The Top 25 Matches in Royal Rumble History

The Royal Rumble is one of the most popular shows of the WWE year, let's count down the best 25 matches in the history of the Royal Rumble.
The Royal Rumble is one of the most popular shows of the WWE year so let’s count down the best 25 matches in the history of the Royal Rumble.

The Top 25 Matches in Royal Rumble History

Outside of WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble is the pay-per-view that most WWE fans look forward to the most. The reason for this is that people want to see who wins the Royal Rumble match itself and who goes on to WrestleMania. The show is more for the fun and unpredictability, then for the great matches.

Having said that, there has been a numerous amount of awesome matches in the history of the Royal Rumble. From the Royal Rumble match itself, to title matches, to tag matches, to gimmick matches and all the way to minis matches. Let’s count down the Top 25 matches in the history of the Royal Rumble.

25. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Title (1991)

This match has so much heat and drama, it is off the page. The pro USA crowd feels a lot more genuine than later on at WrestleMania and it really helps this match. Even if this match is most well-known for the greatest run-in in wrestling history and it ends with a normal elbow drop, it’s a match that is very enjoyable and the shocking moment of Sgt.Slaughter walking away as WWF Champion is long remembered.

A good match to start the list off, because it does the classic Royal Rumble trick of setting up a WrestleMania match-up. This time it’s Warrior versus Randy Savage.

24. Royal Rumble Match (1995)

This is what would happen if the Royal Rumble match took a punch of speed. This match is fast and furious! Some people are hard on this one due to the amount of jobbers in it, however, the pace is crazy and the story of Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith going the distance is a real highlight. It kept coming back to those two giving this Rumble a real focus.

Given that it lasts only about half an hour, there is no real dull moments in this one. The ending is a little strange, but it is something they use all the time to get over that both feet must touch the floor.

23. The Jumping Bomb Angels vs. The Glamour Girls for the WWF Women’s Tag Team Titles in a “2 out of 3 Falls” match (1988)

The Jumping Bomb Angels were so good when they arrived in the WWF, that a Women’s Tag Team Titles were created just so they could win them. I can’t think of another time that this happened. This is one of the Angels series of matches with The Glamour Girls and it’s a good one. If you want to see moves that are way ahead of their time, track this match down.

22. Max Mini & Mini Nova & Mosaic vs. Battlion & El Torito & Tarantula (1998)

A cruiserweight match
A real hidden gem and the 22nd best match at the Rumble.

At this point WCW”s cruiserweight division was at full tilt and the WWF’s Light Heavyweight division was real stagnant. There was also a big hole in the undercard, so Vince McMahon does what any great promoter does and he brings in the minis.

This match is super quick and filled with insane high spots. They really could have built something off of these guys. Max Mini (known in Mexico as Mascarita Sagrada) is a top-notch wrestler and had the ability to be a star. This is about as fun as wrestling gets!

21. The Rock vs. Mankind for the WWF Title in an “I Quit” match (1999)

A bloody bloody brawl with a lot of  unnecessary, crazy hardcore spots and a horrible Vince Russo finish. This match I can see people hating or loving, however, I kind of fall in the middle. It is definitely a spectacle to behold.

20. Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker for the WWF Title in a “Casket” match (1998)

The final match of the Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker series from 1997/98 and even though it did not live up to their Hell in a Cell classic, it certainly was a really good match. It is the best casket match I have ever seen and there is a lot of neat spots involving the casket. This includes a Tombstone from the apron into the casket. The finish is a repeat of the 1994 casket match with heels running in and then eventually Kane, but bad finishes are something you have to accept with casket matches.

19. The Quebecers vs. The Hart Brothers for the WWF Tag Team Titles (1994)

Although this match is known for the Owen Hart heel turn angle, it should also be known for being a great tag match. Owen kind of had a coming out party here showing off all his impressive moves working over The Quebecers. Things turn around when Bret takes a bad spill to the floor (thanks to Johnny Polo) and the rest of the match is The Quebecers destroying Bret. The angle hits where Bret doesn’t tag in Owen, instead the referee stops the match due to Bret’s leg injury. This of course sets Owen off and their classic feud went from there.

