Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh: Royal Rumble 1989

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*** Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***

Royal Rumble 1989: Mega Powers on the Brink

January 15, 1989
The Summit
Houston, Texas
Attendance: 19, 000
Buy Rate: 1.5
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura

Dark Matches:

1) Jim Powers defeated Barry Horowitz
2) Sam Houston defeated Steve Lombardi

Actual Show:

1) The Hart Foundation & Jim Duggan defeat the Rougeau Brothers & Dino Bravo in a two-of-three falls match

Raymond Rougeau pins Bret Hart at 4:22
Jim Duggan pins Raymond Rougeau at 11:46
Bret Hart pins Dino Bravo at 15:42

Fun Fact: Since entering the WWF, Jim Duggan had been the proud American, waving the American flag as he made his way to the ring. His patriotic gimmick set him up for numerous feuds with non-American wrestlers. Early in 1989, Duggan was feuding with Dino Bravo and the Rougeau Brothers.

Another pair had been feuding with the Rougeaus for quite a while as well, the Hart Foundation. The teams had been competing against each other since 1987, with the Rougeau Brothers unsuccessfully challenging for the WWF Tag Team Championships several times in the summer of ‘87. However their feud really kicked into gear in the summer of 1988 when Jimmy Hart signed the rival Rougeaus and, in the storyline, was giving them 25% of the Foundation’s payment. This wrongdoing caused the fans to get behind the Hart Foundation, turning them into fan favorites. At the Saturday Night’s Main Event show on October 29, 1988, the Rougeaus interfered in the Foundation’s tag team title match against Demolition, causing the Harts to lose. Duggan approached the Hart Foundation to be his partners against the French-Canadians in this 2 out of 3 falls match. This six-man tag was the end of the feud between the Hart Foundation and the Rougeaus.

Scott: We open the first big show of 1989 with a six-man tag match of varying styles. You have two of the top tag teams in the WWF in the Rougeaus and the Hart Foundation, who can work circles around anybody around the world in terms of workrate and expert tag wrestling. Then you add the two meatheads, Bravo and Duggan. I’ve always thought that these two should have been put in the Rumble, and the two awesome teams should have just gone all out for these sixteen minutes. That way if it was two out of three falls for just the two teams that would have been fantastic. One stipulation I always thought they should have done was have the defending Rumble winner automatically get a slot in the following year’s Rumble. The action in the ring is top notch as everyone works hard in the opening fall, with the Rougeaus winning the it after hitting their finisher on the Hitman. Bravo continues to work the Hitman over with a bear hug as the hot Houston crowd is cheering them on. Jacques works Bret over with a Boston Crab, followed by Raymond working Bret with an Abdominal Stretch. I think heel wear down moves are a lost art in today’s wrestling. The WWE has molded the fans to find that stuff boring. Bret makes a big reversal on a monkey flip and hits a reverse atomic drop. Bret finally hot tags Duggan and he cleans house, tying the match at one fall apiece. I always liked the Rougeaus’ tights that said “Fableaux” on the back. Duggan gets caught in the corner during the third fall and Jesse says he has a “peanut” for a brain. I concur, Jesse. The third fall is loaded with run-ins and constant chaos, until the thing that always pissed me off. Duggan comes out of nowhere to hit Dino Bravo with the 2×4 to get the third fall for the win. Gorilla calls it “ingenuity” but it’s no different than any heel using anything to get a win and that is bad. It’s so funny back in the kayfabe days how the announcers skewed things to give the fans what “direction” the commentary was supposed to go. The match was a lot of fun but that ending was dreadful. Again, take Bravo and Duggan out of the equation and we would have had a great, clean tag match. GRADE: ** ½  

