by Ervin Griffin Jr
Part 4: The Royal Rumble
After losing the WWF Tag Team Titles to Strike Force (Rick Martel/Tito Santana), the Harts needed something to reestablish themselves as top contenders. They got it at the first annual Survivor Series during the ten team elimination bout. No, you didn't read it wrong!!! This match had five tag teams on each side. The Harts recruited The Bolsheviks (Nikoli Volkoff/Boris Zukov), future rivals Demolition (AX/Smash), The Islanders (Tama/Haku aka Meng) and The Dream Team (Greg Valentine/Dino Bravo). Strike Force went and got The Rougeo Bros. (Jacuqes/Raymond), The British Bulldogs (Dayey Boy Smith/Dynamite Kid), The Young Stallions (Paul Roma/Jim Powers) and The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair/Jim Brunzell) for this big (and I mean big) tag bout (imagine getting caught in the wrong corner in this bout?!!! Instant mugging.).
The Harts got the pin on Tito Santana, reaffirming their status as top contenders. Although they're team did go on to lose the match, the Harts did what the really wanted to do.
In January of 1988, The WWF introduced an new type of battle royal. The Royal Rumble. I'm not sure but I think this free TV event was broadcasted from Canada. Anyway, it was a 20 man event and order of entry was decided by random draw. Numbers 1 and 2 starts the bout and every two minutes, another wrestler comes in. Bret Hart drew number 1 while Tito Santana drew number 2. Santana's worst nightmare came true as "The Natural" Butch Reed was number 3 and Jim "The Anvil" Neihart was number 4!!! Santana was butchered unmercifully until Jake "The Snake" Roberts showed up to even the odds. From there, Bret Hart stayed in that match over 20 minutes before finally being tossed over the top rope. During his stay in the initial Rumble (won by "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan), Hart showed tenacity and remarkable skills that no one realized he had. This started the rumblings of Hart being a great singles wrestler. An ambition that was soon to be realized.
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Ervin Griffin Jr. is Solie's resident historian and also contributes to the Ringside Insider on a regular basis. Many of his previous articles are available in the
by Adamantium Clause
Before the action started, the announcing team came down and took their seats. The crowd greeted Bobby Heenan with the repeated chant of "weasel." Judging by his non-verbals (or lack thereof), he's either tired of this nickname or does a great job of selling a "sticks and stones" type of reaction.
Raven's Nest circled around the arena floor before finally taking their seats. These guys did a good job of ignoring the fans as they walk through the crowd. "Billy Idol on steroids" (I've seen a "report" that Skank will be his name) came out at the same time as the rest of the group.
There was no dark match. No freebie. Just a countdown and the ring announcer (Penzer?) telling the fans not to throw things, etc. Wildcat Willie came down to pump up the crowd, and got a decent reaction. There were some fans who vocalized their preference for the Nitro Girls, but since this wasn't NITRO...
The undercard matches were done in alternating rings (the first match in ring 1, the second in ring 2, etc). This was probably done at previous World War IIIs, but it's worth mentioning since it helped to spread out the action for the fans sitting in different sections of the arena floor.
Some of the biggest "pops" were given to Disco Inferno, Raven ("I feel your pain"), Hacksaw Duggan and Hollywood Hogan. While Hogan's entry into the battle royal defied what little logic pro wrestling brings to the table, it came off so dramatically that the crowd exploded when the nWo music began to play. During the Nash/ Sting segment, nobody seemed to be fooled by the ruse (at the Palace or watching via Pay-Per-View). Nash's smirk upon lifting the mask from his face, however, was priceless.
During a couple of moments throughout the evening, someone in their most "markish" mood threw tennis balls in the ring. This also happened during the previous NITRO held at the Palace. Between that and some of the pornographic signs that got past the ushers, I can't decide which was more juvenile. For the most part, the fans were very well behaved (and I didn't witness any parking lot fights as I did at the past NITRO).
After the broadcast went off, the entire nWo (save Syxx) came out and continued to beat on the Giant and DDP. Scott Norton was even in tow. While the beatdown was taking place, Bischoff continued to do his "usual" of telling the folks how much he loved them. Scott Hall also did his "everyone came to see the nWo" shtick.
All said and done, it was a good Pay-Per-View to attend, but I don't know how I would have felt if I'd ordered it on television. I'll close by saying that I had a certain bias when watching WWIII. I had the opportunity to watch my first "Toughman Contest" 2 nights before. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, "I found myself enduring it instead of enjoying it." After that waste of time and $12, I honestly had a better understanding of why pro wrestling exists. I also knew that it wouldn't take much for me to appreciate what I would get from WCW 2 nights later. Even Turner's worst Pay-Per-View is better than some other forms of "entertainment" out there...
Adamantium Clause, who has been a friend of Solie's for quite some time, works for a major educational institution in the state of Michigan and has followed wrestling closely for about 15 years. He currently advise a college student group whose main focus is to enjoy and promote pro wrestling.
The rumor I hear now is that Larry Z is going to lay down for Eric Bischoff next week and then become the lead announcer for the new nWo Nitro show. WCW will take it's wares to Thursday on TBS. Sounds logical...
In fact it smacks of genious!
The Turner organization is setting up two separate wrestling promotions which will supposedly compete with one another but in fact will cooperate to change the market forever. It is the Wrestling program as Sitcom! Gotta popular show, like say Mary Tyler-Moore..? Take a popular character from that show and spin off...Rhoda. Now you have Mary Tyler-Moore and Rhoda! It works for sitcoms...why not for wrestling programs? For years the major promotions have flooded the airwaves with several hours per week of the same roster of talent - what happens when a promotion develops the ability to field two ensembles...or three...
Think of it...right now the WWF competes as one of the "Big Two" - how is their bottom line going to be affected when they find themselves one of the "big three"..? "big four...?"
nWo Nitro is going to burst onto the scene with a built-in cult following. I have little doubt it will garner the highest ratings of all time (at least initially). It is hoped, of course, that they will remember the lessons of Souled Out and not make it into a farce. If nWo Nitro proves to be a program of competitive matches with compelling storylines it will almost certainly be a success. There's no telling what this success will do to the wrestling marketplace but it can't be good for the WWF.
We know right away that Bret Hart will figure heavily in the immediate future of both programs. My understanding is that Bret will make his debut on the premiere of the new TBS Thursday Thunder show. Meanwhile the nWo is telling us that Bret will be among their ranks - I don't believe it. In fact, I'm sure the first big incident involving the Hitman will revolve around the question of whether or not he is nWo...
Speaking of the Hitman, I notice that McMahon's smear campaign has had little effect but that there has been a detectable backlash against Bret the last few days all the same because of some of his statements to the media. Well, we have known for years that the Hitman is an egomaniac...but then who isn't in the wrestling business...
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
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