Retro Review

Battle Royal at the Albert Hall – Retro Review

As we head towards Super Showdown, Matthew Roberts looks at a retro international event, WWF’s Battle Royal at the Albert Hall.

With Super Showdown just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes a look back at another overseas show that included a prestigious Battle Royal.

The TWM Time Machine™ obviously picked up on the words “foreign” and “battle royal” to take me back to October 1991 for the Battle Royal at the Albert Hall.  At a time when WWE shows on British shores were still something of a novelty, this show, as the title of it suggests, was built around a Battle Royal where the prestigious Samovar trophy was up for grabs.  Given the line up for the undercard it was indeed the only thing remotely “main event” worthy.  No, the line-up on paper doesn’t exactly scream out “must see”. 

After a generic video introduction (the show is sponsored by the Daily Star nonetheless) Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan introduce us to proceedings with their usual banter.  The opening match is a tag match pitting the Rockers against the Nasty Boys.  Shawn and Marty were incapable of having a “bad” match with anyone around this time and whilst there is a lot of the typical get-the-crowd-going stalling that summed up WWE House Shows at the time (and even those carried on Sky Movies) it’s a solid enough old school tag team encounter with some fun “cheating” from the Rockers and Shawn bumping like a loon.  It’s a perfectly serviceable opener.

I’m fairly certain Tito Santana had already begun to masquerade as “El Matador” in vignettes by this point but he’s plain old Tito here.  The prospect of him tussling with new WWE signing Ric Flair here is a promising one and in some ways this match is about the most “NWA/WCW” we ever got from Flair.  It’s typical “Nature Boy” stuff but that’s not necessarily a complaint at all. Flair styles and profiles (i.e. cheats), Tito is the valiant babyface who seemingly has no chance but is almost on the verge of a big “upset” win before Flair pulls one out of the bag with a help of a handful of tights.  It’s by no means a classic, but it is by far the best thing on this show. 

Giving fifteen plus minutes to Flair/Santana is a good idea.  Giving a similar amount of time to The Big Bossman and Earthquake isn’t.  Bossman tries, bless him, but so much of the match is dedicated to Quake’s offence that it’s simply a chore to sit through. The Bear Hug is probably the worst part.  That we get a run-in finish including The Mountie just adds to the feeling of utter desperation you’ll feel.  Although whether this gets worse when you realise that The Mountie is up next, in singles action against the Texas Tornado, is open to interpretation. When even the ever effusive Monsoon loses interest and begins riffing on the chance of Heenan going getting him some Fish & Chips you know we’re not watching a five-star classic.  I’d debate if it’s even worth one. 

Of course not even the horrors of Earthquake in a fifteen minute match and The Mountie, well, existing can adequately prepare you for a Hacksaw Jim Duggan match against The Undertaker in the days before he was allowed to actually move when he wrestled. It’s six minutes that feels like you’ve been sat watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy…and I mean the extended directors cut. Six minutes of “action” results in Taker no-selling a 2×4 shot, being clotheslined over the top rope and walking off.  And to think people complain about Raw in 2019 being awful… Still, Taker being played in by live organ is something.

In an evening filled with wrestlers promo’s between matches, Roddy Piper gives us one of the more questionable ones.  At least the rumour about the bleeped out word in this promo, which doesn’t appear to be bleeped out here, can be put to bed. His appearance does remind us that one of the biggest selling points of the show appears to be that chance that Piper might get hold of Flair in the Battle Royal.

The WWF Tag Team Title match between The Legion of Doom and Power & Glory isn’t at all great.  But after the previous hour or so of “action” it feels like we’re getting Flair Vs Steamboat.  It’s basic tag team formula, but it’s actually done competently and the fans are happy that a babyface has actually won a match properly.  Which makes it odd that this match would come just before genuine “home-town” hero Davey Boy Smith locks horns with The Barbarian in the final match before the main event.  If you’re expecting anything from that match up in 1991 then you’re in for a disappointment.  A plodding brawl is only saved by Davey being so over.  I guess this would have played a lot better being there than it does watching 27 years later.

And finally we get the Battle Royal, featuring all the names we’ve already seen too much of this evening plus Roddy Piper and Typhoon. Other than the Piper/Flair stuff, which is kickstarted when Piper goes straight for Flair at the bell, there’s not an awful lot going on until we get to the final four of Davey, The Mountie, Big Bossman and Typhoon.  Davey is left in there with Mountie and Typhoon and to the shock of no-one (but conversely the delight of everyone) Davey ends up the winner. 

Post-match, Typhoon and his Natural Disasters partner Earthquake try to kill Davey but Andre the Giant makes the save.  Some shows are “so bad they are good”.  Battle Royal at the Albert Hall isn’t one of those.  It’s just bad.  At best, Flair/Santana is worth a watch but why would you bother when there are countless other better examples of the “Flair formula” out there. 

Unless you really want to see Davey lift the prestigious Samovar or are a fan of bad promos in-between plodding matches it’s difficult to recommend this at all.

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