Today, the Royal Rumble is one of the Big Four in the WWE. In 1992 however, the Rumble was in only its fifth year. Four years before the winner received an automatic WrestleMania title shot, 1992 was the most important Rumble to date as the winner would claim the vacant WWE Championship.
Before the Royal Rumble begins we see a series of backstage interviews. We start with Shawn Michaels in his HBK gear for the first time. Shawn also tries to get over his new catchphrase, “I don’t think so.” Footage is shown of him turning on Marty Jannetty. Unfortunately, the clip ends before Bobby Heenan’s awesome, “Jannetty tried to dive through the window” call. Interviews with Randy Savage, Sid Justice, Repo Man, Davey Boy Smith, Jake Roberts, Ric Flair (who Mr. Perfect calls “the man who rocks the cradle”), the Undertaker, and a paranoid Hulk Hogan who talks about how everyone betrays him.
The first storyline of the match begins immediately while The Fink goes over the rules. Heenan’s nervous while Gorilla Monsoon calmly bets Flair will be one or two. WWF President Jack Tunney is booed as he says the winner will be WWF Champion. Davey Boy is one and Ted DiBiase is two. Brain with another classic line (“Boy, will you look at them!”).
Brain says Flair should employ a strategy that would be abused in later years: get out of the ring and hide. DiBiase is quickly eliminated and here comes #3. Gorilla screams, “YES!” and Brain screams, “DAMN IT!” as Flair comes out. The main story begins: how long will Flair survive? Jerry Sags is #4 and Haku is #5. HBK is #6 and immediately goes after Flair in what would be a dream match within a few years. Tito Santana is next. Unlike Rey Mysterio in 2006, Flair is constantly attacking instead of just laying in a corner. Gorilla calmly mentions Barbarian does not like Flair as he comes in at #8. Kerry Von Erich is #9 and he and Flair have a brief staredown before locking up. Shawn is bumping like crazy as the ring fills up.
Repo at #10, then Greg Valentine at #11. The former NWA World Tag Team Champions trade chops before Flair flops. Heenan begins rambling then just yells at Gorilla to shut up. Nikolai Volkoff is #12, followed by the Big Bossman who goes wild on everyone. Flair finally eliminates Davey Boy, then Kerry right after. Hercules comes in at #14 and heads straight for Flair. Ring clears until it is just Bossman and Flair. Flair eliminates Bossman and Heenan goes nuts proclaiming Flair the champion.
The match-long storyline kicks into high gear as pretty much everyone who enters from here on goes after Flair. Roddy Piper is #15 and Flair is dismayed. Along with a hot feud in Mid Atlantic, Piper was Flair’s first WWF feud. Jake Roberts comes in at #16 as Piper has Flair trapped in the sleeper. Jake sits back and lets Piper put Flair to sleep then suddenly attacks Flair and goes for the DDT. Jim Duggan in at #17, IRS is #18, Jimmy Snuka is #19 and all go straight for Flair. Ring is starting to fill up with Flair opponents from NWA/Mid Atlantic. Undertaker is #20 and even he goes after Flair. Savage is #21 and he makes a beeline for Jake, who had recently slapped Elizabeth. Macho quickly eliminates Jake then stupidly jumps over the top and to the floor. Taker just rolls Savage back in the ring. (This was unplanned and the announcers have to cover for Savage by saying you have to be eliminated through an offensive move.)
Berzerker, Virgil, Colonel Mustafa, and Rick Martel all enter before Hogan finally enters at #26. Taker and Berzerker are eliminated. Skinner at #27 while Heenan yells at someone to get him a drink. Sergeant Slaughter is 28. Piper and Hogan go at in a cool callback to their historic feud that began the wrestling boom of the 1980s. Monsoon and Heenan don’t acknowledge the history. I get not wanting to put over Flair’s feuds from other promotions, but why ignore your own history? Flair has been in for 53 minutes, setting the longevity record. Sid is #29 and Warlord is #30.
As if on cue, the ring empties and the final four are Flair, Macho, Hogan, and Sid. Flair eliminates Macho while Sid tosses Hogan to a huge pop. Babyface Hogan complains about the perfectly fair elimination. Fans boo Hogan (edited to cheers in later showings) who grabs Sid by the hand, enabling Flair to come from behind, throw Sid out, and win the WWE Championship.
Post-match, Flair cuts the classic, “With a tear in my eye…” promo that WWE still shows to this day. Flair subtly buries WCW then Gene ends by telling someone off camera to “Put that cigarette out.”
Final Thoughts: Royal Rumble 1992 is an absolute classic. Along with Flair’s incredible performance, Monsoon and Heenan are in top form, and we see a young HBK and Taker. The cracks starting to form in Hulkamania are also on full display here. There have been many memorable Rumbles in the over two decades since, but none have been better.