WWF Royal Rumble 1992 Review feat. The Mountie vs. Roddy Piper

Image Source: WWE

Genre: Wrestling
Produced By: WWF
Format: Pay-Per-View
Date: January 19 1992
Location: Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, New York, USA
Attendance: 17,000

For this week’s retro show review, the spotlight shines on WWF Royal Rumble 1992, an event largely remembered for one match – but what a bout it was.

Of course, the feature bout was the Royal Rumble 1992 match, but what made this one special is that, for the only time in history, the winner of the Rumble would become WWF Champion (the title had been declared vacant in December 1991). As this was the early days of the Rumble, and the match had a star-studded field, there were plenty of potential winners, and the vast majority of entrants were Hall Of Famers or similarly memorable stars. And if all that wasn’t enticing enough beforehand, the performances of two people – one of whom wasn’t even a participant – elevated the match, and the event, to all-time great status. The card began with a promo video that featured a classic Vince McMahon voiceover: “It’s time to RUMMBBLLE! It’s time for a ROYYYALLL RUMMMMMBBLLLE!”

The opener pitted The New Foundation combo of Jim Neidhart and Owen Hart against The Orient Express. This was a short yet enjoyable tag team match which marked the first PPV appearance for Owen, minus the mask of the Blue Blazer. The New Foundation won, although Neidhart would leave the WWF shortly afterwards. The team reunited in 1994, by which time Owen had become one of the WWF’s top villains.

Match two saw The Mountie defend the Intercontinental Title against Rowdy Roddy Piper. Mountie had won the crown from a (storyline) ill Bret Hart days prior on a house show, and so Piper replaced Bret in this PPV bout. Again, this didn’t last long but it did deliver enough excitement as Hot Rod repelled the interference of Jimmy Hart to defeat Mountie by submission with a sleeper hold to win the IC Title, his first championship in the WWF. But with Piper entered into the Rumble, there was a chance that the Rowdy One could leave the show with two titles (a nice way to add weight to his odds of winning the main event).

Next was a tag team match between The Bushwhackers and The Beverly Brothers. Considering the era and who was involved, this is a very standard tag team match which ends on a DQ in favour of Luke and Butch, who celebrated afterwards with their manager Jameson (who incidentally was one of the oddest personalities ever on WWF television, in my opinion).

The pre-Rumble match was The Legion Of Doom putting their WWF Tag Team Titles on the line against The Natural Disasters. Hard to believe that this was the only time that the LOD ever defended the WWF Tag Titles on PPV. And this big-man match had the third different finish for a tag bout on the card as the LOD were counted out, so Earthquake and Typhoon won the match, but not the titles. Hawk and Animal reminded everyone of their superiority by standing tall in the post-match fracas.

Before the Royal Rumble 1992 main event, we got a series of interviews from entrants stating their various intentions to win the Rumble. I used to love these promos, which perfectly showed the varied cast of characters in the WWF at the time; sadly, the use of these speeches would decrease in frequency going forward. (Incidentally, the 1990 Rumble was the best one for these promos; some of them are truly hilarious in hindsight.) By the way, one interview with a recently-turned Shawn Michaels (we see footage of the Barber Shop break-up of The Rockers as an explanation for why Marty Jannetty was unable to enter) is interrupted by The Barbarian walking past; I don’t know why I find this funny but, to this day, I still do.

And so, to paraphrase Howard Finkel, “it is now time for the Royal Rumble!” Jack Tunney, then the on-screen WWF President, brought the vacant championship to ringside beforehand; despite technically being a good guy, he was largely booed by fans, proving that even in the days before the wrestling business became more “open”, not every babyface got the desired reaction.

Entrants one and two for the Royal Rumble 1992 match were The British Bulldog and Ted DiBiase. The Million Dollar Man lasted 45 minutes as #1 in 1990 but, here, he was swiftly eliminated by a Bulldog clothesline. Number three was next, and it was … Ric Flair! The Rumble match properly began here with one of the favourites entering early, and so did the greatest heel commentator performance of all-time by Bobby Heenan, who fumes at Flair’s early drawing. As Gorilla Monsoon points out, “no man who has ever drawn numbers 1-5 has been there at the end” (this was one of the early Rumbles, remember), so Heenan’s frustration was understandable.

Still, Flair held up well against Bulldog and the next entrants, including Jerry Sags (strange that only Brian Knobbs entered in 1991 and only his Nasty Boys partner Sags entered here), Haku and Shawn Michaels, whose exchanges with Flair are intriguing in hindsight given their unforgettable match 16 years later at WrestleMania XXIV. More names come in: El Matador, The Barbarian, Texas Tornado and Repo Man. Greg Valentine and Nicholai Volkoff felt like nostalgia acts at this point (okay, so maybe not everyone who was entered could have potentially won this thing).

