Tuesday, 31 January 2012
1989 ROYAL RUMBLE
I am at school because a student of mine is rewriting her december exam and I am not teaching this semester so I am sitting in my office without any actual work that has to be done and awesomely enough here is my computer right now and oh look here are some headphones so it is time for THE 1989 ROYAL RUMBLE YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH
The excitement builds as the shiny WWF logo flies over the sea towards a dramatic landscape and then thunder booms from the heavens as "Mean" Gene Okerlund in not his usual voice at all assures us that the World Wrestling Federation is what the wooooooorld is watching! Vince McMahon bellows the names of the following grappling greats as a saxophone solo lets you know that he is serious about all of this for real:
BAD NEWS BROWN!
AX AND SMASH OF DEMOLITION!
AKEEM THE AFRICAN DREAM!
THE RED ROOSTAAAAAH! (this is how he says it)
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS!
LUKE AND BUTCH THE BUSHWACKERS!
GREG THE HAMMER VALENTINE!
ANDRE THE GIANT!
BIG JOHN STUD!
THE HONKY TONK MAN!
RUGGED RONNIE GARVIN!
THE BRAIN BUSTERS!
THE POWERS OF PAIN!
THE BIG BOSSMAN!
KOKO B WARE!
OUTLAW RON BASS!
BRUTUS THE BARBER!
THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN!
THE MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE!
Gorilla Monsoon looks resplendant in a purple crushed velvet tuxedo that matches perfectly the hue of the lenses his old guy glasses and Jesse "The Body" Ventura tells us straight away that the luck of the draw is all-important in the Royal Rumble match, however, let us not get ahead of ourselves because first up it is a six-man tag-team match pitting Canadian strongman Dino Bravo (with the great Frenchy Martin) and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (with "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart) against "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and the Hart Foundation! The crowd erupts in a chant of USA USA as Duggan marches about the ring. Lest you think this will prove an off-putting distraction to Bret "Hitman" Hart given the eventual excesses of 1997 I would remind you that his own dear mother Helen Hart was American by birth. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart makes quite a show of removing Bret Hart's sunglasses and it's pretty cool. Jesse Ventura regales us with tales of Bravo's weightlifting feats, while Monsoon reminds us all that Ventura assisted Bravo considerably during his world-record benchpress attempt at the previous year's Rumble. Bravo and Neidhart start things out with some nice shoulder blocking and things of that nature before Duggan and Raymond take centre stage for like a second and then our long wait is over as Bret Hart tags in. He gets the best of Raymond in a pretty impressive display of scientific wrestling that sends the Rougeau back to his corner for comfort and consolation from his brother Jacques. And now we have all six men in the ring! The Anvil tackles both Rougeaus in the corner in what can only be described as an awesome spot! Order is eventually restored but some tag team rope-pulling shenanigans see Hart tumble to the outside. He is rolled back in and finds himself on the wrong end of the Rougeau's pretty badass finisher in which uke is raised on Raymond's shoudlers while Jacques soars from the top turnbuckle with a devestating butt attack. There is your first fall, but not your last fall, as this six-man tag is being contested under "Intercontinental Rules" which I have never heard of but which mandate that the best two of three falls shall determine the winner. Bret Hart is the only constant in the ring as he gets pummeled by all three of his Francophone adversaries, and Monsoon talks about "excellence of execution" and Ventura tells us about Stu Hart's dungeon.
If you had asked me even moments ago what I thought about the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, I would have told you that they were pretty good wrestlers as I recalled, and that they almost killed the Dynamite Kid in a cafeteria one time, and nobody was all that surprised when that happened. But I'm surprised at just how good they are here, and man Jacques was a pretty big dude, wasn't he? Also, never has a Boston crab ever more plainly evoked the likeness of a crab than when Jacques applied the technique to Hart as the latter inched his way toward the safe harbour of his own corner. A tag was made but referee Joey Marella, distracted, does not see it. The Anvil is understandably upset. This match is pretty good, and Bret Hart is awesome. We should not be surprised by any of this.
