By the 1995 Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon would proclaim the WWF was running on “Diesel power” with the big guy as champion, but the truth was things were slowly going down a toilet. There are a lot of reasons for this: business had mostly declined steadily since 1992 and Vince had been distracted in 1994 by his steroid trial. The year 1995 would be the worst financial year for the WWF under Vincent Kennedy McMahon and this Rumble was a bit of an omen for what was to come. Like most people, I had tuned out of wrestling at this point so this is the first time I’ve seen this match. Emanating from Tampa, FL, our hosts are Vince and Jerry Lawler.
Before the match, I have to comment on the Lex Luger promo where he says that 1995 will be a new start and he will fulfill his destiny. First, I can’t help but think of Tobias Funke from Arrested Development when he says “A NU START” and second, oh he’d fulfill his destiny alright by showing back up in WCW on the first Nitro in September. At ringside, Vince apologizes for the behavior leading to the Bam Bam Bigelow-Lawrence Taylor incident which was to set up the match at Wrestlemania 11. And Pamela Anderson is our hostess for this event, which really excites Lawler. The King claims to have a date with Pam later, though at age 27 she’s probably too old for Lawler’s liking.
The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels is #1 and he shows the camera his glove which says TK, to honor
the great T.K. Carter who had starred in Punky Brewster several years earlier the Kliq. This group, comprised of Shawn, Diesel, Razor Ramon, 1-2-3 Kid and later HHH would have a stranglehold on creative, much to the consternation of the rest of the locker room. The British Bulldog was a victim of such politicking in 1997 and he is #2 in this event. Michaels channels his inner Ric Flair by taking a big back drop, press slam and a Flair flip while staying in the match.
Only 60 seconds between entries this year because they clearly wanted to move this match along quickly. In that vein are #3 and #4 which are Eli Blu and Duke “the Dumpster” Droese. The former would get lots of chances as half of the Harris Brothers while Duke wouldn’t last long, despite being hired by Vince so he could prove his star-making ability would work on anyone according to the book “Titan Sinking” by James Dixon. Droese taught special ed at an elementary school, but was indicted on a drug thing in 2013. No idea how that turned out since the internet likes to report on indictments but not actual jury trials.
Jimmy Del Rey of the Heavenly Bodies is #5 as Lawler says he likes him before backing off that statement. JDR goes after HBK in a heated initials battle, with a near elimination of Michaels.
Sione is #6 and you may wonder who the hell is Sione? It’s the Barbarian, a favorite of mine from earlier Rumbles. He greets Shawn with a headbutt as JDR is clotheslined out by Bulldog for the 1st elimination. Michaels rams Sione’s head to the buckle forgetting the “Pacific Islander hard head” trope.
Tom Prichard is next at #7 and Lawler loves him too. HBK takes another big press slam, this one from Sione. The non-Matt Borne Doink is #8 and this match is moving way too fast and nothing can breathe. But at least it’s for a good cause: most of the guys here are not compelling. An allegory for 1995 WWF in general.
The mighty KWANG is #9 as Vince pisses me off by saying Houston was the site of the first Royal Rumble. Oh yeah? Wanna bet? I know he buries his own history a lot but come on. I am also very protective of Canada and it’s place in WWE since they constantly get screwed over by never getting to host PPVs anymore. I can go off on a tangent like that because not much is happening here in the match with the ring filling with also-rans.
The next guy at #10 is definitely not an also-ran. It is my hero Rick Martel in his final Rumble appearance, subbing from Jim the Anvil Neidhart. Michaels is honoring Martel by doing a lot of the Model’s greatest hits. Martel would last a mere 2:45, a shameful goodbye for one of the greats. He would turn up in WCW in late 1997, which will be covered at some point even if I don’t have plans to turn this blog into a full on campaign to get Rick Martel in the WWE Hall of Fame. Not yet, anyway.
Owen Hart is here at #11 and Bret Hart comes down to destroy him in the aisle for helping to cost Bret in his title match against Diesel earlier which ended in a no contest. Owen gets in the ring and is promptly eliminated off camera, and they replay it for us much later to show the Bulldog put him out in 3 seconds. He wouldn’t be the only 3 second man in the match.
Timothy Well is #12 and I get my wish for the ring to be thinned out a bit. Timmy isn’t so well after Bulldog is done with him. Droese goes out with the trash. Prichard is out at HBK’s hands. Doink decides to get all cute with Sione and tries fighting back on the apron but meets a kick by KWANG. I feel the name deserves all caps. Bushwhacker Luke is lucky #13 and by the time he gets there Eli Blu and Sione eliminate each other. Luke did manage to outlast his 1991 time by about 10 seconds before he’s gone. Jacob Blu at #14 does the stupid charge at a guy on the ropes and gets low bridged out by Michaels. So there’s a lot of 1 on 1 between Bulldog and Shawn which is fine since they are the two best guys in the match.
A good amount of boos greet King Kong Bundy at #15, who seems so out of place in 1990s wrestling. He was perfect for the mid-1980s though and that’s why he was able to headline a Wrestlemania. A few months later he would be the first Undertaker Mania opponent who had previously wrestled in the main event of an earlier Wrestlemania. Bundy had punked Undertaker after his match with IRS.
Mo from Men on a Mission at #16 will not repeat as Morrison Award winner as he lasts three seconds at the hands of Bundy, who could not be slammed by Bulldog. Vince criticizes Michaels for resting in a corner saying he should help with getting rid of Bundy. Welcome to aboard the Royal Rumble Game Theory train, Vinny Mac!
