The Wrestling Drive on Smackdown Live Moving To Fox

After a way too lengthy hiatus, the wrestling drive returns to look at all things WWE with the big news that Smackdown Live appears to be moving to Fox!  Check out the wrestling drive below as we talk about all the speculation surrounding WWE’s apparent move back to network television

 

The Rumble of The Royal Rumble- 1991

Ah Yes the Royal Rumble 1991, a show that I’ll always hold near and dear to my heart and it just may very well be a show that I’ve seen more than any other pay per view in WWE history.  Before we get to the show itself, I’d like to provide a bit of backstory as to where I was at the time in terms of being a fan.  Most people can’t tell you exactly how they became a fan but I can.  Well, I was only 4 years old so we’re talking these are my absolute earliest memories of wrestling and in life for that matter.  Towards the middle of 1990, my father was also a huge wrestling fan.  Every Saturday and Sunday my mother would work and this lasted for about five years from when I was about 6 months old until I was about 5 years old.  Thus, every weekend my father would hang out with me and we’d sit right in front of the television set watching wrestling.  We would watch 3 hours on Saturday afternoon and 3 hours on Sunday afternoon from the time that I was still in a carriage.  I really believe that from these moments wrestling became ingrained in me and I never turned back.

In 1990, my dad found a friend at work that was able to order the pay per view events.  He and my father split the cost of the shows and my dad’s friend would watch and record the shows and then hand them off to my father so he and I could watch the following week.  At the time, all you had to do at the time was avoid a little results section in the newspaper so it wasn’t like today in the world of Twitter, Facbook and insane amounts of WWE programming where you can’t avoid results for more than an hour.  In any event, once 1991 came around, this was really when cable television started to become big and so I remember on the day of the Royal Rumble there were men in our house all day.  They were blowing holes through the wall and making a ton of noise for what felt like all day.  I kept asking my parents what was going on but they just kept telling me it was a surprise.  When the men were done, my father had revealed that we had gotten cable television.  This meant that, for the first time ever, we were going to be able to order the Royal Rumble live on pay per view.

It was just an incredible idea, the likes of which I thought that I would never see.  It was just unheard of for me at the time to fathom that what I was watching on television was what was going on live at that moment.  I must have asked my parents, “so this is happening right now?!?” all night long. None of my other friends were getting pay per views and wouldn’t for quite a few years so I became the wrestling insider amongst my friends at the age of just 4 years old.  It is because of this that I will always hold this event in a special place in my heart.

Royal Rumble 1991

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Results

The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) defeated The Orient Express (Tanaka and Kato) (with Mr. Fuji)

Big Boss Man defeated The Barbarian (with Bobby Heenan)

Sgt. Slaughter (with General Adnan) defeated The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship

The Mountie (with Jimmy Hart) defeated Koko B. Ware

Ted DiBiase and Virgil defeated Dusty Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes

Hulk Hogan won by last eliminating Earthquake in the Royal Rumble match

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First things first this is the debut of the Royal Rumble theme song.  If you go  out and order the new “True Story of The Royal Rumble” blu ray set (which I suggest you do, it’s a fun watch) that’s the song you hear and it’s the song that’s the most synonymous with the Royal Rumble show.  This was also the show if which they started the really fun ad campaign with the poster you see above promoting all of the major superstars in the match.  I thought these were really cool and way ahead of their time.

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After a couple of years of the Royal Rumble being the complete focus on the show, it was as if this was the year where they made the Rumble event mean more overall.  This was the first Royal Rumble event which featured a World Title Match as well as the Rumble match.  In many ways, the title match was a bigger story than the Rumble match itself because it marked the end, in many ways, of the Ultimate Warrior experiment.  The Ultimate Warrior had won the world title from Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 6 and had seemingly taken over as the face of the company.  However, business was down with the Ultimate Warrior as the face of the WWF and he just din’t click the same way that Hulk Hogan did when he was on top.  Thus, the decision was made to take the title off of the Ultimate Warrior at this show as Sergeant Slaughter defeated him for the belt.  Sergeant Slaughter had recently returned to wrestling and was now doing his Iraqi sympathizer character.  The decision to put the belt on Slaughter was a controversial one being that the US had legitimately gone to war in the with Iraq during the Gulf War.  Dave Meltzer described it in the Wrestling Observor Newsletter “Many within the WWF front office feared a media backlash against such an obvious attempt to heavily exploit the war” and “But in this case, the hypocrisy is just too much for me. The company can claim all day long not to condone the character, but it was the president of the company that was the creator of the character and the man who decided to make him champion at the height of the hostilities.”

