FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION HAS BEEN THE REVOLUTIONARY FORCE IN PRETENDING TO HAVE A FIGHT and right now the young Sunny appears sipping champagne (or perhaps Canada Dry the Champagne of Ginger Ales?) in a bubble bath telling us that viewer indiscretion *tee hee hee* oh whoops she means viewer discretion is advised and man there sure are a lot of lurid stories about Sunny and her unfortunate cuckold of a dead wrestler husband, aren't there? The opening montage takes a pretty PURE SPORTS BUILD tone if I am using that internet term correctly: it is as though it is an NFL Films or HBO Sports kind of thing like CHAMPIONS ARE GUYS WHO DO THE FOLLOWING THINGS instead of THE UNDERTAKER HAS GREEN SMOKE COMING OUT OF HIS EYES which is a new direction of sorts. Mr. Perfect joins Vince McMahon on commentary and we are ready to go!
Our first match features "Double J" Jeff Jarrett who at a recent low-cost In Your House pay per view got the best of Ahmed Johnson I guess and tonight he is facing oh OK he is facing Ahmed Johnson here tonight also and remember how awesome his entrance music was? Johnson seemed like the real deal to me in that he was enormous and shiny and seemed pretty good out there but am I right to remember that he was let go because of a reputation for hurting people? As I recall he was only featured in one wrestling video game of note and that is the horrible WWF game that came out for Playstation and N64 right before wrestling games got better than almost any other kind of game which was a genuinely odd thing to have happened. I hope we get to see the Pearl River Plunge! I would describe that technique as a double underhook sit-out power bomb which is probably how the move would be described if you were playing Fire Pro Wrestling but if you designated it as your wrestler's finishing technique you would be free to rename it.
This match is OK. In 1996 we've finally reached the point where cool moves are shown on replay almost immediately (to say "instant" replay would be sheer hyperbole) so when Jarrett drives Johnson into the steps on the outside with an "Irish" whip we get to see it again. HOLY SHIT some other things happened that you don't need to worry about but eventually Ahmed Johnson dove out over the top and fell upon a waiting Jarrett on the outside which is something I want to tell you! Is that a plancha or a topé? Are "topé" and "top" cognate? Back on the inside Johnson misses a kind of "senton" or something and Jarrett applies the figure four leglock although it does not yield a submission AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA YEAH JEFF JARRETT COMES OFF THE TOP ROPE WITH A FUCKING GUITAR AND THEN RAISES HIS HANDS AS THE BELL RINGS AS THOUGH HE HAS WON and the referee is like no dude come on you know that's a DQ. lol that was a fantastic match and by far the most Jeff Jarrett has ever shown me.
Todd Pettingill has less stupid hair now but an even stupider grin and he asks Diesel what he thinks about tonight's Royal Rumble match and Diesel says he is like a ninth grader whose parents have left him alone for the first time in that he doesn't know what to expect but he thinks he is probably about to have the time of his life and still on the subject of time he says he has looked at his watch and it doesn't look like "Vader Time" to him HOLY SHIT VADER IS HERE NOW GUYS but instead looks like "Big Daddy Cool Time" which is a time that I would rank below both "Vader Time" and "Baller Time."
