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WWF Royal Rumble 1988

by Erick Von Erich

It's the original Royal Rumble as it was broadcast on USA Network back in January 1988. Not a PPV, it was aired on USA as a special event... "coincidentally", the same night Jim Crockett Promotions' NWA was running a PPV Bunkhouse Stampede. For weeks leading up to this show, it was billed as either the "Rumble Royale" or "Rumble Royal" before settling on the official name. Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Vince McMahon welcome us to the show. LIVE from the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. Jesse even has his "rumblin' gear on"-- a white cowboy hat, vest and a feather boa. But with so much going on in the WWF, let's get down to ringside for...

Match 1: Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude

Steamboat took the place of Paul Orndorff who was feuding with Rude over who had the better physique. Well, since it was Orndorff in 1987, I suppose that they were technically feuding over who had the better physique, excluding a left arm. No Heenan for Rude, though. As Steamboat is introduced, McMahon hollers that "the Dragon could be breathing fire, tonight!!" He filed that idea away and dusted it off three years later. Match starts with punches and chops. Rude tosses Steamboat over the top, but he skins-the-cat and comes back in. Rude charges and gets flipped to the floor. Steamboat, never one to half-ass any angle, plays up the physique issue and poses in the ring. Penultimate Knucklelock Challenge takes a few minutes, until Steamboat spins under one arm and turns it into a takedown. Both guys then take a long time applying arm-wringers to each other. We see that a fat fan in the front row has brought along her own megaphone, ala Jimmy Hart. She's also wearing one of those hats with clapping hands, so that may tell you something. Rude tosses Steamer and follows him out to deliver a slam and suplex him back in from the apron. Rude sits on a reverse chinlock making it a lazy camel clutch. Steamboat bridges out of a pin attempt, hooks a backslide and gets 2. They go into a series of small packages and pin reversals, with each guy getting several 2 counts. Rude tries a suplex, but Steamboat reverses it as both guys are out on the mat. Steamboat hops up to the top turnbuckle and leaps off. Rude grabs the ref and pulls him in front of Steamboat. Ref is groggy, but Rude cinches in his over-the-shoulder backbreaker bearhug. The ref wobbles to his feet and calls for the bell. Rude's music hits and he thinks he's won by submission. Rude is halfway down the aisle, when the official decision is announced: Steamboat won by disqualification.

Dino Bravo's World Record Bench-press Attempt

"Mean" Gene Okerlund is up on the interview platform with Jesse Ventura, Dino Bravo, Frenchy Martin and a weight set. Jesse announces the weight as Bravo warms up with 500 lbs. Bravo gets up and asks for complete silence from the crowd, to incite the boooo's. Bravo goes back to his routine as Mean Gene constantly reminds the crowd to be quiet (to boo)..otherwise this segment would be dead. Bravo gets a "world record" weight of 715 lbs. on the bar, but can't lift it off his chest. Jesse reaches down and "spots" him. Gene protests the doubleteam bit while Bravo, Jesse and Frenchy celebrate.

Match 2: 2/3 Falls for the WWF Womens' Tag Team Championship:
Glamour Girls (c)(w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Jumping Bomb Angels

(Lelani Kai & Judy Martin vs. Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki) Don't skip over this... this is actually a good match! The Angels' names aren't announced, I had to look 'em up. Vince acts stupid and begins calling them "red" and "pink", due to the respective colors of their trousers. Sometime in the second fall, he begins calling them by their first names. Angels attack right away with double drop-kicks. One Angel (I think it's "red" or Itsuki) hits a somersault into a charging headbutt on Kai. Followed up by a piledrvier suplex and a leg-scissors. Noriyo comes in with a flying headbutt and a dropkick for 2. Noriyo hooks an octopus(!), then both Angels come in to apply a figure four to each Glamour Girl. Noriyo cranks on a reverse toe hold and bridges back for leverage. Martin finally manages an overhead powerbomb on Noriyo to score the first fall.

Second fall: Martin tries to pin Noriyo with a flying clothesline, but she bridges out of it. Martin slams her, then misses a splash off the ropes. Itsuki is tagged in for a flying clothesline off the second rope. The Angels hit a double suplex on Martin. Martin tries going for her powerbomb again, but Noriyo flips over her shoulders, turns it into a sunset flip and scores the second fall for the Angels.

Third fall: After a double clothesline on Kai, Martin gets a catapult and an underhook suplex on Noriyo. They work over Noriyo for awhile, until she gets an atomic-drop suplex on Kai. Itsuki flies in from the top with a knee to Martin for 2. Underhook suplex into a bridge gets another 2 for Itsuki. Spinning bodypress for 2 more. Noriyo misses a legdrop off the second rope and while the ref is distracted with Kai, both Angels hit Martin with a top-rope flying dropkick! Noriyo makes the cover and we have NEWWWWW Womens Tag Team Champions. Match was much better than it had any right to be. There's also some controversy about the lineage of the Womens Tag title, as the belts would disappear and re-appear whenever it was convenient. Supposedly, the Glamour Girls regained the straps from the Angels in June 1988... in "Cairo, Egypt". Riiiight. I don't think the titles were ever mentioned after that.

