My apologies for the slight lateness. I blame sickness and temporary lack of internet connection.
If I were to come up with a list of the best use of the Royal Rumble in a videogame, it wouldn’t even be fair. We all know that WWF Wrestlefest would be #1. That’s as good excuse to post these gifs I made. Feel free to use them as avatars on your favorite message board.
Damn. 5 of those guys are dead.
I do recall having fun in WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain and the way they used the Royal Rumble in career mode. They base it on the Rock/Big Show feud so that whoever you eliminate last has proof that your feet have touched the floor and that he deserves the Wrestlemania title shot. This leads to a match at No Way Out where you wrestle for the title shot. I remember fixing it up so that D-Von Dudley was my last victim, leading to an incredibly easy No Way Out match.
Then again, neither of the two main Dudleys have been in the Royal Rumble. Maybe I’m selling him short.
Let’s get to the top ten. So far the Rumble matches have been from okay to pretty good. The following ten are very much awesome. They’re just in different degrees of awesome.
10) Royal Rumble 2002
The set-up: Triple H had injured himself months earlier and was set to make his return, as shown repeatedly with training videos set to U2. Kurt Angle put his name in the Rumble hat, claiming that much like his first Olympics and his first King of the Ring, he would show how awesome he was by winning his first Royal Rumble. Austin was trying to wipe the stink away from the whole WWF vs. WCW/ECW feud, though he was in the middle of his annoying “WHAT?” phase that occasionally made the company unwatchable. The Hardy Boyz had recently split up due to personal differences, but Matt became enraged when he saw the Undertaker throw Jeff and Lita off the stage on an arena’s ramp.
The roster: This is right after Vince had acquired the WCW and ECW contracts, so this Rumble is stacked. Main eventers all over, popular mid-carders, returning favorites and even Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo are in the middle of their popular Ambiguously Gay Duo phase. This may be the most high quality roster in the show’s 22 years.
Guest entrants: One of the selling points of the Rumble was the returns of Goldust, Val Venis, the Godfather and Mr. Perfect. All but the Godfather stuck around full time after the show.
The match: It starts off with Rikishi vs. Goldust, mainly as an excuse to show Goldust’s classic entrance. It’s mostly mid-carders for a while, though they throw us a bone by including Rikishi’s Stinkface and Bradshaw’s Clothesline From Hell.
The Undertaker, in the middle of his Big Evil biker bully gimmick, comes out fairly early and cleans house. It’s cool how when he walks to the ring, everyone is working on Rikishi except Al Snow, who’s staring at Undertaker in fear. After clearing the ring of everyone, Undertaker is met with Matt Hardy, who’s helped by Lita. Undertaker fends for himself, only to have Jeff Hardy come in next. The two put the boots to Undertaker and then embrace each other to a huge pop.
But you have to admit, Undertaker, Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy coming out consecutively is more than a little contrived.
Undertaker eliminates both of them and watches as Tough Enough winner Maven comes to the ring. Undertaker smacks the taste out of his mouth for a bit, but the Hardyz make another run at the Undertaker despite elimination. Undertaker fights them off AGAIN, but is so distracted that he gets dropkicked in the back by Maven and goes flying out of the ring. Undertaker respectfully applauds the rookie, nods his head and quietly makes his way back up the ramp.
Nah. Actually, he goes back in there and beats Maven into a bloody pulp. Holy hell does he beat that boy up. Scotty 2 Hotty comes out for a second and gets punched out by Undertaker just for being there. It takes him forever to get back into the match, making me wondering why they would let in a guy who can’t even take a punch. Undertaker does throw Maven over the top rope, but it’s a moot point. The kid is half dead and isn’t going to be getting back to the ring regardless.
It’s a shame that Maven wasn’t able to use this momentum towards something better. The guy had talent, but being generic only works for that first year of you being a rookie sensation.
More guys enter the ring. The Godfather comes out and spends WAAAAY too much time on his entrance. The Godfather has gone legit with his own escort service and has an army of hoes come out to dance with him. That would be fine if there was just filler going on in the ring, but guys are actually getting eliminated and stuff. This goes on for about two minutes, but it’s worth it for hearing Jim Ross tell Lawler that Godfather gave him a coupon earlier, then regretting the joke.