Here are the Bodydonnas and the really incredibly lurid Sunny. Like, even if you did not know all those stories about her and her ways, she is just an incredibly lurid seeming person even by the standards one would generally apply (perhaps unfairly? perhaps but also perhaps not) to people involved in the world of professional wrestling prior to let's say maybe 2003 or something when the ethos of the whole thing seemed to shift away from that of deeply odd people who backed into this weird business and toward something else that will perhaps become easier to describe when we have some distance from it but I guess you might characterize it in a preliminary way by saying for one thing that the modern wrestler seems to be someone whose sensibility was formed by playing the wrestling video games I have described above, or something, and who sipped protein shakes during the load screens, rather than people who you could easily imagine bombing around in a rental car getting high with Jim Duggan or legitimately murdering a girl like Jimmy Snuka. I don't want to do either of the things I have just described so I am not saying any of this to be nostalgic for the past or dismissive of the present because there are aspects of 2011 and 2012 WWE that are *entirely* compelling to me but I am at this point just writing basically and coming no closer to saying what I think I mean other than that the modern world of professional wrestling is obviously less lurid than it was in the past, and that is an observation that is neither novel nor the least controversial so let us simply return to the match at hand: the tag team champion Smoking Gunns are here and I never would have told you the Bodydonnas and Smoking Gunns were having good matches in 1996 but it looks like they totally were. For instance, when it looks like both Boddydonnas are about to slingshot a Gunn into the ring, they are instead both slingshotted out to the floor, and then the other Gunn dives out over the top. It's good stuff! Sunny is parading around on the outside in an effort to distract the rivals of her charges and she is doing a pretty good job of that. Also the lesser Bodydonna just gut-wrench powerbombed Candido onto Billy Gunn. After some carrying on the Gunns hit their totally tight middle-rope legdrop finisher but it is for not as the ref is distracted HOWEVER mere moments later there is a "small package" pinning predicament and yeah the Smoking Gunns have retained their World Wrestling Federation tag team titles so there you go.
We are clearly in the midst of the MONDAY NIGHT WARS HERE as we are treated to a Billionaire Ted sketch where the titular character is like "why can't we get some of these WWF New Generation wrestlers?" and yeah that is a thing that is about to happen almost immediately actually. Because we all enjoy video packages we are treated to one outlining the rivalry between Razor Ramon and his homophobic nightmare Goldust and this is a really awesome angle that has aged extremely well imo. Does Goldust wish to provoke and unnerve Razor Ramon because he covets the champion's Intercontinental title or is he straight up into him, that is to say, "gay for him" in our contemporary idiom? I think this is the debut of Marlena, too, because McMahon and Perfect are like "how odd is that it is an attractive lady with a cigar" but sometimes a cigar is just there to make you think about dicks as Freud once said. Razor Ramon's entrance theme remains pretty much the best, in case you had been wondering, and actually let us not overlook the extent to which Goldust's theme itself owns.
Also as Goldust kind of slinks around the ground and minces out of the corner in a legitimately predatory way whilst his valet sits in a director's chair shot from a low angle while she is sucking on an unlit cigar we are really veering into the so-called "Attitude Era" already here in spirit if not in name which I did not necessarily expect at this the 1996 Royal Rumble. Goldust is rubbing himself all over and looks out at Marlena who is licking her lips. In a legitimately EDGY spot Goldust escapes a waistlock and applies one himself and then straight up gropes Razor Ramon from behind and then lol they bring it up on replay this is awesome. Mr. Perfect speculates that if Razor Ramon loses his Intercontinental Title he will be "The Sad Guy" which is maybe the best joke I have ever heard actually. Vince is like, how would *you* deal with this, Mr. Perfect? and Mr. Perfect is like, "I'm a wrestler, McMahon; I would take him down and wrestle him . . . but maybe that is what he wants . . . ." Razor briefly spanks Goldust who then rubs himself all over and then hides behind Marlena and then there is a bunch of chain wrestling. This match owns. Dustin Runnels is an avant-garde performance artist working in a populist medium and in this respect he is not unlike Gonzo the Great which is not a name and comparison I toss around lightly.
Goldust has some pretty cool offense like an atomic drop pickup that bounces Razor off the top rope into a back drop and also A SLEEPER HOLD which as you perhaps know I favour. Mr. Perfect is tremendous here: IMAGINE IF HE PUTS HIM TO SLEEP MCMAHON HE CAN DO ANYTHING HE WANTS TO HIM MY GOD IMAGINE IT. Razor escapes with a mule kick to the groin that he clever conceals from referee Tim Who Used to Hang Out with Andre who I have just remembered is named TIM WHITE. Have I mentioned that in addition to the as-yet-unnamed Marlena there is also strange bellhop or porter or something who holds Marlena's tiny bag? Marlena manages to distract Tim White longer than any referee has ever been distracted while Razor's turnbuckle backdrop is missed as is the apparently evil 1-2-3 Kid's "spinning thrust kick" (what?) off the top rope and OH MY GOLDUST IS YOUR NEW INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION AND PREDATORY HOMOSEXUALITY HAS TRIUMPHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN and now Goldust and Marlena extend their tongues and flick them such that the tips briefly touch and this match was outstanding.
