by BROCK KOLLER
This Sunday, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended for the first time ever in a Royal Rumble match. 1 champion. 29 challengers. The odds are stacked against the reigning titleholder Roman Reigns.
But before I start thinking about my predictions for the first stop on the road to WrestleMania 32, I would be remiss to not bring up the other Royal Rumble match that was for the WWE Championship.
It occurred in 1992. The difference from the 2016 championship Rumble is that 24 years ago, there was no champ. The title had been vacated and it was up for grabs.
The fact that it was for the championship is a reason that made the 1992 Royal Rumble not only the greatest Rumble ever, but one of the greatest matches in WWE history.
Here are a few other reasons why:
1. The classic opening: “It’s time to Rumble! It’s time for the Royal Rumble!” Vince McMahon’s classic voice-over opens up the pay per view. “WWF superstars compete in the Royal Rumble for the undisputed WWF Championship.” He then – over the much beloved Royal Rumble theme of yore – goes on to name every single competitor.
2. Who’s Who: This Rumble had a cavalcade of grade A talent including Jake the Snake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and as Vince puts it, “alleged real world champion” Ric Flair. Yes, there was also stars like Nasty Boys Saggs, The Berzerker, and Repo Man, but it wouldn’t be 1992 without them.
3. Future Legends Shine: The Undertaker…or as Vince said in the opening “The Unnnnndertaker”...had just come off his first World Championship, defeating Hulk Hogan at the Survivor Series the previous year. It was because of their rematch’s controversial ending at the This Tuesday in Texas event the title was vacated. Taker was still young in his WWE career and was about to make his turn to face in the upcoming weeks, but he was still a villainous foe at this time and was a top choice to walk away with the gold.
Then you had a man who just turned heel a week prior to the Rumble and jump-started his Hall of Fame singles career. Shawn Michaels was not considered a main eventer in January of 1992. In fact, announcer Sean Mooney referred to Michaels as an underdog when interviewing him backstage prior to the match. But having both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in this Rumble is an amazing fact considering where they end up going in the upcoming years. Also a young HBK and Taker battling an in his prime Ric Flair is something to behold.
4. Ric Flair’s Quest: Ric Flair walked into the WWE with WCW’s title, claiming he was the real world’s champion. This was Flair’s first opportunity to prove it. While the Royal Rumble match itself is always an exciting match, one to look forward to for months, Flair’s quest inside the ring made this one even more of a must-see. There was Hogan. There was Savage. But all eyes were on the Nature Boy. A lot of WWE fans were just introduced to Flair and did not know what he brought to the table. Outlasting 29 other men would show that Flair talked the talked and walked the walked.
5. Gorilla & The Brain: The suit makes the man and sometimes the commentary makes the match. In this case, the match was excellent on its own, but the commentating took it to the next level. The legendary duo of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan – Ric Flair’s adviser at the time - were on fire during this event. They told a story, called the match, and were beyond amusing.
When Flair enters at #3, Gorilla says, “You can kiss it goodbye, Brain.”
Heenan yells hilarious comments throughout the contest including:
“It’s not fair to Flair!”
“Take it easy Ric!”
“The roof’s starting to spin, I’m getting dizzy.”
“Barbarian doesn’t like anybody. When I managed him, he barely liked me!”
“Any schlemiel can win this!”
“I got to go to ringside, Monsoon.”
“Weasel your way out. I never thought I’d say that.”
“I told you Monsoon! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
And of course, Gorilla is also heard once or twice saying, “Will you be serious?”
6. Jack Tunney: It wasn’t a big deal in the late 1980s and early 1990s unless President Jack Tunney was on the scene. The former WWF on-air figurehead opened the Rumble with a speech where he may or may not have forgotten the words Royal Rumble… “The winner of this event.” Heenan, who referred to the president as “Jack on-the-take Tunney,” was not very patient with Tunney’s speech, exclaiming, “Come on, let’s go!”
7. The Middle: Any good Rumble has a middle section where the action stops and the focus is one or two – 1990’s Hogan vs. Warrior meeting, as an example. This happens in 1992 when the Big Bossman gets eliminated and Ric Flair is left standing alone. “Flair wins it! Flair is champion of the world!” Heenan exclaims. “Are you kidding? There’s a lot more guys!” Monsoon explains. And then that brings out Rowdy Roddy Piper – a rival of Flair! What are the odds? This was certainly not fair to Flair.
8. Hulk Hogan’s Final Rumble: Any time Hulk Hogan would enter a Royal Rumble, he would rid the ring of the low and mid-carders. This was Hogan’s final Rumble and though he did throw out the Berzerker in seconds, he also eliminated the Undertaker, which was a surprise.
9. The Sid Justice Turn: While everyone was hoping for a Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair main event at WrestleMania VIII, the ending of the Royal Rumble laid the groundwork for a Sid Justice heel turn. After Hogan was eliminated by Justice, Hogan put his hand out to Justice to say no hard feelings, but Hogan would not let go and with the help of Flair, Justice was eliminated, giving Flair the win and the title. Hogan and Justice would have a post-match brouhaha. To many, what Hogan did was heelish, but this moment made Sid go insane and be the heel at Mania’s main event.
10. Flair’s Victory Speech: The post-game victory speech of all post-game victory speeches. Writing about the speech wouldn’t do it justice (not Sid Justice, just regular justice), so here is what Flair had to say for your enjoyment:
I’m going to tell you all, with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life. When you walk around this world, telling everybody you’re number one, the only way you get to stay number one is to be number one and this is the only title in the wrestling world that makes you number one. When you are the king of the WWF, you rule the world. Think about it like that, Mr. Perfect, the Brain. Woooo!
It’s the greatest moment of my life. I want to jump. I want to party. But I got to tell you like this, for the Hulk Hogans, and the Macho Mans, and the Pipers, and the Sids, now it’s Ric Flair, and you all better pay homage to the man.
Who will walk away champion this year? The man, of course.