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The Name on the Marquee: WWF Royal Rumble 1989 (1.15.1989)

February 4, 2019 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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The Name on the Marquee: WWF Royal Rumble 1989 (1.15.1989)  

I originally wrote this in 2011, but we’ve reached this point in the Prime Time reviews, so here it is again.

-After setting a ratings record on USA Network with the first Royal Rumble in 1988, the WWF did one of the ballsiest things any business can do and announced that in 1989, they were going to do it again, and this time it would be on pay-per-view. And damn it if they didn’t pull off a Nintendo Power and convince people to start buying what they had already seen for free.

-It’s January 15, 1989.

-We’re at the Houston Summit.

-Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Gorilla predicts that this night will be a happening.

2 OUT OF 3 FALLS FOR SOME REASON: HACKSAW JIM DUGGAN & HART FOUNDATION vs. DINO BRAVO & FABULOUS ROUGEAU BROTHERS (with Frenchy Martin and Jimmy Hart)

-FALL ONE: Gorilla downplays Dino’s strongman claims by noting that Jesse helped him, and Jesse is annoyed that Gorilla is still talking about that. Dino gets knocked around by the Anvil, then tags out as soon as Hacksaw gets in the match. Raymond takes a drubbing while Frenchy waves the flag. Frenchy has a really weird Quebec flag that’s mounted onto the pole sideways. Is that, like, a thing up there?

-Faces do the Andre spot where they trap everybody in one corner and ram them, and it clears the ring to a HUGE pop. Some well-timed cheating from the Rougeaus causes Bret to fall over the top and crash to the floor. Side suplex by Bravo, and Le Bombe De Rougeau takes the first fall.

-FALL TWO: Bret is required to start the match and the heels trade off unloading their arsenals on him, but nobody can get a three-count. Rougeaus do their genuflect-and-stomachbreaker double-team that somebody really needs to bring back. Bearhug by Dino while the Houston crowd chants “USA” to motivate the Hitman. Yes. Gorilla suggests that Bret should make a tag and get a fresh man in there.

-Weird blown spot where Dino sends Bret into the ropes and Bret clutches his head and collapses in pain. Gorilla has absolutely no idea how to call it because nobody did anything. “Caught part of that one, it was a glancing blow.” False tag to Neidhart and Neidhart does a great “WTF?” face when the referee makes him go back to the apron. Jimmy yells “Give it up!” during an abdominal stretch and Bret looks right at him and screams “Never!” There are also wrestling moves going on during this match, but I enjoy the little things.

-Jacques tries a monkeyflip but Bret turns it into an inverted atomic drop and FINALLY makes the tag. Crowd goes crazy for Hacksaw and he takes on all three guys at once. Slightly blown finish to the fall sees Hacksaw slingshot Anvil on top of Raymond. Anvil goes for a pin and the referee freezes. Duggan does the spot again with Bret; Bret goes for the pin and again the referee freezes. Everybody finally takes the hint and Duggan, the legal man, goes for the pin and gets the three-count.

FALL THREE: Heels gang up on Duggan. Harts get fed up with it and break it up. Dino stupidly carries Duggan over to the opposite corner and Duggan tags Bret back in. Bret is fired up and dominates Bravo easily. Bret does the Four Moves of Doom Existing So Far and a pier sixer erupts. Referee clears the ring while Duggan sneaks in and drills Dino with the 2×4. Dino’s out, Bret gets the pin, and the faces take the deciding fall. 1 for 1. Second fall was strongest of the three, but this was a great opener, loaded with all the little piss-off-the-crowd moments followed by the requisite vengeance.

-We go backstage, where Ted DiBiase draws his number for the Royal Rumble match and seems concerned. He goes to Slick and Slick talks about how happy he was with the numbers that Bossman and Akeem got. DiBiase takes him away to discuss a business deal.

-We see the other stars drawing their numbers. Bushwhackers swap their numbers with each other for some reason, Honky is pissed with his number, Bad News seems happy, Demolition calls the guy mixing the numbers a geek, Jake hopes Andre is still there when he gets in the ring, and the Rockers just wish each other luck.

SUPER POSEDOWN: ULTIMATE WARRIOR (Intercontinental Champion) vs. RAVISHING RICK RUDE (with Bobby Heenan)

-Apparently having learned nothing from Dino Bravo’s weightlifting extravaganza last year, the 1989 Rumble features a segment that could have easily been done in half the time on “Superstars.”

-Warrior and Rude do muscleman poses, with the crowd cheering for the ones they like the most. Warrior wins each time and Rude loses his temper and attacks the Warrior from behind and leaves him for dead. Your Wrestlemania V title match is set. 1 for 2. Afterward, officials help Warrior to his feet and he goes nuts and attacks all of them. Worth noting that one of the nameless rabble is Nick Bockwinkel, and he takes a couple of funny bumps for Warrior.

WOMEN’S TITLE: ROCKIN’ ROBIN (Champion) vs. JUDY MARTIN

-Sensational Sherri challenges the winner, which gives this one away since they’re building a Robin/Sherri feud already. Sherri does commentary and totally buries both women, saying that they’re both overrated and neither one deserves a title shot. Now Sherri really should know better than that. Gorilla suspects that Sherri doesn’t care who wins, which puts Sherri in the same boat as everybody else in the Summit tonight.

-Both women half-ass this one to the point that Gorilla doesn’t even bother with the “setting a deliberate pace” excuse. He flat out says they’re both looking lethargic. Lots of clotheslines and bodyslams and not much else. Sherri continues burying both of her potential opponents as the commentary sounds more and more like the shit they do on RAW.

-Another bodyslam. Two-counts are exchanged while Sherri yells, “Come on, one of you win already!” KILL THIS MATCH. Robin gets a bodypress off the second rope to win and retain. 1 for 3. Oh my god, this was a vision of the future. Commentators make everybody sound like shit while the crowd naps through 10 minutes of slam-slam-slam-clothesline-clothesline-slam. No blown spots though, which makes it about half a notch above the current women’s division matches. (Note: Again, written in 2011.)

-Sean Mooney asks Slick about the deal he made with Ted DiBiase and Slick won’t elaborate.

-Gene Okerlund talks to Ravishing Rick Rude, who doesn’t regret his evil-doings from earlier tonight.

-Mr. Fuji predicts a win for either of the Powers of Pain and says he feels sorry for Demolition.

-Gene Okerlund stirs shit with Elizabeth, asking her who she’ll root for if the match comes down to Hulk vs. Randy.

-Jimmy Hart promises a win for either the Honky Tonk Man or Greg Valentine.

CROWN MATCH: KING HAKU vs. HARLEY RACE
-Bobby Heenan is in a neutral corner and will stick with whoever wins. Race made a very half-assed face turn to set this up.

-Race flips the sedan over and knocks Haku off before the match. Gorilla shaming Haku for “stealing the crown” after two years of bitching that Race didn’t really earn the title of king is pretty funny. They brawl all over the floor while Heenan goes back and forth cheering for each guy. Gorilla talks about Heenan’s contracts and his stipulation that he gets 85% of his man’s earnings, and Jesse has a good retort, saying that if you’re stupid enough to sign a contract with that stipulation, you don’t deserve to complain.

-The guys trade headbutts, chops, and punches, and both of them break out their A-game with over-the-top selling for the other guy. Piledriver by Harley gets two. They collide off the ropes and Harley falls through the ropes, wobbles back and forth, and slides to the floor to sell it. Haku suplexes him back in for two. “A hush has fallen over the Summit,” sayeth Gorilla. Harley was a really unnatural face and they half-assed his turn, so the crowd doesn’t really want to cheer for either guy.

