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The build of this show, believe it or not, was largely built around the host of the show Pamela Anderson. Much of it in the weeks leading up to the show, and during the show itself, was wrestlers gawking over her, much like when Chuck Norris was going to be invovled at Survivor Series – the celebrity was the story here, rather than the matches themselves
Since Survivor Series we've had the small matter of Diesel defeating Bob Backlund for the WWF Title just three days later. Bret took some time off to film a TV show, leaving Diesel and Backlund to have a house show run so bad they actually stopped doing the match and replaced Backlund with Jeff Jarrett. Diesel would be facing Bret Hart on this show; while it was babyface vs babyface, they certainly teased before the show we may see a different Bret Hart than we were used to.
Elsewhere, the Rumble match had been shortened to a minute per wrestler, rather than two – largely due to a derth in talent on the roster. Also, the tag team title match was for the vacated titles after Shawn and Diesel split up following Survivor Series.
WWF Intercontinental Title Match – Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) vs Razor Ramon
Maybe I'm behind on the Jarrett thing, but nothing about this match really confirmed what was being said about Jarrett's lack of ability at the time, he was very good here, as was Razor. Both worked hard although might be disappointed by the lack of crowd reaction in places. Razor would end up losing by count out due to a knee injury, before Jarrett goaded him back into carrying on, after Razor's knee buckled under the Razor's Edge, Jarrett hits the roll up for the win. Very good this.
The Undertaker vs IRS (w/ Ted DiBiase)
Another disappointing Undertaker match really, he's been having far too many of them on PPV although it's certainly not helping the calibre of opponent he's being given. The IRS character is well past its sell-by date at this stage, and really the only positive of this match was that it was a logical progression in the Taker/Bundy story. After interference from a druid (on behalf of IRS) somehow doesn't force a DQ, Taker wins with a chokeslam. After the match IRS steals the urn off of Paul Bearer and Bundy beats down on Undertaker
WWF Championship Match – Diesel vs Bret Hart
Very interesting match this one. Bret played the defacto heel for much of it, doing things like keeping submissions in after Diesel had got to the ropes. Bret was effective in treading the line well (although he did use a chair at one stage which got a lot of boos) and Diesel looked strong as a result. Plenty of interference in this one: Shawn came out and attacked Diesel – no DQ, Owen came out and attacked Bret – no DQ. Eventually we got a ref bump, then Shawn, Owen and Bob Backlund came out and the ref finally decided enough was enough and called it a draw. Good match but you feel Diesel could've done with a more decisive victory out of the gate.
WWF Tag Team Title Match – The 123 Kid & Bob “Sparkplug” Holly vs The Million Dollar Team – Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Ted DiBiase)
Well wasn't this an unexpected surprise? A match that got more time than you might expect that by and large focussed on Bam Bam, Holly and The Kid and it turned out to be very good. The crowd were into this more than they had any right to be, and the quartet delivered a highly enjoyable tag team match, with The 123 Kid showing why he was one of the most exciting acts around at the time. We even got treated to an interesting finish, with Tatanka inadvertantly knocking Bam Bam of the top rope while he was setting for the moonsault, The Kid crawls over the felled Bigelow and the faces win the title to a big pop from the crowd.
After the match, Bam Bam Bigelow walking around ringside bumps into Lawrence Taylor, who seems quite pleased that the giant has found himself on the losing side. Bam Bam wasn't happy about this, and shoved Taylor setting up their program for Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon, for all his faults as an announcer did a great job here on the follow up, solmnly and briefly apologising for Bigelow's actions.
Royal Rumble Match
A Rumble of a few very good moments that potentially would've been very dull had the timings been like usual. Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog carried the their bats, and it was a good job they did given the lack of other big names in the match. Between Bulldog in 2nd and Owen Hart in 11th we had Eli Blu, Duke “The Dumpser” Droese, Jimmy Del Ray, Sione, Tom Pritchard, Doink, Kwang and Rick Martel – hardly a great list.
I'd question perhaps the reasoning behind having Bret Hart attack both Owen Hart and Bob Backlund on their way out to the ring. Not that it wasn't logical, but just whether it hurt the match more than it helped the other storyline. Owen lasted three seconds in the match – with a dismissal that the company unforgivably missed on camera (something that absolutely wouldn't have happened in more modern times.
But the match did show encouraging signs for guys like Lex Luger (who got a surprisingly big pop) and the returning Crush – who both finished in the last four. But the match was really all about Michaels and his foil in Bulldog. Michaels was the star, involved in about 75% of all noteworthy moments in the match. The finish was a masterpiece of execution and directiorial work – with Bulldog dumping Michaels over the top rope opposite the hard camera, Michaels flailed and Bulldog celebrated, before the camera cut to a close up of Michaels so you couldn't see him re-enter the ring until he was ready to eliminate Bulldog.
Score Rating: 7/10
Bits Worth Watching: Almost all of it. Other than the Undertaker match, which is certainly forgettable, there's rationale behind watching the lot. The Rumble itself isn't quite as good as you might think, but the entrances are close enough together where it goes quickly.