Hello and Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the new launch of thedailyspotlight.com for the year of 2017. I appreciate everyone checking us out and promise that while, 2016 was just a really hectic year for me, and honestly a really tough year, I’m ready to jump back into this website full tilt during 2017 and give this a real go. One of the big things that I plan on doing is the countdown to the Royal Rumble series. It just so happens that the 30th annual Royal Rumble takes place on January 29th and so that gives us 29 days of January to look back at all of the other Royal Rumble events and present them in as grave detail as I can. We’ll look back at the events from a historical perspective citing quotes and information from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter among other sources while also giving you guys full results and thoughts of some of the highlights from the Rumble show itself. Then as we get deeper into our month long discussion of the Royal Rumble through the years, I’ll give you guys a bit of backstory as to what I remember about the shows, watching as a fan. We’ll get into some of my personal memories of the shows including 3 different Royal Rumble events that I attended live and some other shows that I came damn close to attending which have some fun backstories attached to those as well. Of course, I did get this idea from the Lapsed Fan Wrestling Podcast which I have waxed poetic about and cannot recommend enough to any type of wrestling fan that there is. They have covered every Starrcade and Wrestlemania at length (each podcast generally runs between 4-9 hours and is totally worth checking out) and with Wrestlemania they did one podcast per week about each one of the Wrestlemanias leading up to Wrestlemania 31. What it did for me that year was really provide an unprecedented trip down memory lane and also provided a ton of great hype for Wrestlemania that year. That’s what I hope to accomplish here for the Royal Rumble. Of course, I don’t want this to be this to be all about me, moving forward I’d like you to get involved too. Go ahead and send me your Royal Rumble feedback over on Twitter @TommyOnTheSpot or in the comment section below. I’ll update this section of the post each day to let you know the different ways to get involved.
The Rumble has always been my favorite WWE show of the year. While it may not have some of the glitz and glamour of a Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble is the reason that I became a wrestling fan. 30 of the top WWE superstars taking turns coming into the ring at evenly timed intervals for usually over an hour long match was just as good as it got. You never knew who was going to win or, in most cases, who was even going to show up. I have so many memories of sitting with a group filled with 10+ family and friends crammed into a living room all shouting the “10-9-8…” countdown while anticipation for the next superstar grew with each second. Without any further ado let’s get this month long celebration started by taking a look back at the Royal Rumble 1988.
Royal Rumble 1988
January 24th, 1988- Copps Coliseum Hamilton, On
Ricky Steamboat defeated Rick Rude by disqualification
The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki) defeated The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leilani Kai) (c) (with Jimmy Hart) in a Two out of three falls match for the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship
Jim Duggan won by last eliminating One Man Gang in the 20-man Royal Rumble match
The Islanders (Haku and Tama) defeated The Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers) in a Two out of three falls match
Before we get started with the actual event. It’s probably important that we look back at a bit of a history on the Royal Rumble. For those who don’t know, the Rumble was a concept created by WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, while there was actually one other Rumble held at a live event in 1987, the Royal Rumble 1988 was the first one to be televised and it wasn’t on pay per view but rather aired live on the USA Network. The story goes that in November of 1987, the NWA ran Starrcade 1987 live on pay per view. When Vince McMahon heard this, he decided to present the first ever Survivor Series on the very same night. Furthermore, McMahon told the pay per view companies that if they aired Starrcade over the Survivor Series, they would not be able to air Wrestlemania 4 the following spring. This was coming fresh off the heels of the success of Wrestlemania 3 and so many of the pay per view companies didn’t want to lose the rights to air Wrestlemania 4 and so few aired Starrcade. This did, however, upset many of the pay per view companies and the companies urged both the WWF and the NWA never to air pay per views on the same night again since it would split the audience that the companies were going after to buy pay per views. Fast forward now 3 months later and the NWA is running the Bunkhouse Stampede 1988 live on pay per view on January 24th, 1988. Knowing that running a pay per view live on the same night would upset the pay per view companies, the WWF decided to run the first ever Royal Rumble on cable TV up against the Bunkhouse Stampede. This gave wrestling fans, in essence, a free alternative if they didn’t want to pay for the pay per view.
As for the Royal Rumble event itself, I mean look up at the results above, the show left a bit to be desired if you’re comparing it to the loaded Rumble show that’s going to air later this month. This was actually a show that I don’t think was even available for purchase until 2007 when WWE released the Royal Rumble Anthology and so I didn’t even see this show until that set was released (it seems that Coliseum Video did make a VHS of the tape but I never recall seeing this at any Blockbuster Video or Palmer Video, remember Palmer Video?). The Royal Rumble match only had 20 participants and the match took place before the main event, which was a largely forgettable 2 out of 3 falls tag team match between the Young Stallions and the Islanders.
The main focus on the show moreso than even the Rumble match, was the contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant promoting their Wrestlemania 3 rematch that the main event live on NBC some two weeks later. The rematch was a big deal because at the time Andre had been saying for months that he actually pinned Hogan during their Wrestlemania 3 match on Hogan’s failed bodyslam attempt and there was a good amount of controversy about the finish that was played up on WWE television over the next 9 months. It sounds crazy to think that a contract signing would be built up as the focal point of a show, with signings taking place so often nowadays and with the signings almost always resulting in a brawl. That said, at the time, Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan were such big stars and there wasn’t too many big TV shows so a promoted appearances by both men at the same place at the same time was a big deal. Of course the signing would result in a big melee but this did lead to Andre The Giant winning the title at The Main Event and selling it to Ted Dibiase leading to the tournament for the belt at Wrestlemania 4. I guess even back in 1988, the Royal Rumble really did lead to the road to Wrestlemania.
As for the Rumble match the most surprising thing for me the first time I saw the match was that the Ultimate Warrior was in the match. I had never even realized that the Warrior was in the WWF so early in 1988 and looking back at the match he’s a complete after thought. Warrior comes in and is quickly disposed in under 4 minutes by The One Man Gang and Dino Bravo. Since this Rumble did not provide the winner with any actual reward like it does today, via a world title match at Wrestlemania, I’m surprised that the Warrior wasn’t the guy chosen to the win the Rumble as it would have highlighted him in a big way. The winner of the match ended up being Hacksaw Jim Duggan who won the match when the One Man Gang ended up eliminating himself. I’d say that Duggan and Jake Roberts were the two guys that people were into the most. If there’s one takeaway from the match, it was probably that this was first time that Bret Hart was highlighted as a singles talent on WWE television. He lasted the longest in the match and had the first of many long runs for the guy who drew number 1 that we would see for many years of the Royal Rumble.
One last thing I really remember from this show was the silly Bench Press Challenge that featured Dino Bravo trying to break the bench press record of 715 pounds. This was pretty hokey (nothing compared to the bodybuilding posedown at the next year’s Rumble but we’ll get to that tomorrow) but I remember being interested in this because it explained why Bravo was always referred to “Canadian Strongman” Dino Bravo during my first memories of watching in 1990-1991 when Bravo was mostly an enhancement talent. It was nice to see that they put so much effort into character development back then and the segment really showed Jesse Ventura at his best as a heel commentator in how much he helped to enhance some of the villains.
Well that’s going to do it for me here today as for the first day of the Rumble of the Royal Rumble…tomorrow we’ll travel back to 1989 where we had the most surprising rumble winner in history. Until then, what are your favorite memories of the Royal Rumble 1988?