The PPV Project – Royal Rumble 1998

January 18th 1998. San Jose, California

When Pat Patterson came up with the idea for the Royal Rumble match itself he possibly never really considered that it’s something you can hang so many storylines on. The best Rumble matches have multiple angles running through them and it can either continue those stories or create whole new ones. On some occasions the Rumble match is build around one wrestler only and it detracts from the overall experience. The Royal Rumble match of 1998 might well be one on that list. As J.R says at the top of the show ‘Stone Cold is a marked man tonight’. Convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson is shown watching the PPV show in an executive box.

The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust walks down the ramp. Thankfully the Doctor Zeus books have been put away this month and he’s set for action against Vader. Not only has Goldust walked out on his fellow Americans at Survivor Series 1997 but he also smacked Vader over the head with a coconut on a subsequent Raw. Roddy Piper did it better with Snuka but there you go. Goldust (as I’ll still be calling him during this because it’s less to type) comes down to the ring with Luna. Vader gets a huge pop, possibly the biggest in his WWF career so far.

Goldust goes straight into attack mode before the bell rings. His advantage is cut short when Vader shoulder barges and then splashes him as he’s prone on the mat. Goldust then exits the ring to gather himself. Vader gives chase and batters Goldust outside the ring.  Goldust only gains an upper hand when Luna distracts Vader long enough for him to get a clothesline in. Vader also seems to grab Goldust by the testicles and throw him into the steel steps. Back in the ring Goldust tries a Sunset Flip but Vader doesn’t go over with him. Instead the masked man attempts to sit down squash the Bizarre One. Goldust manages to dodge out of the way but remember this spot as it’ll be back later.

Jim Ross informs us that Stone Cold Steve Austin has yet to arrive in the building.

Goldust begins to work on Vader’s legs which I suppose is logical for keeping the big man off his feet. Back on the outside Vader is hurled into the steps and Luna manages to get
a few shots in whilst the ref has his back turned. After Goldust does a few standing punches in the corner Vader busts out by getting a really solid looking clothesline in. A few moments later Goldust tries a scoop slam but cannot lift the big man up. Vader answers with a suplex, then a standing splash for a two count. At this moment it seems like the match is going off the cliff a bit and they’ve run out of ideas. Time to hit the home stretch.

Vader drags Goldust over to the corner for a Vader Bomb which he doesn’t connect with as Goldust jumps up and low blows him at the last moment. We then arrive back at the Sunset Flip spot as Goldust goes over once again, tries to get Vader down but this time Vader manages to sit right on him. Vader once again drags him over to the corner for a Vader Bomb but Luna rushes into the ring and jumps on Vader’s back. The ref, for reasons known only to himself, does not call for the bell at this time. Vader goes right ahead and Bombs anyway with the tiny looking Luna on his back. He gets the winning three count right after. It’s not bad for an opener but seemed to lose the way a little in the middle. It’s also odd seeing Vader being the face in this equation.

A pick up truck pulls up outside. Stone Cold is here and Michael Cole tries to get a few words from him. Austin simply chucks his car keys at Cole and tells him to park it. Stone Cold leaves the scene and The Godwinns turn up threatening Cole in order to find out where Stone Cold has gone. If you were to go back to 1998, looks at Cole during this segment and suggest to everybody that this man would have a match at Wrestlemania in years to come that would go about half an hour in duration you’d have been laughed out of the building.

It looks like the small section of the creative department labelled ‘Let’s find something that Sunny can do’ have been busy again. Here she comes to referee a match between six
small Mexican wrestlers for no reason whatsoever. As soon as I saw this match written on paper I thought we’d get the almost inevitable ‘comedy’ moment when one of them would end up looking up Sunny’s skirt. She arrives wearing shorts, thankfully sparing us that scene.

We go back up to the executive box with convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson. He’s probably wondering what is happening as Battalion, Tarantula and El Torito take on Max Mini, Nova and Mosaic.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t write many notes for this one mainly because only another DOA versus Los Boricuas match would cause me to care less. There’s a lot of Arm Drags, many hurricanranas and Battalion seems to spend the vast majority of the match sliding to the outside. Max Mini pins El Torito to win. That’s your lot.

The Nation are backstage looking for Stone Cold. It took me a few seconds to register that Mark Henry was among them. Eighteen months into his ten year contract with the WWF and they’re already struggling with what to do with him. The Nation don’t find Stone Cold, instead taking out the first bald member of the DOA they can find. All these white red necks, they all look the same.

