March 5, 2011
Royal Rumble 1989, January 15, 1989, The Summit, Houston, TX
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
Opening Match, 2/3 Falls: Dino Bravo & The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (w/Frenchy Martin & Jimmy Hart) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & The Hart Foundation
The Setup: Feuds are currently ongoing between Duggan and Bravo and The Harts and Rougeaus, so they all get together for a six man.
The Action: First Fall: Everyone trades off with no one really gaining an advantage early on. Bret gets in and scores a few nearfalls on Raymond before it breaks down into a six way brawl. In the chaos, Bret gets low bridged and falls to the floor. Back in the ring he takes Bravo’s side slam and then La Bombe des Rougeaus for the 3 count at 5:25. Second Fall: Bret continues taking a beating with the heels going for lots of covers, but being unable to put him away again. Bret makes the tag to Anvil at one point, but the ref was distracted and won’t allow it, which then leads to the illegal switch on the hell side as the ref puts Anvil out. Finally Bret blocks a monkey flip by Jacques and hits an inverted atomic drop so he can make the hot tag to Duggan. It quickly breaks down into another all out brawl again and while the ref tries regaining order, Anvil and Bret both hit slingshot splashes on Raymond, with Duggan then covering and getting the 3 count at 13:56. Third Fall: Duggan stays on Raymond, but soon makes the mistake of getting too close to the heel corner where he gets caught briefly. He does escape and tag Bret though, who takes it to Bravo. We then get another melee, and during this one, Duggan whacks Bravo with the 2X4 behind the ref’s back. Bret makes the cover and gets the 3 count to win it 2-1 at 18:42.
The Verdict: This was a really good, hot opener. Six man tags are rarely bad in any era because with so many guys it’s easy to keep things moving and everyone stays energetic. ***
Next we get a montage of wrestlers drawing their numbers for the Rumble later on. Ted Dibiase gets upset at his pick, but finds Slick nearby, who was very happy with the numbers he got for his guys. Dibiase suggests that they have a little chat.
Then we have The Super Posedown between Ravishing Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior. This is a perfect example of how expectations were much, much different back then because if WWE put something like this on PPV today, they would be crucified for it, but the 1989 crowd is actually into it. So they go through a series of poses with the crowd booing Rude and cheering Warrior regardless of how they actually look doing it, until Rude attacks him during the final pose and lays him out. Warrior then wildly throws around all the agents and officials who come to help him up and takes off after him. They took sixteen minutes, which felt like forty five or so, to get to that point.
WWF Women’s Championship Match: Rockin Robin vs. Judy Martin
The Setup: I guess that they wanted to have at least one Title match on the show, and this was the only one that was available.
The Action: Former champion Sensational Sherri is out during the introductions and issues a challenge to the winner before joining the commentary team for the match. For the match, they basically just do a bunch of stuff and the crowd isn’t into it at all. Robin gets a few nearfalls with a DDT, bodyslam, and backslide. The finish sees Robin whipped to the corner, but leap to the 2nd rope. She fakes coming off with a bodypress, which Martin ducks, and then when Martin gets back up she comes off for real and gets the pin to retain at 6:26.
The Verdict: Nothing to talk about here really. ˝*
King Haku (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Harley Race
The Setup: Race was put on the shelf by Hulk Hogan last year, so Heenan crowned Haku as the new King of Wrestling. The former King comes back now to try and regain the crown.
The Action: Race comes down and dumps Haku off the throne to get things underway, then gets him in the ring and works him over. They go to the floor where Race gets posted so Haku can take over. The story here theoretically makes Race a babyface, but he’s making no effort to be one and the result is that the crowd really couldn’t care less about this match either. They have a headbutt showdown, which goes to a stalemate, but Race then gets him with a piledriver for 2. They continue going back and forth for a bit, with Heenan switching back and forth, yelling encouragement at whoever is in control at the moment. The end comes when Haku ducks a clothesline and connects with the thrust kick for the pin at 9:03.
The Verdict: Race was not looking good by this point in his career, so it’s probably for the best that this was pretty much the end for him. The match was nothing special, and a lot of that was due to the heel vs. heel dynamic, which never works because the fans have no one to get behind. ˝*
Main Event: 1989 Royal Rumble Match
The Setup: This is the first 30 man Rumble, and also the first one where they billed it as every man for himself. Nothing is on the line here, except for bragging rights I guess, as this is well before the winner getting a Wrestlemania Title shot is established.