At long, long last, Hart turns the tide, countering a Jacques Rougeau monkey-flip attempt with an inverted atomic drop out of the corner and Duggan and the Anvil unleash their fury against three French guys flopping all over the ring. Neidhart does that cool thing where he slingshots in from the outside as his partner pulls on the top rope. Bret Hart does the same! And we are even at one fall each! Duggan does his routine for a while to start the third fall and rushes hot-headedly into the opposing corner. Bret Hart is in and hits a backbreaker that sends Gorilla Monsoon into spasms of joy (me too!) and then Duggan lays into Bravo with his 2x4 in a blatant use of of a foreign object while referee Joey Marella is again not at his best. And that is your third fall in a pretty solid opening match!
Oh man, I used to love this: they're showing wrestlers drawing their Royal Rumble numbers from a tumbler! The Million Dollar Man seems unimpressed with his number, but he seems to think he wll be able to swing a deal with the jive-talking Slick. The Bushwackers aka the Sheepherders aka the best New Zealanders ever until Flight of the Conchords look ok with their draw but who knows how best to read the reactions of such strange folk? Honky Tonk Wayne Farris (or "Man") is furious; Bad News declares his draw "good news for Bad News"; and Demolition ready themselves for "a long night." I can't see Jake Roberts with Damian without thinking of the dark tales of animal cruelty that should surprise no one.
But now it is time for The Super Posedown between "Ravishing" Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior which, as I recall, is totally stupid. Ravishing Rick Rude is awesome and everything but I don't think I need to see all this posing interspersed with shots of ladies with towering bangs swooning, do I?
In the end, I do not. Let it never be said that Rick Rude's abs were not sick as hell, but this stunk. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan sprays oil in the Ultimate Warrior's eyes and Rick Rude goes to town on him with the "workout bar" that he has been conspicuously flexing throughout the event. When the Warrior regains his wits, he flips out and tosses some World Wrestling Federation Officials around.
Onto iller matters, we've got Judy Martin challenging Rockin' Robin for the WWF women's title. Oh hey! "Sensational" Sherri Martel has challenged whoever wins this bout to a championship contest at a later time! Sherri is awesome! But now she is gone, and we are left with the almost inconceivably old Judy Martin and the mauve-suited Robin, who, in the early going, is on the wrong end of several hair-based maneuvers. Oh OK great, Sherri is on commentary! I don't know, man, she's just nuts and it is cool to me. This match is not very good. Wikipedia tells me that, after retirement, Judy Martin "worked in law enforcement and then transcribed medical records," so she landed on her feet. Rockin Robin', I have learned, is one of Grizzly Smith's kids, which is as you know a fate worse than death. She is full brother of Sam Houston and half-brother of Jake, and as you have no doubt already guessed was removed from her father's care for the reasons you have also already guessed. After wrestling, "she moved to Louisiana and opened a telemarketing company that sold industrial chemicals and precious metals. Later, she opened a real estate appraisal business." Wikipedia also notes that she developed a drinking problem. And she wins it with a high cross body block! Also, "all of her belongings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina."
We are now treated to a number of pre-recorded interviews, which Gorilla Monsoon introduces by saying, "Right now we're gonna take you to some special pre-recorded interviews!" First up is Mr. Fuji, who I honestly had no idea anybody thought was a bad manager until I got one of Meltzer's awards issues and it showed that Mr. Fuji won "Worst Manager" like a million times. He speaks on behalf of the Powers of Pain. Next up: the shoot lovely Miss Elizabeth, who doesn't want to have to choose between Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, but instead wishes to exhort both! Finally, Jimmy Hart tells us of Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's mastery of the figure four leglock, and the Honky Tonk Man's ability to "do it all."
