The 1993 Royal Rumble match can be explained in much the same way as the dreaded Sports Illustrated cover curse: When something reaches the peak of the mountain there is nowhere to go but down. An athlete or team makes the cover of SI for accomplishing something really great in the prior week, thus the next week will likely not be as good. The ’93 Rumble suffers from the shadow of perfection thrown by the prior year’s effort. The business of wrestling had taken a huge hit in the prior year for a number of reasons including steroid and sex scandals. The match has an odd assortment of legends that adds something in retrospect that may not have been there at the time, and this is the final Rumble with Bobby the Brain Heenan on color.
Instead of an awkward Jack Tunney proclamation, there is an awkward guy in a Julius Caesar outfit doing it to tie into the upcoming Wrestlemania 9 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The bible says to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and apparently that includes reading a boring as hell proclamation.
Ric Flair is #1 and Heenan is upset but not as much as 1992 because he now knows Flair can go the distance. The still babyface and totally awkward and out of place Bob Backlund is #2 and finally WWF will acknowledge something in the ring with these guys. On July 4, 1982 in the Atlanta Omni, Flair and Backlund met in a title vs title match and went to a double countout. The match does not exist on tape anywhere. Backlund discussed it in his new book and said that he had a bad feeling the NWA officials might be trying to screw him because a lot of them were hanging around. So he could be paranoid before his heel turn. Handshake offer by Bob was rejected by Ric in the usual Flair fashion. The battle for a bit and Backlund gets the running atomic drop, a move that was a finisher for him in the late 1970s but by 1993 was very passe.
Papa Shango is #3 to remind us that this is partly cartoon nonsense and not old school wrestling. Flair sneaks up from behind and dumps him over the top to restore order.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the early 80s in there when Ted DiBiase comes down at #4. He joins with Slick Ric to beat up Backlund as Brain wonders if Flair and DiBiase might get arrested for beating up the elderly, referring to Backlund. This stuff drove me nuts because FLAIR IS OLDER THAN BACKLUND. I know they are telling a story, but I can’t get that out of my head. A guy who partied like Flair still managed to look younger than a non-partier like Backlund who was born later the same year. Gorilla makes a very rare reference (for WWF) to DiBiase trying to buy the world title in 1988.
Brian Knobbs of the Nasty Boys is #5 and since they have an issue with the tag champs Money Inc. he goes after Ted. Fists of fire everywhere and Flair almost exits. Backlund can’t do corner mount punches without looking incredibly awkward.
An old feud is revived when Virgil runs down at #6 and goes after DiBiase. I’m surprised they didn’t keep these guys apart. As Backlund and Flair duke it out, they are trying to move across the ring but DiBiase gets in the way so they audible because those guys a freakin’ pros. The Million Dollar Man eliminates Knobbs instead. Flair has Backlund on the 2nd rope working him over, when he should just try to push him off.
Jerry the King Lawler is #7 as we now have a HOF majority in the ring…and Virgil. King’s tights are totally ridiculous and looks like a child’s pajamas. This is his first WWF PPV after his surprising signing, even as he continued to work in the USWA. Flair bails from Lawler, and is forced back in by outside referee Bill Alfonzo. The Nature Boy has a go with Virgil and Lawler sneaks up from behind on Flair. Those CWA Memphis boys stick together, I guess.
I still can’t believe Konnan is Max Moon, the #8 guy. He looks so different from the WCW guy, i.e. a lot skinnier. He hits a dropkick on Lawler and Brain says that seems like a dangerous move in this match. Yeah, you would need a lot of room for that. There isn’t much going on, just guys paired off and Gorilla announces the winner will be in the title match at Wrestlemania 9.
The legend percentage is back up with the arrival of Genichiro Tenryu at #9 in what seems like a totally random appearance. When Tenryu left All Japan pro Wrestling in 1990, he was the main guy in SWS a new promotion funded by a Japanese eye glass manufacturer. The WWF and SWS co-promoted cards in Japan. This agreement continued after SWS went under with the new WAR promotion. In any event, it’s fun to see him trading chops with Flair in a Royal Rumble since they had great matches together in AJPW in 1984. DiBiase is no stranger to Japan from his time teaming with Stan Hansen so he gets a taste of Tenryu’s chops as well.
Crowd erupts for Mr. Perfect at #10, but not a perfect 10 since we all know that’s Tye Dillinger. His issue with Flair goes back to before Survivor Series when Perfect abandoned Flair and Heenan to team with Randy Savage. Slick Ric gets slammed off the top and takes Perfect neckbreaker where he snaps the head forward. Gorilla mentions the “loser leaves town” match that will air on this new thing called Monday Night Raw the next night as Perfect hits corner mount punches.
