Rock Star Gary reflects on…WWF Royal Rumble ’89

WWF Royal Rumble ‘89

Live from Houston, TX

Airdate: January 15, 1988

Attendance:  19,000

Hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Question to the masses: If a baseball game lasts until 3am on a work night, can we still blame Vince McMahon? Ponder on that while enjoying the show.

Since there is no Bunkhouse Stampede to steal viewers this year, the WWF asks us to pay for the 2nd annual Royal Rumble on PPV. Thank goodness that it’s 27 years later and I can just play it on the WWE Network.

Match 1 (2 out of 3 falls): The Hart Foundation & “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan versus the Rougeaus & Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchy Martin & Jimmy Hart)


First fall:

  • Good rule of thumb: If you run a show where Mid-South/UWF was hotter than Texas chili, then put Duggan in the opener.
  • As you would expect, the Houston faithful chanted “U-S-A” in favor of the babyfaces. In ’89, Bret didn’t seem to mind. By ’97, his story would change (kayfabe-wise) drastically.
  • Upon ducking a clothesline, Neidhart delivered one of his own to Bravo but missed an elbow drop.
  • With his opponent down, Bravo tried the same thing and got the same result. D’oh! <insert doh.gif>
  • Duggan tagged in and the Houston faithful erupted.
  • After a slam, Duggan gave Raymond a knee drop.
  • Bret entered, leap-frogged, and then hooked Raymond in an inside cradle for 2.
  • He then hooked a sunset flip for another 2 on Raymond.
  • Next, he tried a cross body block but only got 2 due to some interference from the heel corner.
  • Jacques tagged in but ate a clothesline from Bret.
  • Raymond came in as did Neidhart who made a Rougeau sandwich in the corner. Pass the mayo!
  • Bravo and Duggan then joined the mix to make it a club sandwich. Pile on the bacon!
  • Upon hitting a thrust kick to Jacques, Bret received a low bridge from Raymond down to the floor.
  • After Raymond tossed Bret back in, Bravo delivered a sidewalk slam.
  • As Raymond tagged in, the Rougeaus hit Le Bombe de Rougeau on Bret.
  • 1-2-3.
  • The heels lead 1-0.

Second fall:

  • To begin the second fall, Raymond delivered a gutwrench suplex to Bret but only got 2.
  • As Jacques tagged in, he delivered a flying back elbow to Bret for another 2.
  • He then gave Bret a cross-corner whip that resulted in a sternum-first bump.
  • Bravo tagged in and got 2 on Bret.
  • He then gave Bret an inverted atomic drop and got another 2.
  • The Rougeaus then gave Bret a double gutbuster for yet another 2. Let’s hope that club sandwich stayed down.
  • Bravo tagged in and applied a bear hug.
  • Will Bret submit?
  • No, he nailed Bravo twice to escape.
  • Jacques tagged in, but Bret hooked another sunset flip for 2.
  • Bravo tagged in and partially nailed Bret for 2.
  • Jacques then hooked a Boston crab.
  • As Raymond distracted referee Joey Marella, Bret made the false tag to Neidhart.
  • While Bravo continued to distract Marella, Raymond hooked a Jacques-assisted abdominal stretch.
  • After a double-team by the Rougeaus, Raymond delivered an elbow drop and almost got 3.
  • He then tried a slam, but Bret fell on top for 2.
  • Jacques then attempted a monkey flip, but Bret countered with an inverted atomic drop.
  • Hot tag Duggan.
  • After a slam, Duggan used a slingshot to shoot Neidhart atop Raymond for 2.
  • He then performed the same stunt with Bret. Can I go next please?
  • Ultimately, he gave Raymond an elbow drop for the pin.
  • The match was tied 1-1.

