More than 30 years have passed since the then-World Wrestling Federation would televise what would soon become the most highly-anticipated gimmick match that the company would ever sanction: the Royal Rumble. Jaded fans come out of their autumn doldrums and post-holiday blahs with the sense of renewal that comes with the new year, and with that new year, amplified by both their speculative wonder of the forthcoming Rumble, as well as the wistful joy of Rumbles past.
And it all had to start somewhere. On Sunday night, January 24, 1988, WWE produced what is accepted as the inaugural Royal Rumble event, and not on pay-per-view either – this one was broadcast live on the USA Network, as though it were a Saturday Night’s Main Event companion piece. With Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura on the call, the Sunday evening special would boast two attractions: the titular match (which only featured 20 entrants), and a contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, building to their colossal showdown on NBC’s “The Main Event” just 12 nights later.
It wouldn’t be the most momentous of Royal Rumbles, but it’s a charming slice of history, an agreeable-enough event that doubles as a curiosity for younger fans, answering the question what was the first Royal Rumble broadcast like?
10. Well, Actually…
Hacksaw Jim Duggan is often cited as the very first Royal Rumble match winner, and that’s true – as far as *televised* Rumbles go. You would have to go back almost four months, to 4 October 1987, to get the scoop on who the first *real* Royal Rumble winner was, when WWE ran a dry run of the match at a house show in St. Louis.
The actual first Rumble match winner was The One Man Gang, outlasting a field of 12 to 14 wrestlers (sources differ), last eliminating the Junkyard Dog. Other match entrants included Demolition, Davey Boy Smith, Cowboy Bob Orton, among others. The match was to determine who would receive a WWE Championship match against Hulk Hogan at the next St. Louis event a month later, but in a boneheaded mistake, it was announced at intermission that fans could buy tickets to see Hogan face Gang at the next month’s card, spoiling the Rumble finish. When Gang eliminated JYD to win, fans reacted with genuine outrage. Oops.