Hart challenged for the WWE Championship held by Diesel, who was in the early stages of Vince trying to recast him as a smiling heavyweight do-gooder in the mould of Hulk Hogan. The push would be seen as a flop, but Diesel would at least look quite good in matches with Michaels and Hart, one of which is on display here with the latter. It's one of the better WWE matches you'll see that lacks a finish.
As for Michaels, well...have you ever seen one man carry a Royal Rumble all by himself? Entering from the number one spot, Michaels does everything possible to get a match filled with dead-end midcarders (on account of gimmicks, not so much their talents) into praiseworthy terrain. And it's Shawn Michaels so of course, he succeeded.
10. Earning Your Stripes
There would be a number of aesthetic changes throughout WWE in 1995, as WWE attempted to make the "New Generation" feel completely different from the era that preceded it (perhaps distancing themselves from that version of WWE due to its sullied image). As far as the modifications to the visual presentation went, the 1995 Royal Rumble would mark the end of an era for the third man in the ring: the referee.
The '95 Rumble marked the last pay-per-view in which WWE referees wore the button-up blue shirts and black bow ties, a look that went back a great many years in WWE history. Beginning with the March 13, 1995 episode of Raw, the officials switched to the zebra stripes that have been largely the go-to standard ever since.
9. Giant Concerns
Two months into Dieselmania's attempt to run wild, and WWE backed themselves into a corner. They booked Kevin Nash against Bret Hart in a match that neither man could really afford to lose, especially Diesel, who was being counted on as the long-term champion. Also of concern was the idea that uber-popular Bret might get cheered more than Diesel, who stood the chance of being booed for dominating a smaller (and well-loved) opponent.
To try and remedy this, Bret designed the match so that he would be the aggressor, working subtly heelish in order to garner some sympathy for the valiant champion. It didn't exactly work, as Bret still got more cheers, but the two gave their best effort at trying to stem the tide. As excellent as the match was, though, it wasn't exactly the best sign for Diesel's reign that the crowd couldn't be truly swung.
8. Thinking Of You
For the first time in Royal Rumble history, the men's World Tag Team titles would see new holders. The belts had been vacant since Survivor Series, and on this night, the tournament final would take place to crown new champions. The 123 Kid and Bob Holly would score an upset win over Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka, coming after a Bigelow stumble led to him falling victim to a pin by Kid.
Holly would note years later that when the match was being laid out, Kid selflessly suggested that Holly score the pin, as Holly didn't get enough shine and would be elevated by getting the fall. However, agent Pat Patterson declined that suggestion, perhaps for aesthetic reasons. Bigelow needed to sell anger and humiliation after the match, so maybe getting pinned by the smaller half of the team was better fuel for the impending outburst?
7. Linking Up Lawrence
It was in the post-match of that Tag Team title bout that WWE would launch their big WrestleMania angle: an irate Bigelow happened upon NFL great Lawrence Taylor in the front row, and thought Taylor was laughing at his misfortune. Bigelow confronted the All-Pro linebacker, and sent him flying backward with an emphatic shove, drawing Taylor's ire.
Initially, Taylor reportedly ducked WWE's overtures, showing no interest in being part of a wrestling angle. It wasn't until he played in a charity golf game with Lex Luger (whom Taylor had known from an earlier appearance with WCW in 1991) that Taylor was convinced to run the angle with Bigelow at the Rumble, and eventually the WrestleMania match with him. Luger may have been watching his WWE star fade out, but give him the assist for helping put together the WrestleMania main event.
6. Let's Get This Over With
If you've been keeping up with these Rumble lists, you may have noticed the trend of each Rumble field declining in terms of talent and star depth. The year 1995 would see WWE hit an absolute nadir in terms of reasonable Rumble match winner possibilities, as outside of Shawn Michaels, you had Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Lex Luger, and...well, that's about it, really.