18. Royal Rumble Match (2001)

This match is one of the final highlights of the “Attitude” era. It starts off really fun with the hardcore guys like Raven and Al Snow going crazy with weapons, but the real highlight is Kane. Kane sets a record for most eliminations in a single Rumble. He works with his brother later on for more fun. Add to that the intense Austin and Triple H segment and this match has to be considered as one of the better Rumbles.

17. Chris Jericho vs. The Rock for the WWF Title (2002)

Rock vs. Jericho
Chris Jericho and The Rock continue their great 2001 feud at the Rumble!

This is the last in the run of Jericho and Rock matches so they do a great deal of mirroring spots. They do know each other really well so it kind of works here. If Jericho stayed more on this path and did not go into Stephanie McMahon’s lap dog character, he could have had a big run in him.

16. Ric Flair vs. Mr. McMahon in a “Street Fight” (2002)

This is a real fun contest with two hugely charismatic characters. They brawl all over and produce a lot of awesome moments, including them taking turns taking pictures of each other standing in front of the Flair family who was in the first row. Mr. McMahon was a dick but Flair was a triumphant. Flair finally taking down McMahon at the end is classic story telling.

15. Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty for the WWF Intercontinental Title (1993)

This match was focused on which side would Sherri choose. She obviously went with Jannetty when she slapped Michaels early in the match. Although Jannetty was completely out of it for this one, the natural chemistry of these two over came that and this became a real good contest. The ending saw Sherri try to hit Michaels with a shoe, but he ducked and she hit Jannetty. A brawl ensued post match.

14. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho for the WWF Intercontinental Title in a “Ladder” match (2001)

I will say this flat out. I do not usually enjoy “Ladder” matches and there was plenty in this one I did not like. However, they kept this away from the “let’s do big stunts” and more towards the trying to win the match area. This is a stiff and hard match to watch, but you can not deny that it is really good.

13. Royal Rumble Match (2008)

This one is well-known for the surprise return of John Cena, but it has way more than that going for it. It starts off where the 2007 Royal Rumble ends with Shawn Micheals and The Undertaker. This is the best Rumble that has a lot of guys building up and then somebody coming in to throw them all out.

From the point Cena enters at #30 to the end, it may have one of the better stretches in Rumble history.

12. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz in a “Tables” match (2000)

rr-hardy-dudley
A real coming out party for everyone  involved!

This is as old school ECW as the WWF ever got. If you like brawling and putting guys through tables, then this is the match for you! The whole finishing sequence on top of the balcony and going through the tables is one of the better table spots you will ever see. This match really secured that The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz are legit.

11. The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM (2007)

You don’t get to see too many southern tag team matches in the WWE, but this is one of them. Just classic face-in-peril, hot tag and big finish that you would expect from two awesome teams. A really underrated match up.

10. Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon for the WWF Title (1993)

Razor Ramon had an injured knee coming into this one so of course the match is all about Bret taking out Razor’s knee. This is all built around the power of Razor versus the cunning and technique of Bret. Any Bret match that has him hit a suicide dive is a win in my books. They did a good job teasing the Sharpshooter until Bret finally put away the bad guy.

9. Bob Holly & 1-2-3 Kid vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka for the WWF Tag Team Titles (1995)

1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka
This match does what a great Royal Rumble match should, it sets up WrestleMania.

This is the finals for the WWF Tag Team Titles tournament. I have raved about Sean Waltman in the past and this is a great performance by him. To go along with The Kid, Bam Bam Bigelow was a monster here throwing  him around.

Any match that has Bigelow take a Frankensteiner by The Kid is an awesome match in my books. Add to it the hot Lawrence Taylor angle afterwards and you have a great outing here.

8. Royal Rumble Match (2007)

This match is well-known for the final two of The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels going over seven minutes. That seven minute stretch is great and really sets up two future WrestleMania’s and also the Royal Rumble of 2008.

