Friday, 5 September 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1995

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Event poster
January 22, 1995, 
USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida.

A brand new year was upon us, and already much had changed since the last time the World Wrestling Federation took to the pay per view airwaves.

Big Daddy Cool Diesel had turned on one-time ally Shawn Michaels at the 1994 Survivor Series, in the process becoming not only the company's premier babyface but also its world champion.

Speaking of champions, erstwhile two-time holder of The Winged Eagle Belt, Yokozuna, hadn't been seen since Undertaker stuffed him in a casket, though the sumo-sized void he left in his wake had been filled up with a raft of big men such as Henry O. Godwin and Wrestlecrap favourite Man Mountain Rock.

What did that mean for the WWF as a whole? Well, it ultimately meant that, whilst 1994 had been a pretty stellar year in terms of big-time match ups, 1995 sank to all new lows. Though at least they got off to a good start with that year's edition of the annual Royal Rumble.

Here's what went down.

Pamela Anderson arrives
WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - The WWF roster welcomes Pamela Anderson
Much like most of the world in general, professional wrestling was practically obsessed with the TV show Baywatch back in the mid-90s.

Whilst WCW would take it to the extreme later in the year, it all began in earnest with the much-hyped arrival of Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson to Florida's Sun Dome, where she was greeted by pretty much the entire WWF roster, all competing for her attention.

Big Mabel  was especially enthusiastic about Pammy's arrival, though of course she snubbed him, and everybody else, instead heading straight to her dressing room, conveniently situated about a foot away from her parked limousine.

One can only deduce that getting the brush off from Pamela Anderson ate away at the late Nelson Frazier for years, so much so that it eventually drove him to remodel himself as The World's Largest Love Machine.

Or not.

On with the show
WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler were our commentary team
We get our opening graphic and intro next, mostly just a static shot of the Royal Rumble logo and some honky tonk music that was so far behind the times it made Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler seem like the height of modern entertainment.

Speaking of Lawler, he and Vince McMahon were our hosts for the evening, welcoming us to the show with the usual hype about who may, or may not, win that night's 30-man battle royal.

With that out of the way, it was right down to our opening match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match
WWF Champion Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie)
As Razor Ramon made his way to the ring, Vince took the time to remind us that the figure-four leglock, the finisher of choice for challenger Jeff Jarrett, was invented by the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers.

Whether this was a thinly-vieled dig at former WWF champion and WCW mainstay Ric Flair, or whether it's just something Vince happened to mention just for the sake of it is something your writer may never really know.

What I do know however, is that this was another solid Royal Rumble opener.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Jeff Jarrett faced -and defeated- Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship
Throughout the last couple of years, Razor had established himself as a performer perfectly suited to getting live audiences in the right frame of mind, and this was no exception.

An enjoyable match made all the more entertaining by the hyper presence of The Roadie on the outside.

Proving his worth long before he found fame as part of the New Age Outlaws, Roadie worked just as hard as the competitors here, and was instrumental in the finish.

With The Bad Guy on the outside, Roadie clocked the champ's knee from behind, rendering him unable to beat the ten count.

Not content to win the the match but not the title, Jarrett coerced Razor back in the ring and finish the match properly. Never one to back out of a challenge, Ramon obliged, and even got the upperhand over his competitor.

Yet the damage had already been done. Lifting Double J for the Razor's Edge, Ramon's knee gave out and he crumpled to the mat. Jarrett made the cover, and three seconds later, we had a new Intercontinental Champion.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Intercontinental Champion: Jeff Jarrett

As Jarrett celebrated, Vince threw it to Stephanie Wiand, who was expecting to interview the new champion, even though we'd all just seen that he was still out in the ring.

With nothing doing there, Steph instead handed the reigns to our buddy Todd Pettengill, who was busy being something of a sex pest in Pam Anderson's locker room.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble - Todd Pettengill interviews Pamela Anderson
The two discussed the many and various gifts Anderson had been sent from WWF Superstars, including a shrunken head from The Headshrinkers (who else?), a piggy bank from Henry Godwin, and a cuddly toy shaped like a bulldog from a very-much-married Davey Boy Smith.

Unfortunately, something happened to the horseshoe-shaped gift of roses Todd himself had sent her. Not getting the hint, Pettengill then tried to force candy upon the star guest, before giving up and sending back to Wiand.

