In this series, we look back on every Royal Rumble event to date. Up first: Royal Rumble 1988, the very first year the event was held and the introduction of the greatest gimmick match of all time.
Event: Royal Rumble 1988
Date: January 24, 1988
Location: Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Winner: Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Last Eliminated: One Man Gang
Iron Man: Bret Hart
Quickest Out: Junkyard Dog
Most Eliminations: One Man Gang
The very first Royal Rumble event wasn't actually a pay-per-view (PPV), instead airing on the USA network. It was also the only Rumble match to ever feature 20 participants, with each new wrestler coming in at intervals of two minutes. WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson is credited for creating the concept of the Rumble, starting with two men and gradually bringing more in at planned intervals while wrestlers are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and both feet hitting the floor.
The last wrestler left wins. Simple and effective.
Bret Hart earned the distinction of being the first wrestler to ever enter a Royal Rumble match, as he drew number one. He also ended up being the Iron Man, which means he lasted longer than any other wrestler within the match at 25:42. Junkyard Dog was the last man in but also the quickest out, as he lasted just 2:08 from his number 20 spot.
Jim Duggan would ultimately win the Rumble, last eliminating One Man Gang, who had taken out six wrestlers. One Man Gang and Dino Bravo had teamed up to try to take Duggan out when it was down to those three but Hacksaw overcame the odds to pull off the victory to a huge pop from the crowd.
Jesse Ventura delivered a money line right after: "I can't believe it. Out of all the people to win this thing, it's him?"
A Rumble win at that time wasn't nearly as important as it is now and Duggan never really became much of anything more than a mid-card babyface who could work relatively well. He would later blame an arrest in 1987 while traveling with The Iron Sheik on his not making it to the top with the World Wrestling Federation but either way, this was one of the highlights of his career.