Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Revisiting the 1996 Royal Rumble!

Bret vs. Taker for the WWF title! Goldust trying to get gay with Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental title! And in quite possibly the most star-studded Rumble ever, it's HBK, Diesel, Big Van Vader, pre-Stone Cold Steve Austin and ... uh, Takao Omori, for some reason.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo___X

Another year, another Royal Rumble. I may not exactly be the biggest contemporary wrestling fan, but I at least check the dirt sheets every January for a rundown of what happens in WWE's signature 30-man, over-the-top-rope elimination spectacular (yeah, I know, sometimes it's more than 30 wrestlers, but don't be a niggling little asshole.) I've already written about what it is, precisely, that makes the Rumble so appealing, so I won't regurgitate my own work. I will, however, summarize its inherent awesomeness as such: a good goddamn, is it fun as shit watching really fat dudes and super muscular steroid addicts toss each other around like sacks of potatoes for an hour straight, especially when it involves counting backwards from 10 every 90 seconds.

By and large, the '96 Rumble is pretty much forgotten, and for obvious reasons. The WWF was at this weird juncture where it wasn't quite the goofy PG-rated cartoon shit of the early 1990s, but it was still a few years away from embracing the so-called "Attitude" era. So we got a few glimmers of both the company's retarded past and its retarded future on this show, complete with one of the strangest Royal Rumble matches ever - both in terms of participants and general booking. 

But hey, don't just take my word for it ... howzabout we go back in time and revisit the whole soiree together?

Alright, we begin the '96 shindig with the first ever Free-For-All event. What's that, you may ask? Gather around, children, old Jimbo's got a little history lesson for 'ya.

You see, back in the day, back before we had 9,000 channel cable packages with no less than 30 different versions of Skinamax, we had this thing called the Prevue Channel, which was this one channel that basically scrolled TV listings for other channels 24 hours a day. The funny thing about it was that just half the screen space was used for the listings (which usually chugged along at a snail's space) so the top half of the screen either rolled promos for PPV movies and events or a random assortment of weird ass commercials (you know, like those "1-800 order now!" ads for Pinkard and Bowden albums on audio cassette and Dorf Goes Fishing videos.) Well, the WWF got this crazy idea to pay to use that top half of the screen for live "pre-show" events that rolled about a half hour before PPVs went live (so yeah, they kinda were a precursor to the UFC prelim fights on Fox Sports) that pimped the hell out of their Pay-Per-View spectacles. In hindsight, it was a pretty innovative move (for fuck's sake, the WWF even released a "Best of Free-For-All" videotape eventually), but at the time, it just came off as desperate pandering (remember, this was around the point the Monday Night Wars were really starting to heat up.) So all that to say - all the shit we're about to talk about for the next couple of paragraphs was sorta' ahead of its time, but at the time, nobody really gave a shit. JUST TO CLARIFY. 

So we get a pretty well done, sorta' spooky promo for the main event (Bret vs. Taker, back when neither of them looked like real-life Randy the Rams ) and we go LIVE to Dok Hendrix (no relation to Michael "P.S." Hayes, I hear) and TODD FUCKIN' PETTENGILL, who was basically the larval form of Michael Cole. Doing the live play-by-play is face announcer Vince and Mr. Perfect.

Our totally free of charge bout is a contest between Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Duke "The Dumpster" Drose. Whoever wins enters the Rumble at No. 30, while whoever loses has to enter at No. 1. 

Dok is in the back with Jim Cornette and VADER, who is making his big WWF debut tonight. The former WCW champ talks about Boulder, Colo. and how he's still "The Prince of Power" even though he's in a totally different promotion. "I'm not here to look good," he says, "I'm here to cause pain." Todd then interviews Jake the Snake, who lets us know his snake is big (LOL, penis innuendo) but not as big as the inner demons he has faced. Well, that's pretty much the kind of thing you expect a dude who smokes crack to say, I guess.

Another Undertaker promo rolls. Perfect says some shit about him being impervious to pain, so there's no way Bret can beat him. Quickly realizing that defeats the purpose of PIMPING A MAIN EVENT, he soon corrects himself and says he really has no idea who's going to win the title and it was "wrong" of him to even consider picking a winner in the first place.

