by Daniel Johnson
It is no secret that the WWF was ailing in the mid 1990s. While the obvious backlash over a certain scandal (I think it involved anabolic asteroids or something) was a major culprit, some of the company’s booking decisions certainly didn’t help. An early example of booking gone wrong in this period was how much Yokozuna was pushed. The guy ended Hulkamania and won the WWF Championship within months of his debut. That’s insane! I remember back in 2009 there was a commotion about Sheamus getting too much, too soon when he beat John Cena for the WWE Championship. Well, if you converted Yoko’s 1993 push to Sheamus’ 2009 surge then not only would he have beat Cena, but he would have retired him then held the title for the better part of a year while destroying Randy Orton, Batista and anyone else who got in his way.
So what if instead of crushing Hulk Hogan and winning the WWF Championship, Yokozuna just feuded with Hogan freeing up the title picture? Well, we still would have gotten at least one racist Hulk Hogan promo (note: I can’t find evidence of this right now so the link leads to something else involving Hogan and Japan), but it could have given a decent push to one of the following.
7. Carlos Colon
If you’re unfamiliar with him then you should know that Carlito’s dad, Carlos was actually a wicked fun worker. He fought in a ton of early hardcore matches and would bleed buckets! As you may recall Carlos was one of those super randoms thrown into the 1993 Royal Rumble. The way I’d do it is that I’d book him to make a surprise appearance at Survivor Series 1992. At that event Bret Hart successfully defended his title against Shawn Michaels before celebrating with Santa Claus. What I’d do differently is have Colon dress up as Santa. Bobby Heenan could even make some wisecracks about how he doesn’t look like the traditional version of Santa when all of a sudden Colon snaps and attacks Bret. Colon could then either be paired with someone as his mouthpiece (Jim Cornette) or go at it as a lone wild man. After having Colon win the Rumble they could then book Bret/Razor to go on last and Colon could attack Bret making him look like even more of a threat. Maybe even give him an alliance with Razor since they have the whole Latin connection going on. WWF could then build up to the event by showing footage of Colon from Puerto Rico. The beauty of all this is that this is the year of Wrestlemania IX. Therefore they could book it to be a cage match and play up how gladiators used to duel it out to the death back in Roman times. At the event Bret could retain after a hard fought match where both guys’ juice. This would have to be a far less family friendly feud than Yoko/Bret, but WWF wanted to go in that direction anyway. Unfortunately, the criticism they got following the asteroid trial made them go the opposite route.
6. Genichiro Tenryu
Speaking of super randoms who appeared in 1993 Royal Rumble, Genichiro Tenryu has to be at or near the top of the list. If you have never heard of this guy then…shame on you! Fans of Japanese wrestling will recall that he is a wrestling legend in that country and arguably the best all around wrestler in Japan of all time. However, the average American fan in 1993 wasn’t terribly aware of who Tenryu was, what he had done and to quote Scott Steiner what he was, “capble of.” As such the best approach for Tenryu would have been to bring him in months prior to the Rumble so fans could get used to him. Originally he was promoted as a face anyway as he and Koji Kitao squashed the heel Demolition at Wrestlemania VII before Tenryu was brought back in two consecutive Rumbles, the second of which he was inexplicably made a heel henchman for Yokozuna. In this alternate booking, Tenryu instead could be brought back with The Great Kabuki by being approached by Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji in a vignette where the two are looking for thugs to help Yoko establish his dominance. Kabuki could take the payoff while Tenryu establishes himself as an honorable wrestler by rejecting it. Tenryu and Kabuki then enter into a feud culminating in a match at the 1993 Royal Rumble. Tenyru not only beats Kabuki, but wins the Royal Rumble after eliminating Savage. Tenryu then grabs an American flag…and spits on it…or at least throws it down. Yokozuna then comes out and banzai drops Savage. Mr. Fuji and Yoko have discarded Kabuki as a loser and managed to ally with Tenryu. Together they will end Hulkamania and capture the WWF Championship, respectively. Admittedly, this booking is pretty flimsy, but doesn’t that Bret/Tenryu match at Wrestlemania just make your mouth water?
5. Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase’s career was winding down in 1993. So instead of having him wrestle Razor Ramon in a forgettable match to cap off his career why not give him the Ric Flair treatment by having it end at Wrestlemania (sort of)? The Royal Rumble could play out with Yokozuna looking like a monster and eliminating people left and right. Finally, it comes down to just DiBiase and Yokozuna. The two stare each other down for a moment then Yoko turns around and…jumps right out of the ring (or however he can do to get over the top rope). Yes, it turns out that DiBiase has bought his title shot at Wrestlemania. Still, there is a problem with this idea. DiBiase is a co-holder of the WWF World Tag Team Championship with Irwin R. Schyster at this point. This can be fixed easily enough. DiBiase’s ego is so big that he announces he will be the first ever to successfully win tag team and world title matches at Wrestlemania. Just before the tag title match he could announce that he has paid a replacement to stand in for him…which of course would be Yoko again. This could start the Yoko/Hogan feud since Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake challenged for the WWF World Tag Team Championship at that event anyway. Yoko could then be made the permanent tag champ or Money inc. could just be stripped of the belts after the match due to an illegal substitution. Meanwhile, Bret/DiBiase are left to tear it up in the main event and allow DiBiase to retire from in-ring competition.
