30 men go to war in the annual Royal Rumble event, the last man standing receiving a WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania 14. Stone Cold Steve Austin believes he’ll be that last man, but with so many wrestlers gunning for him before the match even starts, will he even be in a position to take part? Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker renew their rivalry, as they battle for the world championship in a Casket Match.
Goldust (with Luna)
Winner: Vader, by pinfall
Battallion, Tarantula & El Torito
Max Mini, Mosaic & Nova
with Sunny as Special Guest Referee
Winner: Max Mini, Mosaic & Nova, via pinfall
The Rock (C)
(WWE Intercontinental Championship)
Winner: The Rock, via disqualification, following reversal of decision to award pinfall victory to Ken Shamrock
New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg / Billy Gunn)
Legion of Doom (Road Warrior Animal / Road Warrior Hawk)
(WWE Tag Team Championship)
Winner: Legion of Doom, via disqualification
The 1998 Annual Royal Rumble Match
(Winner challenges for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 14)
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin, after eliminating The Rock in the final two
Shawn Michaels (C)
(Casket Match for the WWE Championship)
Winner: Shawn Michaels, via closed casket
Vader and Goldust (or The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust) were two strong hands to open the show. Their fight has been a long time coming, which made the opening ringside brawl a logical start to the bout. Looked like it was all over when Goldust delivered a low blow to Vader when the latter was on the second rope, but Goldust didn’t capitalise and soon lost. The Vader Bomb with Luna hanging off Vader’s back looked great, and Luna took a hard bump from it. Vader’s win made sense.
The six man tag team match was just your usual WWE attempt to put “vertically challenged” (Jim Ross’s description, not my own) onto the card. The match went longer than was expected, with some good technical skills demonstrated by the competitors that even won around some of the crowd by the end. Sunny’s involvement was purely for fun.
The Rock is really finding himself within his new persona, although it’s distracting when the commentary team keep referring to him by his old ring name. Ken Shamrock is very over, and this once again was a Rock match that felt like a big deal. Wasn’t a huge fan of Rock being down for the three count from a suplex (six count if you acknowledge the referee distraction prior to the count beginning properly, but it all made sense when he did some classic cheating to get the referee to reverse the match decision in his favour. Planting the brass knuckles on Shamrock, and then complaining to the referee, was gold and so was Shamrock’s reaction when he realised what had happened and what it was going to cost him (his newly won championship, for starters). Loved his angry beatdown of the referee afterwards, hitting him with a suplex and then the ankle lock.
The WWE Tag Team Championship match between the Legion of Doom and the New Age Outlaws was better than their battle at WWE In Your House: D-Generation X 1997, but was the second DQ finish in a row for title matches on this card, which was a little frustrating. The action was good though, and the fans were really behind the Legion of Doom’s cause. Loved the spot of Road Warrior Hawk snapping the handcuffs to free himself and then make the save for Road Warrior Animal, who’d taken a big post-match beating with a chair.
The Royal Rumble itself was very entertaining. Mick Foley entering three times, each time as a different one of his personas, was fun and incredibly obvious is hindsight. The early spot where he and Terry Funk put the trash can over Rock’s head and arms, and then proceeded to shower him with punches was funny to watch and livened the crowd. They also got hot for Owen Hart, who was taken out viciously by Jeff Jarrett as he made his way to the ring. Crowd went nuts when Owen made a surprise return later in the match, and eliminated Jarrett.
It was obvious Stone Cold was going to be in the Rumble match, despite what Lawler was saying on commentary. That said, when Austin’s music did hit, it gave that extra buzz to me as a viewer after WWE’s attempts to make us think he had been taken out backstage. That said, Austin’s music always gives the viewer a little extra bit of excitement when the glass shattering sound drops. Good win for Austin, and I loved his brawl with The Rock at ringside, and the stunner that led to his final elimination of the People’s Champion. Clear to everyone that The Rock and Stone Cold are the future headliners for this company, just by how they are presented, and by how the crowd receives them.
The main event was decent, although there was literally no build towards it throughout the show. In fact, I don’t think there was any mention of it until just before the match was scheduled to begin. Not the best match that Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker have put together, but it did the trick, and there was great use of the casket gimmick. The shot of The Undertaker pulling HBK back into the casket was absolutely incredible, iconic maybe.
Kane’s interference was to be expected, as was his turn on his brother. This feud continues to build slowly, but I suspect that costing The Undertaker his shot at the WWE Championship, as well as setting him on fire inside the casket, might start to see things heat up (no pun intended) as we head toward Wrestlemania.
Match of the Night:
Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker
WWE Royal Rumble 1998 Rating: