The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 89 – 01.15.89
(Originally written 11.25.19)
So although their goal of screwing with the NWA’s PPV ambitions had already been fulfilled and then some, I guess people thought this “Royal Rumble” concept was a pretty good idea, so why not carry on another year? This time on PPV!
Live from Houston, TX, drawing a sellout 19,000 and a decidedly so-so 1.5 buyrate.
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
The Hart Foundation & Hacksaw Jim Duggan v. The Rougeau Brothers & Dino Bravo
This is INTERCONTINENTAL RULES, which apparently is 2 out of 3 falls. Well, there are a lot of Canadians in there. Man, poor Duggan doesn’t even get a chance to defend his Royal Rumble title after winning the first one! And now he’s jerking the curtain! BURIED.
La Premiere: Dino and Anvil trade power stuff and Bravo misses some elbows, which brings Hacksaw in and Bravo out. Ray works on Duggan’s arm but gets slammed, and Bret comes in and goes to the arm himself. Small package gets two. Sunset flip gets two. Crossbody gets two. Raymond escapes and Jacques comes in for some hugs and moral support, but Bret hits him with the hooking clothesline and drops an elbow on him. Bret traps both Rougeaus in the corner and then stacks Bravo on them as Anvil comes in and goes to work with shoulderblocks on all of them. Great comedy spot there. Sadly, Bret gets low-bridged by the Rougeaus and hits the floor, and it’s back in for the side suplex from Bravo and LA BOMBE DE LES ROUGUEAUS to finish him at 5:20.
La Deuxieme: Raymond gets a gutwrench on Bret for two to start the fall, and Jacques follows with the back elbow for two. Bret takes the turnbuckle bump and Bravo gets two off that. Atomic drop gets two. Ray drops Bret on Jacques’ knee for two, and it’s over to the one move that Bravo can do competently: The bearhug. Jesse questions why the crowd would chant “USA” for the Calgarian Hitman, but we later learned he has dual citizenship, so I’m OK with it. Jacques goes to the camel clutch and the Rougeaus switch off on that, but Gorilla totally misses the cheating and complains about them using the hair! Bravo comes in and gets a weird clothesline attempt where Bret collapses like it was a forearm to the head, and that gets two. Not sure what happened there, but I’m gonna blame Bravo. Because, as you know…
More quality double-teaming from the Rougeaus as Bret fights for the tag and the ref gets distracted by heel shenanigans, leaving poor Bret trapped in the abdominal stretch in their corner. And take a drink for Gorilla complaining that they’re not hooking the toe to complete the move. Ray tries a slam and Bret falls on top for two, but they haul him back to the corner to cut off the ring again. Jacques with a monkey flip, but Bret blocks it with a Manhattan drop and it’s HOT TAG Duggan. Duggan is a hell of a hot tag, you have to give him that. He destroys everyone and slingshots Anvil onto Raymond for two, and then slingshots Bret onto Raymond for the pin at 13:51 to even it up.
La Troisieme: Duggan starts with Raymond while Bret is selling something on the floor and not looking good. I wonder if Bravo knocked him loopy on that clothesline attempt? Duggan stupidly attacks all the heels in their corner and gets clobbered, and Bravo hits him in “the bread basket” for another drink from Gorilla. They choke him out and they’ve clearly missed the peak of the match and probably should have just done the second fall as the finish. Bravo drops an elbow on Duggan for two, but he falls into his own corner and Bret comes in and beats on Dino. Backbreaker and he goes up, but Raymond pushes him off and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA. Bret rolls up Bravo, but it’s blocked, so Duggan hits Bravo with the 2×4 and Bret pins him at 18:45 to win.
Yeah, this was decent, but they should have just done one fall and went with the slingshot finish they used in the second fall. The third one wasn’t needed and the match ran too long as a result. **3/4
Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase draws his number for the Royal Rumble, and he’s not very happy with it. So he finds Slick, who is much happier with his numbers, and they go off to make a deal. Next up, Honky Tonk Man is unhappy. The Bushwhackers are both happy, but decide to switch anyway. Bad News gets some good news. The Rockers don’t seem to have an opinion either way, but they were probably so hungover that they couldn’t read the numbers anyway. Which was higher, their numbers or their blood alcohol levels at that point, I wonder?