Meanwhile, Flair was having a rough time of it. Bulldog had him jumping up and down in an uncomfortable manner on the top rope, Shawn had Ric on the ropes (quite literally), and when Big Boss Man entered at #13, he too had the Nature Boy reeling. But Flair hung on in there, and after Boss Man eliminated Hercules before accidentally putting himself out, Ric was the only man in the ring. Midway through, he still looked like having a chance … then his longtime WWF nemesis Roddy Piper entered at #15, looking for his second title of the night.

Fans popped huge as they realised Flair’s tough night was about to get worse, and an airplane spin was warmly received. Ric’ reaction to Piper coming in was superb; his face perfectly conveyed the emotion of a desperate man who knew that he was in trouble. Meanwhile, in the announcer’s booth, Bobby Heenan was just something else. Renowned for funny one-liners and dramatically defending the heels, he was on absolute top form here as he begged for his associate Flair to survive. His calls were so dramatic that one may think this really was a genuine every-man-for-himself clash. Here are some of Heenan’s best lines from the match:

As Piper attacked Flair: “This is not fair to Flair! This is not fair to Flair!”

As Piper prevented a troublesome situation for Flair: “Oh thank you Roddy. It’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt!”

As Piper later attacked Flair again: “Oh, it’s not a kilt, it’s a skirt!”

Talking to an assistant off-camera between dramatic moments: “I need something to drink. Hey, you, stupid, get me something to drink!”

There were more, believe me.

Despite Piper’s arrival, Flair still survived, even with more threats coming in such as Jake Roberts, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, IRS and Jimmy Snuka. The Undertaker entered at #20 (Taker and Hulk Hogan were granted numbers between 20 and 30 given their involvement in the situation that saw the title held up), followed by Randy Savage who eliminated his sworn enemy Jake and then threw himself out to attack Roberts. The Macho Man was allowed back in the match; in later years, this would be classed as an elimination (and nowadays, even someone not involved can eliminate a participant).

The Berzerker, Virgil and Colonel Mustafa made up the numbers; Rick Martel’s great 1991 showing was referenced when he arrived. The odds-on favourite Hulk Hogan was next, and the late draw combined with wins at the previous two Rumbles made him a certainty to win … right?

Hogan eliminated Undertaker (I loved how Taker landed on his feet from being thrown out), indicating again that he was the best bet to win. Skinner, Sgt Slaughter, Sid Justice and the Warlord completed the field (what a letdown at the time that Warlord was the last entrant of this star-laden field with the WWF Title at stake). The action continues until only Flair, Hogan, Savage and Sid remained, and with Hulk down, the Macho Man was disposed of by the other two superstars.

With Sid a good guy at the time, it seemed he and Hogan would team up to finally dump Ric, and Hulk began trying to get him out. It was a huge shock, then, when Justice eliminated Hogan. It was every man for himself, so Sid’s actions were justifiable, but the sneaky nature left Hulk upset. To be fair, I thought Hogan was a poor sport as he tried to pull Sid out. A shove by Flair and some help by Hulk got Justice eliminated, meaning that Ric Flair, who entered at #3 and had been the face of the NWA/WCW, had won the Royal Rumble match and was the new WWF Champion! Bobby Heenan’s reaction?

“Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh my God, yes!”

Post-match, Hogan and Sid argued furiously. But not Flair, who cut a simple yet legendary backstage interview: backed up by Heenan and Mr. Perfect, his Executive Assistant at the time, Flair said: “With a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment of my life!” Mind you, the highlight of this was interviewer Mean Gene Okerlund’s hilariously unprofessional demand of “Put that cigarette out!” to someone off-camera. Good advice, but during a live interview after a historic match? Really, Mean Gene?

So, what a Royal Rumble that was! In fairness, the star power and the title being on the line masked many in-ring shortcomings common of the era, but the drama of Flair’s situation and Heenan’s commentary took this great Royal Rumble 1992 match to legendary heights. In fact, without The Brain, this match would have suffered a lot. As it is, the 1992 Rumble was unforgettable, a classic for the stipulation.

Elsewhere, the matches never really rose above satisfactory, but then more than now the Royal Rumble show was all about the Royal Rumble match, and this one was exceptional. It’s odd that the WWF/WWE has never had the World Title at stake in a Rumble since then, but perhaps that helps to keep this one special: it was a one-off Royal Rumble match of historic proportions, and it was incredible, helping to make Royal Rumble 1992 an unforgettable night in WWF/WWE history. To quote Flair at the end of his show-closing promo:

“I love it. I love it! I LOVE IT!”

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent