Classic WWF Pay-Per-Views: 1991
January 19, 1991
A new year means that it’s time to rumble and this Royal Rumble was a more complete Pay-Per-View than prior years because the WWF Championship was on the line. How does one rank a Royal Rumble? On the strength of the Royal Rumble Match itself or the Pay-Per-View as a whole? Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper called the action and The Gobbly Gooker was nowhere to be found.
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs. The New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato) was a highly competitive, faced paced match, which still holds up after two decades. The Rockers had been bested by the original Orient Express (Tanaka & Sato) at WrestleMania VI, but Michaels and Jannetty were the victors in this rematch. The Big Boss Man then defeated The Barbarian. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan decreed that Boss Man needed a win over ever member of The Heenan Family before he could get a shot at “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and the Intercontinental Championship. Since Haku and The Barbarian were the only other members of The Heenan Family at this time, it wasn’t too daunting of a task.
Sensational “Queen” Sherri called out The Ultimate Warrior and challenged him for the WWF Championship on behalf of “Macho King” Randy Savage. Sherri even sunk to her knees while she begged, which elicited a bawdy reaction from the fans. The Warrior responded to her with an emphatic NOOOO!!!!!, which only enraged The Macho King further. How could Randy Savage be denied his well deserved title shot? This was a decision that The Warrior would rue.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and his paid bodyguard Virgil competed in tag team action against “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and his son, Dustin. DiBiase had been abusing Virgil as of late and it was revealed that Virgil worked for DiBiase so to afford care of his sickly mother. DiBiase and Virgil were victorious despite DiBiase battering Virgil during the match. Dusty Rhodes would return to WCW to be the booker soon after this and took his son with him. Dustin struggled in the shadow of his father until he reinvented himself as Goldust in 1995. Virgil finally stood up for himself after the match and struck DiBiase with his prized Million Dollar Championship. Definitely a highlight of Virgil’s career. Roddy Piper was just as elated as the fans because he was the one who shared words of wisdom with Virgil and helped to show him the light.
Roddy Piper also sounded genuinely disgusted when The Mountie, formerly Jacques Rougeau, made his entrance for a match against Koko B. Ware. Ironic as Piper and The Mountie would be opponents at the next year’s Royal Rumble.
The Ultimate Warrior, who’d already been the first WWF Champion to defend the gold at a SummerSlam, would also be the first to defend at a Royal Rumble. The internet “smart” fans don’t pay The Warrior much in way of a tribute, but he actually defended the title more than his predecessors. Sgt. Slaughter, ex-patriot turned Iraqi sympathizer, was the #1 Contender. Slaughter had promised Randy Savage a title shot, so Savage and Sherri interfered in the match multiple times and cost Warrior the championship. Sgt. Slaughter had walked out on the WWF before the first WrestleMania. Now, in only his second Pay-Per-View match back, he was the new WWF Champion. Slaughter was also being managed Gen. Adnan Al-Kaisse, who could have been used as a body double for Saddam Hussein. Slaughter was now the champion, but his patriotic G.I. Joe image was tarnished for years to come.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart began the Royal Rumble Match for the second time in his career, having also drawn #1 back in 1988. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who was no longer a heel and no longer managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, entered at #3 and lasted about forty-five minutes. Rick “The Model” Martel entered at #6 at lasted over fifty minutes, breaking the longevity record set by Ted DiBiase the year prior. Martel got the best of Jake “The Snake” Roberts (#9) once again by eliminating Roberts while standing on the apron. Martel was so impressive in this match that even Roddy Piper gave him the kudos which he deserved.
Both members of The Legion of Doom, Hawk (#16) and Animal (#19), were entered in this Royal Rumble. The greatest tag team of all time looked somewhat out of place in an every man for himself type match, but they did eliminate The Undertaker (#12) with a double clothesline. Entrant #18 was a no show. The first in Royal Rumble history. It turned out to be “Macho King” Randy Savage. It was surmised that Savage and Sherri had been chased out of the building by The Ultimate Warrior. This was the second Pay-Per-View in a row where Randy Savage did not compete, which is very disappointing.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the winner of the first Royal Rumble in 1988, entered at #21, but neither Gorilla Monsoon nor Roddy Piper made mention of his past success at this event. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan entered at #24 and had dedicated this match to the United States of America Armed Forces station all around the world, so it was almost a forgone conclusion that The Hulkster would be triumphant for a second year in a row.
