Friday, January 10, 2020

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1994)

The 1994 Rumble ends in controversy as we have dual winners for the first time....

Royal Rumble 1994 - Providence Civic Center - 1/22/94

This here is your classic one-match show.  After one of the worst-ever Rumble undercards, we were treated to a damn fine Rumble match which at the time was probably the second-best edition.  The company was rebuilding after the roster losses of '92 and '93, and the New Generation was in full-swing.

The show opened with Tatanka vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (subbing for an injured Ludvig Borga).  Since there was no feud here the match meant nothing, and wasn't very good anyway.  Next?

Match #2 is one of the more overrated I can remember, but it was important in setting up one of the biggest feuds of the year.  World Tag Champs The Quebecers defended against Bret and Owen Hart.  At the time I found this an oddly contrived setup.  Bret was rather above the Tag belts at this point and it seemed clear this would just be leading to the Bret vs. Owen feud.  Sure enough that's exactly what happened.  Bret took several minutes of Quebecer offense but opted not to tag in a fresh Owen.  Finally Bret's knee was so injured the referee stopped the match (also very contrived - why not just have the Quebecers pin Bret with a rollup or something?), and Owen went ballistic, attacking his brother and turning heel.  The match worked alright as an angle but really wasn't much of a wrestling match.

We returned to Throwaway City next, as I-C Champ Razor Ramon defended against IRS (one of the weaker perennial I-C contenders).  I never saw much chemistry between these two, so this was two-star fare at best.

The World Title match was next, as Yokozuna faced The Undertaker in a Casket Match.  Going into this I was very excited to see Taker finally get another Title shot after over two years, and I actually thought he might take it down.  As it turned out I'd be disappointed with the result, and nauseated by the match itself.  This was one of the worst-ever World Title matches, featuring slow-motion brawling, cartoonishly excessive overbooking (Ten, count them, TEN midcard heels would interfere on Yokozuna's behalf), and a laughably bad aftermath.  Taker was shut into the casket and his "ghost" would rise from the arena floor and ascend to the ceiling.  Said "ghost" was of course Marty Janetty (who incidentally is about 9 inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than Mark Callaway), and said "ascension" was accomplished through the use of clearly visible harness wires.  Good lord this was campy and idiotic.

Wait, how'd he end up on the TV screens? 
They couldn't possibly have prerecorded this bit, could they?
The Rumble match though was pretty great.  For the first time the entry intervals were shortened due to time constraints, so instead of a new wrestler every two minutes, it was cut down to 90 seconds.  This didn't hinder the match's effectiveness, as it sped up the pace slightly without detracting from its epic feel.  To this day the 90-second format is the most commonly used.  This match told several interweaving stories, such as Diesel's dominance (eliminating seven men in a row), Shawn Michaels' treachery at helping eliminate Diesel, Bret's resilience in competing and eventually co-winning the Rumble despite a kayfabe knee injury from earlier, and of course the controversial double-elimination to end the match.  Bret and Lex Luger would ultimately be declared co-winners, and would each receive a Title shot at WrestleMania X.  This was a nice creative way to set the match apart from previous editions.  I was sure Luger would finally be winning the WWF Title but obviously that was not to be.  Anyway, very strong Rumble match with much more star power than in '93.

Ah, Jack Tunney.  Always there to make the tough decisions.

Participants: Scott Steiner, Samu, Rick Steiner, Kwang, Owen Hart, Bart Gunn, Diesel, Bob Backlund, Billy Gunn, Virgil, Randy Savage, Jeff Jarrett, Crush, Doink, Bam Bam Bigelow, Mabel, Sparky Plugg, Shawn Michaels, Mo, Greg Valentine, Tatanka, The Great Kabuki, Lex Luger, Tenryu, Bastion Booger, Rick Martel, Bret Hart, Fatu, Marty Janetty, Adam Bomb
Final Four: Bret Hart, Lex Luger, Shawn Michaels, Fatu (Hmmm, which of these four doesn't belong?)
Long Man: Bam Bam Bigelow (30:12)

The '94 Rumble undercard was pretty awful, but since half the show was taken up by a very good Rumble match, that gains it some points overall.  As you'll continue to see, this has been a pretty common scenario over the years.  Skip the undercard, watch the Rumble.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Yokozuna vs. Undertaker
What I'd Change: Do something to make the Title match good.  I dunno what exactly, but something.
Most Disappointing Match: Quebecers vs. Harts - again, this worked as an angle but was pretty dull as a match
Most Pleasant Surprise: Shawn Michaels got to shine in the Rumble match with over 29 minutes of ring time.
Overall Rating: 5.5/10
Better than WrestleMania X, SummerSlam '94 and/or Survivor Series 1994? - No, No, Yes


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