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BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #61 - The "Lost" Royal Rumble: 1/17/94 at MSG



With the Royal Rumble just weeks away at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, I have started getting into Rumble-mode. I started to watch all of the old Royal Rumble matches and reminisce about the classic memories.


Moments such as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior’s face-off in the 1990 Rumble, Ric Flair going from #3 to win the Undisputed WWF Championship in 1992, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s bloody win in 2001, the Shawn Michaels and Undertaker battle as the final two in 2007, Brock Lesnar’s performance in 2020, and the Snitsky clothesline to Paul London in 2005 have resonated with me as a fan as the years have gone on.


The Royal Rumble has always been my favorite match in professional wrestling, and I thought that I had seen every single one…


Until about three weeks ago.


—--


The only bearing January 17, 1994 had on me as a wrestling fan was when the Quebecers regained the World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championships from the 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty. 


Jannetty and the Kid won the belts a week earlier on the Monday Night Raw One Year Anniversary show, and the first available opportunity for a rematch was the 17th at Madison Square Garden. Jacques and Pierre, alongside their annoying manager Johnny Polo, nailed their Tower of Quebec on the Kid and won the belts back.


That clip was aired on the Royal Rumble pay-per-view five days later, explaining why Bret and Owen Hart went from a non-title affair to a championship match.


Other than that little clip, no other footage surfaced of this night to me, until, again, about three weeks ago. 


I was searching on YouTube for old WWF house shows from Madison Square Garden, and came across this match. At first glance, I thought it was fake. And then, after watching for a few moments, I realized it was the real deal.


Fans, heavy into tape trading back in the 1990s, would sneakily film house shows with a personal camcorder inside the building, go home, transfer it onto VHS and make copies for other die-hard fans, who were heavily interested in seeing them. They would then mailing these out through the postal service to a more than willing recipient. 


In later years, with the advent of technology, these shows would be transferred digitally via video programs, and ultimately made their way through torrents via the internet, like Limewire for example.


Now, with free video streaming websites, like YouTube, Dailymotion, and Bilibili, these videos could be seen worldwide, without the malware.


January 17, 1994 at Madison Square Garden was no exception. 


Besides the Tag Team Title matches, there were other big matches filmed on this night. Razor Ramon defended his Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Jarrett, and Yokozuna defended his WWF Championship against Tatanka. Also, Rick Steiner would face Ludvig Borga, in what would be Borga’s final WWF match, due to an injury on the arena floor.


But the main event was something to behold: the first time in history, a non-televised “New York City” Royal Rumble!


—--


As you’ve read in previous Hot Takes, I go all-in on previous topics. I researched the heck out of how this match came together.


On initial first thoughts, I thought maybe this was a spur of the moment card put together for the live crowd and the fans at the Garden. However, I was indeed wrong.


According to TheHistoryOfWWE.com, this match was actually announced to the live crowd during the November 27, 1993 event at MSG, in front of 12,600 fans. As stated in the text during the results:


Included the announcement that a 30-man Royal Rumble match would take place at the next show on Jan. 17, featuring Shawn Michaels, the Bushwhackers, Diesel, Doink the Clown, Bastion Booger, the Smoking Gunns, Greg Valentine, Owen Hart, Bret Hart, the Heavenly Bodies, Scott Steiner, Ivan Putski, Scott Putski, IRS, Bob Backlund, Men on a Mission, Virgil, the Headshrinkers, Rick Martel, Adam Bomb, Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson, Crush, and Randy Savage


This match looked absolutely stacked. Just reading that, I was absolutely pumped up. But I wanted to know more. 


After digging through YouTube, I came across an upload of the January 2, 1994 Wrestling Challenge, which initially aired on Fox 5 New York on Sunday at noon. Thankfully, I was able to uncover two hype commercials, hosted by the one and only Jim Ross. Seeing these, it takes me back to when there was still a strong push for syndication in local markets.




Looking up the attendance numbers, there were only 9000 fans in the crowd, which is insanely light for a show of this magnitude. I initially thought that because it was a Monday night, as well as WWF in the middle of a transition stage, the crowd was small. 


However, I researched the weather in the Northeast at the time, and there was a big snowstorm that hit the Metropolitan Area.


To further illustrate those claims, both the Rock & Roll Express and Heavenly Bodies, who were going to have a rematch from Survivor Series 1993 for the Smoky Mountain Wrestling Tag Team Titles, were unable to make it up to New York due to the snowstorm.

—--


To be completely transparent, I did check Google and see if anyone covered the match. I saw several links, but refused to click on them. I didn’t want to be spoiled.




I actually took notes on index cards so I would remember everything in the match. Instead of doing a typical match review, I hit on specific parts that really struck me throughout.




Total nerd stuff, but that’s how it goes sometimes.


