Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

The First Royal Rumble/Wrestlemania V - 1989

Friday, December 23, 2005

IV, Summer Slam '88, Survivor Series and the build to this show are here.
Royal Rumble 1989 Houston(Dark – Jacques Rougeau d. Lanny Poffo)

(a note - as there's no battle royal in the event, I would call it Royal Rumble in a Counterfactual universe - what I would call it is Justice Sunday. Soon, a battle royal that will run after Mania every other year will be Rumble style and be to name a number one contender - that's the event we'd call the Royal Rumble. But for purposes of communication and for historical tether to the real world, I won't actually make that change in the Counterfactual)

1. Demolition d. Powers of Pain
-the Dems have turned. It’s the face Dems! Their faces are painted and they have spikes and they are the babyface Demolition!

2. Hulk Hogan d. Andre the Giant
-They drag Andre out one more time to put Hogan over as the New Legend of Professional Wrestling. Sure, that’s a WM staple, but now, we expand it a little bit as the numbers of PPVs expand. Andre gets a highlight package sendoff, but when the house lights come back on, Hogan's down in the middle of the ring - standing over him...

The Ultimate Warrior.

It’s largely out of nowhere, although the Warrior had been giving somewhat self aggrandizing promos for a few weeks, talking about immortality and the Master Warrior Race. But he was a bottom of the card face act, albeit an unbeaten one, and even though Hogan had now been a bottom of the card act for five years – he was once the WWF champion. They're gonna meet in the legends match at V, which will be the subject of mockery, as how can the Warrior think of himself as a legend?

He can, 'cause he's crazy. The Warrior will go Hellwig, with his crazy Koresh-like right wing rantings. I’m not saying he drops the gimmick, without the gimmick, no one cares, but the Warrior gimmick is now Ayn Rand-ish, with survivalist, libertarian, borderline white power language. Like the speeches he gives now. Real life Hellwig talking about the power of the Warrior inside us all is a hundred times more interesting than the watered down babyface we got back in the 80s. At least interesting enough to sell this legend’s match. He'll talk about the unions injuring the Warrior spirit, and the need to cut the capital gains tax, for all the little millionaire Warriors, and how we need to build more prisons to lock anyone up who doesn't believe in trickle down economics or the power of the Warrior. Snort.

3. Tito Santana d. Honky Tonk Man

4. Rick Martel d. Terry Taylor
-Partner of Arriba~

This is the beginning of the new Martel – the Model version, still a good wrestler, although now juiced up, and with the midcard heel gimmick that served him well. It's a gradual turn, Martel starts to get more and more bronze, always fiddling with his hair. They do a couple of vignettes where there's no room for Tito to travel in the car from show to show - because Martel spent $1500 bucks on a tanning bed, and is loading it up to go from town to town. Martel misses some hot tags from Tito because he's fixing his hair on the outside. That kinda thing. He and Tito don't break up sharply - Tito is clearly frustrated by Martel, at his wit's end, and finally, as Martel is as dark as a man could possibly be outside of Ghana - just ridiculously, outrageously tan - maybe the burn from this particular tanning session causes him to miss a match, and Tito has to work a handicap -- Tito tells Martel that Strike Force is no more. Martel is totally nonplussed, "Hey, Tito, I'm sure this is important, but I have to go to the lab to test my new scent."

5. Jake Roberts d. Bad News Brown
-Face Jake moved from the Rude feud into the lower wattage Bad News feud, as Jake’s work starts sliding.

6. Tags: Brainbusters (w/Brain) d. Rockers
-They're gonna do the Somers/Rose feud. Rockers are the hot babyface team, Busters the grizzled veterans. Brainbusters keep clean here, spirited match, hopefully giving the Rockers the rub.

7. IC Title: Curt Hennig (w/Brain & Rude) d. Bret Hart
- A classic match, the Brain gets a singles title – and Bret’s 10 month IC run ends at the hands of the unbeaten Hennig. Hennig remains Perfect, going over Bret here. Rick Rude accompanies Curt to ringside, involving himself at a critical but nondeterminative juncture to aid his boy Hennig. Over the next few weeks, the angle that develops is that Rude hasn’t gotten a shot at a title in a year and a half, as everyone’s been ducking him – and the only guy who he knows his man enough to face him is his boy, Hennig. Bobby hates the idea – but Curt wants the competition – and as we drive to WM – neither man turns, but there is dissension between the two egomaniacal heels – and it drives Bobby crazy.

