April 18, 2006
Jared Insell

WWF Royal Rumble 1989
The Summit, Houston Texas, January 15th 1989

The 1988 Royal Rumble had proven so successful ratings-wise that Vince McMahon simply couldn't resist turning the whole thing into a PPV event the following year. On January 15th 1989 the first PPV Royal Rumble was broadcast. Already a great deal had changed about the event from the first Rumble. 30 men were involved instead of 20 and it also ran 3 hours rather than 2. At this point in time the WWF was starting to make a strong push towards Wrestlemania V even though there was really no clear indication of what the main event was going to be. It seemed like it was going to either be The Mega Powers taking on the Twin Towers in a tag team match or a double main event where Randy Savage would defend his title against Bad News Brown while Hulk Hogan would face The Big Bossman in a grudge match. Neither option sounded like a Wrestlemania-caliber main event. It became clear during late 1988 that dissention was starting to brew between the two Mega Powers after the Royal Rumble it was a known fact. While the WWF built the fallout very slowly it would explode shortly after the Rumble PPV and Wrestlemania V's stage would be set. This Rumble furthered the feuds and produced a strong build for Wrestlemania V. Something all Royal Rumble PPVs do (or try to do) these days.

Now it's time to Rumble...it's time for the Royal Rumble!

We get the classic Royal Rumble opener where Vince McMahon fires off all the Rumble participants.

Howard Finkle introduces Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The two run down the card and Ventura points out the luck of the draw will make all the difference in the Rumble.

*Six-Man Tag Team Match: The Hart Foundation & “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. The Fabulous Rougeau Bros. & Dino Bravo

The Fabulous Rougeaus and Dino Bravo enter to Bravo’s theme. This was before the Rougeaus’ theme “All American Boys” hit the airwaves. I also think this was around the time The Hart Foundation got their classic theme music. Anyway, the main issues here are between The Hart Foundation and The Fabulous Rougeau Bros. as they had been tearing down the house with great matches on the house show circuit in the months prior to this. Also, Dino Bravo and Jim Duggan had been feuding. The crowd erupts for Duggan and The Harts with a USA chant. Jim Neidhart and Dino Bravo start and try to outmuscle each other with no clear winner until Anvil drops Bravo with a clothesline. Duggan is tagged in and the cowardly heel Bravo tags out. Duggan works over Raymond Rougeau before tagging The Hitman. Bret Hart goes hard for that first fall by running through some great pinning combinations but he can only get a two count. Jacques Rougeau tags in and does some stalling before duping Hitman in and gaining control. Jacques rolls out of a backdrop counter and shows off only to be dropped by a killer Bret Hart clothesline. A pier-six brawl erupts and the baby faces clear the ring. The crowd is REALLY into this one! Jacques throws Bret into the ropes and brother Raymond pulls them down causing Hart to spill onto the floor. Bret’s hurt as Dino Bravo executes a side-suplex on him before having The Rougeaus finish him off with their Rougeau Bomb finisher to win the first fall.

Since Bret was pinned he has to start the second fall. The heels cut the ring in half, keeping The Hitman in their corner as he plays face in peril. Both Rougeaus and Bravo throw everything in their arsenal at Bret Hart but he won’t be pinned. Bravo slaps on a bear hug and the crowd rallies behind Bret chanting U-S-A. Jesse Ventura points out that it makes no sense to chant USA since Bret Hart is Canadian (the thought of Bret’s 1997 heel run immediately comes to mind from this). Hart punches his way out but can’t make the tag. Jacques Rougeau places Hart in the camel clutch and some heel distractions on the apron allow him to pull Bret’s hair for extra leverage. Jacques then puts Hart in the Boston crab but he does not submit and begins to crawl over to his own corner. A hot tag is teased by the referee doesn’t see it because of heel distraction tactics. Bret’s stuck in an abdominal stretch but he still refuses to give up. Raymond nails Hart with a crescent kick while Hitman is stuck in the hold. Hart manages to counter a monkey flip with an inverted atomic drop and then makes the hot tag to Duggan. Duggan cleans house on all three heels and catapults both Harts into the ring onto Raymond then covers for the three count to even it up at one fall a piece.

