Reviewing The Rumbles: 1991
1991: The 29 Men
Here we are in 1991, where Hulkamania was still running wild through the WWF landscape. At this point, the Rumble was still in its formative years and winning was its own reward. Luckily, we are just one year away from that changing…
1. Bret Hart (man, he drew for shit in these early years)
2. Dino Bravo
3. Greg Valentine
4. Paul Roma (Without whom, we’d never have heard of those Four Horsemen jobbers)
5. Kerry Von Erich
6. Rick Martel
7. Saba Simba (I had his name written down as “Sam Simba” until I looked it up; I think he should have rolled with that)
8. Bushwhacker Butch
9. Jake Roberts
11. Tito Santana (SERIOUSLY… when did this guy become a Matador. It’s literally all I knew of him as a child.)
12. The Undertaker (WITH BROTHER LOVE! Who thought that pairing made sense?)
13. Jimmy Snuka
14. The British Bulldog
17. Shane Douglas
18 [no show]
20. Crush (So… AGAIN with two entire feuding tag teams entering in the span of just a few minutes)
21. Jim Duggan
23. Mr. Perfect
24. Hulk Hogan
26. Jim Neidhart
27. Bushwhacker Luke (In his humorous “in one side, out the other, keep on ‘whackin'” appearance)
28. Brian Knobbs (Why is only one Nasty Boy in this?)
4. The British Bulldog (eliminated by Earthquake)
3. Brian Knobbs (eliminated by Hogan)
2. Earthquake (eliminated by Hogan)
WINNER: Hulk Hogan
-Year four gives us the fourth different Royal Rumble commentary team: Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. And… wow, is Piper a disappointment as an announcer. He is just terrible. He spends the match either absolutely frantic and yelling indecipherably or making inane, nonsense comments. As much as I love Piper’s promos as a wrestler, he is positively grating to listen to here.
-Early on, Gorilla Monsoon arbitrarily decides what entrants are right out when he says something to the effect of “Well, the first five guys in the match have no chance”. I bet Rick Martel was feeling really good about his chances right then! I wonder what, in Monsoon’s mind, gives #6 such an advantage. It seems like such an odd cut-off point.
-Apropos of nothing, can I point out that one of the best names in wrestling history is “Gorilla Monsoon”? I mean… roll that name around your brain for a while. I don’t even know how you think of putting those two words together. It’s one of the 5 best names in professional wrestling, no doubt.
-The early going of the match: So. Many. Midcarders. You don’t really have an entrant who draws a substantial reaction until #9 (Jake The Snake). He continues a Royal Rumble trend he’d developed of teasing the DDT early and often to get the fans hot. He did it in every Rumble except 1989 where Andre just battered him for a minute before pitching him. Despite all of Jake’s charms, you have to wonder how over he’d have gotten without the DDT. Maybe the exact same, but… I don’t know. It genuinely seems at times that the DDT was more over than he was.
-Another trend I’ve kind of become an enamored of–and it’s not an intentional one, but it’s unavoidable by the match’s nature–is seeing the fans get jacked every time the countdown starts, whip their heads towards the entrance to see who is emerging… and then basically let out audible disappointment when it’s some nobody like Sam Simba or whatever.
-The Undertaker makes his Royal Rumble debut at #12! He is red hot already, and upon entering becomes the immediate focal point of the match. The camera follows him around and basically ignores everyone else more-or-less. What I had forgotten in the recent years of Undertake being a great worker was just how abominable young Taker was as a wrestler. Literally 90% of his offense was just… “stranglehold”.
-So Hawk enters at #16 and proceeds to no-sell The Undertaker’s offense. The Undertaker ends up having to ally with Jimmy Snuka to wear down Hawk for a bit. Excuse the hell out me, Hawk; too good to sell for the brand new monster heel? When Hawk finally unites with Animal, they eliminate Undertaker from the match without too much trouble. Kind of an innocuous debut for ‘Taker.
-No one appears for #18, but no reason is ever given for this. The announcers speculate over it for a little bit before deciding it must have been Randy Savage’s number since he did not come out for any other spot. It’s never outright confirmed during the match, but I’m assuming this is because Warrior ran backstage to find Savage after the world title match.
-ENORMOUS eruption for Hogan at #24. The fans are still all over him in 1991, with a massive “HOGAN! HOGAN!” chant for several seconds after The Hulkster has hit the ring. I kind of thought by 1991 the worm had already begun to turn on Hogan, but… not on this night, at least.
-We are told by the commentators that Hogan has dedicated this match to the troops in the middle east, just in case you thought Jim Neidhart might have a chance of pulling out the victory.
-There are two big Iron Man pushes in this one: Greg Valentine lasts from the #3 spot until after Haku comes in at #25. And Rick Martel sets the longevity record by lasting from the #6 spot to being one of the Final Five (Just one more, and he’d have gotten Final Four billing).
-Did I miss some big Brian Knobbs singles push? He gets ganged up on in a manner usually reserved for guys like Earthquake or Andre. Neidhart, Hercules, Shane Douglas, and Rick Martel all swarm him like he’s The Big Show.
-Ultimately, this builds to an Earthquake/Hogan showdown because the two were feuding at the time. It was the feud that would turn me against Hogan as a youngster because, even as a ten year old, I wanted to see Earthquake whoop him. Of course, ‘Quake gained no traction in this feud, but he also wasn’t defeated and basically discarded like so many other monsters Hogan had vanquished (Zeus, King Kong Bundy, etc). Earthquake gets as decent of a showing here as possible (and I would say this is the longest/best “match” between the final two that the Rumble would have to this point), but… Hulkamania runs wild. Brother.
1. 1989 (Big John Studd) – 5/10
2. 1990 (Hogan I) – 4/10
3. 1991 (Hogan II) – 3/10
4. 1988 (Jim Duggan) – 2/10