8. WWF Title: Randy Savage d. Ted DiBiase
Ted’s long unbeaten run, with accompanying Million Dollar heel heat, comes to an end as he feeds the Champ. Food chain, baby. Savage goes over clean, stuffs the hundred in Ted’s mouth – and heads to WM as a powerful champion….

…where, in a rematch from their IC classic a year before at IV – he’ll take on Bret Hart.

So, it's Wrestlemania V from Atlantic City. They've got the Legend's Match with the messianic Warrior. Tito will work in the middle again, as will Martel, who is now the Model and takes on the returning Owen Hart. After losing the title match at the Rumble, Ted moves back down and is feuding with Jake. The Brainbusters have tormented the babyface Rockers - meeting them at every turn as they gear up for the Mania rematch.

I like face/face and heel/heel matchups at Mania - it sets Mania apart from any normal wrestling event.

The IC is Hennig defending against Rude. They each do their schtick - and now that it's in opposition to each other - it frays on their nerves. Bobby goes bonkers, trying to pacify each guy, "You're the best, Rick, of course" "You're the best, Curt, of course.." both guys are so narcissistic they can't imagine anyone challenging their supremacy. And what started out as a simple comment from Rude, "now that someone in the Family has the gold - I'll finally get another shot" has become a pretty good intrafamily feud.

Savage/Bret for the strap. Randy cuts a promo after the Rumble, saying he's going to headline his first Mania - saying he's at the top of his career - he's in a rocketship to infinity and beyond - he's got Liz, he's got the gold - he's got everything a man could want...

...but there's one thing that bothers him -- one year ago, in the same building at IV, he lost the IC title to Bret Hart. There's nothing in his career he hasn't accomplished - accept beat Bret Hart - so he calls Bret out - says that he's gotta know for sure that he really is the best alive, and to do that - they need to hook it up at V.

It's Savage/Bret, Hennig/Rude, the Rockers and the Brainbusters -- Owen/Martel, Jake/Ted, Hogan and the Warrior in the Legends. It's Wrestlemania V. Call your locak thing!

Prior to Mania, the workers threaten to walk unless Vince meets some demands. A radicalized Jesse Ventura, whose eyes have been opened to the plight of the American worker following his study of the Pullman Car Strike of the 1890s, takes these demands to the office.

Their demands: to end the facade that wrestlers are independent contractors and instead make them full time employees, with health and retirement benefits. Vacation. Days off. Company mandated health examinations. Greater profit participation.

"Sure, it may cost me some money," but we'll never be in a situation where my workers drop dead from the lifestyle that I create," Vince responds.

Drug testing is considered; after all, even if the incentives for steroid and pain killer use are diminished, one recognizes that athletes will always look for advantages. But Vince and Jesse agree - the civil liberties ramifications are too great. While complying with a search from private industry doesn't have 4th Amendment implications - the spirit of privacy, the fundamental right not to have your employer search your body - is worth preserving.

"There is no greater friend to consitutionally protected personal freedom than Vince McMahon," Ventura tells a jubilant locker room, without a trace of sarcasm, ignorance, or delusion in his voice, "The WWF will offer treatment to any wrestler with a substance abuse issue - and fortunately we work for a man who doesn't equate bodybuilders with good professional wrestling. Three cheers for Vince McMahon!"

Not that the public knew much about this, of course. Vince decided years ago to eschew the spotlight, "Leave that for the performers. I just want what's best for the boys and the fans. What kind of man would I be otherwise?"

Wrestlemania V Atlantic City 1989
(Dark – Bad News Brown/Haku d. Boss Man/Valentine)

Gorilla/Jesse. 5 straight years.

1. Demolition d. Rougeaus
-The face Dems go over the Rougeaus. People love the Dems!

2. Legend's Match: Hulk Hogan d. Ultimate Warrior (Dusty Rhodes - guest referee)
-See, the thing of it is, I’m stuck with Hogan, so I need to feed him. He doesn’t eat much under this plan, but he needs to eat. Andre coming back and feeding Hogan arguably isn’t the best story for that one night (although, actually, philosophically, I don’t really agree with that either, wrestlers don’t go out on top, they go out on their backs, you give to the company that gave to you, there’s some honor in it) but it allows Hogan to say he’s the Legend of Professional Wrestling, which means I can have this match (and the next, and the next, and the next). The caravan rolls on, baby dolls. I let Hellwig squash as many no account guys as I can, feeding his unbeaten streak going into WM, while his rants et more and more bizarre. “I invite you all to come live in Compound Warrior while we await the End Times. Except the Jewry. Dirty, Dirty, Jewry.”

