The Audit: The 1988 Royal Rumble Review

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Just when you thought you were out of the woods, the I.R.S. (that’s Ian R. Singletary) returns to Audit once again. With the Royal Rumble event now in season I felt it’d be a good time to go back and review some of the earlier Rumble pay-per-views. In this instance we’ll go so far back that we’ll actually predate the Rumble on PPV, back when it was just a fledgling idea of one Pat Patterson that aired on the USA Network.

As part of the plan to monopolize the wrestling industry, Titan Sports (the WWF) had just ran their first Survivor Series PPV heads up against the NWA Starrcade event on Thanksgiving night, 1987. Vince would continue the attack here by running a FREE special event on the USA Network up against the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede PPV. This would actually lead to the creation of Clash of the Champions which was a shot back at Vince and aired against WrestleMania IV. Anyhow, that’s another story. Back to the Rumble. The idea of the match itself was thought up by legendary wrestler, booker and finish man Pat Patterson. Pat proposed the idea to Vince McMahon, who reportedly hated it and said it would fail miserably. To test the waters they ran a few of these Rumble matches on house shows late in 1987. Apparently they went over well enough for Vince to give the green light to run one on the USA Network special pegged for January, 1988. The name of the show was batted around quite a bit, some local TV promos had it even being dubbed “the Rumble Royale” before it was settled on as the Royal Rumble we’ve come to know and love.

Now, we here in the United States don’t usually Audit outside of our own jurisdiction, but in this instance I’ll make an exception. Let us head to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada for the first installment of…

 

THE ROYAL RUMBLE 1988

We go back to January 24, 1988 and to COPPS Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to review the very first WWF Royal Rumble event. Reported attendance for this event was said to be 16,200.

As mentioned, this particular Rumble event would air live on free TV. Well, it’s free TV if you had cable. It’s the USA Network and your announcers are the “Superstars” duo of Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

A couple of announcer notes here. If you were an avid viewer of WWF Prime Time Wrestling as I was, you may already know this was not the originally planned announce team for the event. For weeks Bobby Heenan had played up the idea that he would be at the Rumble for commentary and to support Andre. About three weeks or so before the event Heenan would backtrack and suggest that he was going on “vacation” that week and would not even be at the event. In the mean time, Ted DiBiase would buy him up some Andre and replace Heenan as the corner man. On the other side of the commentary booth, Gorilla Monsoon was slated to be the play-by-play man for this event but would actually suffer a mild Heart Attack leading into the show and he’d be replaced by Vince.

Usually, I leave notes going into each match or segment explaining what was leading up to the bout. I won’t be doing that here because this card was basically booked with standalone matches that had little to no back story. Some of the selling points of tonight’s show include..

* The first ever televised 20-Man Royal Rumble
* The Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant contract signing
* Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude
* Best of Three Falls Match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles
* Dino Bravo attempts to set the World Bench Press Record
* The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions (Best of Three Falls)

Now that we have that out of the way, let the show begin.

As the show opens up we can already hear a variation of the stripper music playing in the background. It’s “Ravishing” Rick Rude in the ring awaiting his opponent.

 

“Ravishing” Rick Rude vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

 

 

 

 

 

The entrances seemed rush but that’s fine by me. Rude jumps Steamboat to try and get the advantage, Rick pitches Ricky out of the ring over the top but the Dragon skins the cat right back in. Steamboat returns to rip into Rude and he tosses Rude over the top and Rick takes a nasty back bump against the corner of the apron. Ouch. Ravishing Rick returns to the ring and does some flexing before requesting the old ‘test of strength’ routine. Steamboat counters out of it and hits that nifty deep armdrag. That is followed by an arm bar. A very long, boring, arm bar that seems to go on, and on, and on, and on. They try and separate the spot with Rick making several escape attempts but it all leads back to an arm bar. Now there’s some lady in the crowd who has a megaphone. I kid you not. So not we have an arm bar AND an annoying lady screaming into a megaphone. Isn’t that just dandy.

