Thursday, January 21, 2016

Revisiting the 1991 Royal Rumble!

It's a nostalgic look back at the WWF at the height of its early '90s glory ... and holy hell, are there are a lot of dead wrestlers in this one. 

By: Jimbo X

NOTE: This article is dedicated to the late, great Harry Simon, whose retro-tastic recaps of pro wrestling follies remain some of the most entertaining stuff you'll ever find on the Intrawebs. Thanks for the memories, Captain Clusterschmazz. - THX, MGMT. 

Even though I haven't watched a full pro wrestling event since George W. Bush was in office, a little piece of my heart - the same piece that enjoys eating raw cookie dough and furtively playing Flash-based Sega Genesis games at work - still professes a great interest and admiration of the Theatre of the American Proletariat. As I've said many times before, professional wrestling is pretty much the best stupid thing out there; whereas literally everything else in American society tries to reinforce its own self-importance, 'rasslin is pretty much the only cultural institution I can think of that actually revels in its own asininity and incredulity. In a world cluttered with pretentious bullshit, pro wrestling stands out as the complete antithesis, taking excessive pride in being totally ridiculous and utterly needless nonsense. 

While pro wrestling can rightly be considered weird form of performance art - indeed, I'd consider some of the high-end puroresu and lucha libre contests to border on ballet-caliber beauty - sometimes, even the violent grace of a Kawada/Misawa masterpiece is a bit too intellectual. And when even barbed-wire, exploding ring swimming pool death matches fail to get your retard juices flowing, there's only one resource to turn to ... the Royal fuckin' Rumble

Oh yes, that beloved annual rite, the Rumble. Forget the unheralded artistry and kinesthetic brilliance of performers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, this is pro 'rasslin in its purest, rawest essence. The epic showcases have sometimes featured as many as 40 grapplers going at it in a survival-pool battle royale where pinfalls and submissions don't mean shit and the only way to prove your superiority is to pick up your opponents by their ballsacks and throw 'em over the top rope like yesterday's garbage. Although the contests largely comprise of huge, indistinguishable masses of flab and steroids vibrating in the four corners of the ring for an hour and half, it's nonetheless about as exciting and engaging as pro wrestling gets. Nonfans will never grasp the inherent greatness of a Shinsuke Nakamura/Hiroshi Tanahashi battle, but by golly, everybody can enjoy the simple pleasures of watching fat and muscular people trying to throw each other to the floor. 

While modern Rumbles have taken on a new-found storyline significance (from 1993 onward, the victor of the contest is automatically awarded a championship match-up at WrestleMania), the older events were about nothing more than pride and honor, to see which wrestlers had the most stamina and longevity and ability to point at the ring ropes and raise their hands in the air, pantomiming dropping some lard-o on his tuckus (which probably  explains why Hulk Hogan won so many of them back in the day.) 

While wrestling purists (read: virgins) tend to cite the 1992 Rumble as the best of 'em all, I'd probably go with the 1991 iteration as my all-time favorite. Back when video stores still existed, I used to rent the VHS copy at least once every couple of months. To this day, I really have no idea why I liked it so much; none of the matches were really that great and the Rumble itself was fairly uneventful. Still, it had that aura, that sense of time and place being absolutely perfect. It was Hogan, Warrior, Savage, Sgt. Slaughter and The Million Dollar Man in their prime, with soon-to-be legends like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker slowly coming into their own. You could get better matches a few years down the road, but as far as general atmosphere, this was about as good as the WWF really got in the 1990s. 

But 25 years later, does the George H.W. Bush Era magic still linger? Only one way to find out, folks: time to fire up that VCR, hit play, and let the good times roll...

Before we get into the main card, we have ourselves a 30-minute long pre-show hard sell for the PPV, featuring Sean Mooney - who looks and sounds just like conservative gas-bag Sean Hannity - on the mic. He explains the Royal Rumble rules and runs down the Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter Championship bout. Eh, I guess I need to give you some background, no? The Ultimate Warrior - who was supposed to be the successor to Hulk Hogan - had been champion for about a year. Alas, he was never the draw Hogan was, and the WWF decided to pull the plug on his championship reign. Instead of having him drop the belt directly to Hogan, however, it was decided that Warrior would lose the title to Sgt. Slaughter - who had been recast as a Saddam Hussein sympathizer, right at the height of the first Gulf War - who, of course, would go on to have his ass kicked by the All-American (and black person hatin') Hulkster at that year's WrestleMania. 

