Royal Rumble 1997

WWF Royal Rumble
January 19, 1997
San Antonio, TX

The current WWF champs were as follows:
World Champion: Psycho Sid (11/17/1996)
Intercontinental Champion: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (10/21/1996)
World Tag Team Champions: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith (9/22/1996)

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler.

There was a Free For All portion of the show, but I don’t have any footage. It just had some midgets looking like Vader and Mankind doing midget things with other midgets. Just a short match with some small spots. There was very little interest in it, I’m sure.

  • WWF Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Curtis Hughes) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

HHH tried to steal Marlena away since he thought Goldust was gay, but it turns out he’s NOT. He’s just misunderstood, that’s all. He brings back the Angry Black Man himself Mr. Hughes as his bodyguard. These two have literally no chemistry or anything possibly in common character wise, so next month we’ll see HHH debut with a mannish woman named Chyna. Goldust meets HHH in the aisle and beats him into the ring. An inverted atomic drop stops Goldust’s onslaught, but he counters a PEDIGREE and catapults HHH back out to the floor. Goldust abuses Hunter with the steps for a bit. HHH comes back with a kick to the balls and dumps Goldust for a flying double sledge to the floor. He sends Goldust into the ringpost while Vince and JR wonder if Mr. Hughes has been to butler school since apparently he’s now HHH’s unannounced and completely assumed butler. Like a dummy, HHH runs knees first up to Goldust while he’s up against the guardrail, but Goldust moves and HHH hurts his knee. Goldust slams half of the steps down on HHH’s knee and takes him back inside to work on that body part some more. He hooks on the figure-four and even grabs hold of the ropes! Back to the floor, Goldust gives HHH a shinbreaker onto the steps. Back in, Goldust misses a Lariat and takes his dive to the outside. Now HHH slams Goldust’s face down onto the stairs. Chill with the steps, guys. Helmsley grabs Marlena’s chair and threatens to hit Goldust, but the ref intervenes. Apparently Todd Pettingell is so bored with this match, would rather talk to country music singer Collin Raye in the audience. Back in the ring, HHH hits the Knee Drop out of the corner using his bad knee. DURRR. Goldust mounts a comeback, but misses a flying elbow. Now Mr. Hughes tosses in the IC belt to HHH. While he’s distracting the ref, Hunter goes over and kisses Marlena off the apron. Goldust punches the belt away from Helmsley and nails him with the belt instead. Cover, 1-2-NO! Hughes pulls Hunter out to the floor for the save, so Goldust punches him down from the apron. Goldust tells Hughes FCK YOU and then turns around into a huge clothesline for the inside out sell. PEDIGREE! It’s over. (16:48) Solid I guess, but no one had any heat for their roles. Goldust really tried to get this over as a serious feud with him as the hero, but the crowd wasn’t falling for it. In fact, they were falling asleep. **

  • Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq (w/Nation of Domination)

This was supposed to happen back at SummerSlam over the IC title when Faarooq debuted and attacked Ahmed Johnson, but Ahmed had some legit kidney problems and had to give up the belt and kill a ton of the face heat he was getting as he took time off for surgery. His popularity was never the same after his big return match here, although he had been attacking the Nation of Domination since his return back in October. But for tonight, it’s ON. Ahmed is all over Faarooq like black on tar. A young D’Lo Brown (who is just another suit in the Nation of Domination) gets sacrificed so that Faarooq can take over. He unfolds a chair on the floor and drops Ahmed on the back part of the chair to batter his kidneys. Back inside, Faarooq sits down on Ahmed’s back during a chinlock. He stands up to talk smack to the crowd and pays for it as Ahmed stands up and delivers an electric chair drop, which takes some out of Ahmed. Faarooq tries a flying shoulder tackle, but Ahmed catches him in mid-air for a powerslam. Ahmed jumps up into a Spinebuster, but then NO-SELLS and returns the favor. He calls for the PEARL RIVER PLUNGE, but in come the Nation of Domination for the DQ. (8:45) Pretty standard big man revenge match when they meet for the first time. Afterwards, one of the suits takes a Scott Steiner-style butterfly slam through the French announce table. I guess they didn’t want to offend all the Spanish speaking folks in San Antonio this time. ¾*

