Last month, Chris started off his list with a lengthy preamble discussing how his list was deviating from the topic that was originally agreed upon. So I will take this opportunity to explain what this topic means to me. I’m not looking for people who necessarily stayed in the match the longest or who eliminated the most opponents. I am looking for those performances that, when I go back and watch old Rumbles, I am excited to see what they brought to the table that year and I am drawn to watching that match multiple times specifically because of them. It could be an innovative move, a crazy series of spots or just the rare emotion that is felt by their performance. Or comedy… it’s usually comedy with us.
As I write this, I don’t even know if I can put them in any order. These are all great for their own reasons. I will label them 1 through 5, but I can argue for any of them.
“That’s not fair to Flair!”
So by my rules, I am judging performances based on their rewatchablity and overall historic value. I can’t pick Ric Flair because he won the Rumble and the World Title that year. But my god, you can ask anyone who is a wrestling fan and the reason you are watching this match is to listen to Bobby Heenan on commentary.
Ric Flair jumped from WCW to WWF and brought their World title with him. The REAL World title, as it was dubbed by Flair and Heenan. Around the same time, there was controversy surrounding the WWF title between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, which led to President Jack Tunney declaring the title vacant. The winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble would be declared the new champion.
Ted DiBiase and the British Bulldog start the match. Fast forward two minutes and out comes The Nature Boy. Bobby Heenan, on commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, comes unglued. Forget being an unbiased announcer; for the near 60 minutes that Flair was in the match, Heenan would tell the cameraman to keep an eye on Flair the entire time. Anyone who came near his man he wished harm upon. And once Flair dumped Sid Justice over the top, the celebration began. The post-match interview
conducted by Mean Gene was also for the ages. “With a tear…. In my eye…. This is the greatest moment of my life.”
Again, by my definition, this should be #1. But because someone (Chris) will complain, I will have it as my honorable mention. This is like when someone asks you your favorite Aerosmith song… you can’t pick Sweet Emotion because everyone says that. You can’t say your favorite Chicago Bull was Jordan because that’s obvious. So I mark this less of an “honorable mention” and more of a Royal Rumble first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
This entrant falls under the “I marked out then and I mark out when I rewatch it” category. Curt Hennig had an incredible run in the WWF in the early 90s. As with most wrestlers of that era, he found his way to WCW with moderate success. Come 2002, he had re-signed with the WWF and made his reappearance at the Royal Rumble. Steve Austin had cleaned house until Triple H’s number was drawn.
These bitter rivals battled each other tooth and nail, but they also teamed up to eliminate anyone who came down the aisle. Until #25 was drawn.
The iconic music hit and Mr Perfect, Curt Hennig came strolling down the aisle. He took his time, as any Rumble veteran would do. When he finally got to the ring, he took the fight to both Austin and Triple H. Watching it recently for the purpose of this list, kudos to those two for selling their asses off and making Perfect look, well… perfect.
And then it happened. Austin and Triple H gained their composure and tried to double team Hennig. As they both grabbed him to push him over the top rope, in the way only he could do…. Curt Hennig spit out his gum and batted it into the crowd with his hand. Forget selling for two Hall of Famers. He had to get his shit in. I know I popped at the time. I popped just now when I rewatched it! I remember being a kid and always hitting my gum when I spit it out. I’m a grown man so I don’t just spit my gum onto the ground now…. But please believe that every day when I chew gum, I think about it.
We can’t just put him on the list for that. Well… I kinda did. But he also put in a spectacular showing, lasting to the final four with Austin, Triple H and Kurt Angle, three of the best of the era, if not ever.
Quite the night for someone who was probably an afterthought going into the match, but clearly carved a niche for himself after it. Until the “Plane Ride from Hell.”
This is a complex one, so let me explain myself. I like comedy in wrestling, as you may know. Funny does equal money in my eyes, sorry Jim Cornette. But I also love a good storyline. Whether intentional or not, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker had an incredible feud that may have only been two matches to the naked eye, but I’d like to imagine that they were planting the seeds for years.
