Professional wrestling has never shied away from playing up geopolitical disputes and foreign rivalries in its storytelling, and WWE would “go there” in the early-nineties with one of their more questionable tales. Longtime proud American Sgt. Slaughter was suddenly aligned with Saddam Hussein and Iraq during the run-up to what would become known as Operation Desert Storm. The 1991 Royal Rumble would take place four days after the UN Security Council-mandated deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Naturally, the pro-Iraq Slaughter would be challenging for the WWE Championship at the pay-per-view.
You didn’t need 20/20 vision to see where this was going – Slaughter downed The Ultimate Warrior to capture the WWE Championship, while American hero Hulk Hogan went on to win the Royal Rumble match. Slaughter and Hogan would find themselves on a collision course for WrestleMania 7, paralleling the conflict over in the Gulf region. The decision to book this storyline (at a time when soldiers were preparing to face a potential, and very real, life-and-death situation) would earn much derision and criticism.
The 1991 Royal Rumble was a very good show otherwise, highlighted by damn good wrestling in the undercard (namely The Rockers vs. The Orient Express, a lost classic), and a fun-enough Rumble match. Sadly, the trivializing of real world conflict is what gets remembered the most.
10. Live From Miami, It’s Saturday Night!
The 1991 Royal Rumble was one of two Rumbles (1994 being the other) to have taken place on a Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday. In fact, the two events are the only American WWE pay-per-views that have occurred on Saturdays, period, and it wasn’t a cosmetic decision on the part of WWE to do so.
Typically, WWE holds the Rumble on the vacant Sunday between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, to avoid competition with such high-profile sporting events. In some years, such was the case with 1991, the NFL schedule didn’t allow for the week off, holding the Super Bowl one week following the conference title games. WWE, trying to avoid the unnecessary competition, opted to hold the show on the Saturday night before the Championship round games.