“And can you imagine Dick Murdoch winning this 1995 Royal Rumble? Don’t laugh, it could happen!”
(Vince McMahon, Royal Rumble 1995, 22/01/95)
In my first article I talked about ‘Unpredictability in Wrestling’. In my second I talked about the previous year’s Royal Rumble. Well, the result of this year’s Royal Rumble will go down as the most unpredictable yet.
The winner, John Cena was a man who wasn’t even announced as part of the match and a man whom we were lead to believe last September would be out of action for at least nine months. By not revealing the true extent of his recovery to those outside (or inside) the company, in this case WWE officials, Cena himself did an excellent job keeping his recovery secret from industry insiders in the internet age.
Whilst Cena’s win will go down as the most surprising, he wasn’t the first or last surprise entrant in the annual event. Over the years some of the biggest names in wrestling history have entered the match. This includes wrestlers most have forgotten were ever in the match. Wrestlers one knows from elsewhere but never had a proper run in the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment.
The mid-nineties were a tough time for a certain wrestling promotion based in Stamford, Connecticut, what with the steroid trials and Eric Bischoff/Ted Turner ‘stealing’ all their talent. Having a smaller roster (both in terms of the actual roster and the actual wrestlers’ size) affected a number of areas of the product, including the Royal Rumble. Without as many Superstars who were accepted as Superstars as in previous year’s the WWF looked to the outside.
Back particularly when the roster was thin (like in 1993-1997) they would often have a few ‘guest spots’ (like having ‘guest ales’ at your local Real Ale pub). The choice of wrestlers, as well as how they were treated in the Rumble match, varied considerably. Grizzled veterans like Gen’ichiro Tenryu, Dick Murdoch and The Funks were in there as were young lions like Takao Omori and Cibernético. With some it was simply a case of bringing back a reliable former WWF star, a ‘good hand’ who was now working the Independents. For example, Greg Valentine appeared as a guest in Royal Rumble ’94 and Rick Martel (almost like a ‘Royal Rumble Specialist’) was invited back for Rumble ’95. With others, it would be their only WWF/E appearance.
Technically there have also been a few others who were originally just brought in as one-off appearances (like the above) but after the reactions they got on the night they were offered contracts to come back full-time like Jake Roberts (who got a bigger crowd reaction than all six previous entrants combined – no offense to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Henry Godwinn, Bob Backlund, Jerry Lawler, Bob Holly and King Mabel.) in 1996, Mr. Perfect (who at the time was scheduled to be the top star in Jimmy Hart and Brian Knobb’s short-lived XWF) in 2002 and Goldust (who’d originally just been used for the one-off angle along with Vader for Taboo Tuesday ’05 but not yet under full contract) in 2006.
Personally I liked seeing someone different in there for a change. As long as it is limited to two or three spots so the audience don’t get bored with wrestlers they don’t know, I think it can be fun seeing matches you never thought you would and something that would still work today. With three rosters (well two and a half given the thought that goes into ECW) all competing for places in the match that doesn’t appear likely anytime soon. In fact, over the last decade appearances by ‘guest entrants’ has decreased, although notable exceptions would be the Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time The Honky Tonk Man (1998 and 2001) and comedian and star of The Drew Carey Show Drew Carey (2001).
Back in the glory days of 1993-1997, things were different and less predictable? ‘Guest spots’ were all the rage…
1. Carlos Colón
Number Entered: 24
Eliminated By: Yokozuna
Time Lasted: 7:25
Gorilla Monsoon: “It… It’s Carlos Colón, the Caribbean champion. A lot of fire in this youngster!” (Royal Rumble 1993, 24/01/93)
The above broadcast blunder made by the late Gorilla was repeated verbatim for the next few weeks at school. What made it so amusing was the Puerto Rican legend was almost fifty at the time.
One of the most famous regional headliners of all time, Carlos preceded his son Carlito (who would compete in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Rumbles) by entering the Royal Rumble for a chance to challenge Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX. Making his entrance just after Earthquake had eliminated Typhoon (teasing a Natural Disasters split), Colón looked fired up as he went straight after I.R.S. and then Damien Demento with a series of punches and even one of his trademark head-butts on Irwin. He then backdropped Demento over the top rope to score an elimination before turning his attention to Fatu.
“And how crazy do you have to be to go right after Fatu?” mused Bobby Heenan on commentary as Colón blasted the Headshrinker with a head-butt. If attacking Fatu was a questionable decision, his next choice was even stranger as he went right after Earthquake. Standing beside Tenta, Colón looked small and frail to the extent that the WWF’s casual fans must have been concerned for his well being. He certainly looked like he was going to get squashed. Carlito’s dad was somehow twice able to avoid being eliminated by the ‘Quake and spent the rest of his time in the match battling Backlund and Nasty Saggs, in-between more failed attacks on Earthquake.
In the end it was another big man who would prove to be the Puerto Rican legend’s undoing. After entering at No. 27, and quickly eliminating Tatanka, Carlos became the second victim of Yokozuna. His attempt at taking the offense to the ‘Sumo Grand Champion’ with a chop and a head-butt proved ineffective as Yoko no-sold the moves, delivered a head-butt and a chop of his own and then dumped Colón over the top rope.
