Rock Star Gary reflects on WWF Royal Rumble ’88

Live from Hamilton, Ontario

Airdate: January 24, 1988

Attendance:  16,200

Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

“Why pay for a bunkhouse when there’s a free Rumble on TV?” – Avid wrestling fan in the late ‘80s.

Match 1: “Ravishing” Rick Rude versus Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

Highlights:

  • Mysteriously, the ghost voice of ring announcer Howard Finkel announced Steamboat as “Sirius” was obviously overdubbed.
  • According to Ventura, Rude won the inaugural Jesse “The Body” Award.
  • To start the match, Rude tossed Steamboat over the top rope, but Steamboat skinned the cat back in.
  • He then backdropped Rude over the top rope to the floor.
  • Next, he countered a test of strength into a top wristlock.
  • Shortly after, he reversed an Irish whip, chopped Rude, and then gave him an arm drag.
  • Rude came back with a back elbow but fell victim to another arm drag.
  • He then reversed an Irish whip and delivered back elbow #2.
  • After posing while in some discomfort, Rude delivered a knee to the midsection that didn’t look crisp.
  • With Steamboat outside the ring, Rude joined him, rammed him back-first into the apron, and then slammed him on the floor.
  • To bring Steamboat back into the ring, Rude gave him a vertical suplex for 2.
  • Someone must have bought the kid with the makeshift megaphone a Tim Horton’s I appreciate the lack of unnecessary banter.
  • LONG reverse chin lock by Rude was countered into an electric chair.
  • Steamboat then attempted a splash but hit knees instead.
  • Afterward, Rude gave him an atomic drop for 2.
  • Steamboat then countered another rear chin lock by shooting Rude jaw-first into the top turnbuckle. OUCH!
  • Following that, he gave Rude the ten-top-turnbuckle count-along.
  • A subsequent chop to the head only got 2 for Steamboat.
  • An excellent bridge by Steamboat was converted into a backslide for 2.
  • He then rolled up Rude and got another 2.
  • Somersault rollup got yet another 2.
  • Rude then countered an inside cradle with one of his own, but Steamboat countered with another and got 2.
  • Clothesline by Rude got 2 preceded a vertical suplex, but Steamboat blocked and countered with one of his own.
  • Next, he mounted the top turnbuckle, attempted a flying body press, but Rude pulled referee Dave Hebner in front of him.
  • With Hebner OUT COLD, Rude applied the over-the-shoulder backbreaker.
  • Hebner recovered and called for the bell.
  • Steamboat won by DQ.

Rating: **1/2

Summary:  A better finish would have put this match a lot higher on my scale. While Rude generated some good heel heat with his posing and mannerisms, the crowd, as you would expect, was solidly behind Steamboat.

On the platform, “Mean” Gene Okerlund stands alongside spotter Ventura for Dino Bravo’s weightlifting exhibition. Seriously? A weightlifting exhibition? Where’s a squash match involving Hamilton’s favorite wrestler Iron Mike Sharpe? Regardless, Bravo, accompanied by manager Frenchy Martin, will try to break the 705lb bench press record. To begin, Bravo “warms up” with 415lbs. With ease, he presses it consistently. Ventura then augments the weight to 505lbs. Again, Bravo has zero trouble pressing it. Next, Ventura increases the weight to 555lbs. To say this is the bathroom/concession stand portion of the program would be an understatement. Nevertheless, yet again, Bravo has no issues.

Much to the Tiger-cat crowd’s chagrin, Bravo continues to 595lbs and succeeds. Ventura then graduates the weight on the bar to 655lbs, and Bravo lifts it with some difficulty. Finally, Ventura increases the weight to 715lbs (+/- weight of bar). Can Bravo do it? Since he cannot keep the obviously bored Tiger-cat faithful quiet, he storms off. After Ventura voices his support, Bravo returns. As Okerlund shouts that he (Bravo) did it, it’s obvious that Ventura assists Bravo quite a bit. Hey! I’ll never lift that amount of weight so why quibble about it?

Now that THAT’S over, let’s get back to wrestling, shall we?

