January 28, 2011
Steve Riddle


Royal Rumble 1996
January 21st, 1996
Selland Arena
Fresno, Califronia

Free for All:

1. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley by disqualification at 6:25.

Stipulations: The winner would enter #30 in the Royal Rumble and the loser would enter #1.

Actual Show:

We see a clip of Sunny taking a bubble bath and she says the following has material of a graphic nature. Viewer indescretion, or descretion is advised.

We see the opening video for the Royal Rumble.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect.

1. Ahmed Johnson defeats “Double J” Jeff Jarrett by disqualification at 6:40.

Temp. Farewell: This is Jeff Jarrett’s last PPV until 1997

Analysis: Our opener pits a hot new face against a fading heel. One short year after winning the IC title, Jarrett has fallen considerably, not surprisingly considering he missed most of 1995. Johnson was extremely over and was on the rise. Johnson thorws Jarrett around for 6 minutes, with Jarrett cheating throughout the match. After Johnson escapes the figure-4, Jarrett grabs the guitar and smashes Johnson with it, drawing the DQ. Very weird, considering he was leaving and could have put Johnson over clean, but hindsight and all. For now, Jarrett is gone, for now, and Johnson continues his rise. Grade: 2.5

Todd Pettengill interviews Diesel, who says he will win the Royal Rumble and will win the title at Wrestlemania. He also says he has nothing against Undertaker, but he should have gotten the title shot.

2. The Smoking Gunns defeat the Bodydonnas (w/ Sunny) when Bart pins Skip at 11:14 to retain the WWF Tag Team Championships.

Repackaging: Zip made his debut in December, appearing as Skip’s “brother”, helping him defeat Rad Radford. Zip is the former Heavenly Body, Tom Pritchard.

Analysis: A pretty solid title match, with the champs facing a fresh team. The Donnas were new on the block and really work well together. The Gunns have been on a roll since regaining the belts. This is the first time Sunny starts using her assests to help her boys, and it works well against Billy, and he gets picked apart by crisp doubleteaming by the Donnas. Bart get the hot tag and cleans house, then chaos ensues and admist it, Bart gets a roll up and the Gunns retain the belts. The Gunns roll would halt abruptly due to an injury, and the Donnas would be at the forefront of the tag division. A nice match to keep things flowing. Grade: 2.5

We go to Billionaire Ted’s Wrassling War Room.

Fun Fact: This was the WWF’s attempt to embarrase WCW, by poking fun of Turner, Hulk Hogan (as the Huckster), Randy Savage (as the Nacho Man), and Gene Okerlund (as Scheme Gene). It only made the WWF look childish, and WCW would make a bigger impact later in the year.

We see the buildup to the IC title match.

3. Goldust (w/ a yet to be named Marlena) pins Razor Ramon after a 1-2-3 Kid spin kick at 14:17 to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

The Buildup: At the last IYH, Goldust sent Razor a gold letter. He would spend the next few weeks sending Razor gifts, making Razor very uncomfortable. The breaking point came when Goldust unvieled a heart shaped tattoo with “Razor” on his chest, sending Ramon over the edge. On the RAW before the show, Ramon assulted Goldust in the locker room all the way to outside of the arena in the snow.

Debut: Terri Runnels is Dustin’s wife. She started as a makeup artist at CNN and also did makeup for the wrestlers in JCP and later WCW. She made her on-screen debut as a manager in 1990 as Alexandra York and started the York Foundation. She would be there until 1996, and she makes her PPV debut here as an unnamed director, later to be named Marlena. She was brought in after Vince was told to tone down on the Goldust character.

Analysis: A very solid title match with a surprise. Goldust had been on a roll, but it seemed unlikely he would take the strap. However, he proves that he is here to stay as he beats Ramon and wins the strap. Ramon has had an amazing run, but he is near the end of his run and he puts the newcomer over, although due to being uncomfortable with the angle, flat out refused to work with Goldust, which I’m sure didn’t make Dustin happy. Goldust uses his psychology to take advantage and mess with Razor, but Razor keeps on coming. Then while Marlena has the ref distracted, the 1-2-3 Kid comes in and nails Ramon with a kick, and Goldust takes the pin and wins the belt. Ramon will have to finish his issues with the Kid, and was going to face Goldust again in a very unique match, but we will see what happens. A very good match, with top notch commentary by Mr. Perfect, as the night keeps on rolling. Grade: 2.5

We see interviews with participants of the Royal Rumble, who all say they will win the Rumble and go to Wrestlemania.