Rude finally and mercifully breaks the hold with some kicks and punches. Rude punches Steamboat. And punches Steamboat. And punches Steamboat some more. This is redundant and it’s making me sleepy. Wow, Rick was pretty shitty still at this point. He looked great but shit man learn some moves. Rude throws so many punches even McMahon can no longer ignore it. Vince – “All Rude knows is punching”. Yeah, Vince actually said that. Steamboat finally slides through Rude’s legs, hits another armdrag and, oh no, God, please no, the Dragon goes back to the.. arm bar. Yawwwwn. Rest-hold-rama

This time Rude frees himself with a stiff elbow. Rude blows some type of spot where he’s supposed to send Ricky to the floor. Rude catches the Dragon with a knee in the back but Steamboat still falls backwards out of the ring. Very awkward. Rude goes outside and slams Ricky on the floor and then a suplex brings Steamboat back into the ring. Now it’s Rude’s turn to put the fans to sleep. A seated chinlock by Rude on the Dragon. Steamboat powers him way up and executes an Electric Chair Drop on Rude, or as it was known at the time by Vince, “what-a-maneuver”. Dragon tries a splash but Rude gets the knees up. Does Ricky ever land that splash?

Rude with a shitty looking atomic drop and then back to the seated chinlock. Are they trying to kill me? Steamboat break by sending Rude repeatedly into the buckle. They do the bridge up into a backslide routine that Steamboat and Flair would make famous a year later. Steamboat gets two in the backslide. Dragon starts making quick fall attempts with roll ups and jack knifes, all of them result in 2 counts. Rude with a small package but Ricky reverses it and yet another 2. Rude levels Dragon with a clothesline, but Steamboat reverses a suplex. The Dragon goes up top for the cross body, but Rude pulls referee Dave Hebner in the way and Steamboat lands on the ref. What a heel thing to do.

Rude takes advantage of Steamboat and hoists him up over his shoulder in the “Body Breaker’ / Pendulum backbreaker / Canadian backbreaker / Bruno’s backbreaker / Over the Shoulder backbreaker hold. This was actually Rude’s finisher in 1987 and early 1988 prior to the Rude Awakening neckbreaker. Rude had been using the DDT as his finisher before coming to Titan, but two guys can’t have the same finisher in WWF-land. Anyway, back to the backbreaker hold. Rude has Steamboat locked in it.

Hebner gets to his feet, he taps Rude and calls for the bell. Rick Rude drops the Dragon to celebrate. Rick’s theme begins to play for a bit.

Rude is halfway up the aisle when Howard Finkel announces that Ravishing Rick has been disqualified after 17:38. Hebner DQed Rude for pulling him in the way of Steamboat.

This match finally ends but not without taking a few casualties with it I’m sure.

Winner: Via DQ, Ricky Steamboat

(Post Match Thoughts: Let’s put things in perspective real quick. This was 1988 so you have to remember two things. First, we didn’t get matches like this on TV much at all so you were supposed to appreciate even getting to see it. Second, the shit finish was common WWF practice at the time. Even the WrestleMania Pay-Per-Views were loaded with crap DQ and count out finishes. So you basically ate crap and liked it in those days. That still doesn’t excuse them for making me want to take a snooze during the first match on the card.

This was a far cry from their work together in WCW only four years later. Rude would improve drastically over the next several years. Almost TWENTY MINUTES of rest holds and punches here. A few good spots but very slow otherwise. I can count on one finger how many ‘bad’ Steamboat matches I’ve seen. This match is that finger. I’ll let you guess which finger. Rude wasn’t at his best here, but Steamboat wasn’t killing it either. I’m a fan of both, but not here so much. Solid but boring. Even a bad Steamboat match is still *3/4)

 

Dino Bravo Looks To Break The “World Bench Press Record”

Mean Gene introduces the next segment. He’s up on the stage with Jesse Ventura who will be acting as spotter. For the dumb ones out in the crowd Gene has Ventura explain what a spotter is. If you don’t know, Google it. Dino Bravo will attempt to break the 705 pound World Bench Press Record. Dino Bravo and recently acquired manager Frenchy Martin are introduced. Lots of French speaking from Martin. Now Ventura explains why Bravo is putting powder on his hands before lifting. It’s to keep his hands from slipping. Bravo wants TOTAL SILENCE before he lifts, so naturally the fans boo.

