WWE Royal Rumble '88
January 24th, 1988

To continue my retrospective of the World Wrestling Federation's Royal Rumbles, I opted to pull a tape out from deep in my library: the video recording of the first Royal Rumble back in 1988. For those who don't know, the first Royal Rumble was actually on free television, due to the fact that Vince McMahon was looking to hurt the NWA's attempt at a closed-circuit show, the Bunkhouse Stampede. Clearly, Vince succeeded, as, twenty years later, the Rumble is still a key factor in wrestling, while the Stampede was never heard from again.

WWF Royal Rumble '88
Posted by the Accelerator, January 8th, 2007

- To show how old this tape is, Vince McMahon (still just known as an announcer for the WWF, instead of as the owner) and Jesse Ventura (still just known as a wrestling personality, instead of a governor) open up the show. Ventura is pretty clearly the heel announcer, while McMahon is his usual pro-face self (I swear, he used to be that way).

"Ravishing" Rick Rude (RIP) vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat:

Ventura doesn't waste much time pushing Rude as the first "Jesse The Body" Award winner. Yeah, that didn't go very long, did it? The crowd is PUMPED about Steamboat. Early on, Rude landed a few forearms to Steamboat. Steamboat came back with a chop of his own, and the crowd goes CRAZY! Soon after, Rude tried to chuck Steamboat over the ropes, but Steamboat skinned the cat, then tossed Rude out of the ring instead. I can't overemphasize the way the crowd really makes this match exciting, cheering for every move. Of course, the show IS in Ontario. Rude showed his strength, winning a Test of Strength, but the crowd quickly willed Steamboat back into it, taking down the Ravishing One. There's a fan at ringside with a megaphone, jeering Rude with "Rudy Rudy Rudy!" chants. Wild. Steamboat dominated for a while, but Rude soon came back, using eye rakes and other maneuvers to stay in control. At one point, Rude got an elbow, then went to pose, only to hold his sore arm (that Steamboat had been focusing on). I love it when they sell the moves.

Later on, a spot seemed to miss, as, during a criss-cross, Rude dropped to the mat twice in a row, then gave Steamboat a knee as Steamboat came backwards toward him, causing Steamboat to stumble out of the ring. It definitely looked strange, but oh well. Another strange one to see is Rude applying a reverse chinlock on Steamboat, and Steamboat pounding on the mat. It sure looks like Steamboat is tapping, but apparently the ref knows the difference between tapping out and simply patting the mat. Soon after, the ref lifted a nearly-out Steamboat's arm once, twice... three times? Even the ref looks confused, and quickly goes back down for a fourth time. Sure enough, Steamboat awakens and gets free. Glad we've got a telepathic ref in there for this one (it's one of the Hebners; I can never tell which one's which). Rude stayed in control for a little while longer, then Steamboat came back, with the two exchanging several pin attempts that has the arena rocking. Near the end, Steamboat went up on the top rope, but Rude grabbed the referee and threw him into the oncoming Steamboat, knocking the ref out. Rude then got his Back Submission hold (holding Steamboat over his shoulder). Hebner called for the bell, but it was soon announced that Rude was actually disqualified for his actions with the ref, which didn't sit well with the Ravishing One.

Ace Thoughts: It's hard to be against 17 minutes of Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude, but honestly, this match could have been a lot better. Steamboat and Rude seemed out of sync at several moments in the bout. Of course, the story was that Steamboat wasn't exactly happy in the WWF at the time, and would go back to the NWA later on in the year, while Rude was still trying to establish himself in the WWF after coming in a few months before. For what it was, it was a nice match to open things up, and, let's face it, no one really expects too many 17-minute opening matches on free television anymore, so it was a nice change of pace.

- The commercial breaks are still on this tape, btw, featuring stuff like an ad for the "Robert Klein Time" show. Klein was going to have Yogi Berra, George Wallace, and a shepard bringing pigs. Woo-hoo.

Bravo Bench Press:

In one of the more painful segments on the show, "Mean Gene" Okerlund announced that Dino Bravo (RIP), seconded by Frenchy Martin and spotted by Jesse "The Body" Ventura, would be attempting a World Record in the Bench Press. Bravo first did a warm-up of 415 pounds, followed by 505 lbs, 555 lbs, 595 lbs, and 655 lbs. Seriously, this one goes on forever. Finally, Bravo set up to try for the record at 715 lbs (unofficial, of course, as the bar apparently needs to be weighed as well). The crowd rightly is bored, nearly causing Bravo to leave due to their unwillingness to be quiet for the attempt. Bravo dropped the bar down, but seemed to be having trouble getting it back up, except for the fact that Ventura looked to be lifting with him. Ventura, of course, said that he was still only spotting him.