Skinner is #11 and he absorbs a blow from Perfect before renewing acquaintances with Jerry Lawler. Those two would have a rivalry in Memphis even as both were faces since the King was threatened by the popularity of the Fabulous Ones, Steve Keirn’s team with Stan Lane. Flair is eliminated by Mr. Perfect and things stop for several seconds in much the same manner as a guy getting his 3000th hit in baseball and Monsoon tries to collect on a bet with Heenan. Funny moment when Virgil holds Lawler for someone to hit but nobody wants him. Lawler matches up with Perfect which we’ve seen before, and Tenryu which we haven’t. That would have been an interesting match to watch for sure.
It’s Memphis overload with Koko B. Ware at #12, as he had gone down to the USWA to win their championship from Lawler the prior month. This was done to explain the King’s surprising signing with WWF; he had to do it in order to get his title rematch with Ware and he did win the title back. Skinner skins the cat (ha), and gets dropkicked out by Perfect anyway. Tenryu was just sort of meandering around since he was a stranger in a strange land here, but not matches up with Perfect.
Samu of the Headshrinkers is lucky #13 and gets his foot stomped by Koko. Surprised that move doesn’t happen more with the barefoot guys. Perfect chops Lawler so hard he actually hits Backlund too who was holding the King.
King of the countouts Berzerker is #14 and Perfect gets rid of Lawler and his kid’s pajamas. Others in the match take this opportunity to sneak up on Hennig who is hanging on for dear life. There are 3-4 guys trying to push him out, while Lawler is pulling from the outside. This was a real bummer since Perfect was pretty red hot at this time and it would have been nice to let him go longer. Virgil is also gone off-camera but who gives a crap.
The Undertaker emerges from the curtain at #15 right as Lawler is there and he gets out of there quickly. The Deadman’s arrival revives the crowd now and he quickly eliminates Samu and Tenryu. Meanwhile, the Berzerker tossed Backlund through the ropes and just kills him with a chair so the All-American Boy is going to be out of commission on the floor for a bit.
Terrific Terry Taylor is not a rooster, but he is #16. This was such a short-lived run for him that most have forgotten it. Maybe he should have gone by “Triple T” instead. Taylor trades with Koko in 1988/89 jobber to the stars classic and DiBiase just pushes them both out. Well, so much for that. Ted takes a chokeslam from Taker before his departure and Berzerker follows.
They cut to the aisle where this giant emerges with Harvey Whippleman. They don’t name him, but it’s Giant Gonzalez, aka El Gigante from WCW. Whoever the hell green lighted this needed to be smacked. The staredown with Taker was fun, since the Giant didn’t have to actually do anything but stand there. He dominates Undertaker and chops him out of the ring, before bringing him back in and delivering one of the worst chokeslams in the history of Western civilization. During all this it’s funny because Damien Demento was #17 and just chills on the outside like he wants nothing to do with this nonsense. Good instincts, Damien! IRS at #18 was also in no hurry, but that’s his usual modus operendi. When the Giant leaves, it’s IRS, Demento and Backlund who got a nice little rest on the floor. A rest that someone like Flair or Martel didn’t get the prior two years, I will note. Undertaker is lying in the corner totally dead until Paul Bearer comes down and does the magic urn trick, which barely works this time.
The Native American Tatanka is #19 as opposed to all those other Tatankas and he goes at IRS in their never ending feud. Tribes are supposed to be tax exempt, Irwin. If you’re going to be a serious taxman you need to know these things. Gorilla and Brain decide the Giant must be 8 feet tall.
The air in the crowd has sagged at this point with the Undertaker debacle, so it’s appropriate we see Jerry Sags at #20. I’ll admit I kind of lost interest as there are no legends interacting and no one of note is in the ring.
The number 21 entrant Typhoon would have a shocking 1993, and Heenan calls him Tugboat for a second in a rare slip. “Whatever he’s called,” Brain says. You got that right. Since he ran to the ring, Heenan quips, “I haven’t seen him run that fast since they opened the lunch line at the free buffet.” The slightly less fat Fatu is #22 as I beg for something interesting to happen.
Oh here’s a guy! It’s two time Three Star winner Earthquake at #23! And he and Typhoon are gonna slug it out, with an avalanche by Typhoon on Earthquake, a guy who would eventually be called Avalanche. That’s confusing. Typhoon misses try #2 and Quake shows his tag partner to the exit. Others in the ring are visibly steering clear of Quake for good reason. He’s really fun in these matches.
And now for a memorable moment that requires explanation: Carlos Colon’s entrance at #24 and Gorilla referring to him as a “youngster” when he was 44 year old, and the oldest guy in the match. Gorilla knew exactly was he was saying there because he was a partner of Colon’s in Capital Sports Promotions, a forerunner to the World Wrestling Council to which Colon is so closely associated. Colon gets rid of Demento so he’s not just there for show. Meanwhile, this is the part of the match where “And Backlund is still there” or some close variation became this match’s version of the ’94 King of the Ring Art Donovan query “how much does this guy weigh?”
