It’s very nearly time for the Royal Rumble, an event which has had more than it’s fair share of memorable moments. Everyone’s got their own particular favourites, so to kick off the Road to Wrestlemania I thought I’d take a little time to share my favourites with you. Why not join me as we take a look at my ten most memorable Royal Rumble moments?
10. Daniel Puder isn’t quite “Tough Enough” (Royal Rumble 2005)
You’d be forgiven for not immediately recognising the name Daniel Puder, but the million dollar Tough Enough winner will always stick in my mind for one very distinct reason. In 2005 young Mr Puder had recently won the WWE’s Tough Enough competition, the powers that be deeming that Dan should get the nod as his MMA background added an air of legitimacy to him once he started to compete in the ring.
Part of the deal with Puder winning Tough Enough was for him to automatically place in the 2005 Royal Rumble, and the rookie drew number 3 and headed down to ring where Rumble starters Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero waited. But Puder was not short on confidence this night, and opted to first get on the microphone at ringside and inform the world that they were about to witness history being made when he became the first Tough Enough winner to also go on to win the Rumble.
What happened next are quite possibly the worst 3 or so minutes of Daniel Puder’s life as he is beaten from pillar to post by both Benoit and Eddie. We get super hard chops, a suplex-off, and then if things couldn’t get any worse…out comes Hardcore Holly, who as JR succinctly points out on commentary “doesn’t like anyone, but especially not rookies”. Poor Daniel Puder. The chop frenzy continues to the point where Tazz thinks one of Puder’s areola have flown off. A kick to the nads and an Alabama Slam from Holly later, and it’s bye-bye Daniel Puder. Better luck next year. Except he only lasted until September 2005. Oh well it could be worse. He could’ve been Maven…
9. Taka Michinoku DIES (Royal Rumble 2000)
If you’ve seen this, then you know exactly which moment I mean. If you haven’t then I implore you to go look it up. In a nutshell this is one of the ugliest Royal Rumble eliminations known to man. And quite possibly Jerry Lawler’s all time favourite Rumble moment.
It seemed inconspicuous enough at first, I mean for starters KaiEnTai weren’t even supposed to be involved in that year’s Rumble match, and instead chose to attempt to randomly insert themselves into the action at different intervals. The first time they tried this they simply got chased off to regroup, but the second time is when the magic happens.
Taka and Funaki charge out again, once more looking to get involved in the match. Only this time Taka is caught by Big Boss Man and Gangrel and literally flung over the top rope at such a velocity that Taka essentially does a 450 faceplant onto the ringside mats. Seriously if you haven’t seen it, it’s a thing of beauty. The initial view from the hardcam doesn’t show you anything, but when you get down to the ringside cameraman’s view then it’s plain to see Taka buy it big style on the mats. Instantaneous death. Well…a concussion, but you know where I’m coming from. The only thing greater than the bump itself was Lawler’s insistence on having the production truck show replays of it every few minutes while giggling himself silly. And calling Taka Chinese. Silly Jerry.
8. The Undertaker “dies” (Royal Rumble 1994)
Oh yes, it’s THAT moment. Don’t look at me like that, when I was a young lad this was the epitome of wrestling high drama. The funny thing is that writing this article is the first time I’ve watched the actual match that leads up to my number 8 moment in about 10 years. And you know what? There’s some damn good work in this match before the shenanigans begin.
It’s Taker vs. Yokozuna in a Casket Match, and the big thing heading into the match is that Yoko FEARS caskets. And all credit to the man, Yokozuna sells the hell out of being petrified of a wooden box (Incidentally I remember there being a pretty cool promo of Undertaker purposely building an extra large Yokozuna sized casket ready for the match, if you’re gonna look up this match then you might wanna look that up too?). Although the match itself is fairly brief, the old Undertaker standards are in there, the top rope “old school”, the flying clothesline, the chokeslam, the no-selling of offense, the sitting up, everything you love about Undertaker and the crowd are lapping it up.
