March 3, 2006
WWF Royal Rumble 1988
Copps Coliseum, Hamilton Ontario, January 24th 1988
These days, the 1988 Royal Rumble is considered more of a trivia question than a classic memorable wrestling event. While the 1988 Royal Rumble is indeed the first WWF Royal Rumble event, it was lost in the shuffle over the years (it only aired once) and many fans (outside of the USA) do not realize that this event even existed.
The Royal Rumble special was created for the same reason the WWF Survivor Series was create that past November to screw the NWA off of PPV revenue. The NWA had several successful shows during the winter of 1987/1988 involving the Bunkhouse Stampede match. After eight successful shows they planned to air the Bunkhouse Stampede Finals PPV on January 24th at Long Island New York's Nassau Coliseum. Once again the WWF counter programmed the NWA PPV with a TV Special aired on free cable TV (The USA Network). The Royal Rumble benefited both fans and the WWF but it plagued the NWA and it Bunkhouse Stampede PPV with low buy rates. Why did Vince McMahon decide to continue the Royal Rumble and turn it into a PPV the next year? The reason was its ratings. The Rumble had produced the highest ratings USA Network had seen in years. The little TV Special was so successful that the WWF decided to turn the whole thing into a PPV event the following year.
This first Royal Rumble was held at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton Ontario (a regular venue for Figure Skating competitions!). It's a far cry from the Royal Rumble PPVs of 1989 and so on as the Rumble involves only 20 men and Hacksaw Jim Duggan won it. Nonetheless this event is noteworthy so let's take a look at it!
We open with Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura running down the card. Funny thing here is how The Royal Rumble seems to be just another match on the card. The real angle McMahon and Ventura hype is the Hulk Hogan/Andre The Giant contract signing for the rematch on February 5th 1988 in Indianapolis (The Main Event Special).
*Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude
Steamboat had only returned to the WWF a few months prior to this and was actually nearing the end of his run (he'd be gone after Wrestlemania IV). Rude, on the other hand, was just starting to make waves. Although here he's still not very big, he was only months away from his epic feud with Jake Roberts. Steamboat gets the upper hand in a slugfest to start. A test of strength further displays The Dragon's advantage and then he begins to work on Rude's arm. Jesse Ventura points out that it's Rude's "posing arm" and he's going to have trouble flexing it later on. By the way some idiot in the crowd has a do-it yourself Jimmy Hart megaphone that gets really annoying really fast. Needless to say, security takes it away from the fan after this opener. Rude gains the advantage with a thumb to the eye but the momentum swings back in favour to Steamboat as he continues to work on the arm. That's what was so great about schooled pros like Steamboat and Hart; they picked out one part of the body and worked on it throughout the match. You don't see that much anymore. A mix up sends Steamboat to the floor, and Rude gains advantage again. What does he do? A chin-lock! Ugh! One thing I couldn't stand about Rude pre-1989 was when he went for the dreaded chin-lock rest hold. That was a signal to go get yourself a coke and fix a sandwich. We could be here for a while! After a slow sequence dominated by Rude the match shifted back into interesting as Steamboat makes a comeback. The two exchange a few 2 counts before Steamboat heads to the top rope. Rude pulls the referee in the way and he gets knocked out. Rude slaps on the hanging vice submission to Steamboat and the ref finally comes to, calling for the bell. Rude's music hits and we are to assume The Dragon has submitted. Of course that's not the case as Rude has been DQ'd. **1/4
Winner: Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat by DQ
Match Analysis: Well it certainly wasn't the classic it could've been. Rude was pretty green still at this point. Steamboat on the other hand simply seemed dispirited probably because of his disagreements with Vinnie Mac. The match was not a classic by a long shot but for the time it was given (approx. 17:40) it was decent.
Up next, The Dino Bravo World Bench Press Record attempt. Bravo had recently paired up with Frenchy Martin after the Dream Team disbanded. This segment was meant to give him heat. Talk about loooong boring segments. This thing takes up 20 minutes. If it weren't for Jesse Ventura yelling at the crowd and Vince McMahon this would be very painful to watch. Ventura's raging is priceless. Anyway the gist of this segment is to prove that Bravo cheated (with Jesse's help) and didn't actually get the record. Wow that'll sell as heel heat! Pfft!