Match 2 for the WWF Women’s tag team titles (2 out of 3 falls): The Glamour Girls (w/ Jimmy Hart) versus the Jumping Bomb Angels

Highlights:

First fall:

  • Once again, due to overdubbing, the ghost voice of Finkel introduced the Angels.
  • To begin the match, the Angels double-dropkicked the Glamour Girls.
  • Tateno then missed a dropkick to Kai.
  • Martin tagged in, slammed Tateno, but Tateno bridged out.
  • She then rolled up Martin for 2.
  • Yamazaki tagged in, gave Martin a rolling head butt, and then followed with a gutwrench suplex for 1.
  • Tateno attempted a cross body block, but Martin caught her and put her down on the mat.
  • She then missed an elbow drop.
  • Yamazaki tagged in and dropkicked Kai.
  • Next, Yamazaki tied up Kai in an octopus, but Martin came in to make the save.
  • Tateno took exception and dropkicked Martin back to her corner.
  • Following that, the Angels hooked double figure-four leg locks on the Glamour Girls.
  • After a leapfrog, Yamazaki received a kick in the back from Kai.
  • Reverse powerbomb by Martin got the pin and the first fall for the champs.

Second fall:

  • After a commercial break, Kai tagged in and stomped Yamazaki down; however, Yamazaki bridged out.
  • After a slam, Kai missed a splash.
  • Tateno tagged in and delivered both a dropkick and clothesline to Kai.
  • She then mounted the second turnbuckle, hit a flying clothesline, but only got 2.
  • Cross body block got 2 for Tateno.
  • Yamazaki came in so that the Angels could give Kai a double suplex.
  • With all four women in the ring, the Angels tried to cross-corner whip the champs together, but both were reversed. Instead of ramming into one another, each Angel put the brakes on so that the champs clotheslined one another. CLEVER!
  • Yamazaki then tried a running body block, but the bigger Kai ran her over like a Mack
  • On the other hand, Yamazaki countered either an over-the-shoulder backbreaker or a second reverse powerbomb into a sunset flip for the pin to tie up the match. Wow!

Third fall:

  • After another commercial break, the Angels delivered a double high knee to Kai.
  • Yamazaki then gave Kai another high knee.
  • Martin tagged in but received an enziguri from Yamazaki.
  • Afterward, Tateno tagged in but received a catapult from Martin.
  • Kai tagged back in and gave Tateno a double underhook suplex for 2.
  • After Yamazaki tagged in, Martin distracted referee Joey Marella so that Kai could choke Yamazaki. How dastardly!
  • Upon giving Kai a pair of a9tomic drops using the mat rather than the knee, Yamazaki got 2.
  • After a slam by Yamazaki, Tateno mounted the top turnbuckle and delivered a knee drop to Martin for 2.
  • Another slam earned another 2 for Tateno.
  • She then gave Martin a double underhook suplex with a bridge for 2.
  • Yamazaki tagged in, hit a cross body block, and got 2.
  • She then slammed Martin, mounted the second turnbuckle, but missed a senton.
  • Martin made the cover but only got 2.
  • Tateno tagged back in, mounted the second turnbuckle, and hit a clothesline for another 2 thanks to a save by Kai.
  • The Angels then mounted adjacent top turnbuckles and hit simultaneous missile dropkicks to Martin.
  • 1-2-3.
  • WE HAVE NEW CHAMPIONS!

Rating: ****

Summary: Amazing stuff for 1988 as both the wrestling acumen as well as the high-flying capability of the Angels showed how incredibly talented they truly were.

After a commercial break, we revisit WrestleMania III and the main event between Hogan and André up until the failed slam that almost changed the titleholder and wrestling history. Next, we see a promo by the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase who wants to buy the WWF title. Following that, Hogan responds with a “HELL NO” to DiBiase’s offer. In rebuttal, DiBiase vows to buy the title one way or another. Afterward, we revisit SNME XIV when André attacks Hogan after a successful title defense., Subsequently, André vows to deliver the WWF title to DiBiase upon victory over Hogan.

After another commercial break, Okerlund hosts the contract signing for the WWF title match on The Main Event on 2/5. With André, DiBiase, and Virgil already in the ring, Hogan makes his entrance to a big ovation. As WWF President Jack Tunney and Hogan sit down for the signing, André makes them play the waiting game. DiBiase then gets on the microphone and runs down Hogan who signs the contract. Next, André peruses then ultimately signs the contract. DiBiase then calls for the “stamp of approval” as André rams Hogan into the table then dumps it on top of him. Can Hogan avenge this humiliation on The Main Event?

Match 3 (Royal Rumble):

Participants (20):

  1. Brian Blair, Boris Zhukov, Bret Hart, Butch Reed, Danny Davis, Dino Bravo, Don Muraco, Harley Race, Hillbilly Jim, Jake Roberts, Jim Brunzell, Jim Duggan, Jim Neidhart, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, One Man Gang, Ron Bass, Sam Houston, Tito Santana, and the Ultimate Warrior

Highlights:

  • Unlike a normal battle royal, two men begin the match with “two minute” intervals for new participants.
  • Bret and Santana were already in the ring.
  • Bret reversed an Irish whip, leapfrogged Santana, but then ate a right hand.
  • However, he came back with an inverted atomic drop.
  • Next, he mounted the second turnbuckle and hit an elbow smash.
  • Reed was #3 as Santana hit the flying forearm.
  • Afterward, Santana gave Reed and Bret a double noggin knocker.
  • As Bret held Santana, Reed mounted the second turnbuckle and hit a double axe handle.
  • A double back elbow by Reed and Bret put Santana down on the mat.
  • Neidhart was #4, and Santana’s in deep trouble against three heels.
  • With both Neidhart and Reed holding Santana, Bret mounted the second turnbuckle again and hit a forearm smash.
  • Roberts was #5 and tossed Reed out.
  • He then gave Neidhart a cross-corner whip directly into Bret.
  • After Roberts slammed Bret, he and Santana gave the Hart Foundation cross-corner whips into one another.
  • Roberts then hooked Bret for the DDT, but Neidhart steamrolled him with a clothesline.
  • Bret then gave Santana a piledriver.
  • Race was #6 and gave Roberts a series of elbow drops.
  • As Race delivered a diving head butt to Roberts, Brunzell was #7.
  • After Bret gave Santana a backbreaker, Houston was #8.
  • The Hart Foundation then eliminated Santana.
  • Davis was #9 and went after Houston.
  • Next, he attacked Roberts but received a belly-to-back suplex for his troubles.
  • Zhukov was #10 as Brunzell rang Race’s bell.
  • Brunzell then put Bret on the top turnbuckle, but Race grabbed Brunzell so that Bret could nail him.
  • Bret then held Houston so that Davis could dropkick him.
  • Bret followed that with a backbreaker as both Muraco and Volkoff came in.
  • According to Vince, Muraco was the legal man.
  • Roberts and Brunzell then eliminated Zhukov.
  • Brunzell celebrated by giving Bret his patented dropkick.
  • While nothing worthwhile took place, Ventura threatened Vince with actions from his agent, Barry Bloom.
  • Not surprisingly, Volkoff was #12.
  • Shortly after, Muraco eliminated Race.
  • Bret almost eliminated Roberts, but Houston (Roberts’ half-brother) saved him. Feel the love!
  • While Race was reluctant to leave, Duggan was #13. When Duggan came to the ring, he shoved Race but was shoved back. Duggan then went after Race to ensure his departure.
  • Upon his entering the ring, he gave Neidhart the ten-punch count-along as the Copps Coliseum became a HO-down. Ahem. Pardon me.
  • Nonetheless, Bass was #14 as Volkoff eliminated Brunzell.
  • Blair was #15 as Duggan clotheslined Davis.
  • Meanwhile, Roberts mounted the second turnbuckle and delivered a double axe handle to Davis.
  • Number 16 was Hillbilly Jim who eliminated Neidhart.
  • Bass almost eliminated Blair, but Blair held onto the apron.
  • Next, Bravo was #17 as Bass eliminated Houston.
  • Ultimate Warrior was #18, but he wasn’t quite ultimate yet.
  • Muraco then eliminated Bret who set the initial longevity record at 25:42.
  • One Man Gang was #19, and I fear for the ring’s ability to survive.
  • Gang then tossed Blair followed by Roberts.
  • JYD was #20 as Duggan eliminated Volkoff.
  • Afterward, Gang eliminated Hillbilly Jim.
  • Three-point stance clothesline from Duggan eliminated Davis.
  • Bravo then eliminated Warrior.
  • Shortly after, Bass tossed out JYD.
  • Muraco then eliminated Bass.
  • Final four: Muraco, Gang, Duggan, and Bravo.
  • After a cross-corner whip of Duggan by Bravo, Gang delivered an avalanche SQUISHING Duggan.
  • To combat the double-team, Muraco used quickness including a dropkick to Gang. Wow!
  • Martin got up on the apron, but Muraco dropkicked him back to the floor.
  • As Bravo held Muraco, Gang clotheslined him over the top rope eliminating him.
  • Bravo and Gang then double-clotheslined Duggan.
  • As Bravo held Duggan, Gang tried a clothesline but eliminated Bravo instead of Duggan.
  • Gang then charged, but Duggan low-bridged him sending Gang to the floor.
  • Duggan won.