Justin: We kick off a new year with the official debut of a new PPV title. A year ago the Royal Rumble was on USA. The concept was a success so it moved to a PPV format here in 1989 and would be used to really get things revved up for WrestleMania season. As we saw in late 1988, the fabric of the company was changing with a large influx of talent washing away much of the locker room that had been present since the early days of PPV. Our opener has a little international flavor mixed in with a heavy Canadian/American blend leading to the contest being under “intercontinental rules” which apparently means Best of Three falls. The Rougeaus are Canadian but now reside in Memphis officially, with Jimmy Hart in their corner. Dino Bravo is still slumming around with the useless piece of garbage Frenchy Martin. Jesse does think that unit will have an advantage as they can speak in French, which may confuse their opponents. And considering a couple of the the members of the other team, he may have a point. The Hart Foundation are now solidly faces, trying to work their way back up the ladder into contention and they are teaming with the heartbeat of America himself, Jim Duggan. Duggan does his usual USA rallying call, even though a couple of his opponents moved to the USA and one of his teammates is Canadian. But the crowd seems to enjoy it anyway. Jesse points out the obvious early on, noting that he believes the first fall is the most important of the match. And here we are, a year later, and Gorilla is still on Jesse’s case for helping Bravo break that weightlifting record. Duggan and Neidhart would dominate the action early for their team and the crowd was really hot for it. In a fun early spot, all six men ended up in the ring with the heel piled in the corner as Neidhart kept slamming his shoulder into them like a battering ram. It is hard to top a six man with veterans with solid workrate that know how to also work a crowd. After dominating the first fall, the faces ended up in 1-0 hole after the Rougeaus hit Le Bomb to pin the Hitman. That is a tough loss to shake for a team, easily dominating the fall but losing it. With a fall in the bank, the heel side started to really work over and methodically punish Hart, not rushing or looking for flash pins, but instead just wearing down and playing it safe thanks to the advantage. Jesse finally calls out the “USA” chants rolling in as support for Hart. Bravo has blended in nicely here, working tight and smart and a differently than the heavy-footed slugging and brawling we are used to seeing. After a lengthy heat segment, Hart found an opening by blocking a monkey flip and crawling over to tag in Duggan as the Summit exploded. Duggan ran through the whole team and finished off Raymond with a pair of slingshot splashes by the Harts and a stiff elbow drop. With the match even up, the teams regrouped and prepared for the stretch run. The last fall was a blend of the first two, with the heels working over Duggan before he tagged in Hart, who had a good little brisk segment with Bravo. As things broke down, the referee got tied up with some brawling on the floor, allowing Duggan to bash Bravo with his 2×4 and Bret to cover for the win. Gorilla trying to defend the 2×4 as “ingenuity” is so laughable. Of course, Jesse doesn’t agree either and calls for fines and suspensions. That was a really strong opener with no fluff or wasted time. Everyone worked hard and smart and had the crowd hooked in the whole way through. It was good to see the Harts grab a needed win too and it should put their issues with the Rougeaus to bed for a while. Grade: ***

*** We get footage of various superstars drawing their Rumble entry numbers, including Ted DiBiase, who doesn’t seem thrilled with his pull. So, he calls over Slick, who was overjoyed, and starts to work out a potential deal. *** 

2) Rockin Robin defeats Judy Martin to retain WWF Women’s Title with a high cross body at 6:24

Scott: This may possibly be the biggest waste of seven minutes in PPV history. First off, as great as she will eventually be as a manager/valet, Sensational Sherri is absolutely unlistenable on commentary. She almost sounds drunk. Second, this match is a disaster. Judy Martin is dreadful here, and Rockin’ Robin is really no workrate marvel either. Gorilla gets caught fumbling over his words as to why Sherri didn’t get an automatic title shot after losing to Robin in Paris, France. Sometimes Gorilla tried too hard to make the heel look like a bad guy that he gets caught in rhetoric that makes absolutely no sense. He says that Sherri doesn’t have enough wins to qualify for a title shot, even though she just lost the title a few weeks prior. This match has been nothing but hair pulling and endless small packages, poorly executed I might add. Robin wins by faking Martin out on a cross body attempt, then hit one seconds later. It was clear the Women’s division was flat and unnecessary. Sherri’s future gets brighter and it doesn’t involve working in the ring. GRADE: DUD

Justin: Welp, those good feelings from the opener may quickly dissipate with the Women’s Title on the line here in what has to be looked at as a step down from where this division was a year ago. After Sensational Sherri bested Fabulous Moolah back in 1987, she had a fairly dominant reign that was surprisingly ended by Rockin Robin. Before this match tips off, Sherri shows up and issue a challenge to the winner. Robin’s opponent is a stalwart of the WWF women’s division, Judy Martin, who has seemingly aged a decade since her and Leilani Kai lost to the Jumping Bomb Angels. Sherri was a great ace heel of the division but she just had absolutely nothing to work with at this point. If the WWF wanted to have any sense of legitimacy here, they should have imported some talents from Japan again and got behind things a bit. Robin was awful in the ring and the highlight of things was Gorilla wondering why she was using Sam Houston’s theme song, like anyone would notice or care. Robin throws a worse dropkick than PN News. Sherri calls them both overrated but I don’t think either are rated highly by anybody, anywhere. Sherri also calls Robin a “termite” which is an odd insult. After getting battered around for a couple of minutes, Robin hooked a semi-decent Boston Crab but Judy rolled out of it. The crowd has completely died off here. Perhaps in an homage to her brother, Robin tries for a DDT but even botches that as Gorilla tries to cover for her. Thankfully Jesse and Sherri are pretty funny bagging on Robin and Gorilla here because the match is really bad. Robin would finally get a cross body block for the win to let us all move on. Gorilla notes that Sherri has indeed officially been named number one contender and that rematch story would build towards WrestleMania, including the two going face-to-face on a pre-Mania Prime Time Wrestling special but nothing would come of it and the division would be dead by the summer. Grade: 1/2* 

