Classic Wrestling Review: Royal Rumble ’88

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

Royal Rumble

January 24, 1988

Copps Coliseum

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Last week, I looked at JCP’s second foray into PPV, Bunkhouse Stampede. It…wasn’t good. On that same night, Vince McMahon decided to run a live TV special on the USA Network. That special was the first ever Royal Rumble. The cable companies weren’t going to let Vince run another PPV on the same night as his competition, but he was determined to counter JCP’s offering, one way or another. The Royal Rumble Match was the brainchild of Pat Patterson. It would go on to become one of the most anticipated events of the year, but this early incarnation is far from what we are used to now. For one, this version only has 20 participants. Secondly, this was long before the winner would receive a title shot at WrestleMania. At this point, it was simply for bragging rights.

On the network version of the event, the show starts with a shot of the crowd and the sound of Rick Rude’s dubbed over theme. The only problem is that you can still hear the original theme underneath. This mess of noise continues through the introduction by our commentators for the night, Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura. Vince welcomes everyone to the show and gives a rundown of the card. There will be 4 matches, plus a contract signing for the Hogan/Andre rematch. Also, Dino Bravo will attempt to set a bench press world record. Jesse says that he’s fired up and has his rumbling clothes on.

Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude

The cacophony of poorly dubbed music continues because Rick Rude is already in the ring. Steamboat comes out next and his music is dubbed as well, but thankfully it isn’t as loud. Vince asks Jesse if winning this match or winning the “Jesse the Body Award” would be bigger for Rude. This causes Jesse to mock Vince for not having a body like Rude. They didn’t show the commentators, but you just know that Vince was giving Jesse the dirtiest look.

The two men get into a slug-fest to start and Rude tries to throw Steamboat out of the ring. He skins the cat back in and tosses Rude to the floor, before mocking Rude’s posing. Rude enters the ring and demands a test of strength, which he wins. Meanwhile, a strange female fan in a novelty hat starts using a megaphone to yell at Rude. She, and her family, quickly become annoying. Rude drives Steamboat to his knees with the test of strength, but Ricky fights back and turns it into an armbar. He works the arm for a while, with arm drags and armbars, while the weird lady’s family start chanting “Rudy” at Rick Rude. Vince has a laugh at their “banter”, but you know he’s also motioning for security to take that megaphone as soon as possible. The two men fight back and forth and Steamboat keeps going back to the arm. Rude manages to slam Steamboat’s head into three of the four corners, but another arm drag puts Ricky back on the offensive. Rude fights back again and tries to pose, but he sells his hurt arm. This draws a Woody Woodpecker-like laugh from the annoying lady. Rude finally takes over the match with a slam on the outside and a suplex into the ring. He then slows the pace down again with a reverse chinlock that Vince calls “a form of a maneuver”. Steamboat tries to rally himself by beating on the mat like bongo drums. He’s lucky that tapping out won’t become a thing until the late 90s. The ref starts checking Steamboat’s arm and Ricky forgets to hold his arm up on the 3rd drop. The ref has to ignore it, since that wasn’t the end of the match. He checks a 4th time and this time Ricky remembers to fight back. Steamboat powers to his feet, with Rude on his shoulders, and hits an electric chair drop. Sadly, it’s not long before Steamboat is caught in another reverse chinlock. He fights back again and they go into a series of reversals and pin attempts. Those don’t work, so Steamboat goes for a flying cross body off the top, but Rude pulls referee Dave Hebner into the way. The ref is down, but Rude gets Steamboat into a one-shoulder backbreaker rack. Hebner recovers and calls for the bell. Rude thinks he’s won and his music even begins to play. He celebrates and starts heading to the back, but Fink announces that Steamboat has won by DQ.

This was a slow and plodding match. I know that these two are capable of better because I’ve seen them have better matches. It also didn’t help that the ending was a form of a Dusty Finish. There were shades of good stuff in this, but the pace was too slow for my taste. However, I do find it funny that both this and Bunkhouse Stampede began with slow matches that had too many long holds.