WWF Women’s title: Rockin’ Robin v. Judy Martin
Robin uses Sam Houston’s music in an inside joke, since this was the weird time when all three Smith siblings were in the WWF at the same time but never acknowledged as being related. Sherri challenges the winner of the match, but Robin was the last champion before the belt was vacated and left dormant for 3 years. I’m surprised they didn’t put the belt back on Sherri after the Savage thing, actually, so they could have it ready for the Dusty feud. Martin misses a blind charge, but catches Robin on a bodypress attempt and slams her to take over. Robin tries a Boston crab, but Martin fights out and gets a small package for two. Robin drops an elbow for two and tries a DDT which turns into a sort-of rollup for two instead. Martin misses an elbow but slams her for two. Backslide gets two. Robin catches her with a boot for two, and a small package gets two. Sherri: “Somebody win, come on!” I feel the same way. Robin tries a crossbody and Martin dodges, but Robin holds on and hits it on a second try for the pin at 6:40. *1/2 The Robin push was a complete failure and literally killed off the entire division.
Meanwhile, Slick claims to have not seen Ted Dibiase in more than a month! So Mooney immediately confronts him with the footage of the Dibiase deal from earlier, at which point Slick clarifies that he was talking about a DIFFERENT Ted Dibiase, the one who shines his shoes. Well that’s fair.
God, the horrible Rude music overdub is like nails on a chalkboard. Couldn’t they at least use the “Black Cat” ripoff from WCW or the WCW Slam Jam theme? They still have “Steinerized” and “The Man Called Sting” on the Network shows so clearly they can use that album. Bobby Heenan is immediately complaining that Warrior is a maniac. He’s not wrong.
Pose #1: The Double Bicep Pose
Rude explains the concept behind it, which annoys Gorilla, and Jesse thinks he should be judging. Rude does his first, but Warrior’s technique is terrible, as Jesse points out, with him jumping around and barely holding the pose. I’ve got Rude winning on points there to go up 1-0.
Pose #2: Best Abs
This seems like a gimme for Rude. Bobby oils him up for good measure and shows off his legendary ab definition, and Warrior can’t hope to match him, as Jesse points out that he’s too smooth and has no definition. 2-0 Rude!
Pose #3: Most Muscular
Kind of an undefined pose for Rude, while Warrior does it like the classic Hogan pose and Jesse nitpicks the lack of trap definition on Warrior because his hair is too long. I’m going to give this one to Warrior to make it 2-1.
Pose #4: Posing Medley
So Rude does his bit after stalling for time while Gorilla declares that he’s wasting his time because the crowd is voting for Warrior anyway. And then Warrior follows with his, but Rude obviously sees the glass ceiling upcoming from the ignorant Texans, and attacks Warrior before he has to suffer the indignity of losing a rigged vote. Good for him. A bunch of road agents try to revive Warrior, who pops up and throws them all around like ragdolls and then chases Rude to the back to set up their match at Wrestlemania. This would have been better served on TV, but you can’t argue with the results.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is just hoping that she doesn’t have to choose between Hogan and Savage.
Battle for the Crown: King Haku v. Harley Race
This was a weird feud, with Haku being crowned regent in absentia while Race was injured, but neither guy ever turned. Haku gets carried to the ring by a bunch of geeks, who had to get changed into their gear just for the purpose of carrying the throne, but I’m sure Vince gave them a good payday to do so and I’m not even being facetious. That used to be the thing he did. Race dumps the throne over with Haku on it and runs him into the post, then hits a suplex in the ring for two. They fight to the floor and Race goes into the post this time as Gorilla clarifies that he doesn’t like either guy while Jesse accuses him of cheering for Race and overlooking his cheating. Back in, Race with an atomic drop and he drops elbows while the Brain tries to cheer for whoever is winning at that moment. Haku whips him into the corner and Race bumps to the floor. Haku hauls him back in and beats on him with the Tongan martial arts, but Race comes back with headbutts and loses that battle badly. Doesn’t he have a steel plate in his skull in kayfabe? With the headbutts not working, he hits a piledriver instead and gets two, but they collide and Race lands on the floor. Haku with the suplex back in for two. Race gets a suplex and they head to the floor again, where Race tries a piledriver. Haku backdrops out of that, but Race hits it on a second try. Haku sort of brushes it off, and Race hits a neckbreaker for two in the ring while Bobby switches allegiances again. Race drops a knee for two and they slug it out, but Haku goes up and misses a flying knee. Then Race goes up and misses a headbutt and Haku hits the thrust kick to finish him at 9:01 and solidify his claim to the crown. This one was kind of a weird and dull match at times, although Race seemed pretty motivated here for the first time in a while and both guys worked hard. Sadly, the match was cut from the Coliseum Video release of the show. ***
Meanwhile, we get one last round of comments from everyone in the Rumble match, with a much happier Dibiase.
This is of course the debut of the 30 man format that survives to this day, with the slight concept change in that they pushed the “every man for himself” aspect really hard, as opposed to the first one.