Then the end heads into what most would now call “epic wrestle-crap proportions”, but I still maintain it manages to veer just the correct side of the cheesiness line. The match is all but said and done, Yoko’s unconscious in the casket, and Taker’s about to close the lid…when Crush appears! DUN DUN DUHHHHH!! Mr. Fuji’s put out a hit on The Undertaker, and Crush, Bam Bam Bigelow, Kabuki, and Tenru attack! Undertaker is down, Mr Fuji has a hold of the urn, and things looks grim…until BAMN! Paul Bearer strikes, somehow managing to lift his leg high enough to boot Mr. Fuji in the gut, reclaim his precious urn and use it to blast both Fuji and Jim Cornette in the head. Bearer commands his Undertaker to rise, and sure enough rise is what he does. Now, to everyone else this is pretty “meh”, but to me as I watched it as a kid I was completely enraptured. The Undertaker was fighting back! There wasn’t any possible way these guys could drop the mighty Undertaker! Adam Bomb, Diesel, Samu & Fatu all appear to try and stop him, but somehow through the power of the urn the Undertaker will not go down!
Then the unthinkable happens. Somehow Yokozuna gets his hands on Paul Bearer and (more importantly) the urn! Bearer gets floored and Yoko opens the urn and casts it aside, ominous green smoke spilling from the urn as it rolls into the corner of the ring. Okay, so now I know it was a smoke grenade, but at the time IT WAS REAL TO ME DAMNIT!! That WAS the power of the Undertaker seeping out of the urn, not just green dry ice. And then the bad guys take it turns to hit Taker with their big moves. Young dsrchris is pleading “sit up Undertaker, sit up!”, but alas The Undertaker does not sit up, instead he lies there and takes a beating like a b*tch. The carcass of the Undertaker is dumped into casket, the lid is slammed shut and padlocked closed, and my young wee heart breaks. Then those d*ckish bad guys pretty much hold a victory procession to wheel the casket out of the arena…and then something magical happens. Green smoke begins to billow from the locked casket, the lights die, and suddenly the Undertaker spears on the screen informing us that his spirit resides within all living things and that he’ll be reborn and not rest in peace. My tiny mind was blown. But not as much as when the Undertaker ASCENDED THROUGH THE GODDAMN SCREEN! Or as Vince McMahon put it on commentary “The Undertaker is levitating here in Providence, Rhode Island!”. Yeah it’s cheesy, and yeah it’s dangerously close to being wrestlecr*p-riffic, but I love it and you should love it too.
7. HBK & The British Bulldog go “bell to bell” (Royal Rumble 1995)
So Royal Rumble 1995 was fairly unremarkable. When one of your main stand out moments were Bam Bam Bigelow pushing “LT” Lawrence Taylor, and Diesel as your champion then you know you’ve not got an exceptionally strong show. But at least one awesome thing happened at Royal Rumble 1995. A display of endurance and storytelling from two men that still brings a genuine smile to my face, even thinking about it now.
There’s not a great deal to say about this, basically Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog entered at numbers 1 & 2 respectively, and somehow managed to outlast all 28 other guys to be the final two men remaining in the rumble match. Which was unprecedented at that point, nobody had entered that early and gone on to win since Flair won from number 3 in 1992 (more on that later).
I know this Rumble had such fierce competitors as Adam Bomb, Mantaur, and the terrifying Portuguese Man’O’War Aldo Montoya, but still Davey Boy and Shawn lasting that long in the Rumble and keeping it interesting is one hell of an achievement. And how do you cap off a performance like that? With one of the best Rumble endings EVER. The first time anyone had ever capitalised on the whole “both feet must touch the ground” rule (as far as I’m aware anyways).
Bulldog clotheslined Shawn over the top rope right in front of the officials, and justifiably assumed that he’d finally won the match. Little did he know that Shawn had somehow managed to avoid putting both feet on the ground, and had not only pulled himself back into the ring, but most importantly back into the match. While an unsuspecting Bulldog celebrated on the turnbuckles, Shawn pounced, knocking Davey Boy from his perch, over the top rope, and down to the ground. Shawn Michaels had done what only a small number of people would ever manage to achieve, he went from first man entering to last man standing in a Royal Rumble match.
