Old School Review: Royal Rumble ’89

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

Royal Rumble

January 15, 1989

The Summit

Houston, Texas

It’s time to move into 1989 and the year begins with the Royal Rumble. It has now become a permanent part of the pay per view line-up after being a TV special the year before. The best part is, they are emanating from my hometown of Houston. This event takes place in the building that now houses Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. The Royal Rumble Match is still only for bragging rights, at this point, but they did increase the number of participants to 30. The main storylines going into this PPV were the continued feud between the Mega Powers and the Twin Towers and the building friction between Hogan and Savage. I know what will smooth the tensions between them. They should put them into a match where they might have to face each other. That should work wonders!

The show opens with Vince McMahon listing off the participants for the Royal Rumble Match. He lists everyone, as they show pictures of each superstar. Surprise entrants weren’t a common thing at this point, so they had no issue with telling you every name in the match. The surprise came from what order they entered. There are a few new faces in the listing. The Bushwhackers are now in the WWF. They’re a couple of cousins from New Zealand who have an affinity for licking people. Also, Rugged Ronnie Garvin has jumped ship from WCW to the WWF and has entered the Rumble Match. Next, the commentators, Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, welcome everyone to the show. They talk a little bit about the luck of the draw in the Rumble Match and then list the matches for the night.

2 out of 3 Falls Match: The Hart Foundation & Jim Duggan vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus & Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchy Martin & Jimmy Hart)

Was the WWF trying to make 2 out of 3 Falls Matches a tradition at the Royal Rumble? It is the second year in a row that they’ve showcased them. The Rougeaus and Bravo are out first, and Fink tells us that the Rougeaus reside in Memphis. I guess they finally made a move to the United States. The Hart Foundation and Duggan come out next. They finally have their theme song! Jesse brings up Duggan’s 2×4 and Gorilla calls it a “mascot”. Can inanimate objects be a mascot?

Neidhart and Bravo start and fight to a stalemate. They trade off shoulder blocks and missed elbows before both tagging out to Duggan and Raymond. Duggan takes control and tags Bret, who gets some quick pin attempts with a roll-up, sunset flip, and a cross body. Jacques then tags in and outmaneuvers him, but he taunts Bret and gets clotheslined. All 6 men end up in the ring, and Anvil shoulder blocks the other team into one corner. However, Raymond low bridges Bret, who falls to the floor. This opens the door for Bravo to hit his side slam and the Rougeaus to hit their flying crotch attack to pick up the first fall. (First Fall: The Rougeaus & Bravo) There is a small rest, but Bret has to start the next fall. The Rougeaus double team him and Bravo locks in a bear hug. The fans chant “USA”, so Jesse rightfully points out that Bret is from Canada. Bret tries to fight back, but all three members of the other team take turns putting holds on him. He is locked in a rear chinlock, Boston Crab, and an abdominal stretch, all while the other team cheats for leverage and advantage. Bret finally blocks a monkey flip and hits an inverted atomic drop before tagging Duggan. He fights off all three members of the other team and hits a double noggin’ knocker. Then, he slingshots both Bret and Anvil onto Raymond before hitting him with a clothesline for the next fall. (Second Fall: Hart Foundation & Duggan) Duggan fights Raymond into the corner and the ref admonishes him. Duggan tells the ref to get off his ass. He then makes the mistake of trying to attack Bravo and Jacques and finds himself in trouble. The Rougeaus use a ref distraction to work Duggan over in the corner and Jacques rubs himself on Duggan for a little bit. Bret and Anvil try to break up the attack, but they only succeed in distracting the ref. The tide turns when Bravo accidentally knocks Duggan into his own corner and Bret tags into the match. Bret hits a backbreaker and goes for his diving elbow, but Raymond shoves him off the ropes. The ref then becomes distracted by everyone fighting, so Duggan whacks Bravo with the 2×4 and Bret pins him for the win. (Final Fall: Hart Foundation & Duggan)

This match was a hot opener. It had a lot of good action and some good spots. I expected nothing less from the Hart Foundation and the Rougeaus, but I still don’t get the appeal of Duggan. His behavior is almost heelish. His matches aren’t that great and you’re lucky if they have a clean or decisive finish. I guess patriotism goes a long way to making up for his shortcomings.

Winners: The Hart Foundation & Jim Duggan

Next, they show some footage of the wrestlers drawing their entry number for the Rumble. Ted DiBiase picks his number and has Virgil open it. He sees his number and becomes worried, so he calls over Slick to talk. DiBiase asks Slick if he was pleased with the numbers he drew for his men. Slick says they were unbelievable, so DiBiase invites him to take a walk to discuss business. The Honky Tonk man draws next and he’s angry at his number. Then, the Bushwhackers draw numbers and call them bloody good, but they still decide to swap. Bad News Brown also draws a number and laughs before saying it’s good news for Bad News. Jake Roberts draws his number while talking to Damien and says that he hopes Andre is still in the ring when he arrives. Lastly, the Rockers draw their numbers and wish each other luck.

