Alex Wright vs. Chris Benoit
Benoit attacks Wright before he can even get his jacket off. He hits a snap suplex to the approval of the crowd. Benoit nails a bridging suplex and chucks Wright to the floor in order to let Pillman get his licks in. Benoit lays in the stiff chops but Wright catches him with a spin kick to the mush. Wright flies high into The Crippler with a crossbody and then flips Benoit to the floor. Wright takes a high risk dive to the floor and smacks into Benoit.
Bischoff makes veiled references to the “Billionaire Ted” skit on RAW last week and makes sure to note that WCW is having greater success than its competition. That is only true on certain levels. He calls WWF the “Titan-ic” and bashes the WWF for raising PPV prices.
Wright locks on a cross face. Benoit gets out and they trade shots. Pillman distracts Wright and Alex launches on him. Wright and Beniot go counter for counter and trade hard uppercuts. Benoit hits a full nelson bridging suplex for the pin. Good little match.
Eddy Guerrero vs. Lord Steven Regal
The Wrestling Observer for this period says some of the WCW bookers wanted Eddy to beat Flair for the World title in order to send Eddy’s career into the stratosphere. Eddy out classes Regal on the technical level. Bischoff says not to order the Royal Rumble and watch the Clash of the Champions for free that same week.
Eddy flips out of a suplex and hits a headscissors. Regal takes both bumps awkwardly. Regal hits a European uppercut and a backwards suplex. Eddy flips out of a surfboard but Regal just elbows Eddy in the face to retain control. Regal locks in a modified Dragon sleeper and drives home some palm strikes. More elbows send Eddy to the mat. Guerrero snags a backslide out of nowhere for the pin. Match was a styles clash that didn’t live up to the potential. I bet if they had a series of matches to work out the kinks they could have some dandies.
Mean Gene makes fun of the “so called New Generation” for signing several old guys for the Royal Rumble. Sting and Lex Luger join him for an interview. Lex claims he wasn’t trying to screw Sting at Starrrcade and was merely looking for help since he had an injured knee. Sting forgives him (because he’s an idiot) and they form an official tag team.
This Saturday night…Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair and Mike Ditka delivers a special interview.
Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page
DDP wipes his cigar in Sting’s eyes. Sting absorbs a number of boots but Sting dropkicks DDP to the floor and planchas on top of him. Sting catches his nuts on DDP’s head while attempting a leap frog. DDP locks on a headlock and uses the ropes for some cheap heat. Sting busts out after a few minutes and unloads on DDP. A Stinger Splash sets up a Scorpion Death Lock but DDP reaches to the ropes before he can be locked in. DDP drops Sting across the ropes throat first and nails a neck breaker. Sting manages to trip DDP up and locks in the Scorpion Death Lock. Heenan declares DDP a “main eventer”. Match was fine and it was nice that Sting was willing to help DDP gain some credibility.
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs. Arn Anderson and Ric Flair
Hogan and Flair start off after both teams play some tag in, tag out games. Hogan outwrestles Flair because… Flair then tries (and fails) at a test of strength and begs off after Hogan no sells some chops. Hogan nails the big boot and then beats up Arn Anderson for fun too.
Randy works over Arn’s arm. Arn ends up on the cement and he eats a double axe handle. Then Savage sends him in the ring and drops another double axe handle. Savage slams Flair off the top and locks in a figure four. Hogan trips up Arn and locks him in a figure four as well. Arn pokes Randy’s eyes and the heels escape. Savage eats a DDT and the Horsemen spend several minutes wearing down the Macho Man. Flair tries a figure four and ends up small packaged. A hard chop ends that brief rally.
Arn has a DDT blocked and Hogan gets the lukewarm tag. Hogan tears through both heels. Hogan clotheslines both men to the floor. Arn gets in and nails a spinebuster. Hogan no sells it because…. Steroids? Arn eats a big boot and legdrop for the pin as The Giant, Zodiac and Kevin Sullivan charge in. Zodiac and Sullivan end up brawling with Benoit and Pillman as The Giant wipes out Hogan and Savage by himself. Both men eat chokeslams. Zodiac convinces The Giant to stop the beatdown. Last week Zodiac called Hogan “friend” so they are building towards the Booty Man. Oh boy.
This match was actually fairly dull as Savage’s long beatdown wasn’t particularly exciting and Hogan’s superman spots are eye-rolling by this point. Ole Anderson stated that Hulk Hogan would have been a terrible wrestler to have to book in the territorial days and Nitro is proving him right. Hogan’s act worked beautifully when it popped up on TV every 2 months or so but beating the same heels week in and week out and killing any credibility they can muster along the way makes for boring formulaic TV.