6. Kane destroys EVERYTHING (Royal Rumble 2001)
I genuinely forgot how much I like this rumble. I know we get the whole “Kane holds the record for the most eliminations” blurb every year, but it’s been a while since I sat down and wand actually watched the match properly, and it’s a blast. Weapons. In a rumble match. Oh 2001, you’re so crazy! The stand out performer here is Kane. The guys is just an absolute beast in this match, and it’s awesome. By this point Kane had recently reunited with The Undertaker and the noise of the crowd behind him during the rumble is something else. The only gripe I have is that Drew Carey escaped unscathed, damn Drew Carey. From then on out it’s all business for Kane, the ring fills up a little and Kane quickly eliminates Grandmaster Sexay, Steve Blackman, Al Snow, Raven, and Perry Saturn in the blink of an eye.
Then comes my highlight of Kane’s run of destruction. The Honky Tonk Man. He comes out, he shakes, he rattles, he rolls, and Kane graciously blasts him in the head with his own guitar for the trouble, before dumping him over the top rope. Tazz gets much the same treatment, only lasting a few seconds. The rumble goes a bit quiet and boring then until the arrival of the Undertaker, and again the ring gets cleared. Kane racks up more eliminations for Albert and Crash Holly, and the tally continues to grow. I’d like you all to spare a thought for Scotty 2 Hotty at this point., because he gets SLAUGHTERED by the Brothers of Destruction. Then we get down to the nitty gritty. Kane gets down to the final two by eliminating The Rock, but falls just short, losing out to a bloodied and battered Stone Cold Steve Austin. But regardless of whether or not Kane won the match, he set a record that still stands some 12 years later.
5. Mankind “quits” (Royal Rumble 1999)
So this is indeed a memorable moment, but not for all the right reasons. Everyone loved Mankind, and finally…fiiiinaaaally he’d managed to take the WWF Title away from the dastardly Corporation and their Corporate Champion, The Rock. And Rock was not happy. He demanded a rematch, but the only way Foley would do this would be in an “I Quit” match at the Royal Rumble.
Now the start of the match is great, I got well into it and loved the Rock getting on commentary part way through. I popped like a madman when Mankind took the dive onto the electrical hub, but it’s from there on out that it gets uncomfortable for me. Once Rock has put the handcuffs on Mick and starts going all “chairshot crazy” I find it really difficult to watch. I dunno, it just looks…dangerous. I think it’s actually seeing it from Mick’s family’s point of view in “Beyond the Mat” that’s done it for me.
Seriously, I rewatched it again for writing this article and it still makes me squirm a little in my seat. I know Mick’s all fine with it when you watch the documentary, but goddamn, seeing those chairshots rain in flips my stomach just watching it.
So yeah, Rock beating Mankind to a bloody pulp with a chair in front of his kids. Memorable, but probably not for all the right reasons.
4. Austin steals the win (Royal Rumble 1997)
Ooooooh, this was soooooo good. 1997. The year business really started to pick up for WWF, and what a way to start the year. The 1997 Royal Rumble (for me at least) was all about one man. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin had won the King of the Ring in the previous year, and boy was momentum ever on his side. Although strictly speaking still a heel, Austin was rapidly becoming the anti-hero the crowd so desperately wanted after the years of being told to “say their prayers and eat their vitamins”. The Austin 3:16 signs had been becoming more and more prominent throughout the crowds, and a large portion of the audience now cheered every horrid d*ckish deed performed by Austin. The time was right for Austin to really push himself on to the next level, and boy did he not disappoint us.
One person who took objection to this sudden swing in the morality of the crowd was Bret Hart. He’d already beaten Austin at the previous year’s Survivor Series, and couldn’t fathom exactly why a guy like Steve Austin could be getting a following with the crowd. All we knew going in was that both men were due to enter the rumble match, and maybe we might be lucky enough to find them in the ring together at some point.
