I’m back with part 8 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #24 on the countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:
The Participants – The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.
The Storylines and Flow of the Match – The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.
The Final Four – Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.
The Winner – I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.
A couple additional disclaimers:
First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.
Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.
Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.
Today’s rebuttal once again comes from Rich Latta, my fellow LOP columnist and IWC booger eating extraordinaire.
Here is where the countdown currently stands:
#30. The 2009 Royal Rumble.
#29. The 1991 Royal Rumble.
#28. The 2011 Royal Rumble.
#27. The 1998 Royal Rumble.
#26. The 2000 Royal Rumble.
#25. The 1995 Royal Rumble.
#24. The 2015 Royal Rumble.
Question of the Day: Which Rumble winner surprised you the most and why?
Koko B Ware
Overall, this roster was a sign of the times. Remember, this was the Rumble that led into Wrestlemania IX – the consensus worst Wrestlemania of all time. The WWE was a mess. They didn’t know how to move past Hulk Hogan and hadn’t yet created any new stars.
The WWE didn’t really know who they wanted to be at the time. They had a ton of past stars who weren’t at their peak. Ric Flair was about to leave the company the following night. Although Bob Backlund eventually had a tremendous second act in late 1994, he was basically a corpse that the WWE rolled out of the graveyard in 1993. Jerry Lawler was a huge star in Memphis but really didn’t find his footing in the WWE until halfway through 1993. Randy Savage was still popular but Vince was dead set against allowing him to wrestle or be the major player that should have been. On the other side, they were determined to push Mr. Perfect as a top baby face. It didn’t work and he was in the middle of a de-push by the time Wrestlemania IX came around.
The only real stars that the WWE had were Ted Dibiase and The Undertaker. Dibiase was at the tail end of his career as well but was positioned the foil to a soon to be returning Hulk Hogan in the coming months. The Undertaker was just getting started and without his inclusion in the match, it probably ends up in the basement of our countdown.
All in all, the roster for the 1993 Royal Rumble was completely uninspiring. I’d argue that overall, the WWE roster was the weakest that it had ever been.
The Storylines and Flow.
Despite the terrible roster, there was plenty to like here. First and foremost, there was an official announcement before the match that the winner would face the world champion at Wrestlemania IX. This was the first time that the WWE had done this. As we all know, this has become a yearly staple and the single most important part of the Royal Rumble match itself. The 1993 Rumble gets bonus points for being the pioneer.
The match itself is a tale of two halves. It was really good early on. Ric Flair drawing the #1 slot after almost going wire to wire in victory the year before got the match started off on a solid note. Keep in mind, this was pre-internet dirt sheet days. The majority of wrestling fans had no idea that Flair was about to leave the company. Many, myself included, thought it was completely plausible that Flair could make another deep run. He was his usual entertaining self and carried the match for the first twenty minutes or so. When Mr. Perfect hit the ring and eliminated him to a massive pop, it was just about the only time during Perfect’s entire face run where he felt like a top guy to me. It’s too bad that his feud with Flair ended when he beat him in a loser leaves town match the following night on Raw. Mr. Perfect was never the same again.
There was an odd storyline in the middle of the match that saw Jerry Lawler sneak back onto the ring apron after he was eliminated to help eliminate Mr. Perfect. This led to the two men brawling to the back. This was a bit confusing to me as the uninformed fan at the time, because there wasn’t any reason for Mr. Perfect to be feuding with Lawler when he was already feuding with Flair. Additionally, this feud led absolutely nowhere as Mr. Perfect was quickly de-pushed and fed to a debuting Lex Luger at Wrestlemania IX. In hindsight, this feud would have been a fresh idea that could have helped strengthen what was an absolutely terrible first half of 1993 for the WWE.
The biggest angle in this match and one of the biggest in the history of the Royal Rumble took place around the halfway point of the match. The Undertaker was standing in the ring when a mountain of a man that some of us previously knew as El Gigante hit the ring and absolutely destroyed him. 1993’s version of Kenny Omega, Giant Gonzalez, had arrived.
All joking aside, hindsight doesn’t do this angle any justice. Sure, Wrestlemania IX’s match between the two was amongst the worst in Wrestlemania history, Giant Gonzalez was next to useless in general and we had to endure another torturous bout between the two at Summerslam that year. However, this angle was shocking and incredibly well done at the time. The Undertaker was viewed as an unstoppable force. For this monster to show up in his “muscle” tights was absolutely frightening to 11 year old me at the time. No one towered over the Undertaker like that. Watching him destroy Taker is an image that I will never forget. This angle was easily one of the best in Rumble history and it scored major points when ranking this Rumble.
This Rumble starts to fall short from the time Giant Gonzalez terrifies children to the final four. The roster was extremely weak and just about anyone worthwhile was out of the way at this point. There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about anything that happens for roughly a thirty minute stretch of time. It’s really too bad. Had the Rumble’s second half matched its first half, it could have ended up much higher on the list despite a historically bad pool of participants.
The Final Four.