Third fall:

  • Duggan began the third fall by giving Raymond the ten-punch count-along.
  • Raymond then reversed a cross-corner whip but ate a clothesline.
  • As Bravo distracted Marella again, Jacques gave Duggan the business from the apron.
  • Jacques tagged in and gave Duggan a dropkick.
  • When Bravo tagged in, he slammed Duggan and got 2.
  • He then gave Duggan the third inverted atomic drop of the match.
  • Bret tagged in, nailed Bravo, and then gave an incoming Jacques the fourth inverted atomic drop of the match. They must have been on sale two for a dollar.
  • After an elbow smash, Bret gave Bravo a backbreaker.
  • He then mounted the second turnbuckle, but Raymond spilled him back down to the mat.
  • While Neidhart distracted Marella in the heel corner with the Rougeaus, Bret missed a rollup of Bravo.
  • However, Duggan didn’t miss when he WALLOPED Bravo with the 2×4.
  • 1-2-3.
  • The babyfaces won 2-1.
  • Despite the babyface nefariousness, the Houston faithful ate it up with a spoon.

Rating: ***

Summary:  Really good opener that kept you on the edge of your seat anticipating what could happen next.

Meanwhile, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (w/ Virgil) is ready to pull his lottery number for the Royal Rumble match. When Virgil reveals the number, DiBiase isn’t satisfied and calls out to Slick. Since Slick was ecstatic about the Twin Towers’ numbers, DiBiase purportedly sought to make a business proposal with him.

Next, the Honkytonk Man picks his number yet isn’t thrilled in the least.

The Bushwhackers make their WWF supercard début by destroying the tumbler to get their numbers. Pass the Steinlager!

Bad News Brown picks his number and informs us that it’s “good news for Bad News.”

Roberts retrieves his number, shows it to Damien, and hopes that Andre is still there when he arrives.

When the Rockers get their numbers, Jannetty gets Jack Daniels while Michaels gets kamikazes. Oh wait, that’s AFTER the show. Never mind.

Match 2 for the WWF Women’s title: Rockin’ Robin (champion) versus Judy Martin


  • Wait a minute! What happened to Sensational Sherri’s title reign? Oh, Robin beat her on 10/7 in Paris, France. The match aired on Prime Time Wrestling on 11/8.
  • For those unaware, Rockin’ Robin is the sister of Sam Houston and half-sister of Jake Roberts.
  • Popcorn, anyone? The Houston faithful definitely felt it was time for the popcorn match.
  • Speaking of Sensational Sherri, she got on the microphone and challenged the winner of the match for another shot at the title.
  • Martin reversed a cross-corner whip but came up empty on her follow-through.
  • Robin then gave her a pair of dropkicks as Sherri joined the broadcast team for this match.
  • After a cross-corner whip, Robin ate a knee to the midsection on her follow-through.
  • Upon face-planting Robin, she ate a clothesline.
  • Robin then attempted a cross body block, but Martin caught and threw her down since she weighed more than likely 110 lbs. soaked in sweat.
  • She then tried a sunset flip but ate a knuckle sandwich.
  • Next, she hooked a Boston crab, but Martin escaped and got an overconfident 2.
  • To counter, Robin hooked Martin’s arms and got 2.
  • Martin came back with a sloppy inside cradle but got 2 anyway.
  • After an elbow drop, Robin got 2.
  • She then attempted a dropkick but missed.
  • Martin then tried a suplex, but Robin blocked it like a Notre Dame punt in the rain.
  • When Robin attempted a rollup, Martin blocked it but forgot the finger wag.
  • After a clothesline, Martin got 2.
  • She then slammed Robin and got another 2.
  • Robin then mangled a DDT but got 2 out of it.
  • She then missed an elbow drop.
  • Martin tried the same trick and got the same result. Didn’t she watch the first match?
  • Robin then attempted a slam, but Martin blocked it and slammed her instead for 2.
  • Meanwhile, Ventura and Sherri told Monsoon to make like a tree and “leave.” HA!
  • Martin then hooked a backslide and got 2.
  • After a boot to the midsection, Robin got 2.
  • She then hooked an inside cradle for another 2.
  • As that transpired, Sherri’s chomping at the bit to get ahold of the winner.
  • While Martin reversed a cross-corner whip, Robin leaped to the second turnbuckle, faked out Martin, and hit a cross body block for the pin.

Rating: ½*

Summary: Who in the WWF thought Rockin’ Robin had any semblance of talent to be Women’s champion? Regardless, the popcorn tasted much better than this match did.

Promo for WrestleMania V coming April 2.

