Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Saturday, 26 December 2015

TV SHOW REVIEW: WWE SMACKDOWN - December 11th 2009

WWE Smackdown: 11/12/09
Houston, Texas

**NOTE: This review was written live at the time in December 2009. I recently found it in my writing archives and decided to post here**

With just two days to go before he locks up with World Heavyweight Champion The Undertaker at TLC, Batista takes on a returning Rey Mysterio in a street fight whilst Luke Gallows makes his in-ring debut and Intercontinental Champion John Morrison indulges in a bit of racial stereotyping.

Such fun.

Batista Speaks

As he prepared to challenge The Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship in a chairs match at TLC, Batista made his way to the ring to speak his mind, and he had a lot to say.

Hyping up his forthcoming battle with The Phenom, Big Dave also took the time to play down his street fight later on in the show with Rey Mysterio, insisting that the masked superstar did not deserve to be in the same ring with him. Furthermore, The Animal insisted that not only did he not need Rey, he didn't need the fans either.

CM Punk & Luke Gallows vs. Matt Hardy & R-Truth

After assisting CM Punk, in demolishing both Hardy and Truth over the past two weeks, Luke Gallows made his official in-ring debut as he teamed with the Straightedge Saviour to take on a team looking for revenge.

Before the match began, Hardy gave out copies of his brother Jeff's new DVD, much to the chagrin of Punk, who urged the audience not to accept what he called 'poison'.

It was a fun way to kick things off and was followed by some equally fun action between the ropes. A decent opening contest saw both teams trade the advantage before Gallows picked up the win with his 12 Steps finisher.

Your Winners: CM Punk & Luke Gallows

Backstage in Teddy Long's office, the Smackdown General Manager was joined by bitter ex-lovers Vickie Guerrero and Eric Escobar.

Escobar laid into his former girlfriend in Spanish before helpfully translating for Teddy to reveal that he was basically insulting her. Not surprisingly, this resulted in Guerrero urging Long to book Escobar in a match against Chris Jericho.

From the Vault: Kane defeated US Champion MVP in a non-title match (June 2007)

Remember when MVP was one of the hottest new superstars on the Smackdown brand? When he was a larger-than-life, egomaniac heel and was thus entertaining as hell?

If not, this match showed the man also known as Montel Vontavious Porter in a better light than his usual three-minute appearances on Raw usually do as he battled Kane in a decent contest. The Big Red Machine won after a chokeslam. Yep, that happened.

Mike Knox vs. Kane

As Kane walked backstage with his music blaring (I wonder if he has his theme tune randomly playing wherever he goes, like in the Supermarket or at the hairdressers), he was stopped in his tracks by Mike Knox.

Knox insisted that he and The Big Red Machine were a lot alike, and claimed that he enjoyed fighting him on last week's show. Kane denied being anything like Knox, but admitted that he enjoyed their match too. Because of this, the two behemoths agreed to fight again later on in tonight's show.

Eric Escobar vs. Chris Jericho

Following a short exchange of offence between the two combatants, Vickie Guerrero interupted to change this into a handicap match, with Jericho's partner The Big Show joining the fray.

What followed was a mildly entertaining destruction of Escobar by the Unified Tag Team Champions, resulting in a win for the pair with the Walls of Jericho.

Your Winners: Chris Jericho & The Big Show

Afterwards, the champs took the microphone to hype their upcoming Tables, Ladders & Chairs match against Shawn Michaels and Triple H, vowing to end DX once and for all.

Drew McIntyre & John Morrison face off

In a final confrontation before they meet for Morrison's Intercontinental Championship at TLC, the champion and his challenger, Drew McIntyre, faced off in the ring.

McIntyre began by bemoaning the lack of attention afforded to him by WWE Magazine (his opponent features on the cover of the latest edition) and liking the chances of Morrison retaining at the PPV to a Scottish fable like the Loch Ness Monster.

This brought out Morrison himself, decked in full Braveheart attire as he claimed to be William Wallace (ask your history teacher) and addressed his rival in a faux Scottish accent.

The Shaman of Sexy verbally put down McIntyre, made fun of Scottish background for a while then beat him up.

Racial stereotyping aside, this was actually pretty fun.

Kane vs. Mike Knox

Smackdown's resident giants collided in a decent rematch from last week's show and faired slightly better than they did in their previous encounter.

The two behemoths battled back and forth, yet even Knox's ever-impressive flying cross-body block was not enough to secure victory as Kane planted his foe with a chokeslam to earn the three count.

Your Winner: Kane

Please let this go somewhere. As much as your reporter has always been unimpressed by Kane, Mike Knox does appear to have a lot of potential and it would be great to see him fulfil it.

Maria & Mickie James vs. WWE Women's Champion Michelle McCool & Layla

In what was probably the best match she's had at least since moving to the Friday night show, Mickie James looked good as she teamed with a returning Maria to take it to the woman she'll face for the Divas title at TLC, Michelle McCool, and her best friend, Layla El.

As short as most Divas matches usually are, this was nonetheless a good show from all four women, resulting in a win for the Number One Contender as James pinned Layla.

Your Winners: Maria & Mickie James.

After Todd Grisham and Matt Striker ran down the final card for Sunday night's TLC pay per view, it was on to the main event.

Street Fight: Batista vs. Rey Mysterio

Making his return following a knee injury, Rey Mysterio looked to extract some revenge from his friend-turned-foe, Batista in a good main event.

Batista looked better than he has in a while thanks to the efforts of his diminutive opponent as Mysterio flew around the ring in the early going before The Animal took it to the outside and proceeded to demolish his foe with a series of heavy blows involving the ringside furniture.

Not surprisingly, Big Dave maintained his momentum as he headed into a World Heavyweight Championship fight with The Undertaker by pinning Mysterio following a brutal chairshot.

Your Winner: Batista

In the post-match, The Animal continued to assault Mysterio before the lights dimmed and The Undertaker arrived on the scene, sending his upcoming opponent packing as Smackdown came to a close.

Final Thoughts: With TLC just two days away, tonight's edition of WWE Smackdown did everything it was supposed to do. Hype for three of the pay per view bouts (the TLC tag match, Batista/Undertaker's chairs clash and the Morrison/McIntyre bout) was played well and generated interest in the matches, whilst the in-ring action ranged from decent to good.

Certain parts of the opening to the Punk/Gallows vs. Hardy/Truth bout where edited out of the UK broadcast (all we missed was Punk badmouthing Jeff Hardy and his DVD again), but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the intro to that match, with Hardy giving out the DVDs and Punk doing his best to be heard over R-Truth's rapping, simply because it was something different.

And with that, I'm out of here and off to look forward to this Sunday night and WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs.

Friday, 18 December 2015

GAME REVIEW: WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 (X-Box)

I've always thought that wrestling games probably have quite a limited appeal when compared to a lot of games, but as a huge wrestling geek, I have to say I loved this latest instalment of the WWE franchise.