Yokozuna went on to win the match.
2. Gen’ichiro Tenryu
Year(s): 1993; 1994
Number Entered: 9 (1993); 24 (1994)
Eliminated By: The Undertaker (1993); Bret Hart and Lex Luger (1994)
Time Lasted: 13:17 (1993); 17:21 (1994)
Ted DiBiase: “Remember Tenryu’s the mercenary, he’s the hired gun. Fuji doesn’t hire slouches – he’s one of Japan’s best, he’s going to be hard to get rid of.” (Royal Rumble 1994, 22/01/94)
Tenryu was another international veteran to appear in the 1993 Royal Rumble. In many ways it was the veterans match, right from the start where things kicked off with Ric Flair (No.1) and Bob Backlund (No.2, who broke Flair’s record by lasting an amazing 1 hour 1 minute and 10 seconds) in a symbolic battle between the men who had personified the respective World titles for the NWA and the WWF in the early 1980s. Some of the most impressive performances of the match came from other veterans such as Ted DiBiase (No. 4), Jerry Lawler (No. 7, who was instantly attacked by Flair, leading to one of the best exchanges of the match) and runner-up Randy Savage (No. 30). This was reflected in the commentary, “I hope I’m in that good of shape when I hit forty” quipped Heenan in reference to Backlund. “You’ll never see forty again: I’ve got news for you” retorted Monsoon.
So it was only fitting that the ‘grumpy old man of puro’ decided to make his Rumble debut here. Billed as “the Japanese champion” by Heenan, Tenryu emerged to no noticeable reaction and went straight for Flair and began exchanging chops in the corner.
Gorilla Monsoon: “I think there was a little more sting on the reverse knife-edges of Tenryu!”
Bobby Heenan: “Well where do you think they get the word ‘chop suey’?”
Gorilla Monsoon: “Not from that!!!”
Flair was rescued by Tenryu’s fellow All-Japan alumni DiBiase and the two traded chops, punches and kicks. Although the focus was on him for the first couple of minutes he was in there, following the energy of these initial exchanges Tenryu didn’t do much. In fact he spent quite a lot of the match slowly walking around the ring with no-one to fight! Fortunately Jerry Lawler was on hand and on two occasions seemed to improvise to bring the former Triple Crown champion into the match. I think someone backstage must have noticed Tenryu’s lack of involvement as well because when Koko B. Ware made his entrance he went straight after him. Still, when he was involved in the action it was good and Tenryu matched up well with the others in the match, particularly his semi-regular exchanges with DiBiase and the spot where he blasted Mr. Perfect with his trademark Enzuigiri.
The Undertaker (No. 13) proved to be his match. Taking the offense with a series of stiff chops which actually staggered ‘The Dead Man’, he followed up with an Enzuigiri which took Undi’down to one knee, before charging at into a ‘Taker backdrop leading to Tenryu’s elimination. Despite his lack of a reaction from an audience who likely only knew him as “that guy from WrestleMania VII” and a lack of involvement in the action, this was still a decent(ish) showing. The next year he would surpass it.
Returning in 1994 this time joined by The Great Kabuki, the WWF made the wise decision to give outsiders a storyline: they were Mr. Fuji’s henchmen, brought in for the sole purpose of preventing Lex Luger from winning the Royal Rumble (and thus challenging Yokozuna at WrestleMania X). In addition to the Rumble match itself, Tenryu and Kabuki were involved in the infamous angle at the conclusion of the Casket match between The Undertaker and Yokozuna. (You know the one where ‘Taker ‘died and ascended into heaven’?) The Japanese pair didn’t have much luck on their own: Undertaker no-sold both their offense and decked them with a double-clothesline, but along with Crush, Bam Bam Bigelow, Diesel, Adam Bomb, Jeff Jarrett, The Headshrinkers and Yoko himself they were able to help ‘Zuna win the match.
The angle did achieve one thing however: in contrast to last year Tenryu was booed as he walked slowly down the aisle at No. 24. Unlike Kabuki (see below), he was not treated like a complete jobber but rather a dangerous threat. In fact from his entry the focus of the match was on him as, in keeping with the storyline, he went straight after Luger with some stiff-looking chops. Although ‘Made in the USA’ fought back with punches, Tenryu quickly regained the advantage by ramming his head into the turnbuckle and viciously continuing to chop and kick away.
Tenryu then engaged in a fight with Greg Valentine which turned out to be one of the highlights of the match as the two grumpy veterans went at it with a methodical collection of hard-hitting chops and elbows. Speaking of veterans who like to beat people up, Bob Holly actually made his televised debut for the WWF in this match. Except he wasn’t yet ‘Hardcore’ he was Thurman ‘Sparky’ Plugg. Plugg was next in line to engage in some more hard-hitting competition with ol’ Gen’ichiro; talk about being thrown in at the deep end. All of Tenryu’s contributions here were solid, and I’d go so far as to say that he was one of the stars of the match. When Bret Hart limped out at No. 27 (still selling his leg injury from earlier in the evening) the man nicknamed ‘Mr. Puroresu’ was the first to strike going to work on the Hitman’s bad leg. Tenryu squared off with Marty Jannetty more than anyone other than Shawn Michaels.