We go back to convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson who is now joined by Vince and Shane McMahon. I’m not one hundred percent on this but it might be the first time Shane has popped up during this project.

Ken Shamrock has apparently been making a nuisance of himself with regard to The Nation. We’re shown footage from Raw when Mark Henry was tagging with Shamrock but turned on him. Michael Cole interviews The Rock (now referred to at all times by
that name to the point that Jim Ross keeps correcting himself when he says ‘Rocky Maivia’ on commentary). The Rock’s promo here is obviously in the very early stages of his character yet to come. There’s no ‘Know Your Role’ nor interrupting people with ‘it doesn’t matter’. There’s been some disruption in the ranks of The Nation and he denies this. He’s also describing himself as The People’s Champ’ when the crowd want nothing to do with him as he’s a heel. A young Roman Reigns hopefully took notes.

‘Get used to these two Cameron’ said my fellow Conquistabore Geordie Alan ‘they meet each other in various formats for about the next six months’. With that in mind here’s Ken Shamrock versus The Rock part one of many.

Ken Shamrock actually hasn’t done that bad in the last two shows. He was fighting Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title last month in a half decent outing and here he is competing for the Intercontinental strap. The Rock begins by trying to copy Shamrock’s MMA stance. This seems to be a requirement for all of Shamrock’s opponents. They tie up, Rock pushes Shamrock to the corner and tries to cheap shot him when the ref breaks it up. Shamrock ducks the punch.

For some reason at this point Jerry Lawler screams something about knowing Sable and Sunny’s bra sizes. We are witnessing full on ranting sex creep ladies and gentlemen,
take cover.

Shamrock pushes Rock into the corner and punches him right in the gob. Shamrock Irish Whips Rock into the ropes. The Rock dodges two elbows but ends up getting caught by Shamrock’s kick the third time of asking. The Rock then sells a Shamrock punch like a mine has gone off under his feet. The Rock later reverses a Hurricanrana and drops Shamrock on the top rope. Shamrock then tries to get back with punches before The Rock rakes his eyes, a move which he’ll resort to a few times over the duration of this match.

A Shamrock Fisherman’s Suplex only gets a two count. A further Shamrock Irish Whip to the ropes is reversed with a huge DDT from The Rock. Rock then holds Shamrock in a chinlock for a short while before Shamrock powers out. Another Rock eye rake goes into an Irish Whip. The Rock goes for another DDT but Shamrock reverses into a Suplex. A Shamrock Powerslam gets a two count. He follows his by connecting with the Hurricanrana. At this point The Nation show up (minus Faarooq though) and The Rock produces some brass knuckles from his trunks whilst the ref argues with D’Lo, Kama
and Mark Henry. Shamrock manages to fight off the horde but is quickly punched in the face by The Rock with the brass knuckles on. This only gets a two count but Rock places the brass knuckles down Shamrock’s trunks before he gets up. Shamrock seems unable to notice the large lump of metal now residing next to his testicles and Suplexes The Rock for a three count. The crowd go crazy for what they think is the new Intercontinental Champion. Shamrock lifts the belt but The Rock begins to complain to the ref that he was hit with a weapon. The ref asks to search Shamrock and finds the knuckles. Despite his protesting that they are not his the ref reverses the decision and The Rock retains the belt. At this news Shamrock goes into ‘his zone’ which involves putting the ref in the Ankle Lock. It’s a good match for being just the beginning of a feud.

Convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson is shown in the box laughing and joking with Shane McMahon.

Road Dog and Billy Gunn are finally being called The New Age Outlaws which certainly saves a bit of typing. Once again they’re facing The Legion Of Doom for the Tag Team Championship. Due to an attack on Raw a few weeks previous Animal has injured his back and the medics have told him not to wrestle but he’s carrying on regardless. I get a certain feeling that decision will come back to haunt him very soon.

The Outlaws attack LOD before the bell but it only ends up with Animal Powerslamming Road Dog and nearly getting a three count. As a result of this bad start the Outlaws take
off down the aisle. LOD gain on them and drag them back to the ring. Road Dog ends up bleeding from the mouth after a Shoulder Tackle by Hawk. Billy Gunn tags in bit goes straight to getting hiptossed by Hawk. Hawk then follows this with a really tough looking Lou Thesz Press.

“The Road Warriors are just trying to recapture their youth” says Jerry Lawler, a man who still takes independent wrestling bookings in 2016.

