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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF Royal Rumble 1989

November 3, 2023 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
WWE WWF Royal Rumble 1989 Image Credit: WWE
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Leighty’s Retro Review: WWF Royal Rumble 1989  

-Another WWF show as we are in the early stages of my look back at 1989. I believe the next show will also be one from the WWF and then we finally check in on the NWA. This is the first Royal Rumble PPV as the version the previous year was a special on USA and I vividly remember watching it with my dad at one of his friend’s house. Let’s get to it!

-Announce Team: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
-Jan. 15, 1989
-The Summit, Houston, TX
-Attendance: 19,000
-PPV Buys: 165,000

Two-Out-Of-Three Falls: Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchy Martin) and The Fabulous Rougeaus (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and The Hart Foundation

-Monsoon explained in the opening that this is being contested under Intercontinental Rules, which means Best of 3. Okay then! This crowd is insanely hot as the go crazy with USA chants directed at Dino and The Rougeus. Bret is cool with it though. We still have eight years before that would bother him. Bravo and Neidhart start us out and they don’t much of anything of note to start though the crowd is still engaged. Bravo with a side headlock and Anvil pushes off. They collide and nobody budges. Bravo misses a clothesline and Anvil decks him with one. They each miss an elbow drop and the place explodes when Duggan gets the tag. Makes sense as Duggan made a name for himself in Mid-South. Duggan gets a scoop slam and makes the tag to Bret. He works the arm, but gets fired off to the ropes. Bret gets a small package for two and then a sunset flip for another two. Cross-body gets another two count and that brings Jacques into the ring. Two future IC Champions here! Jacques gets dropped by Bret and Raymond comes for the save, but gets tossed into the corner. Bravo in and we have all three stuck in the corner which lets Anvil deliver a shoulder block to the pile in the corner. Things settle and as the ref has his back turned, Jacques low bridges Bret and he spills to the floor. Bravo in with a side suplex and The Rougeaus hit a double team move off the top for the first pin on Bret at 5:30.

-Ventura and Monsoon mention that Bret has to start the next fall as the rules dictate the winner and loser have to start. Side suplex from Raymond gets another two count. Jacques back in and he delivers a back elbow for a two count. Bret takes his trademark chest first bump in the corner that looks like DEATH. I bruised my sternum once giving my high school girlfriend a DDT (I’ve told the story before. It’s not as silly as it sounds), so anything involving the sternum gives me sympathy pain. Bravo hooks a bear-hug as Jesse wonders why the crowd is chanting USA when Bret is from Calgary. Bret breaks, but Bravo hooks the leg to avoid Bret making the tag. Jacques in and Bret gets a sunset flip for two, but Jacques goes back to the back with a Camel Clutch. Jacques uses the hair to maintain control which has the crowd pissed. Weird spot as Dino comes in and nicks Bret with a clothesline as I think Bret was supposed to duck and didn’t totally, so he had to sell it. Raymond back in with a Boston Crab and the USA chants break out again. Bret is able to crawl and make the tag, but Raymond pulled the ref away, so no dice. Raymond then comes in illegally to annoy the crowds even more. Gorilla goes on his rant about needing more than 1 ref with these six man tag matches. Jacques back in and he hooks an abdominal stretch which lets Gorilla criticize the way it’s applied. A Gorilla trademark! Jacques tries a monkey-flip in the corner, but gets caught with an inverted atomic drop. The crowd is begging for a Hitman tag now and he gets it to Duggan. CROWD GOES BANANA! Duggan goes crazy with right hands on everyone. Neidhart slingshots in for a splash and then Bret does as well. Duggan drops an elbow for the pin to tie the match at 1-1 at 13:55.

