Flashback Friday: WWF Magazine, April 1989
By J.W. Braun on 28th April 2023
From the pages of WWF Magazine… this week, we look back at an issue that went to press in February of 1988 that sold for $2.50 in the U.S. and $3.25 in Canada. Inside, we get coverage of the Royal Rumble in Houston and the Megapowers meltdown in Milwaukee! Plus, you can test your knowledge of Elizabeth’s undergarments in this month’s trivia column. Let’s dive in.
We begin with Around the Ring by Ed Ricciuti, where Ed says WrestleMania V is coming fast and will take place April 2 at Trump Plaza. “Each WrestleMania has been more explosive than the past, throbbing with excitement. This year, the explosion will be thermonuclear.” Ed tells us to get ready, buckle up, and batten down the hatches. “It’s time for the cataclysm.”
Next, in Fan Forum, Richard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee notes that in the vignette where Mr. Perfect is playing chess, Perfect proclaims checkmate when his opponent’s queen and knight are in position to block it. Furthermore, Perfect has lost his own Queen and any competent player should be able to defeat him with the board set up as it is. The remainder of the letters are about Brother Love, with Wallace from from Philadelphia calling him a fruitcake and saying he’s an insult to the human race. (Are we talking about Bruce or Love here?) Meanwhile, Stacey from Westhampton, Massachusetts asks, “How can anyone take what that ugly, red face has to say seriously?” Then there’s David from Sylvania, Ohio who says, “Brother Love is a phony. He should be kicked out of wrestling, Hulkster style.” On the other hand, Joe from Parts Unknown says, “How dare you insult Brother Love! He is a man of love, and the media needs to listen to him.” (The magazine, which keeps making the empty threat that letters without addresses will not be published, asks Joe to include his address in the future.) And Artie from Mt. Clemens, Michigan says, “The Brother Love Show is the most sympathetic, generous show ever. The man is just trying to spread love and kindness in the world of professional wrestling.”
Next, it’s Body Language with Jesse “The Body” Ventura, where Jess says it’s terrible that the Red Rooster showed no appreciation for what Bobby Heenan was able to do for him. “It just goes to show it doesn’t pay to be nice anymore.” As for the Brooklyn Brawler, Heenan’s new protégé, Ventura says he’s a very ethical human being who just couldn’t stand to see Heenan get the short end of the stick, and that’s why he attacked the Rooster on Prime Time Wrestling. Then there’s the ungrateful tag team of Demolition, who won the tag team championship thanks to Mr. Fuji. They stopped listening to him and lost at Survivor Series. Now Mr. Fuji has given all their secrets to the Powers of Pain. Finally, Jess says he can’t stand the Bushwackers, and he didn’t fight in Vietnam to open the floodgates to that type of vermin. “I wonder if a vaccine has been discovered to inoculate us from their stupidity.”
Newsbreakers! Ted DiBiase, unable to win the WWF title, is overseeing the development of a new belt, which he calls the Million Dollar Belt. Jack Tunney says it will not be recognized, and the only belts that are official in the WWF are those that represent the Heavyweight Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, the Tag Team Championship, and the Women’s Championship. (And with this statement, the Women’s Tag Team Championship, which had existed since 1983, was officially deactivated.)
Next, Personality Profile introduces us to Rugged Ronnie Garvin, a newcomer to the WWF who, we’re told, is a veteran of the mat wars. His favorite move is the Garvin stomp, a tactic which, we’re told, requires a scientific background. (It’s probably preferable to the Garvin go-behind.) “You can’t just expect to kick your way to victory,” he says. “The Garvin stomp is always thought out before I use it. I make sure to stomp key nerve endings. And I use the sole of my boot, making the tactic very effective and very legal.” We’re also told that Garvin has incredible stamina and can wrestle nonstop for hours. Right now, he has his sights set on Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.
Next, an Interview with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Beefer says the interviewer looks like he could use a trim but the magazine reporter declines. (Funny note: back in the late 1980s, I thought Ed Leslie really was a barber and cut hair in his spare time. After all, Gorilla was always taking about how Brutus had gotten a diploma from world famous stylist Sal Fodera! Little did I know that was a reference to a joke vignette where Fodera oversaw Brutus giving a mannequin a bad haircut.) Brutus says he doesn’t cut hair as a punishment, but as a service. When he defeats an opponent, he feels bad for the loser and wants to do something for the poor guy. The interviewer then moves on to examining Brutus’s move-set, first talking about the high knee and then talking about the sleeper. Brutus says he’s used the high knee as a finishing maneuver, but the sleeper is even better because he’s mastered the science behind it. Asked who he’d like to use it on, he says, “I’m so glad you asked me that question. The answer is simple: the Million Dollar Man.” The interviewer then asks what he thinks of the fans buying the new Brutus Beefcake merchandise in the WWF Merchandise Catalog, such as the Brutus “The Barber” beach towel. Brutus says the fans mean everything to him, and who knows, someday they may open their own barbershops. The interview then closes with Beefcake once again offering to cut the interviewer’s hair.
