January 25, 2009
Alexander Settee

Royal Rumble 1997, January 19, 1997, The Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, & Jerry “The King” Lawler

On to 1997 as the dark period for the company is coming closer to an end, but they aren’t quite there yet. As we’ll see throughout the show, most of the pieces in the puzzle of future success were here by now and it was just a matter of figuring out how to put them together.

Opening Match, Intercontinental Championship: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Mr. Hughes) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

Goldust had just recently turned face after debunking Jerry Lawler’s theory that he was a “queer”. Then HHH decided he wanted to add Marlena to the list of women’s he’s nailed, so Goldust came to her defense and the result is this match here, which may be more about revenge for Goldust then the championship. HHH brings his new “butler” with him, who is Curtis “Mr.” Hughes in a pairing that would last all of a week before they decided to go a completely different direction which led to the introduction of Chyna at the Final Four show a month later. Goldust charges at HHH as he makes his entrance and goes right to work. He pounds on HHH in the ring, then tosses him and whips him to the barrier. Back in, Goldust mounts him for punches in the corner, but HHH comes out with an inverted atomic drop. He sets up the Pedigree already, but it’s countered to a catapult which sends HHH to the floor. Goldust then grabs the stairs, and just drops them right on him. HHH makes it back to the apron, where he grabs Goldust and pulls him down on the ropes to take over. He works him over with chops and kicks, and then whips him to the corner, but Goldust gets the boot up on the charge and comes out with a clothesline for 2. HHH begs off, but still gets him with a low blow. Goldust goes to the floor, so HHH goes up and comes off with a Randy Savage style double axhandle, which is something I don’t remember ever seeing him do, but there it is. He then whips Goldust to the post and sets him up in front of the barrier for a charge, but Goldust moves and HHH hits knee first. Goldust picks up the stairs that were still laying there and drops them on the knee. Back in, he stays on that knee, even hooking a figure four. Goldust gets multiple 2 counts from that, but finally decides to grab the ropes for extra leverage, so the ref breaks it. HHH goes to the floor, but Goldust chase and clips the knee. He rams HHH to the apron and drops him knee first on the stairs. Goldust waits for HHH to get back in, but when he does, he catches Goldust with a kneelift (good job by HHH using the non-injured knee to do that). Irish whip sees Goldust come off and try a bodypress, but HHH ducks and Goldust goes flying out to the floor. HHH whips Goldust to the barrier and rams him to the stairs, but when he grabs Marlena’s director’s chair, that’s too much, so the ref pulls it away from him. The match has been so exciting thus far that they feel the need to spice it up with a split screen featuring Todd Pettengill interviewing some country music guy. Back in the ring, HHH takes him down with a snapmare and drops a knee, but hurts himself in the process. He gets a delayed cover for 2. Irish whip is reversed and leads to a Goldust clothesline, followed by a backdrop. Goldust goes up, but HHH shoves the ref into the ropes to crotch him. HHH climbs up, but Goldust headbutts him down and now looks to come off, but the elbow misses. Hughes hands HHH the IC belt and distracts the ref, but Marlena also gets on the apron and distracts HHH. He responds by kissing her, but that lets Goldust grab the belt and nail HHH with it. He covers, but Hughes pulls HHH to safety at 2. Goldust nails Hughes, but that lets HHH come back with a clothesline and the Pedigree to get the 3 count to retain at 16:51. That was a long and pretty boring match, with a downer ending to boot. Not a good way to open things up. DUD

We get comments from a couple of Rumble participants. Bret Hart talks about being a marked man since he’s the favourite going in, but it won’t matter because he’s gonna win anyways, while Mankind is more stoked about the chance to hurt people than the chance to win a WWF Title shot.