But Hogan goes over. Not long after WM, in a six man with Demolition (probably against the Warrior and Bad News/Haku, a tag I like) the Dems turn on him. Ax/Smash cut a promo saying they’re the real Legends of professional wrestling and they challenge Hogan at SSlam and tell him to find a partner.

He will. Dusty Rhodes. See how we use the people?

Dusty, note, isn’t as big a deal as he was in the actual universe, the plug on his NWA push gets pulled back in ’85, basically making him Hogan. But he’s got 2 NWA titles in the bank and a loyal following – and unlike his WWF run, you know, this time they actually talk about it.

3. Tito Santana d. Terry Taylor

4. The Model Rick Martel d. Owen Hart
- Owen returns for the first time since November, he doesn’t wrestle at all before WM. They sell hard that he’s still injured but the possibility of working WM, the Granddaddy of Them All, is too much to pass up. It’s the biggest win of Martel’s career – and the Model push is now hard – as it’s both a good match, and since Owen was pushed as a big time guy, Martel beating him at WM is important. Owen goes away now for years, unfortunately. We sell his ankle (his heel) as his weak spot. Martel's got the large tanning bed in the back - and brings out a small tanning bed (some type of modified EZ bake oven - I don't know if they have portable tanning beds) to the ring.

After this, Martel gets his own production staff. Every time he appears, there's someone else with him. A personal assistant. A publicist. Makeup, hair, personal tanning specialist. It's Rick Martel w/Entourage.

5. Ted DiBiase d. Jake Roberts
- Ted gets his heat back after losing to Randy, with a decisive win here. Jake had gone over Rude, then gone over Bad News – and now feeds Ted. Hundred stuffed in the mouth.

6. Tags: Brainbusters (w/Brain) d. Rockers
- Busters go over again - and this is the heavy color match - Marty and Shawn (I realize I haven't named the Rockers, but if you're reading this and don't know who the Rockers were, you're really pretty far from home) show they aren't just pretty boys by doing the full Muta blade jobs, taking tremendous beatings but not giving up. So much blood they hose down the ring.

7. IC: Rick Rude d. Curt Hennig
Switch. I think the fans go for it (1) because of the compelling nature of the two personalities (2) because of the quality of the work and (3) because of the tease that someone might turn. Brain does his schtick here, running around the ring, trying to be on both sides, cheering for one guy and then the other, largely adding to the entertainment value. Rude wins a terrific match, getting his first WWF title. The unease between Hennig and Rude heightens as Rude takes the strap and he and Bobby celebrate while Hennig stands by himself. Between here and SSlam, we keep it going, they tag together, but have differences, you know the drill – so while they still remain aligned – and still remain heels – the Heenan Family becomes more divided, with Tully now taking Hennig’s side in the various disputes, Arn taking Rude's, which divides the tag champs. The Family grows increasingly fractured, Bobby desperately trying to keep it together, as we drive through the summer. But they still stand together after...

8. WWF Title: Randy Savage (w/Liz) d. Bret Hart
- Randy keeps. I really like this too, to my way of thinking, face/face at WM particularly gives off the aura of a special match – two guys who don’t normally fight – go at it full bore just because that’s how much they want the title at the biggest event of the year. And Savage/Bret is a great, natural matchup (even if they never put it together). Their styles complemented each other, even as faces, they had previously been heels, and had that edge to them that would come into play here – and this is great retribution for Randy after losing the IC title to Bret at WM IV. More than all of that, of course, it’s a great, classic match. And that’s what Vince wants from the main event at WM. The announce plays up heavily that even though Randy walks out the Champ – the two men are now 1-1. And that’s the angle as we drive through the summer.

Randy and Bret share the same uneasy handshake that Rude and Hennig had after their match - after Bret exits - Savage stands on top of the wrestling world as V ends....but not quite.

Bobby leads the Family back down the aisle - Hennig, Rude, Arn, Tully all charge the ring - all four men putting the boots to Savage as Heenan barks out instructions.

