Here’s a pointless little experiment. During the 2007 Rumble, they made a big deal about it being the most star-studded Rumble yet. That got me thinking about the different Rumble rosters and which one had the best pedigree to it. So I scoured each list and counted how many world champions it featured. I counted the top titles for WWF, WCW, both WWE titles, ECW, TNA and NWA.
Hm. Well, I guess they were onto something after all. Speaking of that match…
7) Royal Rumble 2007
“Everyone back in the pile!”
“DEY TUK OUR JEORBS!”
The set-up: The only real story going into this was the feud between Degeneration X and Rated RKO. Triple H was injured, so it was only Michaels to fend against Orton and Edge. Though those two had their own falling out in the works.
The roster: This is the first Royal Rumble to take place after ECW became its own WWE show and that kind of helps things here. More separated show rosters means a more pumped Rumble roster. There still are a couple guys in there like Kevin Thorne and the Miz (back before he was entertaining) to hold it down, but overall it’s very quality.
The match: It starts off with the two oldest men in the match, Ric Flair vs. Finlay. Did they ever do any singles matches against each other? That has to be good.
The Rumble takes a while to really get its wheels going. Sabu shows up at #7, botching all the way like always. He sets up a table for later, but ends up getting chokeslammed through it by Kane. No, I’m not spoiling my choice for best elimination by talking about this.
But yeah, this match is pretty tame for the first half. Not much really happens but it picks up. The Sandman appears and does his kickass entrance from the crowd, but then he gets eliminated in seconds. Once Randy Orton enters the fray, he and Edge team up on the Hardyz, overpower each one and send them packing, which is good set-up for later.
They do another spot where one wrestler eliminates someone, only for the eliminated guy to come back in and take him out. This time it’s between Kane and King Booker, which doesn’t seem right. The idea of King Booker getting thrown out then completely dominating and annihilating Kane in response doesn’t take for me.
I’ve been a bit hard on this Rumble, haven’t I? You’re probably wondering why it’s ranked so high. Well, there’s a reason everyone loves this Rumble so much and it’s because of the bottom line. The last 15 minutes are absolutely incredible. Without a doubt the best ending of any Rumble, bar none.
It starts with the Great Khali coming to the ring and slapping aside everyone. The guy can only do a handful of offense, but he’s used to his best here, knocking out guys with his two-handed chokeslam, his chops and headbutts. After laying waste to the entire ring, he starts picking up defeated foes and tossing them out. Carlito hangs on and tries to springboard back in, but Khali chops him in mid-air and sends him in the opposite direction.
On commentary, Michael Cole is freaking out at how nobody is going to be able to stop Khali. That’s when the clock ticks down and #30 is meant to come out. The Undertaker’s theme music comes on and the Dead Man comes to the ring to meet with the old rival that he never got around to getting the best of. They fight back and forth until Undertaker is able to get Khali to the outside. Khali lands on his feet and appears only annoyed, but he’s out and that’s what’s important.
The final four has Undertaker, Edge, Orton and Michaels. Michaels is on the outside via the bottom rope, still feeling the effects of Khali’s chokeslam. Edge and Orton beat Undertaker with a chair and almost turn on each other. They go to hit Undertaker with the Conchairto, but Michaels gets back into the ring. Not expecting him, Edge and Orton go after him in a panic, each getting tossed out quickly.
Michaels passes out in the ring, several feet away from the napping Undertaker. The crowd goes nuts at seeing just these two guys laying there. At almost the same time, Michaels does a kip-up and the Undertaker sits up. The two finalists proceed to put on an incredible fight for about eight minutes. Tons of near-eliminations going back and forth between the two, including nailing some of their trademarks.
Finally, as Undertaker staggers to his feet, Michaels goes for a second superkick. Undertaker sidesteps it, grabs Michaels, holds him over the top rope and drops him. Again, it’s the best Rumble ending.
