April 4, 2009
Matt Peddycord

WWF Royal Rumble
January 21, 1996
Fresno, CA
Selland Arena

The current WWF Champs were as follows:
World Champion: Bret Hart (11/19/1995)
Intercontinental Champion: Razor Ramon (10/22/1995)
World Tag Team Champions: The Smokin’ Gunns (9/25/1995)

Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Mr. Perfect.

Duke “The Dumpster” Droese vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley – Free For All Match
The winner is the #30 entrant in the Rumble, while the loser enters the Rumble match at #1. This is also the debut of the Free For All pre-PPV show that you could watch if you were too cheap to buy the PPV itself. If you’ve never seen Duke Droese, he looks like Crush but with more charisma and mobility. HHH continues to wrestle the dirtiest people in the WWF. Last month it was Henry Godwinn, this time it’s a trash man. Duke is all over H to start. Hunter stops him in the corner with an inverted atomic drop and then avoids a charge to cause Duke to run shoulder-first into the post. Hunter delivers a pair of armbreaker DDTs and then clamps on an armbar. After that’s over, Helmsley flies down and eats a boot for his troubles. Duke comes back with a BAAAACK body drop. It’s time to take out the trash! He goes for the TRASH COMPACTOR (tilt-a-whirl slam), but H slips out. He tries a back suplex, but Duke reverses and gives him a back suplex of his own. Hunter begs off in the corner and pulls out some taped knux. Down goes Duke! Cover, 1-2-3! (6:26) Interim WWF President Gorilla Monsoon comes down and replays the finish to the ref. Too bad, so sad. The ref reverses the decision and awards the match to Duke by DQ. So now, HHH is #1 while Duke is #30. Either way, the odds aren’t in either man’s favor.

And now the PPV begins.

Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson
Jarrett made his return to the WWF at last month’s In Your House and beat up Ahmed Johnson. Jarrett makes Ahmed chase him around the ring to begin things. He stomps Ahmed as he slides back into the ring, but that doesn’t last long as Ahmed starts to NO-SELL Jarrett’s shoulderblocks. Ahmed hits a powerslam and a nice jumping clothesline. He misses a charge and gets his arm caught in the ropes! On the floor, Jarrett levels Ahmed with a clothesline off the apron and then whips him into the steps. Back in, Jarrett delivers the Bossman straddle. Ahmed starts to shake it loose and catches Jarrett in a bearhug. He whips Jarrett into the ropes and drills him with a Spinebuster. Jarrett rolls out for a breather and to his surprise and mine, Ahmed LEAPS over the top rope for a suicida! LUCHA AHMED~! Back inside, Ahmed misses a Harlem Hangover. Must be a black guy thing. Since that can wrench your knee in all sorts of ways, Jarrett locks in the FIGURE-FOUR! Ahmed reverses and kicks off another chance at the Figure-Four. Jarrett’s had enough, so he grabs his guitar and KABONGS Ahmed as he comes off the top rope! (6:38) Now THAT’S how you get disqualified. This was pretty good, but Ahmed still seems to have some trouble getting his landings right, which makes whatever move he just did look awkward. Other than that petty gripe, this was lots of fun and exactly what it should have been. **

In the back, the Smokin’ Gunns talk about their upcoming match. Bart has the charisma of a rock while you can tell that Billy would be the breakout star of the team. Well, as big a star as Billy Gunn is anyways.

Todd Pettingell is with Diesel. He says he feels like a ninth grader who is left home alone. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but he’s about to have the time of his life.