Backstage, Sean Mooney interviews Slick with the Twin Towers. When he broaches the subject of DiBiase, Slick denies any shenanigans faster than the babysitter’s boyfriend when the parents pull up in the driveway. We then revisit DiBiase’s drawing as Slick skirts the issue while praising his team.

Super pose down: “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) versus WWF Intercontinental champion the Ultimate Warrior

  • “Mean” Gene Okerlund was the moderator for this event.
  • Rude’s first pose—double bicep. The Houston faithful wasn’t pleased.
  • When Warrior posed, the Houston faithful cheered.
  • Between poses, Rude used a power twister to pump up.
  • Next pose—best abs. Sorry, Warrior, but Rude’s got this one.
  • Warrior’s abs were well-defined but nowhere near Rude’s.
  • Next pose—most muscular. Rude’s total definition was awesome.
  • Similarly, Warrior was tremendously muscular.
  • Before the final pose, Rude performed numerous pushups. Who is he? Scott Steiner?
  • Final pose—muscular montage. Again, the Houston faithful disapproved of Rude’s posing.
  • When Warrior posed, Rude repeatedly nailed him with the power twister.
  • After Rude and Heenan left the ring, officials, including Nick Bockwinkel, came to help Warrior. As Warrior got to his feet, he chopped Bockwinkel down to the mat.
  • He then ambushed the officials and chased after Rude.

Promo #2 for WrestleMania V.

Pre-recorded promo by Fuji airs. As you would expect, he advocates the Powers of Pain and runs down Demolition. Okerlund then interviews Elizabeth who doesn’t want to think about a possible confrontation between Hogan and Savage. Next, Jimmy Hart shills both Greg Valentine and the Honkytonk Man.

In the arena, Ventura sits on the King’s throne, wants to be King himself, but promotes the battle for King of the WWF like he should.

Match 3 (crown): King Haku (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) versus Harley Race


  • As Race made his entrance, he dumped King Haku off his throne then rammed King Haku face-first into the ring post.
  • After a knee lift, he delivered a clothesline.
  • He then got 2 after a vertical suplex.
  • A second clothesline sent King Haku between the ropes to the floor.
  • Race then joined King Haku, tried to ram him again into the ring post, but King Haku sent him shoulder-first into it instead.
  • Back in the ring, Race gave Haku an inverted atomic drop. That’s #5 on the evening thus far.
  • As Race delivered a pair of elbow drops, Heenan switched his allegiance from King Haku to Race. HA!
  • Haku then gave Race a cross-corner whip that resulted in a Race flip to the floor. That looked painful. I noticed Race’s scar from hernia surgery. Knowing how tough he is, he probably didn’t need Propofol during it.
  • As Race returned to the apron, King Haku gave him a shot that flipped Race face-first back in the ring.
  • Race then attempted a pair of head butts, but they had ZERO effect on King Haku.
  • After another clothesline, Race gave King Haku a piledriver for 2.
  • Next, a mid-ring collision sent King Haku down to the mat and Race between the ropes to the floor.
  • Like a politician, Heenan then flip-flopped his allegiance to King Haku.
  • With a vertical suplex, King Haku brought Race back in the hard way for 2.
  • After King Haku missed an elbow drop, Race then delivered his own vertical suplex for 2.
  • He then tossed King Haku to the floor, joined him, attempted a piledriver, but ate a back drop instead.
  • King Haku then rammed Race face-first into the apron and back-first into it afterward.
  • Race then successfully hit the piledriver on the floor.
  • Somehow, King Haku returned to the ring only to receive a swinging neckbreaker for 2.
  • Clothesline #3 followed by a knee drop by Race got another 2.
  • King Haku then slammed Race, mounted the top turnbuckle, but missed a splash.
  • Race then mounted the second turnbuckle but missed a diving head butt.
  • After Race missed a clothesline, King Haku demolished Race with a savate kick.
  • 1-2-3.
  • King Haku retained the crown.

Rating: *1/2

Summary: One would think an eight-time NWA champion passing the torch to someone would elevate him, so I wonder what the future holds for King Haku. The Houston faithful, seeing two heels battle one another, didn’t root for either wrestler. Unfortunately, this was Race’s last match in the WWF.

Promo #3 for WrestleMania V.

