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10 Things We Learned From WWE Royal Rumble 1990

Hulk Hogan wins, Hulk must pose...

Recalling the event from my non-cynical youth, there will always be two things that stand out about the 1990 Royal Rumble: the Orlando crowd that was molten and electric for every single happening on the show, and the Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior showdown. Nearly 30 years later, both the atmosphere and the money moment remain as stellar as I remembered each being, as one of the greatest WWE crowds ever bore witness to one of the biggest WrestleMania building block moments ever.

When Hogan and Warrior cleared the ring of all peripheral mortals and realized they were the only two left standing, that realization came over an audience that had not ceased making noise since the show's opening. The WWE Champion and Intercontinental Champions locked eyes, two infallible gods realizing that their strongest potential rival was standing mere feet away, and that swift action needed to be taken. It may not have been WrestleMania, but this was certainly a legitimate "showcase of the immortals".

The 1990 Royal Rumble is one of those true gems from the colourful kayfabe area, not so much for workrate, but on the merit of energy, spectacle, and sheer fun. And if you ever want to see how a crowd can absolutely make a show, here's a master class in that.

10. What Happened When...?


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The commentary team for the 1990 Royal Rumble was one not often seen in WWE, the duo of Tony Schiavone and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Though the two would call numerous WCW events together between 1992 and 1994, all they shared during Schiavone's one-year WWE tenure was this card, plus the 1989 SummerSlam. And Schiavone wasn't even slotted to call the Rumble in the first place.

According to Schiavone, Vince McMahon was actually supposed to don the headset next to Ventura that night, but was apparently tired from a recent vacation. During the production meeting earlier that day, McMahon asked Schiavone if he brought his tuxedo. Schiavone confirmed he had, and Vince basically said, "Good, you're calling the show with Jesse." Schiavone notes that McMahon had soured on him as a high-level announcer some time before (Bruce Prichard said this was due to Vince thinking Schiavone sounded "too southern"), and getting put into the Rumble surprised him.

9. Playing For Fun?


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The Royal Rumble match in 1990 was like the prior two, in that no prize awaited the winner. World title shots for the Rumble victor wouldn't become standard just yet, as champion Hulk Hogan was one of the 30 entrants in the match. Like everything else on the show, the Rumble match was merely an exhibition, for lack of a better term.

The 1990 event was the only Royal Rumble in history without any championship matches. Aside from the stakes-less Rumble match, all the undercard had in terms of matches with any tangible backstory was the Ronnie Garvin/Greg Valentine submission match, where the only wager was each other's pride. Each ensuing Rumble would have a World title match of some sort, while the two prior to this had matches for women's gold.

8. Ring Royalty


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A total of 40 wrestlers competed on the pay-per-view broadcast, most of whom comprised the 40 men that wrestled at Survivor Series two months earlier (with Akeem, Koko B. Ware, and The Genius taking the place of Zeus, Bobby Heenan, and Arn Anderson). To look at the group on hand is to see a mighty impressive roster, one that WWE certainly sees the prestige of.

Out of those 40 men, 20 of them reside in the WWE Hall of Fame, as of the 2018 inductions. That group includes Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Ted DiBiase, Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Andre the Giant, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Luke, Butch, Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, Jim Duggan, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Greg Valentine, Dusty Rhodes, Tito Santana, Big Boss Man, and Koko B. Ware. Fifteen of those men were in the Rumble match itself, with many more future inductions likely from the field.

7. Brothers Bow Out


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The opening match of the Rumble pay-per-view was a rematch from WrestleMania 5, as The Bushwhackers took on the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. As was the case with WrestleMania, Luke and Butch were victorious, winning with their trademark Battering Ram. The match was little more than a light-hearted appetizer for what was to come, but was significant for another reason.

The match would mark the last for the Rougeaus as a duo in WWE. Both men were looking to step away from WWE for a bit, and in actuality had not wrestled for the two months prior to the Rumble (going home the week after Survivor Series 1989). Bruce Prichard claimed that Raymond wanted to go back to a leisurely life, and was simply keeping the Rougeaus going at the time as a favour to Jacques. Jacques, of course, would re-emerge late-1990, reborn as The Mountie.