Faarooq (w/The Nation) vs. Ahmed Johnson

Back in July, Faarooq debuted by attacking Ahmed on Raw, but ended up causing a legitimate kidney injury that put Ahmed out of action for several months. They kept the feud simmering all this time mostly through interviews until he could finally return for revenge. Finally, Ahmed was cleared to return, so the match was set for this show. In November, Faarooq switched gimmicks from a gladiator to the leader of the Nation of Domination, which gave him some (mostly ineffective) backup, but they’re here in full force tonight. He’s got Clarence Mason, Crush, PG-13, and a bunch of random unnamed flunkies, one of whom would go on to become D-Lo Brown. Ahmed charges right in an attacks. He pounds down Faarooq, who tries to bail, but Ahmed chases and rams him to the post. Back in, Ahmed keeps on him, but Faarooq goes to the eyes and gets a belt tossed into him. He sends Ahmed off, but Ahmed ducks a belt shot and comes back with a clothesline. Now Ahmed whips Faarooq with the belt, so he bails again. Ahmed still won’t let him get a break, following him and sending him to the stairs, and then back across to another set of stairs. Faarooq tosses D-Lo in the way, and that provides the necessary distraction to allow him to nail a clothesline. Now he goes to work on the kidneys, even using a couple of chairshots. Back in, he keeps putting the boots to Ahmed. He goes to a rear chinlock, but Ahmed picks him up out of it and drops him with an electric chair drop. Faarooq recovers first though and goes up, but gets caught with a powerslam coming off. Irish whip by Ahmed, but Faarooq catches him with a spinebuster. Faarooq talks some trash to the crowd, so Ahmed gets up and nails a spinebuster of his own. That’s all the Nation needs to see, so they run in to protect their leader and the DQ is called at 8:46. Ahmed single handedly fights everyone off and even puts one of the randoms through an announce table. Good heat, but not much of a match, and crappy ending too. ˝*

Terry Funk gets excited about being in the Rumble later on. Then Faarooq singles out a couple of Nation members for cowardice and issues threats to Ahmed Johnson.

Vader vs. The Undertaker

No real setup for this match, but Taker did Tombstone Jim Cornette right out of his role as Vader’s manager a couple of weeks back. Vader tries to attack, but Taker avoids it so they go at it by trading some shots. Vader takes advantage, but Taker just keeps no selling. He sits up a couple of times off of body blocks, and the Vader gets frustrated and bails. Vader jaws with the ref on the floor, but that allows Taker to come from behind. To the apron, where Vader goes to the eyes and drops Taker on the ropes. Irish whip, but Vader puts the head down and Taker nails him with a Fameasser. He then slams Vader and drops a leg for 2. He tries the ropewalk, but Vader crotches him, and then nails a low blow for good measure. Corner whip sets up an Avalanche, followed by a clothesline. Vader then goes to the 2nd rope and nails another clothesline from there for 2. To a nerve hold, but Taker fights up and nails a back suplex. Elbow misses, but Vader connects with one to the groin. He goes to the 2nd rope again, but this time gets powerslammed coming off. Irish whip by Taker, but he puts the head down and Vader gets him with a powerbomb. In only gets 2 though as Taker then gets up fast. Irish whip is reversed, Taker ducks, and then comes off with the flying clothesline. He goes for the rope walk again, and this time hits it. Paul Bearer makes his way to ringside as Taker nails a chokeslam. Taker spots Bearer, so he clotheslines Vader to the floor and then attacks his former manager. He has Bearer in the ring by the throat, but now Vader comes back in. Taker sees him coming though and clotheslines him right back to the floor. He goes after Vader out there, but his charge misses and he hits the barrier. Vader gets back in the ring and distracts the ref, which leads to Bearer coming down off the apron with the urn to the head. Vader gets Take back in, nails the Vaderbomb, and that gets 3 at 13:20. Pretty shocking to see Taker do a job that was even as clean as that was. Bearer would take over as Vader’s new manager after this, but the feud would never really get a proper blowoff. The postmatch sees a completely out of character moment for Taker as he bitches to both the referee and McMahon about the loss in a normal voice. *

Steve Austin tells the camera man he won’t be giving any interviews until after he wins the Rumble, while British Bulldog promises to win it because “I’m bizarre”(?). I think he must have been on something bizarre when he cut that promo

Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal, & Fuerza Guerrera vs. Perro Aguayo, Canek, & Hector Garza

During this time period, Vince was desperately looking for anything that might click and help the WWF get a leg up the Monday Night Wars. So he turned to Mexican promotion AAA and brought many of their wrestlers to work some shows, including this one. Of course WCW had already been using the Mexicans regularly for several months so the idea was neither fresh nor unique, but for whatever reason Vince felt compelled to try it anyways. I’m not going to bother with play by play here because it’s not much of a match, and the crowd couldn’t care less either. It’s just two guys in, do a few spots, tag out, repeat until Aguayo finishes off Heavy Metal with a double stomp off the top at 10:56. DUD I know that Lucha Libre is huge business in Mexico and Hispanic markets in the Southern US, but this is a WWF show. And force feeding it to people who are here to see a WWF show is not the right way to get people interested in it.

