I have to admit that this is s Royal Rumble that I haven’t been looking forward to. It’s nothing against Vincent Kennedy McMahon. I love and respect the man for much of what he’s done, in the wrestling industry and outside it, and I know it worked perfectly into the storyline at that point for him to win, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The 12th Royal Rumble took place on January 24, 1999 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. Sunday Night Heat showed three matches before the PPV started. Christian defeated Jeff Hardy. Bob Holly and Scorpio defeated Too Much – Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay. Mankind defeated Mabel. When the Royal Rumble started there were five undercard matches. The Big Boss Man defeated Road Dogg. Ken Shamrock defeated Billy Gunn to retain his IC Championship. X-Pac defeated Gangrel to retain his European Championship. Sable defeated Luna Vachon and retained her WWF Women’s Championship in a Strap Match, even though Luna had Shane McMahon in her corner. The last match on the undercard, even though it was really a main event, was Rocky defeating Mankind in an I Quit Match to win the WWF Championship, even though Rocky never made Foley say the words. Foley’s words were on tape. Finally after Rocky had beaten the heck out of Foley, I counted eleven unprotected head shots to Foley with a chair, prerecorded audio of Foley quitting was played. I went back to watch the match to make sure I was remembering the correct match as it wasn’t their only I Quit Match, but this on I remember so clearly because I was disgusted by the chair shots then, well before we knew what we know now about head injuries.
The Royal Rumble Match started with Steve Austin and Vincent Kennedy McMahon as entrants one and two. A new entrant joined the match every ninety seconds or so. Golga (John Tenta, aka Earthquake) was entrant #3, but the first to be eliminated, and that was by Austin. Then Droz, then Edge, then Gillbert and the ring started to fill up with wrestlers. Austin and VKM fought away from the ring, through the building and into the public toilets. VKM had the Corporation there waiting and they attacked Austin. They beat Austin down and left him lying on the floor of the public toilets (um, ew!). #11 was supposed to be Headbanger Mosh, but Mabel beat him up and took his spot in the match. Mabel into the ring and he started cleaning house. Mabel was eliminated ninth and it took Faarooq, Mideon and Branshaw to get him from the ring. Austin also eliminated quite a few entrants. Chyna was the #30 entrant and she somehow eliminated Mark Henry before Austin eliminated her. I just want to mention that Chyna was the first female entrant in the Royal Rumble Match and she did eliminate a wrestler while she was in there. That’s quite a feat! But then Austin eliminated her, Trip, Big Boss Man. Then it was back down to the final two, the two who started the match. Much of the match VKM had been outside the ring to avoid elimination, so Austin had to leave the ring to attack VKM. They made it back into the ring after chair shots and fighting through the crowd. VKM managed to get to his feet and kicked Austin in the slats. Austin came back with a stunner, but Rocky rushes to the ring and gets on the apron taunting Austin with the WWF Championship belt. Austin swung at Rocky and VKM used Austin’s momentum to throw him over the top and out to win the Royal Rumble.
Since VKM wasn’t a regular wrestler he was going to give up his main event at WM, but then Commissioner HBK told VKM that the match would go to the Royal Rumble runner up, Austin. VKM didn’t like that, but what Austin really wanted was one more shot at VKM without any legal ramifications and without the Corporation’s involvement. This led to their Steel Cage Match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: In Your House – a favorite match of mine. For me this match was the embodiment of a beaten down worker taking his boss out in any way possible and in the end totally screwing the boss. Austin beat the heck out of VKM who just kept coming back for more. In the end VKM thought he had Austin beat with his secret weapon. That was the night Paul Wight (Big Show) debuted with the WWF. He came up through the ring, breaking through the canvas to save VKM, but in doing so he threw Austin against the cage so hard that it broke. Austin fell to the floor outside and won the match as his feet hit the floor. Austin went on to WMXV and beat Rocky for the WWF Championship for the second year in a row.
I know this is supposed to be about the push received by the Royal Rumble winner, but this is Vincent Kennedy McMahon! He’s the boss, the genius behind it all and this is when things started to change for him in the Monday Night War. It seemed for a while that at every turn Bisch and WCW was getting the better of him and the WWF. But at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: In Your House was the first of VKM’s coups on WCW. Paul Wight (Giant in WCW, Big Show in WWF) had been released by WCW and was the first of the talent that VKM brought in unannounced the way WCW had done with Lex Luger, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, etc. this proved to be one of VKM’s big step in turning things around. Don’t get me wrong, Austin, DX, Attitude Era, Austin Era, the fans love of Foley and Rocky had a lot to do with how things were going, but Wight was the first big name that VKM brought over from WCW without anyone knowing. Wight was the first big star to be brought into the WWF who hadn’t first been made a big star in the WWF. It was before the 1999 Royal Rumble that the biggest turn in the Wars was made. That night on January 4th when Tony Schiavone said those fateful words, “Fans, if you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, do not. We understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here at one time as Cactus Jack, is gonna win their World title. Ha! That’s gonna put some butts in the seats, heh.” The fans so wanted to see Foley win the WWF Championship that they turned the channel to watch. This was the first segment that the WWF won in the ratings. After RAW was over the fans turned back to see the last five minutes of Nitro. Fans wanted to see what both shows had to offer, but Bisch’s routine of spoiling RAW bit them on the butt for the first time and it was just the start of things to come.
We all know the stories about VKM in the ring, the Monday Night Wars and all that went down back then, so I’m going to leave this one here, but with one last little comment. It seems as though January 4th has been a big day in wrestling through many years. I wonder why that is. Of course it’s the start of the new year and fresh beginnings, but why the 4th?
Thanks for reading,