Saturday, 22 December 2012

PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1993

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - The event poster (notice stars such as Ultimate Warrior, British Bulldog and Crush appearing on the poster but not at the event)
ARCO Arena, Sacramento, California
January 24, 1993


If 1993 was to be the year that the World Wrestling Federation fell to a creative, self-parodying low then the group's first pay per view offering of the year displayed only the slightest hint at the dire levels of mediocrity that were to follow in the coming months.

Indeed, whilst Royal Rumble 1993 was far from the best of its kind to date, it was nonetheless a reasonably enjoyable show.

Here's why:

Welcome
Our commentators for this evening's broadcast are none other than Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan. The famous duo welcomed us to the show before going on to deliver the kind of classic performance that made them such a legendary double-act in the annals of pro wrestling, complete with Monsoon threatening to 'knock out' The Brain at every opportunity.

With that out of the way, it was on to the action.

The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. The Beverley Brothers (Blake & Beau)
WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)
In age before he came the 'Genetic Freak,' a barely recognisable (compared to his current form) Scott Steiner made his World Wrestling Federation pay per view debut along with brother Rick 'The Dog Faced Gremlin' Steiner in an enjoyable battle against perennial 'jobbers to the stars' The Beverley Brothers.

Kicking off the show with a tag team match had grown to become something of a Royal Rumble staple over the past several years, and though this year's effort was no match for the outstanding Rockers/Orient Express encounter two years prior, or even the Express/New Foundation bout which followed in '92, this year's tag bout was still a fun affair.

Especially towards the end.

Sure, things may have started out slow, but it didn't take long for the pace, and the action, to pick up and a good, solid contest to ensue.

It would be easy to say that the Steiners, one of the highlights of the NWA before joining McMahon, carried their opponents throughout the match. It would be easy, but it would also be very unfair; the Beverleys worked at least as hard as their opponents here until Blake succumbed to a Frankensteiner to give the win to the newcomers.
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers

One of the curious things about this year's show, at least the version your writer was able to get his hands on, was the distinct lack of tween-match promos. Though we didn't get many of them at the 1993 event, we did at least get a good video package recalling the rise, fall and subsequent implosion of one of The Rockers, which of course led us into our first championship match of the night.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Sensational Sherri and her enormous hair
Before the match got underway, Sensational Sherri (who had been managing Shawn Michaels up to the point that she was accidentally struck with a mirror by Marty Jannetty) made her way to ringside sporting a new hairdo bigger than several forests and plonked herself in a neutral corner, where she would pull off some of the most dreadful acting this side of your favourite soap opera throughout the match.

God rest her soul, and your reviewer remains a huge fan of Sherri, but this was not one of her career highlights.

It must certainly be classed as a highlight for the early singles career of one future Hall of Famer. Though not quite up to the standard of their later Monday Night Raw match (following Jannetty's firing and subsequent rehiring due to drugs) this was a compelling match from start to finish.

Depending on what rumours you read online, either Jannetty or Michaels were drunk in this match, and if one of them were, it only serves to make this bout all the more impressive.

Jannetty took it to Michaels in the early going before the champion regained the advantage and pummelled his former partner around the ring for a while.

After teasing whose side she would be on throughout the match, a dorky-looking Sherri eventually saw the light and slapped her former beau. She also tried to nail Michaels with her shoe, though that backfired and it was the challenger who came up on the wrong end of a stiletto.

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Shawn Michaels confronts Sensational Sherri
Shawn and Sherri then played up the incident before Jannetty got to his feet, only to eat a superkick and give the match to the champion.
Your Winner and still Intercontinental Champion: Shawn Michaels

A distraught Sherri then raced to the back, crying and freaking out whilst Mean Gene Okerlund scolded her like a weary parent admonishing their spoiled, stroppy teenager.

'Damnit Sherri, calm down!" yelled the bald headed one.

As awful as this was, it was still quite unintentionally hillarious, and came to an end when Michaels pursued his ex-consort, only to be attacked by Jannetty. The rivalry continued...

