Welcome to the first installment of DC’s Network Diaries, where we document one insane man’s attempt to justify spending hours upon hours poring over the massive amount of #NAIstalgia that exists on the WWE Network.
If you’ve been a fan of mine from back before NAI, you know that this is not a new venture. Back before I had a name, in my Teacher days, I tried doing this over at Number Two Contenders, even including a snazzy syllabus and everything. Since trying to find “lessons” in each PPV was a difficult endeavor, and also because each of those entries seemed to be about 10+ pages, consider DC’s Network Diaries to be a streamlined version.
As I go through each PPV, I’ll share the following…
– My personal favorite moment / highlight of each match.
Note: This will not be a play by play recap, nor will I presume to “rate” matches. Wrestling, like all art, is subjective, so I will allow you to like what you like.
– In some cases, a “lowlight” – Either a problem I have or some other “ughhh” moment.
– A “so what”, in which I aspire to tie in the match with something happening in the modern WWE.
– At the conclusion of each event, I’ll offer a single recommendation (Match of the Night, if you will), along with a few discussion questions, since you can take the Teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t keep The Teacher from assigning homework.
We begin this endeavor with a topical event, going back to 1990 and exploring the third annual Royal Rumble.
Match 1: The Fabulous Rougeaus vs. The Bushwhackers
Considering my previously stated views on card openers, this is a strange one, though I must admit, the crowd loved Luke and Butch.
Highlight: Jacques Rougeau, in his pre-Mountie days, does a rather exquisite jumping back elbow, then performs one of the most impressive ‘nip-ups’ I’ve ever seen.
I’ve always been a big Jacques fan, perhaps because he looks like he could be my high school wrestling coach’s twin. While both Rougeau brothers had in-ring talent, watching in hindsight, Jacques’ charisma leaps off the screen. Plus, he’s going to be the Mountie. He’s handsome, he’s brave, he’s strong!
Lowlight: Do you think the WWF fans who sat in the front row at these events were excited when they got licked by a pair of backwoods New Zealanders? I don’t.
‘So What’: Those modern fans (myself included) who complain about the lack of in-ring wrestling logic only need to watch just the opening minutes of this match to realize that it’s always been like this in the WWE. There are so many blatant double teams its not even funny, and at one point one of the Bushwhackers bites referee Danny Davis on the rump and doesn’t get DQ’ed. So I suppose you could even say in-ring logic has improved in the last quarter century.
Match 2: The Genius vs. Brutus Beefcake
Highlight: 1990 was before my time as a wrestling fan, so my main thoughts of The Genius are when he was the know-it-all manager of The Beverly Brothers. In fact, this might be the first singles match I’ve seen of Lanny Poffo, and its plain to see that he’s the brother of Randy Savage. Insane athletic ability, even if it doesn’t translate to the wrestling he displays. At one point, The Genius leaps over the ropes almost as easily as Finn Balor does today.
Lowlight: I know this is 24 years ago, but I was not expecting so many blatant potshots taken at homosexuality. Beefcake’s mocking of The Genius would cause some protests today, methinks.
‘So What’: I couldn’t help but quietly offer a prayer of gratitude that WWE didn’t completely rip off The Genius gimmick for one Mr. Damien Sandow. Sure, the “Intellectual Savior” wore a robe not too far off from Poffo’s academia garb, but at least Damien didn’t have to prance around the ring.
Match 3: Greg Valentine vs. Ronnie Garvin in a Submission Match
Watching the Vince-narrated introductory video for this card, I learned that Ron Garvin was using the Sharpshooter (or, as they call it, the ‘Reverse Figure Four’), hence the need for a Submission match.
Highlight: Both men are wearing braces that should, in theory, prevent the other from using their signature leg submission. Valentine puts Garvin in the Figure Four, but since Ronnie is wearing the “Hammer Jammer”, it doesn’t faze him. “Rugged” Ronnie then proceeds to break out some hilarious funny faces to prove it doesn’t hurt, including giving himself moose ears and wiggling his fingers in front of his nose. You know, like Lou Thesz did.
Lowlight: On at least half a dozen different occasions, one man tried to pin the other during a submission match. I’m sure Vince was apoplectic backstage.
‘So What’: This was an example of a gimmick match done right, even if both combatants seemed to forget the stipulations. Each man had a signature leg submission and had ways to prevent the other from using it. It made perfect sense. Take note, WWE.
I should mention here that there have been some excellent promos with Mean Gene this card. Ted Dibiase lamenting that he got #1 for the Rumble, compared to finding his way to #30 last year, a great Heenan Family interview (showing that this event is really every man for himself) and now a Mr. Perfect one. So what? Shows how much Curtis Axel needs to learn, for a start.
I specifically bring this up because the next segment is a Brother Love show featuring Sensational Sherri and Sapphire, and the less said about it, the better.
Highlight: Seeing a very young Shane McMahon in a referee’s outfit.
Lowlight: Everything else.
So what: I’m glad Total Divas didn’t exist in 1990.
Match 4: Big Bossman vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
Highlight: Watching how naturally athletic Bossman was. He’s one of those guys that just made things look easy.
Lowlight: At one point we can see Jim Duggan blatantly tell the referee to check his arms when placed in a Bossman bearhug.
So what: It’s a shame that Ray Traylor is more remembered for the Kennel from Hell fiasco than he is for the rest of his career.
Mental note: Future Hall of Fridays: Bossman and Jacques Rougeau
Time for the quick-fire promos before the Rumble. God, I love NAIstalgia.
Match 5: Royal Rumble
It’s worth noting that this was before the winner of the Rumble automatically received a title shot, as the WWF champion is not only in this match, he wins the dang thing.
Highlight: As with every Rumble, seeing the new superstars every 2 minutes is particularly appealing. In this instance, though, there was a time where we had Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage, Jake Roberts and Roddy Piper in the ring at the same time. You rarely see so many all-time greats together, and I am not ashamed to admit I marked out.
Lowlight: Poor Andre. One of the great shames is that by the time WWF became hugely popular, Andre the Giant was already in poor physical condition. Seeing him try to manage this Rumble was painful to watch.
Match of the Night:
Obviously the Rumble. It’s always going to be the Rumble. Best gimmick match of all time.
Big Bossman: Hall of Famer?
How about Jacques Rougeau?
Which Rumble is your favorite?
Best Andre moment?