SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Twenty years ago this week, WWE was preparing to bring the Royal Rumble to San Antonio, Tex. at the Alamo Dome. WWE held a press conference to build anticipation by announcing major news. The following is the news story I wrote for the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #417, cover-dated Nov. 30, 1996.
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The WWF held a press conference in San Antonio, Tex. last week and announced Shawn Michaels would challenge whomever is the WWF Champion at the time of the Royal Rumble. The Rumble will be held at the football stadium Alamo Dome (where the San Antonio Spurs play basketball). Rather than have Michaels enter the Royal Rumble and win it for the third year in a row in order to earn a shot at “WWF Champion Bret Hart” at Wrestlemania, it appears now the WWF is going to have Bret Hart win the Royal Rumble and have Michaels defend the WWF Title against Bret at Wrestlemania.
The plan for quite a while has been for Michaels to enter the Royal Rumble as the challenger for the WWF Title because the WWF has figured that they would draw a better crowd in San Antonio if hometown boy Michaels is the challenger. Originally the idea was for Vader to capture the title in a devious fashion and probably defend against Michaels at Royal Rumble. The decision was made to make Sid the transition champion instead.
The finish of the Survivor Series main event wasn’t booked to save Michaels from doing a clean job, but instead was meant to build sympathy for Michaels as challenger when he takes on Sid (plus make Sid a bit “heelish” going into his title defense against Bret next month). Since Michaels lost the title under such questionable circumstances, if he indeed wins the title from Sid at the Rumble and defends against Bret at Wrestlemania, it won’t seem like Michaels is a “tainted” champion who was beat cleanly four months earlier.
Presumably at the December In Your House there will be an inconclusive finish so that one way or another Sid will defend against Michaels at the Rumble. It’s conceivable Bret would beat Sid and defend against Michaels at the Rumble, but all indications are the WWF is going to save that match for Wrestlemania and put Michaels into a situation where he is more likely to receive a heroes welcome in his hometown.
In order to not show their cards ahead of time, the WWF has booked three-way matches for the WWF Title throughout January and February featuring Sid vs. Michaels vs. Bret.