-We get a brief rest period like they had after the first fall and the bell starts our final fall. Duggan pounds away on Raymond in the corner as he tells the ref to get off his ass. Running clothesline from Duggan and then he gets dumb and goes after Bravo and Jacques. He pays for it as he gets triple teamed in the corner. Bravo buries a boot to the stomach and uses the middle rope to choke. The Harts try to get in, but only distract the ref which allows some triple team action. Bravo starts bouncing Duggan off the buckle, which Duggan no sells. Jacques in and he hits a dropkick and Duggan gets caught in the wrong corner again. Heavy right hand from Bravo sends Duggan crashing to the floor and he follows with a slam. He drops an elbow as USA rings out in the arena again. Bravo gets an inverted atomic drop, but it sends Duggan close enough to his corner where Bret gets the tag. He hits a series of inverted atomic drops and catches Bravo with a backbreaker. He heads up, but Raymond shoves him off the middle rope. Everyone starts battling and in the chaos, Duggan uses the 2×4 to blast Bravo from behind and Bret gets the pin at 18:40.

Winners: The Hart Foundation and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan via pin at 18:40
-This didn’t need to be a Best of 3 Falls match, but the crowd ate it up as they loved Duggan. **

-Ted Dibiase picks his Rumble entry number backstage and is not happy. He brings Slick in and asks if he was happy with the numbers he picked for his boys. Ted wants to talk to him.

-Honky Tonk Man picks his number and isn’t happy either.

-Luke and Butch are cool with their numbers and decided to swap.

-Bad News Brown gets good news with his number.

-Jake “The Snake” Roberts just hopes Andre is still in when he gets there.

-The Rockers pick and wish each other good luck.

WWF Women’s Championship: Rockin Robin (c) vs. Judy Martin

-Robin would be Jake’s half-sister and also sister of Sam Houston. They all had the same father, and if you watched Dark Side of the Ring you know that story (my review is here). Sensational Sherri takes the mic and challenges the winner to a Title Match. She is more woman than the others put together. Martin jumps Robin at the bell, but Robin responds with some right hands. Martin misses a splash in the corner as Sherri joins the broadcast booth as Jesse says he will take a break. Sherri calls both women overrated and calls Robin a bird. I mean, her name is Robin! Martin slams Robin’s face in the mat and Robin comes back with a right hand. Jesse is still here as he wants a prediction and Sherri says no matter, she is the next champion. Robin is now a termite according to Sherri as Gorilla needles her about losing the Title in France. Robin gets a Boston Crab, but Martin powers out into a pin and them Robin rolls that into another pin for two. Small package from Martin gets two even though Robin was out at one. Robin buries a knee and gets a two count. Robin misses a dropkick as Martin holds onto the top rope. Martin with a clothesline as Jesse and Gorilla argue on commentary about why Sherri never got her rematch against Robin. They collide in the ring in ugly fashion and Robin gets a really bad looking DDT for two. Robin tries a slam, but Martin blocks and gets a slam of her own for two. Backslide from Martin gets two! Robin lands a boot to the chest as Martin set too early on a backdrop. Small package for two. Sherri: “Somebody win.” Preach! Robin comes off the middle rope with a cross-body for the pin at 6:25.

Winner and Still WWF Women’s Champion: Rockin’ Robin
-Not good, but they were giving up on the division by this point and the Title would be on the shelf soon. 1/2*

-WrestleMania V: April 2!

-Sean Mooney is backstage with The Twin Towers and Slick. Mooney wants to know what happened between Slick and Ted Dibiase. “Who? I haven’t seen him in over a month.” Mooney shows the footage of Dibiase picking his number and then talking business with Slick. Slick was just confused and thought Sean wanted to know about Ted who shines his shoes. See, honest mistake!

Super Posedown: “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

-Heenan sucks up to the crowd as he knows they will decide the winner. Rude gets to pick the first round and opts for a Double Bicep. The crowd is not impressed. Probably just jealous. Warrior gets his turn and yes, his arms are bigger. Jesse gives it to Rude because of his posing technique.

-Heenan wants the crowd to be fair and not vote based on who they like. Next is Best Abs! Rude oils himself up to make the abs stand out more and swivels the hips as well. There are a few ladies rather excited. The days of women rocking 80s hair. Not a single care for the o-zone layer! The crowd is for Warrior again. I think we all know Rude has the better abs, but I haven’t had abs since high school, so what do I know.

-Rude uses a flex bar to pump himself up as Heenan wants fifteen minutes. The crowd boos and Rude relents. Next up is The Most Muscular Pose! Heenan: “Remember Houston, we love ya!” Jesse notes that Warrior’s hair is too long and you can’t see his traps. Crowd is for Warrior again. I don’t think this contest is on the up and up.

