365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Royal Rumble and watched them all. As a kid, that meant dad ordering the pay-per-view and watching it together.

So, here’s the thing. I remember ordering the 1991 Rumble. I remember the Rumble match. I remember Virgil finally decking Ted DiBiase. I remember Sgt. Slaughter winning the title. And while I’m sure I saw the opening tag between the Rockers and the Orient Express, well …

Sooo, we’re correcting that today.

You can watch this match on Peacock, by the way.

The Match

By this point, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty have been wrestling the Orient Express dating back to WrestleMania VI. That rivalry’s been going on so long that this is actually the second version of the Express to go against the Rockers. After Akio Sato left the WWF, he was replaced in the team by Kato — aka Paul Diamond, a former longtime partner of Pat Tanaka as Badd Company.

If you like double-team moves in tag matches, or exchanges involving all four wrestlers, then this is the match for you. I won’t spend time trying to recap it all; just go and watch, or rewatch, it for yourself. These two teams pack so much action, innovation and creativity into this match.

The finish is outstanding and worth a deeper dive. The Rockers set up for a Rocket Launcher on Kato, but Tanaka intervenes to break it up and Shawn crashes to the floor from the top rope. The Express isolate Marty, with Kato slingshotting him into a knife-edge chop by Tanaka. They go to repeat the move, but this time Shawn saves the day, decking Tanaka, who doubles over as Kato unknowingly slingshots Jannetty, who catches Tanaka in a sunset flip for the three count. With poorer timing or less talented wrestlers, this would have come off as clunky and overly choreographed. Good execution makes for a slick, seamless culmination.

Roddy Piper joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary here and adds quite a bit, enthusiastically praising the skill, talent and athleticism of all four competitors. On the few occasions where the action slows down and someone gets put in a hold, Piper is quick to explain how the hold is effective and the strategy behind it. He does everything that an analyst on commentary should do, in my opinion…

Final Rating: 8.9

I definitely have never seen this match before, because the product produced by these four here is unforgettable. I loved this match. They go almost 20 minutes and I could have watched them battle for another 10.

Placement on the card can help, or hurt, a match. Putting this match first was the ideal spot, whipping an already eager pay-per-view crowd into a frenzy. It’s also worth noting how atypical this match was for WWF, especially in this era. A nearly 20-minute match, worked at this pace, with this many big moves and double teams and high spots just didn’t happen in this company, at least in this era.

Looking back, and seeing matches like this, it’s rather astonishing that the WWF never gave the Rockers a run atop the division. All four guys get their chance to shine in this match, but make no mistake, this is really a showcase for the Rockers. It’s celebrated as one of the best undercard matches at a Rumble, and for good reason.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

We head down Mexico way.

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5 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 19: Rockers vs. New Orient Express (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/91)

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