Because it’s that time of year… I revisit my last review of THE 1992 ROYAL RUMBLE. You’ll probably only get a kick out of it if you’re already familiar with the time period. The best Royal Rumble of all time, and for my money one of the best matches of all time.
Be warned, the following review may not be fair to Flair.
I’m not even going to bother telling you what happened on the undercard, a) the Rumble is far too important to mess around with Beverly Brothers/Jameson shenanigans and b) if you haven’t watched this PPV before, I don’t like you enough to cater to your ignorance. Let’s just say the undercard is three quarters great and one quarter Bushwhackers and leave it at that.
The setup for the Rumble is the greatest ever. The 30 top guns (almost) in the WWF will compete for the WWF title. After a controversial title match between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker at Survivor Series then an equally controversial rematch at Tuesday In Texas, President Tunney vacated the title. Some people might simply have ordered a rubber match between the pair, possibly in a cage, but where’s the fun in that? The first (obviously not last) Rumble to have a prize other than bragging rights, and the greatest roster of all time would compete for it. Other than kayfabe-ill Bret Hart and LOD who defended their gold earlier on (rats), all the heavy hitters are in. Obvious favourites are Hogan, Undertaker and the Real Worlds Champion, Ric Flair, as well as former champions Randy Savage and Sgt Slaughter, monster babyface Sid Justice and the devil incarnate, Jake the Snake, whose blistering rivalry with Savage is the hottest thing in the company.
By this point in the show Coliseum Video have already dropped a bollock by letting Flair tell us all he’s drawn number 3, probably doesn’t make much difference but always seemed weird, like Perfect ruining it that he was number 30 in 1990. The Brain is already working the drama going “oh my goodness, oh my God…. this is the big one. This is it” while Fink reads the rules. It only dawns on me now how annoying I find it these days that they feel like they have to clarify “the Royal Rumble match” rather than just “the Royal Rumble.” We’re just that stupid. Fink introduces “the esteemed president” of the WWF (his words), “on the take Tunney” (Brain’s words) to a chorus of boos. I find “Thank you Mr President” quite amusing from The Fink, I don’t know why.
Davey Boy is number one, billed as from Leeds where as far as I know, he never lived. G&B make references to Smithers’ big win at the Albert Hall in a similar match, God I love when they make something that happened over here seem a big deal. Ted DiBiase is number 2 and Sherri’s cleavage nearly makes me abandon the review and have a wank instead.
Brain concurs and says “look at them.” Ted has rotten luck again, what with drawing number 1 in 1990. They make reference to The Model holding the record, which we’ll come back to. It’s fun to see Bulldog in there with a name talent as opposed to a monster type or Skinner/Repo JTTS but it doesn’t last long as Smithers despatches Sherri’s “Teddy bear” shortly before the first countdown. As the Million Dollar Man walks back up the aisle, he crosses paths with number 3, who just happens to be Ric Flair.
Brain : “NO!!!! DAMN IT!!!”
Monsoon : “You can kiss it goodbye Brain! Never in the history of the Royal Rumble has anyone that has drawn numbers 1 through 5 and been there at the end! Watch your language.”
Coming out of Vince, that probably would have telegraphed the outcome. Then again, Vince would have gone ALL THE WAY and proclaimed “there is ZERO CHANCE Ric Flair will win this match! Hulkamaniacs, rejoice!” or some shit. Golden moment when in a recurring theme, Flair takes a pounding off Davey, press slammed and clotheslined before Nasty Boy Sags turns up as number 4.
Brain : “Let Sags do all the work!”
Monsoon : “Be objective here!”
Brain : “I told you to shut up!”
Davey takes no time alleviating himself of some of the stress by getting shot of Sags, and its back to him and Naitch. Brain : “THIS IS NOT FAIR TO FLAIR!” Haku is number 5 and he goes straight for Davey before turning his attention to Flair. Brain : “THIS ISN’T FAIR TO FLAIR!!!” Haku hits a savage piledriver to Bulldog then gets attacked by Flair. Brain : “Take it easy, Ric!” He starts wondering aloud why Perfect isn’t there to help Flair. “Come on Davey Boy! Get Haku!” Davey ducks under and sends Haku out as the countdown begins again. Brain : “It’s back to Bulldog and Flair! THIS ISN’T FAIR TO FLAIR, I keep telling you!”