-Race tosses Haku to the floor and tries for a piledriver, but Haku counters with a backdrop. Haku works the back from that, but Race finally gets the piledriver he wanted and slides back in, trying to take the win by count-out. Haku makes it back in and Harley tries a neckbreaker for two. Clothesline and a knee for two. Heenan is still swinging back and forth between allegiances, which is great stuff.

-Haku goes to the top and misses a splash. Race goes to the second rope for a diving headbutt and he misses, too. Haku capitalizes with a NASTY thrust kick for the three-count to retain the crown. 2 for 4. Okay, so they remove this match from Coliseum Video, but they made it a point to keep that fucking women’s match? This was a great back-and-forth brawl, hushed crowd be damned. I kind of wish they had done the finish Jesse suggested halfway through the match, though; both men get counted out and Heenan crowns himself.

-Brutus Beefcake promises to bring his tool into the ring.

-Greg Valentine doesn’t trust anybody in the Royal Rumble, not even the Honky Tonk Man or Jimmy Hart. He promises to fight them off, too, if it comes to that.

-Mr. Fuji cuts another promo. Because when you hear one Fuji promo, you immediately look at a clock and hope they’ll have time for a second one.

-Big John Studd says he’s been gone for two years training and rebuilding himself for the new competitors in the WWF. He’s ready for all of them.

-Mr. Perfect predicts that 1989 will be a perfect year for him, and the Rumble will kick it off for him.

-Randy Savage promises to be the Champion of the WWF and the Champion of the Royal Rumble, too.

-Gene Okerlund talks to Ted DiBiase. Money is nice, but he doesn’t need it to win the Rumble.

-Sean Mooney talks to the Heenan Family. Andre promises to eliminate both Brainbusters if that’s what it takes to win the Rumble. Arn immediately turns to Tully and whispers something in his ear.

-Hulk Hogan promises that Hulkamania has been resurrected, and he’ll prove it tonight. He promises “vic-TORY” for the Hulkster. He threatens Randy Savage by saying “All of my fans still call me the champ!” He actually says this. Wouldn’t you turn on this guy, too?

THE 1989 ROYAL RUMBLE
-Okay, revisiting the fact that I do points instead of stars because I hate the fuck out of star ratings and I have too much of a full schedule what with all my cooking ramen noodles and masturbating to decide if a match was **1/2 or **3/4, I sort of break the rule for the Royal Rumble match since it’s a long match and pretty much the entire reason for the show I’m watching. A Rumble counts as four matches, and I’ll rate it was 1, 2, 3, or 4 at the end. (Again, written in 2011, but holy crap, that joke is a startling reminder of how much my life has changed in the time that I’ve written for 411Mania. I basically started doing this in 2009 as a hobby to take my mind off of how miserable I was as a telemarketer, and now I actually really DO have “too much of a full schedule” with commitments to write books for two different publishers this year and a career working behind the scenes on game shows.)

-A pretty famous bit to start the match off, with Ax and Smash of Demolition drawing #1 and #2 and doing battle for a while. Gorilla talks about how partners are willing to duke it out because of the “prestige” involved for the winner. That’s one of the problems they had early on with the Rumble, they didn’t specifically define a prize for winning it. How hard would it have been to just pull some fake number like $250,000 out of their asses?

-#3 is Andre the Giant. Demolition immediately starts cooperating again and double-teams Andre. They have a rather back-and-forth battle for two minutes.

#4 is Mr. Perfect. He goes after Demolition, which surprises the commentators. Andre dumps Smash, and Perfect & Ax immediately start ganging up on Andre. Ax turns on Mr. Perfect, which Jesse correctly declares to be a huge strategic error. Headbutt by Andre is beautifully sold by the perfect one.

#5 is Ronnie Garvin. Garvin chops Andre so hard that he falls backward and gets tangled in the ropes. Everybody grabs his legs and tries to flip him over, but with no luck. Ax gives up and goes to work on Perfect. Garvin, proving himself to be a moron, unties Andre, and of course Andre completely flips out and destroys all three guys as soon as he’s free.