THE “NEW YORK CITY” ROYAL RUMBLE - 1/17/94 at MSG


First, the legendary Howard Finkel handled the ring introductions for, as he called it, the “New York Royal Rumble”. Listening to the Fink here gave me goosebumps. He truly was, and is, the greatest ring announcer of all time.


THE PARTICIPANTS

1)DIESEL

2)MO FROM MEN ON A MISSION


Mo was accompanied to ringside by Oscar, the MOM hype man. I’ll say this, going back to the mid-1990s, hearing the crowd chanting WHOOMP THERE IT IS popped me.


Tag Team back again.


The bell sounded, and within one minute, Diesel survived an early onslaught from Mo and tossed him over the top like yesterday’s news. HOWEVER, Mo got his foot caught in the ropes, and Diesel, ever the gentleman, got him out of that predicament and swiped him off the apron. ELIMINATED.


3)BUSHWHACKER BUTCH


Butch got his full entrance here, including with the front row rubbing his cranium. As we all know though, Bushwhackers have terrible luck in Rumble matches, and within moments, “Big Dies”, not yet “Big Daddy Cool”, dumped Butch out as quick as he entered. ELIMINATED.


4)1-2-3 KID


The Kid looked exhausted, having taken the fall minutes earlier to lose the WWF Tag Team Championships. Diesel knew it and started on the offensive right away. The crowd, to my surprise, started a small chant for the big man.


The Kid tried to fight, but after being elevated onto the apron, Diesel leveled him with a big right hand and took him out. ELIMINATED.


Sadly, as the Kid landed on the arena floor, he blew out his knee. Officials made their way down to ringside and helped carry him out. He wound up missing the Rumble pay-per-view and was out for several weeks. Tough night for the original WWF underdog.


5)SCOTT STEINER


Before Scott even had a chance to make it in the ring, Diesel jumped him at the gate, leveling him with a knee and sending him to the floor. Diesel posed in the ring for a few, but once Scott entered, the fight was on.


At one point, Scott actually pushed Diesel through the middle rope. They started brawling on the floor and ended back up in the ring as the countdown was on for the next participant.


6)IRON MIKE SHARPE


Iron Mike came in, gave some shots to the future “Big Poppa Pump” and was out within twenty seconds.


I will say this: watching Steiner throw around Diesel like a piece of paper was wild. An attempt at a butterfly powerbomb almost had him land on his head. Good grief.


7)HEADSHRINKER SAMU

8)BOB BACKLUND


I love the inclusion of Mr. Backlund, as he was truly a Madison Square Garden legend. He held the WWF Championship from 1978 to December 1983, and headlined countless sellouts in “the World’s Most Famous Arena”. Also, he had a 30-minute clinic in MSG with Bret “Hit Man” Hart the day before King of the Ring 1993. Legitimately a Garden legend.


The ring started to fill up here. Guys started splitting off with one another. Seeing Diesel and Backlund do a little battle here pumped me up, as memory serves, 11 months later, “Big Daddy Cool” pinned Backlund in eight seconds to win the WWF Championship inside MSG.


9)JEFF JARRETT

10)VIRGIL

11)BAM BAM BIGELOW w/ LUNA VACHON


The ring was really filled up now. No eliminations at this point and the fans were immersed in the battle. Also, seeing Virgil here brought me back to SummerSlam 1991, when he won the Million Dollar Championship in this venue as well.


12)MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE


The fans erupted at the presence of the legend. Savage attacked everyone but settled on Diesel. The big man went for a big boot, but the Macho Man sidestepped and pushed Diesel out. ELIMINATED.


Double J then linked up with Savage, going back and forth with fists. However, Jarrett lost that battle and wound up thrown over the top. Double G, Double O, Double N, Double E - GONE. ELIMINATED


The fans were alive at this point, seeing the Rumble infused with Macho Madness.


13)ADAM BOMB

14)SGT. SLAUGHTER


Another huge reaction, this time for the drill sergeant. Die-hard MSG fans remember the legendary Alley Fight with Pat Patterson on May 4, 1981. The Sarge got in there and tossed out the young and fiery Bomb. ELIMINATED.


15)CRUSH w/ MR. FUJI


The Crush/Macho Man rivalry was white-hot here, after beginning down the road at the Manhattan Center on Monday Night Raw. Both men spotted each other and just started throwing fists. When Scott Steiner tried to intervene and get his licks in, Crush made him airborne and tossed him over the top rope. ELIMINATED.


Savage and Crush continued to brawl, rolling out of the ring and fist-fought on the floor.


16)MABEL FROM MEN ON A MISSION


Crush finally got the upper hand once they re-entered the ring and tossed the Macho Man out. ELIMINATED. Savage tried to get back in the fight, but a group of referees held him back, limiting more possible interaction.


Bam Bam tried to slam Crush over the top, but the Hawaiian held onto the ropes and “the Beast of the East’s” momentum propelled him over the top rope and to the floor. ELIMINATED.


