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Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#29)
By Dave Fenichel
Nov 26, 2017 - 9:52:43 PM

Hi kids.

I’m back with part 2 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #29 on the countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:

The Participants - The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.

The Storylines and Flow of the Match - The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.

The Final Four - Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.

The Winner - I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.

A couple additional disclaimers:

First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.

Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.

Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.

Today’s rebuttal comes from Richard Boykin – one of my closest friends and my partner in crime for every significant wrestling experience that I’ve ever had.

Here is where the countdown currently stands:


#30. The 2009 Royal Rumble.

Question of the Day: Are you a fan of lengthy Royal Rumble match tenures by one superstar? If so, where does Rick Martel’s run rank for you?

#29. The 1991 Royal Rumble.


The Roster.


Bret Hart
Dino Bravo
Greg Valentine
Paul Roma
The Texas Tornado
Rick Martel
Saba Simba
Bushwacker Butch
Jake Roberts
Hercules
Tito Santana
The Undertaker
Jimmy Snuka
The British Bulldog
Smash
Hawk
Shane Douglas
Randy Savage
Animal
Crush
Jim Duggan
Earthquake
Mr. Perfect
Hulk Hogan
Haku
Jim Neidhart
Bushwacker Luke
Brian Knobbs
The Warlord
Tugboat

I’m going to spend the majority of this column discussing the roster because it’s by far the most important aspect of this Rumble. Those who enjoyed this Rumble can only point to the name value involved, and those who don’t will most likely point to its deceptive shortcomings. I clearly fall into camp # 2. Sure, the roster looks amazing on paper. This Rumble had 15 Hall of Famers and 8 additional wrestlers that should ultimately end up in the Hall of Fame. Even the 7 non Hall of Famers all carried a certain amount of name value with them. However, we can’t just go by what is “on paper”. When taking a closer look at where each of the superstars was at this point in their career, you uncover a litany of problems.

First, there were the stars that weren’t stars yet. Bret Hart was on the tail end of his tag team run. He’d get a kick start several months later in time for Summerslam 1991, but it wasn’t until 1992 that he became a main event level player. The Undertaker was brand new and he too would not become a star until later on in the year. Shane Douglas achieved tremendous success through his ECW run several years later, but he was nothing more than a jobber at the time. The British Bulldog was finished with his tag team stint but still a year and a half away from any kind of significant single’s success. They were not the factors you’d think they would be based on their names.

Second, there were the stars who weren’t as popular as they once were. Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Haku and Jim Duggan were career mid-carders who were at the tail end of their respective runs. Jim Neidhart was the weak link of a tag team that was about to break up. He never amounted to anything as a solo act. The Warlord was well past his peak run as one half of The Powers of Pain and was in the middle of a single’s career that wasn’t going anywhere. Tugboat was also on the back end of a failed single’s push. Kerry Von Erich, aka The Texas Tornado, had been cooled off considerably in the months between his IC title win at Summerslam 1990 and the 1991 Royal Rumble. Earthquake’s story is similar to Von Erich’s but on a much larger scale – pun intended. He was a main event act at Summerslam 1990 across from Hogan, but it was over for him after that. When approximately 1/3 of the Rumble roster consists of wrestlers that weren’t where they once were, it’s not a good sign.

Third, there were the full and partial tag teams. I love tag team wrestling. Although not the late 1980s, this was still a relatively strong period for WWE tag team wrestling. With that said, tag team wrestlers, even the top ones, are mostly used as irrelevant fodder come Royal Rumble time. Hercules, Paul Roma, Smash, Crush, Hawk, Animal, Luke, Butch and Brian Knobbs all came into this Rumble with little to no hope of having any impact due to their tag team status. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m here to speak the truth.

Most egregious of all were the two legends that had absolutely no business being there, Saba Simba and Jimmy Snuka. Don’t get me wrong. I love legends showing up for one final hurrah in a Royal Rumble. When they are surprise entrants, they can often provide a level of nostalgia that only occurs a couple of times a year. That isn’t what happened here. Instead, these were two guys so far past their primes attempting to revive their careers to disastrous results. First, you had Saba Simba. Tony Atlas hadn’t been relevant in the WWE for over ten years. Saba Simba was a racially questionable comedic gimmick that was nothing more than an absolutely horrendous idea. It should have never seen the light of day. Jimmy Snuka hadn’t been relevant since Wrestlemania I. His return was so bad that come Wrestlemania VII he was used as enhancement talent to put over The Undertaker in a match that can be described as nothing more than filler. These were two spots that were wasted on absolute nonsense, and should have never happened.

Thus, we were really only left with five wrestlers that had any kind of positive momentum going into the 1991 Royal Rumble match. Jake Roberts at the low point in his single’s career and Rick Martel at the high point of his single’s career joined forces for an underrated and entertaining feud that culminated in a featured match at Wrestlemania VII. However, neither Roberts nor Martel was anything more than a mid-carder at the time, and no one considered either man a legitimate contender. The same can be said for Mr. Perfect. He was a great talent and a tremendous Intercontinental Champion, but he never really ascended above that role in the WWE. No one viewed him as a main event player, he wasn’t positioned as one by the company and thus like Roberts and Martel, stood no chance of winning.