#6 is Greg Valentine. Valentine goes right after Andre and now it’s four-on-one. Huge clothesline eliminates Ronnie Garvin. Andre chokes out Ax while Valentine lays on the mat and sells like he’s been in there for an hour.

#7 is Jake “The Snake” Roberts and the crowd pops like crazy for him. Ax and Perfect battle it out. Ax turns his attention to Valentine but gets double-teamed as a result. Jake and Andre are squarely focused on each other. Andre has firm control of that battle, actually.

#8 is Outlaw Ron Bass, hairless edition. He goes after Mr. Perfect while Andre shocks the crowd by dumping Jake. Andre handles the blondes at once while Ax battles the Outlaw.

#9 is Shawn Michaels. He works on Ron Bass. Perfect tosses Ax, who lasted 16 minutes and miraculously still had his facepaint almost completely intact when he left. Andre chokes the Outlaw down. Greg Valentine steps over and tries to help double-team Andre. No luck there.

#10 is Butch. Jake follows him out and this time he has Damien. Andre dives over the top rope and eliminates himself by accident. Oops. Perfect and Shawn do some pretty nice double-teaming on the Outlaw.

#11 is the Honky Tonk Man. Everybody pairs off, Honky and Perfect, Valentine and Shawn, Outlaw and Butch. Jimmy Hart’s men pair up and try to dump Shawn, but Shawn fights off both of them. Perfect nearly eliminates Honky to a gigantic pop from the Houston crowd.

#12 is Tito Santana. He goes after Perfect while Honky clings to life in the corner, nearly tosses by Butch. Valentine and Tito dust off their old feud, and they always go well together.

#13 is Bad News Brown. Honky Tonk Man is eliminated shortly thereafter. If I was a guy named Honky, I wouldn’t want to be in the ring with Bad News either. Shawn teases getting dumped and the crowd freaks out.

#14 is Marty Jannetty and the crowd goes crazy for a complete set of Rockers. They immediately go to work on Ron Bass and get rid of him with a double dropkick. Jesse thinks the Rockers should stick together because there’s no reason for them to split up unless they’re the last two guys, so of course the Rockers immediately go to opposite corners and fight other guys.

#15 is Randy Savage and he dives right for Bad News Brown and mauls him. Savage starts attacking everybody in sight until Bad News gets his second wind.

#16 is Arn Anderson. Randy Savage tosses Valentine and goes right back to work on Bad News. Savage and Arn pair up and eliminate Shawn together, and the crowd isn’t sure how to react to that.

#17 is Tully Blanchard. Thought as I’m watching this: Eight is about the perfect number of guys to have in the ring at one time during a Rumble match. Any more and the guys will start getting lazy. Jannetty hangs on for dear life and the Busters spend a solid 30 seconds pushing him until he finally goes. Perfect, in the other corner, has Savage about halfway out of the ring…

#18 is Hulk Hogan. He tosses Mr. Perfect right away to save Randy. He goes after Bad News next, to defend Elizabeth and Randy’s honor. Somebody eliminates Tito off-camera. Three guys gang up on Hulk and Savage stays in the other corner and fights it out with Butch instead of helping Hogan.

#19 is Luke. WHY would you swap #19 for #10, Butch? Butch proves my point by getting eliminated as soon as I finish typing that. Mega-Powers gang up on Bad News, but a thumb to the eye stops that. Hogan gorilla presses Tully, but keeps him in the ring instead of tossing him to the floor, giving birth to the stupidest recurring spot in the Royal Rumble.

#20 is Koko B. Ware. Koko is a house of fire. Savage battles the Brainbusters. Luke and Koko double-team Hogan and Hogan tosses both of them. Brainbusters double-team Hogan next, and they get tossed simultaneously.

