As we move into 1991, we get the start on the Road To WrestleMania VII. Big changes are at hand, with the longest title reign in decades having been stopped at Survivor Series, the first time the World Championship was defended at the event. New competitors are showing up every day, how will they affect the landscape?
WWF World Title
In the fallout from Survivor Series, Randy Savage was distraught about his historic title run coming to an end. Livid to say the least, he was demanding that Sgt. Slaughter step up and give him his rematch immediately, not wanting to wait for The Royal Rumble. When Sgt. Slaughter and Randy Savage were finally face to face in an interview, Savage got so worked up and angry that he shoved Mean Gene, leading to a flock of WWF officials showing up and holding Savage back. He attacked several of them in the process of trying to get at Sgt. Slaughter, and he was then suspended. It was announced that Hulk Hogan would get an opportunity to fight for the belt, but at the press conference, Randy Savage showed up and badly injured Sgt. Slaughter’s back. That forced the WWF to strip Slaughter of the belt, stating that because Slaughter was going to be out for an indeterminate amount of time, the WWF World Title was now going to be on the line in The Royal Rumble, crowning the winner as the new champion!
Other Royal Rumble Storylines
With the biggest title in the business as the prize, overall interest in being part of the Royal Rumble is at an all-time high. Current roster members and new competitors alike have been popping up, looking to make their claim to be part of the over-the-top spectacular.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts got even more creepy in the weeks leading up to The Royal Rumble. He would defeat his opponents, then put his snake over their lifeless body to crawl around, meanwhile he would sit in the corner and speak in riddles and metaphors. He also had a couple interviews with Mean Gene where it was difficult to decipher what his point was, though the look in his eye told how dangerous he was growing.
The Undertaker appeared in an eerie segment with a new manager, Paul Bearer. We saw that Bearer possessed a magic urn which appeared to have something to do with the other-worldly power that The Undertaker appears to possess. Leading up to The Royal Rumble, The Undertaker went on a streak of destroying opponents (and scaring children) on WWF Superstars. He defeated such superstars as Koko B Ware, Virgil, Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine, putting them each in body bags at the end of the matches and carrying them backstage.
Once part of a tag team with Dynamite Kid, we saw the return of Davey Boy Smith, now known as The British Bulldog. In his exhibition matches, he showed great displays of strength, most notably with his elevated, stalling vertical suplex and his running powerslam.
Jim Duggan had taken to carrying around a four-foot 2×4 piece of wood with him wherever he went, calling people “tough guy” and yelling “HOOOOOOO!” almost indiscriminately.
Rick Martel continued to be a competitor who avoided being pinned or submitted, partially through winning matches at any cost, and other times getting himself counted out or disqualified.
Earthquake and Typhoon were always together, mostly wrestling in singles matches while occasionally teaming up to form a dominant team when they weren’t pursuing singles victories.
Jimmy Snuka returned from injury and mostly just gave interviews, but occasionally wrestled a match – always winning with the Superfly Splash.
World Tag Team Championship Match
The Rockers showed up for an interview with Mean Gene Oakerland, and halfway through Marty Jannetty being nice and talking about how they love the fans and think it’s awesome that some of them are really starting to join the fanbase, Shawn Michaels spoke up and talked about how The Rockers shouldn’t be waiting in line behind any other teams because they’re the most popular and exciting and how they’ve beaten a ton of other teams. Shawn issued a challenge to The Hart Foundation for a title shot at The Royal Rumble. The following week, The Hart Foundation were asked to respond, and Anvil said he didn’t care who they faced. Bret said that he had seen The Rockers wrestle, and while he respected their abilities, he felt like they were “getting too big for their britches”. Mean Gene asked Bret to clarify whether they were accepting the challenge or not, and he said that The Hart Foundation isn’t afraid to wrestle anybody.
A couple weeks later, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty showed up at an interview with Mean Gene Oakerland and The Hart Foundation, and Shawn got in Bret’s face, telling him that it was clear that Bret wasn’t giving The Rockers the amount of respect that he should be. Hart’s response was that The Rockers hadn’t won tag title gold yet, and if they could do that, he’d be willing to say they’re a top team in the WWF. Until then, they had a lot to prove. Shawn got into Bret’s face and said that he remembered The Royal Rumble the previous year, when Bret eliminated him, and that he wasn’t going to forget it. Ever. And that part of his retribution was going to be taking the tag team gold from them at The Royal Rumble. Anvil just laughed, Marty Jannetty looked like he felt a bit uneasy, but Bret didn’t back down. Leading up to The Royal Rumble, Bret and Shawn had a good one-on-one exhibition match, which Shawn won via school-boy roll-up. For a moment during the pinfall, it looked like Shawn was pulling the trunks for a little bit of leverage, but after the announcer mentioned it on commentary, no one else said anything else about it.
