25 Years of Rumble Winners – 1988 ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan

I’m starting a new series of short articles for this month heading to the Royal Rumble. Each one will be about a winner of the Royal Rumble Match, starting off with the first, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan. The winner of the Royal Rumble Match, as well as, to some extent, King of The Ring and Money In The Bank, is someone who will be getting a nod from the company and an escalating push through WrestleMania and usually through the rest of the year – unless something un-forseen happens. The first to pop to mind for me is a MITB incident. Mr. Kennedy (Ken Anderson) won the MITBLM at WM23 on April 1, 2007, announced on April 30th that he would cash in at WM24, but on May 7th he lost the contract to Edge due to an injury Kennedy that would have had him out five to seven months. It turned out that his triceps muscle wasn’t torn, he only had a hematoma.

I use that one incident to show that winning something like the Royal Rumble Match is not always a ticket to a WM main events and the WWE Championship. In fact, it wasn’t until 1993 that winning the Royal Rumble Match was the ticket to main event at WrestleMania and fight for the WWF Championship. It was 2004 when the winner of the Royal Rumble Match had the choice of going after the WWE Championship or the World Heavyweight Championship.

Enough background about the Royal Rumble Match, let’s dive into the very first Royal Rumble Match! Actually, it was called the Rumble Royale and was on January 24, 1988 at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. The show was aired live on USA, not as a PPV. There were twenty men participating and it only lasted about thirty-three minutes. Pat Patterson was actually the man behind the madness. He came up with the idea for this match only a couple weeks before it came to fruition. Bret Hart and Tito Santana were the first two in the match, but Tito was eliminated first by Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neihart and Bret Hart. Bret was eliminated eighth by Don Muraco. Duggan was the 13th entrant into the Rumble Royale and only eliminated Nikoli Volkoff, Danny Davis, and One Man Gang. Duggan didn’t last the longest in this Royal Rumble Match – Bret Hart at 25:42 – or eliminated the most – One Man Gang with four – but he was the very first winner of the very first Royal Rumble, even if it was called the Rumble Royale!

How did the Royal Rumble Match help ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan? Well, Duggan debuted in wrestling in 1979 and signed with the WWF in January of 1987. On May 26, 1987 Duggan was arrested, along with Iron Sheik, and charged with possession of marijuana and drinking alcohol while driving. Duggan received a conditional discharge. Iron Sheik ended up with a year of probation as he was charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine. Boy have times changed. In this day and age with the Wellness Policy Duggan would not go on to win the Royal Rumble less than a year after an incident like that!

After winning the first Rumble Duggan went on to feud with King Harley Race, then was involved in a 14 man tournament for the vacant WWF Championship. Andre cost Duggan his first round match and they started to feud. During their feud Duggan claimed to be the only wrestler to knock out Andre in a WWF ring. In July Duggan received an Intercontinental Championship Match against the Honky Tonk Man, but didn’t win the Title when Honky Tonk cost himself the match via DQ. Through the summer and fall Duggan remained face and feuded with a string of ‘foreign’ wrestlers to keep him in an upper mid-card role. At Survivor Series Duggan was in a Traditional SS Match, but was eliminated when he used his now famous 2X4 on Dino Bravo.

Going into the first Royal Rumble PPV Duggan wasn’t in the Royal Rumble Match, but was on the card in a match where he tagged with the Hart Foundation to defeat Dino Bravo and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. Duggan then moved onto what was called by some a truly brutal feud with Bad News Brown that lead to a Grudge Match at WrestleMania V that ended in No Contest. After that the King of The Ring crown was passed around a bit after Harley Race was injured. Duggan won the crown from Haku, but lost it in late 1989 to ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage.

On April 3, 2011 ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame by The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. Some might say that winning the Royal Rumble didn’t do anything to help Duggan’s career or get him a push. Others might say that Duggan’s career took off after winning the Rumble. Being the first Royal Rumble winner it’s hard to gauge what hand the RR actually did for his career, but Duggan has had a grand and illustrious career that still continues. He’s one of the sweetest and kindest wrestlers I’ve met. He spent time with every person he met and kept the entire room of fans chanting, cheering and happy. To me that’s a win.

