Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura are in the booth and they are live from Orlando, Florida. According to thehistoryofwwe.com, this show drew a sellout crowd of 16,000 fans. It also drew a buyrate of 2.0 (an estimated 260,000 buys), an increase from the 1.5 number the Rumble did the previous year. This would also be the last pay-per-view that Schiavone would call for the WWF.
Opening Contest: The Bushwhackers (2-0) defeat the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (w/Jimmy Hart) when Luke pins Jacques after the Battering Ram at 13:34:
The Rougeaus were second generation wrestlers, following in the footsteps of their father Jacques Rougeau, Sr. After teaming for their father’s promotion in Montreal and International Wrestling for several years they were signed by the WWF in 1986. They were plugged into a babyface role and feuded with the Dream Team, Demolition, and the Hart Foundation, with the Rougeaus defeating the Harts for the WWF Tag Team Championship in August 1987, but the WWF never recognized that title change. The Rougeaus turned heel in the summer of 1988 – taking Jimmy Hart as their manager – and they spent the next summer feuding with the Rockers, with the teams participating in a fun series of “marathon” matches on house shows.
The reason that the Rougeaus have not appeared in any matches prior to this pay-per-view is because Raymond was having back problems and retiring, so this serves as the team’s televised swan song. This is a good choice for an opener because the Bushwhackers wacky antics of biting their opponents on the rear end and dancing can energize the crowd. It is not mentioned that this is a rematch from WrestleMania V, where the Bushwhackers won. The Rougeaus carry much of the match, working over Luke in their corner and selling well once Butch gets the hot tag. Things fall apart after that, though, because Hart breaks up the Battering Ram and the Bushwhackers tease beating up the heel manager until the Rougeaus break that up. The action meanders until the Bushwhackers hit another Battering Ram hits the Rougeaus when Raymond helps Jacques to his feet. Rating: *
Gene Okerlund interviews Ted DiBiase and Virgil. DiBiase blames Virgil for drawing the first number in the Royal Rumble before trying to talk up his chances.
The Genius wrestles Brutus Beefcake (2-0) to a double disqualification at 11:05:
The Genius was Lanny Poffo, brother of former WWF Champion Randy Savage. He was trained by his father Angelo Poffo, the promoter for the outlaw International Championship Wrestling (ICW), which ran cards from 1978-1984 in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. After teaming and feuding with his brother in ICW, Poffo wrestled in Mid-South and the CWA before joining the WWF in 1985. Used at first as an opening act who tossed frisbees and reading poetry, Poffo became the Genius in early 1989, an effeminate character that touted his intellect and used poems to run down his opponents. The Genius’ big highlight in 1989 was defeating WWF Champion Hulk Hogan via count out on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event with the help of Mr. Perfect, who he was consulting.
Like the opener, this match has a lot of stalling. After eight minutes of the participants exchanging strikes, referee Earl Hebner takes a nasty bump to the floor after the Genius fights out of the sleeper hold. Beefcake succeeds in sinking it in and gives the Genius a trim before Mr. Perfect runs in and attacks him, giving Beefcake a Perfectplex as the bell rings for a double disqualification. It is unclear why Beefcake gets disqualified, although it appears to be for bringing scissors into the ring. Hebner’s bump kept this out of DUD territory. Rating: ¼*
After the bell, Perfect and the Genius brutalize Beefcake with a chair until three WWF referees run in and stop it. Beefcake is making a lot of enemies as he now has issues with the Genius, Perfect, and Rick Martel.
Sean Mooney interviews the Heenan Family. Andre the Giant, Haku, and Rick Rude argue over who is going to win the Royal Rumble.
Submission Match: Ronnie Garvin (1-0) defeats Greg Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) via submission to a reverse figure-four leg lock at 16:52:
Curiously, neither man gets an entrance, and the broadcast goes from Mooney’s backstage segment to the ring. For a feud that been going on for more than six months, fans are not into the match at the beginning. Things are not helped by an awkward beginning where each man tries pinfalls despite the stipulations and approaches the bout like a boxing match, laying in stiff strikes when the opportunity presents itself. WWF fans were not used to that style so they do not know how to react. And having the wrestlers go for so many pins, especially Garvin, make them look like idiots. At least Ventura tries to cover for it on commentary by saying that wrestlers are programmed to go for pins, so this requires them to alter that approach. Valentine locks in the figure-four leg lock without setting any of it up after six minutes, but that is countered by Garvin’s “Hammer Jammer” shin guard. After a double KO, Hart takes the Hammer Jammer off Garvin’s leg and that gives the fans something to invest in after Valentine locks in the figure-four with the help of his own “Heartbreaker” shin guard. Garvin is able to turn the figure-four and, limping to sell the figure-four, he tosses Valentine off the top rope, allowing him to take off the Heartbreaker. When Hart tries to intervene to get Valentine unstuck from the ropes moments later, Garvin tosses him into the ring and then he wallops Valentine with the Heartbreaker, locking in the reverse figure-four to prevail to a monstrous reaction. This was a physical war that provided an appropriate end to the feud. For a submission match neither guy worked the leg much to set up their respective finishers, but the stiff strikes, Garvin’s great selling, and constant action made up for that. Rating: ***½
Okerlund interviews Mr. Perfect, who justifies his attack on Brutus Beefcake earlier by saying he was defending his friend. He says Beefcake is going to be another step on his climb to the top of the WWF. Perfect announces that he drew the thirtieth number for the Royal Rumble and he is going to win it.
Brother Love hosts Sensational Sherri and Sapphire in the cool down segment of the broadcast. Love and Sherri bully Sapphire because she has no class and is a commoner. Eventually Sapphire has enough of that and smacks Sherri, prompting a run-in by Randy Savage. When Dusty Rhodes comes to defend his manager, Savage attacks him. Sapphire defends Dusty, jumping on Savage and Love pulls her off as WWF officials get Savage and Sherri to go to the locker room. Ever one to fail to read the room, Love calls Rhodes white trash, so Rhodes and Sapphire beat him up and dance. The Love-Sherri banter at the beginning went on a long time but everything after Sapphire hit Sherri was great and gets this new program off on the right foot.
Mooney interviews Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who makes the hilarious claim that he will look the Bossman “eye-to-eye” when both of his eyes cannot look directly at the camera. That aside, the promo has a lot of fire about how the Bossman is about to meet someone who can stand up to him.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (2-0) beats the Big Bossman (w/Slick) (3-0) via disqualification at 10:22:
With as much play as the 2×4 and night stick got in pre-match promos one would have thought that the WWF would have booked this as a weapons match. This starts as a good, energetic brawl but the Bossman cannot sustain it when he goes on the offensive. Duggan has nice bursts of energy on his comebacks but they are too infrequent and the match is booked to go too long. There is a heel miscommunication spot when Slick tries to get involved, but that means nothing as Duggan cannot capitalize and Slick is able to toss the Bossman the night stick, which he uses to clock Duggan and gets caught after ten minutes of action. Rating: *
After the bell, Duggan grabs his 2×4 and hits Bossman and Slick with it, forcing them to retreat. Fans shower the Bossman with “USA” chants, as if that is supposed to offend someone from Georgia.
In a series of Rumble promos Dino Bravo talks about wanting to take care of the Ultimate Warrior and the Canadian Earthquake says that no one is safe, Demolition promise hard beatings loom, Bad News Brown puts himself over as a winner, Dusty Rhodes calls out Randy Savage and says he is coming for him, the Rockers promise high-flying action, Hercules says his power will win the “Rumble Royal,” Rick Martel says he will prove that he looks good and is the most fit athlete in the WWF, Tito Santana says any friendships he has will be over in the Rumble, Jimmy Snuka makes a point about fighting on the islands, Slick hypes Akeem as big and bad, and Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior repeats his claims that WWF Champion Hulk Hogan is on another plane but he will plow through him like the other twenty-eight mortals to win.
Since this is the Coliseum Video release of the show, WWF fans give their views on who will win. Most go with Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, or Mr. Perfect. Dusty Rhodes gets a few votes, though.
In more Rumble promos, Randy Savage says he cannot worry only about Dusty Rhodes but the other twenty-eight men in the match, Mr. Fuji says the Powers of Pain do not play by rules, Jake Roberts says the Royal Rumble suits him because the winner will be a man willing to do anything, the Hart Foundation promise to go the distance, the Honky Tonk Man says he looks forward to playing lots of hits, and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan hypes his pythons as the force that will lead him to victory.
