April 25, 2007
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Royal Rumble
January 22, 1995
Sun Dome
Tampa, Florida
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Attendance: 10,000
Buy Rate: 1.0
Celebrity: Pamela Anderson

Dark Match

1) Buck Quartermaine defeated the Brooklyn Brawler (Steve Lombardi)

Actual Show

1) Jeff Jarrett defeats Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) to win WWF Intercontinental Title with a small package at 20:55

Fun Fact: The Roadie is Brian Armstrong, youngest son of “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, and is a Desert Storm veteran. His brother Brad Armstrong is also a wrestler. He debuted in 1993 as “the Dark Secret”, but also wrestled in Smoky Mountain, USWA, and WCW under his real name. He debuted as “the Roadie” on the 12/5 edition of Raw, costing the British Bulldog a match against his charge, Jeff Jarrett.

Scott: The first PPV match of 1995 sees the Bad Guy lose to a forgotten mid-carder for most of his career. This is also the PPV debut of the Roadie, Jesse James. This match started off slow, but picked up quickly once the Roadie chop blocked Razor’s knee. Razor loses by count-out, but then Jarrett baits Razor on to come in the ring and keep the match going. He does, and trying to go for the Razor’s Edge, but the knee caves in and Jarrett pins him for his first real singles title. This begins a fruitful next few months for Jarrett, who battles Ramon over the title in that time. After a very successful 1994, the Bad Guy has an up-and-down 1995, but is still very over with the crowd. This was a solid opener to the first PPV of the year. Grade: 3

Justin: A solid match here, as Jarrett was slowly gaining some credibility and heel heat. Ramon was getting a little stale by the point, but is still pretty over with the crowd. I think him losing was a good thing, because he was always more interesting when chasing the champion, especially with Jarrett, as the numbers game keeps screwing Ramon as we move through the year. This match is pretty solid and well wrestled with a surprising finish, so it worked on all levels. The false finish was pretty good and put some extra respect on Razor for going back into the ring to continue the match, and also gives him reason to request a rematch. A nice start to what will be a very rocky road in 1995. Grade: 3

2) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats IRS (Mike Rotundo) with a Tombstone at 12:19

Fun Fact: The Druids here are played by Jimmy Del Ray and one of the Blu Twins.

Scott: A very boring match, and unfortunately a sign of things to come for the Deadman throughout this year. I don’t understand why the heat Ted DiBiase had as a wrestler couldn’t come forth as head of the Million Dollar Corporation. No one seemed to care, probably because he was carrying losers for the most part. Anyway, back to the match. Taker tosses him around for a while, then lots of cheating, with Druids and the like, and then Taker finally ends the match, only to see King Kong Bundy jump Taker as a beaten IRS takes the urn from Paul Bearer. Wow, what originality. Vince actually thought this would be a major storyline to hook fans in. Thank god Taker is still crazy over. As for Taker/Bundy being a stud match at Wrestlemania? Good grief, are we in trouble. Grade: 1.5

Justin: And away we go. Undertaker officially kicks off the worst year of his career: match and feud wise. This match was set up at our last PPV when IRS attacked Taker in his casket match with Yokozuna. IRS was really played out by this point as any heat he used to have is all but gone. This would be his last major feud, and he would stick around as a supporting player until July (where he breaks out a blue shirt for the first time ever). Taker’s year long feud with the Corporation would continue on as King Kong Bundy steals the urn from Bearer, setting up Taker’s 4th Wrestlemania match. Other than setting up that thriller, there really isn’t much else to see here. Grade: 1.5

3) Bret Hart and Diesel (Kevin Nash) wrestle to a no-contest at 27:18; Diesel retains WWF World Title

Fun Fact: Subbing for Bret Hart, Big Daddy Cool defeated Bob Backlund at a Madison Square Garden house show on November 26, 1994 to win the World Title. Diesel was the first wrestler to win all three major WWF Titles within a calendar year. Two others would accomplish the feat later on in time; in fact one wrestler (you’ll have to keep reading the reviews to find out) would win all three major titles TWICE in a calendar year.

