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Royal Rumble: Through The Years (Part 1, 1988-1993)

by Scrooge McSuck

Royal Rumble Through the Years

WrestleMania is often the pinnacle of the calendar year in WWE, with an exciting atmosphere, jacked up crowds, and more often than not, outstanding lineups, even in years when the creative direction doesnít quite meet expectations. The only other night of the year that comes close is the annual Royal Rumble PPV, featuring a 30 (and in one instance each, 20 and 40) WWE Superstars in a Battle Royal style match, with the winner of the match earning a shot at a World Championship, a reward that has been in place since the 1993 PPV (there was no reward for 1988-1991, and in 1992 the prize was the WWF Championship). Even though the Rumble PPV has featured some outstanding matches over the years, weíre going to look back at every Royal Rumble Match, starting in 1988. The first official Rumble Match, according to TheHistoryofWWE.com, took place in St. Louis, MO in October of 1987, but wasnít in front of cameras, and from old Wrestling Observer records, it wasnít a good debut, either. We will touch up on each card (and yes, Iíll have my official star ratings handy), but this will be primarily about the Rumble Match itself, so donít be too disappointed....

1988 (January 24th, The Copps Coliseum @ Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...

1. Bret Hart, 2. Tito Santana, 3. "The Natural" Butch Reed, 4. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 5. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 6. King Harley Race, 7. "Jumping" Jim Brunzell, 8. Sam Houston, 9. "Dangerous" Danny Davis, 10. Boris Zhukov, 11. "The Rock" Don Muraco, 12. Nikolai Volkoff, 13. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 14. "The Outlaw" Ron Bass, 15. B. Brian Blair, 16. Hillbilly Jim, 17. Dino Bravo, 18. The Ultimate Warrior, 19. One Man Gang, 20. Junkyard Dog

1. Butch Reed (by Roberts), 2. Tito Santana (by Hart Foundation), 3. Boris Zhukov (by Roberts & Brunzell), 4. Harley Race (by Muraco), 5. Jim Brunzell (by Volkoff), 6. Jim Neidhart (by Hillbilly Jim), 7. Sam Houston (by Bass), 8. Bret Hart (by Muraco), 9. B. Brian Blair (by Gang), 10. Jake Roberts (by Gang), 11. Nikolai Volkoff (by Duggan), 12. Hillbilly Jim (by Gang), 13. Danny Davis (by Duggan), 14. Ultimate Warrior (by Gang & Bravo), 15. Junkyard Dog (by Bass), 16. Ron Bass (by Muraco), 17. Don Muraco (by Gang & Bravo), 18. Dino Bravo (by Gang), 19. One Man Gang (by Duggan), WINNER: JIM DUGGAN

Rumble Match Rating: It was the first of its kind, so there wasnít much of a measuring tool to gauge this with. There was never much of a lull in the action, thanks to only being 20 participants deep, and for the most part, everyone worked hard or had enough energy to make everything look exciting (again, most everyone. Still looking at you, Junkyard Dog). We didnít get many big spots or anyone running through the competition, but it served its purpose of holding interest of the crowd for a longer-than-usual match than WWF was used to doing, and kicked off a yearly tradition. Give this one a look for historical factors, but youíll likely be disappointed by the undercard feel of everyone involved. ***

    The Undercard:
  1. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat def. "Ravishing" Rick Rude by Disqualification. I never understood the love for Steamboat. The guy dogged it as hard and as much as anyone else, and was a total flake when it came to sticking around. Rude didnít help much either, relying mostly on rest holds. [*1/2]
  2. The Jumping Bomb Angels def. The Glamour Girls in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match (2-1) for the WWF Womenís Tag Team Championship. Vince only refers to the JBAís by the color of their trunks until the second fall. [***1/4]
  3. The Islanders def. The Young Stallions in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match (2-0). Roma sold a serious knee injury mid-way through, but it was a total work, appearing as advertised at live shows the rest of the week. [**]
  4. Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant signed the contract for a WWF Championship Match to be featured on a Prime Time Special on February 5th. Yes, someone was physically assaulted.
  5. Dino Bravo, with a little bit of help from Jesse Ventura, attempted to break the World Bench Pres Record of 710 pounds. This went on for a needlessly long 15-minutes.

