This year I’ll be attending my first Royal Rumble ever, and to get geared up for it, I’ve been doing a rewatch of all the previous shows. I have always LOVED the Rumble shows – even the bad ones are still usually pretty decent. In fact, through my rewatching of them, only one show sticks out as a real turd from start to finish, and that’s 1995.
What makes the Rumble so enjoyable of course is the combination of star power, cannon fodder getting a few surprise eliminations or deep runs, and storylines advancing or starting brand new. It’s rarely just the winner that matters, as most Rumble matches have several key moments: Who can forget Hogan dumping Savage in 89, Perfect tossing Flair in 93, the return of Cena in 08 or perhaps the greatest moment in Rumble history – the debut of Giant Gonzalez in 1993?
Since I’m a sucker for Rumbles, and I’m a sucker for lists, I came up with an idea. What if I took every Rumble entrant by number and picked the best from each show? What kind of 30-man lineup would we be looking at? Let’s find out!
I went through the history of the Rumbles and looked at every number, who came in that number and decided which guy would be the best choice. Here’s a couple rules I put into place: No wrestler can be used twice, EVERY year must be represented at least once, and I could only choose ONE Rumble winner.
With that in mind, here’s my lineup for the ULTIMATE Royal Rumble:
#1- Stone Cold Steve Austin (1999)-When I first had the idea for this, I thought I’d go with the very first Rumble entry EVER – Bret Hart in 1988, but I went with Austin for one main reason: I didn’t want to use one of his three Rumble wins. That left 1999 and 2002 as my only choices, since he was still The Ringmaster in 1996. So why not start a match off with the Texas Rattlesnake? He’s got star power, stamina and ring skill, so he’s a perfect fit if you want to do a coast to coast run with your #1 guy.
Honorable Mention: Bret Hart, 1988 – The man who started it all.
#2- Davey Boy Smith (1995)-Davey’s best finish in a Rumble was in 95, when he finished second to Shawn Michaels. Truth be told, I would have rather gone with another pick here, but there was one thing that kept bringing me back to Davey Boy – the wretched 1995 lineup. I had to pick SOMEONE from that match, and I wasn’t going to pick the winner, so why not the runner-up? Besides, it wasn’t TOTALLY out of the question that Davey could win the 95 match, so it’s not like I’m settling for a total scrub here, but I’d prefer the honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Chris Jericho, 2013 – Great surprise return.
#3- Ric Flair (1992 WINNER)-The only entry I had locked in place when I started. The 92 Rumble is one of the best ever, and Flair was great throughout. Basically doing an hour-long sell job for everyone and winning in a star-studded year. Consider this: The final four that year ALL won multiple WWF AND WCW world titles. Plus, imagining this match, how fun would it be to see Stone Cold in his heyday pound on Flair who was maybe just out of his prime at this point?
Honorable Mention: Andre The Giant, 1989 – Hard to leave Andre out, but I had to here.
#4- Jake Roberts (1990)-The Snake comes in to even up the heel/face numbers and side with The Rattlesnake. Only four entries in and we’ve probably got our first guy that people probably wouldn’t buy as winning the match (given who else is in it), but I’ll take Jake over, say, Bushwhacker Luke as an also-ran any day of the week. 1990 Jake was still in good shape and smart enough to make his run noteworthy.
Honorable Mention: The Rock, 1998 – I chose a better version of The Rock later on.
#5- Owen Hart (1994)-The great thing about both Owen and Bret is no matter WHAT year you use them, they’re essentially the same talent. Owen never really deteriorated in talent, he just got better and better. His 94 Rumble match was short, as he fell victim to the famous Diesel elimination run, but my picks are not based on how they fared in the match, but how much they could bring to the table in a hypothetical dream match. Owen could bring a LOT.
Honorable Mention: Drew Carey, 2001 – Because why not?
#6- Rick Martel (1991)-This pick changed back and forth a lot with several different guys rotating through the spot, but I really wanted it to be Martel all along. For a while, I thought I wouldn’t get this one as I had to keep shifting spots to make sure all years were represented, but I’m glad I got to fit Martel in. His 91 Rumble was the first “long distance” entry we saw, and he made it seem effortless.