Ace Thoughts: Tough segment to watch, as it went way too long. I think it was longer than the Rude/Steamboat match, although I fast-forwarded some, and I don't plan on going back to time it. At any rate, this led to Bravo calling himself the World's Strongest Man, a gimmick that has rarely worked for any wrestler.

- Commercials for Domino's (it's the Noid!), Nestle Crunch (featuring Jimmy Connors), and a preview for the Serpant and the Rainbow (underrated Wes Craven film), among others, run. Interestingly enough, there was also a preview for the Bunkhouse Stampede. Heh.

The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai & Judy Martin)(c) w/ Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart vs. the Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki), WWF World Women's Tag-Team Titles Three Falls Match:

Now THIS is a Women's match, ladies and gentlemen. Back then, the Jumping Bomb Angels were revolutionary with their move attempts. Not sure if I can do this match justice, but I'll give it a shot. During the first fall, the Angels seemed to be in full control, applying Octopus and Figure Four submission holds, as well as some other moves that I'm not even sure what to call them. The Angels tagged in and out, concentrating on Kai's legs. Martin finally gets tagged in, and uses her power to take control. Kai helped out from the outside, kicking the Angel (I think it's Yamazaki, although they never say) in the back. This allowed Martin to get a release over-the-top powerbomb (again, hard to describe) which got the Glamour Girls the first fall. A commercial break then ensues, talking about Lee Sculptured Nails and Time-Life Books (Getting Firm).

In the second fall, Martin missed a splash attempt, allowing Tateno (I think) to come in and attack Martin. Both Angels double-team Martin with a suplex, with Kai soon coming in as well. It didn't work out well for the heels, as the Angels dodged both clothesline attempts, causing the Glamour Girls to hit each other. Soon after, Tateno escaped another Powerslam attempt to get a quick Sunset Flip on Martin to tie things up at 1 fall apiece. We again went to commercial aftwerwards (for some reason, a picture of Hogan and Andre is displayed in the corner for a few seconds before the commercials). We have a really long commercial for Time magazine, where you can get a free phone with your subscription! Sign me up! We then have another commercial for the Bunkhouse Stampede. I could swear they call it the 3rd Annual Bunkhouse Stampede. I suppose the others might just have not been televised or something.

We soon get to the third fall, where they once again showed the Andre/Hulk picture, with Vince talking about the contract signing later on in the show. Back to the action, where the Angels double-team Kai, but Kai manages to take down Yamazaki (again, I think; Vince doesn't seem to want to use their names much) and makes the tag. A few more exchanges followed, with the action still going well. There are some great moves here, including Kai getting two Atomic Drops without the knee (yep, flat on her butt to the mat) and Tateno missing a Senton Bomb from the second rope. Wow. Late in the match, the Angels teamed up, giving Martin a double Missile Dropkick from the top ropes while Kai was busy with the ref, allowing the Angels to get the pin and win the match, winning the Women's World Tag-Team Titles. Ventura, of course, disputes the pin (and it does look like Martin's shoulder might actually be pulled off the mat, but oh well).

Ace Thoughts: This is my non-Rumble Match of the Night, as the Angels and the Glamour Girls truly set the bar high for Women's Wrestling. They were doing moves that people had never even heard of here in America, and that's saying something. I still get a kick seeing this match.

- More commercials, featuring Richard Simmons! Yep, we're in the '80s, people!

- We next had a review of things that had happened between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (RIP), including clips from Wrestlemania III. It was being disputed at the time that Andre might actually have pinned Hogan after Hogan fell on a slam attempt (the ref ruled it a 2 count, and Hogan later got the win). Next, a clip was shown showing "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase offering Hogan money for the WWF World Heavyweight Title, and Hogan, of course, turning it down.

Hulk Hogan: On behalf of all the little Hulksters and myself, I'm going to have to tell the Million Dollar Man... HELL NO!!!" (Great rolemodel, there, Hulk)

Andre later attacked Hogan during a Saturday Night's Main Event (with headbutts) and 'signed' with DiBiase, promising to bring him the title. That finishes the review, which led to a live contract signing between Andre and Hulk (with a commercial break inbetween), with President Jack Tunney (RIP) presiding over it. There was a long period of stalling by Andre. Seriously, you could have easily cut time from the Bravo benchpress and this contract signing and fit in a nice match between, say, Bret Hart and Tito Santana. Oh well. Finally, both men sign, followed by Andre throwing the table on top of Hogan and laying him out. Andre would later 'beat' Hogan at the Main Event, due to multiple Hebners. Not a great segment, but it definitely built to the next show, so no complaints.

