Thanks to the delightfully addictive WWE Network, Fill The Steins continues to look back at the biggest matches in the career of UMaine’s greatest pro wrestling export, D’Lo Brown. After reviewing D’Lo’s first two WWE (then WWF) pay-per-view matches, 1997 Badd Blood and the 1997 Survivor Series, today we relive another first in D’Lo’s career…his first Royal Rumble.
The Royal Rumble is one of the most unique matches and annual events professional wrestling offers. Conceptually devised by former Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson and debuting in 1988, the Royal Rumble takes the traditional battle royal to a whole new level. Unlike all battle royals before it where every participant started at the same time, the Royal Rumble sees two men start the match and another man enter every two minutes (or thereabouts…believe it or not, WWE is sometimes less than honest in its countdown down from 120). The incomparable nature of the match has made it a fan favorite in the WWE Universe and, as a result, it’s a very big deal for a wrestler to be included.
As the calendar turned from 1997 to 1998, the WWF was moving full-speed-ahead into its Attitude Era, led by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Underneath Austin, however, there were a number of talented, controversial acts that were more than holding their own in filling out weekly programming like Monday Night Raw. One of those acts was the Nation of Domination, of which UMaine’s D’Lo Brown was a part.
In the run-up to the 1998 Royal Rumble, tension began mounting in the NOD. Members began to come and go and The Rock began to subtly usurp Faarooq for leadership of the group. How would that tension and all those massive egos work together in the every-man-for-himself environment of the Royal Rumble and where would D’Lo fit in to all the chaos? Let’s get to the match and find out!
The Match: 1998 Royal Rumble match
The Event: 1998 WWF Royal Rumble
The Date: January 18, 1998
The Place: San Jose Arena in San Jose, CA
The Sponsor: 1-800-COLLECT (We just had to throw that in. Current UMaine students, ask your older siblings and/or youngest uncle about 1-800-COLLECT)
The 1998 Royal Rumble will always be remembered by most wrestling fans as a match won by Steve Austin to secure his path to the WWF Championship match at WrestleMania XIV, a match which he would ultimately go on to win and, in turn, launch himself into the pantheon of all-time great WWF Superstars. Our hero, D’Lo Brown, however, played a sneaky-impressive, if non-noteworthy, role in this match. Believe it or not, after entering the match at an unspectacular #11, he went on to spend the third-longest amount of time in the ring (32:21, behind only Bradshaw and D’Lo’s NOD partner, The Rock) and be involved in much of the advancing storyline of the widening cracks in the NOD.
Literally every time a member of the NOD entered the match, they went after another NOD member. This served the duel purpose of advancing both the aforementioned every-man-for-himself Royal Rumble concept and also the dissent within the NOD. Unfortunately for D’Lo, this often meant he was on the wrong end of a good ol’ fashioned beatdown.
Still, D’Lo was able to work in some fun spots. One of our favorites is when D’Lo and The Rock manage to team up long enough to pound down Bradshaw in the corner, only for D’Lo to grab a glance at his “partner”, turn, and start unloading right hands on the future icon. Overall, though, D’Lo served as “background noise” to many of the bigger stars in the match until he was the 16th man eliminated by, big surprise, NOD leader Faarooq.
Match Rating: ***1/2
D’Lo Rating: **
Final Analysis: Although D’Lo had an unspectacular run in an otherwise historic Royal Rumble, the WWF was clearly continuing to plant the seeds for his upcoming singles push after the impending break-up of the NOD. It speaks volumes that D’Lo was trusted to spend over a half hour in such a high profile match. It meant that WWF Chairman and world-renowned control freak Vince McMahon trusted him. And, let’s face it, regardless of what line of business you’re in, if you’ve got the boss’s trust, you got it made in the shade. Or, in D’Lo’s case, the spotlight.
Other Notes: Another historic component of this match was Mick Foley entering three times, once under each of his gimmicks: Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love…Austin won the Royal Rumble for the second consecutive year, last eliminating The Rock and thereby starting one of the great main event rivalries in WWF/E history…D’Lo was one of 17, yes, SEVENTEEN, wrestlers who made their Royal Rumble debut in 1998, another signal of a genuine changing of the guard in the WWF…Mike Tyson watched this event live in the arena from a luxury suite, which set the stage for his legendary in-ring confrontation on Monday Night Raw with Steve Austin and eventual involvement as the “special enforcer” in the main event of WrestleMania XIV.
What are your favorite memories from the 1998 Royal Rumble? Did you see D’Lo’s singles push coming at this point in his career? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the conversation on Twitter using #FillTheSteins!
Photo courtesy: WWE