The WWF knew that they needed a shot in the arm to their roster and their overall direction heading into 1996 and so the officials were very aggressive in trying to sign “name” talent to create a buzz for the Royal Rumble. Here are a few they pursued and failed to secure:
The Ultimate Warrior – negotiations went far enough along that a meeting was scheduled. Warrior no showed the meeting and thus wasn’t signed. More on him in a few weeks…
Dan Severn – Severn was a trained pro wrestler and had just come off winning the “Ultimate Ultimate” UFC tournament. He ultimately (pardon the pun) turned them down.
Sabu – Sabu tried to get himself booked in the Rumble but Paul Heyman was against it and the deal was not consummated.
The announcement of Vader being in the Rumble was done last week to kick start the year with a bang. The WWF has not even signed him to a contract past that one show as of yet. Vader still wants to make shots in Japan and is also in need of shoulder surgery.
His injury did not keep him from working an AMAZING match in the Tokyo Dome with 53 year old Antonio Inoki on January 4th though.
Now on to the actual show:
Hakushi vs. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett
Double J opens with a slam and a strut. Hakushi charges and is dumped to the floor. Jarrett struts again but Hakushi springs in the ring and strikes Jarrett. Jeff takes a walk. Abdominal stretch and neckbreaker on Hakushi. The Kamikaze tries a comeback but misses a dropkick. Double J uses a rest hold to waste some time until Hakushi makes a final push for an upset but Hakushi lands on Jarrett’s knees on a flying splash attempt. The figure four is locked on and Hakuski submits. Pretty dull.
Jim Ross is hosting the “Slam Jam” and announces the USWA’s Doug Gilbert and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and All-Japan’s Takeo Amori will all be in the Rumble. The Wrestling Observer says Jake didn’t really want to come back too badly and wanted to remain focused on his new-found Godly life.
Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Jobber(???)
Poor Jeff didn’t even get a name graphic. He’s wearing some pants that look more appropriate for an Islander gimmick. Ahmed no sells a clothesline and then tries to break the poor kid’s neck with a reckless looking modified suplex. Ahmed chucks the dude around a few more times. He attempts a scissors kick but the jobber moves and its turned into a big kick to the face. Spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge finish the jabroni. Jarrett tries to sneak attack Johnson but misses a guitar shot and so he runs away. Somebody tell Ahmed that wrestling is fake.
Brother Love interview with Ted Dibiase. Dibiase has spent a year searching for a new “Million Dollar Champion”. This leads to The Ringmaster being brought out. Vince says “We know who this is” but doesn’t call him “Steve Austin”. Austin cuts an under whelming promo and announces his entry into the Royal Rumble. Another huge signing, even if Vince didn’t know it at the time.
Aldo Montoya vs. Goldust
The Observer states that Razor absolutely hated being in this angle as Goldust’s love interest. He was trying to convince Vince to switch the feud to one with HHH challenging Razor. Apparently Dustin was taking all sorts of heat for the gimmick by the Kliq, even though Vince and company created it, not Rhodes.
Goldust slaps Aldo up and back suplexes him. Vince and Lawler try and explain Goldy isn’t actually gay but is playing a role. Montoya gets a little but of token offense but is dropped with a reverse suplex and is pinned.
Shawn Michaels had a press conference earlier today and he announces that his doctors and family don’t want him to wrestle anymore. He’s entering the Royal Rumble anyway. The “press” applauds his announcement. The Observer says that a huge wrestling fan left Shawn 2.5 MILLION dollars in his will around this time. SMH.
They replay the Bret Hart vs. Bulldog PPV match I reviewed a few weeks ago. The Observer says that the WWF tried to claim that Bret’s gory bleeding was from a piece of glass that came off of Jeff Jarrett’s Gold Record that was smashed earlier in the evening. WCW responded to the blading by having Ric Flair blade a week later during Starrcade.
After that replay we get another “Billionare Ted’s War Room”. They mock WCW copying WWF ideas. Then they get personal by suggesting that Hogan and Savage are not tested for steroids like the WWF stars are and that’s why WCW can claim to be “Where the big boys play”. Ouch.
Raw had a far worse first run line up but (retrospectively) a lot of crap is starting to be tossed on the wall and it made for a breezy hour of TV. I don’t think I can give RAW the nod in good faith all things considered but WCW didn’t earn a win either with its paint by numbers main event and constant bashing of the WWF. A jab once or twice a week is fine but to droning on in every segment about the competition got old. I actually found myself smiling at Eric’s barbs as it made me believe that the “Billionaire Ted” skit really got under his skin.