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[1997-01-19-WWF-Royal Rumble] Royal Rumble

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I don't know how much of this made the set, but I watched the whole match for the hell of it and rambled a bunch as it went:

 

 

 

Fake Razor and Diesel, and The Sultan are dead weight. There's some Mexican presence to pad things out in Pierroth, Mil Mascaras, Cibernetico, and Latin Lover. Mascaras gets a decent enough reaction and doesn't seem that out of place in this setting. But those guys are still filler too. Still just as a group of workers, there have been much worse in this match and overall it's not a bad lineup, though it's very backloaded on the major stars other than Austin so the first half is mainly "everyone considered for the IC title ever and some Mexicans" to the WWF audience.

 

Austin comes out really early, but after he eliminates Jake he really isn't the focus in this for a long time, until around #18 when Farooq hits the ring then everyone but Austin gets cleared out. Then it becomes more focused on him.

 

One of the funny things looking back is seeing both HHH and Rocky Maivia, both doing gimmicks no one really gives a shit about, being just "extra guys" for the most part. It sort of throws you for a loop considering how used you get to seeing them presented as really important later on.

 

Vince's constant "This guy is eliminated... oh wait, no" gets a little old. Vince in general feels like a throwback from the wrong era on commentary and it's a good thing he phased himself out of that role.

 

I wish they'd have given Owen and Bulldog more time together but they only get together here to work a dissention angle despite being tag champs as Owen "accidentally" eliminated Bulldog. It would have been neat to have a story with the two of them working together against everyone else, which could have given a structure to the pre-Bret stage of the Rumble, and they could have done the same angle later. The first half of the match is really just "a sequence of stuff that happens" but is mostly kind of formless.

 

Mascares takes out Cibernetico and Pierroth in quick succession during Marc Mero's entrance, then eliminates himself doing the top rope body press to the floor. I always dislike those "wrestlers are too dumb to know rules" things, but it keeps Mascaras from doing a job (of course), so here it's fine I guess.

 

"Double J" the Road Dog Jessie James has some seriously bad ring gear here that I'd totally forgotten about.

 

Then Bret hits the ring and shit gets real. Austin's reaction when he comes out is classic, and the fans really go nuts as it's clearly the big moment people have been waiting for through the first 30 minutes that gives the match some form.

 

Jerrly Lawler does an awesome 4 second cameo to put Bret over, wher he gets up from the announce table, brags, and is promptly eliminated.

 

Funk and Mankind in, naturally they go right after each other and basically stay out of the way, while Bret and Austin go at it. Terry is the best guy in the match at teasing getting thrown out; he did this in Japanese deathmaches a lot too where getting thrown into/over the ropes was death, so he's really practiced at it more than most. Bret hits an amazing jumping piledriver on Austin just after Flash Funk hits the ring that looks about as "high impact" (to steal a JR phrase) as anything in the WWF.

 

When Undertaker hits the ring at 30, among others you have Austin, Bret, Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Taker, and Vader all in the ring at once, so it's not like there was a lack of star power at the business and of this thing. You also have Kane as fake Diesel, rookie Rocky Maivia who is fodder here, and Flash Funk (with awful body suit). WWF may not have been in the strongest shape at this point but this is still a pretty darn group of workers. Undertaker comes in at 30 and is basically Godzilla, as he should be. Only dead weight in there that wasn't either a star or a future star is Henry Godwin, who Vince seems comically in love with.

 

Sadly the cameras miss Flash Funk getting eliminated by Vader, but they show the replay and it's pretty crazy as Vader stands back to the rope and does a fallaway slam where Flash goes right over the top and to the floor. The next elimination of Undertaker tossing out Godwin with a double choke and a toss is actually pretty damn cool too, though not quite at that level.

 

They run the angle with Funk and Mankind brawling after both being knocked out while all the refs are busy trying to separate them. Bret eliminates Austin but no official sees it. Austin sneaks back in and eliminates everyone in one quick shot and steals the win. This was a good angle as Bret goes nuts, and he has his justification. Really sets up the double turn well.

 

Overall, the first half of the rumble had no real structure which hurts, but the business end of it is pretty good. Didn't really draw as huge a reaction as you'd want, but this was done well. It seems like this company has a bunch of really cool potential matches on the table with these guys, though there isn't that much action in the Rumble that lives up to it.

 

Still enjoyed it as I always like this gimmick match, but in the end without the big angle at the end it would be more bland than you'd figure with this lineup.

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Last few minutes. Austin and Funk tear it up. Funk puts on a hell of a show while he's in. Doing a screwjob finish to a Rumble seems lame, but I understand the value in Austin winning and Bret getting screwed to fuel future storylines.

 

Bret has a great tirade after the match -- one of many to come this year.

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Funk was a breakout performer and there was a ton of talent overall in the match. I liked the screwjob finish as taking a chance on something different and coming out of this night there was a ton of interesting opportunities for them to go with for Mania.