1989 (January 15th, The Summit @ Houston, TX)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...

1. Ax, 2. Smash, 3. Andre The Giant, 4. "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, 5. "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin, 6. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 7. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 8. "The Outlaw" Ron Bass, 9. Shawn Michaels, 10. Butch, 11. The Honkytonk Man, 12. Tito Santana, 13. Bad News Brown, 14. Marty Jannetty, 15. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, 16. Arn Anderson, 17. Tully Blanchard, 18. Hulk Hogan, 19. Luke, 20. Koko B. Ware, 21. The Warlord, 22. Big Boss Man, 23. Akeem, 24. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, 25. The Red Rooster, 26. The Barbarian, 27. Big John Studd, 28. Hercules, 29. Rick Martel, 30. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase

1. Smash (by Andre), 2. Ronnie Garvin (by Andre), 3. Jake Roberts (by Andre), 4. Ax (by Hennig), 5. Andre The Giant (Self-Eliminated), 6. Honkytonk Man (by Santana & Butch), 7. Ron Bass (by the Rockers), 8. Greg Valentine (by Savage), 9. Shawn Michaels (by Savage & Anderson), 10. Marty Jannetty (by the Brain Busters), 11. Curt Hennig (by Hogan), 12. Tito Santana (by Savage & Anderson), 13. Butch (by Brown), 14. Koko B. Ware (by Hogan), 15. Luke (by Hogan), 16. Arn Anderson (by Hogan), 17. Tully Blanchard (by Hogan), The Warlord (by Hogan), 19. Bad News Brown (by Hogan), 20. Randy Savage (by Hogan), 21. Hulk Hogan (by Boss Man & Akeem), 22. Big Boss Man (by Hogan), 23. Red Rooster (by Dibiase), 24. Hercules (by Dibiase & Barbarian), 25. Brutus Beefcake (by Dibiase & Barbarian), 26. The Barbarian (by Martel), 27. Rick Martel (by Akeem), 28. Akeem (by Studd), 29. Ted Dibiase (by Studd), WINNER: BIG JOHN STUDD

Rumble Match Rating: Things start off exciting with Ax and Smash fighting, and Andre The Giant carrying the first 15-minutes by working fun sequence with everyone that enters. The middle portion features a lot of decent action with guys like Savage, Bad News, Hennig, Santana, Michaels, and the Brain Busters, and then Hulk Hogan comes in and explodes, cleaning house of nearly one third of the field. The final 10+ minutes falls a bit flat, but itís always fun to see a nefarious heel get what he has coming to him, especially when he tries to buy the best spot in the match. ***1/2

    The Undercard:
  1. The Hart Foundation and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan def. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers and Dino Bravo in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match (2-1). The Foundation have been feuding with former manager Jimmy Hart since their split in the Summer of í88, and wow was Duggan vs. Bravo lighting the world on fire. Decent match, but I just couldnít get into it, and donít really care for the majority of the participants. [**]
  2. Rockiní Robin def. Judy Martin to retain the WWF Womenís Championship. LONG and DULL. The Coliseum Video version edits it down to about 2-minutes long, and thatís not me complaining. For those paying attention, yes, Judy Martin worked consecutive Royal Rumble cards. Sensational Sherriís guest commentary was pretty lousy, too. [*1/2]
  3. King Haku def. Harley Race to determine the undisputed King of the WWF. Bobby Heenan was at ringside playing both sides, but Race was technically working face in a very forgettable run to end his WWF in-ring career. Crowd was mostly dead, not knowing who to cheer for, since the Race face push was so under the radar that it mostly went unnoticed. [**1/4]
  4. Intercontinental Champion Utimate Warrior and "Ravishing" Rick Rude have a "Super Posedown" in place of actually competing in an actual match. Just like the Dino Bravo/Bench Press nonsense, this goes on for way too long, about 15-minutes, and the predictable beat-down comes after the crowd blindly cheers Warriorís poses.
  5. We get to see a handful of Superstars reactions to drawing their numbers. Most of them are disappointed, especially Ted Dibiase, who was eager to strike a deal with Slick, who seemed very pleased with what his men pulled.

