Torch Flashbacks WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PPV COUNTDOWN - 1997 PPV Report: Steve Austin wins the Rumble, HBK vs. Sid, Triple H vs. Goldust, Taker vs. Vader
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This week, we will be publishing two Royal Rumble PPV flashback reports every day going back to 1997 leading to this year's Royal Rumble PPV. At 11:00 a.m. Tuesday - Sunday, we'll be publishing an even-numbered PPV. At 5:00 p.m., we'll be publishing an odd-numbered year.
Royal Rumble PPV Flashback Report - 1997
January 19, 1997
San Antonio, Tex.
Originally published: Torch Newsletter #424 (VIP Sign-Up)
Report by Wade Keller, Torch editor
FREE FOR ALL
The pre-game show opened with Todd Pettengill in center ring hyping the event. Dok Hendrix spoke from the ticket lobby still packed with fans with the line going outside the door. They then went to Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, and Jim Ross at ringside. Vader's music started and Mini Vader walked out, which had to scare the heck out of some fans who didn't know about the WWF's new minis division, thinking Vader shrunk, or they grew very big. Mini Mankind then walked out, also. Give the WWF credit for jumping WCW on the gimmick of having mini versions of their own established bigger wrestlers.
Mascarita Sagrada Jr. & La Parkita beat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind at 4:28 in the usual, short "Free For All" match. It's odd that La Parka wrestles in WCW and his mini counterpart wrestles with the same style outfit in the WWF. Lawler started hot with his one-liners by suggesting Ross was about the size of Mini Vader when he was born. The match was not good by Mexican mini standards.
After a video aired on Shawn Michaels and Sid, Pettengill interviewed Michaels in the locker room. The fans, watching on the video wall in the dome, cheered. Pettengill said Sid sees Michaels saying he has the flu as just Michaels building in an excuse for a loss. A sickly looking Michaels stumbled through the interview, saying the flu would have nothing to do with what happened later. Lawler commented, "It looked like Michaels got winded just talking."
They went to Dok who was in the upper deck section that was filled to the back row. Sid then walked out with the WWF Title over his shoulder. He said he will not be responsible for the actions that are taken tonight against Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario (sounds like Dennis Rodman's attitude). When Pettengill asked the fans whether Sid or Michaels would win, the fans shouted "no" for Sid and "yeah" for Michaels.
(1) Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Mr. Hughes) beat Goldust at 16:41 to retain the Intercontinental Title. A pre-match video package tried to refocus Goldust by saying he was always an enigma, but left his sexuality to our imagination. They showed Goldust hitting Lawler when he asked him if he was "queer." Hughes made his debut as Hunter's bodyguard (talk about a clash of lifestyles). A fan in the front row held up a "Flair is God" sign. After a brief battle at ringside, Hunter went for an early Pedigree, but Goldust escaped and catapulted Hunter over the top rope to the floor. Goldust dropped the steel ringside stairs on Hunter's back, risking a DQ. McMahon said that "unfortunately" George and Adam (the two guys in the promo spots the last several weeks) had been thrown out of the building by security. Lawler laughed. Goldust took over after a miscue at ringside by Hunter and applied the figure-four back in the ring at 8:00. At 14:10 Goldust hit the mat with his hands to rally the crowd and they responded. He went for a top rope elbow at 15:25, but Hunter moved. Hunter grabbed the IC belt. Marlena distracted Hunter by standing on the ring apron. Hunter grabbed and kissed Marlena, but that gave Goldust a chance to recover and nail Hunter with the IC belt. Mr. Hughes pulled Hunter out of the ring to stop the count. Hunter then came up behind a protesting Goldust with a clothesline and gave him the Pedigree for the win. Neither man shows enough emotion in the ring to light up the crowd during the methodical, yet solid match. (***)
