WrestleVersaries has returned for 2020, and this time we’re doing something a little bit different. Going back to the Top 10 (and later Top 20) features I’ve done for some of the WWF/WWE’s biggest events, I plan to spend the year watching the major American shows for two specific years – 1990 and 1995. The first post of the 1990 edition – covering that year’s ROYAL RUMBLE – is already up!
Now it’s time to kick off 1995 with maybe the worst Royal Rumble of all time!
Royal Rumble – January 22, 1995
Pro wrestling in 1995 is on the precipice of something amazing, but no one was able to put it together just yet. Both major companies were about a year away from starting to make wrestling cool again. They were just figuring out how best to reinvent themselves. The WWF was still trying to find its way in a Hogan-less world. So when business is down and there’s no one on the roster who’s bringing eyes to the product, the WWF brings in some celebrities to boost some interest in the upcoming WrestleMania.
A lot of the show’s focus was on Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, as she was announced as walking down the aisle – no, not for a wedding! – with the winner of the evening’s main event Royal Rumble (more on that later). But the celebrity that had the bigger effect on the company’s direction was former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor, who was in the front row as the guest of WWF Champion Diesel. The camera would pan to the linebacker enjoying himself throughout the show, but he became part of the show after the Tag Team Championship tournament final between the Million Dollar Corporation and the thrown together team of The Kid and Bob Holly.
After some classic heel miscommunication between Corporation members Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka, leading to Bigelow falling off the top rope and being pinned, the “Beast From the East” confronted a laughing Taylor and gave him a hard shove. This would eventually lead to the main event of WrestleMania XI (more on that later this year).
Best Match: WWF Championship Match: Diesel (c) and Bret “Hitman” Hart battle to a draw – In a show filled with mediocre matches, the WWF Championship match stands head and shoulders above the rest, and not just because the champion was billed as 6’10”. In Diesel’s first pay-per-view title defense since winning the title from Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden in November, the challenger helped to make him look like a million bucks. Hart and Diesel worked so well together, beating the hell out of each other, earning every second of the 27 minutes their match went. The match was stopped and restarted twice due to interference, with Shawn Michaels attacking Diesel and Owen Hart attacking his brother. On the third incursion, with a mob of heels attacking both champion and challenger, the referee finally threw the match out and putting the attention of Diesel and Hart away from the other. Hart would get another title shot later this year, and both champion and challenger would continue to impress.
Worst Match: Shawn Michaels wins the 1995 Royal Rumble – The creative finish for this match has been replayed so many times over the last 25 years, but it doesn’t save what is arguably the worst Rumble the company has ever produced. Cutting the time between entries to just one minute made the match quicker, and allowed Michaels and Davey Boy Smith to both go end-to-end in less than 40 minutes. Michaels and Smith did great work when it was just the two of them, but there was no juice in the rest of the match. To make it worse, Michaels was the only person who could possibly win, since no one else in the match would possibly make sense as world championship-level challenger. The predictability combined with a weak field makes this a dud. After Michaels’ win, Pamela Anderson came in the ring to pose with the man she was supposed to accompany to the ring at WrestleMania, and she looked like she couldn’t possibly care less.
And that’s almost exactly how I feel about this show after watching it again. Let’s get to the rankings, which won’t fill out to a Top 10 til next time.
*DISCLAIMER* The Top 10 rankings are for discussion purposes only and in no way reflect an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments.
1 – WWF Championship Match: Diesel (c) and Bret “Hitman” Hart battle to a draw – Royal Rumble 1995
2 – WWF Tag Team Championship Tournament Final Match: The Kid and Bob “Spark Plug” Holly defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka – Royal Rumble 1995
3 – The Undertaker defeated Irwin R. Schyster – Royal Rumble 1995
4 – Intercontinental Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett defeated Razor Ramon (c) – Royal Rumble 1995
5 – Shawn Michaels wins the 1995 Royal Rumble – Royal Rumble 1995
This weekend, WCW enters the fold with Clash of the Champions XXX, so stay tuned!