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The crowd looks huge which we have not seen since Summerslam 92. Poor Ahmed had a match earlier in the night and then drew the second spot. That is not too promising for him winning. They mess up the count down clock right from the start which the crowd boos and boos even more when that entrant is fake Razor. He is eliminated right away and then Johnson pulls a Randy Savage and jumps over the ropes to his own elimination when he chases after Farooq.

 

Here is Austin who draws the fifth spot. They only seemed to let guys who drew number one win from the earlier spots. Everything else felt like guys who drew late spots in the 20s. I think Austin winning at number five is just as impressive and seems ignored that he lasted so long.

 

The clock finally gets working right as Austin goes on the Diesel streak of running through guys. Bart Gunn does a woeful Rocker Dropper on Austin. Vince politely says that execution sucked. Bulldog arrives to stop Austin's streak. Pierroth becomes our first AAA member. Vince talks about Doc Hendrix picking Pierroth as a favorite to win. Lawler dreams of someone unmasking Mil Mascaras during the Rumble.

 

Owen brings his Slammy to the ring which gives me a good laugh. He ends up eliminating Bulldog and they tease issues between them further. Bulldog felt like a complete face in this match. Goldust and Triple H draw early spots too after wrestling on undercard. Mascaras has one of the all time dumbest eliminations when he tosses out Pierroth, climbs to the top rope and dives to the outside on Pierroth. Reeks of him not wanting to be eliminated by somebody else.

 

I always get a kick out of Latin Lover entering the ring and superkicking Goldust in the ass. Vince, "Oh, right in the keyster! Ha ha ha" Faarooq does not last long as Johnson brings out a huge piece of timber to run Faarooq off. Duggan must have been jealous. Ring clears out and we are back to Austin by himself. Austin getting more crowd support as match goes on.

 

Here is Bret and Austin's response is fantastic. I love him going all bug eyed and mouth open in shock the second Bret's music hits. Lawler has very brief appearance which is hilarious. Ross is pushing the whole Bret thinks he should not even have to compete in Rumble since he should be champion. Setting the seeds there. Star power picks up with Terry Funk, Rocky and Mankind entering in consecutive spots.

 

Flash Funk goes up to the top rope to dive on to Fake Diesel and Terry Funk runs over to this so he can apart of the spot. That looked so funny. Vader and Undertaker in and the ring is the most filled. Vader eliminating Flash Funk was nasty. Terry Funk and Mankind brawl outside which distracts all the referees. Bret eliminates Austin! Austin wisely sees that no referees saw him being eliminated and jumps back in the ring. He eliminates both Undertaker and Vader from behind. This leaves just Bret and Diesel left. Why did Diesel get overlooked in the Final Four PPV? Bret eliminates Diesel and there is Austin to pick of Bret from behind. Great finish.

 

Bret is not pleased. Vince, "Imagine Bret Hart. What must be going through his mind.". Bret gets very aggressive with the officials and Vince McMahon. He wants to know what Vince is going to do about the Rumble finish. McMahon talks about unsportsmanlike conduct. Rumble had a slow start as outside of Austin and maybe Bulldog they kept the bigger names until the finish. Strong finish though and found it overall to be entertaining. One of the better Rumbles of the late 90s.

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(...)

Flash Funk goes up to the top rope to dive on to Fake Diesel and Terry Funk runs over to this so he can apart of the spot. That looked so funny. Vader and Undertaker in and the ring is the most filled. Vader eliminating Flash Funk was nasty. Terry Funk and Mankind brawl outside which distracts all the referees. Bret eliminates Austin! Austin wisely sees that no referees saw him being eliminated and jumps back in the ring. He eliminates both Undertaker and Vader from behind. This leaves just Bret and Diesel left. Why did Diesel get overlooked in the Final Four PPV? Bret eliminates Diesel and there’s Austin to pick of Bret from behind. Great finish.

(...)

Back in 97 I thought they screwed up the elimination order a bit and "Diesel" was supposed to be eliminated before Austin, but watching this back it is obvious that he is there for Bret to be distracted. I guess the rationale for having a final four instead of a final five is that Jacobs was eliminated by Bret and not by Austin.

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(...)

Flash Funk goes up to the top rope to dive on to Fake Diesel and Terry Funk runs over to this so he can apart of the spot. That looked so funny. Vader and Undertaker in and the ring is the most filled. Vader eliminating Flash Funk was nasty. Terry Funk and Mankind brawl outside which distracts all the referees. Bret eliminates Austin! Austin wisely sees that no referees saw him being eliminated and jumps back in the ring. He eliminates both Undertaker and Vader from behind. This leaves just Bret and Diesel left. Why did Diesel get overlooked in the Final Four PPV? Bret eliminates Diesel and there’s Austin to pick of Bret from behind. Great finish.

(...)

Back in 97 I thought they screwed up the elimination order a bit and "Diesel" was supposed to be eliminated before Austin, but watching this back it is obvious that he is there for Bret to be distracted. I guess the rationale for having a final four instead of a final five is that Jacobs was eliminated by Bret and not by Austin.