Albert is in the match briefly as part of his short-lived Hip Hop Hippo gimmick. I only mention this because I feel the need to reiterate how much I truly loved the Hip Hop Hippo gimmick. Damn it, he was a talented big man and they later forced him to perform in briefs and a disgustingly hairy back. Nobody wanted to see that!
Austin finally comes out at #19 and clears the ring. He does it so quickly that he throws Christian and Chuck Palumbo back in so he can thrash them some more. Val Venis and Test come out and each put up a good fight, but again Austin ends up the last man standing in the ring.
That’s when Triple H’s number comes up. He comes out with his full entrance, eating up time so that after a brief exchange of offense, they’re both down and out. The Hurricane runs in and tries to chokeslam them both, leading to Austin and Triple H to look at each other and wonder, “Are you kidding me?”
The man who breaks their dominance in the ring? Why, none other than Mr. Perfect. As a Perfect mark, this is pretty amazing. I expected a quick elimination, but he holds his own against both of them at the same time. Austin and Triple H hold Perfect against the ropes and try to force him out. As two of the top performers are trying to toss him, Perfect focuses on spitting out his gum and smacking it away in mid-air. That rules so much.
The match has had great pacing so far, but the problem is the last batch of wrestlers. With the exception of the Undertaker earlier, just about every main eventer has a late draw. The last five to come out are Kurt Angle, Big Show, Kane, Rob Van Dam and Booker T. That’s just a little bit lazy, I think.
The final four is Austin, Triple H, Mr. Perfect and Kurt Angle. To my surprise, not only does Perfect last this long, but he outlasts Austin! It ends with Triple H vs. Angle where Angle clotheslines Triple H out of the ring, but doesn’t quite get him out completely. Angle celebrates his perceived victory, turns around and sees Triple H doing his trademark flex pose. One knee to the face dazes Angle enough that Triple H is able to clothesline him out and get the win.
Too bad it leads to the Wrestlemania feud that almost ruins Chris Jericho’s career.
Longest time: Stone Cold Steve Austin (26:46)
Shortest time: Farooq (0:36)
Most eliminations: Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin (7)
Best elimination: I don’t care when it leads to awful matches and bad storylines. I will always mark for Big Show vs. Kane. It’s a great dream rivalry from the days of the Monday Night Wars that keeps revising every other year. Big Show comes into the ring late in the match and lays waste to everyone in the ring. Kane comes out next and the two go at it. Having the two of them eliminate each other would have been dumb but passable. Having one clothesline the other would be fine. But having Kane actually PICK UP the Big Show and bodyslam him out of the ring? Holy shit!
9) Royal Rumble 2003
The set-up: Brock Lesner had lost his title to the Big Show after Paul Heyman turned on him. Now they are both without the title and have a match early in the PPV to see who gets a spot for the Rumble match. Lesner won. Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho were having problems with each other with Jericho trying to show up his once-hero. Michaels had himself named #1 in the Rumble and Jericho followed it up by making himself #2.
The roster: It’s a slight step down from 02, with some of the tried and true Attitude Era wrestlers being replaced with guys like Bill DeMott and “B-2” Bull Buchanon. It shares similarities with the 96 Rumble in ways I’ll talk about in a bit.
The match: The beginning is great, with Shawn Michaels coming out as #1, waiting for Jericho. The Jericho entrance begins, but the moment we see the entrant’s face, we can tell that it’s just Christian dressed as Jericho. The real Jericho sneaks into the ring and spends the next couple minutes beating Michaels with a chair before easily dropping him out of the ring.
Edge and Mysterio, who were tag partners for a period, end up forced to take each other on as the Rumble catches steam. This leads to the two of them reteaming and working over Chris Nowinski, which is easily the worst part of this Rumble. Edge botches a leg drop from the top rope and nearly crushes Nowinski’s head. The poor guy never truly recovers from it and has to retire from the business.