Bushwacker Luke (#27) was eliminated by Earthquake (#22) in a matter of seconds. For years, it was erroneously stated that this was the record for the shortest time in a Royal Rumble. Gorilla Monsoon made that claim at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Sean Mooney said the same in the 1993 Royal Rumble pre-show. Jerry “The King” Lawler joked about it during the 1995 Royal Rumble, and Jim Ross eluded to it at the 1997 Royal Rumble. It wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble when John Bradshaw Layfield would clarify that it was The Warlord who still had the record from 1989. I suppose that back in 1991, the WWF still had high hopes for The Warlord (#29) and didn’t want to saddle him with such an embarrassing record.
Tugboat came in at #30 and tried to eliminate Hulk Hogan. Hulk retaliated and dumped the big Tugboat over the top rope. Rick Martel made it to the final five before being eliminated by “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (#14), who was competing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View in over two years. Earthquake and Brian Knobbs (#28) of The Nasty Boys (another BFF of Hulk Hogan) double teamed and eliminated Davey Boy, but no such luck against Hogan, who “Hulked Up” and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble. Hogan eliminating Earthquake was the culmination of their rivalry (not counting a tag team match on The Main Event).
As I’ve said, the appeal of the Royal Rumble is unpredictability, but with Hulk Hogan’s dedication to the troops and “Macho King” Randy Savage not competing, it was a tad too predictable that Hulk would win. I felt the same with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the 1998 Royal Rumble. Way too predictable. Without the likes of Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior, there wasn’t enough star power to rival The Hulkster. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mr. Perfect (#23) didn’t last as long as you would’ve expected and superstars like Bret “Hit Man” Hart and The Undertaker weren’t on that main event echelon just yet. The real star of this Royal Rumble was Rick “The Model” Martel.
March 24, 1991
Los Angeles, California
Starting at WrestleMania VI, WWF Chairman Vince McMahon hyped for almost the entire year that WrestleMania VII would emanate from the LA Coliseum, but with only a few weeks to go, the venue was switched to the much smaller LA Sports Arena. The WWF/WWE has always cited security issues as the reason for the last minute change, alluding to an alleged bomb threat. However, just like the 93,000 fans in attendance for WrestleMania III, this is Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s revisionist history. The “Rock & Wrestling” phenomenon of the 1980s was cooling off and neither fanatics nor casual fans seemed to be buying the idea of a Gulf War storyline in professional wrestling, so WrestleMania VII was never going to break any attendance records.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary together for the first time at a Pay-Per-View, though they had successfully co-hosted WWF Prime Time for years. Others would cover for Bobby on color when members of The Heenan Family were in action. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, garbed as Uncle Sam, assisted Monsoon as The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) defeated Haku and The Barbarian. The Rockers were the ideal superstars to open a Pay-Per-View. The Hardy Boyz were often compared to The Rockers, but Michaels and Jannetty didn’t need a ladder and tables to have an exciting match.