Bravo repeatedly presses “415 pounds” as a warm up. He then stacked the bar to “505 pounds” and Bravo again with rapidly presses as if they weight nothing. Now we up it to “555 pounds” and again success. Now things are getting heavy. “595 pounds” follows. This is getting redundant and a total waste of time. “655 pounds” is next. Success again. How long is this shit? Seriously, is it really f**king necessary to to keep adding weight to the bar this many times? Just put in a warm up and lift the damned 715 pounds.

Speaking of which. Finally, after 5 separate warm ups Bravo readies himself to lift “715”. Finally we can end this shit.

Bravo gets set to lift but then WALKS OFF THE STAGE. You’ve got to be kidding me. Now we get stalling? This segment is pushing TWENTY MINUTES PEOPLE! TWENTY MINUTES of Bravo lifting weights.

Finally, Bravo lays back under the bar and attempts to break the bench press record. Bravo begins to lift the 715 pounds but starts to struggle. His spotter Jesse Ventura has to help Bravo in pushing the bar up. So all of that and then the payoff is Bravo couldn’t even do it. The crowd craps all over the segment.

(Post Segment Thoughts: Well this was definitely NOT what I wanted to see after the Rude/Steamboat match. One of the least over and worst workers at this stage in his career, Dino gets 20 minutes to lift weights on TV. This shit went on just way too damn long, obviously something Vince probably enjoyed and no one else. Way too much screwing around in between each set of weights. Not to mention the actual lifting was tedious and repetitive. TWENTY MINUTES, are you kidding me??? This wasn’t the kind of ‘heel heat’ you would want. I don’t know what this was meant to accomplish but it failed epically on every level. I don’t rate non-wrestling segments but if I did this thing would easily get negative stars. One of the most boring segments in WWF history. Rumble ’88 is 0 for 2 thus far.)

 

WWF Ladies Tag Team Championship Match – 2 Out of 3 Falls

The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai & Judy Martin, with Jimmy Hart) (c)
vs.
The Jumping Bomb Angels (Itsuki Yamazaki & Noriyo Tateno)

(Notes Going In: This is pretty much the only match (and only segment besides Hogan/Andre) that touches on an ongoing back story. The Glamour Girls are your de facto Ladies Tag Champions after having ‘won’ them in EGYPT. It is the WORLD Wrestling Federation after all. The Bomb Angels debuted at the 1987 Survivor Series in Richfield and quickly got over with the fans for their amazing wrestling ability. Their 10-woman match at Series would ultimately come down to two on two with the Angels vs. The Glamour Girls, the Angels eventually eliminating both Girls to become the survivors of the match. After having taken the WWF by storm and showing the fans that there are indeed entertaining lady wrestlers out there, the Angels were pegged for a title match here against the Girls. It’s the best 2 out of 3 falls.)

Fall #1 Begins
The Angels actually stretch out there hamstrings before the bout, nothing wrong with that, safety first.  The match starts off with the Angels landing stereo dropkicks on the Girls. Kai blocks a second dropkick by Tateno and takes control. Tateno shows her strength and agility early by bridging out of a cover to her feet. Yamazaki tags in and delivers a rolling double thrust chop and a variation of the piledriver turned into a gut wrench suplex. Tateno tags back and works a body scissors on Martin. At this point Ventura asks McMahon the names of the Angels. Vince has no clue so he decides to call them “PINK” AND “RED”. Really? You’re the f’n owner of the company AND the announcer of your first high profile USA special and your preparation is to refer to people you have working for you as the colors they are wearing??? I can hear Marv Albert referring to someone coming off the bench in the NBA as “beard guy” or “bald guy”. Vince sounds absolutely unprofessional as an analyst and it shows how much he really gave a shit about the ladies.