The mid-card fills up the ring and does a very good job entertaining us with filler. The coolest part is when Jeff Hardy comes in two spots after his brother Matt. Matt had gone heel with his Version 1.0 gimmick (including his follower Shannon Moore hanging out ringside to protect him from elimination) and when he sees his brother tries to get him to join forces for old time’s sake. Jeff proceeds to just shake his head while making the “you talk too much” motion with his hand before attacking Matt.
This is John Cena’s first Royal Rumble and he spends nearly his entire minute and a half rapping on his way to the ring. Badly, I should add. I usually enjoyed his rap days, but this just awful.
Jericho is the true highlight of this match. He gets his face busted up earlier from a kendo stick shot to the face from Tommy Dreamer and there’s one part where he teases elimination by hanging from the bottom rope by one arm. It’s pretty impressive. Unfortunately, Michaels runs back into the ring and tears into Jericho. Once the refs get Michaels off of him, Jericho is grabbed by Test and flung over the rope.
As more guys enter, we get Booker T and his tag partner Goldust taking on Team Angle, but each losing. #28 is Batista, whose first move upon entering the ring is to attack John Cena back when nobody cares about either.
Which gets me to what I was discussing earlier. Much like the 96 Rumble felt like a foreshadowed changing of the guards, moving from the New Generation Era to the Attitude Era, this match pushes towards the Cena Era. By the time the Undertaker comes out at #30, we have John Cena, Batista, Kane, Rob Van Dam and Jamal (Umaga) in the ring. Also, prior to the match we see Randy Orton backstage talking to Stephanie McMahon in the midst of the RNN injury angle that initially got him over. I still believe that Brock Lesner was supposed to be the true frontman for that era in wrestling but then the NFL whinefest happened.
Maven’s in the ring too, but that’s only for comic relief. He dropkicks the Undertaker in the back for the second year in a row. He celebrates, only to find that he didn’t get the job done this time. Sucks to be him for the second year in a row.
The final four are Undertaker, Kane, Brock Lesner and Batista. Undertaker and Brock fight for a bit, ending in Undertaker hitting the Tombstone. Undertaker soon after clotheslines Batista out over the top. He coaxes Kane into an alliance, but turns on him in the blink of an eye and gets him out too. Batista runs back in with a chair, but the Undertaker disarms him and throws him back out. As Undertaker barks down from the ring, Brock Lesner pops back up, dives over, grabs Undertaker by the legs and hoists him out before Undertaker realizes.
Pretty good ending. Again, it’s another match where they choreograph the win a bit too much just by giving Brock that match against Big Show. Still, it works well enough.
Longest time: Rob Van Dam (48:56)
Shortest time: Bull Buchanan (0:24)
Most eliminations: Chris Jericho (6)
Best elimination: Kurt Angle’s protégés Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas are in the ring at the same time and proceed to stick together and work as a team. This works out for them until they go after Brock Lesner. They each grab him by the head and run him over to the ropes to toss him out. Instead, Lesner puts his hands on the back of their heads and uses the momentum to fling both of them out, taking care of them both at the same time.
8) Royal Rumble 2005
The set-up: There wasn’t too much lead-up for the Rumble. The biggest thing was how John Cena and Batista were exploding with popularity. Batista’s momentum was scaring the champion and his mentor Triple H, who knew they’d eventually have to fight each other. Kurt Angle lost a triple threat match for JBL’s title earlier in the night and reacted by bullying Nunzio and stealing his Royal Rumble spot. Best of all, there’s this commercial.
The roster: It’s a tad bit underwhelming for a Rumble in the 2000’s, but the whole match is meant to be carried on the popularity of John Cena and Batista. That allowed the other big hitters to beef up the undercard, such as turning one of the title matches into a triple threat. Still, there are a couple weak spots too many on the list of wrestlers.
Guest entrants: Kurt Angle counts, I guess. Also, Jonathan Coachman makes another Rumble appearance.
The match: Even though the previous Wrestlemania ended with Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero standing triumphantly in the ring as the company’s two top champions, this Rumble gives them the first two spots and almost treats them as afterthoughts. At least it gives us some fun Benoit vs. Eddie stuff to watch.
