THREE GUYS AND… RETRO WRESTLING
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“ROYAL RUMBLE 1988”
written by Dominick Cappello
January 24, 1988
Hamilton, Onatrio, Canada
– 2/3 Falls Match: The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions
– Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude
– Women’s Tag Team Championship “2/3 Falls” Match:
The Glamour Girls (w/ Jimmy Hart) (c) vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels
– Royal Rumble Match: Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Tito Santana, “The Natural” Butch Reed, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Jake “The Snake Roberts, King Harley Race, “Jumping” Jim Brunzell, Sam Houston, “Dangerous” Danny Davis, Boris Zhukov, “The Rock” Don Muraco, Nikolai Volkoff, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “The Outlaw” Ron Bass, B. Brian Blair, Hillbilly Jim, Dino Bravo, The Ultimate Warrior, The One Man Gang, & The Junkyard Dog
Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!
Okay, let’s address the controversy right off the bat. In all of my previous articles where I critiqued classic WWF pay-per-views, I praised Hulk Hogan, being that he was my hands down favorite wrestler growing up. I even went trick-or-treating as him when I was in the first grade, but since my last article, The Hulkster has fallen from grace after a racist rant he made on a sex tape several years ago became public knowledge. Are there any heroes left in the world? Since I’m well aware that pro wrestling is razzle-dazzle, I’ll try to focus on his wrestling character as appose to any mistakes the man has made in his personal life. After all, there are many wrestling superstars with shady backgrounds. So, let’s all suspend disbelief and maintain the illusion that wrestling is real, damn it, and that our childhood heroes are still heroes because it’s either that or I’ll have to stop writing about wrestling altogether.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude was all by his lonesome as he made his entrance. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had the night off. Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were on commentary. Gorilla Monsoon was reserved for pay-per-views and the inaugural Royal Rumble was not a pay-per-view. It was a special which aired live on the USA Network. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was victorious in the opening contest after Rick Rude was disqualified for using the referee as a human shield when The Dragon attempted a cross-body off the top turnbuckle.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund hosted as Dino Bravo attempted to break a world bench press record. Jesse Ventura was on hand to be the spotter. You’d think that being a Canadian, the crowd would rally behind Dino Bravo, but he was met with jeers. He did break the record. 715 pounds, but I call foul since Jesse Ventura was helping to ease the pressure. Either way, I don’t believe that the legitimate sports world would ever recognize a feet of strength set at a pro wrestling event.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase had recently offered to purchase the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan, who flatly refused, so The Million Dollar Man procured the services of Andre the Giant. The plan was for The Giant to win the title and then surrender it to The Million Dollar Man. WWF President Jack Tunney, or should I say, the distinguished Jack Tunney, was on hand for the contract signing. The Hulkamaniacs were on their feet. The Real American was immensely popular even when north of the border. The Giant hesitated before signing the contract. He was playing head games and trying to psych-out The Hulkster. Hulk Hogan actually appeared nervous. The Million Dollar Man goaded Hulk Hogan into signing. Once the contact was signed by both parties, The Giant flipped the table onto Hulk Hogan. His giant sized stamp of approval. The Million Dollar Man was calling all the shots.
As much as I would like see the aftermath of the confrontation between The Hulkster and The Giant, it was time to rumble, it was time for the Royal Rumble. The brainchild of Pat Patterson. A variation of the traditional Battle Royal. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, a former tag team champion, and Tito Santana, one half of the reigning champions, were the first two entrants. The Hit Man was in his home country, but the crowd support was with Tito Santana. This inaugural Royal Rumble featured only twenty superstars. Thirty would become the norm. Tito Santana took a drumming early on, fighting off multiple heels. The first elimination was “The Natural” Butch Reed at the hands of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. What an ovation for Jake Roberts. The fans badly wanted to see the DDT.
Bret Hart was the iron man of this match, lasting longer than anyone. Once again, I had low expectations when it came to “Dangerous” Danny Davis. I expected him to be eliminated as soon as he entered the ring, but he was around for a decent amount of time. “The Rock” Don Muraco and Nikolai Volkoff came down to ringside at the same time. It seems that Nikolai was a bit confused and didn’t know which number he was. Awkward, but at least he didn’t sing.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, 2×4 and all, also received a tremendous ovation. Before he could even enter the ring, he was the recipient of a cheap-shot courtesy of King Harley Race, who had already been eliminated. There was bad blood between these two superstars dating back several months. I considered Hillbilly Jim to be one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble. He hit the ring and quickly eliminated Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Shockingly, Danny Davis was still in the match.
