I have to admit I was shocked to see Angle being shown on WWETV. I know that they were showing how Triple H won the Royal Rumble Match in 2002, but so much Angle. Same with Edge’s Hall of Fame video with Hogan being so prominent in it, then the Four Horsemen, Flair prominent, as he absolutely should be (no matter how much my heart goes pitter-patter for Arn). I know that VKM and the WWE doesn’t think TNA/IW is at all a worry for them and they’re sure proving it by not ignoring or avoiding using video of wrestlers who are now with TNA/IW. Such a huge leap from how things were handled during the Monday Night War, something TNA/IW will never even be close to resurrecting. The other thing that has been coming up a lot, due to Tebow, is Austin 3:16 and how that whole thing came about. I won’t be writing about how Austin 3:16 came about as that will be in my King Of The Ring series (and it was the 1996 KOTR that started Austin 3:16), but the 1997 was a big step in Austin’s career and him becoming the most successful wrestler ever. I’m sure there will be arguments about that, but I’m sticking by that statement.
On January 19, 1997, the Royal Rumble took place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The undercard included Triple H defeating Goldust to retain his IC Title, Ahmed Johnson defeating Faarooq, Vader defeating Taker, and Hector Garza, Perro Aquayo and El Canek defeating Jerry Estrada, Heavy Metal and Fuersa Guerrera in a Tag Team Match. The other main event at the PPV was HBK with Jose Lothario defeating Sycho Sid to regain the WWF Championship. Lothario was HBK’s trainer who acted at HBK’s manager for a couple months. The Royal Rumble Match started with Crush and Ahmed Johnson as entrants one and two. Crush was eliminated third by Phineas Godwinn. Ahmed lasted for a while in the match, that is until Faarooq came in as #18. Continue his feud with Faarooq and showing his fear of the man, Ahmed eliminated himself. Faarooq eliminated #17, Latin Lover, then himself as Ahmed returned and went after Faarooq with a 2X4! Austin came in as entrant #5 and was eliminated by Bret Hart. The thing was that no ref saw Austin’s elimination, so he snuck back into the match. Austin ended up lasting 45:07, and while not breaking the time record, he did beat Hogan’s record of eliminating nine entrants in 1989 by eliminating ten entrants.
Austin’s star was already on the rise in a big way as he had won the famous 1996 KOTR, but winning his first Royal Rumble in 1997 didn’t hurt him at all. This win led to his first PPV main event. At In Your House 13: Final Four, Austin was in the main event for the WWF Championship. HBK had injured himself and vacated the Title, so the vacated Title was fought for in a Four Corners Elimination Match between Austin, Taker, Bret Hart and Vader. This was a match that we wouldn’t see in today’s PG WWE. Between the cut by Vader’s eye, the weapons used between Austin and Vader – chairs, stairs, bell, and even cameraman – and the ruthless way they all approached this match, VKM would have all the refs ringside with white towels to hide any color. Vader locked a sharpshooter on Bret, but Austin attacked Vader with brass knucks. Vader then went after Taker, giving Bret time to lift Austin in a fireman’s carry and send him out over the top for elimination. But this was Austin, that wasn’t his last involvement in this match. He attacked Bret while giving Taker time to eliminate Vader. Taker and Bret fought, but Austin distracted Taker so Bret had the chance to clothesline Taker over the top and win the match as well as the previously vacated WWF Championship. The next night Hart defended his WWF Championship against Sycho Sid, but Austin again got involved and ended Bret’s Title reign after only one day. On the March 17th episode of RAW, Bret went after the WWF Championship in a Steel Cage Match. The winner of this match would defend the Title at WMXIII against their already named opponent, while the other would face their previously named opponent without defending the strap. Hart was slated to face Austin, Sid was slated to face Taker. Taker helped Sid so he could fight for the Title, Austin helped Bret so he could fight for the Title. Sid ended up winning and taking the strap to WMXIII to face Taker.
Bret and Austin faced off in a No DQ Submission Match with a Special Guest Ref – Ken Shamrock! Bret walked into this match as the face, Austin the heel. Austin attacked Bret early and often. Many weapons were used and they fought way up into the stands, Shamrock with them the whole way, then helped guide the match backed to the ring. Austin was busted open and they both continued using weapons, right down to Austin choking Bret with a monitor cable. Bret finally managed to get the sharpshooter on Austin, but Austin refused to tap out or give up. Austin finally ended up ‘passing out due to blood loss’, so Shamrock named Bret the winner of the match. After the bell Bret continued to attack Austin. The fans started booing Bret and cheering for Austin in what ended up being a rare double-turn! Shamrock challenged Bret to a match after he suplexed Bret off Austin. Bret refused and left the ring to a excess of heat.
Austin and Bret continued with their rather brutal feud though the entire year and into 1997. I remember them fighting over and over, but this feud didn’t get tiring as some seem to these days. Maybe it’s the freedom they had because they didn’t have to remember to stay PG? Just a thought. I also want to mention that I will have all of these written before Royal Rumble 2012!