Winner: Ricky Steamboat (by DQ)

The show goes to commercial, as we see Rude arguing with the referee.

When they come back from the break, Mean Gene and Jesse Ventura are standing beside a weightlifting bench. Jesse says that he’s going to be the spotter for Dino Bravo, as Dino goes for the bench press world record. Jesse explains that he’s there for safety and then tells us that the current record is 705 pounds. He says that Bravo is going to try and reestablish the record. Bravo arrives with his manager, Frenchy Martin, and Gene asks him for his thoughts. Dino says it’s a big challenge, but he can do it. Gene then asks Frenchy for some thoughts, but he speaks in French. Bravo starts putting powder on his hands and Gene asks why. Jesse tells him it’s so his hands won’t slip.

Bravo starts to warm up with 415 pounds, but he stops to tell the crowd that he needs total silence. This, of course, makes them boo. He easily lifts the 415 pounds a few times and both Vince and Gene seem impressed. Jesse and Dino add some more weight, while Frenchy speaks some more French. Bravo reminds the crowd that he needs silence and gets more boos in return. This upsets Jesse, who tells the crowd to give him a chance whether they like him or not. Dino easily lifts 555 pounds a few times and then says that he’s feeling good. He keeps stalling because of the reaction from the fans, but he eventually presses 595 pounds a few times. Some fans start chanting “boring”, so Jesse yells at McMahon to do something about it. Dino moves up to 655 pounds, but he struggles a little. They add more weight and Gene tries to ask how much, but Frenchy only gives him more French. Jesse says that they’ve gone up to 715 so that he can beat the record. The fans actually start clapping because they want to see the record beat, but this makes Dino angry. He threatens to walk away and the fans boo. He comes back and finally attempts the lift. He struggles to lift it, so Jesse grabs the bar and clearly helps him the rest of the way. Gene reacts like Dino has just beaten the record, but Vince is skeptical because Jesse helped. This segment was way longer than it should have been. I understand why they did it. It adds to Bravo’s character and it also adds to Ventura’s heel persona, but it could have been trimmed down to a shorter length. They go to commercial, as Vince casts more doubt upon the proceedings.

2 out of 3 Falls Match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles: The Jumping Bomb Angels vs. The Glamour Girls (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Vince says that he’s really looking forward to this match. We shall see how long that enthusiasm for the women’s division lasts. Howard Finkel introduces Jimmy Hart and the fans boo loudly. Vince says, “Whoa, baby! They don’t like him here in Canada!” The Angels come out next and do some stretching in the ring, as Jesse returns to commentary and Vince accuses him of helping Bravo with his lift. Jesse plays innocent.

The Angels start off quickly with a double dropkick, but Noriyo misses another one and Leilani tosses her around by the hair. Noriyo bridges out of a pin attempt by Judy and tags Itsuki. She does a nice rolling headbutt and turns a piledriver attempt into a suplex. Vince clearly doesn’t know the Angels’ names, so he starts referring to them as “pink” and “red”. The Glamour girls get some tags, but Leilani finds herself getting punched back and forth by the Angels. All four women end up in the ring and we get a double Figure Four spot, but the ref makes two of them leave. Once Leilani is back on the apron, Jimmy Hart helps her get the circulation back in her legs. Judy takes control and turns what looks like a powerbomb attempt into a facebuster for the first fall. (First Fall: Glamour Girls) They go to commercial and come back to Leilani hitting a jumping clothesline. Itsuki bridges out of a pin attempt and tags Noriyo, who hits a clothesline off the second turnbuckle and a cross body for 2 counts. All 4 women end up in the ring again, but the Glamour Girls accidentally clothesline each other. Leilani fights back and goes for a powerbomb, but Itsuki reverses into a sloppy sunset flip for the second fall. (Second Fall: Bomb Angels) They go to another commercial break and take a rest period between falls. The action resumes and the Angels hit a double team high knee and a double clothesline, but Leilani fights back and gets a tag. Judy ends up missing a corner charge and Noriyo tries to turn it into a backslide, but it doesn’t work. The Glamour Girls take over and start throwing Noriyo around by the hair. Leilani even bites at Noriyo’s arm, at one point. Noriyo makes a tag, but the Glamour Girls use ref distractions to choke Itsuki and work her over in their corner. Itsuki blocks an axehandle and drops Leilani twice with a release Bubba Bomb. Judy tags in, but the Angels take control and get some near falls with a knee off the top, a bridging butterfly suplex, and a twisting cross body. Judy gets a near fall of her own when Itsuki misses a senton splash, but the Angels regain control. Noriyo hits a flying clothesline, but Leilani breaks up the count. The ref escorts her back to her corner, so the Angels use the opening to climb up and hit a double missile dropkick, which is enough for the final fall. (Final Fall: Bomb Angels)

