-Another great black and white video package hypes the Royal Rumble match and puts over everyone from Steve Austin to the Headbangers as a threat.
-Jim Ross and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in charge of commentary and they are live from San Jose, California.
-Opening Contest: Vader pins The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (w/Luna Vachon) with a Vader Bomb at 7:52:
Goldust is wearing a green wig and a jobber-style striped attire for tonight’s match. This is the blowoff for the feud between these two that began at the Survivor Series and it is the second year in a row that Goldust is in the opening match at the Royal Rumble. It is the first time at the Rumble that he is not wrestling for the Intercontinental title. The crowd is hot, as they loudly boo Luna’s interference and pop each time Vader hits a power move. Goldust blocks a Vader Bomb with a low blow, but Vader quickly rebounds and goes for another. This causes Luna to rush into the ring and jump on Vader’s back. The referee nearly botches the finish by calling for a disqualification, but the bell does not ring, so Vader delivers the Vader Bomb with Luna on his back in an awesome spot to get the win. If you want to see a match with no stalling from Goldust, this is it. Entertaining opener, but this feud probably should have ended at the last In Your House since it seemed well past its expiration date. This was Vader’s last victory on a WWF pay-per-view. Rating: **½
-Call 1-900-737-4WWF to get reactions from the participants in tonight’s matches. It’s all on option five and will cost you $1.49 a minute!
-Steve Austin blows off Michael Cole after arriving at the arena. After Austin goes into the arena, the Godwinns are on his heels.
-Sunny comes out to be the guest referee for our next match.
-Nova, Mosaic & Max Mini defeat Battallion, Tarantula & El Torito when Mini pins El Torito with a La Magistral cradle at 7:48:
So, we get a minis tag match to save some of the guys for the Rumble and Mike Tyson is shown watching it from a special press box. Lawler cracks a funny joke about how he saw Max Mini reading Little Women in the locker room. I will be happy when these mini matches disappear from the company because they are so business exposing and the participants love to spam arm drags from multiple positions. Sunny looks really rough here and she abandons her impartiality by helping Mini do some attacks on his opponents. After the 150th arm drag (or so it seems) they decide to do a spot where everyone does a top rope attack, but that gets old by the third guy and everyone looks silly standing there waiting for someone to do a move. Mini gets the win because he always does. Rating: DUD
-The Nation of Domination is looking for Steve Austin and Faarooq tells Mark Henry that he needs to show him something by leading the way. The Nation burst into Austin’s locker room, but just find a chair with a middle foam finger in it.
-Kevin Kelly hypes the WWF’s America Online chatroom. Jim Cornette is there and hypes the traditional wrestling of the National Wrestling Alliance. He pledges to make us like wrestling.
-Mike Tyson is shown chatting with Vince and Shane McMahon in his box. This is the first time we are exposed to Shane McMahon in an executive capacity and back in 1998 he did appear to be the heir apparent of the company. How times changed…
-The announcers hype the upcoming Intercontinental title match between the Rock and Ken Shamrock.
-During the Free for All, the Nation of Domination argued over who was going to win the Royal Rumble. The Rock gives an interview to Cole and gives President Bill Clinton some advice over the Paula Jones sex scandal. If I remember correctly this was just before Monica Lewinsky came onto the scene.
-Intercontinental Championship Match: The Rock (Champion) beats Ken Shamrock by reverse decision at 10:52:
This is the first encounter between the Rock and Shamrock, who will be engaged in a feud for the next six months. This is an underrated feud that worked very well because the company pitted the cocky heel that needed his comeuppance against the legitimate badass in the company. The Rock utilizes all of the traditional heel tactics in this one, incorporating stalling, eye rakes, cheap shots, complaining to the referee, etc. After both men equally exchange offense, Shamrock hits a belly-to-belly, which brings out the Nation and Shamrock fights them off. The Rock blasts Shamrock with brass knuckles and puts them in Shamrock’s tights, but Shamrock recovers and pins the Rock after a belly-to-belly suplex. Shamrock appears to have won the title, but the Rock tells the referee that Shamrock hit him with brass knuckles. The referee finds the knuckles in Shamrock’s tights and reverses the decision, so Shamrock snaps and puts the referee in an ankle lock. A good first chapter of the feud between these two and this finish kept Shamrock strong, while putting more heat on the Rock. Rating: **¾
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-Los Boricuas are shown searching for Steve Austin and they enter his locker room. They beat up someone that they think is Austin, but they actually attack a member of DOA and that creates another gang war in the locker room that WWF officials have to break up.
-A video package hypes the upcoming tag team title match between the New Age Outlaws and the Legion of Doom.
-Cole interviews the Legion of Doom. Animal says that he is competing against doctor’s orders over his back and Hawk promises that the New Age Outlaws are going to be put on ice.
-WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Legion of Doom defeat The New Age Outlaws (Champions) by disqualification at 7:55:
The Outlaws wear Green Bay Packers jerseys to the ring because the Packers had just defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The Legion of Doom come out swinging early, but the Road Dogg trips Animal and Hawk ends up going shoulder-first into the ring post on a blind charge. This messy sequence results in Hawk being handcuffed to the ring post. Animal catches Billy Gunn with an awkward powerslam, but before the referee can register a three count, the Road Dogg blasts him with a chair and that lets the champions preserve the titles. After the bell, the Outlaws do a beatdown on Animal before Hawk can break free of his handcuffs. The first couple of minutes were okay, but everything from there went south in a hurry. Rating: *¼
-Ross announces that Mildred Bowers of Nashville, Tennessee wins the Steve Austin 3:16 truck.
-A video package chronicles why Steve Austin is a marked man in this year’s Royal Rumble.
-“Stone Cold” Steve Austin wins the 1998 Royal Rumble by eliminating the Rock at 55:27:
This is the third consecutive year that the Royal Rumble is placed in the middle of the card instead of the main event. This is a great Rumble to put on your television if you are suffering from insomnia because after a small hardcore match at the beginning between Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, who draw one and two, almost nothing happens. Tag wrestler, tag wrestler, and more tag wrestlers and lower midcarders come out and no one tosses anyone else, so the ring just fills up for a clear out that never comes. Owen Hart, who was attacked while making his entrance as #9, comes into the match later and eliminates Jeff Jarrett for one of the biggest pops of the night. Owen is eliminated shortly thereafter by a Triple H and Chyna dual crutch attack so that feud continues. They tease Austin not making an appearance, as #22 does not show, but he does show up out of the crowd as #24 and quickly tosses Marc Mero and 8-Ball. Los Boricuas, trying to get revenge for Austin’s defeat of Savio Vega at WrestleMania XII, all try to toss Austin when Savio enters the match, but that fails. The Nation of Domination proceeds to practice the worst strategy in Rumble history, as they have all five members in the ring as the field narrows and decide to fight each other rather than work together. Men start flying shortly after Vader enters at #30 and Vader gets tosses by Goldust in less than three minutes. The final four turns into a small tag match between Austin and Dude Love and Faarooq and the Rock, but Austin turns on his partner and the Rock then turns on his and we have a brief clash of the future main event stars before Austin hits a Stunner and tosses the Rock to win his second consecutive Rumble. This Rumble was worse than 1995. The star power here was worse and at least the 1995 atrocity had a one minute clock so the pain and suffering was reduced. 1995 had a more entertaining finish too. Rating: ¾*
-Mike Tyson is shown celebrating with Shane McMahon after watching Austin’s victory. He proceeds to give an unintelligible interview with Cole.
-A video package hypes the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker casket match.
-Casket Match for the WWF Championship: “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (w/D-Generation X) defeats The Undertaker at 20:38
This was the end of the five month feud between these two, which would resume more than ten years later over the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Ninety seconds into this is where Michaels takes the awkward backdrop out of the ring and onto the edge of the casket that temporarily ended his career. Interestingly enough, you could make the argument that the Undertaker was responsible for both of Michaels departures from wrestling. This match isn’t as brutal as Hell in a Cell, but Michaels delivers a devastating piledriver on the steps to his opponent. In a funny spot near the end, Michaels dumps the Undertaker into the casket and tries to give him the D-Generation X crotch chop, but the Undertaker grabs Michaels nether region and rallies. The Undertaker misses a flying clothesline and goes into the casket and Michaels delivers a flying elbow drop into it, causing the casket to close on both of them. By casket match logic, shouldn’t that lead to a draw? The Undertaker hits an insane super Tombstone into the casket from the apron, but Chyna takes out of the referee and the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas hit the ring in shades of 1994. The crowd goes insane as the lights go out and Kane shows up and clears the ring. However, after his pyro malfunctions he attacks his brother, which turns into some serious crowd heat, and he chokeslams his brother into the casket and closes the lid, giving Michaels the victory. The usual good match between these two that became excellent in the last five minutes. It also featured some great spots that you had never seen in a casket match before. Rating: ****
-After the match, Kane and Paul Bearer, who has wandered out, seal the casket, place it by the entrance, and Kane smashes an axe into it. They then douse it with gasoline and set it on fire as we go off the air. Well, that blows 1994 out of the water.
The Final Report Card: I find it hard to rate this show because on the one hand, the main event was awesome and the crowd helped provide a pay-per-view atmosphere to the event. The opening contest was entertaining as well, but on the whole the Rumble really drags down the show. It might have been predictable that Austin was winning, but the booking for it was very poor and the company did not have enough star power at the time to make that match interesting. It didn’t help either that Triple H was on the shelf and they had Owen Hart and Ken Shamrock eliminated early in the contest. Based on the awesomeness of the closing segment and the impression that it leaves, I’ll give this show a neutral rating, but if you do watch the show, just fast forward through the Rumble. The show comes off much better without it.
Buyrate: 0.97 (+.27 over previous year)
Show Evaluation: Neutral