In the previous entry, I looked at In Your House 12: It’s Time 1996. It was okay. The next PPV was the 1997 Royal Rumble, which was the tenth of its name.
Over the next few weeks, I will review this PPV from the perspectives of a fan looking back at it after two decades as well as my original thoughts as a teenager watching it at the time (though this particular PPV was one I watched in 1998 as my family did not have the channels necessary to watch wrasslin’).
WWF Royal Rumble 1997
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
The poster shows Shawn Michaels staring deep into the camera, foreshadowing his potential heel turn and eventual rise to evil.
The Big Red WWF title screen goes straight a promo about Shawn Michaels being cocky and flamboyant. It shows his win over Bret Hart, his loss against Sid and now the rematch tonight in San Antonio. Cut to some of the worst CGI ever as Starburst Fruit Twists present The Royal Rumble 1997!
Big pyro in the arena and a disembodied hand picks up a hat offscreen. Vince tears his throat out welcoming us there and what a welcome it is. Vinnie O’Mac, Jumpin’ Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler are in the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas. 60,477 in attendance with 244,000 PPV buys at home.
Jim Ross tells us that there are no words to show how they feel. Jerry tells us that Shawn and Sid must put up or shut up. Our Spanish Colleagues are Hugo Savinovich, Carlos Cabrera and Arturo Rivera, who shout over Vince’s introduction and dance. We have the French Announcers, Ray Rougeau and Jacques Rougeau Sr who do the same.
(Note: Before the PPV began, there was a 30-minute show called Free-For-All, which was the nineties equivalent of the Preshow, full of promos and summaries of recent TV matches. There was a number of exclusive matches on Free-For-All which saw Mascarita Sagrada Jr. and La Parkita defeating Mini Mankind and Mini Vader in a small person’s wrestling match. Before that, we had two dark matches: Perro Aguayo Jr and Venum defeating Maniaco and Mosco de la Merced; Octagón, Blue Demon Jr. and Tinieblas Jr. defeating Heavy Metal, Abismo Negro and Histeria. The reason that those names are Spanish and you’ve probably never heard of most of them is because it was a deal made with AAA to include their wrestlers in the Royal Rumble, which is why Mil Máscaras, Perroth and Cibernético appear in the Royal Rumble match.)
Down comes my boy Goldust, the challenger for the Intercontinental Championship. Goldust looks fantastic as usual and I have missed him over these last weeks. Vince tells us that Goldust has become a fan favourite all over the world and with good reason because he’s fucking brilliant.
Cut to the Intercuntinental champion, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who believes that all women love him. Goldust, on the other hand, is a bit mental. Jerry called Goldust a censored word and Goldust denied that fact.
Straight-up Shoot Fact: On the December 16th 1996 RAW, Goldie interrupted a scrap between Triple H and Jerry where the pair of them beat on Wildman Marc Mero. He fought Trips, saved Mero and returned to the ring to speak to Jerry, where The King asked him, “Are you? You are… you know…” and skirted around the issues. Vince tried to cut the feed before Jerry doubles down, calling Goldust a freak before finally asking if he was, “queer”. Goldust says, “nooooooo,” and punches Jerry out. Twenty years have passed since that fateful night when being gay was derogatory and worthy of heeldom. Le sigh.)
Trips tried to steal Marlena and he fought back. The announcer asks if they’re all just playing miiiiiiiiind games or not.
Ode To Joy plays and out comes Teeeeeeriple H and Mr. Hughes. Goldust wastes no time in getting to Trips and running down the ramp to find him.
Intercontinental Championship match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) (w/ Mr. Hughes) def Goldust (w/ Marlena) via pin in 16:50.
In the ring, Goldust is in control. Someone in the crowd has a “FLAIR GOD” sign as the announcers consider whether or not Curtis Hughes has a butling license to allow him to butle for Trips. HHH is thrown out of the ring and the pair waste a wee bit of time there. Lovely atmoic drop by Trips on Goldust. Trips goes for the Pedigree but Goldust reverses and catapults Trips out of the ring. Goldust removes the steel ring steps, drops it on Trips and is DQ…
Wait, no, Earl Hebner doesn’t DQ Goldust for some unknown reason. Trips Flair flops onto the steel steps to a big cheer from the crowd. Trips guillotines Goldust and the pair brawl in the ring leading to a pin attempt. Goldust roars and Trips hides behind Earl, getting in a cheap shot. Lovely look at Marlena and the crowd go bananas for her. Trips hits a double axe handle nothing off the top rope to outside as Hughes jaws off to Earl. Trips throws Goldust into the ring post and is about to toss him into the crowd but Goldust dodges. Once again, however, he uses the steel steps as a weapon. Why, Goldust, why?
Goldust beats on the knee of Triple H and loses his power as Goldust takes over, forcing the two men to have a little lie down. The crowd begin to die. Another shot of Marlena and the crowd come alive once more. This is the beginning of the Attitude Era: where the wrestling is crap and only the boobs matter. Goldust hits the figure four leglock, with Earl dropping for a couple of quick pin attempts. Goldust pulls on the ropes and Earl doesn’t break the submission instantly! Whaaaat.