*** Sean Mooney chats with Slick and the Twin Towers and asks the Doctor about his chat with DiBiase. In a great line, Slick says he hasn’t seen DiBiase in over a month. Mooney then lets Slick know that his little chat was indeed on tape and shows the footage to him. Back to the interview, Slick said he misunderstood and thought Mooney asked about Ted the Shoe Shiner, not DiBiase. Great stuff. ***

3) Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude compete in a Super Posedown Challenge

Fun Fact: After ending a bitter feud with Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Rick Rude’s cocky attitude kicked into a new gear. He extended an open challenge for a flexing competition, with the belief that no one could match his muscular physique. The Ultimate Warrior accepted the challenge, to the shock of Rude. This would begin a feud that would carry through much of 1989.

Scott: This was a tremendous opportunity for both men here to reach that next level. Rude had enjoyed 1988 in a solid mid-card feud with Jake Roberts and now is onto the next stage. Ultimate Warrior is moving up the babyface ladder after his big win at SummerSlam and being the sole survivor at Survivor Series. Everything about this segment is awesome. From Bobby Heenan kissing the fan’s butts to Rude needing time after each pose to Jesse getting pissed that Mean Gene is skewing the crowd in Warrior’s favor. Jesse saying that Gorilla was watching bodybuilders back in the 1930s always makes me laugh out loud. Clearly Rude being the smaller stature had more definition in his physique than Warrior, but the crowd doesn’t care. They were clearly in the Warrior’s corner on every pose which is pissing off Rude and Bobby to no end. I love when, after the final posing medley, Jesse says the cheers for Rude are deafening and you can hear a pin drop. Clearly you know where this is going as it progresses. While Warrior is doing his final posing medley he turns his back on Rude, and the Ravishing one drills Warrior in the head with the bullworker and then chokes him out with it. I love when Jesse says “Rude just took the decision out of these idiots’ hands!” Warrior starts throwing referees and officials around the ring then chases after Rude. What a tremendous segment that I think wasn’t too long and the commentary carried this from beginning to end. A new hot feud has started, and it will only get better from here.

Justin: We take a break from in ring action for a special Super Posedown Challenge between Rick Rude and Ultimate Warrior. Rude had issued the challenge here, tired of hearing about Warrior having the best body in the WWF. Gene Okerlund emceed the event and Bobby Heenan accompanied Rude to the ring. It was interesting that they left two big stars, including the IC champion, out of matches, but they had bigger things planned for these two in 1989 and this segment was a big key to that story. Since his debut, Rude has been all about his physique and even was the winner of the Jesse the Body Award, so it irked him to see Warrior fawned over as well. Heenan was irritable here, demanding that Gene find a way to keep Warrior in control. Rude is on point, introducing the name, description and goal of each pose before doing them, each time with his theme playing. I love how serious he is taking it in contrast to Warrior just yelling and stomping his way through his routine. Great dichotomy between the two that help illustrate their core issues. Heenan demanding that the fans be fair in their applause voting is great too. It gets even better when Rude oils up before the Best Abs pose as Jesse states that “everyone poses to music today” when Gorilla questions it. Rude keeps flexing a bullworker in between poses and then Heenan tops himself by telling Gene he needs 15 minutes to prepare for his next pose. Lots of great material here. Warrior would continue to win the fan voting but it was clear Rude was outclassing him with every pose. Rude’s dedication to the medley finale was tremendous as he worked his way through all the poses with a confident, determined look in his eyes, eating all of it up as if this were legitimate. As Warrior went through his medley, Rude finally struck, attacking him from behind with the bullworker, which he used to choke the Warrior out. That was some great character work and really got this feud off to a hot start, much more than a match probably would have. Good stuff all around.

