I don't know how The Algorithm managed this, but YouTube was able to successfully recommend the 3 most-watched WWE events of my childhood. This was made even more eerie by the order in which the recommendations came, but also the lack of any others and the fact I don't recall discussing any of them at length online.
My experience with these events was in the form of tapes that my childhood BFF had lent me. I watched The Undertaker finish Hulk Hogan with a Tombstone Piledriver (onto a chair!) countless times, along with the rest of the 1991 Survior Series. On the other side of the tape was the 1992 Royal Rumble, which is my all-time favourite edition of the annual event. The combination of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on commentary — with the inimitable Gorilla Monsoon — and Flair's in-ring performance was enthralling at the time. The final event was the 1995 Royal Rumble, where Shawn Michaels broke Flair's record for most time spent in the Rumble match (he was #2) after being the first entrant that year.
Some things I did not know at the time: Undertaker dropped the belt to Hogan almost immediately afterward. I never paid much attention to the titles as a kid, I was just interested in the chance to see my favourite wrestlers in action. I was a big Hogan mark as a kid, although, even back then, I had developed a fondness for the villains. They tended to be more interesting; the baby faces I rooted for were limited to members of the Hart family more or less.
The Rumble match is still fun to watch, even in 2021. Although it must be stressed that the Royal Rumble even itself is never a good match. There are story moments within the Rumble, but otherwise it's just messy, hour-long brawl that served as the start of the months of promotion leading to a given year's WrestleMania. Funny enough, the repeated watching of this show, and Flair assisting Undertaker in defeating Hogan, gave me a skewed understanding of Flair's tenure and importance in the 90s WWE. I saw all the choice bits, and didn't realize there really wasn't much else — he went back to WCW after only a few years.
Lastly, we have the 1995 Royal Rumble. Shawn Michaels' elevation to main event status was in full swing, he'd shed the baggage of ex-Rockers teammate Marty Janetty, successfully captured the InterContinental Title — and earned an early entry into the history books with Scott Hall for their work in the first ever Ladder Match — and was rapidly becoming the company's top star. The Rumble put Michaels on a collision course with the heavyweight title holder, Diesel. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels' feud would build to a fever pitch before their classic Iron Man Match at WrestleMania 12, and took on truly epic proportions following the infamous Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997.
Those are still really fun events to watch. I am torn between wanting to go rewatch all my old favourites and the fact that I really, really, really do not want to give Vince McMahon more of my money. I suspect this will pass.
Published: February 22nd, 2021.