Honorable Mention: Kane, 2001 – Kane’s best Rumble match ever.
#7- John Morrison (2011)-When you look at the list of who’s in so far, Morrison definitely stands out in terms of star power. He’s considerably lower down the pecking order, and their placement on the cards was one of my biggest factors: I was looking for more main eventers and superstars and not your average mid-card guys. But Morrison (and later Kofi Kingston) did a great job at leaving their mark in the Rumble matches despite having no realistic chance of winning. Morrison’s “Spiderman” moment in 2011 was maybe the most lasting image of the entire match!
Honorable Mention: Diesel, 1994 – Almost went with this just because it MADE him.
#8-Batista (2008) – Since I didn’t use Diesel in the seven spot, I figured now would be a good time for the first big man of the match. Batista has won the Rumble before and a few world titles, so he’s a believable threat to win, and every Rumble match has a powerhouse go on an elimination spree or go toe to toe with another powerhouse. Batista could pull off either spot pretty well.
Honorable Mention: Undertaker, 2002 – I decided to go with a Deadman Taker later on rather than Bikertaker.
#9- Kane (2006) – Of course, the 2001 Kane would be the best choice, not just for his performance in that match, but Kane may have been at his peak there. BUT the difference between Kane in 01 and 06 is not all that different. Like Owen and Bret, Kane’s longevity and consistency are great assets for a project like this, I could choose just about any of his matches, and he’s had more of them than anyone except Shawn Michaels, tying him for the record with EIGHTEEN Rumble appearances if you count his Isaac Yankem and Fake Diesel appearances. Kane may not be the best worker around, but he’s always solid in the Rumble.
Honorable Mention: Yokozuna, 1996 – Tempted to throw him in just for the fun “Everybody dump the fat guy” spot.
#10-Mr. Perfect (1993) – I was glad I found a spot to use him because some of his other Rumble numbers just happened to be in the same spot as better choices. While I prefer a heel Mr. Perfect, he could still go in 93 and had a lot of babyface fire. Maybe he could hit the ring and go after Flair here just like he did in the actual 93 match or maybe he could heel it up a bit. Either way, a great guy for Rumbles as he could sell the near eliminations well and last for an extended period of time.
Honorable Mention: Dusty Rhodes, 1990 – Thought about giving a spot to the Dream just for the star power, but the less polka dots, the better.
#11- Sheamus (2013)-Say what you want about his babyface character, and I’ll agree it’s a heaping plate of hot garbage, but Sheamus the WORKER is excellent. Guys like Sheamus are always good for a sudden burst of power spot where they eliminate a big guy. Maybe Sheamus could dump Kane or even Batista here. And as soon as he gets annoying with the smilin’ babyface garbage, he can get dumped. Then, in classic terrible Sheamus character, he could throw a fit and eliminate the guy who took him out. OK, can you tell I think Smilin’ Sheamus is actually a jerky douche?
Honorable Mention: Mark Henry, 2011 – Just to split some wigs.
#12- The Undertaker (1991)-Not my ideal Taker choice as he was still fairly lousy in 91, but in later years he hasn’t been in Rumbles, or he won it. Still, while he wasn’t quite the worker in 91 that he developed into down the road, Undertaker was ALWAYS a huge star. And for what I’m going for, star power trumps workrate if I’m forced to choose.
Honorable Mention: Chris Benoit, 2006 – If I wanted workrate over star power, this is probably the choice.
#13- The Rock (2001) – And here’s why the 98 Rock was only an honorable mention. By 2001, Rock was a bigger star, a better wrestler and even in better shape. Maybe the best thing about having a guy like Rock in a Rumble is unlike other stars, he’d be willing to take the elimination from someone way lower down the card, in order to make them a star. I could totally see Rock getting eliminated by a snarky heel Owen here.
Honorable Mention: Big Bossman, 1992 – Bossman was great here, but it would mean no Flair. So no go.
