WWF Royal Rumble ‘91
January 19, 2001
Nostalgia may affect this pick, but to this day Royal Rumble ’91 is one of my favorite pay per views. As a young seven year old, the idea of 30 men all battling it out in one match was almost too much to take. What really sold it for me was Vince McMahon awesome over-the-top introductions for all thirty men. It really made the match stand out and played up the “every man for himself” mantra as tag teams cut promos individually with allies threatening to eliminate each other should they come in contact with each other.
The format of the match continued to tighten up and improve as the ring never got more than seven or eight men in it at any one time. Many rivals crossed paths with each other in order to continue to fuel their feuds, and assuming men like Rick Martel, Greg Valentine and even veritable rookie Shane Douglas got chances to last a long time in the match and shine in a unique way.
However the winner was never really in doubt. Hulk Hogan was by far the biggest star in the match and his victory seemed obvious. He eliminated his long-time rival Earthquake to end their feud and move Hogan on towards WrestleMania VII. In a precursor to what would become the official mantra in 1993, Hogan would use this victory to springboard his way into the number one contendership for the WWF World Championship.
But it wasn’t just the Rumble match that made it so good. The Rockers-Orient Express opening match was blistering good fun and is still considered one of the best opening matches in pay per view history. Big Boss Man had become a really good in-ring worker by 1990 and his opponent Barbarian put on his working boots for the night. It led to arguably Barbarian’s best match and a surprisingly fun “big man” power match.
And then of course history was made when the evil Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter shocked the world by beating The Ultimate Warrior to win the WWF World Championship. With the United States just coming out of Operation: Desert Storm over the Middle East, the country was in a patriotic fervor and the WWF capitalized on it by making G.I. Joe’s own Sgt. Slaughter into a turncoat. This set up with a natural rivalry with the “Real American” Hulk Hogan for WrestleMania VII.
The history continued in the next match, when “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase’s manservant Virgil turned on him after their victory over the Rhodes family. It was a hugely shocking moment that was long awaited and well received. It prolonged Virgil’s career and gave him that career defining moment that many wrestlers never get.
- Nasty Boy Jerry Sags beat Sam Houston in a match that happened before the pay per view went on the air.
- The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) beat The Orient Express (Kato & Tanaka).
- The Big Boss Man beat The Barbarian.
- Sgt. Slaughter beat WWF World Heavyweight Champion The Ultimate Warrior to win the Championship.
- The Mountie beat Koko B. Ware.
- “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase & Virgil beat Dusty & Dustin Rhodes.
- Hulk Hogan won the 30-man Royal Rumble match last eliminating Earthquake. Other participants included Greg Valentine, Davey Boy Smith, Kerry Von Erich, Paul Roma, Bushwacker Luke, Jimmy Snuka, Demolition Crush, Haku, Jim Neidhart, Road Warrior Animal, Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs, The Undertaker, Shane Douglas, “Macho King” Randy Savage, Saba Simba, Tito Santana, Bushwacker Butch, The Warlord, Tugboat, Hercules, Curt Hennig, Road Warrior Hawk, Demolition Smash, Dino Bravo, Bret Hart, Rick Martel, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.