9. Hart Transplant
Conspicuous by his absence at the PPV was Bret Hart, who was scheduled to defend the IC title against The Mountie. Hart actually dropped the belt two nights earlier to Mountie in Springfield, MA, with the storyline being that Hart valiantly defended the gold with a 104 degree fever. Hart missed the PPV as a result of the angle, with Roddy Piper filling in as surrogate.
Hart knew weeks in advance that he would be dropping the belt at the live event to The Mountie. Some time between learning those plans and the actual switch, Hart had actually agreed to a deal with WCW that would’ve seen him debut on the Clash of the Champions two days after the Rumble. A guaranteed deal worth more money was what lured Bret, who ultimately had to back out of it when he learned that his WWE contract had rolled over without his realizing it. Some have theorized that Hart would’ve brought the IC belt onto WCW programming as WCW’s payback for Flair bringing the WCW title onto WWE’s shows, but Hart knew he would’ve lost the IC strap to Mountie before his would-be exit.
8. Rowdy Rerun
Piper stepped into the IC title match, as noted, and would defeat The Mountie in roughly five minutes to capture the first and only singles title of his WWE career. The crowd popped large for Piper’s win and subsequent Howard Finkel announcement (a legitimate goosebumps moment), and roared even louder when he zapped Mountie with his own cattle prod. And Piper still had the Rumble match to go!
There have been many individuals who would pull double-duty at Royal Rumble events, working underneath and in the Rumble match, but Piper would be the first. He also joined Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior (both at WrestleMania 6) in having the opportunity to walk out of a WWE PPV as both World and Intercontinental Champion, but fell just short of the former.
7. Brainstorming Session
The design for WrestleMania 8 had Ric Flair defending the WWE Championship against Hulk Hogan, and Dave Meltzer would note that prior to the Rumble, event posters for WrestleMania were sent to Japan advertising that very match. In other words, the winner of the forthcoming Rumble match was hardly a secret. The only question concerned *how* Flair was going to win.
According to Bobby Heenan in his first book, it was him that pitched the idea of Flair, known for his superhuman cardio and endurance, going the distance, surviving a perpetual beating from various nemeses, and just eking out the win in the end. Heenan notes that he suggested that Flair enter as number one, but that Vince made it so that Flair entered third, that Vince changed it just enough to make it his own idea.