WWF Royal Rumble 1993
Sunday, January 24
Arco Arena – Sacramento, CA
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Gorilla welcomes everyone to Sacramento, CA, the Arco Arena and the 1993 Royal Rumble! He runs down the card to Bobby only to conveniently leave out Heenan’s highly anticipated unveiling of “Narcissus.” Bobby has to mention that to him which Gorilla replies “Who cares”? The entrance music then hits for The Beverly Brothers, meaning the opening tag-team match is upon us.
The Beverly Brothers [Beau & Blake] vs. The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott]
Result/Analysis: The Steiner Brothers via pinfall (10:46) when Scott pins Blake following the frankensteiner. The match is solid but unspectacular. The Steiner’s were clearly going over so there was little suspense coming in. Scott does the heavy lifting and fulfills the honorary face in peril role while the Beverlies take turns working him over. At the very least, the Beverlies were an established heel tag-team and could work with the Steiner’s having done so three years prior in the NWA. Rick cleans house on the Beverlies once he receives the hot tag but he’s a non participant in the finishing sequence. The Beverlies get a groggy Scott positioned for the doomsday device but Scott ducks the clothesline from Beau by rolling through and cradling Blake. When that only results in a two count, Scott reverses Blake into the ropes and hits the frankensteiner with Blake’s head driven/piledrived into the canvas. I’m surprised he isn’t knocked out but it’s an immediate three count and victory for the Steiner’s in their WWF pay-per-view debut. It’s a good opening match and the crowd gets involved with the Steiner’s win. They were the best tag-team in the world, certainly in the WWF upon their 1993 arrival, but like other tag teams before them, the Steiner’s had to work their way up the ladder. The Beverly Brothers meanwhile would fade out following this match. It would be their last PPV appearance, too. Beau would depart the WWF a few months later. Blake would stick around awhile longer wrestling solo but he had little to no relevancy.
Gorilla discusses the upcoming Intercontinental Title match between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. That segues into a video package backstory which highlights how we’ve arrived here since their post Rockers break-up. Good stuff.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
* Sensational Sherri is at ringside*
Marty Jannetty vs. Shawn Michaels (c)
Result/Analysis: Michaels via pinfall (14:21) following the superkick and Sensational Sherri inadvertently hitting Jannetty with her high heel shoe. The ending theatrics were explainable given the intrigue about Sherri and if she’d take a side. We see during the match when she slaps Michaels that Sherri at least wasn’t favoring Shawn. Regardless, the infamy of this match took on a life of its own for the claims Michaels would make to WWF CEO Vince McMahon in its aftermath. Before I discuss that well-documented storyline this match is somewhat well-received to very well-received on the outside by wrestling observers, recappers and fans alike. I’m somewhere in the middle of recounts of the match you’ve probably read elsewhere but I find it as a solid piece of storytelling and I’m calling bs on the rumor and/or the commonly held belief that Jannetty came into the PPV and wrestled the match impaired by the influence of drug use. I’m no expert on the matter but to my naked eye I don’t see Jannetty as acting sluggish or performing that way, which was Michaels’ claim to Vince as why the match, in Shawn’s mind, didn’t produce the all-out classic some had anticipated. Jannetty sets the pace from the onset as you’d expect with Michaels bumping all over the place, both in and outside the ring, to sell. Shawn then carries the match over the next five minutes after he rams Marty’s shoulder into the ring post outside the ring then continues to work on the “injured” shoulder every which way. That’s using psychology for all of you newbies. Yes, the pace is slow, and yes, no one expected the match to unfold that way. Jannetty overcomes it all as a babyface that’s seeking revenge against his former tag-team partner would and ramps up the intensity and impact of his moves scoring a series of near falls as the