#14-Eddie Guerrero (2003) – Or maybe Rock could get eliminated by Eddie! Guerrero was still a year off from being a world champ in 03, but his star was certainly starting to shine. Eddie gives you options as you could have him do a marathon run to the end, play the slimy heel or the plucky babyface. Maybe the best choice to do an “out of the box” type story with, ala Steve Austin being eliminated but sneaking back in at 97 or even pulling a Lawler under the ring for a bit.
Honorable Mention: Umaga, 2008 – There are better big men and more legit ones as well.
#15- Randy Savage (1989)-Any Savage is good, but how about Macho at his peak? Just before turning heel, his paranoia was starting to seep through and he was full speed ahead from the moment the bell rang. Just like Eddie before, you could do a lot of things with Savage as his character is well suited for heel tactics or babyface selling, depending on who’s in the ring.
Honorable Mention: Roddy Piper, 1992 – Another victim of Flair’s greatness.
#16- Mankind (1998)-We’re now into the second half of the entrants and we start with an interesting one. The 2nd of Foley’s three 98 Rumble entrances, but this time he’s not coming out three times. The good thing about getting Foley here is the match is half over, so you don’t have to worry about him running out of steam, and in 98 he was still relatively healthy, so he could do some wild Foley stuff and make the Rumble a little hardcore.
Honorable Mention: Undertaker, 2009 – A much better Taker than the 91 version, but the 98 show was surprisingly slim in terms of big time talent so I had to use Foley here.
#17- Chyna (2000)-If any pick gets crapped on, this one is probably it, but hear me out: Chyna in 2000 was still a big deal. She was Intercontinental Champion until just an hour or two before the Rumble itself! Plus, entries like this are what make the Rumble exciting: That “Holy crap!” entry that nobody was expecting doesn’t even have to stay in long (see Booker T in 2011), just get the initial crowd pop from their return, and send them out to get dumped. Plus, a lot of the big 2000 talent is used elsewhere.
Honorable Mention: Owen Hart, 1996 – #17 picks are surprisingly “meh” overall.
#18- Hulk Hogan (1989)-Hogan from 89 gives us our first Rumble with two entrants, as 89 Savage was just a few spots earlier. Along with Flair, this was a pick I had locked in from the start: If you’re using stars, you HAVE to have Hulk Hogan. He was in 89-92, but he won 90-91, and I’m using 92’s winner already-so I went here. Hogan in all his douchy babyface glory could come in and dump several babyfaces before getting legitimately eliminated and throwing a fit.
Honorable Mention: Shawn Michaels, 2010 – One of the best sympathy performances ever.
#19- One Man Gang (1988)– Well, I had to use the 88 Rumble eventually, and since there were only 20 in that one, it has to be here or the next spot. Junkyard Dog was probably a bigger name than Gang at the 20 spot, but for a match like this, I’d prefer to see Gang do his big man stuff. Not gonna win, but maybe he can splash a few guys before either getting GANGED up on (see what I did there?) or having a power wrestler take him out.
Honorable Mention: Lex Luger, 1995 – Certainly a bigger star than Gang was, but I’m not losing any sleep over leaving Luger out. Also John Cena, 2010 – But he’s coming soon.
#20- Shelton Benjamin (2010)-Two fairly “meh” entries in a row in terms of star power, but when you have Rock, Eddie, Foley, Hogan and Savage coming in just before these guys, maybe you need a bit of a breather. I picked Shelton because I thought he could do some innovative elimination saves like Morrison earlier in the match. No other reason really. Moving on.
Honorable Mention: Rob Van Dam, 2006 – Probably a better choice, but I needed a 2010 representative.
#21- Bret Hart (1997)- A big reason I went with Steve Austin in the #1 slot over Bret from 88 is that Bret in 97 is a whole lot better than he was in that first run: Bigger star, better worker, better character. Can’t really lose with ANY placement of Bret, but I feel like I lucked out getting him during his main event run. It was either this or the 95 match, and I like 97 Bret better.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Bryan, 2013: Would like to have Daniel in here, but not at the expense of losing the Hitman.
