Flashback: WWF Royal Rumble 1997
Despite not winning the Monday Night Wars, the WWF was still producing some memorable television and would often times provide proper hype and anticipation to their pay per view events.
Back in November at Survivor Series, Shawn Michaels lost the WWF World Championship to Psycho Sid. They would have their rematch at the Royal Rumble at the Alamo Dome. The promotion for the match was largely based around Michaels trying to regain the gold in front of his hometown crowd. The given attendance number is over 60,000, but I believe Jim Cornette has made it publicly known to be a false number and heavily papered.
An in-depth review of the event can be located HERE.
1.) WWF Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Goldust to retain the title
2.) Ahmed Johnson defeated Faarooq by disqualification
3.) Vader defeated The Undertaker
4.) Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo & Canek defeated Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal & Fuerza Guerrera
5.) Steve Austin won the 1997 Royal Rumble Match last eliminating Bret Hart
6.) Shawn Michaels defeated WWF World Champion Psycho Sid to win the title
The feud between Helmsley and Goldust would pick up a lot of steam after this event, thus the emotion was lacking during the bout. The feud involves Helmsley hitting on Marlena, the wife of Goldust at the previous pay per view in December. Helmsley was also involved in the RAW segment where Jerry Lawler had asked if Goldust was a queer. They worked a rather formula match with nothing overly exciting. It’s very noticeable that the crowd wasn’t invested into the feud, either. WWF was lacking in fresh faces to challenge for the WWF Intercontinental Championship, so Goldust challenging here in that regard was fresh. Helmsley wasn’t going to lose the title so early into his reign, and that might have played a factor into the crowd response. Helmsley managed to put Goldust away with the Pedigree, but the feud is far from over with.
Speaking of feuds that are far from being over with, Ahmed Johnson continues to try and dismantle the Nation of Domination led by Faarooq. It’s mainly Johnson attacking various Nation members and putting one of them through the Spanish announce table. It’s crazy to think that the feud would continue in total for over a year. An example of a feud nobody wants to see, but it just won’t seemingly ever end.
I had previously forgotten how the Undertaker and Vader started to feud, but it was due to Undertaker hitting Jim Cornette with a tombstone and thus making Paul Bearer the new manager for Vader. Vader hadn’t been in action for a couple of months and had lost several big matches at the end of ’96. Undertaker had never been more humanized as he had been by this point. Vader getting a victory here still helped him tremendously as Vader could be taken as a threat moving forward. The loss didn’t hurt Taker at all because he wasn’t so much seen as super natural but rather a cool character, to me, at this point. These two would have a far more memorable match in the summer with a lot more on the line.
The six man lucha match was just an attempt to get a bigger house since Mexican wrestling was apparently very popular in Texas. They would have been better off getting better wrestlers for such a match, but oh well.
I suppose only a few guys were seen as favorites to win the Rumble. Those men surely had to have been Bret Hart, Undertaker, Vader and the eventual winner Steve Austin. Unlike the previous years, there wasn’t a clear cut wrestler who had a lot of momentum to main event WrestleMania for the WWF World Championship. I think that adds much needed mystery to the match. While there were some weak names in the match, all of the top stars are involved in the Rumble. Austin was actually eliminated but the referees didn’t see it and he returned to the match to eliminate Bret Hart and win the Rumble, though he wouldn’t get the title shot at Mania. Austin lasted the longest in the Rumble (45 minutes) and had ten eliminations.
Personally, I really enjoyed Psycho Sid during his time and thought he should have held the belt straight through to WrestleMania. However, when you book the Alamo Dome and have the hometown kid Shawn Michaels challenging for the belt, it makes sense for the belt to switch hands. Of course, just a few weeks later Michaels lost his smile and the belt was back on Sid, but whatever. It’s not anywhere near their Survivor Series showdown, but it’s a decent main event.
The undercard isn’t exactly strong which is unforuntate since a lot of the top guys are involved in the Rumble match every year. While it takes place in the enormous Alamo Dome, it didn’t feel like a major event to me. Aside from the final two matches, it’s a rather weak event. I mean the Rumble match is rather boring aside from the ending and nothing stands out entertainment wise. There are a lot better things coming later in the year, including a much better Vader/Taker match.
What are your memories of the 1997 Royal Rumble event? Did you enjoy the event?
Thanks for reading.