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This year during the Royal Rumble, Hulk Hogan would go on to win the Royal Rumble which made sense.  Even thought the Rumble match was not yet for the shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, it was clear that WWE was going back to Hogan to defend the US against Slaughter.  Thus, he was the logical choice for the Rumble win especially when he went on to dedicate the Rumble to the troops overseas.  Afew weird things in this Rumble started with the fact that Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs was in this match but Jerry Sags was not.  There was also an entrant who did not enter as the announcers were left wondering who it was supposed to be, it was Randy Savage but I don’t believe any explanation was given.  The incredibly racist Saba Simba also made an appearance in this Rumble as did a very young Shane Douglas.  The iron man in the match was Rick The Model Martel, who last over 52 minutes.

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Looking back at this show, the match of the night was actually the opener, a really fun match between the Rockers and the Orient Express.  The match is actually featured on the latest “True Story of The Royal Rumble” DVD set and is a lot fun.  This was towards the end of the Rockers run but they were always the best team to put on first and get the crowd going with fast paced matches, this night was no exception.

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Lastly, on this packed show, it’s also important to mention that this was the night in which  Virgil finally turned on the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase.  This was one of my favorite stories ever told as it was laid out over 3 years from the Million Dollar man’s debut in November of 1987 all the way up until January of 1991.  Virgil was the man servant of Ted Dibiase and was treated like crap.  Finally at the end of their tag match against Dusty Rhodes and a very young Dustin Rhodes, Virgil finally had enough and stood up for himself, laying out Dibiase in the process.

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Looking back, while this may not be the best Rumble match itself of all time, it’s one of my favorite Rumble shows of all time.  What do you think about this show?  Did you think WWE was too much in utlizing the real life issues going on at the time between the United States and Iraq for this angle or do you feel that all is fair in love and wrestling?  Let me know in the comment section below or over on twitter @tommyonthespot.

The Rumble of The Royal Rumble 1990

It’s amazing that as we continue this trip down memory lane looking back at all of the past Royal Rumble events to see how the Royal Rumble transformed and continued to evolve throughout the years.  Let’s get right into the results of the show and what I remember most when looking back at the event.

Royal Rumble 1990- Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida- January 21, 1990

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Results

The Bushwhackers (Butch and Luke) defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond)

Brutus Beefcake fought The Genius to a double disqualification

Ronnie Garvin defeated Greg Valentine

Jim Duggan defeated Big Boss Man (with Slick) by disqualification

Hulk Hogan won by last eliminating Mr. Perfect in the Royal Rumble match

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It’s important to remember with these early Royal Rumble events that there was nothing on the line for the winner of the Royal Rumble.  What this meant basically was that the main selling point of the Rumble show was the Royal Rumble match and so everything went into the promotion of the Rumble match and building that match up with as much star power as possible.  Thus, when you go back and watch this Rumble match, it just flies right by because it’s a really loaded Rumble.  In this match alone you had Hogan, Warrior, Savage, Perfect, Rude, Dusty, Andre, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Piper, Jake Roberts and Jimmy Snuka.  That’s a dozen all time great WWE hall of famers off the top of my head.  It begins really quick too as 8 of the first 11 participants are all hall of famers and so this Rumble really holds your interest from start to finish.

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The hype for the Rumble throughout the show was also at a premium as I counted pre Royal Rumble promos from 18 of the participants.  Of course, there were also interviews with the Rumble participants before they got to the match.  The two highlights for me were Ted Dibiase and Mr. Perfect.  There was a good amount of intrigue around Dibiase leading into the event due to him buying number 30 the year prior but this year he revealed that Virgil had drawn number 1 for him.  Mr. Perfect, on the other hand, was really coming into his own as a top level heel.  He was still technically undefeated in WWE and revealed before the match that he had drawn the “Perfect number” basically letting everyone know that he was number 30.  It took a little bit of the mystique away from the Rumble that we knew numbers 1 and 30 since those two spots were always given a good amount of hype since it was built that number 30 held the greatest advantage and number 1 the greatest disadvantage (even though honestly number 2 starts off at the exact same moment that number 1 does but that’s neither here nor there).