Jim Duggan starts the third fall with Raymond and easily dominates. However, he stupidly tries to start a brawl in the heel corner and gets caught. Ventura calls it like it is saying, “That’s what happens when you’re Hacksaw Jim Duggan and you got a peanut for a brain.” Bravo distracts the referee while Jacques and Raymond choke Duggan on the ropes in a manner that can only be described as…weird. Jacques connects with a great dropkick and the heels continue to pound on Duggan. Bravo gives Hacksaw an atomic drop too close to the corner and he makes a hot tag to Bret Hart. The Hitman DESTROYS Bravo but is pushed off the second rope by Raymond. A pier-six brawl erupts and Duggan nails Bravo with the 2X4 while the ref is distracted, which allows Bret to pin Bravo for the win. Nice opener! ***1/2

Match Analysis: This was a great opener. The crowd was really into it and there was a good balance of wrestling and brawling. I guess this was more or less the blow off to these guys’ respected feuds.

We get some pre-recorded comments from some Rumble participants who are drawing their numbers. Ted Dibiase seems upset about his number so he calls Slick over to talk business, Honky Tonk Man seems pissed, The Bushwhackers decide to swap their numbers, Bad News Brown claims, “It’s good news for Bad News”, Jake “The Snake” Roberts just hopes Andre is in the ring when he enters, and The Rockers don’t say much of note. I seem to remember Demolition also drawing and both realizing they were in for a long night but for whatever reason, that segment is absent on the PPV Version (it was on the CHV though).

*Women’s Championship Match: Rockin’ Robin vs. Judy Martin

Rockin’ Robin enters to her brother Sam Houston’s theme. Sensational Sherri is at ringside and interrupts placing a challenge on the winner of this match. Judy Martin and Robin slug it out with Robin getting the upper hand. Sherri joins commentary and basically tears into both women in the ring. Gorilla Monsoon’s commentary here is actually pretty funny but there is little to any focus on the match, which basically points out that the WWF didn’t give a damn about women’s wrestling at this point. Sherri’s voice gets annoying and thankfully we don’t have to listen to her long as Robin takes it quickly. Pretty unspectacular match. 1/2*

Match Analysis: I guess the plan here was for a Sensational Sherri vs. Rockin’ Robin match at Wrestlemania V. However, since no one cared it was probably nixed. Both women were simply going through the motions here.

A Wrestlemania V Promo is shown. April 2nd 1989 on PPV!

Sean Mooney is with Slick and The Twin Towers. Funny interview as when asked about Dibiase, Slick says that he hasn't talked to him in a month, despite the fact that we saw them on screen together a short time ago. There is more here than meets the eye.

*Super Pose Down: Ultimate Warrior vs. Ravishing Rick Rude

Mean Gene Okerlund is the M.C. for this showcase of steroids. For those of you who don’t know the “Super Pose Down” is not a wrestling match, but a posing contest in which the people vote for their favourite. The WWF had done this in 1987 with Superstar Billy Graham and “The Natural” Butch Reed on Superstars and are basically rehashing it. The story behind this all is that Rude challenged Warrior to this contest in order to determine who has the better body. The fans in Houston are to decide the outcome of this one and considering that Warrior is the baby face the odds are definitely in his favour, even though Bobby Heenan sucks up to the fans in hopes they vote for Rude. I’m not going to go into great detail about this but lets just put it this way. When Rude poses the fans boo and when Warrior poses they cheer. Rude pumps a bar in the corner the whole time, seemingly warming up between poses. This sequence of boos and cheers repeats over through a few posing exchanges. Finally, Rude is clearly pissed with the outcome and jumps Warrior with the exercise bar and does a number on him. Gee, didn’t see that one coming! I mean seriously did this need to drag on through almost 20 minutes of PPV time? Totally unnecessary in my opinion although it did begin the feud that was arguably the highlight of Warrior’s WWF career. The only guy who seemed interested in this was Jesse Ventura (hell it was probably his idea anyway!) but his banter with Gorilla Monsoon during this painfully long segment made this easier to sit through. Warrior comes to, beats up some officials then runs out of the arena screaming like a maniac.