-Final Pose: Rude does some push-ups and flexes with the bar. Medley of poses or a “Muscular Montage,” as Gene calls it. Monsoon notes this is all over as the crowd has clearly made their decision. Rude gets booed out of the building. Warrior gets blasted from behind with the bar and Rude uses it to choke Warrior out. Gorilla is pissed while Jesse declare Rude the winner. Warrior gets to his feet and destroys the refs and officials in the ring and then sprints to the back. The replay showed Rude drilled him in the back of the head. That looked fantastic!

-WrestleMania V: April 2! That’s right they just needed to flash the logo and date to get us hyped for the show. Spoiled kids today with video packages!

-Parade of managers give their thoughts about The Royal Rumble in pre-taped interviews. Elizabeth is rooting for both Hogan and Savage and Gene badgers her for an answer if it comes down to Hogan/Savage. Again, Gene stirring the pot.

King of The Ring: King Haku (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. Harley Race (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)

-Both men are managed by Heenan, but Race is clearly the babyface in this one as he wants his crown back. Race actually comes down and dumps Haku out of his throne and onto the floor. Monsoon notes that Race had his crown stolen and Ventura doesn’t remember it that way. Race gets a suplex in the ring for a one count and hits a heavy clothesline that sends Haku to the floor. Haku sends Race into the ring post and connects with a double chop and then a boot to the chop. He lights up Race’s chest with a chop that makes the crowd groan. Back in the ring Race gets an inverted atomic drop and drops an elbow. Heenan is great as he cheers for whoever has the advantage. Gorilla notes that he has heard Heenan takes 85% and Ventura mentions if someone is stupid enough to sign that kind of contract, they deserve to give up that much. Haku fires back with some of his Samoan Martial Arts. Race with a headbutt and then another as Haku just stares at him. Haku lands one that knocks Race back, but he responds with a clothesline. Sweet piledriver from Race gets a two count! As you could probably tell by now, this is a solid HOSS FIGHT. They collide in the ring and Race takes his famous bump where he gets hung upside down in the ropes and falls to the floor. Haku brings Race back in with a suplex for a two count. Haku misses an elbow as Heenan continues to bounce back and forth with who he is supporting. Nice vertical suplex from Race gets a two count. They head to the floor where Race preps for a piledriver, but Haku counters with a backdrop. Haku sends Race back first into the apron, but Race comes back with the piledriver on the floor. That one didn’t look as good as Gorilla tries to cover for it. Back in the ring Race gets a swinging neckbreaker for a two count as he didn’t hook the leg. Jesse gets in a good line as he tells Gorilla he used to watch him in kindergarten. Heavy clothesline from Race gets a two count. They start trading blows in TOUGH MAN fashion and Haku wins the exchange as he backs Race into the corner. Slam from Haku and then he heads up top. Race rolls out of the way as Haku splats and now Race heads to the middle rope. He misses a flying headbutt as Heenan notes, “we got ‘em.” Haku plants Race with a super kick out of nowhere for the pin to retain the crown at 9:05.

Winner and still King: King Haku via pin at 9:05
-It’s HARLEY RACE AND HAKU beating the stuffing out of each other. Maybe a little long, and Harley was basically done as a wrestler, but he was game here. I enjoyed this more than most probably. ***

-Parade of pre-recorded interviews from the men in the Royal Rumble! Of note, Hogan and Savage get separate interviews and Hogan gets Gene to interview him, while Savage is by himself. Intrigue! Gene tries to stir the pot and Hogan notes Savage is a brother, but he will do what he has to if it comes down to them. He also calls himself The Real Champion, which even as a life long Hogan fan, is kind of a dick move. I mean, yeah, you got cheated out of your Title, but Savage did win the Tournament.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match