Now it is time for prerecorded comments from participants in tonight's Royal Rumble match but first it is Dr. Jeffrey Unger, Shawn Michaels', personal physician, who is standing in front of a blackboard that reads: VACCINES TODAY: MMR, HEP A, LARIUM, and who assures us Shawn Michaels is OK but he will be there all the same to be sure; Owen Hart threatens to end Shawn Michaels' career; Christian Jake The Snake In A Shirt is back; Jerry Lawler notes that he is royalty; Barry Horowitz has the biggest ears anyone has ever seen; Jim Cornette and Vader are roughly the same size and it is Vader Time; HBK is all "loopity doo doo daaaaa I am a good guy now baby yeah and my fans are called the kliq for your enjoyment tonight is the night."
YOUR FIRST ENTRANT IN TONIGHT'S ROYAL RUMBLE IS HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY who lost a match on the "Free For All" or something? Anyway at this time he prefers harpsichords and finery to Motorhead and spitting. Henry Godwin is number two. There was almost no build up to this, like, there was no AND NOOOOW THE ROYAL RUMBLE WHERE THE STAKES ARE HUGE AND IT IS EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF; instead it was like "ok let's have a rumble now I guess and btw this will be royal." Oh that's right I get it "Henry O. Godwin" as in HOG and iirc correctly there is also Phineas I. Godwin or something and that would be PIG and jesus christ come on. In at number three is presidential candidate Bob Backlund who still holds the record, we are told, for Royal Rumble endurance: 1 h 1m 15 sec. McMahon refers to Godwin almost exclusively as "the hog farmer" and he must have said it like a dozen times already.
Here comes Jerry Lawler and he still has the shittiest body and dumb tights and doesn't know any holds and so I do not respect him because I favour athletic scientific wrestling and good tights. Oh for fuck's sake Jerry Lawler brings Godwin's slop bucket into the ring and Godwin takes it from him and McMahon is like "THE HOG FARMER! IN CONTROL OF THE SLOP BUCKET!" and fuck man come on and everybody bails out of the ring stricken by slop terror and eventually Jerry Lawler is slopped and then Bob Holly hits the ring and it is like THE MID-NINETIES MID-CARD LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. And now King Mabel who is years away from Big Daddy V appears.
Christian Jake the Snake in A Shirt is next and he appears to be pretty badly winded from carrying that snake out but is all worth it when he clears the ring with snake except that it is not worth it at all who cares. We're back to the proper two minutes between entrants which is good but so far this Royal Rumble is for shit. That is about to change however because for some reason the next man to walk out through the merest puff of machined smoke is DORY FUNK JR WTF and Mr. Perfect is correct: that is one hell of a ring jacket. Jake attempts a DDT on HHH but it fails. Somebody can be heard just off mic saying "mumble mumble DRINKIN' MY WATER" as a DDT chant begins in earnest. Nobody has been eliminated; Jerry Lawler is hiding underneath the ring; why hasn't Dory Funk Jr defeated everyone.
YEEEAH IT IS YOKOZUNA who they are currently billing at 568 lbs. If he does not fuck everybody up immediately I will be discouraged. OK, he just got rid of Backlund, so that's a start. Holy shit Yokozuna is big now man. Even for a Samoan. The DDT chant is currently bananas but Jake is awfully slow out there idk. The 1-2-3 Kid is out next and Razor Ramon chases him down to and into the ring but our former Intercontinental Champion is eventually escorted to the back by World Wrestling Federation officials as DORY FUNK WITH THE AIRPLANE SPIN YEEAAAAH.