Surprisingly, for a ‘guest entrant’ he was put over strongly both in the match and on commentary and even made it to the final five with Luger, Hart, Micheals and Headshrinker Samu. He almost made it even further when he blocked a double-team by HBK and Samu by banging their heads together. In the end it took the top two babyfaces in the company to ‘get rid of’ him as Luger and Hart pooled their efforts to dump ‘Mr. Puroresu’.
3. The Great Kabuki
Number Entered: 22
Eliminated By: Lex Luger
Time Lasted: 2:46
Ted DiBiase: “Kabuki’s not here to win the Rumble. He was paid: he’s here for one reason and that’s to keep Lex Luger out.” (Royal Rumble 1994, 22/01/94)
Needless to say he achieved neither of those goals. The treatment of Tenryu and his countryman Great Kabuki in the same match was like night and day. Although he got some boos due to the aforementioned Undertaker shenanigans he wasn’t really given the chance to do much else. Entering at No. 22 he initially attacked Tatanka and then Mabel. To his credit he was actually part of the big group (along with Valentine, Tatanka, Crush, Bigelow, Plugg and Michaels) who ganged up to eliminate Mabel.
Then the buzzer went off and No. 23 Lex Luger sprinted to the ring and went right to work on the face-painted warrior with some weak punches before easily tossing him over the top rope.
4. Dick Murdoch
Number Entered: 27
Eliminated By: Himself?
Time Lasted: 5:08
Vince McMahon: “Who’s coming out now? How ‘bout that? Look at this: DICK MURDOCH!”
Jerry Lawler >sounding excited<: “Dickie Murdoch!!!!!”
(Royal Rumble 1995, 22/01/95)
The time the late great Dick Murdoch lasted in this Rumble is misleading. With entrances every minute (instead of every two or every ninety seconds) very few were allowed the luxury of lasting a long time in what I like to call ‘The Fast Forward Rumble’.
Making his appearance at No. 27 as the match progressed towards it’s closing stages, Murodch was acknowledged as a former WWF tag team champion alongside the late Adrian Adonis, ‘Captain Redneck’ made an instant impact going right after Shawn Michaels (No. 1), Davey Boy Smith (No. 2)… and anyone else who got in his way. “This is right down Murdoch’s alley. He’s a barroom brawler from way back” reasoned the King on commentary. It’s true as well: unlike a lot of the other ‘guest entrants’ over the years Murdoch had no trouble ‘fitting in’ with the guys in the ring as he fought Michaels, Henry O. Godwinn and Bart Gunn, the latter of whom he backed into the corner and proceeded to batter with a series of elbows.
‘Captain Redneck’ then joined forces with Crush (No. 30) and together they eliminated both members of The Smoking Gunns as Billy and Bart were struggling with each other against the ropes. Seizing control he slapped a headlock on Aldo Montoya then delivered a series of elbows in the corner before almost eliminating eventual winner Shawn Michaels… Only for the ‘Boy Toy’ to be saved by Lex Luger of all people. Whilst the commentators debated the logic in Luger’s decision, Murdoch exchanged punches and crawling head-butts with Fatu in one of the more memorable highlights of the ’94 Rumble. Then he almost eliminated Michaels again only for Luger to intervene again with the “second time he’s saved Shawn Michaels from sure elimination” (Jerry Lawler).
Growing tired of Luger’s interference Murdoch extracted revenge with some big punches, followed by yet more elbows in the corner… Only to be attacked by Godwinn. Murdoch retaliated with a massive punch and a dropkick (!), before applying an airplane spin on the big hog farmer. Murdoch then got dizzy from his own move and eliminated himself as whilst performing the airplane spin he tripped over the top rope sending both him and H.O.G. out of the ring, with Godwinn holding onto the ropes and avoiding elimination.
Much like Tenryu the previous year Murdoch was allowed to look like a tough opponent and even made it into the final six. But perhaps he was supposed to last even longer. One of the best rumours I heard was that during his exchanges with Henry Godwinn Murdoch got so fed up with the hog-farmer stiffing him that he simply eliminated himself and left. If that rumour is true Murdoch would surely be the only person to ever deliberately eliminate himself without it being part of the storyline. Sound unlikely? Then remember this is a guy who played in alumni games for West Texas State despite the fact he apparently never even went to the university! God Bless, Dickie Murdoch.
5. Dory Funk Jr.
Number Entered: 8
Eliminated By: Savio Vega
Time Lasted: 10:53
Vince McMahon: “Alright! Yeah! It’s Mister Funk from the famous Funk family… >pause< (whilst he remembers Dory’s name?) Dory Funk!”
Mr. Perfect: “Yee-haw! That’s a nice ring jacket.”
(Royal Rumble 1996, 21/01/96)
As Western music played in the background, Dory Jr. made his entrance in his trademark jacket and cowboy hat combo en route to attacking Bob Backlund. With an entrance like that I was half expecting them to bill him as ‘Hoss Funk’ or something but then again that would be stupid… Oh, wait. Funk connected with two of those “legendary Funk forearms” (Mr. Perfect) which took Mister Backlund off his feet as the announcers ran down the legitimate legend’s credentials.
