Royal Rumble: Through The Years (Part 1, 1988-1993)
by Scrooge McSuck
WrestleMania is often the pinnacle of the calendar year in WWE, with an exciting atmosphere, jacked up crowds, and more often than not, outstanding lineups, even in years when the creative direction doesnít quite meet expectations. The only other night of the year that comes close is the annual Royal Rumble PPV, featuring a 30 (and in one instance each, 20 and 40) WWE Superstars in a Battle Royal style match, with the winner of the match earning a shot at a World Championship, a reward that has been in place since the 1993 PPV (there was no reward for 1988-1991, and in 1992 the prize was the WWF Championship). Even though the Rumble PPV has featured some outstanding matches over the years, weíre going to look back at every Royal Rumble Match, starting in 1988. The first official Rumble Match, according to TheHistoryofWWE.com, took place in St. Louis, MO in October of 1987, but wasnít in front of cameras, and from old Wrestling Observer records, it wasnít a good debut, either. We will touch up on each card (and yes, Iíll have my official star ratings handy), but this will be primarily about the Rumble Match itself, so donít be too disappointed....
1988 (January 24th, The Copps Coliseum @ Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Bret Hart, 2. Tito Santana, 3. "The Natural" Butch Reed, 4. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 5. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 6. King Harley Race, 7. "Jumping" Jim Brunzell, 8. Sam Houston, 9. "Dangerous" Danny Davis, 10. Boris Zhukov, 11. "The Rock" Don Muraco, 12. Nikolai Volkoff, 13. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 14. "The Outlaw" Ron Bass, 15. B. Brian Blair, 16. Hillbilly Jim, 17. Dino Bravo, 18. The Ultimate Warrior, 19. One Man Gang, 20. Junkyard Dog
1. Butch Reed (by Roberts), 2. Tito Santana (by Hart Foundation), 3. Boris Zhukov (by Roberts & Brunzell), 4. Harley Race (by Muraco), 5. Jim Brunzell (by Volkoff), 6. Jim Neidhart (by Hillbilly Jim), 7. Sam Houston (by Bass), 8. Bret Hart (by Muraco), 9. B. Brian Blair (by Gang), 10. Jake Roberts (by Gang), 11. Nikolai Volkoff (by Duggan), 12. Hillbilly Jim (by Gang), 13. Danny Davis (by Duggan), 14. Ultimate Warrior (by Gang & Bravo), 15. Junkyard Dog (by Bass), 16. Ron Bass (by Muraco), 17. Don Muraco (by Gang & Bravo), 18. Dino Bravo (by Gang), 19. One Man Gang (by Duggan), WINNER: JIM DUGGAN
Rumble Match Rating: It was the first of its kind, so there wasnít much of a measuring tool to gauge this with. There was never much of a lull in the action, thanks to only being 20 participants deep, and for the most part, everyone worked hard or had enough energy to make everything look exciting (again, most everyone. Still looking at you, Junkyard Dog). We didnít get many big spots or anyone running through the competition, but it served its purpose of holding interest of the crowd for a longer-than-usual match than WWF was used to doing, and kicked off a yearly tradition. Give this one a look for historical factors, but youíll likely be disappointed by the undercard feel of everyone involved. ***
- Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- The rule of thumb is to start the Royal Rumble Match with a hot opening sequence or with one or two of the best wrestlers in the company. Bret Hart and Tito Santana started, which definitely proves that theory correct. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the final names to enter? Notable work-rate horses Hillbilly Jim, the Junkyard Dog, One Man Gang, Ultimate Warrior, and Dino Bravo.
- "The Natural" Butch Reed is the first ever eliminated participant, courtesy of Jake "The Snake" Roberts during a failed 3-on-1 attack on Santana.
- The One Man Gang took home honors for most eliminations, with 6 (solo eliminations of Blair, Roberts, Hillbilly Jim, and accidentally Dino Bravo, and teamed with Bravo to toss out the Warrior and Muraco). Don Muraco (Race, Bret, and Bass) and Jim Duggan (Volkoff, Davis, and the Gang) each tallied 3 eliminations.
- The "every man for himself" rule need not apply. The commentary from Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura even suggests and encourages that the good guys work together against the bad guys. The only moment I noticed where it was actually heel vs. heel was a short altercation between King Harley Race and Boris Zhukov. How about that for random?
- At one point, thereís just too many faces in the ring (around the time of Dugganís entrance), so thereís a lot of standing around because the ratio is too unbalanced, and when the babyfaces are double teaming heels, thereís hardly any heat.
- This is the only match that I can think of where real-life relatives Jake Roberts and Sam Houston are involved. Iím sure I saw them work together for a moment, but they mostly stayed away from each other. If only Rockiní Robin were allowed in the Rumble Match...
- Bret Hart sets the first record for the Iron Man Award, starting the match and lasting until the arrival of the Ultimate Warrior at #18, approximately 27-minutes (the 2-minute intervals were poorly). Junkyard Dog sets the mark for least amount of time in the ring at around 2-minutes (and he already looked blown up as he entered the ring).
- Speaking of poorly timed intervals, I wonder if the arrival of all the poor wrestlers at the end was the reason for the accelerated clocks? Go back and time it out, when Warrior arrives, the countdown begins in about 45-seconds, and after the One Man Gang enters, itís just slightly over a minute until JYD rounds out the field.
- Harley Race hangs around for a while following his elimination, just for the sake of taking a cheap shot at Jim Duggan.