**NOTE: This was written back in 2010 when Smackdown vs. Raw first came out. I recently found it in my writing archive and decided to post it here**

Mainly, I love that there's just so much to do in this game; Smackdown vs. Raw is no 'play it once, get to the end and never bother with it again' experience.

Instead, the game offers a multitude of modes, challenges and games to enjoy that will keep fans coming back to it time and time again.

Road to Wrestlemania mode

To start with, there's the much-hyped Road to Wrestlemania in which you take on the role of a number of WWE Superstars (John Cena, Triple H, Edge, Randy Orton, Mickie James and your own created character) and guide them through various scenarios and matches to the main event of WWE's flagship event, Wrestlemania.

Playing this mode as your own created character is perhaps the most fun of all as you play the part of a fan who finds himself thrust into the bright lights of sports entertainment and at war with wrestling supremo; Vince McMahon. It's probably the longest and most challenging storyline of them all as McMahon throws one seemingly-impossible-to-conquer obstacle in front of you after another; but hey, that's part of the fun, right?

What's weird about the Road to Wrestlemania storyline mode, is that most of the story-lines are actually better than half the things WWE produces on its TV shows; intricate, well-thought-out plots with entertaining beginnings, satisfying middles and logical conclusions.

Game play

That's not the only way Smackdown vs. Raw matches up to its real-life counterpoint; the in-ring action comes as close to emulating an exciting WWE match as I've seen in any wrestling game; holds and counter-holds, slams and counter-slams are all accounted for, and in this writer's mind make for a realistic experience when battling other stars.

At least it does on most levels, because the game does have its flaws, and they can make for very frustrating game-play at times.

Ever seen a wrestling match in which a referee gets in the way of the combatants and accidentally gets knocked out? Well in Smackdown vs. Raw, it's like the referees love nothing more than to get in your way and no matter how many times you aim for your opponent, it's almost inevitable that you'll end up solidly decking the official on more than one occasion. What's worse, if it happens too often, the stupid referee thinks nothing of disqualifying you!

This is just one of the problems with the target-system within the game, with the biggest problems being completely exposed in tag team matches.


Playing the Career Mode (in which you work your way up the ranks, winning match after match and capturing title after title), your reviewer found himself competing for the tag team championships with Evan Bourne as a tag team partner.

If Bourne struck me once, he struck me a thousand times and, if that wasn't bad enough, he even cost us the titles in a ladder match by throwing me, his own partner, off the ladder and putting me in a submission hold whilst our opponents climbed to the top of the ladder and captured the gold. Needless to say, I throw stuff at the TV whenever I see Evan Bourne now!

The same tag team matches also saw our opponents turn on each other and start fighting (this was an obvious glitch, not part of the storyline), then stand around doing nothing until I had recovered from a recent beating and was ready to fight again. Weird, huh?

If all that becomes too frustrating for you, you can always step out of the ring and into one of the game's many opportunities to create stuff.

Create a character

The create-a-character mode has lots of options, and you really can customise every minute detail of your own ring-warrior, including adding your own pictures and logos for attire and tattoo. The only problem with it is that this mode comes with a point system, with each item carrying its own number of points. Once you've used up your points quota, you can't add anything else to your character, which can be a bit frustrating if you have an ideal image in mind but can't quite free up two points to add in that kick-ass tattoo.

Once you've got your own character created, you can head into the wonderful 'create a finisher' mode, where, well, you get to create your own finishing moves. I had lots of fun with this, and my own character now comes complete with an entirely impossible finishing move where he leaps off the top rope, completes a number of forwards, backwards and sidewards flips in mid-air and somehow lands flat on his head into a foe's midsection. It's brilliant.

You can also make your own entrances, using stock music from the game's library or by uploading your own, using videos (again either from the game or create your own), add in poses, pyro and fan reactions and much more.

If it seems like there's a lot to take in, that's because there is, though, for the sake of brevity, we'll leave it here for today. All of this, however, means that if you like WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010, you'll find yourself going back to it time and time again and getting tonnes of enjoyment out of it long after you first bought it. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015


WWE Superstars: 10/12/09
(UK Broadcast – 11/12/09)

**NOTE - This review was written live at the time in 2009. I recently found it in my writing acrhives and uploaded it here**

The newest addition to the WWE Universe finally d├ębuts in the UK with two matches from Smackdown and a Raw main event between long-time rivals MVP and Jack Swagger.

Here's what happened on our first glimpse at WWE Superstars.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Finlay

As Smackdown kicked off tonight's show, the Belfast Brawler looked to give the cocky Ziggler a lesson in respect in a tough contest.

With some hard-hitting action flowing back and forth between the grizzled veteran and the rising star, the two delivered a decent opening contest which saw Ziggler pick up another win thanks to the Zig Zag.

Your Winner: Dolph Ziggler

Backstage, Josh Matthews interviewed MVP. Porter recapped his rivalrly with Jack Swagger before making fun of his opponent's lisp.

The Hart Dynasty vs. Slam Master J & Jimmy Wang Yang

In a short -but fairly entertaining- contest, David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd made short work of their seldom-seen opponents. Even Natalya got involved, bodyslamming Yang on the outside in a move which the announcers insisted had 'changed the world'. A slight exaggeration perhaps?

Your Winners: The Hart Dynasty

Prior to tonight's main event, Jack Swagger took to the microphone to rile up the crowd and talk down his forthcoming opponent, MVP.

Jack Swagger vs. MVP

Afforded much more time than any number of their three-minute Raw outings, Swagger and Porter were free to really showcase their talents in a fine main event by TV standards.

MVP looked to be in control for the bulk of the contest, with both men impressing with some solid action in a well-paced, enjoyable affair.

Yet despite Porter's best efforts to finally overthrow his arch-rival, he eventually found himself eating the pin when The All American American landed his patented Gutwrench Powerbomb.

Your Winner: Jack Swagger

And that just about does it for tonight's show.

Final Thoughts: Whilst fans in the US are well accustomed to this show, for us Brits, this was our first chance to take a look at it on TV, and I have to say, WWE Superstars made a strong first impression.

Whilst the two undercard matches were decent enough, the MVP/Swagger match was a joy to watch, and you only wish they'd be allowed to do more of this stuff in front of a bigger audience on Raw.

Away from the ring, your reviewer was surprisingly impressed by the look and feel of the show. Far from feeling like some third-rate B show (think Heat in its dying days or Velocity), Superstars felt like something special, and I for one look forward to more shows.