The tide begins to turn once Billy Gunn Irish Whips Animal into the ropes and Road Dog trips him. Not long after this Animal is thrown into the steps. With an injured Animal down outside the ring The New Age Outlaws begin to double team Hawk. This is until Hawk manages to smash his shoulder into the ringpost. Road Dog produces handcuffs from somewhere and uses them to attack Hawk to the bottom rope.

With Hawk yelling across the ring Animal attempts a one man fight back. He does manage to reverse a Gunn top rope Crossbody into a Powerslam but Road Dog batters him across his injured back with a steel chair before he can make a cover. The Legion Of Doom win by DQ but The New Age Outlaws keep the titles. Hawk breaks out of the handcuffs somehow but it’s all a bit late.

Stone Cold is apparently giving his truck away and Mildred Bowers of Nashville has won it. Let’s hope Michael Cole didn’t dent it whilst he was parking it earlier.

In this writer’s humble opinion, at each of the January pay per view shows, the actual Royal Rumble match should go on last. It’s the main basis for the PPV and the final
image of the show should always be the winner looking forward to WrestleMania. It’s 1998 though so Shawn Michaels will have got his way. The Royal Rumble is next up.

Entry number one is Cactus Jack who walks down to the ring carrying a bin. Entrant number two is Chainsaw Charlie who is a badly disguised Terry Funk. Charlie is also
extremely lucky to get to the ring with his limbs intact and he swings the revolving saw around with abandon. Cactus introduces some chairs into the ring and Charlie swings the chainsaw at them before they land. The two then spend two minutes giving each other unprotected chair shots to the head.

Number three is Tom Brandi who practically nobody has ever heard of. He’s quickly bundled out of the ring so that Cactus and Charlie can concentrate on suplexing each
other through the piles of chairs. Number four is The Rock, pulling a double shift tonight. He gets a little offence in against Charlie before getting a bin thrown over his head and chairs rained down upon him. Number five is Mosh of the Headbangers who hits the ring just in time to fall victim to an awful looking moonsault from Charlie. Number six is Phineas from The Godwinns. “He’s living proof that cousins shouldn’t marry” says Jim Ross.

Entrant seven is 8-Ball from DOA confirming that the early field in this Rumble seems to be full of members of tag teams. As he enters the ring Cactus Jack is eliminated by Chainsaw Charlie. Number eight is Bradshaw of The New Blackjacks (he actually has ‘BJ’ written on his trunks). Lawler loudly asks what Mike Tyson is thinking about all of this. We don’t get an interview with the convicted rapist and currently banned boxer at this time however.

Entrant nine is Owen Hart who doesn’t make it to the ring because Jeff Jarrett, the current NWA Champion, runs down the aisle after him to sneak attack. Jim Cornette follows with his tennis racquet in hand. “Jim Cornette is a stain on the underwear of life” says Jim Ross as Owen gets laid out in the aisle.

Number ten is Steve Blackman who instantly wins the award for stupid elimination attempt as he throws Charlie over the ropes and walks away even though he’s seen him grab the bottom rope. Lawler begins to suggest that he’s heard that somebody has attacked Austin in the back. Number eleven is D’Lo Brown and it’s said by Jim Ross that The Rock must be glad one of his team mates has entered the Rumble. This idea is quickly ruined by D’Lo attacking The Rock.

Number twelve is Kurragan who is apparently still a member of the Truth Commission but hardly anything is mentioned about it. He quickly eliminates Mosh from proceedings. Kurragan is obviously taking the role of ‘big heel who people will have to team up to eliminate’. Thirteen is Marc Mero who walks down to the ring with Sable. Sable ends up getting a far bigger crowd reaction that Mero himself to the point it’s almost embarrassing. Steve Blackman is eliminated by Kurragan in the meantime.

“What does Tyson think of Sable?” wonders Lawler aloud. We don’t get to hear the thoughts on the appearance of this woman from convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson.

Number fourteen is Ken Shamrock who Lawler quite rightly points out has no business in this match after attacking a ref earlier. He knocks Kurragan off his feet with a massive kick and shortly after everybody gangs up on the big guy to eliminate him.

Entrant fifteen is Thrasher and two minutes later entrant sixteen is Mankind. Yes, Mick Foley is back again as he goes straight for Charlie and eliminates his long time foe from the match. Ken Shamrock goes all out on The Rock. Seventeen is Goldust who seems to have had time to change his face paint. He quickly eliminates Mankind from proceedings. Number eighteen is Jeff Jarrett and it’s this exact time that Owen hart takes his revenge by running down to the ring and beating up Jarrett, eliminating him in
the process.

