WWF: Royal Rumble 1998

Royal_Rumble_1998

WWF: Royal Rumble
January 18, 1998
San Jose, CA
San Jose Arena

The current WWF champs are as follows:
World Champion: Shawn Michaels (11/9/1997)
Intercontinental Champion: The Rock (12/8/1997)
World Tag Team Champions: The New Age Outlaws (11/24/1997)
European Champion: Triple H (12/22/1997)
Light Heavyweight Champion: TAKA Michinoku (12/7/1997)

Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Mike Tyson is watching the show from a skybox. Vince and Shane McMahon will be shown sitting with him at certain times throughout the show.

  • TAFKA Goldust (w/Luna Vachon) vs. Vader

San Jose really seems to love Vader. He’s a house of fire to start squashing Goldust in the corner. When Goldust bails, Vader knocks him into Luna and wipes her out. There’s even a Vader chant going on right now. He sends Goldust into the steps and threatens to drop the steps on him, but listens to the ref’s advice. Back inside, Luna trips up Vader allowing Goldust to take control. He focuses on Vader’s creamy thighs and takes him to the floor for a ride into the steps as a receipt. Luna goes over and jabs her shoe down into Vader’s windpipe. Back in, Goldust gets a little too excited with a ten count corner punch and lays a wet one on Vader. Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Vader turns him inside out with a clothesline. Goldust can’t slam Vader and receives a suplex and splash for 1-2-NO! It’s time for the VADER BOMB, but Luna gets the attention of the ref while Goldust punches Vader in the balls. That doesn’t seem to stop Vader as he catches Goldust with another clothesline. Vader stops a sunset flip and sits down on him. That’s enough to set up another Vader Bomb. Instead of distracting the ref, Luna decides to jump on Vader’s back. It doesn’t seem to bother Vader too much though as the VADER BOMB happens anyways now with some extra weight crashing down on Goldust. That’s enough to get the win. (7:47) You could always count on these two to at least have a good match. While I’m using to seeing them with the roles reversed and this was not to the level of their WCW stuff, they still manage to show off the chemistry they had together. **½

In the back, Michael Cole is standing by when Stone Cold Steve Austin arrives at the arena. Austin treats him like a valet. The Godwinns come by looking for Austin.

  • Guest Referee: Sunny – Max Mini, Mosaic & Nova vs. Battalion, El Torito & Tarantula

Because she’s got nothing better to do, Sunny is the guest referee for this one. Not a lot to say about this for the first several minutes. The lucha minis do their thing with lucha style moves that really don’t mean anything or seem to have any consequences. Mike Tyson is shown being thoroughly entertained. Jerry Lawler makes a midget joke every 30 seconds. The only little person who gets any real attention – Max Mini (or Mascarita Sagrada) – gets controlled for a bit until Sunny helps him out. Everyone takes their turn doing a high spot onto the floor. In the ring, Max Mini hits a flying headscissors on El Torito and cradles him up for the win. (7:49) Once it picks up, it’s not so bad. Sunny holds Max Mini like a little baby before they head to the back. **

The Nation of Domination head to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s locker room. Faarooq wants Mark Henry to beat up Austin to prove his loyalty to the NOD. They break inside only to find a foam finger sitting in a chair. OH THAT AUSTIN.

Elsewhere, The Rock is being interviewed by Michael Cole. He gives Bill Clinton some advice about Paula Jones. He switches gears to Ken Shamrock saying that even though Shamrock is all alone dealing with the NOD, someone will be around to carry him out when the Rock is through with him.

  • WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock

Champ enters first. They take turns backing each other into the corner off a collar and elbow tie-up to start. As they start running the ropes, Shamrock catches Rock with a roundhouse kick and punches him out to the floor. Back inside, they start trading corner clotheslines. Shamrock looks for the hurracanrana, but Rocky falls back and drops Shamrock throat-first on the top rope. He lets the Rocky Sucks chants get to him though, but he quiets the people down by stomping a mudhole in Shamrock. Shamrock fires back and hits a crossbody block. Fisherman suplex gets two. We go to the floor where Rock bounces Shamrock’s face off the steps. Back inside, the Hurricane DDT scores big for 1-2-NO! Rocky clamps on a weak chinlock. When Shamrock fights out, he blocks another Hurricane DDT and delivers a release northern lights suplex. HERE COMES SHAMROCK! Powerslam gets two. He hits the Hurracanrana and the Nation of Domination sense their champ is in trouble. Shamrock knocks Kama and D’Lo off the apron, but then Shamrock turns back around and gets nailed with some brass knuckles courtesy of the Rock. Rocky hides the knucks in Shamrock’s tights though. D’Lo’s foot is caught in between the ropes and he’s hanging on the apron. The ref is trying to break him loose, but turns around to count Shamrock for 1-2-NO! Rock goes for the Shoulderbreaker, but Shamrock slips away and nails the Belly to Belly Suplex. Cover, 1-2-3! (10:53) After the bell, Rocky holds his mouth and tells the ref to check Shamrock’s tights. When he does and Shamrock pulls out the knucks, ref Mike Chioda changes the decision and disqualifies Shamrock. OH WHAT A RAW DEAL. Solid match though as both guys have showed tons of improvement over the last year. They just keep getting better as individual performers. After the bell, Shamrock snaps and puts the ref in the ANKLELOCK. That’ll cost him serious dough, says JR. ***¼

Now Los Boricuas are trying to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin. They find a bald guy wearing a leather vest, but it’s one of the DOA guys. Oh well. It’s still a win for them, I suppose. AUSTIN IS A MARKED MAN.

  • WWF Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws vs. The Legion of Doom

Here we go with the return of the Road Warriors. The Outlaws wear Brett Favre jerseys to the ring after the Green Bay Packers just defeated the San Francisco 49ers the week before in the NFC championship game. You can imagine how this one starts. The LOD are hot and the Outlaws go on the run. They’re brought back to the ring where Hawk continues to put the hurting on Road Dogg. Looks like Road Dogg bit his tongue real bad as he’s bleeding from the mouth. The Road Warriors work the neck culminating in a Reverse Neckbreaker from Hawk. Tag to Gunn, he gets thrown around as well. Animal is all powerslams on these guys. As they bend on Gunn’s neck, Hawk even applies an STF. Animal becomes face in peril though and gets whipped into the steps to turn the tide. JR talks about how this match might not have even happened since Animal was still having some back problems and wasn’t medically cleared to wrestle until earlier in the day. Hawk takes over on the Outlaws, but misses a corner charge and takes his shoulder bump to the ringpost out to the floor. Road Dogg ends up handcuffing Hawk to one of the corners leaving Animal alone with the Outlaws. Ross wonders how that isn’t a DQ. When Animal appears to be handling the Outlaws by himself, Road Dogg comes in and blasts him with a chair across the back for the DQ. (7:56) While the Outlaws continue to do damage on the back, Hawk gets INTENSE and breaks the cuffs to save his partner by drilling the Outlaws with chairshots. Not one of their finest matches. It felt like they just wanted to get the Outlaws passed the LOD so they could get to the next feud with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in the quickest possible way. *½

They announce the winner of the Stone Cold Truck. It’s Mildred Bowers from Nashville!

