Happy Friday TJR Faithful, and boy is it a happy Friday! We are one day away from one of my favorite PPVs of the year, The Royal Rumble. There are very few WWE PPV’s outside of Wrestlemania that can match the level of excitement that The Royal Rumble brings. The concept is a fun and exciting one, The Rumble only happens once a year, Wrestlemania Season officially kicks off upon the match’s completion, and of course The Royal Rumble pools I participate in most years add another layer of excitement to the proceedings (this year I’ve drawn 14, 24 and 30 in my group of friends’ annual Royal Rumble Drawing Ceremony, which is generally followed by watching a football game on the Sunday prior to the Rumble).
Needless to say that my excitement level is high in anticipation for what might be my favorite WWE event of the year. I’m especially excited to see the result of The Rumble because it will go a long way in making the Wrestlemania card start to come together. There are definitely some matches and stories I’d like to see play out, such as Usos vs. Outlaws for the Tag Titles (which would fulfill two of my predictions from the staff prediction mega-posts in 2012 and 2013), and Daniel Bryan finally climbing to the top of the WWE mountain. The latter is most appropriate because Wrestlemania 30 should be the year of the workhorse as every Mania divisible by 10 has been. At Wrestlemania X Bret Hart captured the title in the main event, and at Wrestlemania XX he who must not be named (Chris Benoit) won the title in the main event. Tradition would lead me to believe they would look in Bryan’s direction at 30, but really who knows.
All that said, I’m not writing this piece to think about all the Wrestlemania possibilities for 2014 (other than my idea where Evolution becomes The Authority and attempt to stamp out Cena, Bryan, and Punk at Wrestlemania, where Triple H battles Punk, a heel Batista w/ Ric Flair clashes with Cena accompanied by Hulk Hogan, and Bryan faces Randy Orton For the Title in the Main Event… But I digress) I’m writing because last night’s episode of Community, which featured Troy’s farewell and an epic game of “Hot Lava”, inspired me to look at the Rumble match itself. More specifically it inspired me to look back at and imagine a couple of fun, inventive and innovative saves and finishes for the annual battle royal. At the end of the day, isn’t The Royal Rumble a little like a high stakes game of “Hot Lava”? Let’s Do This!
“Skinning The Cat”
Some people get hung up on Rumble eliminations, but innovative Rumble saves are what float my boat. When looking at the best saves in Royal Rumble history, you have to pay homage to the classic “Skinning The Cat” save, which for years reigned as any athletic WWE Superstar’s go to move when attempting to avoid their feet touching the mat below after being thrown over the top rope in the Royal Rumble match. WWE Hall Of Famer Shawn Michaels, who performed the iconic and arguably the original “must see” Rumble save in back to back Royal Rumbles in 1995 and 1996, perfected “Skinning The Cat”. Both times Shawn went on to win the Rumble directly after pulling off the maneuver, and both instances are likely the most iconic uses of the save in history. Skinning The Cat is easily the Godfather of innovation in avoiding Royal Rumble elimination.
“John Morrison is Spiderman”
The next great innovation in Royal Rumble saves came in 2011, when John Morrison, the WWE’s resident Prince of Parkour, clung to the barricade after being knocked of the apron. The way he stuck to the barricade and avoided his feet touching the floor was Spiderman-esque, resulting in it being dubbed John Morrison’s “Spiderman Save”. John Morrison had performed some inventive (albeit contrived) saves in his past Rumble matches, but this save was the first in over a decade to match and maybe even surpass the innovation of “skinning the cat”. The Spiderman Save might be the most memorable thing to come out of the 2011 Royal Rumble (and that includes the match’s eventual winner Alberto Del Rio). The only shame is that it came from a guy who only lasted 13 minutes in the match, and was never in the mix to pull out the win. It’s this fact that makes Shawn Michaels’ saves in 1995 and 1996 a little more magical.
Some may have thought it was impossible to top John Morrison’s “Spiderman Save” from the 2011 Royal Rumble, but Kofi Kingston sure as hell came close (but just shy in my opinion) one year later when he avoided elimination at the hands of The Miz by doing a handstand and walking on his hands to the ring steps, thus ensuring that his feet never touched the floor, and that he was still in the hunt for the title shot at Wrestlemania. Kofi lasted nearly 18 minutes and was eliminated by the eventual winner of the match, but his “Handstand” spot was likely the most memorable moment in the 2012 Royal Rumble (unfortunately again, winner included). For those counting at home, that is two years in a row where the lasting memory of the Royal Rumble wasn’t the winner of the match, but a terrific save made by a superstar who didn’t even come close to winning the match. I sense a pattern.