#21 is the Warlord and Hulk eliminates him in about two seconds. That leaves Bad News Brown and Randy Savage, and Hogan eliminates both of them. Ooooooooo, he mad. Savage and Hogan have a huge argument and Elizabeth runs to the ring to calm both of them down. It works…for now. Savage shakes Hogan’s hand and leaves peacefully.

#22 is the Big Boss Man. Oops. Savage is out of there and Boss Man tries to take advantage, but Hogan fights him off handily. Slam by Hogan, but Boss Man comes right back with an avalanche. Piledriver follows. Gorilla complains that “Hulk has been out there for a half-hour!” Re-read this recap and do the math, folks. Even Jesse calls him out on that nonsense.

#23 is Akeem and that’s way too coincidental, so Gorilla calls shenanigans, suspecting DiBiase’s dirty money of doing this. Hogan survives the onslaught from the Towers as long as he can, but a double avalanche is too much to handle and Hogan is eliminated. Hogan earns his sportsman of the year trophy by yanking out Boss Man and ramming him into the timekeeper’s table.

#24 is Brutus Beefcake. Hogan actually turns to the referees and tells them, “I’m going back in” in the douchiest soundbite of the night. They tell them he has to leave, so Hogan yanks down the top rope and forces an elimination on the Boss Man, then beats on the Boss Man the entire way back to the locker room. This is so pitiful, Boss Man isn’t even fighting back or resisting. He just takes it like a jobber the whole time.

#25 is the Red Rooster. You know, you can talk all you want about how that gimmick killed his career, and make no mistake, it did…but that guy can say with a straight face that he main-evented two pay-per-views as the Red Rooster. Rooster and Beefcake double-team Akeem.

#26 is the Barbarian. The guys in the ring pair off and that doesn’t end well for the Red Rooster. Akeem pretty much leaves him for dead after a splash.

#27 is Big John Studd. He and Akeem do battle while Barber and Barbarian battle it out and Rooster acts hurt.

#28 is Hercules and damn, this match has died off. Everybody clubbers, but nobody in the ring has any kind of issue, so it’s pretty much just a battle royal at this point.

#29 is Rick Martel. Jesse is taking about the extreme punishment that everybody in the ring has been through, even though half the ring is relatively fresh.

#30, of course, is Ted DiBiase. He goes for Hercules first, then the Rooster. Five-arm by the Rooster, but that’s not his finisher anymore, so DiBiase bounces right back up and eliminates him. Brutus clamps a sleeper on Hercules, and they’re close to the ropes, so DiBiase & Barbarian dump them together while they’re tangled up. Diving headbutt by the Barbarian on Martel. He tries to finish the job with a clothesline, but Martel ducks and dropkicks him out of the ring.

-Final Four: Akeem, Rick Martel, Big John Studd, Ted DiBiase. Martel tries a bodypress but Akeem catches him and eliminates him. Akeem works over Studd while DiBiase stands back and directs traffic. Akeem tries an avalanche, but Studd uses DiBiase as a human shield, then tosses Akeem. DiBiase offers him some cash to throw the bout, but Studd refuses and wails on DiBiase. Slam and a double-underhook suplex by Studd. Lazy gutwrench by Studd (he doesn’t go down with the move) and then a clothesline. That’s enough for DiBiase, and Studd eliminates him with ease to win the Rumble. Virgil takes a beating post-match too.

-I’d say it’s worth two. Middle portion of the match was the strongest, but it was interesting the way they still hadn’t found their way to the best way of booking; great workers at the beginning, star power at the end. That brings the show to 4 for 8, I guess.

5.0
The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Older shows always have the advantage of fuzzy memories, but lord, this was a terrible show. Six-man tag was the only undercard match that had any issue, and that the fans gave a damn about, for that matter. They used the PPV to build the Mega-Powers/Twin Towers issue that's going to culminate on free TV. And 20/20 hindsight, the wrong guy won the Rumble; he was gone by Summerslam.
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