Vince McMahon: “Former NWA champion and who knows? Again, maybe Funk can pull it out?”
Mr. Perfect: “He brings a lot of experience…”
Vince McMahon: “No question. His brother Terry was invited in the Royal Rumble as well, who’s watching this from Germany as we speak.”
The mention of brother Terry was an interesting point, and you get the impression that was the Funk brother VKM most wanted in the match as later McMahon went on to remind us of the whereabouts of ‘The Funker’ again: “Nonetheless Terry Funk and his pal Bruce Willis, watching this.” However it was Dory who was in this match and the elder Funk didn’t do too badly, coming close to eliminating Backlund only for his former protégé to counter with a stiff elbow to the mush whilst standing on the ring apron, climb back in and bodyslam his mentor. Amazingly no-one had been eliminated at this point as Yokozuna (No. 9) broke up the Chickenwing Crossface which Backlund had applied to Funk. Taking this opportunity to escape, Funk attacked Triple H and then, to a huge chant of “DDT!”, Jake Roberts.
Squaring off with new entrant The 1-2-3 Kid (No. 10), Dory was hit with a roundhouse kick in the corner before firing back with an airplane spin. After helping out Omori against Mabel (see below), Funk went back to his one-on-one match with The Kid even delivering a butterfly suplex before holding Kid for some Omori chops. Funk and Omori then turned their attention to double-teaming Roberts.
After Omori was eliminated, Funk hit a beautiful suplex on Savio Vega (No. 12) and continued to battle with Vega after Vader entered at No. 13, with ‘Puerto Rican Sensation’ getting the last laugh as he was able to pick the veteran up in a fireman’s carry and slowly maneuver Dory over the top rope.
6. Takao Omori
Number Entered: 11
Eliminated By: Jake Roberts
Time Lasted: 2:48
Vince McMahon: “Omori from All Japan. Omori being received by The 1-2-3 Kid. Omori, who knows? An underdog here. Very little known about Omori.”
Mr. Perfect: “Well that doesn’t make him an underdog, McMahon.”
Vince McMahon: “Well, okay. Not a great deal is known about Omori.”
(Royal Rumble 1996, 21/01/96)
Billed as “The Wild Man from Japan” by McMahon, Omori jogged to the ring to the sound of the Orient Express’ old theme tune, as was customary for Japanese wrestlers in McMahonland in those days, and no crowd reaction. In addition to the choice of entrance music, he wasn’t helped by the fact that the announcers didn’t know who in the hell he was.
After locking up with The Kid, ‘The Wild Heart’ found himself cornered by Mabel who almost eliminated him. Fortunately, Dory Funk Jr. was around to save him. Funk then held Mabel in position allowing Omori to hit a dropkick which took the big man off his feet. This success was short-lived and he soon found himself being double-teamed by the colossal combination of Mabel and Yokozuna who welcomed him to the WWF with a BIG double chop. At one point the Japanese youngster actually attempted to bodyslam the 1995 King of the Ring with predictably poor results as Omori soon found himself almost being eliminated by Mabel again.
‘The Wild Heart’ found most success teaming up with Dory Jr. to double-team first The 1-2-3 Kid and then Jake Roberts. Thinking he had things going his way, Omori picked up Roberts in bodyslam position and charged at the ropes but ‘The Snake’ was able to hold onto the top rope Omori was eliminated. His exit generated a big pop for Robert’s move.
7. Doug Gilbert
Number Entered: 14
Eliminated By: Vader
Time Lasted: 2:59
Vince McMahon: “And who’s this?”
Mr. Perfect: “Who’s that?”
Vince McMahon: “That’s Doug Gilbert!”
Mr. Perfect: “Alright, from the USWA?”
(Royal Rumble 1996, 21/01/96)
You know Eddie’s brother? When the announcers don’t know who you are it’s normally a good sign that you’re in trouble. As some (deliberately?) awful comedy music played in the background, Gilbert climbed into the ring where he was promptly jumped by Triple H. “Omph! And Gilbert being unceremoniously hammered by Hunter Hearst Helmsley”, noted McMahon as ‘The American Blue-Blood’ pounded him in the corner. Intentional or not the whole way in which Gilbert was portrayed here made him look like a joke, although to be fair, Curt Hennig did acknowledge that he had teamed with Doug’s brother the late Eddie “right here in the World Wrestling Federation years ago.”
Gilbert then went after Jake Roberts who quickly set him up for the DDT but he was fortunate enough to be saved by Vader who delivered a clothesline which sent Roberts over the top and out of the match. Unfortunately, Vader then turned his attention to Doug knocking him off his feet with two punches and a stiff short-clothesline. As the audience gave a standing ovation to Roberts who was on his way to the back, Vader followed up by bouncing Gilbert off the ropes and hitting him with a bodycheck, stopping to pose and then delivering a big chokeslam. On commentary we were quickly reminded that the WWF is the Major League and Memphis isn’t…
Vince McMahon: “He’s had a rude awakening here into the World Wrestling Federation. Unfortunately for the USWA and Mister Gilbert, he locked up with ‘The Man They Call Vader’!”