crowd gets more and more into the possibility of Shawn losing the belt. Jannetty catapults Shawn into the post, another epic Michaels sell job, then referee Joey Marella takes a predictable bump so as to be unbeknownst to what’s to come. Jannetty locks up Shawn which has Sherri coming into the ring. She takes off one of her high heel shoes and anyone with a brain knows that Shawn is going to duck. He does, Jannetty gets walloped, and Shawn backs a hysterical Sherri into the corner to have words with her. After a minute, Jannetty gets to his feet so Shawn hits the superkick and covers for the pin with Marella coming to his senses. Sherri runs off to the dressing room. “Mean” Gene Okerlund tries to get a word with her but Sherri is still too hysterical for costing Marty the match. Shawn sees this unfold on the video wall so he runs backstage followed in hot pursuit by Marty. The two exchange more blows and it’s clear that this vendetta is far from settled. In fact, the booking plan had Jannetty challenging Michaels at WrestleMania IX. If you remember, the initial match was planned for WrestleMania XIII in April 1992 but that had to be scrapped when Jannetty was initially fired following his arrest for drug possession and assaulting a police officer, as a result, being placed on house arrest for six months. With Marty re-hired late in 1992, the WWF picked back up on the storyline and weaved Sherri into it when she was pulled into the mirror that Jannetty went to hit Shawn with on WWF SuperStars. Now, beyond this match, it’s believed that Shawn got Marty fired for a second time claiming he wrestled him while under the influence of drugs or another theory floated about is that Marty had more legal entanglements. Wild! We learn of all of this way after the fact because of course, we’re discussing an era of professional wrestling pre-internet. In my own analysis, I’m not taking the cheese on Marty wrestling this match while “on something.” Marty denies it. His word was/is shit, true, but in 1993, so was Shawn’s. Anyway, we wouldn’t see Jannetty on WWF television again for four months after the Royal Rumble PPV and he was only re-hired after Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) came to Marty’s defense with Vince. I wrote a book here but the backstory is just so juicy with rumor and innuendo that if you don’t know everything you should as you take in the match at hand for this event. Marty has claimed that in pre-Rumble matches with Shawn that they tore the house down in western cities and catching word of those matches is what made Vince believe they’d produce a classic on the PPV. Jannetty claims Vince blamed him for the match not living up to expectations and that it was Shawn who was “on something” a day earlier and thereby the who was “lost” doing this match. Despite the blame game, and Sherri’s involvement by necessity, the match quality here is still above average.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The Big Boss Man
Result/Analysis: Bigelow via pinfall (10:10) following a diving headbutt. If you’re feeling lethargic or tired, then don’t watch this match. It’s very slow and plodding with The Big Boss Man completely unmotivated on his way out of the WWF. Bam Bam was receiving the push and he was the one on television each and every week destroying the enhancement talent he was paired with. The Big Boss Man hadn’t been in a feud since his lengthy program with Nailz ended at the Survivor Series two months earlier and his WWF contract was set to expire soon after the Royal Rumble. Bam Bam’s clean victory here was Boss Man’s one and only pinfall defeat on any PPV during his initial WWF stint. Coming into the PPV, predicting a Bam Bam victory was one of the easier calls to make.
To segue into the Razor Ramon/Bret Hart WWF Championship match that’s next we see Ramon’s sneak attack of Owen Hart from WWF Mania two weeks prior. We then see pre-taped comments from Ramon with Raymond Rougeau as he attended a Sacramento Kings NBA game at Arco Arena the night before.
Okerlund interviews Bret prior to the match. “The Hit Man” says this match is personal to him given how Ramon has treated his family and he will not only defend the WWF Championship in the ring, he’ll defend his family’s honor. Bret says Razor has crossed a line that he can never come back from.