6. Small Hint Of Genius


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Following that Bushwhackers/Rougeaus opener was a match that would beget a storyline: Brutus Beefcake fought Lanny "The Genius" Poffo in a singles match that didn't have a whole lot of backstory, but would gain some in the aftermath when Poffo's charge Mr. Perfect assaulted Beefcake with a folding chair.

For Poffo, this would mark his only pay-per-view match from his six years with the company. Though most fans remember Poffo primarily as a manager, the younger brother of Randy Savage was a skilled high-flyer that could have an enjoyable match with virtually any opponent. But his only forays on pay-per-view came either in reading a heelish poem, or as cornerman for the likes of Perfect and The Beverly Brothers - save for this lone match.

5. Join The Club


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In the list of 1989 Rumble factoids, it was noted that 26 entrants in the titular match were competing in their first ever Rumble match, surprising in that the other four (Jake Roberts, Ron Bass, Akeem, and Tito Santana) were the only holdovers from the 1988 battle. That wasn't the case in 1989, as the list of Rumble newbies was much lighter.

In fact, only six men were taking part in their first Royal Rumble match: Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Earthquake, Dusty Rhodes, Rick Rude, and Haku. Rude and Haku both took part in the undercard of the 1988 and 1989 shows, while the remaining quartet either all debuted for or returned to the company at some point in 1989, making this their first Rumble event overall.

4. Enduring Wealth


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Ted DiBiase's participation in the 1990 Rumble saw a nice little twist on his involvement the previous year. In 1989, DiBiase bribed his way into acquiring number 30 for himself, and with the benefit of "additional security", would be unable to do the same this year. And the hand of irony struck hard - he drew number one this time.

DiBiase would not only set a new longevity mark in this Rumble (44 minutes, 47 seconds), but he also became the first man in Rumble history to surpass a half-hour of ring time. The closest anybody had come in the first two Rumbles was Mr. Perfect, who lasted 27:58 in the 1989 match. Nowadays, it seems like one or two wrestlers top 30 minutes in each Rumble, as a rule.

3. Blink And You'll Miss It


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Due to the painstakingly-meticulous booking of the Royal Rumble match, the production crew is able to anticipate eliminations, and have the cameras ready to catch the action. As such, the commentators (who watch the monitors and not the ring) are able to give the proper calls, and everything runs efficiently. But even with WWE's crack production staff, sometimes mistakes are made.

Such was the case in 1990, when the commentators missed Bret Hart's elimination. It happened on camera, a spot where Dusty Rhodes knocked him over the ropes with a well-placed elbow, but the cameras were focused on Demolition's tandem double-clothesline that sent Andre the Giant to the floor. Rhodes eliminating Hart was tucked deep into the background like a Wizard of Oz urban legend, and only acknowledged well after the fact, probably once Schiavone and Ventura were informed over the headsets that Hart had been taken out.

2. Royally Ravishing


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A notable blooper occurs late in the match when Ravishing Rick Rude, the number 28 entry, hits the ring before the countdown clock can appear to set up his arrival. They just rolled with the minor mistake, writing it off as Rude being unable to wait to enter the fray, given that old nemesis Ultimate Warrior was in there.

As was the case with Beefcake one year earlier, this would mark the only Rumble match appearance for Rude. Ravishing Rick would take on Ricky Steamboat at the 1988 event, while facing off with Warrior in the non-wrestling "Super Posedown" on the 1989 card. Rude never even got to enter to a horn or a buzzer for his lone Rumble appearance, due to the miscue.

1. Imperfect Ending?


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"Hulk must pose" was a common order when it came to marquee WWE events of the era. Fans paid to see Hulk Hogan, so not only should Hulk win, but he should also get to flex his muscles, wave the flag, etc, to satisfy his large fanbase. Even if Hogan *doesn't* win, well, he should pose anyway (see: Survivor Series 1987). Hogan won the 1990 Rumble match and, sure enough, Hulk did pose.

But various sources have it that Hogan was not the original choice of winner. That was meant to be the eventual runner-up, Mr. Perfect, as a means of giving Curt Hennig a landmark win. The result was apparently changed that weekend to give Hogan the victory, though it's unclear who pushed for it, or why it was done. In fairness, it made Hogan look even stronger for his would-be torch-passer to Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania 6.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.