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One of the things I really liked about the show overall was that there were a number of Wrestlemania matches that were teased throughout the night and eventually came to fruition.  Mr. Perfect would eventually go on to face Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania 6 after his post-match beatdown of Beefcake after his match with the Genious.  Dusty Rhodes and Randy Savage as well as Bad News Brown and Roddy Piper would also set up their respective Wrestlemania matches during the Royal Rumble match.  Of course though, the biggest showdown would come when both The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan cleared house of everyone else in the ring until it came down to the two of them alone in the ring.  This was one of the first faceoffs between the two and the crowd just went bananas (quoting the late great Gorilla Monsoon).  It was the top babyface in the company and world champion, in Hulk Hogan, going face to face with the fastest rising arguably hottest babyface in the Ultimate Warrior.  Their faceoff was the moment of the match for me.  Eventually Warrior would get double teamed by the two next guys who entered the match, Rick Rude and The Barbarian, are double teaming the Ultimate Warrior when Hogan runs back in and hits everyone with a clothesline inadvertedly eliminated the Warrior. Just like that you had your Wrestlemania 6 main event.  Thus, while the rumble winner didn’t get a title shot at Wrestlemania just yet, a good amount of the top matches at Wrestlemania were foreshadowed during this show.

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The one thing that, looking back, I would have changed about this Rumble match was that I really wouldn’t have had Hulk Hogan win the match.  It made no sense to have Hogan, the champion, who’s popularity at this point was waning, win the Royal Rumble.  For one this match was all about Ted Dibiase who lasted over 45 minutes from number 1 and I thought he would have been an interesting winner in that he couldn’t win the Rumble at number 30 in 1989 but came back to win the 1990 Rumble all the way from number 1.  Regardless, his long run in the Rumble match would kickoff a three year stretch in where a heel would last the longest in the Rumble match culminating in 1992, which we’ll get to on Thursday.  Mr. Perfect also would have made all the sense in the world to win the Royal Rumble this year.  He was still undefeated and debuted as this arrogant SOB who continued to prove that he was better than everyone at everything.  A Rumble win here really would have gotten him over as that next top heel and had him come across as completely legitimate. (The Rumor I’ve heard for years was that Perfect was actually supposed to win the Rumble but the plan was changed to Hogan, seems to be strictly rumor though at this point)  Of course, at the end of the day, the no brainer choice for the Rumble win this year was the Ultimate Warrior.  He had all the momentum in the world going into this match and him getting the Rumble win over Hogan, to me, would have added even more intrigue to the mega match between the two at Wrestlemania 6.

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Aside from the Rumble, the one thing I always remember enjoying as a kid was the Rugged Ronny Garvin Vs. Greg Valentine match.  This was more hokeyness but it’s the only thing I remember from Garvin’s entire WWF run.  The story here was actually pretty unique in that Greg Valentine had defeated Garvin in a retirement match forcing Garvin to retire.  When Garvin did retire, he ended up getting all of these odd jobs in WWE like referee and announcer trying to screw with Valentine.until eventually Valentine begged for Garvin to get his job back so that Valentine could get his hands on him.  This led to a match between the two on this show in which Garvin won but what I remember most about this match was the Hammer Jammer.  The Hammer Jammer was a guard that Garvin wore that allowed him to block the figure four leg lock.  This lead to a spot in the match where Valentine locked on the figure four leg lock only for Garvin to make a bunch of funny faces as the move didn’t effect him because of the hammer jammer.  Funny faces aside, this was a pretty underrated match between two veterans.

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That’s going to do it for today but what were some of your favorite memories of the Royal Rumble 1990?  Let us know in the comment section below or over on twitter @Daily_Spotlight

The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 8

I’d like to start off by pointing out that as I got older, I grew an appreciation for Ric Flair. To me, he’s one of the best and most exciting wrestlers of all time. With that said, back in 1992, at the ripe old age of 5 years old…I hated Ric Flair. I didn’t understand what claim he had to the world title and I found his work boring. Back then my family family never watched WCW, so we didn’t understand why Flair was such a big deal.  We watched one WCW Clash of the Champions and we really didn’t enjoy it. To my family, WCW was just a lot of chops and didn’t have those larger than life characters that WWE had ( I realize how silly this is now by the way).   We all laughed when Flair came into the Rumble 92 at number 3 and thought, thank god he isn’t going to win. Of course, Flair would go on to win the Rumble, in arguably the greatest Rumbles of all time, but still we didn’t want Ric Flair as the world champion. At the time, we got our wrestling news from WWF magazine and from the Slammer, who wrote a quick article every Friday about the state of pro wrestling in the New York Daily News.  Thus it wasn’t like today where everyone knows Kevin Steen’s entire history and can’t wait for his first match.