Sadly, many wresters on this card have passed away since, many at a young age, and not all as result of natural causes. As of 2013, there are ten wrestlers on this card who have died, not counting the managers and other on-air talent. Dino Bravo took on “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich. Both these men died as a result of gunshot wounds. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig defended the Intercontinental Championship against The Big Boss Man. They both died of heart attacks as did most of the ten wrestlers. One just has to wonder what role steroids and other drugs may have played in all these heart attacks. Earthquake is one of the few from this generation who passed from natural causes. He died of bladder cancer in 2006.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick “The Model” Martel was a Blindfold Match. This match may not stand the test of time, but it was a hoot the first time around. The WWE should bring back audience participation matches. Can you imagine John Cena in this type of match? His supporters (little kids) pointing him the right direction while all of his detractors (adult men) try to steer him off course? Either way, Roberts picked up the win and finally got his revenge on Martel for the blinding last year. This was the final PPV appearance of Damien, who was squished and cooked by Earthquake in the spring of 1991, and the last PPV before Jake Roberts’ heel turn.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs). The Nasty Boys were managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, who formerly managed The Hart Foundation. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart quietly dissolved their partnership after this loss and The Hit Man embarked on his Hall of Fame singles career. The Undertaker also made his WrestleMania debut and was now managed by Paul Bearer. The Phenom defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. At the time, no could have known that this was the beginning of one of (if not the) most impressive streaks in WWF/WWE history. 1&0.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho King” Randy Savage was a Career Ending Match, which one could argue was even bigger than the WWF Championship and the real main event. Warrior and Savage both challenged Hulk Hogan for the top spot in the WWF at various points and became icons in their own right. The Warrior WALKED to the ring instead of running, so you knew he meant business. It was practically a handicap match with Sensational “Queen” Sherri’s involvement. The Warrior survived five of Savage’s patented flying elbow-drops, recovered, and hit Savage with three shoulder tackles for the win. After the match, Sherri kicked Savage, who was barely conscious. Then, Miss Elizabeth jumped the guard rail and saved Savage. Savage snapped out of his daze and realized what was happening. Elizabeth had tears in her eyes as she and Savage finally embraced. In fact, there was barely a dry eye in the house. Everybody was crying. This is probably the most touching moment in professional wrestling history. Macho MAN was back and received the accolades which he so richly deserved (I believe I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon) from all the fans. Usually, Elizabeth would hold the ropes open for Randy, but this time he held the ropes open for her like a true gentleman.
The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) squashed Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). A lackluster WrestleMania debut for such a heralded tag team. Lord Alfred Hayes joined Gorilla Monsoon for the aforementioned Intercontinental Championship Match. Andre the Giant even made a surprise appearance and aided The Big Boss Man against The Heenan Family. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, still recovering from knee surgery, was in the corner of Virgil, who upset “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase via count out. Ted DiBiase may have lost to his former bodyguard, but Sensational Sherri was revealed as his new manager. Wow. It sure didn’t take Sherri too long to find herself a new “meal ticket.”
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan challenged Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF Championship in the main event. Hulk had won the 1991 Royal Rumble, but this was not a guaranteed title opportunity. WWF President Jack Tunney (Vince McMahon‘s puppet) named The Hulkster as the #1 Contender on The Main Event. Sgt. Slaughter actually threatened to intentionally get himself counted out or disqualified so to keep the championship. It was a decent enough match. Regis Philbin added some humor as the celebrity guest color commentator. Just like Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II, no one was really in fear for Hulkamania. Hogan was bloodied, but tore the Iraqi flag apart and won the WWF title for a record breaking third time. He had been tied at two title reigns with the legendary Bruno Sammartino.
The war was officially over (I know I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon this time). Whatever you may think of Sgt. Slaughter’s brief tenure as champion and the highly controversial Gulf War angle, it was an emotional WrestleMania. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s reunion is an all time great WrestleMania moment even if the WWE is too ridiculous to acknowledge it. A recent WWE magazine ranked the horrible match between John Cena and The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, which lamely ended in a double count out, above Macho Man and Elizabeth reuniting. Really? Really? Really?
Hulk Hogan becoming WWF Champion for an unprecedented third time was brought up by Bobby Heenan, but wasn’t dwelled upon. Nowadays, almost ever WWE superstar has been a world champion a half dozen time, devaluing the belts, but there was a time when being a three time champion was an achievement that only The Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons could realize… brother!!!
August 26, 1991
New York City, New York
The WWF returns to Madison Square Garden, the location so many historic moments. A three man team called the action. Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The Heenan Family was no more and The Brain’s focus was on color commentary.
Rick “The Dragon” Steamboat was back after a highly successful tenure in WCW. He teamed with “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich to defeat a trio managed by Slick. Steamboat was only suppose to be referred to as “The Dragon” and his past as the Intercontinental Champion was overlooked. Regardless, Roddy Piper still called him Steamboat while calling the match. Either by force of habit or just plain defiance. Andre the Giant made his final PPV appearance, in the corner of The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch), who were defeated by The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Tugboat had be rechristened and Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart now managed the largest heel stable in the WWF in the absence of The Heenan Family.
