Thursday, January 11, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1991)

Oh good, Hogan wins again....

Royal Rumble 1991 - Miami Arena - 1/19/91

The '91 Rumble was the first WWF PPV I ever ordered.  Why I chose that particular event to jump in the water I'm not sure.  It wasn't good though. 

The show opened amazingly, with an absolutely killer tag match - The Rockers vs. The Orient Express.  I know on paper that doesn't sound mindblowing, but trust me.  This was nineteen minutes of just spectacular action, and I think this was the moment when I really started to appreciate The Rockers, Shawn in particular.  I'd go so far as to call this the 1991 Match of the Year.  I shit you not.

It was kinda all downhill from there though.  Next was The Big Bossman vs. The Barbarian.  This wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good either.  Passable.  Bossman was still feuding with Bobby Heenan and his henchman after Rick Rude's sudden departure from the company.  This was something to keep him busy until his mini-feud with Mr. Perfect.  Bossman won after 14 just okay minutes.

Third was one of the sloppiest brawls I can remember, as WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior defended against Sgt. Slaughter, in the first WWF Title defense on a Rumble card.  I figured Warrior would mow over Slaughter and resume feuding with Randy Savage for the belt, being that they hadn't yet wrestled since the start of their rivalry (Savage was obviously not cleared to wrestle but I didn't know that).  What happened instead was that Savage smashed Warrior across the skull with his sceptre (a pretty brutal-looking spot I must admit), allowing Slaughter to win the WWF Title and become one of the worst Champions ever (Even in 1991 I recognized on some level the concept of devaluing a championship.), and setting up probably the weakest WrestleMania main event in history.  This was pretty awful stuff.

How pissed was Warrior at losing the belt?  THIS pissed.

It was followed by two throwaway matches - The Mountie vs. Tito Santana in a quick squash that didn't belong on a PPV, and Ted Dibiase & Virgil vs. Dusty & Dustin Rhodes.  This would be Dusty's last televised WWF match, and I believe it was Dustin's only match in the company until he returned in 1995 as Goldust.  Despite Team Dibiase's win, Ted was upset with Virgil's performance and berated him after the match.  Virgil had taken all the abuse he could stand, and blasted Dibiase with the Million Dollar belt, turning babyface.

The 1991 Rumble match was easily my least favorite to date.  I had four wrestlers I was rooting for (The stip about the Rumble winner earning a WWF Title match was not yet introduced so it was anyone's ballgame.): Randy Savage, Undertaker, Hawk and Animal, none of whom lasted more than 14 minutes.  After all four of them were out of contention (Randy Savage actually no-showed the match after costing Warrior the belt) I more or less tuned out, as it was clear Hulk Hogan would be winning his second-straight Rumble match.  Yawn.  Hogan eliminated Brian Knobbs (gee I wonder why Knobbs got to be in the final four) and Earthquake to once again reign dominant over the entire WWF roster.  This match was notable however for two men exceeding the 44-minute longevity mark: Greg Valentine and Rick Martel.

Oh super, two of my picks just eliminated another one of my picks.
Thanks a lot, Legion of Dicks!
Participants: Bret Hart, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Paul Roma, Kerry Von Erich, Rick Martel, Saba Simba, Butch, Jake Roberts, Hercules, Tito Santana, Undertaker, Jimmy Snuka, Davey Boy Smith, Smash, Hawk, Shane Douglas, Randy Savage, Animal, Crush, Jim Duggan, Earthquake, Mr. Perfect, Hulk Hogan, Haku, Jim Neidhart, Luke, Brian Knobbs, Warlord, Tugboat
Final Four: Hulk Hogan, Earthquake, Brian Knobbs, Davey Boy Smith
Long Man: Rick Martel (52:17)

1991 was another pretty boring year for WWF programming.  Still running on Hulkamania fumes and failing to elevate new stars to eventually succeed Hogan, the WWF was grasping at straws to present compelling main event feuds.  In this case they put all their eggs in the Persian Gulf War basket, setting up Sgt. Slaughter as the turncoat Champion to eventually be dethroned by American Hero Hogan.  Really dull stuff.

Best Match: The Rockers vs. Orient Express - seriously, go out of your way to watch this.
Worst Match: The Mountie vs. Tito Santana
What I'd Change: I mean, I wouldn't base a months-long main event program on a minor real-world skirmish in the Middle East.  I would also not put the belt on Slaughter.  Had Hogan not won the '90 Rumble and had Warrior retained here, Hogan winning in this Rumble to earn a rematch with Warrior would've made sense.  Otherwise I'd give the Rumble win to a rising star like Taker.
Most Disappointing Match: The Rumble
Most Pleasant Surprise: Rockers vs. Orient Express
Overall Rating: 3/10
Better than WrestleMania VII, SummerSlam '91 and/or Survivor Series 1991? - No, no, and just by a hair.

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