- More commercials, nothing notable.

20-Man Royal Rumble Match:

Yeah, for those who didn't know, the first Rumble match only featured 20 going at it. Howard Finkle did the special ring announcing to explain the rules. After all, this was a new development. Interestingly enough, although Finkle claims a 2-minute interval between wrestlers, it sure seems like people come down closer to 1 minute. TV time constraints, maybe? The first two wrestlers in the ring were #1 Bret "Hitman" Hart and #2 Tito Santana. Didn't I say these guys would make a great singles match early on? Irony abounds as I forgot these two start things off. Santana was still a member of Strike Force at this time, although Rick Martel was still out injured. Hart and Santana went at it quickly, with Hart still under the tutelege of Jimmy Hart (on the outside). Hart was in control early on, but Tito managed to get the Flying Forearm... just as #3 "The Natural" Butch Reed ran in to attack him. The two heels, of course, worked together to double-team Santana, nearly throwing him out. It got worse for Santana, as #4 was Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, making it three-against-one.

At #5, Tito finally got some help, as Jake "The Snake" Roberts ran in and immediately tossed out Reed (who had been concentrating on tossing Santana). This made it a tag-team match, as Roberts & Santana went against the Hart Foundation. In a nice moment showcasing Neidhart's power, Roberts & Santana threw Hart & Neidhart against each other. Hart crashed to the mat; Neidhart, the wall, stayed standing. The Hart Foundation soon came back, along with the help of #6, King Harley Race (past his prime, but oh well). It was 3-on-2, but things were evened up with one of the Killer Bees, "Jumping: Jim Brunzell, coming in at #7. Sam Houston was next at #8, another fan favorite. and he quickly attacked both Neidhart and Race. Strangely, despite the favorites having the advantage, Houston & Brunzell opted to double-team Race, and Roberts stayed down in the corner, allowing the Hart Foundation to double-team and toss out Santana. So much for friends, eh?

Ex-referee Danny Davis entered at #9, going at it with Sam Houston. Meanwhile, Roberts tangled Race up in the ropes and used him as a punching bag, watching him bounce back up after every hit. Weird spot, but effective. The seven men continued to go at it, soon to be joined by #10 Boris Zhukov, who attacked Houston. It's the evil Russian vs. the light-weight Texan! The ring continued to fill up, with #11 "The Rock" Don Muraco coming down. For some reason, Nikolai Volkoff followed him, apparently thinking that it should have been his turn. Silly Nikolai. Muraco nailed Volkoff with a punch, then entered the ring, as Volkoff was held back by the refs. This kept Volkoff from helping his partner, Zhukov, who got tossed soon after by Brunzell & Roberts. Volkoff was not happy. Volkoff finally was allowed to enter at #12, immediately going after... Sam Houston? Ummm, why not Muraco, who punched him, or Brunzell & Roberts, who eliminated his partner? Weird.

Anyhow, we see a shot of Brunzell nearly getting tossed, followed seconds later by Race going out thanks to Muraco, taking us back to 8 competitors in the ring. Race didn't want to leave afterwards, but three referees managed to convince him to leave. On his way back, Race met #13 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, with Race getting in a cheap shot, then running, as Duggan chased him back up the aisle before finally coming back to the ring. #14 was "The Outlaw" Ron Bass, bringing the wrestlers in the ring to 10. That's a pretty full ring, really, featuring half the competitors in the match. Volkoff helped with the numbers, lifting up Brunzell and basically bodyslamming him over the ropes, eliminating him. Ironically, Brunzell's partner, B. Brian Blair, comes in at #15. Maybe he got to say hello to Brunzell on his way out. The fans are cheering everytime Davis nearly gets tossed, showing how the ex-referee had really become one of the most hated wrestlers in the WWF at the time. No small feat.