Mabel is #17 to set up the fat guy duel with Bundy. Mabel has the edge but it takes a while for Bundy to very slowly go over the top, almost like placing a baby in a carriage or something. Butch of the Bushwhackers is #18 and he joins the long list of guys getting tossed immediately courtesy of Shawn. So many guys last under a minute here that it’s like a tribute to teenage boys losing their virginity.
Lex Luger the great American de-pushed hero is #19 and he gets some shine by eliminating the huge Mabel by himself. He revisits 1988 with a gorilla press slam on HBK who is desperate to be Flair here. But HBK also does his Martel stuff too, contorting himself to avoid elimination by the Allied Powers Luger and Bulldog. The Brit moves off to deal with #20 Mantaur. “Jim Cornette is very high on Mantaur” is a line that really made me laugh. Speaking of laughable stuff, Aldo Montoya is #21 as we have entered the “regrettable gimmicks” portion of our program. Henry O. Godwinn is #22 and gets no reaction whatsoever as he is very new at this point. There is a shot of Pam Anderson who is just dead in the eyes, wondering either why she agreed to this or why they couldn’t have left Ricky Martel in this match longer.
Billy and Bart Gunn are #23 and #24 respectively as the ring is just full of geeks now. Luger’s instincts in these matches are very poor and noticeable. I am quick to defend his work in WCW, but he is just unmotivated as hell by 1995.
Bob Backlund can’t get to the ring at #25 without Bret Hart appearing again to try and destroy him, because he also caused the non-finish earlier. Backlund gets in and Luger knocks him back out. After going over an hour in 1993, Backlund went a total of 57 seconds the next two years. He brawls with Hart all the way to the back, setting up their dreadful submission match at Wrestlemania 11. Trust me, even Bret Hart himself said the match sucks.
Steven Dunn, the other half of Well Dunn is #26 and I am just about done with these jamokes in this match. Holy crap, I would go nuts for just one legend to come in and do something.
Wish granted: Dick Murdoch aka Captain Redneck is #27 and Vince says this match is right up his alley. He is acknowledged as a former tag team champion with Adrian Adonis from 1984 which is hilarious because now history is being reflected accurately. It’s really neat seeing Murdoch trade with Shawn Michaels here.
Adam Bomb is out at #28 to defend nuclear power, I suppose. Commentary puts over Bulldog and HBK’s performance because they actually matter, unlike you Luger. Are you getting the hint, Lex? Fatu is #29 and Billy Gunn takes one in the little gunn. Murdoch shows Bart Gunn was a legit tough guy is supposed to be as #30 Crush arrives and must believe in Gunn control since he eliminates the brothers immediately.
Montoya backdrops Dunn out in the least meaningful elimination in Rumble history. Cut to Pam Anderson, who rolls her eyes and waves to the camera. Kronik explodes several years ahead of time with Crush and Adam Bomb dueling in a corner. You’re not going to believe this, but Fatu no sells a shot to the turnbuckle. HBK was about to be slammed over by Murdoch, but he grabbed the ropes. Imagine Pam Anderson escorting Dick Murdoch to Wrestlemania.
Murdoch does the JYD style headbutt on Fatu, which is sold by Dick because you don’t headbutt Pacific Islanders. Adam Bomb and Montoya are out, but the very spry Fatu goes over and slides back in. And then Crush just tosses him anyway.
Dick Murdoch earns himself a bright shiny gold star by doing a STANDING DROPKICK on Godwinn as I mark out like crazy. I won’t even delve into Dick’s talked-about racist tendencies because he follows with an airplane spin, but is so dizzy from it is he falls over the top and out as Godwinn hangs in, but is quickly eliminated by Luger as they note that both feet hit the floor on commentary.
The Final Four: Lex Luger, Crush, and our first two entrants: British Bulldog and Shawn Michaels, who goes right at Luger and Bulldog in very babyface fashion. Crush and HBK have Luger in the corner, and Michaels keeps the Bulldog away with some forearms and they dump Lex to make it a 2 on 1. Shawn wants Crush to do all the work here and they clothesline Bulldog, but then Crush kicks HBK and hits his own press slam on Michaels. Bulldog goes at Michaels but misses and puts Crush out so in the immortal words of Maxine Nightingale we’re right back where we started from.
The crowd is excited by this and even Pam Anderson claps. HBK takes ANOTHER press slam but is crotched on the top rope this time. A clothesline puts Michaels out and Bulldog’s music plays….but HBK hangs in as only one foot touched. Bulldog goes on the 2nd rope to celebrate even though the bell didn’t ring, and Shawn sneaks up and topples him over the top to the floor for the win. Pam Anderson joins him in the ring and looks less than thrilled again. If I was Bulldog, I would file a lawsuit against the music guy for misleading me in that way and costing me a main event at Wrestlemania. Yes, even if it was one of the worst ones. Michaels was the only guy who could win this, but they could have done it without making Bulldog look dumb. Onto the awards:
1st star: Shawn Michaels – It’s less impressive with 60 second intervals, but still a solid showing. Bumped like crazy, can do the near-elimination spots. He might be more Mr. Rumble and Mr. Wrestlemania
2nd star: British Bulldog – He hung around and did stuff, and this might be more of a reflection of the rest of the talent pool.
3rd star: Dick Murdoch – I didn’t think I would enjoy his spot THIS much. When an older, chubbier guy does a standing dropkick and airplane spin I love it. That’s an official rule of this blog.
Morrison Award: Mantaur at 9:33 because he hid in this match so well. All the other guys kept going out in under a minute.
Summary: As mentioned, I had never seen this before. I don’t like the 60 second intervals and there is no star power. The match runs only 38:41 total but you’d be better off watching something else on the network. Might I suggest Mid-South Wrestling? Pass on this one and skip to another year.