Friday, 4 December 2015

PPV REVIEW: WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2009

WWE - TLC 2009: Event Poster
WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs
Sunday December 13th 2009,
San Antonio, Texas

**Note: This review was written live at the time. I've since found it in my writing archives and am posting it here for the sake of completion**

World Wrestling Entertainment's final pay per view of the decade brought about a number of big changes to the WWE Universe, with young stars such as Sheamus and Drew McIntyre competing for gold, DX looking to capture the tag championships for the first time and, of course, ECW's Christian & Shelton Benjamin looking to steal the show.

Here's what went down when WWE presented TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs

Dark match: CM Punk vs. R-Truth

In a match not shown on the pay per view broadcast, R-Truth defeated rival CM Punk, but don't be surprised if their bitter feud continues come Friday night.
Your Winner: R-Truth

With that out of the way, it was on with the show.

Ladder match for the ECW Championship: Christian defends against Shelton Benjamin

WWE - TLC 2009: Christian vs. Shelton BenjaminIn the run up to TLC, Christian and Shelton Benjamin vowed to steal the show with their ladder match for the former's ECW Championship, and they didn't disappoint.

Giving it everything they had, the two veterans put forth a phenomenal effort to deliver a well-paced, exciting opening contest with plenty of action and jaw-dropping spots.

After both men thrilled the crowd for the best part of twenty minutes, it was Christian who reached the top of the ladder first to retain his championship.

Your winner and still ECW Champion: Christian

Following a hype package for tonight's Unified Tag Team Championship match it was on to a title bout of a different kind as Smackdown took centre stage.

Intercontinental Championship: John Morrison vs. Drew McIntyre

WWE - TLC 2009: John Morrison vs. Drew McIntyre
Proving he can do far more than simply destroy people in short TV matches, challenger McIntyre stepped up his game as he took the match to his opponent, pummeling him around the ring in a decent title match.

Morrison made the inevitable comeback, but the sadistic Scott proved to be too much for the Shaman of Sexy, and following a nasty Kobashi DDT, it was McIntyre who won the match, and his first WWE title.

Your winner and NEW WWE Intercontinental Champion: Drew McIntyre

In the backstage area, Vince McMahon congratulated the new Intercontinental champion on his win, only for Josh Matthews to interrupt as he sought an interview with the WWE Chairman. Instead, McMahon implored Matthews to speak with McIntyre, who insisted it wasn't much of a surprise that he had won before Sheamus arrived on the scene to claim that the Scotsman wouldn't be the only one leaving with the gold tonight.

WWE Women's Championship: Michelle McCool defends against Mickie James

WWE - TLC 2009: Michelle McCool vs. Mickie James
With the ever-present Layla by her side, champion McCool looked to retain her gold and further humiliate her popular rival following weeks of abuse on Smackdown. Yet James wasn't about to take this lying down, and looked strong against her foe in this passable contest which seemed to send the live crowd to sleep.

In the end, it wasn't to be Mickie's night as a distraction from Layla enabled McCool to hit the big boot and pick up the win.

Your winner and still WWE Women's Champion: Michelle McCool

Wasting no time in getting on with things, we head back to Raw for another championship match.

Tables match for the WWE Championship: John Cena defends against Sheamus

WWE - TLC 2009: John Cena vs. Sheamus
After his hot-shot rise to the main event thanks to Jesse Ventura's Breakthrough Battle Royal, The Celtic Warrior Sheamus looked to dethrone John Cena in this enjoyable title contest.

Cena brought his usual game, which tonight impressed against his Irish adversary and helped to create a good match before, in a move that shocked just about every pro wrestling fan on the face of the earth, Sheamus hurled his foe off the top rope and through a table to capture the WWE Championship.

Your winner and NEW WWE Champion: Sheamus

Admit it, you didn't see that coming.

Chairs match for the World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker defends against Batista

WWE - TLC 2009: Undertaker vs. Batista
In the week's leading up to tonight's event, The Animal appeared to have the advantage over The Phenom; beating him senseless with a steel chair on at least two occasions.

Yet as the two met in the ring, The Undertaker finally gained a modicum of revenge in this mediocre title match.

At one point, Big Dave looked to have the win after he pushed his opponent into the referee then blasted him with a low-blow and a chair shot to the head for the three count. Unfortunately for Batista, Teddy Long arrived on the scene, explaining that whilst chairs were legal, low-blows were not and ordering the match to be restarted.

Coming so close to losing his title seemed to motivate The Undertaker further, and as the match began again, the champion wasted little time in blasting his foe with a vicious chairshot. A Tombstone Piledriver then sealed The Animal's fate.

Your Winner and still World Heavyweight Champion: The Undertaker

Backstage, Ted Dibiase and Cody Rhodes confronted Kofi Kingston, trying to instil fear in him prior to his match with their Legacy co-hort, Randy Orton. Kingston was not intimidated by the duo, and promptly barged into Orton's dressing room to see him face-to-face before they met in the ring.

Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston

WWE - TLC 2009: Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston

One of the most intense rivalries the Raw brand has seen in a long time came to ahead in this very entertaining match between bitter enemies Orton and Kingston.

The latter looked impressive as he continued to bounce back from his opponent's typically calculating offence, but it wasn't to be his night as The Viper countered a Trouble in Paradise attempt with an RKO to steal a victory.

Your Winner: Randy Orton

Backstage, Orton's erstwhile Evolution team mate, Batista, threatened to beat up Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long with a chair if he didn't 'make things right'.

TLC Match for the Unified Tag Team Championships: Chris Jericho & The Big Show defend against Shawn Michaels & Triple H

WWE - TLC 2009: DX (Triple H & Shawn Michaels) vs. Jericho (Chris Jericho and Big Show)
Though Christian and Shelton Benjamin had done plenty to fulfil their promise of stealing the show at the start of the night, the two teams competing for the Unified Tag Championship certainly gave them a run for their money in a very exciting Tables, Ladders & Chairs match which quickly spilled out of the ring and down the entrance ramp.

All four men battled back and forth, trading vicious blows and innovative spots in this agreeable main event before DX finally put an end to Jerishow's remarkable run as champions when the Heartbreak Kid scaled the ladder and retrieved the gold.

Your winners and NEW WWE Unified Tag Team Champions: Shawn Michaels & Triple H

And that just about ends tonight's show.

Final thoughts: It's the end of the year, the end of the decade, and World Wrestling Entertainment certainly went out in style. Top-and-tailed by two thrilling matches in the ECW Championship ladder match and the tag title main event, TLC was a good show by all accounts.

Personally, this writer is happy to see both Drew McIntyre and Sheamus holding gold, not only for the big surprise factor that came with the latter's shock victory, but simply because it's a strong indication that the Big 'E are putting plenty of faith in their rising stars.
By the way, didn't John Cena say that, if he did lose the title, he'd cash in his rematch clause immediately?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage Event poster
February 18, 1996,
Louisville Gardens, Louisville, Kentucky

In the modern era, a WWE Pay Per View between Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania is as commonplace as a 20-minute' Authority promo kicking off Raw, or another round of rumours spelling the demise of TNA wrestling. Yet back in 1996, this was an entirely new concept. 