Who is Japanese wildman Omari? He has a swag ring jacket and cool classic boots and he's pretty excited to be here but I don' t know anything else about him. He goes right for Mabel maybe because of the strange ideas the Japanese have about black people? Jake the Snake really is sad to see out there at this point. Here comes Savio Vega who is now almost entirely Kwang-free.
This match is a turkey so far man a turkey and I am so livered at it right now. Some things happen though: Yokozuna eliminates Mabel, and Omari is out on the other side, and now there is VADER YEAH JUST START POWERBOMBING GUYS DO IT. Savio Vega eliminated Dory Funk and not only is Vader not powerbombing anyone, he has just pulled Vega in from the outside rather than just like pushing him a little for the elimination. Who the shit is Doug Gilbert? I am told he is from the USWA and that he is Eddie Gilbert's little brother. AT LAST there is a DDT and it is Savio Vega who is on the wrong end of it but immediately after Jake hits it Vader clubbers him and he is gone. Vince McMahon sucks at play-by-play, also.
There is an insanely fat dude who they say is from the Squat Team and I think I have seen both him and his tag team partner on an FMW tape I rented from Suspect Video in Toronto (the one by Honest Ed's, not the one on Queen Street that burned down). Vader tosses Gilbert and then the guy who may or may not have been on an FMW tape I rented eight years ago. Yokozuna and Vader pair off in one corner much to the chagrin of James E. Cornette. The next man in is the other Squat Team dude and now both of those guys from that squat team enter the ring and Vader knocks them both out and this match suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.
Owen Hart's music is awesome and he is in but I can't get excited about it because once again this is such shit right now. Yokozuna and Vader team up to squish Savio Vega for a while and it's the best thing so far which is a not a compliment but an indictment. Shawn Michaels comes dancing out to the ring and idk man it's just like nobody not even McMahon is communicating that the Royal Rumble is worth a damn it's just like "yeah here's the next guy let's just get through this." Yokozuna and Vader eventually run afoul of each other and hey cool Vader's mask is off and Shawn Michaels dumps them both while they are tangled up along the ropes and he also eliminates the 1-2-3 Kid and this crowd is pretty solidly behind the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels let me tell you. HAKUSHI IS NEXT and he had a hell of a match with Bret Hart this one time. Vader has been eliminated as I mentioned a moment ago but in his rage he reenters the ring and throws everybody out including Shawn Michaels right up and over the top in a cool way but we are told immediately that that elimination will not count because Vader is no longer a contestant in the Royal Rumble but as we all know that has never mattered before hmmmmmmmmmm I am beginning to think they are making some of this up as they go along in clear violation of preexisting convention if not written policy. A little later HBK tries to toss Cornette over the top but Cornette kind of fucks it up at first but don't worry he gets out alright in the end.
So who do we have in there now, we've got Tatanka, who is new, along with Owen Hart, Bob Holly, Helmsley, Michaels, Hakushi OH SHIT NOT HAKUSHI ANYMORE, and Jerry Lawler is no doubt still hiding under the ring. We've got Aldo Montoya out now and I am still digging him for whatever reason. The crowd is totally flat because the wrestling match they are watching is largely shit. Michaels pulls Lawler out from under the ring and back in and then eliminates him in a spot that was probably supposed to be funny and enjoyable for all but nobody cared.
IT IS DIESEL AND HE IS FULL OF DIESEL FUEL LADIES AND GENTLEMEN MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN BE SURE somebody get Vince off the microphone he is giving me cramps. Diesel sends Tatanka over the top and then drops HBK with a right hand despite how they are pals again. It's HBK, HHH, Diesel, Owen Hart, and Bob Holly who are joined by Kama who is a supreme fighting machine and a representative of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation. Another representative of that same corporation is next and it is THE RINGMASTER which is Steve Austin with just a little bit of hair and white boots that have a star on them and wooooah there are a ton of unsold seats in this not-exactly-huge venue. Times were tough "at the gate" I guess and it makes sense with shit this shitty shitting all over everything. The Ringmaster just got rid of Bob Holly with a running knee to the back. Barry Horowitz comes out to his notably Judaic entrance music and a rather skinny person dressed up as the Undertaker in the second row dances to it I think ironically.