I will try to spare the small details but give an overview of what I saw unfold at the time and how I see it now. Shawn Michaels had a great career, was hurt and left for a few years, only to return seemingly better than ever. In the 90s, he and the Undertaker had some epic feuds and matches, but since his return, HBK had stayed off of the Deadman’s radar. By design, or by chance? I don’t know; that is the
purpose if this dialogue. Rumble 2007, Shawn has a great showing, Undertaker comes in at #30 and they are the last two in the ring. At the time, I thought this was a great ending. Rewatching it recently, I think it may be the best one-on-one ending to a Rumble in history. Seven-plus minutes of back and forth action and near eliminations, the Undertaker finally was victorious. Usually, it’s 2 on 1 and the face
prevails… boring. This was a different spin, they got time to tell their story and it worked out for each man as both went on to title matches at WrestleMania.
Rumble 2008, instead of being the last two in the ring, Michaels and Taker were the first two. They lasted over 30 minutes each. Michaels ended up besting the Dead Man, only to be dumped seconds later by Mr Kennedy. Stare down, the story simmers, both go on to fantastic matches at WrestleMania.
In 2009, these two warriors come together in what is called one of the greatest matches of all time at WrestleMania 25. That’s an entirely different write up. But the build up to that match was fantastic and leads me to believe that this entire feud was built by design and not by chance. After losing, Michaels slowly started tweaking his character, showing that he wanted another crack at the Undertaker. As the Rumble neared, he continued to deny Michaels his WM rematch. The only way that HBK could avenge his loss to the now-World champion…. was to win the Rumble. It consumed him. It ate him from the inside. When he entered the match, he was immediately the sentimental favorite. So focused on his goal, he even eliminated his best friend Triple H. Alas, he was not victorious and the emotion throughout the building could be felt through the television screen. He did get his rematch, only after causing Taker to lose his title at the Elimination Chamber.
Had this story played out in a vacuum, I don’t know if it would make my list. But the fact that he put out three great Rumble appearances at this point in his career on top of an epic storyline, he easily makes it here for me. A fantastic string of Rumbles to end the career of one of the best ever on the big stage in January. Mr Wrestlemania, yes… but he’s also Mr Royal Rumble in some people’s eyes.
By my standards, you don’t get on this list just by numbers of competitors eliminated or time in the Rumble. But in 2001, we got a perfect storm of those two along with comedy, nonsense and an overall dominating performance by a wrestler who often gets the short end of the stick, the Devil’s favorite corporate demon son, Kane.
Starting with the eliminations-- Kane tossed a who’s who of Superstars over the top rope and to the floor. Raven, Al Snow, Saturn, Crash Holly, Tazz, Steve Blackman, the Honky Tonk Man, Albert, Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay… Jesus, that’s a cast of characters from that era. As you would imagine from him eliminating the entire Hardcore Division, there was some hardware used. This could probably
be dubbed the first (and hopefully last) Hardcore Rumble. I think Kane got the shaft by not having Drew Carey’s elimination on his list. Yes, if you haven’t seen the 2001 Rumble, Drew Carey was a participant.
One by one by damn one, Kane blew through them all.
So we’ve established that the pool wasn’t exactly filled with A+ superstars. But Kane still withstood the test of time against other stars like The Rock, Undertaker and the eventual winner, Steve Austin. With well-timed help from the Dead Man, Kane made it all the way to the very end before being beaten with a steel chair and eliminated by that no-good rattlesnake. A sour ending for someone who lasted nearly an hour.
As the years went on, others lasted longer in their matches. Roman Reigns eventually eliminated more competitors in a single Rumble. There have also been better Rumbles. Lots of them. This one was pretty horrible, in fact. God awful. But it has a “fun” factor with a hint of nostalgia for that era. And whenever you wanted to see a dominating performance in a single match, you have to mention this one near the top of your list.