Daniel Puder, the latest Tough Enough winner at the time, comes in at #3 and tells everyone that he’s going to be the youngest man to win the Royal Rumble. For the next couple minutes, Benoit and Eddie maim the poor guy with some stiff knife-edge chops. They show absolutely no mercy. Then #4 is Hardcore Holly, who for one of the only times in his life gets a tremendous crowd pop. Why? So HE can stiff Puder even worse than Eddie and Benoit.
I was going to say “kill” instead of “stiff”, but then I realized whose name was in that sentence.
As the match continues, they play up the brand loyalty as the Smackdown wrestlers face off against the Raw wrestlers despite face and heel alignment. This screeches to a halt once Muhammad Hassan walks out at #13. Hassan, as some might remember, is one of the most irresponsible gimmicks in wrestling history. The idea of a wrestler with a gimmick based in how people mistreat any and all people of Middle Eastern descent in post-9/11 isn’t really a bad one. The idea of using that gimmick and making the wrestler a heel who fulfills terrorist stereotypes is a very stupid idea.
Everyone in the ring stops fighting and surrounds Hassan, who seems full of himself until realizing the situation. The wrestlers gang up on him and soon dump him out. To protect his heat, Hassan attacks Scotty 2 Hotty before he can enter and applies the Camel Clutch to the point that Scotty can’t compete. Weakling.
Rene Dupree shows up later on and as another aside, I’d just like to point out how much I miss him being around. No, it’s not because I think he was an especially good wrestler or good on the mic or anything like that. It’s just that he made Tazz so happy. When Dupree shows up, Tazz acts like a child on Christmas morning. It’s a beautiful thing.
“HEY, JR! LOOK! IT’S RENEE DUPRE! I LOVE THIS GUY! HE’S GOT FIFI! THIS IS GREAT! YEAH! HE’S DOING THE FRENCH TICKLER BECAUSE HE’S FRENCH! I’M A FRENCH MAN, I’M A FRENCH MAN! YOU ONLY SEE QUALITY LIKE THIS ON SMACKDOWN!”
Which reminds me, Tazz and Jim Ross really is one of the better commentator pairings in wrestling. They play off of each other really well, especially here.
Edge eventually eliminates Eddie Guerrero. He steals his woman AND his chance to main event at Wrestlemania.
The seeds for one of the better Wrestlemania matches is sown when Kurt Angle enters the ring and tears apart anyone that gets in his way. It’s short-lived as Shawn Michaels superkicks him out of the ring. Angle freaks out at losing his second title opportunity in one night, rushes back into the ring and eliminates Michaels.
As the match gets later, we see some cool eliminations here and there. For instance, John Cena eliminates Kane by flipping him out of the ring with the FU. Or Batista catching Jericho’s cross-body attempt, holding him up over his head and dropping him to the outside.
The final four has Cena, Batista, Edge and Mysterio. Edge is able to counter the 619 in such a way that Rey ends up on the apron seconds before Edge spears him off. Edge makes a run for Cena and Batista, only to be backdropped out. This leads to the battle between the big two of our time.
The two get enough battle time in there to keep the fans satisfied. During Batista’s attempt at a Batista Bomb, both guys fall out of the ring at the same time. I’ve heard this part isn’t intentional and that one of them fucked up. If that’s so, the refs and the wrestlers do a good job of improvising a finish. While it’s up in the air whether or not the ending was a botch, there’s definitely one when Vince McMahon angrily storms into the ring and accidentally blows out both of his knees. He’s meant to be all authoritative, but he can’t even stand up and has to bark orders while on his ass. It’s kind of funny.
They restart the match and this time Batista quickly gets Cena out of the ring, getting him the victory. The match has an awful lot going for it up until that clusterfuck.
Longest time: Chris Benoit (47:26)
Shortest time: Simon Dean (0:20)
Most eliminations: Batista and Edge (5)
Best elimination: Gene Snitsky gets Paul London out onto the ring apron. He goes for a clothesline, but London ducks. Snitsky then does a follow-up clothesline and nails him so hard that London does a Shooting Star Press backflip to the outside. I’m pretty sure Paul London was only allowed into that match so he could do that spot.
More stuff tomorrow!
Wait! Before that, let me just share the best part of the Royal Rumble 2005 show.
If TNA brought in these two as a tag team, I think I’d actually start watching.