Mooney reads a statement from WWF President Jack Tunney, who says Slaughter's views on the Gulf War do not represent the company, or even Arab people in general ... which is immediately followed by previously recorded footage of the Iron Sheik saying a bunch of menacing-sounding Arabic shit on Brother Love's talk show. 

The Ultimate Warrior - canonically, I think he was supposed to be some kind of intergalactic Indian - responds with a completely indecipherable promo, prompting Mooney to respond with the deadpan remark "some very emotional comments from the title holder." 

After some more hard-selling for the PPV WHICH IS STARTING IN JUST 20 MINUTES YA'LL, Mooney recaps the Rhodes family/Ted Dibiase rivalry. Apparently, it stems from the Million Dollar Man trying to buy Dustin Rhodes' ringside seat on an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, which by proxy cost Dusty Rhodes a countout loss against Randy Savage. More footage reveals Dibiase referring to Texans as the lowest form of life imaginable, except for his man-servant Virgil. Who is black. 

Sean Mooney, ladies and gentleman. THE Sean Mooney

From there, we get a nice overview of the Barbarian/Big Bossman feud, which was spurred by Bobby Heenan's nonstop insults directed towards the Big Bossmom. We get five solid minutes of Heenan riffing on Bossman's mom, calling her the stat of "Godzilla Eats Cobb County" and the consumer of 90 percent of the nation's beans, which, yeah, is pretty much the best thing ever. Oh, and there is some shit in there about the Rockers and the Orient Express, but really, who has time for that kind of stuff? 

The next ten minutes, we get a rundown of all 30 participants in the Rumble, with a few extended shit-talking segments from the likes of Hogan, Mr. Perfect, Jake the Snake and Earthquake, who is about as intelligible as Don Vito from Viva La Bam. And now? It's time for the pay-per-view portions of the evening, fellas and, uh, fellarettes? 

Oh, and because we are morbid-ass people, I'm going to keep a running tally of all the people featured on the PPV who, as of January 2016, have since passed on to the great canvas in the sky. Think we can accumulate enough after-the-fact corpses to fill up an all-deceased Royal Rumble? 

The show proper begins with a still shot of a waving American flag. Cue the National Anthem, as an instrumental, accompanied by tons of shots of kids in the arena sporting dumb haircuts. 

We get a quick highlight video name checking this year's Rumble participants, who include such illustrious wrestlers as Hulk Hogan, Bret "Hitman" Hart, The Tugboat and Saba goddamn Simba, which even by pro wrestling's lenient standards, is still racist as fuck.

We are coming to you LIVE from the Miami Arena in southern Florida/northern Cuba, as Roddy Piper (CORPSE COUNT: One) cuts a slobbery promo about the first Gulf War. Calling the action alongside him is Gorilla Monsoon (CORPSE COUNT: Two) in a bright red blazer, which he apparently got on loan from Richard Pryor.  

Howard Finkel introduces the New Orient Express, comprised of Pat Tanaka and Kato (who would later go on to portray the WWF's first wrestler citing the Moon as his hometown) and managed by Mr. Fuji (who unbelievably, is still alive.) Their opponents? The Rockers, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels, sporting puke blue, purple and gold britches with confetti-looking streamers glued all over them. 

Fittingly enough, the Express tries to Pearl Harbor the Rockers, but they shake them off. Jannetty ties up with Kato to begin the bout, and secures a traditional headlock takedown. Roddy tells us that's not a submission move, per se; rather, it is meant to apply pressure to your opponents lungs and wear them out. Kato gets an armdrag, and Marty fires back with a scissors roll and a bridging nearfall. Tanaka gets the tag, and in comes Shawn, who immediately goes to town on his foe's arm. Tanka hits Shawn with a flying forearm smash, and its time for an extended chinlock sequence. Gorilla reminds us the winner of this bout gets a tag team title shot against the Hart Foundation. Shawn bangs the Express' heads together, and he follows it up with another chinlock. Cue a "We Will Rock You Chant" from the crowd, which is weird, but still not as weird as hearing the fans shout "Whoomp! There It Is" over and over again at mid-'90s WCW shows. 

