The other night on Monday Night Raw, they started showing a video reel about all the statistics in the Royal Rumble. Most eliminations in total, most eliminations in one Rumble, longest time in the ring, shortest time in the ring, etc. It’s funny how they sidestep some of the information. Like how they say that as many people have won after drawing #1 as those who have drawn #30. They show Michaels, Undertaker and John Cena but seem to ignore a certain murderer. Heh…
They also don’t talk about who’s been in the most Rumble matches. Why? Because Kane has the record and including him on the list would likely bring attention to his old gimmicks of Isaac Yankem and Fake Diesel.
Now back to the list, starting with what I feel isn’t going to be a popular choice.
16) Royal Rumble 2000
I don’t know what strikes me as stranger. Undertaker being on there despite having nothing to do with the show or Big Boss Man being featured along with all those main eventers.
The set-up: There’s a lack of any major set-up in this Rumble, other than the feud between the Rock and the Big Show, shown to be the two favorites. Though one minor subplot involved Kaientai and the Mean Street Posse being removed from the Royal Rumble for the sake of having those who wrestle on the undercard involved in the match.
The roster: Let’s face it, this match is just about the Rock. It was obvious from day one that this was the Rock’s Royal Rumble to win. Big Show? He’s just the big obstacle added for drama. Kane’s there too, but he was tossed into the background of the Rock/Show feud. It says something that they had to put Big Boss Man on that poster. It also says something when you look at #30. Most of the time #30 is given to guys who look like they can win on paper, but you know they really don’t have much of a chance. This time it’s given to… X-Pac. So yeah. Not a very good roster.
Guest entrants: The only guest entrant is Bob Backlund, making a visit while stuck in his crazy Presidential candidate phase. This was the only time he played this gimmick as a face and by golly, he should have done it more often. The crowd ate it up. Especially after getting eliminated, he climbed aimlessly into the crowd rather than go back through the entrance.
The match: Okay, here’s the thing. As a show, Royal Rumble 2000 was completely solid. It might be the most solid Rumble show there is. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz was fantastic, Tazz’s debut was totally sweet and who can forget Cactus Jack vs. Triple H? This was the height of the Rock’s popularity (thanks to Austin being injured) and the beginning of one of the company’s greatest years. I was even at this show.
But despite all that going on, this isn’t really all that great of a Rumble match.
Just prior to the match, they show the time Michaels won by holding onto the ropes and not having both feet touch the ground. This was a rather queer thing to show, since it was the only specific Rumble clip shown and had nothing to do with anything. It was just sloppy foreshadowing, trying to give us a hint at how the match would end.
It starts off decent enough with D’Lo Brown vs. Grand Master Sexay. Seeing Grand Master so early on is worth it just to see his father Jerry Lawler laughing at who is unlucky enough to draw #2, only to have a coronary at the reveal. A couple more mid-carders run until Rikishi comes out.
This match is known for truly getting Rikishi over as he spends a big chunk of the match dominating. First he clears the ring of everyone but Grant Master. Then Scotty 2 Hotty runs out and the three do their crowd-pleasing dance routine. Rikishi turns on his buddies and eliminates them. Next is Steve Blackman, also defeated handily.
Viscera steps in and we get a real cool big man showdown spot. Rikishi wins the battle and awaits the Big Boss Man. Boss Man just hangs back and allows the timer to tick down to the next entrant. This pays off as soon the ring has enough guys to toss Rikishi out.
Throughout the night, Kaientai keep running out to be in the match, only to be tossed out with little trouble. One toss over the ropes sends Taka spilling onto his face way too hard, which they replay over and over again. The Mean Street Posse act in similar style, constantly attacking the APA whenever a member enters. Hence both Farooq and Bradshaw are eliminated shortly after entering the ring.
Most of this middle part is pretty boring, filled with repeated nutshots and the fans losing their interest to the point that they chant for a woman in the crowd to take her top off. Then they boo her for not complying and being a tease. Yes, I remember that firsthand.
The big three in the match (Rock, Big Show and Kane) don’t even make it into the match until the last seven spots. It is fun seeing the Rock annihilate Crash Holly, who he had earlier joked about being his biggest threat of the night.
The final two – big surprise – are the Rock and Big Show. Rock tries to throw Big Show out, but Big Show stops him and strangles the Rock. He nails him with a chokeslam, hoists him over his shoulder and tries to run him out of the ring like a javelin. Rock reverses it by flipping himself over the top rope and bringing the Big Show out via the momentum as the Rock holds onto the ropes and rolls back in.
The Rock wins and does a victory promo. Big Show reenters the ring and trashes the Rock for a moment before sending him to the outside. Later on, Big Show would show proof that the Rock’s feet both hit the floor and that he was the rightful winner of the match. Nobody ever remembers that part.