  • The Rumble Match

Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie are the first two participants. They beat each other up with chairs and try eliminating one another until Tom Brandi enters the match at #3. Cactus and Charlie work together and immediately dump him out. They go back to clubbing one another, but Cactus has the bright idea of setting up two chairs and dropping Charlie on them with a suplex. GOOD GRIEF. The Rock is #4 and can do whatever he wants with these two since they’re both hurting. Cactus cools him down with a trash can. Cactus puts the trash can on the Rock as he and Charlie take turns punching the can. Eventually, Cactus whacks Rocky with the chair that takes him through the ropes and out to the floor. Cactus celebrates up in the corner, but Charlie sees an opportunity and blasts Cactus in the nuts. They go back to fighting as Headbanger Mosh comes in at #5. More brawling ensues as Rock comes back inside the ring. Funk tries a flying moonsault on Mosh and hits nothing but canvas. Phineas Godwinn heads down at #6 and joins the Rock to beat up Mosh. Rock seems to be picking his moments and lets the other four beat on one another. 8-Ball runs down at #7. Cactus misses the Cactus Clothesline on Chainsaw Charlie and eliminates himself. Blackjack Bradshaw – seems to be the Tito Santana of the New Blackjacks – enters the match at #8. Chainsaw Charlie is so good at these near eliminations, it’s almost sad that nobody else is even close to being as good as he is right now. Owen Hart is scheduled to be the #9 guy, but Jeff Jarrett and Jim Cornette attack him during his entrance. Refs and agents get rid of Jarrett and Cornette, but the damage has been done. Owen never makes it to the ring. Steve Blackman comes in at #10 and tries to kick out Chainsaw Charlie. 8-Ball gives Charlie a piledriver. JR wonders if Charlie didn’t like being given a piledriver.

The ring is starting to pile up here as D’Lo Brown makes his Royal Rumble debut at #11. He exchanges some punches with the Rock, but they punch each other silly. #12 is Kurrgan – the man to beat. He easily dumps out Mosh. Marc Mero comes down to the ring with Sable as the #13 entrant. At least for right now, he doesn’t seem to mind the praise his wife is getting. Kurrgan throws out Steve Blackman. Bradshaw and Godwinn decide to team up against Kurrgan. Meanwhile, the Rock and D’Lo are at it again. Ken Shamrock heads down at #14. He joins almost everybody else in the ring to toss out Kurrgan because big guys never win Royal Rumbles. Headbanger Thrasher enters the match at #15. More of the same happening. Nothing too interesting. Hey wait a minute, Mankind is the #16 guy. He goes after Chainsaw Charlie and eliminates him. Wearing a different outfit, Goldust enters the match at #17. He mixes it up with Mankind while the Rock and Shamrock are back at it. Mero is getting pissed off that Sable isn’t getting excited for him. Goldust ends up flipping Mankind over the top rope to the floor. Jeff Jarrett struts his way down to the ring at #18. Once he’s in the ring, Owen Hart runs down and beats the ever living crap out of Jarrett. AWESOME. He hits a Spinning Heel Kick and nearly gets eliminated, but Owen skins the cat and throws Jarrett over the top rope to the floor. The crowd just loves Owen right now. As far as pops go, it’s probably Austin, Sable, Owen, Vader, and Shamrock. #19 is Honky Tonk Man. Triple H and Chyna follow behind him. Meanwhile, Rock throws out Shamrock. DX gets the attention of Owen. As Owen grabs one of their crutches from Chyna, Helmsley gets up on the apron and whacks Owen with the other crutch, allowing Chyna to jerk him out over the top rope to the floor. What an arrogant ass is Helmsley. Before Ahmed Johnson makes his entrance as the #20 entrant, you can see Owen chasing after Helmsley only to trip and fall down the stairs as he goes through the curtain. You can’t help but laugh at that. How many returns after injuries does this make for Ahmed since he started two years ago? Five?