- Filing this under the "doing it for old timeís sake" category, I got a kick out of Jim Brunzell rushing in and immediately going after Bret Hart and the Anvil. The Bees and Foundation mustíve wrestled hundreds of times between 1986-87. Not counting the funeral known as Mania IV, this mightíve been the last Bees vs. Foundation encounter televised.
- While there was never an official list of participants announced before the show, one of the names promoted to appear was Bam Bam Bigelow, but he neither appeared on this show or on the card held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Also odd to see that Tito Santana was a participant, but not fellow Strike Force member and co-holder of the Tag Team Titles, Rick Martel.
- Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat def. "Ravishing" Rick Rude by Disqualification. I never understood the love for Steamboat. The guy dogged it as hard and as much as anyone else, and was a total flake when it came to sticking around. Rude didnít help much either, relying mostly on rest holds. [*1/2]
- The Jumping Bomb Angels def. The Glamour Girls in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match (2-1) for the WWF Womenís Tag Team Championship. Vince only refers to the JBAís by the color of their trunks until the second fall. [***1/4]
- The Islanders def. The Young Stallions in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match (2-0). Roma sold a serious knee injury mid-way through, but it was a total work, appearing as advertised at live shows the rest of the week. [**]
- Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant signed the contract for a WWF Championship Match to be featured on a Prime Time Special on February 5th. Yes, someone was physically assaulted.
- Dino Bravo, with a little bit of help from Jesse Ventura, attempted to break the World Bench Pres Record of 710 pounds. This went on for a needlessly long 15-minutes.
1989 (January 15th, The Summit @ Houston, TX)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Ax, 2. Smash, 3. Andre The Giant, 4. "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, 5. "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin, 6. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 7. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 8. "The Outlaw" Ron Bass, 9. Shawn Michaels, 10. Butch, 11. The Honkytonk Man, 12. Tito Santana, 13. Bad News Brown, 14. Marty Jannetty, 15. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, 16. Arn Anderson, 17. Tully Blanchard, 18. Hulk Hogan, 19. Luke, 20. Koko B. Ware, 21. The Warlord, 22. Big Boss Man, 23. Akeem, 24. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, 25. The Red Rooster, 26. The Barbarian, 27. Big John Studd, 28. Hercules, 29. Rick Martel, 30. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase
1. Smash (by Andre), 2. Ronnie Garvin (by Andre), 3. Jake Roberts (by Andre), 4. Ax (by Hennig), 5. Andre The Giant (Self-Eliminated), 6. Honkytonk Man (by Santana & Butch), 7. Ron Bass (by the Rockers), 8. Greg Valentine (by Savage), 9. Shawn Michaels (by Savage & Anderson), 10. Marty Jannetty (by the Brain Busters), 11. Curt Hennig (by Hogan), 12. Tito Santana (by Savage & Anderson), 13. Butch (by Brown), 14. Koko B. Ware (by Hogan), 15. Luke (by Hogan), 16. Arn Anderson (by Hogan), 17. Tully Blanchard (by Hogan), The Warlord (by Hogan), 19. Bad News Brown (by Hogan), 20. Randy Savage (by Hogan), 21. Hulk Hogan (by Boss Man & Akeem), 22. Big Boss Man (by Hogan), 23. Red Rooster (by Dibiase), 24. Hercules (by Dibiase & Barbarian), 25. Brutus Beefcake (by Dibiase & Barbarian), 26. The Barbarian (by Martel), 27. Rick Martel (by Akeem), 28. Akeem (by Studd), 29. Ted Dibiase (by Studd), WINNER: BIG JOHN STUDD
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- To put emphasis on the "every man for himself" stipulation, co-holders of the Tag Team Championship, Demolitionís Ax and Smash, draw #1 and #2 and go at it for a couple of minutes. Unlike in the 1988 Rumble, thereís a lot of face vs. face and heel vs. heel situations, meaning the significant amount of awkward standing around and faces looking for something to do has been corrected.
- Andre The Giant draws #3 of course, because who else would be able to fight off the combined efforts of the Tag Team Champions? Andre is the main attraction for the first quarter of the match, constantly fighting off double and triple team efforts and tossing a few guys along the way. As soon as Jake Roberts enters, the switch goes up and he just aggressively destroys Roberts for two full minutes before easily tossing him. The only complaint with the whole sequence is Andreís lame self-elimination, running away from a returning Roberts, with Damien in hand.
- Hereís an odd match-up you wouldnít think about seeing: Mr. Perfect vs. The Honkytonk Man. For a baby-face scenario? Luke and Koko B. Ware double teaming Hulk Hogan.
- Is it fitting for Bad News Brown to draw #13?
- Tito Santana and Greg Valentine go at it for the "old timeís sake" moment, but the commentary doesnít pick up on it.
- After about 8 minutes or so to cool the crowd off from the Andre Spectacle, we have our next hot sequence, the arrival of Randy Savage, who makes Bad News Brown his main focus, but also finds time to participate in unusual team-ups, like helping Arn Anderson throw out Shawn Michaels.
- Hulk Hogan has the most eliminations for this Rumble and sets a new high, throwing out 9 participants (1 illegally): Curt Hennig, Koko, Luke, The Warlord, The Brain Busters, Bad News, Savage, and the Boss Man. Andre The Giant had the next highest total, eliminating 4 (Smash, Garvin, and Roberts), including himself.
- Mr. Perfectís 28-minutes in the ring is the longest of the match, and sets the new mark for the Iron Man in a Royal Rumble Match. The Warlord, on the other hand, set the infamous record for shortest time in the ring, at approximately 2-seconds, a record that would stand for at least two decades.