Longest time: Edge (44:02)
Shortest time: The Miz (0:07)
Most eliminations: The Great Khali (7)
Best elimination: Eight guys try to heave Viscera over the top rope. Nothing’s doing. As this is going on, Shawn Michaels makes his entrance. Finlay goes after him, as they are the only two not involved with the Viscera situation. Michaels comes out on top and eliminates Finlay. At the same time, Viscera powers out and sends all the other wrestlers scattering. Michaels surprises him with a superkick to the chin, sending Viscera reeling. Everyone regroups and this time they’re able to flip him out onto his ass.
6) Royal Rumble 1992
The set-up: Due to interference, the Undertaker defeated Hulk Hogan for the title. Less than a week later, Hogan won his title back, also through cheating. Jack Tunney decided to strip Hogan of the title. He would place it up for grabs for the next Royal Rumble match. To give them an advantage, Hogan and Undertaker were each given the draw of a number between 20 and 30.
The roster: At the time, this was almost the best possible for the WWF. Of course, this made the undercard look like shit, other than Legion of Doom vs. Natural Disasters, but tag teams never fare too well in the Rumble. Still, by the time of the Rumble, you had five former champions (six if you count Dibiase) in a period when guys held onto the title for a year at a time, as well as future champions Ric Flair and Sid Justice.
“BLRBLRBLRUMBLE OVER YOU!” How does he do that?
The match: It opens with Ted Dibiase vs. the British Bulldog. While Dibiase is known for lasting about 45 minutes in 1990 (which is still a big deal at the time), he’s clotheslined over the top rope within the two minutes. #3 comes out and it’s Ric Flair.
Now, the commentary team here is the legendary pairing of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan is Flair’s manager, so for once the commentator has a stake in the match. Seeing his meal ticket at #3 leads to Heenan suffering from a never-ending panic attack. Flair himself says that this match wouldn’t be nearly as good if it wasn’t for Bobby.
Though Bulldog can’t quite get Flair out of the ring, he’s able to at least keep it between the two for a few minutes. That is, until Shawn Michaels comes in. It is pretty weird to see Michaels and Flair fighting each other over a decade and a half before their epic Wrestlemania match that retired Flair. For this whole article series, I watched these in random order and saw this Rumble right after the 95 Rumble that ends with Bulldog vs. Michaels. It’s weird because there are parts there that seem completely identical to Bulldog vs. Michaels in the 92 match. Same spots and everything.
The ring fills up for the next 20 minutes and although the commentators don’t make mention of it, it appears less about “every man for himself” and more of the faces vs. the heels, as if the whole thing is a team effort. Tito Santana would rescue the Texas Tornado and then the British Bulldog would go protect Santana. It’s something you usually don’t see in the match, but makes sense considering the black and white feel of the era.
The ring is reduced to Big Boss Man and Ric Flair, but Boss Man misses a dive at Flair and tumbles over the top rope. Heenan seems calm for once as Flair gets a second to rest. The clock ticks down and the next out is Rowdy Roddy Piper, who has just won the Intercontinental title on the undercard. Heenan has a coronary as Piper tears Flair a new asshole. Jake “The Snake” Roberts is next and puts an end to that. This is during his “Trust Me” heel phase, so we don’t even get even an attempt at DDT Blueballs this time.
Later on, Randy Savage comes out. He and Jake are in the middle of a major feud, so he goes nuts on Jake. Savage eliminates Jake but then leaves the ring to keep on him. Undertaker rolls out of the ring to pull Savage away from Jake, who is at the time his ally. The problem is, Savage has hopped over the top rope to keep the onslaught going. He definitely wasn’t supposed to have done that. How do I know? Because the commentators say that he’s eliminated in a confused state until being told that he’s still in the match because he wasn’t thrown out by anyone else.
Thing is, they should have just eliminated him anyway. To his credit, Savage does last until the final four, but if you watch the match you’ll see that after the Jake spot, he does a big pile of NOTHING! He’s just a random bystander in a fruity, purple outfit. Which means, yes indeed, Randy Savage is worthless in the Royal Rumble!
As an aside, the Savage/Roberts feud is a beautiful thing because it gives us what’s easily the best face turn in wrestling history.
You know what’s funny about this Rumble? Hogan comes out at #26 to a HUGE pop. He goes in there and there’s all this momentum in the ring and in the crowd. So who can be next to follow through on that excitement? Uh… Skinner. Yeah, Skinner’s next. Suddenly everything’s dead.
