The first televised Royal Rumble took place on January 24, 1988. It was in Canada at Copps Coliseum. There was actually a practice event late in 1987. That match took place in St. Louis. The One Man Gang won it. He actually went over with JYD (Junkyard Dog) simultaneously, but was awarded a title shot against Hulk Hogan. The stipulation was that whoever prevailed would receive a championship opportunity on the next St. Louis card in November. January’s match had basically nothing to gain. Ric Flair won 1992’s Royal Rumble for the vacant title, and after that winners were given a future title bout.
I used to think that the title opportunity for winning had not really been invented or thought of for years, but after reading about this 1987 event I saw that it was originally involved. Hacksaw Jim Duggan won that 1988 contest. Ironically, it came down to him and the 1987 winner. Duggan pulled down the rope and Gang fell over to end the match. Things changed dramatically after the first televised rumble. USA Network was used because of a PPV NWA event. Gorilla Monsoon stressed that it was a free attraction. This implied that you should choose WWF over the other event, although that NWA show wasn’t specifically mentioned.
I was surprised when Monsoon wasn’t announcing at Copps Coliseum. It seemed like maybe something came up. Suspicion was multiplied when Vince McMahon commentated at MSG one night later. It was McMahon’s first time commentating at MSG in five years. Eventually I would find out that Gorilla had suffered a mild heart attack. Monsoon was conspicuous by his absence. He loved to say that when a manager like Bobby Heenan was not at ringside to support one of his men. I didn’t know the exact definition until looking it up years later.
The Royal Rumble was very basic. Tito Santana and Bret Hart started. There was no special introduction. Those two were standing in the ring. It was supposed to be a new man entering every two minutes, but that time seemed questionable. At one point Nikolai Volkoff ran out and was held back. He seemed to have made a mistake and left the locker room prematurely. This match was overshadowed by other things that happened during the event.
Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had a contract signing. This set up their huge bout on February 5. Earlier I mentioned being on free television. The February 5 show on NBC was seen by 33 million viewers. That was a record for American televised wrestling. There were many other parts to this show. New WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions were crowned. The Jumping Bomb Angels defeated Jimmy Hart’s Glamour Girls. They actually lost a fall before winning two. The Islanders also won a best 2 out of 3 falls match. They beat Paul Roma and Jim Powers. It appeared that Roma sustained a legitimate injury. Ricky Steamboat beat Rick Rude by disqualification. Perhaps the most memorable happening was Dino Bravo supposedly setting a new weightlifting record. Jesse Ventura clearly helped him lift the weight.
By 1989, things had started to change. The event was moved to PPV. There was a dramatic introduction for the first two men. They were regular partners Ax and Smash of Demolition. Music played each time. When Demolition’s theme song came on again, fans went wild. The 1989 match involved 30 wrestlers. That 1988 contest had 20. 2018’s event will be different than previous years. For the first time ever, WWE is presenting a women’s rumble. I guess I’ll watch. The NFL has moved their Pro Bowl to an afternoon game. Hopefully you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. If not, at least I got to relive it. Who else can educate you like this?