Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan are in the studio to kick off the first show of 1991. Heenan is mad that the Rosati Sisters did not give him the Rolex at the New Year’s party.
Opening Contest: Saba Simba defeats Greg Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) via disqualification at 4:59 shown:
Simba was Tony Atlas, attempting a comeback in the WWF after a six-year hiatus. He was most noted for teaming with Rocky Johnson and winning the WWF Tag Team Championship from the Wild Samoans in 1983, making the duo the first all-African American team to hold the titles. Atlas was homeless by the end of the 1980s and this run was a favor of Vince McMahon to help him out, although it required Atlas to wear traditional African dress and dance in a gimmick that fans believed was racist and insensitive. Criticisms only amplified when Atlas’ first feud in 1990 was supposed to be against Akeem over who was the “real African” of the WWF, but the program went nowhere after Akeem quit before Survivor Series. Atlas was still trying to find his footing as 1991 began, but the company was showing signs of giving up on him early, evidenced by him getting dominated by the Barbarian and losing cleanly on Prime Time Wrestling at the end of 1990.
Valentine, the son of famed wrestler Johnny Valentine, was entering his third decade in the wrestling business. Trained by Stu Hart, Valentine began working in 1970 and quickly became a fixture in Mid-Atlantic and Vince McMahon, Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), feuding with stars like Bob Backlund, Pedro Morales, Ric Flair, and Roddy Piper. In 1984, Valentine joined the WWF and over the next few years he would trade the Intercontinental Championship with Tito Santana and win the tag team titles with Brutus Beefcake. In 1990, Valentine lost a year-long feud to Ronnie Garvin and became part of a tag team called Rhythm & Blues with the Honky Tonk Man, an act that required Valentine to dye his hair black. The team won a feud with the Bushwhackers but failed to defeat the Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team Championship after SummerSlam.
This bout, joined in progress, took place at Madison Square Garden on December 28. Valentine was not wearing his Rhythm & Blues gear because the Honky Tonk Man recently quit, disrupting plans for a feud between the two. Simba is very sloppy in the ring, messing up several technical wrestling spots. Eventually, Valentine pushes the referee while pounding Simba in the corner and earns a disqualification. Rating: ½*
After the bell, Hart tries to nail Simba with a guitar but heel miscommunication occurs, with Valentine doing a great sell of taking the blow, standing for five seconds in a daze, and then collapsing to the canvas. When Valentine is revived, the crowd wants him to turn babyface and beat up Hart, but he does not oblige.
Gene Okerlund’s interview with WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior on Wrestling Challenge is shown.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (1-0) pins Tom Stone after the three-point stance clothesline at 1:57:
As Duggan goes on about how he is excited for the Royal Rumble in the split screen, he quickly squashes Stone, with the jobber only managing two punches of offense.
Monsoon and Heenan discuss the significance of the draw in the Royal Rumble, educating new fans about how the gimmick match works.
Okerlund provides The Royal Rumble Report, which is a replay of what aired on Superstars.
The Undertaker’s squash from Wrestling Challenge is shown.
Monsoon takes a call from the Gobbledy Gooker, promising that fans can see the Gooker at some upcoming WWF events.
Earthquake (w/Jimmy Hart) pins Don Steel with the Earthquake Splash at 1:34:
A former collegiate and sumo wrestler, Earthquake, whose real name was John Tenta, started wrestling for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in 1987 after being trained by Giant Baba. After a decent run there, Tenta worked for Vancouver-based NWA All Star Wrestling and was signed by the WWF in late 1989. Originally cast a lumberjack on house shows, the WWF changed his gimmick to the Canadian Earthquake and he worked as a partner of Canadian wrestler Dino Bravo in a failed effort to help Bravo defeat the Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship. Throughout 1990, Earthquake slowly became a bigger star than Bravo. He defeated Hercules at WrestleMania VI and made waves by attacking Hulk Hogan on the Brother Love Show shortly after WrestleMania, putting Hogan on the shelf for several months. The two would co-main event SummerSlam, where Hogan defeated Earthquake via count out, and they formed teams for Survivor Series, where Hogan’s Hulkamaniacs triumphed over Earthquake’s Natural Disasters. Since Earthquake had not been cleanly defeated by Hogan on television, the feud between them was still a major program going into 1991, headlining house shows either in singles bouts or tag team encounters where Earthquake teamed with Bravo to face Hogan and Tugboat.