The buzzer brings out the UTTERLY DESPISED Shawn Michaels, who wastes no time tackling his idol and hitting not-Sweet Chin Music-yet. Davey nearly gets Shawn out but he, as ever survives and superkicks Smithers too. Brain : “The roof’s starting to spin, I’m getting dizzy! Get me some water, get me something to drink!” Next up is El Matador. Brain makes me laugh by suggesting he has “as good a chance as anybody.” He goes straight for Flair until Michaels cuts him off. Brain : “Shawn Michaels is making guacomole out of El Matador.” LULZ. The heel/face dynamic takes hold, Flair fells Davey with a seldom-seen (then at least) uppercut to the gonads but then gets wiped out by the “Flying Jalopena” (sic). The buzzer brings out Barbar.
Monsoon : “Barbarian doesn’t like Flair…..”
Brain : “Barbarian doesn’t like anybody! When I managed him he barely like me!”
Flair tries unsuccessfully to blindside Tito as he tussles with Shawn, to no avail. Brain points out how many times Shawn has been out but managed to get back in. Texas Tornado is up next, and Flair is first to test his mettle. Of course, he gets a pounding then does a Flair Flop. Davey pounds Shawn with a standing clothesline and Shawn bumps like mad. Those two always had great chemistry. Flair ends up flat on his back getting more abuse from Tito. Repo Man is number 10 and I can’t believe a third of the field has been in already. The ring has three former Intercontinental Champions (remember, this is 1992 and that MATTERS), Flair and Von Erich of course being former NWA World Champions (1992, remember, THAT MATTERS TOO) and Shawn Michaels, destined for greatness.
Repo achieves nothing of note, and next is The Hammer, and the crowd goes mild. He goes straight for Flair and chops the fuck out of him. Brain alludes to there being four former WWF Champions still to come, and that feels like a big deal. Brain is verbally worried about Flair’s chances ; “We never expected he’d be jobbed like this.” Monsoon reminds Heenan of the statistical likelihood of him lasting to which Brain replies “Will you SHUT UP?? Shut up!!!!” The buzzer sounds again and out comes smiley, hand-slapping Nikolai Volkoff, to audible boos. That’s pretty funny. The ring is heaving, no one has been thrown for a while. Just as I say that, Repo dumps the Lithuanian as Valentine slaps the Figure Four on Flair which gets a minor pop.
Davey and Tito double up on Shawn, but he’s going nowhere. Next out the chute is THE BIG BOSS MAN, who wins the Rumble. The end. (Forum joke. Although, I think 2014 might be his year.)
As Boss Man hits Tornado then Barbar, Repo continues his admirable run of dumping failed babyfaces by tossing Valentine, but he runs foul of Boss Man who makes him serve hard time. By which I mean, tosses him out.
Brain : “I’m a nervous wreck! GET OUT OF THAT CORNER! I’ve got to go to ringside Monsoon!”
Monsoon : “You’re not going anywhere, you stay right here. Do your job.”
Monsoon points out Flair has been in for 20 minutes, and can’t even complete his thought as to how long Bulldog has been in as Flair dips a shoulder to eliminate Davey to a rather loud sad groan from the crowd. Tornado wonders in too close and Flair gives him the same treatment. That was pretty dumb, although Kerry did much dumber things just a few weeks later. Tito and Michaels manage to spill over the ropes together as the countdown starts again, and Hercules is next up. There is a temporary alliance between Flair and Barbar which Flair breaks, earning him ANOTHER press slam. Brain : “Take a hike! Take a hike!” Barbar tries to dump Flair but gets tossed from behind (oo-er) by Herc, who turns around into a Boss Man clothesline, leaving Flair alone with big bad Ray. Flair ducks a crossbody and Boss Man takes a nasty spill to the outside, clotheslining himself on the bottom rope. Flair is alone.
The buzzer goes off, and fuck the foreplay, here comes Piper! Brain : “Piper… could become…. World… Wrestling…. THIS IS NOT FAIR TO FLAIR!!!” Piper beats the shit out of Flair including a bulldog, a knee lift so hard he leaves his feet as though it were a dropkick, and then a backdrop. Brain : “Flair must have taken twenty-five backdrops today!” They fight outside and then back inside. This is the stuff Silvervision montages are made of.
Flair takes ten punches in the corner and an airplane spin, then ends up in the clutches of the sleeper. Up next the loudest boos for ages as Jake the Snake slithers in, and sits in the corner watching until Piper turns his back and attacks him. Brain : “Thank you Jake, THANK YOU!” Jake gives Flair a hand up, then short clotheslines him. Brain : “Why, you NO GOOD! It’s DEFINITELY NOT FAIR TO FLAIR!!” Jake forgets himself and works the crowd for the DDT attempt, broken up by Piper. Brain : “I never thought I’d say this but thank you Roddy. It’s a kilt. It’s not a skirt, it’s a KILT.” Flair puts Jake in the Figure Four but Piper breaks it up. Brain : “Why you no good creep! You skirt-wearing freak! It’s not a kilt, it’s a skirt!” Fuck me, this is brilliant.
