Thursday, 19 October 2017

PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1997

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Event poster
January 19, 1997
Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas

By the time 1997 rolled around, the World Wrestling Federation found itself at the receiving end of a creative and financial ass-whooping from nearest rivals, World Championship Wrestling. 

Over the course of the new year, McMahon's sports entertainment empire would begin planning for their triumphant comeback by shifting closer and closer towards an edgier, PG14 product that we would all come to know as the infamous Attitude Era.

Yet at the 1997 Royal Rumble, all of that still seemed very, very far away.

A far cry from the adult-orientated programming we'd be watching by the end of the year, our first big event of 1997 found itself in an awkward and uncomfortable position between the family-friendly New Generation of old and the X-Rated Attitude Era that was to come.

Did that make for a good show?

Let's head down to the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas to find out.

Shawn Michaels is a Man  

Tonight's show began with an opening video in which a deep, foreboding voice told us that whilst Shawn Michaels was once a cocky, abrasive youth looking to realize his boyhood dream, he was coming back to San Antonio tonight as a fully grown man, ready to reclaim his title.

That led us to the opening pyro, and a presentation which honestly looked better than many WWF pay per views had in the past.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Jim Ross, Vince McMahon, and Jerry 'The King' Lawler did commentary
Vince McMahon was our lead announcer tonight, introducing us first to his co-commentators Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler, and then to our Spanish and French announce teams, the latter of which was made up of the father and son duo of Raymond Rougeau and Jacques Rougeau Sr.

For some reason, all the announce tables had little flags to show which country they were representing. It was a small thing, but it did make a nice touch.

With all that out of the way, it was on to our opening contest.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Mr. Hughes) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena) 

Prior to this one starting, Todd Pettengill voiced a video package which told the story how this match came about.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Hunter Hearst Helmsley defended the WWF Intercontinental title against Goldust
Basically, we had Jerry Lawler being homophobic and outright asking Goldust if he was 'queer' (because being gay was still weird in the 90s you see), Goldust said no, and clocked Lawler, which made him a babyface.

Meanwhile, Hunter Hearst Helmsley decided that he wanted Marlena. When she turned him down, he just tried to kidnap her instead.

Seriously.

This all led to tonight's opening match, complete Mr. Hughes in the short-lived role as Hunter's pre-Chyna bodyguard.

The bout itself was mostly long and dull, as though both men had been given a lot of time to kill but neither wanted to use much energy so that they could still compete in the Royal Rumble match later.

After what felt like an eternity, Hughes distracted Goldust so that Helmsley could knock him down, drill him with the Pedigree, and win the match.

Honestly, the only good thing about this whole thing was that you could see Marlena's nipples pressing through her top. I'm sorry. I'm a pervert.
Your Winner and Still WWE Intercontinental Champion: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Bret Hart vowed to win this year's Royal Rumble match
Before our next match, we got pre-recorded comments from Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, and Mankind.

The former promised to win the Royal Rumble, whilst the latter claimed to be interested only in beating up a lot of people in the big match.

Farooq (w/ Clarence Mason, and The Nation of Domination) vs. Ahmed Johnson 

This was a fun, big man brawl that entertained without doing anything spectacular.

After some decent back-and-forth action, The Nation of Domination ran in to stop Farooq from getting his ass kicked, causing him to get DQ'd instead.
Your Winner via DQ: Ahmed Johnson 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Farooq and Ahmed Johnson continued their rivalry
Post match, Ahmed chased off members of The Nation and Pearl River Plunged one unknown random member off the ring steps and through the French announce table. To be fair, that was pretty awesome.

Terry Funk is From Texas 

In another pre-recorded clip, Terry Funk said that even though there were bigger wrestlers, stronger wrestlers,  faster and younger wrestlers than himself, he was from Texas.

I think he meant that he was going to win the Royal Rumble, but this was never really explained.

Farooq is Angry 

Backstage, Farooq yelled at The Nation and promised to beat up Ahmed Johnson in the Royal Rumble match later, because Uncle Tom, or something.

I don't know, this was garbage.

Vader vs. The Undertaker 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - The Undertaker faced Vader
These two would have a much better match later on in the year when Vader challenged The Undertaker for the WWF title at Canadian Stampede.

If you really want to see these two go at it, that's the one to watch because this one wasn't very good at all.

Like the opening contest, it was mostly long and dull, only getting exciting when Paul Bearer showed up.

That was the cue for the action to spill to the outside, where Bearer leaped off the apron and nailed The Undertaker with the urn. Vader then dragged his foe into the ring, hit him with the Vader Bomb, and pinned him.

Thus we had the start of Paul Bearer managing Vader, a move that would also see The Mastodon in a Tag Team with Mankind.
Your Winner: Vader 

Afterwards, The Undertaker was pissed off at his loss, so he chokeslammed the referee, destroyed a bunch of furniture at ringside, then yelled at Vince McMahon.

