Let me preface this journey by saying that every Royal Rumble match is good bordering on great. So comparing them and ranking them is somewhat like choosing between one’s children, with a few exceptions. Everyone has a kid they hate right? Right???
As of this writing there have been 27 Royal Rumbles. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the Rumble is one of the greatest gimmick matches of all-time and is usually one of the highlights of the wrestling calendar year. It’s a match that has the potential to make two or three guys over the course of an hour when done right. It’s had its ups, its downs, its evolutions, its complete clusterfucks and it has given us a plethora of unforgettable moments(for good and bad). So I decided to watch them all back to back to back to… you get the idea. I got to relive some of my favorite moments of the last 27 years and got to know a lot about what I like and don’t like in a Royal Rumble match. So join me on this 27 hour odyssey. I don’t expect you to agree with all my picks, healthy debate is always great and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed watching them. Everyone still likes lists right? Part 1 begins right now! 10,9,8,7,6,5….Ok I’ll get on with it.
-The “Only” guy to win from number one!!! We swear!-
Winner: Shawn Michaels (1)
Number 1: Shawn Michaels
Number 2: “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
Number 30: Crush
Final 4: Shawn Michaels, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, Crush, Lex Luger
Iron Man: Shawn Michaels + Davey Boy Smith (38:41)
Most Eliminations: Shawn Michaels (8)
“Big” “Favorite” Who Didn’t Win: King Kong Bundy, ten years removed from being relevant, 225 pounds removed from a healthy body weight.
Best Moment: Obviously the final near elimination of Michaels. It’s the only good part of the match.
Worst Moment: When Pat Patterson (or whoever it was) smiled and handed in the roster card for the 1995 Royal Rumble.
Most Shocking Moment: Seriously I have no idea. I guess Dick Murdoch? I don’t want to cop out and say something like “that they had the balls to make people pay for this.”
Best Elimination: The fucking clown hangs on but Kwang kicks him directly in the face. Directly.
MVP: It’s got to be Michaels, but really it’s only for the last spot. He (and Bulldog too) were pretty uninspired iron men. Just waiting around until the ring cleared so they could do their finish.
Biggest Pop: Bret Hart (not in the match) comes out and beats up his loving brother Owen.
Most Heat: Bob Backlund’s entrance. Good thing they only kept him in there for twenty seconds after…
Least Interesting: It’s a 25 way tie!!! Eli Blu, Duke Droese, Jimmy Del Ray, Sione, Tom Pritchard, Doink, Kwang, Rick Martel, Timothy Well, Luke, Jacob Blu, King Kong Bundy, Mo, Mabel, Butch, Mantaur, Aldo Montoya, Henry Godwin, Billy Gunn, Bart Gunn, Steven Dunn, Dick Murdoch, Adam Bomb, Fatu and Crush share the “honor” here. Least INTERESTED: Pamela Anderson.
Biggest Blunder: The dumpster gets dumped on a dumpy Earl Hebner. Hebner writhes around on the ground while I contemplate not watching this the whole way through.
Who Deserved Better: Owen Hart and Bob Backlund were two of five guys who were actually over and were in the ring a combined thirty seconds. Owen was eliminated off camera. You’d THINK they might have used their star power instead of Dickie Murdoch being there at the end. You’d be wrong. What do you know about the business pal???
Who Else Could Have Won: I guess Luger? He’s the only somewhat credible main event guy in the match. Not that they didn’t spend the last year burying him. Not that I’d want to see him fight Diesel. Not that I want to watch anyone fight Diesel. Not that I want to watch wrestling any more.
Worst Thought I Had During the Match: Michaels is trying to lift Bundy from behind but it just looks like he’s inside him.