Surprise entrants to the Royal Rumble are a regular, almost expected thing now but they were rare in the late 90’s. Your only true surprise of the night comes in the shape of The Honky Tonk Man at number nineteen. On more than one occasion Jerry Lawler lets slip it’s his cousin. For some reason Honky Tonk is accompanied by Triple H and Chyna. Triple H hobbles down to the ring with crutches on and he uses them to beat up Owen Hart and eliminate him from the match. Owen quickly gives chase and visibly falls on his
arse once he gets past the curtain. It’s just in time for number twenty to enter proceedings in the shape of Ahmed Johnson. Ahmed doesn’t seem to have been around for a while and it certainly looks like he can’t be arsed here. He wallows to the ring and spend what feels like three hours climbing in.

The twenty first entrant is Mark Henry who goes after Ahmed straight away. “Mark Henry is handling that big Johnson’ screams J.R. Mark Henry proceeds to throw chalk into Ahmed’s face. Number twenty two is…nobody. It’s assumed that this was Austin’s number and he’s been attacked and therefore cannot make it. Ahmed is soon eliminated, Phineas soon follows him by bundling over the top rope and clipping a ref with his leg on the way.  As Kama enters at number twenty three he gets into a tussle with Ahmed Johnson walking the other way near the curtain. D’Lo chooses this moment to attack Mark Henry.

The countdown starts for number twenty four, it hits zero and the shattering glass rings out through the arena. Everybody in the ring stops to face the ramp and wait for
Stone Cold to enter the ring as the fans go off their nut. Being a smart guy Austin enters via the crowd at the other side of the ring before raining down merry hell on everybody in his way. He eliminates Mero and then 8-Ball in quick succession.

“Tyson can identify with Stone Cold” says Lawler. As far as I’m aware Stone Cold Steve Austin has never been jailed for raping a young woman in a hotel room and banned from his sport for biting an opponent.

Number twenty five is Henry Godwinn who goes straight for Austin. Twenty six is Savio Vega who aims to shorten his odds by bringing the rest of his crew down with him as they attack Austin also. Twenty seven is Faarooq who instantly attacks D’Lo Brown. The Nation’s slight cracks are wide chasms tonight. The Rock and Steve Austin end up brawling on the outside but both have exited the ring through the ropes so are therefore not eliminated. Mick Foley takes up ten percent of this Royal Rumble match himself by being number twenty eight as Dude Love who eliminates Bradshaw. Twenty nine is Chainz from the DOA and the last participant at number thirty is Vader who makes a beeline for Goldust.

Honky Tonk Man (who has been rather a surprise lasting this long) goes and Stone Cold cleans up by getting rid of Thrasher, Kama and Savio Vega. Goldust eliminates Vader, Mark Henry is thrown out by Dude Love and Chainz then dumps Goldust out. Chainz then falls victim to Austin’s elimination spree and Mark Henry goes after the most pathetic attempt and trying to get back into the ring you’ll ever witness.

Dude Love snaps a Mandible Claw onto Austin but Stone Cold low blows him to break it. Faarooq throws Dude over the top rope straight afterwards. Faarooq then tries to pitch Austin over the ropes but The Rock sneaks up and dumps him out instead. The final two are The Rock and Stone Cold. Whilst The Rock is hurled out over the ropes he manages to hold on and get back in. Soon after he falls victim to a stunner and is then eliminated in
short order afterwards. The winner of the 1998 Royal Rumble is Stone Cold Steve Austin but then they’ve been focusing on him so much this evening that it was difficult to comprehend it being anybody else.

Convicted rapist and currently banned boxer (yes, I am keeping this up) Mike Tyson is shown celebrating in his seat obviously pleased that ‘his man’ Stone Cold has done it.
Apparently Tyson has put money on this match? Perhaps betting on pro wrestling was a major reason for him filing for bankruptcy.

It’s with a wonderful sense of irony that they’re bringing the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels feud back from the dead tonight. With Bret gone and Shawn notoriously fussy
about who he fights it’s obvious they had to patch together something for the lead up to Wrestlemania 14. Three months after meeting in what should have been a programme concluding match inside the Cell Shawn and The Undertaker meet again in a Casket Match for the WWF Title tonight. This is also, as we’ll come to learn, Shawn’s penultimate match during his initial run with the company.

One element of intrigue in this match is that Kane seems to have stopped wanting to fight his brother over the death of their parents and instead wants to make it up with him. I feel this may go very wrong for the Dead Man.