Entrant #18, from parts unknown, it’s The Ultimate Warrior!!! His first time appearing on a show of this caliber. Not long after he entered the ring, Bret Hart was eliminated by Don Muraco. The Excellence of Execution lasted from #1 to #18. Very impressive. The WWF must have needed to take a commercial break because the last few entrances seemed rushed. There was less than a minute in between The Ultimate Warrior and The One Man Gang. The Gang eliminated Jake Roberts. I don’t think that we ever saw a DDT in this match. If it happened, then it must happened off camera, but I assume that there was no DDT because we still would have heard the crowd pop for it. The Junkyard Dog was the final entrant.
Danny Davis was finally eliminated by Jim Duggan. If a former referee had won the first ever Royal Rumble, then I would have retired from blogging about wrestling. The One Man Gang and Dino Bravo double teamed and eliminated The Ultimate Warrior. That was a disappointment. I had money on The Warrior. I was also surprised by how quickly The Junkyard Dog was eliminated. Like I said, the final moments of this match seemed to be in fast forward. The One Man Gang and Dino Bravo kept with their alliance and eliminated Don Muraco. Luckily for Jim Duggan, The Gang inadvertently eliminated Dino Bravo, then Hacksaw low-bridged and eliminated The Gang. Congratulations to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan on making WWF history with a victory in the inaugural Royal Rumble.
We then heard from Hulk Hogan one more time. He vowed that neither he nor any of his loyal Hulkamaniacs will ever “sell out” to The Million Dollar Man and that the power of Hulkamania will overcome Andre the Giant. In the main event, even without the tutelage of Bobby Heenan, The Islanders defeated The Young Stallions, avenging their loss from the Survivor Series. In the middle of that match, The Million Dollar Man and Andre the Giant also addressed the crowd. The Million Dollar Man predicted victory for The Giant, who still claimed to be undefeated even after WrestleMania III. There’s no doubt that the Royal Rumble was a hit because the following year it was added to the pay-per-view schedule, rounding out the classic four, a.k.a. the big four.
– Dr. Jelly
So, what’s the main event for the inaugural Royal Rumble? The actually Royal Rumble Match? No. The contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant? No, it was The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions. WHAT!? It was bad enough having to sit through that 20 man match at the Survivor Series. I wish I could travel back in time to 1988 “days of future past” style and tell Vince McMahon that he was wasting his time by pushing The Young Stallions. At least the main event wasn’t that weightlifting debacle with Dino Bravo.
Good thing this wasn’t a pay-per-view because I wouldn’t have paid money to watch it. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was known for his fast pace matches. Even I praised his Intercontinental Championship win at WrestleMania III, but his opening match against “Ravishing” Rick Rude was a snooze fest. An annoying female fan in the front row had Jimmy Hart megaphone and was mouthing off to Rick Rude the whole match, but I’ll leave it to the OSW Review to gripe about that. Vince McMahon said “What a maneuver” in this match. Good lord. He makes me nauseous.
Well, what could be more boring than watching Dino Bravo lift weights? We all know that Vince McMahon has a perverse body building fetish, but must we be subjected to this crap? This segment dragged on for over ten minutes. It was almost as dull as a Triple H promo. What’s up next? The Jumping Bomb Angels vs. The Glamour Girls in two out of three falls match? With Jimmy Hart at ringside? I’m sorry, but I hit the fast forward button. I had to. I couldn’t muster the strength.
Are will still arguing that three count from WrestleMania III? I know that Jesse Ventura is still bent out of shape over the incident. Dude, we get it. You hate Hulk Hogan. You’re jealous of Hulk Hogan. Andre the Giant beating Hulk Hogan is not the same thing as you beating Hulk Hogan. Turn the page. What about “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase? He seems like championship material. So, is Hulk Hogan going to step aside? Are you kidding me? Of course not. He’s probably got more money than The Million Dollar Man. So, the Royal Rumble was the beginning of conspiracy to steal the title from Hulk Hogan. WWF President Jack Tunney was on hand for the contract signing, so you know that it would be a disaster. Jack Tunney was never anything more than Vince McMahon’s puppet. Though, I did enjoy seeing The Giant flip the table onto The Hulkster. Fee-fi-fo-fum. I smell the blood of a huckster.