Three titles changed hands at this PPV. Bret “Hit Man” Hart won the Intercontinental Championship from “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. A great wrestling match even with Mr. Perfect suffering from a back injury. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs) in a No DQ Match. L.O.D. became the first and only tag team to win the gold in all three major promotions of their era. NWA, AWA, and WWF. Also, Virgil won the Million Dollar Championship from “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. This was only the second time that this non-sanctioned title was defended and the first time it changed hands.
Speaking of titles, Bobby Heenan went back to the locker room during the show with the WCW Championship belt and challenged “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan on behalf of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the self proclaimed real world’s champion. Unbelievable! Flair was no longer associated with WCW, but was still recognized by the fans as the world champion of that promotion and owned the famous big gold belt. I followed the WWF at that age and was only vaguely familiar with WCW, but my father knew who Ric Flair was and he was very excited about his impending arrival in the WWF… Woooooo!!!
The Big Boss Man defeated The Mountie in a Jailhouse Match, stipulating that The Mountie would have to spend the night in a New York City jail. He was booked and left behind bars with an odd cellmate who wanted to know if he “loved the feel of leather on his skin?” The Mountie always gets his man.
The main event was the “Match Made in Hell,” a Handicap Match with Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, and The Ultimate Warrior facing The Triangle of Terror (Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan, & Col. Mustapha). Mustapha was actually The Iron Sheik, the man who first lost the WWF Championship to Hulk Hogan way back in 1984 when Hulkamania arrived in the WWF. Since The Iron Sheik represented Iran, he was given a new persona so that he could signify Iraq instead. Sid Justice, formerly Sid Vicious in WCW, was the guest referee. Just like with Jesse “The Body” Ventura at SummerSlam ‘88, trust was a crucial issue. Sgt. Slaughter offered Sid a position in the Triangle of Terror, which Sid flatly refused. Hogan and Warrior were victorious after Hulk threw powder in the eyes of Slaughter. I guess Hulk Hogan is allowed to cheat? I thought at first that Slaughter must have attempted to use the powder and Hulk knocked it back in his face in an act of self defense, but nope, Hulk cheated.
The Ultimate Warrior chased Gen. Adnan and Col. Mustapha away from ringside with a steel chair just before the match ended and did not return to celebrate the win with Hulk Hogan. This was because he was fired by WWF Chairman Vince McMahon over a financial dispute. The Warrior argues the WWE’s version of this story which was presented on the “Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” DVD, claiming that he was totally justified in demanded his long overdue payday for WrestleMania VII. I’ll remain neutral in this quarrel between Vince McMahon and The Warrior, because I honestly don’t know who to trust. Sid Justice instead joined Hulk Hogan in the ring to celebrate. I’m not sure why the referee would pose after a match, but it was still a good introduction for Sid.
The “Match Made in Heaven” followed, which was the wedding ceremony of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Of course, they were already married in real life, so it was more like a renewal ceremony and this might be the only WWF wedding that went off without a hitch. Usually, these ceremonies end in utter chaos. The chaos this time was reserved for the reception, which was not shown as part of the live PPV, so for the first time in my retrospectives, I’m referring to the Coliseum Home Video. The reception was crashed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts and The Undertaker. They hid a king cobra inside one of the gifts and it nearly bit Elizabeth. Jake initially turned heel to feud with The Ultimate Warrior, which obviously wasn’t going to happen anymore, but a Roberts / Macho Man rivalry was just as good and Roberts mentoring Undertaker was epic. This why there were rumors in 1999 that Jake Roberts was The Undertaker’s “higher power.” That would have been so much cooler than Mr. McMahon. Randy Savage’s retirement was short lived because the fans would soon be petitioning WWF President Jack Tunney for The Macho Man to be reinstated, so he could get payback.
November 27, 1991
This was the year that the Survivor Series transitioned into being a Thanksgiving Eve tradition. Also, none of the teams had names, those clever puns on the team captain’s gimmick which we all love. The WWF Championship was defended for the first time at this event and Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was wrestling again and The Hot Rod captained a team which opposed “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s team. This Pay-Per-View was unlike others because the main event matches all came on early. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was on Flair’s team, taking a backseat to the new top heel in the WWF. Ric Flair’s digitized world championship was actually a tag team title belt. He had to send the real one back to WCW, but the WWF kept the angle going. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was the only competitor eliminated during the course of the match. Everyone else, with the exception of Ric Flair, was disqualified at the conclusion of the match, resulting in Ric Flair becoming the sole survivor in his WWF Pay-Per-View debut.
