PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1990

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - Event poster

Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida

January 21, 1990

A brand new decade was upon us as the World Wrestling Federation presented its third annual Royal Rumble event. Ushering in a format more familiar to modern-day fans, the 1990 Pay Per View was a pretty hit-and-miss affair.

Here's what went down.

Welcome to the Royal Rumble! 

With his trademark growl in full force, a hyperactive Vince McMahon ran down tonight's card including a complete itinerary of every single participant in the 30-man battle royal before handing over to your commentary team for the evening, none other than Jesse 'The Body' Ventura and Tony 'Greatest Night in Our Sport' Schiavone.

The Fabulous Rougeaus vs. The Bushwhackers

It says something (what exactly, I couldn't be sure), that in 20+ years of being a pro wrestling fan, this is genuinely the first time your writer can ever remember sitting down to watch a Bushwhackers match.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - Jacques Rougeau has a beard!
It probably also says something when The 'Whackers are perhaps more over than I could have ever imagined. I mean seriously, the crowd lost their frickin' minds for Luke and Butch. Then again, as the show went on, it seemed everything was insanely over on this cold January evening.

Here they took on the team with arguably the best entrance music in the history of pro wrestling, The Fabulous Rougeaus in what would be the Canadians' final PPV outing before Raymond retired and Jacques would done the red and black to become the infamous 'Mountie.

As for the match itself, it stunk.

Unlike last year's show, in which the Rougeaus opened the show in riotous fashion (teaming with Dino Bravo to face Hacksaw Duggan and The Harts) their opening performance here was less a wrestling classic, and more a comedy show for the benefit of the live crowd.

Indeed, while the capacity crowd in the Orlando Arena seemed to relish the Bushwhackers' biting of their opponents and the referee and throwing out more heel tactics than the actual heels, on-screen it actually looked kind of sloppy.

Ray and Jacques (the latter barely recognizable thanks to his scruffy-looking beard) carried the bulk of the contest but eventually fell pray to a Bushwhackers battering ram and lost the bout.
Your Winners: The Bushwhackers

In a nice bit of continuity from last year's show, Mean Gene Okerlund quizzed Ted Dibiase about just how he came to be in possession of the #30 slot at the '89 show. This year, it turned out Dibiase had drawn the number one spot, something which seemed to please Okerlund no end.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - The Genius Lanny Poffo

The Genius vs. Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake 

Prior to the opening bell, The Genius cut a promo on his opponent in the form of a tawdry poem, essentially touting his intellectual superiority over Brother Bruti.

Struttin' his way to ringside in a pink and white ensemble, the Beefcake went on to deliver a clever, entertaining contest with the man better known as Lanny Poffo.

Comprised mostly of stalling, playing to the crowd, and The Genius camping it up, this was a match devoid of what you might normally class as in-ring action.

Yet the more this went on, that became part of its charm as the clearly out-matched Poffo did everything he could to avoid taking a beating from his larger opponent.

In the closing moments, the referee took a wicked bump, allowing Beefcake to put his rival to sleep and begin with the haircut, only for Mr. Perfect to run in for the beatdown.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake

When the referee came to on the outside, he ultimately disqualified both men:
Draw - Double Disqualification

Returning to the back, Sean Mooney began to stir the shit among the Heenan family, taking a perfectly calm group of men and instigating an argument between them as to what might happen if Ravishing Rick Rude, Haku, and Andre The Giant came face-to-face in the Rumble match.

It was unintentionally hilarious, especially as, with Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan leading his men away, Mooney claimed 'I think I detect some dissension" yes Sean, that YOU started!

Submission match:
Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine vs. 'Rugged' Ronnie Garvin

Accompanied by his manager, Jimmy 'Mouth of the South' Hart, the two rivals went back and forth in an absolutely fantastic submission mission match.

In a bout that was completely different than anything offered by McMahon's company at the time, Greg Valentine and Ronnie Garvin beat the living hell out of each other in a brutally stiff display that turned into something of an underrated classic.

If there was one downside to this match, it was the number of times both men attempted a pinfall. Ya know, in a submission match?

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - Rugged Ronnie Garvin vs. Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine

All fine at first of course, have both men go for a pin only to be denied by the referee, and you set the scene well; a reminder to the wrestlers -and the audience- that the only way to win this bout would be to make your opponent submit.

But to do it over, and over, and over again throughout the course of a lengthy contest? 

Despite frequent reminders? 

I could be alone in this, but it really does make both Valentine and The Hammer look kind of stupid.

That aside, this really is a compelling match that this reviewer could watch all day long and which ends when Valentine taps to Garvin's scorpion deathlock (or 'reverse figure four', as Schiavone called it)
Your winner: Rugged Ronnie Garvin

Returning to the backstage area, Okerlund interviewed Mr. Perfect, who laid into Brutus Beefcake to set up their eventual meeting at Wrestlemania VI

The future Intercontinental Champion also announced his number for the rumble; 'the perfect number', #30. Hennig was captivating in his promo. In fact, I'd argue that he was the best wrestler on the mic besides Jake Roberts throughout the entire show.