1990 (January 21st, The Orlando Arena @ Orlando, FL)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination:

1. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 2. Koko B. Ware, 3. Marty Jannetty, 4. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 5. "Macho King" Randy Savage, 6. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 7. The Warlord, 8. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 9. Bad News Brown, 10. Dusty Rhodes, 11. Andre The Giant, 12. The Red Rooster, 13. Ax, 14. Haku, 15. Smash, 16. Akeem, 17. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 18. Dino Bravo, 19. Canadian Earthquake, 20. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 21. The Ultimate Warrior, 22. "The Model" Rick Martel, 23. Tito Santana, 24. The Honkytonk Man, 25. Hulk Hogan, 26. Shawn Michaels, 27. The Barbarian, 28. "Ravishing" Rick Rude, 29. Hercules, 30. Mr. Perfect

1. Koko B. Ware (by Dibiase), 2. Marty Jannetty (by Dibiase), 3. Jake Roberts (by Savage), 4. Randy Savage (by Rhodes), 5. The Warlord (by Andre), 6. Bad News Brown (by Piper), 7. Roddy Piper (by Brown), 8. The Red Rooster (by Andre), 9. Bret Hart (by Rhodes), 10. Andre The Giant (by Demolition), 11. Akeem (by Snuka), 12. Dusty Rhodes (by Earthquake), 13. Ax (by Earthquake), 14. Canadian Earthquake (by Dibiase, Smash, Neidhart, Snuka, and Haku), 15. Dino Bravo (by Warrior), 16. Smash (by Haku), 17. Jim Neidhart (by Warrior), 18. Ted Dibiase (by Warrior), 19. Jimmy Snuka (by Hogan), 20. Haku (by Hogan), 21. Tito Santana (by Martel & Warrior), 22. The Honkytonk Man (by Hogan), 23. Shawn Michaels (by Warrior), 24. Rick Martel (by Warrior), 25. The Ultimate Warrior (by Hogan), 26. The Barbarian (by Hercules), 27. Hercules (by Rude), 28. Rick Rude (by Perfect), 29. Mr. Perfect (by Hogan), WINNER: HULK HOGAN

Rumble Match Rating: With only a few sequences of lull, this was easily the most enjoyable Rumble Match to date, with plenty of star power, excitement, hard work, and strong booking. It also helps that the ring never fills up too much, making the action hard to follow. Dibiase started with good mini-matches, followed by an awesome series with Savage, Roberts, and Piper, the mini-match involving Demolition and the Colossal Connection, the Piper/Brown double elimination and brawl, the gaggle of participants ganging up on Earthquake, Hogan and Warrior cleaning house until we got their big showdown, and a hot finish with Hogan and Mr. Perfect. [****1/4]

    The Undercard...
  1. The Bushwhackers def. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers in what could generously be considered a comedy match. The Rougeau Brothers have been off TV since the Survivor Series, and this would mark their last match together as a team in the WWF. Raymond would settle into a non-wrestling role doing interviews and handling commentary on foreign shows, while Jacques would return a year later, repackaged as "The Mountie." [DUD]
  2. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake fought The Genius to a Double Disqualification. All angles and little on wrestling quality. Only purpose it served was to pass Beefcake off into a program with Mr. Perfect. Just way too long for a PPV match featuring someone who was mostly used as a Manager. [DUD]
  3. "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin def. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine in a Submission Match to blow-off an angle that began a few weeks after WrestleMania V. Not an exciting match, but these two had solid chemistry and was easily the best non-Rumble Match on the PPV. [***]
  4. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan def. The Big Boss Man by Disqualification. Decent match between brawlers, but that doesnít mean it was good, either. [*1/2]
  5. The 1990 edition of filling time is a Brother Love Show with Sapphire and the Sensational Queen Sherri, which means weíre going to begin the feud between the Macho King and "the Common Man", Dusty Rhodes. I didnít mind this feud, but I can see why some were displeased with Savageís placement on the card.

