(Originally written 11.19.19)
The SmarK Rant for WWF Royal Rumble 90 – 01.21.90
Live from Orlando, FL, drawing 16,000 and a 2.0 buyrate.
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & and a Mickey Mouse-adorned Jesse Ventura, Tony’s last PPV with the company.
I love that Vince lays out all the entrants in the Rumble match in the intro so you know exactly who you’re getting.
The Rougeau Brothers v. The Bushwhackers
Jacques with the full beard weirds me out. And then he shaved it off and never had it again! This was also kind of a weird one in that the Rougeaus were mostly gone from the company, with Raymond wanting to retire, and randomly came back to put over the Whackers. Big stall to start on both sides and Ray immediately goes for a sleeper on Butch, but Butch escapes and bites both Raymond and the referee. Why don’t we have someone in this match who can uphold the law? More stalling as the Rougeaus run away and regroup, and Jacques slugs away on Luke before falling victim to more biting. So the Rougeaus run away again and we stall and stall and stall and finally they trap Luke in their corner and get the heat on him. Butch goes after Jimmy Hart like a moron and that allows the Rougeaus to do more double-teaming on Luke, who bites Raymond to try and escape. Why can we not have someone to enforce law and order here? Perhaps someone with training from a branch of the Canadian police service? Rougeaus continue working Luke over in the corner and they drop him on the top rope to set up a chinlock from Raymond, but Luke fights out of that and Jacques takes out Butch to cut off the tag. Abdominal stretch on Luke from Jacques and Raymond goes to a rear chinlock, but Jacques tries a splash and hits the knees. Hot tag Butch and it’s BONZO GONZO, but Jimmy comes into the ring and that goes about as well for him as you’d expect. The Rougeaus save their manager and Jacques rolls up Butch for two, but Luke trips him up and they finish with the battering ram at 13:33. This was just a normal tag team match with the Rougeaus looking really good, but the finish kind of fell apart. **1/4
Meanwhile, Ted Dibiase is pissed off because his number drawing wasn’t as good as last year’s and he had no opportunity to make his own draw. And in fact, Mean Gene reveals that he drew #1! That’s some tremendous continuity.
The Genius v. Brutus Beefcake
Poffo’s poem lists himself as “The world’s smartest man” and Beefcake as “double dumb”. I mean, he did manage to collect a payday from WCW for years without ever having to work, so there’s a certain logic to that. However, Beefcake was smart enough to latch onto Hogan like a parasite for years and guaranteed his own employment for the better part of a decade. So maybe it’s a push. This is coming off the famous Genius victory over Hulk Hogan on SNME, so hopefully he can maintain his momentum here and maybe even earn a title shot. Genius offers a left-handed handshake and does some gymnastics on the floor, then rakes the eyes to take over and slugs away in the corner. Remember: If you’re outmanned, you can always poke somebody in the eye. That’s a good lesson for all you kids and aspiring MMA fighters out there. Beefcake gets an atomic drop and Genius bails to think it over and then slugs away on the Barber. Blind charge misses and Beefcake stomps the fingers to take over, then does some pantomime to insinuate that Poffo is light in the loafers. Coming from the guy who used to having the gimmick of dressing like a male prostitute and hailed from San Francisco, that’s not saying much. Brutus rings the ears but Genius comes back with a dropkick for two and stomps away. Rollup gets two. Genius goes up and Brutus nails him on the way down and goes for the sleeper. The ref gets bumped in the process, allowing Genius to escape, but Beefcake catches him with the sleeper on the second try. Poffo is out and Beefcake goes for the haircut, but Mr. Perfect runs in and saves his manager/life partner and it’s a double DQ of some kind at 11:09. And the heels beat on Beefcake with a chair with only a bunch of referees there to save. WHERE’S YOUR BEST FRIEND HOGAN NOW, HUH? Meh TV level match with a shitty non-finish. * Like, what, they’re protecting the GENIUS? The doofus who reads poetry?
Meanwhile, the Heenan Family discuss their Rumble numbers, as Rude now has the slicked back hair that was the precursor to cutting it off for his main event run. He should have made that change years before.
