WWF Royal Rumble 1995
January 22nd 1995
USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida
January 22nd 1995
USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida
Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.
So the big news since Survivor Series is that Diesel completely squashed Backlund about a week after he defeated Bret at Survivor Series for the title, completing his meteoric rise to the main event in only a year and a half. Tonight Bret Hart get's his first title shot since Backlund put him out of action, and we've also got Jeff Jarrett challenging Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental title, the finals of a tournament to tag new WWF tag team champions, and of course the Royal Rumble match itself.
The show starts off with Pamela Anderson arriving at the Sun Dome and being met by the goofiest group of wrestlers imaginable including a 500 pound black man (Mabel), a clown (Doink), a midget clown (Dink), an Indian (Tatanka) and a Puerto Rican "martial arts" expert (Kwang). Every time I see the opening to this show all I can think is how incredibly childish and stupid this company looks at this particular moment in time.
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Razor Ramon (C) vs. Jeff Jarrett
This was when Jarrett was finally receiving a push after being a completely worthless heel jobber for about a year, though the push was in large part due to the newfound heat Jarrett had been recieving thanks to the arrival of the Roadie (Road Dogg), who accompanies Jarrett to rinside. Razor dominates to start hitting a few of his signature moves in a fallaway slam and a chokeslam, leading Jarrett to bail to the outside. Lots of stalling here as the fans are vocally behind Razor. Back in the ring they exchange wristlocks and do the old test-of-strength spot, but Razor sends Double J back to the outside. Jarrett takes a water break with the Roadie and continues playing up the crowd. Jarrett hits a trio of excellent dropkicks and gets a two count. Back and forth covers here as both men quicken the pace. Neckbreaker from Jarrett as he tries to cover Razor with his feet on the ropes. Textbook heel shenanigans, but Razor racks Double J's crotch on the turnbuckle much to the crowd's delight. Razor gets thrown to the outside and begins limping with his right leg, having fell on it awkwardly. Roadie capitalizes on this with a quick shoulder block to the back of Razor's leg. The referee begins counting and surprisingly reaches 10, apaprently giving Jarrett the win at 11:46. Jarrett gets on the mic and calls Razor yellow if he doesn't get back into the ring to finish the match. Ramon, being the ultimate prideful babyface accepts the challenge and agrees to restart the match. Razor is still limping but he manages to roll up Double J for a quick 2 count before Jeff begins working on Razor's leg. Another small package near fall for Razor but again Jarrett kicks out and begins to focus on the injured knee. Simple effective psychology here and Hall's selling is excellent. Razor keeps trying to fight off Jeff but Jarrett continously focuses on the knee, setting up finally for the figure four leglock which he applies to him in the center of the ring. Razor's shoulders hit the mat and he kicks out of a few pin attempts before finally breaking the figure four and beginning a comeback, hitting Double J with rights and lefts and perching him onto the top turnbuckle for his signature top-rope back suplex, but Jarrett rolls through (and then Razor rolls through THAT roll through) for another near fall. Very good action here and the crowd is really into it. Razor calls for the Razor's Edge but his knee is too damaged and it buckles beneath him, letting Jarrett roll him up for the clean 3 count and Jeff Jarrett's first Intercontintal title reign at 18:03. Very good opener here as it got the crowd really fired up and there was excellent psychology, selling, and execution from both men. A lot of people thought Razor was headed or a main event push here, but alas that would never be and he's hang around in the midcard until leaving and changing wrestling history forever in 1996. ***¼ for the whole thing.
Backstage some woman who was in the WWF for about half a cup of coffee tries to get an interview with Jeff Jarrett but he's too busy celebrating with the Roadie.