Scott: Match #2 of the 4-match series between Big Daddy Cool and the Excellence of Execution. Diesel won the title 3 days after Survivor Series, and after two over babyface entrances (Razor and Taker) Diesel’s entrance is lukewarm at best. I’m not sure if everyone grabbed the idea of Diesel as champ yet, and of course Bret was always over so maybe the crowd wasn’t keen on Diesel as face champ yet. The match is very good as, just like at KOTR the previous year, the Hitman carries Diesel to a really good match. This match would be very stiff, as both would lay in the kicks and punches. The match was actually going along at a crisp pace, then the bogged down interferences. First Shawn Michaels comes in to start beating down Diesel, but the ref allows the match to continue. Then Owen Hart comes in and beats down Bret, and Earl Hebner gives the same courtesy. Then, after Earl is knocked down, Owen, Backlund, Shawn, Jeff Jarrett and the Roadie all run in, and, upon reawakening, Earl just gives up and calls for the bell. A really lame ending to what was a really good match. Diesel’s first PPV title defense is great, and could have meant great things to come. Alas after our next review it all goes downhill. As for Bret, he would get his revenge on Backlund soon enough, but he wouldn’t sniff a title shot till the end of the year. Good job by the clique to re-structure the main events to suit their fancy. You’ll feel the frustration oozing from my words as time progresses. For now, we get a great title match with a really bogus ending. Grade: 3.5

Justin: A pretty good match here, as Diesel and Bret always managed to put on a solid affair. The ending is kind of lame, but Vince wanted to keep the strap on Diesel and I would assume he didn’t want to job Hart on another PPV. Most of the run-ins make sense here, as Owen still hated Bret, Backlund was feuding with both men still, and Shawn was feuding with Diesel over their break-up. The only one who didn’t make sense was Jarrett, but if you want to be particular, you could say Jarrett was the official Number 1 contender since he was the I-C Champ. Bret actually gains revenge on Backlund and Owen later in the show when he jumps them as they enter the Rumble. Shawn’s run in was a pre-cursor to Wrestlemania, so all in all the run-ins weren’t terrible, but it just sucks that they ruined such a great match. Diesel would have a strong beginning to the year, but sadly, it is the upcoming months full of bad feuds, matches, buy rates and attendance that characterize his 1995, but we will focus on those when we get there. This match is really well worked and, as Scott said, is very stiff. The two men don’t pull any punches or kicks as they really beat the shit out of each other with great crisp offense. The capper is when Diesel wickedly stomps Backlund’s head to break up the CFCW on Bret after the match. The crowd is a little weird in this match, as they are quiet throughout, but pop like mad at random points throughout, especially at the end when all of the chaos breaks out. Still, at this point, Diesel’s title reign looked to be off to a pretty rocking start. Grade: 4

4) Bob Holly (Bob Howard) & 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman) defeat Tatanka (Chris Chavis) & Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow) to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Kid pins Bigelow after heel miscommunication at 15:43

Fun Fact: Here are the Tag Title Tournament results: 1st Round: Bigelow & Tatanka over Men on a Mission (in the match that featured Mo’s return), Headshrinkers over Jim Neidhart & Owen Hart, Heavenly Bodies over Bushwhackers, Kid & Holly (replacing the injured Smoking Gunns) over Well Dunn; 2nd Round: Bigelow & Tatanka over Headshrinkers, Kid & Holly over the Bodies.

Fun Fact II: Kid and Holly would lose the titles the next night on Raw to the Smoking Gunns, who missed the Tournament due to injury.

Fun Fact III: This was the second January in a row that the Kid won a Tag Title in an upset and lost it right back. In January 1994, he and Jannetty won the straps from the Quebecers, but lost them right back the next week. Also, this was Holly’s first title and first PPV appearance since the 1994 Rumble, where he debuted.

Fun Fact IV: This tournament occurred because Shawn Michaels tossed his half of the Tag Titles in the trash and officially vacated them at Survivor Series.

Scott: This was the finals of a tournament to crown new champions after Diesel and Shawn Michaels split up at Survivor Series. Here, two career mid-carders score an upset over Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Tag Team, which isn’t a surprise since almost all of DiBiase’s Corporation sucked anyway. His heat was at its peak when he was a wrestler, not a manager. The match is well paced, as the underdog good guys get murdered almost the whole match by the more experienced corporation members. Then a fluke mishap, Kid rolls over and we have new champions. However, the focus here wasn’t on the match, but what happened afterwards. Bigelow, incensed that he was pinned by the 1-2-3 Kid, gets upset at a fan who he thought was heckling him, and pushed him out of his seat. As we all know, that fan was ex-NY Giant and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, and it leads to one of the most bizarre Wrestlemania matches of all time, and we’ll get into that in the next review. As for Kid and Holly, they enjoy 24 hours of bliss before dropping the straps the next night. Grade: 3