We get a recap of the last In Your House (that was the one from Dec. 1995 that had that awesome but strangely unheralded Bret/Davey Boy main event), where Diesel is all kinds of pissed about not getting a title shot. We get highlights from a Raw interview with Bret saying he doesn't give a fuck about "the dark side" and passive aggressively laughing off the presence of Paul Bearer and his urn. By the way, this was back when Taker was still wearing that awesome skeletal "Phantom of the Opera" mask thingy.

The late, great Gorilla Monsoon, seen here making good use of the WWF's instant replay capabilities for the first - and probably only - time in company history.

Todd's in the back with HHH, back when he still had that terrible British accent. "You tell the fat lady she's on in five minutes," Hunter remarks. Well shit, that's a horrible thing to say about Stephanie McMahon!

Out comes Duke the Dumpster. God, I miss how fake excited face announcer Vince used to get when the good guys came out. "There's no stinking guarantees in the World Wrestling Federation," Duke says. Get it, because his kayfabe profession is working with garbage, which usually stinks!

So, it's a blueblood from Connecticut taking on a sanitation worker. I know Vince is supposed to be some sort of hardcore Republican guy now, but I'll be damned if there wasn't a lot of symbolic, Marxist class warfare going on in the WWF at this time. Shit, at the last PPV, Hunter was having to wrestle a fucking pig farmer ... in a goddamn hog sty match.

HHH, allegedly, was undefeated at the time of this match. We begin with your customary lock-up, with a shoulder block supplied by Duke. HHH reverse that old 10-count corner punch thingy and Vince apologizes for some audio difficulties. Duke runs into the turnpost, feigns an injury and then gets hit with various jumping armbars. Perfect says he's trying to weaken his opponent's arms, because this was back when "ring psychology" was still a thing. Duke escapes, HHH works on an armbar and then he start punching the shit out of the Dumpster, culminating with a really nice looking jumping knee to the face. HHH jumps off the top rope and, of course, Duke puts a leg up and jacks his jaw. Perfect uses the opportunity to make a joke about the New York Jets (they sucked that year, in case you were wondering.) Duke screams like a hillbilly on meth and starts wailing on HHH. He lands a power slam and Vince keeps chiding Perfect by saying "I think I just said that" after everything he says. HHH reverses a suplex and Duke counters with backbreaker. That's when HHH says "fuck it," heads over to the corner, pulls some sort of bludgeoning device from his boot and busts Duke upside the head with it. Naturally, this results in a quick 1-2-3, but hold on, here comes Gorilla Monsoon, who uses instant replay to prove to the ref that HHH cheated like a motherfucker. The Fink announces the decision has been reversed, so Duke enters the Rumble at No. 30 while HHH begins at No.1. Unsurprisingly, he is none too pleased about that and jumps around looking all angry and stuff. 

Up next we get a quick recap of the Razor Ramon/Goldust rivalry and this is just tremendous. We watch Goldust's usher (remember that?) send Ramon gold flowers and semi-lewd photos and Goldust himself reveals he got a tattoo of Razor on his chest. Naturally, this leads to Razor beating the shit out of Goldust backstage on the go-home Raw before the PPV, because fuck, who wouldn't want to beat up some dude that kept sending them shit like that? Pettengill then asks the million dollar question - "will Goldust succeed by using Razor's machismo against him?"

Nice shot of a dude wearing an NBA Jam shirt in the crowd. Shawn Michaels strolls to the ring wearing a silver sequin ensemble that is 20 times gayer than Goldust's get-up. He poses in the ring before an interview, in which he says he's coming into the Rumble whenever he wants and leaving it whenever he wants. Goddamn, you have got to see these gaudy-ass earrings he's wearing. Perfect calls him "cocky" and Vince spits out a really bad fake laugh. "He was born that way," McMahon adds.

Dok is with HHH, who wants to know when the WWF instituted its instant replay rule. After that, we get a quick transitional bumper featuring a bunch of ritzy people beating each other up. Following a brief vignette with Sunny in a bubble bath sipping champagne, we get a five minute long opening promo going over the night's line-up.