Undertaker vs. IRS
This was one of 'Taker's first challenges during his overlong feud with Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation, a storyline basically created to keep 'Taker dominating people while still remaining in the midcard, letting the Kliq shine. It's no wonder he wasn't motivated in the ring for many years in the 90s. IRS does his usual taxes spiel before the match. Lots of stalling to start off. Lots and lots of stalling. Crowd is pretty dead here and I don't blame them. Undertaker chokes IRS with his own tie for a bit and launches him across the ring by it. Somewhere Bryan Danielson is smiling. DiBiase tries to distract on the apron but is easily dispatched by the dead man. IRS and DiBiase exchange words and Ted signals for a pair of fake druids, who look like they were kidnapped by a terrorist group, to come down to ringside. More distraction attempts by the druids but it still doesn't phase 'Taker who is easily dominating Irwin here. He goes for his patented walking-on-the-top-rope spot but the druids shake the ropes, sending 'Taker flying off while the ref is distracted. I'd say about 90% of this match thus far has been stalling and attempts at distracting the referee. Outside Undertaker begins choking the fake druids but IRS hits an axe handle and sends 'Taker into the ring steps. IRS hits several elbow and leg drops back inside the ring but still the Undertaker rises in spooky fashion. Both men bounce off the ropes and knock into eachother, giving Ted the chance to distract the ref and let a druid drape Irwin's arm over 'Taker for a 2 count. Some heel miscommunication knocks the fake druid off the apron and the Undertaker eventually hits the choke slam on IRS for the 3 count at 12:20. Way too long of a match here and there was never any doubt that the Undertaker would be going over here. This could of used a good five minutes trimmed off of it, and the constant stalling and interference didn't help matters either. *
After the match King Kong Bundy makes his way to ringside and takes out the Undertaker while IRS steals the sacred urn from Paul Bearer.
In pre-taped footage Diesel is reluctant to answer Todd Pettingill's questions. Bret says a bit more to the boy wonder before kicking him out of his locker room.
WWF World Title Match
Diesel (C) vs. Bret Hart
This is Bret's first shot at the world title since being screwed out of the title at Survivor Series by his brother Owen and a crazed Bob Backlund. 1995 would be a strange year for Bret who much like the Undertaker would spend the year easily dispatching an endless stream of midcarders. He put on some damn fine matches to come with those midcarders though. Diesel greets former New York Giants great Lawrence Taylor outside the ring and the bell sounds. It's speed versus power to start off with Bret trying to put momentum behind some running clotheslines to Diesel to little success. Soon enough Bret takes him off his feet and begins to work on Diesel's leg in the early going. Lots of kneework here as he grinds Diesel down on the mat for several minutes until Diesel can finally escape to the outside. Bret flies out through the middle rope and they brawl outside of the ring. Back in the ring Diesel limps, selling the leg nicely. Bret does his bump into the corner turnbuckle and Diesel goes to work at him in the corner with elbows. He hits a huge sidewalk slam for a quick two count. Diesel drapes Bret over his knee in a back-resthold but sort of just collapses onto Bret for another near fall. The crowd isn't very loud, unsure of who to root for here in a battle of babyfaces. Diesel tosses Bret up over his shoulders in a semi-torture rack that Bret tries to slither out of to no avail, being met with a big boot and an elbow drop for another two count. Outside the ring Bret ties Diesel's legs up around the turnbuckle with some of his bootlaces, giving the Hitman some uncharacteristic chances for cheap shots. The ref quickly unties him however and back inside the ring Bret starts going into his usual sequence of moves---russian leg sweep, backbreaker, knee from the second rope. Diesel's leg is really bothering him as it's clear Bret's gameplan to try and take the big man's legs out from under him is suceeding thus far. Outside the ring Bret attempts a pescado but Diesel catches him and slams him into the steel turnbuckle. Back inside the ring Diesel calls for the jacknife and hits it, but Shawn Michaels sprints out to the ring and barely manages to break up the 3 count, attacking Diesel. Surprisingly Earl Hebner doesn't end the match here, simply sending HBK out of the ring instead and ordering the match to continue. Bret goes back to working on Diesel's leg, applying another figure four on him in the middle of the ring. Eventually Diesel breaks it up and begins dominating the Hitman once again with power moves and a huge gut wrench suplex for two. Bret goes outside and wraps Diesel's leg around the steel post again and then grabs a steel chair and slams it onto Diesel's leg much to the crowd's surprise. Uncharacteristic move there by