 

Yeah, it was just the guys who were tossed by the guy who should have been eliminated.

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I think the screw job ending worked with what they were going for at the start of the year. In January and February Vince harps on the idea that the WWF title has never been this hotly contested. The ending was just another way to sell that idea. Shawn’s injury sort of changed that, but I think the intent was good. This wasn't a screw job to get out of a finish or provide some controversy the next Monday. It was to put over the title and set up a PPV match which is a good enough reason to not give a definitive winner to a battle royal.

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Mostly memorable due to Austin's performance, and doing the Diesel '94 angle all over again. It seemed more like luck that he got these guys out whereas with Diesel you can believe this big monster would be making short work of everyone. At the time it was interesting seeing all the Mexican guys appear, but now it appears pretty desperate knowing the whole story of how basically it was a free show and they scrambled to give it as much local flavor as they could when they realized Shawn was not as big a draw in Texas as they thought.

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DFA pretty much echoed my thoughts as I watched this whole thing--the WWF has a good main event scene but is REALLY lacking in depth, compared to previous years and especially compared to current WCW. So the first portion of this is pretty blah and the only guys with any star power are shitty workers like Crush and Ahmed Johnson. It makes you thankful for 90-second intervals. Luckily Austin is in quickly and he gets two opportunities to clear the ring and be the central focus of the match. And the match picks up in general as we get some solid mid-carders like Mero, Helmsley, and Goldust in, as the ring clears out again before Bret's big entrance. Rocky Maivia comes in in the 20's and amusingly enough he and Austin immediately target each other, in some unintentional foreshadowing of the future direction of the company. Terry Funk is the highlight of this thing and after Austin's clear MVP performance, is possibly the most enjoyable participant in the match. The finish was a shocker at the time as it seemed foregone that Bret was winning straight away to go on to face Shawn at WM. Plus a real honest-to-goodness screwjob had never happened in the Royal Rumble, so the idea feels fresh, and Bret's post-match tantrum is one for the ages and it feels legitimately out of control when he goes after McMahon at the announcer's desk. Not a great Royal Rumble, but probably a better one than '96 as the final group of guys was pretty big on star power and the potential result was more wide-open.

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Not a good Rumble. There are great moments though. Austin's reaction when Bret comes out is legendary. Awesome moment. The crowd popped for their slugfest. Austin is really great in this. He's the true highlight of this match. I loved his brawl with Faarooq too right as Ahmed came back out with the 2x4. Mil Mascaras making sure to put no one over is hilarious. His elimination is funny as hell. Ahmed is also a dumbass for jumping over the top rope when he could have easily slid under the ropes. Dumb booking there. The last few minutes are neat with the top Attitude Era stars mixing it up with Terry Funk, Bret Hart, Flash Funk, Vader, & Henry Godwinn of all people. Taker coming out at #30 got a good pop. I thought he looked good in the match. The finish is pretty famous with Austin getting eliminated while the refs are trying to break up a Mankind-Funk brawl on the floor. Austin slips back in & eliminates Taker & Vader who are tied up in the ropes before eventually tossing out Bret. Controversial finish that continues Bret's slow heel turn. Bret has a legitimate gripe here & physically threatens Vince. Vince is none too happy with that & calls Bret's actions "unsportsmanlike." Fake Diesel has an argument to be made about Taker & Vader being eliminated before him, so he should have gotten a second chance too :lol:. Anyways, I liked this finish. It's a unique one & a dangerous one at that (It's not a Rumble finish they can ever justifiably do again), but it does a great job of building to Bret's heel turn & creates even more intrigue going into Mania.

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Watched the whole thing. Rumbles are a great thing to watch live, but they tend to be boring in execution. It is nice though in a trip down memory lane. Watched this with both my parents who were entertained seeing all the old gimmicks. The whole Fake Razor and Diesel threw them for a loop. It is not uncommon at all for soap operas to replace an actor/actress with a new one if they want a character to survive. So it was not out of the realm of possibility but yeah it was flat. My Dad and Mom got a kick out of seeing Kane with hair. "is that fucking Kane dressed up as Big Sexy" - My dad, had me rolling. Latin Lover kicking someone in the ass had both my Dad and Vince laughing. Pretty flat up until Bret's entrance. Austin's reaction to Bret's entrance is fucking gold. The Lawler stuff both the quick elimination and the rest of it on commentary was great.

 

That ending was MONEY! It has been 20 years they ought to do something like this again. Great, great idea! Huge heat! This is the type of thing that is interesting and makes you want to watch RAW. Bret's temper tantrum was excellent. Great way to draw out the story to Bret/Shawn II and put some heat on Stone Cold. Hot! I mean Double Hot!

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I've always really liked the ending to this and thought the booking of it was pretty great. Bret really did sell the shit out of it as well. He always tended to be so laid back, even as a heel a decade prior, that when he truly lost his mind like he did here it came off super legit. Loved Lawler shit talking him before Bret came over to the desk, his pointing at Vince when Bret is reading them the riot act, then shit talking him again as Bret leaves. 

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