Well, hello. Sorry for the absence over the past coupla weeks – I’m sure you all noticed and were heartbroken. HEARTBROKEN, I say… but real life kerfuffle got on top of me and something had to give.
With that aside… it was Rumble week. I love the Rumble. Not just the match, but the whole show. It’s probably my favourite show, even ahead of WrestleMania. It just FEELS like a big deal. And, like many things, you always remember your favourite one. For me, that would be 1994’s effort.
The undercard wasn’t much to write home about. Serving more to advance the feuds to WrestleMania (as the Rumble usually did in those days) Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow had a decent enough. If slightly forgettable match to open the show; they would be tag team partners by the summer.
Next up was a tag team match – The Quebecers defending their titles against Bret and Owen Hart. I loved the matches between any combination of these four men, with the added “bonus” of Johnny Polo’s presence at ringside, this was a great match, but it’s what it led to that is memorable for me. They used this as the basis of the fantastic Bret and Owen Hart feud, with Owen turning on Bret for not tagging him.
Something as simple as that, and it spiralled into an amazing, memorable feud with tons of classic matches – it shows that simple booking is sometimes the best, a fact that might be remembered today.
After that, Razor Ramon defended his Intercontinental Title against Irwin R. Schyster, The match was decent – but the angle that spawned from it became almost legendary. Shawn Michaels had been suspended and returned, with a fake Intercontinental belt in tow, and got involved in the match. Initially it looked like Michaels had cost Ramon his belt, but the decision was reversed, and Ramon successfully defended.
The fact that Michaels had a fake belt meant there was an instant angle between the two men. With two belts in action, that would lead to the groundbreaking ladder match at WrestleMania X – and it all started here, at the Rumble. Simple, logical booking leading to a big time match that still goes down as one of the best ever. Can’t ask for more than that.
And from the sublime, to the ridiculous… Yokozuna beat Undertaker in a casket match. He didn’t just beat him, he destroyed him to the point that he exploded, and his soul floated out of the casket to the rafters. No, really. Did I say simple booking? That went out of the window with the Undertaker’s early incarnations. Taker was sheer, OTT, cartoon style, and for whatever reason – it worked.
This would spawn into some of the most bizarre booking in wrestling history… including several sightings of the Undertaker, Leslie Nielsen filming some vignettes trying to track him down, and incredibly, a fake Undertaker. How do you settle this? You have an Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at Summerslam to blow the angle off, that’s how. And it was as bad as it sounds.
Again, all of this came out of the Rumble… and to this day, I can remember pretty much word for word the Undertaker’s “Speech” as his soul left this world:
How can you not love that??? It’s sheer brilliance! As a side note, it’s widely accepted that the shadowy figure ‘rising to the clouds’ was Marty Jannetty… the closest he ever got being on top of the WWE. Ha!
As always, the highlight of the show is the Royal Rumble itself. This one, was no exception. You had drama, the creating of a new star, ongoing feuds rekindled, double winners… great stuff. We had the announcement before the match by President Jack Tunney – who was fantastic! – that the gap between wrestlers would be 90 seconds, due to time constraints… there was the underlying issues between Lex Luger and Mr Fuji that meant there were two Japanese mercenaries in the Rumble, with instructions to do nothing more than eliminate Luger; we had Shawn Michaels go face to face and toe to toe with ex tag partner Marty Jannetty; Owen and Bret square up; Rick and Scott Steiner do likewise; and in the end, we had Lex Luger and Bret Hart eliminated at the same time to close out the match – and the first ever joint winners.
This was all part of Vince’s experiment to try and create Lex-a-mania and see if Luger could carry the title. The fans in the arena were heavily on Hart’s side, but the Lex Express experiment continued. It was alleged that Lex told fans in a bar that he was going to become champion at WrestleMania, which prompted Vince to pull the plug finally and the title eventually went to Bret. Whatever the reason, Lex just never clicked, no matter how hard he was pushed.
For me though, the highlight of the 1994 Rumble was The Diesel moment. Diesel had been kicking around as the bodyguard of Shawn Michaels, and not really making much impact beyond that. The Rumble would change that, as he would come in, and remove seven people in a row on his own. The whole arena erupted in a “Diesel! Diesel!” chant, and there were loud boos when he was eliminated. At that moment, Vince’s eyes were probably filled with dollar signs.
If it weren’t for that Royal Rumble, then Kevin Nash may never have been such a force in wrestling over the years. Nash has ended up being woven into so many key moments and angles in wrestling history as we know it, yet without those brief moments in one match, none of it may ever have happened.
And when history repeated itself and the “Diesel! Diesel!” chants returned at this year’s Royal Rumble? I think we can assume that we haven’t seen the last of Kevin Nash in the WWE for the time being. That is the power of the Rumble, and that is why I remember 1994 more than any other.
So Jack Swagger has had a busy couple of weeks since returning to TV. He’s won the Elimination Chamber, securing himself not only a title shot but also a nice fat Wrestlemania paycheque in the process...