Matches from History: The 1998 Royal Rumble match

Craig Wilson

As we hit Royal Rumble weekend, it felt only right to do another Royal Rumble match as a ‘Match from History’ and today’s choice is from fifteen years ago, the 1998 Royal Rumble held on 18 January 1988 at the San Jose Arena in San Jose, California. That year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view was headlined by the WWF title match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, a match that saw Michaels hit his back on the casket at ringside and cause the injury that would, after Wrestlemania 14, see him take a four year break from wrestling.

Your hosts for this one are Jim Ross and Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler.

Royal_Rumble_1998Ahead of the match itself, Jim Ross leads us through a video promo highlighting why the Rattlesnake is a marked man ahead of this one and why he has a “bullseye on his chest”.

Entrant number is Cactus Jack, unfortunately this is the newer version of this match and we get overdubbed music instead of Jack’s usual entrance music. Number 2 is of course Chainsaw Charlie better known to the wrestling world as Terry Funk. Only in the attitude era can g guy get away with taking a chainsaw into the ring as Cactus Jack, armed with a steel chair, attempts to take him out. A duelling chair shots takes place, there won’t be many drop toe holds between these two… Funk takes a chair shot without putting his hands up something that now makes me wince, knowing as we do about the impact these chair shots have. Funk and Jack now trade unprotected shots to the head. Number 3 is on his way to the ring now and it is Tom Brandi, I fear this won’t work out too well for the big Italian and I’m right, he’s immediately eliminated from proceedings. A good line from Lawler that Funk’s family’s gene pool could have done with some chlorine. Funk is suplexed on to two chairs as the countdown to number four starts. Number 4 is the Intercontinental Champion, the Nation of Domination’s, The Rock. Rock looks to have the early advantage before Jack hits him with a steel can and puts it over The Rock’s head as he and Funk punch away at the can before Jack hits it with a steel chair. This sends The Rock to the outside, but through the ropes and not over. Number 5 is next and it is Headbanger Mosh as Funk throws a chair down the aisle to try and hit him with it. Christ that could have gone badly wrong if it had went into the crowd. The Rock and Jack lock up as Mosh works away on Funk and takes him down with a DDT. Funk fights back as Jack hits a running knee on The Rock in the corner. Mosh manages to roll out of the way of a Funk moonsault – the oldest moonsault in the world. The countdown is on to number 6 and Phineas Godwinn, “living proof of what happens when first cousins marry” according to JR. The unlikely duo of The Rock and Godwinn team up to beat down Mosh before Jack attacks Godwinn and Funk goes for The Rock. 8-Ball, from DOA, is next and he goes straight for The Rock. At that point DOA and NOD were in the midst of a feud that lasted all the way from Crush leaving NOD in mid 97 until a few months after this event. Cacus Jack is eliminated by Chainsaw Charlie and doesn’t quite last ten minutes here. Number 8 is Blackjack Bradshaw, the future JBL, who at this time was one of The New Blackjacks with Barry Windham. Unsurprisingly he, Mosh and Phineas trade shots in a sign of just how shit the tag team division was at that point. 8-Ball and Bradshaw trade huge blows as Charlie tries to throw out The Rock. Bradshaw and Mosh team up to attempt to eliminate 8-Ball as Phineas and The Rock nearly throw over Funk but he holds on. Number 9 is Owen Hart but he is jumped by Jeff Jarrett before he can get to the ring and Cornette hits Owen with his loaded tennis racket. At this point Jarrett was the NWA North American Champion as the NWA had a bit of an invasion angle on the go in a desperate attempt, and ultimately unsuccessful one, to get WCW viewers dissatisfied by the WCW product featuring the NWO to switch over to the WWF. It didn’t really work as the NWA by this point meant virtually nothing. Owen never made it to the ring and is helped backstage as number 10, Steve Blackman, hits the ring and he goes straight for Chainsaw Charlie and nearly eliminates him but Charlie holds on. 8-Ball then works away on Charlie and drops him with a piledriver as Bradshaw takes down Mosh with a short arm lariat. Blackman nearly eliminates Godwinn.

