Sunday, January 10, 2016

Royal Ramble: 1998

So it's the 1998 Royal Rumble, the next step on the WWF's sizable road to reclaiming the wrestling crown from rival promotion World Championship Wrestling. For whatever that's worth...

I didn't start following WWF or wrestling in general until a few months afterwards and thus my first exposure to this show wouldn't be until late-98 or early-99 when I bought the VHS tape at an old Music World store. The DVD Anthology is basically the VHS showing, but with all the WWF logos and mentions bleeped out.

Vader beat the Artist Formerly Known As Goldust in a pretty bad match. You'd think if Dustin were to give up being Goldust, he'd stop being Goldust. In retrospect, this almost seems like a tamer version of that Black Reign gimmick he did in TNA several years later... alas, poor Vader. Went from being a monster heel in WCW to cannon fodder in WWF. Could've been a big deal if anyone had the good sense to push him as the monster he could have been.

There's a midget match taking place here. They bounce around. They look a bit funny. I can't be bothered to remember their names... I am a horrible human being... I kinda wish they had midgets that didn't wear masks because I keep thinking they're kids. There's an idea worth looking into, WWE. Who knows? You might even find a superstar to really grow from home.

The Rock defeated Ken Shamrock via disqualification to retain the title... see, Rock used brass knucks to knock Shamrock out, but in a bit of clever thinking, stuffs the international object in Shamrock's trunks. So, even though Shamrock scored the pinfall, the referee spots the knucks and reverses his decision. This is a rare instance of a Dusty Finish done well... extremely rare instance of a Dusty Finish done well... it's too bad we'd be getting more of them down the line. What's hilarious here is that you'd hear Jim Ross boasting about showcasing young talents rather than senior citizens (a not so subtle knock on WCW, whose main event picture comprised mostly old guys) and yet in the very next match, we have Road Dogg and Billy Gunn defending their tag-team titles against The Legion of Doom, who were being referred to as "timeless legends."

The double standard is a powerful tool.

For those who care, said tag-team match ended in a DQ. It wasn't very good. There's a reason why LOD was constantly referred to as OLD. And as great and imposing of a team as the Road Warriors were in their prime years, their later years were pretty sad to watch and revisit, especially considering where they ended up afterwards. I daresay that the OLD days of LOD ruined the rest of LOD for me... and please don't get me started on the "reboot" version that happened on Smackdown in the mid-2000s.

The Royal Rumble takes place... I'm not going to do a full breakdown of the match because that's not what I do. So if you're interested in order of entries and eliminations and whatnots, Wikipedia is your friend. So the backstory is that Steve Austin has been stunning people left and right, ambushing people left and right, and so he's a marked man. So until Stone Cold entires the match (and wins it, of course) the entire Rumble is merely going through the motions and showcasing the rather anemic roster on display at that time. How bad was it, you may ask? Three Faces Of Foley means a triple-feature for Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy. One of the entrants is another "timeless legend" in the form of the Honky Tonk Man. One entrance boasted no superstar (thought to be Austin, but he shows up later) so it's really a 29-man Rumble. A lot of the names featured here are either gone or future endeavored in a year's time. Not very inspiring.

The Rumble begins with Catcus Jack and Terry Funk beating the crap out of each other. The Rumble ends with Steve Austin stunning Rocky Maivia out of the Rumble and makes his way over to the history books, as the next night, he'd have that scuffle with Mike Tyson and that would plant the seeds to Austin's rise and the WWF's overall resurgence.

WWF Champion Shawn Michaels retains the title against Undertaker in a casket match when Kane appeared to chokeslam Taker into the casket, which would later be smashed and lit on fire, setting the stage for the first Undertaker vs. Kane match at Wrestlemania XIV. HBK and Taker had (and would have) far better matches, but this was still pretty good stuff. For those wondering, this is the match that ended his career (the first time) thanks to a nasty bump on the casket that hurt his back.

Royal Rumble '98 is a pretty bad show, overall. Whether it's a matter of some of the stuff not aging well due to the passage of time or just being horrid stuff to begin with, it's a show that, outside of the historical footnotes it provides, really holds little value. From a curiosity standpoint, seeing the seeds planted in the Austin era's rise to prominence and the temporary sabbatical of Shawn Michaels might be worth checking out, but in all honesty, you're really not missing much by skipping on this one.

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