The WWF Champion at the time was Randy Savage, who was one half of the Megapowers team with Hulk Hogan. How would they use the Rumble to set up things for WrestleMania V? Let’s find out.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 15, 1989
The announcers are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. This is the first 30 man Royal Rumble to be broadcast live on pay-per-view. Howard Finkel explained the rules. Two guys start the match, then every two minutes somebody else comes in and in order to be eliminated both feet have to touch the floor.
Number 1 is Ax. Number 2 is Smash. They are the tag champs known as Demolition. I love this theme song. And they are both from Parts Unknown. It’s like a tropical paradise there, I hear. They brawl for two minutes with a lot of punching, basically. Needless to say they aren’t known for their awesome ring work. Ax almost eliminated Smash at one point. The clock counts down and the crowd doesn’t chant with it. Here’s #3…Andre the Giant, who is a heel at this point. No theme music for the entrants. They do a double clothesline to knock Andre down. The whole two minutes was Demolition working on him with punches and tag team moves. #4 is a favorite of mine, Mr. Perfect. This was at a point when he was new to the WWF and an undefeated heel at this point in his career. He’s not wearing his normal ring gear yet. Andre throws Smash out of the ring as the first elimination. Perfect and Ax work on Andre by stepping on his face. Perfect does the Bret Hart chest bump in the turnbuckle because he’s awesome. And then he nearly does a flip off a headbutt from Andre. The #5 entrant is “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin, who was just an average talent. They triple team Andre, but they can’t do it because his arms are hooked into the ropes. I like how Gorilla pointed out that Andre likely has the best record in the history of battle royals. That’s true and there’s nobody in the history of wrestling that is more of a battle royal threat than Andre. Speaking of Andre, he sat on Ax for a bit just because he’s Andre and you can’t stop him.
The #6 entrant is Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Oops, Jesse said “Axe Hennig” instead of Mr. Perfect. That was his dad, Larry Hennig. Andre eliminates Garvin with a hip toss as the second elimination. Andre goes around choking everybody with a lovely smile on his face. You can tell he’s enjoying this. The #7 man is Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who was a babyface here. He went right after Andre. Valentine hits Andre twice, but Andre doesn’t care and does some more choking on Jake. Then Andre steps on him. I love Andre’s offense. Seriously. The guy was larger than life more than anybody in the history of wrestling, so it worked for him. Huge draw. I’ll never forget meeting him when I was about 8 years old. I was scared shitless, but he was so damn friendly with us. The #8 man is “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. I barely remember him. Andre eliminates Jake, who only lasted about 2 minutes thanks to Andre beating him down. We’ve got five men in the ring now. The action is pretty slow. The announcers can barely believe that Ax has lasted this long. It hasn’t been that long. #9 is the best wrestler in WWE history Shawn Michaels. He was a part of The Rockers babyface tag team here. Perfect dumps out Ax. Then Perfect goes after Shawn, but HBK skins the cat back in, which was not something we were used to seeing in 1989. Dropkick by HBK, Perfect goes over the top, but he hangs on. Two great athletes showing their stuff right there. And there’s Andre choking Bass. #10 is Buschwhacker Butch. Hey there’s Jake Roberts coming back in. He’s got his snake Damien in the bag. He throws it in the ring. Andre freaks out and takes off, eliminating himself from the match. The crowd was going nuts for all of this. Jake left the ring happy. We are back to five with Perfect, Michaels, Valentine, Butch and Bass.
The #11 man is Honky Tonk Man, who is a heel of course. The announcers do a good job of pointing out how rare it is to see guys like Perfect and HTM fighting (due to being heels), but in a Rumble match anything goes. Valentine and HTM are close to eliminating Michaels. Shawn holds on. #12 is Tito Santana or “Chico” as Jesse calls him and he immediately goes after Perfect with a back body drop plus clothesline combo. Michaels is bumping all over the place now. #13 is Bad News Brown. What do you think: babyface or heel? The name gives it away doesn’t it? Tito & Butch eliminate HTM leaving us with seven guys. Michaels goes up top with a double punch to the head just because he can. Valentine gives Michaels an atomic drop and Michaels almost gets eliminated. Right on cue #14 is Marty Jannetty, Michaels’ partner in the Rockers. Double elbow on Bass followed by a double dropkick and the Rockers eliminate Bass. Can somebody tell me why was Bass on the poster of the event? Marginal talent, at best. Tito hits the flying forearm on Valentine, but the Hammer hangs in there. We are at the halfway point now with #15 being the WWF Champion Randy Savage who comes out to a HUGE pop. He goes right after Bad News Brown. Valentine works over Savage, who comes back at him with a double axehandle.