Duggan breaks up the best two minutes of the match so far and goes straight to Flair. The crowd is batshit mental chanting “USA!” I’ll give it to Duggan, he was always over like Rover even if I thought he was shite. Brain is still complaining about the draw : “We were jobbed, Monsoon.” He then launches into one of the best soliloquys I’ve ever heard in a wrestling context, and if you weren’t a believer in Flair, he’s going to make you one :
“He’s the Real Worlds Champion as far as I’m concerned, no matter what happens here, you’ve got to admit that. Look at him, he’s still on his feet. He’s still going. He’s been slammed, he’s been press-slammed, he’s been backdropped, he’s been put to sleep, and he’s still fighting. Why? ‘Cause he wants it. He’s a champion. He’s what a champion is made of. There he is, man, a champion to the end.”
Duggan works over Flair in the corner. Brain : “Aww, this is not fair. THIS IS NOT FAIR TO FLAIR.” IRS is out next. Piper and Jake appear to either be strangling each other on the floor or else having a cuddle, and IRS goes straight for Flair. Flair escapes and tries to help Jake try and eliminate Piper. Duggan breaks it up with a textbook double noggin-knocker. Monsoon astutely points out that Jake gets paranoid with every buzzer, waiting for Macho Man. Apparently it’s 36 minutes for Flair. Snuka comes out next, and he’s still pretty over despite a couple of years of looking at the lights. Jake and IRS double team Piper, Snuka goes for Flair, Duggan takes a moment out in the corner to pose and shout “HOOOOO!!!!” Monsoon points out we still have four former World Champions and Sid left to come in, and that we’ve reached the point that Hogan and Undertaker received preferential treatment – as the two blokes involved in the controversial title switch, they were only able to draw from 20 upwards.
Undertaker comes out at 20 (raw deal there for the Dead Man) and gets some cheers, oddly. Taker throws Superfly out then gets blindsided by Flair. It doesn’t go well for Slick Ric. Brain : “What is WRONG WITH YOU, RIC?? It’s over, it’s over… everything down the toilet.” It’s weirdly refreshing to see Brain give up at this point rather than his usual insistence that everything will work out fine. Monsoon : “Flair has been in there for 42 minutes.” Brain : “Oh God….” Next buzzer brings out Savage but by the time he gets to the ring Jake has hidden under the ring. Taker intercepts Macho Man and beats him up until Jake comes back in. Savage rallies with an ax handle then knees Roberts in the back sending him out. Randy forgets what’s going on and leaps over the top rope to continue the onslaught.
Undertaker follows (between the ropes) and sends Randy back in, and they let it slide. Monsoon kayfabes that it’s the rules someone else has to throw you out, despite Andre being allowed to eliminate himself three years earlier. Well, when you’re in a corner I guess. Brain gives Piper credit for his showing given that he had wrestled already for the Intercontinental title earlier. Brain : “He just tried to pick up the Undertaker!” Novel excuse for a low blow, Bobby. One of my favourites, Berzerker, is next. Flair goes over to lay a beatdown on the already thoroughly knackered Savage. Christ, Randy always took a shitkicking. Brain : “Have you lost your mind? Are you nuts? Take it easy! Weasel your way out! I never thought I’d say this, but weasel your way out if you have to!”
Undertaker chokes the hell out of Piper as Monsoon points out Flair has passed the Valentine mark and he’s up to 46 minutes. Virgil comes out next and there is a smattering of boos. Hell, it’s New York, they know a loser when they see one. Brain : “Virgil entered at what, 23? I mean, who knows how many bags he’s been through in the back?” Monsoon : “Would you stop?” Virg starts taking a beating from Berzerker and Brain nearly has a heart attack when Undertaker goes back to choking Flair. Brain : “You’re going to have to kill him to get him out of this ring.” I’m starting to believe that upon my first viewing. “How long’s he been in there now???” Gorilla answers 47 and that he’s five minutes away from the record, if that matters. Col Mustafa is next and Gorilla quips “by the time he gets to the ring it’ll be time for another one.” Good old Sheik. Monsoon accidentally calls Flair “Martel” twice. Oops. Piper gives Flair punches in the corner as Undertaker watches, bemused. Savage, Piper, Flair and Undertaker all in the ring, this is fucking brilliant. The Model is up next and Monsoon is so impressed with Martel’s luck he busts out a “holy macro.” He also insinuates that if Martel lasts half as long as last year, he’ll win. Yeah, that’s exactly how it works. After a brief dalliance with Virgil, Martel gets attacked by the man in pursuit of his record, Flair. Monsoon mentions Martel’s record and that of Bushwhacker Luke for the shortest. Brain : “Who cares about Bushwhacker Luke??? How long’s Flair been in there now Monsoon??” I’m not sure why they had forgotten Warlord in ’89 but hey ho. At this point it feels like Savage has been abused for about ten minutes as Undertaker has him elevated, choking him overhead.