#16 Hillbilly Jim comes in next, going at it with Neidhart. That lasts about 5 seconds, as Jim ducked a Neidhart attack and tossed him out. Jim then started attacking Davis, to the roar of the crowd. #17 is Dino Bravo (RIP, er, again), fresh off his bench press. Meanwhile, Sam Houston stupidly jumps up on Bass' shoulders to punch away at him. Bass just backs up to the ropes and dumps Houston out, ending his run in the Rumble. The announcers continue to hype that Hart, the #1 entry, is still out there. The Ultimate Warrior stormed to the ring at #18, attacking Bravo, even as Muraco struck again, launching Hart out of the ring. So much for that. The clock seems to run pretty quick here, as #19, the One Man Gang, stomps to the ring. There are 11 in the ring right now, with one still to come. You have to watch close, as the Gang tosses out Blair without a zoom in. The cameras do catch the Gang next tossing out Roberts, ending another face's run. The final man then came in, that being #20 the Junk Yard Dog (RIP).

Ten men left. We've got Bass, Bravo, Davis, Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, the Junk Yard Dog, Muraco, the One Man Gang, Volkoff, & the Warrior. The first man out is Volkoff, missing a punch and flipping over Duggan. Next, Hillbilly Jim surprisingly went out, thanks to the One Man Gang, after another missed punch. If anything, this Rumble proved that you shouldn't swing at a man when he's backed against the ropes, because you could easily go out. As the fight continued, Duggan went at it with Davis, eventually taking him out with the Three-Point Stance football tackle. The crowd goes wild. As a side note, at this point in Rumble history, you COULD actually do your finishing maneuver and not immediately get tossed out right afterwards. Just thought I'd make that observation. The eliminations start coming fast and furiously, as the One Man Gang & Bravo tossed out the Warrior, followed by the Junk Yard Dog going out courtesy of a sneak-attack by Bass. Muraco quickly got revenge, tossing out Bass.

We're down to the final four, with Bravo, Duggan, Muraco, and the Gang. Bravo & the Gang quickly formed a team, going after Muraco. Thanks to the distraction of Frenchy Martin (whom Muraco dropkicked), Bravo & the Gang got the upper hand, with the Gang clotheslining Muraco out. It was now Bravo & the Gang vs. Duggan, who decided to attack both men. It wasn't a very successful tactic, but then, Duggan was never known for his ring strategies. However, Duggan was given a miscommunication from the heels, as the Gang accidentally missed Duggan and clotheslined out Bravo (the Gang's 6th elimination, not a bad showing). This made it one-on-one, although the Gang still seemed favored, as he smashed Hacksaw down. But the Gang fell for the big no-no, going for a running punch, and Duggan ducked, sending the Gang out and getting Duggan the first Royal Rumble victory.

Ace Thoughts: It's funny, nowadays, to look at Duggan winning the Rumble, but at the time, Hacksaw was one of the biggest fan-favorites in the WWF. While I wouldn't call it one of the greatest Rumble matches of all time by any means, it wasn't that bad, either, with the brawling atmosphere being pretty cool. At the very least, they had no commercial breaks during the 30-minute match, which I appreciated.

- Even more commercials, encouraging you to get a Sports Illustrated subscription. You get a "Football Follies" video if you subscribe. Ok, but what about the free phone? Hmmm, well, at least you'll also get an '88 Olympics pin. That's something.

- They show the Andre attack on Hogan after the contract signing one more time, then go to a live interview of Hogan, who's now wearing a different shirt. What, did the table rip the first one or something? Back then, Hogan's shirts were always tearing one way or another. Sure enough, Hogan tears off his shirt while talking about taking out Andre. It's really a rehash of what happened earlier, but oh well.

Hulk Hogan: "To beat me, Andre, you've got to beat every one of these Hulkamaniacs in here, and you can't do it!" (cue most of the Hulkamaniacs running, afraid of Andre the Giant coming after them)

- This is where my tape ends (actually, it goes into a Luger/Backlund match, probably from '93), so I don't have anything on the final "Three Falls" Match that ended the show between the Islanders (Haku & Tama) and the Young Stallions (Jim Powers & Paul Roma). Yep, there was a match after the Rumble, not the smartest of decisions, since the fans were mainly there just for that match (and the contract signing). Anyhow, the way I hear it, the Islanders injured Roma's knee by sending him out of the ring, winning the first fall via Countout. After a medical break (where Andre the Giant again talked about the rematch with Hogan), the two teams went at it again, with Roma eventually getting his knee injured again, leading to the ref stopping the match and giving the win to the Islanders. Gotta say, it doesn't sound like I missed much.

All-in-all, if you're a true fan of Royal Rumbles, and you like seeing the old school wrestlers going at it, you need to have this one in your collection. However, if you're only a casual early-WWF fan, it's probably not worth seeking this one out, since it's not the easiest of tapes to find. It's really your choice, but then, isn't it always?

The Accelerator