This weekend, the WWE graces us with the 30th annual Royal Rumble event. How about we talk about the best matches to ever take place within the Pay Per View which holds this behemoth Battle Royale? Yes, I think we should.
As a kid, the Royal Rumble was always my favorite of the “big 4” wrestling events (with the others being Wrestlemania, Survivor Series, & Summer Slam). There was something about a match that theoretically, could hold 30 wrestlers in the ring all at one time. Granted, that never happens, but the countdown to each new wrestler about to enter the “squared circle” made me giddy with anticipation. Now, as I’ve gotten older, my expertise in professional wrestling has dwindled. Luckily for you, my friend Austin Brunner holds that wealth of knowledge, and will now impart it on you. You are ALSO lucky that he is a sarcastic, self-deprecating ass just like I am. You’re welcome, world! You’re welcome. I’m also sorry…
Top 10 Royal Rumble Matches of All Time
10. 2000 Royal Rumble
I have to be honest off the bat: this list will be skewed heavily to 2000 and up. Simply because I’ve only seen clips of previous rumbles. I haven’t seen them from start to finish like I have from 2000 and beyond. “But Austin. You have the WWE Network. Simply go back and watch them.” Lou didn’t give me enough time! And frankly, it doesn’t matter what you think! My list on the Top 10 Royal Rumble’s that I’ve seen. And this match somewhat set the stage for me when I got into wrestling. It had a lot. A Too Cool dance breakdown (only to have Rikishi eliminate Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay). Kaientai randomly inserting themselves into the match left and right. A backstage brawl with the Mean Street Posse and APA. X-Pac in the final four! And the Rock ultimately coming out on top to win it all. Solid match with a lot of moving parts, even if the finish wasn’t as clean as it should’ve been.
9. 2011 Royal Rumble
The first ever 40-man Royal Rumble. There was simply a lot to this one (get it? A lot because there were 10 more entrants?) and the surprises made this one that much better. Booker T and Diesel coming back was amazing. Matt Stryker yelling “holy s***” after that Diesel music hits is priceless. I think Punk and Bryan starting off the match was a slight nod to the smart fans who followed these guys through the indies. And then for a split second, the entire world had a feeling that Santino Marella was going to win the entire thing! Of course that did not happen, the WWE machine got behind Alberto Del Rio for some reason, but the crowd went absolutely bananas for a moment, and that simply added to the excitement. Not to mention the great storytelling with the Miz and Cena to set up that Wrestlemania match. Bigger Rumble match, but not better than 8 others in my book.
8. 2003 Royal Rumble
I think I appreciate this one as much as I do because of how it set the stage for some of my favorite matches down the line. That’s what the Royal Rumble SHOULD do, preferably without the fans noticing. Right from the get-go with Jericho attacking HBK. That turned into a Wrestlemania feud, and what a solid feud that turned out to be in retrospect (and then even became the precursor for a better feud). Brock Lesnar winning this thing set-up the next PPV for Team Angle vs. Team Lesnar (which turned into a handicap from an Edge injury) and then of course that iconic Wrestlemania match. Not to mention, Lesnar eliminated Undertaker to win this. That, and the small nods to storylines like Edge and Mysterio shaking hands before trying to eliminate one another. To put it simply, it was fun.
7. 2007 Royal Rumble
The ending alone makes this match worthy of the list. Undertaker vs. Michaels for minutes as the final two! You truly didn’t know who was going to win this thing. This was also the first time someone entered at 30 and actually won the thing, and it is the only time Undertaker has won the Rumble. Not to mention there always seemed to be a strong consensus of wrestlers in the ring. Edge lasted nearly 45 minutes. Finlay lasted more than 30 minutes. CM Punk and Randy Orton just under 30 minutes. The ring always felt very active. Not to mention what this Rumble ended up setting up for Mania. Whew.
6. 2010 Royal Rumble
This one had everything for me. CM Punk attempting the slow and deliberate takeover of the Rumble at the beginning. Beth Phoenix eliminating the Great Khali. Shawn Michaels in his quest to face the Undertaker one more time, trying to win the Rumble to face him, not necessarily going after the championship. He even eliminated Triple H, his DX brother! When HBK got eliminated he sold it perfectly, looking dismayed and heartbroken. Later we would see how that would play out. He cost Taker the title at the Elimination Chamber, giving it to Jericho. Who comes in and wins the Rumble? SURPRISE. Edge. Jericho’s former partner. It all lined up so well, and I loved it. “YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME. Holy ****!”