The commentary puts over how Earthquake’s size is an advantage in the Royal Rumble, giving him this year’s “He is too fat to throw over the top rope” push. Earthquake pulverizes the much smaller Steel, sending him to the hospital with another Earthquake Splash.
Shane Douglas pins Haku with a reverse flying body press off the second rope at 7:53:
Douglas started working in 1982 after being trained by WWWF talent Dominic DeNucci. After taking on the name Shane Douglas while working for Bill Watts’ UWF he won the promotion’s Television title before jumping to WCW in 1989, working as part of a tag team called the Dynamic Dudes with Johnny Ace. A year later, Ace left WCW for AJPW and Douglas decided to leave as well when WCW wanted him to job to Mark Calaway’s heart punch. Arriving in the WWF in the summer of 1990, Douglas was given a rookie push, winning competitive matches against jobbers on Prime Time Wrestling. However, he struggled against bigger opponents, losing his biggest match of the year to the Barbarian on Prime Time in October. Despite that setback, Douglas ended 1990 on a six-match winning streak and was booked to compete in the Royal Rumble.
While Douglas appeared to be heading up the card, Haku was on his way down. After a brief career in sumo wrestling, Haku was trained for pro wrestling by Giant Baba and made his debut in 1978 for AJPW. After runs in Montreal and Puerto Rico, Haku came to the WWF in 1986 under the name King Tonga. He made waves by bodyslamming Big John Studd and was then put into a tag team called the Islanders with Samuel Fatu, who took on the name Tama. The duo feuded with the Can-Am Connection and the British Bulldogs but never came close to winning the tag team titles. Split off a single in 1988, Haku became the King of the WWF when Harley Race was sidelined with a stomach injury, a title Haku retained when he defeated Race in a singles match at the 1989 Royal Rumble. After losing the crown to Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Haku drifted as a single until he was paired with Andre the Giant as a tandem called the Colossal Connection. The duo squashed Demolition to win the WWF Tag Team Championship on Superstars in December 1989, but they dropped the titles in a rematch at WrestleMania VI. After the bout, Haku tried to attack Andre but was thwarted. He had a chance to win the WWF Championship from the Ultimate Warrior on Saturday Night’s Main Event in late April but failed. He then spent the rest of 1990 losing to other stars like Tugboat, the Texas Tornado, the Big Bossman, and Jimmy Snuka.
Like the opener, this bout took place at Madison Square Garden, although it happened at the November 24 show. Douglas wants to wrestle a fast bout, but Haku will have none of that and slows things down, irritating the crowd. Douglas sells well and his comeback injects some much-needed energy into the contest, with the youngster catching Haku with a reverse flying body press off the second rope to win. Haku sells the finish well as he jumps up to catch Douglas, so the impact is more pronounced when the wrestlers hit the canvas. Rating: *¾
Hulk Hogan’s appearance on the Brother Love Show from Superstars airs.
Tugboat pins Boris Zhukov with a splash at 5:58:
Tugboat, a Boris Malenko trainee, was a brother-in-law of Dusty Rhodes and started his career in 1984. He wrestled in GCW, the CWA, and the CWF, making his biggest impact in the last promotion when he defeated Rhodes for the Florida Heavyweight Championship. When he was signed by the WWF, the company thought of making him a heel called Big Steel Man and gave him Slick as a manager but after working a few house shows the company changed his gimmick to a big sailor named Tugboat Tyler. The name would change to Tugboat Thomas when he made his television debut in January 1990, changing one last time to Tugboat by the end of the month. Throughout 1990, Tugboat assembled an undefeated streak and had the best win-loss total in the company, earning his biggest win against the Warlord via disqualification on Prime Time Wrestling. He also became a reliable friend of Hulk Hogan, urging fans to write Hogan when he was hospitalized by Earthquake and then teaming with Hogan to get revenge on Earthquake and Dino Bravo on house shows.
Zhukov, trained by Don Hogan and Steve Savage, began his career in 1978 for GCW. First using the name Jim Nelson, Zhukov adopted his name while working for World Class in 1983. Prior to coming to the WWF, Zhukov found his biggest success in the AWA, unsuccessfully challenging Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA Championship in 1986 and winning the AWA Tag Team Championship with Soldat Ustinov in May 1987. Signed by the WWF later that year, Zhukov was paired with Nikolai Volkoff as a Soviet tag team called the Bolsheviks. The team was often on the bottom of the heel tag team pecking order, losing to more popular babyface acts. This was best shown at WrestleMania VI when the Bolsheviks lost to the Hart Foundation in seventeen seconds. In May, the Bolsheviks disbanded and feuded with each other, with Volkoff embracing America and Zhukov sticking with his Soviet ideals. Volkoff dominated Zhukov in their feud and Zhukov turned into a glorified jobber, although he did earn a pay-per-view payday at Survivor Series as a fill-in for Akeem on Sergeant Slaughter’s Mercenaries team.