And now it's main card PPV time. Jeff Jarrett struts to the ring and we get a recap of Double J beating the shit out of Ahmed Johnson at the last IYH. Ahmed comes stomping to the ring, sort of like a chocolate Ultimate Warrior. We begin with a Johnson hip toss, a headlock from JJ and another Ahmed short-arm clothesline. Johnson follows suit with a scoop slam and elbow smash. Also, he screams really, really loud everytime he hits a move. He gets caught in the ropes so naturally that allots JJ ample time to get a few cheap shots in. We get some outside scuffling once Ahmed is freed and JJ launches his foe into metal ring steps. JJ hit an axe handle smash, and Johnson starts walking around the ring, no selling Jeff's attacks and just kind of - well, vibrating in place. I guess that's his version of "Hulking up?" He hits a huge spinebuster on Jarrett and follows it up with a fucking SPRINGBOARD PLANCHA OVER THE TOP ROPE TO JJ ON THE OUTSIDE. Well, shit, that was actually kinda' impressive. LOL when Perfect says that was from "15 feet down" when it's clear the ring is like, just four feet off the ground. Up next, Ahmed botches a 450 splash (no bullshit, an actual 450 splash) and Jeff looks for the figure four. He has it, but Johnson reverses it and it makes all the leg hurty travel down Jeff's muscles instead (hooray for 'rassling science!) Jarrett runs to the outside, grabs a guitar, climbs atop the top rope and yep, proceeds to El Kabong Johnson to get himself disqualified. Once Johnson comes to, he chases Jeff down the rampway and into the locker room. And that's the last we'll see of either of these two tonight.

So yeah, this means Chuck and Billy was only the second gayest tag team Mr. Ass has been a part of.

We're backstage with WWF tag team champs the Smoking Gunns. They ain't losing to the Bodydonnas tonight, no way, no how. Todd talks with Diesel, who says being in the Rumble is like being a ninth grader left home alone for the first time. He says he ain't scared of Vader because he's "an unproven prospect."

The Bodydonnas (that's Chris "Skip" Candido and Bruce "Zip" Pritchard) come out first with Sunny. Then the Smoking Gunns arrive, much to excited face Vince's contentment. (Although I have to say, I am disappointed they don't shot holes in the arena roof with pistols like they used to.)

Skip and Billy to begin. Double team on Bart. The Bodydonnas clean house and then Billy wipes 'em both out with a plancha to the outside. Skip gets pinballed between dueling Gunn fisticufss. Sunny shakes her ass to distract the defending tag champs. Now it's Bart (complete with a really, really shitty mustache) duking it out with Zip. Lots of chops in the corner, then a gorilla press slam. Per Vince: "You'd have to be Plastic Man to make that tag." Now the ref is confused about who the legal men are. Sunny then distracts the ref and then she takes a bump to the outside. Billy, ever the chivalrous sort, goes to check up on her and - of course, the Bodydonnas take the opportunity to Pearl Harbor him. Then Sunny pops right back up like she was never hurt to begin with. The Bodydonnas keep doing this weird shit were they suplex each other on the Gunns for nearfalls. Skip with a fist drop on Billy. The Bodydonnas run into each other. Billy looking for the hot tag. Bart is in and he fucks up everybody. They hit the Sidewinder (basically, a churched up top rope leg drop) but Sunny distracts the ref again, so the Bodydonnas get another sneak attack in. But it's only good for a two count. Double suplex attack on Bart, Skip gets tackled by Billy and he locks in a roll-up pinfall out of nowhere to retain the title.

Up next we get one of those infamous "Billionaire Ted" skits, and goddamn, is this shit petty. A facsimile of Ted Turner has a boardroom meeting with caricatures of Hulk Hogan, the Macho Man and Mean Gene Okerlund, with the Hulk pastiche stating "at my age, my feet don't leave the ground" and he and the faux Randy Savage getting into a posing contest in lieu of actually wrestling. "The New Generation is on top of the hill," the promo concludes, "not over it."

The Intercontinental title match is next. Razor is in the locker room. He says this is his fourth year at the Rumble challenging for or defending a title instead of participating in the main attraction itself. Goldust comes out first, alongside Marlena (who is making her WWF debut tonight.) Perfect and Vince just keep calling her "Goldust's director" because they didn't know what to actually call her at that point. "This is very, very strange and unusual," comments Vince. The crowd still has not idea how to react to Goldust, and it's marvelous.