Austin entered at number 5 and started to rack up eliminations immediately by dumping Phineas Godwin out of contention. So far so good, but as the minutes began to tick by one thing became crystal clear, Austin wasn’t going ANYWHERE. More and more men came down the aisle to try their chances, but the one constant throughout was Austin. At one point Austin even managed to empty the ring and was waiting for the next person to come along, much to the delight of me at home watching. Oh, and watch how brilliant Austin’s reaction is when he hears Hart’s music. Seriously.
So Hart arrives and these two just LAY INTO each other. And the crowd eats it up. I mean sure, Jerry Lawler tries to get involved, but he only lasts 4 seconds so whatever. The ring starts to fill up again, Terry Funk and Mankind wipe each other out on one side of the ring, and I sat open mouthed and horrified as Bret Hart flung Austin over the top on the other side of the ring. Luckily (or not dependent upon your preferences in 1997) the referees are so busy trying to stop Terry Funk and Mankind brawling (and who doesn’t love seeing Funk and Foley knock lumps out of each other?) that they didn’t notice Austin’s elimination or that he had snuck back into the ring. In fact the referee’s only paid any attention when Austin seized the opportunity to dump both Taker and Vader over the top rope, as Hart eliminated Diesel. Austin then snuck up on Hart and dumped the Excellence of Execution out and securing the “win” for himself.
Bret Hart wasn’t happy, but I was pretty frickin’ ecstatic. This was so good on so many levels, and led to the excellent match between Hart and Austin at WrestleMania later in the year. An awesome start to one of the most important years in professional wrestling.
3. CM Punk “Saviour”? (Royal Rumble 2010 & 2011)
CM Punk has always been a little bit…”different”. He certainly doesn’t like to do things in a conventional fashion, which is why when he decided to pick up a microphone after eliminating Dolph Ziggler and Even Bourne from the start of the 2010 Royal Rumble I knew something good was about to happen. Just everything about this reeked of awesomeness, especially the whole “excuse me, it’s clobbering time” when JTG entered and the offer of making the Great Khali greater. Everything was going swimmingly until Triple H. Goddamn you Triple H. So Punk wasn’t in there for a long time, but it was a damn good time while it lasted.
Skip on 1 year, and Punk has now gained control of the New Nexus but finds himself entering number 1 into the Rumble and immediately faced down by the Corre. SHENANIGANS AHOY!! But the disembodied laptop voice of the anonymous GM soon puts paid to that, and we get…DANIEL BRYAN AS NUMBER TWO?! DANIEL BRYAN & CM PUNK. IN. THE. SAME. RING. YES!! I think my brain nearly exploded with Indyriffic delight.
This really gets going for me around number 15, which is where the New Nexus get 4 guys in the ring at the same time and start to clear house. JTG gets decimated (again), R-Truth gets a running high knee and a “what’s up?” for his trouble. This is the first time I’ve seen a faction involved in a rumble and been genuinely excited that they may win it. Until John Cena showed up. Goddamnit, he’s as much of a spoilsport as Triple H!
There’s just something I love about Punk when he goes all “crazy cult leader” and these back to back performances made the Rumble interesting, exciting, and above all very entertaining.
2. Mr Perfect Returns (Royal Rumble 2002)
So Royal Rumble 2002 was pretty cool. In fact, it had more than it’s fair share of memorable moments. Remember Maven eliminating the Undertaker then getting his a*s dragged through the crowd and thrown through a popcorn machine? How about Kane bodyslamming Big Show out of the Rumble? Or The Hurricane attempting the double chokeslam on Austin and Triple H? The Hardy Boys returning? All fine moments, but for me personally one moment stands above all of those. A great moment…no, a wonderful moment…no, wait, a PERFECT moment (and I’m not talking about Martine McCutcheon. Remember her?).
Ever since I first saw him as a kid I’ve been a HUGE Mr. Perfect fan. You know how much I like CM Punk now? Well that’s how much I liked Mr. Perfect then. Sure it got me funny looks from the other kids at school when we played wrestling (I know, I know, “don’t try this at home” but come on, we were kids! What else were we gonna do?), sure I got laughed at by all the goddamn Bret Hart fans after Summerslam 1991 (HE ONLY LOST THE TITLE BECAUSE HE WAS INJURED DAMNIT!!), but I was a Mr. Perfect fan through and through. Everything about him, in the ring, on commentary, the little pen flick and a smile everytime they showed him at the commentary desk, EVERYTHING about this man was perfect. The first time I saw the vignettes of him being perfect at sports I lost my mind (if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to go look it up. Mr Perfect plays a perfect game of golf, shoots hoops like a boss, just lots of “perfect” stuff).
