Whether you love the match or think it’s overrated, there is no denying that the Royal Rumble is one of the most exciting events of the wrestling year. New rivalries are forged, stars are born, and the narrative direction for the remainder of the year is set in motion.
I went back and watched a number of Royal Rumble matches, but one, in particular, caught my attention and reminded me of how great this event can be. You may disagree, but I pose that 1999 delivered the best and most memorable Rumble ever.
What’s great about the ’99 Rumble is that you can go into the match with no prior knowledge of the product and understand who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy. A grungy video package sets up the McMahon/Austin feud, complete with one of the funniest middle finger flip-offs I’ve ever seen and a clip of Austin running over cars in the parking lot with a Monster Truck on Sunday Night Heat. Oh, Heat, how I miss you. Commentary proceeds to remind us that there is a $100,000 bounty on Stone Cold’s head to be paid out to whoever eliminates him from the match.
The tagline and song for the PPV was ‘No Chance in Hell’ which would go on to become Vince’s entrance theme. Before he used to walk out in silence but adopted the song as his own in the weeks that followed.
Austin is the first entrant and gets a deafening reaction from the crowd. You can feel the intensity from him as he walks down to the ring. His presence is undeniable and I don’t know if we’ll ever see anyone like him again. Mr. McMahon enters second. A great decision by the bookers that allowed them to tell this story throughout the entirety of the match. This was Vince’s first time competing in an official match and he came to the ring ready to show off his muscles. I wonder how long before this he was thinking to himself “I gotta get swole?” I can’t emphasize enough how ridiculous it was to see him without a shirt on looking like he just did a full body butter shave. He was basted in it!
Regardless, the bell rings and Austin starts beating the crap out of Vince. The stomps in the corner are vicious and made me wish we still saw that type of fire. Austin then proceeds to grab Vince’s legs to kick him in the groin. It’s a fun spot, but I’ve always wondered why nobody ever covers themselves before getting hit. Your hands are free after all. But I digress.
As with most Rumble matches, there isn’t much in-ring action to note, so I’ll be touching mostly on any major happenings and commenting on the performer's attire because I seem to have a lot of notes on that for some reason.
Golga, from the Oddities, enters third and is promptly eliminated by Austin. Mr. McMahon uses this time to try and escape through the crowd but Austin follows and the two brawl all the way up the stairs and into the concourse. I love it when fights used to end up in random parts of the arena. It makes the show feel fresh and visually interesting instead of always being locked in one spot. Vince stumbles into the women’s restroom where Test, Ken Shamrock and Boss Man are waiting to ambush Austin. Cue Admiral Ackbar screaming “IT’S A TRAP!” Stone Cold is left lying face down on the floor of a public restroom by The Corporation. The fact that he was lying beneath a baby change table added a sense of realism that I, and probably only I, appreciated.
Droz is the fourth entrant into the Rumble and is alone in the ring until Edge enters at number five. I used to be a fan of this loner/outcast version of Edge. The Brood used to scare the crap out of me, but their storyline with The Ministry of Darkness was always entertaining. Gillberg comes out at number six and got a surprisingly big pop from the crowd. I admittedly laughed pretty hard when he got blasted with a fire extinguisher on his way to the ring. Naturally, he was eliminated immediately. For whatever reason, when he came out I started thinking about James Ellsworth and how I hope he is a surprise entrant this Sunday.
Steve Blackman is number seven and I kid you not I yawned when I saw his face. Dan Severn followed at eight and Tiger Ali Singh at nine. To cap off this run of people I didn’t care about was The Blue Meanie at ten. He was my least favourite character and I always hated that disgusting crop-top he used to wear.
The eleventh entrant was supposed to be Mosh from The Headbangers, but he was attacked backstage by Mabel who proceeded to take his spot in the Rumble. I really wish WWE would stop doing stuff like this because it does nothing but call into question the rules of the event and they’ve proven that they don’t even know what’s allowed to happen. Mabel eliminated Severn, Blackman and Tiger Ali Singh in quick order.
Road Dogg is the twelfth entrant. After Edge low blows Mabel, Road Dogg throws Edge over the top rope and he takes a hellacious spill to the outside where he hits his head hard on the announce table. Next, The Acolytes and Mideon came to the ring, though not as participants, and eliminated Mabel from the match and beat him up. They took him backstage to meet The Undertaker, who put him in a trance and then eventually drove off with him in the back of a hearse. Michael Cole, who was unfortunately on commentary instead of Jim Ross, proclaimed that “he’ll never be the same again!” Thus begins the transition from Mabel to Viscera.