This was a great match, but it’s obvious that the Bomb Angels are miles ahead of the other women on the roster. It’s hard for teams like the Glamour Girls to keep up with them. Sadly, a lack of competition and some meddling by Moolah would eventually cut short the Angels’ run in the WWF. The women’s tag titles would disappear, as well.

Winners: The Jumping Bomb Angels (New champions)

Jesse complains that the Angels used an illegal double team and he also says that Judy’s shoulders were off of the mat. Vince doesn’t believe him and asks for a replay, but it shows that Jesse was actually correct. The shoulder was off the mat. Jesse protests some more, but Vince tells him to chill out, as they go to commercial.

The show comes back to Vince and Jesse at the announcers’ booth. Vince talks about WrestleMania III and they show highlights of the Hogan/Andre match. Jesse says that the ref made a 3 count after the first body slam attempt. Vince claims that the first count was simply the ref putting his hand down for balance and not count one. They show a clip of Ted DiBiase saying that he’s going to buy the WWF Championship. Then, there is a clip of Hogan saying he will give his answer to DiBiase. Next, is the clip of Hogan’s answer and it’s a resounding “Hell no”. DiBiase then says that he will get what he wants and that’s the WWF Title. Jesse says that Hogan could have taken the easy way out and retired early with the money DiBiase was offering. Then, they show a clip of Andre attacking Hogan at Saturday Night’s Main Event. Andre headbutted Hogan in the back of the head and choked him. Jesse then calls Hogan a fool because instead of taking the money he asked for that attack from Andre. Next, there’s another clip. This one shows DiBiase buying the services of Andre the Giant from Bobby Heenan. Andre says that he will deliver the “World World Wrestling Federation Title” to DiBiase. Andre, DiBiase, and Virgil then make their way to the ring for the contract signing and the show goes to commercial.

The show comes back from break and they pan across the crowd. The camera catches a man apparently attempting to powerbomb his kid. Mean Gene is in the ring, with Andre, DiBiase, and Virgil. He introduces Hulk Hogan, who comes out to a great reaction. Hulk stares Andre down and then tells off DiBiase, but Ted simply laughs at him. Gene then introduces Andre and the fans boo, but Andre seems nonplussed. He casually rocks against the ropes. Gene also introduces WWF President Jack Tunney. Hogan and Tunney take a seat at the table, but Andre remains in his corner. Both Gene and Jack ask him to sit, but he ignores them. Andre and company make Hogan wait for a few moments, but Andre eventually sits down. DiBiase begins mocking Hogan and telling him to sign the contract. He asks why Hulk is hesitating. He asks him if he’s having second thoughts about his offer and then accuses him of having cold feet. Ted calls it a career ending contract and says that Andre beat Hogan at Mania. This is enough to get Hogan to sign, so DiBiase says that on February 5th, Andre will have the money and the WWF Title will be bought and paid for around his waist. He then says that Hogan will be history. Andre begins looking through the contract and asks DiBiase a couple of questions about it. He’s mostly stalling because Tunney points out that both men have already read the contract. DiBiase says that Andre can take all the time he wants. Andre finally signs and Ted tells him to put his stamp of approval on it. Andre and Hogan both stand, but Hogan lunges for DiBiase. Andre attacks Hulk and overturns the table onto him. He then leaves with DiBiase, as Hogan recovers in the ring and the show goes to commercial. What’s this? A contract signing ending in an attack? That’s unheard of!!