Oh man it is King Haku! They should have never ditched the full-on king gimmick. Who is the current King of the Ring, Sheamus, maybe? But he doesn't come out in purple on a palanquin or whatever carried atop the shoulders of enhancement talent, does he? No, he does not. Was Booker T the last guy to go full king? What little I saw of that King Booker routine seemed tremendous. King Haku's opponent: the former king, Harley Race, who tips the palanquin-thing over, sending Haku crashing to the floor of the ringside area! This is a pretty awesome brawl, and so what I am about to say is not nearly as important as the fact that I just told you re: the awesomeness of this brawl, but I don't really get this: it's a heel vs. heel match between two guys managed by Bobby Heenan. Why? Who cares, though; these guys own. "A master of the martial arts, Haku can terminate your career for you!" says Gorilla Monsoon, and Jesse agrees wholeheartedly. Harley Race follows up the baddest clothesline ever with one of those slow motion piledrivers that one associates most closely with him. Race is still doing a bunch of those clowning-around-in-the-ropes spots but they kind of fall flat with the Houston crowd. Oh shit, piledriver on the outside! And still the crowd remains nonplussed. There is no plussing some people. I am going to email my friend Stephen from Houston (well, Sugarland, properly: his parents are loaded) and ask him what everybody's problem was and presumably still is. Haku misses a top-rope headbutt and Race whiffs on one from the second turnbuckle before Haku reverse thrust kicks the hell out of not just Harley Race but everything in the universe for the win and still no one in Houston cares at all. Shame on them. This was really good.
More prerecordered comments from Royal Rumble participants! You know, as a lad I had no idea how awful Brutus Beefcake was at absolutely everything; I loved the sleeper hold, man, I fucking *loved* it, and was willing to overlook all failings because of it, I guess. (Did you know that Leo Burke often employed the sleeper hold? Unlike Beefcake, however, Burke had no failings.) Greg Valentine was always pretty good, wasn't he? The very last Saturday Night's Main Event I ever saw, and the first one I had seen after kind of a while, had Valentine win a battle royal as a baby face, which seemed strange. Here's Mr. Fuji again, for some reason, alongside the Powers of Pain. Big John Studd is in the building, and I like it when Method Man (later) goes "They call me Big John Studd -- my middle name? *Mud*." Mr. Perfect talks about how he's going to tip the big men over and throw the little men out, which seems sound. And then we have the Macho Man, who says these words (I went against my policy of not rewinding to get this right):
"FREAK OUT, FREAK OUT! OOOOOOH YEEEEEAHHHH! ZILLIONS OF PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD ARE GONNA BE WATCHIN' YEAH! AND AT THE SUMMIT IN HOUSTON TEXAS IT'S THE ROYAL RUMBLE YEAH! THIRTY BIG-TIME WRESTLERS YEAH WITH REPUTATIONS TO MATCH! no partners, every man for himself, YEAH, UH HUH! I'M ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND I FEEL LIKE I'M ALONE NOW YEAH! and i'm warnin' each and every person that comes into the squared circle THAT I AM THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION CHAMPION YEAH AND I'M USED TO BEING NUMBER ONE! and macho madness will be felt in the summit in houston texas AND ALL AROUND THE WORLD! zillions of people will witness yeah AND THE PEOPLE THAT COME INTO THE RING WILL FEEL THE PAIN YEAH will feel the intensity OF THE MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE because i didn't become the world wrestling federation champion by uh yeah LETTIN' BIG-TIME THINGS SLIDE BY! I'M THE CHAMPION NOW! AND I'M GONNA BE THE CHAMPION OF THE ROYAL RUMBLE! OOOOOH YEEEEAAAAHHH!"
You would think there would be absolutely no way whatsoever to follow that, but Ted DiBiase tells us that where you stand in a match like this all comes down to the luck of the draw, and when you've got his kind of money, you can be as lucky as you want, and in its own way it is a pretty cool thing to say, too.
WELL YOU KNOW SUMTHIN' MEAN GENE we have moved into the era in which Hulk Hogan's t-shirts said "HULK RULES" and honestly that is the point at which I remember kind of being out, not because of any objection to that particular idiom or anything; it was just that by that point in my life I was sufficiently aware of what is best in this world to favour Randy Savage in all of this. Yes, I would definitely have further moments of support for the Hulkster (Wrestlemania X8 stands out, of course), but Randy Savage really did eclipse Hogan at this point, even, I would argue, for dumb kids such as myself at the time.
