Our road to the 2019 Royal Rumble begins with a look back at the inaugural event!
This was originally not a PPV, but actually a special which aired on the USA Network. It would however, create the 3rd in WWF’s ‘Big 4’ PPV’s and become the annual January tradition that a lot of fans look forward to even more so than WrestleMania. A little known fact is that in late 1987, WWF experimented with the Royal Rumble idea, holding one in St. Louis, Missouri that saw One Man Gang victorious. This is never referred to though, as WWF considers this the first for historical purposes. It’s every man for himself and luck of the draw, let’s get to the action!
Open: Photos featuring all the matchups for tonights event are shown, as Vince McMahon runs down the card that includes the contract signing for the biggest rematch in WWF history between Hulk Hogan & Andre The Giant. In the arena are Vince & Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, there’s no time to waste and we go right to the ring and Howard Finkel.
Match #1: ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat
They tie-up and Rude doesn’t hesitate to throw hands, Steamboat fires back with chops and Rude goes to the eyes. He tries to throw Ricky over the top, Steamboat hangs on, skinning the cat back inside and tossing Rude out to the floor. The Ravishing One collects himself, telling the ref Steamboat grabbed the tights back inside. Rude wants a test of strength, stops to have a conversation with the fans at ringside and then they lock hands. Rude gets wrist control, driving The Dragon to his knees. Steamboat to his feet, gets out, taking Rude down with a top wristlock and going into an armbar. The Dragon works over the arm, wrenching at the joint and putting Rude to the canvas.
Rude breaks it with a right hand, into the ropes, Steamboat slides through the legs and gets an armdrag, going back into the armbar. Steamboat relentless on the shoulder joint, Rude with forearms and Ricky fires back with chops. Into the ropes, back and forth and Steamboat with another chop, gaining control over Rude’s arm once more. Rude gets to a vertical base, breaking the hold with boots and right hands. Whips The Dragon in and lands a back elbow, finally getting something going. The Ravishing One smashing Steamboat’s head into the turnbuckles, Rude continuing to hammer away.
In the ropes again, Ricky slides through Rude’s legs and hits another armdrag, grabbing an armbar and driving his knee into the shoulder. Rude gets to his feet, sending Steamboat into the ropes and driving an elbow into the chin. More heavy shots from Rude, Steamboat fires back, into the ropes, Rude reverses and drives a knee to the midsection. Steamboat falls out to the floor, Rude giving chase and driving his back into the apron, then slamming Ricky on the floor. Rude drags The Dragon to the apron, bringing him in the hard way with a vertical suplex for a count of 2, then locks in a variation of a Camel Clutch.
The Dragon attempts getting up, but Rude jumps down on the back numberous times. Steamboat gets up again, this time lifting Rude on his shoulders and then dropping him to the mat. Ricky to his feet first, goes for a splash, but Rude gets the knees up, following with an atomic drop for a 2 count. Rude goes back to the Camel Clutch, Steamboat propels him into the corner and then drives his head into the top turnbuckle. The Dragon with a snapmare and a falling chop for 2, Rude goes to the midsection and gets a side headlock takedown, they float over into a bridge and Ricky gains a backslide for a near fall.
He ducks a right, grabs a roll-up for another. Both guys go back and forth with small packages for 2 counts, Rude flooring Ricky with a clothesline for another. Rude attempts a vertical suplex, Steamboat blocks and hits one of his own, then climbs up top. The Dragon jumps off with a crossbody, Rude pulling the referee in front of him and Steamboat takes him out. Rude gets Steamboat up in a Rack, the ref gets to his feet and calls for the bell.
Winner: ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude (Rack)
- After The Bell: Finkel announces that the winner is by disqualification and it’s Ricky Steamboat. Rude hits the ring again after a premature celebration and berates the ref.
Winner: Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat (Disqualification)
- EA’s Take: Two great workers here, but definitely not as quality of a match as you’d expect. Lots of rest holds and the pace didn’t pick up until the last 15-20 seconds of the match. Rick Rude is easily one of the most underrated WWF Superstars of all-time, after arriving from the NWA in the summer of 1987. No real feud between these two here, as they had limited interactions. Steamboat was one of the company’s hottest babyfaces after his WrestleMania III bout with Randy Savage, but a few weeks after Steamboat asked for time off to be with his wife, who was expecting the birth of their first child. It didn’t sit well with management, as a lot of time had been put into grooming Ricky to be a top babyface. When he would return in late 1987, he was not pushed or really put into any meaningful storylines.