Ric Flair spends the second half of the Rumble as a punching bag to everyone. Other than ducking the Big Boss Man earlier, his only elimination is the Texas Tornado. Not that he’s totally on the defense. There are parts where he’ll go up to Undertaker and give him knife-edge chops as Heenan screams at him from commentary, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, RIC?!”
I remember when I was a kid, I was determined that Roddy Piper would win the Rumble, making him the man who wins both major singles titles in one night. Unfortunately, Sid Justice eliminates Piper and “The Model” Rick Martel at the same time. That’s okay. I can forgive and forget.
Not like some assholes I know. Take Hulk Hogan for instance. We’re down to Hogan beating down on Flair with Sid recovering from a jumping knee to the back. Hogan puts the boots to Flair, not even trying to eliminate him. Sid takes the opportunity, grabs Hogan and flips him out. The crowd seems pretty cool with this.
Hogan, as you can figure, does not. He yells at Sid and then reaches his hand out to shake. Sid won’t do it, so Hogan grabs Sid by the arm and tries to pull him out. Flair takes the advantage, grabs Sid by the legs and helps take him out of the match. Flair wins this A-list Rumble after having stood up to some of the best for nearly an hour.
Hogan, of course, is booed for his actions that night. Sid didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, hell, this is what Hogan did to both Savage and the Ultimate Warrior in the other Royal Rumbles and he never seemed to give a shit about them whining. Hogan’s lost two Rumbles in his career and acts like a sore loser each time. Then he proceeds to try and buddy up with Sid for the next month or so, all while stepping on his lines and interrupting him so he can overshadow him with his own promos.
And when Sid has enough and finally turns on Hogan? Sid is considered the bad guy. I never understood that. At least Austin was honest with being a backstabbing asshole and didn’t pretend to be a role model.
Sorry, what? Oh, right! The Rumble. Yeah, it was pretty nifty. Not only does Flair last an hour and prove himself as champion in a way that STILL has a controversial ending and keep him as a heel, he has enough energy left in him to do a victory promo about how the WWF title is so much better than the WCW one.
He can’t help that he’s custom made.
Longest time: Ric Flair (59:26)
Shortest time: Hercules (0:56)
Most eliminations: Sid Justice (6)
Best elimination: Sergeant Slaughter has never been the most mobile of wrestlers in his day, but in this match he has no choice. Sid Justice Irish whips him into the corner so hard and so fast that Slaughter practically skips like a stone in water and goes flying out. Goddamn, Sid.
5) Royal Rumble 2008
The set-up: With John Cena injured and word being that he wouldn’t be around until after Wrestlemania, the focus went directly on Triple H. At first he was denied entry into the Rumble by either Vince McMahon or William Regal. I can’t quite remember. Then, by being a general pain in the ass, he got his way and was allowed to take part. Also, Vince McMahon had discovered that the loveable leprechaun wrestler Hornswoggle was his illegitimate son and constantly tried to punish him with “tough love”. This led to Hornswoggle’s inclusion into the Royal Rumble match.
The roster: Due to a strong undercard, the Rumble match is robbed of Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, Ric Flair, MVP, Edge, Rey Mysterio, JBL and Chris Jericho. Ouch. Still, it perseveres with a very deep pool of talent. Not only does it have four Rumble winners in there but other than a couple guys like Chuck Palumbo and Hardcore Holly, it’s got plenty of guys to keep things interesting and keep you guessing on who will be the last man standing.
Guest entrants: Hornswoggle had to earn his spot in the match by winning a tag match with the partner of his choice. The partner would also gain a spot in the Rumble. That partner turned out to be Mick Foley, who helped him defeat the Highlanders. Also in the match are Roddy Piper and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. I’ll get to those two in a sec. Just like I’ll get to the big mystery entrant.
The match: Michael Buffer makes an appearance as the ring announcer. Took them long enough. He announces the first two combatants, who turn out to be none other than last year’s finalists. It’s Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels yet again, this time to start off the show.