Women’s Title Match: Rockin’ Robin (c) vs. Judy Martin

Oh look, Vince remembered that he still has a women’s division. Let’s see how long it lasts this time. Judy Martin is already in the ring, but so is Sensational Sherri. Robin comes out next and her theme appears to be dubbed over on the network. The theme is some generic bluegrass music, but Gorilla claims it’s Sam Houston’s theme. He can’t figure out why she would come out to that music. Did they ever acknowledge on air that Robin and Sam were brother and sister? They certainly didn’t do it here. Gorilla concludes that she used the theme because they’re in Houston. Robin is introduced and Sherri gets the mic to issue a challenge to the winner of the match. She says that she’s more woman than both of them combined and then does a mic drop. Sherri then leaves to join the commentators for this match.

The two women get into a punch-out to begin the match. Judy misses a corner charge and Robin hits a couple of dropkicks. Sherri calls both of them overrated and spends the match burying both them and the match itself. Judy gets a knee up on a corner charge and then slams Robin. They fight back and forth and Robin attempts a cross body, but Judy catches her and hits a body slam. Judy ducks for a back drop and Robin tries a sunset flip, but she gets punched. However, she trips Judy and locks in a Boston Crab. Judy flips her over, but Robin reverses it for a 2 count. The two women then spend the next minute stiffing each other with knees and kicks. Apparently, they got a little angry. The match calms down and goes back to its slow pace when Robin misses a dropkick. Judy attempts a front suplex, but Robin lands on her feet and hits a couple of clotheslines for a 2 count. Then, there’s a miscommunication on a clothesline, so Robin hits a DDT. Did she learn that from Jake? She only gets a 2 count, so her half-brother would be disappointed. Both women then miss move attempts before Judy reverses a slam attempt into one of her own. Judy ducks for a back drop and gets kicked and rolled up for another 2 count. Robin then goes to the second turnbuckle and fakes out Judy with a cross body attempt before actually hitting one for a 3 count.

The only time this match got interesting is when Robin started kneeing the crap out of Judy, but that didn’t last long. It was slow and sloppy. Sadly, the Bomb Angels are gone, so the women’s division is kind of thin. I will guess that Sherri got her title match, but she would soon transition to managing.

Winner: Rockin’ Robin

Sean Mooney is backstage with The Twin Towers and Slick. You can briefly hear someone counting them down when the segment starts. Sean says that the Rumble is two very big opportunities for the Towers and Slick calls that an understatement. He says that all the marbles are hinging on these two fine physical specimens. Sean then brings up the scene between Slick and DiBiase earlier, but Slick plays innocent. He claims he hasn’t seen DiBiase in a month. Mooney shows him the footage, so Slick quickly backtracks. He says he misunderstood him and then says, “You mean that Ted DiBiase!?” He claims he thought Mooney meant the Ted that shines his shoes. He then says that he has the greatest commodity in wrestling, the Twin Towers.

Super Posedown: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Ravishing Rick Rude (w/ Bobby Heenan)

Now, for something completely different. I can understand why Rick Rude would want to have a posedown. It fits his character perfectly, but why would an other-worldly wild man want to pose? Either way, it’s a bit of silly fun. Fink introduces Mean Gene to host the segment. Gene tells the fans that they will determine the winner with their responses. Rick Rude comes out first and his dubbed theme is still way too loud. It drowns out the commentators all throughout this segment. Rude gets a mic and says that he challenged Warrior to the posedown to prove he’s the best-built man in the WWF. He also wants to show everyone why he’s the sexiest man alive. Then, the Warrior comes out, but his music is nearly inaudible at first. They quickly fix it, as Rude and Heenan bail out of the ring for Warrior’s entrance. Before they can start, Heenan says he wants someone to control Warrior. He then says that Houston is an intelligent town and there’s only one choice for the winner.