Next, Battle of the Titans gives us coverage of the 1989 Royal Rumble which took place at The Summit in Houston on January 15. This was the first 30-man Royal Rumble, the first Rumble on pay-per-view, and had most of the big stars as well as strict 2 minute intervals, as opposed to the 20-man 1988 Rumble on free TV which didn’t include the top guys and had intervals that varied from 51 seconds to 2 minutes. It was also the first “every man for himself” rumble, as opposed to faces versus heels, which was sold in the opening moments when Ax and Smash went at it as number one and number two. The magazine says there appear to have been shenanigans taking place behind the scenes, where Slick and DiBiase engineered a trade to give DiBiase #30 and give the Twin Towers, Akeem and the Big Bossman, #22 and #23 right next to each other. (A couple notes on this, if I may. First, trading numbers was clearly not against the rules as the Bushwackers did it right on camera the moment after they picked their numbers! Why is it okay for them but not okay for the Towers and DiBiase? Second, I’m not sure why Slick would trade. Yes, I know the theory is his Towers could help each other, but only one of them could win, so why not have Slick decide which one had the better chance and give that wrestler number 30? If he enters last, he doesn’t need the other guy’s help to make it to the end. It was just a stupid move on Slick’s part, unless he got a lot of cash. On the other hand, someone on the blog once asked why DiBiase was unhappy with #22 or #23, and Scott correctly pointed out that DiBiase, who’s used to buying the best, wouldn’t be happy with anything less than #30.)
Look at all the Hall of Famers pictured here!
So to the Rumble: many bodies hit the floor, including Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, who got into a kerfluffle after Hogan “inadvertently” eliminated Savage (before Hogan himself was eliminated by the Towers). Elizabeth came down and smoothed things over, however, and Savage and Hogan hugged it out and remained a unit. (After Hogan was eliminated, it should be noted, he made sure to stick around and eliminate the Big Boss Man, starting the stupid Royal Rumble tradition where an eliminated contestant is permitted to continue eliminating active participants out of spite. This would get even more ridiculous some years later when Giant Gonzalez, who was not even a participant in the Rumble, would come down and chop the Undertaker out of the ring with the elimination somehow considered valid by the referees. That would be like the referees in football calling the QB sacked after a player from the bench ran onto the field and tackled the quarterback.) Eventually, it came down to DiBiase and Big John Studd before Studd eliminated DiBiase at 65:06 to win. (Studd’s prize would be an opportunity to referee a match at WrestleMania.)
Some other notes: Hulk Hogan set a new record for most eliminations in a Rumble at ten, shattering the previous record of four set by the One Man Gang. Mr. Perfect lasted the longest, going 27:58, breaking the Rumble Iron Man record set by Bret Hart the year before (25:42). Curiously, both Mr. Perfect and Hart only eliminated one man each in their record setting appearances.
Before the Rumble match itself: Hacksaw Jim Duggan & the Hart Foundation defeated Dino Bravo & the Rougeau Brothers in a two out of three fall match when Duggan used the 2×4 behind the referee’s back to help his team win the decisive third fall. Haku defeated Harley Race with sweet chin music to retain the crown. Rockin’ Robin defeated Judy Martin with a bodypress to retain the Women’s Championship. And Rick Rude attacked the Ultimate Warrior with a workout bar during a super posedown. (Apparently, all the smart fans saw this coming, but me and my friends were genuinely shocked when we watched it happening live on pay-per-view. Did I mention I was more of a mark in those days?)
And that was the 1989 Rumble! Interestingly, the event itself would be largely forgotten soon after, with the February 3 edition of The Main Event on NBC being a much more important show at the time. Speaking of which…
The Megapowers Meltdown! It all happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before a sold out crowd at the new Bradley Center with me in the crowd not far from the Megapowers corner. When Randy Savage was thrown onto Elizabeth, injuring her, Hogan took her to the back for medical attention, abandoning his tag team partner. When he returned, Savage, who had finally had enough, turned on Hogan! But more shockingly, he turned on Elizabeth too and roughed both of them up in the locker room. (It’s still shocking to see Savage throw Elizabeth out of frame with such velocity.)
