Our road to the 2019 Royal Rumble continues with a look back at one from the past!
Open: Everyone rises for the playing of our National Anthem, which takes on much more significance during this time when troops are in Iraq for Operation Desert Storm.
Video: A highlight package is played in which Vince McMahon runs down the participants in tonight’s Royal Rumble Match, then goes over the rest of the card. “It’s every man for himself in the Royal Rumble!”
Match #1: The Orient Express (Kato & Tanaka) w/Mr. Fuji vs. The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty)
Tanaka ambushes Jannetty on the 2nd rope prior to the bell knocking him to the outside, the bell rings and Michaels delivers right hands to Kato, only to get attacked from behind by Tanaka. The Orient Express shoots Shawn in for a double back body drop, they set for another double team move, Marty slides in and prevents it with a dropkick to Kato, then a superkick for Tanaka. The Rockers do the double teaming now, whips Tanaka in for a double press slam, then climbs opposite turnbuckles for the double diving fist drop. Kato quickly drags his partner to the outside, The Rockers hit the ropes and take them out with synchronized suicide dives.
Order is finally restored, Kato & Jannetty take the ring, Marty with a side headlock out of the lock-up. Kato tries to push Jannetty away unsuccessfully, attempts a back suplex to break the hold and Marty hangs on, taking Kato to the canvas. Kato finally pushes Marty away to the ropes, back and forth they go, Kato with a hiptoss into an armbar, Jannetty counters, Kato countering back and both men bridge to their feet, Marty with a backslide for a count of 2. There’s a brief stand-off, Kato backs Jannetty into his corner out of the lock-up, irish whip into the ropes, Marty reverses as Tanaka steps in, leapfrogs Kato and The Orient Express run into one another.
Tanaka stays in and is caught in an armdrag into an armbar, Jannetty wearing him down to the mat, then tagging Michaels who delivers a fist off the top to the shoulder. Shawn keeps the punishment on the arm, utilizing an armbar and driving his knee into the shoulder joint. Tanaka gains a vertical base, sends Michaels off to the ropes and gets knocked down by a shoulder. Shawn back into the ropes, Tanaka ducks down and catches him with a flying forearm for a 2 count, then goes to a rear chinlock to grind Michaels down. Shawn finds his footing, Kato with a blind tag as Tanaka is pushed into the ropes, The Orient Express almost collide again, but instead Michaels brings them together with a double noggin knocker.
He sends Tanaka into the ropes for a high knee, snapmares him over and covers for 2, then uses a rear chinlock of his own. Tanaka fights to his feet, hits the ropes, ducks a clothesline and gets caught in a sleeper. Kato eggs Jannetty into the ring, the referee is distracted and Kato comes off the 2nd rope with a chop to Shawn to break the hold. Michaels is taken down by a Tanaka leg sweep, hands out overhand chops to the head, fires away with rights in the corner and Shawn turns the table, dishing out fists of his own. He climbs to the 2nd rope to reign down more knuckles, Kato steps into the ring and is met by Marty and a right hand.
The referee gets Jannetty back to the apron, Shawn climbs to the top and hits Kato with a standing moonsault, then turns his attention back to Tanaka in the corner. Marty comes back in and works over Kato in the opposite corner, The Rockers attempt to whip The Orient Express into one another, but they counter. They look to do the same to The Rockers, another counter and The Orient Express is sent to the outside for synchronized dropkicks. The Rockers feign outside dives, head to the top and take out The Orient Express with crossbody blocks to the floor on opposite sides of the ring. Order’s restored once again, Michaels gets a cover on Kato for a 2 count, Jannetty tags and The Rockers with a double back elbow for another near fall.
Marty going back to the rear chinlock, Michaels re-enters the match and hits a delayed vertical suplex, Tanaka breaking up the count at 2. Shawn sends Kato into the corner for a monkey flip, Tanaka drops Michaels across the top rope from the apron, giving his partner the advantage. Jannetty again steps into the ring and takes the ref’s attention, Tanaka drops to the floor and drags Shawn to the apron, Fuji hammering him with his cane. Tanaka makes the tag and goes with a chop to the throat, drops Shawn with a reverse knife-edge and brings Kato back in, planking Michaels on the top for a seated senton to the back.
Kato makes a cover and Marty breaks it up, The Orient Express swap without a tag as the ref gets Jannetty back to his corner, Tanaka going back to the throat of Michaels and locking in a nerve hold. Tanaka breaks the hold on his own, drives down right hands and tags out, Kato whipping Shawn hard into the corner, sending him to the apron. Tanaka with a cheap shot behind the ref’s back, makes a tag and they level Michaels with a double clothesline for a near fall. Tanaka attempts a back body drop, Michaels has it scouted and drives him head-first into the canvas, Shawn crawls toward his corner, but Kato hits the ring and drops Marty on the apron.