The Intercontinental Championship
The week following Survivor Series, Intercontinental Champion Rick Rude made a point of saying how Andre The Giant had screwed everything up for him, on a night that should’ve been yet another crowning achievement for him. Furthermore, he blamed Bobby Heenan for letting things get to that point and being unable to control Andre. A week later when Rude approached Heenan, it was Mr. Perfect who stepped in the way and wouldn’t let Rick Rude talk to Heenan. He said that if Rude had anger to take out, they should take it to the ring to vent the frustrations. Heenan worked up some paperwork to make it happen, and when the two competitors got into the ring for what Mr. Perfect had been describing as an “exhibition”, the announcer indicated that the Intercontinental Championship was on the line. Before the bell rung, Rick Rude asked Bobby Heenan what was going on, at which point Haku jumped Rude from behind. When the Samoan left the ring, Mr. Perfect called for the bell to have the match start, and he immediately destroyed Rick Rude, then hit The PerfectPlex for the pinfall victory. Afterwards, Mr. Perfect and Haku stomped on Rick Rude a bit more.
In the weeks which followed, Mr. Perfect gloated about the new championship he had won, and how they outsmarted Rick Rude. Each week, Mr. Perfect would have a match with a no-name opponent, sometimes deciding to wrestle them, sometimes deeming them unworthy. Finally a few weeks before The Royal Rumble, “The Texas Tornado” Kerry von Erich stepped up and issued Perfect a challenge. Despite being a member of a prestigious family in the wrestling business, von Erich was deemed unworthy of a title shot by Mr. Perfect. Not wanting to take “No” for an answer, The Texas Tornado said he’d wrestle him in an “exhibition”, mocking Perfect for how he handled Rick Rude. In that exhibition match, which Perfect agreed to, Kerry von Erich defeated the champion, earning himself a title match at The Royal Rumble.
The Mountie vs The American Dream
The Fabulous Rougeaus were booked in an exhibition match against the Father-Son duo of Dusty Rhodes and Dustin Rhodes a week after Christmas, but it was only one Rougeau brother who showed up. Wearing the uniform of a Canadian Royal Mounted Policeman, Jacques said that his brother Ray had left the business to attend to business, and that he was spending part of his time devoted to “upholding the law North of the border.” Dusty Rhodes was disappointed that the match wasn’t going to occur, and Dustin attempted to convince Jacques to find a partner. Dusty left the ring, and Dustin was a bit slow to exit, so Jacques attacked him from behind with a cattleprod shock stick. Dusty came to his son’s rescue, but not in time. The following week, Dusty Rhodes challenged The Mountie to fight him, but Jacques Rougeau’s response a week later was pre-taped, saying he wouldn’t have time to return to fight until The Royal Rumble.
Tag Team Contendership
In a move to deal with all the great tag teams who are arising in WWF, the Championship Committee decided to hold a tournament to decide who would be the top contenders to get a future shot at the champions. They announced that the semi-finals would be held at The Royal Rumble.
The Oriental Express qualified for their spot in the semi-finals, and then they showed up to the ring to show respect to Hawk & Animal when The Legion Of Doom qualified for the semi-finals as well. Feeling that The Legion Of Doom weren’t showing enough respect for the gesture, the Oriental Express tried to force Hawk & Animal to bow to them in a return gesture, but that resulted in The Legion Of Doom brawling with them, sending them out of the ring. In the following week, The Oriental Express attacked The Legion Of Doom and barely got away.
A new team, the combination of Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags known as The Nasty Boys, qualified for a semi-finals spot on the other side of the bracket, and so did The Bolsheviks. When The Russians went to shake hands the following week with their pending opponents, Knobbs shot snot rockets at them and Sags laughed as they walked away.
Now that you’ve read what the card looks like… now check out the results for Royal Rumble 1991!