   

Steve Austin is Taking Out The Trash 

Backstage, Steve Austin told the cameramen off for being where they didn't belong and said that he was going to toss '29 pieces of trash' over the top rope tonight.

The British Bulldog is Bizarre

God bless Davey Boy Smith. This still cracks me up even today.


H├ęctor Garza, Perro Aguayo, and Canek vs. Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal, and Fuerza Guerrera

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - AAA's luchadores competed in a 3 vs. 3 match
'Only in the World Wrestling Federation can you see a spectacle like this,' said Vince McMahon, despite taking the idea to book a bunch of AAA's luchadors directly from WCW.

Unfortunately, McMahon didn't seem to give a damn about this one, and neither did the San Antonio crowd.

Despite all six men trying to engage the fans, everything they did was met with silence, something which really took a shine off the whole thing.

After several minutes of spots that lacked any rhyme, reason, or purpose, Perro Aguyo hit Heavy Metal with a double stomp off the top rope to win the match for his team.
Your Winners: Perro Aguyo, Canek, Hector Garza

Finally, after Vince shilled next month's In Your House PPV and Howard Finkle told us that the attendance was 60,477, it was time for tonight's Rumble match.

1997 Royal Rumble Match 30 Man Battle Royal Featuring: Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, British Bulldog, Owen Hart, The Sultan, Terry Funk, and more 

Defying the odds, Nation of Domination member Crush and The Nation's arch-rival, Ahmed Johnson drew numbers 1 and 2 respectively.

The two kicked things off with a wild brawl, which was only briefly interrupted by the arrival of Fake Razor Ramon at number 3. Ahmed quickly eliminated The Bad Guy, then eliminated himself by jumping over the top rope and chasing after Farooq, who had just appeared in the entrance.


Crush stood there shaking his head as though saying 'lol, what a dickhead,' before Phineas I. Godwin came down to kick things off again.

Steve Austin entered at number five, and it was here where things started to get interesting. Phineas eliminated Crush, Austin eliminated Phineas, and then it was time for Bart Gunn to come in, get his ass kicked, and get thrown out again.

Jake 'The Snake' Roberts suffered the same fate, and it wasn't until the arrival of The British Bulldog that we started to get your typical rumble match.

Other highlights from the 1997 Royal Rumble included:
  • Owen Hart 'accidentally' eliminating The British Bulldog
  • Mill Mascaras stupidly eliminating himself by diving off the top rope onto the outside to attack Pierroth and Cybernetico
  • Ahmed Johnson chasing off Farooq with a 2x4 that was so big it would make Hacksaw Jim Duggan jealous.

After a while, Austin found himself as once again the only man in the ring and quickly disposed of Savio Vega and Jesse James (Road Dogg) before coming face to face with Bret Hart.


It was only at this point that the Rumble match began to pick up steam, with the likes of Vader, The Undertaker, Mankind, Rocky Maivia, Terry Funk, and Fake Diesel also getting involved.

Towards the finish, Funk and Mankind had both been eliminated and were brawling on the outside. This distracted the attention of all the referees so that they didn't see Bret eliminate Austin.


Stone Cold was then able to slip back in, eliminate everyone who was left, and win one of the most boring and uneventful Royal Rumble matches in history.
Your Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin

Afterwards, Bret Hart was so irate that he yelled at the referees and Vince McMahon, much as The Undertaker had done earlier.

Crunch Time

Prior to our main event, we were shown an awesome video package which showed us how Sid had beaten Shawn Michaels for the WWF title at Survivor Series 1996, and all the events that had led up to tonight's rematch.

That took us to a promo recorded on WWF  Superstars from earlier that day in which HBK said that he had the flu, but that when it came to the crunch, he would be ready to beat Sid and get his title back.

World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Championship
WWF World Heavyweight Champion Sid vs. Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario)

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1997 - Shawn Michaels beat Sid for the WWF Championship
There's no fancy or elaborate way to explain say it - this match sucked.

The majority of the contest was simply big Sid wearing down the challenger before HBK made an exciting comeback towards the finish and captured his second WWF Championship for what would prove to be a very short-lived run indeed.

So yeah, not the greatest main event in the world, and certainly not the greatest start to 1997, but don't worry folks, things would eventually get much, much better.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels

Afterwards, the new champion celebrated his title victory with what seemed like the entire city of San Antonio, basking in the adoration of his hometown crowd until the show went off the air.

   

Overall then, that was a disappointing start to a brand new year of World Wrestling Federation Per Per Views. 

Many have lauded 1997 as a great year for pro wrestling, but what a lot of those fans seem to forget, is that all the really good stuff didn't come until at least the summer. At the Royal Rumble, all we got was a bunch of dull, disappointing, and completely underwhelming matches. 

Thank goodness that the year was going to get a hell of a lot better. 

Next time, it'll be the turn of World Championship Wrestling's nWo Souled Out experiment, before we return to the World Wrestling Federation for In Your House: Final 4. Don't miss any new Retro Pro Wrestling Review by following along on Twitter @Retropwrestling or liking the RPW Facebook page.

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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.