The #16 man is Arn Anderson. Savage eliminates Valentine. Hey, there’s a superkick by Michaels on Anderson. Savage & Anderson double team Michaels and eliminate him with a back elbow. That was pretty random. Anderson goes up top even though he never goes up, Jannetty punches him and Arn gets crotched. The #17 guy is Tully Blanchard, who is Arn’s partner in the Brainbusters team. I’m counting 8 guys in there now although there’s very little action until Anderson hits a VINTAGE spinebuster on Jannetty. Marty is eliminated. #18 is Hulk Hogan to the biggest pop of the night thus far. He saves Macho from Mr. Perfect and he throws out Perfect. There goes Tito Santana. As the years went by the eliminations were booked much better. You can see how raw it is at this point in only the second Rumble ever. Hogan’s getting triple teamed, so Gorilla wonders why Savage isn’t helping his friend. It’s Buschwhacker Luke at #19. Brown eliminates Butch. Hogan with a press slam on Blanchard and he drops him across the top rope. That looked scary actually. The big story is Hogan getting double teamed as well as Savage getting double teamed. Big boot to Arn “right in the kisser” as Gorilla says. In at #20 is future WWE Hall of Famer (ugh) Koko B. Ware. He was an average lower card babyface at best. Arn goes up again, Hogan catches him there and Arn takes the Flair bump after getting tossed down. That was a tribute to his friend I think. Hogan eliminates Koko & Luke with consecutive back drops leaving us with Hogan, Savage, Brown, Blanchard & Anderson.
The 21st entrant is the Warlord. While he’s coming out, Hogan eliminates Arn & Tully with a double clothesline. The Warlord poses on the apron, he walks into the ring, Hogan charges, clothesline and Warlord is eliminated in 2 seconds. He would hold that record for 20 years. Congrats Warlord. On the other side of the ring, Brown & Savage are struggling. Hogan sees it, he lifts Brown up & he’s gone. While he did that he also tossed Savage “accidentally.” Savage is pissed, yelling at Hogan for it. Ventura takes Savage’s side while Gorilla defends Hogan. Elizabeth comes running out and she gets between Hulk and Randy. This was your big WrestleMania setup right here. She gets Macho to shake his hand. They hug too. That was such a big angle. It’s hard to understand it, but if you watched this live then you know.
In at #22 is Big Boss Man. It’s just two people now since Hogan cleared everybody else out. Bodyslam by Hogan. Splash by Boss Man followed by a piledriver. That move is banned in WWE these days. The #23 entrant is Akeem, who is Boss Man’s partner in the Twin Towers team. A year earlier he was known as One Man Gang. Hogan slams the very large Akeem, but they are able to overwhelm him. Hogan comes back with a double noggin knocker (classic phrase!) plus a back drop on Boss Man. The numbers game catch up to him as they double team Hogan with a splash in the corner. Then they throw Hogan out rather easily. Post elimination, Hogan fights with both guys on the floor. The #24 person is Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Boss Man goes into the ropes, Hogan pulls it down and that eliminates Boss Man. That’s your babyface Hogan. They go fighting up the aisle. Back in the ring, Akeem and Beefcake struggle in the ring. “It’s the Red Rooster” at #25. It’s one of the worst gimmicks in wrestling history. That’s what it is. Beefcake and Rooster double team Akeem, but he fights them off as the announcers wonder how he can be eliminated.