Submission match: Rugged Ronnie Garvin v. Greg Valentine
Aw, no Valentine in the Rumble this year. But then Gorilla’s not on commentary anyway so it’s for the best. They fight on the floor to start and Garvin puts him down with chops, but goes for the pin like an idiot. Hammer comes back with chops in the corner and they exchange some STIFF shots until Hammer goes down. Valentine bails and then goes to work on the leg back in the ring, but goes for a pin and again that means nothing. Valentine slugs away in the corner and Garvin comes back with some of his own, and they both go down off that. This whole submission match stip is really ill-advised here. Garvin tries a piledriver and Valentine slugs him down and both guys go for pins again. Neither guy is particularly going for submissions, either. Valentine throws more chops in the corner and they collide again and both go down, but Garvin rolls him up and again has to be reminded that there’s no pins. Hammer drops a fist on him and gets the figure-four, but Garvin no-sells it because he’s wearing his own leg brace, and calmly makes faces at Valentine while laying in the hold. That’s pretty dumb. Valentine tries a body vice instead and Jesse is VERY appreciative of the shout-out, but Garvin slips out of that. They choke each other on the mat and Garvin throws LEATHER on him in the corner, then takes him down with an Indian deathlock for his first submission attempt. Valentine makes the ropes and they fight on the floor with more insane chops, but Hammer backdrops out of a piledriver and they head back into the ring. Garvin misses a charge and gets hung in the Tree of Woe. They collide again and both guys are down, so Jimmy steals the leg brace from Garvin and now it’s time for the figure-four. And this time Garvin isn’t making wacky faces, but he manages to reverse the move and Valentine makes the ropes. Hammer goes back to pounding on the leg and tries it again, but Garvin reverses to a small package which of course doesn’t count. So Valentine goes to the top rope and Garvin slams him off, but his leg is still injured, so he pulls off Valentine’s shinguard to even things up. They slug it out and Garvin ties him up in the ropes and stops to go after Jimmy Hart, but Valentine escapes and charges. Garvin nails him with the shinguard and hooks the Sharpshooter, and Valentine gives up at 16:49. This had a shaky start, but they just kept hitting each other harder and harder and it turned into a HELL of a match by the time they got to actually trying submissions! ****
Mr. Perfect joins Mean Gene and he’s pretty happy with his number, which is revealed to be #30. He was just helping his friend earlier when he beat up Beefcake! Exactly, Beefcake was trying to cut the man’s hair against his will! Gotta say, not a big fan of revealing the numbers beforehand like this. It’s more fun doing the math and trying to figure out who’s left.
Brother Love presents Queen Sherri, who is of course the definition of beauty and charm and all that. As opposed to Sapphire, who is a woman with no class or finesse. So the heels gang up on Sapphire and make fat jokes and redneck jokes until finally Sapphire hauls off and slaps Sherri, at which point the Macho King storms in and Dusty Rhodes makes the save for the brawl. And then of course Brother Love keeps poking the big fat polka dotted bear and Dusty gets his heat back on him. Kind of amazing that Dusty just got destroyed by Macho and Dibiase at every turn and made to look ridiculous, but somehow managed to get over more and more.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan v. Big Bossman
So weird for Bossman to still be a heel in 1990. I just associate that year with his babyface turn so much. Duggan chases Bossman out of the ring right away, so they brawl on the floor and Duggan eats post. Back in, Bossman with an avalanche in the corner to take over, and then hits an ENZUIGIRI on Duggan to counter a single-leg attempt! Just call him Ray “Fenix” Traylor! Bossman chokes him out on the ropes and Duggan fights back, so Bossman pounds him down again for two and Slick adds some choking for the assist. Bossman with a neck vice but Hacksaw fights out, so Boss chokes him down again and gets two. And we go to the bearhug, but Duggan fights out of it and lands in the ropes to escape. They choke each other out in the corner and Duggan fights back and clotheslines him to the floor. Back in, Duggan slugs away in the corner, but misses a charge and gets clotheslined. Slick gets involved and accidentally runs into the Bossman, but the nightstick gets thrown in and Bossman uses it for the DQ at 10:29. What a shitty finish, especially with Bossman about to turn and Duggan basically doing nothing at this point anyway. Lousy match. *
Meanwhile, we get a lengthy roundup of promos from the Rumble participants with everyone laying out their motivations and stuff for the match. I know it’s a cliché, but I kind of miss guys yelling and pointing at the camera. Better that than staring awkwardly at a monitor. Anyway, this is basically the intermission for the live crowd. Random thought: It’s mind-blowing to me that someone who is into the gaudiest, most expensive gear humanly possible like Randy Savage would allow himself to wear a fake crown that literally looks like a piece of molded plastic painted bronze. You can see the lines from the mold on the sides of it! Anyway, after all of these, NOW I’m ready for the Rumble!
