PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1991

WWF Royal Rumble 1991 Review - Event poster

Miami Arena, Miami, Florida

January 19, 1991

With American armed forces battling bravely to drive Iraqi invaders from Kuwait, the World Wrestling Federation saw fit to use the ongoing struggle in the Gulf War to draw interest in their product; turning former fan favorite Sgt. Slaughter into a loathsome Iraqi sympathizer and shooting him right to the top of the card.

It was this fascination with the horror of the war that served as the central theme for the promotion's 1991 Royal Rumble event. Patriotism was in full flow and that cowardly Slaughter was about to get what was coming to him from the All-American heroes of the WWF.

If that sounds like a somewhat dodgy idea for a wrestling show, that's probably because it was, and who could blame fans at the time for being skeptical about McMahon's latest PPV offering when the last time out we were presented with a dire show which gave birth to The Gobbledy Gooker.

With all that being said then, it's perhaps a surprise that this January 1991 show turned out not only to be the best Royal Rumble event to date, but one of the best pro wrestling PPVs to have come along in quite some time.

Here's what went down:

Welcome to the show

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - Gorilla Monsoon and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper were our hosts for the event

In fitting with the 'We're America, don't mess with us' theme, today's show opened up with a live rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before we got a look at all the participants in tonight's Rumble match.

We also got a rundown of the other bouts on tonight's card before our announcers for the evening, Gorilla Monsoon and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, welcomed us to the show. We then went down to Howard Finkle, who introduced us to tonight's opening 'tag team encounter.'

Not a match, an encounter.

The Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannety)

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - The Rockers and The Orient Express delivered a classic opening match

And what an encounter this one turned out to be.

Surpassing even Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude's effort at the 1988 event in terms of sheer quality and enjoyment, to this day the Orient Express/Rockers clash remains one of the best undercard matches in the history of both the Royal Rumble, and WWE pay per views on the whole.

There was scarcely a dull moment in sight as both teams waged an exhilarating see-saw battle for just under twenty minutes before Jannetty caught Tanaka with a creative sunset flip for the three count.
Your Winners: The Rockers

Backstage, a delirious Macho King Randy Savage informed Sean Mooney that he had been guaranteed a title shot against Sgt. Slaughter should Slaughter be victorious in his upcoming WWF title match.

"Now wait a minute, I think you're forgetting something," urged Mooney. "What if the Ultimate Warrior retains his title tonight?"

Apparently, such things weren't an issue in the Kingdom of Madness; Savage had already sent Sensational Sherri out into the arena in an effort to coax the Warrior into offering the same deal.

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - Sensational Sherri attempts to seduce WWF Champion, The Ultimate Warrior

As Mene Gene Okerlund stood by, flustered as ever with microphone in hand, Sherri first drew the WWF Champion out by insulting him. 

When Warrior arrived, decked in red, white, and blue attire with matching facepaint and jacket, Sherri changed her tune in an attempt to seduce the champion, at one point even dropping to her knees.

There's something about Sherri being on her knees like that which should provoke all kinds of jokes, especially after Sherri planted a soft kiss on the champion's lips, to which Ultimate Warrior responded by sniffing his two fingers as though they'd done much more than just share a kiss.

Alas, now is neither the time nor the place for that kind of talk, so all I'll say is that the outcome of this passable segment was entirely predictable; Warrior refused and ran off, prompting Savage to charge through the curtain and do absolutely nothing of note.

The Barbarian (w/ Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan) vs. The Big Boss Man

Perhaps the most surprising thing of this whole pay per view was that the second match on the card turned out to be nowhere near as dull as it probably looked on paper.

Sure, it was no Five-Star Classic, but then very few matches are.

Instead, what we got here was a very enjoyable brawl between two behemoths in front of a white-hot crowd which came to its conclusion after The Boss Man reversed a pin attempt by The Barbarian to pick up the win.
Your Winner: The Big Boss Man

Out in the back with Sean Mooney, General Adnan wailed something in a foreign tongue (or at least that wasn't very coherent) before his charge, Sgt. Slaughter vowed to create turmoil and chaos when he beat The Ultimate Puke in their upcoming title match.

To be fair, it was a fairly engaging promo from tonight's challenger.

