The Royal Rumble is upon us. Arguably wrestlings greatest invention since the steel chair, the match has been going strong for 25+ years now, with no signs of slowing down. The match is just, for lack of a better term, fun. 30 men drawing lots, each coming out every minute to 90 seconds to two minutes (roughly…most years the guy keeping the time of the match has ADD). A man is eliminated when thrown over the top rope and both of his feet hit the floor. The match is a showcase for both great pure wrestlers, who often draw early numbers and showcase their abilities for upwards of forty minutes to an hour, to the powerhouses, the “hosses” who obliterate every mid-carder in their path. It also has a tinge of nostalgia, as, frequently, stars from the past make an appearance to spark crowd reaction. If there is a match that, truly, is foolproof, it is the Rumble.
That said, in this scribes opinion, three Rumble matches stand out more than the other 23. So without further ado, here are my top three Royal Rumbles of all time.
3. Royal Rumble, 1990. Won by Hulk Hogan
I hate having to link that many times, but I could not find the full match anywhere. Anyway, the 1990 Royal Rumble holds the distinction as the first wrestling PPV I ever saw, so if some may think I have overrated it, tough. It has sentimental value to me. It also contains a remarkable amount of star power and WWE Hall of Famers. The ending was far from in doubt, as Hulk Hogan had yet to win one of these puppies yet, and his ego dictated that he get the duke here. However, there are a couple of storylines that help to make this Rumble special.
First was this: In the previous year’s Rumble, Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, somewhat dubiously selected the best draw, number thirty. The story was he had bought the number from another wrestler. Hey, everybody has a price. His luck, and, apparently, his ends, ran out this year as he drew number one. That was the underlying storyline for the first half of the match, as he eludes elimination over and over again until finally the golden boy of the era, The Ultimate Warrior, eliminates him shortly after he enters the fray. Speaking of the Warrior…
The biggest moment of this match was the confrontation of the two biggest, shining stars of the WWF at the time: Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. As a nine year old viewing this, it was near orgasmic, or as orgasmic as a nine year old is likely to be. I am certain it gave Vince McMahon an erection, given his predilection for larger than life roid monsters. It was far from Hackenschmidt- Gotch in terms of pure wrestling action, but when the two went nose to nose and eventually clotheslined eachother, the main event for WrestleMania VI was readily apparent. And that was a sigh of relief for WWF fans of the time, because, just by going by the ebb and flow of WWF storylines at the time, it appeared the main event for WM VI was going to be Hogan against non-wrestler Zeus, a frightening proposition. For those uninitiated, or who have blocked that memory from mind, Zeus was “Tiny: Lister, the man who played Deebo in the classic Ice Cube movie, “Friday.” He was also the antagonist in Vince McMahon’s first foray into celluloid, “No Holds Barred,” a horrible star vehicle for Hulk Hogan. Don’t get me wrong, Zeus was an imposing physical entity, but this was stretching the bounds of sanity. A guy playing a role in a movie becoming so deluded that he becomes said role, and decides to go after the star and hero of the movie? That match would have been the biggest flop in the history of pro wrestling, and that covers some significant, dubious ground. Thank God Vince McMahon had the foresight to have Warrior and Hogan face off in this Rumble.
2. Royal Rumble 2004. Won by Chris Benoit
This WAS my favorite Rumble match, and, possibly, my favorite moment ever in wrestling…until June 25, 2007.
Anyway, upon further viewing of the match, its obvious that this is one of the greatest Rumble matches ever. The story of the match lies with Chris Benoit, as he is on an odyssey to win the World Title that he so richly deserved at that point, and Smackdown GM Paul Heyman gave him this one last opportunity to attain it. Benoit had to win this match, with the caveat that he was the first man to enter the fray. The match featured the smaller Benoit systematically eliminating much larger men like Matt Morgan, Mark Henry, and, ultimately, The Big Show, who had survived elimination attempts from just about everyone in the ring. No one could eliminate the seven foot, five hundred pound monster. No two or three or eight men could do it. Benoit hooked a front chokehold on the giant and put him out, earning a title shot at WrestleMania XX. At the time, it was a true mark out moment for me, as Benoit was my favorite wrestler, and totally underutilized.
The match not only featured the Benoit saga, it showcased the return of another favorite wrestler of mine: Mick Foley. You see, Foley had been honored about a month earlier at Madison Square Garden for his accomplishments in wrestling. However, Randy Orton interrupted the proceedings and spit in Foley’s face. Literally. A match was set between the two, but Foley, uncharacteristically, begged out of the match, stating he could not summon the hate necessary to fight the young upstart “Legend Killer” Orton. Foley at the time was four years retired, with a beautiful wife and several children. How could he go to the depths he had when a star with the WWF years prior?
Well, the Rumble comes around in 04. Benoit has drawn number one, but that young whippersnapper Orton drew number two. The match had basically been built around those two, the young lion and the wily veteran. So number twenty-one comes. It was supposed to be Test, the once McMahon golden boy, but cameras panned to him being laid out before his entry. Then Raw GM Steve Austin accosted the attacker and ordered the man into the Rumble match. An exhausted Orton was dumbfounded when that entrant was…Mick Foley!!! Foley absolutely assaulted Orton from the proverbial pillar to post, eventually eliminating himself and his nemesis from the fray. It was one of the greatest Rumble storylines ever, and led to even greater matches at WrestleMania XX and Backlash a month later. but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The other great aspect of this Rumble was Ernest “The Cat” Miller. For the uninitiated, he was the “Shiek” character in the Mickey Rourke vehicle “The Wrestler.” Never a great wrestler, but the consummate showman, Orton and Benoit were both down and out, exhausted by their efforts in trying to win the damn match. Miller enters when both men are unconscious, led by his personal ring announcer, Lamal, and he proceeds, not to beat his adversaries, but to DANCE. It is a great spot, where Benoit and Orton realize what he is doing, and eliminate both Miller and his bitch. Just a fun Rumble, won by the right guy at the right time, with some great action. This was number one, for three years. But the events of June 25, 2007, made this next entry number one.
1. Royal Rumble 1992. Winner: Ric Flair.
What can I say about this Rumble? Read the original rant on it.