Monday, January 22, 2018

Royal Ramble 1988

30 years ago, the first Royal Rumble took place on the USA Network. It would eventually become a popular concept in wrestling and the first stop on the "Road To Wrestlemania" that everyone likes to promote. (I myself circumvent that whole road and take the shortcut that skips all the bullshit stops along the way, but that's another story.)

Today, we look at this historical first show and then over the next four days, I'll be watching random Royal Rumbles and giving them quick little write-ups. And then maybe next week, I'll do a post on this Sunday's event.

For those who never knew how the Rumble came about, it all goes back to them bickering promoters. See, back in the day, Jim Crockett Promotions had a PPV on Sunday called Bunkhouse Stampede and poor ol' Vince wanted to counter that PPV, but couldn't just throw up a PPV of his own on the same night since the last time he did that, he pissed off a lot of cable companies.

So instead of a PPV, he had a show on the USA Network for absolutely free and it would feature the debut of a concept that right-hand man Pat Patterson had thought up; a 20-man battle royal with timed entrances to keep the anticipation up and the end result made a dent in Crockett's PPV buys, with the additional side effect of becoming an annual tradition that would become its own PPV event that continues to this day.

Ricky Steamboat defeated Ravishing Rick Rude via disqualification when Rude used the referee to block a cross body from Steamboat. A fairly length and enjoyable match marred by an otherwise lame ending, along with one bit where the ref is checking the arm and it drops three times, which should technically end the match... but I guess the ref couldn't count so he checked the arm a fourth time and Steamboat recovered. Naturally, Jesse Ventura freaks out on commentary. I'm guessing this was operating under "Canadian Rules" or whatever that silly joke stipulation was in WCW.

Next up is Dino Bravo doing bench presses... for fifteen minutes... it is as exciting as it sounds. I fast forward.

In a cool little bit of historical oddity, The Jumping Bomb Angels (two Asian women) defeated Women's Tag Team champions the Glamour Girls (former Women's champion Lelani Kai and some other woman I don't know) in a two out of three falls match to win the titles on the third and final fall.
Yes, kids; once upon a time, WWF actually had Women's tag titles, so here's ample evidence to call bullshit on the current LOLWomensRevolution when they make another "historic first" and introduce tag titles to a division that doesn't have enough tag teams to support it.

But that's taking discussion away from this match, which was surprising fast-paced and filled with fancy moves for something that was not only coming out of the flaky Women's Division, but also for something out of the 80s. This would've been perfectly suited for something in a mid-to-late-90s wrestling show and it's actually a better match than I was expecting. Now I want to see more of these Jumping Bomb Angels and actually know their names.

I'm never going to do that, am I? Oh well... at least the thought occurred to me.

Next up, we have the contract signing to set up the rematch between WWF champion Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant for the upcoming Main Event tv special. Like all contract signings, this ran a little long and ended with both guys signing their contracts and Andre giving Hogan a cheap shot. I'd imagine this would've been a bigger deal back in the day rather than today when a contract signing was a main event piss break, but I digress.

Now we have the Royal Rumble match; a prototype for the match that will headline (or at least highlight) subsequent annual PPVS, this Rumble featured 20 superstars coming in at two minute intervals and the only way to eliminate a Superstar is to toss him over the top rope and onto the floor. And for a first time effort, this was an interesting lookback at the origins of a popular concept. The lack of notable stars is evident here, with only the most hardcore old-school wrestling fans recognizing some of the names, but there are some stars, such as Jake The Snake, Bret Hart, and Jim Duggan, who would go on to win the thing. It's not a great start, but it's not all bad either. So they'd only get better from here.

The show ends with the Islanders (Haku and Tama) defeating the Young Stallions (Jim Powers and future Horseman Paul Roma) in a rather lengthy but forgettable match who only exists to fill time. It would've been better if the show ended with the Rumble to close it on a high note, but then again, they'd have the main event at the start of a TV show and just fill the rest with nothing matches around this time, so this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

The first edition of the Royal Rumble was an experiment; a testing bed to see if the concept could work and while there were some kinks to work out, it would eventually become something of a winning formula that has its high points as well as its low points. If this had been a PPV event, it would've been a less-than-stellar offering, but because this was on free TV, it's a fairly tolerable and perhaps even watchable affair that provides a nice lookback at where it all began.

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