1991 (January 19th, The Miami Arena @ Miami, FL)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination:

1. Bret "Hitman" Hart, 2. Dino Bravo, 3. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 4. Paul Roma, 5. The Texas Tornado, 6. "The Model" Rick Martel, 7. Saba Simba, 8. Butch, 9. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 10. Hercules, 11. Tito Santana, 12. The Undertaker, 13. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 14. The British Bulldog, 15. Smash, 16. Hawk, 17. Shane Douglas, 18. NO ARRIVAL (Randy Savage), 19. Animal, 20. Crush, 21. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 22. Earthquake, 23. Mr. Perfect, 24. Hulk Hogan, 25. Haku, 26. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, 27. Luke, 28. Brian Knobbs, 29. The Warlord, 30. Tugboat

1. Dino Bravo (by Valentine), 2. Saba Simba (by Martel), 3. Paul Roma (by Roberts), 4. Bret Hart (by Undertaker), 5. Butch (by Undertaker), 6. Jake Roberts (by Martel), 7. The Texas Tornado (by Undertaker), 8. Jimmy Snuka (by Hawk), 9. NON-ARRIVAL OF #18, 10. The Undertaker (by LOD), 11. Hawk (by Martel & Hercules), 12. Animal (by Earthquake), 13. Jim Duggan (by Perfect), 14. Smash (by Hogan), 15. Greg Valentine (by Hogan), 16. Tito Santana (by Earthquake), 17. Luke (by Earthquake), 18. Hercules (by Knobbs), 19. Crush (by Hogan), 20. The Warlord (by Hogan), 21. Shane Douglas (by Knobbs), 22. Tugboat (by Hogan), 23. Mr. Perfect (by Bulldog), 24. Jim Neidhart (by Martel), 25. Haku (by Bulldog), 26. Rick Martel (by Bulldog), 27. The British Bulldog (by Earthquake & Knobbs), 28. Brian Knobbs (by Hogan), 29. Earthquake (by Hogan), WINNER: HULK HOGAN

Rumble Match Rating: This one really suffered from an over-crowded ring. Thereís too many people in for most of the match, and very little side stories or sequences to get worked up about. You had two iron men, but neither was a true threat to win the match, there wasnít any big ring clearing sequence, and the most memorable moment was a comedy elimination of Bushwhacker Luke. It wasnít AWFUL, just not very exciting. **1/2

    The Undercard...
  1. The Rockers def. The Orient Express in one of the best undercard matches in Royal Rumble history. This would be the Tanaka and Kato (Paul Diamond) version of the team, which is generally regarded as far superior to Tanaka teaming with Sato. [****1/4]
  2. The Big Boss Man def. The Barbarian in his on-going quest to get revenge on the Heenan Family for the remarks made about his beloved mother. Too bad Rick Rude leaving the company left us without a true blow-off to the angle. Surprisingly good match, too. [***]
  3. Sgt. Slaughter def. The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship thanks to an absurd amount of outside interference from Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri. Earlier in the night, Warrior turned down Sherriís advances in exchange for a title shot for the Macho King. Bad match, but it set us on the path for the "Career Ending Match" at WrestleMania VII. [*1/2]
  4. The Mountie def. Koko B. Ware in a match thrown out there for the dead crowd to recover for what was to follow. [1/2*]
  5. Ted Dibiase and Virgil def. Dusty and Dustin Rhodes when Dibiase pinned Dusty after physically assaulting his own partner. Post-match, Virgil finally had enough of Dibiaseís ordering him around and turned face with a belt shot the face. So-so match, excellent post-match. [**]

1992 (January 19th, Knickerbocker Arena @ Albany, NY)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...

