Vintage Vault Repost: Royal Rumble 1988

Vintage Vault Reposts are Pay-Per-View recaps with Justin and Scott’s commentary, including star ratings. Please note, these were written in the past and may have dated references. Each repost comes with the audio for the Place to Be Podcast episode where the show is reviewed.  Please scroll to the bottom to find your listening and downloading options!

Vintage Vault Repost: Royal Rumble 1988

January 24, 1988
Copps Coliseum
Hamilton, Ontario
Attendance: 18,000
TV Rating: USA Network: 8.2
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura

1) Ricky Steamboat (Richard Blood) defeats Rick Rude (Richard Rood) by disqualification at 17:40

Scott: Since this was on cable TV, which means there were commercial breaks, they didn’t need that many matches. This opener was entertaining, as a once popular and high-profile babyface was being shunted further and further down the run-sheet. Ricky Steamboat was being groomed as the next Intercontinental Champion one year ago. Now, due to his issues with Vince over vacation he’s dropped quite far. Rude, however, is just getting started. After being in the main event at Survivor Series, Rude starts to gain an identity. By Wrestlemania he’s under the tutelage of Bobby Heenan, and things really take off. This match is a little slow at times, with a good number of restholds. However it does tell a good story and Vince and Jesse’s commentary was very entertaining. It actually helps the match’s flow. Rude is DQ’ed, but that doesn’t matter. He’s the next top heel, and Steamboat continues to become forgotten in the WWF stage. Grade: ***

Justin: A pretty good opener to an oft-forgotten show. This is not technically a PPV, but due to the magnitude of the event, it definitely warrants a review and some analysis. Rick Rude is yet another solid, over heel that was churned out in 1988 and 89 that was given a really good push, but never the big gold. Rude was immediately pushed into a pretty good slot on the card, and would solidify his standing with a high profile feud with Jake Roberts as the summer rolls around. Steamboat, on the other hand, is clearly on borrowed time, and would be gone from the WWF by the middle of the year. These two men on very different paths meet up here and put on a good, solid opener to the show. Rude was always a solid worker, fundamentally, and was a guy who could be carried to great matches in his earlier years. By the 90s, however, he would become one of the best all around in ring stars, and would be one of the guys who carries others rather than the other way around. As Scott said, the match tells a good story, as Steamboat works on Rude’s arm for most of the match. The ending is weak, but it doesn’t hurt things too much, as Rude needed protecting. He could have went over here, but that would be nitpicking. Grade: **1/2

***Dino Bravo “unofficially” sets the weightlifting record with 615 pounds. It is apparent that Jesse Ventura, who was spotting Bravo, helped him lift the bar for the last record-breaking push. It is a source of comedic tension between Ventura and McMahon throughout the show. This would also complete Bravo’s gimmick change to the Canadian Strongman, and this moment would be talked about in all Bravo’s matches for the next 3 years. ***

2) The Jumping Bomb Angels defeat the Glamour Girls in a Two of Three Falls match to win WWF Women’s Tag Team Titles


Judy Martin pins Itsuki Yamazaki at 6:10

Itsuki Yamazaki pins Leilani Kai at 8:33

Noriyo Tateno pins Judy Martin at 15:41

Fun Fact: The Women’s Tag Titles were basically created for this feud. The Golden Girls won them in a fictitious tournament in Egypt and then make a big defense here against the darlings of the Women’s Division. After the Glamour Girls regained them in the summer, the belts would be dropped shortly after and never seen again on WWF TV.

Scott: After rocking the house in Richfield at the Survivor Series, the exciting Jumping Bomb Angels finally get their shot at the heel Glamour Girls for the tag straps. This is one of those matches where the titles don’t really matter. It comes down to being entertained. These long durations are uncommon for 1980’s WWF. However, since there weren’t many matches, time needed to be filled. Once again, the flow was a little staggered, particularly when Kai and Martin were dictating the pace. The Angels were knocked around early, but made a nice comeback and eventually won the match. They’d hold the titles until the Glamour Girls regained them in June, but by the end of the year the belts would be abandoned. Grade: ***

Justin: A fun, fast paced match that outshines many other WWF matches, as far as pure work rate is concerned, at the time. Imagine if the Angels had a younger, more athletic team to work with as opposed to the aging dinosaur Glamour Girls? These matches may have been classics if that was the case. As is, however, the match is still quite good, as the Angels shine once again. The 2/3 falls stipulation hurts it a bit, as the longer portions where the Glamour Grandmas were in control slow it down a bit much. Sixteen minutes was probably about 4 or 5 too long, but they make it work for sure. The Angels wouldn’t be seen on PPV again, and would be the final stars of the quickly dying Women’s Division (Phase 1). By 1989, the whole division falls apart, and remains dead for 5 years. The Angels made the most of their brief run in the big time, but Vince just didn’t care enough to make the tag division work. I always found it funny that he did have Jimmy Hart manage the Glamour Girls, though. Grade: ***

3) Jim Duggan wins the inaugural Royal Rumble at 33:23

Order of entrants followed by who eliminated them:

