August 17, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Royal Rumble
January 19, 1997
Alamodome
San Antonio, Texas
Attendance: 60,525
Buy Rate: .7
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross

Fun Fact: This is the debut of Jim Ross’ black Resistol cowboy hat. He hated that Vince made him wear it that first time, but has been rarely seen without it since.

Dark Matches:

1) Venom & Perro Aguayo Jr. defeat Maniaco & Mosco De La Merced in 10:00
2) Octagon, Blue Demon Jr. & Tinieblas Jr. defeat Heavy Metal, Avismo Negro & Hiseria in 14:00
3) Mascarita Sadrada Jr. & La Parkita defeat Mini Mankind & Mini Vader in 4:29

Actual Show:

1) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) defeats Goldust (Dustin Runnells) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with a Pedigree at 16:48

Fun Fact: Helmsley was given Mr. Hughes a bodyguard as an effort to receive some heat, in the old Diesel/Shawn Michaels formula, but it still just did not click with the crowds. Hughes lasted about a week or so before being “fired” by Hunter. Hughes had left the WWF in 1993, and since then had an awesome run in ECW with Shane Douglas and Borne Again against Paul E. and 911. Rumor has it that he was fired here because he fancied “S&M” clubs. It would not be the last we see of Mr. Hughes, however, as he does return one last time.

Scott: The opening PPV match for 1997 pits two men in need of something. It’s been a year since Goldust beat Razor Ramon to win the IC Title, but it really seems like 10 years. Now he’s a face, and the crowd is kind of lukewarm on it. Helmsley on the other hand, is in a different boat. Unlike Goldust, who had great crowd heat and lost it, Hunter hasn’t really had any at all. No one has really cared he’s the IC champ, and as a new year has dawned, he’s still looking for heat. So he brings out security, some protection, in the form of….Mr. Hughes? Last time we saw him was in mid-1993 working for Harvey Wippleman against the Undertaker. Now he’s covering for Helmsley, and guess what? That’s right, no one cares. The match itself was pretty good, as both men put everything into it in front of 60,000 at the Alamodome. The referee was pretty lenient with the use of the ring steps, but the ring psychology was solid as Marlena, the object of Hunter’s desires, was at ringside. Goldust put himself over as someone who was frustrated that Helmsley was making a play for his “woman.” Using the ring steps and almost getting himself disqualified was working for him in terms of telling the story. Unfortunately the crowd was really not interested. It would be that way for pretty much the first 4 matches of the show. Cheating leads to a Pedigree and a win for the Greenwich Blueblood. Mr. Hughes would be turfed soon due to allegedly being in S&M clubs, but it turns out to be a blessing in disguise. His new bodyguard next month would change Helmsley’s career forever. I think it’s a solid match, but the Alamodome crowd really didn’t. Grade: 3

Justin: A pretty standard, yet somewhat boring, match here. Goldust had a fresh face turn, but was still in his poor match rut that started during the later stages of his Undertaker feud. This feud somewhat parallels that one, as these guys will end up wrestling a lot, both on TV and PPV in 1997, but their matches never really got much better as they went along. The feud started back in December, when Helmsley hit on Marlena at It’s Time and Goldust interjected himself during Hunter’s match later in the show. In the weeks following, Goldust officially turned face when he had a showdown with Jerry Lawler, who asked him if he was a “queer.” Goldust took offense and laid the King out, finishing off the turn. Despite all that, the crowd really is pretty flat for the majority of this show and with this match; I guess I can’t blame them. Despite the lack of interest Vince kept with his push of Helmsley, and eventually it would pay off in spades. For now though, his second PPV title defense is a bit of a dud. Grade: 2

2) Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) defeats Faarooq (Ron Simmons) by disqualification at 8:52

Fun Fact: The actual size of the Nation is its biggest ever at this point. Faarooq led Crush, Clarence Mason, PG-13, D-Lo Brown (not named yet), 2 or 3 other random black men and even one black woman. Savio Vega would join the Nation a couple of weeks later at an MSG house show, turning on Ahmed during a tag match.

Fun Fact II: This is Ahmed Johnson’s first televised match since winning a battle royal on Raw in early August, and his first PPV match since the six-man tag main event at International Incident back in July.

