You know, I’d be the first to admit that my 1988 Royal Rumble rant was a bit lacking.
Looking over it, I see where I was the most bored and disinterested, and it showed in my writing. I don’t apologize often, but I’ll do so by writing a better rant for this show, the 1989 Royal Rumble.
There’s an underlying message in here. The 1988 show had a lot of kinks to be worked out, as did my accompanying rant. The 1989 show was a vast improvement and my rant, well….let’s cross our fingers. I hope it’s less boring than Dino Bravo’s weight lifting challenge from ’88 at least.
-January 15, 1989, from the Summit in Houston, TX. It’s the home of non-playoff football, as well as pitchers who have played or WILL play for the Phillies. Thanks, Ed Wade!
-And yes, this would be the first Rumble on PPV. It’s also got a better logo than the 1988 version, which featured fancy handwriting fit for some historical document, and is replaced through 1995 with the famed block lettering. It’s the block lettering I grew up with.
-As with the 1988 rant, I’ll be using the “what would I pay?” system to determine what I feel the value of the event at hand is. The system is kind of moot if you already own the show, but you can see if it feels like something you SHOULD have paid for. But if you watched it and hated it, you’d already know that…well…let’s move on.
OPENER: THE HART FOUNDATION AND HACKSAW JIM DUGGAN VS. THE FABULOUS ROUGEAU BROTHERS AND DINO BRAVO (TWO OUT OF THREE FALLS)
-Oh, thank God they’re getting Bravo out of the way now. Say, what’s up with these 2 out of 3 falls matches? This is the third one in the first five matches in Rumble history, and then they never had another one at the Rumble ever. What gives?
-All three heels take a battering ram in the corner, and the crowd is happy. Which three are the heels, you ask? Lemme counter by asking: has there ever been three French Canadians on the roster at the same time that were all faces? Ever? Maybe a slew of man-rats, er, jobbers that Pat Patterson would have tag along, but nobody major.
-Le Bad Guyex win the first fall via Le Bombe de Rougeau on Bret. It’s amazing when you look back and realize how many tag team matches from 1987-1990 ended with either Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels taking the fall. Hate to say it, but maybe that’s why not many fans stuck around during the “New Generation” (“HE’S the champ? The guy that once got pinned by the Warlord? No thanks…”)
-This is a great warm-up match, as all of the participants at least have well defined characters. The Harts are the well oiled tag team machine, Duggan’s the patriotic Buford Pusser type, and all three heels are openly foreign. It’s like paint by numbers on how to get fans 20 years ago to cheer and boo.
-Anywho, the good guys take the second fall after a horde of moves on Raymond, ending with an elbow drop by Duggan. Getting pinned by an elbow drop is only acceptable if it’s Survivor Series, or you’re laying down for The Rock. There’s no other exceptions.
-Finally, the faces win the third fall when Duggan hits Bravo with the 2X4 (Bravo was so boring last year that it tainted the thrill of Duggan’s Rumble win….well that’s MY theory) and Bret pins Bravo.
RATING: $4.50. Good, solid stuff, and I wasn’t bored by Bravo. We’ve already topped 1988! Now as long as Paul Roma’s not headlining, we’re in decent shape.
-Meanwhile, there’s chicanery afoot, as Ted Dibiase (the dad, not the boring sponge of a son) isn’t happy with the number he drew, so he has an offer for Slick, who’s shady on the basis that he’s a pimp. You know, how come they didn’t stereotype against Flash Funk in 1997? He dressed like a pimp, but was a good guy due to being “funky”. If you’re going to stereotype, at least be consistent.
-Also, the Bushwhackers swap their numbers for some reason. For those who complain about goofy characters now like Hornswoggle, Santino Marella, and the guest hosts, I give you: Luke and Butch. Now stop complaining.
MATCH 2: ROCKIN’ ROBIN VS. JUDY MARTIN (WWF WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)
-Judy Martin would not be allowed on the current WWE TV product looking the way she does here, unless she somehow convinced McMahon that she was Greg Valentine.
-Sensational Sherri shows up and challenges the winner, looking like Shia LeBouf going to a rave. I know Sherri’s dead and all, but geez, 80’s fashion was crap.
-The crowd could really care less about the match, even though Robin is portrayed as a local hero. The most notable thing is Sherri on commentary, as her and Jesse taunt Monsoon. Otherwise, it’s your typical modern divas match without the fitness model physiques. I wonder if this is why so many guys my age came out of the closet (no, not me).