  • The Undertaker vs. Vader

Jim Cornette took a Tombstone from the Undertaker a few weeks ago to put him away for a while. He would never return to Vader’s corner again. Vader is able to get UT down thanks to his massive size, but he keeps sitting up and that freaks Vader out a little bit. To the floor we go with UT in control, Vader hotshots Taker back to turn the tide. Back in, Vader telegraphs a backdrop and takes a Rocker Dropper. WHAT. A big slam from UT sets up the jumping legdrop for two. Vader doesn’t want to get Old School and trips Taker up on the ropes. While Vader is getting violent with Taker in the corner, Todd Pettingell would rather interview teenage girls about how they saved their babysitting money to come see Shawn Michaels. Vader avalanches UT and hits a flying body attack. Taker fights out of a nerve hold and hits a back suplex. Vader decides to fly, but Taker catches him in mid-air with a powerslam. No big deal. POWERBOMB by Vader! Cover, 1-2-NO! Taker SITS-UP! He connects with the Flying Lariat and gets Old School whether Vader wants to or not. Oh wait a minute, here comes Paul Bearer. Taker delivers the Chokeslam and calls for the TOMBSTONE, but he spies Paul Bearer and dumps out Vader so he can go over and punch Paul. Taker brings him into the ring and that serves to help Vader jump him from behind, but Taker FEELS him coming and we go to the floor. Taker tries to pull a Sting with a Stinger Splash up against the guardrail. At the last moment, Paul Bearer yanks Vader out of the way just in time. While the ref is with Vader, Paul Bearer comes off the apron onto Taker’s head with the urn and nearly knocks himself out in the process. HA! Back in, the Pump Splash is enough to score the pinfall. VADER WINS! (13:19) Dang, when was the last time Undertaker was PINNED on PPV? I know the answer after looking it up, but it’s a good question for you kids out there. Vader and Paul Bearer wisely get the heck out of town. Once the Undertaker gets up, he takes his frustrations out on the ref with a Chokeslam. These two always had pretty good chemistry. Alright, enough said. **½

Last year in Miami, Dory Funk Jr got a try at the Royal Rumble. This year, it’s TERRY FUNK! He gives us a quick word because he was born to rumble.

  • Hector Garza, El Canek & Perro Aguayo vs. Heavy Metal, Jerry Estrada & Fuerza Guerrera

Since WCW had all the young and talented AAA stars, the WWF was left with the rest. If you think I’m going to transcribe this match, you’re nuts. It’s just a lot of lucha libre moves that you’ve seen done MUCH better in WCW with no rhyme or reason behind it. This was supposed to draw in the Mexicans, but it didn’t seem to go as well as Vince had planned. But hey, he’s just trying something new. This is during the “transition” period. The highlight is Garza’s corkscrew plancha on Estrada. Back inside, Perro Aguayo puts Heavy Metal away with a weak FLYING DOUBLE STOMP. (10:57) Total disaster. Whatever you do, please don’t try this again. In four months, Hector Garza would show up in WCW to have more fun. *½

Stone Cold Steve Austin tells a cameraman to get out of his face. What is Davey Boy going to do tonight? I don’t know, but he’s going to get BIZARRE!