-Two minute intervals for this first 30 Man Rumble. Famously Ax draws #1 and Smash draws #2 which puts the Tag Team Champions against each other. Genius! The crowd is kind of shocked at first and then realizes how awesome this is going to be! They have no issues going right at it as they start beating on each other. Smash runs into a boot in the corner and Ax drops him with a running clothesline. He delivers some clubbering (TM Dusty Rhodes), but Smash comes back with a slam and then his own clothesline. He delivers some clubbering and goes to a neck crank. Ax tries to dump Smash, but he lands on the apron and comes back in with more clubbing blows to the back. The timer is a bit off as Andre The Giant is in at 2:10 and really doesn’t even get into the ring until 2:44. Ax and Smash immediately team up to deliver a double clothesline that sends Andre to the ground. They double Andre with chokes and kicks, and I still don’t know if I like their chances. Andre gets to his feet and starts firing off right hands. The crowd groaning with each blow thrown by Andre is pretty great! Mr. Perfect is #4 at 4:10 and he makes sure to take his time. He should have been #30 in his first Rumble to really sell the character, but not this year. Smash gets tossed by Andre at the 4:58. Don’t make The Giant angry is the lesson here! Perfect and Ax work together to take Andre down and then turn on each other. Seems dumb! Sure enough Andre gets to his feet and chokes Ax and then Perfect gets dumb as he goes after Andre. He does a backflip sell off a head-butt which is impressive. Ronnie Garvin is in at #5 and Andre ends up tied in the ropes. The crowd freaks out over the spot. Again they turn on each other and that lets Andre get free and everyone is screwed again. Ax gets sat on and Perfect continues to bump like a madman off anything Andre does to him. Greg Valentine is #6 and he delivers an elbow to Andre’s head as it’s now four on one and still probably not enough. Andre fights off all four of them and dumps Gavin at 9:04. Perfect slams Ax as Valentine is left alone with Andre. Doesn’t go well for him! Ax goes back to Andre and again, why? Andre chokes him out for being stupid as Gorilla notes that he is glad he retired. Jake “The Snake” Roberts is #7 to pop the crowd as he and Andre have beef. Valentine continues to attack Andre and really, just leave the man alone as he is choking the life out of Jake at the moment. Andre is mauling Jake and the rest finally just leave him to it. Ax comes over with a shot and Andre chops the crap out of him. Valentine tries and gets the same. Again, leave this man alone and just hope to survive. Ron Bass (now bald) is #8 and he walks right by Andre. Smart! Andre casually dumps Jake at 12:30 as that was just a massacre of Jake. Perfect and Valentine try to double Andre, so he stacks them up in the corner and squashes both. The timer is on point with the two minutes at this point as Shawn Michaels is the next to enter at 9. Perfect backdrops Ax to the floor at 14:40. Shawn and Perfect torment each other to see who can bounce over the top and not hit the floor. Good stuff! Time for #10 and it’s Butch! Jake is back as well and throws Damian into the ring and Andre bails over the top to eliminate himself at 16:44. I guess that’s one way to get Andre out without having someone dump him and add heat to their feud. Sucks for Andre though and he put in a solid effort here as he wrecked anyone near him. Shawn and Perfect continue to have their own match as The Honky Tonk Man enters as #11. The crowd doesn’t like him! I will say, whoever decided to add the theme music to each entrance was a genius. Same with the decision they made to include the number graphic for each person that entered. The future Rhythm and Blues double team Shawn. I just realized 5 of the six in the ring are all Hall of Famers. Tito Santana is #12 and that’s another Hall of Fame! Perfect and Tito tear into each other and Shawn continues to take any impressive bump he can to steal the show here. Tito nearly gets tossed by Valentine, but fights his way back into the match. Bad News Brown is #13 and he should be in the Hall of Fame. Honky gets tossed at 22:45 by Butch which pops the crowd. I believe Perfect is the long man in the ring at the moment as he entered at four. Shawn heads all the way up and comes off with a double fist to Brown and Bass. Shawn teases getting dumped by an atomic drop. Marty Jannetty is in at #14 which puts both Rockers in the match. Bass eats a double elbow and double dropkick eliminates him at 24:57. Santana drops Valentine with a flying forearm, but he is able to hang on the ropes and thumbs Tito in the eyes to save himself. WWF Champion, Randy Savage, is in at 15 and the place goes crazy. He is a maniac as he attacks Brown while still wearing sun glasses! THAT’S WHY HE IS THE MACHO MAN! The crowd heat is fantastic right now as they are reacting to every tease of an elimination and move being done. Brown drops Savage with a right hand, but misses a charge in the corner. Tito and Savage team up on Valentine which is a IC Title history buff’s dream. Valentine gets dumped by Savage at 28:26! Arn Anderson is in at 16 and Shawn is right there to bump for him. Shawn eats a double elbow from Arn and Savage to send him packing at 28:58. Good showing from Shawn as he made the most of his time. Arn goes up top and gets crotched which draws a gasp from the crowd. Tully Blanchard is in at 17 to give us both Brain Busters in the match. Blanchard comes off the middle ropes with an elbow to Perfect, who has been in this match nearly 27 minutes at this point. Jannetty with a clothesline on Tully as Perfect and Macho beat on each other in the corner. Arn with a spinebuster on Jannetty and then some classic double team from The Busters. Savage drops