Gangrel is entrant thirteen and my mind immediately jumped to Seinfeld heckles. "Avast ye matey". "20 degrees off the starboard side - the Spanish Galleon!" Sadly for Gangrel, much like Jerry, there were no comebacks that night as he was promptly eliminated by Road Dogg, who now stood alone in the ring. Kurrgan from The Oddities enters at fourteen. I never realized this before, but he looks remarkably like Mr. Larson from Happy Gilmore. Al Snow comes out at fifteen and is eliminated by Road Dogg just as Goldust is about to be the sixteenth entrant. I never saw the appeal of Goldust. I can appreciate his influence on that era but his character was never very compelling and he never struck me as a legitimate threat. If you love him that’s great, but his storylines never interested me.
The Godfather is number seventeen and brings out the Ho-Train. Always a fun character and instantly adds an infectious energy to any show he is on. Kane enters at number eighteen and absolutely cleans house. Road Dogg, Kurrgan, The Godfather and Goldust are all eliminated by the Big Red Machine. As he stands alone in the ring, we see a number of people in white jackets heading down the aisle holding straitjackets. Mr. McMahon was threatening to send Kane to an insane asylum. Kane proceeds to kill the two who were brave enough to enter the ring and then chases the remaining orderlies through the crowd. However, in doing so he stepped over the top rope eliminating himself from the match. This was a strange decision but made sense when you consider the character and their priorities.
Mr. McMahon returns to ringside at the commentary table as Ken Shamrock enters the Rumble at number nineteen. Vince exclaims that Austin is not coming back. An obvious bit of foreshadowing. Billy Gunn is number twenty and is coming off a hotly contested Intercontinental Title match earlier in the night. Shamrock goes after Gunn’s injured ankle which was a nice tie-in to his earlier match. Test enters at twenty-one wearing sparkly purple hot pants that you’d expect to see on a volleyball player. I mock, but I like that everyone looked different. So many people today have a very generic look and this gave the old characters some extra personality. Boss Man enters at twenty-two looking like the father of The Shield.
Stone Cold is back! After commandeering an ambulance and making his way back to the ring, Austin eliminates Shamrock and the look on Vince’s face was one of absolute disbelief. Never have I seen anyone gulp any harder than Vince at that moment. Perfect over-acting!
Triple H enters at twenty-three. I forgot how lanky Hunter used to be. He also never seemed like a good fit in DX. I can’t imagine many people thought of him as the cool rebel. He was always incredibly boring to me, but I'll admit that my image of him today is likely clouding my memory. Val Venis is twenty-four, and X-Pac is twenty-five. Mark Henry enters at twenty-six. What I liked about Henry here is that commentary gave him some added motivation by saying “Sexual Chocolate can probably do a lot for his ladies with $100,000”. Jeff Jarrett enters at twenty-seven with Debra. I feel like they took her old wardrobe and just handed it to Lana. D'Lo Brown comes out at twenty-eight. I always loved D'Lo but hated how his chest protector made him look like the goalie in a children's street hockey game.
At this point, Austin has now eliminated Billy Gunn, Test and X-Pac. Vince is literally sweating on the outside.
Owen Hart enters at twenty-nine. The thirtieth and final entrant is Chyna, who also makes history by becoming the first woman to ever compete in the Royal Rumble match. She quickly set her sights on Henry and eliminated him, but was then thrown out by Austin as she stood taunting the fallen Sexual Chocolate. Triple H was then eliminated by Stone Cold. The final four are Boss Man, D'Lo Brown, Stone Cold and Mr. McMahon. I wish there had been one more big name in the final four to keep you guessing, but all along you knew it had to come down to Austin and McMahon so I suppose it didn’t necessarily matter who was left. I still think another powerhouse would have added some extra intrigue.
D'Lo and Boss Man were quickly thrown out. Austin began pummeling Vince and was on the verge of winning his third straight Rumble when The Rock’s music hit. Side note, The Rock’s chops were absurd, add in his hair and he looks like a completely different person. Nevertheless, this served to distract Austin and when he turned his back, Vince capitalized and threw him over the top rope to win the match.
Nineteen years later and I’m still riveted by this match. I implore you all to go back and watch the ’99 Rumble. It’s my favourite, and in my opinion, the greatest. You have the iconic working class hero versus his boss, a brawl in the women’s bathroom, a guy taken away in an ambulance, a guy commandeering said ambulance and returning to the match, a guy kidnaped and taken away in a hearse, a guy surrounded by orderlies attempting to put him in a strait jacket only to be brutally beaten, a $100,000 bounty, the first woman to enter the rumble (Chyna) and you had Vince McMahon winning the rumble, which no one could have predicted in a million years.
Let me know what your favourite Rumble match is and remember to check out Sean’s Retro Rumble post for all of his thoughts on the event through the years.