I remember for Wrestlemania 8, they did a press conference where they would announce the new number one contender to face Flair at Wrestlemania for the title.  The likes of Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Randy Savage & Roddy Piper were all in attendance and it was made to be a big deal. You can watch it below, if you’d like

I was pretty surprised when Savage got the call as Wrestlemania really was the Hulk Hogan show up to this poing & the Slammer was telling us WWF was going with Hogan and Flair so Savage seemed a bit out of left field.

As for this Mania itself,  I remember being really confused as to why the world title match didn’t go on last and looking back, I’m still a bit confused.   Savage and Flair had a natural story going into their match and it was a really great match, filled with a lot of passion that resulted in a clean finish and title win for Randy Savage.  To me this would have been a great way to end WrestleMania.

Instead the main event was Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice.  It ended up being the first time in WrestleMania history that the world champion wasn’t at least involved in the main event.  I want to say the reason was because it was being teased that the Hogan-Justice match was going to be Hogan’s last match in the WWF but that wasn’t true as Hulk returned to the WWF the next year.  As for this match itself, it ended in a disqualification which would then also make this the first time in wrestlemania history that the show ended without a clean finish.  Sid ended up getting disqualified when newcomer Papa Shango hit the ring and began attacking Hogan. This led to a really surprising and great return for the Ultimate Warrior who hadn’t be seen in about six months.  What’s funny is that I remember Warrior was a lot leaner and had a haircut so this led to the popular belief that the Ultimate Warrior had actually been killed and replaced by someone else, the belief was Kerry von Erich.

Looking back at this show, it’s really almost like a changing of the guard with that Wrestlemania.  Following this show, Hogan & Piper took time off.  Jake Roberts also left the WWF for several years following this show and by the next year’s WrestleMania, Flair and Warrior would be gone too.  Instead Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart were getting ready to take on more prominent roles as the years went on.

Before I close the door on WrestleMania 8, I’d like to mention a personal story from later on in 1992.

I have mentioned in the past how I’ve had a history of being afraid of some WWE superstars and storylines. Giant Gonzales, Doink The Clown & the time the Undertaker came alive in the casket and flew out of it at the Royal Rumble 1994, to name a few. Well, if there was one guy who I feared more than any other it was unquestionably Papa Shango. Shango didn’t only look creepy but he performed voodoo on his opponents and made strange black goo pour out of the Ultimate Warrior.

On September 11th, 1992, my father got he and I two tickets for the WWF at Madison Square Garden.  I couldn’t believe it as this was going to be one of my first live events, I didn’t even know what to do or think.  We jumped on the Long Island Rail Road from Bayside to MSG and it was a feeling like none other.  Everywhere  looked there were wrestling fans, everyone was wearing a shirt and holding a sign, it was great.  It would be the same feeling I would feel during every show I’d end up going to, but there was something that felt big time about MSG.

A we arrived to MSG, following an embarrassing moment where I took a leak in a potted plant at penn station, my dad told me he had a huge surprise for me.  Before he revealed that, however, my dad bought me a program which always showed the match card.  I opened it up and screamed off every big match on the card.  Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker!  Randy Savage vs. Razor Ramon!  Then my face sank…I nervously proclaimed to my dad ” Dad, Papa Shango is wrestling tonight, he’s wrestling Bret Hart”.  This only got worse when my dad revealed his surprise, which were front row seats!

I immediately began to scream as this was unbelievable and intimidating at the same time. I told my dad as great as this was we had to give the seats away.  I couldn’t sit there petrified of Shango.  I’m sure my father wanted to kill me but, being a good father, agreed to make someone’s day, by asking some fans to switch seats with us.   We enjoyed the show from the sixth row until the Hart-Shango match.  At this point, I had to use the bathroom and the only way this was possible would be to walk against the barricade and passed the first row.  We tried to do this while Hart had Shango in a headlock and we were in the middle of tiptoeing past the front row when Shango disposed of Hart and ran at the ropes as quick as possible taunting the crowd.  Well, that was it!  I was off to the races as I ran quickly into the lobby.  I had never seen my father run faster in his life as he screamed for me to stop.  I eventually did but we hung out by the souvenirs until Hart won.

To make matters worse, I then pleaded with my dad to run up to the barricade to see the Undertaker up close.  That’s right, the deadman was fine but Papa Shango was the problem!  As for what happened to ole Papa Shango?  Well, he had to retire as he soon realized that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”

That’s gonna do it for now but next time I’ll be taking a look at the WWF in 1993.  Wrestlemania the album is released and WWF head’s to Ceasar’s Palace for Wrestlemania 9!