The same Wrestlemania V promo we saw before.

Pre-recorded interviews with some of the managers of the wrestlers in the Royal Rumble are shown. Mr. Fuji cackles that his Powers Of Pain will win it all, Mean Gene interviews Elizabeth (I guess she can’t cut a promo on her own) and tries to find out which Mega Power she is supporting more, Jimmy Hart claims that you can bank on either The Honky Tonk Man or Greg Valentine winning the whole thing.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura introduces the next match from the King’s throne located near the wrestlers’ entrance way. The Body ponders about running for King himself but ten years later he would settle for Governor of Minnesota. He also points out the Bobby Heenan is set to be the ultimate winner of this match because he manages both men.

*King’s Crown Match: King Haku vs. Harley Race

This has the potential to be a good match as two of the toughest guys in the business are pitted against one another. This match was left off the CHV for whatever weird reason. My guess is since it was Harley Race’s final WWF appearance and the WWF didn’t see the purpose of featuring him in the later video release. Bobby Heenan enters with Haku since he is the undisputed King of the WWF. King Haku is carried in on a throne by a bunch of slaves. Harley Race storms down the aisle and knocks Haku on his ass by turning over the throne. He then tosses Haku into the ring and quickly goes to work on him. The match goes to the outside again and Haku shoves Race into the post. The funny thing here is Bobby Heenan reactions. When Haku is dominating he cheers for him and when Harley Race is getting the upper hand he cheers for him. Haku maintains control with some vicious chops and tosses him back into the ring. Race quickly counters with an inverted atomic drop and begins to unleash some mean elbows on him. The former King is Irish whipped into the corner however and spills onto the floor. Race tries to get back on the apron and Haku decapitates him causing him to flip 360 degrees back into the ring. King Haku continues his relentless assault of chops and kicks. Both men begin to exchange head butts with little effect and Race gains control with a clothesline. A patented Harley Race piledriver gets two. Both men collide coming off the ropes and Harley spills onto the floor again. Haku suplexes Race back into the ring and gets a two count. He misses a follow up elbow drop and Race gives a suplex of his own. King Haku is tossed to the outside and Harley Race attempts to piledrive him on the concrete but a backdrop stops that. Both men exchange blows on the outside and Haku gets the upper hand. Race executes the piledriver out of nowhere on the concrete though. Both men get back in the ring and Race executes a swinging neck breaker for the two count. Another exchange of blows ends with Haku slamming Harley. He misses a diving head butt off the top though and Race goes for his own diving head butt but misses as well. Both men are dazed but Race is still the first to his feet. He Irish whips Haku but misses a clothesline, which gives Haku the opportunity to counter with a well-placed crescent kick for the pin fall victory. **3/4 Bobby Heenan leaves with the undisputed King Haku.

Match Analysis: Pretty good match. It was strange seeing two heels go at it although one could argue Race was a tweener at this point. The work rate was really stiff and some of the moves looked really devastating. It’s a shame they left this off the CHV.

That Wrestlemania V promo is shown again.

Pre-recorded commentaries from some of the Royal Rumble participants are shown: Brutus Beefcake, Greg Valentine, The Powers Of Pain and Mr. Fuji (two promos for Fuji in one night? He says the exact same thing here too!), Big John Studd, Mr. Perfect (who cuts a great promo), and Macho Man Randy Savage.

The 5-minute intermission has been clipped.

Gorilla and Jesse welcome us back and tell us its time for The Royal Rumble!

Mean Gene is with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase and Virgil. Gene asks Dibiase what was going on between him and Slick earlier, but Ted just brushes him off saying that when you’re as wealthy as he is you can be as lucky as you want to be.