4) King Haku defeats Harley Race with a thrust kick at 9:01 to retain his Crown

Fun Fact: King Harley Race suffered an abdominal injury in early 1988 while wrestling Hulk Hogan. He suffered a hernia while trying to hit Hogan with a swandive headbutt while Hogan was on a table at ringside. When Hogan moved out of the way, Race hit the table with the metal edge forcing its way up into Race’s abdomen. Following the injury, Race was forced to take time off for recovery. During this time, the WWF ran an angle where manager Bobby Heenan vowed to crown a new king of wrestling, which was Haku. When Race returned in late 1988, he felt betrayed by the Heenan Family and turned his back on them. His match here was an attempt to regain the crown he lost due to his injury.

Fun Fact II: Race’s match at Royal Rumble 1989 would be his goodbye match in the WWF. Race completed his career as an eight time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, but surprisingly never held a WWF championship. During the 90s, Race performed many backstage roles with the WWF. Race was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 before WrestleMania XX in New York City.

Scott: One of the hidden gems in WWF PPV history. Unless you got the live PPV back in 1989, you probably have never seen this match until the WWE Network launched. The Coliseum Video version of this show has this match cut out, most likely because Race would leave the company shortly after this show. This is also a rarity because Race rarely worked as a babyface in his career and when he dumped Haku off his throne when he got to the ring he got a crazy pop from the Houston crowd. Gorilla is irate that Bobby Heenan is cheering for both guys since they are both under his tutelage. I was really looking forward to this match because I love watching both guys work in the ring. Haku has a great hybrid combination of aerial and strikes, whereas Race is one of those old school guys who simply grind you into the canvas while occasionally drilling that knee into your head. Race and Haku are two of the legitimate tough guys in the history of wrestling. In other words I wouldn’t challenge either of these guys to a bar fight. This was a fun deliberate match that saw both guys going at a moderate pace. It seems that Haku worked at Harley’s pace and it was slightly slower than the matches he usually works. They should have dumped that awful ladies match and given these guys like 17 or 18 minutes. Both are masters of psychology and could have easily told a great story with that much time. Hearing Bobby cheering for both guys and switching sides every 30 seconds is sheer hilarity and adds even more to this match. I also love that both men are wearing purple and both men are wearing crowns on their tights. Haku wins this match literally with the snap of the fingers as he drills Harley with the reverse thrust kick after Harley missed the headbutt off the top rope. Haku’s crowning moment in his singles career and thanks to the WWE Network it can be enjoyed by everyone…for $9.99 of course. Haku is now the undisputed King of the WWF after this one, and as great as the match was I could have taken an extra five or six minutes. Grade: ***


Justin: When Harley Race went down to an injury in mid-1988, Bobby Heenan decided to strip him of his crown and grant it upon the head of Haku. With Race back in action, he was looking to take his throne back, so Heenan had his two charges square off here to decide which one would remain royalty. In a nice touch before the match, Jesse goes to sit in the throne and put over the stakes of the match. Heenan accompanies Haku to the ring but it is played up that he is really managing both men and will come out a winner either way. Harley obviously felt no loyalty to his stablemate, stalking to ring and dumping Haku off his platform throne. When you strip away all the gimmicks, this is a really neat little matchup. Harley pounded on Haku until they tumbled to the floor where Race ate the ringpost and Haku took over. Heenan keeps oscillating between rooting for the two depending on who was winning at that time. That is why he is The Brain. Haku fended off a Harley flurry with a series of chops and strikes. In a neat moment, both men stood toe to toe and kept trading headbutts and punches, a war won by Harley. He would follow up with a picture perfect piledriver but Haku kicked out. Unable to put Haku away, Harley took it back to the floor where he tried another piledriver, but Haku was able to block that attempt. Harley kept at it and actually would hit one on the floor but it was fairly week as they kind of just rolled through it. Back inside, Haku survived a neckbreaker thanks to Harley again not hooking the leg, a point that Jesse and Gorilla keep taking the veteran to task on. Gorilla even thinks Harley doesn’t have the weight for just a press cover and may need to hook to a submission. Good stuff on commentary all around in this one. Haku again withstood another onslaught and was able to catch Harley with a thrust kick to put him down for good and keep his crown. That was a tidy little brawl with Harley unloading all his offense and Haku surviving it all until he found his opening. It really felt like a true passing of the torch, with Harley just unable to get the win and putting the new King over as a result. I can’t say it was any great shakes, but I liked the structure and it sure got the point across. This is it for Harley, another face of the early PPV years disappearing as the new guard takes over. Grade: **

