Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The History of WWE Royal Rumble (1989)

The first proper Rumble show as we know it today - 30 men instead of 20, and on PPV....

Royal Rumble 1989 - The Summit - 1/15/89

Given the positive reception for the '88 TV special, the WWF expanded the event in 1989 and put it on PPV.  The Rumble field was increased to 30 participants and featured all the company's top stars.  The '89 show on paper looks like a one-match card, which was kind of a trend early on.  The Rumble itself was so stacked there wasn't much talent left over for the rest of the show.

The opening match ended up sort of stealing the show though, as The Hart Foundation and Jim Duggan took on The Rougeau Brothers and Dino Bravo in a 2/3 Falls match.  This was fast-paced and very well-worked.  A strong opener.

Wait, was this a 4-on-3 handicap match?
What's the camera guy doing in their corner?

The big non-wrestling segment of this show was a posedown between The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude, designed to start their long feud.  As with all posedowns this was silly, but business picked up when Rude whacked Warrior with a workout bar.

Next was a throwaway Women's Title match, as Rockin' Robin defended against Judy Martin.  This would be the last high-profile Women's Title bout for several years.

An odd heel vs. heel match was next as King Harley Race, recently disowned by Bobby Heenan, defended his crown against Haku.  Pretty nondescript stuff, as the aging Race was phased out of active competition.
The Rumble match itself was a much bigger deal this time as it featured main event stars including Hulk Hogan and WWF Champion Randy Savage.  The opening minutes were noteworthy for entrants 1 & 2 being Ax and Smash.  Rather than resting until the third entrant arrived, they decided to beat the snot out of each other, much to the delight of the crowd.  This Rumble match was a lot of fun for about the first two thirds but the excitement more or less died after Savage and Hogan were tossed out.  The remainder of the match featured mostly midcard guys and ended with the returning Big John Studd getting the win.  Rather an odd choice given how short his babyface run ended up.  I guess this was kind of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Studd.

Oh man....Ax vs. Smash?  KABOOOM!!  Brain just exploded.

Participants: Ax, Smash, Andre the Giant, Mr. Perfect, Ronnie Garvin, Greg Valentine, Jake Roberts, Ron Bass, Shawn Michaels, Butch, Honky Tonk Man, Tito Santana, Bad News Brown, Marty Jannetty, Randy Savage, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Hulk Hogan, Luke, Koko B. Ware, Warlord, Big Bossman, Akeem, Brutus Beefcake, Red Rooster, Barbarian, Big John Studd, Hercules, Rick Martel, Ted Dibiase
Final FourBig John Studd, Ted Dibiase, Akeem, Rick Martel
Long Man: Mr. Perfect (27:58)

The first PPV edition was arguably a step up from the '88 version, with much greater star power and a full hour of Rumble.  It took the WWF a few years to find a balance between a star-studded Rumble match and a well-rounded overall card (undercard wrestlers pulling double duty is generally the best way to achieve this), but this was a fun and inoffensive little PPV.

Best Match: Hart Foundation/Duggan vs. Rougeaus/Bravo
Worst Match: Rockin' Robin vs. Judy Martin
What I'd Change: Give the Rumble win to someone who would benefit from it.  Either Perfect or Dibiase probably.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the Rumble just because the last third is fairly dull.
Most Pleasant Surprise: The six-man tag
Overall Rating: 4.5/10
Better than WrestleMania V, SummerSlam '89 and/or Survivor Series 1989?: No on all three

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