The Spotlight On Wrestling Podcasts- WooNation with Bret Hart 

  

Last month the world of wrestling podcasts continued to grow with the birth of the latest wrestling podcast on the play.it network. Joining the ranks of wrestler turned podcast host along with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chris Jericho & Colt Cabana is the Nature Boy himself, the 16 time world heavyweight champion, Ric Flair! Five episodes into Flair’s offering, WooNation, and I’ve found the podcasts an enjoyable addition to my weekly podcast listening. I’m actually going to be taking a look at two different Ric Flair podcasts in the upcoming weeks but I’m going to start with an episode of WooNation from two weeks ago when Flair had 5 Time WWE World Champion Bret Hart on the show.  Let’s get into some of the highlights from the show.

Highlights 

 History Between The Two–  Something really cool about the show is that the producer of the show, Conrad, is there to basically make sure that nothing goes uncovered.  Since Ric seems to really respect Conrad he never objects or gets upset over anything that Conrad suggests talking about. Ric reveals first how much respect he had for Bret after Summerslam 1992 when he had his classic match with the British Bulldog.  He goes on to say that he and Randy Savage watched the match in their hotel room the next day on closed circuit and went to Bret’s hotel to thank him for putting on such a great match.  From here, I found that the discussion about the match between Flair and Hart from Sasquactchawan where Hart won his first title to be very interesting.  Flair explains that he found out that he would be dropping the belt to Bret a few days beforehand.  He went on to say that prior to this happening, he wrestled to the Ultimate Warrior and Warrior dropped him on his head which caused Flair to be disoriented.  Due to this injury Flair felt that he could have done better in the match with Bret. Bret on the other hand recalls that when Vince McMahon told him that he was getting the title,  he barely responded because he felt that it probably wasn’t going to happen.  Towards the end of the show, Conrad asks Ric and Bret about the issues between the two stemming from comments Bret made about Flair basically saying that if you’ve seen one Ric Flair match, you’ve seen them all.  Bret didn’t really back off his comments saying that while he respected Flair, he did feel that wrestlers in Bret’s generation used much more creativity than wresters in Flair’s generation.  What was really interesting though was to hear Ric agree with Bret’s comments to a certain extent.  He explained that in his generation there were only so many Ricky Steamboats.  He continued that many of the wresters back then weren’t in the good shape that wrestlers in Bret’s were so they weren’t able to have different types of matches, it was easier for them to have basic matches.  Flair even went so far as to say as great as Harley Race was, he was never in the gym.
 Bret Really Hated WCW– One of the biggest things to come out of this interview was just how much Bret hated WCW, in particular Hulk Hogan.  Hart explains that Hogan was completely unprofessional with Bret during his time in WCW.  He continues that Hulk would cross Bret’s name off of any big spots or plans that WCW had planned for him.  He explains how Hogan really ran the show in WCW and Eric Bischoff, in his opinion, was more just a puppet being that he was so star struck by Hogan.  Hart also confirmed that any stories that Bischoff has been saying about Bret offering to come to WCW with the WWF world title was completely false.  

Bret on Owen’s New DVD– The third highlight for me was hearing Bret’s unwavering support for WWE’s plan to release an Owen Hart DVD set.  Bret explains that he understands why Martha (Owen’s widow) would be upset with WWE but feels that at this point she should understand that at the end of the day Owen was a great wrestler.  He strongl believes that Owen should be celebrated and that Owen’s fans shouldn’t remember him because of the horrible tragedy that ended his life but rather by the great body of work that he put out throughout this career.  I feel that Bret’s support of the Owen Hart DVD project should put to rest some of the controversy surrounding the project.  I agree with Bret that this project should have taken place years ago.

Closing Thoughts

 All in all I felt that this was an absolute must listen to podcast.  The hour plus long conversation flew by and it was really nice to hear how at peace Bret and Ric were with, not only each other, but also with life in general.  I also found their insight into the industry to be so in congruence such as both of their rather surprising criticism of Steve Austin, that at times he really had to slow down.  Other highlights of the show included a discussion of Stu Hart, a discussion about the time both Bret and Ric bled at Wrestlemania 8 after being told that bleeding wasn’t allowed and the response that followed, and a breakdown of Bret’s Wrestlemania 13 match with Steve Austin.  Thus, I strongly suggest you check this episode of WooNation out and if you do, I’d love to hear some of your feedback. Be sure to also check out some of my other spotlight on wrestling podcasts as they continue to get updated weekly.