Offering a retort, the champion insisted that he only took orders from 'the warriors that ride upon [his] back,' then snarled a bit, and promised to become The Ultimate Victor.

World Wrestling Federation Championship Match
WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter

There have been some fairly damning reports of this match elsewhere on the Internet, though in all honesty, this reviewer doesn't believe it was all that bad.

OK, so it wasn't all that good either, but then it was never really likely to be.

Much like the Boss Man/Barbarian bout before it, this WWF title match was never supposed to be a memorable wrestling war for the ages.

What it was supposed to be, was yet a further development in the ongoing saga of USA vs. Iraq, as portrayed by World Wrestling Federation Superstars.

To that end, this contest definitely delivered.

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - The Ultimate Warrior controls Sgt. Slaughter in their WWF Championship match

The champion controlled the early moments of the match, though it didn't take long for Sensational Queen Sherri, complete with a wardrobe change into a foxy little black number to get involved in the match.

Coaxing the Ultimate Warrior out of the ring, the devious Sherri led the champ up the ilse, where he was viscously attacked by Randy Savage.

Returning to the ring, Warrior fell victim to his challenger's onslaught until the power of the warriors (or live crowd, if you prefer), inspired the inevitable comeback.

Yet the champ's dominance was short-lived and as the match reached its dramatic climax, Savage returned to the ring, blasted Warrior with his scepter and gave the win to the evil friend of Iraq.

Hardly the greatest championship match to ever materialize, but if its sole purpose was to further storylines and set up two big money bouts at Wrestlemania XII, then it's hard to deny that it did it's job well.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Champion: Sgt. Slaughter

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - Sgt. Slaughter is the new WWF Champion

As Slaughter was handed the WWF title, Monsoon and Piper practically lost their minds and acted like Adolf Hitler had just risen from the dead and subjected the President of the United States to a spot of anal rape.

Thankfully, they were given a brief respite from crying foul and a chance to rest both their minds and mouths as the action soon returned to the ring.

Koko B. Ware (w/ Frankie) vs. The Mountie (w/ Jimmy Hart)

As 90% took a nap and the other 10% went to the bathroom, former Rougeau Brother Jacques in his new persona of The Mountie took on The Bird Man in what would turn out to be the most boring thing to ever happen, not just in the history of pro wrestling, but in the entire history of everything that ever, happened, ever.

In a truly tedious nine-minute affair that lasted ten minutes too long, The Mountie dominated Koko B. Ware before finally putting him, and us, out of our collective misery.
Your Winner: The Mountie
Your Loser: Everybody who ever saw this match

Fans in the arena were given a break while we viewers were treated to yet more enraged rants about the title match from the Hot Rod before it was onto promos galore.

First of all, the new World Wrestling Federation Champion insisted that he always did what he said he was going to do and that the WWF fans now had a champion they could respect because 'I'm the World Wrestling Federation Champion, and that's an order,'

Except it's not really though is it, Sarge? That's just a statement.

Anyway, we were then given a series of comments from WWF fans wishing the American armed forces well in their war against Iraq. The most curious thing here was that none of these fans really seemed to know, nor care, what they were talking about, as though somebody had simply pushed a camera in front of them and said 'Hey, so what do you think about Hairy Back Harry and his Wibbly Wobbly Waffle Party?"

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - The Legion of Doom vow to win the Rumble match

Next up, participants in this year's Rumble match gave their thoughts on the upcoming main event. 

Among the more memorable promos, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts vowed to cut through the other men to get his hands on Rick 'The Model' Martel, Davey Boy Smith said he was glad to be a bulldog (which was only slightly less nonsensical than the time he claimed that he would win the Royal Rumble because he was, and I quote, 'bizarre.') and Hawk claimed that nobody wanted to 'take a ride' on neither him nor his Legion of Doom partner, Animal. 

Just the thought of 'riding' Hawk and Animal sends shivers down this fan's spine.

Up next,  Macho King Randy Savage insisted that he had been the WWF Champion forever and always, despite not holding the belt since Wrestlemania V, all the while, Sensational Sherri winced and gurned like she was in the throes of a rather unpleasant orgasm. 