Razor comes out fairly calm. Marlena sits in the director's chair and the usher, uh, consoles her, I guess? Ramon flicks a toothpick at Goldust, who licks his fingers all creepily in response. Ramon yanks Dust's arm. Another stalemate. A hilarious moment occurs when Dust ties up Razor in a full nelson and starts rubbing his chest hair. "Is he going to check him for a hernia next?" quips Perfect. Goldust with a hard slap. Ramon retaliates by slapping Dust on the head ... and then his ass.

We get a chase outside. Dust literally hides behind Marlena. Dust is back in the ring and he blows Razor a kiss. The fans erupt when Razor clotheslines the shit out of him. Vince talks about Razor not being able to get any momentum going. Dus rams Razor into the ring steps. Axehandle smash off the top rope as Goldust goes on the offensive.

Goldust with a bulldog and a back body drop. Perfect calls it a "perfectly executed slingshot suplex," for some reason. Marlena blows literal "gold dust" in Razor's eyes. Dust hits a swinging neckbreaker, then locks in a sleeperhold. "If he puts Razor to sleep, he can do anything he wants to him," says Perfect. Vince follows up with a five star riposte - "well, anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation." 

Ramon gets out of the hold by kicking Dust in his big, golden balls. Razor with a proto-Rock Bottom. It only gets a two. Razor with a fallaway slam for just a two-count. Dust with an eye poke, the he gets crotched on the top rope. Marlena gets in the ring. Ramon signals for the Razor's Edge, but the fucking 1-2-3 Kid runs out of the crowd and hits him with a spinning kick off the top rope, which allows Goldust to score the pinfall and win the IC title.

Without question, the most unsung LGBT rights crusader of the mid-1990s.

We hear from Shawn Michael's "physician," who says he is well enough to compete (remember, 'cause he got kayfabe concussed by Owen on Raw a couple of weeks earlier?) After that, we get the prerequisite Rumble hype promos, with comments from Owen, Jake the Snake, Jerry the King, BARRY HOROWITZ, Vader and, of course, Shawn Michaels. Vince and Perfect go over the Rumble protocol, and the 1996 shindig is an all-go.

HHH is out first. Number two is Henry O. Godwin, with a slop bucket en tow. Get it? He's a hog farmer and his initials are literally "H.O.G." Anyhoo, he hits a lot of power moves and then it's time for the No. 3 entrant - BOB FUCKING BACKLUND. Cue the best moment in life ever when Baklund just punches the everloving shit of HHH.

Entrant No. 4? Jerry Lawler, whom the crowd calls "Burger King," although "accused pedophile" would probably rankle him more. King grabs the slop bucket and everybody runs out of the ring because they don't want pig shit thrown on them. HOG retrieves the bucket and dumps its contents on the competitors on the outside. Perfect says it's like a Gallagher concert at ringside.

"Start your engines," face Vince says, because entrant No. 5 is Bob Holly, back when he had a sweet mullet and was pretending to be a race car driver instead of just some regular bleach blond asshole. (And yeah, it's technically only supposed to be "blonde" when you're talking about a chick, so hey, you learned something today.

As an aside, I do love watching Backlund beat the fuck out of everyone.

No. 6 is King Mabel. "Talk about a heavy favorite," Perfect declares. "You will have to call AAA to get Mabel out of the ring."

Tag team partner Mo accompanies him. Hey, what exactly was the eponymous mission of Men on A Mission, anyway?

No. 7 is Jake the Snake. He unbags a boa constrictor in the middle of the ring and everybody exits, except Lawler who gets the snake all over him and shit.

No. 8 is DORY FUNK. "He brings a lot of experience," Perfect drolly states.

Lawler hides under the ring. Good lord, watching Bob Backlund and Dory Funk engage in fisticuffs on a PPV in the year 1996 is all kinds of surreal.

No. 9 is Yokozuna, now sporting a beard. Backlund gets dumped immediately and he starts fighting Mabel. Holly hits HOG with a hurricanrana and then is ass splashed by Mabel.

