on Bret Hart, due to the knee injury, and just assume Luger is winning this thing.***

26) Rick Martel (Richard Vigneault): Tatanka
27) Bret Hart: Lex Luger

***Josh, Matt and Justin cheer like crazy for the injured Bret while trying to figure out who the hell no-showed***

28) Fatu (Solofa Fatu): Bret Hart
29) Marty Jannetty (Marty Oaks): Shawn Michaels
30) Adam Bomb (Bryan Clark): Lex Luger

***Josh, Matt and Justin come to two conclusions: Bastion Booger was the missing entrant and Virgil replaced Kamala, much to the dismay of our heroic trio. ***

Longest Time: Bam Bam Bigelow (30:12)
Shortest Time: Billy Gunn (:14)
Most eliminated: Diesel (7)

Fun Fact: Vince wasn’t sure who he wanted to go to the Wrestlemania Main Event, so he booked this double finish and figured he would judge by crowd reaction. He was banking on the crowd being behind Luger, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. See, the Providence crowd has always been loyal to three Superstars: Tim White, Randy Savage and Bret Hart. The crowd was overwhelmingly cheering for Bret and half of us were booing Luger, thus forcing Vince’s hand on who should leave WMX with the Title. Also, from other reports people sitting ringside said Luger definitely hit first. While this was a shrewd idea, he did manage to piss off the crowd with the non-finish.

Scott: After an unforgettable Rumble in 1992, and a very forgettable Rumble in 1993, this was kind of both. Many points to analyze here: First, there was a very slow start. Most Rumbles have a lot of action, surprises, and moments early. This one really didn't. Second, we have one PPV debut from this Rumble, and that's Thurman "Sparky" Plugg, a/k/a Bob Holly. Bob Howard was a welder, and did race for a short time, before being brought into Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain promotion in 1992. Long NASCAR mullet, and singlet, he is a far cry from what he is now. He makes his debut here, and the long journey that led to his title shot with Brock Lesnar 10 years later at the Rumble in 2004 starts here in Providence. Next, the continuing feud between Randy Savage and Crush hits its breaking point here. It started back before Survivor Series, and ends at Wrestlemania. Savage's WWF career winds down in 1994, and Justin and I will detail his tumultuous and unforgettable career for the Summerslam '94 review. Then there’s the dominance of Diesel. Going into this rumble, the fan reaction to Kevin Nash was zilch, none, zero. He was about to be fired, forever to go back to WCW as Oz or Vinnie Vegas. However, on this night in the home of the Friars, Diesel made his statement. The Providence crowd gives a bigger pop with each jobber he pitches out. His "boy" Shawn Michaels finally pitches him out, but the damage had been done. Diesel gets an unbelievable pop as he leaves the arena, and Vince gives him a second chance, a chance that would change the wrestling world. So, you can look at it two ways. His career was saved, but in the process, fate gave us quite possibly the worst year in wrestling in 1995. Justin tries to qualify it by saying Nash’s popularity would lead to bigger things down the road, and he’s partially right, but boy do we have to suffer before jumping that hurdle. More on that in future reviews. Here, Kevin Nash gets his renaissance. Finally, we get to the lame ending. Not knowing who should face Yokozuna at Wrestlemania, bookers decide to have both men fall out at the same time, and have the crowd decide who gets the shot. Well, there was a problem. The crowd was so disgusted over the crappy ending; they didn't give an advantage to one over the other. Now many say if you look carefully, Luger's feet hit the ground first, but of course, they'll never give you the best shot to show you. Then, Fink announces each wrestler as the winner, which gives the bookers a chance to see who gets the better pop. Many say it was inconclusive, Justin would have a better idea since he was there, but from the many times I've watched it, I think Bret got the better pop. Luger not winning the title at Summerslam perceived him as a choker, and no one wanted to see him ride the stupid bus cross-country again. So, we have the tie and the mini-tourney for Wrestlemania X. Originally, Lex was supposed to win, but we'll explain why he didn't in the next review. But for now, the Providence crowd is left with a sister-kisser for the finale, and none too pleased.

***Josh, Matt and Justin cheer wildly for Bret and pray that the Fink will announce him as the winner. ***

***The crowd boos Jack Tunney as he makes his way to the ring. ***

Justin: I love this Rumble. I know I am being biased, but to me it was exciting and you weren’t sure who was going to win the thing. They had a great segment with Diesel destroying everything in his path, and that one booking decision saved the man’s career. Also, having Bret come out valiantly after his knee injury was awesome as well, as the crowd was behind him big time. Vince must have known that, because they showed Kabuki and Tenryu attacking Luger backstage before he came out, so maybe he figured the crowd would get behind both men since they had been inured earlier in the night. If the match had a definitive ending, it would have been that much better, but as is, it is still one of my favorites.

***Josh, Matt and Justin try and figure out just what the Fuck happened in that ring tonight as they leave the arena. The show even has a great ending, as they play the original Wrestlemania theme to close the show. ***

Final Analysis

Scott: In my opinion, this Royal Rumble is a complete 180 degree turn from the '92 Rumble. The Rumble is the showcase, and in '92 that had the greatest rumble in history, with a very weak undercard, mostly because all the studs were in the rumble. Here, with wrestlers performing double duty, the undercard was pretty solid, and the Rumble, except for Diesel's performance and the tie, was really just average. One good thing about this show was that you're finally seeing some new talent pushed to the forefront. The "Hogan Hangover" was finally wearing off, and Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels, and others finally had the spotlight to themselves, which made for one of the best PPV shows ever coming up, and no one saw it coming. Final Grade: B-

Justin: Great show. It was awesome live, and I still enjoy watching it on tape. It had some solid matches, a good Rumble and some memorable moments. It also jumpstarted one of the greatest feuds ever: Bret vs. Owen. It was nice to see Vince pushing some new guys and was a refreshing show in general, and one of my fondest memories as a wrestling fan. I won’t say too much else, except this was a great jumpstart to the Road to Wrestlemania X. Final Grade: A-

MVP: Owen Hart/Diesel
Runner-up: The Providence crowd
Non-MVP: Lex Luger (for the crowd turning on him)
Runner-up: Ludvig Borga (for vanishing into thin air)

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