In The Arena: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is with Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. Tonight, Canadian strongman Dino Bravo will attempt to break the world benchpress record of 705 lbs. They introduce Dino Bravo along with his manager Frenchy Martin. Dino calls it a big challenge, but he feels up to the task. Frenchy says something in French, of course. Ventura goes over some of the technicalities, as Dino goes for a warmup rep at 415 lbs. Dino stops and says it requires total concentration, asking the crowd to be silent. Using Ventura as his spotter, Bravo lifts it and reps it with no problems. They rip through 505, 555, 595 and 655. The crowd keeps making noise and Bravo feigns leaving with 715 lbs. Dino comes back and attempts it, Ventura helps Bravo get it up and they proclaim it legit.
- EA’s Take: I know they were trying to gain heat for the newly repackaged Dino Bravo, but this was just brutally long. The fans were clapping in support of him breaking the record, until he walked off. Dino would return to singles competition when his alliance with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine as The Dream Team was phased out, joining up with his new manager Frenchy Martin as the French-Canadian Strongman.
Match #2 for the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championships 2/3 Falls: WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin & Leilani Kai) w/’Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Toteno & Itsuki Yamazaki)
The bell rings and The Angels hit the The Glamour Girls with dropkicks. Noriyo & Leilani are left in the ring, Noriyo missing another dropkick as Leilani hangs onto the ropes. Leilani tosses her across the ring by the hair and then drives her into Martin’s knee before she tags in. Martin with a slam, covering and Noriyo bridges out, grabbing a roll-up for 2. Itsuki tags, sends Martin into the ropes and hits a rolling headbutt, followed by a piledriver. Noriyo back in, she gets taken to the ground, but grabs a body scissors.
Martin fights out of it, Noriyo attempts a crossbody and gets caught, then dropped to the canvas. Martin misses an elbow drop, then quickly crawls over and tags Leilani. She enters and takes a knee out of the ropes, Itsuki back in with a flying forearm and a dropkick. The Angels strike back and forth in the corner, Itsuki covering a count of 2, then lock in an octopus stretch. Martin comes in the ring to try and break it, but kicks her own partner. Noriyo back in to deliver a dropkick to Martin, then we get synchronized figure four’s from The Angels. The legal participants are left in the ring, Itsuki breaks the hold and wishbones Leilani’s legs, then tags Noriyo. She comes in and cross the legs, grabbing a modified surfboard.
Itsuki back in, she continues to work the leg, Martin comes in to help her partner and they pull on Leilani by her hands and legs. Martin is dropped to the mat and rolls outside going back to the apron, Leilani crawls to try and tag, finally making it. Martin fires a kick to the midsection, whips Noriyo into the corner and she hops on the turnbuckle, putting the boots up to a charging Martin. Judy catches the feet, pulling Noriyo off the turnbuckle and slamming her to the mat. She delivers a shot to Itsuki on the apron, whips Noriyo into the ropes and Leilani with a cheap shot from the apron. Martin plants Itsuki with a reverse powerbomb, covers and gets the first fall.
First Fall: The Glamour Girls
Martin tosses Itsuki by the hair, putting her in the wrong part of town, then whips her into the ropes for a flying forearm and a count of 1. She slams Itsuki, attempts a splash and misses, allowing Noriyo to tag in and hit a dropkick. Into the ropes, Noriyo with a jumping clothesling, heads to the 2nd rope and connects with another for a near fall. She hits the ropes, landinga crossbody for another 2, then tags Itsuki for a double team suplex. Martin enters the ring to break it up, but gets caught and The Angels attempt to whips The Glamour Girls into one another. The Angels stop short, Glamour Girls charging with clotheslines and end up hitting one another. Order is restored and Leilani flattens Itsuki, lifts her to her shoulder, Itsuki rolls through into a pin and picks up a 3 count.