Mr. Perfect: “Gilbert won the tournament in Memphis to qualify right?”
Vince McMahon: “I don’t know what…”
Gilbert was then press-slammed by Vader over the top and onto the concrete floor as McMahon got in the last word, “Gilbert has been eliminated rather unceremoniously again.”
Gilbert’s involvement here had to be a rib.
8. Swat Team #I / (aka Headhunter A)
Number Entered: 15
Eliminated By: Vader
Time Lasted: 1:11
Vince McMahon: “That’s one of the SQUAT Team Members making his debut here in the World Wrestling Federation… One of the Swat Team Members!” (Royal Rumble 1996, 21/01/96)
If any of the ‘guest entrants’ they’ve had in a Royal Rumble looked like they should have done well it was The Swat Team. At four hundred pounds apiece the identical twins known as The Headhunters looked to be the perfect fit for the WWF’s tag team division, which at the time (as now) was in need of some fresh combinations. That didn’t quite happen.
Looking good as he made his entrance, Swat Team #I went straight for the biggest man in Yokozuna before being jumped by Bob Holly whom he then paired off with until Vader had “unceremoniously” dumped Gilbert. At this point, ST #I launched an attack on Vader but ‘The Mastodon’ fought back and then effortlessly tossed the four-hundred-pounder over the top rope. I can understand why they wanted to put Vader (who was making his debut here) over as a complete Monster but this was a wasted opportunity: there was great potential here in seeing the two big men go at it, but there was no struggle and it didn’t last long enough.
9. Swat Team #II / (aka Headhunter B)
Number Entered: 16
Eliminated By: Vader
Time Lasted: 0:24
Mr. Perfect: “He just got eliminated! Oh, that’s the other Swat Team Member?”
Vince McMahon: “That’s right – they’re identical twins!”
(Royal Rumble 1996, 21/01/96)
It remains one of the more surreal moments in Royal Rumble history and easily one of the most memorable bits of the 1996 Rumble: as Swat Team #I was making his way to the back following his elimination the buzzer went off for No. 16… Swat Team #II!
After staring at each other in the aisle, they hugged and then both Swat Team Members decided to walk towards the ring. One is legal, the other isn’t. They both look the same. Climbing into the ring they both attacked Vader but again the attack was a short one as he fought them off and then instantly clotheslined the legal one out of the ring. As this was going on Yokozuna re-eliminated the one who had already been eliminated and both Swat Team Members went home empty handed.
10. Pierroth Jr.
Number Entered: 9
Eliminated By: Mil Máscaras
Time Lasted: 10:32
Vince McMahon >confused<: “And… Is that Pierroth?”
Jim Ross: “It’s Pierroth: the Champion of Champions from the Triple A organization.”
Vince McMahon: “And I’m not so certain he was chosen as one of Dok Hendrix’ Top Ten?”
(Royal Rumble 1997, 19/01/97)
As part of their campaign to fill the massive Alamodome WWF management decided to target San Anotonio’s sizeable Latin American population by featuring some luchadores from AAA (with whom they had a working agreement). On the undercard technicos Perro Aguayo, El Canek and Héctor Garza defeated the rudo trio of Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal and Fuerza Guerrera, whilst the Rumble itself featured four stars from Asistencia Asesoría y Administración.
The first luchador to enter the Rumble was the then-masked Pierroth Jr. who ran down the aisle at No. 9. Steve Austin and Davey Boy Smith were the only people in the ring and at this point and he wasted no time attacking The British Bulldog. This proved to be a mistake as DBS drilled him with a spinebuster, followed by a snap-mare. ‘Top Ten’ pick or not, it turned out that El Bocazas (“The Big Mouthed One”) actually had a rather unique approach to the Rumble. As Smith turned his attention back to Austin, Pierroth got back up and exchanged punches with him, knocking the Englishman down at which point he followed up by going for the cover!?!… Looks like someone didn’t explain the rules properly to him.
“You saw momentarily, just instinctively Pierroth going for the cover”, offered Jim Ross by way of an explanation. Smith must have explained this to him so instead he hit a snap-mare followed by a chin-lock!?!… In a Royal Rumble. Fortunately Stone Cold was on hand, and Austin (having used this time to have a rest) quickly broke it up with a double-axehandle off the second turnbuckle and proceeded to stomp on him. Smith quickly joined in, until Austin tried to double cross The Bulldog. Young David got the better of that exchange and went at it with Pierroth again until Austin recovered and delivered a snap-mare and forearm drop. Davey Boy made the save, hitting ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ from behind as No. 10 The Sultan (Headshrinker Fatu / Rikishi) entered and paired off with Pierroth. The future El Comandante was almost eliminated but (in some nice spots) first wrapped his legs around the ropes and then after being thrown over the top simply rolled back in. Regaining his feet he twice attempted a bodyslam on The Sultan which was no-sold, followed by the ‘Iranian’ delivering a bodyslam of his own.