1997 Royal Rumble Match

Only 90 second intervals this year, which makes it go by a bit too swiftly. Bret Hart was the pre match favourite considering everything they’d done since his return in October pointed to a Wrestlemania rematch between him and Shawn Michaels. Crush gets #1, while Ahmed Johnson gets #2 so that feud gets another round here. Crush jumps him, but Ahmed fights back with a clothesline. He can’t get him out though. “Razor Ramon” is #3 and he tries to attack Ahmed, who simply turns around and tosses him. Out of nowhere, Ahmed jumps over the top and eliminates himself. Ok, now we see that Faarooq has come out in the aisle and Ahmed was chasing him. They could have made that a bit more clear before hand. Crowd is not really too hot for this, and to make matters worse, the clock is not working to they don’t even get the easy reaction of counting down the time to the next entrant. Phineas Godwinn is #4 and he works over Crush but can’t eliminate him. Stone Cold Steve Austin is #5 and Crush actually convinces him to go for a double team, but Phineas moves and Crush gets nailed. Phineas then tosses Crush, but walks into a Stunner and gets tossed himself. The clock is finally up and running so it counts down Bart Gunn at #6. He takes control of Austin for a brief moment, but quickly gets tossed. Jake Roberts is out at #7, but he only has slightly more luck than Gunn did, hitting the short clothesline, but Austin recovers and Jake is gone just as the timer runs out. #8 is the British Bizarredog, who was half of the tag champs and actually had an issue with Austin at this point. They had been teasing a breakup between he and Owen as Owen actually supported Austin in his feud with Bret while Bulldog did not. This led to Austin attacking and going at it with Bulldog on more than one occasion. Ironically enough, Bulldog gets Austin in the corner and stomps a mudhole in him before nailing the powerslam. #9 is Pirroth, another AAA luchador and he actually makes himself worthy of a double team by Austin and Bulldog. The Sultan is #10 followed by Mil Mascaras at #11 and gets the best reaction of any of the luchadors here tonight. His past history in the WWF goes unacknowledged though. #12 is HHH, still selling the knee injury from earlier on. Bulldog clotheslines Sultan out while Austin and HHH go at it in a future dream match. #13 is Owen Hart, who is, of course, Bulldog’s championship partner. Austin almost gets Owen out, but Bulldog saves. Then, when Bulldog goes to dump Austin, Owen comes from behind and dumps his partner to further the teased breakup that ended up being aborted when the Hart Foundation was formed. Owen claims innocence, but the replay clearly shows he intentionally eliminated Bulldog. Goldust is out at #14 and wants HHH, but gets jumped by Austin. #15 is Cibernetico who goes after Mascaras while Goldust finally gets his hands on Helmsley. Marc Mero is #16 as Cibernetico gets tossed by Pirroth. Mascaras dumps Pirroth, and then does a dive on him, but that means Mascaras is out too. Geez, I’ve heard that when it comes to doing jobs Mascaras makes Hulk Hogan look like Barry Horowitz, but that’s just pathetic. He’d really rather look like Idiot of the Year than go through with anything resembling an actual elimination? Goldust gets a measure of revenge for earlier tonight by clotheslining HHH to the floor. #17 is Latin Lover and he nails a nice crescent kick on Owen. Later, Owen skins the cat following an attempted toss by Goldust and comes back to eliminate him. Faarooq is #18 and he gets to backdrop Latin Lover out before Ahmed Johnson runs in and attacks with a 2X4 to knock him right out of it. Meanwhile, Own and Mero are going at it on the ropes, so Austin dumps both of them to leave himself alone once again. #19 is Savio Vega and he’s in just long enough for the announcers to remind us about their feud from last year before Austin leaves him behind for good. #20 is Double J Jesse Jammes and how long do you think he lasts? #21 is Bret Hart and now the crowd finally comes alive for something. Bret spends most of the segment in control and even hooks the Sharpshooter as the countdown hits. #22 is Jerry Lawler, who leaves the announce table to get in the ring. Bret releases Austin and knocks Lawler right back to the announce table where he doesn’t miss a beat on his commentary. It results in some funny bits for the rest of the match with Lawler simply pretending he was never in the ring. #23 is “Diesel” who actually works both Bret and Austin over. Funny how after they buried “Razor”, “Diesel” was actually allowed to shine a bit. I guess the figured they could make him into something with the right repackaging. #24 is Terry Funk and he wants a piece of Austin coming off the confrontation they had on the memorable episode of Shotgun last night. Smilin’ Babyface Rookie Rocky Maivia is #25. He and Austin immediately go at it to no reaction whatsoever. Two years later and they’re main eventing Wrestlemania. Who saw that coming? Mankind is #26 and he renews his old rivalry with Terry Funk. Speaking of Funk, Flash Funk, who Ross makes sure to note is not related to Terry, is #27, but he makes no impact at all. Nothing interesting happens as Vader is #28, Henry Godwinn is #29 and Undertaker rounds out the field at #30. Finalists: Steve Austin (#5), Bret Hart (#21), “Diesel” (#23), Terry Funk (#24), Rocky Maivia (#25), Mankind (#26), Flash Funk (#27), Vader (#28), Henry Godwinn (#29), and Undertaker (#30). That’s a pretty good list all things considered. Taker is pissed and starts out with chokeslams for Austin and Vader. Flash Funk is first one gone as he tries a body press on Vader but gets caught and thrown out. Austin actually makes the save for Bret when Rocky almost has him out, which would be a bit out of character for him. Taker gets rid of HOG, and then Mankind uses the Mandible Claw to put Rocky out. He then gets Terry Funk with a Cactus Clothesline, but they both land on the apron. Funk slips in, but Mankind suplexes him out to the floor. Taker then boots Mankind off the apron to the floor. Mankind and Funk go at it out there and all the referees step in to break it up. But that means that they miss Bret tossing Austin. Austin sneaks back in and dumps Vader and Taker together, while Bret eliminates “Diesel”. Austin then comes from behind on Bret, tosses him, and is declared the winner at 50:30. Bret continues the road to his heel turn by complaining to anyone who will listen about the bad decision and the whole thing would lead to the angle where he was so pissed that he quit the next night on Raw. Austin’s win would stand, but he would be ordered to put the Title shot on the line next month at Final Four in a four way with himself, Bret, Vader and Undertaker, which actually ended up being for the Title itself instead of just a shot once Shawn Michaels lost his smile. The Rumble was alright, and the twist ending was different as Austin was not quite yet at the level where he would have been seen as a potential winner. But it still manages to feel rushed and lacked excitement for most of the way. **