Bret. Back inside the ring Bret applies the sharpshooter finally but Owen Hart runs down to the ring to break it up before Diesel can tap, exposing the turnbuckle in the process. You really have to question why the referee hasn't disqualified anyone yet, but the match is again ordered to continue. Bret slams Diesel's head into the exposed turnbuckle and follows it up with left and right hooks, but Diesel just keeps getting back up. Bret's leg gets tied up in the ropes which gives Diesel the opportunity to grab a steel chair, but Bret manages to escape before any damage is inflicted. Bret plays possum, feigning injury inside the ring and rolling Diesel up in a small package for a near fall. Bret runs Diesel into the ropes and Hebner takes a ref bump, which leads Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett, and the Roadie all to run tot he ring and begin beating down both men to finally cause the ref to throw the match out at 27:18. Really weak finish to an otherwise very good title match here as Bret and Diesel put on a solid little man-big man match with some excellent psychology from both men. Diesel more than held up his own as well in the ring though. Bit of an overrated match honestly but it could have been remembered as great if it had a real ending to it. Protective booking can suck sometimes and is why face versus face matches can be very hard to pull off. Still, good match. ***¾
After the match both men fight off the heels and embrace in a sign of mutual respect and sportsmanship.
Backstage Todd Pettingill is incredibly creepy and clumsy as Pamela Anderson changes behind a screen.
The forgotten female interviewer gets a few words with the 1-2-3 Kid and "Spark Plugg" Bob Holly about their match against Bam Bam and Tatanka in the finals of a tournamnet to crown new WWF tag team champions after HBK and Diesel had to forfeit the titles.
King does a silly Madden screen-writing bit, drawing himself next to a photo of Pam Anderson from earlier in the night, kissing her cheek.
WWF Tag Team Title Tournament Finals
Bam Bam Bigelow/Tatanka vs. 1-2-3 Kid/Bob Holly
Kind of a strange match to hold after the world title match. Holly and Tatanka start off, feeling each other out. Holly hits a headscissors (yes, you read that correctly) on Tatanka and follows it up with several dropkicks. Hard to believe there was a time when Bob Holly was considered a bit of a high-flyer. Bam Bam tags in and is easily able to dominate both Holly and the Kid, Bigelow tossing them halfway across the ring with ease. Bam Bam tries to powerbomb the 1-2-3 Kid but he hits a HUGE hurricanrana on him, however Bigelow is able to quickly retaliate with the biggest enziguri in the business, leaping into the air like a cruiserweight. Tatanka and Bigelow tag in and out, beating down the Kid with ease for awhile. Textbook babyfaces-in-peril formula tag wrestling here as the Kid keeps hitting sporadic big moves on both men before being taken down again and again by their power. Holly leaps off the top but Bam Bam catches him just as the Kid follow suits and is caught by Tatanka. They ram the two Million Dollar Corporation members into eachother however and Holly gets a two count. Holly misses a clothesline and falls to the outside after Bam Bam lowers one of the ropes. The Kid tries to intervene but the ref stops him, telling him to return to his corner. Some heel miscommunication leads Tatanka to deliver an axe handle to Bam Bam from the tope rope as the crowd begins to clap and rally behind the underdog team of perreniel jobbers. Bigelow hits a big splash on Holly in the corner and continues the beatdown, keeping him in his corner and away from his partner. Bam Bam gets a few near falls and complains to the ref about a slow count as Sparky stumbles into the wrong corner looking for the tag. Kid accidentally distracts the ref again as the beatdown continues. The Million Dollar Man is all smiles on the outside as there's no way Bob Holly can last much longer. Finally Holly gets the hot tag and the 1-2-3 Kid starts throwing huge dropkicks all around before hitting a somersault plancha on Tatanka on the outside followed by a cross body onto Bam Bam for a two count. He's quickly sent to the mat however and Bam Ba attempts a moonsault only for Tatanka to accidentally hit the ropes and send his partner crashing to the mat, giving the Kid the chance to drape his arm over Bam Bam for the shocking 3 count at 15:46 to win the tag titles. Surprisingly good match here between these two teams as they told the tried-and-true story of an underdog team of babyfaces using their speed against a team of powerhouses and getting the upset win in the end. This lucky streak wouldn't last long however as they lost the titles the next night on Raw against the returning Smoking Gunns. ***¼
After the match Bam Bam is left at ringisde by Tatanka and DiBiase. He exchanges some harsh words with Lawrence Taylor at ring side, shoving him down and pissing him off, setting up their eventual match at Wrestlemania. Why Vince thought this was a main-event moneymaking idea is beyond me.