Back to the match. Martin catches Tateno in a cross body and drops her into a slam. Kai & Yamazaki tag in. Flying double chop and a dropkick on Kai. Yamazaki rocks the OCTOPUS HOLD! Hellz yeah. Martin comes rushing in to break up the hold but somehow hits her own partner. Now we have all four girls in the ring and the Angels apply stereo Figure Four leglocks. Martin & Tateno are eventually sent back to their corners. Yamazaki works KKai’s hamstrings over. Tateno with a reverse Indian death lock and turns it into a bow and arrow stretch on Kai. Martin comes in and tries to pull Kai in her corner but the Angels win the tug of war and yank Kai back. Yamazaki and Martin tag in. Judy charges at a double boot in the corer from Yamazaki, but Martin holds onto the legs and drops Itsuki into a powerbomb of sorts. Vince refers to Martin as the “largest” lady in the match. Tallest maybe but Kai has he beat in the gut area.

Yamazaki leapfrogs a backdrop attempt by Judy but runs into a knee from Kai on the apron. Judy hits a nice ‘Alley Oop’ facebuster for first fall after 6:10.

Glamour Girls – 1,  Angels – 0

Fall #2
The heels try to take advantage of a hurt Yamazaki since the winner/loser of the last fall have to start the next. Yamazaki shows her strength by keeping a bridge up after being hammered repeatedly. Kai misses a splash and Tateno tags in. Tateno with a flying clothesline and a second clothesline from the middle rope on Kai for 2. Tateno cross body for 2. Vince has finally learned their names. Itsuki and “NORINO”. Jesse says that sounds Italian. Yamazaki tags back in, double suplex by the Angels on Kai. The Glamour Girls reverse a double whip but the Angels put on the brakes before crashing into one another. The Girls charge but the Angels duck and the Girls clothesline each other. Even still Kai manages to gain control of Itsuki. Kai tries an over the shoulder backbreaker but Yamazaki floats it over into a sunset flip and the Angels win the second fall in a mere 1:52. The falls are tied.

Girls – 1, Angels – 1

Fall #3, The Final Fall
The Angels start off fast sending Kai into the ropes for a double knee and a double clothesline. Kai cuts them off with some boots and tags in Martin. Judy catches Itsuki’s boot but Yamazaki turns it into an enzuigiri. Martin didn’t appear to enthused to take that. Tatento comes in and tries a cradle suplex (Perfect Plex) but Judy dead weights that to in order to prevent it from happening. Martin escapes a backslide and hits a catapult on Tateno. Kai tags in double underhook suplex on Tateno for 2. Yamazaki is tagged in but she gets worked over on the heel side of the ring. Itsuki finally grabs a waistlock on Kai and drives her down onto her ass twice like the old Bubba Bomb. This gets 2. Partners switch out and Tateno with a diving knee off the top on Martin. Tateno with an impressive bridging double underhook suplex but referee Joey Marella is super slow to count and it only gets 2. Marella looked confused because he hadn’t seen such a quality wrestling move in so long. Yamazaki comes in with a cross body on Martin gets 2.

Yamazaki climbs up the ropes and misses a flying senton. Damn. Martin takes advantage and covers but only gets 2. Tateno tags back in, clothesline off the middle rope but Kai breaks up the cover at 2. While Marella gets Kai back out of the ring the Angels land a perfectly timed Double Dropkick off the top on Martin and that ends the final fall after 5:49. New Champs!

Total time of the action was 13:51

Girls – 1, Angels – 2

Winners: The Angels from Japan

 

 

 

 

 

(Post Match Thoughts: This was a fun match even though there were some sloppy spots throughout. I couldn’t tell if the Glamour Girls, Martin in particular, was purposely blocking a couple of moves or was just confused how to take them / scared to take them. I’d assume the latter.

If you believe the stories that are out there this feud was to have continued through Summer Slam. The two teams were to have went over to Japan during the early summer months and perfected a match to bring back for S. Slam where the Glamour Girls would regain the belts and work with even more AJW talent. Supposedly, Moolah hated the fact that the Glamour Girls refused her as manager and pitched the idea of Jimmy Hart. You don’t take money out of Moolah’s pocket. Her name fits well. Moolah also wasn’t happy with AJW talent stealing spots on shows since Moolah got a cut of the people she trained, like Martin & Kai, when they performed. So the story goes Moolah called the Glamour Girls in Japan in June and told them that Vince wanted them to win the titles back in Japan that night. They trusted Moolah so the ladies did the title switch. Upon hearing of this, Vince McMahon and booker Pat Patterson were furious and basically killed the women’s tag division dead. So Moolah sabotaged the ladies division. You can take that story however way you like, but everything I’ve ever heard about Moolah says this could easily be a true story. She was a scumbag.

