So now that the dust has settled from my trip , I’m beginning to think what my favourite moment from Wrestlemania weekend was. Whilst the Shinsuke Nakamura/Sami Zayn match was incredible and the Shane McMahon dive off the cage was breathtaking, the most iconic moment is rather not a return, or a match, but instead a change in direction for an important group of roster members.
First some history. WWE – in a way to avoid athletic laws – has always tried to distance itself from being professional wrestling. As such, it calls itself “Sports Entertainment”, and it’s wrestlers “Superstars”. It’s a way to brand it to be different, and they are very very careful about how they brand them.
However, their women’s division, which began again in around 1998 after a break of a few years, has been referred to in a different name for the last few years: “Divas”. Although it’s branded as such, it’s generally seen as a bit of a derogatory term, as generally unless you’re Mariah Carey, nobody wants to be called a “Diva”.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only thing that has held back women’s wrestling, as the hiring policy has seemed to value looks over athletic talent. Wrestlemania – the pinnacle of the pro-wrestling world, has generally seen the “Divas” compete in poor, nothing matches, usually seeing the #1 contender be whoever posed in Playboy for their “Wrestlemania Special”. That is when the “Divas” title had been defended. Often there has been matches, usually involving Z-List celebrities, or battle royales which lead to nothing and generally terrible and throwaways. Although the company has referred to these matches as “Divas matches”, the colloquial term amongst the fans due to the fact these matches are often placed between two other more marquee matches has been to refer to these matches as “The Piss Break”.
However, whilst glorified models had been stinking up the main roster, NXT saw something grow – really good women’s wrestling. True athletes were given time on shows to wrestle great matches. Lead by Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley, women’s wrestling became the highlight of these shows.
Although talent such as AJ Lee, Emma, Natalya & Paige existed on the main roster, it was often in throwaway matches and occasionally at the expense of less talented women. It came to a head on February 23rd, 2015, where Paige and Emma took on The Bella Twins in a match that lasted under 30 seconds. In a three hour show. This came after a match on NXT a few days earlier where Sasha Banks took on one of Indie Wrestling’s top female stars Leva Bates’ non-Cosplay character “Blue Pants” in a feature match on the card, and the fans finally snapped. Shortly after #GiveDivasAChance trended on Twitter, and WWE had to act.
It was a stop/start push. There was a half decent tag match at Wrestlemania 31, and Paige had some good matches with the rapidly improving Bella Twins and Alicia Fox, but it came to a head on July 13th of RAW when Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks debuted on the main roster. Whilst well received, the WWE saw fit to rebrand this as a “Divas Revolution”, and whilst matches received more focus, nothing really changes – the matches were still not hugely focussed, and they were still Divas, competing for a title that looked like a bad tattoo from a drunken weekend in Ibiza.
This all changed in the Royal Rumble at the beginning of the year, when Charlotte and Becky Lynch had one of the strongest matches on the card. This match – that saw Charlotte retain the Divas title in an absolute clinic, saw the return of Sasha Banks (who had been booked impeccably since her debut), and the venue came unglued.
It was a validation to three quarters of the four horsemen, and they were put into a marquee match at Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas. The three women wrestlers were put on the front cover of the programme, with a genuine storyline (that isn’t built on who was sleeping with who, but on respect and wanting to be the best in the world), and generally given a huge opportunity.
And boy, it was a marquee match.
All three got special entrances, Lynch got a steampunk entrance which fit her character, Sasha Banks got her cousin (Snoop Dogg) rapping her to the ring, and Snoop Dogg was referred to as Banks’ cousin, not the other way around. And Charlotte was given fireworks, a robe that borrowed heavily from her daddy, and looked majestic and every bit a star. They were all stars, and had an incredible match that became only the second women’s match in WWE history that lasted over 10 minutes (the other one? The women’s match approximately 90 minutes earlier on the pre-show of Wresltemania 32). After 16 minutes of probably the best match on the card, Charlotte beat Becky Lynch to become the first ever WWE Women’s Champion.
Yes, they dropped the “Divas” moniker which pidgeonholed female athletes. As I’m writing this we’re on the way to WWE Extreme Rules (one of the next big show after Wrestlemania), there are two genuine feuds, and one main evented the lead in Raw to the Pay Per View. There isn’t just one shoehorned in.
So, the moment for me for Wrestlemania is that women’s wrestling is something to be proud of. Sure it will have a few bumps down the road, but how WWE has handles the closing of the “Diva’s Revolution” and the beginning of the “Women’s Wrestling Era”, has been absolutely superb.