Down to the ring run the Rockers, Shawn and Marty, now in streetclothes, both heavily bandaged up, they show the babyface fighting spirt as they face save Savage...

...but the numbers are still too much, the Heenan Family gets the advantage...Liz runs up the aisle... go get Bret Hart.

Bret stands with Randy, Shawn, and Marty - the four men battling the Heenan Family, finally knocking them out of the ring. The Family stands cockily in the aisle - Arn, Tully, and Rude holding up their belts as the show ends.

Two months later, NWA has Great American Bash. GAB ’89 now passes SSeries ’88 as the greatest PPV of all time. Consider how much bigger Flair/Steamboat is here, given Steamboat's hugely increased presence. In the Counterfactual, as of 1989, Steamboat's a bigger star than Flair - and Flair's still Ric Flair. It's the biggest match in the hundred year history of the NWA, and prompts Ted Turner, watching at home, to decide that one day he will purchase this company - and never, under any circumstance, give up control of the name National Wrestlign Alliance. "The lineage is too important - that's one thing that McMahon fellow can't ever take away."

And Muta/Pillman, not bad either.

Great American Bash – 1989 Baltimore
NWA Title: Ric Flair d. Ricky Steamboat
US Title: Sting d. Terry Funk
Tags: Road Warriors d. Midnight Express
Great Muta d. Brian Pillman

Lex Luger d. Johnny Ace
Steve Williams d. Shane Douglas
Mike Rotundo d. Kevin Sullivan
Steiners d. Sid/Spivey

So, what's set up for Summer Slam?

Well, there's Dusty's debut - he and Hogan teaming up against Demolition. Also making his PPV debut is Jimmy Snuka, who returns to the WWF after the Ultimate Warrior proclaims his genetic supremacy over all women, Catholics, schizophrenics, and "mud people."

Martel and Tito finally begin their post Strike Force feud - as Martel develops his entourage over the summer - Santana tells him he's embarrassing, that he's ridiculous - Martel whispers to an assistant, who responds, "Mr. Martel is unavailable right now - if you will leave your name, perhaps he can squeeze you in sometime in August."

That sets Tito off - and he attacks - and there you are.

Brainbusters defend against the Rockers in a steel cage.

Rude defends against Hennig. Bobby does everything he can to keep it from happening - there's lots of tension now between Perfect and Bobby, as Bobby wants them to move on. We fictionalize a little here - as part of the Minnesota backstory between Rude and Hennig will be that despite his claims of being Perfect, he's never beaten Rude at anything. Hennig's always been cock of the walk - but for some reason Rude's always been a little bit better. This comes out now, Rude saying Curt's his best friend and the greatest wrestler alive...except for him. That Curt should go wrestle anyone else, but unless he wants another loss on what used to be a perfect record, he needs to look another place. When Bobby kinda agrees with Rude, it really fractures the family.

The main...Savage/Bret. It's the Rubber Match. Bret still a little underneath Randy here - Bret now coming into his own - Bret's had long runs as tag champ and IC Champ - and now Vince brings in another piece of the puzzle.

Bret's fighting for the Triple Crown.

The Triple Crown?

Okay - even beyond the WWF Title is a three tiered trophy, designated for all men who have held all three WWF titles. It's beyond angles - it's beyond face and heel - its presitige is mythic. The names of each man who has held it are carved in it (like the Stanley Cup) and whomever was last to hold it maintains possession until passing it to the next man.

There's only one name on the Triple Crown: Pedro Morales. Not Bruno or Steamboat, not Dynamite or Backlund. Only one. Pedro Morales.

Now (and at Mania, but we had enough going that we didn't need to do this) Bret Hart has an opportunity to carve his name into immortality.

It's Savage/Bret, Rude/Hennig, Brainbusters/Rockers in the cage - all rematching at Summer Slam. Tito takes on Martel, Hogan teams with Dusty, Snuka returns to the WWF - it's Summer Slam '89! Call your local local!


Jim said...

Replace Honky with Haku at the Rumble.

Put Bad News over Jake.

Jim said...

And then it's Bad News who feeds Ted at V.

Booyaka said...

There's a logistical problem with leaving NWA the NWA. WCW didn't just cede from NWA for the heck of it. Before, all NWA champions were decided by a committee. Unless the committee approved it, your guy would not be champ. Bischoff had no time for that shit, he had to kill the WWF. So WCW split off, leaving the decision of a champion to a team of bookers.

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