Warrior then came banging on the door, causing Savage and Sherri to run away.

They say there's a fine line between genius and insanity, and after watching this promo from Savage, it's really quite difficult to tell just which one he was.

Finally, The Million Dollar Man told us that his 'bodyguard' Virgil would clean the dog muck from his shoe due to the mighty dollar. 

All the while, my only thought is that doesn't sound like any kind of bodyguard I've ever heard of.

Dusty & Dustin Rhodes vs. Ted Dibiase & Virgil

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - Ted Dibiase gives Virgil his orders

The man who would go on to become Goldust made his WWF PPV début by teaming with daddy dearest to settle the ongoing feud between The Million Dollar Man and The American Dream.

Less of an actual match and more a prolonged angle, Virgil was ordered by his 'master' (Monsoon's words, not mine) to take out Dustin Rhodes, yet the evil henchman constantly came up short against the dynamic Rhodes Jr.

Finally fed up with his servant's failures, Dibiase entered the fray and dominated his less-experienced opponent in order to show Virgil 'how it's done.'

After Virgil messed up and accidentally struck Dibiase, the Million Dollar Champion battered his employee and tossed him from the ring, then rolled up Dusty (who had spent the majority of the match on the apron) to win the match and send The Dream packing back to WCW.

Though mostly built as a set-up to the angle that would follow, this was nonetheless an enjoyable outing by the two tandems.
Your Winners: Ted Dibiase & Virgil

WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991 - Virgil finally confronts Ted Dibiase

After the match, Dibiase grabbed a microphone and ordered Virgil to fetch the Million Dollar Championship and wrap it around Dibiase's waist. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Virgil instead clocked his employer and turned face as the crowd's erupted in a fashion usually reserved for the second coming of Jesus Himself.

Seriously, the crowds went absolutely loco here in a moment which must surely be Mike Jones' favorite moment of his entire career, though it does make this writer somewhat sad that just a year later Virgil would be relegated to a 'Jobber to the Stars' role.

Afterwards, Hulk Hogan dedicated his entry in the Royal Rumble match to everyone in the American Armed Forces, before Gene Okerlund received an unconfirmed report that Sgt. Slaughter had defaced the American flag. 

Naturally, Hogan then turned his attention to vowing revenge on Slaughter.

And yes, this promo featured that memorable gaffe when Hogan forgot Suddam Hussein's name.

Royal Rumble Match
30-Man Battle Royal featuring: Hulk Hogan, Earthquake, Rick 'The Model' Martel, Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine, Bret 'The Hitman' Heart, Dino Bravo, British Bulldog, Legion of Doom, Mr. Perfect, The Bushwhackers and more.

For the second time in Royal Rumble history, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart drew the number one spot, though instead of Tito Santana, it was Dino Bravo facing him at the start of this year's Rumble match.

Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine soon joined the action as what would become to best Rumble match to this point really got underway.

With the ring filling up throughout the contest and eliminations scarce, there was plenty to enjoy about this year's match, though a surprise highlight was certainly Rick Martel.

Not only did The Model beat Ted Dibiase's record from the previous year by lasting over 52 minutes in the ring, but he also did so whilst putting on an entertaining performance and was often the best thing to watch in the ring.

Another true highlight of the match has to be the entrance and elimination of Bushwhacker Luke. who did the Bushwhacker Stomp down to the ring, across the ring, and, after an immediate elimination at the hands of Earthquake, all the way back to the dressing room. It was genuinely one of the funniest moments I've ever seen on a pro wrestling show.

Speaking of Earthquake it was the big man who was left in the ring with Hulk Hogan, and finally eliminated to allow The Hulkster to become the first man to win two Royal Rumble matches.
Your Winner: Hulk Hogan

Hogan then celebrated his victory for the next several millennia to end arguably the best Royal Rumble event so far.

Indeed, this really was a terrific show. Kicking off with one of the best tag team matches this writer has ever seen and ending with an utterly enjoyable Royal Rumble match, with all but the dire Mountie/Koko confrontation entertaining on some level, it's hard not to argue that the 1991 Royal Rumble trumped all previous efforts by Vince McMahon's company and makes for must-see viewing.

Other 1991 pro wrestling reviews: 

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