- In a laughable moment on commentary, Gorilla Monsoon complains that Boss Man and Akeem are double teaming a man who has been in the ring for roughly half-an-hour. Ventura naturally blows a gasket, and rightfully so. Hoganís in-ring time was around the 8-minute mark.
- With the departure of top baby-faces Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, the crowd really fizzles out with a weak final quarter (15-minutes), "highlighted" by Big John Studd hugging Akeem for what feels like an eternity. Speaking of Studd, yeah, heís winning to establish him as a big player after two and half years away from the WWF scene.
- Ted Dibiase buys the #30 spot. Because he can.
Rumble Match Rating: Things start off exciting with Ax and Smash fighting, and Andre The Giant carrying the first 15-minutes by working fun sequence with everyone that enters. The middle portion features a lot of decent action with guys like Savage, Bad News, Hennig, Santana, Michaels, and the Brain Busters, and then Hulk Hogan comes in and explodes, cleaning house of nearly one third of the field. The final 10+ minutes falls a bit flat, but itís always fun to see a nefarious heel get what he has coming to him, especially when he tries to buy the best spot in the match. ***1/2
- The Hart Foundation and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan def. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers and Dino Bravo in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match (2-1). The Foundation have been feuding with former manager Jimmy Hart since their split in the Summer of í88, and wow was Duggan vs. Bravo lighting the world on fire. Decent match, but I just couldnít get into it, and donít really care for the majority of the participants. [**]
- Rockiní Robin def. Judy Martin to retain the WWF Womenís Championship. LONG and DULL. The Coliseum Video version edits it down to about 2-minutes long, and thatís not me complaining. For those paying attention, yes, Judy Martin worked consecutive Royal Rumble cards. Sensational Sherriís guest commentary was pretty lousy, too. [*1/2]
- King Haku def. Harley Race to determine the undisputed King of the WWF. Bobby Heenan was at ringside playing both sides, but Race was technically working face in a very forgettable run to end his WWF in-ring career. Crowd was mostly dead, not knowing who to cheer for, since the Race face push was so under the radar that it mostly went unnoticed. [**1/4]
- Intercontinental Champion Utimate Warrior and "Ravishing" Rick Rude have a "Super Posedown" in place of actually competing in an actual match. Just like the Dino Bravo/Bench Press nonsense, this goes on for way too long, about 15-minutes, and the predictable beat-down comes after the crowd blindly cheers Warriorís poses.
- We get to see a handful of Superstars reactions to drawing their numbers. Most of them are disappointed, especially Ted Dibiase, who was eager to strike a deal with Slick, who seemed very pleased with what his men pulled.
1990 (January 21st, The Orlando Arena @ Orlando, FL)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination:
1. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 2. Koko B. Ware, 3. Marty Jannetty, 4. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 5. "Macho King" Randy Savage, 6. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 7. The Warlord, 8. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 9. Bad News Brown, 10. Dusty Rhodes, 11. Andre The Giant, 12. The Red Rooster, 13. Ax, 14. Haku, 15. Smash, 16. Akeem, 17. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 18. Dino Bravo, 19. Canadian Earthquake, 20. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 21. The Ultimate Warrior, 22. "The Model" Rick Martel, 23. Tito Santana, 24. The Honkytonk Man, 25. Hulk Hogan, 26. Shawn Michaels, 27. The Barbarian, 28. "Ravishing" Rick Rude, 29. Hercules, 30. Mr. Perfect
1. Koko B. Ware (by Dibiase), 2. Marty Jannetty (by Dibiase), 3. Jake Roberts (by Savage), 4. Randy Savage (by Rhodes), 5. The Warlord (by Andre), 6. Bad News Brown (by Piper), 7. Roddy Piper (by Brown), 8. The Red Rooster (by Andre), 9. Bret Hart (by Rhodes), 10. Andre The Giant (by Demolition), 11. Akeem (by Snuka), 12. Dusty Rhodes (by Earthquake), 13. Ax (by Earthquake), 14. Canadian Earthquake (by Dibiase, Smash, Neidhart, Snuka, and Haku), 15. Dino Bravo (by Warrior), 16. Smash (by Haku), 17. Jim Neidhart (by Warrior), 18. Ted Dibiase (by Warrior), 19. Jimmy Snuka (by Hogan), 20. Haku (by Hogan), 21. Tito Santana (by Martel & Warrior), 22. The Honkytonk Man (by Hogan), 23. Shawn Michaels (by Warrior), 24. Rick Martel (by Warrior), 25. The Ultimate Warrior (by Hogan), 26. The Barbarian (by Hercules), 27. Hercules (by Rude), 28. Rick Rude (by Perfect), 29. Mr. Perfect (by Hogan), WINNER: HULK HOGAN
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits:
- It wasnít announced on television, but the official Royal Rumble program listed "The Widow Maker" Barry Windham as a participant. He was replaced by the Red Rooster.
- It always seemed odd to me that in the early days of the Royal Rumble, they made sure to keep entry numbers secret, but here, itís revealed throughout the show that Ted Dibiaseís number was picked for him and heís assigned #1, while Mr. Perfect drew "the perfect number" of #30.
- For reasons unexplained, Entrants #3 and #4 come out to their theme music, and then nobody else. Rumble entries that didnít draw #1 and #2 didnít come out to their music until 1996. My theory was that since #1 eliminated #2 before #3 came in, and #3 before #4 came in, they decided to have their music play (and who didnít get excited for Robertsí music?).
