Friday, January 12, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1992)

1992, the year in which arguably the greatest Rumble match of all time took place....

Royal Rumble 1992 - Knickerbocker Arena - 1/19/92

Now we're talkin'.  The '92 edition of the Rumble was primarily a one-match show, but what a match!  Late '91 saw some major additions to the WWF roster in Ric Flair and Sid Justice, and both guys were immediately thrust into the WWF Title picture, along with The Undertaker and the returning Randy Savage.  Taker had won the belt from Hogan at Survivor Series and lost it right back.  Since both title changes occurred amid controversy the Championship was held up and President Jack Tunney announced that a new Champion would be crowned by winning the '92 Royal Rumble.  The field was easily the most stacked in history at that time (and for many years since).  But before we get to this extraordinary main event...

The show opened similarly to the '91 Rumble, with an undercard tag match.  This time the Orient Express faced The New Foundation of Jim Neidhart and Owen Hart.  The New Foundation won a decently worked match with a Rocket Launcher after 17 minutes.  I had pretty high hopes for this new team but unfortunately they were saddled with terrible ring gear and the company never got behind them.  Then Neidhart disappeared from TV and Owen was left to team with Koko B. Ware while still wearing Neidhart's puffy pants.  Anyway, this was a decent opener but nowhere near the level of the OX-Rockers match from 1991.

Up next was the Intercontinental Championship - new Champion The Mountie had just defeated Bret Hart for the belt two days earlier at a house show.  Roddy Piper was then subbed in for the infirm Hart to challenge for the belt at the Rumble, and he soundly took down The Mountie with a sleeper hold to capture his first WWF belt.  Piper would also appear in the Rumble match itself, making him eligible to win both singles Championships on the same night.  This was a pretty one-sided throwaway match but it was nice to see Piper finally win some WWF gold.

Dead Man vs. Immortal

A bafflingly long stinker was next, as The Beverly Brothers (formerly the Minnesota Wrecking Crew II in the AWA) defeated The Bushwhackers.  Why this got fifteen minutes I don't know.  Just like two years earlier Luke and Butch stunk the place up in an ungodly long match.

The Tag belts were up for grabs in the semi-main slot, as Hawk and Animal defended against The Natural Disasters.  This was standard big-man brawling and led to the Disasters winning by countout.  The LOD would drop the belts at a house show only a few weeks later before disappearing from WWF TV for a little while.
Alright, with the lackluster undercard out of the way let's get down to business.  The '92 Rumble match was simply superb.  Ric Flair drew the #3 spot and famously broke the longevity record, lasting just over an hour to win the match and the WWF Title.  It was easily one of his greatest performances and made him only the second wrestler to win both the NWA and WWF World Championships.  Between Flair's work, Bobby Heenan's hilariously biased commentating, Randy Savage's ongoing blood feud with Jake Roberts, and the host of top talent involved in the match, this was arguably the greatest Rumble match of all time.  It was also the first major bout for the new heel singles star Shawn Michaels.  Oh, and true to form, Hulk Hogan threw a tantrum upon being eliminated by Sid, and even tried to pull Sid over the ropes (which paid off with Flair dumping Sid from behind to win the whole thing).  A less heroic babyface character from that era you'll never find.  But that's neither here nor there; this still holds up as arguably the greatest-ever Royal Rumble match.

Be fair to Flair!

Participants: Davey Boy Smith, Ted Dibiase, Ric Flair, Jerry Sags, Haku, Shawn Michaels, Tito Santana, The Barbarian, Kerry Von Erich, Repo Man, Greg Valentine, Nikolai Volkoff, Big Bossman, Hercules, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan, IRS, Jimmy Snuka, Undertaker, Randy Savage, Berzerker, Virgil, Col. Mustafa, Rick Martel, Hulk Hogan, Skinner, Sgt. Slaughter, Sid Justice, Warlord
Final Four: Ric Flair, Sid Justice, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage
Long Man: Ric Flair 60:02

The '92 Rumble was the first year they really got it right.  The Rumble match was awesome and the undercard was watchable if underwhelming.  They put enough star power into the Rumble match that the winner wasn't obvious.  There were easily five potential victors plus a few dark horses.  Of all the Rumble matches this is the one I'll pop in every January to get me hyped for the PPV.

Best Match: The Rumble
Worst Match: Beverly Brothers vs. Bushwhackers
What I'd Change: Not much really.
Most Disappointing Match: Probably the LOD-Disasters.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess Flair winning the belt - at the time I wasn't sure they'd let an outsider just waltz in and take it so soon.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania VIII, SummerSlam '92, and/or Survivor Series 1992? - No, no, and yes.

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