*(Women's Tag Team Titles - Best 2 of 3 Falls) The Glamour Girls vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels
If you don't recall the Women's Tag Titles or wonder what happened to them, you're not alone. The WWF slightly pushed the Women's wrestling circuit from 1987 to about early 1989 before abandoning it all together in 1990 when they realized (at the time) no one gave a damn about women's wrestling. They wouldn't express any interest in renewing the circuit until 1994. The Women's tag titles were one of those blink and you miss it pair of belts. Apparently the champs here, won their titles in "Egypt"....right. Anyways, as it turns out the Jumping Bomb Angels and The Glamour Girls are the ONLY two tag teams in the women's circuit. The rest were jobbers you never heard of that were paired up. This raises the question "why the hell did the WWF sign the Bomb Angels?" who could easily out wrestle any woman on the WWF roster. While there were some memorable in-ring moments with the Women's matches for them most part the whole thing really sucked and it's no wonder the division crumbled so quickly.
Anyway onto the first fall. Vince and Jesse are still bickering about Dino Bravo's bench press. Hilarious! Bomb Angels double drop kick to start thing off quickly. They miss the second and Leilani Kai immediately abuse the Pink Angel. Lots of acrobatic quickness and continuity from the Angels. Angels dominate the match while Jesse and Vince are trying to figure out what the Angels names are. Both Glamour girls are caught in figure four leg locks. The Red Angel lets Leilani Kai loose and goes to work on her legs. Leilani plays heel in peril and is unable to tag Judy Martin. Tag is made and Judy Martin begins to dish out some punishment. As the Red Angel goes off the rope she gets caught by a kick from Leilani on the outside. An inverted power bomb allows the Glamour Girls to take the first fall.
The second fall begins quickly with the Glamour Girls still destroying the Red Angel. A botched move leads to the Pink Angel getting the tag and going to work. A double suplex from the Bomb Angels prompts all four to get into the ring and chaos ensues. The Glamour Girls clothesline each other in the confusion. Leilani attempts to suplex the Red Angel but she manages to roll through with a sunset flip to take the second fall.
After the commercial break we are onto the third and deciding fall. Bomb Angels still have the momentum and double team. Glamour Girls gain the advantage but not for long. A cradle suplex fails and Judy Martin gains control over the Pink Angel. Judy slingshots the Pink Angel into the corner and the Glamourís double team. More vicious leads to a tag out of nowhere and the Red Angel takes the punishment playing face in peril. Red Angel makes a comeback on Leilani Kai then dishes it out to Judy Martin. More Bomb Angels double teaming. Referee is slow to count though so the Angels don't get the pin. The Red Angel pauses on the top rope and that allows her to come crashing to the mat. Some dispute leads to the Bomb Angels double missile drop kicking Judy Martin off the top rope for a prompt pin to win the Women's tag team championship! Whatever that means. ***
Match Analysis: Pretty good match. Lots of action so I can't complain. Needless to say this wasn't a landmark in WWF history. The Glamour Girls were pretty much gone after this match and the Jumping Bomb Angels faded into relative obscurity with the WWF Women's Tag Titles. I'm still waiting for a rematch 16 years later!
Vince and Jesse take us back to Wrestlemania III and discuss the controversy of Andre and Hogan and the near fall seconds into the match. The dispute between Ventura and McMahon is classic. They then go back to December 1987 when Ted Dibiase claimed he'd buy the WWF title. Then Hogan's memorable "Heeeeellllll Noooooo!" reply. Essentially this is the Hogan/Andre Dibiase feud recap. Clips from SNME and others are shown as well. This builds up to the contract signing for February 5th, which we will see in a few moments
Mean Gene announces the signing and introduces the champion Hulk Hogan. The Copps Coliseum pops huge for the Hulkster. God Hogan is wearing some awful blue tie-dye paints. Jack Tunney comes into the ring to and asks Hogan and Andre to be seated. You know Jack Tunney has to be the most boring WWF president. I know he was just a figurehead president but I'm sure the WWF purposely chose this guy so fans could hate him. Hogan sits down but Andre just stands there looking down at Hogan trying to psyche him out. Andre makes choking motions with his hands then has a seat. Tunney hands Hogan the contract and Dibiase (who is with Andre) tears into Hogan with some verbal abuse. Andre looks over the contract while Gene babbles on and no one listens.