Howard Finkel explains clearly that elimination in the Royal Rumble match occurs when a competitor is thrown over the top rope and falls to the floor. You will perhaps recall that last year, Jesse Ventura made it very clear that it didn't matter where you landed, or how many feet touched the floor or anything; over the top rope was all it took. As of the 1989 Royal Rumble, that rule, if it ever actually was one, is no more, and thank goodness, because how else would John Morrison have been able to do that awesome thing he would eventually do like twenty years later?
This 1989 Royal Rumble is of course the first proper Royal Rumble pay per view, as the 1988 event was a cable tv special that I'm not even sure you could get in Canada, so I'm sure this is the first one that I was actually aware of, and it begins in such a way as to totally drive home the every-man-for-himselfness of it all as numbers one and two are drawn by Ax and Smash of World Wrestling Federation tag-team champions Demolition! I was always of the opinion that Ax was the cooler name but Smash was the cooler guy. They go at it hammer and tongs! Until, that is, Andre the Giant enters the ring at number three. A predictably awesome Demolition beatdown follows. Soon after Mr. Perfect -- in trunks, rather than his signature, peotesque singlet -- enters the ring at number four, Andre unceremoniosly (like with seriously no ceremony at all) dumps Smash over the top. Perfect sells an Andre headbutt in the awesomest way, nearly bouncing himself over the top, and if I had to guess who is going to carry the early sections of this Rumble like Bret Hart did in the inaugural Royal Rumble match, I would totally tell you Mr. Perfect. Rugged Ronnie Garvin, who I always felt sucked, enters next, but who cares, as he sucks. Andre gets tied up in the ropes; Andre sits on Ax in the corner; Andre is fucking awesome. I know Shepherd Fairey was making a point about like phenomenology or something and the content of his imagery was purposely devoid of meaning or whatever but I'm glad there are still Andre the Giant stickers out there and traces of his visage in the OBEY logo because he's the best and deserves to be everywhere forever. Here comes Greg Valentine, and here goes Ronnie Garvin, because Andre is like "fuck you, Ronnie Garvin; I find you insufficiently rugged and therefore misleadingly epitheted."
Jake "The Snake" Roberts is number seven, and man people *loved* Jake "The Snake" Roberts. I did too. I guess this was when he was in the midst of his feud with the Giant, because Jake goes right for him, and is choked down for his troubles. Man, Andre is such a beast in this: he just sat on Jake, then stepped on his stomach, and now he's choking him with his demi-singlet. A rough night for Jake, who Andre tosses just after a freshly shorn Outlaw Ron Bass (oh that Brutus!) joins the fray.
Andre continues to choke the shit out of people until Shawn Michaels hits the ring, at which point Andre continues to choke the shit out of people. Mr. Perfect back body drops Ax out, and thinks he's done away with Michaels, too, but no! It is the soon-to-be-trademark Shawn Michaels Royal Rumble thing! He "skins the cat," as they say but don't actually say here! A Shawn Michaels dropkick sends Perfect into a mad bumping frenzy that sees him all tangled up in the ropes in a cool way.
Andre has moved on to bear hugging dudes at this point and looks unstoppable OH SHIT here comes Jake and he's brought the snake and Andre is like FUCK THIS and leaves and as you know Andre is a guy who steps not through but in fact *over* the ropes and he has been eliminated! Also now there is Bushwacker Luke.
"You could get maimed in there, Jess! It wouldn't take too much!"
The Honky Tonk Man jogs out to mild booing. I don't care about him too much one way or the other right now; mostly I am missing Andre the Giant. A shriek of approval from the crowd for Tito Santana, who goes right after Mr. Perfect! He was pretty good, that Tito Santana. You know who else was pretty good? The young Shawn Michaels, who is bouncing around for everybody in there.
