Sunday, 16 September 2007

WWF Royal Rumble 1989 - Retro Review

On the eve of the 2007 Royal Rumble, I thought it would be apt to take a look back at the first Royal Rumble to have been broadcast in pay-per-view way back in 1989. (The first ever Royal Rumble was actually the year before, but was shown on the USA Network.) Our hosts at The Summit in Houston, Texas, are the legendary commentary team of the late Gorilla Monsoon and future politician Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
We begin with tag-team action, fought over three falls, as Dino Bravo, with manager Frenchy Martin, and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, with their manager, Jimmy Hart, going up against possibly the greatest team in WWE history, The Hart Foundation, Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and their partner, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.
The action in this one stared quickly, with Hart showing some great moves, but it was the Rougeaus who took the first fall, taking out the Hitman with their old finishing move, Jacques holding Hart in the air, while Raymond came off the top rope with a variation of the sit-down splash.
The second period saw the Rougeaus and Bravo continued their punishment on Hart, with the brothers putting in some good performances, wearing the Hitman down with an abdominal stretch and reverse chin lock. But after blocking a Jacques monkey flip, Hart managed to get to his corner and tagged Duggan, who began to clean house as only Duggan can. After using the Anvil and the Hitman as flying battering rams on the fallen Raymond, sling-shotting them over the top rope, Duggan connected with an elbow drop to get the equalising pinfall.
The third period saw Duggan taking care of Raymond for a few moments, before Ray was able to get the quick tag as his team began to double and triple up on Duggan. This didn’t last long though as Duggan made the tag to Hart. The Hitman went toe-to-toe with Bravo, but when Hart missed a roll-up off the ropes as Bravo hanged on the ropes, Duggan clobbered Bravo with his trusty two-by-four while the referee’s attention was diverted. The next thing the ref saw was Hart pinning Bravo for the winning pinfall. An exciting tag-team encounter, and a great way to open the show.
In a pre-taped segment, we see the various WWF superstar draw their numbers for the Royal Rumble, with the main talking point being the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase trying to cut a deal with Slick, the doctor of style, after he drew a poor number.
Next up, the pose down between “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior. As usual, Rude’s manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is along for the ride. This was the start of the almost year-long feud that made the Warrior into a top drawer star. Before the pose down begins, Heenan complains about everything and anything. During the series of posed owns, the judges for the contest, the fans in attendance, voted for the Warrior each and every time. Needless to say, Rude, enraged by what happened, clobbered the Warrior with a steel bar, clobbering him on the back before choking him out. Afterwards, as several officials enter the ring to aid the fallen Warrior, the face-painted one cleans the ring, before he races off down the aisle to look for Rude. Even after all these years, I’m still not sure whether I liked this segment or not.
Back to wrestling action, as Rockin’ Robin defends the WWF Women’s title against Judy Martin. Before the match begins, Sensational Sherri gets into the ring to challenge the winner of the match. Frankly, the match is a mess. Several blown spots spoil the flow of the match, and neither Martin or the Rockin’ won really impressed. Robin retained her title here after a cross body off the second rope.
Backstage, Sean Mooney chats with The Twin Towers, the Big Boss Man and Akeem, along with their manager Slick, about their chances in the Rumble. Mooney asks Slick about his encounter with Ted Dibiase during the drawing, with Slick telling him to mind his own business. Then, Gene Okerlund tracks down Rick Rude and Bobby Heenan, as Rude claims the win in the pose down.
Main event time, the Royal Rumble match itself. Remember, back then the winner of the Rumble didn’t get a title shot at Wrestlemania, which meant that it wasn’t just the main eventers who had a chance of winning the thing, although the match was used to build-up some of the rivalries for the big show, such as the break-up of the Mega-Powers tag-team, as Hulk Hogan eliminated Bad News Brown and partner Randy Savage. The partners almost came to blows before their manager Miss Elizabeth stepped in between them.
There was also the novel beginning, as WWF Tag-Team Champions Ax and Smash of Demolition drew numbers one and one, and really went at it until number three came in, Andre the Giant.
Of course, this was the Rumble that Ted Dibiase tried to buy his way to victory, buying the number thirty ticket from one of Slick’s men, although it was never established whether it was the Boss Man or Akeem who had drawn the lucky number. Needless to say, a cocky Dibiase came into the contest last, but found he was no match for Big John Studd. When they were the last two men in the ring, Studd threw Dibiase around like a stuffed toy, before throwing him over the top rope to win the Rumble. But the fun wasn’t over as Dibiase’s bodyguard Virgil jumped in and attacked Studd, only to be sent flying himself.
Special mentioned must go to the Warlord for what still must be a Royal Rumble record for the shortest time in the match. He came in, posed, and was immediately clotheslined over the top rope by Hogan. Two seconds by my reckoning. All in all, a very good match.
Afterwards, Mean Gene grabs a chat with Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, and asks the WWF Champion about the confrontation with Hogan after he was eliminated from the Rumble, saying that he was the one who misunderstood Hogan, and that the Mega-Powers were as strong as ever.
In conclusion - those were the days, eh? Although the women’s title match stunk out the building, and the pose down between Rude and the Warrior was so-so, the six man tag was a great opener, and the Rumble itself provided plenty of great action. Back when both the singles and tag-team divisions were kept apart, this was one of the few chances you got to see the mixing of the divisions, and it was also one of the few times you got to see the blue eyes fight the blue eyes, and the bad guys going up against each other, which was kind of cool back then. In all, this is a good way to look back at WWF/E history, and if you get a chance to see this show, then do so.