Alamodome – San Antonio, Texas – January 19, 1997
Vince McMahon, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are on commentary.
MATCH #1: Intercontinental Championship Match – Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust
Helmsley has been the Champion since 10.21.96, and this is his seventh defense. He has his new “butler” Mr. Hughes with him, while Goldust of course has Marlena in his corner. Goldust attacks the Champion in the aisle and the fight is on. They make it to the ring but are quickly back outside again as Goldust is dominating. Goldust uses the steel steps as a weapon, but doesn’t get disqualified. Back in the ring Helmsley tries making a comeback but Goldust has an answer for everything he does. The champ gets the advantage on the floor, but then tries a running knee and Goldust moves, causing the champ’s knee to hit the steel guardrail. Goldust then hits the knee with the steel steps, once again with no disqualification. Back in the ring Goldust continues to focus on Helmsley’s knee, also throwing in some outside the ring attacks as well. Helmsley ducks a cross body block and Goldust crashes to the floor. We actually get a break from the action for Todd Pettengill to interview country singer Colin Ray in the picture-in-picture. Oy. After several minutes of Helmsley in control, Goldust is able to make the comeback. Goldust goes up top and misses an elbow drop. Hughes gives Helmsley the Intercontinental Title belt, so Marlena distracts the Champion with a kiss. That allows Goldust to get control of the belt and deck Helmsley with it. Goldust covers but Hughes pulls Helmsley out of the ring. While the referee and Goldust get distracted with Hughes, Helmsley hits Goldust with a clothesline. Helmsley then hits the Pedigree to get the pin and retain the title at 16:50. That felt even longer than it was, and these two never had chemistry as opponents. The finish also took forever and seemed a little bit overdone.
Comments from the Rumble participants
Roll call – Bret Hart and Mankind. That’s it for now.
MATCH #2: Faarooq vs. Ahmed Johnson
Faarooq’s entourage was enormous at this point. Ahmed rushes in and attacks right away. He is dominating (no pun intended) the early going and Faarooq seeks solace on the floor. There is no solace found though, and Ahmed hurls Faarooq into the ring post. Back in the ring Ahmed continues to control the fight, even whipping Faarooq with a belt. Much like the first match, the referee is allowing a lot of leeway. Faarooq comes back and uses a steel chair to take control, again with no disqualification. Back in the ring Faarooq focuses on the kidney region, which is where he originally injured Ahmed, costing him the Intercontinental Title. Ahmed starts to fight up but Faarooq cuts him off with a spinebuster. That doesn’t do much damage though, as Ahmed pops up and hits a spinebuster of his own. That brings the Nation of Domination into the ring and the referee finally calls for the bell at 8:44. That was pretty dull stuff and kind of a lame finish. I get that the feud needed to continue, but it just kind of came out of nowhere.
After the match Ahmed beats on whatever Nation members he can get his hands on. Ahmed sets up the steel steps and delivers a Pearl River Plunger to an unnamed member through the French Announce Table.
Comments from the Rumble participants
Roll call – Terry Funk. That’s it. They cut over to Todd Pettengill, who is with the Nation of Domination. Both Faarooq and Crush will be in the Rumble match later, along with Ahmed Johnson.
MATCH #3: Vader vs. Undertaker
Both of these men will also compete in the Royal Rumble match later on. These two behemoths start out slugging right away. They go back and forth, with Vader using his power and Undertaker sitting up and stuff. The brawl spills to the floor and both men are cutting a pretty impressive pace given their size. Undertaker actually hits a Fame-Ass-Er! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that before. The two pro wrestlers continue to have a stiff match as Pettengill talks to some rubes in the crowd. I hate that – talk to the fans in between matches. Vader has actually controlled a bulk of the first 10 minutes, using his size to keep Undertaker on the mat. Undertaker fights back with a back suplex and both men are down. The Dead Man gets to his feet first but misses an elbow drop. Vader tries to capitalize by going to the second rope but Undertaker catches him with a powerslam! That was impressive. Undertaker next shrugs off a Powerbomb and hits a flying clothesline. He goes up and hits Old School. Paul Bearer makes his way out as Undertaker hits a Chokeslam. Undertaker gets distracted but is still able to knock Vader to the floor. He goes out and decks Bearer, and then throws him into the ring. Vader makes his way back to the fight and Bearer is safe for now. Undertaker and Vader spill to the floor, where Undertaker tries to leap off the steel steps but Bearer pulls Vader out of the way, causing Undertaker to hit nothing but guardrail. Bearer drills Undertaker with the urn. Back in the ring Vader hits the Vader Bomb to score the upset pin at 14:21. Vader and Bearer leave together and Undertaker beats up the referee before threatening Vince McMahon. The match was a pretty good power struggle in the beginning, but then collapsed under the weight of too much Paul Bearer. Vader would have looked more impressive getting a somewhat cleaner pin, but it was still pretty clean for beating Undertaker.