At number thirteen we've got Bad News Allen "Brown" Coage, who came into the WWF on the strength of a promise from Vincent Kennedy McMahon to make him the first credible black world champion, and hold the belt for the year Hogon was going to be away doing No Hold Barred, but then somebody got in his McMahon's ear and said you couldn't put the belt on a shooter such as the 1976 Olympic heavyweight Bronze medalist in judo because what if he decided he wouldn't drop the title back to Hogan? This is the tale that Allen was told; he figures it was probably all just bullshit from the start.
Honky Tonk is out via Bushwacking; Marty Jannetty is in; a Rockers double dropkick eliminates Ron Bass.
Another thing Allen really disliked about his time in the WWF (can you tell that I have a shoot interview because I totally do) is that they refused to ever mention his judo credentials. Allen thought this was lame because they always talked up Ken Patera as an Olympian but they wouldn't say a thing about Bad News as an actual medalist and a Pan-American champion and everything. But they wanted to get Bad News over as a street dude from Harlem, so they wouldn't say it. A crime against judo and Allen and probably also race? I leave it to you.
At number fifteen we have Randy Savage and his bandanna and his best sunglasses and he, like me, is all about Bad News as he hits the ring and freaks out freaks out. God damn, Randy Savage, man. Greg Valentine comes in and pulls Savage off Bad News, which sucks, because Randy Savage wailing on Bad News is the coolest non-Andre thing we have seen so far.
Savage dumps Valentine just as Arn Anderson enters the ring, and maybe ten seconds after AA gets in there, he is HBK'd *right in the kisser* via superkick but then Savage and Anderson -- strange bedfellows! -- team up to eliminate Michaels which was pretty cool. So let's see, we've got Perfect, Anderson, Savage, Bad News, Jannetty, Tito, Bushwacker Luke, and now Tully Blanchard jonis the fray. Savage and Bad News are going at it in the corner, and it's pretty cool. Now Perfect and Savage. Basically you can't take your eyes off Randy Savage here. Blanchard and Anderson show expert tag-team tactics in eliminating Janetty and . . .
OMG IT IS HULK HOGAN! First things first he tosses Mr. Perfect, who had Randy Savage very much in peril. Hogan and Bad News settle in one corner while somebody knocks Tito out. Bad News and Arn and Tully are all working Hogan over in the corner while Savage is like "whatever" and addresses himself to Bushwacker Luke who is somehow still out there. Wait, I think I have been saying the wrong Bushwacker, maybe? Because the other one comes out and Gorilla is not that thrilled: "HERE COMES SOMEBODY ELSE oh it's the other bushwacker." Anyway I guess it is Bushwacker Butch who just got tossed and Bushwacker Luke is now tied up with Hulk Hogan for the first and only time in his career.
So it's Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Randy Savage, Bad News Brown, Hulk Hogan, Bushwacker Luke, and now Koko B. Ware, who I wouldn't have told you was even still around at this point (oh wait he stuck around at least long enough to team with Owen Hart, right?). Hogan eliminates him promptly, and then tosses the remaining Bushwacker, too. Brainbusters, Megapowers, Bad News. Woah Hogan clotheslined both Brainbusters over the top! And the Warlord with his celebrated two second appearance or whatever! Hogan is cleaning house! Bad News and Savage are tied up in the ropes, and Hogan, in the course of flipping Bad News over the top, also eliminates Savage, who is mad as hell and confronts Hogan and is totally the best. The lovely Miss Elizabeth hits the ring to try to smooth this over but Randy Savage is not the kind of guy who lets this sort of thing go or who doesn't keep track of the mileage on your car OH WAIT actually they shake and it's all cool. Or is it? We of course know that long term it is not.