However, there is a lot more to this match than that. You have Rated RKO working together and Finlay going over half an hour. Lots of really fun exchanges and one of the hottest finishing stretches of any Rumble. This really is the second best Rumble match altogether.

7. Greg Valentine vs. Ron Garvin in a “Submission” match (1990)

Two veterans stiffing the crap out of each other in a long match, what is not to love? There is some silliness with the constant attempts for pin falls and the “Hammer Jammer.” However, those things are kind of alright in the crazy context of wrestling. The real joy here is the punishment these two bring to each other with their vicious chops.

6. Diesel vs. Bret Hart for the WWF Title (1995)

Bret Hart sure knew how to pull a great match out of Diesel. This one is no exception. Hart played the subtle heel here and he is really the master of it. He seemed like such a dick going consistently after Diesel’s leg. This one had your weird DQ’s, then continue the match, then DQ. It’s kind of a bummer finish, but it beautifully sets up Survivor Series 10 months later.

5. The Undertaker vs. Rey Mysterio for the World Title (2010)

Out of all the matches that I re-watched to make this list, this was the most surprising. I thought it was a good match when I watched it live, but after this re-watch it truly is a great match.

This is all about the big man versus the little man with the little man being quicker and maybe smarter. In a huge surprise, Rey makes The Undertaker bleed in this one with a kick. They did a great job of teasing all of the big moves and building up to the most epic Last Ride in history for the finish. Everybody needs to re-watch this one!

4. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack for the WWF Title in a “Street Fight” (2000)

This may be the most brutal match in WWF history. These two put each other through hell with tables, chairs, thumbtacks, barbed-wire and anything else you can think about. It’s a bloody brawl with  intense  drama and a great story. It also plays off of the Mankind match the year prior with him being handcuffed again. This time The Rock makes the save unlike last year when he tried to kill him.

3. Royal Rumble Match for the WWF Title (1992)

Royal_Rumble_1992
Most awesome poster ever

There can’t be any real doubt on what the best Royal Rumble match is. This is the only one for the WWF Title and is a real Ric Flair show. From Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan making him the focus, to each guy coming into the match going right after Flair, he is the man in this one.

This is also the most star-studded Rumble ever. Former champions include Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Kerry Von Erich and The Undertaker. With all of those stars vying for the WWF Title, the drama never stops.

2. The Rockers vs. The Orient Express (1991)

As exciting of a match as you can think of.
As exciting of a match as you can think of.

After re-watching all of these matches for this project, I started to notice how the Royal Rumble is a show for great tag team wrestling. It makes sense because you want your singles stars in the Rumble match itself.

This is the best of those tag matches and one of the greatest opening matches in WWF history. If you want the show to start off hot, why not have double suicide dives? Why not have an awesome face-in-peril sequence followed with a ridiculously hot hot tag? The Rockers were known as tag team specialists and it showed in this match coming up with a ton of creative double teams.

The finish is insane with a slingshot and sunset flip combo which I have never seen before or since. A real fantastic tag match!

1. John Cena vs. Umaga for the WWE Title in a “Last Man Standing” match (2007)

Cena and Umaga from 2007
Cena and Umaga from 2007

Here we are at the best match in the history of the Royal Rumble. These two had an awesome match earlier that month on pay-per-view and I was very excited for this one at the time.

This one did not disappoint. Here is a wild brawl between an unstoppable monster and the ultimate “never back down” babyface. You get a real chaotic feel – especially near the end – where Umaga takes apart the ring in order to use it for a weapon.

The final moments of Cena using the STFU assisted with the ring ropes to choke out the monster, while he is a bloody mess, is one of the best highlights in the long history of the Royal Rumble!

This concludes my list. Please leave your feedback on the Place to Be Nation facebook page and follow me on twitter @StevenGrahamTWS.

Author: Steven Graham

The host of the Pro-Wrestling Super Show, a weekly podcast that is the PWI of P2BN. Send Steven an email