Royal Rumble 96

January 21st, 1996

Mr. Perfect joins Vince McMahon for commentary.

Ahmed Johnson vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett

Ahmed charges the ring and chases Jarrett to the floor. It’s a ruse by Jarrett to jump him. Double J’s advantage doesn’t last long as Ahmed’s sheer girth and power allows him to retaliate by tossing Jarrett haphazardly down in a lump like a piece of garbage. Johnson hits a short clothesline and a series of shoulder blocks. Ahmed nails a powerslam and a flying clothesline. Another flying attempt ends with the Pearl River powerhouse accidentally propelling over the ropes.

Johnson is driven into the ring post. Ahmed shakes it off back in the ring and drops JJ with another big clothesline and a spinebuster. Johnson flings himself over the top rope and planchas Jarrett! He attempts a follow up senton bomb from the top rope but misses. Double J locks in a figure four but Ahmed powers out. Johnson kicks him to the floor and Jarrett grabs his guitar and plays a tune over Ahmed’s head from the top rope for the DQ. Brisk and much better than expected.

World tag team champions The Smoking Gunns vs. The Body Donnas

Billy and Skip go move for move to start until Billy is spilled to the floor. Bart dumps both Donnas to the floor in response and then propels Billy down onto them. Sunny flirts with Bart. Bart towers over Zip (as I realize why Tom Pritchard never got a serious push) and hits a choke slam into the corner and a press slam. The Gunns nail a Hart Attack clothesline. Billy accidentally knocks Sunny off the apron and she acts hurt to lure him into a trap on the floor. The Donnas jump him until Bart makes the save.

Zip launches himself onto Billy and Skip drops his partner onto the fallen champion. Billy suffers a number of double team moves as the Donnas keep him trapped in their corner. All 3 men collide and that allows Billy to make the tag. A four-way breaks out and the Gunns nail Skip with the Sidewinder. Sunny distracts the ref and Zip hits Bart from the top rope for a near fall. The Donnas try a double suplex but Billy sneaks in the ring and both heels are rolled up for the pin. Formulaic fun.

IC Champion Razor Ramon vs. Goldust

Marlena debuts to confuse Goldust’s sexuality further. Goldy crawls around seductively and rubs himself. Razor wants a lock up so Goldust rubs himself again. Razor gets sick of the shenanigans and locks in an armbar. Goldust rubs Razor down and Ramon shoves him away. Another lock up ends up with a go behind and another rub down for Razor.

Goldust slaps Razor so Ramon takes him down and paint brushes him. Goldust shows how much he liked the rough foreplay and Razor strikes him in disgust. Razor chases Goldy so Marlena is used as a shield. Goldust rubs himself some more so Razor sends him back to the floor with a clothesline. Goldy hides behind Marlena again so Razor moves her aside. Goldust jumps him and drives Razor’s back into the ring edge and adds further punishment with a double axe handle and a bulldog.

Razor escapes a sleeper via a low blow. Razor slugs away and nails a back suplex from the top rope. Marlena comes into the ring to distract the ref as 123 Kid sneaks in and nails a flying kick to Ramon. Goldust gets the pin as the crowd squeals in shock. A fan shoves Goldust hard on his way out. Solid match. All the mind games made for a unique viewing experience for sure.

It should be noted that during the pre-show Gorilla Monsoon overturned a HHH win over Duke Droese due to cheating, but here a title change is allowed despite outside interference.


#1 is HHH, having lost the previously noted match to Duke “The Dumpster” Droese during the Free for All pregame show to “earn” the distinction. Henry Godwinn is #2. HHH unloads with punches. HOG drops him with a big clothesline and backdrop. A thumb to the eye saves HHH from being press slammed to the floor.

#3 is Mr. Bob Backlund. Backlund saves HHH and he and Henry have an awkward exchange, as HOG doesn’t go for whatever Bob called to do. Backlund and HHH go at it a bit too. #4 is Jerry Lawler. HHH hits a flying knee on HOG. Lawler brings HOG’s slop in the ring and tries to dump it on HOG. Henry fights off all 3 heels and gets the slop pail. All 3 heels bail to the floor so HOG tosses it at all 3 of them. Lawler gets the worst of it and Backlund slips on it.