WWF World Tag Team Champions The Smokin’ Gunns vs. The Body Donnas (w/Sunny)
A bleached-blonde buzz-cut Tom Pritchard looks just like Finlay. If you didn’t know anything about Sunny or what she would become, you might say that she is the hottest chick ever in the WWF. Skip hits a tilt-a-whirl headscissors, but then runs into a backdrop. Skip ducks a charge and that sends Billy flying to the floor. The Body Donnas flip Billy into the ring from the apron. They try the same on Bart, but he turns the tables on them and flips the Body Donnas out to the floor. Billy meets them on the floor with a pescado! Back inside, Skip plays the ping pong ball between the Gunns. With the Donnas in trouble, Sunny distracts the Gunns with her assets. Zip and Bart tag. Bart NO-SELLS his chops and delivers a press slam. Blind tag to Skip, he scores with a clothesline. The Gunns do a blind tag, causing Skip to get nailed with a Hart Attack. Sunny gets up on the apron to argue with the ref. Skip shoves Billy off into her. She’s totally faking to bait Billy into a trap. Hook, line, and sinker. Billy feels bad and goes out to console her, but here come the Body Donnas to attack. As a highlight of the double-team, Zip holds Billy while Skip nails him with a plancha. Back in, Skip puts Zip on top of Billy with a front suplex. That gets two. The next double-team comes when Zip Doctorbombs Skip on Billy for 1-2-NO! The Donnas keep Billy on their side of the ring for quite some time. Double Flapjack to Billy! It’s like the second coming of the Midnight Express! Cover, 1-2-NO! Finally, Billy crawls past the challengers and reaches Bart for a hot tag. Sunny has the ref while the Smokin Gunns deliver the SIDEWINDER on Zip! Skip lowers the boom to break up the pin and covers Bart for 1-2-NO! The Donnas look for a double suplex, but Billy breaks it up with a spear and Bart counters with an inside cradle on Skip for 1-2-3! (11:13) If you’re going to emulate something, it might as well be from the best. That finish was straight from an RNR Express/Midnight Express match. Of course I’m a sucker for fast-paced ’80s style tag wrestling, so I enjoyed this one. The Gunns would hold onto the straps until Billy had to forfeit the belts to have neck surgery in a few weeks to set up a tournament that would conclude at WrestleMania XII. ***¼

They show one of the ‘Billionaire Ted’s Wrasslin War Room’ skits. They make Turner sound like Norm MacDonald doing his Burt Reynolds impression. One the Turner execs looks like Dick Cheney. Make of that what you will. One of them also looks like Vince Russo. That’s because it actually is Vince Russo.

Next up, they air a summary of the Razor/Goldust feud.

WWF Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)
This is the debut of Marlena, which completely confuses everything we thought we knew about Goldust up to this point. During this match, she’s just known as “that very attractive woman with the cigar who showed up with Goldust”. Razor doesn’t know what to think here. Goldust spends the first few minutes fondling himself and rubbing all over Razor when they make contact. Razor gives him a slap on the butt. When he sees Goldust enjoyed that, he decks Goldust out to the floor. Razor chases him around the ring, but Goldie hides behind Marlena. Back in, Goldust blows Razor a kiss and pays for it with a clothesline back out to the floor. He hides behind Marlena again only for Razor to lift her up out of the way. That allows Goldust to deck him into the steps. Back inside, Goldust whips Razor from corner to corner and hits him with the Bulldog. Cover, 1-2-NO! Goldust delivers a slingshot back suplex (!!) for 1-2-NO! You don’t see that one every day. Marlena blows gold dust into Razor’s eyes. Goldust grabs a sleeper, but Razor breaks free with a HUGE leg up into the golden balls of Goldust. I think that’s a good estimation of what Razor Ramon thinks about this whole feud. Razor delivers the Chokeslam and follows up with the Fallaway Slam for 1-2-NO! Marlena gets inside the ring to talk to ref Tim White. As Razor gives Goldust the Back Superplex, the ring’s bounce “twists Marlena’s ankle”. In comes the 1-2-3 Kid through the crowd. He nails Razor with a flying spin kick. Goldust covers Razor and gets the 1-2-3! (14:17) The in-ring work suffered because of the story between the two. It was at least a decent performance from Goldust the character if nothing else. *