The article, it should be noted, includes some large photos of match but has to keep the images of the backstage drama small because the magazine had no photographers back there and relies on paused images from the analogue television feed for Savage’s attack. Hogan has since challenged Savage to a title match at WrestleMania, and Savage has accepted.
Let’s step away from WWF Magazine and get some bonus coverage from The Wrestling Observer!
– Dave watched the Royal Rumble and would have been happier going bowling instead. To the review!
- The Hart Foundation & Jim Duggan beat The Rougeaus & Dino Bravo in a 2/3 falls match. This was originally advertised as a flag match, but they forgot about that leading up to the show and no one noticed anyway. Decent match thanks to Jacques and Hart. **1/4
- Rockin’ Robin retained the Women’s title over Judy Martin in 6:24. Bad timing, no heat, and Sensational Sherri on commentary was somehow even worse than Superstar Graham at Summerslam. *1/2
- Rick Rude and Warrior had their posedown and Dave hated it because it was such an affront to bodybuilding competitions. Also, Rude hit Warrior with something that the announcers called a “bullworker”, but that was not technically correct. -* (Yes, Dave actually rated it.)
- Haku pinned Harley Race at 9:01 to win the held up crown with the thrust kick. No heat, and it was just sad watching Race go out there and die, although Bobby Heenan was funny in his role of cheering for whoever was winning at that moment. DUD
- Big John Studd won the Rumble at 64:53. A much better Rumble that last year’s, but the heat really died off once Hogan and Savage were out. Studd looked impressive due to Dibiase bumping for him at the end and he’s set for a summer feud with Andre, but he’s barely been on TV so no one cared. **1/2
– The WWF held their second Main Event show in Prime Time, and reaction is split wildly. The show featured the Megapowers v. Twin Towers match that ran over 22 minutes, but most of it was commercial breaks. Dave says Hulk’s backstage acting was terrible and notes that Hulk even called for a time countdown at one point on air. (True, though it was edited out of the West Coast feed.) But as bad as Hogan was, Dave raves about Savage’s performance as the jealous madman who cuts a blistering promo on Hulk and throws down Elizabeth.
– The WWF attempted to spin the Main Event rating as the highest rated show on NBC of the night, but in fact it was the lowest rated show on NBC of the night. (That’s quite some spin.) The damning thing about the Main Event is that the ratings plunged as the show went on. However, Dave notes, by wrestling standards 15 million viewers is such a vast audience that even drawing 1% of them into buying Wrestlemania will mean a record number for the show. (And that indeed was the business model. To the WWF, The Main Event was just an infomercial.)
– Elizabeth has been sent home until Wrestlemania to sell her injuries.
– WrestleMania V will come from Trump Plaza again despite the “library-like enthusiasm” of last year’s crowd, because the inflated high roller ticket prices means lots of money.
– For those who are wondering, Dave mentions that Beefcake’s jobber haircut victims get an extra few bucks in pay, and the WWF also employs an actual hairstylist backstage to fix up their haircut afterwards.
– The big news in the NWA is that Dusty Rhodes has finally quit the promotion completely and walked out on his remaining bookings. He’s moving back to Florida and bought the Florida Championship Wrestling promotion, and he will be starting there right away.
– The other big split of the week is that Jerry Jarrett and Verne Gagne have given up their “partnership” after a fight over the SuperClash III payoffs. As in, Verne says there are none because the show lost money. (So much for the new golden era of the #3 promotion.)
– Tony Schiavone, upset at being moved off the main shows in favor of Jim Ross, gave notice to the NWA and accepted a deal from the WWF. Dave thinks that this is gonna hurt the NWA and they’ll need a new announcer, but really it meant more of Jim Ross, Magnum T.A. & Bob Caudle.
– Ricky Steamboat debuted on NWA TV. (I’m surprised Vince didn’t try to recall all the WWF Ricky Steamboat ice cream bars.)
– The WWF is planning a free show to air against the Chi-Town Rumble. (More on this next week.)
– Nintendo will be releasing a “Wrestlemania” game on the NES this summer. (More on this next week.)
– Another Clash of Champions will happen on 2/15, called Valentine’s Day Massacre, with The Road Warriors & Tenryu defending the six-man title in the main event. (Plans would change.)
