WWF Royal Rumble ‘97
January 19, 1997
San Antonio, Texas
By this point in the WWF the “Attitude” era was set well in place, with it missing in name only. Villains regularly fought villains, arenas grew darker, characters and storylines got more serious and Stone Cold Steve Austin was blazing a trail through the company with “Austin 3:16,” middle fingers and Stone Cold Stunners.
Boyhood heroes like Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart were getting booed more regularly by WWF audiences while anti-heroes like Austin and Sid were getting the fans’ adulation. Even The Undertaker, who constantly changed with the times, completely dropped the old west looking mortician’s outfit for a sleeker all black “angel of death” looking get-up.
The problem was that the WWF was still lagging greatly behind World Championship Wrestling and Monday Nitro at the time and were desperate to gain an edge. They placed this show in the massive AlamoDome in San Antonio, Texas, with all marketing being built upon Shawn Michaels returning home to challenge his old “frenemy” Sid for the WWF Championship.
To pad the depleted roster, the WWF again looked to WCW for inspiration and began booking luchadores from Mexico’s AAA promotion to pad out this show and various WWF programming around this time. In theory it was a great idea, but in practice it did not work with the WWF’s more character based and storyline oriented programming.
With the Shawn Michaels homecoming storyline all set in place, all eyes looked towards the unorthodox Rumble match. Filled with a combination of the company’s top guys, ridiculous outdated gimmicks, Texas wildcard Terry Funk and a bevy of luchadores, it was certainly a unique array of talent.
The unique finish of the Rumble match was what made this show stand out. With referees tied up on the outside trying to break up a fight between Mankind and Terry Funk, Bret Hart threw out Stone Cold for a clean elimination. But with no referees around to call the elimination Austin snuck back in and eliminated Undertaker and Vader while Hart eliminated The New Diesel, seemingly for the victory. With the referees now paying attention once again, Austin eliminated Hart and was credited with the victory.
Austin did not get his promised WWF Title match at WrestleMania 13, but the victory set the stage for his classic Submissions Match with Hart that is still talked about with reverence to this day.
- El Hijo de Perro Aguayo and Venum beat Maniaco and Mosco de la Merced in a dark match that happened before the pay per view went live on the air.
- Octagon, Blue Demon, Jr. & Tinieblas, Jr. beat Histeria, Heavy Metal & Abismo Negro in a dark match that happened before the pay per view went live on the air.
- Mascarita Sagrada and La Parkita beat Mini Mankind and Mini Vader on the Free For All that aired live before the pay per view went on the air.
- WWF Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst-Helmsley beat Goldust.
- Ahmed Johnson beat Faarooq by disqualification.
- Vader beat The Undertaker.
- Hector Garza, Perro Aguayo & El Canek beat Heavy Metal, Fuerza Guerrera & Jerry Estrada.
- Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 30-man Royal Rumble match last eliminating Bret Hart. Other participants included Crush, The Sultan, Davey Boy Smith, Phineas Godwinn, Ahmed Johnson, Rocky Maivia, The Latin Lover, The New Diesel, Jerry Lawler, Savio Vega, Faarooq, Flash Funk, Jesse James, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Vader, Terry Funk, Henry Godwin, Pierroth, Owen Hart, Mil Mascaras, Bart Gunn, Hunter Hearst-Helmsely, Marc Mero, Cibernetico, The New Razor Ramon, Goldust, Mankind and Undertaker.