Shawn applies a sleeperhold. While the ref's back is turned, Kato sneaks in a cheap shot. Tanaka responds with a nice leg sweep, and Roddy reminds us about the WWF's policy on open-handed punches only. Shawn hits a moonsault - remember, this was back when NOBODY did any twisty-looking shit - and it is time for a good old fashioned, four-man donnybrook. In a great sequence, the Rockers hit stereo dropkicks and follow them up with dual suicide slides to the outside. For early 1990s WWF, this is actually some fairly intense stuff. 

So Kato crawls back in and Michaels almost gets a near-fall. Jannetty gets the tag, and we default to a lengthy headlock sequence. Shawn goes back in, hits a high suplex, and the Orient double teams him. Shawn is dropped throat first on the top rope, and Mr. Fuji uses the downtime to whack 'em once with his cane. And remember, that's one of those Japanese canes, and God only knows what kind of super-hard wood they make their shit out of. 

Tanaka with more throat chops. USA chant. More chopping from Tanka, and one of of those weird leapfrog jumping attack thingies on Shawn's kidneys. Jannetty breaks up the pin attempt. Tanaka still working the throat. There is an extended nerve pinch sequence, which prompts Piper to ironically state "there's no gas shortage here." 

Kato gets the tag. Gorilla talks about how well the Express is cutting the ring in half (proverbially, not physically.) Tanaka crescent kicks Michaels. Double clothesline nets a two-count for Tanaka. It's a classic "Memphis-style" tag bout now, with one of the good guys getting the dogshit beat out of him be them evil foreigners, desperately in need of the hot, redemptive tag from his hyper eager-partner. Of course, Marty gets the tag and cleans house with a million billion scoop slams and dropkicks, but he only gets a two-count on a Kato power slam. 

Michaels and Tanaka brawl on the outside. Jannetty gets a backslide pin, but Kato reverses, but who gives a fuck, because he only gets a two-count. Michaels trips up Kato, Jannetty gets another near-fall. Double kick from the Rockers. Michaels goes up top but Tanaka kicks him off. A slingshot from Kato allows Tanaka to brain chop Marty. But Shawn comes in at the last second, allowing Jannetty to secure a sunset flip pin out of nowhere. It's pretty rudimentary stuff by today's standards, but for the time, that was actually some pretty hot shit, especially considering the slow as molasses stuff that comprised 85 percent of most WWF matches. 

Mooney is in the back with the Macho Man (CORPSE COUNT: Three), who said Sgt. Slaughter will give him a title shot if he wins the championship tonight. As insurance, he's hired the Sensational Sherri (CORPSE COUNT: Four) to go out and "bait" the Ultimate Warrior (CORPSE COUNT: Five) into giving him the same guarantee. 

So Sherri is on an interviewing platform with Mean Gene, with a picture-in-picture in the bottom corner of the screen showing Savage watching intensely. She challenges the Ultimate Warrior to give the Macho Man a title shot, labeling him "yellow" from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes. Sure enough, this prompts the champion to come out, rocking some super patriotic regalia - including  red white and blue tighty-whities and a Chuck Norris-caliber red and black leather jacket. 

Ahh ... were would the wrestling world be without pandering to the lowest common denominator?

All right, I guess I should've mentioned the historical context of this way earlier. You see, this PPV aired right before Operation: Desert Shield kicked off in Saudi Arabia, which was the predicate for Operation: Desert Storm (aka, that time George H.W. kicked the dogshit out of Saddam Hussein, but for some reason, never finished him off.) As such, the hyper-patriotic pro-wrestling fan base was stirred up into a militaristic tizzy, and the WWF was totally stoked to keep the pro-USA/killing brown foreigners sentiments a-raging. As anyone who recalls my recap of WCW's "Dixie Dynamite" card would remember, the fake-fighting business was more than eager to keep the jingoism rolling, even though the actual fighting was more or less over and done with by March '91.

So back to Sherri - who looks like Cher, if Cher did a lot of heroin - as she attempts to seduce the Warrior by touching his chest, rubbing his "big, wide back" and complimenting his "wonderful hair." After he rebuffs a smooch, she gets down on her knees and begs him for a title shot ... not at all looking like she's about to give him a BJ or anything. 