- Managers are allowed at ringside, which gives Virgil countless opportunities to save Dibiase from potential elimination.
- Ted Dibiase is the first man to draw #30 one year and the next year draw #1. Another instance where a strong worker begins the match and carries most of the work-load. He easily disposes of Koko B. Ware and Marty Jannetty, leading into an incredibly hot sequence that involves Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, and Randy Savage in what has the be considered a Tag Team Dream Match we never got in the WWF.
- Itís been said before and itíll be said again: Shane McMahon is one of the referees at ringside and gets quite a bit of screen-time trying to break up the brawl between Piper and Bad News.
- For the second year in a row, Ax and Smash find themselves in the ring with Andre The Giant, but unlike in the í89 Rumble, are able to pound away on the Giant until he goes tumbling over the top rope for one of the biggest eliminations of the match, and a thankful make-up for Andreís lame self-elimination from a year earlier.
- The elimination of (the Canadian) Earthuake requires the largest team-up in the short history of the Royal Rumble Match: Excluding ally Dino Bravo, the participants in the ring to help get him over and out includes Jim Neidhart, Smash, Haku, Ted Dibiase, and Jimmy Snuka.
- Plenty of opportunities to see rivals going at it: Roberts vs. Dibiase, Demolition v. The Colossal Connection, Rhodes vs. Savage, Warrior vs. Dino Bravo, Santana vs. Martel, and of course, Hogan vs. Mr. Perfect.
- Ted Dibiase is the 1990 Rumbleís Iron Man, and once again, we have a new record, with him spending about 45-minutes in the match, eliminated shortly before the arrival of #25. Shawn Michaels takes home the "honor" of shortest time in the ring, arriving in the middle of Hogan and Warriorís house cleaning session, and lasting about 12-seconds.
- Ultimate Warrior with the most eliminations with 6 (Bravo, Neidhart, Dibiase, Santana, Michaels, Martel), with Hulk Hogan right behind him with 5 (Snuka, Haku, Honkytonk Man, Warrior, and Perfect).
- Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warriorís memorable first-ever in-ring confrontation is a stare-down, a couple of shoves, and the criss-cross clothesline spot. Thatís all you needed. Since it would be hard to believe one heel could work over both of them for 2-minutes, Rick Rude jumps the gun to even things out. Hogan tries helping Warrior out, and for the second year in a row "accidentally" eliminates his rival for top babyface in the company.
- Mr. Perfect gives Hulk Hogan the Perfect-Plex for the sake of making Hogan do his Hulk-Up sequence. Also, the clip of Hogan eliminating Perfect was recycled a few years later in the commercial for the Royal Rumble on SNES and Sega Genesis.
Rumble Match Rating: With only a few sequences of lull, this was easily the most enjoyable Rumble Match to date, with plenty of star power, excitement, hard work, and strong booking. It also helps that the ring never fills up too much, making the action hard to follow. Dibiase started with good mini-matches, followed by an awesome series with Savage, Roberts, and Piper, the mini-match involving Demolition and the Colossal Connection, the Piper/Brown double elimination and brawl, the gaggle of participants ganging up on Earthquake, Hogan and Warrior cleaning house until we got their big showdown, and a hot finish with Hogan and Mr. Perfect. [****1/4]
- The Bushwhackers def. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers in what could generously be considered a comedy match. The Rougeau Brothers have been off TV since the Survivor Series, and this would mark their last match together as a team in the WWF. Raymond would settle into a non-wrestling role doing interviews and handling commentary on foreign shows, while Jacques would return a year later, repackaged as "The Mountie." [DUD]
- Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake fought The Genius to a Double Disqualification. All angles and little on wrestling quality. Only purpose it served was to pass Beefcake off into a program with Mr. Perfect. Just way too long for a PPV match featuring someone who was mostly used as a Manager. [DUD]
- "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin def. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in a Submission Match to blow-off an angle that began a few weeks after WrestleMania V. Not an exciting match, but these two had solid chemistry and was easily the best non-Rumble Match on the PPV. [***]
- "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan def. The Big Boss Man by Disqualification. Decent match between brawlers, but that doesnít mean it was good, either. [*1/2]
- The 1990 edition of filling time is a Brother Love Show with Sapphire and the Sensational Queen Sherri, which means weíre going to begin the feud between the Macho King and "the Common Man", Dusty Rhodes. I didnít mind this feud, but I can see why some were displeased with Savageís placement on the card.