Slaughter tried to attack Crush, but Crush whipped him into the buckle hard. Slaughter did the infamous SLAUGHTER BUMP, as he bounced on the top rope in the corner and did a freefall out of the ring. ELIMINATED.


17)JIM POWERS


Poor Jim Powers came out to boos in the Garden, even though he had positive enthusiasm radiating out of his body. Mabel caught him almost as soon as he came in however and delivered a running avalanche in the turnbuckles. Mabel then threw him out moments later. ELIMINATED.


18)BASTION BOOGER


Within seconds of the Booger Man entering the ring, everyone ganged up on big Mabel. The big guy was hoisted out, but moments later, Backlund and Virgil also went out simultaneously. ELIMINATED X 3.


Booger, happy over the group of toss outs, started doing his repulsive Booger Dance. But Crush, not impressed one iota, threw Booger out of the Rumble to a surprising laugh from the crowd. ELIMINATED.


At this point, Crush and Samu were the two left standing amidst the chaos. So, what do they do? A Greco-Roman test of strength. Two villains trying to see who was stronger. Sitting in front of my computer, I popped. It was vintage slapstick wrestling.


19)BUSHWHACKER LUKE


Folks, right here, in Madison Square Garden, the impossible happened. Samu and Luke went at one another. As the Headshrinker charged, Luke ducked, and used the momentum to try to throw him over the top rope. SAMU THEN GOT HIS HEAD CAUGHT IN THE ROPES. Luke, ever the gentleman from New Zealand, freed him and then pushed him out. ELIMINATED.


If Bushwhacker Luke ever had a Tosh.O web redemption, it would have been right here in the New York City Royal Rumble.


Crush didn’t give Luke time to celebrate, catching him with a savate kick and unloading him from the ring. ELIMINATED.


For the second time in the match, the ring was left with one monster inside, waiting for his next victim. I don’t think that has happened in too many Rumbles, so it definitely caught my eye.


20)OWEN HART


Owen, just one week away from turning on his brother Bret, shot into the ring like a “Rocket” and went right at the big Hawaiian. Fans were still conflicted on Owen’s bad-tempered dog persona, chanting “WE WANT BRET!” while he was doing his business.


21)RICK “THE MODEL” MARTEL

22)BRET “HIT MAN” HART


The place went unglued! Bret came in, and the Hart Brothers were taking Crush and “the Model” to school.


Meanwhile, security showed up near the right side of the fan cam, apparently breaking up a fight in the crowd. Fans diverted their attention for a few as officials ejected them from the building. ELIMINATED.


23)IRWIN R. SCHYSTER


Just as the Fink announced the IRS, Crush tried to toss Bret, and turned away. Hit Man skinned the cat and gave a front dropkick to Crush’s back, pushing him over the top and to the floor. ELIMINATED.


24)JOHNNY POLO


The manager of the new Tag Team Champions got a visceral reaction from the Garden faithful coming out. I laughed to myself, as his attire was very reminiscent of the Jackyl in the Truth Commission in 1997.


25)SCOTT PUTSKI


This one caught me by surprise, as I didn’t realize Scott was around in 1994. However, the son of the MSG legend “Polish Power” Ivan Putski made his way in and found himself in the mix right away.


26)HEADSHRINKER FATU

27)MARTY JANNETTY


Jannetty immediately went after Polo, who, again, was a reason why he and the Kid lost the Tag belts the match before.


28)BART GUNN

29)SHAWN MICHAELS, “INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION”


Michaels and Jannetty went at each other immediately. THE ROCKERS EXPLODED! The fans loved this fight between the one-time Tag Team Specialists.


30)DOINK THE CLOWN w/ DINK


Doink got a huge ovation from the crowd. Now, with all 30 men in the ring, there had to be a winner.


Polo tried to save himself on the apron from an Owen elimination. He went to the buckles and climbed up two of them, but Owen bumped him off and to the floor. ELIMINATED.


Five seconds later, the young Putski charged at Samu, but got dumped out of the squared circle. ELIMINATED.


IRS and Martel went back and forth, but once Martel leaned Schyster against the ropes, the tax man caught a quick one on him and dumped him over the top and to the floor. ELIMINATED.


Everyone started slugging it out at this point. Doink and Bart Gunn linked up with a funny sequence. The clown pointed to the sky, asking one half of the Smokin’ Gunns to look. As he did, Doink eye-poked him to a laugh from the crowd. Bart then went at it with him, trying to give him a vertical suplex. Doink reversed, and suplexed him over the ropes and to the floor! That was completely unexpected and awesome. ELIMINATED.


Five seconds later, as Doink turned his attention back to the Rumble, HBK clotheslined the Clown out of the ring. ELIMINATED.