So, Warrior hocks a loogie on the floor, starts shaking like Michael J. Fox getting electrocuted and screams "NO!" much to the crowd's delight. After he pounds his chest and leaves, Savage goes BERSERK in the locker room, breaking all kinds of shit and threatening to kick the champion's ass right then and there. 

Up next, we've got the Barbarian - some sort of steroid-addled, time-displaced Viking warrior who wears antlers and a fur pelt - taking on the Big Boss Man (CORPSE COUNT: Six), whose canonical day job is jailing' sum bitches in Cobb County, Georgia. Oh, and the whole reason they are scuffling is because the Barbarian's handler, Bobby Heenan, won't stop saying hilariously mean things about Boss Man's mama. 

A lock-up to begin. Boss Man gets the best of an early exchange. Barbarian takes a tumble to the outside and gets a good eye-rake in, which he follows with an ax handle smash. Boss Man (we will just call him "Boss" to save bandwidth from hereon out) catches him and tosses him over the top rope (which, as we all know, would've gotten him disqualified had he done such in rival company WCW at that point in time.)

Piper says these are among the two best athletes he's ever seen, meaning Piper in his storied career has seen at least two wrestlers before. Barb gets a suplex. Boss is down, but not out. A roundhouse right sends Boss reeling to the outside, and oh snap, he gets his leg tied up in the bottom two ropes, allowing Barb to tee off on him. Barb untangles Boss and slams into a metal ring post, back first. He wails on the canvas, and Heenan gets a few free kicks in while the ref is distracted. 

Boss rolls back in and Barb continues to stomp him. Boss sells a backbreaker like his back really is broken. Cue an extended bear hug sequence, with Boss slowly starting to fight back. And check this dude in the front row with an air-brushed denim Warrior jacket and a sweet mullet (hell, he might even be a young Eddie Guerrero, for all I know.) More elbow drops from Barb, but they only net a two-count. More bear-huggery. Piper says Boss needs to try to leverage out of the hold by doing something to Barb's crotch. He instead headbutts him and takes a chunk out of forehead. Rather dirty tactics for an alleged "face" and law-keeper, eh, Boss Man?

So Boss gets an enziguri and a near fall. Now Boss is totally on the offensive. Barb with a two count on a roll-up attempt. A slingshot, uh, shot, sends Barb to the ropes, with a two-count on the follow through. A double knockdown following a clothesline-thingy. Barb lands a top-rope clothesline, but Boss gets his foot on the bottom rope to interrupt the pinfall. Boss retaliates with a sidewalk slam, and Barb ripostes with an eye poke and weird piledriver-looking thing. He goes up top again, but Boss reverse the cross body on the mat and picks up a three count out of nowhere. 

We go to the back, where Sean Mooney is interviewing that dastardly turncoat Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Shiek, who cuts a promo in what I assume to be Farsi. (Which, as it turns out, is the language of Iran and NOT Saddam's Iraq, but hey, who's counting?) Slaughter calls his adversary the "Ultimate Puke" and promises that his winning the title will cause "turmoil like you've never seen before," and that Warrior's weeks, days and hours have ceased being numbered. This leads to a Mean Gene interview with the Warrior, he says he only takes orders and doesn't give them. Then he says something about a grain of sat and a foxhole leading to defeat and that only demented people would follow Slaughter. 

So, Slaughter saunters to the ring with Sheik waving the Iraqi flag. Piper uses the time to discuss the merits of the First Amendment and that while he doesn't like Slaughter's politics, he certainly believes he has the right to express his unpopular opinion. A kid holds a sign that reads "Gomer is a traitor," which makes me ponder how the hell a six-year-old circa 1991 knew who Gomer Pyle was. Dudebros pump fists for the Warrior when he comes out, with kids throwing their little wrestling buddy dolls in the air like they just don't care

As expected, Warrior comes out swinging, clotheslining everybody for AMERICA, dammit. He breaks the Iraqi flag pole over his knees and rips the flag itself in half, much to the crowd's jubilant, jingoistic, delight. 

Warrior beats Sgt. with the flag remnants, choking him with the fabric and shoving the cloth in his mouth. The match begins proper, with Warrior whupping that ass with clotheslines every which-a-way. Out comes Sherri, whom Warrior chases to the back, only to get Pearl Harbored by Macho Man, who pummels him with a guard rail and sneaks off back to the locker room. 