Justin: A pretty nifty little tag match here that features some cool big man-little man stuff. The segments with Bigelow tossing the Kid and Holly around are pretty cool, and the upset ending was a great way to close out the tournament. Bigelow was really hitting his stride as a worker here and would have a solid 1995 until he was forced out of the Main Events by for political reasons, despite being very over with the crowd. It is also weird that Tatanka actually got his biggest push 3 years after his debut and undefeated streak. I mean, he always was in the upper-mid card, but now he is stepping up a bit. The end of the match is a bit disjointed, but the point is made: the underdogs pull off the fluke upset due to the favorites messing up. Of course, this match is most known for the huge angle after it, where Bigelow kicked off his most well-known feud with LT. That feud would put Bigelow on the map (mainstream wise) as a legit wrestler. This was a surprisingly solid match followed by the start of a huge angle. Grade: 3.5

5) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) wins the Royal Rumble

Order of Entry, and who eliminated them

1) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom): Winner
2) British Bulldog (David Smith): Shawn Michaels
3) Eli Blu (Ron Harris): Sionne
4) Duke Droese (Mike Droese): Shawn Michaels
5) Jimmy Del Ray (James Backlund): Shawn Michaels
6) Sionne (Sionne Valahai): Jacob Blu
7) Tom Pritchard: Shawn Michaels
8) Doink (Ray Liachelli): Kwang
9) Kwang (Juan Rivera): Sionne
10) Rick Martel (Richard Vigneault): Sionne
11) Owen Hart: British Bulldog
12) Timothy Well (Mark Smith): British Bulldog
13) Luke (Brian Wickens): Shawn Michaels
14) Jacob Blu (Don Harris): Shawn Michaels
15) King Kong Bundy (Chris Pailles): Mabel
16) Mo (Bobby Horne): King Kong Bundy
17) Mabel (Nelson Frazier): Lex Luger
18) Butch (Robert Miller): Shawn Michaels
19) Lex Luger (Lawrence Pfohl): Shawn Michaels & Crush
20) Mantaur (Mike Hallick): Shawn Michaels
21) Aldo Montoya (P.J. Walker): Shawn Michaels
22) Henry Godwin (William Canterbury): Lex Luger
23) Billy Gunn (Monty Sop): Dick Murdoch & Crush
24) Bart Gunn (Mike Plotcheck): Dick Murdoch & Crush
25) Bob Backlund: Lex Luger
26) Steven Dunn (Steve Doll): Aldo Montoya
27) Dick Murdoch (Ronald Carson): Henry Godwin
28) Adam Bomb (Bryan Clark): Crush
29) Fatu (Solofa Fatu): Crush
30) Crush (Brian Adams): British Bulldog

Longest Competitor: Shawn Michaels & British Bulldog: 38:51
Shortest Competitor: Mo :03
Most Thrown Out: Shawn Michaels: 9

Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels was the first wrestler to go from Number 1 to win the whole thing (since been done one other time). Michaels also set the record up to that point for most wrestlers thrown out (9). It is also the only time the 1st two wrestlers in were the last 2 left at the end. Bulldog’s performance always gets overlooked.

Fun Fact II: A few debuts to note in the Rumble. First we have Mike Droese, otherwise known as Duke “the Dumpster.” He broke into the business in Florida while attending the University of Miami. He was mildly famous for being ranked 500 in the PWI 500 when he wrestled as the Garbage Man on the Indy circuit. The Blu Brothers are actually the Harris Brothers, who started in the Portland area and moved on to both Smoky Mountain and WCW before coming to the WWF at the start of the year. The tag team of Well Dunn, comprised of Timothy Well and Stephen Dunn, started in the WWC before coming to Stamford. They were also known as Rex King and Steve Doll. Mantaur is Mike Hallick (not to be confused with Mike Shaw, who’s better known as Bastion Booger, Friar Ferguson, etc). Even though we all know who Dick Murdoch is, this is actually his WWF PPV debut. He last appeared in the WWF in 1984, when he was ˝ of the Tag Team Champions with the late Adrian Adonis. He also was one half of a great heel team in the AWA in the early 70’s known as the Outlaws. His tag team partner was a very young Dusty Rhodes. We also see the debut of Aldo Montoya, dubbed the “Portuguese Man of War.” Montoya was perennial jobber P.J. Walker repackaged as a…well we aren’t sure, but he wore yellow and had a jock strap on his head. Walker was best known for upsetting IRS on an episode of Raw in the fall of 1993.Finally, we have the first appearance of the pissed off hog farmer Henry O. Godwinn. Godwinn was formerly Tex Slazenger in WCW, where he formed a pretty good team with Shanghai Pierce (who we will get to know soon as well).

Fun Fact III: Sadly, this is Doink’s final PPV appearance. His record is 2-5. He was 0-2 in Royal Rumbles, 1-1 at Wrestlemania, 0-1 at Summerslam and 1-1 at Survivor Series.