The show comes back to the commentators and Vince talks about the 20 Man Royal Rumble Match. He lists off a few of the participants and then tells everyone the rules. Two men will start and another will join every two minutes. Eliminations are done by throwing someone over the top rope, with their feet hitting the floor. As I mentioned earlier, there is no prize on the line in this one. 1992 would be the first year that something was at stake and 1993 would be the first year that a title shot at WrestleMania is the prize.

20 Man Royal Rumble Match

The Fink informs the fans that all participants received their entrance numbers in a random drawing. He then tells everyone the rules of the match, while a kid in the crowd looks confused. Then, he introduces the #1 and #2 entrants. Bret Hart is #1 and Tito Santana is #2.

Bret and Tito fight back and forth until Butch Reed enters at #3. Tito hits a flying forearm, just before Butch enters, but Reed attacks him. #4 is Jim Neidhart, which is bad news for Tito. He is triple teamed by the other men in the match. They attempt to throw Tito out, but he clings on for dear life. #5 is Jake Roberts and the crowd erupt into “DDT” chants. Jake quickly eliminates Butch Reed. (Elimination: Butch Reed) He then joins Tito in working together against the Hart Foundation. Jake goes for a DDT, but Neidhart clotheslines him. Harley Race is #6 and Jim Brunzell is #7. Brunzell nearly trips on his way through the curtain. Sam Houston is #8 and immediately helps Jake, but no one mentions that they’re brothers. The Hart Foundation get the better of Tito and toss him over the top rope. (Elimination: Tito Santana) Danny Davis is #9 and he gets into a punch-out with Sam Houston. Boris Zhukov is #10 and Don Muraco is #11, but Nikolai Volkoff follows him to the ring. Volkoff seems to think it’s his turn, so he attacks Muraco. The refs stop him and tell him that he has to wait until his time. While Nikolai jaws with the refs, his partner Zhukov is eliminated by Jake and Brunzell. (Elimination: Boris Zhukov) Volkoff finally enters at #12, just as Race is eliminated by Muraco. (Elimination: Harley Race) Race wants to get back in, but the refs won’t let him. Jesse says, “He ain’t happy!” This causes Vince to berate him for his poor grammar. Jim Duggan is #13 and he gets into a scuffle with Race, before chasing him away. Ron Bass is #14 and Volkoff eliminates Brunzell. (Elimination: Jim Brunzell) B. Brian Blair is #15 and the ring is starting to become quite full. Hillbilly Jim is #16 and he quickly dumps Neidhart out of the ring. (Elimination: Jim Neidhart) Dino Bravo comes out next at #17 and Ron Bass lifts Sam Houston onto his shoulders, before dropping him to the outside. (Elimination: Sam Houston) #18 is The Ultimate Warrior. He only recently debuted and gets a decent pop, but it’s nowhere near what he would be getting within a year. Muraco then grabs Bret Hart and tosses him out of the ring. Jesse tells Vince that he has to give Bret credit for lasting so long. (Elimination: Bret Hart) One Man Gang comes in at #19 and eliminates both Blair and Jake in short order. (Eliminations: B. Brian Blair & Jake Roberts) The final entrant is Junkyard Dog at #20. Volkoff is eliminated by Duggan on a missed clothesline and Gang eliminates Hillbilly Jim. (Eliminations: Volkoff & Hillbilly Jim) Duggan then eliminates Danny Davis with a running clothesline. (Elimination: Danny Davis) Dino Bravo and One Man Gang team up to eliminate Warrior next. (Elimination: The Ultimate Warrior) Ron Bass eliminates JYD, but he also gets dumped by Muraco. (Eliminations: JYD & Ron Bass). This leaves the final four of the match.

