JZ Says: WWF Royal Rumble (Jim Duggan, One Man Gang)

Copps Coliseum – Hamilton, Ont. – Sunday, January 24, 1988

This show was broadcast on the USA network rather than pay-per-view. Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura are calling the action.

MATCH #1: “Ravishing” Rick Rude vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

They quickly establish a dynamic, with Steamboat fighting hard and Rude cheating hard. Steamboat skins the cat and dumps Rude to the floor. This is pre-Heenan Family for Rude, so he has no one to confer with on the floor. Back in the ring Rude asks for a test of strength and Steamboat complies. Steamboat works his way out of that and starts working on the arm. Rude fights back and slugs away at the Dragon. Steamboat weathers the onslaught and goes right back to the arm. Rude responds by sending Steamboat to the floor and hitting a bodyslam. He suplexes Steamboat back in the ring and then locks on a modified Camel Clutch. Steamboat fights out of it with an Electric Chair Drop and both men are down. The Dragon gets up and tries a splash but Rude gets his knees up. Rude hits an atomic drop for a two-count, and then goes back to the reverse chinlock. Steamboat powers out and shoves Rude into the turnbuckles. He rams Rude’s head into the top buckle ten times. A series of reversals ends with a Steamboat backslide for a two-count. They trade more pinning combinations for a series of near-falls, wearing out the referee. Rude hits a hard clothesline for two. He goes for a suplex, but Steamboat reverses it and both men are down. Steamboat gets up first and goes up to the top rope but Rude pulls the referee in front of a cross body block. Rude then locks on a Canadian Backbreaker and the referee calls for the bell at 17:40. It looks like Rude won the match by submission, but The Fink announces that Steamboat won via disqualification! It picked up a little by the end, but this was dull for the most part. I don’t recall a ton of classic Rick Rude matches in WWE, come to think of it.
Rating: **¼

MATCH #2: Two out of Three Falls Match for the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship – The Glamour Girls vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels

The Glamour Girls are accompanied by their manager Jimmy Hart. Leilani Kai and Judy Martin have been the champions since August 1986. Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki are making their second appearance on a big WWF show after the inaugural Survivor Series. They go on an early flurry and counter all the champions’ attacks. Ventura and McMahon don’t even know the names of the two Angels, and Ventura talks about taking one of them on a date while McMahon suggests identifying them by the colors on their singlet. Yes, that really happened. Meanwhile the Angels trap both Girls in a simultaneous Figure-Four Leglock. The referee regains control of the match as the challengers stay on offense on Kai. After a few minutes Martin gets the tag and she takes control on Itsuki (Red), hitting her with an Alley-Oop Powerbomb to capture the first fall at 6:12. At the outset of the second fall the champions are still working over Itsuki. Martin misses a splash and Noriyo (Pink) gets the hot tag. Noriyo is all over the Girls as McMahon butchers the pronunciations of their names. At least he’s trying. The referee loses control and Itsuki traps Kai in a sunset flip to even the match at one fall apiece at 1:53 (8:05 total). The Bomb Angels have all the momentum leading into the deciding fall. The champions use their size and strength advantage to cut the Angels off and they isolate Noriyo. For some reason they just allow her to make the tag to no fanfare, but they just go to work on Itsuki anyway. Itsuki fights back and the challengers use double-team maneuvers on Martin but can’t put her away yet. Noriyo hits a butterfly suplex with a bridge for a two-count. Itsuki hits a cross body block for another two. She goes for a senton off the second rope, but Martin avoids it and covers for a two-count. Noriyo tags in and hits a clothesline off the second rope for two. The Angels then hit Martin with a double missile dropkick and Noriyo gets the pin at 5:51 (13:56 total) to win the titles. That was a well-executed tag team match and something totally unique for 1988.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #3: Royal Rumble Match

Bret “Hit Man” Hart drew #1, while Tito Santana drew #2. They go back and forth a bit and “The Natural” Butch Reed is #3. Reed goes right after Santana, and Hart joins him for some double-teaming. Next up is Hart’s partner Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart at #4! That does not bode well for Santana at all. He gets triple-teamed until Jake “The Snake” Roberts makes his way out at #5, and he immediately eliminates Reed. The crowd is in love with Roberts. Next up is #6, Harley Race. The heels team up on the babyfaces until “Jumping” Jim Brunzell comes out at #7 to a big pop. Sam Houston is #8 and he gets a big pop too. I love 1980s WWF crowds. The Hart Foundation teams up to toss Santana to the floor. “Dangerous” Danny Davis is next up at #9. We’re halfway home with Boris Zhukov at #10. Next up is “The Rock” Don Muraco at #11, and Nikolai Volkoff tries to run out there with him. Muraco will have none of that, slugging Volkoff before even getting in the ring. Roberts and Brunzell eliminate Zhukov. Time runs out and now Volkoff, #12, can join the fray. Muraco eliminates Race. Lucky #13 is “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. “Outlaw” Ron Bass comes out at #14. Volkoff eliminates Brunzell. Next is B. Brian Blair, #15. Hillbilly Jim is #16, and he immediately throws Neidhart out. Next is #17, Dino Bravo, who earlier set the world bench press record, according to Ventura at least. Bass eliminates Houston. Ultimate Warrior is entrant #18. Muraco finally eliminates Hart. The enormous One-Man Gang is #19. He quickly eliminates Blair and Roberts. The last entrant, #20, is Junkyard Dog. Duggan eliminates Volkoff. Gang eliminates Hillbilly Jim. Davis is next to go via a Duggan clothesline. Next out is the Warrior courtesy of the Outlaw. Bravo eliminates the JYD. Muraco dumps Bass out. The final four is Muraco, Duggan, Bravo, and Gang. Bravo and Gang work together to eliminate Muraco. Gang accidentally clotheslines Bravo to the floor, and we’re down to two. Duggan looks to be in trouble but when Gang charges at him he drops down and Gang sails over the top rope to give Duggan the win at 33:26. For a first effort that was quite good; they obviously would work out the kinks over the years but this on its own is a fun match.
Rating: ***½

MATCH #4: Two out of Three Falls Match – The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions

Tama and Jim Powers start it off. The Stallions take control in the early going, using their speed advantage to keep the larger Islanders off balance. Roma hits Haku with a cross body block for two. Haku rakes Powers’ eyes and makes the tag to Tama. Now the Islanders focus on Powers for a few minutes until Roma makes the hot tag. Tama cuts him off and throws Roma to the floor, and it looks as though Roma has injured his knee. The referee counts him out at 7:53. The Stallions go back to the dressing room to get Roma’s knee examined, so they recap the Hogan/Andre contract signing and Craig DeGeorge interviews Andre, Ted DiBiase, and Virgil. Roma and Powers make it back out for the second fall, and Roma must start the fall since he was the loser of the previous fall. Tama goes right after Roma’s injured knee. Luckily Roma makes a tag and Powers is on fire. The Islanders cut Powers off and work him over in their half of the ring. Roma courageously tags in but that doesn’t go well for the Stallions, as the Islanders swarm to the injury like sharks to blood. Haku locks Roma in a half Boston Crab and Roma taps out at 7:33 (15:26 total). The injury was unfortunate, and it turned the match into even more of a squash than it was probably intended.
Rating: *¾

JZ Says
For a first effort they did a nice job with the Rumble here, and besides that it’s just interesting to go back and watch the first iteration of something that has become such a beast unto itself. The women’s tag team match was basically out of place in this era, but it’s fun to watch. The other matches are blah, but to get a cool tag match and a Royal Rumble on a free show is nothing to complain about.

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