1: Tito Santana (Merced Solis): Hart Foundation

2: Bret Hart: Don Muraco

3: Butch Reed (Bruce Reed): Jake Roberts

4: Jim Neidhart: Hillbilly Jim

5: Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith, Jr.): One Man Gang

6: Harley Race: Don Muraco

7: Jim Brunzell: Nikolai Volkoff

8: Sam Houston: Ron Bass

9: Danny Davis (Daniel Burielle): Jim Duggan

10: Boris Zhukov (Jim Barrell): Brunzell/Roberts

11: Don Muraco: Dino Bravo

12: Nikolai Volkoff (Josip Peruzovic): Jim Duggan

13: Jim Duggan: WINNER

14: Ron Bass (Ronald Herd): Don Muraco

15: B. Brian Blair: One Man Gang

16: Hillbilly Jim (Jim Morris): Gang

17: Dino Bravo (Adolfo Bresciano ): One Man Gang

18: Ultimate Warrior (Warrior): Ron Bass

19: One Man Gang (George Grey): Jim Duggan

20: Junkyard Dog (Sylvester Ritter): Dino Bravo

Longest Time: Bret Hart (25:42)

Shortest Time: Junkyard Dog (2:08)

Most Eliminations: One Man Gang (4)

Scott: The inaugural match that would be a New Year staple from here on out. Pat Patterson is said to have come up with the concept. It’s a variant to a battle royal, except for a couple of changes. First, rather than all the participants in the ring at once, two start in the ring. Then every 2 minutes (that number has changed throughout the years) a new participant comes in. Just like a battle royal, you’re eliminated when you’re tossed over the top rope. The last one wins. This one was kind of a test match, so 20 competitors were used. The following year, the first PPV Rumble would go up to 30. This was a chance to get a bunch of guys on TV, and it’s also the first big moment of Jim Duggan’s WWF career. Not much else to say here, as the concept works for the next three years by itself. Then by 1992 a carrot needs to be dangled. For now, it’s a cool novelty. Grade: N/A

Justin: Well, as most inaugural match concepts go, this was just fine for what it was. I think it was a good call to give the match a test run on TV before going full bore with a PPV for it. The match was cool because, like Survivor Series, it was a fresh and different concept. The match itself is not loaded with stars, but does feature one standout newcomer: the Ultimate Warrior. The Warrior was a former chiropractor turned powerhouse brawler who trained with Sting under Rick Bassman. Warrior (under the name Rock) and Sting teamed up as the Blade Runners and saw some decent success in the UWF. Shortly into their run, however, the team broke up and Rock bolted to World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, and officially changed his name to the Dingo Warrior. It was in WCCW that the Warrior would hone the character he would eventually bring with him to the WWF, which he did in the summer of 1987. In June, he debuted as the Dingo Warrior, battling jobbers in meaningless matches for the next 4 months. Finally, by the fall, he was repackaged as the Ultimate Warrior, and throughout late 1987, he would battle jobbers on TV to establish his character. Also receiving a nice push in this match was Bret Hart, who seemed primed for a face turn and singles push, but, as we would see over the upcoming years, that singles push would be teased often, but never fulfilled until 1991. Other than Jake Roberts, Jim Duggan and Tito Santana, the match is made up mostly of tag teams and lower-mid carders. There are also some notable omissions, as Rick Martel (current tag champ), Randy Savage (big new face), Honky Tonk Man (I-c Champ) and Bam Bam Bigelow are left out of the match. The roster doesn’t matter, however, as the novelty is enough to get the match over. By 1989, they would tweak things a bit, load up the field and watch the Rumble become a premier event in the WWF’s future. Grade: N/A

**The contract is officially signed between WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for the long awaited WrestleMania III re-match. The match is February 5 at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. It would be broadcast on a special edition of “Saturday Night’s Main Event” on a Friday, simply called “The Main Event”. It would be the first primetime network broadcast of professional wrestling in decades. After the signing, Andre pushes the wood table over onto Hogan. Also in attendance is a newcomer and one of the coolest heels in WWF history: The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. He debuted on camera in early December 1987. We’ll get more into his background, as well as what happened in the title match, in our next review. **

4) The Islanders defeat the Young Stallions in a Two of Three Falls match at 14:10


Paul Roma (Paul Centopani) is counted out at 7:52

Haku (Uliuli Fifita) makes Roma submit at 14:10

Scott: This was just a final match to fill out the 2 hour slot on USA. The Islanders continue to be a hot heel team led by Bobby Heenan. The Brain was really building a pretty swank stable of guys, and they would get better as time went on. The Stallions, as I’ve said before, were just a pretty looking face team that really wouldn’t win much. Not much more to say here. Grade: **

Justin: This is just a reason to keep the Islanders fresh, as they had recently kidnapped the British Bulldogs’ mascot Matilda and still had her captive. Here, they were showcased as a couple of devastating savages who tear through the pretty boy Stallions. That really sums it up, for the most part. Grade: **


Scott: This show was done for one reason. NWA was having their “Bunkhouse Stampede” show on PPV the same night. So Vince decided to counter it, just like he countered Starrcade in November with the first Survivor Series. Vince didn’t need to do this show to take viewers away, as Crockett’s show on Long Island sucked the long hard one. In any event this little USA Network special would lead to the creation of one of the most important PPVs in history. The precursor to WrestleMania would lead to so many great moments, and start up so many careers. Except for the Hogan/Andre contract signing, there isn’t much that’s historically significant. Still, it was a fun show. Final Grade: B-

Justin: As Scott said, the reason behind this show was to screw with Crockett, rather than actually having any sort of long lasting effects. However, the Rumble concept would live on in a big way, so this show has some significance. We also see the big stage debuts of two major stars in the Ultimate Warrior and Ted DiBiase, a preview of a push to come for Bret Hart, a final hurrah for the first phase of the women’s division and the setting of the stage for a HUGE Main Event on NBC. All in all a fun time killer if you’ve never seen it, but nothing overly special. Grade: C+