1991 (January 19th, The Miami Arena @ Miami, FL)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination:
1. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 2. Dino Bravo, 3. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 4. Paul Roma, 5. The Texas Tornado, 6. "The Model" Rick Martel, 7. Saba Simba, 8. Butch, 9. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 10. Hercules, 11. Tito Santana, 12. The Undertaker, 13. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 14. The British Bulldog, 15. Smash, 16. Hawk, 17. Shane Douglas, 18. NO ARRIVAL (Randy Savage), 19. Animal, 20. Crush, 21. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 22. Earthquake, 23. Mr. Perfect, 24. Hulk Hogan, 25. Haku, 26. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 27. Luke, 28. Brian Knobbs, 29. The Warlord, 30. Tugboat
1. Dino Bravo (by Valentine), 2. Saba Simba (by Martel), 3. Paul Roma (by Roberts), 4. Bret Hart (by Undertaker), 5. Butch (by Undertaker), 6. Jake Roberts (by Martel), 7. The Texas Tornado (by Undertaker), 8. Jimmy Snuka (by Hawk), 9. NON-ARRIVAL OF #18, 10. The Undertaker (by LOD), 11. Hawk (by Martel & Hercules), 12. Animal (by Earthquake), 13. Jim Duggan (by Perfect), 14. Smash (by Hogan), 15. Greg Valentine (by Hogan), 16. Tito Santana (by Earthquake), 17. Luke (by Earthquake), 18. Hercules (by Knobbs), 19. Crush (by Hogan), 20. The Warlord (by Hogan), 21. Shane Douglas (by Knobbs), 22. Tugboat (by Hogan), 23. Mr. Perfect (by Bulldog), 24. Jim Neidhart (by Martel), 25. Haku (by Bulldog), 26. Rick Martel (by Bulldog), 27. The British Bulldog (by Earthquake & Knobbs), 28. Brian Knobbs (by Hogan), 29. Earthquake (by Hogan), WINNER: HULK HOGAN
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
Rumble Match Rating: This one really suffered from an over-crowded ring. Thereís too many people in for most of the match, and very little side stories or sequences to get worked up about. You had two iron men, but neither was a true threat to win the match, there wasnít any big ring clearing sequence, and the most memorable moment was a comedy elimination of Bushwhacker Luke. It wasnít AWFUL, just not very exciting. **1/2
- The list of substitutions, which may or may not be accurate: Originally announced on television to be participants were the Honkytonk Man and Andre The Giant, and even though itís not the greatest source, WWF Magazine published an article including Jobber "Playboy" Buddy Rose among the participants (considering Shane Douglas was a participant and rarely used as more than a scrub, itís possible). Iím not entirely sure who took those three spots, but I believe Tito Santana and Brian Knobbs were among them.
- Shane McMahon is once again one of the referees confirming eliminations.
- Bret Hart has the honor of starting the Royal Rumble for the second time in his three Rumble appearances, this time put in a situation to carry Dino Bravo for two minutes, as well as a lot of the work-load (along with Valentine and Martel) for what Iíd consider a weaker pool of talent.
- Greg Valentine going after Dino Bravo is presented as a big surprise, when he had already turned face on television. The turn occurred at the MSG show closing out 1990, and was mentioned on Superstars and Challenge a week or two later.
- Saba Simba. I was recently asked what I thought was one of the most racially insensitive gimmicks ever, and when I responded "Saba Simba" and offered visual proof, yeah, the reactions you were going to expect. Tony Atlasí only PPV appearance under the gimmick, and he only lasts about 2-minutes. I would like to mention again, that Roddy Piper didnít expose the gimmick, the point of the gimmick WAS the fact that Tony Atlas had "gone back to his roots."
- The crowd gets really amped for the first extensive in-ring exchange between Rick Martel and Jake Roberts since the blinding angle began about three months prior. Over that span, Model would find ways to escape harm and avoid confrontation.
- This is the first Rumble Match to really suffer from over-crowding. Far too often thereís somewhere in the neighborhood of 9, 10, or 11 participants, making it harder to follow any interesting action, and usually means heavier emphasis on the rope lean. Thereís also never a spot where one person goes crazy and cleans house.
- The Undertaker (still managed by Brother Love) gets one of the stronger showings, easily eliminating the fatigued Bret Hart, along with the Texas Tornado and Butch of the Bushwhackers before being eliminated via double clothesline from the Legion of Doom (to one of the biggest pops of the match).
- Randy Savage misses his number because he was chased out of the building by an irate Ultimate Warrior. I canít think of a better reason for failing to arrive for the match than that.
- The crowd wakes up for Hulk Hoganís arrival. Other than the Undertakerís elimination, there hasnít much to get excited about for roughly 20 minutes. He quickly goes after Earthquake since itís one of the few feuds worth ring time in this match.
- Whoís sick idea of a rib was it to put HERCULES in this thing for nearly 30-minutes?!
- Odd match-up of the year: Hulk Hogan and Shane Douglas double-teaming Crush of Demolition.
- Greg Valentine sets the mark for longest tenure in this match at 44-minutes just shy of Dibiaseís record from 1990, only for Rick Martel to break it a short while later, setting the new record at around the 52-minute mark. Bushwhacker Luke spent the least amount of time in the ring, approximately 4-seconds, marching his way in, getting thrown out by Earthquake, and marching his way back to the locker room, uninterrupted.
- Hulk Hogan walks away with the most eliminations for the second time in Rumble History, tossing out 7 participants (Smash, Crush, Valentine, Warlord, Tugboat, Knobbs, and Earthquake).
- For the second time in three years, Hogan throws out his closest friend/ally. This yearís victim: Tugboat. Unlike with Savage in 1989, Tugboat actually instigated the situation, so Hogan was just retaliating.
