Saturday, 12 October 2013

EVENT REVIEW: WWF Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall

WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Albert Hall: Video cover featuring the Legion of Doom
October 3rd, 1991
Royal Albert Hall, London, England

As a kid living in the north of England, this was one of those shows that I always wanted to see and yet, for whatever reason, I never quite got the chance to.


Fast forward almost 21 years after I first started watching professional wrestling, and I finally made it up to my inner-child by sitting down to watch this 1991 UK exclusive show.

Needless to say, my inner-child now hates me, for this was truly one terrible show.

Broadcast on Sky Movies in October 1991, the Battle Royal from the Royal Albert Hall saw a bunch of meandering undercard bouts featuring combatants who would later return to the ring for the eponymous over-the-top-rope main event.

Here's what went down.

Welcome to the show
As the camera panned over a sea of British fans, most of whom delighted in waving Hulk Hogan yellow foam fingers (despite the Hulkster being nowhere near London at the time) Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon welcomed us tonight's show.

The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) 
There are some things that happen in professional wrestling which work far better with the live crowd than they do when viewed on television. This opening match between The Rockers and The Nasty Boys is certainly one of those times.

WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Albert Hall: The Nasty Boys took on The Rockers in the opening contest
Both teams stalled for what felt like forever, each taking turns to play to the London audience and get them hyped up for tonight's event.

What was obvious was that this did work, live. With each raised arm of a Rocker or jeering yell of a Nasty Boy, the crowd grew hotter and hotter. Your writer can only imagine how intense that must have been at the time.

Many years later and watching on video however, it just seems to drag, and drag, and oh yeah, drag.

Still, once the action did finally get away, this actually turned into a fairly enjoyable opening contest.

Aside from a spot in which Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty continuously swapped places behind the referee's back, not a great deal happened in this match that was all that memorable but, looking back, it was good for what it was and was certainly better than half the crap that would follow.

In the end, Jimmy Hart induced shenanigans led to a win for  the Nasties.
Your Winners: The Nasty Boys


WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall: 'Real World's Champion' Ric Flair talks to Mean Gene Okerlund
Backstage, Ric Flair spoke to Mean Gene Okerlund in front of a backdrop which looked like it had been left over from the 1970s. In usual Flair fashion, The Nature Boy hammered home his claim to be The Real World's Champion and hyped his feud with Rowdy Roddy Piper, promising punishment for Piper when they met in the night's main event battle royal.

Tito Santana vs. 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair
It was the combination of our opening tag team contest and this fairly good match between a Big Gold Belt carrying Naitch and a post-Strike Force, Pre-El Matador Tito Santana that almost led your writer to believe Battle Royal at the Albert Hall was going to be a good show.

Indeed, despite neither man expending quite the amount of effort they were capable of, both worked hard to deliver a perfectly good match that could have been incredible given a proper build and the write amount of motivation from Santana and Flair.

The Nature Boy hit all his trademark spots whilst Santana bumped and flew around the ring like a trooper, only to succumb to a cheap roll up shortly after the quarter of an hour mark.
Your Winner: Ric Flair


WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall: Jimmy Hart and Earthquake talk to Mean Gene Okerlund
Keeping up with the format of match-promo-match, Mean Gene Okerlund next spoke to Big Boss Man about his upcoming clash with Earthquake. In an otherwise unremarkable promo, the man from Cobb County, Georgia claimed that the United Kingdom fell under his jurisdiction and that he was there to serve law and order. Yep.

Offering a retort, of sorts, Earthquake and Jimmy Hart made their way to Mean Gene Okerlund's famous interview platform. There, 'Quake managed to top his opponent's ridiculous boasts by insisting that both he and his partner, Typhoon would win the every-man-for-himself battle royal later on in the show.

Big Boss Man vs. Earthquake (w/ Jimmy Hart)
By this point in the card, pretty much anything good that was going to happen had already happened.

In a 15-minute match that was at least 14 and half minutes too long, Boss Man and 'Quake plodded around the ring to the delight of absolutely noone.

Keeping the momentum firmly on the side of the bad guys, Earthquake picked up the win after The Mountie ran in and cost his rival, Big Boss Man, the match.
Your Winner: Earthquake

Afterwards, The Big Boss Man chased The Mountie to the back. It was the fastest either man had, or would, move for the rest of the night.

WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall - Mean Gene Okerlund shows off the Royal Samovar Trophy
Mean Gene's next guest was none other than Kerry Von Erich, The Texas Tornado. 

Before speaking to the Tornado, Okerlund showed off The Royal Samovar Trophy, essentially a giant Russian tea urn that would go to the winner of the much-hyped battle royal.

Naturally, the 'Tornado promised to win said trophy and take it all the way back to Texas, but only, of course, after beating The Mountie.

The Mountie replied in an on-the-platform interview with Mean Gene,

Kerry Von Erich vs. The Mountie (w/ Jimmy Hart)Making his third appearance of the evening, Jimmy Hart led The Mountie in the night's second deadly dull encounter as the former Fabulous Rougeau took on the Texas Tornado.

Following 10+ minutes of action, all of which looked like it enthralled the live audience back in 1991 than it did your video-watching writer in 2013, the Mountie scored the cheap win with his foot on the ropes for leverage.

Chalk up another win for the heel contingent.
Your Winner: The Mountie

In place of the usual Mean Gene promo, we next had a special makeshift edition of Paul Bearer's Funeral Parlour segment.