“….to know a King!”
The 1997 Rumble is iconic. Record breaking crowd. Shawn Michaels reclaiming the World Title in his home town. One of the many huge steps in Steve Austin becoming the biggest superstar of all time. An untimely self-elimination by Mil Mascaras. And the groundbreaking participation of Hall of Famer, Jerry Lawler.
The Rumble match itself was going along smoothly with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler doing the commentary. When the countdown ended for participant # 21, the royal music played and Jerry stood, poised to enter the match. Remember kids, these were the days where Lawler did commentary wearing his singlet, not his bad t-shirts like he does today. Maybe he needs to go shopping on 20x20apparel.com for some new threads. He put down his headset and uttered the first half of a phrase he had used before – “It takes a King to know a King.” Hopping over the top rope, he was eliminated by his old nemesis Bret Hart just as fast as he had entered. Coming back to the announce table, he put on his headset, finished his catch phrase and acted like he had never even entered the ring.
This set the precedent for other copycat comedy spots with the announce team (JBL in 2014, Michael Cole and Booker T in 2012), but none pulled it off like The King in 1997. All the wars with Bill Dundee and Terry Funk, his program with Andy Kaufman… and Jerry Lawler is cemented as one of my favorite participants in Royal Rumble history.
Chris will hate this one. Another one that is not a singular Rumble, I agree. But over the span of the last 4 Royal Rumbles, everyone goes into the PPV wondering, “What will Kofi do this year?” That brings the same response and anticipation as wondering how many people Diesel will eliminate or how long Greg Valentine can possibly last. Too bad that now, the Kofi question is overshadowed by “How can they screw Bryan this year?” and “How will they push Reigns even harder this year?” but it’s still in the back of everyone’s minds as he sprints down to the ring. And his performances give me a specific reason to go back and watch past Rumbles.
Running through them quickly… in 2012, Kofi got hung up in the ropes, landed on the floor on his hands, got pushed into an upright position and hand-walked to the ring steps. Pretty nice sequence. 2013 he ended up on the announcer’s table. With jumping to the ring not being an option, he used JBL’s chair as a pogo stick to get himself back to the apron. Not overly athletic but innovative nonetheless. In 2014, he ended up on the guard rail; notice that he is getting further and further away from the ring as the years go on. Kofi legit took flight from the rail and landed on the ring apron in the most spectacular of his near-misses. 2015 he was launched over the top by Rusev like a goddamn cannon, but was caught by the Rosebuds and returned to the ring safely…. only to be eliminated quickly.
Minus 2015, he’s always been one of those guys who can come into the Rumble early, set a good pace and spend a good amount of time in the ring. And don’t give me your “John Morrison was jumping from the rail to the steps” argument. I’m not listening to that. Shannon Moore saving Matt Hardy? Pretty good. But this is a year after year after year thing that we all wait for. He even busts them out in random battle royals. It’s HIS THING. This gets me off on another rant, but this is why I don’t like the winner of the Rumble going on to a title shot. That immediately narrows the field of people who can legitimately win from 30 to 4. Kofi is just not one of those guys. Give him a Rumble victory. Give him an Andre the Giant Memorial Over the Top Rope Memorial Battle Royal victory. Give him SOMETHING. Well I did… #1 on my list. Congrats, Kofi.
"It's Time to rumble, It's time for the Royal Rumble...." Yes, it's that time of the year. Everyones favorite gimmick match of all time. The match that sets the stage for Wrestlemania. A night of Surprises, returns and new stars being born. Now, instead of wondering how much the crowd will hate Reigns winning this year, lets discuss some of of favorite Rumble performances of all time!