- The Rockers def. The Orient Express in one of the best undercard matches in Royal Rumble history. This would be the Tanaka and Kato (Paul Diamond) version of the team, which is generally regarded as far superior to Tanaka teaming with Sato. [****1/4]
- The Big Boss Man def. The Barbarian in his on-going quest to get revenge on the Heenan Family for the remarks made about his beloved mother. Too bad Rick Rude leaving the company left us without a true blow-off to the angle. Surprisingly good match, too. [***]
- Sgt. Slaughter def. The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship thanks to an absurd amount of outside interference from Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri. Earlier in the night, Warrior turned down Sherriís advances in exchange for a title shot for the Macho King. Bad match, but it set us on the path for the "Career Ending Match" at WrestleMania VII. [*1/2]
- The Mountie def. Koko B. Ware in a match thrown out there for the dead crowd to recover for what was to follow. [1/2*]
- Ted Dibiase and Virgil def. Dusty and Dustin Rhodes when Dibiase pinned Dusty after physically assaulting his own partner. Post-match, Virgil finally had enough of Dibiaseís ordering him around and turned face with a belt shot the face. So-so match, excellent post-match. [**]
1992 (January 19th, Knickerbocker Arena @ Albany, NY)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. The British Bulldog, "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 3. Ric Flair, 4. Jerry Sags, 5. Haku, 6. Shawn Michaels, 7. "El Matador" Tito Santana, 8. The Barbarian, 9. The Texas Tornado, 10. Repo Man, 11. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 12. Nikolai Volkoff, 13. Big Boss Man, 14. Hercules, 15. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 16. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 17. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 18. Irwin R. Schyster, 19. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 20. The Undertaker, 21. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, 22. The Berzerker, 23. Virgil, 24. Col. Mustafa, 25. "The Model" Rick Martel, 26. Hulk Hogan, 27. Skinner, 28. Sgt. Slaughter, 29. Sid Justice, 30. The Warlord
1. Ted Dibiase (by Bulldog), 2. Jerry Sags (by Bulldog), 3. Haku (by Bulldog), 4. Nikolai Volkoff (by Repo Man), 5. Greg Valentine (by Repo Man), 6. Repo Man (by Boss Man), 7. The British Bulldog (by Flair), 8. The Texas Tornado (by Flair), 9. Tito Santana (by Michaels), 10. Shawn Michaels (by Santana), 11. The Barbarian (by Hercules), 12. Hercules (by Boss Man), 13. Big Boss Man (by Flair), 14. Jimmy Snuka (by Undertaker), 15. Jake Roberts (by Savage), 16. Col. Mustafa (by Savage), 17. The Undertaker (by Hogan), 18. The Berzerker (by Hogan), 19. Jim Duggan (by Virgil), 20. Virgil (by Duggan), 21. Skinner (by Martel), 22. Sgt. Slaughter (by Sid), 23. Irwin R. Schyster (by Piper), 24. The Warlord (by Hogan & Sid), 25. Rick Martel (by Sid), 26. Roddy Piper (by Sid), 27. Randy Savage (by Sid), 28. Hulk Hogan (by Sid), 29. Sid Justice (by Flair & Hogan), WINNER and NEW WWF CHAMPION: RIC FLAIR
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- The official substitutions of 1992: Marty Jannetty (selling an injury, but also fired for getting into a physical altercation with the police) and Brian Knobbs (recovering from being stabbed in a parking lot brawl) are out, and have been replaced by Haku and Nikolai Volkoff. Haku was doing regular work overseas in SWS (a working relationship with WWF), but Volkoff had been out of the WWF picture since the days following Survivor Series í90 and working the Indyís.
- For the first time, and to date (January 2016) the only time, the WWF Championship is the prize for the winner of the Royal Rumble Match. That definitely explains the incredibly weak undercard and cramming every top name the company had to offer into the Rumble. (Note: And as I finished this part, the Royal Rumble Match in 2016 will have the WWE Championship defended.)
- This match is noted for the outstanding work on commentary from Bobby Heenan, and I have to agree. His roller coaster attitude with Ric Flairís every move is a thing of brilliance, and them having Flair come out at #3 to just freak Heenan out right out of the gate is hilarious. It also gives Flair a chance to work with everyone else, with the exception of Dibiase. I never understood why they didnít put a weaker heel in for that situation, but Bulldog vs. Dibiase is a stronger start than Bulldog vs. Skinner, I guess.
- For old timeís sake, Ric Flair has brief exchanges with former rivals (of other promotions) Kerry Von Erich and Greg Valentine. Later on, Col. Mustafa and Jim Duggan have unfinished business concerning their arrest in 1987.
- Flair is the only man standing (well, kind of) as we reach the half-way mark of the match... so hereís Roddy Piper to pick things up again.
- Roddy Piper is the first Superstar to be featured in an undercard match and later in the show compete in the Royal Rumble Match. His highlight of the match is easily the sequence with Ric Flair and Jake Roberts, with Bobby Heenan praising him and apologizing for making fun of his kilt when he helps Flair, then goes back on it as soon as he starts attacking Flair again.
- Jake Roberts is usually on the look-out for whoís coming down the aisle when the buzzer sounds, and when it turns out to be Randy Savage, he rolls out of the ring and hides on the floor until the opportunity comes for him to take a cheap shot. The little things are sometimes the best things.
- The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan are given "preferential treatment", meaning they drew from only numbers 20 through 30 for their spots in the Rumble. Undertaker draws #20. He got jobbed.
- Randy Savage hops over the top rope in the excitement of putting a beating on Roberts. In years prior, that would count as an Elimination, but since heís supposed to be in the match until the end, the rule is waved and heís allowed back in the match.
- Rick Martel immediately goes after Flair and spends a good couple of minutes attempting to eliminate him. The commentary has been harping about Flair approaching the record, but donít acknowledge the present record holder trying to keep that record intact.
- The final field left as #30 enters includes former WWF Champions Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Sgt. Slaughter, the reigning IC Champion Roddy Piper, top contender Sid Justice, and former multi-time holders of the Tag Team Titles, Rick Martel and I.R.S. (Mike Rotunda).
- For the third time in four Royal Rumbles, Hulk Hogan eliminates the Warlord.