Next, Beefcake begins the promo marathon. He’s followed by Valentine who doesn’t trust anybody. After that, Mr. Fuji and his panting Powers of Pain prepare for the Rumble. Say that five times fast. Holy long-lost legends, Batman! It’s Big John Studd! He’s out of retirement and has left the Heenan Family (aired 12/24, taped 12/6). The next promo comes from Mr. Perfect who coins 1989 the “year of perfection.” WWF Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage follows with a lot of enthusiasm.

Backstage, Okerlund interviews DiBiase (w/ Virgil) and questions him about a certain business transaction.  How’d he get ahold of DiBiase’s bank statement so quickly?

Elsewhere backstage, Mooney interviews Heenan, the Brain Busters, and André. After André threatens to throw everyone out of the ring (including the Brain Busters), Arn whispers secret military strategy to Blanchard. Clever!

Okerlund then interviews Hogan whose ego is off the charts. Frankly, if he and Savage were in the ring together, Hogan stated he would toss Savage out. I smell dissension in the ranks.

Match 4 (Royal Rumble):

Participants (30):

Akeem, André the Giant, Arn Anderson, Bad News Brown, Barbarian, Big Boss Man, Big John Studd, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Bushwhacker Butch, Bushwhacker Luke, Demolition Ax, Demolition Smash, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Hercules, Honkytonk Man, Hulk Hogan, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Koko B. Ware, Marty Jannetty, Mr. Perfect, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Red Rooster, Rick Martel, “Outlaw” Ron Bass, Ronnie Garvin, Shawn Michaels, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Tito Santana, Tully Blanchard, & the Warlord