  • The Rumble

And we’re back to the ninety second rule which sticks until 2001. Crush draws #1 and guess who #2 is…yes, it’s Ahmed Johnson. You can probably imagine how that plays out until the fake Razor Ramon heads out at #3. Ahmed throws him out almost immediately. Back to Crush and Ahmed. Faarooq starts heading down, which makes Ahmed LOSE HIS MIND as he jumps out over the top rope to the floor to chase Faarooq away. Phineas Godwinn is #4. It’s a lot of punching and kicking. *GLASS SHATTERS* Here comes Stone Cold Steve Austin at #5. Phineas uses his brains and takes down Austin with a clothesline. Austin and Crush start to work together, but that fails and Phineas tosses out Crush. Once Phineas turns around, Austin interrupts his celebration with a STONE COLD STUNNER. See ya, Phineas. Bart Gunn meets Austin in the ring as our #6 entrant. Austin takes care of him pretty quickly and shows off just how much a breeze this will be with some push ups. He even sits up on the top turnbuckle and looks at his wrist tape watch to see when the next jackass is coming out. Jake Roberts is #7! Looks like he wants the Short-Arm Clothesline, but settles for a wristlock? Okay, there it is. DDT? Nope. Austin backdrops him out. Davey Boy Smith enters in at #8. He’s got a bone to pick with Austin. What a coincidence! He hits the RUNNING POWERSLAM, but Austin holds onto the ropes to prevent elimination. AAA’s Pierroth joins the fray at #9. He gets in between Austin and Davey Boy, which just causes him more pain than success. The Sultan enters the Rumble at #10. With three different characters, this marks his fifth Rumble appearance. Okay, so we learn that Pierroth can’t slam him here.

The legendary Mil Mascaras draws #11. He hits Sultan with the Cross Chop, but can’t get him over the top rope. Here comes Hunter Hearst Helmsley at #12. He sells the knee injury as he sprints down to the ring. Davey Boy gives Sultan one good clothesline followed by another to take him out to the floor. Austin starts working over HHH as Owen Hart comes in at #13. He joins his tag team partner Davey Boy Smith to work over Austin. When DBS has Austin on the top rope, Owen tries to help out and tosses the Bulldog out by accident while Austin falls on the apron and slides back into the ring. It’s safe to say that Davey Boy is not too happy. Goldust joins us at #14 as Austin and HHH try to eliminate him. It’s a no-go. Here comes AAA’s Cibernetico at #15. He battles with Mascaras. Pierroth charges them both with a clothesline and takes out Cibernetico. As he turns around, Mascaras dumps him out and dives off on top of him to eliminate himself. However, he went through the middle ropes to get to the top rope – not over the top ropes and to the floor. So I say, Mil Mascaras is the CO-WINNER of the 1997 Royal Rumble. But nobody cares what I think. Marc Mero is #16. He joins Goldust where they left off on Raw – beating up HHH. Goldust clotheslines Hunter out, which leaves Mero and Goldust getting at each other. The Latin Lover draws #17 and starts unloading on people with the Superkick. Uhhhh, you’re not Shawn Michaels. You can’t do that move. Goldust tosses Owen so he can skin-the-cat back inside. Latin Lover whiffs on a dropkick directed at Goldust, but here comes Owen to clothesline Goldust out. Faarooq enters in at #18 and eliminates the Latin Lover. Austin and Faarooq start CLUBBERIN, but here comes Ahmed to break that up with an extra long 2×4 to BEAT Faarooq over the top rope for elimination. Meanwhile, Austin comes over and dumps out Mero and Owen at the SAME time to become the last man standing in the ring. Savio Vega is the #19 entrant. He’s always had bad blood with Austin and it shows here. Savio connects with the SPINNING HEEL KICK, but Austin catches him with the Stun Gun and clotheslines Savio out to the floor. “Double J” Jesse James heads out at #20. He gets in a few shots on Austin, but he’s quickly eliminated after strutting around like a fool.