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The Big Boss Man
Despite reports elsewhere that this was an awful match, rest assured, it wasn't. Though moving at a completely different pace and style than the two matches prior, and the one which would follow, both men made the best of what they had to deliver a decent big-man brawl.

A good guy and friend of Hulk Hogan the last time this reviewer saw him, Bam Bam Bigelow had been absent from the WWF for a number of years, returning in late 1992 as a menacing bad guy and getting his PPV debut against a soon-to-be-departing Big Boss Man.

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Bam Bam Bigelow makes his PPV debut as a heel
Easily the worst match on the card, that isn't actually that big of a criticism given what else was on offer that night in California and this battle of the behemoths was at least watchable.

Unsurprisingly, Bigelow picked up the win with his trademark diving headbutt.
Your Winner: Bam Bam Bigelow

Before the final singles match of the show, we were treated to another video package putting over Razor Ramon as a big menacing bully (especially after he attacked Owen Hart on an episode of WWF Mania) who would stop at nothing to get his hands on the World Wrestling Federation Championship.

Both Razor, and his upcoming opponent Bret 'The Hitman' Hart gave us our only pre-match promos of the night before it was onto our second championship contest.

World Wrestling Federation Championship 
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Razor Ramon
If you believe Hart, his title defence on this show was supposed to be against none other than The Ultimate Warrior. Though such a planned bout has been largely discarded as a Hitman fantasy, it's interesting to note that Warrior was at least on the original poster for the event.

Alas, the face-painted one had left McMahonland before the event, leading us to this makeshift encounter which was arguably better than anything Hart and Warrior could have put together.

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Mean Gene Okerlund interviews World Wrestling Federation Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
With Stu and Helen Hart watching at ringside, the defending champion performed his usual singles match against the dastardly Ramon; that is, a very good match in which The Hitman put his technical prowess against a more aggressive opponent, staggered around the ring making his trademark fish-face for a while and eventually wrapped up his foe in the Sharpshooter.

Arguably one of Scott Hall's better matches that didn't involve Shawn Michaels and a or a ladder, the ending of this match was never really in doubt. Sure, The Bad Guy had been pushed hard since his 1992 debut, but even then it was hard to buy him as a real threat to Hart's title.
Your Winner and Still WWF Champion: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

Throughout the show, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan had coyed excitedly like a kid at Christmas about having the honour of introducing The Narcissus to the World Wrestling Federation.

Apparently, nobody had told Heenan that his new arrival had actually been christened The Narcissist Lex Luger , not that it mattered to the former manager.

The Narcissist Debuts
One-time WCW star and victim of Vince McMahon's failed World Bodybuilding Federation experiment Luger was revealed to WWF audiences flanked by a wall of mirrors.
WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - The Narcissist Lex Luger debuts

Preening, flexing and generally admiring his own chiselled physique, Luger's pose-down was soundtracked by Bobby Heenan gushing and orgasming over the new arrival's admittedly impressive figure.

'Look at those muscles, look at that BACK! Let's hear you speak in your beautiful,melodious voice'  cooed Heenan in a fashion so over-the-top you'd be forgiven for thinking you watching the start of a gay porno than a pro wrestling debut.

Eventually, Luger did speak, insisting that he was 'beyond perfection' and challenging Heenan's nemesis, Mr. Perfect to a match.

With such blatant displays of homoeroticism out out of the way, fans were treated to a bathroom break with the arrival of Julius Ceasar and Cleopatra (or rather, two nobody's portraying the duo, obviously), who hyped that year's Wrestlemania IX taking place at Caesar's Palace. With hindsight, this dreadful segment should have surely served as a warning to just how bad that show would turn out to be.

And with the undercard all finally done and dusted, it was on to the main event.

Royal Rumble Match:
30-man battle royal featuring: Bob Backlund, Ric Flair, Jerry 'The King' Lawler, Papa Shango, Yokozuna, Berzerker, The Undertaker, The Natural Disasters, 'Macho Man' Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect, Damien Demento and more.


WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Bob Backlund was a highlight (and record breaker) of the Royal Rumble match
In the modern era of the WWE, we're all used to the tradition that the winner of the Royal Rumble match goes on to challenge for the gold at Wrestlemania, though some of us probably forget that it was this match that began that tradition.

Sure, that made the outcome somewhat limited, especially in a match cluttered with life-long midcarders nobody would ever buy as viable headliners (at least not at the time), but it certainly made for an interesting dynamic, especially in the early going.

Last year's winner and then-current Rumble record holder (for longest time in the ring) Ric Flair drew this year's number one spot, getting the match under way against a recently returning Bob Backlund, himself former champion with a five-plus year reign.

Before long, they were joined by Ted Dibiase and Jerry 'The King' Lawler and though most have declared the 1992 match to the be the most star-studded ever, it was a treat for this old-school fan to see four legends of different eras and territories all going at it in the ring at the same time.

Sure, they may have been several (in some cases many) years past their peak, but it was still a thrill to see them all going at it. Papa Shango and Brian Knobbs made brief cameos too, and Virgil hung around for a while, but it was the Flair/Backlund/Dibiase/Lawler exchanges which were early highlights.


Speaking of highlights, it was Bob Backlund's turn to set a new time record this year and, as with previous Rumble record holders, Backlund pretty much stole the show single-handily. Lasting for just over an hour, Backlund worked his pasty white butt off in this match and had the crowds rooting for his every action throughout the match.

As an interesting side note, the Rumble time record had been broken every single year since Bret Hart set it at 25+ minutes at the first event in 1998. After Backlund's new 61+ minute record in 1993, the record wouldn't be broken again until Chris Benoit took the honour in 2001.

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - Giant Gonzales debuts and confronts The Undertaker
Back to this year's match, and just like most years, the action was broken into two halves by something rather unexpected.

This time out, it was the debut of Harvey Wippleman's new charge Giant Gonzales who made his way to the ring in his now infamous Nearly Naked Neandethol Man attire and beat the hell out of The Undertaker, setting up their Worst Match in the History of the World encounter at Wrestlemania IX.

Other notable events included:

  • Carlos Colon entering at #24 and even Gorilla Monsoon having trouble recognising him. Monsoon then referred to 45 year-old Colon as a 'youngster.'
  • Bobby Heenan referring to Typhoon as 'Tugboat'
  • Mr. Perfect eliminating Flair to a huge ovation (Perfect would beat Flair in a 'loser-leaves-WWF' match the following night on Raw)
  • Earthquake and Yokozuna beating each other up
It was Yoko himself who eventually triumphed. After disposing of Backlund, he and Randy Savage went at it in a fantastic exchange which saw the former champion really make a star out of his larger opponent. After absorbing a huge amount of punishment, Savage eventually got the better of Yoko, nailed him with the Flying Elbow Drop and, ridiculously, attempted to pin him.

Yoko 'kicked out' and Savage literally jumped over the top rope to eliminate himself, bringing about one of the most contrived and stupid endings to a Rumble match ever.
Your Winner: Yokozuna 

WWF/WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 1993 - "I'll knock you out!" Monsoon and Heenan were hysterical on commentary
A promising start to an otherwise dire year for the World Wrestling Federation then, the 1993 Royal Rumble event was at least an entertaining show. The rumble match itself wasn't nearly as boring as some critics would have you believe, and the Intercontinental Championship match alone is worth checking out this pay per view. 
Really though, apart from Bob Backlund's stand-out performance, the true highlight of this show was the hysterical banter from our hosts Monsoon and Heenan. More on form than they ever had been, the duo made even the dullest of moments that much better. Trust me, no matter how many times you hear Gorilla say "I'll knock you out," to Heenan (or even threaten to get somebody else to do it), it only gets more and more hilarious.


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WWE: Royal Rumble - The Complete Anthology
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