1. The British Bulldog, "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 3. Ric Flair, 4. Jerry Sags, 5. Haku, 6. Shawn Michaels, 7. "El Matador" Tito Santana, 8. The Barbarian, 9. The Texas Tornado, 10. Repo Man, 11. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, 12. Nikolai Volkoff, 13. Big Boss Man, 14. Hercules, 15. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, 16. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 17. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, 18. Irwin R. Schyster, 19. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, 20. The Undertaker, 21. "Macho Man" Randy Savage, 22. The Berzerker, 23. Virgil, 24. Col. Mustafa, 25. "The Model" Rick Martel, 26. Hulk Hogan, 27. Skinner, 28. Sgt. Slaughter, 29. Sid Justice, 30. The Warlord

1. Ted Dibiase (by Bulldog), 2. Jerry Sags (by Bulldog), 3. Haku (by Bulldog), 4. Nikolai Volkoff (by Repo Man), 5. Greg Valentine (by Repo Man), 6. Repo Man (by Boss Man), 7. The British Bulldog (by Flair), 8. The Texas Tornado (by Flair), 9. Tito Santana (by Michaels), 10. Shawn Michaels (by Santana), 11. The Barbarian (by Hercules), 12. Hercules (by Boss Man), 13. Big Boss Man (by Flair), 14. Jimmy Snuka (by Undertaker), 15. Jake Roberts (by Savage), 16. Col. Mustafa (by Savage), 17. The Undertaker (by Hogan), 18. The Berzerker (by Hogan), 19. Jim Duggan (by Virgil), 20. Virgil (by Duggan), 21. Skinner (by Martel), 22. Sgt. Slaughter (by Sid), 23. Irwin R. Schyster (by Piper), 24. The Warlord (by Hogan & Sid), 25. Rick Martel (by Sid), 26. Roddy Piper (by Sid), 27. Randy Savage (by Sid), 28. Hulk Hogan (by Sid), 29. Sid Justice (by Flair & Hogan), WINNER and NEW WWF CHAMPION: RIC FLAIR

Rumble Match Rating: Regarded as one of the best Royal Rumble matches... and I canít disagree. Ric Flair was the story of the night, and stole the show, lasting a full hour and working with the majority of the field, some in extended sequences, and others in nice little throwbacks. You had the story of Piper going for double gold, the spot with Roberts and Savage, Sid Justice cleaning house and the surprise finish with Hogan and Sid turning on each other to leave the door open for Flairís victory. With only a few moments of lackluster action, itís hard to find anything negative to say here. *****

    The Undercard...
  1. The New Foundation def. The Orient Epress when Owen Hart (making his PPV return since appearing at Mania V as the Blue Blazer) pinned Tanaka. The Express (Tanaka and Kato) were mostly inactive since the end of Summer of í91, working in solo scrub roles and occasional featured in a Prime Time feature. Good match, but not as good as the opener from the year before. I think the New Foundation music was recycled for the Heavenly Bodies in 1993. [***]
  2. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper def. The Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship. The Mountie won the title from Bret Hart a few nights earlier in one of those famous angles that was believed to be a shoot situation (Bret wanted to leave for WCW, but his contract renewed, so he was stuck, and rumor had it he was offered to jump with the IC Title as payback for Ric Flair in 1991). [*1/2]
  3. The Beverly Brothers def. The Bushwhackers, an awful comedy match that featured Jamison at ringside acting like a total nerd. [-***]
  4. The Natural Disasters def. Tag Team Champions the Legion of Doom by Count-Out. Slow power match. The Tag Division wasnít exactly lighting the world on fire in 1992. [*1/4]

1993 (January 24th, Arco Arena @ Sacramento, CA)

Participants Order of Entry and Elimination...