I’ll end with this tweet from Max Landis. Showing why it matters to millions of fans around the world.
So after New Orleans was the main event of the holiday: a trip to Dallas to tick something off the bucket list: Wrestlemania!
We actually spent a week in Dallas, but the first 3 days was in a pretty sweet AirBNB and we spent 3 days chilling in the city (including the newest entry on my favourite BBQ Pit ever, Lockhart Smoke House), but that was largely having a few drinks, a round of mini golf, and generally getting ourselves into a food coma.
On the Friday, we arrived in Dallas’ Sheraton hotel for the Wrestlemania weekend. We attended an all you can eat BBQ meal at Texas De Brazil. This came a close second in “Best BBQ food of the trip”, as it was slightly different. However I think the 3 day food coma after Lockhart scared me a bit so I avoided eating too much.
After that was probably the show that most of us were looking forward to that weekend, the NXT Takeover: Dallas. NXT is WWE’s separate brand which it’s developmental brand and the participants are often well liked by the hardcore audience. One such participant is Shinsuke Nakamura, widely regarded as the best wrestler in the world. Imagine if Freddie Mercury was Japanese and really good at kicking people in the head. NXT Takeover Dallas was Nakamura’s debut, facing long time favourite Sami Zayn.
This match didn’t disappoint, and was easily the second best match I’ve ever seen live. The crowd was lively for this match and it went longer than 20 minutes. It’s well worth checking out! The rest of the card was pretty good too, with the two title changes being standout matches, if the main event was affected by the early cut on Samoa Joe.
The next day I woke relatively early and headed to Wrestlemania Axxess. This was relatively disappointing mainly because the queues were incredibly long. It was expected to be fair and I am glad I went early as the afternoon session was just crazy. I did get to meet Goldust though which was cool, although the picture hasn’t shown up online yet.
The evening we got all suited and booted for the WWE Hall of Fame. This was actually a pleasant surprise on how good this was. It was good listening to the stories and tales, admittedly one speech dominated all – The Fabulous Freebirds speech was 45 minutes of just “I’ve a live microphone, I don’t care”.
After the event we headed to the House of Blues for probably one of the more crazier moments of the weekend, a Ringside Chat with Jim Ross. It was in the notorious House of Blues in Dallas and although the drinks were probably the most expensive of the weekend (even more than Wrestlemania beers in the AT&T), everybody was suitably sloshed. Jim told a few stories and then brought on his guest – Rob Van Dam – and then things kinda went drunken and rowdy. Not rowdy enough for the gentleman sitting next to me, who slept through most of it, but nevertheless it was rowdy. After a while Hurricane Helms and Jeff Hardy (who were not scheduled to be there) turned up and then it went really downhill with the Q&A section seemingly falling by the wayside. Nobody really complained though as it was a fun evening. I just wish I could remember more of it.
Onto the big day – Wrestlemania 32 at AT&T stadium. We started early, attending the Wrestlemania Terry Funk Tailgate which saw BBQ food, live wrestling, and an appearance and a meet and greet by legendary Terry Funk. The BBQ was wonderful (though the mash potato was cold? Was this a Texan thing?), and a nice surprise was that fairly well known wrestlers showed up including So Cal Val, Sami Callahan and (I think) Johnny Gargano. All – as well as Terry Funk – were lovely people. But after being fed and chatting with a few people, we headed over to the AT&T.
It has been documented that getting into the stadium was a nightmare. That it was. It opened late (not too late, about 15 minutes or so late), and it was blistering heat outside. After running to the concessions for a drink, we then went and took our seats a good half hour before the show started. Thankfully we were lucky, as even as the show started people were still filing in, some not getting to their seats until well into the show.
So what of Wrestlemania itself? As a spectacle, it was wonderful (and weirdly despite being 7 hours long, it didn’t drag). However there was some strange decisions made, and the main event was the only match that I felt was really poor. I enjoyed the pre-show, the Intercontinental Title match and the Women’s match. The battle royale was fun, AJ & Jericho was a masterclass, and Shane vs. The Undertaker was a stuntfest. The rest was middling to poor though. Overall it wasn’t a dreadful Wrestlemania, and there was enough “Spectacle” to make it feel special.
The next day was the final day, and we arranged to meet a few people from the BBQ for drinks and this is when I really began to appreciate the trip, after having a few drinks, we headed to a memorable Monday Night Raw in the American Airlines centre. This show, which usually drags (as it’s another three hours) seem to fly by, with genuine shocks, returns and a rabid crowd, made this probably the second best show of the weekend.