Back to the match. The Angels were years ahead of their time in the States and these matches actually garnered positive responses and excitement from the fans unlike most U.S. ladies matches of the time. Even with some sloppy spots in the match this was still better than almost anything else WWF was putting on free TV at the time. *** You go girls!)

 

Hulk Hogan / Andre The Giant – The Contract Signing

Before the next segment a flashback video is shown of WrestleMania III. It’s the early part of the match where Hogan tries to slam Andre but the Giant falls on top and it appears referee Marella may have counted three before Hogan got his shoulder out. This enabled Andre to claim he should be champion for the last 9 months. Fast forward to “The Million Dollar Man” arriving in the WWF and attempting to purchase the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan, to which Hogan responded ‘HELL NOOOOOOOOO’. This enraged DiBiase who would then purchase the contract of Andre the Giant from Bobby Heenan for a cool One Million Dollars. If he’s only THE Million Dollar Man, wouldn’t that break him? Specifics aside, DiBiase purchased Andre’s contract with the plan for Andre to beat the Hulkster and then Ted would buy the belt from the Giant. The video package closes with Andre choking out Hogan from a recent edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event.

This contract signing here is to set up the upcoming Hogan title defense vs. Andre in PRIME TIME on NBC set to take place Friday night, February the 5th. The very first WWF ‘Main Event’ program. This was a gigantic coup at the time for Pro Wrestling to get a prime time slot on a major network station.

The bell rings for whatever reason? We see Gene Okerlund, WWF President Jack Tunney and the heels in the ring. The heels being Andre, DiBiase, and Virgil. Hogan’s out next in interesting attire including tight jeans and cowboy boots. As the festivities begin and they get Andre to take a seat, Ted DiBiase has some things to say to the Hulkster. While Ted cuts an awesome heel promo about taking the title, Andre just stares down Hogan with a look of death. For the first time ever Hogan actually looks scared. Andre gives a long death stare at Hogan before finally signing the contract. Hogan signs as well.

In closing, DiBiase tells Andre to give the match a final ‘STAMP OF APPROVAL’. As soon as DiBiase says this, both Hogan and Andre jump up from their seats. DiBiase says more shit to the Hulkster which causes Hogan to lunge at DiBiase. Andre intercepts Hogan and drives him face first into the table before flipping the table over on Hulk’s face on the mat. HAH, I love it.

End segment.

(Post Segment Thoughts: The pre-segment video wasn’t overdone, it touched on the main points and flowed quickly. The actual segment was fine as well. It didn’t drag on like Dino Bravo’s segment or today’s Raw promos. Andre’s mannerisms without speaking were awesome, he did more staring at Hogan than most do cutting 20 minute promos today. DiBiase was such an awesome heel here and a great evil promo to boot. Hogan played his part fine even going so far as to show potential fear for the first time. Hogan knew how to sell something if it meant there was $$$ to be made and he had no problem acting worried to make the upcoming match more intriguing. The final spot with Andre attacking Hogan was fresh for the time, contract signings hadn’t been done to death in 1988 and it was a good cherry on the sundae to give the heels even more heat heading into The Main Event. It made Hogan look vulnerable. I know this show was named after a match but make no mistake, this was the main event as far as Vince was concerned. I don’t rate segments but this was decent and didn’t wear out it’s welcome.)

 

With very little fanfare Vince says the Rumble match is next. After a quick break Vince and Jesse explain the rules of the match and how #20 will have the advantage.  With that we head to the ring where Howard Finkel again goes over the rules. It’s time for the introduction of #1 and #2, but the men are already waiting in the ring so there’s no suspense there.