(2) Ahmed Johnson beat Faarooq (w/NOD) via DQ at 8:48 when the NOD interfered. Ahmed came out to a huge pop and pounded Faarooq in the corner to start the match. The action spilled to ringside where Faarooq went after Ahmed's kidney including Faarooq dropping him kidney-first over an unfolded metal chair (ouch). The best move of the match saw Ahmed catch Faarooq coming off the top rope and turn it into a powerslam. Faarooq did the same to Ahmed with a sidewalk slam a minute later. The NOD interfered for the predictable, lame finish. Ahmed gave a nameless NOD member a vicious Pearl River Plunge through a ringside table with monitors and all. The intensity level and the mostly fast pace made this pretty good. (**1/2)
(3) Vader (w/Paul Bearer) pinned Undertaker at 13:17 after a Vaderbomb. They both no-sold some early exchanges. They brawled at ringside. Back in the ring Undertaker hit a legdrop for a one count at 2:00 to which Ross said, "I've never seen anyone in the WWF deliver a legdrop quite like Undertaker." Undertaker walked the ropes at 3:00 and Vader yanked him off the ropes and crotched him on the top rope. At 6:00 Vader went to a nerve hold, but Undertaker used a flurry of punches to get out. Undertaker took over with a flying clothesline off the ropes at 8:30. Undertaker set up Bearer for a chokeslam. Vader made the save. When Undertaker charged Vader, he moved and Undertaker hit the railing hard. Bearer then hit him with the urn. Vader followed with the Vaderbomb for the three count. A decent big-man match. Afterward Undertaker chokeslammed the referee and threw some chairs around. He then yelled at McMahon and walked away verbally ripping on the WWF. (**)
(4) Perro Aguayo & Hector Garza & El Canek beat Fuerza Guerrera & Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada at 10:26. This win was especially big for Perro since he was celebrating his 90th birthday. Garza and Heavy Metal were the stars of this six-man tag. For the most part the crowd was dead silent. Estrada did take his signature extended arm bump over the top rope to the floor. The match suffered from having no storylines and no wrestlers who have had their personalities established on TV. After some smooth exchanges between Metal and Garza (during which there was no short-term, much less long-term selling), they shook hands out of respect and tagged out to their partners. Garza hit a twisting bodypress off the top rope to the floor onto Estrada. The WWF needs to be more selective in which lucha wrestlers they feature and then give their matches some focus or meaning before matches like this sour their audience entirely to the style. (*)
(5) Steve Austin eliminated Bret Hart at 50:30 to win the Royal Rumble. The order of entry was as follows: Crush, Ahmed, Razor Ramon, Phinneous Godwinn, Austin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, British Bulldog, Pierroth, Sultan, Mil Mascaras, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart, Goldust, Cybernetico, Marc Mero, Latin Lover, Faarooq, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Bret, Jerry Lawler (the wildcard entry), Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, Undertaker.
The opening minute saw Ahmed battle NOD member Crush, a logical feud. When Ramon entered, the fans booed him as he practically lost his footing doing the Razor "he's safe" arm sweep and leap. Ahmed immediately eliminated Razor (1) which got a pop. Faarooq came out and taunted Ahmed, so Ahmed (2) got eliminated via countout when he chased him to the back, thus being the first wrestler to avoid "Doing A Job Like A Man." Phinneous eliminated Crush (3) at 5:50. Austin surprised Phinneous (4) at 6:05 with a Stone Cold Stunner and then tossed him out. He then quickly dispensed of Bart Gunn (5) leaving the better part of a minute interval to himself in the ring, so he began doing push ups, then sat in the corner (breathing pretty heavily, by the way). When Jake came out, he threw his snake into the ring, but Austin eliminated Jake (6) at 8:30. Bulldog then came out to face Austin one on one. A few minutes later, Bulldog eliminated Sultan (7). At 17:30 Owen eliminated Bulldog (8), which upset Bulldog. Owen claimed it was an accident, but it clearly wasn't. Cybernetico (9) and Pierroth (10) were eliminated next. Mero tossed out Hunter (11) at 22:00 followed by Goldust (12) a couple minutes later. Mascaras (13) eliminated himself by diving off the top turnbuckle to the floor, forgetting the rules of the match and becoming the second wrestler to avoid "Doing A Job Like A Man."