No. 10 is the 1-2-3 Kid (a.k.a., X-Pac.) But he's being chased by Razor Ramon. Gerald Brisco, of all people, shoos him back to the locker room.

No. 11 HAS to be the single obscurest Rumble entrant ever - Takao Omori, who Vince describes as "the Wildman from Japan." He gets no pop whatsoever. "Not a great deal is known about Omori," Vince states in response to the deafening silence.

Jake punches the shit out of Yokozuna. No. 12 is Savio Vega, who immediately hits a spinning wheel kick on Mabel. Yoko eliminates Mabel and Jake eliminates Omori. Perfect said he just dialed up the Superstar Line and you will not believe who the next entrant is. 

Well, No. 13 is Vader. He pummels Bob Holly, eliminates Funk and beats the dog shit out of Vega in the corner.

No. 14 is DOUG GILBERT from the USWA. Perfect says he won a tournament in that promotion for a spot in the Rumble. Vince just sort of blows it off, because mentioning other promotions existed at this point in time was a big kayfabe no-no. Also, I am legally obliged to link to that interview where Doug Gilbert said Jerry Lawler raped a pre-teen anytime his name is mentioned.

Vader eliminates Jake. HOG gets eliminated, but I have no idea who dumped him out.

Yep. Nothing says "we're hip and with the times" quite like Dory goddamn motherfuckin' Funk.

No. 15 is, and I quote, "one of the SWAT Team members," a fat Pacific Islander wearing shitty face makeup. Boy, what a way to put a guy over - don't even bother giving the motherfucker a name.

Vader chokeslams the living hell out of Gilbert and then he eliminates him and the nameless SWAT guy. Vader and Yoko get into it, which is kind of a big deal since both wrestlers are supposed to be fighting under Jim Cornette's banner.

No. 16 is  the other Samoan SWAT motherfucker and what do you know, he don't have a name, either. Both come into the ring at the same time and you can't tell which is which and they double team Vader but Vader beats the fuck out of both of them. Bot SWAT members get double tossed by Vader and Yoko, so yeah, that's right, fuck 'em both.

No. 17 is Owen Hart. Perfect says he has the best "martial arts kick in the WWF," which I think is a reference to his enziguri. Vega eats back to back corner splashes from Vader and Yoko, who are kinda' working as a team now. 

No. 18 is Shawn Michaels. Vader eliminates Savio. There's a hilarious moment where HBK beats up on HHH. Vader and Yoko get into it again and Cornette begs them to stop fighting each other. Michaels eliminates both of them while they trade blows and then he gets rid of X-Pac.

No. 19 is Hakushi - you know, that Japanese fellow with all of that kanji written on his back. Vader and Yoko continue to scrap on the outside. Vader comes back into the ring and beats up on HBK. He gorilla press slams him out of the ring, but of course, it doesn't count as an elimination. A whole bunch of referees come out and force Vader to leave.

No. 20 is Tatanka. Bob Holly and HHH are still both in there. Owen eliminates Hakushi.

No. 21 is Aldo "Justin Credible" Montoya. Perfect says he is wearing his jock  on the wrong part of his body. Fuck, that is some stupid ring attire, all right. HBK crawls under the ring and yanks out Lawler, who has been hiding under the canvas for about half an hour. 

Tatanka eliminates Montoya and HBK drags Lawler into the ring so he can formally eliminate him. 

No. 22 is Diesel, who immediately eliminates Tatanka. He and HBK get into it. Perfect keeps talking about how big that "payday" at WrestleMania is. Michael skins the cat a million billion times. I'd be awfully concerned if I were the WWF marketing department - animal torture is a sign of an emerging serial killer, after all. 

No. 23 is "Kama, the Supreme Fighting Machine," which is what the WWF called Charles Wright in between him portraying Papa Shango and The Godfather. He was part of Ted Dibiase's "Million Dollar Corporation," and my apologies if you remember how shitty a storyline that was.

Vince keeps talking about all of HBK's concussions. Well, you wouldn't be hearing that kind of talk on WWF programming these days, for sure. 

No. 24 is some guy named "The Ringmaster." He immediately goes after Bob Holly. Foreshadowing alert: Vince refers to The Ringmaster as "cold and calculating." You mean like a Stone, Vinny Mac?