Then, there was The Macho Man. He was one of only two unquestioned superstars in the match. The problem? Randy Savage didn’t participate! He was instrumental in costing The Ultimate Warrior the world title earlier in the night, and no-showed his subsequent entrance in the Rumble. I’ll discuss this in further detail when I talk about the storylines and flow of the match, but it was problematic.

So where did that leave us from a roster standpoint? The star power of the 1991 Royal Rumble was a complete red-herring. For all the reasons discussed above, we were left with only one wrestler that mattered and he, Hulk Hogan, was the absolute only conceivable winner of the match. Snore. Boring. Time to move on.


The Storylines and Flow.

I’ll keep this short because the in-ring action of the 1991 Royal Rumble isn’t worth the words on this page. Absolutely nothing happened for the entire duration of the match. It was standard fare to not have any surprises in the early Royal Rumbles. What wasn’t standard was to have a Royal Rumble completely devoid of storylines. Seriously, there wasn’t a single storyline inserted into the match. That is completely ludicrous.

It’s not as if there weren’t storylines that could have been easily worked into the match. The WWE could have had Roberts and Martel jump start their feud. They could have had significant action between Wrestlemania VII dance partners in the Hart Foundation and Brian Knobbs. Most obvious of all, they could have ACTUALLY went through with The Warrior taking Savage out instead of merely alluding to it. Seriously – what were they thinking by not having an Ultimate Warrior revenge attack on Savage play out on camera during the match and/or Savage’s entrance?

Instead, this Rumble was a complete bore. I wasn’t moved by the lengthy stays of either Greg Valentine or Rick Martel. The action was plodding and eliminations were too scarce. It’s as if the WWE recognized the shortcomings of their current roster and decided to just go through the motions until Hulk Hogan could enter the fray and wreck shop. A bonus point for Bushwacker Luke’s four second stay. Other than that, I can’t find much positive about anything that happened here.


The Final Four.

One of the biggest reasons this edged out The 2009 Royal Rumble on the countdown was because the Final Four actually was somewhat entertaining. I had very little interest in either Knobbs or The Bulldog being in the final four. However, once they were eliminated, we got really good action between Hulk Hogan and Earthquake. I was pleasantly surprised. Nothing about their encounter at Summerslam 1990 made me think that a final two Rumble face off could be even the slightest bit compelling, yet here we were. The action was back and forth and I was entertained. That’s really all that I could ask for.

The Winner.

Hulk Hogan in 1991 was as predictable of a winner as there has ever been in any Royal Rumble. For all of the reasons discussed above, he was the only reasonable choice.

I am as big of a Hulk Hogan fan as you will ever meet, but even I have to admit that his victory in the 1991 Rumble rang hollow and was not at all satisfying. This was a re-tread from the previous year. More importantly, Hogan winning and the entire 1991 Royal Rumble showcased the problems that the WWE would face over the next few years. They hadn’t yet built new stars and were far too reliant on Hogan.

I can’t even say that the Rumble catapulted Hogan to bigger and better things. You couldn’t get any bigger or better than Hulk Hogan already was. He went onto win the World Title from Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII. However, instead of a new chapter, this felt like the WWE hitting the reset button in light of The Ultimate Warrior not working out as the company-carrying megastar that they hoped he would be.


Overall.

The 1991 Royal Rumble sucked and was a bad omen for what was to come in WWE. This was a Rumble in which the WWE absolutely mailed it in and undid all of the good work that they had done in the previous Rumbles before it. It was a difficult decision between this and 2009 for the bottom spot. Ultimately, I favor the 1991 Rumble ever so slightly due to a surprisingly entertaining final battle between Hulk Hogan and Earthquake. As I have previously stated, I’m a massive fan of the Royal Rumble match. There are very few Rumbles that I hope to never have to see again. The 1991 Rumble is one of them.

The Rebuttal – by Richard Boykin.

Richard Boykin: There are two certainties in life. Pizza is good and Dave is ridiculous with his over the top assessments. The 1991 Royal Rumble is an example of the latter.

Dave is incorrect with his view of Bret Hart in this match. Bret had an impressive performance and it was an early sign of the WWE grooming him to be a top guy. The reaction he received when he entered at number one showed that contrary to Dave’s stated opinion, Bret’s star power was already growing.

Where Dave saw trash, I see treasure. I felt that the likes of Duggan, Earthquake, Snuka, Roberts and Santana provided me with a nice little trip down memory lane. I also thought there was value in some of the storylines that Dave overlooked. The story of Jake Roberts returning to attack Rick Martel after almost being blinded by “Arrogance” was fun. Unlike Dave, I thought Savage being taken out of the Rumble by what the announcers presumed to be was an attack by the Ultimate Warrior was a non-traditional twist on an angle often overused in the Royal Rumble.

The 1991 may have been predictable, but it was far from the dumpster fire that Dave would like you to believe it was. It belongs in the bottom third of the countdown, but it is nowhere near the second worst Royal Rumble of all time.


That’s a wrap kids. I’ll see you for part 3 in which I detail the Royal Rumble that came in at #28 on the countdown. Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague.

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