One paper, the stats for Mick Foley in the 1998 Royal Rumble is pretty average. A little over 20 minutes in the ring and 4 eliminations. However, like many on our lists it is less about "the numbers" as that God awful promo before the match always states, and more the memorable moments. Foley would enter the match at number 1 as his character at the time, Cactus Jack. Number 2? His current tag team partner, Chainsaw Charlie. This is one of those great "luck of the draw" moments that in reality, happens at a head scratching number of times that would make you think these numbers are really not that random.......regardless it could happen every year and I'll still love it. It doesn't take long for these two to toss aside their friendship and trade stiff chair shots, only taking a break to toss super jobber Tom brandi over the ropes.
If Foley's only appearance in the Rumble was this, it would have been a solid little run as the number 1 draw. However, Mick was not finished. He would return to the ring at number 16 as Mankind only last 40 seconds into the number 17 pick. He at least was able to exact revenge on his partner, dumping Chainsaw Charlie before Mankind was done for the evening. Foley would return to the ring at number 28, this time as his final alter ego Dude love. He would fare better than Mankind tossing 2 competitors and lasting till the final four. Always a solid honor.
Although Foley really does nothing memorable here, he makes a mark appearing at the start middle and very end of the 1998 Rumble. You cant have this list without mentioning a man who was responsible for 10% of the participants in 1998.
"15 minutes, your just getting his attention. The more you beat on him, the more he likes it!"
Alright, I can already hear Pete calling me out for being a mark here. Yes, he only tossed one man. Yes, others have lasted longer, including Rick Martel in this very same match. I don't care. When you ask, who's the first name that comes to mind when you think of the Royal Rumble? Some may say Hulk Hogan. Some may say Steve Austin. Some may say...Roman Reigns. I will say, Greg Valentine!
1991, outside of the following year this is my all time favorite Rumble. You have a who's who of workers from this era holding down the first half of this match. Bret Hart, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Texas Tornado, Rick Martel, Jake Roberts, Tito Santana and Davey Boy Smith are all in the first 15 entries.
Valentine comes to the ring at number 3 and instantly breaks the Rumble seal by dumping Dino Bravo. Sure, he wouldn't eliminate another participant the rest of the match but thats not what the Hammer was there to do. He was there to take on anyone in his path. Undertaker? no problem, Greg is out there dropping elbows on his head. Randy Savage? Hulk Hogan? he is taking it to all the heavy hitters.
sure, the 44 minutes he lasted didn't set the record. That was done by the Model with 52 minutes. Greg Valentine though proved why the Royal Rumble was his type of match. As Piper points out, "hes very low to the ground. Very hard to throw over." Thus, he was ultimately tossed by the winner Hulk Hogan keeping the percentage of "his type of match" winners at 0.
My number 4 on this list entered the 1996 Royal Rumble at number 4. His appearance on this list however has nothing to do with what he did in the ring, which was minimal. It was what he did under the ring.
Lawler woud enter at 4 and hang around until number 7 made his way down to the ring. The man he would feud with for much of 1996, Jake The Snake Roberts. Jake who just made his return to the WWF made an impact by tossing his new cobra into the middle of the ring, cleaning house. Once order was restored and everyone returned to the ring it would appear we were one man short. Soon Vince who was doing commentary at the time would make note of it "conspicuous by his absence out here, Jerry Lawler." Vince was perfect playing dumb, wondering where in the world the King could be. Soon, we would spot the King peaking out from under the ring to survey the status of the match.
This would be the last reference to Jerry Lawler. He would go unnoticed, and in rewatching this you really do forget he was still in the match. It wouldn't be until eventual winner Shawn Michaels pulls him out from under the ring that we see Lawler again. Once brought back into the ring he was instantly tossed, but Jerry The king made his mark on Royal Rumble history spawning other versions of out of sight out of mind Rumble moments, RoadDogg at the 2000 Rumble, Santino in 2011.