To remedy this, WWE opted to go with one-minute intervals, the only time they would ever resort to such an accelerated timer. Half of the entrants were utilizing gimmicks that would one day wind up in WrestleCrap's hall of shame, and the majority had not gotten over to any degree with the crowd, so keeping everything moving was optimum.
5. And Stay Out
The Rumble match failed to reach 40 minutes of duration (28 minutes to get everyone in, and another 10 to whittle it down to a winner), so you know that there were some rapid-fire eliminations in there. And how: 14 of the 30 entrants didn't even last five minutes in the match, which is presumably a record.
Even wilder, seven out of those 14 were gone in less than 30 seconds - Timothy Well (:23), Butch (:19), Jacob Blu (:17), Bob Backlund (:16), Luke (:12), Mo (:03), and Owen Hart (:03). There were storyline reasons for Backlund and Hart going so quickly (an irate Bret Hart jumped both men on their way into the match), but overall, the match was just a fast-paced conveyor belt with Shawn Michaels flopping around to increase the watchability.
4. We Are Iron Men?
WWE sometimes erroneously credits number one entrant Shawn Michaels as having lasted "the full hour" in order to win the 1995 Rumble, leaving out the fact that entrances were accelerated out of deference to the lackluster roster. Michaels' actual duration was 38 minutes and 41 seconds, which is still an impressive amount of time to take a clock-cleaning from everybody else.
To underscore how short most of the wrestlers' nights were, Michaels was one of just *six* entrants that made it past the 10-minute milestone. The others included Davey Boy Smith (also 38:41), Lex Luger (18:51), Henry Godwinn (14:40), Aldo Montoya (13:21), and Eli Blu (10 minutes flat). Some Rumbles have seen scores of wrestlers go past the 20-minute mark, but this was certainly not going to be one of them.
3. Anvil Tossed
The rivalry between Bret and Owen Hart in 1994 would see the insinuation of several family members, including returning veteran wrestlers in Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith. Neidhart sided with Owen in the family squabble, and would frequently team with him, including in the Tag Team title tournament mentioned earlier. Neidhart was also slated to take part in the 1995 Rumble match.
However, "The Anvil" would be let go from WWE very early in 1995, having missed a handful of shows. To take his place in the Rumble match, WWE brought back Rick Martel, who hadn't been seen since a brief tour of Asia in July 1994. Martel would only last two-and-a-half minutes in the match, so really, why not just throw the Brooklyn Brawler in there or something?
2. Doubling Down
Having Michaels go the distance, even with the truncated timing, was a good idea because it would put Michaels over strongly. No one had ever gone from number one to the end, and in a time where WWE needed their stars to look impressive, Michaels could capably go wire to wire, while carrying the bulk of the match.
According to Michaels, it was Pat Patterson's idea to have British Bulldog go from number two to the final pair, reasoning that the fans would go wild (or in Patterson speak, "Go banana"), knowing that they were about to witness one man pull off the unseen feet of going coast to coast. Bulldog, like Shawn, was physically capable of holding up for 40 minutes, so it was more than doable, to boot.
1. Playing (Foot) Loose With Directions
As far as fake-out finishes go, it was a good one - Bulldog would knock Michaels over the ropes, his music would start playing, and he'd assume victory for himself...only for Michaels (for whom only one foot touched the floor) to run back in and knock Bulldog over the ropes, officially giving himself the win. Michaels' dramatic self-save, as shown on replay, made the moment look really good, too.
When discussing the spot, McMahon wanted Michaels to get back to the apron as fast as possible, to not milk it. Between exhaustion, as well as the possibility that Bulldog might knock Shawn over the ropes too harshly, McMahon feared that Michaels might blow the finish by dangling from the ropes for too long. Michaels *did* milk it a bit, increasing the drama with a prolonged high-wire act before pulling himself back in. Michaels said he did the spot "...a little longer than maybe Vince would have liked," but it went off without a hitch, and remains a memorable finish to this day.