Comments from the Rumble participants
Roll call – Stone Cold Steve Austin cuts his usual awesome promo from this time, and then the British Bulldog promises to win the Rumble because he’s bizarre. I don’t get it either.
MATCH #4: Six-Man Tag Team Match – Fuerza Guerrera, Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada vs. Perro Aguayo, El Canek & Hector Garza
In the interest of full disclosure, I do get access to a lucha TV show where I live, and I tried to watch it for a number of weeks but I just could not get into it. Lucha is just not my favorite style but I promise to give this match a fair shake. Metal and Garza start the match with some mat wrestling. They make tags to Aguayo and Estrada, and they exchange holds. Aguayo dumps Estrada to the floor and teases a dive but doesn’t go through with it. Guerrera (Juventud’s father) and Canek tag in for their turn. Not much happens there and we’re back to the two young guys, Garza and Metal. They fly around the ring at a rapid pace and wrestle to a standoff. Aguayo and Estrada tag back in, but Canek gets in before any more contact is made. Okay then. Neither team gains any kind of sustained advantage, as they continue to exchange moves and things. Guerrera gets bumped to the floor and Aguayo teases another dive but once again doesn’t go through with it. Finally the Technicos isolate Metal and focus on his right leg. The match breaks down and becomes a little tough to keep up with. Estrada gets sent to the floor and Garza wipes him out with a corkscrew plancha from the top rope. In the ring Canek slams Metal to the mat, and Aguayo sort of hits a double stomp from the top rope. Aguayo adds a lame elbow drop and that’s enough to get the pin at 10:58. Even by my Lucha standards that was pretty bad, with no flow at all, botches all over the place, and an exceptionally weak finish. I can see why this didn’t exactly catch on with WWF fans.
MATCH #5: Royal Rumble Match
They are going with 90-second intervals this year. Crush is entrant #1, and Ahmed Johnson got #2! That’s bad news for Crush. Crush attacks right as Johnson slides into the ring and the Rumble is underway. Next up at #3 is “Razor Ramon.” He lasts about five seconds before Ahmed throws him out. Faarooq comes out to distract Ahmed, who foolishly jumps over the top rope, eliminating himself. Next up for Crush at #4 is Phineas Godwinn. They brawl for a bit and then Stone Cold Steve Austin is #5. Crush tries telling Austin what to do and it backfires. Phineas eliminates Crush, and then Austin hits him with a Stunner and throws him to the floor. Bart Gunn is #6 and Austin makes quick work of him for his second elimination. Jake “The Snake” Roberts is making his sixth Rumble appearance at #7. These two have history, as Austin beat Jake to win the King of the Ring in 1996, the night Austin 3:16 was born. Austin eliminates Roberts. One of Austin’s chief rivals, the British Bulldog is #8. Bulldog hits the Running Powerslam. Next up is AAA superstar Pierroth at #9. The Sultan comes out at #10, and he’s got The Iron Sheik with him. Not much happens and the legendary Mil Mascaras is the #11 entrant. Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley is the #12 man in the ring. Bulldog eliminates Sultan. More random brawling happens and lucky #13 is Owen Hart. Bulldog goes to eliminate Austin and Owen sneaks up from behind and dumps Bulldog out! Goldust is #14, and he has unfinished business with Helmsley. WE reach the halfway point with the 20-year-old Cibernético at #15. Cibernético lasts less than two minutes before Mascaras and Pierroth dump him out. Marc Mero is #16. Mascaras then dumps Pierroth, and then executes a dive from the top rope, effectively eliminating himself. What an idiot. Then again that rule changes year-to-year so who could blame him for trying. Goldust clotheslines Helmsley to the floor. Next up is Latin Lover at #17. Oen eliminates Goldust. Faarooq comes out with the #18 draw. He quickly eliminates Lover, and then gets clobbered by Austin. Ahmed Johnson then makes his way to the ring with a giant 2×4 and chases Faarooq out of the ring with it. Owen and Mero fight near the ropes and Austin eliminates both of them at the same time. Savio Vega is #19 and he goes right after his formal rival Austin, the only other man left in the ring. Austin makes quick work of Vega and is all alone in the ring. Jesse James comes out at #20 and Austin gets rid of him too.