A Very Special Contract Signing Between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant

But first, let us take you back...to WrestleMania III, where Andre almost scored an early 3 count on the Hulkster. Then let us take you back, --not as far-- to when DiBiase boasted that he would buy the WWF Championship. Then let us take you back-- not back as far as the last time-- to when Hulk Hogan rejected DiBiase's offer will a resounding "Hell, nooooooo!!!". Jesse interjects that Hogan should have taken DiBiase's offer. He (Hogan) would've been set for life, could've retired and supported his family forever. Hmm, if you think about that, that means Hogan would've been financially set and we would've been spared No Holds Barred, Santa with Muscles, Assault on Devil's Island and "Hogan Knows Best". All because Ted DiBiase couldn't buy the WWF belt. So DiBiase holds some of the blame.

Then, let us take you back --not quite as far as WM3, but not as recent as Hogan's rejection-- to when Andre choked out Hulk Hogan on Saturday Night's Main Event. Finally, let us take you back to only a few weeks ago, when DiBiase secured Andre's services. Andre promised: "Mr. DiBiase, I will deliver the world world wrestling championship to you". So with all that recapped (and actually a pretty good overview), let's go to the in-ring contract signing for the "biggest rematch in professional wrestling history", to be shown live on NBC on February 5!

It's a contract signing and there's a table. Like Larry, Moe and Curly in a tool shed, you KNOW someone's getting messed up. In this case, Andre smashes Hogan into the table, then throws it on top of him.

20 Man Royal Rumble

It is now time...for the Royal Rumble! Howard Finkel explains the rules, specifically citing that you are eliminated as soon as you are thrown over the top. No "and to the floor" clarification. Announcers are all over this rule, too, saying you could be on the apron and be eliminated, but it never comes into play. #1 is Bret "Hitman" Hart and #2 is Tito Santana. Essentially, it's a "roadblock match" between the two feuding tag teams, but all they do is punch and kick for two minutes until #3, "The Natural" Butch Reed arrives. Vince informs us that they are indeed "Hammering Away". Reed and Hart doubleteam Tito, with Reed coming off the second rope with a double axehandle. #4 is Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and Tito is outnumbered. The Hart Foundation doubleteam Tito in a move very similar to the Demolition Decapitation. They all try to shove Tito over, but help arrives as #5, Jake "The Snake" Roberts hits the ring. Roberts dumps Reed immediately and slams Hart. Tito and Jake whip the Harts into each other. Jake goes for the DDT on Hart, but Neidhart makes the save. "The King" Harley Race is #6 as things settle into punching and hugging.

Race gets a diving headbutt on Roberts, just as #7, "Jumping" Jim Brunzell arrives. Brunzell tries to fireman carry Race over the top, but more hugging develops. #8 is "Young" Sam Houston as Roberts shoulderblocks Race into the turnbuckle. The Harts finally toss Tito out and you have to figure Tito got screwed. Mainly, because his partner, Rick Martel, didn't bother to enter the Rumble! Gasp! There was dissension in Strike Force way back then! #9 is "Dangerous" Danny Davis who brawls with Houston. Roberts pounds on Race, who does his little teeter-totter schtick in the ropes. #10 is Boris Zhukov and still nothin' but a lotta' hugging going on. Highspot time, as Davis drop-kicks Houston. #11 is Don "The Rock" Muraco, but Nikolai Volkoff, the stupid Russian who can't count, thinks HE is #11. After some arguing, Nikolai is #12 waits at ringside while Muraco enters. In plain view of Volkoff, Brunzell and Roberts dumps Zhukov. Volkoff finally enters and goes after....Sam Houston.

Muraco clotheslines Race over to a good pop. Race takes his time walking back to the locker and meets #13, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan in the aisle. Duggan, who was feuding with Race at the time, chases the King away. Duggan enters the ring and pounds on Neidhart. #14 is "Outlaw" Ron Bass, right as Volkoff dumps Brunzell. #15 is B. Brian Blair, arriving too late to save his striped-trouser buddy. #16 is Hillbilly Jim, who hops in and promptly eliminates Neidhart. Bass tosses Blair over the top, but Blair hangs onto the apron and re-enters. Hmmm...so whattabout that initial rule? #17 is Dino Bravo, who doesn't ask for silence. Houston hops up on Bass's shoulders and gets dumped. #18 a numeral of great consequence and importance in the overall significance of the universal entropy is assigned to he who is acknowledged as the Ultimate Warrior. Muraco finally tosses Bret Hart, who set the initial endurance record at about 25 minutes. About 45 seconds after Warrior's entry, the One Man Gang enters at #18. Gang waddles in and immediately eliminates Blair and Roberts. The final entry is the Junkyard Dog at #20.