So famously, Ax is #1, and Smash is #2, just to really make it clear right off the bat that all the assumed rules are out the window. That’s actually a brilliantly subtle way to get that idea over. And they immediately say “Fuck it” and slug it out to start in the corner. Smash charges and hits boot and Ax clotheslines him and beats him down. Smash comes back with his own clothesline and his own beatdown, but Ax tries to throw Smash out unsuccessfully. Smash beats on him in the corner and chokes him out, but Andre the Giant is #3 at 2:10. At this point, Demolition wisely teams up and hits Andre with a double clothesline as there’s no hard feelings, and they choke him out on the ropes. Andre fights them off, of course, but they keep beating on the Giant in the corner until Mr. Perfect is #4 at 4:18. He just goes after everyone, but Smash gets thrown out at 4:55 by the Giant. Ax and Perfect team up on Andre, but then Ax turns on him and goes after Andre by himself. That’s pretty stupid. Andre clobbers both guys by himself and Ronnie Garvin is #5 at 6:10. So all three guys get Andre on the ropes, but can’t put him over. Perfect makes sure to take huge bumps off every move, trying to use every moment to get himself over. Everyone chokes each other out in the corner and Perfect continues going flying off Andre’s punches. Greg Valentine is #6 at 8:10 and he too goes after the Giant, but Andre fights them all off again like a boss and tosses Garvin at 8:58. He chokes Ax out in the corner until Perfect saves, but Jake Roberts is #7 at 10:10 and Andre is in no mood for him. Andre just chokes him out right away and then steps on him. Hey, Jake started that fight! Jake’s not so big without his snake now, is he? Andre continues choking him out and Ron Bass is #8 at 12:10, with Andre tossing Jake out at 12:20. That’s shockingly fast for Jake, as he literally did nothing but get owned by the Giant. Was he injured, I wonder? Bass is “bald” after losing a haircut match to Beefcake, but SNME was taped so long before this that Bass’s hair is already growing back in. Lots of random choking in the corners and Shawn Michaels is #9 at 14:10. Who would have thunk that he’d win two Rumbles himself years later? Mr. Perfect backdrops Ax out at 14:39 at this point. He also throws Shawn out, but Shawn skins the cat and hangs on, then dropkicks Perfect out, and he also hangs on. It’s so sad that they just never got it together enough to have the great match they should have had. Andre beats on Bass while Valentine wisely stays back, and Butch is #10.
At this point, Jake returns like a sore loser and chases Andre out of the match with his snake at 16:40. Well that’s one way to get Andre out of the match. So we’re basically left with a bunch of midcard geeks and they all trade punches and kicks, and Honky Tonk Man is #11. Not sure why he was pissed about that drawing earlier. He pairs off with Perfect in an odd marriage, but that doesn’t last long. I kind of want to see that match, now. It’d be such a trainwreck of styles that it might be awesome. Honky and Valentine team up instead and go after Shawn on the ropes, but he fights them off and Tito Santana is #12 at 20:10. He fires away on Perfect in the corner, but then Valentine saves and they renew acquaintances. Bad News Brown is #13, because of course he is, at 22:10. I gotta say, the timekeeping on this match is DEAD ON. Honky gets tossed out by Tito at 22:40, but he can’t get the Hammer out. Bass and Valentine choke Tito down, and Shawn goes up and hits both Brown and Bass with fists. Never go to the top rope in a Rumble! Hammer hits him with an atomic drop and he nearly bumps out, but hangs on until Marty Jannetty is #14 at 24:10. The Rockers team up on Bass and send him out with a double dropkick at 24:55. Tito decides to start selling a knee injury at this point, just because, and that’s awesome of him. Flying forearm on the Hammer, but he can’t put him over the top. Randy Savage is #15 at 26:10 and it’s time to wreck some shit, OH YEAH. Bad News gets clobbered in the corner, but Valentine chops him down. I wish now that Savage had turned BEFORE this match because it would have had nuclear heat with the crowd waiting for Hogan. Savage kind of gets lost in the mess of guys after a hot start, unfortunately. Arn Anderson is #16 at 28:10 and Macho tosses Valentine at the same time. This is his only Rumble, isn’t it? Arn and Macho team up to get rid of Shawn at 28:50. Macho continues beating on Bad News in the corner while Arn goes to the top rope and gets crotched by Marty. NEVER GO TO THE TOP ROPE. Luckily for him, Bad News saves him. Tully Blanchard is #17 at 30:10, also making his only Rumble appearance, and he goes after Mr. Perfect, who apparently has lots of enemies tonight. The Busters double-team Marty, who has no partner to save him now, and he’s out at 32:10, while Hulk Hogan is #18. And now it’s time to clear the ring. Perfect goes flying at 32:35. He tries to slam Bad News and Brown counters him with a goddamn guillotine! AWESOME. Tito gets thrown out off-camera at some point around 32:00. The heels all team up on Hulk while Savage goes after Butch, but Hogan fights them off. Luke is #19, but Butch gets thrown out at 34:40 by Bad News. Savage and Bad News beat on each other some more, and Luke teams up with Tully to sneak attack Hogan! This is amazing. Hulk makes his own save again and hits Arn with the big boot, and Koko B. Ware is #20 at 36:10.