#5 is Bob Holly. The guys pair off and start hanging on the ropes. #6 is King Mabel. Nothing is happening. #7 is Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Jake releases a monstrous snake and everybody bails to the floor. Lawler is caught and covered by the python. Lawler hides under the ring after that.

#8 is Dory Funk Jr. Vince brought him in for this match because he wanted the WWF to start a talent exchange program with All-Japan Pro Wrestling and Dory was to be the go between. Given that nothing came of that, he’s just some old guy the crowd doesn’t really know. Vince calls him a former NWA champion and my head explodes a little. This, of course, does nothing for the live crowd as they can’t hear him.

Jake tries a DDT but HHH grabs the ropes. Vince acknowledges that Terry Funk was contacted to be in the Rumble but is working in Germany instead. I’m really surprised Vince would own up to having a performer turn down a WWF spot. Dory and Backlund have a 1978 dream match in the middle of the ring as everybody else pairs off next to the ropes.

#9 is Yokozuna. Backlund locks Dory in a cross face chicken wing but Yoko grabs Bob and tosses him. Yoko and Mabel square off as the resident fat guys. HHH trades blows with Dory and probably loves every second of it. #10 is 1-2-3 Kid and Razor chases him to the ring. Razor is hauled off by the officials. Dory and Kid then pair off to try and see how big of a styles clash they can create.

#11 is Omari from Japan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wrestle. Vince says he’s a “wild man”. Mabel and Yoko double team him. Jake rattles and drops Yoko with rapid fire punches. #12 is Savio Vega. Yoko dumps Mabel. Omari is dumped by Jake Roberts. So he flew all that way for a 3 minute spot.

#13 is VADER!!! Vader mauls Holly…then just stops. Dory is tossed by Savio. Savio and Vader trade blows. Not-so-hot stuff Doug Gilbert is #14 and he gets random hick music since he’s from the USWA. Vader and Jake square off. Yoko and Vader then start throwing bombs despite both being in Camp Cornette. Jake is punched and takes a few steps and falls to the floor. The crowd didn’t get the DDT they wanted to see so badly. Vader pounds on Doug as there are no big name faces left in the ring.

#15 is Headhunter A or “A Squat team member”. Crowd doesn’t know him at all. Vader tries to press slam Gilbert to the floor but Doug wisely slips off and takes a safer bump to the floor. Mr. Perfect notes that Gilbert won a tournament in the USWA to get this opportunity. Vince doesn’t know that is the case, because really why hype up how great your match is by having another company dedicate a tournament to get one guy a shot? Vader chucks the Headhunter out before he can do anything. Yoko and Vader slug it out again.

Headhunter B is #16. Both Headhunters come back to the ring and they double team Vader. Vader and Yoko just eliminate them like nothing.

#17 is Owen Hart and the crowd is dying for somebody to rally behind. They have turned Vader face since he’s kicking everyone’s ass. Vader and Yoko abuse Savio. Both men squash Savio in a corner. Meanwhile fellow Camp Cornette member Owen is being beat up by Bob Holly. Shawn Michaels is #18. His pop isn’t as big as you’d expect for a guy returning after being out 2 months. Vader tosses Savio and he and Yoko start tossing bombs at each other yet again. Shawn takes down Holly, HHH, Owen and The Kid then dumps Yoko and Vader simultaneously. Shawn tosses The Kid for good measure. #19 is Hakushi. Vader wipes out Yoko and then chucks everybody out of the ring in anger. None of the eliminations count since Vader is already eliminated. Gorilla Monsoon comes down to get Vader to leave. Tatanka is #20.

Shawn has pretty much left Owen alone in spite of Hart being credited with his “life threatening” injuries. Owen tosses Hakushi. #21 is Aldo Montoya and Perfect mocks his ring gear by comparing his mask to a jock strap. Shawn climbs under the ring to find Lawler. Tatanka dumps Aldo as Shawn chucks Lawler back into the ring. Shawn tosses The King right back out for the elimination as Diesel’s music hit as #22 so the easy pop was missed. Tatanka is chucked out by Diesel. Shawn and Big Daddy Cool come to blows.