They send Shawn into the ropes and look to clothesline him with Kato’s karate belt, Michaels hops onto it instead and it pulls The Orient Express into one another and they bang heads. Jannetty finally gets the hot tag, dishes out heavy rights and slams to Kato & Tanaka, then scores on both with dropkicks, Tanaka falling to the outside. He sends Kato to the ropes and plants him with a powerslam for a count of 2, shoots him back in and connects with a back elbow, Tanaka breaking the count at 1. Michaels clears Tanaka to the outside and they brawl at ringside, Kato whips Marty in for a hiptoss, Jannetty blocks and looks for a backslide, but can’t power Kato over.
Tanaka assists his partner with a kick, Kato taking Marty to the mat for a 2 count. He shoots Jannetty into the ropes, Marty ducks a clothesline, Shawn drops to the floor and trips Kato for another 2 count. All 4 men hit the ring, The Rockers dispose of Tanaka, drill Kato with a double superkick, Michaels heading upstairs for an assisted top rope splash, but Tanaka’s quick to get back in and drop Shawn all the way to the floor. Kato with a slam to Jannetty, catapults him into a Tanaka chop, they set for it again, Marty counters into a sunset flip on Tanaka and gets the 1-2-3.
Winners: The Rockers (Jannetty/Sunset Flip)
- EA’s Take: A very entertaining match that had a couple of sloppy spots here and there. It was a bit long for my taste, but the mix between slow pacing and high flying was just right. These two teams worked very well together and rightfully so, as they had been working together previously. When Sato decided to leave the American wrestling scene, the WWF brought in Paul Diamond (who had been Tanaka’s partner previously in the AWA) and put him under a mask, calling him Kato. Collectively known as Badd Company, the pairing had previously been involved with The Rockers in the AWA (The Midnight Rockers at the time). Obviously working together previously helped the match, but it also made me question the mix-ups a little more.
Backstage: Sean Mooney is in the locker room with ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage who has a statement to make, proclaiming he doesn’t care who wins the WWF Championship tonight, although Sgt. Slaughter gave him a commitment to give him a shot when he wins the title. Savage doesn’t have the same commitment from the champion Ultimate Warrior, but Sherri has a plan. Queen Sherri drags ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund with her out to the arena and makes a public challenge to the champion. The Ultimate Warrior makes his way out, but doesn’t give Sherri any answers. She attempts to seduce him to get it while Macho watches on a monitor from the locker room. The Queen resorts to getting on her knees and begging, but the champion refuses, Savage losing his cool.
Match #2: The Barbarian w/Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan vs. Big Boss Man
The bell rings and Barbarian is still on the outside having a conference with The Brain. He finally steps into the ring and a loud “Weasel” chant breaks out, Boss Man & Barbarian lock-up and Barbarian buries knees to the mid-section, following with uppercuts. Boss Man reverses an irish whip to the ropes, staggers Barbarian with a big boot, then dumps him to the outside with a clothesline. Heenan has another chat with his guy, Boss Man slides to the floor to break the huddle and fires away with rights, then drives Barbarian shoulder-first into the ring post before rolling back inside. He pulls Barbarian up to the apron, tries to suplex him back in, Barbarian goes to the eyes and scales to the top rope.
Boss Man catches him coming down with a right hand, Barbarian staggers toward the ropes and Boss Man delivers a clothesline, both guys spilling to the floor. Big Boss Man is back in the ring quickly, The Brain with some words of wisdom to his man. Barbarian rolls back in, reverses an irish whip, Boss Man blocks a hip toss, but gets planted with a suplex instead. The Barbarian decapitates Boss Man with a clothesline, delivers a heavy right hand and Boss Man gets his foot caught in the ropes. Barbarian grabs the opening and doles out punishment to the helpless Boss Man, he finally untangles him and Boss Man drops to the floor, then gets rammed into the ring post back-first The Barbarian distracts the official for Heenan to deliver a cheap shot, Boss Man struggles into the squared circle and gets cracked with a backbreaker for a near fall.
The Barbarian utilizes a bearhug to punish the lower back, Boss Man finds some adrenaline and breaks the hold, but gets dropped by a chop to the throat. Barbarian drops multiple elbow drops for a count of 2, then goes right back to the bear hug. Big Boss Man starts to fade, finds another shot of energy and fights out with headbutts, then bites Barbarian’s nose. He shoots Barbarian in for a boot, gets his foot caught and connects with an enzuigiri instead, rolls into a cover and nearly gets a 3 count. Boss Man shoots Barbarian into the corner, follows in for a splash, Barbarian side-steps, uses a schoolboy and gets a near fall.