Things go very slow as Vince bitches about mind games. Andre signs then Dibiase orders Andre to put his "stamp of approval on it." Hogan attempts to grab Dibiase only to be assaulted by Andre and have a solid oak table dropped on him. Talk about long RAW-like segments! Two is too much for the show. Of course this was far more important than the Dino Bravo bench press.
Vince and Jesse begin to talk about the Royal Rumble. Going over the rules for the first time.
*The 20 Man Royal Rumble
Pretty unspectacular commence to the 1st Rumble. The first two participants are already in the ring when Vince & Jesse send it to ring announcer Howard Finkel. The Royal Rumble always had some suspense when the first two participants entered. Anyways Bret "Hitman" Hart has #1 and Tito Santana of Strike Force is #2. The Harts and Strike Force were on the tail end of their feud here so there is no love loss between these two. Hart and Santana go at it in seesaw form. Butch Reed enters at #3 and the heels contingent of the Rumble gains the advantage. Chico is in trouble as Hart and Reed punish the Arriba man. Entrant #4 is Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and Tito is screwed. It's essentially three on one as heel vs. heel was rare when a baby face was in the ring back in 1988. Jake "The Snake" hits the ring at #5 and dumps Butch Reed as he was trying to eliminate Tito. Now it's evened up as Jake & Tito take on The Harts. Neidhart counters a DDT on Bret Hart. King Harley Race is #6 and goes right after Jake. Jake skins the cat back into the ring and goes after Bret. Harts double team Santana as Jumping Jim Brunzell of the Killer Bees enters at #7. Brunzell attacks the harts then goes for The King. #8 is Sam Houston who goes after the Harts like a ball of fire. The Harts drop Santana like a bad habit and he's history. #9 is Dangerous Danny Davis and the crowd goes WILD!...uh no can't back that one up. Davis bullies Houston while Jake pounds on Race. Boris Zhukov is #10 and he goes after Houston as well. Man I bet you anything Sam Houston was picked on in high school. Jesse freaks out when two heels attack each other uh..Jess this is a Rumble it's every man for himself! #11 is "The Rock"...Don Muraco followed by Nikolai Volkoff who is plodding prematurely to the ring. Muraco gives Volkoff a punch then enters the ring. Refs restrain Volkoff until he enters at #12. Geez Volkoff sure isn't bright he let his partner Zhukov be dumped outta the ring while he just stood there. Don Muraco levels the King out of the ring. Hacksaw Jim Duggan is lucky #13. He has a brief confrontation with Harley Race is the aisle before clearing the ring. "Outlaw" Ron Bass is #14 and the crowd is dead. Volkoff throws out Brunzell while the Rock almost goes over. Bret Hart works over Sam Houston. #15 is B. Brian Blair who collides with the cameraman on the way to the ring. Duggan drops Davis with a mean clothesline while The Harts beat up Blair. Hillbilly Jim hits the ring at #16 and backdrops out Neidhart. Dino Bravo enters at #17, which prompts Vince and Jess to argue about that stupid bench press. Ron Bass dumps Sam Houston from his shoulders. #18 is The Ultimate Warrior before anyway really cared. Muraco dumps Bret Hart. Jess tips his hat to Bret who had entered at #1 and lasted till #18 entered. One Man Gang rumbles into the ring at #19 and grapples with the Warrior before tossing out Brian Blair. Gang then kicks Jake The Snake out. The last man is Junkyard Dog who is at #20. Duggan dumps Volkoff. Gang dumps Hillbilly. Gang is really a dominant force out there. Duggan knocks Davis out with a running clothesline. The Gang and Bravo drop out Warrior on his ass. Wow Warrior sucked in early 1988. Ron Bass dumps JYD with ease. Muraco tosses out Bass swiftly. It's down to Duggan, Muraco, OMG, and Bravo. Muraco holds his own against OMG and Bravo but Frenchy Martin distracts him allowing Gang and Bravo to ditch The Rock. Duggan works over both guys but is face in peril very quickly. A double team move goes awry and Bravo is knocked out by the Gang. Hacksaw unloads on the Gang but OMG tries to choke him out. Gang misses a squash as Duggan pulls down the rope causing OMG to spill onto the floor and make Duggan the 1st Royal Rumble winner. It's the first Royal Rumble so I can't complain. ***
Match Analysis: Not as good as the 30 Man Royal Rumble matches that hit PPV in the coming years but for cable TV you can't complain. Duggan gets the forgettable distinction of being the 1st Rumble winner and the Canadian crowd seems happy enough.