5. 2001 Royal Rumble
All right. I’ve changed my Top 5 from the podcast Liggy Smalls and I did. I had 2010 in the Number 5 spot. In retrospect, I regret not putting the 2001 Rumble in. Kane looked like an absolute monster in this rumble, setting the record at the time with 11 eliminations. The Big Show made his epic return to the match, which shocked the hell out of me. Remember, the internet wasn’t so prevalent at this time. The Rock and Stone Cold had one of my favorite Rumble moments with this epic staredown. Add some chair shots from Austin to Kane to give Stone Cold his record third Royal Rumble win, and you get quite the Rumble match here. This one likely slipped my mind because I hadn’t been as high into wrestling at this point, and didn’t watch it live, as I did most of these other ones.
4. 2008 Royal Rumble
Now we’re getting into the Rumble matches that made me have all the feelings and what not. That’s right, I’m a 28-year-old wrestling fan that has feelings when it comes to wrestling. If you don’t like it, I’ve got two words for ya: Step off. This match starts Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Whoa. Both lasted for more than 30 minutes. Batista comes in and lasts 37 minutes. You add in some legends like Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, and Mick Foley and you’ve got one lit Madison Square Garden. The ending though… Whew. Triple H coming in at 29 and running through the field. And then, that music hits at Number 30. John. Cena. Nobody saw this coming because he was still injured! The smart fans were supposed to be sick of Mr. Hustle Loyalty and Respect. And yet, when something unexpected like that happens, you’ve got to mark out! The feels man. The. Feels.
3. 2006 Royal Rumble
This one will always have a spot in my heart because of the story. Eddie Guerrero died on my birthday in 2005. I loved watching Eddie perform and seeing all those wrestlers cry the next night on Raw broke my heart. None more than Rey Mysterio. So when this Royal Rumble came around, and the storyline was “Rey wants to win this for Eddie,” I pulled for him. Number 1 is Triple H. Number 2 is Mysterio. Rey lasted the entire match. Triple H was in the final 3. I thought Randy Orton was going to win this thing, and Rey miraculously whipped him over the top. I lost myself in excitement just at the thought that Rey could get himself to Wrestlemania and possibly win the championship for Eddie.
2. 2004 Royal Rumble
This one is tough to enjoy these days, simply because of what Chris Benoit did years later to his family and himself. I’ve gone back and watched this match, and it’s sad. But, I think it’s important to look at any wrestling match under a microscope of what happened at the time, and that’s what I’m doing with this one. Benoit came in at Number 1 as punishment and stuck it to the man. Lasting more than an hour, he culminated the victory with the slowest final elimination ever. Symbolically, Number 2 was Randy Orton, who would go on to take the championship from Benoit at Summerslam. Who eliminated Randy Orton? Mick Foley. They would go on to have one of the best hardcore matches ever in WWE. Then champion Brock Lesnar would mess with Goldberg, allowing Kurt Angle to eliminate him. Goldberg would seek retribution and mess with Lesnar, allowing Eddie Guerrero to win the championship at No Way Out. He would go on to face Angle at Wrestlemania. It all comes full circle folks. With Benoit winning, that set the stage for one of the most iconic Wrestlemania moments in history: Guerrero and Benoit standing in the middle of the ring as champions to end the show.
1. 2002 Royal Rumble
Here we are. This is the reason I fell in love with wrestling. I’m not even ashamed to admit it. I had watched wrestling for a while before this, but this was the one. Triple H, the cerebral assassin, tore his quad months before this. WWE started putting out promo videos of him training and rehabbing that muscle with the U2 song “Beautiful Day” behind it. I bought the CD with that song strictly based on that promotion. Triple H returned at RAW the week before, and I couldn’t fathom the possibility. He’s going to be in the Rumble after going through that injury?! Yes! The match itself had a lot. The Undertaker dominating early on, only to be eliminated by Maven. Yes, Maven. Then the Deadman ripped him to shreds throughout the arena. Stone Cold doing Stone Cold things in the Rumble after winning it the year prior. Mr. Perfect making a surprise return and lasting into the final three! Kurt Angle thinking he eliminated Triple H, only for The Game to give him one of the best over-the-top clotheslines I’ve seen. Triple H, the returning assassin, takes out the competition and secures his spot for the main-event at Wrestlemania. A young Brunner 1.0 was hooked, and I’ve been a fan of wrestling ever since.
Past versions of Ranked!
Brunner 1.0 is the #1 entrant in the Royal Rumble every year, but never gets to the ring because he can’t find his wrestling tights.
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