We get some highlights from last year's Royal Rumble and Diesel's monstrous run.
Royal Rumble Match
This would be the shortest Rumble ever with the interval between entrances being only 60 seconds. This was mainly done because at the time the WWF was lacking in star power and they really just wanted to get this match over with as quickly as possible. Number one is none other than Shawn Michaels, thought to be the favorite by many, and number two is the British Bulldog. Great way to start the Rumble here as these two are bumping all over the ring in the opening minute of the match. In no time at all the counatdown begins and in at number is Eli Blu, better known as one of the Harris twins. Moments after hitting the ring it's already time for the next entrant and it's Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, a gimmick and character I'm still trying to understand. Next in as a member of the Heavenly Bodies, Gigolo Jimmy Del Ray and his glorious mustache. Del Ray dangles HBK over the top rope but he hangs on. In next is Seonne, better known as the Barbarian during his brief time in the Headshrinkers tag team. Del Ray is the first eliminated moments later. Next in is Del Ray's tag partner, Doctor Tom Pritchard. Barbarian threatens to throw HBK over the top to no avail. Next in is Doink who gets a surprisingly big pop. God Doink was so much better as a heel with Matt Borne playing the role. Next up is Kwang, better known as Savio Vega in a mask and pretending to be a martial arts expert, despite never actually using any martial arts, ever. This is remembered by many as a Rumble of jobbers, and it's clear to see why as we've got a list of curtain jerkers in the ring with HBK and the Bulldog being the only real threats here. Up next is Rick Martel out of the blue, as he was on his last legs in the WWF at this point and would be gone soon enough. Atleast he's more credible than the clown, garbage man and Puerto Rican ninja though. In no time at all Owen Hart makes his way to the ring to some good heat, as finally it looks like things might be looking up. However on his way to the ring his brother Bret runs up behind him and beats him down. Up next is Timothy Well of the shortlived jobber tag team Well Dunn who gets one of the biggest pops of the match thus far to my utter bewilderment. Owen manages to make it to the ring but is immediately eliminated and quickly joined by Droese and Doctor Tom. One of the Bushwhackers marches down to the ring and is almost immediately eliminated as the ring is cleared and it's just HBK and the Bulldog again, instantly improving the match but only briefly before the other Blu brother comes out to the ring.