*** As part of a series of promos by the Rumble entrants, Ted DiBiase insinuates that you can be as lucky as you want to be when you have money. *** 

5) Big John Studd wins the Royal Rumble

Order of Entrance (Followed by who eliminated them):

  1. 1. Demolition Ax: Mr. Perfect
    2. Demolition Smash: André the Giant
    3. André the Giant: Himself
    4. Mr. Perfect: Hulk Hogan
    5. Ronnie Garvin: André the Giant
    6. Greg Valentine: Randy Savage
    7. Jake Roberts: André the Giant
    8. Ron Bass: Rockers
    9. Shawn Michaels: Arn Anderson & Randy Savage
    10. Bushwhacker Butch: Bad News Brown
    11. Honky Tonk Man: Butch & Tito Santana
    12. Tito Santana: Arn Anderson & Randy Savage
    13. Bad News Brown: Hulk Hogan
    14. Marty Jannetty: Brainbusters
    15. Randy Savage: Hulk Hogan
    16. Arn Anderson: Hulk Hogan
    17. Tully Blanchard: Hulk Hogan
    18. Hulk Hogan: Big Boss Man & Akeem
    19. Bushwhacker Luke: Hulk Hogan
    20. Koko B. Ware: Hulk Hogan
    21. Warlord: Hulk Hogan
    22. Big Boss Man: Hulk Hogan
    23. Akeem: Big John Studd
    24. Brutus Beefcake: Ted DiBiase & Barbarian
    25. Red Rooster: Ted DiBiase
    26. Barbarian: Rick Martel
    27. Big John Studd: WINNER
    28. Hercules: Ted DiBiase & Barbarian
    29. Rick Martel: Akeem
    30. Ted DiBiase: Big John Studd

Longest Time In: Mr. Perfect (27:58)
Shortest Time In: The Warlord (:03)
Most Eliminated: Hulk Hogan (9)

Fun Fact I: Two debuts of note. First: Rugged Ronnie Garvin. From Montreal, but always announced from Charlotte, he is a former NWA World Champion who just needed a change of scenery. He was supposed to be the babyface in a feud with Ric Flair, but it backfired when he won the title and when Flair won it back at Starrcade 87, the crowd was decidedly against Garvin. The other debut is The Bushwhackers. Luke and Butch are from New Zealand, but their goofy personas are nothing like they’ve been in other promotions. Normally called the Sheepherders, they’ve been nasty heels with barbed wire wrapped around the New Zealand flag. Awesome heels who dominated the Midwest territories, mostly St. Louis. Since there were so many heel teams in the WWF at that time, Vince decided to change them to goofy, face licking babyfaces. 

Fun Fact II: Two notable returns to PPV action in this Royal Rumble match. First is Big John Studd. After a two year retirement from wrestling, Studd made his return to the WWF in late 1988 on the Brother Love Show. Bobby Heenan came on the show to welcome Studd back to the Family, but Studd rejected the offer and turned face. The other return is Rick Martel. In mid 1988, the WWF ran a storyline where Martel was injured due to a chair shot and Decapitation finishing move by Demolition. In reality, Martel took six months off to care for his ailing wife.

Fun Fact III: One wrestler made his final WWF PPV appearance in the Royal Rumble Match. Just prior to the Royal Rumble at the January 7, 1989 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Ron Bass lost a hair vs. hair match against Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake. The feud between Beefcake and Bass was scrapped shortly after and the Rumble would be Bass’ final PPV match. Bass wrestled on the independent circuit until his retirement in 1991. 