So we know Ted Dibiase is #1, which began an epic run of terrible draws for him that lasted for the rest of his career! Karma really can be a bitch, I guess. Koko B. Ware gets #2, and he’s using the “Do the Bird” or “Birdman” or whatever song here. It doesn’t sound like an overdub, but I can never keep track of when he was using that one or “Piledriver” and which one they like to substitute anyway. Dibiase clobbers him on the way into the ring and beats him down, which frankly Koko deserves for his stupid painted sideburns. Dibiase runs him into the turnbuckles and Koko pokes him in the eyes and makes a comeback with headbutts. And then he charges like a doofus and gets backdropped out at 1:40. (SAD TROMBONE) Marty Jannetty is #3 at 2:00 and Dibiase jumps him as well, but Marty fights him off with dropkicks and slugs away in the corner before running into a boot and knocking himself silly. Dibiase follows with a clothesline, but goes up and gets caught coming down and Marty makes a comeback. And then he also charges and goes out like he’s diving through a barbershop window at 3:51. Jake Roberts is #4 at 4:00 as the parade of degenerate substance abusers continues here, and Dibiase attacks him as well and slams him on the floor. Jake runs him into the post to escape a Million Dollar Dream and makes the comeback in the ring with the short clothesline, but Dibiase escapes the DDT. Jake catches him with a kneelift as Macho King is #5 at 6:20 and he helps Dibiase attack Jake. They double-team him and tie him in the ropes, but Rowdy Roddy Piper is #6 at 8:00 and the crowd comes UNGLUED. Piper saves Jake and everyone slugs it out and HERE’S some star power! The babyfaces get the advantage, although Savage nearly tosses Piper a couple of times before he manages to hang on. Warlord is #7 at 10:00 and he helps out the heels, but Piper fires back on him while Savage and Dibiase team up and try to get Jake over the top. I should note that last year’s “no managers” rule has been thrown out, with both Virgil and Sherri now freely hanging around at ringside. Which Jesse actually points out after I type it! Great minds think alike. The slugfest continues and Bret Hart is #8 at 12:00 and this crowd is just going bonkers for everything. Bret goes after Warlord right away and teams up with Piper to take him down, but they can’t get him out. Everyone pairs up and fights on the ropes and the crowd is SHRIEKING at the potential eliminations, and Bad News Brown is #9 at 14:00. He of course clobbers the Hitman on the way in and tries to get him out, while Jake tries the DDT on Dibiase, but stands too close to the ropes and gets clotheslined out by Macho at 14:50. Piper almost gets Dibiase out, but Savage saves. And then Dusty Rhodes is #10 at 16:00 and the crowd somehow goes even more crazy.
Dusty beats on Savage with elbows, but Bad News cuts him off, and then Savage gets cocky and charges and gets backdropped out by Dusty at 16:30. And young referee Shane McMahon sends him to the back afterwards! I hope Savage doesn’t threaten his sister or anything. Everyone pairs off again and Andre the Giant is #11 at 17:55 as the intervals start to get shorter. Warlord stupidly makes a run at Andre and BUH BYE at 18:33. Dummy. This prompts a shoving match between Fuji and Bobby, even! Andre beats on Piper and Dusty in the corner like they’re jobbers in one of his handicap matches and rams them together. And speaking of jobbers, Red Rooster is #12 at 19:55 while Piper backdrops Bad News out at 20:23 to set up their WM match, which prompts Bad News to pull Piper out at 20:30 and they brawl to the back. To bad their match couldn’t live up to this setup. Andre beats on Bret in the ring and then goes after the Rooster, and Ax is #13 at 21:55 as Andre proves that roosters can fly at 22:00. Ax chokes out Andre, still sour about losing the tag team titles, and Dusty helps out with some double elbow action as they tie Andre in the ropes. Dusty is just having too much fun out there. Haku is #14 at 23:50 and he saves the Giant and beats on Ax while Dibiase has a good little match going with Bret over in the corner of the ring. Dusty comes back on Haku with the Flip Flop and Fly and Orlando is just all over everything, but he’s finally blown up and has to take a break in the corner. Smash is #15 at 25:50 and of course we get the showdown with the Colossal Connection, but Andre rams them together to win that battle. Finally this thing slows down a little bit as everyone rests, and Akeem is #16 at 27:50 as my dreams of the HAKEEM reunion have a chance of coming true again. And then Demolition puts Andre out at 28:38! And Dibiase puts out Bret at the same time offscreen. Sadly, HAKEEM falls apart, as Haku beats on Akeem to end their partnership for good. Jimmy Snuka is #17 at 29:50 while Demolition works on Haku, and then Snuka waits until Akeem’s back is turned and shoves him out at 30:40. However, Snuka and Haku team up with stereo headbutts on Smash, giving me my new dream team: SNAKU! Dino Bravo is #18 at 31:50 and he’s got nothing to offer here, aside from beating up on Dusty in the corner, which is always appreciated. Canadian Earthquake is #19 at 33:50 and he tosses Dusty on the way in. He slams Ax out at 34:50 and even Haku is like “Oh shit”. Jim Neidhart is #20 at 35:50 and he charges the Quake, which inspires everyone to stop and gang up and put him out at 36:34. Bravo tries to stop them, but he fails. You know why?