Main Event, WWF Championship Match: Sycho Sid vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario)

So after eight months as WWF Champion, Shawn lost the belt to Sid back at Survivor Series in a match that saw Sid use a TV camera on not only Shawn himself, but mentor Jose Lothario as well. He had little to worry about though since it was quickly announced that he would face the champ here at the Royal Rumble, which just so happens to be in his hometown of San Antonio. Sid retained the Title over Bret Hart last month at It’s Time thinks to an inadvertent assist from Shawn, which not only furthered the Bret/Shawn story, but meant that Shawn would get to face the man he lost the Title to in the first place on his big night. Sid shoves him down a couple of times, but Shawn keeps getting right back up. Now Sid gets him with a boot and Irish whip, but Shawn ducks and comes off with a bodypress. He rams Sid’s head to the mat repeatedly and then boots him to the floor. Shawn follows and rams him to the barrier, but a whip to the apron is reversed. Sid tries a press slam on the floor, but Shawn rakes the eyes to escape. Back in, Shawn goes up, but gets caught coming down with a powerslam for 2. Sid goes to a camel clutch from which Shawn tries to escape a couple of times, but Sid is a step ahead. On the third try, Shawn counters Sid’s counter to his own counter and gets out. His corner whip is reversed, but Shawn gets the boot up on the charge. Corner whip is reversed again, but this time Shawn does his flip to the floor. Sid runs his back to the post a couple of times and then gets him back in for a 2 count. Two corner whips setup a bearhug, which Sid works off of for a bit. He then lets it go and covers for 2. Legdrop also gets 2 and now Sid goes to a reverse chinlock. At least he’s showing variety in his restholds. Shawn fights out and slams Sid. An Irish whip is reversed but Shawn comes back off with the flying forearm. He goes up, drops the elbow, and tunes up the band, but Sid catches the Superkick. Shawn ducks a clothesline, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor. Sid sets up the powerbomb and nails it out there. If you look closely, you can see that was the exact moment that the smile was dislodged from Shawn’s face. Kudos to him for not only finishing the match, but gutting it out for a few more weeks. That must have hurt. Back in the ring, Sid’s corner whip is reversed, so the ref gets caught in between and bumped. Sid hits a chokeslam and covers, but there’s no one to count. Another ref runs in, but Shawn kicks out at 2. Sid knocks the new ref out for that. Lothario gets on the apron, so Sid goes for him now, but Shawn grabs the camera and nails Sid with it in a call back to Survivor Series. He covers as the original ref is starting to stir, but by the time he gets there Sid is out at 2. Then, a little anti climactically, Shawn hits Sweet Chin Music and gets 3 to win his 2nd WWF Championship at 13:50. Didn’t really like it and it’s far from what you would expect from a Shawn Michaels PPV main event. **

The Rumble is pretty blah, the main event Title match is disappointing, and the rest of the card consists of crap matches with bad finishes. I can’t really recommend anything about this show, with the possible exception of Bulldog’s promo, even though on the surface it seems like it should have some historical importance attached to it with so many stars of the future here. Thumbs down for Royal Rumble 1997.

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