For the first time ever, the Wrestlemania title shot would be on the line on PPV as Shawn Michaels continued the journey towards realizing his boyhood dream by defending his Royal Rumble 1996 win against the man who had put him out of action in the latter-half of 1995, Owen Hart.

Elsewhere, Owen's brother Bret defended the WWF Championship against Michaels' long-time BFF Big Daddy Cool Diesel inside the very cage which gave this sixth installment of In Your House its subtitle.

What else was in store on that history-making night back in Louisville? Let's go find out together, shall we?

In Your House Free for All

And so we start tonight's show with another Free for All, the mid-1990s' version of today's kick-off pre-show, albeit with a much-less subtle approach at trying to draw in a few more last-minute buys. 

Tonight's show kicked off, as these things often did, with our old mate, Todd Pettengill, who made his way from the In Your House set and told us it was 'party time.' Ahem, right. 

After hyping the crowd and putting over tonight's big cage match, Pettingzoo sent us over to our broadcast team for the evening, the incomparable Vince McMahon and Jerry 'The King' Lawler.

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Doc Hendrix interviews world champion Bret Hart
This at a time when Lawler still bothered to make an effort, the cowardly king was ill at ease with even the slightest mention of Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and his slippery friend, but seemed a lot happier to hear that Vader had been reinstated and would be here tonight. 

More hype for the main event followed, with a video package which reminded us how Diesel lost the WWF championship to The Hitman back at Survivor Series 1995, then got pissed off that Undertaker had earned a shot at the 1996 Royal Rumble and cost The Dear Man his match with The Undertaker. 

Of course, this would all lead us to Diesel/Taker at Wrestlemania, but for now, it was time for Big Daddy Cool to get his rematch, not that the champion seemed to concerned. In an exclusive backstage interview with Doc Hendrix, The Hitman claimed that he'd lost all respect for Diesel, and that since he'd never lost a cage match before, he didn't plan on doing so tonight. 

Tatanka (w/ The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Todd Pettengill interviews Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
Surprising most people with the fact that he was still employed by the World Wrestling Federation back in early 1996, Tatanka made his way to the ring with Ted Dibiase to kick off tonight's in-ring action against a visibly out of shape Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. 

Whether it was the fault of Jake (then doing his recovered-alcoholic-born-again-Christian), Tatanka, or simply the fact that this match seemed to have absolutely no heat to it, the whole thing was painful to watch. 

After five-plus minutes of brain-cell-killing non-action, Jake leveled the Native American with the DDT, struggled to turn him over, and scored the win. 
Your Winner: Jake Roberts

The good news at least, was that Jake was insanely over, and did elicit a good response from the Kentucky faithful following his win.

Realizing the Boy Hood Dream 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Doc Hendrix interviews Shawn Michaels
After shilling for last minute PPV buys, our buddy Todd took us to a video package recounting Shawn Michael's recent run and his battle with Owen Hart later tonight. The video reminded us of how he fortified the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House: Great White North, later collapsed after being kicked in the head by Owen Hart, and eventually announced his return at the Royal Rumble.

Doc Interviews HBK
That took us to a backstage interview in which Shawn himself spoke to Doc Hendrix about his upcoming match, insisting that he had been listening when Owen Hart took credit for putting HBK out of action, but that he would put an end to all that later tonight. 

Vader returns 

From there, we were reminded of the reason for Vader's suspension - namely that he beat up on the ever-lovable Gorilla Monsoon, a move Jerry Lawler claimed was in self-defense after Monsoon delivered a couple of chops to The Mastodon's broad, hairy chest- and also that the big guy would be returning to action on tonight's show. 

This led us to an in-ring interview where the former WCW champion and his manager, Jim Cornette, were interviewed by the Toddster.

'Jim Cornette, your dream has come true,' began Pettengill. 'You and your attourney, Clarence Mason, have managed to successfully get Vader reinstated.' 

'Let's get one thing straight. We're in Louisville, Kentucky, and I OWN this town,' Cornette replied, before going on to say that Vader was now 'on a march to the WWF title.' 

In a baffling turn-of-phrase, Cornette next told us that Vader was going to 'be here tonight,' a somewhat obvious statement given that Vader was actually stood right next to him at the time. 

As the Free-For-All ended, Cornette promised that we'd get Vader in a match, even if everyone in the World Wrestling Federation was too scared to face him. 

Welcome to In Your House 

Our show began proper with the WWF block signature, proceeded by a clip of Sunny in a bikini advising us that 'viewer discretion is advised.' 

A look at Diesel's rivalries with Bret Hart and The Undertaker led us to the usual pyro and ballyhoo, and my favourite part of any WWF PPV, Vince McMahon growling like a possessed-man. 


Jerry Lawler gave us a little hype for our upcoming show, and with that, it was on to our opening match. 

Cry baby match:
Razor Ramon vs. 123 Kid (w/ Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase)

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - 123 Kid lost a crybaby match to Razor Ramon
Vince and his chums have come up with some dumb stuff in its time, and I'm pretty sure this idea should be up there with the dumbest of the dumb. 

After costing Razor the Intercontinental Championship back the 1996 Royal Rumble, The Kid had spent much of the intervening weeks labeling Razor a 'Cry baby,' leading us to a match tonight in which the loser would have to wear a giant diaper and suck from a giant baby's bottle. 

Silly stipulations aside, the match actually started off in fine form, with The Bad Guy pummeling his former protege from pillar to post in a reasonably exciting burst of action. Yet when the 123 Kid rolled to the outside, manager Ted Dibiase was there to come to his rescue, temporarily blinding Razor with a handful of baby powder and allowing The Kid to jump from the top and drill his one-time mentor with a swift-looking dropkick. 

Apparently worn out from that brief flury of excitement, the two Kliq buddies then decided to take it easy, killing off the middle of the match with an extended sleeper hold from Kid to Razor, followed by a momentary comeback for Ramon which led us to both men taking a nap in the middle of the ring. 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - 123 Kid upset after losing to Razor Ramon
Things did pick up towards the finish, with Razor finally mounting a solid comeback and leveling his opponent with two Razor Edges to wrap things up, yet as fun as that might have been, the mid-bout nothingness certainly put a dampener on things. 
Your Winner: Razor Ramon

'Wait a minute, what's this?' asked Vince McMahon as referee Tim White handed the aforementioned diaper and bottle to Ramon. You know, sometimes Vince's corny commentary makes me smile, but sometimes he says stupid things like this, and it just ruins it. What do you mean 'What's this?' it's the stipulation for the match we've just watched, the same stipulation that you and your fellow announcers spent weeks hyping on TV. 