#22- Diesel (1996) – A lot like Savage in 89, here you got a guy who is JUST ABOUT to turn heel. Diesel wasn’t great in terms of workrate here (or ever really), but I liked his cocky, tough guy character in this time period and the Rumble is the perfect match to hide ring flaws. Diesel can come in, dump a guy or two, hit some big spots, then rest in a corner choking someone with his big boot until it’s time for him to go.
Honorable Mention: Earthquake, 1991 – Tough call here, as Quake is probably a better worker, but I needed a 96 guy and Diesel was a bigger star.
#23- Shawn Michaels (2007) – I actually liked Shawn’s story in the 2010 match better, but this one worked out perfect: Shawn was still absolutely great here and if I used 2010, I’d lose out on Hogan. This way, I get both and don’t have to lose out. Plus, with 18 appearances, I’ve got lots of Michaels to choose from, and this is one of his best performances.
Honorable Mention: Mr. Perfect, 1991 – Would be a nice addition, but I’ve already got him and really every other option pales in comparison to Michaels.
#24- Big Show (2004)-I couldn’t find a place for Andre, so Big Show will do as a suitable replacement. Maybe its sacrilege to say, but I would prefer to have Show anyway. Yes, Andre was a bigger star, but Show can just DO a lot more. Case in point: The way he was eliminated in this match, with the slow choke submission slowly taking him out…I honestly don’t think Andre could pull it off.
Honorable Mention: Kane, 2013 – Already have Kane, and like the last entry, Show stood out as the obvious one to me. Not much else to choose from.
#25- John Cena (2005)-Cena’s all over the Rumbles from the last 10 years or so, so I had a lot of choices, but this one just fell right into place. He didn’t win, and in 2005, he was still quite popular and not receiving the loud boos. Really any Cena entry is going to give you the same thing, and I don’t mean that in a negative way.
Honorable Mention: Rob Van Dam, 2009 – This was a very cool surprise return.
#26- Kurt Angle (2002)-Coming into the home stretch and we get Angle in his prime? Yes please! Easy choice here as I wanted Angle to WIN the Rumble in 02 over the bloated Triple H (Look for this line to be redacted by the almighty Scott should he ever read it.)
Honorable Mention: The Big Show, 2000 – Definitely in better shape than 04 Show, but not worth losing Angle over.
#27- Dolph Ziggler (2009) – Not much to say here. Running out of slots and still need a 09 entry. Dolph can pinball bump around for a few guys I guess.
Honorable Mention: Faarooq, 1998 – A little more star power than Dolph, I guess. Not much though, and I need a 2009 guy.
#28- Randy Orton (2012)-Perfect timing for Orton to come in, hit an RKO on everyone in the match still and clear up any dead space that may be in there. Orton’s certainly not a jobber, but when I look at the lineup here, I have to think he is second tier and not a likely winner.
Honorable Mention: Rick Rude, 1990 – Shame leaving Rude off the card, but it is what it is.
#29-Triple H (2008)-Another guy with a lot of options, and I knew I’d find a spot for him eventually. Would prefer a Triple H from his great heel run in 00-01, but he wasn’t in those Rumbles. And I didn’t want to use bloated, musclebound Triple H that just didn’t bring the goods. This version will do just fine.
Honorable Mention: Sid Justice, 1992 – Would love to have Sid in there, BUT if I have to choose, I’ll take Triple H.
#30-Ted DiBiase (1989)– Rounding out the list is the THIRD entry from 1989, but maybe the best #30 in terms of storyline purpose. Ideally, you’d have DiBiase in their earlier since he could go for a while, but given this roster, that’s not an issue. So instead, let’s end with a sleazy heel BUYING the best spot.
Honorable Mention: Vader, 1998 – Vader was sort of an afterthought by 98, and to be honest, I knew I was going to pick DiBiase here all along.
There you have it! The ULTIMATE Royal Rumble, number by number. Loaded with star power, full of talent and variety, I think this would be one heck of a match. What do you think? Maybe you need a refresher course on the Rumbles? Buy the DVD anthology, and if you do that, why not go through Amazon.com, by clicking the link right here on The Place to Be!