Guys begin falling out almost instantaneously. Duggan ducks and flips Volkoff over. Gang does the same to Hillbilly Jim. Duggan charges with a clothesline and knocks Davis out. Gang and Bravo team-up to give the Warrior the heave-ho. Ron Bass eliminates JYD. Bass is then eliminated by a lame "missing by 2 feet" clothesline from Muraco.

Final four is Don Muraco, Jim Duggan, Dino Bravo and One Man Gang. Gang avalanches Duggan to leave him staggering in the corner. Bravo and Gang go after Muraco, but he somersaults away. Muraco drop-kicks the Gang, but Bravo manages to catch him. Bravo holds Muraco from behind, while Gang charges and eliminates Muraco with a flying titty smash. They try the same to Duggan, but Duggan ducks and Gang accidentally eliminates Bravo. Gang pounds on Duggan and chokes him on the top rope. Gang charges once more, but Duggan drops down and pulls the top rope, while Gang falls to the floor. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan is YOUR winner!

You can score the entries and eliminations, but by my un-scientific observations, it seemed like JYD was in the ring for the shortest amount of time. Duggan eliminated 3 guys to win: Volkoff, Davis and the Gang. Just a stretched out battle royal, but it was interesting because nobody really stood out as a clear favorite. Along with Duggan, I could easily see Muraco, Roberts, Bravo, Warrior, JYD or the Gang winning. Even Reed, Race, Bass or Hart could've been long shot winners. Also, I like to mention that while winning the Rumble didn't officially guarantee you a WrestleMania title shot until 1993, Duggan DID go on to wrestle in the WM4 title tourney. He received just as much of a shot as anybody NOT named Hogan or Andre. Just kinda' funny, because if you look at the early Rumble winners, the only guy who didn't get a title shot was the 1989 winner, Big John Studd.

A Very Special Craig DeGeorge Podium Interview with Hulk Hogan

Hogan claims that Andre's attack was "like a dagger in my ribs, man" and that it just added fuel to the fire. Hogan says that Andre can't beat him, because to do that he'd have to beat all of the Hulkamaniacs!

2/3 Falls: Young Stallions vs. Islanders

(Paul Roma & Jim Powers vs. Haku & Tama)
Quick five second graphic of WrestleMania IV as we come back from commercial. Like Rude, the Islanders are without Bobby Heenan. Jesse is quick to explain that Heenan is "watching the show on satellite in Barbados, courtesy of the Million Dollar Man". Vince babbles about the Islanders' recent "dog-napping" of the British Bulldogs' Matilda. According to Vince, she's a "very, very special dog" and since her abduction, she's been emotionally distraught and has lost weight! Powers and Tama start off by criss-crossing the ropes. Powers leapfrogs, gets a powerslam, atomic drop and an arm-wringer. Roma and Haku enter with Roma getting a shitty armdrag. Flying bodypress from Roma scores 2. Stallions double-up on Haku with a whip and reverse elbows. Meanwhile, Jesse and Vince bicker about Bravo's weightlifting attempt. Jesse snaps back at Vince: "an Ivy Leaguer like you wouldn't know anything about working out! The toughest thing they had up there was goldfish swallowing". Sigh.... remember when Vince was okay with being picked on? Anyways, Roma starts taking over with dropkick and a backdrop on Tama. Tama jabs him in the eyes, then whips him to the ropes. Haku pulls the top rope down and Roma spills out to ringside. He sells a knee injury, can't stand, and gets counted out.

A Very Special Craig DeGeorge Podium Interview with Andre, DiBiase & Virgil

Yup, a break in the middle of a match. More hype for the upcoming Feb.5 "Main Event". DeGeorge tries to cut off Andre, but Andre slugs him in the stomach and continues. Heh.

Second fall:The Stallions have returned from the dressing room, with Roma's knee taped up. By rule, Roma has to start the second fall, so Tama goes right after the bum wheel. Powers comes in to deliver a backdrop, clothesline and stupid "yeahhh!" dance. Suplex on Haku gets 2. Haku nails a STIFF shot to Powers' stomach, then drags him to the corner for a double Islander Headbutt. Powers hooks a desperation small package for 2. Haku responds with a backbreaker and a flying reverse elbow from Tama. Haku comes back for a nice standing dropkick, a gut-wrench suplex and an abdominal stretch. Haku misses a somersault splash off the ropes, and Powers makes the tag to the gimpy Roma. Haku goes right after the knee. Roma is dragged over to the corner, where Tama hits a flying splash on the bad knee. Haku turns Roma into a half-crab and gets the east submission win. Not a terrible match and there's always been some speculation whether or not Roma's knee injury was legitimate.

Why'd You Tape This
When it first aired, this was a show that made me into a WWF fan. After years of seeing worthless flunky/jobber matches, it was cool to see a special event. It seems amazingly stupid now, but the angle advancement with Hogan/Andre and seeing everybody in the Rumble made me a happy 13 year old. Once the Rumble became an official PPV, all the ensuing cards blew this one away. But for a free TV show, it was entertaining. This is more like a fancy house show and only for completionists or trivia buffs.

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