#23 is Kama. He and Diesel club away on each other. #24 is The Ringmaster. Austin wisely chop blocks Holly as he has been in forever and is the smallest threat. Austin ends Holly’s night with a flying knee. #25 is Barry Horowitz. Austin and HHH collide for the first of many PPV encounters. Shawn and Owen TEAM UP against Horowitz. Nash tosses HHH after 50 minutes of effort.

#26 is Fatu. Owen and Shawn tease suplexing each other over the top rope. #27 is Isaac Yankem. Perfect tries to put over Yankem’s size and strength; Vince just wants to talk about his bad teeth. And that’s why 1995 sucked in the WWF. Gimmicks over substance. Owen chucks Horowitz and tries to do the same to Shawn but Nash catches Owen in the act and ends his Wrestlemania dreams. Austin nails Shawn with a big clothesline and gloats in a gloriously over the top fashion.

#28 is Marty Jannetty. He and Shawn trade punches for old times sake. They knock each other loopy. #29 is the British Bulldog. He goes right after Shawn. Marty is ousted by Davey Boy. Fatu clotheslines the Ringmaster to the floor and Yankem sends Fatu there too. #30 is Duke “The Dumpster” Droese.

Owen returns and he and Bulldog attack HBK. Yankem and Droese are eliminated.

This leaves Bulldog, Shawn, Nash and KAMA?!?! And before I can finish typing that everyone but Shawn is eliminated and Shawn now has a chance to live out his boyhood dream at Wrestlemania.

Shawn is doing a stripper routine in the ring, complete with showing off his ass and ripping off his shorts. Nash comes in and offers Shawn a high five. A fairly entertaining Rumble even if there were only 3 real options to win it. Shawn keeps dancing as Nash sulks in the corner. Should I hate on Shawn for rubbing it in or make fun of Diesel for not being a sportsmen and heading to the back like 28 others did,

World Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. The Undertaker

Diesel and Taker have a staredown in the aisle. He shoves Bearer so Taker blasts him. Taker turns his back and Diesel jumps him. The officials break them up.

Bret tries using punches – Taker just stares at him. Taker chucks him around violently and strangles him. The dead man tears at Hart’s face and locks on a smother hold. Bret tries to use the ropes to break the move but Bearer pushes him off several times. Taker hits a top rope forearm and goes back to the smother hold.

Bret escapes and clotheslines Taker to the floor, where he launches onto him. Another leap attempt ends with Bret being caught and driven into the ringpost. Hart is able to desperately shove Undertaker into the ringpost but he runs right into a big boot after. Taker drives Bret into the railing. Hart manages to whip Taker into the ring steps and wounds Taker’s knee. Hart goes to work on the leg. Undertaker struggles to stand up. Bret drives his knees into Taker’s. That sets up a figure-four. Taker escapes and Bret keeps up the leg work. Match has been dull so far I must say.

Bret rips at Taker’s facial mask. Taker chucks Bret to the floor and sends him into the ringsteps. Bearer distracts the ref as Taker chokes Bret with a cable and drives a chair into him. Bret kicks out the Phenom’s knee to stop the barrage. Hart slams Taker’s leg into the ringpost. They trade blows, now both weary and Taker goes for the finish with a Tombstone, but Taker’s knee gives out before he can drop it. A DDT drops the Dead man. Russian leg sweep, bulldog, back breaker, and second rope elbow all fail to keep Taker down. Diesel wanders down.

Bret tries a Sharpshooter but Taker grabs his throat. Both men collide. The Hitman is up first and removes the turnbuckle pad. Bret removes Taker’s face mask and drives punches into his injured skull. Bret twice slams Undertaker’s face into the steel. Taker absorbs this onslaught and delivers a Tombstone. Diesel yanks the ref from the ring to earn Bret a DQ loss. Diesel gives Taker a one finger salute and walks away. Considering the participants and the fact that they were working with each other every night leading up to this, that main event was a major letdown. 30 minutes of insomnia curing action.

Final thoughts:

The final match killed a lot of good will this PPV was formulating within in. The Rumble was fun, as I enjoyed seeing all the random new faces, but none of them did anything. Shawn winning was pretty much a foregone conclusion and the Rumble finish was flat.
The undercard was entertaining, as the opener and the tag were both better than expected and Goldust’s match was so…different, it made for interesting viewing. Worth the watch overall, but pass up the finale.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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