Date: 18th January, 1998
Venue: San Jose Arena
City: San Jose, CA
Commentators: Jim Ross &
Jerry “The King” Lawler
In the weeks leading up to the pay-per-view, Ken Shamrock had been facing various members of the Nation of Domination ahead of his booked match against Intercontinental champion Rocky Maivia (The Rock), defeating Kama Mustafa and Faarooq with his ankle lock despite interference from other Nation members. The Raw is War before the Rumble saw Shamrock team up with Mark Henry against Maivia and D’Lo Brown, but just as Shamrock looked set to lock his submission on The Rock, Henry turned on him, joining the Nation in giving him a post-match beat down.
After winning their first tag team title, the New Age Outlaws further humiliated the erstwhile champions, the Legion of Doom, by shaving one of Hawk’s mohawks and, with the help of D-Generation X, powerbombed Animal through the announce table, damaging his back. Although he was advised not to compete by doctors, Animal rested through the first few weeks of the year while the Outlaws ran roughshod through the tag division before this pay-per-view.
The build up to the Royal Rumble match itself focused almost entirely on Stone Cold Steve Austin. He declared that before the match he would be living by the motto “Do unto others, before they do unto me” interfering in matches regularly on Raw is War, or appearing just as matches finished, delivering the stunner to anyone in sight as well leaving other wrestlers back stage buried under tables and chairs. In the final segment of the Raw preceding the event, all competitors of the Royal Rumble were in the ring, waiting to draw their number of entry when Austin ran in through the crowd and began throw punches all over the ring, sparking a brawl between the various wrestlers feuding in the ring, and kicking the number generator out of the ring.
The main event for the WWF Championship was a rematch between champion Shawn Michaels and challenger The Undertaker. The feud had begun after SummerSlam the previous August after Michaels, who was the special referee in the match between then-champion Undertaker and Bret Hart, hit Undertaker with a chair meant for Hart and counted the pin to cost Undertaker the championship. The first match between the two came at Ground Zero: In Your House the following month, a match that ended in a no contest due to outside interference from Michaels’ D-Generation X cohorts, Triple H and Chyna. Michaels and Undertaker resumed the feud at Badd Blood in October 1997 in the first Hell in a Cell match which ended with the debut of Undertaker’s brother, Kane, giving Michaels the unfair win by delivering a tombstone piledriver on Undertaker, allowing the almost beaten Michaels to steal the match. To mock his opponent, Triple H and Chyna brought a casket to the match only for Michaels to appear from inside and spray paint it in D-Generation X slogans. The following week, while Michaels was delivering a promo, the same casket appeared again but this time Undertaker appeared from inside, grabbing the champion by the throat and dragging him into the coffin. Undertaker made his full presence known the following week, interrupting an interview in which Michaels was claiming to introduce the newest DX member: Kane. Undertaker told his opponent to leave his family out of the feud, before attacking the stable and being outnumbered. Kane made a surprise appearance and helped Undertaker, fighting DX up to the ramp before turning and reaching his hand out in an Undertaker-like salute which his brother returned.
Vader defeated The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (with Luna Vachon) (7:47)
Tag Team Match:
Max Mini, Mosaic & Nova defeated Battalion, El Torito & Tarantula (7:49)
Special Guest Referee: Sunny
The Rock (c) defeated Ken Shamrock by disqualification (10:53)
WWF Tag Team Championship:
The Legion of Doom defeated The New Age Outlaws (c) by disqualification (7:56)
Royal Rumble Match:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin won by last eliminating The Rock (55:24)
Shawn Michaels (c) (with Triple H & Chyna) defeated The Undertaker (20:37)
By winning the Royal Rumble match, Steve Austin won the right to face Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XIV. Mike Tyson’s presence in the director’s box was revealed the following night to be because he was taking the role of special guest referee for the event. Following an altercation with Austin, however, he was changed to special enforcer and soon allied with D-Generation X. At WrestleMania, though, Tyson showed his true colors and stepped in when the referee was knocked down making the three-count for Austin which many see as the genesis for the Attitude era and WWF’s re-surging dominance over chief rivals World Championship Wrestling.
Moreover, during the match with The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels suffered an injury to his back which would result in his ostensible retirement from wrestling at WrestleMania. As it transpired, during a one-off match with Triple H at SummerSlam 2002, he realized his back no longer hampered him and made a full time return to wrestling. His back injury kept him out of all wrestling until the main event at WrestleMania, despite being billed on the card for the next PPV, No Way Out of Texas. His last-minute replacement was Savio Vega, who appeared in the main event eight-man tag team match which saw a number of high-profile feuds converge on the road to WrestleMania.
The New Age Outlaws would go on to take part in the eight-man main event at No Way Out of Texas, sparring opposite Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie ahead of their WrestleMania title match. Their alliance with Triple H in this match saw them join the newly formed DX Army the day after WrestleMania. Legion of Doom went on to suffer a series of losses, ending in another loss against the Outlaws on February 23 after which they had an in-ring brawl and announced the dissolution of their team. They reappeared in a modified form as LOD 2000 in the opening WrestleMania match with Sunny as their valet.
Rocky Maivia’s feud with Ken Shamrock spilled out into a ten-man tag match between the Nation of Domination and Shamrock’s team, teaming with Ahmed Johnson and the Disciples of Apocalypse. Shamrock won the match by pinning Rock name and faced him at WrestleMania once again for the Intercontinental title. He originally won the match but would not release his ankle lock and was thus was disqualified.
The Undertaker would not return to action until WrestleMania, where he defeated Kane in a singles match. The feud continued with an inferno match at Unforgiven: In Your House in April. Two months later the two entered a storyline where Undertaker was eventually revealed to be in cahoots with his brother, which concluded with Paul Bearer reuniting with Undertaker and turning on Kane which led to the formation of the Ministry of Darkness at the end of 1998. This also marked the last time he would face Michaels in a singles match until the two met at WrestleMania XXV; he would wrestle Michaels once more at WrestleMania XXVI where he won a “streak vs. career” match.
Royal Rumble Stats
|3||Tom Brandi||1||Jack and Charlie||00:12|
|6||Phineas I. Godwinn||12||Henry
|8||Blackjack Bradshaw||15||Dude Love||35:45|
|9||Owen Hart||10||Triple H and Chyna
|12||Kurrgan||5||Shamrock, 8-Ball, Godwinn, Bradshaw, Charlie and Rock||03:38|
|17||The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust||23||Chainz||26:04|
|18||Jeff Jarrett||8||Owen Hart
|19||The Honky Tonk Man||17||Vader||19:55|
|20||Ahmed Johnson||11||Henry and Brown||03:18|
|22||Skull||–||Unable to compete due to injury
|25||Henry Godwinn||22||Dude Love||11:32|