(Final Four: Don Muraco, One Man Gang, Dino Bravo, & Jim Duggan) Muraco rolls around to avoid Bravo and Gang, but he gets distracted by Frenchy Martin. This allows Bravo and Gang to throw him out of the ring. (Elimination: Don Muraco) Duggan is left alone with Bravo and Gang, who start double teaming him. Bravo holds Duggan for a clothesline, but Jim ducks and Gang knocks Dino out of the ring. (Elimination: Dino Bravo) Gang then beats Duggan down and goes for a running clothesline, but Jim low bridges him and Gang falls out of the ring. (Final Elimination: One Man Gang)

This was nowhere near the level of Royal Rumbles we would eventually get. For the first one, it wasn’t bad. I personally wouldn’t have gone with Duggan. As far as I know, they didn’t do much to capitalize on his win. Duggan remained at pretty much the same level for most of his career. It was nice to see Bret Hart last a while and have the feat acknowledged. One Man Gang filled the Kane role of getting the most eliminations, but his big push wouldn’t come until he morphed into Akeem. The fans seemed to enjoy the match, so it did okay. We know that the gimmick would go onto bigger and better heights.

Winner: Jim Duggan

The show goes to commercial and comes back to the commentators, who recap the contract signing from earlier.

Craig DeGeorge is at the interview podium and he welcomes Hulk Hogan for an interview. Craig talks about the Hogan/Andre rematch that will take place at The Main Event on February 5th. He says that Andre was trying to send Hogan a message, earlier. Hogan says that they were trying to send a message, but they’re getting their wires crossed. He says that every time they cheap shot him it’s like sticking a dagger in his ribs. He then rips his t-shirt, as he talks about Mania and pressing Andre over his head. He says that he’s been waiting for this encounter. Then, he talks about DiBiase and says his Hulkamaniacs won’t sell out, just like he won’t. He tells Andre that on February 5th, just like he couldn’t break him on the table, he can’t break the Hulkamaniacs. He says that to beat him, Andre has to beat all the Hulkamaniacs and he can’t do that. The fans can practically be heard saying, “Whoa, we didn’t agree to participate in this match.” Craig says that Hogan can’t trust the giant because he choked him. Hogan tells him that it’s just fuel for the fire and all they’re doing is building his confidence. He then repeats his line about Andre having to beat all of the Hulkamaniacs and then poses for the crowd.

2 out of 3 Falls Match: The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions

Cue the Meat Loaf because it’s time for another 2 out of 3 Falls Match. The show comes back from commercial, as the Islanders make their way to the ring. Vince says that, along with Heenan, they’re responsible for Matilda’s ill health. Jesse says that Vince can’t prove that. They continue arguing about this all through the Stallions’ entrance.

Tama and Powers start and Tama does some stalling. He turns to the camera and mocks Matilda, but he turns around and gets punched by Powers. Tama bails for a moment and comes back into the ring to attempt a handshake. Powers hesitates and then goes for it. Tama attempts a cheap shot, but Jim catches his foot. The Stallions punch Tama back and forth between them, but Powers ends up missing a corner charge. The two teams trade off control and double team moves, but the Islanders eventually gain the advantage. They use a double headbutt and quick tags to keep Powers on the mat until the two men take each other out with a double clothesline. Vince takes the opportunity to make a comment about Tama’s feet. He claims that Tama could hang upside down from the top rope and Jesse tells Vince that’s racist. Vince seems a bit flustered by this accusation. Powers finally makes a hot tag to Roma, who hits a running clothesline, back body drop, and a grazing dropkick, before getting a 2 count. The ref then realizes he’s supposed to be looking elsewhere and suddenly becomes distracted by a passing fly or something. Haku holds down the top rope and Tama launches Roma over to the floor. Roma appears to injure his knee on the fall and cannot make it back into the ring before the 10 count. (First Fall: The Islanders) They then go to commercial. When they come back, the match is on break, so we get an interview with Andre.