The Rumble
HHH and Henry Godwinn are #1 and #2. Hunter just can’t get away from dirty people. Godwinn slams H around until Bob Backlund enters in at #3 to the sweet sounds of ‘Hail to the Chief’. He held the longevity record at the time in his ‘93 Rumble performance with 61 minutes. Everybody takes turns attempting to toss the other out. We go from “future” presidents to royalty, as Jerry Lawler drew #4. While Hunter and Backlund beat down Godwinn, Lawler grabs Godwinn’s slop bucket. Godwinn kicks Lawler back and sends Backlund and Hunter crashing into one another. Now Godwinn has the slop bucket and everybody runs for the hills. That’s not really far enough because Godwinn nails Lawler with the slop. In comes Bob Holly at #5. Perfect wants to see Vader though. Here comes King Mabel at #6. He goes right for Godwinn and starts choking him. Jake Roberts makes his return to the WWF as the #7 entrant. This Fresno crowd has been missing this guy as they absolutely explode. Apparently the positive reaction earned Jake another year in the WWF. Jake scares everybody out of the ring with his snake – except Jerry Lawler who gets wrapped up. Okay, enough of that. It’s back to business as usual. Vince digs up Dory Funk Jr. to be the #8 guy in the ‘96 Rumble. He goes after Backlund in what would have been a great match about 15-20 years earlier. Hey, where’s Jerry Lawler? He’s hiding under the ring. Why, of course. Yokozuna drew #9. He dumps out Backlund. Holly drops Godwinn with a hurracanrana, setting him up for a huge splash from Mabel. Jake Roberts tosses out a squashed Godwinn out as the 1-2-3 Kid enters in at #10. He gets to the ring a lot faster than he normally would with Razor Ramon chasing him. He chases Kid in and out of the ring until security finally escorts him out. Huge “Razor” chants go up.

Takao Omari from All-Japan enters in at #11. Boy, he is excited. That “Orient Express” theme music really gets him going. Jake takes Yokozuna off his feet with a series of shots as he comes off the ropes. Savio Vega is #12. He takes down Mabel with a SPINNING HEEL KICK, allowing Yoko to dump the big guy out. Omari tries to send Jake to the showers, but Jake flips him out to the floor instead and lands on the apron. Perfect hypes up the #13 entrant, who turns out to be (The Man They Call) Vader! Jim Cornette is by his side. Vader finds Bob Holly and stiffs the crap out of him. Vega finally gets rid of Dory and then has to deal with Vader. Doug Gilbert comes out to some goofy music as the #14 entry. He’s Eddie Gilbert’s brother, ya know. He beats down Hunter in the corner. Meanwhile, Jake drills Savio with a DDT to wake up the crowd. He’s about to give Doug Gilbert the same DDT, but Vader nails Jake back and he tumbles over the top to the floor. Vader headbutts Kid away and avalanches Gilbert. Headhunter A draws #15. Don’t know why these guys are here. They’re a team that look like Abdullah the Butcher clones with the attitude of the Samoan Swat Team. You might know them from FMW, but I doubt too many people that read my blog watch FMW. Vader presses Gilbert and sends him back to the USWA. Now Vader gets rid of Headhunter A. Since Headhunter B is the #16 guy, the Headhunters storm the ring together only to be taken out by Vader and Yokozuna. Owen Hart draws #17. Now it’s serious business. Vader and Yoko pummel on Savio together. Just for fun. He gets squashed by both of them. #18 is the one favored to win – Shawn Michaels. Out goes Savio courtesy of Vader. Helmsley is still in there with over thirty minutes to his credit. Shawn beats up on him and the Kid for a meeting of the Kliq. With everybody else pounding on each other, Vader and Yoko start slapping each other around. Jim Cornette tries to get them to stop, but there’s not much he can do. Yoko wins that exchange with a headbutt and attempts to dump out Vader, but Shawn sneaks over and dumps them both out. He doesn’t stop there as he presses Kid up and throws him to the floor. Holy crap. Shawn is BACK! That leaves four people in the ring: Shawn, Holly, Owen, and Hunter. Of course, there’s also Jerry Lawler hiding underneath the ring. Meanwhile, Vader and Yokozuna continue to brutalize each other even though they’re both in Cornette’s camp. Here comes Hakushi at #19. Vader gets back in the ring and starts throwing everybody out. Doesn’t count though, since he’s already eliminated. But wow, does that put him over. It takes Gorilla Monsoon coming out to threaten Vader along with Cornette’s constant pleading to get him out of the ring. Tatanka is our #20 guy. I forgot he was still in the company. Hakushi gets in some cool stuff with HBK and Owen. He tries to flip over Owen in the corner, but gets caught and tossed to the floor. Tear.