Whether there was something going on between the WWF's two main interviewers that caused pangs of jealousy in Wiand, or whether she was just bad at her job is something else we'll probably never know for sure.

What we do know is this. For no reason, Steph said: "Well, I guess Todd is the man...and I'm here with new Intercontinental Champion, Razor Ramon.'

She quickly corrected herself of course (about the champion, not about Todd being 'the man'), and proceeded to hold the stick in front of Double J's face as he waxed jubilant about how 1995 was going to be his year.


Not that Jarrett had much time for interviews. He had to, and I quote, 'go see Pammy-Sue'.

I.R.S (w/ 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
It started with the whole Undertaker vs. Undertaker debacle at Summerslam '94, continued with Irwin R. Schyster's involvement in The Deadman's casket match against Yokozuna at the following Survivor Series, and was now about to be taken further as The Phenom squared off against one of this fan's favourite early-90s grapplers.

Yes, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm a big fan of I.R.S. Despite a gimmick that has no right being any good, the former Varsity Club member more or less always entertained in the ring, as he did so tonight by giving The Undertaker one of his best pay per view matches of the last few years.

OK, so that's not really saying much when you consider that Undertaker was gone for a chunk of 1994 and spent some of 1993 at war with Giant Gonzales, but still.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - I.R.S took the fight to The Undertaker, but lost the match
This might not have been the greatest match of the year, or even of the night, but compared to some of the Undertaker's recent marquee battles, it wasn't really that bad.

I.R.S kicked things off by claiming that nobody would rest in peace until they paid their taxes (because that's a big concern of the dead), before Paul Bearer led his charge on a slow march to the ring.

Following a slow start (and I mean a really slow start), things gradually picked up into a decent match which was interupted by the arrival of an anonymous group of druids, who looked for all the world like Ku Klux Klan members clad in black.

Yet despite the best efforts of his masked companions, Schyster couldn't get the job done, and was ultimately tombstoned into oblivion for his troubles.
Your winner: The Undertaker

Post-match, Undertaker saw off an attack by the druids, only to be confronted by Million Dollar Corporation man King Kong Bundy. As the two stared down, Schyster regained his composure, beat up Paul Bearer and stole the urn. The distraction was enough to leave 'Taker prone to an assault at the hands of Bundy, and low we had our first Wrestlemania XI match booked.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - King Kong Bundy and The Undertaker have their first staredown

Hype for Hitman vs. Diesel
Earlier in the day on The Action Zone, Todd Pettengill had interviewed both World Wrestling Federation Champion Diesel, and his upcoming challenger, former champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

In those interviews, both champ and challenger were in fairly good spirits, passive-aggressively mocking one another, smiling with Todd and seeming hardly affected by the pressures of a big-match environment.

Not so later on, when the Toddster returned for follow-up interviews. This time, Hart and BDC were nothing but 100% serious. The latter didn't even have anything to say to Pettengill, whilst the former went into the typical 'This is business,' spiel wielded out by countless superstars before and since.

The idea here obviously, was that as bell time drew closer, both men fully realised what was at stake. Nerves kicked in, addrenalinn kicked in, and it was all about to kick off.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Diesel vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
Every time Big Daddy Cool and The Hitman locked up, something pretty magical happened. This was the second of their three championship clashes between 1994 and 1995, the first taking place at
the 1994 King of the Ring with Bret as your champion, and the third at the '95 Survivor Series, the only one of the three matches to see a title change hands.

I'm not going to lie to you, dear readers. Back in 1995, as a 10/11 year-old who still wasn't entirely convinced that wrestling was 'fake' (or scripted, or whatever you want to call it), I was the biggest Diesel mark in the world.

This guy was my absolute hero, and even though I appreciated what Bret did in the ring, I was rooting for Big Daddy Cool to win right from the minute his music cued up and he got that awesome entrance where the truck would drive towards the screen before the glass broke (ala Stone Cold), and the champ, to paraphrase a later WWE Superstar, was here.

Now, some 20+ years later, I can simply sit back and enjoy this for what it was, namely a thrilling championship match that didn't deviate too far from Bret and Diesel's tried and tested formula.