Razor Ramon vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (c)
Result/Analysis: Hart via submission (17:59) with the sharpshooter. While no one believed coming into the event that Bret stood a chance at dropping the belt here – – – nor do you feel that at all as you watch the match – – – you leave the PPV feeling that not only is Bret the rightful and worthy WWF Champion, but that Ramon is someone the creative people definitely believed in. Also, given this title opportunity against the top dog, in no way did Razor not hold his own or help craft the story seen within. With Bret involved, this was going to be the best match on the card. Ramon, who’d only been in the WWF really for a hot minute by January 1993, gives as good as he takes. Bret compromises Razor’s left knee early on to then work that over continuosly to soften Ramon up for the sharpsooter. Razor though also weakens Bret when he throws Bret’s mid-section (his rib cage) into the post. That leads to an extended stretch where Ramon works on Bret’s ribs. Bret’s comeback begins early and features a series of two counts with his combo of moves (atomic drop, backbreaker, middle rope clothesline, bulldog and side Russian legsweep) only for Razor to escape the sharpshooter on Bret’s initial attempt by ensnaring referee Dave Hebner. A few minutes later, with Bret compromised, Ramon gets Bret loaded up in the Razor’s Edge only for Bret to wiggle free and backslide Ramon for a two count. Razor then seemingly gets Bret at a disadvantage again following a corner whip but Bret counters into a pinning combo before locking in the sharpshooter to which Ramon quickly submits to. The crowd gives Bret a good victory pop (nice to see) as Gorilla pontificates that this title defense was the toughest yet for “The Hitman.” Bobby is pretty funny on commentary as he cracks jokes about Stu and Helen Hart who sat at ringside to watch. Techincally good match this is with good psychology mixed in. Bret awaits the winner of the Royal Rumble match which determines his challenger for WrestleMania IX at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bobby Heenan has now made his way down to the arena floor for the unveiling of “Narcissus.” All of the humanoids knew who “Narcissus” was going be, so the mystery behind the unveiling just wasn’t there. Bobby lets it be known before the curtains drop though that it’s Lex Luger. Heenan gives us a play-by-play of Luger’s posing routine as he goes through it in front of three mirrors. One could critique that Bobby himself is more “in love” with Lex than Lex is with himself in a gimmick that’s tailor-made for him. Heenan uses the words “tease,” “show us,” and “feast our eyes on the man” as he goes over every body part while Lex flexes and primps. “Eat your heart out! Ladies, Ladies, do you like what you see”? The cameras pan to the crowd and plenty of women are snapping photographs and they are mesmerized. Bobby eventually gets Luger to take a break from showing off, you’d think we were at one of those WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation) shows, so he can speak in his melodious tones for the humanoids and give his take on Mr. Perfect. Lex touts himself as incredible and says his unveiling to the world is history in the making. Luger says he will be, mark his words, the most dominant force that the WWF has ever seen. He says all the wrestlers will bow down on their knees before him because he is the most mesamorphically, magnificent physical specimen BEYOND perfection. Lex challenges Mr. Perfect to step into the ring with him but only, he says, if Mr. Perfect has the guts. Heenan concludes the presentation telling us that we’ve all been a part of history, calling the unveiling of “The Narcissist” the highlight of his career and a honor. Surely, the immediate feud of Luger and Perfect was ready-made. Will it produce the goods?
Coming direct from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada are both “Caesar” and “Cleopatra.” They are in Sacramento and the Arco Arena on this night to deliver a special proclamation for WrestleMania IX that’s upcoming in April. We shall be thoroughly entertained according to “Caesar.” The live crowd gives no reaction.
Monsoon quickly transitions to the 30-man Royal Rumble that’s mere moments away as Heenan re-joins him at the broadcast table. Bobby is befuddled that Gorilla can even discuss anything except his unveiling of Lex Luger though Monsoon gives him props. Funny.
30-Man Royal Rumble 1:28:01-2:34:42
* the winner earns a WWF Championship match at WrestleMania IX *
Participants (in order of entry): “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Bob Backlund, Papa Shango, “The Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs, Virgil, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Max Moon, Tenryu, Mr. Perfect, Skinner, Koko B. Ware, Headshrinker Samu, The Berzerker, The Undertaker, Terry Taylor, Damian Demento, I.R.S., “Native American” Tatanka, Nasty Boy Jerry Sags, Typhoon, Headshrinker Fatu, Earthquake, Carlos Colón, “El Matador” Tito Santana, “The Model” Rick Martel, Yokozuna, “The Rocket” Owen Hart, Repo Man, and, “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Result: Yokozuna (#27) last eliminating “Macho Man” Randy Savage (1:06:41).