- Once again, for the third time in four years, Hulk Hogan has an altercation with his closest friend. This yearís victim: Sid Justice. Unlike in years before, Hoganís childish antics of costing Sid the match is actually heavily booed by the crowd. The reaction is so over-whelming they had to redub the video for later replays on TV to give the impression that Hogan was being cheered wildly.
- Ric Flair is the Rumbleís Iron Man and sets the new record with a total time of 59-minutes in the ring. This yearís bottom man was Hercules, spending a few seconds shy of a full minute in the ring.
- Sid Justice with the most eliminations of the Rumble, having a hand in 6 eliminations, and easily the most impressive bunch of the match (Slaughter, Warlord, Piper, Martel, Savage, and Hogan). Flair won the Rumble with 4 eliminations credited, but 2 of them (Boss Man and Sid) were mostly self-inflicted or with illegal assistance.
Rumble Match Rating: Regarded as one of the best Royal Rumble matches... and I canít disagree. Ric Flair was the story of the night, and stole the show, lasting a full hour and working with the majority of the field, some in extended sequences, and others in nice little throwbacks. You had the story of Piper going for double gold, the spot with Roberts and Savage, Sid Justice cleaning house and the surprise finish with Hogan and Sid turning on each other to leave the door open for Flairís victory. With only a few moments of lackluster action, itís hard to find anything negative to say here. *****
- The New Foundation def. The Orient Epress when Owen Hart (making his PPV return since appearing at Mania V as the Blue Blazer) pinned Tanaka. The Express (Tanaka and Kato) were mostly inactive since the end of Summer of í91, working in solo scrub roles and occasional featured in a Prime Time feature. Good match, but not as good as the opener from the year before. I think the New Foundation music was recycled for the Heavenly Bodies in 1993. [***]
- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper def. The Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship. The Mountie won the title from Bret Hart a few nights earlier in one of those famous angles that was believed to be a shoot situation (Bret wanted to leave for WCW, but his contract renewed, so he was stuck, and rumor had it he was offered to jump with the IC Title as payback for Ric Flair in 1991). [*1/2]
- The Beverly Brothers def. The Bushwhackers, an awful comedy match that featured Jamison at ringside acting like a total nerd. [-***]
- The Natural Disasters def. Tag Team Champions the Legion of Doom by Count-Out. Slow power match. The Tag Division wasnít exactly lighting the world on fire in 1992. [*1/4]
1993 (January 24th, Arco Arena @ Sacramento, CA)
Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...
1. Ric Flair, 2. Bob Backlund, 3. Papa Shango, 4. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 5. Brian Knobbs, 6. Virgil, 7. Jerry "The King" Lawler, 8. Max Moon, 9. Genichiro Tenryu, 10. Mr. Perfect, 11. Skinner, 12. Koko B. Ware, 13. Samu, 14. The Berzerker, 15. The Undertaker, 16. "Terrific" Terry Taylor, 17. Damien Demento, 18. Irwin R. Schyster, 19. Tatanka, 20. Jerry Sags, 21. Typhoon, 22. Fatu, 23. Earthquake, 24. Carlos Colon, 25. "El Matador" Tito Santana, 26. "The Model" Rick Martel, 27. Yokozuna, 28. "The Rocket" Owen Hart, 29. Repo Man, 30. "Macho Man" Randy Savage
1. Papa Shango (by Flair), 2. Brian Knobbs (by Dibiase), 3. Max Moon (by Lawler), 4. Ric Flair (by Perfect), 5. Skinner (by Perfect), 6. Jerry Lawler (by Perfect), 7. Virgil (by Berzerker), 8. Mr. Perfect (by Dibiase, Koko, and Lawler), 9. Samu (by Undertaker), 10. Genichiro Tenryu (by Undertaker), 11. Koko B. Ware (by Dibiase), 12. Terry Taylor (by Dibiase), 13. Ted Dibiase (by Undertaker), 14. The Berzerker (by Undertaker), 15. The Undertaker (illegally by Giant Gonzales), 16. Typhoon (by Earthquake), 17. Damien Demento (by Colon), 18. Fatu (by Backlund), 19. I.R.S. (by Earthquake), 20. Tatanka (by Yokozuna), 21. Carlos Colon (by Yokozuna), 22. Earthquake (by Yokozuna), 23. Tito Santana (by Yokozuna), 24. Jerry Sags (by Hart), 25. Owen Hart (by Yokozuna), 26. Repo Man (by Savage), 27. Rick Martel (by Backlund), 28. Bob Backlund (by Yokozuna), 29. Randy Savage (by Yokozuna), WINNER: YOKOZUNA
Memorable Moments and Random Tidbits...
- Substitutions of 1993: Crush and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan were announced for the match, but Crushís injury from Doink pulled him, and they taped (but didnít air for two more weeks) Duggan being destroyed by Yokozuna to take him out without any notice. Their subbed in by Max Moon and "Terrific" Terry Taylor. The official Program listed a match between the two, even though it was never mentioned on TV. Maybe it was going to be a Dark Match? Not ever announced, but rumored to participate were Nailz (fired, for assaulting McMahon over his SummerSlam í92 payoff) and Kamala (who went through a goofy face turn a week or so earlier).
- This is the first Royal Rumble Match to offer a Title Match at WrestleMania, so that automatically eliminates 25 people as possible winners (that leaves Undertaker, Savage, Flair, Perfect, and new monster heel Yokozuna, for those keeping track, as the only real threats).