Scott: First off, this show is loaded with fluff interviews, but the most interesting one is Hogan who told Randy Savage “My Hulkamaniacs still know I’m the Champion.” We were supposed to think he wasn’t only out for himself? Ugh, I will complain more about this feud in our next review. Now time to RUMBLE! First off, I thought it was awesome to see Ax and Smash battle against each other in the beginning. Not only because you’d never see babyfaces going nose to nose, but because we got to hear Demolition’s awesome entrance theme twice. Easily a top five entrance theme of all time. They battle for a couple minutes, then in comes the big guy, the Boss. Andre the Giant, who sadly never won a Rumble comes in and the Demos immediately team up to try and eliminate him. At #4 is Curt Henning, officially now called “Mr. Perfect”, and he will be in this for quite a while. Right now as 1989 starts, you clearly see the company structuring their mid-card to have more than just cartoony, low workrate big men. Guys like Rude and Perfect are tightening up the product with great gimmicks, great in-ring work and awesome work on the stick. In comes WWF stalwart Greg Valentine as well as NWA import Ronnie Garvin. I was never a big fan of Garvin, but he will have some comedic value later in the year. In comes Jake Roberts to keep the hot feud with Andre going. Later on after Andre eliminates Jake, the Snake brings Damien in and Andre eliminates himself. There is a rare reverse moment from Ax and Smash earlier when Perfect and Honky Tonk Man are battling in the corner. Two faces, then two heels. We flash back to one of 1985’s awesome feuds when Greg Valentine and Tito Santana are brawling in the corner. That’s what I love about the Rumble, we get to see so many different combinations of guys that either we’ve never seen or haven’t seen in a couple of years. Bad News Brown comes in and what a character that’s tailor-made for this match. No friends, only enemies. Exactly halfway through, the crowd goes nuts when in comes the WWF Champion, Randy Savage. Savage goes right after Bad News Brown, as they’ve had a feud going on the house show circuit. Savage actually goes after Michaels and he and Arn Anderson eliminate him. Savage continuously goes after Brown, and I’m trying to jog my memory of those early 1989 house shows in New Haven when these two battled. At #18 in comes Hulk Hogan and now things start to get interesting. Hogan starts cleaning everybody out (because he had to). The commentators are trying to make the point that Hogan “saved” Savage from elimination a few times. However a few moments later, Hogan is in trouble with Brown, and Gorilla points out Savage didn’t go out of his way to help him. How transparent was this? Were we as fans that blind to it? The brawling is hot and heavy; in fact I would say this is one of the more athletic Rumbles of the early years. Hogan eliminated Koko B. Ware, and why didn’t Gorilla trash him for that? Hogan takes out some of the fluff in the ring. Then, it happens. Hogan goes to eliminate Bad News Brown, but, as “collateral damage,” Savage is eliminated. Macho comes back in and gets right in Hogan’s face for stabbing him in the back. Gorilla is of course saying Hogan did it by accident but based on what we’ve heard and seen from Hogan the past few months, can we blame Savage for being a little ticked? Eventually the Twin Towers come in back to back and eventually eliminate Hogan. Hogan pulls Boss Man out of the ring and they brawl to the back. Jesse is beside himself, and Gorilla just can’t defend any of this. In fact when Jesse makes valid points about what Hogan is doing, Gorilla is practically ignoring him. If this situation aggravates you, wait till WrestleMania. After Hogan leaves, the energy of the match starts to wane as we’re down to some mid-carders although Brutus Beefcake brings some excitement to the crowd and the match but after all the Hogan/Savage/Twin Towers stuff the crowd is a bit gassed. Big John Studd, returning after a couple years off, comes in at #27 and frankly nobody cares. By the time Hercules comes in at #28 the match has really lost all of its sizzle. From here the booking of the match allows for more major players to be at the end of the match to spread out the star power. Ted DiBiase (who bought this slot at #30 from Slick in exchange for the Twin Towers to come in back to back) is the final sacrificial lamb for Big John Studd to win the Rumble. I have no idea why they had a guy who hasn’t been around for a couple years and was clearly not going to be pushed for anything substantial win this match. It really made no sense at all. They should have had DiBiase win and put over that he bought the win. In any event, this was actually a fun Rumble for a majority of the time and some seeds of doubt, and a “victim of circumstance” leads to a big falling out. GRADE: ***

