10 Things We Learned From WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Ric Flair goes 60 minutes to win the WWF Championship...

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got it all wrong when it came to determining the nominees for the 64th Academy Awards in 1992. How Ric Flair and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan were not nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, confounds me. Their performances in the 1992 Royal Rumble match are among the greatest in the history of not just professional wrestling, but within any medium, period.

The 1992 Rumble match was to fill the WWE World Title vacancy, and it was to be Flair's day. Entering from the number three position, Flair lasted seconds past the one hour mark, capturing the gold in what most hail as the best Rumble match that there's ever been. Complementing Flair's physical toil and drama was the commentary of Flair adviser Heenan, who lived and died on every Flair near-elimination while maintaining his razor-sharp comic rapport with Gorilla Monsoon. It is the greatest 60 minutes of commentary in wrestling you will ever hear.

The 1992 Royal Rumble is remembered as one of the top events of its day, and is still among the greatest Rumble events of all time, mostly carried by the titular match itself. If you've never seen it, you've been deprived of seeing one of wrestling's (literal) finest hours.

10. Stiff Reaction For Jack


Heenan got in some especially funny digs (par for the course for The Brain) at WWE President Jack Tunney, who gave a brief speech before the actual Rumble match, first calling him, "Jack 'On the Take' Tunney", and then saying he was, "The best President since Noriega." Tunney was booed lustily by the fans in Albany before, during, and after his brief benediction, something that WWE tried to head off at the pass.

Tunney actually appeared before the PPV broadcast, reversing the decision in a dark match to allow "Conan" Chris Walker a victory over The Brooklyn Brawler, who had cheated to defeat him initially. The plan was for fans to appreciate Tunney's just mediation, and hopefully give him a favourable reaction when he appeared later in the show. Didn't take, sadly.

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.

6. Nasty Wound


The 1991-92 Rumbles are notable for each featuring one Nasty Boy, but not the other. In the case of 1992, Jerry Sags would take part in the match, while partner Brian Knobbs would be absent due to what was termed an injury. And it wasn't just any initial - it was a nearly fatal one at that.

Two weeks before the Rumbles, both Nasty Boys and Irwin R. Schyster were chased down by a group of fans while driving away from a house show in Peoria, IL. After almost being run off the road by the wildly-driving motorists, Knobbs exited the vehicle to check for damage, and was stabbed in the chest by one of the belligerents. Sags was attacked with a set of jumper cables by another of the assailants, but managed to avoid the peril of his partner, who would miss the Rumble with his injuries. Nikolai Volkoff, who hadn't been seen in a WWE ring since late-1990, was tabbed as a fill-in.

5. The Other Substitution


One week before the Royal Rumble, the angle finally aired in which Shawn Michaels Superkicked Marty Jannetty on the set of The Barber Shop, before chucking him through the on-set window. Jannetty was written out due to his injuries, and was actually suspended indefinitely the week after the PPV, after an altercation with Tampa police outside a nightclub, where he was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia.

To fill Jannetty's spot in the Rumble (due to the kayfabe injuries, not the later legal issues) was Haku, who had been absent from WWE programming since July 1991. Haku had been working for WWE's then-international affiliate Super World of Sports (SWS), and was called for a one-of appearance, in which he lasted less than two minutes in the match.

4. One And Dones


The starpower in the 1992 Rumble match is something else, featuring nine separate former or future World Champions, as well as 16 different individuals who are currently enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame. In that former category of World Champions, it's interesting to note that three of them were competing in their only Rumble match ever.

Two are a bit less surprising, as Colonel Mustafa (Iron Sheik) and Sgt. Slaughter were only a small part of this era as full-time wrestlers, both well into their forties at the time of the match. The other was Sid Justice, who would quit WWE in April 1992, and missed out on the 1996 and 1997 Rumble matches during his on-again/off-again tenure in the New Generation/pre-Attitude Era.

3. We'll Fix It In Post


Watching the actual Rumble match itself, you'll nice quite a sizable cheer when, once it's down to the final three, Justice sneaks up behind Hogan and tosses him out. Fans had grown weary of Hogan, partially due to his being on top for eight long years, but also the crushing blows dealt to his public image, as a result of the catastrophic Arsenio Hall Show interview in 1991.

WWE would actually edit that reaction in post-production, airing replays on their ensuing broadcasts (including the February edition of Saturday Night's Main Event) to have the 'crowd' loudly (and artificially) boo Sid for his apparent 'treachery'. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan were even made to record a new commentary track, with Monsoon emphasizing how Sid was a "thief in the night" for sneaking up on Hogan, even though what Sid had done was standard battle royal protocol. And you thought WWE explaining away the boos for Roman Reigns was something.

2. On Top Of The World


For lasting sixty minutes inside the greatest Royal Rumble of all time, Ric Flair was awarded two things: an orgasmically joyful reaction from Bobby Heenan (Daniel Bryan never YESed that much), and his ninth recognized World title. Flair was already in a league of his own with so many reigns, and the win put him in some special company.

By virtue of his victory, Flair became the second man to hold both the NWA/WCW and WWE World Heavyweight titles, joining the original "Nature Boy", Buddy Rogers. And technically, Flair was the first man to *win* both belts, as Rogers was simply declared the first WWE Champion in 1963, having won a purported tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Now where have I heard that before...

1. Whittling Down


Despite the fact that the 1992 Royal Rumble is hailed as one of the most memorable shows of the time, the fact is that time wasn't a particularly-great one for WWE, whose popularity was dwindling. The wrestling boom had been long dead, and as mentioned, Hogan's public image had taken some stiff shots to the vital organs.

The 1992 Rumble did 260,000 buys, which was down 41 percent from the 440,000 done one year earlier. Other recent PPVs had seen one-year drops, as SummerSlam 1991 fell 20 percent from the prior year, while Survivor Series fell 25 percent. It was WWE's least-bought major PPV since the Royal Rumble two years earlier, and a harbinger of things to come - both SummerSlam and Survivor Series in 1992 would dip below 300,000 buys, as the new norm crept lower and lower.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.