In comes Aldo Montoya at #21. Yep, it’s Justin Credible with a jockstrap on his head. Shawn gets knocked through the ropes, and while he’s out there he pulls out Jerry Lawler from underneath the ring. He beats Lawler back into the ring and punches him over the top to the floor, right after Tatanka clotheslines Montoya to the floor. #22 is Diesel. He starts us off by throwing out Tatanka. Shawn and Diesel back into each other and then turn around to throw down. Owen and Hunter take advantage of the situation to cheapshot both Dudes with Attitudes. Hunter pairs off with Diesel while Shawn unloads on Owen. Oh yeah, and Bob Holly just does whatever. Kama draws #23. If I remember correctly, this is his last WWF appearance until the Nation of Domination days. He kicks the crap out of Diesel in the corner for a while. #24 is The Ringmaster. Vince calls him cold and calculated. Would you say he is Stone Cold, Vince? Ted DiBiase joins his man at ringside. Holly thinks he’s eliminated Austin with a catapult, but Austin catches himself on the apron and knees Holly over the top to the floor. Hunter has been in this match over 45 minutes. Barry Horowitz draws a very lucky #25 spot. Perfect says if Horowitz wins the Rumble, he’ll get back in the ring. That might be the safest bet I’ve ever heard. Diesel and Kama are still going at it in the corner. H pulls Diesel back, but that proves unwise as he gets quickly tossed to the floor. 48 minutes for Helmsley! Fatu enters the match at #26. Diesel and Austin square off in the corner. Now that’s a match I wouldn’t have minded seeing. Perfect ups the stakes saying that Horowitz wins, you’ll never ever see him in wrestling again. Owen and Shawn tease eliminating each other with a suplex. Who is our #27 entrant? THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE! No, it’s just Isaac Yankem DDS. Once he’s in the ring, Owen backdrops Horowitz to the floor. Looks like Perfect made a perfect bet. Either that, or a statement so obvious that it couldn’t possibly be an assumption. What a total dot-nose situation. Owen walks over and destroys Shawn with the ENZIGURI KICK HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD! As Owen goes to dump Shawn, Diesel comes up behind and gives Owen an extra shove to send him out while Shawn falls on the apron and slides back in the ring. Nice. Austin explodes on Michaels on with a running clothesline. Rock rock ’til he drops, rock rock never stops. Yes, it’s Marty Jannetty at #28. Austin chokes Diesel down in the corner while the Rockers rock and roll on each other. Davey Boy Smith enters in at #29 and goes after Michaels. Marty looks to save him, but Davey Boy backdrops him out. Austin tries to headbutt Fatu, which is a dumb idea. He goes out with a clothesline. Next up, Yankem gets rid of Fatu with a clothesline of his own. And our #30 entrant is Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. Bulldog and Shawn go to the floor, where Owen comes back down and runs over Shawn. Security gets rid of Owen while Davey Boy takes Shawn into the ring so he can press slam him out. Diesel saves his little buddy from certain defeat. Shawn pops up and dropkicks Yankem out to the floor. Meanwhile, Kama and Diesel dump out Droese. How ironic. That leaves us with four men to go.

Final Four: Shawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith, Diesel, and Kama. They pair off accordingly. Shawn gets sent to the apron, but slides back in underneath Davey Boy and clotheslines him out. On the other side, Diesel shoves out Kama. That allows Shawn to simply superkick Diesel to the floor to win the Rumble for the second year in a row. (58:47) While they told us that the two-minute rule was back in effect for this year’s show as compared to last year’s one minute intervals, obviously some time was cut short for one reason or another. The action only picked up once Shawn and Owen came out there, making only the last 15-20 minutes watchable. As for Diesel and Shawn, Diesel might have thrown the first punch, but ended up eating the superkick in the end which had much worse consequences than some silly fight between friends. Boy, that left Diesel feeling pretty angry. He gets back in the ring during Shawn’s celebration where he nearly takes off his pants. I’m surprised Diesel didn’t just walk away after that. But he doesn’t and offers his hand in the air for a jumping high five from Shawn. Shawn obliges and apparently all is well between the Dudes with Attitudes. **¾