Mark Henry heads down at #21. He smiles all big at first until he remembers he’s a heel and changes his expression. Henry goes right after Ahmed, but it takes some powder and some heavy lifting from D’Lo to get Ahmed out of the ring. I THINK AHMED IS HURT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS MAN? Henry then backdrops Godwinn out and ref Jack Doan gets kicked in the head on the way down. Whoops. For some reason, Godwinn and Ahmed brawl all the way to the back. Nobody shows up for #22, which we can assume was supposed to be Skull. Lawler thinks that Austin got what was coming to him since he hasn’t showed up at #22. WHAT. Based on what information? Anyways, Kama appears as the #23 guy as four of the five members of the Nation of Domination are currently in the ring. As we reach #24, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s music plays. Everybody in the ring stops fighting, but there’s no Stone Cold. Oh wait, here he is. He pops up through the crowd and punches Marc Mero over the top rope. Several guys gang up on him, but he breaks loose and throws 8-Ball out. Austin chokes D’Lo Brown with his vest, but D’Lo fights back and chokes him down in the corner. Henry Godwinn enters at #25. He is all over Austin like white on rice. Austin comes back and nearly eliminates him though. Here comes Savio Vega at #26 and his Los Boricuas. Yes, all of them come down to gang up on Austin. Savio misses a SPINNING HEEL KICK intended for Austin and nails Jose. Austin decks Jesus and Miguel, but can’t quite land the STONE COLD STUNNER on Vega. The ring is just too full right now to do much of anything. #27 is Faarooq. Understandably so, he goes right after the Rock and beats him out to the floor where Austin is at. They start trading punches on each other. Austin takes a nasty spill into the steps and barricade. The third final personality of Mick Foley – Dude Love – heads down at #28. He knocks Bradshaw over the top rope to eliminate him. Now Goldust is on the floor brawling with Austin. Meanwhile, the Rock is laying the smackdown on D’Lo with the People’s Elbow. Austin jumps Rock and starts pummeling him right before #29 enters the ring. It’s Chainz! Thrasher reverses a whip on D’Lo who gets sent right into a backdrop by Faarooq to send him to the showers. Vader enters the match at #30. Ross is REALLY into the Kodiak bear comparison for Vader tonight. He goes after Goldust and eliminates Honky Tonk Man when he gets interrupted. Thrasher tries to get rid of Austin, but charges him and gets dumped out. Kama tries the same tactic and Austin dumps him out. Now Savio wants Austin, but Austin tosses him out as well. Elsewhere, Goldust manages to clothesline Vader over the top rope. Dude Love ducks a charging Godwinn and he goes flying out to the floor. Eliminations are happening quick right now. Chainz throws out Goldust, but then Austin backdrops Chainz over the top rope down onto the steps! Henry doesn’t seem to want to take a bump out to the floor, but Faarooq sort of makes him.

FINAL FOUR: The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Faarooq, and Dude Love. Clearly Rock and Faarooq work together, but so do the former tag champs. They whip Rock and Faarooq into each other. Dude hits the Sweet Shin Music and the DOUBLE-ARM DDT on the Rock! That’s as far as the Dude-Austin alliance goes as Austin attacks him. He winds up in the MANDIBLE CLAW though until Austin kicks him in the balls. With Dude up against the ropes, Faarooq clotheslines him out and goes right back after Austin. Rock just sits back and lets whatever happens happen. With Faarooq having trouble tossing out Austin, Rock comes up behind Faarooq and throws him out! And then there were two. They have an awesome exchange of punches. Austin seems to have thrown out the Rock, but Rock lands on the apron and rolls back inside the ring. Seeing Rock come up behind him, Austin turns around and delivers the first STONE COLD STUNNER of the night. With the Rock reeling, Austin easily tosses him over the top rope to win the match and head to the main event of WrestleMania 14. (55:24) Mike Tyson seems pretty elated about the outcome here. Of course, his opinion of Austin completely changes in 24 hours. Not one of the better Rumbles without much of a story. It’s mostly just your typical battle royal type action until Stone Cold showed up. It’s certainly remembered for the awesome finish though and the prophecy being fulfilled that Austin and the Rock are the future of WWF main events. **½