So imagine it’s the 2002 Rumble, I’m sat there enjoying the Austin and Triple H show (and who isn’t?) when a certain someone’s music kicks in. To say I marked out would be putting it mildly. “Flipped my sh*t” is probably a fair more accurate description. Mr Perfect was back, bitches!! And he was still perfect!! He took the fight straight to guys like Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, all the way down to the final 3, and the greatest thing of all was I wasn’t the only person excited to see him. Listen to the pop from the crowd when he hits the Perfect-plex on Kurt Angle. That’s impressive. No, that’s not just impressive. It was absolutely perfect.
1. Ric Flair wins the WWF Title (Royal Rumble 1992)
So what could top my Mr. Perfect fandom for number 1 spot in this list? Only the greatest Royal Rumble performance EVER by the original limousine drivin’, jet-flyin’, wheelin’ and dealin’, kiss-stealin’ son of a gun…WOOOOOOOOOOO!! Ric Flair. Royal Rumble 1992. Greatest. Of. All. Time.
You know when the stars align beautifully for one shining moment? That’s Royal Rumble 1992. So many things just came together perfectly throughout the night to make this a spectacular Royal Rumble. Firstly there was the premise of the rumble itself, the prize for the winner wasn’t just a shot at the champion, oh no, the winner of this match instantly became champion. That was HUGE news at the time, although with the way Jack Tunney (WWF President, remember THAT?!) delivered the news you wouldn’t have thought so.
Flair had turned up just a few months before the Rumble, the WCW Title in tow, and proclaiming himself the “real world’s champion”. As soon as Flair cost Hogan the title at Survivor Series, I was hooked (mostly thanks to my mate Duncan who at the time thought he was Ric Flair and regularly used to tie me up in figure four leglocks. Thanks Dunc). The trio of Flair, Mr. Perfect, and Bobby Heenan was just wonderful to watch, even if it wasn’t cool to like the “bad” guys.
Skip on to the rumble and the story of the night was Bobby Heenan selling Ric Flair’s chances in the rumble. Literally ALL night Heenan and Monsoon are on top form, with Heenan desperately trying to get word of which number Flair has drawn. The disbelief from Heenan when it’s revealed Flair has drawn number 3 is one of my favourite ever commentary moments, “THIS ISN’T FAIR TO FLAIR!”. In fact the whole evening is a pretty great example of how much commentary can really sell something to the viewers when it’s done well. Michael Cole needs to sit his a*s down and watch two masters at work. Really, there’s so much fantastic commentary and genuinely laugh out loud moments, it’s pointless me trying to quote them all. Although special props do go out for Heenan thanking Piper for saving Flair from receiving a DDT from Jake the snake (“thank you Roddy, it’s not a skirt it’s a kilt!”), only for Piper to attack Flair and Bobby to come out with “YOU NO GOOD CREEP! YOU SKIRT WEARING FREAK!!” Awesome.
And as for Ric himself? The guys puts on a masterclass in this match. He knife edge chops and Flair flops through nearly an hour, while remaining constantly entertaining throughout. Sure there’s highlights (such as Flair tossing Bossman out and Heenan going wild saying Flair should win because he’s the only man left in the ring right now…only for Rowdy Roddy Piper to come out next) but throughout the entire match Ric is doing serious work, constantly plugging away and putting on one hell of a performance.
And how do you top that kind of performance and winning the WWF Title? With an equally awesome backstage celebration promo (which only gets better when you factor in Mean Gene telling someone to “put that cigarette out!”). Just a brilliant performance by so many people that made for the most memorable Royal Rumble ever…in my opinion.
So there you go. That’s my top 10, but what do you think? Feel free to suggest your own in the comments section below…
Enjoy the rumble folks!