Scott: This match had absolutely no heat to it, since the matter should have been settled the previous August at Summerslam. Remember this was over the kidney injury that forced Ahmed to forfeit the Intercontinental Title. By the time this match starts, that issue is long dead. The match itself is completely unwatchable, with various Nation members, including an unknown D-Lo Brown, getting Powerbombed and abused more than the two men in the ring. Otherwise, this poor match fittingly ends with a no-solution DQ. Whatever good workrate mojo Ahmed had in 1996 is completely gone by his return. This ridiculous feud continues throughout the year. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A real clusterfuck here. Ahmed had totally lost any semblance of wrestling skill he had just 6 months earlier and Faarooq was grossly out of shape at this point and hardly in a position to carry anyone. To his credit, Simmons would eventually bust his ass and whip himself into awesome shape, but at this point his ass is about the size of Rikishi’s. He even works in the dumbest spot ever, which, for some reason, he always used: Faarooq stands over his opponent’s head and taunts the crowd. His opponent then stands up and starts picking Faarooq up on his shoulders while Faarooq pleads “NOOOO, PLEAAASE NOOO.” Ugh. Anyway, the best part of this match is Ahmed Powerbombing a random Nation member through the French Announcers table. The feud would roll on through all of 1997 in one way or another and would actually get a bit more interesting, but the crowd just didn’t want to buy what they were selling at this point. Grade: 2

3) Vader (Leon White) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) with a Vader Bomb at 13:22

Fun Fact: On a December episode of Superstars, Undertaker had a confrontation with and tombstoned Jim Cornette, putting him on the shelf. Paul Bearer then began managing Vader, thus this feud is still an offshoot of the Undertaker/Bearer feud.

Scott: Now Undertaker is involved in a “Paul Bearer finds another big heel” storyline, as he faces the Mastodon. Vader is now stuck in limbo. After the controversial storyline changes over the past few months, it’s unclear what Vader is going to do now. Would he get another title shot? As for Undertaker, he’s prepping himself for one of the most successful runs of his career. You wouldn’t think in two months he would be in the main event at Wrestlemania. The world title focus is on Michaels, Austin, Hart, and Sid. Vader would also be an unexpected participant in the chase later in the show. Here, Paul Bearer gets another urn shot on Taker’s head, and Vader gets the cheap win. This battle with his former manager continues to be intriguing, and throughout 1997 it gets better, and by the end of the year, a new, enduring WWF character would be born from it. Grade: 2

Justin: This is a pretty decent power match but not nearly as good as the battle they would have later in the year. At the time, Taker seemed to be in a major slide, as he had been made vulnerable by Mankind, and now he was jobbing to Vader, who was just returning to action for the first time since November. Of course, Taker was on the verge of one of his biggest pushes ever, but at the time of this match, that seemed highly unlikely. These two would carry their war in to the Rumble later in the night and would be mired in controversy over the next month. A good win for the Mastodon, though and it was nice to see him back in action and picking up a big win on the big stage. These two had pretty good chemistry but had yet to work out the kinks here. Solid enough power match though that got the story across just fine. Grade: 2

4) Perro Aguayo, Canek & Hector Garza defeat Jerry Estrada, Fuerza Guererra & Heavy Metal when Aguayo pinned Metal with a double stomp at 10:56

Scott: OK, now usually with our reviews I’ll at least give a decent paragraph about each match. But, honestly, I could give two shits about six old guys from Mexico. Konnan was definitely getting the better Mexican talent for WCW, so Vince had to pick the leftovers. The crowd was dying fast, and this didn’t help. 3 of these guys were over 50, and they jumped and flipped and all this other shit, and no one really cared. Vince was doing everything he could to try and get more fresh talent. This option failed, badly. Grade: 1

Justin: I think Vince went to AARP instead of AAA and this is what he came back with. We should have been forewarned of Vince Russo’s madness when he picked Hector Garza (another AAA reject) to win the Royal Rumble on Livewire considering he wasn’t even in the match. If we had, WCW may still be around today. Spotfests with no psychology are OK when they have the right mix of guys, but sadly that was not the case here. Grade: 1.5

5) Steve Austin wins the Royal Rumble

Order of Entry and who eliminated them

1) Crush (Brian Adams): Phineas Godwin
2) Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris): Himself
3) Razor Ramon (Rick Bogner): Ahmed Johnson
4) Phineas Godwin (Dennis Knight): Steve Austin
5) Steve Austin (Steve Williams): Winner
6) Bart Gunn (Mike Plotcheck): Steve Austin
7) Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith, Jr.): Steve Austin
8) British Bulldog (David Smith): Owen Hart
9) Pierroth (Daniel Lopez): Marc Mero
10) Sultan (Solofa Fatu): British Bulldog
11) Mil Mascaras (Aaron Rodriguez): Himself
12) Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque): Goldust
13) Owen Hart: Steve Austin
14) Goldust (Dustin Runnells): Owen Hart
15) Cybernetico: Marc Mero
16) Marc Mero: Steve Austin
17) Latin Lover (Victor Manual Resendiz Ruiz): Faarooq
18) Faarooq (Ron Simmons): Ahmed Johnson
19) Savio Vega (Juan Rivera): Steve Austin
20) Jesse Jammes (Brian James): Steve Austin
21) Bret Hart: Steve Austin
22) Jerry Lawler: Bret Hart
23) Diesel (Glen Jacobs): Bret Hart
24) Terry Funk: Mankind
25) Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson): Mankind
26) Mankind (Mick Foley): Undertaker
27) Flash Funk (Charles Skaggs): Vader
28) Vader (Leon White): Steve Austin
29) Henry Godwin (Mark Canterbury): Undertaker
30) Undertaker (Mark Callaway): Austin