THE ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH

Bret “Hitman” Hart draws #1,

Tito Santana gets #2.

Ventura mentions the irony since the two are currently feuding over the tag team titles. Yeah, almost as if this was rigged Jess. Probably the best two wrestlers in the match draw the first two numbers and go at it until #3 “The Natural” Butch Reed joins the match to make it a two on one against Santana. Tito manages to hang in there until the end of the period. Reed accidentally nails Bret and Tito begins to fight both of them off just as #4 Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart heads in to make it THREE ON ONE. The heels are literally triple teaming Tito for the entire time, the Harts never turn on Reed or vice versa. All three heels have Tito teetering out when #5 Jake “The Snake” Roberts hits the ring. Jake immediately dumps Butch Reed out of the match from behind. And now we’re 2 on 2. Hart nails Tito with a piledriver as we wind down to the next participant, which is..

“The King” Harley Race is #6. Another heel to keep things in the heel’s favor. Sort of a War Games vibe there. Race is all over Jake for this period. Anvil with an impressive standing dropkick on Tito. #7 “Jumping” Jim Brunzell of the Killer Bees. Sam Houston is #8 and did I mention how insane this crowd is? I mean they’re crazy loud, even for Sam Houston. WWE would long for a crowd like this now. The brothers, Houston and Roberts walk right past each other in the ring and don’t even acknowledge one another. Awww. Bret Hart eliminates Tito Santana in all the melee. In comes #9 “Dangerous” Danny Davis and he and Sam Houston go right at it to continue their jobber feud. Jake pounds on Race in a fun seesaw spot. #10 is Boris Zhukov and I can’t help but notice how eerily similar this roster list looks like the WrestleMania IV Battle Royal. Seriously, everyone in here right now except Jake are in the WM4 BR. We’re now half way through the participants.

#11 is… “The Rock” Don Muraco. Confusion ensues as Nikolai Volkoff runs down three feet behind Muraco and they fight over who is #11. It appears Nikolai can’t count, is confused, or wants to help his partner out. No matter what Muraco is #11 and Volkoff is forced to stand at ringside and wait for his turn. While Volkoff stands by and watched, Jake Roberts and Jim Brunzell eliminate Boris Zhukov. He didn’t last long. Brunzell hits his patented sweet dropkick on Bret Hart as we count down to #12 Nikolai Volkoff. No surprise there. Muraco eliminates Harley Race shortly after. While Vince argues with Jesse about using double negatives, the referees are arguing with Race to leave ringside.

#13 is “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and he crosses paths with Race at ringside. The two have recently been feuding. Duggan shoves Race, Harley cheap shots Duggan. Hacksaw chases Race halfway up the aisle, then returns to the ring to wrestle. #14 is “Outlaw” Ron Bass. Volkoff picks up Brunzell and slams him out of the ring. #15 is B. Brian Blair of the Bees. We’ve got 10 men in the ring now.

#16 is Hillbilly Jim. We’ve built up to 11 men in the ring and it’s crazy how many of these guys work the Mania IV Battle Royal. Hillbilly eliminates the Anvil almost immediately after entering. #17 is Dino Bravo. This ass gets two segments on the show? Why Vince Why? Ron Bass hoists Sam Houston up on his shoulders in an Electric Chair drop position and dumps him out. #18 is The Ultimate Warrior and he goes right after the Outlaw. Poor Bass. #1 Bret Hart is finally eliminated by Don Muraco after 25:00 plus in the ring. The One Man Gang comes in at #19 and the Gang eliminates Blair, followed by the Gang eliminating Jake Roberts.

#20 is The Junk Yard Dog. JYD is the final entrant. And we’ve got 10 men left, that’s half the field still in this. Of course you know that means rapid eliminations are coming. Duggan backdrops Nikolai out. The Gang dumps the Hillbilly. Duggan with a 3 Point Stance and he clotheslines Danny Davis’ ass right out of there. Bravo and the Gang work together to eliminate the Warrior. The Outlaw tosses JYD who only lasted maybe 2:00 or so. Muraco eliminates Bass after a shitty clothesline.

