If professional wrestling was a college course, all text and visual material on the 1992 Royal Rumble should be the primary resources for teaching.
If you have never seen this event or don't know the significance which surrounds it, you're missing out on true history.
I don't complain as much about what today's product offers because I understand it's a different goal and set of rules. However, it's obvious after watching two hours of this event that it's far and beyond better than most of anything produced in the past 15 years that involves a wrestling ring.
The biggest moment and story from a historical perspective is Ric Flair winning the Royal Rumble, which awarded him the WWF Championship. The title was vacant, and whoever won the 30 man contest would walk out with gold. If you know of the talent invasions and stealing of title belts from the Monday Night Wars, this is something to look at which set the precedent.
Flair had been the top guy for the National Wrestling Alliance. A group of regional wrestling territories who were fighting against Vince McMahon's national company, who was acquiring the best talent from the territories. Flair was the NWA Champion and the one star they had been able to rely on.
In late 1991, Flair left the NWA and signed a deal with WWF. In his arrival, he brought the World Heavyweight Championship title with him. He walked into Royal Rumble and entered the hour long battle at number three and won it all. He was the earliest entrant to date to win the event.
The monumental win is the headline grabber, but the material for wrestling education is deeper into the event. The psychology of the match in how Flair interacted with many of the already established company stars, the commentary and the undercard were all chapters of professional beauty.
This event contained so many legitimate stars. Not manufactured, not forced and certainly not heavily scripted. This was a collection of talents who knew their craft. The interaction in the Royal Rumble match showed this.
When it came down to Flair, Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice, I think most expected Hogan to win. If that scenario happened today, the WWE-made guy would have won. When Hogan got eliminated, you can see a shock and roar in the crowd filled with surprise.
Commentary was done by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. It had been established from the debut of Flair in WWF that Heenan was a full supporter of his. The chemistry between Heenan and Monsoon is tremendous. That, accompanied by Hennan's love for Flair, which turned into panic during the thick of the match and culminated in joy when Flair won, is a work of verbal storytelling art.
The verbal storytelling art extended from the live action to the promo room. With the press looking on taking pictures—yes, they allowed magazines and newspapers access—Flair's post-match promo celebrating his win stands out the most. A promo which he even dictated and touched on extensively in his book. The promo pronounced that World Heavyweight Championship belt he brought over from the NWA meant nothing and the WWF title was the only title in the wrestling world that means you're number one.
Other promos which stand out are “Rowdy” Roddy Piper's promo prior to his Intercontinental match against The Mountie. When you listen to him screaming and selling the feud while closing with a dirty dream reference, you know this wasn't handed to him by any writer.
The entire segment exemplifies a producer telling him to sell the match and Roddy Piper being Roddy Piper. Speaking words, phrases, tone and delivery that only he knows his character would. Just watch how he starts out in a low voice and then abruptly rises. Today, WWE is mostly all in one teleprompter read voice.
Watch this event, take notes and prepare for the test. This Royal Rumble is a schooling in the basics and showing of where we've come from.
This event shows how far the business has evolved. It's evolved to a giant stage with big lights and big money. It's also evolved into multiple avenues of revenue and agendas with too many cooks in the scripted kitchen.