Here, Bearer and The Undertaker muttered the usual garbage about lost souls and the darkside, all of which apparently spelled the end for 'Taker's upcoming opponent, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. 


WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at The Royal Albert Hall - The Phantom of the Opera played The Undertaker's theme music
The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan
The coolest thing about this match was The Phantom of the Opera (or rather, a dude in a mask) playing 'Taker's theme music on the Albert Hall's grand organ.

Apart from that, this was pretty much everything you'd expect. The Undertaker no-sold everything, Duggan yelled Hooooooooooo!  an awful lot and the fans in London, England chanted USA! USA! a great deal.

I'll say that again. The fans in London, England chanted USA! USA! a lot.

The match ended the way at least 90% of all Jim Duggan matches ended; Hacksaw hit his opponent with the 2x4 and got himself disqualified.

5-0 to the heels then.
Your Winner via disqualification: The Undertaker

Heading once more to the back, Gene Okerlund spoke to Rowdy Roddy Piper about the night's proceedings. Piper replied to Ric Flair's earlier verbal jabs and promised to head right for the many-time NWA Champion as soon as the battle Royal got underway.

Typhoon, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, also had a few words for Gene. Those words were essentially the same as his partner, The Earthquake's: The Natural Disasters would somehow win the Battle Royal.

WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Albert Hall - Power and Glory talk tactics with Mean Gene Okerlund
More promos followed. Paul Roma and Hercules (Power & Glory) promised to dethrone The Legion of Doom in their upcoming tag team title match, before Animal and Hawk promised that the opposite would happen.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
WWF Tag Team Champions The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs. Power & Glory (Paul Roma & Hercules)


Much like the Rockers/Nasties clash that kicked off this whole thing, both teams spent the first thousand years of this match stalling and getting the crowd fully involved.

Though not quite on a par with the opening tag contest, the L.O.D/Power & Glory title match was at least mildly entertaining, and though it isn't exactly saying much, it was at least the third most entertaining match on an otherwise abysmal card.

Predictably, the champions retained their gold when Animal caught Roma coming off the top rope and powerslammed him into oblivion.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: The Legion of Doom

Backstage, Gene Okerlund spoke to crowd favourite Davey Boy Smith about his upcoming match against The Barbarian and, of course, the Battle Royal itself.

The British Bulldog vs. The Barbarian
Our special guest ring announcer for this match was none other than His Lordship himself, Lord Alfred Hayes.

WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall - The British Bulldog defeated Barbarian
For the first, and probably only time ever in his career as a North American star, The British Bulldog was announced from his actual hometown of Golborne, Lancashire (instead of Manchester, which is close to Golborne, or Leeds, which isn't). If you're wondering, Golborne is basically the asshole end of nowhere, sandwiched between Wigan and the equally as unknown town of St. Helens.

I would apologise for the geography lesson, but trust me, even that relatively uninteresting piece of information is more riveting than anything that happened between Davey Boy and The Barbarian.

The live crowd, naturally, loved it, but the rest of us suffered a match where absolutely nothing of note happened until Davey Boy picked up a predictable win.
Your Winner: The British Bulldog

In our final pre-match promo, The Nasty Boys hyped their appearance in the main event and promised us that things were 'going to get nasty.' I'm sure that, as a kid, I wouldn't snickerr at such things.

Prior to our main event, Alfred Hayes joined Monsoon and Heenan on commentary.

20-man Battle Royal for the Royal Samovar Trophy featuring: Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, British Bulldog, The Nasty Boys, The Legion of Doom, The Natural Disasters, Power & Glory, Barbarian, Texas Tornado, The Undertaker, 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan, The Rockers, The Mountie, Tito Santana, Big Boss Man.


WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall - Paul Roma tries to eliminate one of Legion of Doom
Unlike many battle royals your writer has witnessed, this one had each wrestler receive their own introduction (complete with music) as they made their way to the ring for tonight's main event.

With the ring almost full, Roddy Piper was the last man to enter the ring, going straight after arch-rival Ric Flair. The two toppled through the ropes and brawled around the outside as the remaining 18 combatants battled inside the ring.

Slowly but surely, bodies spilled from the ring until only Boss Man, Bulldog, Mountie and Typhoon remained.

"These men have been in this since the beginning," said Gorilla Monsoon, pointing out the obvious for the benefit, apparently, for those of us who hadn't been watching.

After the Boss Man was thrown out, Jimmy Hart's men Typhoon and Mountie attempted a double-team against The British Bulldog. Unsurprisingly, Davey Boy tossed Mountie, and then Typhoon, to win the match.
Your Winner: The British Bulldog


WWF / WWE: Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall - Andre the Giant comes to British Bulldog's rescue
As Lord Alfred Hayes talked about the overwhelming emotion in the Albert Hall and sold The British Bulldog's victory as though he'd just overcome a three-on-one handicap and won the world title in the main event of Wrestlemania, The Natural Disasters returned to the ring and attacked The Bulldog.

Eventually, none other than Andre The Giant, walking crutch in hand, limped to ringside and saw off the heels.

And so the show I always wanted to watch as a kid was over, and now that I've finally seen it, I need never see it ever again.

The first two matches were enjoyable, and if you have nothing better to do, are worth checking out, but as for sitting through 150 plus minutes of WWF Battle Royal at the Royal Albert Hall? I really wouldn't recommend it.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.