Brother Love interviews Sensational Queen Sherri and Saphire

Having a segment in front of the live crowd which featured no actual wrestling was becoming something of a Royal Rumble tradition. 

It started with Dino Bravo's bench press attempt in '88, continued with the Rude/Warrior pose-down in '89, and now, in 1990, we got The Brother Love Show featuring Sherri and Saphire, the manager/valets of Randy 'Macho King' Savage and Dusty Rhodes respectively.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - crowd

This dreadful segment, in which Love and Sherri laid into Saphire for what seemed like an eternity, eventually came to an end when Saphire slapped the crap out of Sherri, leading to the arrival of Savage and Rhodes. 

Clearing off the heels, Rhodes and Saphire then proceeded to cut a rug in the middle of the ring for about five thousand years.

'Don't we have an interview we can go to or something?' asked Ventura, echoing what probably everybody in the crowd were thinking.

Hoooo! Tough Guy!

Luckily, such an interview was forthcoming as Hacksaw Jim Duggan spoke to Sean Mooney about his upcoming battle against The Big Bossman.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. The Big Bossman

If there's one thing I've learned in watching the first three Royal Rumble events, it's that not only was Duggan incredibly over with live crowds, he was actually capable of having some damn exciting matches.

That was certainly the case here as Mr. USA and The Big Bossman battled back and forth in a hard-hitting brawl that was incredibly fun to watch.

In a similar fashion to the previous contest, this was simply two tough bastards beating the living crap out of each other, albeit in a way that was totally unique from Valentine/Garvin.

Going at it tooth and nail in a solid big man brawl, the ending came when a visibly irate Bossman grabbed his trusty nightstick, drilling his foe across the head with it for the DQ finish.
Your Winner via Disqualification: Hacksaw Jim Duggan

As the ring cleared in anticipation of our main event, cameras cut away to a number of pre-recorded promos from tonight's Royal Rumble participants. 

Superstars featured here included Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Demolition, Dusty Rhodes, The Rockers, Hercules, The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, and Jake Roberts, the latter of whom delivered the best mic work out of the whole montage.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - The Ultimate Warrior

Each man naturally declared themselves ready for the challenge of winning the Royal Rumble.

With that out of the way, it was on to the rumble match itself:

Royal Rumble Match:
30-man battle royal featuring: Ted Dibiase, Koko B. Ware, The Rockers, Demolition, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Akeem, Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, Randy 'Macho King' Savage, The Hart Foundation, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper and more.

As previously announced, it was up to The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase to start this year's rumble match, his first opponent coming in the form of future Hall of Famer, Koko. B. Ware.

Dibiase made light work of his opponent and tossed him over the rope for the night's first elimination in quick time. Marty Jannetty entered at number three in a flurry of excitement, flying at his foe with gusto and taking him around the ring.

Even with hindsight, Jannety's brief appearance was one of the highlights of the early part of the 'Rumble match, though he too was eliminated by the Million Dollar Man.

Jake 'The Snake' Roberts entered at number four, Dibiase meeting him outside the ring for a brawl which eventually spilled back between the ropes. Two minutes later, Randy Savage entered the fray and joined Dibiase in a double-team on Roberts which was eventually broken up with the arrival of Roddy Piper.

The action continued in the usual fashion, men came in, men kicked each others' backsides, men were thrown out, altogether making for an exciting, engaging and entertaining battle royal match.

Ted Dibiase stole Mr. Perfect's crown as the longest-surviving Rumble participant, clocking up an impressive 44+ minutes of ring time before finally being disposed of by The Ultimate Warrior.

WWF / WWE Royal Rumble 1990 - Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior

Speaking of the then-IC champion, the main story of the Rumble match itself came down to Warrior and Hogan, both men at one point being the only two in the ring and squaring off, only for neither combatant to gain a clear advantage over the other.

Hogan eventually eliminated Warrior later in the contest and would go on to hurl out #30 entrant Mr. Perfect to claim the win.
Your Winner: World Wrestling Federation Champion, Hulk Hogan

Afterward, Hogan celebrated his victory with the Orlando crowd for a decade and a half to close out the show.

If there was one thing more evident this year than in years past, it was how much the Royal Rumble would go on to set the scene for Wrestlemania. With Hogan/Warrior, Bad News/Piper, Colossal Connection/Demolition, Rhodes & Saphire/Savage & Sherri, Beefcake/Perfect and Dibiase/Roberts all begining at Royal Rumble '90 and culminating (for the most part) at Wrestlemania VI, the January PPV served as a great starting point for the year ahead. Match of the night honors most likely go to Valentine and Garvin though, somewhat surprisingly, Duggan/Bossman weren't too far behind. 
Here's to Royal Rumble 1991. 

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  1. Brutus Beefcake steals the show again!

  2. I'm glad wrestling has mostly moved beyond interminable dancing and 'feat of strength' segments.