Even after the Royal Rumble Match had started, Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura were still yammering on about Hulk Hogan. They were obsessed with the man. The Killer Bees didn’t wear their silly bubble bee masks. Those lousy cheaters from the Survivor Series. I found it odd that Tito Santana was in the Royal Rumble, but Rick Martel was nowhere to be found. There were several superstars in this match who I would considered cannon fodder. Names like Sam Houston.
What was with Don Muraco and Nikolai Volkoff making their entrance at the same time? How big of an idiot is Nikolai Volkoff meant to be? Was that suppose to happen? After Harley Race was eliminated, Vinnie-Mac scolded The Body over his use of double negatives. Yeah, sure, talk about grammar. Don’t bother learning the names of any of the wrestling holds. Just keep shouting “What a maneuver” over and over again. Jackass.
I always knew that the whole “every two minutes” rule for the Royal Rumble was bullshit, but The Ultimate Warrior and The One Man Gang entered less than a minute apart. What the hell was that? I remember from the twenty second King Kong Bundy match at WrestleMania I that Vince McMahon thinks the wrestling fans are too simple-minded to tell time, but could they have not waited another thirty seconds before sending out The Gang? They finish was a jumbled mess. The One Man Gang essentially eliminated himself, making “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan the winner by default. At least he didn’t cheat like he usually does by using his dumb 2×4.
Sigh. The show isn’t over yet. Hulk Hogan still needed cut a promo. Yada Yada Yada. Let’s get this over with. The Islanders defeated The Young Stallions in the main event. Yep, that was the main event. I’d just like to close by wishing Andre the Giant and The Million Dollar Man the best of luck in their noble quest to take the WWF Championship and delivery a devastating blow to Hulkamania.
– Dr. Frisbee
Okay, I know that WrestleMania is showcase of the immortals and the biggest pay-per-view of the year, but the Royal Rumble Match is my favorite match of the year. This is how it all started. Not a pay-per-view, but rather a special which aired live on the USA Network.
I’m forced to agree with Mr. Salted Caramel (Dr. Frisbee’s nickname for Vince McMahon) in that “Ravishing” Rick Rude didn’t use many wrestling holds in the opening match vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. The Ravishing One relied on straight punches and forearms. We did get to see The Dragon display those signature deep arm-drags. Jesse “The Body” Ventura reminded us that Rick Rude was the winner of the first ever “Jesse the Body” award. Was there an actual ceremony? I can’t remember? It’s good thing that tap outs didn’t become a part of the WWF until 1997 because Ricky Steamboat tapped several times in this match.
Dino Bravo, Canada’s self proclaimed strongest man, set some sort of bench press record. Yeah, I don’t know anything about lifting weights. Dino Bravo had himself a new manager named Frenchy Martin. We won’t see “Luscious” Johnny V at a WWF pay-per-view again until the 2000 Royal Rumble. Jesse Ventura sneakily assisted Dino Bravo in his final attempt to lift the heavy weights and he would have to explain his actions for the remainder of his tenure in the WWF.
The Jumping Bomb Angels won the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championships from The Glamour Girls. To be honest, I didn’t even remember that there were tag team belts for the women’s division. Apparently, only four teams ever won the belts, which were retired a year later. They should bring back this concept and have The Bella Twins declare themselves the Total Divas Tag Team Champions. I think that would garner some heat.
Everyone has a price for The Million Dollar Man. Well, everyone accept for Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster did, however, pay the price for his pride. Ted DiBiase sprung at trap. As soon as the contract was signed, Andre the Giant crushed Hulk Hogan underneath the table. The anticipation was indeed building for the biggest rematch of all time, which would be on February 5, 1988 edition of The Main Event.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, a future five time WWF Champion and Hall of Fame inductee, lasted the longest in the Royal Rumble Match. 25 minutes. The One Man Gang eliminated six superstars. A record which would be broken only a year later by Hulk Hogan, who eliminated ten superstars. That record would be broken by Kane in 2001 when he eliminated eleven superstars. The current record belongs to Roman Reigns, who eliminated twelve superstars in 2014. The last man standing was “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. It wasn’t until 1993 when the WWF added the stipulation that the winner of the Royal Rumble would receive a title shot at WrestleMania, but it was still a prestigious victory. Jim Duggan would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2011.
The actual main event, The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions, was merely a backdrop for the WWF to continue to promote the big upcoming title bout between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. The Islanders were victorious, but that was overshadowed by the buzz surrounding this epic rematch. Will The Million Dollar Man be successful in his scheme to acquire the WWF Championship? Stay tuned.
– Dr. Rochester