WWF Royal Rumble 1993 Review feat. Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon

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WWF Royal Rumble 1993

WWF Royal Rumble 1993 occurred at a time when the Federation were moving away from its Golden Age and rapidly beginning to establish what would become known as the New Generation. The journey wasn’t quite complete yet, but this event was a pivotal part of that transitional period based on the talent who shone and the performers who were about to leave the company.

The Steiner Brothers vs. The Beverly Brothers

Kicking things off, we had the PPV debut in the WWF for Rick and Scott Steiner. They had proven to be one of the world’s best tag teams over the past few years, and now they were in the WWF to try and conquer the tag team scene there. Standing in their way on this night were Beau and Blake Beverly, who were not exactly the most menacing combo in the world, but who could at least give the brothers Steiner a reason to be on their game. The upshot is that this was a pretty good opener, though the outcome was never in doubt, as the then-likeable Steiners came out on top after Scott hit Blake with a Frankensteiner. In what will be a theme of this review, The Beverlys would leave the WWF not too terribly long after this show.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Shawn Michaels (C) vs. Marty Jannetty

Next up, we had the most heated match of the night, as the former Rockers finally went one-on-one. Shawn had betrayed Marty on the Barber Shop prior to Rumble 1992, but Marty took a hiatus for, erm, “reasons”. He was back in October, though, but his attempt to smash Michaels’ life-size mirror over his head backfired when Shawn ducked and he instead clocked Shawn’s manager Sensational Sherri, all of which led to this bout for the IC crown. This was a very entertaining match, but the story now was no longer about the ex-Rockers but about Shawn’s ex-mouthpiece Sherri, who came down looking for some revenge. But when she tried to hit Michaels with her shoe (yep), he ducked and she instead caught Marty, in a turnaround of what happened several months earlier. A pre-Sweet Chin Music superkick allowed Michaels to retain his prize. He and Sherri would continue their feud; as for Marty, he was fired almost immediately, allegedly for being drunk during this match, though he would make one of his many returns in May to resume hostilities with Michaels.

Big Boss Man vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

In our third match at Royal Rumble 1993, we had two big men going at it, as the popular Cobb County, Georgia law enforcement officer took on the Beast From The East, who had returned a few months earlier as a heel, following a stint in 1987-1988 as a babyface. Although Boss Man was still over like rover, this match was designed to be a showcase for Bam Bam, and so it proved as he was in greater control of the match from an offensive standpoint, and he achieved the victory with surprising ease following his big headbutt off the top rope. Bigelow would be a key player in the upper mid-card for the WWF, and even main evented a future WrestleMania, while this marked Boss Man’s last major match of his first WWF tenure, and he left for WCW later in 1993.

WWF Championship Match
Bret Hart (C) vs. Razor Ramon

Our major title match here pitted Bret Hart, who was still proving himself as the undisputed top dog of the WWF, against Razor Ramon, who had only debuted a few months prior. Bret’s parents Stu and Helen were at ringside for this match, which always added that extra bit of gravitas to a Hart contest, as well as helping The Hitman to seem more relatable to fans. Given that Bret was in his prime for this one and that this was Ramon’s most important WWF match, it’s no surprise that this was a high-quality battle; I wouldn’t call it a classic, but it’s on the rung just below that, because it made Hart look like the extremely-skilled, intelligent competitor that he is remembered for today, while showcasing The Bad Guy just enough for fans to respect what he could do while still feeling the urge to boo him. That being said, it seemed unlikely that Razor was going to capture the gold, which slightly dampened proceedings. Hart sealed the win with a Sharpshooter, though the two would meet again later in the year as part of the King Of The Ring tournament.

Prior to the last match of Royal Rumble 1993, we had a lavish ceremony for Bobby Heenan to unveil his great new find, Narcissus. This would soon be altered slightly to The Narcissist, and of course that meant it was Lex Luger, who was leaving the WBF behind to join the WWF full-time (there’s a theory that Luger had a no-compete clause after he left WCW in 1992, so his WBF stint allowed him to make money and be under Vince McMahon’s employ until he was able to wrestle for the company, though I’m not sure how true this is).

Royal Rumble Match

Historically significant note here: Royal Rumble 1993 was the first time where it was explicitly stated that the winner of the Rumble match would earn a WWF Title opportunity at WrestleMania IX. Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best, and this was the perfect example: while the Rumble had been a lot of fun during its early years, from this stage on, it became a major priority, and a career milestone for anyone who outlasted 29 competitors. It also provided the ideal way to kick-start the build towards WrestleMania, since you theoretically had your main event scheduled in from late January onwards (of course, the WWF/WWE has occasionally changed course after the Rumble with regards to its title match, but more often than not, it has stuck to the match created by virtue of the Rumble).

After a procession involving a bunch of Caesarian people (Mania was held in Las Vegas, Nevada at – yes! – Caesar’s Palace this year), Ric Flair and Bob Backlund kicked us off. Flair was #1 after winning from #3 the prior year, whilst Backlund was just beginning a feel-good comeback that would ultimately become more successful once he turned rogue in the summer of 1994. Papa Shango arrived and was quickly eliminated, marking one of the last appearances of his spooky character. Ted DiBiase had another early entry at #4, and he was responsible for eliminating Brian Knobbs, who came in at #5. Virgil was number six, and he headed towards DiBiase in one of the things I most like about the Rumble: the call-backs to past feuds, and more notably, the desire to eliminate an old rival, even if they can’t win the Rumble themselves (especially for Virgil, whose odds of winning stood at around zero).