The Action: They’ve really been stressing the “every man for himself” deal here and to reinforce that right off the bat, we have Ax at #1 and Smash at #2. They go at it evenly for the first 2:00 until Andre the Giant is #3 and now they can team up on him. Mr. Perfect is #4 and he flies around the ring for Andre’s headbutt. #5 is Ron Garvin and by now everyone has figure out that they need to gang up on Andre. Greg Valentine is #6 and he initially continues with that, but then goes for Garvin and eliminates him. #7 is Jake Roberts and he’s feuding with Andre at this point so they go at it with Andre dominating and choking him out before quickly tossing him. #8 is Outlaw Ron Bass, followed by Shawn Michaels at #9. Perfect backdrops Ax out for only our second elimination so far. #10 is Bushwhacker Butch, and he’s immediately followed by Jake Roberts returning and tossing Damian into the ring, which scares Andre to the point where he eliminates himself to get away. We then settle down again with Honky Tonk Man at #11, Tito Santana at #12, and Bad News Brown at #13. Honky is eliminated by a double team from Tito and Butch before Marty Jannetty comes out at #14. The Rockers then team up and dropkick Bass out together. WWF Champion Randy Savage is #15 and he immediately goes after Bad News, whom he’s currently feuding with. Arn Anderson comes out at #16 before Savage tosses Valentine out. Savage and Arn then team up to eliminate Shawn. Tully Blanchard is #17 and with Shawn gone, Jannetty is left as easy pickings for the Brain Busters and is eliminated. #18 is Hulk Hogan, who makes his presence known by tossing Perfect. Tito then gets tossed by Savage. Luke is #19, but the Bushwhackers being in together is short lived as Bad News quickly gets rid of Butch. Koko B. Ware is #20, but he’s quickly sent packing by Hogan, as is Luke. Warlord is #21, but Hogan takes him out in literally two seconds. He then turns to where Bad News and Savage are fighting on the ropes and dumps both of them out. Savage comes back in and an argument breaks out with Elizabeth coming in to try and calm things down. Savage eventually offers a handshake and everything is good between the Mega Powers for at least a few more weeks. Big Boss Man comes out at #22 as he and Hogan are now the only ones out there and the crowd picks up here as they’re currently feuding. Boss Man takes it to him, and then things get worse for Hogan as Akeem is #23. They double team Hogan and toss him clean as a sheet, which Hogan still throws a hissy fit about. Brutus Beefcake is #24 and as the Twin Towers double team him, Hogan low bridges Boss Man and causes him to be eliminated, completely unfairly mind you. They then brawl to the back. #25 is the Red Rooster, followed by Barbarian at #26, Big John Studd at #27, Hercules at #28, Rick Martel, at #29, and finally Ted Dibiase, who did indeed purchase the coveted #30. And yes, nothing exciting happened between the Hogan/Boss Man deal and now. Dibiase enters at 56:21 for an average interval of 2:00.75, which is essentially bang on. Finalists are: Akeem (#23), Beefcake (#24), Rooster (#25), Barbarian (#26), Studd (#27), Hercules (#28), Martel (#29), and Dibiase (#30). Not exactly the cream of the crop there, but obviously they were still figuring this thing out at this point. Rooster is first to go, courtesy of Dibiase. Beefcake then gets the sleeper on Hercules, but Dibiase and Barbarian come from behind and dump them both. Barbarian then misses a charge on Rick Martel and gets dropkicked out, with Martel soon following by Akeem. This leaves Akeem beating on Studd with Dibiase directing traffic, which goes fine until Studd pulls Dibiase in front of a splash in the corner and then tosses Akeem. Dibiase begs off and offers some money, but Studd is having none of that and instead just kills him and throws him out for the win at 65:04.
The Verdict: It wasn’t terrible or anything, but comparing this to future Rumbles, it was obvious that they still had some kinks to work out. Most notably, the idea that they should get the big stars to the end as the crowd pretty much stopped caring after Hogan was gone. I’ll call it ***, because I still enjoyed watching it though.
Overall Thoughts: Well, there’s only four actual matches on the show, and the Rumble is good and the opener is good and so since those two combined make up a good deal of the show, I think that there’s enough here to go Thumbs in the Middle for Royal Rumble 1989. Everything in between those two matches can easily be skipped though.