It’s that time of year and, yes, I know everyone is writing about the Royal Rumble but as opposed to looking forward at the potential winners (it’s hard to look past Batista if the rumours of Daniel Bryan not competing in the 30-man event prove true) I’m going to look backwards to my five favourite Rumble moments. It might be a whole match or it might, as the title suggests, be a fleeting moment in an hour long match. Either way, it is the best match of the year and the start of ‘The Road to WrestleMania’ and after the downturn after SummerSlam 2013 it’s difficult not to get excited by the potential feuds this great match brings up (and if Orton beats Cena and Brock beats Orton we get a Beast versus Animal WrestleMania main event and I’d be happy with that). So, here we go, MY five favourite Royal Rumble moments.
5. The 2005 Royal Rumble Match
This is one of my favourite Royal Rumbles for some of the right, and definitely some of the wrong, reasons. Firstly it had a lot of ‘grandstand’ moments such as Raw versus SmackDown and Muhammad Hassan getting a beat down from ten other guys. It also had the start to the brilliant Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud with ended with a classic at WrestleMania. The final four were also all to be future Rumble winners in Batista (that night), John Cena, Edge and Rey Mysterio.
It’s what happened at the end that I love though. Yes, the party line is that both men, Batista and Cena, screwed up the ending thus both hitting the floor first, but I loved the utter confusion that surrounded the whole conclusion. The Smackdown referees were convinced Cena had won and Raw refs were holding the arm of Batista aloft. Then, down came the boss, big Vinnie Mac, to sort it out and promptly blew both his quads getting into the ring leaving him sitting by the ropes. To be fair to Vince, if I’d just received that injury, I’d be in tears so the utmost respect to him for staying in the moment.
Obviously, the match was restarted and Batista threw Cena out thus collecting his (first?) Royal Rumble win. It was a cracking match when the brand extension actually meant something and, because of the weird ending, is also a completely unforgettable one.
4. The 2013 Chris Jericho Return
Of course, one of the reasons so many people love the Royal Rumble is because of the surprise entrants and big returns. Hell, even Kevin Nash got a huge reaction when he returned in 2011. Typical Chris Jericho though, his return was brilliantly done. Yes, it didn’t have the ‘pizaz’ of months of vignettes or countdowns, he simply...returned. There was nothing on the internet about his return and the fact that it was built up by the number one entrant, his old sparring buddy Dolph Ziggler, was even better.
The Rumble is all about the crowd reactions and this was one of the best. Often, the numbers one and two are current roster wrestlers and they simply set us off on an hour of brilliant excitement, but a big return like this one took the roof off the place. It made a great match even better and the excitement could be felt throughout. Hell, the match needed it because Cena was the most locked on favourite since Randy Orton a couple of years before.
Also, if Jericho were to ever win, and it’s looking unlikely now, that would be my cast-iron number one but this brilliant return will have to do instead. A great wrestler kicking off a great event, you can’t ask for more than that.
3. Ric Flair and his 1992 Win
There are several reasons I like this one. Firstly, it’s Ric Flair winning both a Rumble and the WWE Champonship. That in itself should be enough. Hell, he was even in the ring with, amongst others, Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, it was a pretty star-studded main event because everyone was after the vacant title.
It’s also an important moment because Flair had only just joined the company. In a way, he was the last big territorial name that McMahon got his hands on. He had been with the NWA and WCW but the contracts were signed and Flair was in the Rumble. He entered at number three and, back then, entering that early was a sure sign of failure so the fact that Flair did this was an incredible sight. The ego defeated some of the biggest names the WWE had to offer and, in his acceptance speech he made it quite clear what it meant to him.
Again, think of it this way, although Flair was a huge name at the time, can you think of any other wrestler debuting for WWE after coming from, say, TNA, a couple of months earlier and winning the Rumble and/or a title? It just wouldn’t happen now because the WWE is so much bigger than any other company but also because McMahon looks after his own to the point where if AJ Styles did debut with the company, he’d probably be buried. Flair, however, was too big for all of that and took the top title at the top company and made sure everyone knew it.
2. John Cena Returns at the 2008 Royal Rumble
This is strange. Why have I got the return of Cena above one of my favourite wrestlers ever in the shape of Chris Jericho? Well, probably because it’s one of the best returns ever at the Rumble. Similar to Jericho, no-one had a clue that Cena was coming back. It looked like Triple H was heading towards his second Rumble win. Hell, he’d just eliminated Viscera by himself (and those spots are usually saved for about ten men). Then he eliminated Mick Foley, Elijah Burke and pedigreed Umaga. The camera hadn’t left him for about two minutes before the countdown began for the final entrant.
Let’s not forget, this was Madison Square Garden. Michael Buffer had done the introductions. The match had been great. The crowd was on fire. It was all set. Then Cena’s music started and the crowd went crazy. Men, women and children alike. Everyone was so shocked by this quick return from injury that they were taken aback. Of course, the gentlemen in the crowd quickly collected themselves and started booing him again but they were caught out for a second and it was beautiful to hear.
Triple H was shocked in the ring and the crowd was shocked outside of it. The boo’s as soon as Cena took down Mark Henry were hilarious because they were cheering seconds before. This, perhaps more than any other return, shows what the Rumble can do. Shock, surprise and awe.
1. The Undertaker Wins the 2007 Royal Rumble
It was between this and Brock’s win in 2003 but I couldn’t look past this one. My favourite wrestler winning my favourite match. Simple as that. In a way, it was the one thing missing from Taker’s curriculum vitae (I’m assuming he has one, just in-case), a win at the Rumble. Again, there were a lot of big names in the match with a final four of Edge, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels and the Deadman and the match itself had, as usual, plenty of memorable moments, it was the ending that made this special though.
It has to be said that, yes, the Undertaker entered at Number 30 and, although no-one had ever won from that spot before, you did wonder if this was his time. In a way, it didn’t matter to me though because seeing him in a Rumble was great. The ending though. That brilliant ending. After the elimination of Rated-RKO we got a glimpse, a short trailer as it were, of the great matches still to come from Taker and Michaels as they went at it one-on-one. It was like a mini main event with both men going hammer and tongs and releasing finisher after finisher but to no avail.
It was probably at that moment that everyone, including the men themselves, stood up and thought, ‘we’ve got something special here’ and, boy, were they right. A lock for one of the best matches ever two years later at WrestleMania 25 and then a close run second the year after. It was that moment that cemented two legends of the company, of the industry, in the minds of both young and old alike and we’ve got the Royal Rumble to thank for that.
There we have it, my five favourite Royal Rumble moments. Of course, you’ll have different ones but that’s the beauty of these lists. Of course, shout outs must go to those crowd pleasing moments such as John Morrison and Kofi Kingston and winners such as Edge and Mysterio but I found it hard to look past these one.
Well, have a good Royal Rumble weekend. I’ll missing in action next week due to work commitments (and so will be avoiding social media until Wednesday at least when I’ll hopefully get to see the PPV!) but I’ll be back fighting fit the week after. Have a good one.
Please follow me on twitter @HughFirth or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org All constructive criticism is appreciated.
Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.