Neither “Macho Man” Randy Savage nor Jake “The Snake” Roberts competed on this show because of an angle on WWF Superstars where Roberts’ king cobra bit Savage on his bicep. Instead, they were interviewed separately by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Seems peculiar to leave two top superstars off one of the big four PPVs. In the past year, The Macho Man has only wrestled at WrestleMania VII. What a jip.
Sgt. Slaughter had turned face, wanting to be re-embraced by the good old USA. He and his partners, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, and Tito Santana (who now had his “El Matador” gimmick) defeated a team of generic heels by clean sweep.
In what was billed as his gravest challenge, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan defended the WWF Championship against The Undertaker. The Phenom had made his WWF debut at the previous Survivor Series. For the first time, Hulkamania wasn’t running wild. It seemed that many fans were rooting for The Undertaker. This sort of thing happens to John Cena all the time, but it was very rare for The Hulkster. Ric Flair interfered in the match numerous times. The finish was Undertaker delivering a Tombstone to Hogan on top of a steel chair which Flair slid into the ring while Paul Bearer was distracting the referee. Perhaps Bobby Heenan (who also served as Ric Flair’s financial advisor) was correct. Hulkamania may have been dead. Unlike older fans, who were somewhat sick of Hulk Hogan after seven years of prayers and vitamins, I was still a Hulkamaniac and this was a devastating moment for me.
As this show progressed, an impromptu Pay-Per-View called “Tuesday in Texas” was announced. It would be held the following week. Randy Savage would face off with Jake Roberts and The Undertaker would give Hulk Hogan a rematch for the WWF Championship. What I don’t appreciate is an incomplete Pay-Per-View. It ends on a cliffhanger and not for the Royal Rumble, but for an extra Pay-Per-View. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were on early so there would be time to hype Tuesday in Texas and there was little point in watching the rest of this show.
All that was remaining of any consequence was Shawn Michaels berating his tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, after a miscue that led to Shawn being eliminated from their match. The beginning of the end for The Rockers. Also, Bobby Heenan was hilarious in mocking The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch). The final match (which I won‘t refer to as the main event) was a three-on-three traditional Survivor Series Match. The Big Boss Man and The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs. Irwin R. Shyster and The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Sid Justice was suppose to be on the face team, but was injured. The Macho Man was rumored as a replacement, but he wasn’t medically cleared after the snake bite. Jake Roberts was suppose to be on the heel team, but was suspended because of the aforementioned cobra incident. L.O.D. were the survivors. Sure, they may be the greatest tag team of all time (sorry Dudley Boyz), but it was still an anti-climax.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund found The Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the bowels of the arena just before the show went off the air. They were ominously preparing a casket for the funeral of Hulkamania, which would be held this “Tuesday in Texas.” Even if the fans were being ripped off for an extra PPV, it was still an awesome segment. The WWF would do many like this with Undertaker as a face in the years to come. Perhaps the coolest gimmick ever.
Like No Holds Barred: The Match the year prior, Tuesday in Texas doesn’t warrant it’s own retrospective. The rematch between The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan can be seen on the “Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology” DVD. WWF President Jack Tunney was at ringside and saw Ric Flair interfere again. Hulk won the title for a forth time after he threw ashes from the urn in Undertaker’s face, but was stripped of the belt soon after by Jack Tunney. The WWF Championship was vacant for the first time in over three years.
Posted on May 29, 2013, in Pro Wrestling, WWF, WWF/WWE and tagged Bobby Heenan, Bret Hart, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Gene Okerlund, Gorilla Monsoon, Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Snuka, Kerry Von Erich, Legion of Doom, Miss Elizabeth, Mr. Perfect, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Rick Martel, Roddy Piper, Royal Rumble, Sensational Sherri, Sgt. Slaughter, Sid Justice, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Ted DiBiase, The Big Boss Man, The British Bulldog, The Mountie, The Nasty Boys, The Rockers, The Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker, Tito Santana, Tuesday in Texas, Vince McMahon, WrestleMania, WWF. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.