-Robin wins after faking a cross body, and then hitting a real one. See, Robin was so good at faking things, she even had another woman fooled! Err, let’s move on.
RATING: $1.25. I was gonna go two bucks, but I decided to dock it 75 cents for having to listen to Robin sing “America the Beautiful” at Wrestlemania V. Look, it’s my convoluted ratings sytem; I’ll do what I want with it.
-Sean Mooney confronts Slick over the possible tampering with Dibiase, but Slick insists he hasn’t seen Dibiase in over a month. Well, given the travel schedule back then, it’s possible. Wouldn’t surprise me if half of these guys said to each other “You still work here?!?” Actually, I’ll bet they said that to Terry Taylor a lot.
SUPER POSEDOWN: ULTIMATE WARRIOR VS. RICK RUDE
-So instead of having a match, the Intercontinental Champion and one of the top heels will be engaged in a posing contest. Can you imagine if they did this now? Wait, they actually DID do this in 2003 with Triple H and Scott Steiner! And it was horrible! They even had an arm wrestling match, just to empty the tray of embarrassing 1980’s non-match clichés. I’m surprised there wasn’t a dual interview between the two on a revamped Brother Love Show.
-The story is that Rude is seriously trying to win on technical merit, whereas Ultimate Warrior just aggressively recreates Rude’s poses, and the crowd cheers louder for him. It’s also notable for Rude using one of those flexi-bars that Chuck Palumbo helped (not) make famous during his WCW run.
-After Warrior wins hands down, Bobby Heenan blinds Warrior with lotion (….not like that) and Rude beats the hell out of him with the flexi-bar. Then Warrior goes nuts and beats up the officials who aid him, including Nick Bockwinkel. Take THAT, AWA.
RATING: $2.00. Lame as it was, it created a fresh upper card angle, and the crowd was into it. Let’s just keep Tyler Reks and Chris Masters from trying their own version. In fact, let’s just keep both of them off TV.
-Mean Gene asks Elizabeth who she would pick between Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan in the Rumble. Ah, yes, the “jealous eyes” storyline. I dare say it was the first angle in WWF history that felt like it could have played out on Raw in the last decade and not felt ancient.
MATCH 3: KING HAKU VS. HARLEY RACE (FOR THE CROWN)
-If your mother attended this event, there’s a chance that she became pregnant if she was in the first two or three rows. Race and Haku have enough testosterone to fill the Roman Coliseum, and there’s plenty of manliness wafting through when these two go at it!*
(*Written by Pat Patterson)
-Haku comes to the ring on the throne-sedan, carried by a group of jobbers, so Race just knocks it over for fun. Wow, 1980’s WWF was hardcore! When do they break out the razor wire?
-Match is quite brutal, with Race taking huge bumps in his late forties, and he even managed to piledrive Haku on the concrete. If this match happened on Raw now, the internet would briefly faint out of ecstasy.
-Haku plants Race with a thrust kick to retain the crown and, effectively, send Race packing from WWF. Of note was Bobby Heenan playing cornerman to both, as they were both in his employ. Wait, I’m writing this on the day that Heenan’s new DVD came out and I haven’t bought it yet! What is wrong with me?!
RATING: $5.50. Surprisingly good stuff, given that it was a throwaway match. We could use more matches like this on modern undercards. Just brutal brawls without trademark moves.
-Intermission, plus promos. Remember the intermissions? They got rid of them in favor of matches involving Alicia Fox. Nothing says “take five minutes, stretch your legs, and get some beer” like Alicia Fox matches.
MAIN EVENT: THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH
-Ah good: no Paul Roma this year to screw things up. The real main eventers get to main event! Except for Warrior. And Rude. And the Harts. And Duggan. Crap.
-So we’re finally up to 30 participants, and the winner gets….nothing. Except the opportunity to referee a midcard match at Wrestlemania V. My money’s on Joey Marella, going in.
-Just to show how COMPLETELY RANDOM AND UNSCRIPTED this show is, Ax and Smash of Demolition are 1 and 2. Monsoon and Ventura are more surprised than the fans are. Oddly enough, Ax and Smash go right at it instead of conserving energy and beating up the next entrant. I know they’re trying to keep it exciting, but for logic’s sake, couldn’t Ax and Smash just stand there and tell dirty jokes to each other? Seems sensible.
