Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1995)

Get ready for the year they ran the Rumble match on fast-forward....

Royal Rumble 1995 - USF Sun Dome - 1/22/95

1995 was one of the more unusual installments in the Rumble series, featuring a pretty stacked undercard followed by a very underwhelming Rumble match.  The WWF unfortunately sacrificed the length and scope of the most epic match of the year to make room for multiple strong undercard bouts.

Kicking things off was an I-C Title match between Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett.  I was never a huge fan of this feud or Jarrett, but this match was fairly decent.  The booking was kinda clunky though, with Razor getting counted out and Jarrett challenging him to continue the match.  Since when does a wrestler have the ability to restart a match?  Shouldn't an authority figure of some kind have to make that call?  Anyway, this would be a classic case of "more guts than brains," as Razor's gallantry cost him the Title.

The one stinker of the night was next, as The Undertaker faced IRS.  At no time did IRS seem remotely like a threat to the nigh-invincible Dead Man, but this match got eleven-plus minutes anyway.

The WWF Championship was next as new Champ Diesel (I must reluctantly confess I was a big fan of his at the time) faced the former Champ Bret Hart.  This was an epic (if overbooked) face vs. face match where Bret played the de facto heel trying to take advantage of his less experienced opponent.  Much like the opening bout, this featured a restart.  Diesel had Bret pinned after a Jacknife Powerbomb but was attacked by his former friend Shawn Michaels.  The referee ordered the match to continue (Hey at least this time a person with jurisdiction made the decision.), and then several minutes later Owen attacked Bret.  The referee again ordered a restart, and after several more minutes and a ref bump, Shawn, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie (why were JJ and Roadie there?), Owen and Bob Backlund all interfered, drawing a double DQ.  So yeah it was an overbooked mess, but the match was still pretty damn strong.  Bret and Diesel always worked well together and their 1994-95 trilogy contained some of Nash's best work.

Kev, all you gotta do is roll over.  Didn't anyone teach you that?

In the fourth slot was the finals of a Tag Team Title tournament to crown new Champs after Diesel and Shawn's messy Survivor Series breakup rendered the belts vacant.  Heavy favorites the Smokin' Gunns were forced to drop out due to injury and in their place was the Cinderella team of Bob Holly and the 1-2-3 Kid.  They would face Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka in the finals.  This match was light years better than I expected.  Nearly sixteen minutes of excellent Little Team vs. Big Team action resulting in Holly & Kid getting an upset win.  Of course the following night on RAW the Gunns returned to get an automatic Title shot (Not sure how that works - they weren't even in the tournament but they get to skip ahead to face the new Champions?) and won the straps.  So in the end this tournament was a big fat waste of time.  But this match was pretty great.  The aftermath saw Bam Bam get into a ringside altercation with football great Lawrence Taylor, leading to their WrestleMania clash.

Now, about that underwhelming Rumble match.  The format changed for the second year in a row, as the entry interval was shortened to 60 seconds.  The object was obviously to make more room for the undercard but also to create a faster-paced Rumble match.  Unfortunately it just made the match feel like Short Attention Span Theater.  The entrances were so closely spaced there wasn't room for anyone to make a big impact and they struggled to eliminate people fast enough.  Also the two starters, Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith, were the last two standing.  This would've been an unthinkably amazing feat except that due to the format change the match only went 38 minutes.  Don't get me wrong, 38 minutes is still an accomplishment, but being the first wrestler to ever run the table in a Rumble match shouldn't come with an asterisk.  The ending of this Rumble featured arguably the best false elimination of all time though.  Davey tossed Shawn over but Shawn held onto the top rope and dangled for about fifteen seconds, only ever letting one foot touch the floor.  As Davey celebrated Shawn slid back into the ring and proceeded to dump him out.  I must say I was super stoked to see Shawn finally earn a WWF Title match at WrestleMania.

Brilliant false finish.

ParticipantsShawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith, Eli Blu, Duke Droese, Jimmy Del Ray, Sionne, Tom Prichard, Doink, Kwang, Rick Martel, Owen Hart, Timothy Well, Luke, Jacob Blu, King Kong Bundy, Mo, Mabel, Butch, Lex Luger, Mantaur, Aldo Montoya, Henry Godwinn, Billy Gunn, Bart Gunn, Bob Backlund, Steven Dunn, Dick Murdoch, Adam Bomb, Fatu, Crush
Final FourShawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith, Crush, Lex Luger
Long Man: Shawn Michaels & Davey Boy Smith (38:41)

The 1995 Rumble was a bit of a failed experiment in trying to present a fully balanced card unhampered by an hour-plus Rumble segment.  Given how uneven most Rumble cards had been I can understand wanting to make room for other matches to breathe, but the Rumble itself is the draw.  Shortening it that much rather defeats the purpose and reduces its magnitude.  Still this was an entertaining show overall and one of the most well-rounded up to this point.

Best Match: Diesel vs. Bret Hart
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. IRS
What I'd Change: Obviously stick with the 90-second format, shorten the first three matches and remove some of the interference from the WWF Title match.
Most Disappointing Match: The Rumble
Most Pleasant Surprise: Holly & Kid vs. Bigelow & Tatanka
Overall Rating: 7/10
Better than WrestleMania XI, SummerSlam '95 and/or Survivor Series 1995? - Yes, Yes, No

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