Why It’s Number 27: Because it’s two midcard guys having a number one contender’s match with a bunch of jobbers jumping in and out of the ring. I can’t tell you how many times I threw my hands in the air when someone entered, thinking to myself “Ugh, him?” Actually I can tell you, it’s 25. Look at that roster up there! Look! I realize this is the first entry you’re reading in this series, I promise you I’m not one of these guys who hates on everything. But look at that roster!!!!!! The crowd is dead from beginning to end and I don’t blame them one bit. When Backlund came out I was happy because someone finally got a reaction from the crowd. You know that look Pam Anderson gave Michaels when he tried to dance on her? That’s the look I gave to the WWF in 1995. It starts here! Also: why do the number one guy winning here when you reduce the time between each entrant? Do you not see the asterix beside Shawn’s name in the record books forever. Good thing they had someone go the full distance a few years later… oh… I guess… I guess we’d rather live with this particular asterix…
-We have 30 guys for this thing right? Right?-
Winner: Yokozuna (They ACTUALLY put a big guy over) (27)
Number 1: Ric Flair
Number 2: Bob Backlund
Number 30:“Macho Man” Randy Savage
Final 4: Yokozuna, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Bob Backlund, Rick “The Model” Martel
Iron Man: Bob Backlund (61:10)
Most Eliminations: Yokozuna (7)
“Big” “Favorite” Who Didn’t Win: Earthquake. By 1993 he should have stopped entering these things.
Best Moment: After entering to absolute silence, after 45 minutes Bob Backlund begins to win over the crowd, culminating with him tossing out Rick Martel and foreshadowing his crazy old man character.
Worst Moment: Anything and everything involving Giant Gonzales. Including the Berserker blowjob to Undertaker as Gonzales entered. Seriously go watch it, the attitude era started four years early.
Most Shocking Moment: Max Moon AND Damien Demento on a PPV. TOGETHER!
Best Elimination: Yokozuna belly to bellies Earthquake out of the ring. Great power stuff.
MVP: Bob Backlund, but almost by default. No one else was in the ring for long enough or did anything of any significance. He was really solid and did completely win the crowd over. It would have been nice to have a couple of other candidates though.
Biggest Pop: Savage double axe handles Yokozuna to the mat and the crowd pops with a hope that would be nearly instantly crushed.
Most Heat: Yokozuna tosses Backlund literally seconds after people started caring about him.
Least Interesting: I was going to go with anyone from the tag teams that were needlessly entered in the match, but then out ran Terry Taylor. Comes in. Does nothing, Gets dumped. Word to the wise Terry, if you don’t want people to chant “Rooster” at you, maybe don’t dress all in red.
Biggest Blunder: Savage pins Yokozuna? Why? If it’s just to set up the elimination it’s awful. Also I’m pretty sure Yoko yells “SAMOA” at the camera at some point.
Who Deserved Better: Mr. Perfect and The Undertaker were each hardly in the match, a match mind you, that desperately needed star power. I’m not saying they need to win but keep them around a little bit longer.
Who Else Could Have Won: Randy Savage. I hate Yokozuna. Savage would have made a great opponent for Bret Hart at Wrestlemania. The match would have been better and it would have been a great passing of the torch. Vince chooses THIS year to push the 500 pounder?
Worst Thought I Had During the Match: Whose kids are Carlito and Primo? They’re waaaaaaaay too white to be Carlos Colon’s.
Why It’s Number 26: It’s the first time in history the winner will go on to face the champion at Wrestlemania and this is what our field looks like: Bob Backlund, Papa Shango, Washed up Ted Dibiase, Knobbs, Virgil, Max Moon, Tenryu, Skinner, Koko B Ware, Samu, The Berserker, Terry Taylor, Damien Demento, IRS, Jerry Sags, Typhoon, Fatu, Earthquake, Youngster Carlos Colon, Tito Santana, Rick Martel, Owen Hart and Repo Man. That’s 24 out of 30 that have no hope in hell of winning. Flair is thrown out right away. Perfect and Undertaker are gone by halfway. Lawler and Tatanka are somewhat over. That leaves us with Savage and Yoko as guys in the last half that can conceivably win. Then add ten minutes of Giant Gonzales business and you have a shitshow of epic proportions. If they had just doubled up and replaced a few guys with Michaels, Big Boss Man and Bam Bam it would have helped immensely. Even Heenan sounded tired as he tried to capture the magic of the year before while watching a ring full of people who weren’t over. It just wasn’t nearly good enough. However there were actual main event stars in the ring, that coupled with Backlund carrying the whole thing on his pale white back carry it above the last slot.