Then shit gets real as Austin’s blood rival Bret “Hit Man” Hart is #21! This is phenomenal booking. The two enemies tear into each other and the crowd is losing it. Bret dominatesthe tired Austin until #22 is announced, and it’s Jerry “The King” Lawler. King gets up from the commentary table and gets in the ring, and Bret immediately eliminates him with a hard right hand. The #23 man in the ring is “Diesel.” Middle aged and crazy Terry Funk is #24. Rocky Maivia coems out with the #25 draw. Mankind is #26 as the ring is filling back up. Things get Funky as Flash Funk is #27. I wonder if he’s related to Terry. The Mastadon Vader is #28. Hog farmer Henry Godwinn is #29. The field finishes up with Undertaker at #30. Vader dumps Flash to the floor. Undertaker removes Godwinn from the match. Mankind eliminates Maivia, and then Terry Funk. Undertaker gets rid of Mankind. Funk and Mankind get into a fight on the floor and the referees try to break it up. We’re down to the Final Five – Bret Hart, Stone Cold, Vader, Undertaker, and “Diesel.” Something tells me one of those guys shouldn’t be there. Bret eliminates Austin, but the referees don’t see it! Austin sneaks back in the ring to eliminate Vader and Undertaker at the same time. Bret eliminates Diesel and then Austin eliminates Bret, and this time the officials see it and Austin wins the Rumble at 50:27! This one had some dead spots, but Austin being out there for most of it really helped it get through those dead spots. As soon as Bret came out this match was golden, and the finish is arguably the best in Rumble history.
MATCH #6: WWF Championship Match – Sycho Sid vs. Shawn Michaels
Sid has been the Champion since 11.17.96, and this is his third defense. The Champion shows off his power in the early going. Michaels fights back with his spee and tenacity. He kicks Sid to the floor. He goes out after him and tries a whip into the apron but it gets reversed. Back in the ring Michaels goes up top and Sid catches him on the way down with a powerslam for two. Sid then makes Michaels humble with the Camel Clutch. Michaels gets out of it but is quickly overpowered and dumped back to the floor. Sid focuses on the back and just abuses Michaels in inhumane ways. This goes on for quite some time, and whenever Michaels tries to make the comeback Sid cuts him off. Eventually Michaels finally does make the comeback, bodyslamming Sid and following with a flying forearm. Michaels goes up top and hits Hail to the King. The band tunes up but Sid catches it and dumps Michaels to the floor. Sid follows him out and delivers a Powerbomb on the floor! Jose Lothario and his kid try to get involved but Sid will have none of it. Back in the ring Mihcaels fights back right away and the referee gets bumped. Sid hits a huge Chokeslam but there is no referee to count. A second referee comes out but can only get to two. Sid strikes the second official just for fun. Jose gets up on the ring apron to distract Sid, allowing Michaels to use one of the ringside cameras as a weapon. That’s called a receipt, kids. The original referee crawls over to make the cover but Sid kicks out! Moments later Michaels hits Sweet Chin Music to get the pin and regain the title at 13:49. Shawn was legitimately battling the flu during this match so it definitely felt substandard and not to the level of their Survivor Series match. It was a decent David versus Goliath match with a foregone conclusion for a finish, but 1997 Shawn is still amazing so there is fun to be had in watching this.
Royal Rumble Highlights
This is just over two minutes of highlights from the event. Not all of the matches were great, but there definitely were some highlights and memorable moments on this show.
Royal Rumble Trivia
Longest Lasting Superstar in the Ring: Stone Cold Steve Austin, 45 minutes
Superstar With Most Eliminations: Stone Cold Steve Austin, 10
Royal Rumble Rookies: Cibernetico, Faarooq, Flash Funk, Terry Funk, Phineas I. Godwinn, Goldust, Jesse Jammes, Ahmed Johnson, Latin Lover, Mankind, Mil Mascaras, Marc Mero, Pierroth, Razor Ramon, Rocky Maivia, and The Sultan