The Orlando Arena has become a special place for Hulk Hogan and his fans. This event is one of the reasons why, the other being his WCW debut in 1994. Like last year, the WWF sticks with the 30-competitor version. Unlike last year, the commentary isn’t handled by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, with Monsoon’s spot going to Tony Schiavone. Ventura, playing up the fact they’re in Orlando looks fresh from a trip to Disney World. John Studd, the previous year’s winner has already departed the WWF by this time and is not taking part. 1988’s winner, Jim Duggan appears in one of the matches prior to the Rumble, but not the Rumble itself for the second year in a row.
Another thing about the O-Rena. It was the home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic who along with the Minnesota Timberwolves were just beginning their time in the league as expansion teams, one season after the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat joined. The Heat’s home arena will host next year’s Rumble event.
On to the matches broadcast on PPV.
We start with more PPV tag team futility for the Rougeau Brothers as this time they come up short against the Bushwhackers. Even with Jimmy Hart as their manager, Jacques and Raymond just can’t seem to break through in a standard tag match on the big stage.
After years of toiling in the undercard and spending time as fodder against higher level competition, working his way up to where he can make PPV’s in a non-wrestling capacity, Lanny Poffo aka the Genius finally gets to compete on the big stage, taking on Brutus Beefcake. One of the factors that finally earned the Genius a shot on PPV was defeating Hulk Hogan by count out on Saturday Night’s Main Event months earlier. As for this match, it winds up ending in a double disqualification as Beefcake brought in his scissors, a sharp and potentially lethal object and Poffo’s friend and ally, Mr. Perfect ran down to defend him, causing the referee to just give up on the match altogether. Beefcake would suffer some bruised ribs from the encounter with Perfect, leading up to a match between “the Barber” and Perfect at WrestleMania VI.
The next match is for me the most pleasant surprise of the card and a match that no matter how many times I watch it, I always wind up enjoying it immensely. Greg Valentine and Ron Garvin had a serious rivalry going for the better part of 1989 and it culminates with this match, a submission bout where pinfalls don’t count. Valentine had been competing with a brace over his left shin, leading to Garvin doing the same for this match and apparently getting the approval of the WWF to wear for this match, already starting the mind games between the two.
At varying points in the match, both competitors on instinct still go for pinfalls only to be reminded that won’t win them the match. Again, it’s just part of their instinct in a big match, especially for Garvin who’s usually more of a pinfall guy than submission one. Speaking of submissions, Valentine attempts a figure four, only for Garvin to mock him for doing so. The realization sets in that Garvin’s shin brace is preventing the full effect of the hold from working. Later on Valentine and his manager, Jimmy Hart will correct this with the brace being removed and Valentine trying again, this time with the proper effect. Garvin’s able to make the save by way of reversal and they both get back to their feet limping, but still fighting. This match is a battle between a pair of veterans who know what it’s like to have Championship glory and it shows here. This is quite possibly the last great match for either competitor with Garvin scoring the win with the Scorpion Deathlock.
For Garvin, it would be near the end of his stint in the WWF before leaving for the Pro Wrestling Federation in Charlotte by Summer and for Valentine, it was our last look at him in proper form on PPV before dying his hair black and looking like a tool.
As for this match, bravo to both for the effort. For Hart however, this drops him to 0-2 on the evening and the Rumble match isn’t about to make things any better for him.
The last match before the Rumble features 1988 winner Jim Duggan fighting the Big Bossman, winning by DQ. This was near the end of Bossman’s working relationship with manager Slick as he would ditch “the Doctor of Style” a short time later.
We now get to the Rumble itself as last year’s #30, Ted DiBiase draws #1. Increased security is cited due to possible shenanigans involving DiBiase’s draw the previous year. #2 is Koko Ware and as usual, Ware is underwhelming on the big stage as DiBiase drops him in quick fashion.
DiBiase goes on to have a remarkable Rumble, scoring a pair of eliminations and setting the new record for endurance, officially at 44 minutes, 47 seconds. Honestly, DiBiase should be credited with 3 as Marty Jannetty flies over and out, thanks to DiBiase’s well timed dodging.
Jake Roberts’ inability to score a DDT on an opponent during the Rumble continues.
The Warlord has a much better showing than last year’s 2 second effort, but that’s not saying much.
Dusty Rhodes makes his only Rumble match appearance and does well for himself, scoring a pair of eliminations and going a little over 18 minutes before being ousted by Earthquake.