Ultimate Warrior is #21 at 37:50 and does us all a favor by putting Bravo out at 38:20, but everyone gangs up on him and finally slows him down again. Neidhart and Warrior slug it out after beating on Dibiase together for a bit, as Warrior certainly has no friends. Rick Martel is #22 at 39:50 and he goes after Smash with help from the Warrior, and Haku finishes the job with the thrust kick off the apron at 41:00 to put Smash out. Martel teases elimination but hangs onto the apron to save himself. Tito Santana is #23 and of course he goes after Martel and they fight on the ropes but can’t get anywhere. Everyone is randomly slugging it out, and Honky Tonk Man is #24 at 43:50. And Warrior beats on him as soon as he gets into the ring, while others gang up and push Neidhart out at 44:40. And Warrior finally eliminates Dibiase at 45:00 with a clothesline over the top. Tremendous run for Dibiase. Warrior runs Snuka and Haku together and they ignore him in a funny spot. Hulk Hogan is #25 and it’s time to clear the ring. Snuka is out at 46:08. Haku at 46:40 with the big boot. Warrior dumps Santana at 47:00 while he fights with Martel on the ropes. Honky chokes Hogan out with his own shirt and Shawn Michaels is #26 at 47:50 while Hogan tosses Honky at 48:09. Warrior tosses Shawn and Martel at 48:18 and OH MY GOD IT’S HOGAN AND WARRIOR LEFT ALONE IN THE RING!
We get a slugfest and then they do a criss-cross and clothesline each other out as the crowd nearly dies of awesomeness, and then Barbarian is #27 at 49:50 as we crash back to reality again. Rick Rude is #28 at 50:40 as they skip the countdown clock for some reason, and the heels pair off against Hogan and Warrior. Barbarian nearly has Hogan out, but Warrior saves for some reason. The heels go after Warrior on the ropes, but Hogan “saves” this time and manages to put Warrior out at 52:29! YOU SELFISH DICK! I hope Warrior wins your title, you jerk. Hercules is #29 at 53:08 as they must just be rushing the guys out to shave time off because there’s about 5:00 of runtime left in the show. Hogan tries to get Barbarian out with no luck and then beats on Rude instead, and Mr. Perfect is #30 at 55:05 to finish off the field. He kicks the crap out of Hogan and Herc backdrops Barbarian out at 55:40.
Final Four: Mr. Perfect, Hercules, Hulk Hogan and Rick Rude
Pretty good final four there. The Minnesota Wrecking crew teams up and dumps Hercules at 56:10, leaving them 2-on-1 with Hulk. Rude hits Perfect by mistake, so Perfect “accidentally” pulls the ropes down and eliminates Rude at 57:10. So then Hulk beats on Perfect, but puts his head down and gets nailed. And NOW YOU’RE GONNA SEE A PERFECTPLEX, but Hulk pops up and catapults Perfect into the post before throwing him out to win the match at 58:44.
Yeah, I had severely underrated this one way back in the day of my original review in 98 or whatever it was. This was a batshit crazy great Rumble with non-stop action from start to finish and basically no dead spots, and tons of star power all the way through. Fantastic entertainment and an all-timer. ****1/2
Really, the show can only be judged on the Rumble, and it was GREAT, so this is an easy thumbs up.