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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Real Super Bowl Of Wrestling
April 14, 2006 by Jacob Kuhn


For the second time in my life, I was at Wrestlemania this year. Having attended the previous time it was in Chicago (Wrestlemania 13, which I was very bored by), I promised myself to return to the event each time it came to my home city. Also, this would be my first wrestling event I had seen live since that previous Wrestlemania. Wrestling had evolved greatly since then and I wasn't sure what to expect. I ended up having the greatest time I could possibly remember. It was like pure joy for four hours and I got more caught up in it than I ever have before. There's not a single time I have ever had so much fun.

But I am not writing about Wrestlemania. Although the event was more exciting and wonderful than I could have expected (I was the instigator of more than one anti-Cena chant), there was one thing that left me wanting. No, it wasn't John Cena retaining the belt. It wasn't the fact I was hoping the Undertaker would finally have his streak ended. It wasn't wishing that I didn't have to see Vince McMahon's ass live.

What left me slightly unfulfilled was that it was Wrestlemania and not the Royal Rumble.

Traditionally, the Royal Rumble has always been the event that has heralded the beginning of the "Road to Wrestlemania." That is being the wonderful time of year when it's exciting to be a WWE fan. So many feuds come to culmination at that time. We see the Royal Rumble winner make his march towards the championship. So many wrestlers start breaking out their 'A' game to display their best at the most watched Pay Per View of the year. What isn't to love about Wrestlemania"

Well, speaking just for me, the one event I look forward to every year more than any other is the Royal Rumble. For me, it is the Super Bowl of wrestling. I would more than likely turn down tickets to Wrestlemania just to be able to attend it once.

The Royal Rumble match has yet to be a disappointment to me. There have been things that have happened that have been less than what I have wanted of course, but those things have always been small. In 1995, I was upset the match only lasted 45 minutes; but it was still great to see Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog go from end to end. In 1999, it may have been annoying to see Vince McMahon come in at number two and win the Rumble. Still, McMahon's influence in the match was minimal and it was worth it to continue the highly popular Austin vs. McMahon feud. Who could forget the aggravation that came out of Bret Hart and Lex Luger tying for the Rumble in 1994" As frustrating as that was, the Rumble was barely about them that year. That Royal Rumble belonged to Kevin Nash and was what launched him into main event status.

Not only is this match always fun to watch - as battle royals always tend to be - but like the Super Bowl, it's something that we only get to see once a year. The stakes are always high ever since Yokozuna won the 1993 Rumble; we know that the winner gets to main event Wrestlemania (with the exceptions of McMahon in 1999 and Steve Austin in 1997). Besides the very few times that we are told who is coming in at which number, these bouts are generally filled with suspense. Who's going to come out next" How long will my favorite wrestler last" Who's going to be thrown out and who will throw out the most people" The match eventually becomes a game of 'what ifs." These generally last until the last moment when one man is left standing in the middle of the ring.

The Royal Rumble, though always exciting, seemed to take an unexpected turn shortly after Ric Flair's arrival in the WWF. The two previous years, Hulk Hogan had dominated the match, with Jim Duggan and Big John Studd winning the two previous years, respectively. Although it was fun and entertaining, that was really the extent of the Rumble. It held no real special significance. It seemed odd that Ted Dibiase would be paying people to let him win the Rumble match. He got nothing significant out of that. Two months before the match was scheduled, however, the WWF found a way to make it much more interesting.

Hulk Hogan was caught up in a feud with the Undertaker. Many fans considered it the first feud that Hogan might not be able to win. What further complicated matters was the fact that Ric Flair made his debut and had his eyes set on the WWF title. Well, the Undertaker defeated Hogan at the Survivor Series, with help from Flair. The WWF then had a very odd follow-up Pay-Per-View called "Tuesday From Texas." It was unusual, but mainly just a setup for what was to follow. Hogan cheated to get the belt back, WWF figurehead Jack Tunney was knocked out and there was more interference from Ric Flair. Although Hogan had won, he was stripped of the belt immediately. For the first time ever, the WWF Championship was to be given to the winner of the Royal Rumble.

This eventually led into what I consider the greatest moment in the history of the WWF, in all of it's incarnations. Ric Flair entered the Rumble at number 3, went over an hour against some of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport and eliminated four of them. It seemed impossible that he would win when the last two wrestlers he faced were Hogan and Sid Justice. Luckily for Flair, the other two went at it, Flair ended up eliminating Sid after Sid eliminated Hogan, and there you had it: The greatest Royal Rumble performance ever. Even Bobby Heenan has admitted it was the best match he had ever called. In fact, it was not only Flair, but Heenan's amazing commentary that made the match as special and timeless as it is.

Afterwards, it would have been impossible for the Royal Rumble to go back to what it had been before. After Ric Flair won the WWF Championship one year, how could the match go back to being a simple battle royal" It couldn't. Therefore the WWF let us know that they attached the stipulation that we all have come to know: the winner of the Royal Rumble would get a guaranteed title shot at Wrestlemania.

Ever since, the Rumble match has provided all sorts of entertaining angles and moments. Regardless of what anyone says, we never know what is truly going to happen. In the internet community this year, it was a foregone conclusion that Randy Orton was going to win the Rumble. Then many of us were totally taken aback when Rey Mysterio ended up as the last man in the ring. Who ever suspected that Yokozuna, a newcomer and apparent mid-carder, would be the first man to win that guaranteed title shot" There have been predictable moments, such as when Shawn Michaels won in 1995 and 1996. They are not numerous though. Nowadays the Rumble winners are not generally the people who are currently feuding with the champion.

It's because of the uniqueness and the excitement that makes the Royal Rumble the most fun moment of the year in wrestling. Even when the WWE has had it's down moments, the match has always been something that we can look forward to. There have been bad Wrestlemania's, but I have yet to watch something that I can categorize as a bad Royal Rumble. Even though I love Wrestlemania and I had the greatest time of my life when I attended, I haven't yet been to what I consider the most important night in professional wrestling. That's the Royal Rumble and I hope one day I will get to attend the true Super Bowl of Wrestling.

by Jacob Kuhn ..


Randall Flagg wrote:
Wow, I couldn't disagree more about the Royal Rumble being a great event. Battle royals in general suck (too many people and too much "action" means the viewer is going to miss a lot of stuff), plus the way the entrances are staggered means some have a huge advantage (yes, there are exceptions like Flair, but 9 times out of 10 you can just look at the order of entrance and tell who isn't going to win).

Then there's the match length. It takes 45 minutes just to get everyone involved, by which time most are eliminated. I'm sure there have been hour-long matches that were worth every second, but not many.

Let's talk about the entrants now. There aren't 30 A-list competitors in the WWE period. Subtract the IC/US/Tag champs (who most likely are top-flight, and *should* be defending their titles on the card), and whoever has a hot feud going at the time and won't be in the RR. That leaves a boatload of scrubs competing in the "main event", which is exactly where scrubs should NOT be. It also thins out the number of potential winners.

Truthfully, the only WWE PPV worse than the RR was the old-school Survivor Series, where every match was a pointless 8-10 man tag match.
Denholm Burford wrote:
Nice article Jacob. But I'm surprised you didn't include the 2005 Royal Rumble when Batista won. WWE gave Batista a huge push from being a lower-mid-carder to a main eventer. But besides that, nice job.
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