  • Casket Match: WWF Champion Shawn Michaels (w/DX) vs. The Undertaker

This match is intended to metaphorically put their feud “in the coffin”. Apparently, the feud is UNDEAD because it rises to his feet again in 2009. Shawn corners Taker early and peppers him with jabs. Undertaker is less than impressed and catches Michaels with a crossbody out of the corner into a choke lift. Shawn rakes Taker in the face to escape, but runs into a press slam. The casket lid opens, but Shawn slips away and instead takes a backdrop to the floor. On the way down, he catches his lower back on the edge of the casket, which is the back injury that puts him out of wrestling that we all thought ended his career. UT follows him out and posts HBK before booting him into the casket. Shawn realizes immediately where he is and jumps out to safety. Back inside, Taker puts the brakes on an O’Connor roll and drills Shawn with a soupbone. Undertaker hits Old School and whips Shawn out for a crazy Harley Race bump to the floor. Michaels hotshots UT and comes off the top, but Taker catches him in mid-air with a powerslam. OPEN THE CASKET LID! Shawn gets rolled in and sticks his arm in the way to prevent losing. When Taker opens the casket lid back open, Michaels stands up and throws powder in Taker’s face! Back in the ring, Taker gets tired of Shawn’s jabs and grabs him for a possible Chokeslam, but Shawn rakes the eyes and since he’s up in the corner anyway, he delivers the Moonsault Press. It’s amazing that he’s able to do that with his back in the condition it’s in. They head to the floor where Taker goes knees-first into the steps. After Shawn drops the top part of the steps on Taker a few times, he gives UT the PILEDRIVER on the bottom half which makes that sick thud noise. Now Triple H gets involved where he uses his crutch on the Undertaker. Shawn picks up a chair and beats it across Taker’s back just for fun. Back inside, Shawn connects with the flying back elbow and calls for the casket lid to be opened. Once UT is in the casket, he punches Shawn back into the ring. Taker telegraphs a backdrop to end his comeback and takes a swinging neckbreaker. THE SLEEPER HOLD IS APPLIED!

Taker fights out with a back suplex, but then Shawn nails him with the Flying Forearm. Shawn kips-up and hits the Flying Elbow! ZOMBIE SIT-UP! Doesn’t matter, because Shawn delivers SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Now Shawn rolls UT into the casket and before he closes the lid, he stands over Taker and gives him the crotch chop. Well, he quickly regrets that as Taker sits up and grabs Shawn by the balls. Literally. He beats Shawn back into the ring and proceeds to open up a serious can on the WWF champ. That is until Taker misses the Jumping Lariat and flies right into the casket. Shawn leaps off the top onto the Undertaker to hopefully keep him down for good. As Shawn climbs back out to hopefully win the match, Taker sticks his head out and pulls Shawn back inside the casket! Shawn’s clawing at the canvas trying to get away is quite the awesome visual. Anyways, both men are in the closed casket together. They both come up fighting as Taker beats Shawn back into the ring. UT hits a MASSIVE Chokeslam and takes Shawn over to the apron for a TOMBSTONE OFF THE APRON INTO THE CASKET! If that doesn’t win, nothing will. As Taker gets out of the casket to close it, the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas (Savio Vega and three other Puerto Ricans) jump on the Undertaker. JR – “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!” Immediately you think back to the Undertaker’s last Royal Rumble casket match in 1994 where like 20 people beat him up to give Yokozuna the win. During the beatdown, the lights go off and we all think Kane is here to help his brother. Kane clears the ring of the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas, but then starts laying in the punches and then chokeslams his brother into the casket as Shawn, Hunter, and Chyna all close the lid real quick to win the match. (20:35) Kane sets the casket on fire with the Undertaker inside. Nowhere near the drama of the other two HBK-Taker matches from 1997, but a great brawl nonetheless with the typical casket phobias explored. In hindsight, they couldn’t have really gone anywhere but down after the Hell in a Cell anyways. What could they have possibly done to top that? ***½

Final Thoughts: This was a much improved PPV over what we got last month. For the first time since Survivor Series, you felt like the WWF was at a place where they could move past the Bret Hart stuff and get behind Stone Cold Steve Austin as the top guy in the company. On a grander historical scale, this is where you really start to see the shift in the focus of the company heading towards the success of the Attitude Era. Instead of trying different things and just being edgy for the sake of being edgy like they were in 1997, it seems they now know where they are heading and that makes all the difference. Mild thumbs up for Royal Rumble 1998. It’s not full of MOTYCs, but it’s definitely a fun show and even the matches of lesser quality aren’t so completely awful matches that you can’t enjoy them.

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