Kama is huge and I don't think I ever properly appreciated that before. Diesel tosses Helmsley out but Helmsley would exact his revenge finally in the fall of 2011 when both men were in very different places both professionally and emotionally. Here comes Fatu who, what is going on, does he have like a positive urban gimmick of some kind now? lol Wikipedia tells me he was known as "Make A Difference" Fatu during this period and in even more shocking news FATU IS RIKISHI WTF HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT? Isaac Yankem DDS is in next and his theme music is a dentist's drill and he goes right after Diesel who he would later impersonate kind of I guess. Barry Horrowitz is out in case you were wondering about him. Owen Hart is out but they missed it on camera. JEEEEEEEESUS CHRIST STEVE AUSTIN JUST KILLED SHAWN MICHAELS DEAD WITH A CLOTHESLINE AND THEN ASSUMED THE POSITION OF HIS LITTLE POSING ROUTINE AND IT WAS FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE but short lived. Here's Marty Janetty, who I guess has been rehired because I don't think I mentioned this but I was reading in Bret Hart's book that Marty Jannetty got fired immediately after that match he had with Michaels a couple Royal Rumbles ago because apparently he showed up for that match really fucked up and Michaels totally had to carry him to that totally solid match. Anyway here he is and the two aging Rockers renew their rivalry.
The British Bulldog is back in pants this year and is also in at number twenty-nine. Diana Hart is shown in the crowd and she looks quite odd as usual however her look in this instance is marked by a surprising rudeness. Davey drops Jannetty to the outside as Fatu eliminates Austin and McMahon is missing about half of these eliminations and Perfect isn't doing any better. Yankem clotheslines Fatu WHO IS TOTALLY RIKISHI WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME to the outside and ONLY ONE MAN REMAINS TO ENTER AND IT IS DUKE THE DUMPSTER DROSEY WHO CARES AT ALL THAT IS THE DUMBEST. So it's Yankem, Michaels, Bulldog, the Dumpster, Diesel, and Kama. Michaels and the Bulldog take things outside and Owen Hart is back out and puts the boots to HBK. Back inside, HBK puts Glen Jacobs DDS and the Bulldog out just as Diesel gets the best of Kama and turns around into BOOOOOM SUPERKICK AND THAT'S IT LADIES IN GENTLEMEN THE WINNER OF HIS SECOND STRAIGHT ABSOLUTE PIECE OF SHIT ROYAL RUMBLE IS THE HEARTBREAK KID SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWN MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICHAELS YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHH BOYHOOD DREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM AS HE PULLS HIS TIGHTS DOWN TO REVEAL HIS BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT YEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH but oh no Diesel is back in the ring and what is going to happen here oh wait ok he is just there to high five his little buddy as HBK resumes his dance and little posing thing and lol the high point of this one was definitely Steve Austin as THE RINGMASTER clotheslining HBK to death and then diminishing him. Not a good Royal Rumble though. Really pretty bad.
HOWEVER we still have a Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker World Wrestling Federation Championship match to come and so there is every possibility that a Bret Hart title bout will help atone for a poor Royal Rumble match and hmmm it would seem Diesel who is making his way back to the Locker Room Area is getting set to "feud" with The Undertaker. The Undertaker is wearing a pretty cool mask at this point. AND HERE IS THE HITMAN AND YEEEAH HE IS THE BEST LET'S DO THIS as I only remember their match at The Summerslam 1997: "Hart and Soul" for which "Highway to Hell" was the theme music they uncharacteristically chose to license. Bret Hart gives his glasses to a dude in a turtleneck who seems to be afflicted by Down's Syndrome and he is pretty fuckin stoked to get those glasses as well he should be.