- Having Ric Flair entering at #1 teases the idea that because he won in 1992 as the #3 entrant, itís not out of the realm of possibility for him to win it here... and then heís eliminated about 20-minutes in by his former ally and "executive consultant", Mr. Perfect. Flair continued his trend from 1992, working with everyone who comes in, and keeps the action going for the first leg of the race.
- Quite an impressive collection of talent early on. At one point, we have Ric Flair (multi-time World Champion), Bob Backlund (former holder of the WWF Title for almost 6 years), Ted Dibiase (holder of countless Regional Titles as well as being one of the better workers of his era), Jerry Lawler (the King of Memphis and holder of countless Regional Titles), Genichiro Tenryu (All-Japan Legend), and Curt Hennig (smark darling of his era, former AWA World Champion, WWF Intercontinental Champion) in the ring.
- For old timeís sake #1: Virgil and Ted Dibiase have a decent exchange, and then Virgil and Knobbs (the Nasty Boys had issues with Money Inc.) argue over who gets to work Dibiase over.
- Mr. Perfectís elimination at the hands of Jerry Lawlerís illegal assistance felt like something that shouldíve been used to advance an angle on TV, but it was completely forgotten as Perfect was being groomed for an insta-feud with the newly debuted Narcissist. Oh, and hereís an odd combination: Koko B. Ware and Ted Dibiase ganging up on Perfect to eliminate him (again, with some illegal help from Lawler, who was eliminated moments earlier).
- Take a shot every time Koko B. Ware adjusts his parachute pants.
- The Giant Gonzales (formerly El Gigante in WCW) debuts to illegally eliminate The Undertaker, and creating a huge void in a match that was already weak on star power. It wasnít as awful of a debut as some paint it out to be, but sucking the life out of the match by leaving zero interesting participants for what feels like an eternity is the big problem.
- Earthquake goes after partner Typhoon in the first example of tag team partners going at it since Demolitionís Ax and Smash started the 1989 Rumble.
- Earthquake and Yokozuna have the battle of the bulge, putting over Yokozuna as the new dominant behemoth of the WWF. They would tape a similar encounter the next day for Coliseum Video, with Yokozuna squashing Earthquake in the latterís final appearance until a brief return in 1994.
- Gorilla Monsoon calls Carlos Colon a youngster. Best rib Iíve ever heard on commentary.
- For old timeís sake #2: Rick Martel and Tito Santana. This would be the last time theyíd share ring time on WWF television.
- Randy Savage focuses his attention on Repo Man, part of a brief program featured on Monday Night Raw. The commentary completely ignores their recent history, so it just looks like Savage relentlessly attacking a JTTS.
- Yeah, the "going for the cover" pin is usually regarded as one of the dumbest moments in Rumble Match history. I still think it works with what they were going for: Yokozuna has beat up on Savage for about 5-minutes, makes a mistake, and Savage on instinct goes to the top rope and hits his signature elbow drop. Going on instinct, he covers because THIS WAS EVERY SAVAGE MATCH from 1992-1996, and Yokozuna, who was just hit by a big finishing move, easily kicks out and with enough force, throws Savage out while laying on his back (and donít tell me "Savage did the work." IT'S WRESTLING. Everything is a work!).
- Bob Backlund is the iron-man of the night, going 1 hour, 1 minute and change, breaking Flairís record from 1992 that was just shy of a full hour. This would be the last of 5 consecutive years of breaking the record. Papa Shango is the bottom man of the night, lasting 30-seconds. Terry Taylor is right behind him, lasting about 40-seconds.
- Yokozuna with the most eliminations of the match, tallying 7 eliminations (Tatanka, Colon, Earthquake, Santana, Owen, Backlund, and Savage).
Rumble Match Rating: This was a tale of three chapters. A really fun stretch from the opening with Flair/Backlund, with a decent range of entrants to keep the match fresh until we got the big encounter with Perfect/Flair, and then a few entries later the Undertaker cleaning house. Then Undertakerís elimination brought us 20 of the suckiest minutes of Royal Rumble History. When Yokozuna came in at #27, things picked up again, and we got one of the best "final two" sequences in Rumble history. Still, that middle part REALLY sucked. ***
- The Steiner Brothers def. The Beverly Brothers in their first match against non-scrubs. Good opener and showcases the Steiner Brothers offense. [**1/2]
- Shawn Michaels def. Marty Jannetty to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Sensational Sherri returned from injury to be at ringside and turn face, but it didnít matter, Michaels survived baby faces cheating. Jannetty was fired the next day for being in no condition to compete, only to be hired back a few months later. [***1/2]
- Bam Bam Bigelow def. The Big Boss Man in a total snoozer of a Big Man vs. Big Man Match. All punches, kicks, and bearhugs, with Boss Man clearly being shown the door. [DUD]
- Bret "Hitman" Hart def. Razor Ramon with the Sharpshooter to retain the WWF Championship. Bret worked the leg most of the time to cut Razor down to size, while Razor controlled with power offense and resting. Ramonís only WWF Championship Match, at least on TV or PPV. [***1/4]
- Bobby "The Brain" Heenan unveils "The Narcissist", Lex Luger, who spends a good 5-minutes posing in front of a row of mirrors to the crowds... indifference.
Final Thoughts: A lot of the early Rumbles are fondly remembered, and for good reason: they have strong booking, balanced pacing, and roster depth. Once we exit the period of the steroid scandal, the roster starts thinning out at an incredible pace, as you can tell by the roster of 1993. Weíll be back later in the week with Part 2, covering the Royal Rumbles from 1994 through 1999. That really covers a wide period that includes the "New Generation" and the first half of the Attitude Era. Until then...
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