We’ve got our Final Four in Duggan, Muraco, Bravo and the Gang. The Gang crushes Duggan in the corner with an avalanche. Muraco tries to fight off OMG and Dino. The Rock with a dropkick on Gang. Frenchy Martin jumps onto the apron, Muraco dropkicks him off. Bravo and Gang use the distraction to their advantage and they eliminate Muraco.

Duggan is all alone versus two.

The heels double team Duggan. Bravo holds Jim, but Duggan moves and OMG accidentally clotheslines Bravo out of the match!

Down to two. Duggan rocks the Gang punches, Gang takes over and chokes Hacksaw up against the ropes. The Gang backs up and charges at Duggan, but Hacksaw pulls the rope down. Out goes the OMG!

Duggan Wins in 33:54!

(Post Match Thoughts: Anybody who can do basic math can see that the “2 minute intervals” weren’t close to legit in this first outing. The match went just shy of 34:00 total yet mathematically JYD shouldn’t have even come out until the 36:00 mark, and the match would have ended around 40 or 41 minutes. I’m not making a complaint, I just like to be thorough. I thought it was great that we got the entire match commercial free, that was a huge plus for a TV program. For their first crack at the Rumble match as a broadcasted event I thought it was fine. I think it’s crazy that more than half of the field would meet again in the Mania 4 Battle Royal.The match was a little light on star power but it was still fun. Bret Hart becomes the first Rumble “Ironman’ after lasting 25 plus minutes (nearly the whole match). The Gang gets the first nod as the ‘monster’ of the match after tossing out a half dozen guys which boils down to almost a third of the field.

There was very little heel vs. heel, and practically no face vs. face interaction, but that would change as the Rumble match was perfected in the following years. To have a match like this on basic cable TV at this time is just insane to think about. A true treat from the typical squash matches. As a prototype of the match I can’t really find many complaints here. The crowd being explosive helped the matter. ***)

 

Craig DeGeorge Interviews Hulk Hogan
We have a video flashback from earlier in the show and the contract signing between Hogan and Andre. Following the video, Craig DeGeorge is up on the stage and intros Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster has taken the notion to change his clothes. Hulkamaniacs don’t have a price brother. Hogan hard sells the February 5th Main Event special on NBC. Andre can’t beat him. Fuck you money bags.

 

Two Out Of Three Falls Match

 

 

 

 

 

The Islanders (Haku & Tama)
vs.
The Young Stallions (Jim Powers & Paul Roma)


Fall #1 Begins
This is the final match on the show and is 2 out of 3 falls for some reason. Bobby Heenan is away in “Barbados” so the Islanders work this alone. The odd positioning of this match is likely to fill time in order to get in the Hogan and upcoming Andre/Dibiase interviews. For some reason Vince brings up the earlier Dino Bravo segment and called it dull and boring and said it made him want to sleep. No f’n kidding! The Islanders are back here after a very brief “suspension” by President Jack Tunney for stealing Matilda from the Bulldogs.

Powers and Tama start. Tama bails to the floor quickly. They restart, Powers catches Tama’s foot and hits an atomic drop. Tama cheap shots Powers in the corner and tags in Haku. Roma also tags in and works Haku’s arm. Roma and Haku do some NASTY SCARY hiptoss reversal spot with Haku almost breaking Roma’s neck. SHIT that was scary. Haku and Roma cross body each other, Roma lands on top for 2. Tama & Powers back in and the Islanders take control and beat down Powers. Powers manages a hot tag to Roma just as Tama is coming ing. Jumping clothesline by Roma and a nice dropkick. Roma with a backdrop on Tama and he knocks Haku off the apron. Roma completely misses a dropkick but Tama sells it anyway and bumps for 2. With Roma on fire, Haku on the apron drops the tope rope down and Tama flings Roma out to the floor. Roma injures his knee and is counted out in 7:54.

 

Craig DeGeorge Interviews Ted DiBiase & Andre the Giant
In between falls while Paul Roma is being “looked at”, we conveniently have time for another interview. This time DeGeorge is with Andre, DiBiase, and meat sauce Virgil. Andre the Giant says that he is still undefeated. DiBiase is confident in Andre defeating Hogan at The Main Event and surrendering the championship to Ted. Everybody’s got a price.