Despite the dullness that was the previous half hour, the final four of Yokozuna, Randy Savage, Bob Backlund and Rick Martel was actually pretty good. Martel was moved out the way relatively quickly. I always appreciated Martel and I was glad that he was given a spot in the final four. With him out of the way, it set up a nice underdog spot between 1993 marathon-man Bob Backlund and the Tuna of the Zuna. The fans really got behind Backlund and were devastated when Yokozuna gave him the grape treatment and squashed him.
One thing that I really liked about the 1993 Final Four was that the action was prolonged compared to previous years. This was especially the case at the final two. Yokozuna and Savage had a nice back and forth mini-match here. It wasn’t quite on the level of The Undertaker and HBK in 2007, but it was very good. The biggest downside to me was that Randy Savage had been de-pushed to the point that you knew he couldn’t win. Had Savage been taken more seriously going into the Rumble, the final two could have been very compelling.
Of course, we can’t talk about the ending of the 1993 Royal Rumble without talking about one of the dumbest Wrestlecrap-worthy unintentionally comedic moments in wrestling history – the Savage elimination. For those of you who don’t remember, Randy Savage dropped his patented elbow drop on Yokozuna. Instead of attempting to pick him up and toss him over the top rope, Savage covers him for a three count. That’s right. He went for a pin-fall in a match without pin-falls. If this wasn’t ridiculous enough, Yokozuna kicked out and Savage not only leapt to his feet but jumped over the top rope! This was mind numbing and terrible. Nonetheless, it’s without question one of the most memorable endings to a Royal Rumble.
Yokozuna was a very surprising winner. Up until that point, he had been squashing jobbers on Superstars every Saturday morning. There was no reason to think that a monster push was coming for him. The closest thing that he had to any kind of storyline was a small buildup to Survivor Series 1992 against Virgil. That didn’t exactly scream “time to main event Wrestlemania”.
Although surprising, I can’t say that Yokozuna was a satisfying winner. This was the early 1990s. You really needed a special situation to have a heel win the Rumble at this point in WWE history. It worked with Ric Flair the year before, but it didn’t work with Yokozuna. People weren’t excited to see Yoko square off with a lukewarm Bret Hart as the headliner to Wrestlemania IX.
On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that any Royal Rumble catapulted its winner onto bigger and better things more than the 1993 Rumble did for Yokozuna. Think about this. He’s a big guy with zero memorable matches on his resume and non-existent mic skills. This match spring-boarded him to back to back Wrestlemania main events. Outside of this 15 month stretch, his career is mediocre at best. Because of this stretch, he’s a WWE Hall of Famer. This Rumble scored highly in this category as a result.
The 1993 Royal Rumble roster was completely devoid of star-power and was a symbol of the dire straits that the WWE was in at the time. However, this Rumble was much better than you would have been led to believe. The first half was excellent and produced one of the most memorable storylines ever. The final four was compelling even with a ridiculous ending. This Rumble launched Yokozuna’s career in a way that very few other Rumbles have for their respective winners. In the end, the lack of roster depth really hurt the second half of the match, and a boring thirty minute stretch keeps this Rumble from moving up any higher on the countdown.
The Rebuttal – By Rich Latta.
I agreed to take this one on as a favor to Fenichel when someone else bailed on him at the last minute. I re-watched this Rumble and fully expected to disagree with him. Instead, I’m pretty much on board with his assessment here.
93 is one of those Rumbles that isn’t really remembered for being terrible and it’s never been argued to be good. They did a fine job with structuring different sections of the match. With Flair/Dibiase/Backlund, The Undertaker portion, and the time Yoko comes in until the finish all being different bites of the same pie. One thing that made this match struggle was the roster. One year after the loaded 92’ Rumble, this one just fell flat in that area. There were so many guys that Vince was about to put out to pasture whose best years were at least 5 years prior. It was fun seeing Martel and Santana go at it, until you realize they broke up 4 years prior to that and both of them looked like completely different people for one reason or another. The Undertaker & Giant Gonzalez portion took a while to do, and Backlund, who was in the middle of his ironman run, was pile-driven outside to give them room. This was smart.
Bob Backlund had an improbable run from the first two to the final 3 that wasn’t really impressive, but fans cheered the hell out of him once he got eliminated to thank him for the performance. However, this match was so slowwwwww. Vince McMahon had one foot in the past, and one in the future. The 93 Rumble can be pointed to as him leaning both ways to exploit the strengths of each. The final 4 pitted WWE’s new monster, Yoko, with a former AWA champion in Martel, a legend in Savage and Bob Backlund, who was champion 10 years prior. A message was sent that this is a new day far before 3 brothers came on the screen twerking. I can’t help but to think Savage could have gotten the nod to set up Bret/Macho, but instead he was never really used in a big capacity again in WWE for being too “old”. Meanwhile, Backlund was brought to Wrestlemania to wrestle Razor Ramon. Even then, Vince couldn’t figure out what to do with old guys. There is a hilarious moment when Yokozuna is beating up Savage where he leans into the camera and yells something about “SAMOA” and the camera angle cut immediately, as Yoko was playing a non English speaking Japanese Sumo.
They spread what star power they did have out through the night, and while the shock entrants (Carlos Colon, Tenryu) didn’t do much, the booking masked what could have been really bad.
That’s a wrap kids. Tune in next time to see which Royal Rumble lands at #22 on the countdown. Agree or disagree? Sound off below!
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