an double ax off the top onto Perfect. Jannetty gets dumped at 32:14 by Tully and here comes HULK HOGAN at 18. Line em up! The crowd explodes as Hogan pitches Perfect at 32:38 in epic fashion. He uses his bandana to choke out Bad News as Jesse notes that Hogan saved Savage from being eliminated by Perfect. Tito got eliminated off screen at around 33:20 or so. The crowd freaks out as Bad News nearly has Hogan out and Gorilla wonders where Savage is to make the save. To be fair Savage is trying to get Butch out at the moment. Luke is out as #19 and we have 3 Tag Teams out there. Brown eliminates Butch at 34:50. Savage and Bad News continue to pester each other. Hogan press slams Tully and drops him throat first on the top rope. That looked killer! Brown drops Savage with a clothesline as The Busters double team Hogan. Hogan fights back and Arn eats a big boot! Koko B Ware is 20 and the crowd is pleased to see him. Dropkicks all around from Koko! Seeing Luke and Arn Anderson team up on Hogan is something else. Arn goes up and Hogan slams him down. Savage with an atomic drop to Tully which sends him crashing into Arn. Koko gets tossed by Hogan at 37:35. Luke is next at 37:45! We are down to five and I think Brown is now the longest left in the ring. Warlord is down at 21 as Hogan eliminates Tully and Arn at 38:35. Warlord steps in and is gone 2 seconds later by Hogan at 38:47. Hogan then dumps Brown which also knocks Savage to the floor at 38:58. Savage is pissed and Liz is down to broker peace! I mean, to be fair, Hogan didn’t do anything wrong here. Gorilla: “If Macho had held onto the ropes he would still be in there.” Jesse: “He (Hogan) would clothesline Elizabeth if it meant winning.” Cooler heads prevail as they shake hands to pop the crowd. I think this team will last forever! Boss Man is 22 and the crowd is jacked for this one on one match. Maybe one day in a cage! Hogan dominates early as the crowd loses it! He gets a slam, but gets caught in the corner with a splash. SWANK piledriver from The Boss Man and the crowd is heated! Gorilla and Jesse get into it at how long Hogan has been out there. Gorilla thinks 30 minutes and Jesse says five. It’s actually about 10 at this point. Akeem is 23 as this was originally Dibiase’s spot but he paid off Slick. It also is great story telling as it gets The Twin Towers into the ring against Hogan. He fends them off for a bit including a belly to back suplex on Boss Man, but his leg gives out. Double Splash in the corner and Hogan is tossed at 43:56. That’s as clean as can be! Hogan won’t stand for that fair elimination though and pulls Boss Man under the ropes. Brutus is in as 24 as Hogan tells the ref he is going back in. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Hogan does pull the rope down to low bridge Boss Man and eliminate him at 45:10. So Boss Man and Andre have gripes about how they were eliminated. Hogan and Boss Man battle down the aisle and it’s a solid fight as Hogan bounces a case off Boss Man’s head. No wonder their feud made a bunch of money! Take a breath as the crowd is starting to cool now that Hogan is gone. Red Rooster is in at 25 and save Brutus from Akeem. Well, kind of as Akeem slams the piss out of him. Brutus comes off the top with a double axe and teams up with our chicken friend to try to eliminate Akeem, but no dice. Jesse and Gorilla rattle off the names still to come which kind of ruins the fun, but this was in the days where the entire field would be announced in advance. Barbarian is 26 and he saves Akeem just so he can punch him in the face. We get some generic brawling and laying on the ropes for a bit. The crowd groans as Rooster eats a splash from Akeem! He dances some as Barbarian and Brutus battle in the corner. John Studd is next at 27 and he goes right for Akeem. Nothing of note until Hercules comes in at 28. The crowd is spent right now as this sadly starts to drag. They can’t even get excited enough for a 10 count punch in the corner. Rick Martel is in at 29 as Jesse wonders how Martel bought off for that number. We could really use some eliminations at this point. More of guys working on the ropes as it dawns on Jesse and Gorilla that Dibiase ended up paying for #30, and here he comes! I take back Perfect being #30, as Dibiase buying #30 is a better character touch. We have eight men in the ring as everyone has entered. Rooster hits Dibiase with a flying forearm. Virgil gets to stay at ringside because he is a bodyguard and not a manager. Another great character touch. Rooster gets eliminated by Dibiase at 57:45. Hercules drops Ted with a clothesline and then another. Hercules chokes away in the corner, but Brutus makes the save. nWo 4 Life? Brutus gets a sleeper on Hercules and Dibiase and The Barbarian dump them both at 59:42. We are down to five! Barbarian with a powerslam on Martel and then he heads up top and comes off with the flying head-butt. Martel ducks a clothesline and hits a dropkick to dump Barbarian at 1:00:52. Down to Four! Akeem misses a splash in the corner and Martel snaps off a series of dropkicks. He tries a crossbody and Akeem catches him and dumps him at 1:01:38. Dibiase and Akeem double team Studd for a bit. Dibiase plays coach as he directs Akeem as he works Studd over in the corner. Splash in the corner and Dibiase wants one more. He gets too close though and Studd pulls him in the way. Studd eliminates Akeem at 1:03:03 and now the crowd is back into it as we are down to two. Dibiase offers money to bribe Studd and Jesse notes everyone has their price. Studd lifts Dibiase off the mat by his throat and tosses him into the corner which gets a whoa from the crowd. Studd with a slam and double underhook suplex! Cool! Another suplex as Studd is the new HUMAN SUPLEX MACHINE! Dibiase gets tossed rather easily at 1:05:05.

