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Royal Rumble Power Rankings Part One: The Worst of the Worst



January is almost 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 first ever Woman’s Royal Rumble, the excitement is at even more of a fever pitch.

The Royal Rumble has a history of being one 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…

Here are some of the down ones. (Writers Note: While most of the judgement here depends on the Royal Rumble match as a whole, the matches surrounding it do have influence on rankings, for better and for worse.)

30. Royal Rumble 1995 — USF Sun Dome — Tampa, Florida

This Rumble is remembered somewhat fondly by some fans, as this is the Rumble where Shawn Michaels famously entered number one, and made it all the way to end of the match where he would eliminate the British Bulldog, who started number two. But as much as the WWE triumphs this achievement, this Rumble is also the shortest Rumble in history, going less than forty minutes for the first and only time. This Rumble also included such luminaries as Well Dunn, Mantaur, The Blu Brothers, Aldo Montoya, the Heavenly Bodies, and Kwang. Kwang!! This is well go down as the least star-studded Rumble ever and other than the Shawn-Bulldog, there were no stories told.

The supporting cast didn’t do too much to add to it. Diesel and Bret Hart had an okay title match, but didn’t hold a candle to what they would do in the future. The Undertaker and IRS match was a dud, and Jeff Jarrett’s IC title victory over Razor Ramon went too long. The WWE had fallen onto its ass in 1995 and this show, more than any, proves it.

29. Royal Rumble 2015 — Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ah, Philadelphia. Yes, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Seth Rollins had one of the best matches of 2015 for the undisputed title, where Rollins cemented himself as a main event player. But other than that, this will also go down as the worst booked Royal Rumble ever. The man everyone wanted to see, Daniel Bryan, didn’t come in till Number 10 and lasted only about twenty minutes, and the match died the minute he was eliminated. It was terrible. The fact that Big Show and Kane, in 2017, were dominating everyone was also a completely clueless move. At his coldest point, Roman Reigns wins, and not even the Rock could get the Philly crowd to cheer Roman. This is WWE at its most clueless and tone deaf.

28. Royal Rumble 1996 — Selland Arena — Fresno, California

The ’96 Rumble was plagued by a lot of the problems the 1995 show had: lack of star power, lack of storytelling, and a weak undercard. Other than Shawn Michaels’ triumphant return to win his second Rumble, eliminating his best friend Diesel to win, the only fun thing about this Rumble is Jerry Lawler hiding under the ring for twenty minutes. Also, this was the first time they pulled one of my biggest wrestling pet peeves—a match after the Royal Rumble, with Bret Hart facing Undertaker after the Rumble! I hated it then, and I hate it now. Things were a little better in ’96 than in 95—but not by much.

27. Royal Rumble 1991 — Miami Arena — Miami, Florida

The ’91 Rumble is like “The Chinese Restaurant” episode of Royal Rumbles—nothing happens! It’s a very basic Royal Rumble, which lacks the star of the previous two years, doesn’t have a ton of storytelling, or any real depth at all. It’s still a fun match to watch because the crowd is hot and there’s fun people in the match, but otherwise very forgettable. Once Hogan enters the match, there’s no question of where we are going here.
The undercard is a mixed bag. This Rumble has the first title match ever in Rumble history, where Sgt. Slaughter beat the Ultimate Warrior in a boring match with a hot finish. Sherri Martel is the MVP of this show due to her interview with the Warrior and the bumps she takes. And the opening match between the Rockers and the Orient Express is fun. Otherwise, you can take or leave this one.

26. Royal Rumble 1988 — Hamilton Arena — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

The first of everything is usually a little bit rough and there’s no exception here. There are only twenty guys here, the pacing is a little off, and the crowd doesn’t know how to react. Still, it’s a fun match because of the star power and all the different guys interacting. You can tell that there is something about this match when you watch it.

The undercard is a bit all over the place. There’s a fun opener between Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude, a cool contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, and a woman’s tag match that’s kinda fun. But some of the other stuff is brutal, especially the two out of three falls match in the end. It’s fun for history’s sake, but can be a little hard to get through.

25. Royal Rumble 2009 — Joe Louis Arena — Detroit, Michigan

Above all things, there is one thing that I hate more than anything in a Royal Rumble match—when there is TOO MANY DAMN PEOPLE IN THE RING!!! That was the story of most of this match, as for maybe half the match, there are ten or more people in the ring. Jerry Lawler brings it up on commentary several times, and there is no doubt the match suffers because of this. When the biggest surprise of the match, the one-night return of Rob Van Dam happens, the lack of space holds back his best stuff. It’s just aggravating to me. Also, the match only one real storyline—Triple H vs Legacy, which gets boring for most of the match. It’s fun because it’s the Rumble, but there is not much to distinguish this match.
The undercard does have some fun stuff though, mostly with the Hardys, and Matt turning on Jeff to cost him the WWE Title. I remember enjoying this show at the time, but it hasn’t aged well.

24.Royal Rumble 1999 — Arrowhead Pond — Anaheim, California

There are some Rumbles that lack storyline, but have great action. This one has the opposite, which isn’t suprising given who the head writer of the show was at the time (Vince Russo). The storyline here between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon throughout this Rumble was off the charts—but actionwise, this match was not good. I had to watch Road Dogg versus Kurrgan for four minutes. There are another four minutes where there is only one guy in the damn ring! The crowd even kinda dies at the end of the match due to the action not being great. The WWE in 1998-99 is fondly remembered with good reason, but this Rumble, which featured a surprisingly weak roster, shows that maybe we’ve had rose colored glasses.

The undercard is actually pretty solid here, and is cool to watch because the crowds are so hot at that time. But it also features the Rock/Mankind I Quit match, which you can’t look away from, but at the same time is hard to watch. It’s interesting to watch, but actually very hard to enjoy.

Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic. He's also starting his own podcast soon!