Reviewing The Rumbles
1998: HBK Clips the Casket
The 1998 Royal Rumble was the eleventh in the history of the WWE. It took place on January 18th of that year in the San Jose Arena in, of all places, San Jose, California. It had an attendance of 26, 646. It is also well known in Wrestling History for being the night that put The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels out of in-ring action for over four years. He was badly injured during his Casket Match with The Undertaker, but we’ll get there in time.
The Rumble started with Vader and The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust going one on one. Dustin Rhodes, who played and still plays Goldust, is wrestling royalty. His father is The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, one of the most legendary names in the business. Dustin knows how to work a crowd, and Vader is no slouch himself. He’s a legend in his own right, and he earned it all by himself.
The next match was a little break from the Sports part of Sports Entertainment, focusing solely on the Entertainment. It was a match full of mini-Luchadors. As cool as it is to see Max Mini, he took up a spot on the card with irrelevance. Sunny was the special guest referee for the tag tam match, and the competitors were Battalion, El Torito, and Tarantula on one side of the ring, while Max Mini, Mosaic, and Nova stood across.
After the mini extravaganza, it came time for The Rock versus Ken Shamrock. This is one of my favorite matches of Rocky’s, showing a clever side that helped him score the win against Shamrock and retain his Intercontinental Championship. In an effort to win the match, Rock used a knuckleduster to dispatch of Ken, but the ref was distracted. By the time his attention was returned to the match, he could only count a two for The Rock.
Ken Shamrock then turned it around and got a pin. However, after using the knuckleduster, The Great One disposed of it in Shamrock’s trunks. So after he got pinned, Rocky appealed to Mike Chioda, the referee, who checked Shamrock and then disqualified him, upon discovering the foreign object.
With that match finished, The New Age Outlaws (The Road Dogg Jesse James and The Bad Ass Billy Gunn) took center stage against The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal). These are two of the most legendary and celebrated tag teams in the history of the business. By this point, all four of these guys had been around for over ten years. They were well-trained experts, putting on a show.
Next was The Royal Rumble Match to determine the Number One Contender for the Main Event at WrestleMania 14. This was the match that saw all three of the faces of Mick Foley enter it, with Cactus Jack entering at number one, Mankind entering at number sixteen, and Dude Love entering at number twenty-eight. It also saw competitors the likes of Owen Hart, Mark Henry, Steve Blackman, D’Lo Brown, Jeff Jarrett, and Savio Vega pass through the ropes during its duration, but it came down to Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. This would be highly indicative of the years to come.
The Main Event of the evening was Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker in a Casket Match. It has become legendary throughout the years for its lasting impact on the business. This match put one of the greatest performers in the business out of action, after Undertaker back body dropped HBK over the top rope, causing him to clip his back on the casket placed at ringside. He was deep in the prime of his years when this happened, and like that – it was all about to end.
He kept on wrestling for months after this event, but it just served to make his injury worse. I’ve written about the seriousness of the injury he sustained during this match before, but it’s something else to actually see it.
It looks like he brushes it off, like it’s almost nothing. It doesn’t seem like he just jumped on the express route out of the business he developed a love for as a child. I mean, damn, he finished the match and then continued to wrestle for months. I would’ve been in bed for months.
The match ended by beginning an incredible buildup, one that would take wrestling fans all the way to WrestleMania 14. Kane came out and cost Undertaker the match, putting him into the casket and setting it ablaze. This moment blew my mind when I was a child. I had no idea how they pulled it off. I thought Undertaker was dead, but of course, The Dead Man would return…