Boss Man looks for a back elbow out of the ropes, Barbarian ducks, gets hanged with a hot shot coming back through, Big Boss Man hooks the leg and Barbarian grabs the bottom rope at 2. Boss Man shoots Barbarian in again, this time they collide heads and they double down. Barbarian is up first and he heads upstairs, scores with a top rope clothesline, Boss Man getting a foot on the rope at a count of 2. Barbarian looks to send Boss Man into the ropes this time, it’s reversed, Barbarian gets planted with a Boss Man Slam, again gaining the bottom rope after a 2 count. Boss Man picks him up and takes a shot to the eye, Barbarian spikes him with a piledriver, doesn’t go for a cover and climbs to the top rope. He comes off with a crossbody, Boss Man uses the momentum to roll through, hooks the leg and gets the victory.
Winner: Big Boss Man (Top Rope Crossbody Counter)
- EA’s Take: A much better contest than I anticipated, you just have to go into it knowing there will be little technical wrestling. Oddly enough it was much cleaner than the opening tag contest, but the tag was a better match. Big Boss Man continues to come out on the winning end of his rivalry with The Heenan Family, moving up the ranks to face the diamond of The Heenan Family next. The Barbarian’s run as a singles competitor would be brief after splitting from The Powers Of Pain in early 1990, this time hooking up with a fellow Heenan Family member that would become his most notable tag partner.
Backstage: Joining Sean Mooney in the locker room is Sgt. Slaughter & General Adnan. The General goes off in arabic, Sarge speaks about the turmoil in the Middle East being nothing compared to when he faces Ultimate Warrior. Slaughter promises to walk away with the WWF Championship and become the leader that our nation needs. ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is in the interview area with WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior, the champion telling Slaughter that all of his orders are falling on deaf ears. The turmoil that’s been created will only lead to Sarge’s defeat and only the demented would ever follow his rule.
Match #3 for the WWF Championship: Sgt. Slaughter w/General Adnan vs. WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior
Adnan & Slaughter try to behead the champion with their flag before the bell, he drops them both with a double clothesline and and the bell rings. Warrior knocks them both to the outside with clotheslines, breaks the flagstaff in half and shreds the Iraqi flag. Adnan limps off to the back and Slaughter gets clocked in the ring, then hit with a piece of the flag pole. He shoves a piece of the flag in Sarge’s mouth, squashes him with a corner clothesline and rams him head-first into the top turnbuckle. The champion choking the challenger with more remnants of the flag, shoots him into the corner and elevates him with a back body drop.
Warrior sends Sarge back into the corner sternum-first, hits another clothesline, whips him across and Slaughter goes flying over the top to the floor. Queen Sherri comes out to ringside as the champion continues to put a beating on Sarge, tosses him into the ring and hits the ropes for multiple shoulder knockdowns, Sherri grabbing his foot as he goes to the ropes again. The Ultimate One chases The Queen around ringside and towards the back, ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage comes from out of nowhere with a clothesline, then hammers the champion with a light fixture. The Warrior struggles to get back to the ring, Sarge forcing the referee to stop the 10 count since he can’t win the title on a count-out.
The challenger finally goes out to get Warrior, sends him inside and goes to work on the lower back with clubbing shots. He hits a backbreaker, spits in disgust at The Ultimate One, then drives his head into the spiked toes of his boots. Slaughter whips the champion to the ropes, Warrior ducks a right hand, both guys score with a clothesline and they double down. Sarge is up first, stalks Warrior and applies a bearhug to sap The Ultimate One’s energy. Warrior finds the strength to fight his way out, slams the challenger and pays for it, hurting his back. Slaughter takes advantage and drops elbows to the lower back, splits the champion with another backbreaker, then locks in the Camel Clutch, Warrior’s legs dangling under the bottom rope.
The referee finally notices and calls for a break, Slaughter mistakenly thinks he won, targets the back again and The Ultimate One finds a rush of adrenaline. He levels the challenger with clotheslines off the ropes, connects with a flying shoulder tackle and calls for the finish. Sherri is back out now and she jumps on the apron, gaining the attention of the champion. Warrior flips her into the ring, presses her over his head and throws her over the top onto Savage who’s back out. Slaughter attacks from behind with a knee that hangs The Ultimate One across the 2nd rope, the referee seperates them and Macho smashes his sceptor on the champion’s skull. Sarge drags him into the ring, drops an elbow and steals the championship.
Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Sgt. Slaughter (Outside Interference)
- EA’s Take: The crowd with a very loud “Bullshit” chant because of the finish, as Slaughter has the definition of nuclear heat. Sarge had very little offense, but this is an era where heels winning clean was a rare feat. Unusual placement on the card for a WWF Championship match, I bet the energy dies a little for the next couple before the Rumble. The Warrior’s near year long reign comes to an end, dropping the championship to the top heel in the business at the time and setting up for arguably his greatest match of all-time against Savage. The slow burn between these two was done beautifully over the months prior and in the process you are able to put the title on a red hot Superstar, giving yourself another main event level matchup for WrestleMania.