Return: One of the participants in the highlight is the returning Jake Roberts. After WM VIII, Roberts moved to WCW and aligned with Cactus Jack and feuded with Sting. He only competed in one WCW PPV, that being Halloween Havoc against Sting in a Coal Miner’s Glove match, which was picked by the Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal. Jake also had a brief run in AAA and SMW, winning the World Title in the latter promotion. He makes his return here as a face, embracing a Bible-preaching gimmick as he was trying to stay clean in real life.

4. Shawn Michaels wins the Royal Rumble.

Order of entry and time lasted:
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (48:01) (Ironman)
Henry Godwinn (16:24)
Bob Backlund (12:22)
Jerry “The King” Lawler (36:02)
Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly (39:35)
King Mabel (12:14)
Jake “The Snake” Roberts (14:39)
Dory Funk Jr. (10:53)
Yokozuna (19:14)
1-2-3 Kid (15:40)
Takao Omari (2:48)
Savio Vega (12:28)
Vader (11:04)
Doug Gilbert (2:59)
Squat Team Member #1 (1:11)
Squat Team Member #2 (:24)
Owen Hart (20:43)
Shawn Michaels (26:09)
Hakushi (1:53)
Tatanka (4:09)
“Portuguese Man Of War” Aldo Montoya (1:52)
Diesel (17:51)
Kama (15:57)
“The Ringmaster” Steve Austin (10:57)
Barry Horowitz (4:15)
Fatu (7:07)
Issac Yankem D.D.S. (7:05)
Marty Jannetty (2:35)
The British Bulldog (3:39)
Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (1:10)

Order of Elimination:
Backlund by Yokozuna (1)
Godwinn by Roberts (1)
Mabel by Yokozuna (2)
Omari by Roberts (2)
Funk by Vega (1)
Roberts by Vader (1)
Gilbert by Vader (2)
Squat #1 by Vader (3)
Squat #2 by Yokozuna (3)
Vega by Vader (4)
Yokozuna by Michaels (1)
Vader by Michaels (2)
Kid by Michaels (3)
Hakushi by Hart (1)
Montoya by Tatanka (1)
Lawler by Michaels (4)
Tatanka by Diesel (1)
Holly by Austin (1)
Helmsley by Diesel (2)
Horowitz by Hart (2)
Hart by Diesel (3)
Jannetty by Bulldog (1)
Austin by Fatu (1)
Fatu by Yankem (1)
Yankem by Michaels (5)
Droese by Diesel and Kama (4,1)
Bulldog by Michaels (6)
Kama by Diesel (5)
Diesel by Michaels (7)

One-Time Debuts: Takao Omari would debut in wrestling in 1992. He would spend his entire career in Japan, aside from this appearance, until his retirement in 2010. Doug Gilbert is the son Tommy Gilbert and brother to Eddie Gilbert. Doug would compete in ECW, USWA, and Japana as Nightmare Freddie, and makes his only PPV appearance here. The Squat Team debuted in 1987 as the Headhunters, competing in Japan, Mexico, and ECW, also making their only PPV appearance here.

Debut #1: Leon White began his career in the AWA as Bull Power in 1985. He would compete in Japan from 1987 to 1992, changing his name to Big Van Vader. He jumped to WCW in 1992, winning the World title on 3 occasions, and also won the US Title. He would be a heel for most of his WCW tenure, until late 1995 siding with Hulk Hogan against the Dungeon of Doom. He was fired from WCW in 1995 after getting into a fight with Paul Orndorff. After a brief run in Japan, he debuts here simply as Vader.

Debut #2: Steve Austin was trained by Chris Adams and started in WCCW. He jumped to WCW in 1991 and was known as “Stunning” Steve, winning the TV Title twice. He then formed a successful tag team with Brian Pillman as the Hollywood Blondes, winning the tag team titles. He also won the US title and was primed for a World Title run as he had Ric Flair’s backing, but was cut short when Hulk Hogan and company came in. While on a tour of Japan and healing a triceps injury, he was fired over the phone by Eric Bischoff. He had a brief run in ECW as “Superstar” Steve Austin, improving his microphone skills and challenging for the ECW Title. He made his WWF debut in December of 1995, now known as The Ringmaster, and was Ted Dibiase’s hand picked successor and became the Million Dollar Champion.

One-Time Return: Dory Funk makes his return here. He and Terry would toil in ECW briefly before Dory retired. Dory currently runs a wrestling school and has trained many of today’s superstars, including the Hardys, Christian, Kurt Angle, Lita, Mickie James, and Edge to name a few. Dory Funk Jr., along with Terry Funk, were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 by Dusty Rhodes.