Michaels is still doing all that barely hanging onto the rope shit.

Austin ... I mean, The Ringmaster ... knees Holly out of the ring.

No. 25 is Barry "Horrible-Witz" (credit: Mr. Perfect), who comes out to the Jewiest music ever. Diesel launches HHH out of the ring. He was in there for close to 50 minutes.

No. 26 is Fatu and his music is pure shit. "Only Ray Rougeau at the Superstar Hotline knows for sure" who is coming out next, according to Vince. Hart teases suplexing Michaels out of the ring, but he doesn't actually do it.

No. 27 is Isaac Yankem. His music is just the sounds of dental drills whirring.  Barry is eliminated by Owen. Hart hits HBK with that dreaded enziguri. HBK eliminates Owen, but because they were doing one of those split screens the camera crew missed the entire thing.

No. 28 is Marty Jannetty, the Guinness World Record holder for most squandered second chances in history. Kama punches HBK. He dangles off the top rope but doesn't fall over. Jannetty and Michaels go at it and knock each other down with a double clothesline. Just imagine the alternate reality where Jannetty became Michaels and vice versa.

No. 29 is the British Bulldog. His wife Diana - whom accused Davey Boy of drugging her orange juice so he could sodomize her - is ringside. Bulldog eliminates Marty and Fatu and The Ringmaster both get dumped.

No. 30, obviously, is Duke the Dumpster. Imagine "a garbage man goes to WrestleMania," Vince quips. Shit, I would LOVE to see someone fantasy book the Fed with Drosse as the World Champ. Hell, I might even pay to read it.

Bulldog and HBK fight on the outside and Owen Pearl Harbors HBK. We're down to our final six. Yankem and Drosse get tossed. That makes it Bulldog, HBK, Diesel and ... Kama.

Michaels eliminates Bulldog, Diesel dumps Kama and HBK superkicks Diesel right over the top rope to win it all. Diesel slowly sulks back to the locker room and beats the fuck out of the Bulldog on his way. He gets interviewed by Dok but his response is totally inaudible. HBK dances around in the ring and at one point mimes showing his bush to the crowd. Diesel stares him down. He lifts his hand really high in the air and HBK jumps up to high five him. Cue "Sexy Boy" and another couple of minutes of very, very homoerotic dancing. 

And the gongs signify that the Undertaker is on his way to the ring. Diesel gives him the big stink eye on his way down the aisle. He pushes Paul Bearer and Diesel kicks in the face. He and Taker trade blows for a while and Diesel says "I ain't afraid of the dark" as the refs push him back into the locker room.

Huge ovation for the Hitman when he arrives. He gives his shades to a kid with Down syndrome, which automatically makes me think of that time another youngster with Down syndrome tried to climb into the ring during a Shawn Michaels/Steve Austin match and Vince kept referring to him as a "Special Olympian" as a euphemism for mental retard

Perfect says it is Hart's 43rd PPV match and some shit about Taker not being able to feel pain. Taker appropriately enough no sells some of Bret's punches early and chokes the shit out of him in the corner. He throws him into the adjacent corner and continues to wail on em, Nelson Muntz style.

Bret does his patented sternum-first turnbuckle bump and Taker slaps on an iron claw variation while Vince describes his mask as "a facial appliance." From there we have a LOOOONG choking segment with Bearer repeatedly throwing Hart's foot off the rope. 

Taker does that tightrope axehandle smash thingy. And he chokes Hart some more (or, as Perfect would say, "methodically wears him down.") Hart connects with a mid-range clothesline off the top rope. Hart dumps him over the top rope. Taker lands on his feet but Bret wipes him out with a plancha, followed by some very nice punches in bunches on the ground.

Taker picks up Hart and runs him back first into a metal post. Hart retaliates by slamming Taker into the same metal post, which is immediately followed by Taker booting Hart right in the left nostril.

You know, because just throwing the motherfucker off is physically impossible.