– Bigelow is now gone from the NWA with no plans to bring him back. (Yet he’s in the WWF’s WrestleMania game!)
We’ll get more from Uncle Dave next week… for now, let’s get back to WWF Magazine:
Here’s WWF Trivia…
The answers: Stars in Other Sports: Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Louis, and Rick Rhoden. Silly Stuff: Emily Hotbody, red, and a suit of armor. The Ultimate Warrior: nothing, Brutus Beefcake, and Troy. Bad Blood: Bucks, Ron Bass, and Demolition. Odds & Ends: a badge, left, and his dog, Rusty.
Next, an article about the Red Rooster targeting Bobby Heenan, recapping the feud. Heenan managed the Rooster before a blow up on Saturday Night’s Main Event where they got into a fight. Then on Prime Time Wrestling as Heenan was offering an apology, the Brooklyn Brawler, Steve Lombardi, blindsided the Rooster, leaving him down and out. Now, the Rooster wants Heenan in a match, and the two will meet at WrestleMania V.
Next, an article recapping the feud between Rick Rude and the Ultimate Warrior. Rude promises to win the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania V, which, should it happen, would be quite an upset. The magazine, however, says not to underestimate Rude’s new finishing maneuver, the Rude Awakening.
And we also get an article about The Powers of Pain, who will team up with Mr. Fuji to take on Demolition at WrestleMania V for the tag team championship. (I guess if the Powers win, it’ll be the Freebird rule then?) We learn that the Demolition wasn’t obeying Fuji’s orders in the summer of 88, but Fuji was able to convince the Powers of Pain to do things his way with promises of a tag team championship reign. Now Fuji has to come through for them.
Then there’s an article about Andre the Giant vs. Jake Roberts. The article notes that Jake might have a problem finishing Andre off with the DDT, something the Snake hasn’t had to worry about before with other opponents. “Applying it on Andre is not like applying it on any other wrestler. To make the maneuver work, Jake would have to get Andre in a front facelock. Given the Giant’s overwhelming advantage in bulk and height, plus his awesome strength, facelocking him is nearly impossible.” Then there’s the question of whether Jake could actually take Andre down for the move’s “short ride, bad ending.” Andre, meanwhile, has a problem of his own: his fear of snakes. Jesse Ventura says, “If Bobby Heenan can take care of Damian, Andre will take care of Jake.”
Next, Private Eye shares photos of Bobby Heenan & Gorilla Monsoon with the Bushwackers at Busch Gardens, which was part of a taping for Prime Time Wrestling. (I was down there around this time, and this was just as Busch Gardens was pivoting toward having more rides to attract more visitors. They were also trying to compete with Cypress Gardens, which later became Legoland.)
Onto WWF Lowdown, where we learn that the WWF once again put on a show at the National Association of Television Program Executives Convention in Houston, with attendees having a chance to see Tito Santana vs. Mr. Perfect and the Young Stallions vs. the Bolsheviks. In attendance as well were Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan, and Hillbilly Jim. Meanwhile, Mean Gene Okerlund and Hacksaw Jim Duggan attended the Association of Independent Television Stations Convention in Los Angeles. In Hartford, Connecticut, Randy Savage and Bad News Brown could be heard on WHCN-FM along with popular radio personality The Lich (Hal Lichtenbaum), known to New Englanders as the “Legendary Little Guy.” Closer to the ring, Mean Gene recently found himself in the middle of a scuffle between Sensational Sherri and Women’s champion Rockin’ Robin. Meanwhile, Robin’s brother, Sam Houston, says he’s looking for tougher competition. (No, the magazine doesn’t actually acknowledge they’re related.) Fans in Memphis, Tennessee are upset the Rougeaus have moved there and are showing up to events with signs that say, “Rougeaus Go Home!” Meanwhile, the Blue Blazer has his sights set on Dangerous Danny Davis, but Danny says he’s ready to beat the Blazer just as he’s beaten everyone else. (Like who?) And finally, the magazine reminds you that WrestleMania V is coming, and that you should make plans early so you’re not shut out.
In this month’s Wrestle’s Rebuttal, the Red Rooster explains why he doesn’t need a Weasel, and Bret Hart says he respects the Rooster.
And here’s this month’s Crossword puzzle…
And finally, Caught in the Act, where Ax and Smash play VCR WrestleMania…
That’s all for this week! Tune in next week, same time, same channel. And if you’re new here, be sure to leave a comment and check out the archive. Also, check out my website to see what books I’ve written!