Old school wrestling fans may remember the 1989 Royal Rumble. Besides being the first pay-per-view showing of the Rumble match (with the inaugural 1988 Royal Rumble being shown on the USA Network), the then-WWF made the ’89 show even bigger with thirty men instead of just twenty like the year before.
The 1989 Royal Rumble was won by the returning “Big” John Studd. Unlike modern times, the Rumble winner was not granted a world title shot or a chance to main event WrestleMania. In fact, Studd only appeared at that year’s Mania as a special guest referee in a match between Andre the Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Studd ended up leaving the WWF before SummerSlam, and fans often look at his winning the 1989 Rumble as a failure by the WWF at the time.
But what if that had not been the case and someone else actually won the match, and something more was done with the victory? What if that man was Bad News Brown?
Hypothetically, Hulk Hogan would have likely been the first choice to win the 1989 Royal Rumble match, considering he actually did get the title shot and main event slot at WrestleMania that year against WWF champ Randy Savage. Heck, Savage could have fit the bill. Not only was he the WWF Champion, but he was also in the Rumble match himself. Both Hogan and Savage would have made memorable winners to the Rumble match, especially with how things worked out a few months later at WrestleMania V. But there was another person that was also just as big a name to WWF fans at the time, and that was Bad News Brown.
Brown was a former Olympic bronze medallist (under the real name of Allen Coage) and a judo master. Of course, the WWF at the time did not say anything about that and instead played him as the bad dude from Harlem, New York, who mowed down anybody that stood against him. He sported a long undefeated streak in 1988, including winning the big battle royal at WrestleMania IV. On top of all that, he was making comments insinuating that Randy Savage’s manager Elizabeth was doing “favors” to then-WWF President Jack Tunney. Savage and Hogan were not pleased with Brown saying such things, and the feud between them was building up to something big!
Fun fact: Bad News Brown, in a shoot interview with RF Video, said that the original blow off to this feud would have seen Brown beating Hogan for the WWF Title in 1989 to become the first-ever black WWF Champion. Bruce Prichard, however, denies this claim.
Except that never really came about. The WWF put Hogan and Savage into a feud against each other, and that match main-evented WrestleMania V. What happened to Bad News Brown? Well, he had a few “street fight” matches against Savage on house shows, and he had a main event match against Hulk Hogan on “Saturday Night’s Main Event” right before WrestleMania that year. If anything, that was the blow-off to the feud.
For the WrestleMania V card itself, he had a match against “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan that ended up with both guys being disqualified. Brown’s run at the top was basically over, and nothing more was made of it. Brown himself lasted until the latter half of 1990 before leaving for other places like Global Wrestling in Texas but was never the big wrestling star he could have been.
In the form of entertaining ourselves through speculative fiction, we propose an alternate timeline. What if historical events in the WWF occurred differently, and Bad News Brown won the 1989 Royal Rumble?
“If you’re a betting person, I would go and bet on the house. I would go and bet my dog, my ugly goldfish, and your stupid kids that Bad News Brown is going to win the 1989 Royal Rumble!”
The 1989 Royal Rumble Event
The time is January 15th, 1989, the setting- The Summit in Houston, Texas. There are roughly 19,000 fans in attendance at this point in the evening, with an additional 165,000 watching the event live on pay-per-view at home. By this point, fans had seen Hacksaw Jim Duggan team with the Hart Foundation to beat the Rougeau Brothers and Dino Bravo in a six-man tag match that went three falls. WWE Woman’s Champion Rockin’ Robin defeated Judy Martin, “King” Haku defeated Harley Race, and the first two-thirds of the Royal Rumble match has by now taken place.
The ring had been cleaned out after Hulk Hogan arrived as entrant number 18, and he was beating on the number 19 entrant, Bushwhacker Luke Williams. That ended when Luke was eliminated just as Bad News Brown entered the match at number 20. He and Hogan go at it one on one for two minutes.
The Warlord enters, and Hogan clotheslines him out in seconds. Bad News jumps on Hogan and works him over until The Big Bossman makes his entrance. Bad News steps out of the way, and the big former prison guard works over Hogan himself. The African Dream Akeem then comes out next, and Bad News takes a break in a corner as the Twin Towers work over Hogan. Hulk eliminates the Big Bossman from the match, but Brown sneaks up behind Hogan and eliminates him from the match, too. Bad News and Akeem tussle with each other for a bit before Brutus Beefcake and the recently tuned face Red Rooster enter the battle. Bad News focuses on the Red Rooster and eliminates him as the Barbarian enters the ring and goes after Brutus.
Then-WWF Champion Randy Savage enters and goes right after Brown. Savage and Brown trade shots back and forth as Hercules and Rick Martel enter the match as The Million Dollar Man enters as the last wrestler at number 30.
Savage, Brown, Akeem, Beekcake, DiBiase, Hercules, Rick Martel, and The Barbarian are left, but DiBiase eliminates Hercules and Brutus Beefcake quickly, and Martell eliminates the Barbarian soon after. Akeem tosses out Rick Martell, but then Savage eliminates Akeem and DiBiase leaving it to just Bad News and the WWF champion. Savage goes on the attack, but Brown counters and dodges as Savage comes running for a clothesline. Brown dips and lifts the champion out and wins the 30-man Royal Rumble.
After the First-Ever Royal Rumble
After the event, Bad News Brown goes on TV and says he is going for the WWF Title, but in reality, the WWF Champion, Randy Savage, kind of blows him off to focus on Hulk Hogan. Bad News says that he is done being overlooked, and things are going to happen when he says so.
At the next week of WWF television tapings, Bad News sneak attacks the Ultimate Warrior with a steel chair on the set of the Brother Love Show. Brown laughs over the fallen Warrior and challenges him for the Intercontinental title. This leads to the Warrior vowing vengeance, and the two go back and forth in interviews for weeks. In the Saturday Night’s Main Event shown on March 11th, 1989, Bad News scores a big victory over Hercules to get a win before his attempt at the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania 5.
At the big event of the year, The Ultimate Warrior and Bad News Brown provide a wild match for the New Jersey fans. In the end, Bad News Brown uses a secret shot with a metal chair and a Ghetto Blaster to score the upset victory over the fallen Warrior to win the IC title. People are shocked. The Warrior spends months in interviews vowing revenge, and Bad News defends his title on television with wins over Jim Neidhart, Jim Duggan, the Blue Blazer, as well as many others on the house show circuit.
This leads to the big rematch with Bad News Brown against The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental title at SummerSlam 1989 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
The match is again a wild brawl, but this time, the Warrior defeats Bad News. But before so, Bad News nails Warrior with a metal chair again as the referee is knocked down, but Warrior no-sells the chair shot across the back and clubs the surprised Brown right in the face a few times before giving him a press slam to the mat, and a splash as the referee regains consciousness and counts the pinfall. The Ultimate Warrior is the Intercontinental champion again as many Warrior fans celebrate in the audience and at home.
The End of Bad News Brown in the WWF
Bad News wrestles for the WWF for the rest of 1989 until the 1990 Royal Rumble, where he is eliminated quickly and unceremoniously. Soon later, he leaves the WWF. Brown heads south to WCW, where he debuts as an upper card bad guy. He spends the next 4 years in WCW fighting guys like Sting, Lex Luger, El Gigante, and many others before retiring from the business in 1994.
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