With the WWE Royal Rumble 2014 right around the corner, I started thinking about past Rumble memories. The Rumble match lends itself to creativity, surprises, and thrilling memories. Today I look back at the top WWE Royal Rumble Memorable Moments.
This is a tough blog to write because you have the Rumble match itself and you have the spectacle surrounding the event of non-Rumble matches. Some of the best Rumble event moments have come from non Rumble matches like the Hogan-Andre signing, the Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude posedown, Jeff Hardy coming within inches of winning his first world title, and Rock vs. Mick Foley I-Quit match. However to keep with the theme of the Royal Rumble match, I wanted to focus specifically on Royal Rumble matches and look at lasting memories coming from the big event.
What made this one so great besides the above is that it was like one long dream match for Ric Flair fans. On one night you got to see every Ric Flair dream match in one match between Flair being in the ring with Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Hulk Hogan, and the Undertaker. The look on Flair’s face when Piper came down the aisle was one of the greatest sells in pro wrestling history. Some may even argue that this was Flair’s last great stand as the match was just a masterpiece from one of the greatest of all time.
2 – John Cena enters the Rumble at #30 as the mystery entrant, 2008 Royal Rumble. I am far from any kind of John Cena fan, but this was Cena’s greatest moment. Sadly in this day and age of hot shot wrestling angles, pro wrestling surprises rarely pay off. While the Rumble always had surprise entries, even those rarely paid off other than Jake Roberts, Honkytonk Man, and a few others. Cena’s surprise appearance in the Rumble may be the last great wrestling surprise in quite some time.
Cena had been off of television completely for almost three months after getting injured in October on Monday Night Raw. The buzz after Cena’s injury was that Cena would be out for seven months which would have taken off of WrestleMania 24. Even a week prior to the Rumble Cena did an interview where he talked about his disappointment in missing WrestleMania 24. Everyone involved did a fantastic job of keeping Cena’s return a huge surprise as even the biggest wrestling skeptics never predicted Cena’s appearance at the Rumble.
In a 2008 blog I wrote this about Cena’s entrance, “I talked a lot about fan passion at the time on my radio show and in blogs yet the fan reaction to John Cena at the Rumble is something that people still talk about today. The entrance itself is arguably the greatest Rumble entrance in the history of the match. The place went nuts in a way that rivaled Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in their heyday. It was truly a historic WWE moment that helped solidify Cena’s WWE status as a WWE superstar.”
Like him or not, John Cena’s surprise entry and the crowd reaction in Madison Square Garden was one of the greatest moments in Royal Rumble history. Jim Ross’ call here was almost as memorable as Heenan’s call on Flair winning in 1992. Unfortunately the WWE had several announcers calling the match, all tripping over each other to crowbar their lines into the moment. If not for Joey Styles and Michael Cole stepping over the WWE Hall of Fame announcer, Ross’ call probably would have stolen it all.
3 – Steve Austin and Vince McMahon start the Royal Rumble as 1 & 2, 1999 Royal Rumble. As frenzied as the crowd in Madison Square Garden for John Cena, the crowd at Arrowhead Pond may have even gone more crazy for the opening moments of the main-event. After almost a year of torment from Mr. McMahon, Steve Austin would finally get his revenge on his boss. The twist here is that McMahon “randomly” picked Austin’s number at 1 for the Rumble while he “randomly” picked #30. However, Commissioner Shawn Michaels vetoed that and declared that Vince would now start as #2, thus making McMahon vs. Austin for the first time since their RAW match which ended in chaos a year earlier.
The heat and intensity for this was like no other Rumble opening moment. Wrestling fans were chomping at the bit to see Austin vs. McMahon. Austin started out by stomping McMahon like he was a man possessed or as J.R. put it, he “stomped a mudhole in him.” The two would go their separate ways later in the Rumble only to come back for more at the end. The Rumble ended and started the same way as it all came down to Austin and McMahon in a dramatic moment. Vince McMahon dumped Steve Austin over the top rope after The Rock distracted Austin to win the Rumble.
Most wrestling fans would grunt at the thought of a booker/owner putting himself over in such a big match, but this one worked. Between the videos of Shane and Vince McMahon training, the angles in between, and the months of buildup, Austin vs. McMahon in the Rumble is undoubtedly a great moment in WWE history.
4 – Kane eliminates 11 WWE superstars in a row from the Royal Rumble, 2001 Royal Rumble . I never thought I would ever create any kind of top WWE list that would include Kane but fair is fair. This was an awesome moment or series of events that is still remembered right around Rumble time. At this point in time, Kane’s 11 eliminations was a record and the announcers put it over as such, making you for one moment think that you were in the midst of watching wrestling history.
For a few minutes Kane dominated the Rumble like no other as he single-handedly eliminated all of the entries from 7-12 as they walked down the aisle and into the Rumble. The Rock stopped the massacre temporarily when he entered at #13. The Undertaker would later work with Kane and the two would eliminate several Rumble competitors. Kane would later eliminate The Rock to bring the Rumble down to him and Austin. Austin won the match winning his third Rumble and thus ending the domination of Kane.
5 – Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior collide for the very first time, 1990 Royal Rumble. This is where the list becomes a little controversial because I know there a lot of wrestling fans reading this that will probably disagree. I went back and forth between Shawn Michaels or Chris Benoit running the gauntlet from entering #1 in their respective Rumbles and winning, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels starting the Rumble in 2008, or Austin just cleaning house in 1998 but if you are looking specifically at great Rumble moments in the match, this has to edge out any one of those single performances.
It may be hard to understand the gravity of the moment if you didn’t live it as a wrestling fan and that is understandable. In the 1980s WWF, heels rarely fought heels but babyfaces never fought babyfaces. But for WWF fans a polarizing divide had been brewing between The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan and their fans. For some, it was Hogan burnout after six years they wanted to see someone new at the top of the show. For others, they were Hulkamaniacs forever and as much as they loved to root for Warrior against Rick Rude or Hercules he was not in the league of Hulk Hogan.
There were teases going into the Rumble between WWF champion Hogan and WWF Intercontinental champion Ultimate Warrior as to what would happen if it came down to each man, but that was nothing new in pre-Rumble hype. Unlike past Rumbles, this time the WWF paid off and gave the fans what they wanted. The Ultimate Warrior entered the Rumble at #21 and Hulk Hogan entered the Rumble at #24. Hogan and Warrior each took turns clearing the ring of Shawn Michaels, the Honkytonk Man, Tito Santana, Haku, Superfly Snuka, and Rick Martel. The Orlando Arena went nuts after Martel hit the floor and the only two men left in the ring were Hogan and Warrior.