Second Fall: The Jumping Bomb Angels
The Angels rush Leilani and deliver double knees, then a double clothesline before the ring clears to a one on one situation. Itsuki with a running knee, but Leilani uses her size to force Itsuki into her corner and Martin makes a tag. Into the ropes, Martin catches a kick attempt, Itsuki countering with an enzuigiri and Noriyo enters. Noriyo attempts a fisherman suplex, Martin counters and drives a knee to the midsection, then whips Noriyo hard into the corner. Martin charges, Noriyo hops up and over, grabbing a backslide, but Martin rolls through. Judy grabs the legs, catapulting Noriyo into her corner and tagging out.
Leilani wrenches the neck, then stomps away at Noriyo and hangs her across the top rope by the hair. Double underhook suplex plants Noriyo and Leilani gets a count of 2. Leilani maintains the advantage, Martin in off the tag with a big boot that sends Noriyo into a tag. Itsuki comes in and is immediately tossed across the ring by the hair, then distracts the ref for Leilani to get in an illegal choke. Leilani makes a cover for multiple 1 counts, sends Itsuki in for a double axe handle and it’s blocked. She drops Leilani keyster first on the canvas a couple times and gets a 2 count. She tosses Leilani into her own corner, then brings Martin in the hard way and tags Noriyo.
She climbs upstairs, Itsuki with a slam and Noriyo follows off the top with a knee drop for 2. Noriyo hits a double underhook suplex into a bridge, gaining another 2 count, then brings Itsuki back in for a crossbody and another 2. Martin is slammed to the mat, Itsuki comes off the 2nd rope with a senton and misses, Martin covering and only getting 2. Itsuki with a leg takedown, Noriyo with the tag and a 2nd rope clothesline, but Leilani breaks up the pinfall. The ref’s tied up with Leilani, The Angels climb opposing turnbuckles and hit a tandem dropkick for the 1-2-3.
Winners and NEW WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo/Tandem Top Rope Dropkick)
- EA’s Take: The crowd was quite into this contest and a lot of the style of The Angels is ahead of it’s time, however the pacing of the contest was a bit too hectic at times. Women’s wrestling isn’t quite as clean and smooth as the men at this point, it would take a number of years for it to get to that point. The WWF Women’s Tag Team Titles are a forgotten relic in the annals of WWE history and this is the last major appearance they’d ever see. The Glamour Girls would go on to regain the championships in June before the titles were dropped completely in early 1989.
Video: Footage from WrestleMania III is shown, when Andre The Giant took on Hulk Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Championship. At one point, Hogan attempted to slam Andre, but The Giant’s weight came crashing down onto the champion for what some claim was a 3 count. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ has plans to buy the championship, but Hulk Hogan refused to sell it. DiBiase promises to get what he wants, no matter the cost. Andre would accept DiBiase’s offer, attacking the champion on Saturday Night’s Main Event. The Giant has agreed to hand the title over.
In The Ring: It’s time for the contract signing for the biggest rematch in history, as Andre The Giant along with ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & Virgil make their way to the ring. ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund will oversee the proceedings and he introduces WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan, then WWF President Jack Tunney.Tunney & Hogan sit down at the table, but Andre refuses as Gene urges him to sign the contract. DiBiase gives Andre a few words and he slowly makes his way to the table, staring down the champion. The Giant finally takes a seat, then DiBiase takes the mic and begs Hogan to sign. Hulk appears to be having doubts, but then signs after some more prodding by The Million Dollar Man. Andre reviews the contract and Hulk grows impatient. The Giant finally puts his name on the dotted line and DiBiase tells him to put his ‘stamp of approval on it’. Hogan lunges at DiBiase and Andre grabs the champion, slamming his head into the table.
- EA’s Take: This segment is a stark contrast to the one earlier tonight. Yes, it was also long, but that was supposed to be the effect and it worked perfectly. Even almost 30 years later, you could feel the tension as Hogan’s blood boiled at Andre toying around with him. DiBiase was the perfect foil to add a new layer to the Hulk/Andre rivalry, giving it new life with the ‘purchasing of the title’ story. This contract was signed for a match to come on Saturday Night’s Main Event and would lead to the biggest moment in the shows history.