Anyway, that little rant over, Razor forced a prone Kid to gag on the bottle, put the diaper on him, then walked away, continuously shrugging as if it to say 'What? Don't look at me, I didn't book this.'

For his part though, 123 Kid did sell the whole perfectly, first not realising where he was, then thinking he'd won the match, and then, when what had happened finally dawned on him, it's fair to say the look on his face was absolutely priceless. 

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Elizabeth Hilden) vs. Duke 'The Dumpster' Drossee 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Triple H led to the ring by adult porn star Elizabeth Hilden
As the 'Kid made his way backstage, McMahon announced that we'd be going backstage to Ray Rougeau and Sunny, that didn't happen.

Instead, we got Hunter Hearst Helmsley being escorted to the ring by adult model Elizabeth Hilden* (*link NSFW) in order to battle Duke Drossee, with the latter seeking revenge for the unwelcome hair cut he recently received at the hands of the future World Champion.

After a wild brawl in the early moments, the match slowed to a crawl as Hunter methodically took his opponent apart. Naturally, the Garbage man did mount a comeback, even going so far as to plant his arch rival with the Trash Compacter.

Yet rather than scooping victory, an over-confident Drossee left the ring for his trusty garbage can. The referee grabbed the main part of the can, distracting Duke long enough for Triple H to grab the lid, drill his opponent from behind, and steal a victory.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Following Hunter's long, hobbled walk to the back (complete with a smooch from Ms. Hilden), we were next reminded of Yokozuna's recent babyface-turn on an episode of Raw.

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Yokozuna cuts his first ever English speaking promo
The basic story was that Yoko had slowly fallen out of favour with Camp Cornette following the arrival of Vader. After weeks of tension, it all came to a head on an episode of Raw when Davey Boy Smith accidentally legdropped the former WWF Champion in a tag team match against Two Dudes With Attitudes. 

Post match, Cornette had berated his charge, only for the big man to attack him, Smith and Owen Hart. 

With that recap out of the way, we were taken to Doc Hendrix, who gave us Yoko's first ever English speaking promo. Apparently forgetting that we'd been told for years that Yoko was Japanese, the big man yelled in an American accent, all to deliver one clear message:

Jim, Owen, Davey, you're gonna get your ass kicked!

The British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Yokozuna 
Following a short, reasonably entertaining match in which both men worked well together, the Man From Erm..Not Japan looked to have this one all sewn up.

Not that Jim Cornette was likely to stand by and watch his erstwhile charge take home the winner's purse. In front of his home stage audience, Jim leapt up into the ring and attacked Yoko with his trusty tennis racket. Naturally, the giant wrestler felt nothing, and was all set to attack his former manager when Vader himself hit the scene, and worked with Bulldog to handcuff their rival to the ropes.
Your Winner (via disqualification)

One handed, the sumo star battled back, prompting a gaggle of referees and road agents to finally hit the ring in an attempt to break things up. Yet despite the efforts of former wrestlers and officials, it took the arrival of scrawny attorney-at-law Clarence Mason to put an end to the Camp Cornette Massacre.

Shawn Michaels - The 'Never Say Die' Kid

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Owen Hart and Jim Cornette gloat about Shawn Michaels' misfortunes
With the in-ring madness dying down, Vince took us to a video package in which Todd Pettengill documented Shawn Michael's epic struggle towards winning the 1996 Royal Rumble and heading to Wrestlemania, all after getting beaten up by thugs, and suffering a knock-out blow at the hands of Owen Hart on an episode of Raw.

Always one for stealing the show back in the days before 'stealing the show' seemed to be every pro wrestler sports entertainer's modus operendi, The Heartbreak Kid appeared literally dancing on the rooftop of the In Your House set before using a short zip line to make his way to the entrance way in a pre-cursor of his famous entrance at Wrestlemania 12. As different as it might have been, this writer can't help but feel a little uncomfortable knowing the ultimate fate of Michaels' opponent several years later.

Number One Contenders' Match: Owen Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Shawn Michaels dances on the ceiling of the In Your House set
And so we finally got down to the action, with The Heart Break Kid defending his Wrestlemania championship shot against the man who put him out of action, The King of Harts.

Much stalling and showboating on the part of Michaels led us slowly into what was by far one of the best bouts on the card, indeed perhaps of the entire year of 1996.

With commentators Lawler and McMahon at their ever-biased best (including The King's comical claim that Owen invented the camel clutch), the two in-ring combatants brawled, wrestled and flew around the ring in a gripping back-and-forth battle which proved undoubtedly why they were two of the best in-ring performers the 1990s had to offer.

A dramatic pause from the non-stop action came when Owen hit the very same enziguri kick that originally took HBK out of action. Michaels wobbled, staggered and fell out of the ring, though rather than taking the count out victory, the King of the Ring winner went for the pin, only for Michaels to kick out and reboot the match.

A dramatic closing sequence followed, ultimately culminating in Sweet Chin Music and a three count.
Your Winner: Shawn Michaels

With his spot at Wrestlemania secured, Shawn Michaels celebrated triumphantly, even dancing with a young fan in the ring.

A Word from the Hot Rod 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Todd Pettengill interviews WWF President Roddy Piper
As the ring crew began setting up the cage for our main event, Todd Pettengill introduced us to interim WWF President Rowdy Roddy Piper. In typical charasmatic fashion, The Hot Rod warned Shawn Michaels to bring his A-Game at Wrestlemania, before booking another match at the show, pitting Vader vs. Yokozuna. 

This, of course, raised the ire of Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason, both of whom came out for a rant against the Pres'. 

An enjoyable interaction between Jim and Roddy followd, the long and short of it being that if Vader lost, Yoko might just have an opportunity to put his hands on his former manager. 

World Wrestling Federation Championship Cage MatchWWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. 'Big Daddy Cool' Diesel 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Bret Hart defends the WWF title against Diesel in a cage match
Having been told time and time again that The Hitman had never yet lost a steel cage match, it was finally time to see if he could keep that streak alive by going one on one with arguably one of his greatest rivals, the big man Diesel. 

Indeed, your reviewer has always enjoyed seeing these two in action against each other, and whether it was at the Royal Rumble 1995, the Survivor Series later that year or their first major encounter at King of the Ring 94, Bret vs. Diesel was always a highlight of the show. 

Thankfully, neither man disappointed tonight. 

Though some may see the rather slow, sluggish nature of this one as a negative, in many cases it was actually the one thing that made it so special to this writer; the perfect, dramatic finale to the saga of Bret vs. Diesel. 

Speaking of dramatic, the finish came with Big Daddy Cool having gained the upper hand. Yet just as he was about to slide out of the ring, The Undertaker tore through the canvas from beneath the ring and dragged Diesel to hell (or at least under the ring), giving the champion the perfect opportunity to scale the cage, fall to the floor, and win the match.
Your Winner and Still WWF Champion: Bret Hart 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 6 - Rage in the Cage - Diesel and Undertaker stare down to end the show
As Bret disappeared following his victory, Big D pulled himself up back into the ring, his pants torn asunder, with The Undertaker in hot pursuit. 