Temp. Farewells: This is Mabel’s last PPV until 1999, Bob Holly’s last PPV until 1998, Tatanka’s last PPV until 2006, Peter Polaco’s (Aldo Montoya) last PPV until 2001, Kama’s last PPV until 1997, Fatu’s last PPV until late 1996, and Glen Jacobs’ (Issac Yankem) last PPV until late 1996.

Farewells: This is both Hakushi’s and Barry Horowitz’s last PPV. Hakushi would compete briefly in ECW feuding with Rob Van Dam and Sabu before returning to Japan. Horowitz would compete in WCW as a jobber until 2000, and currently works as a nutritionist in Florida while sporadically competing on the independent circuit.

Fun Facts: This marks the first time that the wrestlers use their entrance music for the entrances. This also marks the first time the Rumble match is not the main event.

Analysis: A pretty solid Rumble. We get a few unknowns in the match who get very short ring time, and we see a few returns, specifically Jake Roberts, who will stick around for a while. We get two big debuts, the first in Vader who makes an immediate impact dominating the ring before getting into it with Yokozuna, setting up a feud and face turn for Yoko. The other debut is the Ringmaster, who is not as big now, but will make a HUGE impact in a few years. Props go to Owen Hart for staying in 20 minutes, and also to Bob Holly and Jerry Lawler for lasting over 35 minutes, though Lawler, in a funny spot, hides under the ring for most of the match. The ironman is HHH, who gets in almost 50 minutes in the ring, as you can tell he is in Vince’s plans for the future. Diesel comes in at the final third and dominates from there before getting knocked out last by Michaels. Everything is cool now, but will boil over in a few months. Now to the big picture, it was pretty certain everyone knew Michaels was going to win. Some may not like predicitibility in this match, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal, as that’s what everyone wants and they still like seeing it, even though they know they are going to get it. Anyway, a huge win for Shawn, probably even bigger than last year, and he now waits to see who he will face at WM. A good Rumble, not great but not terrible. Grade: N/A

Before the next match during Undertaker’s entrance, he and Diesel have a confrontation in the aisleway.

5. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) defeats Bret “The Hitman” Hart by disqualification at 28:31. Hart retains the WWF Championship.

Analysis: We come to our big title match. After spending the last year dealing with bad opponents and horrendous matches and storylines, Taker is finally rewarded with a title match. Bret is on a roll since winning the belt, but it is starting to run it’s course, starting here. It is clear he is playing second fiddle to a feud with Taker and Diesel, and that HBK is being groomed as the next long term champion. Add to that the fact that Bret was probably burnt out after this long run, I don’t blame him for being upset. In any event, he is only able to get a decent match out of Taker, nothing like their matches in 1997. Taker uses his power to wear down Hart, while Bret worked over his knee. In the end, Taker hits the tombstone, but Diesel pulls the ref out of the ring, drawing the DQ. This triangle moves on to the next event, with another twist. For now, an OK affair with a bad ending. Grade: 2.5

Royal Rumble Plus:

Todd Pettengill interviews Gorilla Monsoon, who announces at the next In Your House, Bret Hart will defend the WWF Championship against Diesel.

Dok Hendrix interviews Shawn Michaels, who says the Kliq is in control and will win the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania.

Todd Pettengill is still with Gorilla Monsoon when Undertaker comes in and says it will be a “cold day in hell” before Diesel becomes WWF Champion. After that, Gorilla announces the WWF Title match at In Your House will be a cage match.

Dok Hendrix interviews Diesel, who says he’s the best thing going today and he is not afraid of the dark and will become WWF Champion again.

Todd Pettengill interviews Jim Cornette, who says he has unleashed Vader into the WWF and he will be WWF Champion.

We see the recap of the Royal Rumble as we go off the air.

Final Analysis: Overall, this is a pretty solid, if unspectacular Rumble event. The actual show itself was pretty subpar, but what is remembered is the results and the ramifications coming out of this event. Bret Hart survives another day as champ, as do the Gunns, and Goldust is now on top of the midcard. Shawn Michaels wins the Rumble for the second year, but this year has more meaning than this year, as the company is primed to be in Shawn’s hands. For now, we will get a holdover show before WM, where the WM main event could be altered completely. As for this show, it is OK, not great and not a show high on the recommendation list, but fun to watch if you do. Final Grade: C+

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