The Five MVPs Of The 1998 Royal Rumble Not Named Steve Austin

Photo by George Napolitano/FilmMagic

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To many, Royal Rumble 1992 is the definitive match of the ‘Pat Patterson signature’ that goes down every January. I can’t argue against the epic run of Ric Flair and to be completely forthright, I’ve maybe only seen that particular Rumble once, and when I did I was an Attitude Era-leaning adolescent that had 2 Sweet nWo vitriol coursing through his veins. So the Royal Rumble that I tend to hang my hat on is the one that went down in 1998 at the San Jose Arena where “Stone Cold” Steve Austin continued his ascent to pro wrestling super stardom as he won his second Rumble by going back-to-back.

It was Attitude at its freshest so you had the sex, the weaponry and the Marilyn Manson shirts swarming the sign-filled arenas. Now the majority of it doesn’t really hold up when you remove the “something different” factor and character freewill of the performers, but if you consider what I just stated, then this is by far one of the greatest Rumble events. You had characters – your freaks, that “gang wars” vibe, and you had your stakes. This belt meant something with that surly degenerate Shawn Michaels defending it, and you had my 12-year old pupils locked in with naive wonderment as all this went down.

Austin undoubtedly was the primary focus of that event, but there were so many key highlights that make this particular match one of its most memorable iterations. Let’s take a look at what I believe to be this match’s top five performers (that doesn’t count Austin).

5. Goldust (Lasted 26:01, Eliminated by Chainz)

Two things made Goldust stand out in this match: one being the 26 minutes he stayed in the ring and the other just being his something out of 8 MM appearance. This reimagined version of Goldust was blue haired with Apocalypse Now-esque face paint, donning a silver jumpsuit straight out of Buck Rogers with black g-string garnish on top. He encompassed everything that was sex-crazed edgy of that era and although he wasn’t a major factor in the Rumble match itself, the man knew how to set an abrasive tone for that Attitude Era brand.

4. Owen Hart (Lasted 2:00, Eliminated by Triple H & Chyna)

Owen got the biggest pop from that San Jose crowd when you exclude Stone Cold and rightfully so considering he was the “Sole Survivor” of the Hart Family in WWF. Owen was a major fan favorite as he was attacked by that NWA Aztecan diablo Jeff Jarrett initially and when he finally did manage to come to the ring later on. The fans were all behind Owen and Royal Rumble 1998 was a moment for the King Of Harts to realize how much higher his place on the card could be.

3. Terry Funk (Lasted 25:19, Eliminated by Mankind)

Whether you call him Chainsaw Charlie, middle-aged and crazy, or one of (if not) the best damn all-around workers in the history of wrestling, Terry Funk is sure as hell sturdy. Funk lasted longer in the Rumble than did the panythose on his head as he went over 25 minutes clinging for dear life as every head banger, Godwin and Nation member took their turn at tossing Terry over the top. Not too mention you had him facing off against his wild buddy Cactus in what is perhaps the most memorable 1 & 2 drawings in the history of the event (complete with Tom Brandi beatdown).

2. Mick Foley (Lasted total of 19:21, Eliminated by Funk, Goldust & Farooq)

Talk about a clever play on Patterson’s end here. All three of Foley’s damn faces make a Rumble appearance and it even told a story for the first half of the match. Chainsaw Charlie eliminates his buddy Cactus Jack so out comes Mankind for that sweet, sweet vengeance. Then Mick’s final appearance as Dude Love completes the story-telling circle by forming a brief alliance with ex-partner Austin to fight off Farooq and that jealous prodigy Rocky Maivia. Foley, in my opinion, is one of the greatest to ever be part of the sport, particularly from a character perspective and WWF Royal Rumble 1998 certainly showcased that.

1. The Rock (Lasted 51:32, Eliminated by Steve Austin)

Do you think the thought came across anyone’s mind “right now I’m boot-choking the future biggest movie star in Hollywood?” Even if not, “Holy foreshadow, McMahon.” Maivia comes out as the number four entrant and lasts 50 + minutes only to be eliminated by the company’s biggest star in Austin? This Rumble could be considered the beginning of Rock’s main event-rise. The mere fact of being such a young, consistent presence in one of WWE’s most popular events added more vigor and hate to every “Die Rocky Die” chant that was spewed at him in the first half of that year, and that hate would continue over during the Survivor Series in which he pulled the wool over the eyes of those fans wanting to get behind him as “The People’s Champion.”