-A bounty on Steve Austin? This thing books itself!-
Winner: Vince McMahon (2)
Number 1: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Number 2: Vince McMahon
Number 30: Chyna
Final 4: Vince McMahon, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Big Boss Man, D’Lo Brown
Iron Man: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin + Vince McMahon (56:38)
Most Eliminations: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
“Big” “Favorite” Who Didn’t Win: Kane. And so begins the yearly tradition of Kane entering the Royal Rumble and despite being “one of the favorites”, he rarely even comes close to winning the damn thing.
Best Moment: Austin finally gets two minutes with Vince in a sanctioned match. Him stomping Vince to death in the corner is what wrestling is all about.
Worst Moment: The entire period from Droz’s entrance at number four until Goldust comes in at number sixteen. In nearly half an hour we get Droz, Edge, Tiger Ali Singh, The Blue Meanie, Steve Blackman, Gillberg, Dan Severn, Mabel, The Road Dogg, a Satanic sacrifice, Gangrel, Kurrgan and Al Snow. During this time nothing happens. NOTHING. They manage to make Satanism boring. Satanism!!! Sure there’s a couple of eliminations, but no one of any note doing nothing of any note. This is easily the worst stretch in Royal Rumble history, and it’s HALF of this match.
Most Shocking Moment: They found a way to have Austin and McMahon there at the end. Not a good one, but they did it.
Best Elimination: Austin hits a sweet stunner on Boss Man then clotheslines him out in seeming slow motion.
MVP: The dick in me wants to give it to the first row of guys who prepared choreography for everyone’s entrance themes. It has to go to Vince though. He screams when you beat him, he makes himself a pile of quivering jelly all the while acting like the smug prick we all know he is. He’s fun enough in the ring, but then he joins the commentary team and it’s fabulous. We get nervous heel Vince on the mic and his begging and pleading for someone to throw out Austin would make Bobby Heenan proud. The poor man doesn’t know what to do. Doesn’t anyone want the one hundred grand???
Biggest Pop: The stunner to McMahon makes everyone clench their fists and scream.
Most Heat: This is a weird one, but when Kane eliminates himself it’s not so much of a boo, but a very loud disappointed moan. The crowd had been served jobbers walking around the ring for half an hour, and now, just as things are getting hot, we reset the match.
Least Interesting: Droz. He’s boring and he looks like a fool in that makeup.
Biggest Blunder: There’s a certain joy in watching someone fall and end up with their legs over their heads. That’s exactly what happens to Faarooq as he, Bradshaw and Mideon try to kill Mabel with forearms at the entranceway.
Who Deserved Better: Kane. The crowd was going crazy for him, he couldn’t have been in there earlier? He couldn’t have stayed longer? He HAD to eliminate himself after less than two minutes??? I guess Austin wasn’t the only one flipping off the crowd that night.
Who Else Could Have Won: Hmmmmmmmmm…How about the guy you want to main event Mania? How ’bout Steve Austin. No? That makes too much sense. I get that they didn’t want Austin to win three in a row, and since Austin is going to fight Vince in a month, McMahon winning really does seem like the only option. I can’t believe I typed that. I guess I really have no problem with Vince winning, it’s more about HOW he won.
Worst Thought I Had During the Match: I’m curious if women still came in and pooped while Austin was laid out on the floor of the bathroom.
Why It’s Number 25: I don’t get it: you have a great bounty story set up but they purposely make the match worse by taking Austin out for half of it. The match would have been so much better served with Austin just staying in from the start. If there’s a bounty on Austin you make every single person who enters the match interesting. You can get everyone over by having them almost throw out Austin. You can still have Vince “escape” and go on commentary, you can still have the exact same ending, but instead of the snooze fest we got you’d have the fans into the whole match with Austin there. You wouldn’t have ten guys in the ring no one cares about, and you’d have more McMahon panicking, which may have rivaled Heenan’s Rumble 92 commentary had it been given more time. The match even could have been salvaged if you leave Kane, Road Dogg, Goldust and the Godfather in instead of Kane taking them and himself out. Everything after that point is fine; even, dare I say, very good. The first half is just terrible though and there’s no excuse for it. There’s two segments, TWO, where someone has to come into the ring and wait for two minutes for the next guy. It’s such a tale of two matches. The solid second half vaults this one above 1993 and 1995, the horrible first half doesn’t let me put it any higher. Such a shame, there were moments that really worked and with more solid booking this one could have been a classic.