Gene asks Rude about his first pose and he tells him that it’s called the “double bicep”. He tells everyone to look for the peak, definition, and the symmetry. He takes off his robe to reveal airbrushed tights with his own face on them. Then, he turns to pose for each side of the ring and reveals an unflattering picture of Warrior on the backside of his tights. The fans boo Rude, as he goes to the corner to use a flex bar to stay pumped. Warrior poses next and beats on his chest as the fans cheer. Heenan gets the mic and says that he doesn’t care if the fans like Rude, but they have to be fair and vote for the best body. Rude tells Gene that his next pose is called “best abs”, but first Heenan applies some oil. Rude poses and swivels his hips while fans boo, but some women look pleased. Warrior goes next and Jesse claims that it’s too smooth. He’s not “trunching” enough. Rude is using his flex bar again, so Gene complains about his stalling. Heenan says they need 15 minutes to prepare for the next pose, so Gene tells them no one will stand for that. Rude calls Gene a “divot head” and says that he’s going to do a “most muscular” pose. He flexes his entire upper body for each side of the ring. Warrior does the same, but Jesse says his hair is too long and blocks the view of his muscles. Rude then does some push-ups and uses the flex bar, so Warrior growls at him to quit stalling. Rude tells Gene that his last pose will be a medley, so he does a mixture of all the poses. Warrior goes next, but Heenan has enough and squirts oil into Warrior’s eyes. Warrior is so focused on flexing that he forgets to sell it and Rude attacks him with the flex bar. Rude then chokes Warrior with the bar while officials rush the ring to stop him. They convince Rude to leave and then attempt to help the Warrior to his feet. Warrior flies into a rage and attacks the officials before leaving the ring and running after Rude.

This was all a bit silly, but it did a good job of building this feud. The posedown fits Rude’s gimmick, so I understand why they did it. It’s good character building for Rude. This leads to one of Warrior’s better feuds, so I’m okay with it.

Winner: No Contest

Next, they show a series of promos from the managers of Rumble participants. First, Mr. Fuji says that in a little while people will see the Powers of Pain. He feels sorry for Demolition because they will be the #1 victims. He says there will be only one winner and it’s Mr. Fuji. Next, Gene talks with Miss Elizabeth. He asks her who she will be cheering. She says that she will cheer both Savage and Hogan. Gene then brings up the possibility of Hogan and Savage facing each other and Elizabeth says she hopes it won’t come to that. Jimmy Hart speaks next. He says it’s double trouble because both Valentine and The Honky Tonk Man are in the Rumble. He says that if you mess with the bull you get the horn and he holds up his megaphone.

Jesse Ventura is sitting on a throne to introduce the next match. He says that he finds the throne comfortable and it’s making him think of running for King of the WWF. I don’t think that’s how it works. He then says that after the Royal Rumble, either Haku or Harley Race will be crowned King of the Ring and Heenan will be the winner because he manages both men.

Match for the King of the Ring crown & cape: King Haku (w/ Bobby Heenan) vs. Harley Race

The King of the Ring was a tournament long before it became a PPV. They held it every few years throughout the 80s and early 90s. Harley Race had won it and used the king gimmick for a while, but Haku had won the crown and cape from him. Now, Race wanted it back. Heenan was technically still managing both men, so his allegiance switches throughout this match depending on who is in control. Haku is carried to the ring on a platform and Heenan tells the crowd to show proper respect by bowing to him. Race comes out next and dumps Haku off of his platform.

The two men fight on the floor and Race slams Haku into the post before rolling him into the ring. He then hits Haku with a clothesline and a suplex for a 1 count. They fight to the outside and Race tries to ram him into the post again, but Haku reverses it. Haku chops the hell out of Harley and rolls him back inside while Heenan continues switching sides. The two men fight back and forth and Haku whips Race into the corner. Harley slowly takes his bump over the ropes, but Haku clotheslines him back into the ring. They trade headbutts, chops, and punches until Race clotheslines Haku and hits a piledriver. He covers him and doesn’t hook the leg, so it only gets a 2 count. Both men then have a comically slow collision and Race carefully falls to the floor. Haku suplexes him back inside for a 2 count, but Race answers back with a suplex of his own. They fight to the floor again and Harley attempts a piledriver. Haku back drops him and the match devolves into two men grunting at each other. Haku lets out a steady stream of “Usss hahahhaha” and Race’s grunt sounds like “AHH AHH AHH”. It becomes quite amusing. Harley finally hits his piledriver on the floor and he rolls into the ring. Haku manages to get back in before the count and the two of them trade off clotheslines, punches, and chops. Both men miss diving moves and Race misses a clothesline. Haku then turns and hits a thrust kick to finally get the 3 count.

Poor Harley Race can barely move at this point. It’s sad to see him in this state. The only reason he is still wrestling is that he needed the money. He was moving in slow motion in this match. There were parts of this that were amusing, but it was mostly a slow and depressing match.