As the last In Your House before Wrestlemania came to a close, The Phenom scaled the cage and silently called for the demise of Big Daddy Cool. 

In Your House Extra 

Backstage, Doc Hendrix interviewed a wild-eyed and crazy Roddy Piper, who ranted and raved his way to booking Big Daddy Cool vs. The Undertaker for Wrestlemania 12 on March 31st, Anaheim California. 

All in all then a decent show. OK, so the concept of the Crybaby Match was beyond ridiculous, but let's face it, we've all seen worse. Elsewhere, the two main event matches more than delivered, whilst Triple H vs. Drosse was a decent enough filler match. Not the longest show in the history, but this one did exactly what it was supposed to do; namely set us up nicely for the Road to Wrestlemania.  More of that next time. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

PPV REVIEW: WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996 (and Free for All)

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Event poster
January 21, 1996,
Selland Arena in Fresno, California

It was the start of a brand new year, and the WWF's New Generation experiment was reaching its apex. Over the coming twelve months, we'd see the most subtle of seeds being planted, ready to blossom into the company's most successful boom period to date: The Attitude Era.

Yet as the superstars of the World Wrestling Federation rolled into Fresno, California that Sunday night back in January 1996, few could truly have predicted how completly different the WWF landscape would look only 18 months from now.

Not that they had any reason to. Tonight, there was only one thing on everybody's minds; who would be heading into Wrestlemania 12 to compete for the World Wrestling Federation title. 

Would reigning champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart hold onto the belt in tonight's main event against The Undertaker? 

Who would be the man to emerge victorious from this evening's 30-man battle royal, earning the right to face the champion on The BIggest Stage of Them All?

Let's cut the dramatic intro here and dive right in to find out, shall we?

Another dramatic intro

OK, so maybe the drama stuff isn't over just yet. Tonight's show begins with a movie-trailer-type promo hyping the aforementioned championship match. I could tell you more, but here's the video so that you can watch this for yourself until such times as WWE catch on and take it down.

Intense, right?

WWF Royal Rumble 1996 Free For All

For the first time ever (apparently, though I seem to recall otherwise), the WWF kicked off tonight's show with their Free For All, a 30-minute broadcast,' ostensibly designed as the company's way at giving us fans a free bonus, but really a not-so-subtle attempt to shill for last minute buys. 

The broadcast kicked off with Todd Pettengill and Doc Hendrix standing by the entrance in all their tuxedo-clad glory, one of the nice little touches the company used to do to remind us all that this was no average show. Taking a few moments to tell us about all the goodies we'd see in this half-hour commercial, Todd and Doc then passed over to our Free for All commentary team, Vince McMahon and Mr Perfect. 

It's Vader Time

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Jim Cornette revealed that he was Vader's new manager

Looking equally as sharp as their broadcast colleagues, Vince and Perfect gave us yet more hype for tonight's show before once again passing back to the former Michael P.S Hayes. Backstage, Doc was standing by with none other than former WCW Champion Vader who, after much fuss and hullaboo, was finally making his debut at tonight's show. 

The big man from the Rocky Mountains wasn't alone, however. None other than Jim Cornette was there too. As excitable and obnoxious as ever, Jimmy raved to Hendrix about how thrilled he was to be managing Vader and just how much joy he was going to take in seeing the Mastadon win first the Royal Rumble and then the WWF Championship.

For his part, the debuting Superstar screamed about the power of the Rocky Mountains and told us that it was indeed Vader Time.

Oh Vader, what might have been...

Jake The Snake returns 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts competed in the Royal Rumble match

With that, it was back to Todd Pettingill, who had an interview with a returning Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. Unlike most wrestlers at this time of year, Roberts didn't exactly boast that he'd win the Royal Rumble but simply said that the demons in the ring that night would not be quite as big as the demons in Mr The Snake himself. 


There's a title match tonight, y'know 

In case you hadn't quite figured it out yet, another one of those WWF video packages was up next to remind us that Bret Hart would defend his title against The Undertaker on tonight's show. In his familiar role as voice-over man, Pettingill took us back to the December 1995 In Your House show, where Undertaker was named the number one contender, much to the chagrin of another former champion, Big Daddy Cool Diesel. 

The story also contained a clip from a Monday Night Raw promo by The Hitman, where he told his opponent to bring 'The Paul Bearer,' making this writer wonder if that's not where The Brian Kendrick drew the inspiration for the latter part of his own WWE run. 

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Triple H faced Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese in the Free for All

As Hunter Hearst Helmsley began making his way to the ring, he was interrupted by the apparently omnipresent Todd Pettengill, who took the trouble to remind him -and us- of the reason for tonight's match:

Earlier on in the evening, both men had drawn 'blanks' in the Royal Rumble draw (uh huh), and conveniently, numbers 2-29 had been taken up by the other superstars. So, tonight, The Greenwich Snob and The Dumpster would -ahem- duke it out to see which one would enter the Royal Rumble at number one and which would get the coveted number 30 spot. 

Among other things, Helmsley guaranteed a victory before telling Todd to inform 'The Fat Lady' that she was 'on in five.' 

A second later, Duke Droese made his entrance and Vince McMahon positively lost his mind, selling the wrestling garbage man's arrival like he was Hogan's second coming. 

Pettingill took the time to interview Duke, too, though all we really got out of this was the predictable 'I'm going tow in, then win the Rumble' promo. 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Todd Pettengill interviews Hunter Hearst Helmsley

As for the match itself, it was, well, it was Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke Drosse on a pre-show. If you were expecting a five-star classic here, it's probably time you started retaking your medication. 

In front of a rather non-plus crowd (many of whom were still filing in as the match went on), Hunter and Duke did nothing particularly interesting in a short match where the only notable moment was Mr Perfect referring to Hunter as Triple H for the first time (at least on PPV). 

The end came when Helmsley pulled a foreign object out of his tights, levelled the garbage man with it, and picked up the win. 

Moments later, new WWF President Gorilla Monsoon made his way to the ring, showed referee Tim White what had gone down via the video screen, and had Mr White reverse the decision.

And I'm sure this is the same Monsoon who, at some point during his presidential tenure, decreed that all referee's decisions would be final.
Your Winner via disqualification: Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese. 

So there you go folks, Duke Drosse was the number 30 entrant in the 1996 Royal Rumble. Not only that, but by winning, he was also the first man in the WWE to gain a victory over Triple H. 

Anyway, moving on, we got more promo stuff next, this time focusing on the rivalry between Goldust and Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon. If you recall, this all revolved around Goldie becoming so infatuated with The Bad Guy that Razor turned up 'unannounced' at Raw and beat the holy living hell out of the man better known as Dustin Rhodes. 