IRS then tried to go back and forth with Bret. Hit Man ducks and, just like I did when I played WWF Royal Rumble for Super Nintendo, atomic drops the tax man and he flew over the top rope. ELIMINATED.


FINAL FOUR: BRET, OWEN, HBK, SAMU


Owen and Shawn went at it in one corner, while Bret and Fatu were in the other. Shawn got the upper hand and put Owen in a tree-of-woe. While Bret worked over the vile Headshrinker, Shawn casually went behind him and dumped him out. ELIMINATED.


The crowd reacted in shock. They all genuinely thought Bret was going to win.


With all the animosity towards the Heartbreak Kid, he acted quickly. He made a pact with Fatu and went after Owen. They pummeled him in the corner for a little bit, and then whipped him off the ropes. “The Rocket” powered through and delivered a double clothesline. With the Garden faithful FINALLY behind him, Owen delivered lightning-fast offense. The proverbial house of fire tried to use a double noggin knocker on Michaels and Fatu; HBK went down, and Fatu showed no effect. Fatu then headbutted Owen to the mat.


The Samoan cranium feels no pain.


HBK and Fatu continued the assault on Owen, even doing a SWEET Superkick into a Spinebuster combination. However, the fun ended here for Michaels.


Razor Ramon, the real Intercontinental Champion, made his way out to the entranceway to distract Shawn. Earlier in the evening, Michaels interfered in his match against Double J and superkicked “the Bad Guy”.


As Razor taunted Shawn, who was now standing on the middle rope, Owen gave Fatu a spin wheel kick. But before the kick was delivered, Owen first bounced off the ropes. The weight from the bounce from Owen and HBK’s full weight on the middle rope CAUSED IT TO SNAP! Fatu bounced into an oft-kilter Michaels and quickly vaulted him out of the ring. ELIMINATED.


Razor and Michaels started brawling up the aisle, the hatred flowing through them. But now, Owen and Fatu were the final two men. With the middle rope broken, it added a new dimension to the Rumble. Owen even used the remnants on a prone Fatu for a moment.


However, once Fatu’s partner Samu made his way back to ringside for support, Owen’s days seemed numbered. The Headshrinker tossed Hart over the top, but at the last possible second, Owen survived by holding onto the BOTTOM ROPE and keeping his bearings enough to land on the apron.


“The Rocket” then got back in and brought the fight to Fatu. As Owen tried to toss Fatu over, Fatu held onto the TOP ROPE and stayed in the match. Owen then backed him into the corner and, after standing on Fatu’s knees for balance, punched him ten times in the dome.


Bret made his way back down to ringside to not only support his brother, but to counterbalance Samu’s presence. 


Fatu tried to go hard on Owen with strikes, but Hart sidestepped him. Owen, with reward on his mind, went to the high-risk district and climbed the unstable ropes to the top rope. Owen tried a flying headbutt, but AGAIN, Fatu had felt no pain and leveled him. Fatu then went to the top rope for his Headshrinker Splash, but he was CROTCHED.


Owen then took a stumbling Fatu and, with whatever strength he had left, threw him over the top rope and to the floor. ELIMINATED.


OWEN HART WON THE NEW YORK CITY ROYAL RUMBLE!


Bret ran into the ring to celebrate with his victorious brother. The Headshrinkers looked as if they wanted to have a fight with the Hart Brothers but thought better of it. Owen and Bret celebrated around ringside with the fans to end the night inside Madison Square Garden.


—--


Five days later, the Royal Rumble 1994 pay-per-view happened, and a lot of what transpired in the Rumble match happened here. Diesel had a bit of a run, rattling off several eliminations in a row. Macho Man and Crush brawled all throughout the match. And, after switching Owen with Lex Luger, the final four remained the same.


To be honest, I actually preferred the “Lost Rumble” over the pay-per-view on back-to-back viewings. MSG, although only with 9000 people, felt a lot more fun and full of energy. Plus, there were a few competitors from Madison Square Garden folklore that got their moment inside of this match. Finally, seeing Owen unofficially winning a Rumble match made me smile.


Also, in a weird way, the WWF used this Rumble to help build towards WrestleMania X, held, coincidentally, inside “the World’s Most Famous Arena”. The Macho Man and Crush had a Falls Count Anywhere match to settle their rivalry. Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels finally determined who was the “real” Intercontinental Champion in a ladder match. And, by winning the New York City Royal Rumble, Owen Hart had momentum inside MSG to make him look legitimate in facing his older brother Bret in the opening contest.


In Royal Rumble history, this is the only 30-man Rumble match not counted in the lineage of the match. As a wrestling history nerd, I think it should be. With other obscure moments being recognized in WWE legacy now, we should count this match and honor Owen Hart with OFFICIALLY winning a Royal Rumble. Just my Hot Take.


Watch this “Lost” Rumble match. You will not be disappointed. I definitely wasn’t.



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