Winner: King Haku

Next, they show a series of promos from Rumble participants. Brutus Beefcake talks about the tools of his trade, which are his two fists. He says that he will be the sole survivor. Someone forgot to tell him that Survivor Series was a couple of months ago. He then threatens to bring scissors into the match. Who does he think he is, Sid? Greg Valentine is next. He says that he’s been around a long time and can’t trust anybody but himself. That includes Jimmy Hart and The Honky Tonk Man. Fuji and the Powers of Pain speak next. Fuji says that they’ve done a thousand push-ups or he says they ate a thousand pork chops. I’m not sure because Fuji’s accent is thick. Big John Studd also speaks. He says it’s been a long time since he stepped into the ring, but he’s been training. Heenan won’t be in his corner and he doesn’t know who his friends are, but when the smoke clears he will be the winner. Mr. Perfect is next and he declares it the year of perfection. He says there’s tall men, short men, and a perfect sized man. Finally, Randy Savage cuts a promo. Savage tells everyone to freak out and says that there are 30 big time wrestlers with reputations to match. He says that he’s on top of the mountain and thinks he’s alone now. He’s the WWF champion and used to being #1. He finishes by saying everyone will feel the pain and the intensity.

Mean Gene is backstage with Ted DiBiase and Virgil. Gene points out that Ted has a smile on his face. DiBiase says that he will top off the list of 30 of the top WWF superstars. When you’re as wealthy as he is, you can be as lucky as you want to be. Gene brings up the incident with Slick and Ted asks what he’s insinuating. Gene jokingly replies that he would never question DiBiase’s integrity. Next, Sean Mooney is with Heenan, The Brain Busters, and Andre the Giant. Heenan says that his family is ready for anything. Tully says it’s an honor to be part of the Rumble and they’re standing there with the winner. Arn says that you have to go for the jugular and 30 men are just 30 numbers. Andre then says that he doesn’t know when he’s going to the ring. Did he not draw his number? However, he does say that he knows when he’s going out of the ring. He will be the last one and everyone will go out while he stands in the middle. Then, Gene is with Hulk Hogan. He asks him about Boss Man, but Hogan wants to talk about his Hulkamaniacs first. Hogan calls the Rumble the resurrection of Hulkamania. He brings up Akeem and the Heenan Family, but he says the deck is stacked in his favor. He then predicts victory for himself. Gene asks about the possibility of Hogan facing Savage in the match. Hulk says he feels sorry for Randy. He loves him like a brother, but if it comes down to them, then Savage will find Hogan has never been beaten. He claims that everyone still calls him champ.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match

Fink explains the rules of the match. Thankfully, Gorilla and Jesse don’t give him any crap for it. I guess that starts a few years later. He then introduces #1 and #2, which is Ax and Smash of Demolition. Fink is quick to point out that Smash drew his number at random, in case you were questioning the validity of this drawing.

Ax and Smash waste no time in attacking each other. I guess they’re trying to drive home the point that it’s every man for himself. #3 is Andre the Giant. Heenan leads him to the ring, but he can’t stay. The rules for this Rumble are that managers aren’t allowed at ringside. Demolition attack Andre until Mr. Perfect comes in at #4. Curt is in no hurry to enter the ring and soon Andre tosses Smash over the rope for the first elimination. #5 is Ronnie Garvin and all of the men attack Andre, who gets tied up in the ropes. Perfect and Garvin then get into a chop-fest, as Greg Valentine enters at #6. Andre fights off his attackers and hip tosses Garvin out of the ring. #7 is Jake Roberts, who goes straight for Andre. This is a mistake because Andre immediately starts choking Jake. Valentine tries to stop him, but it’s no use. Andre chokes the life out of Jake and throws him out as Ron Bass enters at #8. Bass is sporting a new bald look thanks to Brutus Beefcake. #9 is Shawn Michaels, who goes after Bass and Mr. Perfect back drops Ax out of the match. Perfect and Michaels then trade-off near eliminations on each other. Bushwhacker Butch comes out at #10, but he’s followed by Jake Roberts. Jake tosses Damien into the ring, which causes Andre to leap over the top rope in fear. The refs consider this an elimination. I disagree and I’ll be sure to remember this when we get to the ‘92 Rumble. #11 is Honky Tonk Man, #12 is Tito Santana, and #13 is Bad News Brown. Butch and Tito team up and throw Honky out of the match while Jesse jokes that the fans are sad to see him go. #14 is Marty Jannetty, who gets jumped by Ron Bass. The Rockers retaliate by teaming up to eliminate Ron. #15 is Randy Savage, who doesn’t remove his sunglasses or bandanna before going after Bad News Brown.