Shawn Michaels returns to the WWF 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Shawn Michaels having fun with Todd Pettengill

Having been AWOl since Owen Hart took him out of action with that famous enzeguri in one of the most dramatic worked injury angles ever, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels finally returned tonight in an interview segment with quel surprise, Todd Pettengill.

Refusing to tell Todd what number he'd drawn for tonight's Rumble, HBK insisted that he would come out 'when [he] wanted' and would only leave after he'd eliminated everybody. Taking the time to reference the WWF fans as his 'clique' (in a not-so-subtle nod to his backstage buddies no doubt), Shawn then declared that he didn't care who his friends were. He'd throw them all over the top rope to get his hands on the WWF title. 

Hunter is mad 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Shawn Michaels was happy to be back in action

From there, we went backstage, where Triple H ranted and raved to Doc Hendrix about how unfair it was that Gorilla Monsoon had reversed the decision in the former's earlier match with Duke Droese. Returning to the replay once more, Hunter claimed that the foreign object was something the fans had thrown into the ring and he was trying to get rid of. 

Welcome to the Royal Rumble!

My own copy of this show goes funky for a minute, as I get a clip of some posh people beating each other up without any audio, proceeded by a bizarre clip of Sunny in a bathtub, informing us that today's show would feature 'scenes of a graphic nature.' 

Another promo video (this time not voiced by Pettengill), then hyped the big matches on tonight's show before the usual pyro, crowd shot, and Vince McGrowl welcomed us to the show properly. 

With that out of the way, it was on to our first proper match of the show. 

Double J Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson 

If you recall, this rivalry began at last month's In Your House: Seasons Beatings, when Jeff Jarrett returned to the World Wrestling Federation and took it upon himself to beat up the burly Ahmed Johnson with his guitar. 

Hungry for revenge, Johnson rushed to the ring and went straight after his opponent,  pummeling him around the ring, much to the delight of the Fresno faithful. 

Ahmed's beat down continued until a mistimed spot saw the Pearl River Powerhouse voluntarily throw himself over the top rope and get his hand stuck in a sort of half-arsed tribute to Andre The Giant. No doubt there's an episode of Botchamania out there with this very moment on it. 

Anyway, the blown spot gave Jarrett the opportunity to take the advantage for a while before Ahmed no-sold his way to a comeback and thrilled the crowd with both an impressive-looking plancha and some kind of top-rope somersault move that he ultimately missed, giving us no real indication of what he was aiming for, other than to simply just squash his opponent. 

The missed move caused Ahmed to writhe on the mat holding his knee, which of course, was the perfect set-up for Jarrett's patent-disputed figure four leg lock, The big man reversed the hold, so Jarrett tried again, only to be booted through the ropes for his troubles. Having just about had enough, the country star grabbed his trusty six-string, leapt off the ropes, and KO'd Johnson with it, giving us our second DQ in as many matches.
Your Winner via DQ: Ahmed Johnson

Pissed off, Johnson started running backstage in pursuit of his rival, only to either run out of steam or simply forget that he was still on camera and slowed to a stroll as he went through the curtain.

Promo time 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Smoking Gunns talk about their title defence against The Body Donnas

First up, a moustache-free Billy Gunn and his still hirsute brother Bart cut a lifeless, awkward promo backstage where they vowed to retain the WWF Tag Team titles against The Body Donnas. 

From there, the ever-present Pettingill caught up with Big Daddy Cool, who claimed he would have the time of his life in tonight's show. Diesel then put over Shawn Michaels and Vader and even insisted that he wasn't personally annoyed with The Undertaker but rather his position as the Number One Contender. 

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn) vs. The Body Donnas (Skip & Zip w/ Sunny)

Easily the best match on the card up to this point, the WWF Tag Team Championship match between the cowboys and the fitness freaks was as entertaining as you could hope for from a mid-90s WWF tag match,

Fast-paced for the most part, with a brief of amount of lag during the 'heels cut off the babyface' spot, it was fun from start to finish, and did a great job in making the Body Donnas look awesome despite their somewhat silly gimmick. 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Sunny led Skip and Zip into action against The Smoking Gunns for the WWF Tag Team Titles

Indeed, the tandem of Chris Candido and Tom Pritchard could have easily gone on to become one of the most memorable teams in the company's history had they come along at a different point in time. Alas, they were here now, and almost looked certain to score a win before a sneaky roll-up gave the three count to the champions.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: The Smoking Gunns 

Afterwards, Skip, Zip and Sunny through a bit of a temper tantrum in the ring before Vince told us that we were about to see something which he claimed was 'very popular' but which history absolutely proves otherwise. 

Billionaire Ted, The Huckster and the Nacho Man

You remember these skits, right? The WWF's low-brow attempt at making fun of a WCW that would go on to kick their ass for a sizeable chunk of the mid-late 90s. Featuring 'Billionaire Ted' Turner and two supposedly geriatric wrestlers in the form of The Huckster (or Hulk Hogan) and the Nacho Man (or the late Randy Savage), the idea behind these was to say 'hey, look, that other wrestling company can only get washed up old has-beens..let's just forget that both men held our top prize only three and four years ago respectively.' 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Nacho Man from the WWF's 'Billionaire Ted' skits

In the particular skit, Vince's witty script took a particularly harsh dig at Savage. Ted claimed that he could only get wrestlers who were 'disloyal' before the camera panned straight on Nacho. After that, Ted claimed he wanted to buy up some of the WWF's top stars, with the joke apparently being that haha, he could never do that. 

As we all know, the joke would ultimately be on the World Wrestling Federation. Just a few short months from now, WCW would see the debuts of two of the WWF's biggest stars, one of whom features in our next match.

A word from Razor Ramon

After the same promo/hype video we got earlier on in the Free For All, we went backstage to a Colliseum Home Video exclusive interview with The Bad Guy.

Dressed in street clothes and looking like he'd either just woken up or was still drunk, Razor reminded us that this was his fourth Royal Rumble appearance, despite never actually appearing in the eponymous match itself. At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Title. The following year, he defended the Intercontinental Championship against I.R.S. 95 and saw the same title on the line in his match with Jeff Jarrett, and now, in what would ultimately be his last Royal Rumble appearance as Razor Ramon, Scott Hall was once again competing in singles competition against Goldust.
WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Scott Hall gave a pre-match promo before facing Goldust

All Goldie had to do, said Razor, was come down and take his 'Gold belt' if he wanted it. Not that Razor really thought he could. There was only one way to find out for sure though

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match:
WWF Intercontinental Champion Razor Ramon vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena)

Notable not only for being Razor's last Royal Rumble match, but also for the debut of Marlena, this one probably won't be remembered for any other reason, with the possible exception of the finish.

