The 1994 Royal Rumble was a controversial match as it was the first time in WWE history that two wrestlers were declared the winner. As a result, there would be not one but two World Championship matches at WrestleMania X. How could this happen?
At the 1993 King of the Ring, Yokozuna won the WWE World Championship by defeating American hero Hulk Hogan. Yokozuna had been a force to be reckoned with for most of 1993, taking out wrestlers such as Jim Duggan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, and Hulk Hogan. However, there did not appear to be a man that could dethrone Yokozuna, a 500lbs sumo champion. That is until the USS Intrepid bodyslam challenge on July 4th, 1993.
On the USS Intrepid, Lex Luger made a memorable entrance via a helicopter and stared Yokozuna in the eyes before executing a slam to catapult himself as the number one contender for the main event, the 1993 SummerSlam event. At the event, Lex Luger won, but won by count-out and thus did not win the championship. The month-long Lex Express journey could have been more successful in winning the title. Later, Luger discovered he would not have another opportunity due to the contract for the SummerSlam having a stipulation. The stipulation was that Luger would only have one chance to challenge Yokozuna. However, Luger entered into the Royal Rumble match allowing for an opportunity to get a second chance at glory.
Favorites To Win At The Time
Lex Luger was the heavy favorite to win the Royal Rumble as Vince McMahon was looking for his next Hulk Hogan act to carry the company for years. However, Luger adopted a new look when he slammed Yokozuna in July 1993. Luger was no longer a narcissist and now cared about the country and was determined to be the hero that everyone could support. The only issue was that the WWE audience was not reacting the way Vince McMahon had hoped, and as the company got closer to WrestleMania X, they had a backup plan in case Luger was not the right choice. That other choice?
Bret Hart had been the WWE’s top wrestler since winning the World Championship for the first time from Ric Flair in October 1992. Bret’s connection with the audience was undeniable, and he won the fans over with his wrestling ability and fighting spirit. Bret was one of the first fighting champions, often appearing on television competing in competitive matches. Before Bret’s run as champion, the champion usually did not compete on TV consistently. Bret helped change that and, as a result, earned the admiration of the fans. While the WWE wanted Luger to be their top draw, the fans continued to clamor for Bret Hart.
Early into the Rumble match, there was not much excitement, but that all changed with the seventh entrant. Diesel entered at number seven and promptly dominated the match, earning an ovation from the Providence crowd. Diesel competed for seventeen minutes in the match and eliminated seven wrestlers, the most of any competitor. It would take three wrestlers to stop Diesel, including his good friend Shawn Michaels.
Entering the match at number thirteen, Crush had a strong showing lasting over twenty-five minutes. During that time, Crush was able to eliminate his former friend turned rival Randy Savage from the match. Four wrestlers eliminated Crush to conclude his strong showing in the Rumble bout.
Bam-Bam Bigelow entered the match at number fifteen and had an underrated performance lasting the longest than anyone in the match. Bigelow remained in the match for over a half-hour and had five eliminations.
Shawn Michaels, entering eighteenth into the Rumble match, lasted twenty-nine minutes and had four eliminations. Michaels made it to the final four but was eliminated by Lex Luger, who had entered the match at twenty-three.
In a dramatic moment in Royal Rumble history, Bret Hart hobbled his way to the ring after suffering a leg injury in a WWE Tag Team Championship match against the Quebecers earlier in the show. Then, to add insult to injury, Bret’s brother Owen Hart kicked him on his injured leg. As a result, there was severe doubt as to whether Bret would even make his appearance. Nevertheless, Bret courageously limped to the ring to fight for the opportunity to become the number one contender.
Fatu, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Lex Luger were the final four competitors in the Royal Rumble. Bret Hart eliminates Fatu and Luger eliminates Michaels. The final two are the two favorites to win the match. Lex Luger, the company-driven and created top babyface with a new persona. Bret Hart is a wrestler who has organically developed a relationship with the audience and is genuinely beloved. Who will prevail?
They both do. For the first time in Royal Rumble history, there was a tie. Luger and Hart struggled over the top rope, and their feet hit the floor simultaneously. After a discussion amongst referees, there was a tie. Although there was a tie, it was clear from the crowd’s reaction that Bret Hart was being supported more by the fans. The experiment making Luger a top guy was going differently than planned.
The 1994 Royal Rumble is a perfect example that letting a connection develop naturally is better than forcing a connection in wrestling. When a wrestler is forced onto the audience, the audience will reject the wrestler. In this case, Luger was rejected by the audience.
Following the event, both Bret Hart and Lex Luger earned World Championship matches at WrestleMania X. Luger lost his match by disqualification due to special referee Mr. Perfect costing Luger the match. Meanwhile, Bret Hart won the World Championship by pinning Yokozuna in the main event. Like at the Royal Rumble, Bret had wrestled earlier in the night, losing a classic match to his brother Owen.
On January 28th, 2023, the 2023 Royal Rumble takes place live on Peacock.