4. Jerry Lawler
Thus far you probably noticed that I ultimately have Bret retaining at Wrestlemania. Well, that completely changes with Jerry Lawler entering the list. As the booking that actually happened shows as cringe worthy as their feud got at times Bret and Lawler could work well together and the feud to put it simply had legs. In this scenario Lawler could have actually lost the Royal Rumble with Randy Savage eliminating him last to win. The audience could get hyped up for Savage/Hart at Wrestlemania only for Lawler to goad Savage into putting his shot on the line. Savage and Lawler actually have a history together dating back to their Memphis days and Lawler could taunt Savage with old embarrassing footage. What kind of footage? Well, Lawler could probably go beyond the Memphis library with clips like this. Lawler not only cheating Savage out of his shot, but cheating to be the first heel to come out of Wrestlemania with the WWF Championship would make him one of the most hated heels in the history of the company. From there Hart could win the 1993 King of the Ring and go onto feud with Lawler as he did in reality.
3. Mr. Perfect
I hate to sound like I’m using too much hyperbole in one list, but Hart/Hennig had arguably the best chemistry of any two wrestlers…well, ever really. The match resulting from these two locking up at Wrestlemania would be a classic even if the storyline revolved around one eating the other’s lunch. Still, let me try some more armchair booking. Perfect was just establishing himself as a fan favorite in early 1993, but come on lets face it. This guy was born to be a heel. So how about this, Perfect wins the Royal Rumble, but gets goaded into putting it on the line in a match with Ric Flair on WWF Monday Night Raw. If Flair wins then he gets Perfect’s title shot, but if he loses he is gone for good. Perfect beats Flair in a legendary match just like the one that actually happened. Winning the Rumble and running Ric Flair out of town gives Curt Hennig a tremendously swelled head. He then goes back to the old arrogant and obnoxious Mr. Perfect we all know and love to hate. He could beat Bret at Wrestlemania or not. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever would have happened we would still be talking about it today.
2. Shawn Michaels
One of the most disappointing facts about wrestling in the 1990s is that as good as Hart/Michaels were in the ring together, they grew to hate each other. So what if instead of waiting until these two were pulling each others’ hair out to put them in a match they had a series of matches when they had a much better working relationship? As you may recall these two tore the house down in the main event of the 1992 Survivor Series. In this alternate scenario that match could still happen when Michaels shocks the world by winning the 1993 Royal Rumble. He could even drop his WWF Intercontinental Championship earlier in the night to Marty Jannetty, which would put a little fuel behind Jannetty at a point when his personal demons hadn’t quite completely destroyed his career. Since, Michaels wasn’t ready for the belt in 1993 he would have to job to Bret at Wrestlemania, but that would be okay because Michaels wouldn’t have the leverage at the time to act like a total dick. Perhaps this could even be a trilogy with the two wrestling a third time at that year’s King of the Ring. If Shawn lost thrice then maybe we would all be a little more sympathetic to his role in the Montreal Screwjob.
1. Razor Ramon
As bad as the WWF got in the mid 1990s the company always had a few bright stars, who could keep you watching. Just about all these stars either got a run or runs with the WWF Championship or were consistently booked in the main event. One exception to this was Razor Ramon. His biggest chance came at the 1993 Royal Rumble when he lost in a title match to Bret. In this scenario he could still have that same match only it would end in a disqualification. Razor could hit Bret with the title belt and/or a chair and then just really lay into him until a bunch of referees and staff have to break it up. Ramon could then take out a late entrant into the Rumble and claim that wrestler’s spot as his own. Ramon goes onto win and a rematch is set for Hart/Razor at Wrestlemania. One problem. Ramon wasn’t technically in the Rumble since he took someone out. This could then lead Razor to play an anti-authority character similar to what “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would become four years later. After Ramon has to go through some challenges to keep his title shot for instance wrestling the wrestler he took out and the winner-up in one-on-one matches he would then face Bret. For thoroughness lets say Mr. Perfect and Randy Savage, respectively are used to fill those spots. Would he win at Wrestlemania? Well, let me just say at the end of the night he would have gold around his fingers, gold around his neck and gold around his waist, chico!
Photos 1, 4-5, 7-8: onlineworldofwrestling.com
Photos 2-3, 6: en.wikipedia.org