OK HERE WE GO and Mr. Perfect says that he usually goes with the superior technical wrestler in any given contest but the way the Undertaker simply does not seem to feel pain, he is not so sure. The match begins in a somewhat rough and tumble fashion which plainly will not benefit the champion. Why is the Undertaker grabbing the Hitman's nose from behind in the corner? idk but I like it. After a pretty rad turnbuckle the Undertaker has Hart in THE CLAW for a while. Hey it is that rope walking spot that literally never get old for real.
And we're back to the claw. This is not yet awesome but maybe they are going long. I will attempt to be patient. Bret Hart puts a few things together like a boot to the face and a second-turnbuckle clothesline and a clothesline to the outside and a slingshot dive to the outside also but when Hart tries another attack from the apron he is caught in a bearhug-esque grasp and driven into the ring post HOWEVER the Undertaker soon thereafter finds himself driven into a ring post as well and also the steps so there you go. They stay outside for kind of a long time. The Undertaker took that collision with the steps in kind of a cool way that renders plausible a knee injury and Hart goes to work on the leg with an eye towards, one expects, the eventual application of the Sharpshooter. "Bret Hart is at his best when he is on his scientific game" is Vince McMahon's astute observation.
FIGURE FOUR LEGLOCK from the champion. This match is OK so far but falls well short of the very high standard of last year's Bret Hart vs. A Huge Guy bout where both Hart and Diesel acquitted themselves tremendously. The Undertaker reverses the hold, Hart makes the ropes, and now both men are favouring a leg, Hart his right, the Undertaker his left. They're back outside and the Undertaker is choking him with some cables and then fires him into the timekeeper's area and attacks him with a chair. Paul Bearer was doing a pretty bad job of distracting the referee throughout. Really, really slow match. When they're back in and Hart is being pretty relentless with the leg, we start to hear significant boos for the Hitman and yeah he is laying into the knee both in and outside of the ring and the crowd is like "HEY STOP" a little. Then when the Undertaker puts Hart down with a clothesline, there's a ton of booing. The crowd is split pretty evenly. Some pretty cool stuff here like a Bret Hart stunner-type-thing over the ropes and then a fairly rad DDT and of course the side Russian leg sweep followed by a running bulldog.
The Undertaker, however, sits up, but as he does so the crowd is like BOOOOOOOO but then when Bret hits the backbreaker and half sits up but then doesn't and then takes a second rope elbow drop the crowd is also like BOOOOOO so they don't know how to feel I guess. A Sharpshooter attempt is goozled out of and a double clothesline puts both men on their backs. Bret's up first and he removes both the top turnbuckle pad AND the Undertaker's "facial appliance" and you know where this is headed. And BOOOOOOOOOOOOO. This is a long slow grueling match where the crowd is being played quite expertly I think OH SHIT TOMBSTON PILEDRIVER OUT OF BASICALLY NOWHERE AND OH MY DIESEL ARRIVES AND PULLS HEBNER OUT OF THE RING AND IT IS A DQ.
AAAAAHAHAHA IT IS THE MIDDLE FINGER FROM DIESEL I thought that was a banned technique or "kinshi waza" in 1996 though I guess things are very much headed in that direction aren't they.
Well that was a pretty bad Royal Rumble PPV in the end: awful Rumble; good but by no means great title match with a junk finish redeemed somewhat by an obscene hand gesture; good IC match with Razor and Goldust; good tag team match; and Jeff Jarrett came off the top with a guitar. We close with THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION ROYAL RUMBLE PLUS which is some pretty shitty interviews with Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker and Diesel ("in 1996 it's no longer the World Wrestling Federation it's the DIESEL Wrestling Federation") and an ok one with James E. Conette whilst Vader throws chairs at a locker.