January is here and that means that The Road to WrestleMania upon us. Along with the beginning of every man and woman on the roster pointing at that damn sign for the next few months, we also get the Royal Rumble, the favorite match of the year for many wrestling fans. The winner of the match will get a shot at a World Championship in the “main event” of WrestleMania, and we will be on the Road to Biggest Show of the Year. This year, with the addition of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, the excitement is even more at a fever pitch.
The Royal Rumble has a history of one being of the best, if not the best, show of the year. This year will be the thirty-first edition of the show, the thirtieth on PPV, and for the third time the show will find its way to one of the greatest wrestling cities in America-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which most fans hope will not be a repeat of what happened in 2015.
As glorious as a history that the Royal Rumble has, not all of them are created equal. Indeed the Royal Rumble has been a great barometer to tell where the company is at that point and time. If the company is doing great, the Rumble is great. If the company is down, well…
Now we get into Rumbles that aren’t necessarily bad, but lacked that special something that put them over the top. These shouldn’t be easily dismissed, but not where you would want to look for the Best Rumble shows ever. Here we go…
23. Royal Rumble 2012 — Scottrade Center — St. Louis, Missouri
This is actually a really fun Rumble to watch in some ways. 2012 was the WWE’s roster at its freshest and that talent was on showcase here, and in front of a hot crowd in St. Louis. But it’s also frustrating to look back on, as so much of that talent, like Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Alex Riley, Dolph Ziggler, and even Kofi Kingston, has been mostly squandered since, with the former three not even in the company (Cody is especially excellent in this match). For all the really fun spots in this match (the announcers all coming in, Kharma and Road Dogg returning, and Mick Foley’s last working appearance), you can also come away hating WWE for this. I sure did. Also, this was Chris Jericho’s primest time to get a Rumble win and they went with Sheamus, who didn’t really benefit at all from it…
Also, the undercard had both CM Punk and Daniel Bryan retaining world titles. Oh, the dissonance.
22. Royal Rumble 1989 — The Summit — Houston, Texas
This Rumble is many ways the first “proper” Royal Rumble, as it was the first one featured on PPV, the first one with 30 men, and was packed with star power. Indeed, this Rumble has some tremendous storytelling early on. From the reigning tag team champs, Demolition, starting out as one and two and beating the crap out of each other, to Andre The Giant throwing out Jake the Snake, only for Jake to throw the Snake back in, and force Andre to eliminate himself, from the cool sight of Hulk Hogan battling Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, there is a lot to like about this match. Indeed, the way they use this match to further the Mega Powers—Twin Towers storyline, as well as plant the seeds for the breakup of the Mega Powers, set the standard for Royal Rumble storytelling for years to come.
The problem is that once Hogan and Randy Savage are gone, the match dies. The last fifteen minutes feel like an afterthought. The undercard is also weak, especially the Women’s Title match, but Sensational Sherri on commentary is well worth the listen.
21. Royal Rumble 2013 — US Airways Arena — Phoenix, Arizona
When it comes to straight up action, this one is hard to beat. It also has sustained stories throughout, from Cody Rhodes and Goldust having their longest sustained action, Chris Jericho’s surprise return and amazing performance, 3MB bringing the comedy, and a fun little ditty from The Godfather. You have a lot of the same guys from 2012 and throw in John Cena, who was coming off a rough 2012 for his character coming to win, and you had a really excellent Rumble match.
What draws this one down-what happens after, when The Rock beats CM Punk for the WWE title, ending the historic 434 day reign. It left a bad taste in my mouth then, and does even more now. It’s shame, because before then, there was an excellent Rumble and an excellent event.
20. Royal Rumble 1993 — The Arco Arena — Sacramento, California
While this Rumble takes a dramatic drop in star power from the four previous Royal Rumbles, in gets a maybe higher ranking than expected for a few reasons-the first being that it has one of the best Rumble undercards ever. The Steiners and The Beverly Brothers tear it up. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty take things to a new level for the IC Title, Bam Bam Bigelow rips up the Bossman, and Bret Hart and Razor Ramon have an excellent title match.
The Rumble compensates for the lack of Star Power pretty well. After a fun start between Ric Flair and Bob Backlund, two great champions from the past era, Backlund goes on to have one of the forgotten great Rumble performances, lasting till the last three, going fifty-five minutes plus, and getting himself a great ovation from the crowd. The match also was used masterfully to elevate Yokozuna and his finish with Randy Savage is one of the most fun finishes ever. That and the crowd at the then brand—new Arco Arena is ON FIRE!
19. Royal Rumble 2017 — The Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
Finding a place for last year’s Rumble was a tough one, and this might go down or up in ensuing years. But from where I am sitting now, the 2017 Rumble was a pretty fun one that a great mix of young, upcoming talent and big stars with Goldberg, The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar. There some good little stories throughout, and Tye Dillinger actually coming in Number 10 will make me feel better about life for years.
But with modern-day WWE, things are never simple. Randy Orton beating out Roman Reigns was fun at the moment, but Orton didn’t really benefit from the win at all. And seeing reaction videos of Roman coming at Number 30, after losing a Universal title match to Kevin Owens, where everyone wanted Samoa Joe, has the power to either give or take you life, depending on what kind of person you are. We also have an incredible World title match between John Cena and AJ Styles that was one of the best matches of 2017.
Again, time will tell with this one.
18. Royal Rumble 2007 — AT&T Center — San Antonio, Texas
This Rumble is mostly very watchable, including to me the best elimination in Rumble history, when Kane chokeslams Sabu through a table to eliminate him. But what sinks this Rumble is the same thing we would see in 2009. Towards the end of the match, TOO MANY DAMN PEOPLE. There’s a good fifteen minutes where there are a dozen or so people, slowing down the match, and they are there just for The Great Khali, in his first push, to come in and take everyone out. Kill me now!
But what saves this Rumble is the end. The story of the final four hometown boy Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, and Rated RKO (Edge and Randy Orton) was excellent, and the last five or so minutes between Taker and HBK is one of the best last five minutes in Rumble history, and really the feud that ended in two amazing WrestleMania matches…starts here! Now that is storytelling!
The undercard is solid here, including an incredible brawl between John Cena and Umaga and fun match between Batista and Mr. Kennedy. There is also, however, a Bobby Lashley/Test match that might make you wanna gouge your eyes out…
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