All in all, 3 very different shows, but why you should attend Wrestlemania weekend if you’re a fan? You meet fans from all over the world. You can actually have conversations about a crazy sport and not bore people to death. Now I can count friends from all over the globe as fans of a crazy “sport”, from Americans who offered me couches, to Aussies who were super nice, and Irish people who came up with the best Roman Reigns chant I’ve ever heard. And that makes me so happy. In short, to borrow a chant, the people who went to Dallas, were awesome.
The single most frustrating thing about the weekend was the hotel. The WiFi was paid for which sucked immensely. If you have a large international contingent, WWE, please wrangle free WiFi.
So this year (in case you don’t know, as I’ve been banging on about it loads), I’m ticking off two things off my bucket list. The first of which is in March where myself (along with Shane and Owen) are off to Wrestlemania. And there was much pointing at signs.
This year’s Wrestlemania has taken on a huge amount of significance for me, as it is a focal point of a holiday for me. I imagine it’s like those who book Glastonbury before any act is announced. You know you’ll enjoy yourself, and it’ll be fun, but you’re not quite sure exactly how good.
The last two Wrestlemanias are considered to be two of the better ones, 31 saw them save the main event with a cash in by popular-bad-guy Seth Rollins on unpopular-good-guy Roman Reigns to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. The 30th edition saw the main event culminate with underdog Daniel Bryan beating hand-picked stars Batista & Randy Orton to win the main event. In recent years, there is a feeling that Wrestlemania has become a favourite to “smarks” – a hardcore set of fans who will spend small fortunes to attend the event, giving memorable moments to appeal to cater to those in attendance.
Interestingly, both years have seen drastic changes from what is seen as the start of the road to Wrestlemania: The Royal Rumble.
In both years Rumbles, those who were seen as popular choices (read Daniel Bryan) didn’t win. Both caused massive backlashes that did force rewriting of the main events – especially in Rollins’ case – who wasn’t expected to win until during the event itself.
This year however sees something a bit difficult when it comes to the focal point of the Royal Rumble – a 30 man over-the-top rope Battle Royal (seriously, watch them, they’re good fun). Traditionally the winner are awarded a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania as a prize. However this time the winner will go into that event in all likelihood as champion, as the current champion (the more-popular-than-last-year-but-still-not-very-popular-good-guy Roman Reigns) is defending the title in the match itself.
The second point is something fascinating (if a little frustrating): there are a lot of injuries at the moment. Every single person who left last year’s Wrestlemania as a champion is currently injured, along with other mid carders, meaning that it’s a little thin for this year’s Mania already.
The WWE therefore have been booked into a bit of a corner and have a golden opportunity to do something: create a brand new star. They had this opportunity a few months ago leading into Survivor Series but they returned to the status quo, I feel though – this time could be different, and that is because of Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania is in the 100,000 seater AT&T Stadium in Dallas Texas and it needs to sell out most of those seats – as well as put on a show for those 100,000 people that doesn’t disappoint. As such, it needs either a star studded cast, or a culmination of a storyline. The cast is present with Rock and Austin at the show but alas none of them will be in matches. So it is left for the storyline to pick up the slack.
At the moment, the logical thing is for Reigns to lose the championship and make the chase again for the title, winning it back at Wrestlemania – likely against Triple H. It isn’t exactly the most desirable main event match considering the wealth of options currently on the roster, but that makes the most sense.
But what if they do something different, and actually have a surprise winner of the Rumble? Of course, there are names like Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in the match, but what happens if they take each other out leading to somebody else standing tall after 29 other men have been eliminated? I’m not sure it will draw massive buys, but then again I’m not sure if Reigns vs Triple H will draw massive buys either. So why not experiment a bit?
In all likelihood the stale, safe option will be taken, and when the dust settles early Monday morning, we’re set for a fairly safe option for Wrestlemania. But this year feels like the most unpredictable Royal Rumble ever, and just for that, it makes it one worth watching.
In a few days I’ll be posting my Royal Rumble Predictions on Wrestling Betting. This is probably the hardest post to write in recent memory!
Please Note: The Below does contain a number of spoilers from as yet aired TV Shows
The past weekend me, Si & Shane attended the TNA Maximum Impact V tour, held in the MCR Arena in Manchester. This was me and Si’s time attending TNA, and Shane’s third (though admittedly, this was the second year we have made a proper day of it.
This event had a number of firsts. Firstly it featured the first time ever in the UK a cage match (a first for me, as I’ve never seen a cage match before), but probably more importantly, it would be the first time the Manchester shows would be taped for TV. I’ve attended TV Tapings before with WWE, and they are…interesting to say the least. Sure you get all the big starts, but TV tapings generally mean that things are filmed a number of times, leaving the crowd getting restless. Also, as the UK is such a small part of the WWE “Universe”, rarely any advancement is made on storylines. Thankfully TNA realise how big it is over here, and we were treated to a number of large storyline developments.
As well as the big stars like Sting, Bully Ray, RVD, James Storm, Bobby Roode and Hulk Fricking Hogan being on tour, Manchester also got two of the three stars of TNA’s British Boot Camp. You had the winner – Rockstar Spud – who as somebody who has had a keen interest in the British scene I’ve never seen wrestle live. We also got an appearance from The Blossom Twins, who I’ve seen a few times for Futureshock Wrestling in Stockport, the last of which they wrestled one of my Facebook Friends.
So we’re like besties. Honest.
So, despite nearly getting thrown out of Nando’s in the Printworks for having the audacity to believe that CM Punk will beat The Rock at the Royal Rumble to some “It’s still real to me, dammit!” nobodies, it was a heck of a show. It is always a highlight of my year, as it feels that we’re actually leaving winter when it happens. Photos follow below, but be aware, there are spoilers from the TV Show!
On Sunday, the 26th Royal Rumble is held in Phoenix, Arizona. Sod Wrestlemania, I bloody love the Royal Rumble. Easily the best match that the WWE has ever invented, the Royal Rumble is the highlight of the year. I’ve even threatened to go onto Mastermind with my specialist subject being “Royal Rumbles”. In preparation for this year’s event, I watch – one a night – each Royal Rumble up until the night of that year’s Royal Rumble. They are superb. Love them.
“But Rhys!” you ask “what is a Royal Rumble”? Well it’s a match where two men start and, after a certain period of time (usually around 2 minutes), a new participant enters the match. You can only lose when you’re thrown over the top rope and both feet hitting the floor. The last man left in the ring after all participants have entered wins and goes onto to receive a title shot at that year’s Wrestlemania.
It’s rather exciting, and – with a few exceptions – there are a few names with a legitimate shot of winning. Also, over the course of the rumble some people have strong showings so much so that you could believe they can win. A classic example is in the 2001 edition where Kane, probably the sixth favourite (it was a strong field), eliminated 11 competitors (a record) to only fall to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin right at the death. Although not winning it that year, it remains probably the greatest Royal Rumble performance in one of the strongest rumbles ever.
In this blog post, I’m not looking at the best “Rumble” match ever, but rather the greatest moments in Rumble matches ever. Ironically, a number of these unforgettable moments are from very forgettable matches, with one notable exception. Bear with me though, as these are my top 5 favourite moments in Royal Rumble matches ever.
Honourable Mention: Y.M.C.A. – PCW Never Give Up Rumble
I was quite close in throwing a googly and sticking a non WWE-Royal Rumble moment in this list, but decided against it. As such, I’m placing it here.
The moment comes from Preston City Wrestling’s “Never Give Up” show, a benefit show for a young chap named Callum Murray, who is a massive wrestling fan I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on numerous occasions. Callum suffers from two conditions called Arnold Chiari Malformation and Hydrocephalus (you can read more about Callum’s life story here). Callum is monumentally brave and is seen at many shows, often with a beaming smile on his face.
I love this moment as – because I’m a fan – I watch wrestling to be entertained. I don’t care how, and this moment sums up why I watch wrestling. I know a lot of it is pre-determined, but it’s great to see wrestlers having fun. I watched this moment probably about 10 times, back-to-back, and guffawed with belly laughter each time. After regaining my composure, I showed it to fellow grapple geek Shane, who showed it to every wrestling fan he knew. It is brilliant.
5. Shawn Michaels – “Only One Foot Hit The Floor” – 1995 Royal Rumble
Probably the only “moment” in this list I’ve not seen live, so it is low in the list because of it’s impact on me. However it’s on the list because of it’s impact on wrestling.