The WWE attempted to go a third year with a classic Royal Rumble save, when Kofi found himself stranded on the Spanish Announce Table, not having been eliminated, but having no way to make it back to the ring without touching the mat below, or so it seemed. The predicament was an interesting one that could have had several solutions that would have made for wildly entertaining and memorable Rumble moment, and while having Kofi use JBL’s chair to pogo his way back to the apron, only to be knocked off seconds later by Cody Rhodes was a fine and memorable choice, it honestly left a lot to be desired. He could have hung out on the announce table and enjoyed the rest before figuring out a way back to the ring at a juncture in the match where he’d have a better shot at winning. That being said it was a pretty memorable spot, just not as imaginative or iconic as the ones I’ve already mentioned in this piece.
So after all this innovation, what’s left to do in the Royal Rumble that can leave the WWE Universe in awe, or shock? If you ask me, the next frontier is Rumble finishes. In recent years, all the finishes of the Royal Rumble have been fairly standard affairs. Two of the WWE’s top guys, battling it out before one finally musters up enough strength to eliminate the other. There hasn’t been a finish where a guy has seemingly been eliminated only to save himself in dramatic fashion and steal the match from somebody who believed he’d won. The most out of the box finishes we’ve had this decade were The Rock’s disputed victory over The Big Show and the almost tie of 2005. Here are just a couple of ideas for inventive finishes to Royal Rumble matches:
“The Long, Unburdened Walk to Victory”
In 2011, I think the WWE would have been better of if the finish of the Royal Rumble saw Alberto Del Rio draw number 40. Before he entered the ring, we would have already been down to just two superstars battling one another in the ring, only for them to unintentionally eliminate each other simultaneously. This would make the number 40-entrant Alberto Del Rio, the winner of the match by default. The countdown would appear, his music would hit when the clock hit double zeroes, and Alberto would saunter to the ring, basking in the glory of winning the Royal Rumble without having to lift a finger. He’d be declared the winner as soon as he entered the ring, and he’d take his time to get there, soaking up the heat. It’s the perfect way for a smarmy heel, especially one like Alberto Del Rio to win The Royal Rumble, and the WWE left it on the table. I still think about how amazingly villainous this kind of victory would have been for Alberto. It would have given his character something new to unjustly brag about that we would never forget because of how different it was from any Rumble ending we’d ever seen, but instead he has become Al-bore-to only 3 years later.
“The Stretcher Job”
Another idea I’ve had for an inventive Royal Rumble finish is for one of the final four superstars (let’s say Damien Sandow) to be launched over the top rope only to land on the apron and injure their ankle. Sandow would immediately drop from the apron hopping on his one good foot over to the announce table and lay upon it wailing in agony. The trainers and medical personnel would come to take a look at him while the action continues in the ring. A stretcher would be brought out and the Sandow would get on it, to be taken out of the arena and to the hospital. Meanwhile one of the wrestlers in the ring (again, let’s say Batista hypothetically) would eliminate the last competitor and be declared the winner, only for Sandow to stand on the stretcher, leap back to the apron, enter the ring and eliminate the presumed winner Batista from the match, making Damien Sandow the official winner, as only one of his feet ever touched the ground.
This could be taken a step further if you wanted, where Damien Sandow is wheeled out of the arena on the stretcher and taken to the hospital. The next night on Raw, during Batista’s Royal Rumble coronation, Sandow would be wheeled to the ring in a wheelchair to watch the celebration along with every other Rumble participant. Eventually Sandow would enter the ring with the aid of crutches (all the while never letting his “injured” foot touch the floor) and strike Batista with one of his crutches before tossing him over the top rope and out of the ring revealing his injury to be an elaborate ruse. Sandow would reveal that since he was never eliminated and his injured foot had never touched ground in the 24 hours since The Rumble match supposedly concluded, the match by rule had never truly ended. Furthermore he had just won The Royal Rumble by tossing “the false winner” Batista, the final entrant in The Rumble, from the ring. The heat for Sandow or whomever you decided to have perpetrated such a dubious act would be legendary. It would be a one of a kind finish that would always be remembered, and would also shatter the record for the longest Royal Rumble in history, lasting over 24 hours. Just a thought.
There you have it but as always I want to know what you guys think? Is the Royal Rumble the WWE’s most consistently exciting event? What are some of your most memorable Rumble saves and finishes? What are some of your least favorite? What do you think of my two fantasy finishes? What are some inventive saves and finishes that you’ve thought of? What will Kofi do this year?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying between Justin Bieber and Rob Ford, Canada’s reputation is at an all time low. At least Drake was a pretty good SNL Host! Have a great weekend everybody!