Craig is with Andre, DiBiase, and Virgil, at the interview podium. He says that it appears DiBiase was trying to make a statement. DiBiase tells him that they didn’t make a statement. They painted a picture. He says they showed everyone Hogan as they will see him on February 5th, flat on his back in the ring. He says that it won’t be a table covering Hogan. It will be Andre. He then calls it the beginning of the end for Hulkamania and says that everybody has a price. He addresses Hogan’s claim that Andre will have to beat all the Hulkamaniacs. He says that’s exactly what they’ll do when Andre beats him. Then, he says he always gets what he wants and he wants the belt around his waist. He asks Andre how he’s going to do it. Andre says that he was and is still undefeated and on February 5th, they will make history. He says that he will destroy Hulkamania. Craig tries to say something, but Andre tells him to shut up and never stop him again. He then says that he will destroy Hulkamania and Giantamania will be born. He finishes by saying there will be a new champion because he will deliver the belt to DiBiase.

The match resumes, as the Stallions return to the ring. Apparently, Roma was being checked out in the back because his knee is now taped. Unfortunately for him, he has to enter the match since he’s still the legal man. Tama goes straight for the leg and then slams him. He goes for a splash, but Roma gets his knees up. This only succeeds in hurting Paul’s knee even more. However, he does manage to tag out to Powers. Jim hits a back body drop for a 2 count and then slams Haku’s head into the corner. He yells at him for hurting Roma, while driving his head into the turnbuckles. He gets another couple of 2 counts off a dropkick and a suplex, but Haku fights back with a hard shot to the gut. The Islanders take over with a double headbutt and frequent tags. Tama tells him, “Come on, sucka!” This seems to annoy Vince. Haku gets an abdominal stretch and Roma yells for Powers to rally. He does and Haku misses a somersault senton, but Powers can’t make a tag. Powers kicks Haku, but then Jim takes a random back bump for no apparent reason. Even Vince is confused by this. Powers is in trouble, so he has no choice but to tag Roma. Paul slowly gets into the ring and tries to fight, but Haku goes right for the knee. He tags Tama, who hits a flying splash to the leg and locks Roma in a single-leg crab. Roma gives up quickly, which gives The Islanders the win in two straight falls. (Final Fall: The Islanders)

This was a good match. I really like the story that they told. It did a good job of making the Islanders look like killers, while also garnering sympathy for The Stallions. It was a little odd that they did an interview in the middle of the match, but it fit the story of Roma being checked out by the doctors.

Winners: The Islanders

The show goes to one last commercial and comes back to an already half-empty arena. Vince and Jesse recap the night. Vince says that Duggan proved his superiority in the Rumble. He then brings up Bravo’s bench press and disputes the outcome. He points out that Bravo was struggling with the 685-pound lift. Jesse claims that he didn’t help him and explains that he didn’t close his hands around the bar. Vince continues to accuse him, but Jesse pleads innocence. Vince then talks about Hogan and Andre. He asks Jesse for comments on Hogan’s remarks. Jesse says that Hogan is scared and he only signed the contract because people were watching. They then show a slow-motion clip of Andre flipping the table onto Hogan. Jesse says that he can’t wait until February 5th and lists off all of the starting times for the different time zones. Vince then says goodnight to everyone, as they go off the air.

Final thoughts:

This was definitely a better show than Bunkhouse Stampede, but that’s not a difficult feat. I wouldn’t say that this was a great show, but there was some good stuff. It also had the novelty of being the first Rumble. I think that watching Bunkhouse Stampede first made me a bit more positive towards this show.

Now, I am a bit undecided about how to proceed next, so I will ask for your feedback. WrestleMania IV is the next WWF PPV, but the first ever Clash of the Champions also aired that same night. Clash is technically not a PPV, but I feel like it’s too important not to cover on this blog. I am of two minds on this subject. Part of me wants to cover the Clash events at a later time, but part of me wants to include them as I cover the next few events. Which would you all prefer? Either leave a comment at the bottom of the page (below the article links) or send me a message on Twitter @PaulDMatthews78.

Also, be sure to check out my new blog on the Monday Night Wars. You can find it by clicking here. You can also check out the Facebook page that I started for both of my blogs by clicking here.

Thank you for reading and be sure to tell me what you think of these reviews!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I chronologically review NWA/WCW and WWF/WWE PPVs on the WWE Network. I put out a new review every Saturday. Like and Follow the Facebook page for this blog here: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicWrestlingReview. Also, follow me on twitter @PaulDMatthews78

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