One thing to note before the match starts is that Shawn does a wonderful job of pretending to be scared of fireworks. Shawn goes to punch Taker in the corner before it’s
reversed as Taker piles into Shawn. Shawn tries a crossbody but Taker chokeslams him. Then comes the moment that will change Shawn’s career for good. The Undertaker backdrops Shawn over the top rope. Shawn’s back clips the casket on the outside of the ring as he tumbles into the aisle. It’s looks like such a fleeting thing as Shawn looks to be
gritting his teeth a little before getting back up but he carries on regardless. It would take a couple of days after this match for Shawn to realise that he actually herniated two discs in his back and crushed another after this spot. It’s strange that he didn’t collapse right there and then. My wife, a nurse and non wrestling fan, said that the only possible explanation for being able to ignore an injury like that until a few days later would be if ‘he was up to his neck in painkillers’. Dear jury, I have nothing more to add to this matter.

Shawn does hold onto his back a little bit as Taker goes up for Old School. An Undertaker Powerslam to a flying Shawn means that HBK is soon bundled into the nearby casket. Undertaker manages to get the lid shut but Shawn has one hand sticking out. From somewhere deep inside the casket Shawn picks up some kind of white powder and throws it in Undertaker’s face. An Undertaker chokeslam attempt sees Shawn hook his feet on the ropes and Moonsault Taker straight afterwards.

Outside the ring Shawn gets his Piledriver on the ring steps spot. After Triple H attacks Undertaker with his crutch and Shawn crunches a steel chair across Taker’s back
they role the Dead Man over to the casket and attempt to lock him inside. Undertaker just about manages to punch his way back out. Shawn gets a Swinging Neckbreaker in and then wraps up Undertaker in a Sleeper Hold. Taker eventually reverses this into a Side Suplex. Shawn soon gets a Flying Forearm alongside a Top Rope Elbow which
sets up Sweet Chin Music. A prone Undertaker is again hauled towards the casket. As Undertaker lies in the box Shawn stands astride and crotch chops. This gives Undertaker a moment to reach up and grab Shawn’s testicles which rather puts HBK off the task of closing the lid. Shawn gets hit with a Back Body Drop and a Big Boot.

The Undertaker misses a Flying Clothesline and slides into the casket. Shawn Elbow Drops into the casket as the lid shuts with both of them in. After a few minutes of a box shaking Shawn emerges gasping for air. Undertaker drags him back in. The two gets back into the ring and Shawn suffers another Chokeslam. He then gets a jumping Tombstone right into the casket. It’s at this moment that Billy Gunn, Road Dog, Savio Vega and the
rest of his mob attack. Cue Kane coming down the aisle. “Kane is coming to help his brother” bellows J.R.

Kane does indeed chase away everybody but he then does his arm movement that doesn’t give any kind of flames from the corner posts and attacks Undertaker. A Chokeslam into the casket allows Shawn to shut the lid and keep his title. A victorious Shawn quickly leaves the area leaving Kane to padlock the casket shut and wheel it down to the entrance ramp. Kane takes an axe to the top of the casket and, cheered on by Paul Bearer, pours gasoline over it and sets it alight. “The Undertaker is in there dammit” says J.R as he reaches he roaring end of show voice. We end on Kane standing next to a huge raging inferno. It’s not the first time The Undertaker has left a Royal Rumble in a casket. At no point are we given convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson’s views on this.

It’s a strange ending to a PPV show as it feels more like something that would be on Raw. PPV events usually end with the winner of the main event holding aloft the title. It
maybe would have made more sense for Steve Austin to come out and face Shawn as the two will now be clashing at WrestleMania XIV in a few weeks. Perhaps this is a sign that Shawn was still unsure about dropping his title to Stone Cold. Instead the Undertaker has ‘died’ again and it’s this act that will make him finally decide to fight his brother.

The 1998 edition of the Royal Rumble is a fair show. The Shamrock versus Rock match is a decent brawl with an inventive ending which continues their feud (and was probably
designed to determine audience reaction to a Shamrock title win). The tag team titles seem to be stalling slightly with The New Age Outlaws in need of opponents who aren’t from a bygone era. There’s also still a seeming obsession with small Mexican wrestlers to fill in time. The Rumble match itself is won by the right person for the time but Stone
Cold’s win is signposted so much it would be strange if anybody else ended up claiming victory. The Casket match for the Championship also feels out of place after the Hell in a Cell match between Shawn and Undertaker three months previous. Their feud is done and it’s very much a case of ‘needs must’ that finds them facing each other again.

Next month we have No Way Out of Texas. I’m not sure if convicted rapist and currently banned boxer Mike Tyson will make it there.

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