1. Ric Flair, 2. Bob Backlund, 3. Papa Shango, 4. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase, 5. Brian Knobbs, 6. Virgil, 7. Jerry "The King" Lawler, 8. Max Moon, 9. Genichiro Tenryu, 10. Mr. Perfect, 11. Skinner, 12. Koko B. Ware, 13. Samu, 14. The Berzerker, 15. The Undertaker, 16. "Terrific" Terry Taylor, 17. Damien Demento, 18. Irwin R. Schyster, 19. Tatanka, 20. Jerry Sags, 21. Typhoon, 22. Fatu, 23. Earthquake, 24. Carlos Colon, 25. "El Matador" Tito Santana, 26. "The Model" Rick Martel, 27. Yokozuna, 28. "The Rocket" Owen Hart, 29. Repo Man, 30. "Macho Man" Randy Savage

1. Papa Shango (by Flair), 2. Brian Knobbs (by Dibiase), 3. Max Moon (by Lawler), 4. Ric Flair (by Perfect), 5. Skinner (by Perfect), 6. Jerry Lawler (by Perfect), 7. Virgil (by Berzerker), 8. Mr. Perfect (by Dibiase, Koko, and Lawler), 9. Samu (by Undertaker), 10. Genichiro Tenryu (by Undertaker), 11. Koko B. Ware (by Dibiase), 12. Terry Taylor (by Dibiase), 13. Ted Dibiase (by Undertaker), 14. The Berzerker (by Undertaker), 15. The Undertaker (illegally by Giant Gonzales), 16. Typhoon (by Earthquake), 17. Damien Demento (by Colon), 18. Fatu (by Backlund), 19. I.R.S. (by Earthquake), 20. Tatanka (by Yokozuna), 21. Carlos Colon (by Yokozuna), 22. Earthquake (by Yokozuna), 23. Tito Santana (by Yokozuna), 24. Jerry Sags (by Hart), 25. Owen Hart (by Yokozuna), 26. Repo Man (by Savage), 27. Rick Martel (by Backlund), 28. Bob Backlund (by Yokozuna), 29. Randy Savage (by Yokozuna), WINNER: YOKOZUNA

Rumble Match Rating: This was a tale of three chapters. A really fun stretch from the opening with Flair/Backlund, with a decent range of entrants to keep the match fresh until we got the big encounter with Perfect/Flair, and then a few entries later the Undertaker cleaning house. Then Undertakerís elimination brought us 20 of the suckiest minutes of Royal Rumble History. When Yokozuna came in at #27, things picked up again, and we got one of the best "final two" sequences in Rumble history. Still, that middle part REALLY sucked. ***

    The Undercard...
  1. The Steiner Brothers def. The Beverly Brothers in their first match against non-scrubs. Good opener and showcases the Steiner Brothers offense. [**1/2]
  2. Shawn Michaels def. Marty Jannetty to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Sensational Sherri returned from injury to be at ringside and turn face, but it didnít matter, Michaels survived baby faces cheating. Jannetty was fired the next day for being in no condition to compete, only to be hired back a few months later. [***1/2]
  3. Bam Bam Bigelow def. The Big Boss Man in a total snoozer of a Big Man vs. Big Man Match. All punches, kicks, and bearhugs, with Boss Man clearly being shown the door. [DUD]
  4. Bret "Hitman" Hart def. Razor Ramon with the Sharpshooter to retain the WWF Championship. Bret worked the leg most of the time to cut Razor down to size, while Razor controlled with power offense and resting. Ramonís only WWF Championship Match, at least on TV or PPV. [***1/4]
  5. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan unveils "The Narcissist", Lex Luger, who spends a good 5-minutes posing in front of a row of mirrors to the crowds... indifference.

Final Thoughts: A lot of the early Rumbles are fondly remembered, and for good reason: they have strong booking, balanced pacing, and roster depth. Once we exit the period of the steroid scandal, the roster starts thinning out at an incredible pace, as you can tell by the roster of 1993. Weíll be back later in the week with Part 2, covering the Royal Rumbles from 1994 through 1999. That really covers a wide period that includes the "New Generation" and the first half of the Attitude Era. Until then...

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