Ranking The Rumbles: 1989
Welcome back to Ranking The Rumbles! This time we’re looking at 1989, the year of… the fall of the Berlin Wall, if I recall correctly. And Wikipedia tells me the destruction of the Berlin Wall took place the day after my ninth birthday, so… you’re welcome. Let’s get right to it where we discuss the first “modern” Rumble, the 1989 iteration!
1989: The Set-Up
2. Smash (And already the Rumble had found an early gimmick by having the reigning tag champs draw 1 and 2)
3. Andre The Giant
4. Mr. Perfect
5. Ronnie Garvin
6. Greg Valentine
7. Jake Roberts
8. Ron Bass (And here I thought I was done with Guys I’ve Barely Heard Of Before after 1988)
9. Shawn Michaels
10. Bushwhacker Butch
11. The Honky Tonk Man
12. Tito Santana (Who, most importantly, is STILL not a matador!)
13. Bad News Brown (who gets the infamous “This guy is MADE for this match!” commentary for a midcarder who has no chance)
14. Marty Janetty
15. Randy Savage
16. Arn Anderson
17. Tully Blanchard (“Oh, the Brainbusters are in this? Fuck it, just have them come in consecutively. Did we do that with Demolition already? No one will notice.”)
18. Hulk Hogan
19. Bushwhacker Luke
20. Koko B Ware
21. The Warlord (in his infamous 2 second elimination after eating a Hogan clothesline as soon as he entered)
22. Big Bossman
24. Brutus Beefcake
25. Red Rooster
26. The Barbarian
27. Big John Studd
29. Rick Martel
30. Ted Dibiase (having greased some wheels to get the 30th slot after having a bad initial draw)
4. Rick Martel (eliminated by Akeem)
3. Akeem (eliminated by Studd)
2. Ted Dibiase (eliminated by Studd)
WINNER: Big John Studd
-This is really the “establishment” Rumble. After the first year’s experiment proved successful enough, this is the Rumble that would put forth the blueprint of Rumbles going forward. The negative to that is that this is kind of a generic Rumble without all that much excitement of anything unusual, but there are some high points regardless.
-In a fairly famous opening, the two members of Demolition draw 1 and 2 and, instead of just chilling out and waiting for #3, they start the match off by wailing on each other for two minutes. It’s a pretty solid, entertaining mini-match between the two partners, and it just makes sense given who it is. Other teams might have taken a chance to plan, but these two loved violence too much to not get right into it. It makes you realize how different the modern era is because nowadays there’d instantly be a “Well, they’re going to split up this team now” reaction to this kind of encounter.
-Andre comes in at #3, and Demolition immediately starts pounding on him to take out the aggression they had from their battle against each other. Demo maintains a pretty solid advantage on Andre for a while before he is able to gain any traction. In another stark contrast to the modern era… imagine any pure tag team from the present being allowed to look strong against a main event monster heel. Seems laughable, right? Triple-H would have been booked to laugh off any tag team set against him.
-CLASSIC Mr. Perfect, who sells Andre’s punches like they are touches from the Grim Reaper… holding a grenade.
-There is a smart early dynamic where the classic face/heel interaction gets blown to heck, and EVERYONE goes after Andre. It falls apart after a while and people start breaking off to do their own thing against each other, but it’s a good idea while it lasts and allows for some realistic schemes by everyone involved.
-Jake The Snake’s tenure initially seems pretty innocuous. He hits the ring, spends about two minutes getting the hell beaten out of him by Andre, and then he is eliminated by the giant. It seems like a head-scratcher until Jake returns a few minutes later with Damien in tow. He chucks the constrictor into the ring, causing Andre to jump over the ropes in panic. I had actually forgotten Jake and Andre had a feud over Andre being afraid of snakes until that moment…
-Savage has the biggest impact at #15 of anyone since Andre. He enters to a HUGE pop, chucks a few midcarders, and picks up the pace of a match that had settled into a lull.
-Hogan is something of a surprise entrant at #18 because, Savage aside, the ring is full of midcarders when he enters. It’s hardly like someone was flashing the H symbol on a passing cloud to help deal with the threats of Arn and Tully and Marty Janetty.
-Bushwhacker Luke is the next guy after Hogan, and he and Hogan spend a solid minute or so fighting. Listen: I don’t think I could ever express how much glee I felt watching Hulk Hogan do battle with Bushwhacker Luke. I would buy every Pay Per View on the planet if you could advertise Hulk Hogan vs Bushwhacker Luke for them. It’s just the most ludicrous matchup I can think of.
-In what would be the first step in a trend of Hogan Is A God Damn Asshole In Royal Rumble Matches, Hogan dumps his tag partner, Macho Man, while the latter’s back is turned. Savage storms back into the ring and teases a pre-Explosion of the Mega Powers. They face off for a bit before Elizabeth runs down and tries to smooth things over. Hogan extends a hand and, after some consideration, Savage shakes it. In kind of a hilarious character moment, after they shake hands, Savage KEEPS EXTENDING HIS HAND TO HOGAN so they can shake over and over and over. For anybody else, it’d be dumb, but… it just works for Randy and his eccentricities. You can almost hear his inner monologue: “Yeah! We’re friends! Mega Powers, Yeah! Yeah! Still friends! Partners, yeah! Bury it, Randy. Bury the pain down deep. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about dropping the elbow on him. Bury it deep. Friends! Yeah! Still friends, oh yeah!”
-The continued adventures of Jerk Hogan: Hogan is alone in the ring with both of the Twin Towers, and they eliminate him. So OF COURSE he throws a big temper tantrum and pulls Bossman out of the ring after he’s been told he is out of the match. Haha, oh man, 80’s Hulk Hogan really was the worst babyface of all time.
-Here’s what I don’t get. At some point, it is announced in passing that the prize for the Rumble is a cash reward. And yet, Dibiase is rumored to have spent a good chunk of money on the #30 spot. So… what was the point of that? I guess you spend money to make money and all, but… what could the net gain possibly have been? How much could the WWF have been offering that would not only entice DiBiase to want to win, but to dump money into the match to do so? Alas, no answer is given to any aspect of that question.
-Oh, huh. Big John Studd won? I honestly did not know he ever won a Rumble. I thought Hogan won the next several rumbles after Hacksaw, but… nope. So at least this 20-some year old Pay Per View got to surprise me.
1. 1989 (5/10)
2. 1988 (2/10)