To begin the 1990 calendar year, the WWF World Champion was Hulk Hogan. He’s in this match. His WrestleMania VI opponent, The Ultimate Warrior, is also in the match. I wonder if they’ll interact in some way to set up their match at WrestleMania 6? Hmmm. Let’s find out.
WWF Royal Rumble
January 21, 1990
The announcers are Tony Schiavone (ugh) and Jesse Ventura. Why is it Tony? When they show Howard Finkel during the introduction they only put “The Fink” this time. No full name. Sorry Howard. Nice hair, though. I like when the Fink says this loudly: “Remember in the Royal Rumble it is every man for himself!” Okay thanks I didn’t know before.
The #1 entrant is Ted Dibiase. He was #30 the year before. The #2 entrant is Koko B Ware, who comes out with his bird Frankie. Dibiase attacks him right away and doesn’t let Koko get going at all. Koko no sells it when Dibiase slams him into the turnbuckle. What is he, Samoan? Koko charges in with Dibiase against the ropes, so Ted dumps him over the top. We get the music playing when the guys come out this year. Good move, WWE. #3 is Marty Jannetty of the Rockers. I’m sure that over 20 years ago people were wondering which one of the Rockers would be better. Don’t sleep on Marty. He’s still got time! Dibiase goes for a double axe, but Marty counters and gets a back elbow. Dibiase’s against the ropes, Marty charges, Dibiase ducks and Marty goes flying over the rope with a cross body block. Ted’s alone in the ring for 15 seconds again. The #4 man is Jake Roberts to a huge pop. He’s still a babyface. I liked him more as a heel, but that would be in the future. They had a rivalry at this point. The crowd is super hot for it. They brawl on the floor a bit and then Jake gets the short clothesline, but Ted counters the DDT. The #5 man is Macho King Randy Savage. He was a heel here, so they double team Jake a lot. Three of the biggest names in the company are in here early. That’s usually a good thing in terms of quality of the Rumble. I mark out for double axehandles off the top. Do you? The Macho/Jake feud in the future would be pretty awesome although they’d be in different roles.
In at #6 is Roddy Piper; another guy that was near the main event level. He’s a babyface at this point. He saves Jake from the double teaming. The crowd is hyper. Macho nearly eliminated Piper and then Piper nearly eliminated him. That was a great two minutes (that’s what she said). #7 is the Warlord, who got eliminated in 2 seconds the previous year. He goes after Jake and Piper. The odds that The Warlord could pass a WWE Wellness Policy today? 1%. And that’s generous. The #8 man is Bret Hart, who was still part of The Hart Foundation tag team for another year. Everybody in there except the Warlord is a legitimate Hall of Famer if the Hall of Fame was legit. Good match in terms of star power. In at #9 is Bad News Brown, who was a heel. Look at his name. It says “bad” in it. Jake goes to DDT Dibiase, but Macho comes charging in and clothesline Jake over the top to eliminate him. That was a cool spot. Piper nearly knocks Dibiase out, but Savage saves him. Ted is carrying the match at this point with Savage doing great too. Two of my all-time favorites. The #10 entrant is Dusty Rhodes. He looks “dashing” in those yellow polka dots doesn’t he? (See what I did there?) He goes after Savage, who he was having a feud with. Macho charges in at Dusty, who gives a backdrop and Savage goes all the way over the top to the floor to get eliminated. That sets up a Savage-Dusty WM match although it was a mixed tag with Sherri and Sapphire involved, which wasn’t great.
The #11 man is Andre The Giant, who is still a heel here and was near the end of his career. Andre headbutts the Warlord and then gives him a hip toss to the floor, eliminating him. Piper and Dusty double team Andre, but he breaks free with the vintage double noggin knocker. In at #11 is the Red Rooster Terry Taylor and he gets a decent sized pop. Brown tries to eliminate Piper, but Roddy hangs on and eliminates him. Bad News goes back in, grabs Roddy by the hair and tosses him out. I never understood how that can be legal. That would lead to a WrestleMania match along with some odd face painting by Roddy. The #13 entrant is Ax of Demolition, who is now a babyface. As he’s running out, Andre eliminates the Rooster. Now he can go back to spiking his hair with red coloring. Dusty & Ax tie up Andre in the ropes and work together to double team him. With five men in the ring, the sixth one is the #14th entrant Haku, who you might also know as Meng. He was Andre’s tag partner in the Colossal Connection team managed by Bobby Heenan. They were the tag champs here. Not a whole lot happens there. We’re halfway through as #15 is the other half of Demolition, Smash. Ventura puts over how great it is that Dibiase has lasted since the #1 spot. There are no eliminations or serious threats of them. It has slowed down a bit.
It’s Akeem the African Dream that is also a One Man Gang in at #16. I love his dancing. It makes my dancing look less shitty. Bret Hart got eliminated by Dusty even though the announcers missed it. Demolition eliminates Andre with a double clothesline. That was awkward looking, but I still mark out for Andre and always will. The #17 man is “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. No footwear of course. He’s gangsta like that. Akeem works over Snuka, then he decides to dance and Jimmy eliminates him. There’s no dancing in the Royal Rumble! Or crying in baseball. There have been a lot of double axehandles in this match. That’s a high impact move off the middle rope. It’s Dino Bravo at #18 with Jimmy Hart from Memphis who is waving the Quebec flag. Only in wrestling. This was when the WWF was manager heavy and they were all around the ring here: Heenan, Fuji, Slick, Hart and to a lesser extent, Virgil. Dibiase hangs on again. Earthquake is #19, rocking the Canada flag in the front of his lovely outfit. He’s a heel, by the way. He does some shaking and then tosses out Dusty. That’s a lot of beef. The Quakester picks up Ax and chucks him out over the top. He is a threat to win! Wow, that exchange by Smash and Bravo was very sloppy. The #20 entrant is Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, who was a babyface here as part of The Hart Foundation with Bret. Six guys team together to eliminate Earthquake. That was fun. We have six men left with another ten to enter.