  • While Ax was #1, Smash was #2. The WWF tag champs will have to fight one another! Since they’re a team, I don’t think Smash would want to break Ax’s stinkin’ arm.
  • Smash gave Ax a cross-corner whip but ate boot on his follow-through.
  • Ax then followed with a clothesline but received a slam.
  • After a clothesline by Smash, Ax tried to eliminate him, but Smash only landed on the apron.
  • Smash then gave Ax a double axe handle and placed him atop the top turnbuckle.
  • André was #3. I fear for Demolition’s survival.
  • As André entered the ring, Demolition gave him a double clothesline.
  • André came back and gave them a double noggin knocker.
  • Perfect was #4.
  • After André SQUISHED Ax in the corner, he eliminated Smash.
  • Ax then gave Perfect a cross-corner whip resulting in a sternum-first bump.
  • After that, André gave Perfect a head butt that practically sent him back to Minnesota.
  • Garvin was #5.
  • After one shot from the “Hands of Stone,” André was tied up in the ropes.
  • While sitting atop Ax in the corner, André gave Perfect and Garvin a double noggin knocker.
  • He then nailed Perfect so hard that Curtis Axel felt it upon his début in 2010.
  • As Valentine was #6, André eliminated Garvin.
  • After Perfect slammed him, Ax retaliated with a clothesline.
  • Roberts was #7 as the Houston faithful awoke from a deep slumber.
  • As Roberts entered the ring, he fought with André.
  • Valentine tried to interfere, ate a head butt from André, and fell flat on his face.
  • Bass was #8 as André eliminated Roberts.
  • Michaels was #9 while Perfect eliminated Ax.
  • He then tried to eliminate Michaels, but the latter skinned the cat to re-enter the ring.
  • Michaels followed with a right hand that resulted in a 360° sell by Perfect. Woohoo!
  • He then gave Perfect a dropkick that almost eliminated him.
  • As André applied a bear hug to Bass, Butch was #10.
  • Suddenly, Roberts returned to the ring with Damien, and Andre’s so scared that he eliminated himself.
  • After a whip by Bass, Michaels received the Ax from Perfect.
  • Michaels then whipped Bass into another Ax by Perfect.
  • As Michaels gave Perfect and Bass a double noggin knocker, he mounted the second turnbuckle and nailed Perfect.
  • Honkytonk Man was #11.
  • Perfect and Michaels then got rammed together.
  • Santana was #12 and gave Perfect a back drop followed by a clothesline.
  • Bass then backdropped Michaels higher than a Houston Rocket.
  • Perfect and Bass then gave Michaels a double suplex.
  • Brown was #13. Lucky for him, I guess.
  • Butch and Santana then eliminated Honkytonk Man as Santana rang Valentine’s bell.
  • After Butch received the Ax from Perfect, Valentine dropped the Hammer.
  • Michaels then mounted the top turnbuckle and nailed both Bass and Brown.
  • Valentine then gave Michaels an atomic drop that almost eliminated him.
  • Jannetty was #14.
  • The Rockers then gave Bass a double elbow followed by a double dropkick to eliminate him.
  • Valentine then gave Santana inverted atomic drop #6 of the evening.
  • As Jannetty gave Perfect the ten-turnbuckle count-along, Santana delivered a flying forearm to Valentine.
  • Savage was #15.
  • Without removing his bandana or sunglasses, Savage whipped Brown into the corner and gave him a back elbow.
  • As Santana held Valentine, Savage mounted the second turnbuckle and delivered a double axe handle.
  • Brown then whipped Savage into the corner but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • While Arn was #16, Savage eliminated Valentine.
  • As Arn entered the ring, Michaels gave him a superkick.
  • Savage and Arn then gave Michaels a double back elbow eliminating him. Hey! Savage is a face! What’s he doing? Hmmm…
  • Jannetty then mounted the second turnbuckle and nailed Arn.
  • Arn then mounted the top turnbuckle but got caught and crotched by Jannetty.
  • Blanchard was #17. mounted the second turnbuckle, and gave Perfect an elbow smash.
  • Afterward, Jannetty gave Blanchard the ten-punch count-along.
  • Blanchard tried to counter with an inverted atomic drop, but Jannetty told him that #7 was reserved and clotheslined him. Perhaps I’m paraphrasing.
  • Arn then gave Jannetty the SPINEBUSTER.
  • Next, the Brain Busters delivered a series of elbow drops to Jannetty.
  • Savage then mounted the top turnbuckle and delivered a double axe handle to Perfect.
  • After Blanchard eliminated Jannetty, Hogan was #18 to a HUGE ovation.
  • Upon entering the ring, Hogan eliminated Perfect then gave the Brain Busters a double noggin knocker.
  • Savage then eliminated Santana.
  • With Hogan in trouble, Savage didn’t come to his partner’s aid. Cue ominous music.
  • While Luke was #19, Hogan and Brown eliminated Butch.
  • Hogan then guillotined Blanchard using the top rope.
  • Brown then gave Savage a clothesline.
  • After an elbow smash, Hogan gave Arn the big boot.
  • Ware was #20.
  • Upon his entrance, Ware delivered dropkicks to Luke and Arn consecutively.
  • Blanchard then tried to give Hogan the ten-punch count-along, but Hogan told him he’d be recipient #7 of an inverted atomic drop instead. Supposedly, Jannetty was backstage saying “I told you so!” I could be paraphrasing however.
  • Once again, Arn mounted the top turnbuckle, but Hogan caught and slammed him down to the mat.
  • Savage then gave Blanchard an atomic drop that caused him to ram heads with Arn.