El Matador Tito Santana is #25 and goes after Backlund, which is funny because they are both babyfaces. Monsoon calls Tito “Mr. Everything” as a former IC and tag champion, which is what he used to call Pedro Morales in the mid-80s. Is that a term only for Latin American guys, Gorilla? IRS does a terrible sell on a Backlund clothesline. Colon and Quake trade shots as I wish they could have had a match in one of those Puerto Rico outdoor stadiums at some point. Would be a fun little brawl.
Our hero Ricky Martel is #26 and because no one could get over the Strike Force split, goes after Santana who just rams the Model’s head to the buckle. An IRS charge at Quake misses the mark and he’s gone.
Yokozuna and his massive frame enter at #27 so Tatanka and Colon must go to make more room for Yoko. This sets up a showdown between him and Earthquake, who in real life was a legitimate sumo in Japan, albeit on lower levels. Nobody moves as they run into each other twice. Owen Hart at #28 turbos into the ring in the middle of this. Clothesline by Quake staggers Yoko and then hits an avalanche in the corner. His 2nd attempt misses and Yoko does an extremely ugly belly to belly suplex on the Quake over the top. Points for trying though. At this point, it is clear the others need to unite to get rid of the 500 lb guy. Owen and Martel match up and they would meet again eventually, with Owen winning via some cheating on the outside from Bret.
The Repo Man is #29 and he is immediately dropped like a bag of dirt by Yokozuna. Nice little Gorilla blooper as he refers to Rick Martel as Carlos Colon a year after referring to Ric Flair as Rick Martel. All six guys in the ring finally unite to get rid of the big fatty, but he’s too low to the ground and they can’t lift him. One by one, Yoko fights his way out.
Macho Man Randy Savage rounds out the lineup at #30, the last legitimate hope that Yokozuna might not win this since my hero Rick Martel will always get shafted. Tito is sent sailing by Yoko and that’s the last we see of ol’ Chico in Rumble history. Backlund is still there, Monsoon helpfully tells us and then Sags is eliminated.
Poor Owen Hart. He needs two tries to skin the cat and then takes the most brutal elimination to date in a Rumble match as seen here. Aye carumba, I bet only Taka Michinoku in 2000 can match this. While Taka had a concussion from his fall, it looked like Hart messed up his knee badly. Repo man does the same thing but at a much more controlled speed.
This leaves the Final Four: Randy Savage, Yokozuna, Bob Backlund, and my hero Rick Martel. Yokozuna has a foot to Savage’s throat, and Martel has Backlund in a fireman’s carry but can’t quite get Howdy Doody over the ropes. A suplex attempt fails, then Backlund perches Martel on the top rope and follows with a forearm to send Martel to the floor. Backlund now tries a dropkick on Yoko to little effect. A charge is met with a sidestep, and Backlund is hip tossed out. So much for that.
Bobby the Brain says he’d like Yoko to win for Fuji’s sake, so it’s nice to see they worked out their issues from 1990. Savage’s 1st comeback is kicks and punches, and TWO double axe handles from the top. A kick from Yoko ends that though and he hits a sick looking belly to belly on Macho as Brain calls for a wheelbarrow to haul Savage out. Leg drop connects, since Hogan isn’t here to stop that move. A second avalanche try misses and Yoko falls down near the ropes and crowd goes nuts since he had never been knocked down. Savage hits the elbow, then covers Yoko like a total jamoke and gets tossed from that over the ropes. Even Gorilla was ridiculing this on commentary. I suppose Savage figured he was such a made man it wouldn’t matter, but it looked profoundly stupid and I hate stupid eliminations. So Yokozuna wins and now Bret Hart must suffer the consequences of that booking choice in a few months. And now onto the awards:
1st star: Mr. Perfect – It seems very “hot take-y” to not pick Backlund here, but ol’ Bob didn’t do much for large portions of the match. Perfect looked like a million bucks and was red hot. They just didn’t want to do things with him as a babyface which doesn’t make much sense since he was proven in that role from his AWA days.
2nd star: Bob Backlund – He did get the crowd on his side near the end, but this all kind of seemed a bit hollow. What was the point of this? There wasn’t much in the way of followup as his heel turn was about 18 months later. He lost a Mania match to Razor Ramon in totally forgettable fashion.
3rd star: Owen Hart – Just for that crazy bump. What a guy.
Morrison Award: Jerry Sags at 21:50 and he totally did nothing in this match.
WWE Hall of Famers: 10
Deceased: 5 (Randy Savage, Owen Hart, Earthquake, Mr. Perfect, Yokozuna)
Summary: This was fine in some parts if you are a huge history nerd to see these legends mix it up, but once you lose Mr. Perfect it turns sour. After the Giant Gonzalez debut killing Undertaker, it somehow gets worse. Yokozuna was going to be pushed as a monster, but someone eliminating him would put them over huge. A face vs face match with Hart would have worked; we just saw him do it at Mania 8 with Piper. A real missed opportunity here, so don’t watch this unless you’re a legends nerd.