Justin: With the success of last year’s Royal Rumble match, the WWF decided to make it an annual event. They also looked to beef up the match, so they added ten additional entrants to round out the field at 30. Heading into this one, they really pushed the “Every Man for Himself” mantra, with all of the stablemates and tag team members hinting that they didn’t care if they had to battle friends to win the match. That point was hammered home out of the gate when the tag team champions, Ax and Smash, drew the first two slots and were forced to go at it. Demolition would be quickly reunited when the next two men to enter were Andre the Giant and Mr. Perfect. Although, Perfect even went at Andre, which is kind of cool. Smash would be the first man dumped in this year’s edition, tossed to the floor by Andre. Ronnie Garvin would make his WWF PPV debut next, fresh off his NWA run where he was a one time World Champion and had become a heel in a feud with Dusty Rhodes and a quick stop in AWA, where he was also a heel. Upon arriving in Stamford, he reverted back to his more familiar face roll. Andre was the dominant force early here, even though he was taking a lot of offense, he was able to fend it off and stay in overall control of the match. Things remained a bit slow as the Hammer was out next, but business picked right up when Jake Roberts sprinted to the ring and went right at his arch nemesis Andre. The Giant clobbered Roberts and went right to work, choking at him viciously and constantly, despite a few attempts to stop him by others. Gorilla has been on fire tonight, blaming Andre for having a heart attack when Jake threw his snake on him. Bald Ron Bass was out next, head shaved courtesy Brutus Beefcake. Jake’s run came to a very quick end as Andre just chucked him outside after dominating him the whole time. Shawn Michaels was out next and that coincided with Perfect tossing Ax out. Perfect was having a very strong outing here, building on his Survivor Series performance and setting himself up for a big 1989. Butch entered at #10 but right on his heels was Jake Roberts, who chucked his snake into the ring, driving Andre over the top rope and to the dressing room. The crowd popped hard for that and the angle development was perfect a Andre had a great run and looked dominant and was only eliminated by his own fear. It also gave Jake some revenge after being dominated early. With one big favorite down, the field has now opened up a bit.

The ring continued to fill up as Honky Tonk Man and Tito Santana entered before any other eliminations occurred.In a clear sign of how far Honky’s stock has fallen, Santana and Butch just nonchalantly dump him to the ring without much fanfare. Bad News Brown entered here and unlike Survivor Series, this is much more his sort of match. The Rockers would be reunited at #14 and immediately started their double team attack on the field. It was also cool seeing Santana and Valentine renew their classic rivalry with a solo segment. The crowd got rowdy at #15 when the World Champion Randy Savage sprinted to the ring and went right after Bad News Brown, who he had been feuding with over the winter. It was interesting that they had the champion in this match, but helped add some gravity here in its early development stages. The Rocker run was ended when Arn Anderson was out at #16 and worked with Savage to dump Michaels. Right after that, Tully Blanchard made his way out and they focused right in on eliminating Jannetty too. As the Rocker run ended, the Mega Power run started as Hulk Hogan charged out at #18 and immediately began cleaning house, saving Savage from elimination along the way.

I do like how there were a lot of tag teams and many in the ring at the same time, as it led to some interesting segments of dominance. Hogan was the immediate force you would expect and now that we had some star power out there, things picked up greatly. In a somewhat reckless spot, Hogan pressed Tully and slung him across the top rope, throat first. That looked like it stung. The Megapowers seemed to be in trouble as the Busters, Bad News and Luke (!) all worked them over as a unit. Bad News looked really strong throughout, dominating Savage outside of just a few seconds here and there. Koko B. Ware was out and tried to help his Main Event buddies, but the numbers still outweighed them as Luke really seemed to be enjoying the return to his heel roots. That ungrateful Hogan dumped Koko for no reason and then followed that by sending Luke packing. Looking at the five standing here, it really felt like this pairing should have been closer to the end when you consider the talent. As Warlord lumbered to the ring, Hogan dumped both Busters and then immediately clotheslined Warlord out as he entered. Hogan would then storm across the ring and dump Bad News from behind, but in the process, he also eliminated Savage. Within a beat, Savage pounced back in the ring and shoved Hogan from behind before getting in his face and calling him out. This was some heavy stuff and Savage had every right to be pissed off. Elizabeth would hit the ring and play mediator but Savage was not happy at all. Gorilla kept pouring it on, blaming Savage for not holding on to the ropes as Hogan shoved him out. The two would shake hands and hug and Savage and Liz would head to the back as Big Boss Man made his way to the ring. Boss Man looked great out there, spiking Hogan with a piledriver as Gorilla proclaimed Hogan had been in the ring for a half hour to the exasperation of Jesse. And things went from bad to worse for Hogan as Akeem hit the ring next. Immediately, Jesse realized that this was all a byproduct of Slick’s chat with DiBiase. Hogan did his best to fend off the Towers but the size was just too much. In a shocking turn of events, the Towers were actually able to dump Hogan out, eliminating another major favorite. Boss Man and Akeem would head outside and the Towers worked Hogan over on the floor. Brutus Beefcake was the next entrant, but had been just seconds too late to help his bud. Hogan blatantly tells the refs that he is going back in and then angrily pulls out Boss Man, eliminating him. Jesse was pissed and Gorilla admits the illegality but just says “so what”. He has been a real piece of work tonight. Hogan’s hypocrisy is on full display here in Houston, as he eliminated his friend and shook it off but when he is cleanly eliminated, he tries to fight his way back into the match and then breaks the rules and eliminates a guy from the floor. Poor form.