We’re at number 11 already and it is D’Lo Brown that makes his way to the ring and goes straight away for 8-Ball. Bradshaw and Mosh attempt to eliminate Funk as The Rock puts the boots firmly into Blackman in the corner. The NOD members of The Rock and D’Lo work on Bradshaw before The Rock and D’Lo trade punches. The huge Kurrgan is out next and he goes straight for Mosh as Bradshaw and 8-Ball level shots at Kurrgan that make no impact. Mosh goes to the top turnbuckle to attack Kurrgan but is pushed over the top and thrown out. Marc Mero, with Sable, is number 13 and gets a huge pop. Think most of it was for Sable mind… The educated fists of Mero work away on Blackman as Kurrgan and Bradshaw trade blows. Kurrgan then throws Blackman out. Funk and Mero trade punches as The Rock works away on D’Lo in the corner. Kurrgan turns his focus on Godwinn and overpowers Bradshaw as the countdown to number 14 starts. Ken Shamrock makes his way to the ring and a series of kicks takes down Kurrgan. Shamrock, Bradshaw, Phineas and 8-Ball manage to throw out Kurrgan and he’s gone. Shamrock hammers away on Godwinn in the corner as 8-Ball takes down D’Lo. The Rock and Funk trade blows as we approach the half way mark with number 15. It’s the other Headbanger Thrasher that makes his way to the ring clad in a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Bradshaw takes Thrasher straight out. Elsewhere, Shamrock works on 8-Ball as The Rock and Funk continue to battle away. The second appearance from Mick Foley as Mankind makes his way to the ring and eliminates Chainsaw Charlie straight away. Turnabout is indeed fair play, JR. A full year ahead of their feud that would electrify the early proceedings of 1999, The Rock and Mankin go toe-to-toe. Shamrock, who earlier was very unlucky to not win the Intercontinental title, then works away on The Rock before a Rock gauge to the eyes breaks things up. 17 is next and it is The Artist formerly known as Goldust accompanied by Luna Vachon. Mankind and TAFKA Goldust battle away as Shamrock and The Rock continue to trade blows. Bradshaw and Godwinn double team Thrasher as TAFKA Goldust throws Mankind over the top rope and out. TAFKA has Mero teetering on the brink but 8-Ball interrupts that. Jeff Jarrett is next as he makes his way to the ring accompanied by Jim Cornette. Second time we’ve seen Jarrett in this Rumble after his previous attack on Owen Hart which prevented Hart making his way to the ring. Jarrett goes for his future NWA colleague Bradshaw as Hart runs to the ring and goes for Jarrett. Owen is a face at this point and gets a great reaction from the crowd. He then tosses his future tag team partner into the corner and knocks him down with a spinning heel kick and skins the cat after a failed Jarrett elimination attempt and throws Jarrett out. Mero then attacks Hart as The Honky Tonk Man makes his way to the ring to a reasonable pop. Behind Honky Tonk is HHH, on crutches, accompanied by Chyna. The Rock eliminates Shamrock as HHH distracts Owen who is in the process of throwing out Goldust. Chyna attempts to hit Owen with the crutch which Owen catches but HHH cracks him with the other crutch and eliminates him. Ahmed Johnson is number 20 and don’t be surprised if he goes for one of the Nation members. Honky Tonk works on Goldust as a prone D’Lo is kicked by Mero. Ahmed and Phineas go nose to nose. Ahmed and D’Lo trade blows as 8-Ball saves Honky Tonk from elimination at the hands of Goldust.