Here comes the Big Boss Man and one's thoughts turn to that time Hogan suplexed the Big Boss Man off the top of the cage in Madison Square Garden on that Colosseum Video Exclusive match you watched about a million times because you couldn't believe how awesome that move was. Jeeeesus christ the Boss Man just hit a sick piledriver and now his shirt is wet and untucked which means he is not fucking around. Here comes Akeem, the African Dream, who was the runner up in the inaugural Royal Rumble in his former life as a One Man Gang member. Monsoon and Ventura speculate that shenanigans with DiBiase are the only way these two Twin Towers could have obtained consecutive numbers, which is not necessarily true but there is certainly a probablistic case to be made. The Towers eliminate Hogan; Hogan pulls the Boss Man over the top in an unscrupulous act of sheer animal revenge; and here comes Brutus Beefcake, meaning that with just a few more wrestlers to go, we've got Akeem and Brutus Beefcake as the only two men in the ring. All kinds of exciting stuff just happened, but this right here right now is not very exciting.
But hold onto your hats it is the Red Rooster! And then the Barbarian. Yikes, man; yikes. Akeem splashes Terry Taylor and then does a cool hand jive and now it is Big John Studd in at number twenty seven. Note that nobody cares that it is Big John Studd entering the match at number twenty seven. Again on the subject of the Bad News shoot, Allen said that Studd was totally a good guy, but he was absolutely obsessed with getting bigger and bigger still; it was as though he was fixated on getting as big as Andre, which obviously wasn't going to happen. Allen found this sad. Now we have Hercules, who is like the reddest guy ever but I don't think it was from steroids or anything he looks clean.
With only two guys to go, this is a remarkably shitty collection of dudes out there: Akeem, John Studd, Brutus, the Barbarian, Hercules (who I always kind of liked, as I have long admired the ancients), and fucking Terry Taylor. And now it's Strikeforce-era Rick Martel, mere months away from truly finding himself as "The Model." I guess this means Ted DiBiase was indeed successful in securing the coveted final position.
Nobody is really doing anything in there, and Jesse is like, well, it looks like this grueling match has really taken a toll on all of these competitors at this point. And yep, here comes DiBiase, along with Virgil, who Ventura totally describes as DiBiase's "slave," which I don't remember ever hearing anybody actually say. There goes the Rooster, Ric Flairing his way out over the turnbuckles at the hands of the Million Dollar Man.
This is really shitty right here. Hercules bear hugs Beefcake, who appeals to the crowd for support; finding none, he escapes anyway, and sinks in a sleeper, and nobody cares (except for me because, again, sleepers), but while the two are tied up, DiBiase dumps them both, which is a cool elimination. Barbarian with a top-rope headbutt to Martel, but before you know it we've got Martel dropkicking the Barbarian over the top, leaving us with a final four of Akeem, Martel, Studd, and Dibiase.
Akeem catches Martel's high cross body block and tosses him out, which is pretty cool, and do we have DiBiase, who is awesome, in there with the big men. Akeem is doing DiBiase's bidding, until Studd pulls DiBiase in front of him in the corner, where he is promptly splashed. Studd clotheslines Akeem over the top, and DiBiase, finding that his "how about all kinds of money?" hand gestures are falling on deaf ears, first cowers and then gets pounded. Studd tosses him, and the crowd is like "ok, I guess" and then Virgil hits the ring and, you know, flops around some. Did they ever do anything with Big John Studd after this? If they did, I totally don't remember it.
This was kind of a shitty match. The first half was pretty awesome, and all the Savage/Hogan stuff was totally well done, but because they did it in the middle they were left with all these shitty dudes at the end and it was hard to get into those dudes because of how shitty they were (excepting DiBiase who is of course not the least shitty). Clearly this one was all LONG TERM PLANS and that's fine but right now I am all about Royal Rumbles [i]qua[/i] Royal Rumble and let me tell you I have seen better Royal Rumbles than this Royal Rumble including for example the previous year's inaugural Royal Rumble.
POST RUMBLE MACHO MAN INTERVIEW YEAH YOU GOTTA EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE SQUARED CIRCLE SHOWDOWN TYPE SITUATION I DIDN'T THINK THERE WAS GONNA BE ONE:
A MAN IN MY POSITION CAN'T AFFORD TO LOOK RIDICULOUS