Buzzer goes…. SHIT’S ON!!!!! HERE COMES THE HULK!!!!!
“Please let him win it, please. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, everything I’ve said. Please let him win it. I’ll never say anything bad again about anybody. Just let Flair win it. Just let Flair win it. I’ll be a different person, I promise ya.”
Hulkster clotheslines out Undertaker and backdrops out Berzerker within seconds which makes him look the complete boss that he always was and always will be. Duggan throws Virgil over but manages to stumble over himself like the uncoordinated goon he was. Skinner up next, and fuck me he looks out of place with the names in there right now. Hogan elevates Flair and Heenan is absolutely haberplectic. Brain : “I’ll behave, I’ll never do anything wrong again, JUST LET HIM STAY!” Monsoon is forced to admit “I said earlier on Brain no one picks numbers one through five and is still there at the end…. but we’re rapidly approaching the end, and Flair is still there!” Brain : “You know it’s not fair to Flair, but he’s still in there!”
Slaughter is up next and again there are boos. I don’t know whether this is just a marginally pro-heel crowd or whether some deeds just can’t be forgiven. Remarkable to think how over Sarge was as a face in the early 80s, I never found him likeable. Sarge goes right for Flair as Martel scores a victory for wrestling over brawling by dumping Skinner. GOOD. As a markish child, I hated his brand of cheating the most, especially when wrestling Bret. As Hogan and Piper have a little spat, Monsoon tells us Flair has secured the record. Brain : “Just give him the title, that’s good enough for me.”Sid comes out next to a good pop and he goes straight for Irwin who is sweatier than Typhoon’s gusset. Monsoon admits to Brain that Flair has proven himself a champion, then starts rambling about lactic acid, or something. It drags slightly here as a lot of the guys with stamina have been in a while and expended lots of energy. Piper, Irwin and Savage all look like death. Nearly time for number 30 already!
Monsoon : “It will be no surprise, it is the Warlord.”
Brain : “But you never know, you never know what Tunney and the WWF are going to pull on you.”
Monsoon : “It can only be one guy!”
Brain : “See, the Warlord! I told you!”
Nobody is really looking at Warlord, who goes right for Piper, as Flair and Hogan have gone to the floor and Hogan suplexes Slick Ric on the floor.
Justice turnbuckles Slaughter who does his trademark bump over and out, Christ knows how/why he kept doing that. Monsoon : “It’s been over an hour for Flair.” Brain : “That’s definitely not fair to Flair, to be there that long. No human being should have to go through this.” Piper eliminates IRS by the tie, which looks daft but gets a great pop. Hogan and Sid eliminate Warlord together and Monsoon does a rubbish job of acting shocked. Home straight now.
Sid pushes out Martel & Piper together to add to Slaughter on his tally. Sid scoops up Savage then Flair knees Sid in the back, the momentum sends Savage out. Bit of a low key exit for Randy, he’s mostly been battered throughout. Flair goes over and chops Hogan, who no sells it. Hulkster chops Flair, turnbuckles him hard, then tries to toss him. Justice creeps up and throws the Hulk over. The crowd pop louder than they should for this – yes, a large number of fans prefer Sid to Hogan, it seems. Hogan seems to stare at Sid for an eternity, shouting “you stole my belt!” Sid (rightly) replies “It’s every man for himself, big boy!” Wow, that came across a bit fairy. Sid stupidly incongruously lets his arm get too near and Hulk grabs it, trying to yank Sid out. Sid doesn’t really fight but holds his ground, until Flair takes his base out and tips him over, but make no mistake the bulk of the work getting Sid out once he’s in the air is done by Hogan. Justice hits the floor, and Flair is the winner.
The crowd go potty, and the Brain spooges all over the floor, Monsoon and himself.