Fans at Madison Square Garden on November 24 were treated to a poor showing from these two, with each exchanging long rest holds in the attempt to wear the other down. Zhukov tries to slam Tugboat, but that goes nowhere and Tugboat avalanches and splashes him to win. This would be Zhukov’s last televised appearance in the company as he would leave for good in February 1991. Rating: DUD
Heenan tells a story about a starving pelican that beat up three sailors in an attempt to discredit Tugboat’s Royal Rumble chances.
Power & Glory’s squash from Prime Time a few weeks ago airs.
The Big Bossman pins Kent Carlson with a spinebuster at 1:35:
Art imitated life as the Bossman’s gimmick of a corrections officer related his past job in Cobb County, Georgia. Joining the business in 1985 after being trained by Ted Allen, the Bossman had a short run in Ron Fuller’s Continental Championship Wrestling (CCW) before moving to Jim Crockett Promotions, where he was presented as Big Bubba Rogers, a bodyguard for Jim Cornette. Moving onto Bill Watt’s UWF, the Bossman won the promotion’s top title from the One Mang Gang and was signed by the WWF in 1988. Working as a heel, the Bossman wreaked havoc with his partner in crime, Akeem, feuding with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, as well as Demolition. The Bossman also got his own feud with Hulk Hogan in 1989, culminating in a cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event in May 1989. In 1990, the Bossman lost to Hacksaw Jim Duggan at The Royal Rumble and turned babyface after he found out that his manager Slick took a payoff from Ted DiBiase to get the Bossman to retrieve DiBiase’s Million Dollar Championship from Jake Roberts. The Bossman won an on-screen feud with Akeem and won a house show feud with DiBiase before being inserted into a new program against Rick Rude, who goaded the Bossman by having his manager Bobby Heenan make jokes about the Bossman’s mother. When Rude quit the company a few weeks into the program the booking was changed to make the feud between the Bossman and Heenan, with the Bossman going through Heenan’s Family in an attempt to bring Heenan to justice for his comments. This set up a match for The Royal Rumble that pitted the Bossman against the Barbarian.
Carlson did a lot of jobs for the WWF in 1990, but also did a few for the AWA, losing to the likes of Harley Race, Colonel DeBeers, and Larry Zbyszko.
In the split screen, the Bossman reminds fans how much he hates Bobby Heenan. He takes his aggression out on Carlson, quickly winning with a spinebuster. Afterwards, the Bossman gets out the ball and chain and dumps it on Carlson’s chest.
The Warlord (w/Slick) (1-0) defeats Terry Davis via submission to the full nelson at 2:04:
As the Warlord tosses Davis around with ease, he cuts an insert promo warning the British Bulldog that he is coming for him in the Royal Rumble. To illustrate his point, the Warlord makes Davis submit to his new finisher, the full nelson.
The British Bulldog pins Tom Bennett with the running powerslam at 1:38:
And speaking of the Bulldog, he gets the next squash on the show. The Bulldog was Davey Both Smith, one-half of the British Bulldogs tag team with the Dynamite Kid that won the WWF Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania II in 1986. After starting in the business at the age of fifteen in 1978 for World of Sport in Great Britain, Smith came to Canada and wrestled for Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling. The Bulldogs tag team formed in 1984 and they left the WWF in 1988 when the Kid suffered a debilitating back injury. After tenures in Stampede and AJPW, Smith returned to the WWF in October 1990, ending the year with a series of squash match wins before being slotted into a feud with the Warlord over who the strongest man in the WWF was.
The Bulldog pulverizes Bennett with power offense, answering the Warlord’s words with a running powerslam that helps him win almost thirty seconds quicker than his rival.
Sergeant Slaughter’s squash from Wrestling Challenge is shown.
The Last Word: This show followed the traditional Prime Time formula of airing bad house show matches and squashes that would later be used on Superstars and Wrestling Challenge. However, there was some angle development, a rarity on the show, as a Greg Valentine babyface turn was teased. That could mean something later.
Up Next: WWF Superstars for January 12!