Every January since 1988 the WWE rolls out their annual pay per view, the Royal Rumble. With some years being hits and others being misses. Yet, we’re all just glad that there were other matches on the card and not just the main event. With 35 Royal Rumbles in the books, these are my top 5 pay per views.
Taking place at the Alamodome, which could have been a disaster given the company wasn’t at its best just yet. Not to mention, they had to give away tickets just to get people in the seats. Yet if it weren’t for Stone Cold, who was gaining a lot of attention as the guy everyone wanted to talk about, the attendance would have been less.
This would also mark the last pay per view that we would see Vince McMahon as a ring announcer. Yet, the rumble was focused around Shawn Michaels coming home to San Antonio to challenge and win the WWF title from Sycho Sid.
Overall, the pay per view had some great matches. Like Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) vs Goldust for the Intercontinental title, Vader vs the Undertaker and Faarooq vs Ahmed Johnson. This Rumble is key to the coming years, it’s here they decided to go with entrants every 90 seconds. Which is better than the usual 120 seconds, as it makes for a better flow to the match.
The Royal Rumble 1997 itself
Stone Cold Steve Austin entered at number 5 after all 3 of the 1st entrants got eliminated, and soon so would the 4th. Leaving Austin in the ring by himself until the next entrant, Bart Gunn. Stone Cold quickly made work of him, took him out and then proceed to do push ups until entrant 7 came in.
Jake The Snake Roberts was 7th, as Austin got down from the top rope and attempted to mock Roberts by falling to his knees and saying a prayer. Fast forward in the match and Austin is still going strong as entrant number 21’s music hits….its Brett Hart. Stone Cold’s biggest rival at the time which struck a little fear in him. The two slug it out for a while as Austin showed some fatigue, but still wouldn’t give up the fight.
The final 5 came down to Austin, Diesel, Vader, the Undertaker and Bret Hart. Bret ends up throwing out Austin yet none of the refs seen it to confirm the elimination due to them trying to break up the Terry and Mankind fight happening outside of the ring. So, he slid back in, dumped out Vader and Taker while Bret eliminated Diesel. Finally, Austin dumped Bret over the top ropes and the ref raised Austins hand as the winner.
Years later it was revealed that Bret was actually supposed to win the match. However, Vince got upset at Vince Russo for bragging on WWF Limewire about how Bret was going to win the match. So he called a last minute audible that would soon turn Austin into the bigger baby face. Making him a draw for the company moving forward.
Only a few months removed from the the tragic passing of Eddie Guerrero. The story of the 2006 Royal Rumble centered around Rey Mysterio promising to win the match for his friend. Besides the Rumble, most of the pay per view was a waste.
Cena beat Edge for the WWE championship that had so many close falls, it got boring. They would go on to have better rivalry matches, but this was just not one of them. Kurt Angle beat Mark Henry for the world heavyweight title, which could have been a lot better. It’s just hard to book a match with a limited big man like Mark Henry. Like I said earlier, the main focus was all about the rumble.
Rey Mysterio and Triple H entered the match at number 1 & 2. Both of them lasted over an hour in the match, with Triple H not even making it to the final 2. The chants of Eddie filled the entire arena throughout the match. It was obvious whose side the fans were on. With Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton coming down to the final 2, the finish was a fantastic underdog story.
Orton picked up Rey over his shoulders, ready to drop him over the top rope, as Rey held on to use a hurricanrana to flip Orton over to the floor. An amazing finish that was only planned 10 days prior to the rumble. Originally, Triple H was to win, according to former WWE writer, Court Bauer. I’m glad they changed their minds on the decision.
The first Royal Rumble of the 21st century took place at MSG. Though the Rumble was just ok, it’s everything around the main event that took this pay per view over the top. Being the first rumble not focused around Stone Cold in 3 years, the rest of the roster had to step up. Between a dance break in the middle of the match with Rikishi and Too Cool or Taka’s face plant to the floor being replayed over and over again, it made for some funny moments.