Jerry Lawler was #7, supposedly after one of the other wrestlers left “something” in his crown; this was The King’s PPV debut, and though he had been one of the final recurring guests on Prime Time Wrestling, it would be a few months before Lawler would make a real impact in the WWF. He did, though, eliminate Max Moon shortly after the futuristic character arrived, and it was the swansong for Double-M to boot. Genichiro Tenryu was number nine; why, I have no idea. At this point, the Rumble was dragging badly, but Mr. Perfect was a welcome arrival as number ten, and he went straight for his enemy Ric Flair, ultimately eliminating The Nature Boy to much indigination from Bobby Heenan on commentary. Perfect would defeat Flair the next night on Raw in a Loser Leaves Town match that sent Flair packing back to WCW.

Skinner didn’t last long before Perfect disposed of him, and he too wasn’t long for the WWF at this stage. The next few entrants didn’t much of a better chance of winning, those participants being Koko B. Ware, Headshrinker Samu (who was literally thrown into the ring by his manager Afa, who held his hair as if he were some sort of cannibal) and The Berzerker. Meanwhile, Perfect eliminated Lawler, with Jerry helping DiBiase and Koko to throw out Perfect as revenge (Berzerker also threw Virgil to the floor during this point). The Undertaker perked things up at #15, as evidenced by the strong crowd reaction to his arrival. Taker made an immediate impression by eliminating Samu and Tenryu; Terrific Terry Taylor entered and lasted mere seconds before going out to DiBiase. Ted also dispatched of Koko, but he and Berzerker were both thrown out shortly thereafter by Taker. But that wasn’t the major story.

During this period of the Royal Rumble 1993 match, the modestly-sized Harvey Whippleman randomly brought out a massive being, said to be around eight foot tall, by the name of Giant Gonzales. His slow walk down the aisle was a sight to see, as was the visual when he sauntered into the ring and confronted Undertaker; for the first time, Taker looked small compared to another man. Bobby Heenan on commentary: “Fee Fi Fo Fum, Undertaker better run!” Gonzales then pounded Taker, pounding him with belting blows before eliminating him and then attacking him at ringside, sending him into the steel stairs before leaving him a broken mess by the corner. Gonzales left, having achieved his goal alongside a proud Harvey, who had promised retribution after Taker previously beat his former charge Kamala at Survivor Series.

In the meantime, Damien Demento wisely waited before entering the ring, at which point he attacked Backlund, who disappeared during the Gonzales-Undertaker brawl. IRS, Tatanka and Nasty Boy Jerry Sags helped fill the numbers up, before Taker finally sat up and walked away, assisted by Paul Bearer and the urn, which would lead to Taker vs. Gonzales at WrestleMania IX (no jokes, please). It was a while before our next proper elimination, as Typhoon was followed by Headshrinker Fatu (Afa also tossed him into the ring like a piece of meat to a group of lions) and Earthquake, with Quake even eliminating his Natural Disaster team-mate Typhoon. If it seemed like the match was struggling again, the arrival of Carlos Colón didn’t help, since few WWF fans knew what he was (Gorilla Monsoon called him a youngster, even though he was 44 at this point), though he did eliminate Demento. El Matador and Rick Martel were in next, while Backlund threw out Fatu and Quake dispatched of IRS.

Then came Yokozuna at the #27 spot, and it felt like the real favourite was now in the ring. Indeed, Yoko threw out Tatanka relatively quickly, as well as dumping Carlos out too. Owen Hart made his Rumble debut, and he joined everyone else in teaming up on Yoko, but even as a combination, nobody could throw him out; Zuna, meanwhile, did manage to eliminate Earthquake, Matador and Owen (after Owen had eliminated Sags). Repo Man and finally Macho Man Randy Savage rounded out the field, and at this point, it seemed like only Yoko and Savage had a realistic chance of winning. Sure enough, Macho threw out Repo, and Backlund dumped out The Model, meaning that Backlund, as the second entrant, had lasted to the end with the two top contenders. He was then finally thrown out by Yoko, but his then-record time of 61:10 was a laudable achievement, especially given his age at the time.

This left us with Zuna and Savage, but surely not even the legendary Macho Man could eliminate the massive sumo warrior? Well, he did put up a good fight, eventually knocking him down to a major reaction. Savage then hit his top rope elbow drop, but stupidly went for the pin, which led Yoko to push him up from the ground, sending Savage flying to the floor, thus giving Yokozuna the win (and providing perhaps the dumbest Royal Rumble moment of all-time). So, Yokozuna had triumphed, and he would face Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX for the WWF Championship. It’s worth remembering that this was the first Rumble without Hulk Hogan, but even besides that, this was one of the weaker Rumble bouts, at least from the early years. Flair, Perfect, Taker, Yoko and Savage were all possibilities to win, but there were a couple of guys who had no business being involved, and so many of the wrestlers were heading out the door (Flair, Shango, The Nastys, Moon, Skinner, Koko, Berzerker, The Natural Disasters, Matador and Repo would all leave within the next few months). It’s not an awful match, but it certainly isn’t a must-see, though at least Yoko helped to create the mystique of the #27 spot, which has produced the most Rumble winners (even if it hasn’t done so for 15 years as of this writing).

WWF Royal Rumble 1993 is a card of two halves in terms of quality, but in the reverse order from most Rumble events. The under-card is fairly good, with two really good matches counter-balanced by two watchable attractions. Unfortunately, the Rumble itself is a bit boring, and while there are some notable moments, it is a major step down from the classic 1992 bout. I definitely wouldn’t say to never watch Royal Rumble 1993, but just keep your expectations at a low level beforehand.