Taker slams Bret into the guardrail and Bret responds by launching Taker into the metal steps on a reversal of an Irish whip. Now Hart is just kicking the shit out of Taker's knees, adding injury to injury by doing that old school leg twist submission thingy. Hart keeps kicking Taker's leg and jumping on his ankle. He hooks in the figure four, but Taker flips it over and reverses the pressure (fun fact: this does not work in real life.) Taker gets pushed into the corner and Hart twists his ankle. Hart tries to yank off Taker's mask. Fans chant "rest in peace" while Bret continues to kick the shit out of Taker's knee. Paul Bearer distracts the ref so Taker can do heelish shit like throw Bret into chairs and other ringside accoutrement. Taker hits Hart with a chair and Hart retaliates by kicking the fuck out of Taker's legs while the crowd boos like crazy.

Hart secures a takedown and pulls Taker's legs between the ropes and slams his ankle against the post over and over. Now Taker is up - but hobbling - and he tries to scoop Bret up for the Tombstone but he flips out over the top rope. Bret hits Taker with a proto-Stone Cold Stunner right on the top rope. Taker throws Bret against the ropes and when he puts his head down like a retard he just DDTs the fuck out of him. Taker is back up and Bret starts headbutting his spine and Russian leg sweeps that undead nigga."How do you beat Frankenstein?" Perfect remarks. 

Hart lands an awesome, downright killer-looking bulldog, but Taker is right back up. Hart lands the backbreaker and the top rope fist drop. Hart gives a big thumbs down gesture and sets up the Sharpshooter. Except Taker chokes him before he can lock it in and knees him in the solar plexus. A double clothesline puts both men down, but not quite out.

Hart is up first and he successfully rips Taker's mask off. Taker chases Hart around the ring and then Bret elbow smashes his foe in the corner. Taker then eats several "exposed corner" bumps, but oh shit, Taker just landed the Tombstone out of nowhere! He has Hart pinned. One, two ... and motherfucking Diesel jumps into the ring and yanks out Taker. The bell sounds and Taker is declared winner by disqualification - although, as we all know by now, championship belts can't change hands on a DQ. Diesel and Taker scuffle. Hart gets back up and showboats in the ring for a bit. We get a quick video recap of the PPV we just watched, and that's all she wrote from Fresno-town, amigos y amigas.

Well, it's pretty easy to see why this is one of the less heralded Royal Rumbles. The undercard was fairly enjoyable, although the sports-entertainment tomfoolery quotient was probably a bit higher than it should've been. HHH/Duke, Ahmed/Jarrett and Gunns/Donnas were all [**] range bouts, but the Goldust/Ramon affair is probably worthy of placement in the [***] canon based on the sheer entertainment factor alone. The Rumble itself was really forgettable, with WAY too many C-listers in the fray and a very anticlimactic ending. At times, it felt like a carbon copy of the '95 Rumble, only without the high drama of Shawn Michaels being in there from bell-to-bell. Also, you REALLY have to question the booking of the final four - I mean, shouldn't Vader have been one of the last dudes left in the ring? Hindsight is always 50/50 I know, but there are so many scenarios that would have been so much better in the long haul than just having Shawn Michaels super kick a motherfucker out of the ring right after he got done doing all the heavy lifting. The main event was a bit of a letdown, but it's clear no one knew how to book the damn thing to begin with. It's almost like they sort of wanted to do the Survivor Series '95 main event redux, but since the match couldn't have a clean finish, there really wasn't much of a point to building anything special out of something that was meant to fizzle out, anyway. Still, it was an interesting bout to watch, with Hart basically trying to break The Undertaker's legs for 20 minutes, so I'd consider it a semi-decent [***] range effort, all things considered. But sheesh - that run-in ending was just the pits

The aftermath of the Rumble, of course, was HBK supplanting the Hitman as the company's top face for the remainder of the year. With Razor and Diesel WCW-bound, the WWF definitely found itself on the losing side of the Monday Night Wars, with the white hot N.W.O. angle coming *thisfuckingclose* to putting Vinny Mac and Co. out of business for good. Granted, the same year also saw the ascension of Steve Austin and the introduction of some dude name Rocky Maivia, and well - we all know what ultimately became of World Championship Wrestling. All in all, it's an interesting glimpse at the WWF at its most important transitional period ever, but unfortunately, there's not really a whole lot of content herein that I'd consider worthy of going out of your way to see. There are worse Rumbles out there, I suppose, but by that same token? There's a whole hell of a lot of 'em that are vastly superior, too.

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