Austin dares them to keep on coming – that is until Bret Hart’s music hits as he has drawn #21. Austin’s bug-eyed look at the opening chord is AWESOME. Nevertheless, he motions for Bret to come get some. Bret pounds him down and locks in the SHARPSHOOTER. Jerry Lawler drops a bomb on us as the surprise #22. As soon as Bret lets go of the Sharpshooter on Austin, he punches Lawler up and over the top rope to eliminate him. Poor Jerry. Bret continues with his patented five moves. Here comes the fake Diesel at #23. He just gets in the way. Terry Funk heads down at #24 and works over his fellow Texan. Bret tries to stop Austin from eliminating Funk for some reason. He takes an ugly PILEDRIVER for his efforts. The rookie Rocky Maivia enters the Rumble at #25. He unloads on Austin and Diesel with the Rocky Johnson blows. Mankind comes in at #26. He hooks up with Funk while Bret locks Austin in a sleeper, who breaks it up with a jawbreaker. Flash Funk joins us at #27. Meanwhile, Bret REALLY drops Austin with a Piledriver. JR reminds us that Flash Funk and Terry Funk are in no way related. What a journalist that JR is. Vader is #28 and goes right after Bret. Henry Godwinn heads out at #29. He’s the first one to put Vader down with a big clothesline. The ring is really starting to fill up. Something has got to give. Now Undertaker enters the Royal Rumble at #30. He goes after the usual suspects and gives them Chokeslams. Once that’s over, Flash Funk tries a crossbody on Vader and gets tossed away to be eliminated. Henry Godwinn tries to hang on after several near-eliminations until the Undertaker grabs him by the throat and throws him over the top rope to finally eliminate him. Rocky takes the MANDIBLE CLAW and gets backed out to the floor. Funk takes a Cactus Clothesline, but gets back into the ring before he reaches the floor. With Mankind still on the apron, he just takes Funk to the floor with a suplex. Before Mankind can make it back into the ring, UT boots him off to the floor. Mankind and Funk start fighting, which brings all the ringside refs over to pull them apart. Meanwhile, Bret throws Austin over the top rope! Before the refs can see anything, Austin slides back into the ring as if nothing had happened. With UT trying to dump out Vader and Bret attempting to take care of fake Diesel, Austin sneaks up and tips Vader and UT over. Bret gets rid of Diesel before Austin can come up behind Bret and flip him out for the win. (50:30) What a GREAT ending that gives even more heat to Austin. I mean, no one had ever been able to do what he had done here. All the same, nothing special all the way through as they just ran through the motions except for the moments where Austin was able to shine. Bret has a conniption fit and blames Vince for getting screwed again. AWESOME. ***

  • WWF World Champion Psycho Sid vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario)

Sid beat Shawn and Jose with one of those huge WWF cameras in order to win the WWF title. Now he’s going to pay. This would be Jose Lothario’s last appearance in Shawn’s corner. Shawn says he’s got a touch of the flu bug going into this match. Sid shoves Shawn around to start. He finally gets Sid off his feet with a crossbody and then bounces his head on the mat. Sid heads out, but Shawn brings him back in only to fly down into a powerslam for two. Jose Lothario’s son is watching on from the front row. Time for a camel clutch. Shawn escapes, but takes the nasty Ray Stevens corner bump out to the floor. Sid drives Shawn into the ringpost for a two-count. Chinlock with a knee to the back is applied. Shawn fights out again, but gets drilled with a clothesline. After a few corner to corner whips, Sid clamps on a bearhug. He eventually collapses down into a nearfall. Huge legdrop by Sid gets two. Shawn fights back with punches and slams Sid pretty good. Flying forearm connects and sets up the Flying Elbow Drop. Sid blocks SWEET CHIN MUSIC and backdrops Shawn to the floor. How about a POWERBOMB on the floor, Shawn? Back inside, Earl Hebner gets squashed in the corner. Chokeslam by Sid, but of course there’s nobody to count. Here comes ref Mike Chioda. Cover, 1-2-NO! Sid punches Chioda down because he’s INSANE. Now Jose Lothario gets up on the apron to distract Sid while Shawn Michaels grabs a big video camera. He beats Sid down and covers for 1-2-NO! SWEET CHIN MUSIC! That’ll do. The slow Hebner three-count ensues. (13:49) Was this the only match every one came to see? They finally woke up for this one. Not the superior storytelling match that we saw at Survivor Series, but a decent main event to send everyone home happy. Everyone except for Shawn that is, but we’ll get to that a little later. **½

Final Thoughts: Trying to fill a gigantic dome arena at this point took BALLS. However, it killed any momentum the show might have had as nobody seemed to care except for the few key moments of the show like Bret-Austin and Shawn’s title win over Sid because you’ve got probably 30,000 people who got free tickets and didn’t really care. If you’re going to watch anything from the show, check out the Rumble for Austin’s performance and leave it at that. Slight thumbs in the middle for Royal Rumble 1997.


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