As you might expect, we had a lot of Hart working over Nash's legs, and a lot of Nash generally overpowering Bret and beating him up.

When neither strategy seemed to work, each babyface reverted to more violent tactics, adding to the
enjoyment factor of what was probably -despite everything- the least entertaining of the Bret/Diesel series.

We had Bret taking off his wrist tape and tying his foe's legs around the ring post, Diesel stalking his opponent with a chair, and a generally much more aggressive approach from the company's top two fan favourites.

Of course, the babyface status of both champ and challenger opened them up to the possibility of an outside assault from some of the World Wrestling Federation's less friendly stars.

To that end, we had a run-in from Shawn Michaels, and a bizarre decision from referee Earl Hebner. Despite HBK running in and only attacking arch-nemesis Diesel, Hebner opted not to disqualify Bret, but to instead order the match to continue.

Why? I have no idea.

The same thing happened a moment later, when Owen Hart put in an appearance, thwarting his older brother's Sharpshooter attempt.

The match continued, but not for much longer. As Owen and his ally/Bret's enemy Bob Backlund resumed the assault on the challenger, HBK returned to the fray to beat down on the champion. In this endeavor, Michaels was joined -for no particular reason- by The Roadie and new Intercontinental Champion, Jeff Jarrett.

Hebner lost all control, and this one was all over.
Match declared a draw. 

Following the bell, The Hitman and Big Daddy Cool somehow managed to regain their composure and see off the the bad guys (not the Bad Guy) before embracing in a sign of babyface solidarity.

With that one over, it was on to our penultimate bout of the evening, but not quite just yet.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Bob Holly and 123 Kid faced Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka for the WWF tag team titles
First, we had Todd Pettengill getting flustered as Pamela Anderson changed, and Stephanie Wiand interviewing the tag team combination of 123 Kid and Bob 'Spark Plug' Holly.

The story here was that the WWF titles were vacated when previous champions HBK & BDC had their big falling out at the end of 1994. To determine new champions, we had ourselves a tournament, with the Million Dollar Corporation team of Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka and The Smoking Gunns both reaching the finals. Unfortunately for the cowboys, Bart suffered an injury, forcing them to withdraw from the competition.

Enter the 123 Plugs, or the Spark Kids or whatever they'd be called in today's WWE, who spoke to Stephanie Wiand about their fill-in spot at the tournament finals, where, inn typical babyface fashion, they promised to try their best in overcoming their larger opponents.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship tournament Final
123 Kid and Bob 'Spark Plug' Holly vs. Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow
There's something I forgot to mention earlier, and that's the appearance of football player Lawrence Taylor at ringside. Taylor had been invited to the Royal Rumble by none other than Diesel himself, and had greeted the WWF Champion at the start of our proceeding match. As we got to the tag team championship tournament final, LT was still at ringside.

Keep that in mind for later.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - 123 Kid and Bob Holly captured the WWF tag team title
Making his WWF pay per view debut, Bob Holly practically flew around the ring with almost as much speed and agility as the lighter 123 Kid, though despite their best efforts, and those of the Million Dollar Team, they garnered pretty much zero action.

With the crowd drained in the wake of the previous match, greeting both teams with something close to silence as they battled in an otherwise decent -if hardly spectacular- contest.

The end came when Bigelow, who had mauled both opponents throughout the match, took to the turnbuckles for his famous moonsault. Before he could leap into the air however, Tatanka goofed up and knocked his partner to the canvas.

123 Kid made the cover, and for the second time that night we had new champions.

Your winners and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: Bob Holly & The 123 Kid

Not that it would last of course, on the following night's WWF Raw, The Smoking Gunns would return and claim the titles for themselves. Yet for now, Holly and the Kid were delighted with their victory, embracing all the way back to locker room and leaving an irate and embarrassed Bam Bam Bigelow to face the taunts of the Florida faithful.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Bam Bam Bigelow confronts Lawrence Taylor
Among them, one Lawrence Taylor, who though highly amused at the upset victory, did at least extend the hand of friendship to Bam Bam, who had either been busted open around the mouth or else snuck in a rather messy hot dog whilst the camera was focussed elsewhere.