Hulk Hogan wins the Royal Rumble after eliminating Mr. Perfect at 58:50:
The opening sequence of this Rumble is arguably the best in history as Ted DiBiase enters first – with Million Dollar Belt in tow – and runs through Koko B. Ware and Marty Jannetty but is then under siege from Jake Roberts, with whom he is feuding. Randy Savage and Roddy Piper get added to the mix shortly thereafter, creating a wild tornado tag match for two minutes as DiBiase and Savage put aside their differences from a few years prior. After that, the ring fills up until Dusty Rhodes comes in and tosses Savage, with Savage taking a high back drop bump out to the floor. Heel managers almost come to blows on the floor when Mr. Fuji tries to hit Andre the Giant with his cane after Andre comes in at number eleven and hiptosses the Warlord out of the ring and Bobby Heenan pulls Fuji off the apron. A new feud begins when Roddy Piper tosses Bad News Brown and Brown pulls Piper to the floor. That causes a brawl between the two that goes to the locker room. Other feuds that continue include Demolition and the Colossal Connection as Ax comes in to knock Andre to his knees. Haku and Smash follow minutes later, leading to Demolition knocking Andre out with a double running shoulder block. The Connection do get some revenge later when Smash is eliminated by a Haku thrust kick. The Canadian Earthquake is given a strong push, throwing out Rhodes and Ax shortly after entering the match. His run is quickly stopped by Smash, Haku, Jim Neidhart, Jimmy Snuka, and Ted DiBiase, who band together to toss the big man. Dino Bravo tries to stop his partner’s elimination but gets over to help too late. And that proves costly because the Ultimate Warrior follows right after and awkwardly backdrops Bravo out, rendering mute Bravo’s claims to be a threat to the Warrior’s position. Fans are treated to another encounter between Rick Martel and Tito Santana when the two draw back-to-back numbers at twenty-two and twenty-three. DiBiase sets a new Rumble time record at forty-five minutes until the Warrior unceremoniously clotheslines him to the floor, setting up the biggest event in Rumble history at number twenty-five when Hulk Hogan comes out and he and the Warrior clear the ring. Fans lose it as the WWF’s two biggest babyface acts face off. They do very little, laying each other out with a double clothesline, but the crowd’s reaction cemented the WWF’s plans to run a match between the two for the main event of WrestleMania. Hogan also plays a role in the Warrior’s elimination, clotheslining Rick Rude and the Barbarian when they have Warrior straddled across the ropes and providing the momentum for the Intercontinental Champion to fall to the floor, providing more fodder for a future program. Things conclude quickly from there, with Hogan enduring a beating from Rude and Perfect in the final three before heel miscommunication knocks out Rude and Hogan hulks up after a Perfectplex to win his first Royal Rumble. Overall, this Rumble was a good effort that continued existing programs and built new ones. It had a hot start, a memorable encounter between main event talents, and a suitable finish, although putting Hogan over was questionable since he was already the WWF Champion and did not need a win. It may have been better to swap the roles he and the Warrior had in this match, with the Warrior winning, especially if the company had big plans for him post-WrestleMania. Rating: ****¼
The Last Word: The Royal Rumble match was excellent and the company comes out of this show with a bevy of future programs for WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior, Brutus Beefcake-Mr. Perfect, Roddy Piper-Bad News Brown, and Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire-Randy Savage & Sensational Sherri. Ronnie Garvin-Greg Valentine is something of a forgotten gem from this era since neither man did much in the company after that match, so it is worth checking out in the undercard.
Backstage News*: The conflict between the WWF and Viewer’s Choice ended with the signing of a seven-year deal. While the WWF is portraying the deal as a victory for them, the reality is that Viewer’s Choice had more leverage because the WWF stood to lose $4 million if the Rumble did not air on Viewer’s Choice platforms.
*As part of his upcoming babyface run the Big Bossman has gone on a weight loss regimen and is now down to 270 pounds.
*In talent relations news, Barry Windham is officially done with the company after no-showing events, including The Royal Rumble that took place thirty minutes from his home.
*Backstage news is provided courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 22 and February 1.
Up Next: WWF Prime Time Wrestling for January 22!