We’ve got another heel in at #26 in The Barbarian while Gorilla says he’s stupid for not helping them eliminate Akeem. These are not very good wrestlers, I have to say. Big splash by Akeem on Red Rooster. How could be it a little splash when he’s over 400 pounds? A big favorite comes in at #27 – Big John Studd. Sometimes the ladies call me that. Not often enough, though. It’s okay. It’s a slugfest with Studd & Akeem. Vince is marking out over that. In at #28 is Hercules. They need more guys with big muscles in there. Crazy how there was steroid trial in WWE a few years after this, huh? The announcers discuss where Dibiase is, suggesting that he bought the #30 spot. We’re not there yet, though, as #29 comes in and it’s Rick Martel, who was a babyface here. The Studd-Akeem interaction has literally been Studd holding him for about four minutes. It’s as bad as it sounds, trust me. The last entrant at #30 is the “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, who comes out with Virgil. We’ve got 8 people left: Studd, Akeem, Hercules, Barbarian, Red Rooster, Martel, Beefcake and Dibiase.
The Rooster gets some offense in on Dibiase, which is pretty rare for The Rooster. See what I mean? Dibiase throws him in the turnbuckle and he takes the Flair turnbuckle bump to be eliminated from the match. He had the Flair hair, boots & tights to match. Beefcake puts the sleeper on Hercules, so Dibiase & Barbarian eliminate them both leaving us with five. Powerslam by Barbarian on Martel and then he hits a headbutt off the top. Barbarian charges in, Martel ducks, hits a dropkick and Barbarian is eliminated.
The final four: Ted Dibiase, Big Jon Studd, Akeem and Rick Martel. Martel charges at Akeem, he catches Martel and throws him out to eliminate him. Studd fights off both heels as best he can. Akeem splashes him in the corner. He does it again except this time Dibiase accidentally goes in front of him. Studd comes out of the corner and clubs Akeem in the back, sending him over the top. We’re down to two. Dibiase pleads with him, telling him he’ll give him some money. Studd overpowers him in the corner. His offense isn’t very impressive and he has very limited mobility. He did bust out a butterfly suplex that surprised me. There was even a Gutwrench suplex that looked stiff as hell. Clothesline by Studd. Then he tosses out Dibiase. That was an anticlimactic ending. Post match, he beat Virgil up too.
Winner: Big John Studd
The match ended at 64:53. The intervals were a legitimate two minutes this time.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I forgot how immobile Big John Studd was. I don’t think he took very many bumps here. It’s like he was standing up straight the whole time. The last ten minutes really sucked in terms of quality, largely because of him.
– Hogan was great here. And I don’t love Hogan, but I have to give him props. He had a lot of energy and the match was way better when he was in it. When he left it got worse.
– Savage was the WWF Champion, yet he only eliminated two guys. They didn’t book him strong enough. I understand that most of the eliminations were done by the big guys, but this is your champion. You need to make him look better. The accidental elimination by Hogan was good. You could see both sides of it and I liked hearing the announcers bicker about it.
– I never really noticed it until here, but they really made Terry Taylor aka The Red Rooster into a Ric Flair knockoff. The hair, the tights, having “RR” on his boots (Flair always had “RF” on his) and he even did the Flair flop to get eliminated. Of course calling a guy “The Red Rooster” was ridiculously stupid.
– I always have been and always will be a huge Andre The Giant mark. I can’t explain it except to say that he entertained me so much when I was little. You just marveled at how big he was. Sometimes workrate doesn’t matter. You just have to look at the entertainment value. To me, Andre’s one of the best entertainers ever in wrestling history.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Mr. Perfect at 27:58
Most Eliminations: Hulk Hogan with 10.
Best Performers (3): Hulk Hogan – He really performed well in terms of eliminating guys as well as furthering the angle with Savage.
Mr. Perfect – He didn’t do anything special, but he was in there the longest and took some great bumps to make others look good. I mean, come on, he did a flip after taking an Andre headbutt. That’s skill.
Andre The Giant – Because seeing him try to move fast when the snake was in there was tremendous comedy!
Best Elimination: The Warlord going out in two seconds is a classic. I have to give it to that.
Match Rating: ** The last ten minutes were pretty awful. When Hogan & Savage were in there the heat was through the roof. The rest of the time it was pretty average.
Ranking the Rumble’s in terms of star ratings (out of five):
I’ll see you next time for a look back at the 1990 Royal Rumble.