For Akeem, it’s the 3rd straight year in which momentum knocks him out of the Rumble. In 1988, it was Duggan using the then-One Man Gang’s own momentum against him. In 1989, it was John Studd’s clubbing forearm to the back that sent Akeem out. This time it’s Jimmy Snuka’s attack that sends Akeem flying out. Of his 3 eliminations, none of them are the result of being tossed over and out.
The Ultimate Warrior enters at #21 and goes on a tear, scoring 6 eliminations. One of those eliminations is DiBiase and between here and Hulk Hogan’s arrival at #25 represent the only 54 seconds of this entire Rumble in which WCW’s future New World Order is not represented in the ring.
Hogan enters and he’ll go on to match Warrior’s mark of 6 eliminations. Before he ties that mark however, we get to a point where it’s just Warrior and Hogan alone in the ring. This also marks the second straight year in which Hogan has found himself alone in the ring with a single adversary during the Rumble, the previous year’s adversary being Bossman. The crowd comes alive for this showdown which ends with a mutually assured clothesline moment, knocking both down and leaving them prey for the Barbarian who’s next in.
Eventually the field starts to build back up and during the course of this, Tito Santana’s inability to let it the fuck go when it concerns the Strike Force breakup gets the better of him again, as he goes after Rick Martel only to find himself eliminated by Warrior. As for Warrior, he’ll find himself dumped out by Hogan, setting up a legendary showdown at WrestleMania VI.
The final 4 are Hogan, Hercules Hernandez, Rick Rude, and Mr. Perfect. Once Hernandez is dumped out, we have an all-WCW’s NWO final 3. Rude gets eliminated, leaving Hogan and Perfect with Hogan getting the better of that matchup, launching Perfect over and out to take the win.
Hogan becomes the first current WWF Heavyweight Champion to win the Rumble match itself, eclipsing last year’s Champion at the time, Randy Savage’s effort. Unlike the previous winners, Hogan will get to enter next year’s Royal Rumble as well, becoming the first to become a 2-time winner and the first repeat winner of the Rumble match.
Other fun stuff.
For Ventura, this is his next to last PPV appearance in the WWF on commentary, his last being the next event, WrestleMania VI.
1988’s winner, Jim Duggan entered at #13. This year’s 13, Ax will help Smash eliminate Andre the Giant before being eliminated by Earthquake.
1989’s winner, John Studd entered at #27. This year’s 27, the Barbarian falls just shy of being in the final 4, being eliminated by Hernandez.
DiBiase’s longevity mark will be eclipsed the following year by Rick Martel.
The Rumble match has a total of 7 current or former World Heavyweight level Champions involved.
The Sapphire Saga continues as she shows up as Dusty Rhodes’ manager at ringside. As for Rhodes, his WWF swan song will be at the following year’s event, a tag team loss before heading back to WCW.
Speaking of which, this is the Rumble in which the Virgil Amendment was put into place, allowing managers at ringside as long as they still have someone in competition in the ring.
While DiBiase lasts the longest before being eliminated, the shortest time for this year’s event goes to future WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who has still yet to find his footing on the big stage. Michaels lasts 12 seconds before being among those dumped out to set up the the face-to-face between Hogan and Warrior.
The Red Rooster makes his final in-ring PPV appearance during the Rumble, being eliminated by Andre. By Summer, Rooster would be gone, finding himself in WCW.
This Rumble marks the closest to any kind of success Warrior ever has at this event. A year later, he’ll be surrendering the WWF Heavyweight Championship to Sgt. Slaughter.
Another WM6 match that’s set up by the events of the Rumble match is Roddy Piper against Bad News Brown as Piper eliminates Brown, only for Brown to pull Piper over and out immediately after, leading to a brawl between them and a rather bizarre looking Piper in the run-up to that match. …And I’ll tackle that headache when we get to that match.
A total of 10 competitors fail to score a single elimination during the Rumble, 3 shy of the 13 fails from the previous year. Hogan’s record of 10 eliminations the previous year also still stands.
Prior to the PPV, there was a dark match in which Paul Roma defeated the Brooklyn Brawler. Less than a year and Bobby Heenan’s already given up on Brawler.
Up next, WWF WrestleMania Vi from the Skydome in Toronto. It’s a rather important event.
Tags: Royal Rumble 1990, WWF