Wrapping up his WWF career, Razor spent the first minute or two of this match simply watching Goldust touch hmself up, before finally going on the attack and attempting to wrench the challenger's arm from its socket. More stalling followed, making for a slow,boring start to a bout that rarely -if ever- picked up steam.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Goldust challenged Razor Ramon for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

Indeed most of the early part of this match was all about reminding us how 'weird' (sub-text: 'slightly homosexual') Golust was and how angry that made the Intercontinental Champion. A minute or two of this would have been fine, still boring perhaps, but acceptable given the storyline. Instead, it seemed to go on forever, with the bout only getting anywhere near exciting when the action spilt to the outside, and the challenger turned up the aggression.

Yet even then, this match didn't really deliver, and this writer was grateful when 123 Kid ran in towards the finish, thwarting a Ramon comeback attempt and enabling Goldust to get the three count, the victory, and the Intercontinental Championship.
Your Winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Goldust 

Prior to the big battle royal, we got some more pre-recorded comments. First up, Shawn Michaels' doctor told us that though HBK was fit and ready to go, he was concerned about the wrestler making his comeback against 29 other dudes. Don't worry, though, folks. The good doctor promised to be at ringside lest the worst should happen.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect were our commentators for the show

Speaking of The Heartbreak Kid, the man who initially took him out of action, Owen Hart, was up next. The King of Harts promised to end Michaels' career 'Like [Owen] should've done the first time' en route to winning that year's Rumble match.

Jake the Snake was back to talk about his demons some more, Jerry 'The King' Lawler promised to win simply because he was loyal, and Barry Horrowitz, of all people, gave his thoughts too. Not as cocksure as the others, Horrowitz claimed he was 'Confident and Happy' before reminding us of the WWF's favourite mantra 'Anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation.' 

For his part, Vader headbutted some lockers, after which Shawn Michaels once again vowed that he was going all the way.

Royal Rumble match:
30-Man Battle Royal featuring: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Vader, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Dory Funk, Mabel, Yokozuna, Tatanka, Owen Hart, Bob Holly, The Ringmaster, The British Bulldog, Marty Jannetty, and more.

And so, following a few moments in which Vince McMahon and Mr Perfect took the trouble to remind us of the rules, it was down to the famous Royal Rumble match itself. 

Having taken the trouble to get dressed again and brush his hair following his earlier battle with Duke Droese, Hunter Hearst Helmsley entered first, his number sealed by the outcome of that aforementioned Free for All bout. 

And the number two entrant? 

Helmsley's old rival, Henry O. Godwin

Picking up where they left off, the two sworn enemies went right to work, beating the hell out of each other, the pig farmer taking the early advantage and threatening to eliminate the future WWE Champion on several occasions. 

Presidential candidate and then-current record holder for the longest time spent in a Royal Rumble match, Bob Backlund, was our third entrant, followed by entrant number four, Jerry Lawler, who provided the first moment of genuine entertainment in this match by getting himself slopped. 

After several more minutes of somewhat lifeless action -during which time we also saw Bob Holly and King Mabel enter the fray- Jake Roberts made his way out and caused the entire cast of the match to scarper through the ropes by, -ahem- getting his snake out. 

Other highlights of the 1996 Royal Rumble included:

  • Jerry Lawler spending the bulk of the match in hiding, only to be dragged out by Shawn Michaels and eliminated,
  • Cameos from Dory Funk Jr, Takao Omori, Doug Gilbert (who absolutely nobody recognised) and The Headhunters (or SWAT Team, as the WWE called them)
  • Razor Ramon seeking revenge against the 123 Kid by chasing him around the ring
  • A big showdown between Cornette's two behemoths, Yokozuna and Vader, before both men were eliminated by HBK
  • Vader getting pissed off and returning to clear the ring
  • Steve, 'The Ringmaster' Austin, making his WWF PPV debut
  • A fun exchange between former Rockers partners Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty
Between such sub-par highlights, we were subjected to one of the most tedious Rumble matches this writer can recall. A slow, sluggish, nothing-happening match taking us all the way to our final four between Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Davey Boy Smith and Kama.

A short while later, Michaels threw out The Bulldog, Diesel got rid of Kama, and The Heartbreak Kid picked up his second Royal Rumble victory in a row by superkicking his best friend out of the ring. 
Your Winner: Shawn Michaels 

As Michaels celebrated, Diesel took out his frustrations by laying into the British Bulldog before telling Doc Hendrix that the only reason Shawn Michaels had won was that he -Big Daddy Cool- allowed it. The former champion then returned to the ring, where, after teasing some hostility with Michaels, he raised his hand high in the air for the duo's famous hi-five gimmick.

With that done, there was only one thing left on the show.Yes, folks, the main event. 

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

The best match your reviewer ever saw live in person was also a championship match between The Hitman and The Undertaker. It was at the September 1997 One Night Only Pay Per View in Birmingham, England, 

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1996: The Undertaker challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Championship

That match was awesome. This one, not so much.

For a moment there, it almost looked like it wouldn't take place at all.

Making his way to the ring, the challenger was confronted by a still upset Diesel, the two men coming to blows in a move that would build up to their eventual match at Wrestlemania 12. 

Once firmly in the ring, The Undertaker awaited the arrival of champion Bret Hart, who Vince McMahon informed us was appearing at his 43rd WWF PPV. If you're interested, you can read reviews of every single one of those 43 events here on Retro Pro Wrestling.

That aside, this turned out to be the best match of the Undertaker's WWF run up to this point. Having spent the past four-and-a-bit years usually battling big, beastly bad guys in some of the worst matches of the early-mid 1990s, this was The Phenom's chance to show that he really could wrestle if given half the chance. 

That said, this certainly wasn't Bret's finest hour. Despite being far superior to a lot of what we'd see that year, this was mostly a slow, plodding affair that threatened to send the crowd to sleep on several occasions. 

The amount of time both champ and challenger spent in some kind of leglock on the matt killed the momentum, and it took all their efforts to engage the audience leading into the home stretch. 

Speaking of which, this one ended when, just as he was about to score his second WWF Championship, The Undertaker was attacked by Diesel, giving him the win via DQ, but not the title. 
Your Winner via Disqualification: The Undertaker (Bret Hart retains the title)

And so we reach the end of the Royal Rumble for another year. As odd as this may sound, my favourite match on this show was the tag team championship bout. It was short enough not to drag on, yet long enough to make each time look good. Elsewhere, there's not an awful lot to write home about. For all intents and purposes, this whole show was designed to solidify Shawn Michaels' reputation as the new Top Dog, whilst simultaneously building tension for a Diesel/Undertaker showdown. 

Both of these things would play out much better over the next few months, making this event just a minor footnote in the history of the World Wrestling Federation. 

For more 1996 reviews, see:

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.