Superstars recall the first Royal Rumble Match

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December 20, 2011

Bret Hart

Bret Hart started the 1988 Royal Rumble with Tito Santana, and wrestled for 25 minutes before being eliminated by Don Muraco. Hart, already known to WWE brass as a stellar workhorse, was expected to keep fans engaged in the new stipulation with his solid in-ring skill.

On kicking things off …
“It was critical for guys like me and Tito [Santana] to get a lot of suspense and action going, and keep that action going until the others came out. And it’s not easy contesting a match like that. It really does exhaust you physically. And unluckily for me, I was in pretty good shape in those days, so I became the iron man for those bouts. The logic was, ‘Send Bret Hart out there and he’ll keep the action going until the next wrestler gets in there.’ That became a role I got stuck with two or three times. It was a compliment, but at the same time you had to do the work.”

On keeping the fire lit …
“I didn’t know who was coming out, either. And it became a challenge to keep the fire going. It’s like having a fire on a branch in the ring and you have to keep passing it around and keep it lit all the time. And you have to keep that fire going throughout the entire match. Sometimes you bounce from one opponent to the next trying to light that fire again. For me, I found that, as much action that was going on, I could spark something in the corner that would steal all the attention from everyone else and make people watch me. I had an ability to not exactly steal the show, but make people watch the flare-up I had going with somebody in the corner. Then I would move onto somebody else and kick-start something else on the other side of the ring.”

On why the Rumble is special …
“The beauty of the Rumble is that every couple of minutes, another guys comes out, and just seeing what kind of difference it makes. When you’re having a Royal Rumble, and all of a sudden they send out Bob Backlund, he’s a whole different type of wrestler than The 1-2-3 Kid or Andre the Giant. It changes the complexity of the entire match. Everyone knows that if Andre is walking up, everyone’s antenna is going to go up. It’s a whole different mentality.”

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