Scott: This may very well be one of the worst Royal Rumbles on memory. Statistically, Shawn Michaels did a great deed, starting at #1 and throwing out 9 guys, a record to that point. However, look at how long he was in the ring. There have been guys who lasted an upwards of 55-60 minutes in the past, and didn’t even win. Also, look at this pitiful roster of participants. Dick Murdoch?? What was he, like 70 at this point? With only a minute between entries, this was pathetic to watch. Like I said during the 1992 Rumble review, there would be some sad ones like this. Michaels does win, however, and is slated to face Diesel for the title at Wrestlemania. There were just so many real losers in this show that it just didn’t captivate me. There were a few interesting scenarios playing out as I watched it. First, Lex Luger had a run going where it looked like he may actually get the shot, but that didn’t happen as we get another choke job for the Faux Hulk Hogan. Shawn Michaels was starting to get some babyface cheers here and there, so the groundswell began for a big attitude change for the Heartbreak Kid. I don’t know if Vince used the minute time in between to avoid having too many losers in ring trying to wrestle at the same time, but he goes back to 1:30 in 1996. Of course if you really time the space in between it’s all over the place. Pamela Anderson is treated like an extra prize as she sits at ringside. She seems to look somewhat interested here, but by Wrestlemania looks bored to tears and uninterested. In any event HBK wins the Rumble, and heads to his first Wrestlemania title shot. British Bulldog must be commended also, for lasting 39 minutes (which is a lot for him) on his first return match.

Justin: A fast paced Rumble that isn’t as terrible as its reputation. The weak field hinders it a bit, but overall it is entertaining enough to watch, and the end was solid as Bulldog and Michaels were believable winners. As most of the people reading this know, I was really into WWF in 1995 and was always a fan of the ridiculous gimmicks and underappreciated wrestlers of the time (Well Dunn, Mantaur, Fatu, Aldo, Kwang) so I actually enjoy seeing all of these goofs on a PPV stage. Sure they aren’t Austin, Rock, Foley, HHH, Taker and Kane, but they made wrestling enjoyable for me at the time and I do remember them fondly. I never cared for the minute intervals, so that does detract from the match, but the pace is smooth so that isn’t all bad. All in all, this is a solid Rumble performance when you factor in the talent pool and restrictions. I will say that I think they wasted the first ever number 1 wins it all performance with this Rumble, as it really wasn’t that special. One more glaring fact: Luger actually gets a solid performance in here, and is seemingly back on the rise to the Main Events, but it is all forgotten right after this show. Also, I understand that they wanted to further the Bret Hart revenge storyline, but it was a shame to see two of 1994’s greatest heels in Bob Backlund and Owen Hart get thrown out in short order, as they could have helped strengthen the field at the end. This may not be the greatest Rumble ever, but it is a fun bout and really about all that could be expected given the circumstances.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: I was always down on this show for it being the first show of the “down time” in WWF history, but if you really watch it again it’s not that bad. The undercard is fairly solid with 3 good title matches and quality in-ring work. Yes the Rumble is pretty crappy, but it served its purpose in getting Shawn Michaels his long-awaited title shot. Diesel’s first performance as WWF World Champion is very good, and he would have another great performance in our next review. Unfortunately it all goes in the toilet after that. Bret Hart is now shamelessly shunted down the card, but will continue to go out and bust his ass for the good of the company. Bam Bam Bigelow is set for the sole big push of his WWF career, albeit a bizarre one. Taker, another loyal McMahon soldier is trudging along a storyline like he’s dragging a Buick on his back. This is a solid show but enjoy it because there won’t be many like this for the rest of the year. I was going to give this a B-, but the overall crappiness of the Rumble main event and the Taker/Corporation debacle is too much to overcome. Final Grade: C+

Justin: Looking back at this show, it actually has some solid wrestling on the undercard. The Rumble is solid enough and enjoyable enough, and the three title matches are good to great. The one thing lacking on this show is historical or memorable moments (besides Shawn going from 1 to win it and the very start of the LT storyline). I think this show gets a bad rap because of the lack of talent and because the rest of 1995 isn’t very good. After reflecting on the matches of this show, I am raising my grade from what I thought it would be heading in. The wrestling is really good, and the guys show a lot of effort, and the only thing lacking is historical significance. Bret and Diesel really put on a great show as do the participants in the tag title finals. The crowd is pretty solid for most of the show, so you can’t complain there. This isn’t the best show of all time, but when you add in some perspective it really isn’t as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe. Final Grade: B-

MVP: Diesel & Bret Hart
Runner-Up: Shawn Michaels & British Bulldog
Non-MVP: IRS & Undertaker
Runner-Up: Lex Luger (for having a sweet spot in the Rumble, and still not winning it)

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