Goldust followed Trips outside and knocks him down. Goldust batters Hunter’s head off the apron and feels himself up in ring. Once again, for the third time, Goldust uses the steel steps as a way to hurt Trips. JR really slags off Earl, saying that he has a bad attitude and that he is due to be down for the Championship match later in the evening and that if his attitude says the same, it will work in Sid’s favour. Goldust runs the ropes and attempts a crossbody, which Trips dodges, launching Goldust outside. Trips throws Goldie into the guardrail and JR gives off about breaking of the rules. I wonder if that is kayfabe or not. Trips does a lovely wee courtesy and gets boos. Outside the ring, both men have a wee sit. Trips takes Marlena’s golden chair and finally Earl Hebner decides to be a referee and stops it.
Cut to Todd Pettengill in the crowd with Collin Raye, an apparent country and western singer. I tell you what, Todd is rocking that goatee, hey. Fair play til ye. Todd makes Collin sing and then cuts him off. In the ring, nothing of note happens except that Trips hurts his knee. Lovely jumping clothesline from Goldust and the new face hammers the canvas in a Sable-embarrassingly good time. Lovely back body drop and he goes high on the ropes. Trips pushes Earl into the ropes and Goldust falls on his balls. Trips goes for the superplex but fails. Goldust goes for the big elbow and fails. Hughes sends Trips the Intercontinental belt and the heel takes time to snog Marlena, allowing Goldust to fight him off, steal the belt and wallop Trips in the face. The champ is down! Pin him! It’s a one, two… and Mr. Hughes drags Trips out. As Goldust is arguing, Trips sneaks around, hits a lovely clothesline, the Pedigree and the win in a very slow count in 16:50.
An actually good curtain jerker, but it might be because of Goldust more than anything else.
Oh Marlena, you’re to blame for this, somehow.
I love Goldust and I like Trips at this time when he had something to prove and tried his hardest.
Cut to Bret, who cuts a promo on how he’s always been a marked man and how he is at the bottom of the barrel and can’t go back farther. Nice.
Cut to Mankind, rocking back and forth in his Boiler Room, rambling incoherently.
Back in the arena and the motherfucking Nation of Domination come out. Wolfie D and JC Ice rap on the way to the ring. Old Immigration Clarence Mason arrive along with Crush and D’Lo Brown and every other black man that the Fed could find. Jacqueline is there, too! Isn’t that great? And, of course, the main man is Faarooq. They all throw up the fists and one of the guys in the front misses his cue. Silly NOD.
Promo for this black on black feud. Ahmed Johnson stumbles his way through words that no one understands as we see him win the New Sensation award at the 1996 Slammy Awards, he is the first ever Kuwait National Champion, Intercontinental Champion and had a legitimate kidney injury. Faarooq replied to Ahmed by forming the NOD, dropping Sunny, who was his manager when he was wearing that dumb gladiator outfit. Vader was involved as well because all heels hate together.
Out comes the Pearl River Plunge himself, over three hundred pounds of steroid-fuelled insanity. He sprints to the ring and tackles Faarooq, starting the match.
Ahmed Johnson def Faarooq (w/ the Nation of Domination) via DQ in 8:48.
Ahmed has a full head of steam on him as he batters into Faarooq mercilessly, throwing Faarooq from one corner to another. This is your basic babyface beatdown where the heel has no offence for the first few minutes. Faarooq tries to leave (because he is a coward, you see) and fails as Ahmed catches up with him. JR calls the NOD a “pack of dogs,” as Ahmed rips off Faarooq’s trousers. Faarooq has a belt and attempts to use it but it is taken from him. Ahmed hits the flying shoulder block and… Ahmed, who is a face, gets a belt and whips at Faarooq. What the fuck, rules? Is this the Royal Rumble or the… Rule… Rumble?
Ahmed throws Faarooq into the old steel ring steps and gets covered in Goldust. There’s a mixup as one of the NOD gets pushed into Ahmed, sacrificed so that Faarooq may win. Faarooq sets up the steel chair and drops Ahmed on it. Faarooq then hits Ahmed with a chair.
Fuck sake, boys. Are there any rules at all in this fucking match? Christ of almighty.
Ahmed has a lie down for a while as Faarooq speaks to the crowd. Faarooq puts Ahmed on the turnbuckle and listens to the ref’s rules regarding holds on the ropes, jaws off to fat white men in the crowd and there is a lack of action as Faarooq wonders how to damage Ahemd more. He hits the camel clutch, breaks back, makes humble. He hits the arse-sit on Ahmed’s back and returns to camel clutching, breaking back, making humble. Ahmed lifts Faarooq up in the electric chair drop, falls back and Faarooq is the first one up, jumping off the top rope to be caught by Ahmed in a great powerslam. Faarooq catches Ahmed in mid-air and hits the spinebuster. Faarooq tells the crowd, as he has during this match, that he is baddest man. Ahmed is up, hits the spinebuster, Crush pops in and despite none of the Nod hitting any sort of offence, the bell is rung and a DQ is called in 8:48.
Is this racism? I wouldn’t know. We don’t have white people in Ireland.
Ahmed is attempting to leave but moves after an NOD member who attacks him, battering him against the steel steps, moving them to the French announcer’s table, lifts the poor guy up for the Pearl River Plunge, botches it and the son of a bitch has to flip mid-air to land relatively safely. Ahmed doesn’t bother to remove the monitors before throwing him through. A replacement table is on its way. The poor NOD member seems to have his head hit by a monitor. God damn.
On the Card will return on January 26 2017 with the second part of Royal Rumble 1997.