That left Owen, Lover, Austin, and Mero in the ring at 24:00. Lover (14) was eliminated less than a minute later. When Faarooq came out, Ahmed charged the ring with a two-by-four and Faarooq leaped over the top rope (15). Owen (16) and Mero (17) eliminated each other. Austin ducked a charging Savio so Savio (18) flew over the top rope to be eliminated. Jesse James (19) came out only to be immediately clotheslined over by Austin.That left Austin alone, but Bret came out next for a huge pop. those two brawled for a minute. Lawler (20), the "wild card" participant, took off his headset and stepped into the ring only to immediately be met by Bret's extended arm sending him back over the top rope. Bret almost knocked Funk over the top rope, but Funk avoided the floor. Mankind came out and went right after Funk. Bret put Austin in a sleeper, but Austin dropped down and caught Bret's chin on the top of his head. Bret then gave Austin a piledriver and legdrop at 38:30. Undertaker came out as the 30th entrant at 44:00 (someone messed up the clock because with 29 one-minute intervals they ran 14 minutes behind (it was essentially 90 seconds per interval). The lights went out briefly during Undertaker's entrance. This left a crowd of ten in the ring, the biggest of the match: Funk, Vader, Undertaker, Bret, Austin, Rocky, Mankind, Flash, Diesel, and Henry Godwinn.
Undertaker gave Austin and Vader chokeslams or big pops. Vader caught a flying Flash (21) and threw him over the top rope at 44:20. Undertaker threw Henry Godwinn (22) over at 47:55. Mankind eliminated Rocky (23) after applying the Mandible Claw. Mankind suplexed Funk (24) over the top rope at 49:20, but Undertaker gave Mankind (25) a boot to eliminate him. In the point of controversy, Bret eliminated Austin at 50:00, but the refs didn't see it (how convenient). Austin rolled back in the ring immediately and eliminated an unsuspecting Undertaker (26), Vader (27), and Diesel (28). Austin then eliminated Bret (29) and they announced Austin as the winner. Bret was visibly upset and protested the decision to the referees. He then walked to ringside and yanked on Vince's suit. He swore a couple of times and stomped his way to the locker room. A pretty good Rumble, but the finish seemed a bit contrived. There seems to be one wrestler who is booked to be the star of each Rumble, and Austin was the designated star this year. (***1/4)
(6) Shawn Michaels pinned Sycho Sid at 13:47 to regain the WWF Title. Sid took early offense, but the match was designed to pop the crowd for Michaels's comebacks, and the first one came a minute into the match. Michaels sent Sid to the floor for a big pop. Sid came back to press Michaels, but Michaels raked his eyes to escape. Sid applied a camel clutch at 2:30. At 4:00 Michaels escaped. At 5:00 Sid rammed Michaels into the ringpost, then returned to the ring and applied a chinlock. At 6:50 Sid shifted to a bearhug. At 10:00 Michaels escaped the bearhug and made his comeback including a bodyslam, flying forearm, a top rope elbow, and then he went for chin music. Sid caught his boot and clotheslined Michaels. Sid powerbombed Michaels on the floor, but got sidetracked by going after both Lotharios. Back in the ring Michaels reversed a Sid whip, but the ref got caught in the corner and went down. Sid chokeslammed Michaels and had a visual pinfall, but no ref count it. A second ref came out and counted, but Michaels kicked out at two. Sid punched the second ref and went after Jose. Michaels hit Sid from behind twice with a video camera and covered him. With both referees down, no one could make the count. Finally a ref came to and made a slow count. Sid kicked out at two. Michaels then hit chin music at 13:40 and scored a somewhat anti-climactic pinfall. Michaels seemed lethargic relative to his usual match, not to mention the special surroundings. Even his post-match celebration seemed forced. The match dragged except for a few brief spurts of action. A disappointment, well below their Survivor Series match. As Michaels celebrated at ringside, a fan held up a sign that read: "Shawn, keep your pants on." (**1/4)
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