WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering the 1998 Royal Rumble Match

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WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering the 1998 Royal Rumble Match
Photo Credit: WWE.com

The Royal Rumble is traditionally one of the most popular matches of the calendar year. The anticipation for the next entrant, the surprises, the plot twists and the eventual winner are all elements that have captured the audience's attention for 26 years. 

The 1998 Royal Rumble match not only incorporated those elements, it also was a key piece in the story documenting "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's rise to the top of professional wrestling.

The Texas Rattlesnake was the centerpiece of WWE booking, and the company utilized one of its biggest shows, and one of its most important matches, to continue pushing him as its top babyface.

Other top Superstars of the impending Attitude Era, including The Rock and Mick Foley, would go on to play major roles in the match, making the 1998 Rumble a sign of things to come for World Wrestling Entertainment.

 

Background

The Rumble match itself was built around Steve Austin and the fact that everyone was looking to gain a measure of revenge on Austin for his attacks in the weeks leading up to the match.

Also at play was Ken Shamrock's rivalry with Intercontinental champion The Rock and the entire Nation of Domination. After controversially being cost the title earlier in the evening, what kind of payback would Shamrock have in store for his young blue-chip rival?

Vader and the Artist Formerly Known As Goldust had engaged in a fairly heated feud in the weeks leading up to the Rumble. Earlier in the evening, Vader picked up a win over the Bizarre One. It remained to be seen if they would interact in the Rumble match itself and if they did, whether or not Goldust would gain a measure of revenge for the loss suffered in the night's opening contest.

 

Location

San Jose Arena in San Jose, Calif.

 

Broadcast Team

Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler

 

Date

January 18, 1998

 

The Match

The 1998 Royal Rumble match did an excellent job of fusing storytelling with the actual in-ring action, making it one of the most entertaining in event history.

Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie starting the match and brawling around the ring was a fitting way to start the match, but it would not be the last time Foley would make an appearance in the contest.

The Rock entered the match at No. 5 and delivered an outstanding performance, lasting over 50 minutes before being the final competitor eliminated.

Steve Austin entered amid great speculation that he had been attacked in the backstage area. He went on an impressive run, as one would assume he would, and ended the match by tossing Rock from the ring and picking up his second consecutive Royal Rumble victory.

 

Analysis

As mentioned above, the match is wildly entertaining.

The Austin story built some drama for the match as there were questions as to whether Austin would be able to dodge his fellow Superstars long enough to even make an appearance in the match itself.

Mick Foley was one of two MVPs in the match, appearing as Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love throughout the bout and really solidifying himself as one of the more complete performers in WWE as the company prepared for the biggest boom in its history. 

If it was not apparent that WWE had huge plans for The Rock in 1998 before the Rumble, it certainly was afterward. A huge 51-minute run for the self-proclaimed Great One cemented him as the breakout star in the company and one that had the potential to achieve great things in the coming 12 months.

A bad Rumble from a quality standpoint but one of the signature matches of the early Attitude Era days.

 

Historical Significance

The match highlighted three very key members of the Attitude Era, as Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock shined brightest and really captured, and held, fans' attention throughout.

The win would send Austin into WrestleMania XIV as the No. 1 contender to the WWE title. He would defeat Shawn Michaels for that title and forever turn the tides in the war with World Championship Wrestling.

The Rumble match was The Rock's coming-out party, as it was the first time fans gained some respect for the young star, appreciating the fact that he lasted nearly an hour in one of the most important, prestigious matches of the year.

He would reign as Intercontinental champion all the way to SummerSlam in August before capturing the WWE title in November at Survivor Series.

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