HBK quickly eliminates him with a back body drop however. This match is simply FLYING by because of how short the intervals are between entrances, with them sometimes even bringing out the next entrant in less than 60 seconds. King Kong Bundy enters next at #15 and takes it to the Bulldog. Mo from Men on a Mission is next but he's immediately eliminated by Bundy to the King's amusement. Mabel is next and it's the battle of the obese as he and Bundy wrestle for a bit until Bundy is lazily eliminated while another Bushwhacker makes his way to the ring (and is himself quickly eliminated) at number 18. Next in is Lex Luger as finally we have another legitimate threat in the match. He sprints to the ring and quickly eliminates Mabel, prompting the King to change his pick yet again to Lex. Luger and Bulldog work together trying to eliminate Shawn but they can't as in at number twenty comes...Mantaur. Yes, Mantaur. Starting to see why this wasn't a very popular Rumble match now? Vince was going gimmick-crazy at this time with moronic wastes of space like Mantaur and Bastion Booger. Speaking of wastes of space, up next is Aldo Montoya (better known as Justin Credible). Some slow spots drag on here until Henry Godwinn enters in at number 22, a newcomer to the WWF at the time prior to the arrival of his kayfabe tag team partner and brother Phineas. At ringside Pam Anderson could not look less interested. Billy Gunn sprints to the ring next and slides across the ring as he enters. Man Billy was athletic in his prime. His partner and kayfabe brother Bart enters next and is immediately attacked by Mantaur. Bob Backlund is next out, met with some nice heat from the crowd, however Bret Hart returns again and takens out Backlund, getting revenge for Backlund's interference in his title match earlier. Next in is the other member of Well Dunn, Steven Dunn. Backlund makes his way into the ring briefly before being clotheslined out by Luger and eliminated.
Next out is Dick Murdoch (!) of all people who the crowd is completely clueless about. Strange one off appearance by the legendary Murdoch here, but he still looks tough as nails if a bit out of shape. While he simpers to the ring, Adam Bomb is the next out. Jobbers...jobbers everywhere. We're closing in on the end here already as number #29, Fatu, enters the ring and takes it directly to Billy Gunn, nearly eliminating him. Luger tosses Mantaur out, thank God. Before you know it the final entrant, number 30, comes to the ring and it's Crush. Both members of the Smoking Gunns are eliminated, followed up quickly by Steven Dunn. The crowd is pretty dead here as it's obvious that the only people in the ring with a chance in hell of winning are Michaels, Bulldog, and Luger. Adam Bomb is eliminated, surprising McMahon who calls him "one of the favorites". sure Vince, whatever you say. HBK eliminates Aldo Montoya and is almost taken out by Murdoch but strangely enough he's saved by Lex Luger. Crush takes the Barbarian inside out with a nice lariat and eliminates him moments later. Dick Murdoch hits a freaking DROPKICK on Henry Godwinn in the middle of the ring and it's a beauty. Woah Dick! Unfortunately he's eliminated moments later by Henry. Everyone in the ring takes a quick a breather for a moment and then Luger eliminates Godwinn with a back body drop.
We're down to the final four now, Shawn Michaels, the British Bulldog, Lex Luger, and Crush. Atleast the final four is respectable here as none of these guys are jobbers like the rest of the entrants seemed to be. Luger hits Crush with shots in the corner but HBK sneaks up behind him and tosses him over the top rope, eliminating him. He and Crush briefly join forces, beating down on Davey Boy. This doesn't last long though as Crush looks to toss HBK out with a gorilla slam, but he escapes and Bulldog clotheslines him out of the ring, bringing it down to the final two in the Bulldog and Shawn Michaels, the same two men who started the match. The match gets alot better here as they trade big moves as the crowd is really into it, strongly behind the Bulldog. Davey Boy clotheslines HBK over the top and apparently wins the match, with his music playing and all. HBK however sneaks into the ring and knocks Bulldog out of the ring while he's celebrating. Howard Finkel announces the famous line that "Only ONE of Shawn Michael's feet touched the floor" however and upon replay we see it to be true. Excellent, excellent finish to an otherwise very mediocre Rumble that was way too short and featured way too many jobbers. The finish to the match though is one of the best in Rumble history and a classic moment in WWE history. **¾ is about as high as I can go, based mostly off of the great finish.
Overall this was a fairly good show for the WWF, though the buyrate at the time was very disappointing and a sign of things to come business-wise for the company. Most of the card is very solid however with a fun opener between Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett, a very good world title match between Bret Hart and Diesel, a surprisingly good little tag title match and a spirited finish to the Rumble match. Not one of the best Rumbles or anything, but a good show that's worth your time and the first big step by Shawn Michaels into becoming the ace of the company over the coming months and years.