Up until the 1995 Royal Rumble, the “over the top rope to the floor” rule was applied with various levels of leniency. In 1988 Jesse “The Body” Ventura exclaimed on commentary “Wrestlers have to be thrown over the top rope, it doesn’t matter where they land, they are eliminated!”, was it was when it was strictly applied, to its most lenient in 1992 where “Macho Man” Randy Savage (who always seemed confused at the rules, after attempting a pinfall in the 1993 Rumble) launched himself over the top rope to attack Jake “The Snake” Roberts – which was covered up by Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan saying that he wasn’t eliminated as you cannot eliminate yourself (a fact disproven earlier in 1989 when Andre The Giant eliminated himself running, ironically, from Jake “The Snake”).
Then the 1995 Rumble hit, and there were no doubts on the rule.
Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog – starting #1 and #2 – had outlasted the entire field that exposed the depth of talent that 1995’s WWF had, with such luminaries as Timothy Well & Stephen Dunn, The Heavenly Boddies, and “The Portugese Man-of-War” Aldo Montoya. When surprise guest appearances include a morbidly obese Dick Murdoch and the bloody Bushwhackers, you’re confident that two of your bigger names can outlast the entire field, especially when you consider that that two of the hotter heels at the time (Owen Hart & Bob Backlund) last less than a minute combined.
Fan favourite Bulldog sends Shawn tumbling over the top rope in a moment that suckers in pretty much everybody in the top brass in the WWF (as well as Ysgol Pen-Y-Bryn Year 6 class), as “Rule Britannia” begins to play to signal Bulldog’s victory, Michaels sneaks up behind Davey Boy, eliminating him from the match. As referee’s went onto explain, Shawn Michaels had held onto the top rope, landed on one foot, swung the other foot around, landed on the apron and had not been eliminated. Shawn wins the match, Pamela Anderson, and the match at Wrestlemania XI.
The likes of this moment were never seen before. Previously Rumbles had been rather slow affairs, with very little athleticism. This slowly heralded a new more athletic WWF, and the Royal Rumble has benefitted from it.
Also it launched the career of Shawn Michaels, and everybody is now clear of the Royal Rumble’s rules – both feet must hit the floor.
4. John Morisson “Spiderman” – 2011 Royal Rumble
The 2011 Royal Rumble was a roller coaster of emotions. It marked the first time a Welshman had appeared in a Rumble – with Porthmadog’s own Mason Ryan laying a beating on Tyler Reks so bad that Tyler decided a year later to become an SEO. It also expanded on its traditional format to 40 competitiors. Whilst the expanded field was expect to kill the rumble, it worked well, allowing two or three great moments, even with quite a weak roster lacking of characters.
One of the favourites coming in was John Morisson. He was on a fairly hot run and – due to the weak field – I truly believed that he was up there. Morisson drew a low number, which didn’t fill me with confidence, and was eliminated when pushed off the apron by William Regal.
Or was he?
See, he wasn’t pushed, but Morisson jumped. He landed, Spiderman-esque, on one of the protective barriers surrounding the ring. Morisson clambered up onto the barrier, tightrope walked around, and then jumped onto the steel steps surrounding the ring. No feet had touched the floor, therefore he re-entered the match.
This moment is up there as it shocked an overtired me into paying more attention to the extended Rumble match, which up until that point had been lackluster. A further exploitation of the “No feet hitting the floor” was done last year, with the company’s latest golden boy Kofi Kingston doing a free standing handstand and then walking, on his hands, to the steps. This was obviously done as they wanted to avoid any Morisson footage, since he had been released later that year.
The only downer on this moment meant that, as a result of this stunt, John Morisson couldn’t be a Rumble winner. It was too high risk, what if he slipped? What if an overzealous fan pushed him off the barrier (the fans were largely a smarky crowd, so I wouldn’t put it past them)? It was too risky to have Morisson complete the stunt and win the match. A fact confirmed as Morisson was dumped out of the match a little later.
3. Kharma Entrance – 2012 Royal Rumble
The WWE, like it or not, usually gives the fans what they want. John Cena has had a longer “run” on the top than Hulk Hogan and The Rock because he – at this time – sells the most merchandise. Screwing the fans over is a bad thing, as constant bait-and-switches have in the path lead to the death of companies.
However, just occasionally, WWE says “We’ll build up something, but the payoff won’t be what you expect, but it’ll be better”.
In last year’s Royal Rumble, one of the storylines that was running through the match was that the announcers were entered. Jerry Lawler & Booker T are both ex-wrestlers, and Michael Cole had a match at the previous year’s Wrestlemania, so it wasn’t too far-fetched.
For much of the previous year, Michael Cole had been a monumental bellend, berating performers and largely getting on everybody’s nerves. He had become a really good “bad guy”, but a bad commentator (only becoming “good” again after the tragic, real life, heart attack on air of Jerry Lawler. Thankfully Lawler recovered).