The #21 man is a big name as The Ultimate Warrior enters the match to the biggest pop of the night so far. He gets attacked by Bravo, but he quickly eliminates him. They should have had him eliminate more than one guy upon his arrival because the crowd was so hot for him. In at #22 is Rick Martel, who was “The Model” by this point and a heel. He had been part of the babyface team Strike Force with Tito Santana previously. Haku eliminates Smash with a standing side kick. Neidhart almost eliminates Martel, but he hangs on. Coincidentally, #23 is Tito Santana. Dibiase’s still in from the #1 spot and Virgil helps to keep him in the match. That’s clever. The #24 spot belongs to The Honky Tonk Man, who wins the award for best sideburns in the match. There goes Neidhart, eliminated by Martel and Warrior. Ultimate Warrior works on Dibiase and eliminates him with a clothesline. Dibiase was in for 44:47, which was by far the new record at this point. The crowd popped huge for that one. The #25 entrant is Hulk Hogan, the WWF Champion. Ever heard of him? He eliminates Snuka with a clothesline. He eliminates Haku with the big boot. Santana goes to eliminate Martel, the Model hangs on, so Warrior tosses out Tito.
We’re down to the last five entrants with Shawn Michaels at #26. Hogan tosses out Honky Tonk Man, Warrior tosses out Michaels (who lands on his feet after tumbling over the top just because he’s the man) and Warrior tosses out Martel too. The crowd is going APESHIT as Warrior faces off with Hogan. Oh the double shoulderblocks with nobody moving and then the random criss-crossing. Then a double clothesline. I love the criss-crossing thing. That’s how I think all fights should go: “Let’s run in opposite directions who the tougher man is!” It’s a bit silly right? They are both down as #27 comes out…The Barbarian. And the crowd goes…mild. Best way to describe it. Even though there’s no countdown clock, Rick Rude comes in at #28. I’m assuming they were running late, so they had to rush it a bit. That was totally random. He goes after Warrior, who he had a lengthy feud with. Nice dropkick by Rude. Warrior saves Hogan from the two heels while Jesse questions why. Jesse was so good at calling people out for their actions. The heels double team Warrior, Hogan charges in, clothesline for all and he eliminates The Warrior. So there you have a different reaction to what Warrior did. Smart booking. Warrior runs back in the ring, clotheslines Barbarian and Rude and then starts running to the back. Why? Because he’s nuts. That’s why. The #29 entrant is Hercules, who Jesse calls “mighty.” Is that a synonym for jobber? I don’t think so. There’s not a whole lot going on as we wait for the last man, who we know is Mr. Perfect. The #30 man is Mr. Perfect and Hercules eliminates Barbarian.
The final four: Hogan, Rude, Hercules and Perfect. Perfect dropkicks Hercules and Rude clotheslines Hercules out of there. The Rude/Perfect duo double team Hogan. They were very good friends from the state of Minnesota too. They go to double team Hogan, but Hulk moves. Perfect gets knocked to the apron. Hogan whips Rude in and as Perfect is trying to get in the ring the rope is pulled down, so Rude gets eliminated. Perfect gets Hogan with a boot followed by a clothesline. “Now you’re gonna see it,” yells Perfect. What exactly? We don’t know. Oh, it’s the Perfectplex. Hogan pops right up. Hulking Up time. Slingshot into the corner with Perfect hitting the post. Hogan clotheslines him a few times and throws him out over the top. Jesse can’t believe it.
Winner: Hulk Hogan
The match ended at 58:46.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– I have read through the years about how Mr. Perfect was actually booked to win this, but Hogan got it changed. He had a lot of creative control. On the one hand, it’s a poor decision because he was already the WWF Champion, so he didn’t need the win. On the other hand, it gave him momentum for the huge match against The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI where he would lose.
– I loved the way Dibiase was booked. He was in there for nearly 45 minutes, he eliminated just three people, but he did a great job hanging on every time he was close to being thrown out. It made his actual elimination a big deal. That’s how you build up a moment properly.
– The Dusty/Savage stuff was really fun. It would have been nice if they got a long singles match at WrestleMania instead of the mixed tag. They could have had some great matches together.
– I marked out for Earthquake. No lie. It was a ridiculously fun gimmick. The ring is shaking while he jumps. Sometimes it’s just that simple, ya know?
– Shawn Michaels was only in the match for 12 seconds? Fail.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Person that lasted the longest: Ted Dibiase at 44:47.
Most Eliminations: Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior with 6 each. They teamed up with other guys for some of them, so it’s a little tricky!
Best Performers (3): Ted Dibiase – Easy call here. He carried the first half of the match. One of my all-time favorite workers.
Hulk Hogan – I could actually tolerate him in Rumbles. They hid his deficiencies, which were the crappy matches.
Ultimate Warrior – Nobody else was booked to stand out very much.
Best Elimination: Hogan eliminating Warrior “by accident” was done remarkably well. It was a surprise and it built up the WrestleMania match. Kudos to Savage’s awesome bump too.
Match Rating: ***1/2 Good stuff. They booked it smartly early with a lot of star power and then later on built it well with the Warrior/Hogan showdown that everybody wanted. Yes, I realize I mentioned that a lot. There wasn’t much else in the match except for Piper/Brown and Savage/Rhodes building.
Ranking the Rumble’s in terms of star ratings:
I’ll see you next time for a look back at the 1991 Royal Rumble.