WWF World Champion Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)
Diesel sticks around in the aisleway for Undertaker to arrive. They trade blows until a bunch of refs put a stop to it. Diesel ain’t afraid of no ghosts. That sets up your semi main event for WrestleMania XII. Vince mentions that this is Bret’s 43rd PPV appearance in the WWF. In that time, he’s only missed three PPVs: Royal Rumble ‘92, In Your House II in July ‘95, and In Your House IV in October ‘95. Now keep in mind at those In Your House shows, he did wrestle in dark matches. Every other PPV since WrestleMania II, he has competed on. Just a little nerdy tidbit for you. Taker controls the pace with chokes and claw holds for the first five minutes. He picks up the tempo by going Old Skool on Bret, but then goes back to the claw hold. Bret breaks free and clotheslines Taker to the floor where he lands on his feet. Bret wipes him out with a pescado though. He leaps on a standing Taker from the apron, but gets caught and sent right into the ringpost. Bret reverses things for Taker by whipping him into the steps for the knees-first bump. That’s just the kind of circumstance Bret can thrive on, as now he goes after Taker’s legs. Back in, Bret takes Undertaker to school and grapevines the leg before applying the Figure-Four. Taker reverses out of it though. That doesn’t take Bret off his game plan though, as he sticks to working the leg. Taker fights back and throws Bret out to choke him with some ringside cables. He one-ups the violence by throwing Bret into the timekeepers table and then jabs him with a chair while Paul Bearer has the ref. Back in the ring, Bret quickly ducks a boot and kicks Taker on the legs to take him down again. This crowd is certainly torn right down the middle as to who to cheer in this match. Bret wraps Taker’s legs around the ringpost and then goes back to the leg grapevine. Taker battles back with a legdrop and a clothesline. He goes for the TOMBSTONE, but Bret’s too close to the ropes as Taker’s legs give out. Bret snaps Taker neck on the top rope and drills Taker with a DDT. Taker SITS UP! Russian Legsweep by Bret. Taker SITS UP! Bret hits a Bulldog. Taker SITS UP! Bret delivers a Backbreaker, but Taker can’t sit up after all that. Bret hits the Flying Vertical Elbow Drop and gives thumbs down to the crowd. Huh? As Bret begins to turn him over, Taker GOOZLES him! No chokeslam though. Instead, they collide. Bret’s up first and unties a turnbuckle pad. He pulls off Taker’s protective mask and baits Taker around to slam his face into the exposed turnbuckle! He does it a second time! Crowd starts to boo. Now Bret charges, but runs into a TOMBSTONE! Cover, 1-2-NO! Diesel is here and he just pulled out the referee! That gets Bret DQ’ed for sure, even though he had nothing to do with it. As Diesel and Undertaker lock eyes, Diesel gives him the bird and walks out. That was so RACY! (28:30) I know why this match receives a lot of hate, but it really wasn’t so bad when you consider the entirety of it. Bret just used the same big-man psychology on Taker that he did with Diesel where he was successful by taking out the knee. It does have some problems like Bret seemingly absorbing the throw into the timekeepers table and taking a chair in the gut only to withstand and then continue working Taker’s leg like nothing happened was ridiculous. However, the ending does suck from a “Hey I paid for this and I want to see a winner” standpoint, but it sets up a couple different directions the WWF can take in the future. First off, the ending makes Diesel/UT a lock for WrestleMania XII. Second of all, it appears Undertaker would have beaten Bret with the Tombstone, but we’ll never know for sure unless there’s a rematch. Granted, they should have cut off about 10 minutes of this match and did something else, but they didn’t and this is what we have. I’m not saying it’s a classic, but it’s not that terrible of a match when you factor in the whole picture without even knowing the ultimate outcome that we all know now in 2009. Actually, the match makes a lot of sense. **

Final Thoughts: I’m torn with this show because while it’s just okay from a wrestling perspective, the angles run at the time were actually quite good and really keep my interest. I’ll recommend it, but keep in mind what I’m basing it on, because it’s not really a wrestling masterpiece with ****+ MOTYCs. Slight thumbs up for the Royal Rumble 1996.

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