Sean Mooney is with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Andre The Giant, and The Brain Busters. Andre The Giant is pretty confident about winning it all and even threatens Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard to stay out of his way. A little cool bit here where Arn Anderson leans over and whispers something into Tully Blanchard’s ear while Andre is threatening them.

Mean Gene is with Hulk Hogan who predicts victory for Hulkamania. Gene of course asks what if he comes face-to-face with the Macho Man. Hogan claims its every man for himself and he’ll do what he has to, to win the Rumble.

*The 30-Man Royal Rumble

Since this is the second Royal Rumble and probably the first most WWF fans had seen at the time, Howard Finkle runs down the rules before the match. The announcers again place great emphasis on the luck of the draw. Co-holder of the WWF Tag Team Championship Ax of Demolition is the individual who drew #1. And the individual who drew #2 at random is…Smash of Demolition! Since it’s everyman for himself Demolition is going to have to duke it out! Smash races down the aisle and into the ring. He and Ax have a brief stare down before slugging it out. Jesse speculates of a possible falling out between the team but his speculation is proven wrong when Andre The Giant enters at unlucky #3 and ends up getting double teamed by Demolition. Mr. Perfect waltzes to the ring at #4 and goes after everyone. Andre dumps Smash out of nowhere. I didn’t expect Smash to be the first one gone. Ax and Perfect double team Andre but end up going after each other. “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin is #5 and all three guys try to eliminate the Giant to no avail. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine enters at #6 and joins in on the attempt to eliminate Andre. Andre The Giant tosses Garvin. Good riddance! Jake “The Snake” Roberts hits the ring at #7 to a huge pop and goes right after Andre The Giant who he is in a hot feud with. Andre chokes out Jake on the ropes. A bald “Outlaw” Ron Bass is #8 but no one seems to care (he was nearing the end of his WWF run here). Andre eliminates Jake. Wow! That was a quick night for Jake “The Snake” Roberts! He never was too great at Rumbles though. Shawn Michaels of The Rockers enters at #9 to a teenybopper girls’ pop. Mr. Perfect backdrops out Ax and then zeros in on Shawn. Michaels nearly dropkicks Perfect out but he manages to hold onto the ropes. #10 is Bushwhacker Butch. Jake returns from backstage and lets his snake, Damien, loose in the ring. Andre, who is deathly afraid of snakes, is terrified and hops over the top rope and out of the ring, thus eliminating himself. Jake “The Snake” Roberts has done what he had set out to do and now leaves ringside for the night.

The Honky Tonk Man hits the ring at #11 to a chorus of boos. Honky Tonk and Valentine try to dump Michaels but fail. Tito Santana gallops to the ring at #12 and goes right after Mr. Perfect then squares off against old rival Valentine. Bad News Brown enters at #13. So that’s what he meant by “good news for Bad News!” Tito and Butch toss out Honky as Bad News goes after Shawn Michaels. Shawn’s partner Marty Jannetty comes to the rescue at #14 but gets cornered by Ron Bass. The Rockers double team the big Outlaw and eliminate him with a double drop kick. The World Heavyweight Champion Macho Man Randy Savage enters at #15 to a MASSIVE pop and he goes right after Bad News Brown. Arn Anderson of The Brain Busters enters at #16 and goes right after Shawn Michaels. Valentine is dumped by Savage. A baby face Savage and heel Anderson team up to eliminate the face Shawn to emphasize that it's every man for himself (and to possibly foreshadow Savage’s heel turn). Marty Jannetty goes at it with Arn Anderson, but Arn's partner, Tully Blanchard is #17. Heh! I guess someone didn't shuffle the numbers up very well! Arn Anderson delivers a killer spinebuster to Jannetty and Tully Blanchard eliminates him. Hulk Hogan enters at #18 and the crowd goes WILD! The Hulkster rescues Savage by eliminating Mr. Perfect. Hennig was in there for nearly 30 minutes. Not bad at all! Tito Santana gets eliminated in a melee. I’m still wondering why Bushwhacker Butch is still in there. Hogan is in trouble as Bad News and The Brain Busters try to dump him. Monsoon points out that Savage is not coming to Hogan’s aid. Bushwhacker Luke enters at #19. Guess that’s why they kept Butch in for so long because the minute his partner hits the ring Bad News Brown dumps him. Savage and Bad News go at it again. Koko B. Ware is #20 and drop kicks everyone. Hogan dumps both Koko and Luke. The Brain Busters begin to work over Hogan while Bad News destroys The Macho Man.