From this point forwards, most of his involvement in the match involved him fighting Smith or his fellow luchadores, although I should point out that at one point he almost eliminated Triple H even dumping him over the top rope only for ‘The American Blue-Blood’ to roll back in. In the end the man to eliminate Pierroth turned out to be none other than his rival Mil Máscaras. Yes, he was in the 1997 Royal Rumble as well…
11. Mil Máscaras
Number Entered: 11
Eliminated By: Himself
Time Lasted: 7:28
Jerry Lawler: “And do you know what a feather in someone’s career it would be if Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Sultan were able to unmask Mil Máscaras right here in the Royal Rumble? Would that be something?”
Jim Ross: “It certainly would be, King.”
(Royal Rumble 1997, 19/01/97)
The above banter may be the biggest understatement in commentary history, which was fitting because as far as guest appearances go this has to be one of the biggest names on the list. Quite possibly the biggest. Entering to a nice pop and the theme tune used for the ‘Minis’, the lucha legend walked slowly to the ring – whilst breathing in of course and went straight for The Sultan. JR put him over as a “renowned movie and television star in Mexico” as he drilled Sultan with his trademark flying double chest chop. After backing the big man into the corner and an unsuccessful elimination attempt, Sultan fought back and connected with a belly-to-belly suplex and a head-butt. The (then) thirty year veteran responded with a forearm and actually managed to get the future Rikishi’s feet off the floor in an attempt to eliminate him, before giving up and rushing over to attack Triple H (No. 12).
Seizing control ‘The Man of 1,000 Masks’ blasted Tripper with an Irish whip into the buckles, a forearm and an atomic drop. Then Pierroth held Davey Boy Smith for Mil to chop him, which he did. He tried it again but Smith moved and he hit his countryman which lead to a brawl between the luchadors. Máscaras delivered his flying double chest chop and dumped him over the top rope, but Pierroth again landed on the apron and rolled back in. As Pierroth wandered off to attack Triple H, Mil went after the newest entrant No. 13 Owen Hart and Máscaras and Hart took turns at almost eliminating each other. At one point he even got Owen over the top rope, but ‘The King of Harts’ rolled back in ala Pierroth. Meanwhile Good Ol’ JR managed to squeeze in a backhanded compliment:
Jim Ross: “Máscaras is in magnificent condition for a man who’s been around as long as he has here in the sport.”
Jerry Lawler: “Yeah, I heard he really remembers the Alamo!”
The worst was yet to come in the way Mil was eliminated involving not only Pierroth but also a young man by the name of Cibernético…
Number Entered: 15
Eliminated By: Mil Máscaras
Time Lasted: 1:25
Vince McMahon: “Who’s this?”
(Royal Rumble 1997, 19/01/97)
‘This’ was Cibernético.
Jim Ross: “Cibernético is the youngest competitor in this thing. He’s only twenty years of age”.
Jerry Lawler: “He won’t last twenty seconds!”
Cibernético may not have been in the Rumble match itself for very long but at least he didn’t come out to the generic ‘Mexican’ music that Pierroth and Máscaras had to endure.
Upon entering the Rumble, he went straight after Máscaras with an arm-wringer and stomps, but the veteran turned it around and rammed his head into the turnbuckles and attempted to relieve Cibernético of his mask, leading to one of the more amusing verbal exchanges of the match.
Jim Ross: “Cibernético grew up a huge fan of Mil Máscaras. As were I’m sure a lot of youngsters in Mexico. What an opportunity, I’m sure what an honour for Cibernético and Mil Máscaras to be in the ring together for this young man.”
Jerry Lawler: “There’s no honour to have somebody you’ve looked up to when you were a kid, trying to pull your mask off and ramming your head into the turnbuckle!”
The young lion fought back, returning the favour by ramming the legend’s head into the turnbuckle and following up with a knee lift.
The worst thing about the involvement of the luchadores was the manner in which they were eliminated. As the focus was on Marc Mero (No. 16) making his entrance, Máscaras threw Cibernético over the top rope with the camera just about catching it. Mil then instantly eliminated Pierroth. Now the sole luchador in the match, Máscaras proceeded to climb the turnbuckles and perform a plancha onto Pierroth who was at ringside. That’s all three ‘guest entrants’ eliminated during the time it took one person to walk to the ring!
As Máscaras tried to get back into the match he was prevented by a bunch of referees. “I’m not sure he should be allowed to get back in there. He got confused there, he got carried away!” (Vince McMahon). JR was quick to offer up Máscaras inexperience as an excuse: “Máscaras just made a mental error there. This is his first Royal Rumble”. As it turned out it was also his last.
13. Latin Lover
Number Entered: 17
Eliminated By: Faarooq Asad
Time Lasted: 1:47
Vincent McMahon: “Omph! Right in the keister! Ahahahahaha!”
(Royal Rumble 1997, 19/01/97)
If you think Kenny Dykstra’s music makes him seem like a jobber then you should hear the theme they gave Latin Lover. Showing an energy that has been lacking in a lot of Rumble entrants over the years he sprinted down the aisle, hopped in the ring, kicked Goldust in the backside and went straight for Steve Austin. If he was trying to impressive WWF higher ups it worked because the Chairman found it hilarious!