Longest Time: Steve Austin: 45:07

Shortest Time: Jerry Lawler: :04

Most Eliminated: Steve Austin: 10

Fun Fact: Some debuts and returns for this rumble. The Sultan is Bob Backlund and Iron Sheik’s protégé, and under the mask it’s Fatu, making his PPV return. The legendary, and overly arrogant, according to Mick Foley, Mil Mascaras makes his only PPV appearance. He actually eliminates himself by pulling off a move off the top rope to the floor. Pierroth, Cybernetico and Latin Lover are more flunkies from AAA. Jesse James makes his PPV return after being off camera for a while. We last saw him on PPV as the Roadie, when he cost Jeff Jarrett the Intercontinental Title at IYH #2 in 1995. Terry Funk also makes his return to the WWF. His last appearance was teaming with his brother Dory to defeat the Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana at Wrestlemania II. Since then he had an awesome feud with Ric Flair in WCW as well as make a run in ECW. He would return to ECW later in the year to win their title at their first PPV.

Fun Fact II: There was an announced “Mystery Entrant,” who was hyped up for weeks, and of course got everyone excited again, just like Survivor Series. Throughout the whole Rumble, Lawler, who was doing commentary, kept claiming he was the mystery entrant. Of course, since he was saying it, no one really thought that he was the 30th man. Well, as was the norm for this era, when the horn went off for entrant #22, the King’s music blared up and he jumped in the ring. About 10 seconds later, he was back at the commentary table and everyone was disappointed, again. The moment itself was funny, as he starts a sentence, gets up, gets punched out by Bret Hart, comes back to the table and finishes his sentence.

Scott: This may go down as one of the most unusual rumbles in recent memory. The heel Austin comes out at #5 to an unbelievable pop from his home state crowd. He puts on the most active performance in a Rumble in a few years, throwing out 10 participants and being all over the ring. The addition of everyone in the undercard in the Rumble shows that Vince wanted to load it with legitimate contenders to win. Very much like Ric Flair’s classic win 5 years earlier in Albany. Look at the roster: There are at least 7 or 8 men that could have won the rumble, and faced the champ in Chi-town. The crowd is still somewhat quiet, but not as dead as during the undercard. The controversy is this: Bret Hart throws Austin over the top rope, eliminating him. The problem is that because of the full scale brawl going on between Mankind and Terry Funk on the other side of the ring, none of the referees saw him get eliminated. Austin, fully aware of this, comes back in the ring, eliminates Taker, Vader, and Bret Hart, and steals his first of 3 Rumble wins over his illustrious career. Bret Hart, upset he was screwed, throws a fit to the officials and commentators. This begins the final chapter of Bret Hart’s tumultuous career in the WWF. Within 2 months, he would be the WWF’s most hated heel. You heard it right. Austin now gets the title shot at Wrestlemania. Or does he?

Justin: A very, very weird Royal Rumble. Vince did indeed load up the roster, but some of the guys were tossed early and quite easily. Mero, Helmsley, Goldust, Ahmed, and Faarooq are all dumped out fairly quickly which was surprising to see. The commentators also focus on the continuing dissention between the tag team champions, as Owen “accidentally” eliminates the Bulldog. The team is on the rocks and seemed headed for a major split in the upcoming months. The end of the match is just crazy, as Austin is tossed out, but sneaks back in and dumps Vader, Taker and Bret out to win it. Bret, foreshadowing his heel turn, flips out and starts tearing up the commentary table and screaming at Vince and JR about “being screwed.” The next night on Raw, the shit would hit the fan and the true era of “shades of gray” with multiple faces and heels all battling each other for the World Title was ushered in. As for the Rumble itself, it was fun to see Austin destroy the field, but overall the Rumble was more bizarre than good. It was cool seeing Terry Funk back in a WWF ring, and the night before this show, he stole the show on Shotgun Saturday Night. Funk was interviewed in the ring and proceeded to call Vince McMahon a "Yankee Bastard," Jim Ross an "Oklahoma Asshole" and that he would take on every wrestler in WWF, because "no one in WCW wants a piece of me." Funk and Austin then got into a big brawl inside the Texas bar the show was emanating from. It was a good old fashioned bar fight that set the stage for the Rumble match. Austin puts on a clinic here and is seemingly headed to Wrestlemania.

6) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Sycho Sid (Eudy) to win WWF World Title with a Superkick at 13:49

Fun Fact: Shawn was set to turn heel during this time period, but it was figured that the San Antonio crowd would be so behind him that Vince decided to keep him face instead. This match also features the last appearance of Jose Lothario as Shawn’s manager. Sid had attacked Jose’s son Pete and powerbombed him on a table two weeks before on Raw. It was cool spot and added some more intrigue to this match.

Scott: In his hometown, in front of 60,000-plus and with a touch of the flu, Shawn Michaels wins his second World Title against Sycho Sid. Sid is usually not one to hold a World Title, but his two month reign came at a time when main eventers were coming up the ladder at a quick pace. Sid, however, must do something he normally doesn’t do: Carry a match. Michaels was suffering from the flu, so Sid had to maintain the tempo for this match, something he usually doesn’t have to do. There’s a great moment where Sid Powerbombs Shawn on the outside, then has both Lotharios by the throat. Man, Sid was awesome during this run. He did a valiant job, considering Shawn called him a “piece of luggage” at It’s Time. The time of this match seems short for a Shawn Michaels title match, but he was running on half speed. Michaels holds the title until mid-February, when he loses it to…nobody. Huh? We get more on that in our next review. In any event, Sid doesn’t vanish. He still is a player, at least for the next couple of months. Solid enough match for the circumstances. Grade: 2.5

Justin: A pretty good match that finally got the crowd into a frenzy. This isn’t as good as their Survivor Series match, but was still a quality Main Event. It was good, but in the end it was rendered pointless, as Michaels would have some personal issues come up and the whole Title picture gets thrown into madness weeks after this show. Sid proves he has upped his work ethic and wrestling ability by carrying this match to a solid plateau. He has been an entertaining champion and a nice change of pace from the last three Champs who have all been milk toasty and played the role of white meat babyfaces. It came at a good time, as the last true heel to be World Champion for more than a few days was Yokozuna back in late 1993/early 1994. Sid wasn’t a pure heel, per se, but he was closer than anyone had been since Yoko. Who would have thought that just one year earlier that Sid could have climbed this high and been this entertaining after being so bad in 1995? Grade: 2.5

FINAL ANALYSIS

Scott: Except for a few good moments, not a great effort here. The crowd was pretty dead until the last 2 matches, but with the show being in a dome it’s tough to tell how loud they really were. The undercard was weak, the main event picture became very cluttered, and Shawn Michaels is about to make it more complicated. This is where the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart shit begins to come close to the fan, but not exactly hit it. 1997 will be a controversial and memorable year for wrestling. You wouldn’t think so now, but by year’s end, a new era has begun. The road to Wrestlemania is usually smooth and somewhat laid out by now. This year however, there are a lot of potholes in the road. This show was pumped and hyped to the hills for weeks, but the execution of it was flawed. Final Grade: C

Justin: Early 1997 is a funny period. Vince was doing a lot of good things to help turn his company around at this point, but the majority of those changes wouldn’t be felt until much later in the year. He was pushing new stars, mixing up his Main Events, adding some unpredictability and, most importantly, was trying new things. He started up Shotgun Saturday Night, a show that was filmed live in bars on Saturday Nights and aired late at night, in early January and finally convinced USA to give him a live two hour timeslot on Monday nights to compete with Nitro. Within the next two months, he totally re-vamped his Raw set and added a whole new feeling to the product. Unfortunately, some of the ratings and in-ring work were still suffering because the newer guys were trying to establish their styles with the crowds. It was just nice to see something different after the very stale and antiseptic 1995 and status quo 1996.This show, however, could have been a lot better, but I think the Dome killed the show. Vince should have never tried doing such a big dome show at this point, because the audience just wasn’t there. He could have had a smaller, yet hotter crowd if he ran a smaller Texas arena, thus, the crowd is still hot for HBK and Austin. Better days were on the horizon, and the PPV product would start to shine by the summer, but the pieces are in place and the wheels are in motion. Final Grade: C

MVP: Steve Austin
Runner-up: Sid
Non-MVP: Vince McMahon (for running such a huge dome show during this period)
Runner-up: Goldust & Hunter Hearst Helmsley

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