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.