  • After Hogan eliminated Ware and Luke in short order, Warlord was #21.
  • Hogan then eliminated both Brain Busters at once.
  • Just as Warlord entered the ring, Hogan clotheslined him out. That was rather abrupt.
  • He then eliminated both Brown and Savage. Wait a minute!
  • Immediately, Savage re-entered the ring to confront him.
  • After Savage shoved Hogan, Elizabeth ran in to separate them. Somehow I don’t think that’ll work.
  • Remarkably, cooler heads eventually prevailed as the MegaPowers shook hands and hugged.
  • Meanwhile, Boss Man was #22.
  • Hogan then gave him a clothesline followed by a series of elbow drops.
  • After a slam by Hogan, Boss Man reversed a cross-corner whip and delivered an avalanche.
  • He then gave Hogan a piledriver.
  • After a slam, Boss Man missed a splash.
  • Akeem was #23. I don’t like Hogan’s chances.
  • Hogan then gave Boss Man a cross-corner whip followed by a corner clothesline.
  • He then rammed Akeem into Boss Man.
  • After Hogan slammed Akeem, Boss Man almost eliminated him.
  • Upon giving the Twin Towers a double noggin knocker, Hogan delivered a belly-to-back suplex to Boss Man.
  • He then received an Akeem-assisted avalanche from Boss Man.
  • Amazingly, the Twin Towers then eliminated Hogan! I’m thinking the casinos made bank when this happened.
  • Frustrated, Hogan pulled Boss Man under the bottom rope and rammed him head-first into the ring bell. That’s very unsportsmanlike.
  • Akeem joined them and attacked Hogan.
  • Beefcake was #24 and jumped on Akeem’s back to aid his long-time friend.
  • As officials tried to keep Hogan from re-entering the ring, Boss Man got low-bridged by Hogan and was eliminated.
  • Hogan then rammed Boss Man face-first into the steel steps.
  • He and Boss Man then fought down the aisle.
  • Before they got backstage, Hogan rammed him into the sound engineer’s table and nailed him with a metal storage container. Perhaps it was a hint for Boss Man to listen to metal music from now on.
  • In the meantime, Akeem was annihilating Beefcake in the ring.
  • Rooster was #25; however, Akeem slammed him like he was a lightweight.
  • Beefcake and Rooster then gave Akeem a double cross-corner whip and whipped each other into him.
  • While Barbarian was #26, Rooster gave Akeem the ten-punch count-along.
  • In response, Akeem then splashed Rooster.
  • Studd was #27 as he and Akeem battled it out like a clash of the titans.
  • No, not like that!
  • Nevertheless, Hercules was #28.
  • Beefcake then gave Barbarian the ten-punch count-along.
  • As Martel was #29, he gave Rooster a dropkick.
  • DiBiase was #30. How appropriate.
  • After DiBiase missed a clothesline, Rooster delivered a five-arm.
  • DiBiase retaliated with a cross-corner whip that resulted in a Rooster flip down to the floor.
  • Seven wrestlers remained.
  • Upon ducking a clothesline, Hercules delivered one of his own to DiBiase.
  • Following a knee lift, he gave DiBiase two more clotheslines.
  • Afterward, Hercules applied a bear hug to Beefcake, but the latter rang Hercules’ bell to escape.
  • Beefcake then applied a sleeper to Hercules, but DiBiase and Barbarian eliminated both of them. SNEAKY!
  • With the count down to five, Barbarian delivered a flying shoulder block to Martel.
  • He followed with a powerslam and mounted the top turnbuckle.
  • He then nailed Martel with a diving head butt.
  • After Barbarian missed a clothesline, Martel gave him a dropkick then eliminated him.
  • Akeem then whipped Martel into the corner but came up empty on his follow-through.
  • Upon giving Akeem a pair of dropkicks, Martel attempted a cross body block, but Akeem caught and eliminated him.
  • Three wrestlers remained.
  • As Akeem held Studd, DiBiase mounted the second turnbuckle and delivered a double axe handle.
  • With Studd in the corner, Akeem gave him an avalanche.
  • DiBiase egged him on for an encore, but Studd pulled him in front of him.
  • Akeem then SQUISHED DiBiase.
  • Studd then nailed Akeem with a forearm smash to eliminate him.
  • After DiBiase’s attempts at bribery failed, he mounted the second turnbuckle, but Studd caught him.
  • He then gave DiBiase a standing choke and tossed him back-first into the corner.
  • Upon slamming DiBiase, Studd gave him a butterfly suplex.
  • He then delivered a gutwrench suplex. Someone’s been giving him lessons.
  • After a clothesline, Studd eliminated DiBiase to win.

Rating: ****

Summary:  Excellent pacing, excellent storytelling, but the hot air left the balloon once the MegaPowers were gone. To me, this was Studd’s lifetime achievement award from the WWF. Unfortunately, he died of liver cancer and Hodgkin’s disease in 1995. RIP John.

After the match, Virgil tries to attack Studd to no avail. After nailing Virgil, Studd gives him an Irish whip followed by a vicious shoulder block. After Virgil goes down like a house of cards, Studd slams and clotheslines him. For the sake of Virgil’s health, Studd tosses him out like a sack of potatoes.

As the show ends, promo #4 for WrestleMania V airs.

Conclusion:  With the exciting opener as well as an entertaining Rumble match, this show is definitely worth your time to seek out and enjoy.

Stay tuned for WWF Main Event II! My spidey-sense is tingling.

Rating: 1.50

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