YES!!!!! YES! YES! YES! YES YES YES YES YES!
He did it! I told you Monsoon! I told you Monsoon! I told you! I told you!
YEEEEE-ES!!! YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!
YES, I told you! I told you!
He did it! He did it! I knew he’d do it! All you humanoids know…. I’m going to meet him.”
In my mind, I always hear Flair’s real music here, not his rubbish WWF NES game version. Flair scarpers pretty sharpish when Hogan gets back in the ring, ever the sore loser, and Flair retreats up the aisle with Perfect and the Brain, in glorious victory.
Back in the ring, Hogan has forgotten Sid.
The two RUNNERS UP get right in each others’ mugs and a swarm of refs and agents have to keep the muscle headed blond boys apart. Terry Garvin, Pat Patterson, Rene Goulet and Tony Garea are namechecked by Monsoon, both Hebners, Joey Marella and the ref whose name I never knew are not. Patterson is sporting trainers and a suit which is a hideous look for anyone, not just him. I expect to spot Shane, but don’t.
Yes, everyone is looking at the two in the ring, but Monsoon remembers what the REAL story is :
“Everyone in the world now knows what Ric Flair can do, what kind of man he is!”
Hogan sulks off, probably a bit pissed off the crowd isn’t unanimously backing him against Justice, as Sid hollers “I’ll kill ya!” O….K. Watching this back, it’s truly hard to believe that Hogan/Sid for ‘Mania VIII wasn’t the plan all along, so well set up it was. We’re backstage with Gene Okerlund and the whole gang, and fittingly one of the greatest matches of all time is bookended by one of the greatest promos of all time.
Okerlund : “Alright, by virtue of winning the Royal Rumble, we have a brand new World Wrestling Federation champion. As the press look on, at this time to present the title belt to the new champion, our president, the distinguished Jack Tunney.”
Tunney : “Congratulations, Ric Flair, on becoming the undisputed champion of the World Wrestling Federation.”
Flair : “Let me just say, after carrying the belt that proclaimed me the real world champion, I’m gonna tell you all, with a tear IN MY EYE, this is the greatest moment in my life. When you walk around in this life and you tell everybody you’re number one, the only way you get to stay number one, is to be number one. And this is the ONLY title in the wrestling world that makes you number one. When you are the king of the WWF, you rule the world, think about it like that, Mr Perfect, The Brain, Whoooo!”
Brain : “Let’s give a big one, Whooooooooooo! You did it. I was never so impressed with anything I saw in all my life, he went out there for over 60 minutes, never took a back step. Took it to Hogan, took it to the Undertaker, took it to whoever got in that ring, that’s why he is, and you can call him now, the real World Heavyweight Champion.”
Perfect : “Hey Bobby, We’re not the kind of guys to say we told you so, but we.. told you so.”
Okerlund : “Okay, very good. Ric Flair, you have made World… Put that cigarette out. You have made World Wrestling Federation history here tonight.”
Flair : “This is the greatest moment in my life. I wanna jump, I wanna party, but I gotta tell you like this, for the Hulk Hogans and the Macho Mans, and the Pipers and the Sids, now it’s Ric Flair and you all pay homage to the man, Whoooo! I love it. I love it. I love it!”
What a guy. What a match, what a promo. Made the belt seem such a big deal, made the new champion seem like such a big deal. Flair was on fire there and clearly meant every word. I’ll even forgive him saying “Macho Mans” instead of “Macho Men”, heh. Say whatever you want about Flair’s WWF run, if ever they showcased a talent to the best of their abilities, this was it. They made him look like an iron man. To be the Man, you’ve got to beat the Man, and here, Ric Flair was THE MAN. I think I’d rather watch this match then actually any of Flair’s heralded matches with Steamboat or Dusty or any of them. THIS is the match that made Flair in my eyes, he got in the ring with an entire roster and kept up with them for 60 minutes, and in any other Rumble his confrontations with Davey Boy, Boss Man, Piper or Hogan would stand out. One of the best performances of his career and by a country mile the best performance of Bobby Heenan’s career which added to this hour of perfect wrestling entertainment.
I really can’t be bothered comparing this to the other Rumbles, I think I’ve made it perfectly clear it’s in a class of it’s own and should be compared to all the other “best matches of all time.” I’ve laid here watching it from start to finish typing in the process. I can’t tell you how many times I had to rewind the tape to enable me to capture the exact words of some of the lines of commentary, but it was an absolute labour of love.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been an ABSOLUTE PLEASURE.