Warrior stumbles towards the ring, as the fans chant "USA." Sgt keeps breaking up the count-out so he can win the belt (titles can't change hands, per wrestling convention, unless its by pin fall or submission.) Warrior starts to slowly "Warrior Up" - you know, all that shaking the ropes and "raising the roof" retarded shit he does. It's a short comeback though, as Sgt. goes back to working the back with elbow drops and stomps. WHICH MEANS IT IS CAMEL CLUTCH TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS. But Warrior's feet are dangling outside the mat, so the ref waves it off. Warrior starts dancing around like a possessed Injun and clotheslines Sgt. a million billion times before finishing him off with a flying shoulder tackle. But dabnabit, here comes that wicked Sherri, whom Warrior gorilla press slams to the outside onto Macho Man. 

That allows Sgt. to attack Warrior from behind. Macho whacks Warrior with a scepter, which allows Sgt. to pick up the easy three count. A loud "bullshit" chant ensues once Sgt. is announced as the new World Champ. Warrior storms back to the locker room to chase down Maho Man, while Sgt. celebrates his title win with the Iron Sheik. Without hyperbole, this is a greater travesty than the Holocaust. 

Presumably, Gorilla's shades give him the same enlightening worldview Piper experienced in They Live

Up next, we've got a throwaway bout between Koko B. Ware and The Mountie (accompanied by Jimmy Hart, of course.) Piper throws a shoutout to Michael Nelson for "kicking butt" in the Middle East, and promises to buy the returning troops a big glass of "skim milk, and maybe something else." 

Monsoon said the Mountie uses "mounted police submission tactics," which apparently includes the art of holding the back of one's head and pressing down on their nose like a ketchup dispenser. He slams Koko's head into the ring post and starts goose-steeping. Piper says "damn it," but quickly amends himself to "dog gone it." Yeah, not much more to say about this one - The Mountie wins, in case you were wondering. And you don't.

Sean Mooney is backstage with Macho Man, with Warrior trying to break the door down. At the announce desk, Piper and Gorilla recap the Warrior/Savage feud, and what the ultimate outcome of Slaughter's victory means for the WWF. 

Mean Gene is in the back with Slaughter and Sheik, the latter of whom is probably high on cocaine. Unlike other military leaders, Sgt. says he has no boundaries, and that as maggots, we are all summarily dismissed from the interview. This is followed by a lengthy pre-taped segment, featuring fans outside the arena talking about how much they support the troops.

Now it's time for a million-trillion Royal Rumble promos. Hogan said he is going to military bases all over the U.S. to encourage the troops, because the D.O.D. shot down his proposal to tour the Middle East so he could presumably Atomic Leg Drop the Republican Guard.  To recap the hype videos: Jake the Snake hates Rick Martel, Earthquake is all jumpy and hates Hogan, Greg Valentine want to use his "hammer" to crash down on 29 other people and Jim Duggan is literally retarded. 

More hard-selling from Piper and Monsoon. Piper talks about having dinner with Virgil, which once again involves discussion of "skim milk." Backstage, Mooney interviews "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase and his tag team partner, Virgil, who is literally his slave. And yes, Virgil just so happens to be an African-American. In the year 1991. 

Anyway, they are taking on the father and son combo of Dusty (CORPSE COUNT:Seven) and Dustin Rhodes, who would find greater success in the ring portraying a homosexual, anthropomorphic awards statue.  There's a lot of animosity between Virgil and Dibiase, with the abusive Dibiase perhaps pushing his man-servant a bit too hard as of late. Regardless, they begin the contest by attacking the Rhodes' from behind, with Dustin landing a sweet drop kick on Virgil, who is immediately chided by his "master." Ted gets the tag and proceeds to beat the dog shit out of Dustin, until Dusty gets the tag and locks the Million Dollar Man in a sleeperhold - which is promptly broken up by Virgil. 

Dustin gets back in and a dropkick finds its mark on Ted. Virgil breaks it up, and Piper - in defense of the American prole - said he enjoys riding a jet ski more than he does a yacht. Dibiase slams Dustins' leg against the ring post, and Virgil unintentionally strikes Ted. Dibiase responds be beating the holy hell out of his own partner. Dusty comes in and starts wailing on Dibiase, but Ted is nonetheless able to weather the storm and secure a flash roll-up pin out of nowhere for the victory. 

Post-match, Dibiase criticizes Virgil, telling him to go get his Million Dollar belt - canonically, Dibiase is so rich he had his own damn belt made just for him - and wrap it around his waist like a good pickaninny. Virgil, instead, throws it to the mat. Dibiase tells him to think of his poor ass family and mama. And Virgil smashes him in the face with the strap, as "the capacity crowd" goes wild. 

And we have one last round of hype videos before the Royal Rumble proper kicks off. Hulk dedicates the Rumble to the troops, mispronounces the word "firepower," and can't remember who Saddam Hussein is. Yeah, you need to YouTube this shit

Having a black wrestler come out carrying a spear and wearing a loincloth. Yep, nothing insensitive about that whatsoever!

For those of you requiring an overview of how the Royal Rumble works, it's pretty simple. Two men start scuffling in the ring, and every two minutes, another entrant enters the fray. The only way to win is to toss your opponent over the top rope to the mat below, and the last man standing once all 30 men have entered is the winner. 

Entrant number one is Bret Hart. Entrant number two is Dino Bravo (CORPSE COUNT: Eight), so it's basically an all Canadian jamboree to get things rolling. 

Greg "The Hammer Valentine" draws slot three. He eliminated Dino Bravo and beats up Jimmy Hart for good measure. Entrant no. 4 is Paul Roma, a.k.a. the shittiest Horseman ever, alongside his manager Slick, who I totally forgot was still employed by the WWF that late into the 1990s. 

Bret headbutts Valentine's ass for no reason. No. 5 is the Texas Tornado, Kerry Von Erich (CORPSE COUNT: Nine), back when he still had a leg. And, uh, was all alive and stuff. No. 6 is Rick "The Model" Martel, and No. 7 is none other than SABA fucking SIMBA, who is bodybuilder Tony Atlas literally portraying a spear-chucking bushman from the African jungle. 

Tornado puts "The Claw" to Roma. No. 8 is Bushwhacker Butch, and Martel eliminates Simba. 

No. 9 is Jake the Snake, who makes a beeline for Martel. Jake gets a huge ovation when he beats the fuck out of the French Canadian model with short-arm clotheslines. No. 10 is Hercules (CORPSE COUNT: 10), who teams up with Power and Glory partner Roma to pound on the Butch. 

No. 11 is Tito Santana. Roma is eliminated trying to send Jake over the top rope. No. 12 is The Undertaker ... accompanied by Brother Love and not Paul Bearer ... who immediately eliminates Bret. No. 13 is murder suspect Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Taker eliminates Butch. 

No. 14 is the British Bulldog (CORPSE COUNT: 11), who allegedly drugged his wife's OJ so he could anally terrorize her. No. 15 is Smash from Demolition. Martel eliminates Jake. 

No. 16 is Hawk (CORPSE COUNT: 12) from the Legion of Doom. Half the ring gangs up on him. No. 17 is Shane Douglas, rocking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Creamsicle orange underwear. Superfly and the Texas Tornado are eliminated.

No. 18 is ... nobody. Well, that's some shit. No. 9 is Animal from L.O.D., who rescues his tag team partner from the Taker. Monsoon lets us know whoever had the 18th spot has officially forfeit his spot in the Rumble. A double L.O.D. clotheslines eliminates the Taker, but Hawk gets dumped immediately afterwards. 

No. 20 is Crush (CORPSE COUNT: 13) of Demolition. He helps Smash double team the Bulldog. No. 21 is Jim Duggan. Piper tells us the Rumble requires a lot of strategy, and that if he were in that motherfucker, he'd be going after the guys who have been in the match the longest. No. 2 is Earthquake (CORPSE COUNT: 14), who immediately eliminates Animal.

No. 23 is Mr. Perfect (CORPSE COUNT: 14). Brilliantly, he takes his sweet time ambling to the ring. Although he is assailed by Duggan as soon as he steps through the ropes, he manages to eliminate Hacksaw in no time. 

No. 24 is Hulk Hogan, who gets a huge ovation because its a good 25 years before we all knew he was a racist. He eliminates Smash and tangles up with Earthquake, who teams up with Hercules to pound the Hulkster.

No. 25 is Haku, rocking some awesome rainbow britches. Valentine is eliminated after 44 minutes in the bout. Martel chokes Hulk with his tattered shirt.

No. 26 is Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, who for some reason, never tag-teamed alongside Gred "The Hammer" Valentine. Quake tosses Santana, and Perfect tries to eliminate Hulk. Quake ass smashes Douglas, and I laugh a hearty laugh. 

No. 27 is Bushwhacker Luke, who is instantly eliminated by Earthquake. No. 28 is Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs, who once lost the physical tag team belt while smoking weed with Willie Nelson. Hercules is eliminated. No. 29 is Warlord, who was basically Goldberg before Goldberg was Goldberg. Hulk eliminates Crush, then drops Warlord. 

And the final man in? Tugboat. Apparently, Savage was supposed to be No. 18, but he got scared Warrior would come after him and kick his anus. And with all of our contestants in, it is time for things to get really rocking.

Douglas is eliminated. You know, the whole bout, Monsoon kept putting him over, talking about him being a hot up and comer. I wonder what went wrong there?

Down to the final ten. I think. Quake steps on Perfect, and Piper apologizes for saying "living hell." Hulk eliminates Tugboat and Perfect gets dumped by the Bulldog. 

Martel eliminates Anvil and Bulldog gets rid of Haku. Our final five? Hulk, Quake, Bulldog, Martel and Knobbs. Bulldog eliminates Martel, who was in the contest for 53 minutes. Quake and Knobbs eliminate the Bulldog and double team Hulk.

Following some ass splashes from Quake and a few elbow drops from Knobbs, Hulk HULKS UP and double clothelines both of those motherfuckers. He boots Knobbs clean out of the ring and Hulk starts unloading on Quake ... for the troops

Hulk punches out Jimmy Hart and Quake reverses a body slam attempt by the Hulkster. Quake retaliates with another elbow drop onslaught. The fans chant for Hogan, and he HULKS UP again. He no sells Quake's punches and hits the big boot and a body slam. Then he dumps him to officially win the 1991 Royal Rumble.

Cure "Real American," as the Hulkster does his iconic poses and shows off some of the fans' posters, including one that reads "Peace in the Middle East" and another stating that Saddam and Slaughter will both surrender. Piper screams "God Bless America," Hulk waves Old Glory, says his prayers to the man upstairs and this one is all over, folks. 

Relevant then, and relevant now, brother. 

Well, that was some stuff, wasn't it? As little more than a set-up for WrestleMania VII, it wasn't a half-bad PPV, especially considering the timeframe. For those wondering where we went from there, the Hulkster did indeed whoop Slaughter's ass and take back the World Heavyweight Championship, and Warrior exacted his revenge against the Macho Man in a now-classic "loser-most-retire" match (in which Savage stayed retired for all of eight months.) While Virgil didn't win his independence from Dibiase, he did earn himself some new-found self-respect, and with it, the eternal friendship of one Rowdy Roddy Piper. And oh yeah, Jake the Snake and Rick Martel fought each other with burlap sacks over their heads in a match that more or less consisted of them running into the ring posts and stretching their arms out like Frankenstein for ten minutes. All in all, it very well may have been the best $39.99 you could have spent on anything in the year 1991

While nothing on this card was Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat in their prime-quality 'rasslin, overall, it was a pretty entertaining little show, with a way better than average for the company tag team opener and a satisfying, all-star clobber-a-thon featuring all sorts of grappling giants and titans of the squared circle, many of whom have since gone on to that great wrestling ring in the sky. Yes, it is antiquated and outmoded and and corny and cheesy and sometimes groan-inducing, but this Rumble maintains a sense of temporal quaintness, serving as a time capsule for not just early 1990s U.S. pro wrestling, but really, early 1990s American popular culture in general. 

As a cultural relic, I'm not sure what kind of relevancy this two and a half-decade old PPV has, but certainly, it has some sort of vintage value. It's dumb and it's semi-offensive and you can't help but scoff at how lame parts of it are, but as a whole? It's hard to not walk away from this show with a big, dopey grin on your face. And in the end, isn't that the whole point of 'rasslin - and really, the entire entertainment industry - to begin with? 

1 comment:

  1. For the corpse count, you can now add Mr. Fuji, Jim Niedhart, and Jimmy Snuka to the list.


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