Fall #2 (Islanders vs. Stallions)
There’s no bell before the second fall. Roma has to start this fall on a bad knee and the Islanders immediately take advantage of that. The idiot Roma puts his KNEES up on a Tama splash and hurts his nee even further. Hot tag to Powers. Powers with a HIGH backdrop on Haku for 2. Powers with offense on Haku, nice suplex for 2. Islanders take over on Jim boy. Tama shouts “CUMMON SUCKA” which Vince even questions. Islanders just dominate Powers like a jobber. Haku misses a somersault senton. Damn Haku was great when he was lean. Powers back is still hurt. A weird spot where Powers ducks a dropkick but immediately falls. Hot tag to injured Roma. Roma comes in limping but punching. Haku kicks Paul’s bad leg. Tama with a splash off the top on the leg. Haku follows with a half crab to end it in approximately 7:14 since there was no bell.

Total time was around 15:08

Winners: Islanders win in two straight falls.

(Post Match Thoughts: This can’t really be classified as much more than filler, but it was solid. They needed something to follow the Rumble match so that they could squeeze in the Hogan and Andre interviews to continue the Main Event hype. This was not much more than a very stretched out squash but at least it told a story with Roma’s knee injury. Roma and Powers had flashes of good stuff but it wasn’t much. Islanders looked solid and were really starting to pick up momentum, too bad Tama had to ruin that after Mania 4. Haku was absolutely awesome in the ring when he was trimmed down like right here, and still a killer in real life when he bulked up. Even though it wasn’t anything special it was solid enough for a TV match, and with the Young Stallions involved that’s saying a little something. **1/4)

 

THE FINAL AUDIT

In essence, this was a throwaway show for Vince. This was nothing more than a placeholder event to take buys away from Crockett’s Bunkhouse Stampede PPV while promoting his upcoming NBC special and WrestleMania IV PPV. The card wasn’t even an “all hands on deck” event as you’d tend to expect for such a show. Guys like Randy Savage, IC Champion The Honky Tonk Man, Demolition, and many others were working a “B” show in Nova Scotia on the same night. While the Rumble match was the namesake main event here, the focus was more or less on the Hogan vs. Andre contract signing and the build to their upcoming World Championship match on NBC. As a PPV this would be classified with much less of a rating simply because of the lack of stars on the card. I even felt it odd that they didn’t do Islanders vs. Bulldogs, or include Rick Martel in the Rumble match just to boost things a little. I’m sure they had their reasons. Even though the Rumble show lacked star power it was more enjoyable than the Bunkhouse Stampede as a whole.

As a special event, you have the throwaway Islanders match, which was solid but essentially an extended squash. Rude vs. Steamboat was there but left a lot to be desired. The Bravo segment went on WAYYY too long, was repetitive and, oh yeah, boring. But on the other side, you had the new concept Rumble match which was fun, the ladies match which was pretty good, and the Hogan/Andre stuff which was used to build to the important Main Event show which in turn built to WrestleMania 4. It’s a mixed bag show but the good outweighs the bad, and really the only “shoot your eyes out” BAD segment was the Bravo crap.

If you’re watching this show it’s likely for the Rumble so you can’t go wrong there. The ladies match was a nice added surprise and equally enjoyable. Outside of the aforementioned Dino segment, and maybe Rude vs. Steamboat nothing on the card is going to make you yawn or cringe.

I hate to be the guy who drops the “historical reasons” line but it’s true, this card is historical for the sole purpose of the first ever televised Rumble match. So for that I’d recommend a view of at least that segment. This show as a whole for a TV special gets a fun 7 out of 10. Somewhere around a B- / C+ grade. It’s a mild recommendation but if you skip the first two segments it should be smooth viewing.

And that wraps it up for the inaugural Royal Rumble event. Expect a few more brand new Royal Rumble reviews from me over the next few weeks as we get closer to the 2017 edition of the show. Until next time this is I.R.S., that’s Ian R. Singletary, saying catcha later tax cheats.

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