Winner: Big John Studd via eliminating Ted Dibiase at 1:05:05
-With a better closing stretch this would have been one of the top Rumbles of all time. The first 15 minutes with Andre dominating was fantastic and a great story. Ax and Smash starting to get over the idea that it was every man for himself was a perfect touch and then having Andre be #3 made all the sense in the world. You would assume #3 would be toast going against Demolition, but then it’s Andre and you realize the tag champs may be sunk. From there it was the Mega Power show and the crowd was going crazy. They teased issues and it seemed resolved, but you still knew where this was heading. Hogan vs. Twin Towers was fun (especially Bossman/Hogan) and it took two monsters to toss Hogan. Then that was the main issue as the crowd was dead after Hogan was gone and we had no real star power. Dibiase buying 30 was on brand and he probably should have won, but they seemed to want to send the crowd home happy and give Studd the win. With a better ending this ends up being an all time classic Rumble. As is, it’s just very good and showed they had an idea what to do with the match and just needed to work out the kinks. ***1/2

-Virgil hits the ring to protect Dibiase, but he gets mauled by Studd. Even Jesse admits that Virgil brought this on himself. Virgil gets tossed over the top for good measure and Studd gets a nice ovation from the crowd. Good for Studd! Fun fact, his nephew worked as a veterinarian in the vet office I work. He and my former boss were roommates at Penn State.

-Thanks for reading!

The final score: review Good
The 411
This is a fun show because they hit The Rumble concept out of the park on the first real go of it. That match is the main selling point of the show and it delivered even if the ending stretch left something to be desired. Haku/Race was fun and the Pose Down did a great job of adding heat and building Rude as the next challenger for Warrior. Easy show to watch and Hall of Famers all over the place with a white hot crowd.

article topics :

Royal Rumble, Robert Leighty Jr.