Koko throws some Hall of Fame dropkicks, working his second PPV main event in a row, while Arn goes to the top AGAIN and gets slammed off by Hogan. How many times do I have to say it? Hulk throws Koko out at 37:30 GEE I WONDER WHY. Luke goes out at 37:40, but the Brainbusters double-team him to end that run. Warlord is #21 while Hogan puts both Brainbusters out at 38:29. Warlord stops to pose, and Hogan clotheslines him right back out at 38:40 and then dumps both Hogan and Bad News at the same time. Although it’s every man for himself, that’s still a dick move on Hogan’s part. Well, karma would get him back 3 years later, at least. Elizabeth comes out to make peace, and we get a reluctant Megapower handshake and hug. FOR NOW. DUN DUN DUN. Big Bossman is #22 at 40:10 as the crowd goes apeshit, and Hogan drops elbows on him before Bossman comes back with a big splash in the corner and piledriver. Akeem is #23 at 42:10 and Hulk has to fight them off. So this brings up my biggest issue with the match: Dibiase drew a number and was really unhappy about it, then made a deal with Slick and got a better one. But both of Slick’s men are here, so at worst Dibiase’s number was 22 before he traded up to #30. Am I to believe that the Million Dollar Man was such a petulant entitled jerk that he freaked out over #22 and had to trade up?
Actually, yeah, never mind, that’s completely in character.
Meanwhile, the Twin Towers team up and throw Hogan out at 44:10 while Brutus Beefcake is #24, although Hogan immediately throws a tantrum and pulls Bossman out under the ropes to get some abuse on him. And then he pulls down the top rope on the way out to eliminate Bossman at 45:04. Now THERE’S a petulant entitled jerk. So we’re left with Akeem v. Beefcake in the ring as the Dream pounds on him in the corner, but Red Rooster is #25 at 46:10, and he immediately lays an egg and gets slammed by Akeem. Rooster and Beefcake team up but are unable to get him out on the ropes. Barbarian is #26 at 48:10 and he teases helping, but then turns on the babyfaces and goes after Akeem alone. Gorilla rightly points out how stupid that was. Sadly, with the exits of all the really big stars, this has basically died off and we’re just limping to the finish now. Akeem squashes the Rooster into chicken nuggets with the 747 splash, but can’t quite throw him out. Big John Studd is #27 at 50:10, drawing the magic number for the first time, but he’s been gone for years and gets zero reaction from the crowd. What an ill-conceived push this was. We get a “bread basket” from Gorilla as I take a drink and there’s nothing going on. Hercules is #28 at 52:10 and this is still a bunch of nothing and the crowd is DEAD, with no one getting thrown out in a while and no one to root for. Rick Martel is #29, pre-turn, and he’s fired up but no one cares. More nothing happening, just guys laying on the ropes and punching. And of course, Ted Dibiase is #30 at 56:10. He goes after Hercules and the Rooster, but walks into a flying forearm from Rooster. Meanwhile Studd is literally doing nothing, just laying around with Akeem. Rooster gets tossed out by Dibiase at 57:40, the first elimination since Bossman. Hercules comes back on Dibiase and gets his shit in, and I’m really surprised they didn’t run that one at Wrestlemania to blow it off. Beefcake jumps onto Herc with a sleeper, but Dibiase dumps them both out at 59:40. Akeem and Dibiase double-team Studd in the corner while Barbarian goes to the top with a flying headbutt on Martel, but at least he hits it. But then he charges and gets dropkicked out at 60:47.
Final Four: Ted Dibiase, Rick Martel, Akeem and Big John Studd
Martel makes the big comeback on Dibiase and dodges a splash from Akeem, then hits him with dropkicks before getting slammed out at 61:34. So it’s Studd against the two heels and they go to work on him, RIGHT IN THE BREAD BASKET. Take a drink. Dibiase orders Akeem to give him an avalanche, but Studd pulls Dibiase into the way and then throws out Akeem at 63:01, and goes to work on Dibiase with a double arm suplex. Studd is just completely blown up here while Dibiase throws himself all over the ring trying to put hi mover. And Studd throws him out at 65:07 for the most pointless Rumble win ever. The first 45 minutes were great, classic stuff with a molten crowd and lots of excitement, but once Hogan went out, it was DEATH. Given what we had to work with and hindsight being 20/20, Dibiase should have won here instead. ***
Still, a really enjoyable show, but they’d refine the Rumble formula much more in later years and have much better ones. This was merely the first try.