They go back and forth, this time fresh, but smack aside those unfortunate enough to step into the melee. This includes the king of everything awesome Santino Marella and the Great Khali. Khali, in a return from the year prior, is defeated by the Undertaker here. This time, being that they’re in Madison Square Garden, he’s bombarded with loud chants of, “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE!” I was there. I was proud.
One of the things I really dig about this Rumble that other years don’t seem to have is a good spread of talent. Even with the ending, the main eventers aren’t clustered towards the end with one in the beginning. The bigger superstars are spaced apart in a way that keeps things from getting dull.
Hornswoggle enters at #9, but just hides under the ring. He does help eliminate the Miz at one point, so he has that going for him. Late in the match, some of the heels get their hands on him and bring him into the ring. Hornswoggle’s buddy (and later-revealed storyline father) Finlay rushes in before he’s supposed to and beats on them with his shillelagh before running off with the little leprechaun. Both are disqualified from the match. So weapons are illegal now? That’s new to me.
This year Shawn Michaels isn’t supposed to be in the Rumble (meaning he probably will be), but that’s a good thing because I’m sick and tired of seeing him eliminate Shelton Benjamin. He’s been doing it year after year and he needs to let the poor guy compete for once. It’s the worst in this Rumble where Shelton does some crazy athletic shit all around the ring before Michaels superkicks him out in mere seconds.
Though the ring is full already, #18 is Jimmy Snuka. The crowd is confused, but a little pumped to see him in there. What’s great is Undertaker headbutting him, only to reel back from the impact while Superfly stands there unharmed. #19 turns out to be Snuka’s old rival Roddy Piper and the crowd goes nuts. He comes into the ring and the two begin trading blows in the center. As this goes on, EVERYONE just hangs out at the edge of the ring and watches this in awe. Their fighting eventually restarts despite, but Snuka and Piper still go at it uninterrupted. The next guy in is Kane, who has no qualms over nostalgia and throws out both of them upon entering.
What a great moment.
There’s a chain of events where Undertaker eliminates Snitsky, distracting him enough that Michaels is able to eliminate the Undertaker. Michaels shrugs his shoulders and gets eliminated by Mr. Kennedy. Even with Michaels at his feet, Undertaker decides to take his frustrations out on Snitsky and legdrops him through an announce table.
Chavo Guerrero is in the Rumble despite already being ECW champion. So he’s trying to earn a shot at one of the other two big WWE titles? That’s… probably not the best way to get your third show over, guys.
It’s really open on who’s going to win. Batista entered at #8 and he’s still in there, despite being knocked to the outside (under the rope) by an Umaga Samoan Spike. The guy can be lazy at times, but he does a great job selling that move like it’s concentrated death. Triple H comes in at #29 as a ball of fury and it’s easy to see him winning as well.
But who is #30? Everyone announced for the Rumble has come out already. That only leaves a mystery entry. Who can it be?
MSG is a very anti-Cena building, but even for the moment everyone has to put that aside and cheer out of pure surprise. Cena is supposed to be injured. Not storyline injured but real injured. The kind that the online dirt sheets tell us about. Yet here he is at #30, smirking his Cena smirk and running back into the thick of things.
The Royal Rumble, which prides itself on trying to be unpredictable, fulfills its promise with this moment.
But it keeps on track. Enough guys get eliminated and we’re down to three. It’s John Cena vs. Batista vs. Triple H. Despite what you might think of the three of them, that’s pretty damn epic. Before getting their fight on, they each trade taunts at each other. Batista is the first to go out, leaving Triple H vs. Cena. The crowd is pretty much for Triple H here, but I side with Cena. See, I don’t like Cena as a character, but I don’t like Triple H as a person.
After a good exchange between the two, Cena finally gets the win by tossing Triple H over the top with the FU. Rapadoo, I suppose.
Longest time: Batista (37:42)
Shortest time: Shelton Benjamin (0:18), unless you count Finlay’s appearance (0:15)
Most eliminations: Triple H (6)
Best elimination: When Triple H comes in and starts cleaning house, he grabs Mick Foley and tosses him into the ropes. Foley collides into Elijah Burke at such a speed that the two flip over the top rope at the same time. Nice.
We finish it off tomorrow. I hope.