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  As an experiment, this was a success. Certainly, it was better than the average battle royal as the staggered entries added necessary drama. In addition, it wasn’t all brawling as at least some wrestling took place. All in all, the crowd enjoyed Davis’ elimination as well as Duggan’s participation, yet, after some fine tuning, next year’s event could be even better.

After a commercial break, we revisit the contract signing from earlier. On the platform, Craig DeGeorge interviews Hogan who changed from his white shirt to a Hulkamania t-shirt. When he gets worked up, he rips the shirt off to make the young girls squeal.

Match 4 (2 out of 3 falls): The Islanders (w/o Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) versus the Young Stallions

Highlights:

First fall:

  • After a leapfrog, Powers slammed Tama.
  • Upon giving Tama an atomic drop, Powers reversed a cross-corner whip but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • After a pair of leapfrogs by Roma, Haku countered a hip toss with one of his own.
  • Shortly after, a cross body block by Roma got 2.
  • Double back elbow by the Stallions got another 2.
  • After slamming Powers, Tama missed an elbow drop.
  • Haku then tagged in, delivered a back elbow, and got 2.
  • Tama tagged back in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and chopped Powers atop his head.
  • Haku tagged in again, and the Islanders delivered a double head butt to Powers.
  • Upon giving Powers a cross-corner whip, Haku ate knee on his follow-through.
  • Afterward, a double clothesline put both Haku and Powers down on the mat.
  • Roma tagged in and gave Tama a flying clothesline followed by a dropkick.
  • Following that, he gave Tama a backdrop and another dropkick for 2.
  • Tama came back and tossed Roma over the top rope to the floor with assistance from Haku.
  • Roma appeared to injure his knee and was counted out.
  • The Islanders lead one fall to zero.

Prior to the second fall, we again revisit the “stamp of approval” from the contract signing. On the platform, DeGeorge interviews DiBiase with André and Virgil. André is ready for Hogan on 2/5.

Second fall:

  • The Stallions returned to the ring as Roma limped with his knee taped.
  • Of course, Tama attacked Roma’s knee to begin the fall.
  • After a slam, Tama hit knees, but Roma couldn’t follow up.
  • Instead, he tagged Powers who gave Haku a back drop for 2.
  • Next, Powers gave Haku a cross-corner whip followed by a clothesline.
  • An elbow smash got another 2.
  • He then gave Haku a dropkick for yet another 2.
  • He followed that with a vertical suplex and almost got 3.
  • Another back elbow earned a fourth two-count for Powers.
  • Shortly after an exchange of tags by the Islanders, Powers hooked an inside cradle for 2 on Haku.
  • Haku then gave Powers a backbreaker for 2.
  • Tama tagged in and gave Powers a flying back elbow.
  • A subsequent hip toss by Tama got 2.
  • Haku tagged in, delivered a dropkick, and got 2.
  • He then gave Powers a gutwrench suplex and got another 2.
  • Following that, he hooked an abdominal stretch, but Powers hip-tossed out of it.
  • After a slam, Haku missed a somersault senton.
  • Powers then tagged the injured Roma. Cue ominous music.
  • Leg sweep by Haku took Roma down.
  • Tama tagged in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and splashed the injured knee.
  • Despite not being the legal man, Haku hooked a single-leg crab for the submission.

Rating: **

Summary:  Since the Islanders were feuding with the Bulldogs, I would have rather seen that match.

Conclusion:  With the woman’s’ tag title and the Rumble matches, this is a must-see show. While it isn’t spectacular, those matches make this show worthwhile. On top of that, it promotes The Main Event on 2/5 which I cannot wait to see. I wonder if Jim Crockett’s show is as good as this one is.

Stay tuned for NWA Bunkhouse Stampede!

Rating: 8.20

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