Longest time: Test (26:17)
Shortest time: Farooq (0:18)
Most eliminations: Rikishi (7)
Best elimination: X-Pac gets eliminated, but the ref doesn’t see it, so he comes back in and kicks Kane over the top rope. That isn’t the best elimination, though. The best elimination is Big Show then grabbing X-Pac and throwing him out like a paper airplane. I love you, Paul Wight.
15) Royal Rumble 1994
The set-up: Lex Luger had squandered his one-in-a-lifetime title shot against Yokozuna by knocking him out and winning by count-out. Due to a 1-900 number, the fans were able to vote and grant him one more chance by letting him enter the Royal Rumble. The first match of the Rumble event had Bret Hart and his brother Owen go up against the Quebecers for the tag titles. Bret had injured his leg and lost the match because of it. Owen turned on his brother and beat him even more severely. Whether or not Bret would make the Rumble match was up in the air.
The roster: A nice step up for being after the 93 Rumble. Luger and Bret Hart are the brightest stars on the roster, but it also has Diesel, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, Crush (who was pushed enough that he even had a clean win against Bret Hart around that time) and Owen Hart. Not bad at all.
Guest entrants: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine makes a comeback for the night based on his success in the 91 Rumble. Also, to combat Luger, Mr. Fuji brings in Tenryu and the Great Kabuki to compete.
The match: This is the first year where they officially went from two minute intervals to one and a half minute intervals. I understand it’s to keep things more interesting, but at my age during the time, I remember being completely annoyed at the commentators trying to explain how this was for the better because it would be more action-packed. Damn it, I paid for an hour-plus match and I demand one!
The opening is very strong here. It starts with Scott Steiner vs. Samu, only for Rick Steiner to come in next and help his brother eliminate the Headshrinker. It appears as if the two will be able to just work together and double-team anyone who would come in, except the ninja Kwang is next. Rick goes for him, but gets a face full of Kwang’s green mist spit. Owen Hart comes out next and has no trouble eliminating the blinded Rick Steiner, getting him even more heat from the crowd.
Sometimes I wish they didn’t have theme music during the Rumble like back in these days because sometimes the crowd reaction makes it all that much better.
What this Rumble really has going for it was that it looks more natural than any of the other ones. A lot of times in Rumbles you’d see one or two wrestlers try to throw out someone in the corner and they’d just hold a pose for half a minute until breaking the hold and moving on. Here, guys would do stuff like that but it would actually work and look good.
There’s even a part where it’s Diesel vs. Bob Backlund and Backlund nearly gets Diesel over the top rope on his own strength and it looks completely believable.
This is Diesel’s show most definitely. This is the first time anyone’s been shown as being so dominant in a Rumble match, even more so than Hogan, Andre, Undertaker or Yokozuna. Several minutes are spent showing Diesel clear the ring over and over again until Randy Savage comes out. This gets a huge crowd pop and you think for a moment that finally someone might beat Diesel.
Savage lasts under five minutes and gets eliminated by Crush. What’s that mean? Randy Savage is Worthless in the Royal Rumble!
Diesel vs. Crush is rather fun just because the next guy to come out is Doink the Clown, who decides that instead of joining the fight, he’d just hang in the corner and laugh at the two. This backfires and they tear into him until Doink’s rival Bam Bam Bigelow comes out. Diesel and Crush see this, lay out Doink, walk to the ropes and open the ropes up as a grand gesture to Bigelow. Doink gets eliminated easily and for probably the only time in Rumble history, we have three heels in the ring duking it out.
Mabel later joins the fray and we get a showdown between him and Diesel with the crowd getting way into it. It’s amazing how fresh and interesting that fight looked back then when it would become one of the WWF’s biggest failures as a main event a year and a half later.
Diesel gets eliminated shortly after his buddy Shawn Michaels enters the ring and possibly helps the other guys in the ring hoist Diesel out. The camera angle makes it ambiguous whether Michaels was trying to save Diesel or lend the others his strength. Either way, the crowd goes crazy for Diesel and chants his name in thanks for carrying the match.
Now, I’d like to think that my description has made the 94 Rumble sound pretty great. It really was great… up to this point. Once Diesel is eliminated, things take a turn for the really, really boring. So boring that I almost fell asleep watching it.
Earlier in the match, Luger is shown being beaten down backstage by Tenryu and Great Kabuki. He walks out to the ring, albeit weaker. Then #25 doesn’t show up, leading the commentators to speculate that it’s Bret Hart. Bret instead comes out at #27 with the commentators amending that #25 was supposed to be Bastion Booger, who had to duck out due to food poisoning.
There’s a great part of the match where Marty Jannetty runs out and goes immediately for Michaels, but other than that, it’s completely dull. The final four are Bret, Luger, Michaels and Fatu. Michaels and Fatu are eliminated at the same time, setting up Bret vs. Luger as the final two. Before either can get really any offense in, they roll over the top rope and fall to the floor in an area that coincidentally doesn’t have any cameras around. They have no way of knowing who landed first and as the referees argue, WWF President Jack Tunney (remember that guy?) walks out and decides that they are co-winners.
The crowd hates this.