Arn Anderson enters at #16, as Savage dumps Valentine out of the match. Arn and Savage then surprisingly work together to eliminate Shawn Michaels. #17 is Tully Blanchard. Hey, wait a second. That’s the second time two teammates have entered back-to-back. The Brain Busters then team up and eventually get Marty out of the ring. #18 is Hulk Hogan, who quickly eliminates Mr. Perfect. Then, Savage eliminates Tito Santana, but the cameraman misses it. Hogan finds himself in trouble in the corner, but Savage is too busy with Bad News to help him. #19 is Bushwhacker Luke, who arrives just in time to see Bad News eliminate Butch. #20 is Koko B. Ware, but Hogan eliminates him within a minute and then dumps Luke, as well. The Warlord arrives at #21, just as Hogan clotheslines both Brain Busters out of the ring. Warlord poses on the apron, but the second he enters the ring, Hogan clotheslines him out again. Then, Hogan dumps Bad News Brown, but he accidentally sends Savage over the top rope in the process.

Savage storms the ring in anger and gets in Hogan’s face. He accuses Hulk of eliminating him on purpose and starts yelling at him. Elizabeth arrives to keep the peace and stands between them. Savage points a finger in Hogan’s face and tries to slap him, but Liz talks him out of it. Finally, Savage takes a breath and extends a hand to Hogan. They shake hands as the Big Boss Man enters at #22. Savage takes Elizabeth to safety, as Hogan and Boss Man start fighting. They fight back and forth until Boss Man hits a piledriver and Akeem enters at #23. Here we go again! That’s the third time two teammates came out back-to-back! At least this time it can be explained by Slick’s dealings with DiBiase. The Twin Towers beat down Hogan. He tries to fight back, but they’re too much for him. They toss Hogan over the top rope, which is huge for these guys. However, Hogan immediately pulls Boss Man out under the bottom rope. All three men fight, as Beefcake enters at #24. Brutus comes to Hogan’s aid and the three remaining men get back into the ring. Hogan says he wants to re-enter the match, but the refs say no. Instead, Hogan opts to low bridge Boss Man, which causes him to fall out of the ring and be eliminated. Jesse rightfully says that it’s not fair. Hogan and Boss Man then fight to the back. #25 is The Red Rooster, #26 is The Barbarian, #27 is Big John Studd, #28 is Hercules, #29 is Rick Martel, and #30 is Ted DiBiase, who bought his number from Slick. Virgil stays at ringside, which annoys Gorilla. Jesse argues that Virgil is a bodyguard, so he can stay. DiBiase sends Rooster out of the ring with a Flair bump in the corner. He then goes after Hercules. Beefcake ends up grabbing a sleeper on Herc, so DiBiase and Barbarian dump both men out of the ring. Then, Barbarian misses a clothesline and Martel dropkicks him over the ropes. This brings the match to its final four.

(Final Four: Big John Studd, Akeem, Ted DiBiase, & Rick Martel) Martel tries a cross body, but Akeem catches him and throws him out of the ring. Studd then tries to fight off Akeem and DiBiase, but they get the better of him. Both men beat on Studd and Akeem tries a corner splash, but Studd pulls DiBiase into the way. John clubs Akeem out of the ring and the match is down to the final two. DiBiase tries to offer Studd money, but he says no. John tosses Ted around the ring a few times and then throws him over the top to win the match.

This match fell off a cliff after Hogan was eliminated. No one seemed to care that much about Studd winning. The fans started leaving the second he was announced as the winner. I know they had big plans for Studd, but he would be gone again within months. He had a disagreement over pay and did not get along with Andre the Giant. The Mega Powers stuff in this match was pretty good, but it was mostly forgettable outside of that.

Winner: Big John Studd

Virgil attacks Studd after the bell, but John easily fends off the ambush. He throws him around a few times and then tosses him from the ring. Gorilla Monsoon then says goodnight to everyone after plugging the upcoming WrestleMania V on April 2nd. The show closes with still photos of the event.

Final thoughts:

Overall, the show was pretty solid. There were some good storyline developments and some decent matches. The Rumble itself wasn’t great, but it furthered the right feuds. The big storyline development going into WrestleMania V would take place on a Saturday Night’s Main Event, but I will cover that in my Mania review.

Thank you for reading. Check out the Facebook page for my blog by clicking here. Follow me on Twitter @PaulDMatthews78. If you want to leave a comment then there is a comment section below the article links.

My next review will be WCW’s Chi-Town Rumble ‘89, which features a great Flair/Steamboat match. I will see you then!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I chronologically review NWA/WCW and WWF/WWE PPVs on the WWE Network. You might know me better as the resident La Parka fan on the CXF forums. Follow me on twitter @PaulDMatthews78

Leave a Reply