After Owen Hart broke up his pairing with Austin, Lover hit a sweet superkick, a punch, a snap-mare and a bodyslam on Owen. He was just getting going when Goldust attacked him from behind so that ‘The Personification of Hollywood’ could resume the fight he’d been having with Owen that Lover so rudely interrupted. The following exchange between the three men was one of the more creative Rumble eliminations: Goldust threw Owen over the top rope but Hart was able to skin-the-cat, as Latin Lover grabbed Goldust and bounced him off the ropes for a dropkick. The son of the son of a plumber was quick enough to side-step Lover’s dropkick but in doing so he stepped right into an Owen Hart clothesline and ‘The King of Harts’ eliminated him from the match.
Turning his attention back to the luchador, Owen suplexed Lover onto the ropes and proceeded to batter him with forearms until Farooq (No. 18) made his way to the ring and Hart backed off. The leader of The Nation delivered a stiff forearm, Lover fought back with a punch and took a running start but ran right into a backdrop which sent him all the way out of the 1997 Royal Rumble.
14. Terry Funk
Year(s): 1997; 1998
Number Entered: 24 (1997); 2 (1998)
Eliminated By: Mankind (1997); Mankind (1998)
Time Lasted: 15:18 (1997); 25:19 (1998)
Jim Ross: “Which one of these men will meet the WWF Champion at WrestleMania XIII?”
Jerry Lawler: “Terry Funk.”
(Royal Rumble 1997, 19/01/97)
At this point you might be wondering if there has ever been a ‘guest entrant’ who has truly been allowed to enter a strong performance and represent themselves (and whichever company they worked for) with respect. The answer is yes.
Whilst they may not have been successful at securing the services of Terry Funk for the previous year’s event, they got him the following year. As with the luchadores it made sense to include the Texas legend in an attempt to draw some local fans who wouldn’t normally be at a World Wrestling Federation event. He was given not only a flattering role in the match but was actually involved in the finish. Despite all this, Funk’s appearance in the match was a source of some controversy within the company.
To promote his appearance in the Rumble, WWF officials had ‘Terrible Terry’ turn up on the previous night’s episode of Shotgun Saturday Night. Claiming that “George Bush and the representatives of Texas desiccated me as their Texas member” Funk proceeded to raise hell, calling Vince McMahon a “Yankee bastard”, Todd Petingill’s mum a “whore” and engaged in a short but intense brawl with rising star Steve Austin. Apparently, Funk’s promo was apparently the reason the format of Shotgun was eventually altered from an ECW-lite style show from various New York nightclubs to your generic squash match filled weekend show. In interviews since then ‘The Funker’ has mentioned the irony in how he got into big trouble backstage for saying what he did on Shotgun but that a year later, at the peak of the Attitude Era, everyone was saying that stuff (and worse) on Raw.
As Austin, Bret Hart and “Diesel” (Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs, rather than Kevin Nash) struggled in the ring Funk “jumped the gun” by coming down the aisle before the countdown had finished. Fortunately he walks slowly (and to be fair not many people would be walking at all if they had Funk’s knees) so it made no difference by the time he got there. Should Dave Finlay need a precedent for reversing the decision, when he was disqualified for entering too early in this year’s Rumble then he should show McMahon a copy of Rumble ’97!
Funk was presented not as some joker from the minor leagues put as a legitimate threat to anyone in the match. “Texas Legend, Terry Funk! And, boy is he ever in a tremendous position to win this thing as well” commented Vince McMahon, whilst JR put over the Funk family heritage “Terry Funk’s brother Dory Funk Jr. in the Royal Rumble last year, of course the son of The Legend Dory Funk from Armarillo, Texas, that family’s Double Cross Ranch”. Funk was treated with so much respect you’d almost think he was a WWF employee… Sorry, ‘independent contractor’. That McMahon put Funk over as a potential winner due to reminded me how that would have led to an interesting story: at the time it was almost twenty years since ‘The Funker’ lost the NWA World title to Harley Race (on February 6th, 1977) and a win in the Rumble would have put him in line to challenge for the WWF’s version of the World title at WrestleMania. That didn’t happen but he did win the ECW World title in the main event of their first pay-per-view Barely Legal.
Since “Diesel” and Bret were in one corner he went for Austin as they picked up right where they had left off on Shotgun. Funk took the advantage with hard left hands, an elbow and a head-butt (which staggered himself). Impressed by the damage he was doing to ‘Stone Cold’, Lawler decided to give the veteran some directions “Terry Funk, get over there and get the Hitman!” he yelled as Funk came dangerously close to eliminating Austin. ‘The Toughest S.O.B. in the WWF’ fought back and rammed Funk’s
Head into the turnbuckle with so much momentum it sent him over the turnbuckle and almost out of the match, until he was saved by Mr. Hart.