Cole was the last “commentator” to enter the match, and was largely left on his own for a couple of minutes. The fans, getting restless, were counting down the timer until the predicted payoff – some big burly wrestler would enter the match, beat the living daylights out of Michael Cole, and then toss out Cole.
Kharma is a big, burly wrestler who could eat the scrawny leader of the Cole Minor’s for breakfast, but Kharma is a woman. A terrifying woman, with a manic laugh, but whose expected push in a bland Diva’s Division was cut short when she found out she was with child (a child that was tragically miscarried).
Kharma’s beating up of Cole didn’t last long – he escaped from the match, and Kharma was eliminated soon after, but this moment made me smile as it was one of the few times when you expect something, get another, and it’s better.
A year later, and Kia Stevens (the performer who played Kharma so brilliantly), has left the WWE. This Rumble moment was the last time that she appeared in the WWE, and the Diva’s division is back to being bland. It’s a damn shame.
2. Santino Marella – 2011 Royal Rumble
The second moment in 2011’s Royal Rumble, and this one actually fooled me.
As somebody who has worked on wrestling shows in the past (daren’t say I’m a wrestler, I’m not), and is aware of the inner workings, it can be a bit of a downer as since becoming privy to the inner workings, I’m usually quite good at predicting what happens, going so far as once calling both the main event, but also the outcome and how the outcome comes about in a local show in the North West. I’ve used it to my benefit (thank you Paddy Power for accepting bets on wrestling), but it does spoil the enjoyment a bit.
The 2011 Rumble had a moment that surprised me in a good way, and I was convinced that the WWE had swerved us.
Santino Marella was a comedy character in Royal Rumbles, holding the record of having the shortest time in any Rumble – a measly 1.9 seconds. Rarely does he last more than 1 entrant, and if so, it is a fluke, as he is a bit cowardly.
In the 2011 Rumble, he was cowardly again, sliding under the ring at some point in the match. He then stayed out there for the entire match, until Alberto Del Rio last eliminated Randy Orton to win the 2011 match. Only then did Santino appear and floor Del Rio with his “Cobra” punch, that is such a perfect finishing move in that it is easy to do and elicits a response. And what a response! The TD Garden exploded, could Santino win the Rumble? Well, no. In the time he milked his handiwork, Del Rio recovered and eliminated Marella, to become the victor.
Wrestlers had hidden under the ring before now, but this was done perfectly in that nobody mentioned it. Nobody mentioned it therefore nobody expected it when it happened. Santino came close to the main event in Wrestlemania again in 2012 when he came second in the Elimination Chamber. A popular character with the fans, I wouldn’t put it past anybody if he is in or around the main event in 2013.
1. The Entire 1992 Royal Rumble
Okay, I cheated a bit, but it is brilliant, and how a Rumble should be done.
In late 1991, the title was upheld following a string of controversial decisions in a match between The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan, after no clear winner was found, the WWE announced that the new champion would be the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble. Hulk and Taker, who were battling for the belt, were given preferential numbers between 20 and 30. With the gold at stake, pretty much every non-tag team active member of the roster entered the Rumble, and this rumble had the most star studded line up upto that point.
What was brilliant though was the storyline throughout the Rumble, and had that feature that most Royal Rumbles had – which was you couldn’t call the winner. Would it be one of the four former WWF Champions (Hogan, Taker, “Macho Man” Randy Savage & Sgt. Slaughter)? The newcomer Sid Justice? Rowdy Roddy Piper who was pushed to the moon around the time? Jake Roberts who had turned heel and reinvented himself as a right sinister bastard?
Instead the winner was a relatively unlikely name, Ric Flair. Debuting late the year before, The Nature Boy proclaimed himself as the real world champion, however nobody really believed he would win the Rumble, at least not when he came into the match as the third entrant.
Ric however lasted well over an hour to take the crown and the title, giving a memorable interview after winning the event.
It was so well done, and so well crafted the Rumble, that it is held by many fans (myself included) as the greatest Royal Rumble ever. Arguably the greatest thing about the Rumble though is the commentary, particularly the work of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan, a member of Flair’s camp, is so wonderfully biased with his commentary that as the match goes on, you want to see Flair (a heel) win it, so much so that the commentary when he wins almost seals him turning face. Yes he is the dirtiest player in the game, but you cannot deny the length and quality of Ric Flair’s performance. A joy to behold.
And, with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest Rumble moment of all time, but what is yours? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.