Out of nowhere Hogan double clotheslines both Brain Busters out of the ring. The Warlord is #21. He enters and is immediately clotheslined out by Hogan as well. Wow! That was stupid. Weren’t the Powers Of Pain trying to get over as heels at the time? Seems kind of stupid to have one member of your monster heel team get eliminated in like 2 seconds. Anyway, Hulkster capitalizes on the momentum and dumps Bad News as well but unfortunately Savage tumbles out with him. Macho Man is pissed. He gets back in the ring and gets in Hogan’s face about it. A shoving match ensues and Elizabeth races down the aisle to smooth things over. Sure enough, Savage cools down and shakes Hogan’s hand before leaving with Liz. #22 is none other than Hogan’s arch nemesis at the time The Big Bossman. Hogan and Bossman have a stare down before going at it. The crowd is HYPED! Bossman piledrives Hogan and he is hurt. Akeem hits the ring at #23 and the announcers play it up that Dibiase did some wheeling and dealing backstage. Monsoon even says, “no way you could get these numbers together!” Right, never mind the fact Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard also drew numbers side by side. I don’t see why Ted would be discontent with #22 or #23 but I guess since he has the money he wants #30. Whatever. Hogan destroys both Twin Towers but is soon overtaken by double-teaming. The Twin Towers eliminate Hogan. However, Hulkster, being the poor sport he is, pulls Bossman out of the ring thus eliminating him. The Towers attack Hogan on the outside. Hulk’s crony Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake comes to the rescue at #24. Hogan and Bossman brawl their way backstage. The Red Rooster enters at #25 and helps Beefcake double team Akeem. The Barbarian is #26 and it looks like he’s going to help eliminate Akeem. However, he remembers he’s heel and goes after Bruti and Terry Taylor instead. Big John Studd strolls to the ring at #27 and begins to clobber Akeem. Rooster gets the shit kicked out of him some more. #28 is Hercules who helps Beefcake work over The Barbarian. Rick Martel making his PPV return is #29 and he goes after everyone. #30 is predictably Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. Virgil stays at ringside, which is against the rules since no managers are allowed to be at ringside. Dibiase fires The Rooster out of the ring. Hercules destroys Dibiase. Beefcake slaps on a sleeper on Herc and Dibiase eliminates both of them. Martel drop kicks the Barbarian out of the ring. Akeem counters a Martel cross body by dumping him. It’s down to Dibiase, Akeem, and Big John Studd. The heels waste no time in working over Studd. Studd dumps Akeem out of nowhere. Dibiase tries to bribe his way out of going head to head with Big John Studd. However, he gets cornered and destroyed. Big John eliminates Dibiase and Virgil immediately hits the ring and attacks him. Studd responds by beating the crap out of Virgil before tossing him over the top as well. ***1/2 Big John Studd celebrates his last hurrah in the WWF as the show goes off the air.

Match Analysis: Overall, not a bad Rumble match. The star power was certainly there and it was well booked for the most part. Having Ax and Smash draw #1 and #2 was really cool. The match did tend to get slow towards the end when both Hogan and Savage were already gone though. Having Studd win it was nice but it really meant absolutely nothing.

A promo for Wrestlemania V is shown once again.

Jinsell’s Bottom Line: Top to bottom the first Royal Rumble on PPV is not an overly impressive or memorable show. Apart from the Rumble match, there were only two real men’s matches and too much time was given to filler segments like the Pose down. That being said though the show wasn’t all bad either. The six-man opener was really entertaining and The King’s crown match was a solid forgotten bout as well. The Rumble itself was very good even though Big John Studd winning it meant absolutely nothing. Recommended show.

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