It comes off as especially dumb when you realize that after all that controversy, they never did have any sort of Bret Hart vs. Lex Luger match.
Longest time: Bam Bam Bigelow (30:12)
Shortest time: Billy Gunn (0:14)
Most eliminations: Diesel (7)
Best elimination: Late in the match, Luger tosses Bam Bam Bigelow into the corner so hard that Bam Bam flips over and stumbles onto the ring apron in a daze. Luger then rushes over and SMASHES the hell out of him with his metal-laced forearm. The big man goes flying.
14) Royal Rumble 1998
Wow, that’s some bad CGI.
The set-up: I hope you like Steve Austin because that’s all you’re going to get. As the winner of the previous year and the favorite going into this year, Austin has a target painted on his back. His reaction to this is to go around and beat on everyone else who was entered into the match before they could get to him. He’d beat people up backstage or attack people after their matches. Also, as this is all going on, Farooq is having his problems with the Rock, his flunky in the Nation of Domination. The boy’s ego is getting way too big for him to handle.
The roster: For the time it probably felt decent, but seeing Farooq, Ahmed Johnson and Kurrgan now doesn’t hold the same umph as they intended back in the day. Even the inclusions of Vader and Ken Shamrock feel a bit flat. Mick Foley is meant to be a big deal, but considering his role in the match, it makes him look considerably weaker. The match is used to build up the Rock and it does a great job by giving him an early number despite having wrestled earlier in the night, but this is shortly after a stretch of time where he’s shown to be Steve Austin’s bitch. It’s all about Austin.
Guest entrants: The Honky Tonk Man is in there, which is always nice, but the big story here is Mick Foley entering the contest as not only Cactus Jack, but as Mankind and Dude Love later on.
The match: Things start off with Cactus Jack going up against his mentor Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk) hardcore style. They’d get way into demolishing each other with weapons up until the next guy comes out. They would team up on the newcomer and then go back to killing each other with chairs and trash cans.
Somewhat early into the match, Owen Hart comes out and gets attacked on the ramp by Jeff Jarrett. Owen fully enters the match minutes later, after Jarrett’s in, and gets his revenge. He’s then screwed over yet again by Triple H and Chyna, who aren’t even in the match. It’s kind of sad to see how badly Owen was used during most of his WWF tenure because I’ll be damned if Owen ever got anything over Triple H during that angle. Maybe I’m remembering things wrong.
Kurrgan is the big monster of the match, which at least involves a cool moment where Steve Blackman comes close to taking his head off with a jumping roundhouse kick. Like many big monster wrestlers, he’s beaten by a big team-up.
Even with the weak roster, this match does have some good, crisp pacing going for it. I guess that’s why I rank it over the 00 Rumble, which was just as blatant about its winner.
There’s a no-show that turns out to be 8-Ball (beaten up earlier in the show because Savio Vega and Los Boricuas thought he was Austin), but Jerry Lawler on commentary keeps insisting that it’s Austin as told to him by his sources. Austin does show up finally at #24. Everyone in the ring stands there waiting for him, staring in the direction of the entrance, so Austin sneaks in through the crowd, knocks Marc Mero out of the ring and goes to town before anyone can react.
When Savio Vega comes out, he has the entire team of Los Boricuas with him to help soften up Austin, only for every one of them to be taken out by the Rattlesnake.
Speaking of stables, once Farooq enters at #27, you have the entirety of the Nation of Domination in the ring (Farooq, The Rock, Mark Henry, Kama Mustafa and D’Lo Brown). This could have led to some very interesting storytelling had they teamed up against the rest of the ring, only to explode on each other before they could get rid of Austin. Unfortunately, everyone in the Nation has turned on each other from the get-go, ruining the novelty of having an entire stable in the match at the same time.
What I find worth noting is that this is the only Royal Rumble where Farooq actually lasts for a bit. Staying in there for about twelve minutes, this may be the only time Farooq stays in the ring long enough for the next guy to come in. Maybe Ron Simmons was more broken down than I thought back then.
The final four has Austin and Dude Love team up against the Rock and Farooq. Dude Love is out first and soon after, the Rock stabs Farooq in the back and eliminates him. Rock seemingly gets Austin over the top rope, but Austin holds on and makes a comeback, ending in the night’s only Stone Cold Stunner, followed by launching Rock over the top for the win.
If anything, it’s an iconic moment for the business in general.
Longest time: The Rock (51:32, but also competed in a match earlier at 10:53)
Shortest time: Tom Brandi (0:12)
Most eliminations: Stone Cold Steve Austin (7)
Best elimination: This one is just so silly looking I had to mention it. Mosh has Kurrgan in the corner and he’s pounding away at his head. Kurrgan then grabs Mosh with both hands, picks him up and disposes of him over the top rope. Mosh appears to land on both feet with an immediate look of annoyance and disappointment with absolutely no transition in-between. It’s like trying to bounce a magnet off a metal surface.
Join me for more tomorrow.