January is upon us and that means that The Road to WrestleMania upon is. 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…
This is where things start to get tough to rank. Most of these Rumbles have things that make them particularly memorable and fun to watch back, but lack the elements that the very best Rumbles had. Sentimental value comes into play here and there, and tough choices begin to be made. But let’s go into some these diamonds in the rough…
17. Royal Rumble 1994 — Providence Civic Center — Providence, Rhode Island
This one may be ranked high for a lot of people’s taste, especially given that this Rumble suffers from the lack of Star Power that plagues the Rumbles from 93-96, and the action really slows in the middle of the match. But it ranks high for me for a couple of reasons, mainly because two things happen in this Rumble for the very first time. One, this was really the coming out party for Kevin Nash as Diesel, who eliminated seven men in a row and had the crowd chanting his name and cheering for him by the time it took seven men to eliminate him. This was the first time the WWF used this match to build up a talent like this and it would become a trademark for years to come. Second, was the classic double elimination at the end with Bret Hart and Lex Luger, which was pulled off perfectly and is as classic its gets.
The undercard is a mixed bag. The event early in the night when Owen Hart turns on Bret Hart at the end of their tag title match is amazing, but Razor Ramon vs IRS is painful to watch. And well, Undertaker vs Yokozuna in a casket match is all about your taste. You either love it or hate it.
Also in the interest in full disclosure, this is the first Royal Rumble I watched as a kid and I have ranked a little higher than usual due to that sentimental reasons. When Bret Hart, injured from the earlier in the night comes out in the Rumble, I was hooked on wrestling forever. I always enjoy this Rumble so match for that reason.
16. Royal Rumble 1997 — The Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
This is a key Rumble in history, as we start to see the beginning of the company’s return to prominence with the 50,000 plus fans in the arena this night, as well as more star power than any Rumble since ’92. This one is most remembered for the dominant and entertaining run of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was not only made in this match, but made this match. There were some issues, such as the consistent problems with the clock and the AAA B-team watering things down, but after a slow middle the action really picked up at the end, and the ending it was one of the most fun in Rumble history.
One thing that drags this show down however, is that it is all overshadowed by the Shawn Michaels-Psycho Sid match, which follows the Rumble. The match was actually very good, but it takes away a lot of the ambience of the show.
15. Royal Rumble 2014 — Console Energy Center — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Ah, the 2014 Rumble. Where to begin…
The action throughout this match is very good, but maybe not as high as some Rumbles ranked below it. But there is so much about this Rumble match that is just memorable. From Roman Reigns breaking Kane’s thirteen year elimination record in a great performance, CM Punk’s excellent performance in his last WWE match, Rusev’s debut, and Batista’s win in his return, the biggest issue with this Rumble is that is remembered THE MOST not for what but what didn’t happen. The guy that the fans most wanted to see in this event—Daniel Bryan, was nowhere to be seen in this match, and it ruined the last ten minutes of the match. It took what was a very good Rumble and made it infamous.
The show does that out with an awesome match pitting Daniel Bryan against Bray Wyatt, but Brock Lesnar and Big Show stink up the joint, and John Cena and Randy Orton have an average match. But for history purposes, this one is hard to beat.
14. Royal Rumble 2006 — Miami Arena — Miami, Florida
Too. Many. Damn. PEOPLE! I probably have this match ranked lower than most others will, for the sole reason that in the second part of the match the ring is too damn full, with almost half the damn Rumble in the ring by the time that Randy Orton enters at Number 30. But what lifts this Rumble higher the others is of course the tremendous performances we see in this match-as Triple H, Rob Van Dam, and Orton all shine. But of course we have Rey Mysterio, starting at number 2 and going 62:12 to win the Rumble in a record-setting performance that has stood for eleven years. And once we got some of those guys out of here, the last five to seven minutes were fantastic.
This card also taken down several notches because we get not one, but TWO matches after the Rumble, which I hate to no end. There is a fun Cruiserweight open to start this show however that is well worth watching.
13. Royal Rumble 1990 — Tampa Arena — Tampa, Florida
STARRRRR POWERRRRR. When it comes to classic WWF star power, this match is hard to beat, with the second highest rate of Hall of Famers in any Rumble match. Hogan, Savage, Andre, Piper, Dusty, Million Dollar Man, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude, a young Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Just an insane lineup. And there were stories. Ted DiBiase forced to enter number one because he had bought number 30 the year before, Dusty eliminates Savage to further their feud, Hogan tossing out Perfect to end their feud, and of course, the first ever face off between Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. The crowd is also red-hot throughout this match, and while the action does have a significant lag in the middle, it may be the first great Royal Rumble match. Also, with the rare WWF team of Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura calling the match, the match has a truly unique soundtrack and feel.
The undercard is fun of you like classic WWF, but other than an awesome brawl between Greg Valentine and Ronnie Garvin, it’s nothing truly special, and drags this show down significantly.
12. Royal Rumble 2008 — Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
The return to the Garden was certainly a memorable one. For one, this Rumble started off with The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, who finished the last Rumble, and this was just another step into their incredible build to their WrestleMania 25 match. Indeed, as far as this era, for Star Power, this match is hard to beat with Michaels, Undertaker, Umaga, Batista, Triple H, young Miz and Morrison, Mr. Kennedy, CM Punk, and more. Plus, there is a really fun moment where Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper come in back to back, and face off with most of the match watching. But this match had THE ISSUE-TOO MANY DAMN PEOPLE! After the entrant number 20, there was over a dozen people in this match for near half an hour, which hurt the biggest spot in the match.
At one point, Taker throws out Snitsky, who then gets superkicked by Shawn and eliminated. Then Mr. Kennedy sneaks up behind Shawn and throws them out. And the camera ALMOST misses it! More than anything, it highlights why I hate this issue so much. The more people are in the ring, the more limited the match is, the more you miss things, and the more talent can get hurt, especially since there were some BIG BOYS in this match at the same time. This match survives to get a high rating for several reasons. One-at least there was a reason. These guys were there to be fed to the last two guys. Two-John Cena made a surprise return at 30 in his last true babyface reaction in the Garden, and it’s still probably the greatest return in Rumble history, because no one saw it coming.
Third, this show had a tremendous undercard. From Ric Flair’s last match at MSG against MVP, a crazy brawl between Chris Jericho and JBL, and two excellent world title matches, including a thriller between Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. This was a great Rumble, but then again, every one from this point on is even greater.
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