Wednesday, 26 January 2011

WWF Royal Rumble 1988 - Retro Review

It began as a television special, as part of Vince McMahon’s war with Jim Crockett, but since then it’s become one of WWE’s biggest pay-per-view events. Now we’re going back to where it all began, to January 1988, with a look at the very first Royal Rumble.

The show began with singles action as Rick Rude took on Ricky Steamboat.

It was kind of weird seeing Rude in plain red and black tights instead of the gaudy designs and colours he would later be known for. Also, there was a really annoying woman with a megaphone sitting in the front row who kept shouting “I bet that hurt!”

As for the match it’s en encounter between two masters of their art. It began slowly but built up nicely over nearly 20 minutes of great action.

The ending was well played out. After several near falls Steamboat went to take Rude out with a body block from the top rope. A groggy ravishing one pulled the referee in front of him so he took the hit instead.

Rude then applied an over the shoulder back breaker, and a few seconds later the referee called for the bell.

Rude thought he’d won the match and headed for the exit until it was announced that Steamboat was actually the winner by disqualification. Needless to say that Rude wasn’t too happy.

After Dino Bravo broke the world bench press record (with a little help from Jesse Ventura) it was on to the only title match of the evening, a two out of three falls affair with the Jumping Bomb Angels, Itsuki Yamazaki and Noriyo Tateno, challenging the Glamour Girls, Leilani Kai and Judy Martin, for the Women’s Tag Team titles.

I can see why Matt Striker is such a fan now. The Japanese girls put in a great showing, reminding this particular writer of Taylor Wilde and Sarita as they really took it to the veterans.

Martin scored the first fall for the champions, pinning Yamazaki after an over the head flapjack. The Angels evened things up when Yamazaki pinned Kai with a sunset flip.

The final fall came after some tremendous work from the Angels as they worked over Martin before taking her down with a double drop kick from the top rope, with Tateno getting the title winning pin, although Jesse Ventura claimed that Martin wasn’t actually pinned.

After the contract signing for the re-match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at The Main Event the following month (and yes, there was a post-signing attack) it was on to the first ever Royal Rumble match.

Beginning with Bret Hart and Tito Santana, with Butch Reed and Jim Neidhart closely following them, this one featured greats such as Jake Roberts, Harley Race, Don Muraco, the Ultimate Warrior, Nikolai Volkoff and the Junkyard Dog.

Performance of the match had to go to Bret Hart, with the Hitman eliminated by Don Muraco just after the 18th man, the Ultimate Warrior, entered the fray.

But the major difference between this and future Rumble matches was that apart from the brief moment when Harley Race attacked Boris Zhukov we never saw a heel attack another heel, or a face attacked another face. The lines were clearly drawn here.

The last three men in the ring were Jim Duggan, Dino Bravo and the One Man Gang. After the Gang accidentally eliminated Bravo when Duggan moved out of the way it wasn’t long before old Hacksaw pulled down the top rope as the Gang charged at him, with the big guy going over the top, giving Duggan the win.

The final match of the evening was another two out of three falls affair with the Islanders, Haku and Tama, taking on the Young Stallions, Jim Powers and Paul Roma.

You know, I must be one of the few people around these days that thinks that Roma and Powers were actually quite good in their day, and it was great to see one of their old matches again.

The action throughout was great, with both teams giving a good account of themselves, and although the Stallions were good Haku and Tama looked even better.

The first fall came when Tama threw Roma over the top rope. Roma injured his knee and was unable to make the count.

The match resumed after Roman received treatment for his injury. Powers ended up wrestling most of the rest of the match, but after tagging Roma back in it wasn’t long before Haku locked in a half Boston crab for the submission and two straight fall win.

In conclusion - I really enjoyed looking back at the first ever Royal Rumble event.

The three undercard matches all entertained, especially the Rude/Steamboat bout, and the Rumble match proved to be great entertainment.

My only criticism would be for the Dino Bravo bench press segment, which just seemed to drag on and on.

So in all the 1988 Royal Rumble gets the big thumbs up, great viewing if you’re an old school kind of guy or a newer fan wanting to explore wrestling’s rich history.