Mark Henry is number 21, he’s the newest member of NOD and by far the biggest. The WWF loved stables at this stage and particularly loved the gang feud they had going with NOD, DOA and Los Boricuas. Henry and D’Lo then double team Ahmed but 8-Ball comes to Johnson’s rescue. Henry then throws powder in Ahmed’s eyes as the buzzer goes for number 22 who doesn’t come out. JR and Lawler speculate if that was meant to be Austin as both Ahmed and Phineas are thrown out, by Henry and D’Lo and Henry respectively. Incidentally, 22 was meant to be Skull, from DOA, who was unable to compete due to injury. Ahmed attacks Godwinn on the outside as the two big men trade blows all the way to the back. D’Lo then works over the prone Henry as Kama Mustafa, also from the NOD, hits the ring. He pushes Ahmed away at the entrance way. Kama goes straight for 8-Ball as The Rock, the then Intercontinental champion, works away on the former Intercontinental champion The Honky Tonk Man. D’Lo comes to The Rock’s aid as Kama works away on 8-Ball before turning his attention to Honky Tonk. 23 is next and Steve Austin’s music hits. The crowd go absolutely nuts as his music hits. All guys turn their attention to the aisle as Austin comes through the crowd and eliminates Mero and 8-Ball in quick succession. Austin is on fire here and the crowd are going crazy for him. Austin chokes D’Lo with his vest. The other Godwinn is next as Henry rushes to the ring and hunts Austin out and works him down in the corner. Thrasher takes The Rock down before both D’Lo and Kama put the boots into the The Rock in the corner. Kama then punches D’Lo down. Honky Tonk tries to eliminate Bradshaw but the Blackjack fights back with a series of big punches. Henry is nearly eliminated by Austin but holds on. Savio Vega is next and hits the ring with Los Boricuas and they attack Austin. Only Vega is the legal man and Austin quickly rids the ring of the other Los Boricuas. Henry then gains the upper hand over Austin as Kama and D’Lo attack Vega. Austin lands a low blow on Goldust, despite the protests of Vachon. The Rock hits away on D’Lo as Honky attempts to throw out Henry. The final Nation of Domination member, and leader, Farooq is out now. He goes straight for The Rock then hits all the other members of the NOD. Anything can happen in the Rumble. Austin and The Rock work away on each other at ringside and Austin is thrown into the steel steps. Neither man is eliminated, however. It’s a packed ring at the moment as number 28, Dude Love, is next – the third, and final, appearance from Mick Foley in the 1998 Royal Rumble. Love eliminates Bradshaw straight away as Austin throws Goldust into the steps at ringside. Inside the ring, The Rock hits the people’s elbow on D’Lo. Austin continues to attack The Rock before Vega jumps Austin from behind. Number 29 is Chainz from the DOA. He focuses his attention on the NOD and Mark Henry and tries to eliminate him straight away as Farooq eliminates D’Lo. Chainz works away on Honky Tonk as Henry attacks Austin. Elsewhere Farooq works away on his NOD colleague The Rock. The buzzer goes for number 30 and it’s Vader.

At this stage I’ll let you know who is still in there, Goldust, Vader, Henry, Kama, Savio Vega, Henry Godwinn, Honky Tonk, Dude Love, Chainz, Steve Austin, The Rock, Farooq. Vader throws out Honky Tonk straight away and turns his attention to Goldust who catches Vader with a low blow. Vader knocks down The Rock as Farooq works on D’Lo. Stone Cold throws out Thrasher and Kama is quick succession. Austin blocks a piledriver attempt and backbody drops Vega before launching him over the top rope and out of there as Goldust clotheslines Vader out. Continuing with the quick eliminations, both Goldust and Godwinn are out of there as well. We’ve Henry, Dude Love, Farooqq, The Rock, Chainz and Austin left in there. Just as I write that Chainz is eliminated by Austin and Farooq eliminates Henry. We’re down to the final four: The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Farooq and Dude Love. Dude Love and Farooq lock horns as Austin kicks away on The Rock in the corner. A big clothesline from Austin takes down Farooq as a double-arm DDT puts The Rock on the mat. Austin then counters Dude Love’s mandible claw with a low blog and Love is clotheslined out of there by Farooq. Farooq works on Austin the corner as The Rock takes a breather. The Rock then eliminates Farooq as we’re left with Austin v The Rock. Austin hits a stunner on The Rock and eliminates him. The winner, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Overall: 8/10. A Rumble match that was the embodiment of the Attitude era that would follow it and the WWF at that time. We saw various stables trade blows, we had over the top gimmicks like Goldust and we saw some early indications of just how big a deal Sable would become. The whole match was about Austin after the way he took out everyone in the weeks and months preceding the match. As a result, the crowd were so hot for Austin’s arrival and he was on fire in the ring. The seeds were sewn for the split up of the Nation of Domination and we got early sight of some of the guys that would go on to become huge stars in the years ahead.

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