By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Much like the inaugural WrestleMania did three years prior, WWE stormed Madison Square Garden with a night of highs, lows and much in-betweens with the first SummerSlam event.
The magic laid in a “surprise” moment of Ultimate Warrior beating Honky Tonk Man in a mere 30 seconds to win the Intercontinental Championship and Miss Elizabeth wearing a bikini bottom to distract the heels in the main event.
In terms of actual memorable wrestling contests, not quite as magical, despite a strong opener, which ultimately disappointed.
We’ll get to all of that fun stuff below.
When it came down to it, the 1988 Royal Rumble had a little bit of everything: two separate two-out-of-three fall tag team matches, a questionable Dino Bravo bench pressing segment, a thriller of a match between Rick Rude and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and a decent angle that involved Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and an oak table.
Who could also forget the Rumble match itself? More on that below.
– It’s crazy to see how the Royal Rumble took off from where it started: a three-hour TV special in Canada. Nowhere to go from there but up. At the time, this must’ve been a glorified “Saturday’s Main Event.”
– Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura made for an interesting duo on commentary all night long. They were certainly no Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan, but for 80’s WWE, we can settle. Ventura was almost like the JBL of his time; the perfect commentary foil to the straightforward McMahon.
– The Rick Rude-Ricky Steamboat match looked good on paper with their mixing of styles. Steamboat was over with the crowd too. How ironic was it to see that Steamboat was thrown over the top rope, held on, swung himself back over and let Rude go over the top rope a la a Royal Rumble elimination? Steamboat was like a one-man show here, in the prime of his career. The match pace was slow at times, but the psychology was strong and it was a very technical affair. At the end of the night, this match stood out on its own. The 80’s were strange times in wrestling compared to now. There was a point where Rude had Dragon in a Camel Clutch and Dragon tapped his hand on the mat multiple times while in the hold and it didn’t count as a submission. The finish was a way to give Steamboat the DQ win because of how Rude pushed the official in front of him when Steamboat went to the top.
– They actually sold megaphones to fans back then? Can’t see that happening now. Ugh. That guy was annoying as hell during the Steamboat-Rude match.
– It wouldn’t be an 80’s PPV if it didn’t involve some kind of body-building angle. Mean Gene Okerlund’s interview with Jesse Ventura set the rules for the bench pressing. This was such a filler of time. It was obvious Dino Bravo was a heel out there to get heat by telling the crowd to be quiet in spite of him going for a world record. For that reason, why would Gene keep asking Bravo’s manager questions if he didn’t understand French? That angle took freaking forever. Can we even officially count what he did? Were those actual weights?
– The Glamour Girls (w/Jimmy Hart) (Champions)-Jumping Bomb Angels two-out-of-three falls Women’s Championship Match was something you definitely won’t see nowadays, but the match wasn’t anything special despite the stipulation. It was hard to root for the Jumping Bomb Angels when they had no personality; just two Japanese ladies. The finish was hot though and that was the loudest the crowd was all night to that point. Winning the Women’s Tag Team Champinships must have been big back then.
– Anything involving Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant after WrestleMania III would make it must-watch. The angle surrounding the Sale of the World Title Belt with Ted Dibiase and Andre “buying in” was also intriguing for its time. Contract signings must not have been important back then seeing that the ring had a school desk with folding chairs around it. Dibiase was good on the mic here. Of course, a contract signing never goes without a hitch as Andre slammed Hogan’s head into the “solid oak” table and pushed him back with it. The hype for that match was on.
– The original Rumble had only 20 men, no countdown with the crowd and nobody’s music hitting when they came out. The differences were subtle, but noticeable. That aside, the RR magic was evident as everybody worked hard here. Jim Duggan seemed to have a career moment by eliminating One Man Gang. Bret Hart – one of the first two men in the match, also lasted way longer than originally thought. There were a lot of Harts in this match.
– Hogan’s promo on Giant was solid. Guy could sell a match in his day with words alone.
– Dibiase’s promo with Andre and Virgil did more selling for their upcoming match. There’s nothing better to a story than consistently delivering both sides of it. It was a bit hard to take the claim of “Giant-A-Mania” seriously, but that was supposed to be the point.
– The Islanders (w/Bobby Heenan)-The Young Stallions two-out-of-three falls tag match was okay and got better as it went on. The Stallions looked resilient at times but pushovers in others, yet The Islanders were dominant with two straight falls. It was what it was. Strange choice to end a show with.
– Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat def. Rick Rude via DQ
– Women’s Tag Team Championship – Two Out Of Three Falls – The Jumping Bomb Angels def. The Glamour Girls (w/Jimmy Hart) (Champions) Two Falls To One to Become New Champions
– Royal Rumble – “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan Wins
– Two Out Of Three Falls – The Islanders (w/Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) def. The Young Stallions Two Falls To None