With all that excitement now simmered down, you look at the field and thinks do not look nearly as interesting down the home stretch, especially when it comes to pegging a winner. Akeem was a force, working over Beefcake and the Red Rooster. Barbarian and John Studd were the next two out as the beef started to overtake the ring quickly. We last saw Studd on PPV at WrestleMania II but he has returned for another run. He goes right after Akeem here, showing his allegiance to the face side in this renewed push. Hercules, Rick Martel and Ted DiBiase would round out the field, with it being obvious now that DiBiase had purchased #30 for Slick, along with guaranteeing the Towers could come out back to back. Looking at the remaining field, DiBiase was starting to look like the clear victor. Hercules would get some revenge on his would-be owner, but outside of that there wasn’t a ton of heat left at this point and things slowed back down. DiBiase’s biggest strike would come by dumping both Hercules and Beefcake with an assist from Barbarian, leaving Martel and Studd as the only fan favorites in the match. Martel would catch some fire, but that ended thanks to Akeem, leaving Studd to battle two on one. However, the numbers game didn’t matter as Studd tossed out Akeem, leaving him and DiBiase, one on one. DiBiase tried to buy him off, but that didn’t work, and Studd would make quick work of Ted to win the first ever PPV Rumble match.

I will never really understand some of the decisions here. I get that they wanted to reintroduce Studd to the company and line him up for a push but they had to know he wasn’t going to be around long. There were a few good heel choices in there (Boss Man, DiBiase) but they seemed to want a face to win it all. They could have had Warrior in the match and had him win it to build even more heat to his run. That aside, my bigger issue is that the Mega Powers stuff happened mid-match instead of at the end and it killed the heat of the match down the stretch. They should have had the same thing happen, but all occur right at the end to show how close Savage and Hogan were to winning. You can have the Mega Powers, Busters, Twin Towers, DiBiase, Beefcake and Studd out there and do all the same stuff but make the finish really hot instead of the tepid finish we got. In the end, DiBiase spends more cash but still can’t win the big one. The Rumble match was solid but nothing spectacular, which is fine for the first PPV outing. It had some really memorable moments and angles mixed in and a really good field, but they lacked that one major face outside of Hogan and Savage that could have won it. Grade: ***1/2 

FINAL ANALYSIS: 

Scott: The inaugural PPV Rumble has its high points and its low points. The Harley Race/Haku match is a lost gem that now with the WWE Network you can enjoy, after years of not seeing it due to the clipping on the Coliseum Video release. The ladies’ title match clearly showed the division needed to be shelved, at least for the time being. I still think Sensational Sherri was drunk or on something when she commentated during that match but it did create some unintentional comedy. The Rumble match itself was real fun for the first 45 minutes or so, as we saw lots of feuds be created or enhanced. After Survivor Series, you may have gotten the feeling that the Mega Powers were starting to show some cracks. Well it really happened here when Savage was “accidentally” eliminated by his partner Hogan. Sure they shook hands after a few minutes, but it was clear something was brewing. The formatics of the Rumble were a little off as after the Hogan/Savage stuff ended, the rest of the match was fairly flat as even the Studd/DiBiase drama at the end of the match did nothing for the fans and the buzz was quietly killed. That will change over time as Rumbles continue to be booked. Overall this probably isn’t a show you’ll probably pull out at any time to watch, except maybe for the posedown stuff and Jesse’s hysterical commentary during it. Final Grade: C

Justin: 1989 starts off with a pretty good PPV offering that had a lot of WrestleMania angle development interspersed. The roster is really refreshed and loaded across the board, from the main event right through the lower mid card and tag divisions. We saw a little more passing of the torch here, but mostly it was the new era on display. The Warrior/Rude posedown was a ton of fun and sets the stage for one of 1989’s best feuds. The Rumble was very good as well, as most are, mainly thanks to the handful of memorable moments tossed into it. The Mega Powers are having more issues here as ego and jealousy are starting to rip this super team apart at the seams. Here, those issues cost them both a big win. John Studd takes home the Rumble title but we are already starting to see that this match could mean a bit more with some sort of prize attached. Finally, the crowd and announcing were fantastic as always, with Gorilla at his troll best tweaking Jesse throughout while the Body was exasperated trying to shoot down all of his points. An enjoyable show is in the books and it is now time for another WrestleMania. Final Grade: C+

Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email