Rather than accept the handshake of course, Bigelow shoved Taylor, prompting one of the football star's friends to cry out 'HEY! HE'S CRAZY THAT GUY!' No idea why, but your easily-amused reviewer found that hysterical.

With our Wrestlemania 11 match booked, it was time for the main event.

First though, Todd Pettengill took us back to the 1994 Royal Rumble to remind us that Big Daddy Cool was being primed for a huge push even then,

More than that though, the point was to also remind us that Shawn Michaels played a crucial role in eliminating Diesel, leading us nicely into a pre-taped promo from ol' HB-shizzle.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Shawn Michaels promo
In his usual brash, arrogant style, Michaels vowed to eliminate even the biggest of the big men en route to victory.

After this, Lex Luger also cut a promo, this one cutting a little too close to the one as he bemoaned his fate in previous title matches and claimed that 1995 would be his year. A few months later, Luger would be back in World Championship Wrestling.

Back to the arena, Vince McMahon apologised to us, and Lawrence Taylor for Bam Bam's 'despicable' actions, before Howard Finkle introduced 'the lovely and talented' Pamela Anderson to the ring.

Pamela took her seat at ringisde to see who she'd be accompanying to the ring at Wrestlemania XI, and with that, it was on.


Royal Rumble Match: 
30-man Battle Royal featuring: Shawn Michaels, British Bulldog, The Blus Brothers, Lex Luger, Adam Bomb, Well Done, The Heavenly Bodies, Mantaur, Aldo Montoya, Henry Godwin, Dick Murdoch, Rick Martel and more....
The World Wrestling Federation changed things around a little this year, cutting the time between entrants down to only 60 seconds, though in all honesty, I doubt even half a minute passed between some entrants.

Though we promised this would make for a faster, much more action-packed rumble, the actual result was that the whole thing came across as incredibly rushed.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog were the first, and last, two men in the 1995 match
Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog kicked things off with barely a minute of enjoyable action, before being joined by a plethora of crud including one of The Blus Brothers, Duke 'The Dumpster' Drosse and babyface Doink.

The ring filled up pretty good in no time at all, with HBK and the Bulldog repeatedly going back to one another in between facing the likes of Rick Martel (making an unprecedented -at the time- seventh Rumble appearance), Kwang and Sionne.

Not that they had much choice than face one another at certain points. Around the half-way mark, the ring was cleared leaving only the first two entrants to duke it out further. In a spot of deja vu, the other Blus Brother turned up, and the whole process kicked off again.

Other highlights included:

  • Bret Hart gaining a measure of revenge n brother Owen by attacking The King of Harts as he made his way to the ring. Thanks to the beating, Owen was quickly eliminated when he did make it to the ring.
  • Hart returning to the match again later on, this time to deal with Bob Backlund
  • A surprise appearance from veteran star Dick Murdoch, who outperformed half of his younger adversaries
  • A big boy showdown between Mabel and King Kong Bundy.
After what has to be the quickest Royal Rumble ever (I'm not inclined to go out and check), Michaels, Luger, Davey Boy and Crush stood tall as our final four. Not long after, Luger and Crush were gone, leaving the task of ending this thing to the two men who started it. 

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - The British Bulldog thought he'd won the Royal Rumble, but hadn't
Following a gripping finale, Davey Boy tossed Michaels over the top rope. His music struck, and we had ourselves a winner in The British Bulldog.

Or did we?

No, we didn't. Apparently, only one of Shawn's feet had touched the floor, giving him the chance to re-enter the match, throw the Bulldog over the top rope, and win his first of two back-to-back Royal Rumbles. 
Your winner: Shawn Michaels

As Michaels celebrated, we got a number of replays to prove the whole one-foot thing, before Pamela Anderson joined the Heartbreak Kid in the ring and Shawn tried to hump her (I kid you not.)

And that was all she wrote. All in all, not the worst show in the world, though the whole 60-second entrant thing did kind of take some of the magic away from the actual Royal Rumble match itself. Still, we got what we needed from the show, with no less than four Wrestlemania 11 matches (Bundy/Taker, Bret/Backlund, Diesel/Michaels and Bigelow/Taylor) stemming from this one event.
In terms of quality, this isn't one you really need to track down in its entirety, though I would recommend the Bret/Diesel match.
Til next time then, see you at Wrestlemania 11. 

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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.