I’m sure as we follow this tour through the twenty-five years of Royal Rumbles and Royal Rumble Match winners, we’ll see more of the good and the bad. I’m really glad this all started with Duggan as he’s always been a favorite of mine. I would love to hear your thoughts, good and bad, about Duggan, his ring work, his career, any personal stories. I think this winding trip to the Royal Rumble can be a lot of fun.

Thanks for reading,
KB

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  • wes

    i met Duggan at a local card shop, i was last one to get an auto and he still had about an hr left in his appearance, he started talking to me next thing i know, no one else had came in and i set and talked wrestling with Duggan for over an hr, hahaha, the card shop owner even ordered pizza so pizza and talking wrestling with a WWE HOF. He was a great guy, he also signed a ton of stuff for me even tho he didnt have to sign but one item..so i a Duggan auto pic in almost every room in my house hahaha

  • drhaase

    Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Man that guy was great…what a legend. So much charisma, that you couldn't help but like him. On top of that he is one of the most patriotic dudes ever. Also, I'm not sure if it is actually his Twitter account…but whomever runs the Jim Duggan Twitter account is absolutely hilarious.

  • Professor Rick Craig

    I remember good ol' Hacksaw in the UWF… where the tough boys played. He was in there with "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, the One Man Gang, Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman), Cactus Jack (Mick Foley), Ted DiBiase, Sting, Rick Steiner, the Fabulous Freebirds, and many, many others. My memories of Jim and the UWF are fond ones. It really was a "tough guy" league (pun intended). I was sad to see Bill Watts forced to sell it to rival Jim Crockett Promotions/NWA as Crockett just let the league run into the ground and forever into oblivion

    Duggan was really beginning to find his way there and that's where he first started carrying his 2×4. He was one of the biggest fan favorites in the organization. I have to say that I was shocked when he showed up in the WWF. I was certain he would go to the NWA/WCW instead. Duggan's character just seemed like it would be out of place in the cartoony WWF. But, you know what? He made it work and is now an iconic figure in WWF/E history. Truly one of the nice guys. My hat goes off to you, Hacksaw.

  • http://thebadgersden.co.uk sdunne87

    I'm going to love these articles. I would have been 7 when the first Rumble was won and whilst I was into wrestling at an early age thanks to my Dad I don't remember seeing this one. Whilst I've never actually met a wrestler you can normally tell the ones that love the business and the fans and the ones that only play up to the fans in the ring. Hacksaw was definitely a wrestler who loved the business and the crowd.

    I live in the UK and he still had me chanting USA and HOOOOOO when playing wrestling with my friends out on the lawn…. Yes don't try this at home etc

    Hacksaw is old school WWF, I know not using WWE is met with a slapped wrist but if you ask someone who no longer watches wrestling and ask them to name 5 WWF wrestlers Hacksaw will be one of the first 3 they mention.

    I look forward to the next installment Kendra…..

  • Cruz

    That was short?? Lol

    • kbunyon

      If you've read anything I've written, you have to know I'm not short winded!

      KB

  • Joey

    HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • sforester

    Thiefed my idea Queen Kendra! LOL I'm just yanking ya. I loved the history of how the Royal Rumble started and I'm looking forward to seeing the analyses of each Rumble winner. The Blitz very much approves. :D

    • kbunyon

      You wanted to do this? I didn't know.

      It came to me during Raw, so I asked Richard. I must admit it's really an interesting topic. I'm learning a lot as I go where as you know most of this stuff already!

      KB

      • sforester

        Bwahaha the idea had come to mind, but it's in far better hands with you. :D I will say this though… if the King of the Ring comes back I call dibs! :P

  • Chris_Storm

    Never was a Hacksaw fan, and never did understand what purpose giving him the nod in the first Rumble was supposed to accomplish. His cheesy, over-the-top gimmick wasn't even Over with me when I was a little Storm still brewing.

    • Chris_Storm

      Good work on your part though Ken.

      • Chris_Storm

        Looking forward to the rest of these.