Order of elimination:
Flair eliminates Papa Shango
DiBiase eliminates Brian Knobbs
Lawler eliminates Max Moon
Perfect eliminates Flair
Perfect eliminates Skinner
Perfect eliminates Lawler
Koko and DiBiase eliminate Perfect
The Berzerker eliminates Virgil
Undertaker eliminates Samu
Undertaker eliminates Tenryu
DiBiase eliminates Koko B. Ware and Terry Taylor
Undertaker eliminates DiBiase
Undertaker eliminates The Berzerker
Giant Gonzalez eliminates The Undertaker
Earthquake eliminates Typhoon
Colón eliminates Damian Demento
Backlund eliminates Fatu
Earthquake eliminates I.R.S.
Yokozuna eliminates Tatanka
Yokozuna eliminates Colón
Yokozuna eliminates Earthquake
Yokozuna eliminates Santana
Owen Hart eliminates Jerry Sags
Yokozuna eliminates Owen Hart
Savage eliminates Repo Man
Backlund eliminates Martel
Yokozuna eliminates Backlund
Yokozuna eliminates Savage
Analysis: Yokozuna was, coming into the 1993 Royal Rumble, the odds-on favorite to win. By entering at #27, and given the remaining partipants, the belief Yokozuna would win was even greater. He was dominant and the WWF creative was only going to push him further. There wasn’t another heel on the roster worthy of earning the WWF Championship match at WrestleMania IX so by default it was going to be Yokozuna challenging Bret “Hitman” Hart for the gold at Caesars Palace. There was another guy out there who could have faced Hart yet his ego wouldn’t allow himself to put Bret over. Yes, I’m talking about Hulk Hogan. That’s a story for another time. This Royal Rumble severely lacked star power and more mid card or tag-team filler comprised this 30-man field than any previous Rumble or most any Rumble in the 30 years since. Given the carrot of the WWF Championship match that alone had many names crossed off. Neither Flair or Perfect could win as in theory, either man was bound to leave the WWF the next night on Monday Night Raw in their “Loser Leaves the WWF” match. The Undertaker never got near the WWF Championship from 1992-1996 as some new monster was seemingly always thrown at him, this time the debuting Giant Gonzalez, all eight feet tall of him, as Doctor Harvey Wippleman comes thru on his promise of dropping a “big bomb” on The Undertaker as payback for what Taker did to Kamala. Bob Backlund, a former WWF Champion over many years, last a decade earlier in 1983, lasts 61+ in this Rumble to become the underdog story the live crowd could get behind only Backlund’s bid falls short. Savage was for all intents and purposes a color commentator and not used as an active wrestler at this point so his draw at #30 is merely for Yokozuna to eliminate a big name at the end. No one viewed Savage as a likely winner. There’s a lot of old feuds that resurface, ones that pre-date the WWF – – – though not discussed – – – and for nostaglia that’s fine. Overall, it’s a very predictable and pedestrian Rumble with the obvios winner. Giant Gonzalez’s debut was the one shock moment.
The Verdict: Yokozuna wins the Royal Rumble match as expected. Bret Hart retains the WWF Championship as expected though Razor Ramon helped craft a solid match. Jannetty and Michaels under-achieved in their IC Title match but Sensational Sherri needed to be left out of the storyline. Lex Luger makes his WWF debut as “The Narcissist” in a much hyped unveiling. The gimmick was tailor made for Luger’s heel persona. The Steiner Brothers have their WWF PPV debut. The Big Boss Man gets dominated on his way out by Bam Bam Bigelow. The event was the last PPV announced together by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as it turned out. The 1993 Royal Rumble is watched for nostalgia, if you’re reviewing the time period like myself, or cataloging the Royal Rumble from it’s beginning in 1988 to today. Otherwise, you read the recaps of it and skip over this particular year altogether.