Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1997)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's History of the Royal Rumble!  And welcome to the Stone Cold Era!

Royal Rumble 1997 - AlamoDome - 1/19/97

The 1997 Rumble has unfortunately not aged all that well, but at the time I absolutely loved this show.  The card was pretty stacked and sprinkled with several Mexican lucha stars (Nevermind that WCW had already scooped up all the GOOD lucha stars - I didn't yet know any better.), the Rumble match had a strong field of contenders (largely due to most of the undercard participants pulling double duty), and the huge venue added to its splendor, making this show feel more like a WrestleMania card than 'Mania 13 did.

The opener was an I-C Title match - Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust.  At this point the company was struggling to find a sidekick for Hunter after Mr. Perfect left the company, and they saddled him with perennial midcarder Curtis Hughes.  Fortunately a month later Hunter would bring in Chyna, and his career would never be the same.  As for this match, it was passable but nowhere near as good as their 'Mania rematch would be.

Why wasn't WrestleMania 13 held here?

The next match featured the in-ring return of Ahmed Johnson, out for revenge against Faarooq, who had injured him the previous summer.  I was excited to see this, and while it was brief and inconclusive, it was a fun brawl.

Third was a dream match of sorts between The Undertaker and Vader.  There wasn't much going on in this feud but the pair worked pretty well together.  Underwhelming but decent.

Next was a showcase of B-grade Lucha stars, as Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo and Canek took on Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal and Fuerza Guerrera.  As Lucha six-man tags go I now know this was a pretty shabby representation, but at the time some of this stuff blew my mind (I didn't watch Nitro enough to take in much of the real Lucha action.).  I was particularly impressed with Hector Garza, as was WCW apparently (He debuted there later that year).

The Rumble match was once again in the semi-main slot, and featured a star-making performance by Steve Austin.  Austin entered the match fifth and cleared the ring multiple times, eventually eliminating a record-shattering ten people.  One of the match highlights occurred while Austin was alone in the ring waiting for the next entrant, and Bret Hart's music hit.  The crowd erupted to see Austin and Bret resume their landmark feud, and the two of them engaged in a blistering 90-second slugfest.  This Rumble match has one of the best closing stretches of any Rumble - ten men left in the ring after number 30, five of them potential winners.  It boiled down to Austin, Bret, Vader, Taker, and Fake Diesel.  Suddenly Bret dumped Austin out, but since the officials were distracted by Mankind and Terry Funk brawling at ringside the elimination went unnoticed and Austin slid back in, eliminating Vader, Taker and Bret.  Bret flew into a rage at Austin's tainted victory, furthering his gradual heel turn.  This match is another one of my all-time favorite Rumbles.

Man, evil Austin was great.

Participants: Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Fake Razor Ramon, Phineas Godwinn, Steve Austin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, British Bulldog, Pierroth, The Sultan, Mil Mascaras, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart, Goldust, Cibernetico, Marc Mero, Latin Lover, Faarooq, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, Fake Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, Undertaker
Final Four: Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Undertaker, Vader
Long Man: Steve Austin (45:07)
The main event was a rematch from the '96 Survivor Series - WWF Champion Sid vs. Shawn Michaels.  Back in November the company made the baffling decision to put their top Championship on the physically-imposing-but-horrendously-untalented Sid Vicious, and Shawn wanted a rematch in his hometown.  Despite coming down with the flu, Shawn got a watchable match out of his clumsy opponent and regained the WWF Title.  Sadly a knee injury (which may or may not have been legit) would derail Shawn's second Title run and nix the planned Shawn vs. Bret WrestleMania rematch.
Like I said, history hasn't been all that kind to this show, but I found it an exceedingly fun watch with a ton of young star power.  The WWF was building for the future, and the backbone of the Attitude Era roster was falling (or should I say "rising") into place.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Probably Ahmed vs. Faarooq, but it's not bad
What I'd Change: Maybe shorten the opener a bit.  Other than that there isn't much - I still like this show.
Most Disappointing Match: Hunter vs. Goldust
Most Pleasant Surprise: Austin winning the Rumble - I figured Bret would take it.  Of course the plan was for Bret to get the 'Mania Title shot anyway, but this was a nice twist in the road.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania 13, SummerSlam '97, and/or Survivor Series 1997? - Probably not, Definitely not, and Yes.

With that I bid you adieu for now.  Join us for the 1998 Rumble, as the Attitude Era kicks in!  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MeWe!


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