Funk showed his gratitude by hitting ‘the Hitman’ with a punch to the mid-section, a punch to the face (knocking him down) and a piledriver. Bret fought back with a series of punches and actually knocked Funk backwards out of the ring… But ‘The Funker’ got tied up in the ropes and bounced back in. Unsurprised by this turn of events, Hart grabbed Funk and threw him full-speed over the ropes at the other side of the ring… But once again he grabbed the ropes and was able to roll back in from the apron. “That ring veteran knew where he was, he kept his balance, did Terry Funk” (Jim Ross). Despite having only been in the match for a couple of minutes the wily veteran had not only had some of the best exchanges of the match with Hart and Austin, but also managed to execute three of the top ten or so false eliminations in Royal Rumble history. If anyone thought Funk had nothing to offer except brawling by this point then this match is one of several I’d advise they watch: Funk’s understanding of the psychology of a battle royal is spot on and despite this being his only appearance in a Royal Rumble, his contributions here put his performance amongst the better ones in this type of match.
Things got even more interesting for the man from the Double Cross ranch, when fellow ‘Hardcore Legend’ Mankind entered at No. 27 and went straight after Funk, who was about to eliminate Rocky Mavia (whatever happened to that guy…) and threw him over the top rope… Again Funk was somehow able to wrap himself around the ropes so Mankind just pounded on him from that position instead. Funk legend regained control with a DDT, before Flash Funk (No. 27), of whom Ross helpfully reminded us “is no relation to Terry Funk.” Family trees aside, as Flash danced to the ring it was obvious that something was missing…
Jerry Lawler: “Where are the Funkettes?”
Vince McMahon: “Erm, I don’t think they should be involved in this. Do you?”
Jerry Lawler: “I think they’re in Terry Funk’s dressing room, where else!”
Funk (that’s Flash not Terry) hit a crossbody off the top rope onto Funk (that’s Terry not Flash) and “Diesel” (that’s Jacobs not Nash). Then the future Rock N Sock Connection teamed up to put the boots to the veteran, only for ‘Funker’ to fight back and throw Mankind over the top rope. Channeling the spirit of his mentor, Foley was somehow able to hold on and roll back in.
It seemed everybody wanted their chance to work with the former NWA World Champion as Funk went on to exchange more punches with Austin (and surprisingly got the best of it) before being cornered by Vader who delivered his trademark shots to the body and head, as Funk performed his trademark punch-drunk selling. Moments later Funk actually got the advantage against ‘The Mastodon’ with a big chop, before he was attacked from behind by Henry Godwinn. Not wanting to end up like fellow Texan Dick Murdoch, Funk took the fight to him with a big chop and a punch which actually knocked the three-hundred pound hog-farmer off his feet. The Undertaker entered at No. 30 and was able to overpower Funk but he regained his composure, hooked up with Austin again and ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ and ‘The Original Texas Rattlesnake’ went back-and-forth exchanging stiff chops in one of the highlights of the match.
In the end it was his old friend and rival Mick Foley who was able to claim the elimination of the Funker. After Mankind eliminated Rocky, Funk jumped him from behind but subsequently missed a Bossman-style squash on the ropes and ‘Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy’ punched him as Funk bounced back-and-forth in a see-saw spot. Foley took a run up and delivered the Cactus Jack over-the-top-rope clothesline to his mentor sending both men out of the ring. Amazingly (but not surprisingly given what had transpired thus far) they both managed to land on the apron, “You know Mankind and Funk are bizarre but they’re great athletes. That’s a great athlete to hold on” reasoned Ross but as soon as the words left his mouth Mankind suplexed Funk to the floor ending what had been an impressive performance.
As it turned out this would be one of two Royal Rumbles on ‘The Funkers’ CV. He would enter the Rumble again the following year as Chainsaw Charlie, although by that point he was a member of the WWF roster and therefore not a ‘guest entrant’. Interestingly enough, in 98’s version of the event he kicked off the Rumble by brawling with Foley. It was almost as if their brawl from the previous year had never ended. It was a win-lose situation for ‘The Funker’ as he got some revenge for the previous year by eliminating Foley’s Cactus Jack (No. 1) alter-ego only to find himself eliminated by none other than Mankind (No. 16).
Back in 1997, the drama didn’t end there. As Mankind still sat on the apron, having just eliminated Funk, The Undertaker blasted Foley with The Big Boot sending him outside to join his hero where they continued the brawl they had been having during the match.
This distraction led to the controversial finish: whilst referees tried to break up the brawl on the outside, Bret Hart eliminated Steve Austin which went unnoticed. As a result Austin climbed straight back in the ring and ‘won’ the match by illegally eliminating Vader, Undertaker and Hart. This led to Bret Hart throwing a post-match temper tantrum in which he grabbed and screamed at Vince McMahon. It was another stage (following his controversial loss to Sid at In Your House VII) in Hart’s character growing disillusioned with the way his matches were being refereed which would ultimately lead him to snap. Feeling that American fans had lost their sense of fair play and good sportsmanship and were supporting cheaters and thugs instead, Hart would be involved in arguably the best heel turn in modern (U.S.) wrestling following WrestleMania XIII. This match not only allowed Funk to look like a star whilst providing some great action along the way but played it’s part in adding more ammunition to the company’s hottest storyline. Now That’s What I Call Wrestling.
Carl ‘TheBigBoot’ Robinson