-Perhaps they should save their strength, because here comes Andre the Giant at #3! Ugh, this was the year they had the awkward camera angle every time someone came in. It looks like Zapruder footage, except slightly less grainy. And I do emphasize “slightly”.
-Mr. Perfect (sans singlet) is #4, but Andre can’t be contained, and he sends Smash flying. Poor Smash. At least he got to dress like a cat burglar in his next life. Ronnie Garvin is #5, and we actually have three former World Champions in the ring. Yes, I’m counting Garvin, though I don’t WANT to.
-Greg Valentine is 6 and Andre chucks Garvin. Good riddance. Jake Roberts is #7 and he has beef with Andre. Andre just simply chokes him while Ron Bass is #8, in what may have been his last appearance with the company. Andre tosses Roberts. Finally, Shawn Michaels is #9, just so Perfect isn’t the only athlete in the ring. Perfect backdrops Ax out to keep the pace going. To complete the first third, Bushwhacker Butch is #10. Shouldn’t have switched, matey. Then to top off the frantic pace thus far, Roberts returns with Damain, his python, and scares Andre into taking the final bump of his career, over the top for a self elimination. Jesse says it’s unfair; I say at least the pace is a good one.
-Honky Tonk Man is in at 11 while Perfect and Shawn just take bumps like superballs in there. Tito Santana is 12, and he and Valentine soon rekindle their old feud. Bad News Brown is 13, and Santana and Butch toss Honky. Man, after he lost the IC Title, Honky became everyone’s submissive, didn’t he?
-Marty Jannetty is 14, and we get some Rockers double teams going. WWF Champion Randy Savage is 15 to a NUCLEAR reaction, and he goes right for Bad News. The Rockers get rid of Bass, just to make me happy. Shawn would later steal Bass’ finisher and give it to Triple H (Well, not really, but since I’m writing this….)
-Arn Anderson (yes, he worked there) is 16 as Savage dumps Valentine, his future Survivor Series partner. Savage and Arn then team up and dump Shawn, as Tully Blanchard comes in at 17. Jannetty goes next via both Brain Busters. And then….
-Hogan and Bossman continue their feud, brawling until Akeem comes in at 23. And there’s the payoff for the Slick and Dibiase business deal. Hogan gets eliminated shortly thereafter. Hogan won’t go away like a good sport, so he attacks Bossman for fun. And they wonder why so many kids my age grew up to be sore losers. Brutus Beefcake is 24, and Hogan illegally eliminates Bossman, much to Ventura’s chagrin. Hogan even busts Bossman even with some kind of suitcase.
(sound of record scratch)
-And now, the fun stuff is over. The match slows down to the point of tedium, as all the fast paced fun has died out. From here, it’s Red Rooster at 25, Barbarian at 26, Big John Studd at 27, Hercules at 28, Rick Martel at 29, and Ted Dibiase at 30 (the other half of the payoff). Is it as auspicious a finish as last year? I think they’re tied for dead last, myself.
-Dibiase dumps Rooster. Dibiase and Barbarian then team up and dump Beefcake and Hercules together. Martel then surprises the world by dropkicking Barbarian out.
-FINAL FOUR: Dibiase, Studd, Akeem, and Martel. No, really. Martel gets caught by Akeem and thrown out. Then, because I don’t feel like wasting my fingers any more, a double team on Studd fails which sees the future Hall of Famer throw out Akeem. Then Studd toys with Dibiase for about 40 years before throwing him out, and then he beats up Virgil for fun. So, yeah, Studd wins. He would leave WWF within five months.
RATING: $9.25. The first 2/3 was great stuff, but it dragged once Hogan and Bossman finished their little angle. Nonetheless, an upgrade over last year
TOTAL: $22.50. That’s almost how much a PPV was in 1989, so I guess that’s somewhat reasonable. Just wish the Rumble had a better outcome, and that Warrior/Rude was, you know, an actual match.
CYNIC SAYS: An upgrade over last year’s TV version, but there was still work to be done. It would take many years for WWE to figure out to add more innovative eliminations and creative double teams, but at least they’d mastered the art of mixing existing feuds with new ones beginning (especially Hogan and Savage).
For a great early effort, it’s a thumbs up.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.