Now that the Rumble match is done with McMahon and Ventura immediately start to pimp The Main Event Special on NBC February 5th. They take it over to Craig DeGeorge who is on the interview stage with Hogan.
Craig DeGeorge interviews Hogan about his upcoming match on February 5th. Hogan runs the usual promo on Andre and Dibiase saying to be him you'll have to beat every Hulkamaniac in attendance and you can do it.
*(Best 2 of 3 Falls) The Young Stallions vs. The Islanders
This match was in the midst of the whole Islanders kidnapping British Bulldogs mascot Matilda angle, so Vince wastes no time tearing into Haku & Tama. The Young Stallions semi-push is nearing its end here and they were basically on their way down. As each team warms up McMahon and Jesse Ventura dispute Matilda's kidnapping. Jim Powers and Tama start off. Lots of stalling before the two exchange a few blows. Tama gets back into the ring and extends a handshake. Powers stalls and obliges only to catch a kick and deliver an atomic drop. Powers eats it in a corner charge and Haku comes in to deliver some more punishment. Roma tags in and exchange a few moves with Haku. High cross body gives Roma a two count. Stallions begin to double team but still can't get a pinfall. Islanders gain control of Powers but can't get a decisive pinfall. Ventura calls Powers and Roma "Sylvester Stallone look-alikes." Ha! Double clothesline cause hot tags for each team. Vince comments on Tama's toes and The Body accuses him of being racist. Roma unloads on both Islanders and a drop kick gives him a two count on Tama. Tama gains control and throws Paul Roma onto the floor. Roma blows out his knee and I'm not sure if he's legitimately injured or not. Either way the Young Stallions lose the first fall by count out.
During the intermission between falls The Young Stallions are taken back to the locker room so Roma can receive medical attention on his knee. This gives Vince the opportunity to pimp the Main Event showdown between Hulk and Andre on NBC.
Craig DeGeorge is on the interview podium with Andre The Giant, Ted Dibiase and Virgil. This is basically to further hype the Hulk/Andre title bout on February 5th. Andre cuts a promo and no one understands a damn word he says. He tells DeGeorge to shut up while he banters on about February 5th. The funny thing is you can see the Islanders standing cluelessly in the ring in the background. Probably trying to figure out what the hell Andre was saying!
The Young Stallions return to the ring so I assume either (1) Roma was injured slightly but ok to wrestle or (2) No legit injury happened and it was just an excuse to pimp The Main Event. Roma's leg is bandaged up and he is forced to start the next fall. Tama wastes no time on working on Roma's left knee. Hot tag to Powers slows down Haku with a few lefts and rights. Powers give Haku some rough turnbuckle treatment. Powers works hard to put Haku away but is unsuccessful and eventually screws up. Jimmy Powers plays face in peril as Tama and Haku deliver a double head butt. Small package is thwarted and The Islanders continue their attack. Some great wrestling here from both teams. Abdominal stretch slows things down and gives Powers a chance to get out and attempt a tag. Haku misses a front splash, which prompts Powers to tag, he doesn't though and neither does Haku. Powers tags Roma who get little offense as Haku goes right after the knee. A Tama splash and a Haku one-legged Boston crab seal the deal on Roma. Islanders win in two straight falls and the spotlight begins to dim on the Young Stallions. ***1/2
Match Analysis: Pretty good tag match albeit awkward because of the stall between falls. Hard to tell whether Roma legitly injured his knee or not. Either way the right team went over, as the Islanders were becoming a hot item in the WWF.
As the Copps Coliseum empties, Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura run down what happened. They argue over the Dino Bravo bench press record and the Hogan & Andre contract signing. Further hype for the Main Event essentially.
Jinsell's Bottom Line: Not necessarily a memorable event but it served three purposes. First, it hyped the Main Event special that was to air on NBC and eventually become the highest rated wrestling show on cable TV ever. Second, it screwed Jim Crockett Promotions out of further pay-per-view revenue as his Bunkhouse Stampede show failed miserably. Third, the Royal Rumble was so successful in ended up becoming a great PPV the next year. For this show alone, it's not bad at all. You get a 20 Man Royal Rumble; two good tag team matches and a decent Steamboat opener. Can't complain although I'd recommend fast forwarding through the Dino Bravo bench press segment. Recommended show.