Records are made to be broken. Thats what the rumble is all about. Number of eliminations? broken. Number of people it takes to eliminate Andre? Broken. Time in the match? Broken so many times its hard to remember anyone who ever had the honor. Quickest elimination in the history of the Royal Rumble? Well that honor will always go to the one and only Santino Marella. We may forget who even won the 2009 Royal Rumble, but I bet you we will see Santino getting clotheslined clear over the rope in one second every single year they play the pre match promo. Santino is a perfect fit for this honor. He could easily have been your typical jobber to hit the ring, hang around for a handful of minutes and get tossed. Someone you see when rewatching the rumble and think, oh yea I remember that guy. Instead, Just as Luke the Bushwhacker did in 1991, he gets one of those perfect moments the Rumble was made for. Extra points for this match going down in the our hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Look for us in the preshow crowd with our "Stop The Sheik" signs. We thought we were at Cobo.
Now the promos will make you think the point of the Royal Rumble is to find out who will go on to face with champion at Wrestlemania. Those promos are wrong in my book. The Royal Rumble is the event that gives the rub to the next guy. Forget what everyone thinks about Roman Reigns right now. Go back to his 2014 match and compare it to my number 2 pick. It was his "Diesel" moment.
In 1994 Diesel was still just Shawn Michaels bodyguard. A big monster who was in charge of keeping the heartbreak kid safe. The seeds for his own solo run were planted in the 1994 Royal Rumble. Diesel would enter the match at number 7 and soon clear house. He would toss Bart Gunn, Scott Stiener and soon decimate anyone that came in his path. Kwang? Gone. Owen Hart? Gone. 1993 time in match record holder Bob Backlund? Gone in 41 seconds. Go back and watch Virgil get manhandled, I'm assuming for busting open Diesels lip with a stiff punch. The gauntlet of victims would end when Randy savage lasted till the next entrant, soon letting the ring refill. It would take that entire ring, along with diesels own partner Shawn Michaels to eliminate the monster Diesel.
Sure the seven eliminations is nothing in comparison to the likes of Kane in 01, Shawn in 96 and Reigns in 14. And many others soon would hold serve over the ring, most notable CM Punk in 2011 with his Nexus crew. the 1994 domination by Diesel however was the performance that laid the foundation for others to make their name in the Royal Rumble. As Ted DiBiase would point out "I've been in every Rumble and I have never seen anyone control the ring like this!"
Well Pete, it would appear we would have a consensus number 1. Guess I did say "performance in a Rumble" and technically the Brain was not in the Rumble, but I'll break my own rules because Bobby Heenan turns in one of the greatest performances in the history of pro wrestling commentary here.
The duo of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan will always be considered one of the greatest pairings, and in my book THE greatest announce team in wrestling history. That being said, The Brain goes to another level here. He makes you really believe everything he has is riding on Flair in this match. Any bit of trouble, Heenan is losing it. "It's over, it's over, everything down the toliet...." You can't have Flairs performance in this match without Heenan on color. I argue this would just be another Royal Rumble without the Brain making you truly believe Ric Flair is the "real world champion" proving it in the ring.
less then half way through Flair winds up being the sole man left in the ring. Heenan explodes, "Flair won. He's the champion of the world!" This up and down roller coaster of emotion goes on for the entire Rumble. Asking for water, asking for spotlights on Flair. Thanking Piper for helping "It's a kilt, it's not a skirt. it's a kilt" only to change his stance in mere seconds when Piper turns on Flair "why you no good skirt wearing freak! it's a skirt, it's not a kilt. It's a skirt!" There is so many great one liners we could just do a Five Count on them. The clear number 1? "Thats not fair to Flair." Lets not forget the original "Yes" chant, done solely by Heenan for a good half a minute when Flair dumps Sid over the top rope.
Even outside of the Ric Flair lines, Heenan has some great lines. "He's got him by his tongue!" as Duggan pummels I.R.S grabbing his tie. "Just think, who knows how many bags he's gone through in the back!" as Virgil enters at 27. This entire hour is full of these. Bobby Heenan at the 1992 Royal Rumble is without a doubt my Five Count number 1.
Let us know what you think of our lists, or who you have on yours!
Happy Rumble folks.