The Big Show and The Rock as the final 2 left in the match, what could go wrong? Big Show picked The Rock up over his shoulders and attempted to throw him over the top rope. The Big Show ended up stumbling out of the ring with The Rock on his shoulders, leading to him being eliminated. However, The Rock’s foot hit the floor first. No one saw it or seemed to notice, and the referees claimed The Rock as the winner.
Like I said, there were way better matches around the rumble. For instance, Triple H vs Cactus Jack in a street fight or The debut of Taz. Better yet, a tables match between the Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boys. There was even a swimsuit contest. The highs in the 2000 Rumble outweigh the lows. Who cares about a botched ending when you get a street fight and someone took a barbwire shot to the face.
The 21st installment of the Royal Rumble came live to us from Madison Square Garden. If you remember this pay per view clear as day it’s probably because it was the first pay per view shot in HD by the WWE. This rumble was also the last one before the company decided to go PG for a few years.
The 2008 Royal Rumble had some decent matches leading up to the main event of the rumble. Rey Mysterio vs Edge for the world heavyweight championship, Randy Orton vs Jeff Hardy for the WWE championship and Chris Jericho vs JBL. With only 4 matches, tons of promos and hilarious backstage segments, the rumble had to top everything fans seen that night.
Michel Buffer opens up the contest by introducing Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker as the number 1 and 2 entrants. We also got some surprise entrants of Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper, but nothing could compare to the biggest shock that night. The last entrant, surprisingly getting the biggest pop from the fans at MSG, John Cena, made his return.
It wasn’t 3 months before this that fans were starting to boo Cena, yet that night he could do no wrong in their eyes. Maybe this was because just 3 months before this he went out with a torn pectoral muscle and many thought we weren’t going to see him back for at least 6 months. Yet to our surprise he showed up, which was unreal, and the return didn’t disappoint. The final 4 ended up being Cena, Kane, Batista, and Triple H. Cena dumped Triple H over the top rope with a FU to win the match.
The 11th annual Royal Rumble was the true moment Stone Cold Steve Austin became “The Man”. Only two months after Bret Hart left the company. It was clear that WWE was pushing Austin to be the face of the new era in wrestling. Everyone knew this would be the year for Austin to win the Rumble, but you couldn’t really complain. He was red hot going into that pay per view, even with the bounty placed on him to not make it to the match.
Also, I’m really glad this pay per view was in the 90s because some of this stuff probably wouldn’t fly in today’s era of wrestling. The opening match of Goldust vs Vader, had Goldust in a full bodysuit, with him wearing a thong outside of the bodysuit. If this wasn’t enough, how about the next match, where we saw the “Mini’s” wrestling in a six-man tag match in full body attire. Yes, mini’s means little person. At least Sunny was there as the ref to make the match somewhat funny.
Aside from the rumble and those two matches, the rest of the pay per view was all business. The Rock vs Ken Shamrock for the Intercontinental Title. The New Age Outlaws vs L.O.D. for the Tag Team Titles. The main event of Shawn Michaels vs the Undertaker in a Casket match for the WWF Championship.
The Rumble & The Casket Match
Mick Foley made an appearance 3 different times in the match, the ring got full quickly as everyone awaited Austins entrance. Austins music hit as the number 24 entrant, and you heard the loudest cheer of the night from fans. Everyone in the ring stopped what they were doing and looked towards the entrance. As they looked toward the aisle, Austin came through the crowd from behind, eliminating 2 men before everyone finally realized what happened. The final 2 ended up being Austin and The Rock. Foreshadowing those who would lead the way for the attitude era. Austin hit The Rock with a Stunner, sold perfectly by The Rock, and he throws him over the top rope. The crowd erupts, and Stone Cold is going to WrestleMania.
The Casket match was great, especially now knowing what was coming for us at WrestleMania 14. Kane came out close to the end of the match for what we all thought was to help the Undertaker. Yet, he turned on him and ended up choke slamming him into the casket to win the match for Shawn Michaels. Kane later took the casket up to the entrance and set it on fire with Taker locked in it. What a way to end the pay per view!
Overall, those are my top 5 Royal Rumble pay per views. You might like them, you may hate them, but I’m sure we can at least agree on a few.
Photo credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports