Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on www.denofgeek.us and was written by Gavin Jasper.
There have been a ton of great memories from the WWE’s annual match, but there’s been some parts that we can do without.
On Sunday, January 26th, we’re going to be getting the twenty-seventh annual Royal Rumble show, meaning yet another awesome Royal Rumble match. How great is the Royal Rumble? Even the worst ones are still fun to watch. Most people will tell you that ’99 was terrible, but that’s only in comparison to all the other ones… except maybe ’88, which still isn’t the worst thing ever. There’s a lot of great stuff to talk about with those, but that’ll wait for another day.
Just because there have been so many hits doesn’t mean that there haven’t been misses. There are a lot of storylines, quirks and moments that stick out like a sore thumb when watching certain installments and before I send you to Rumble Heaven, I suppose I should take a trip through Rumble Hell.
Once again, I’m only counting the matches themselves and not the PPVs. So the excessive chairshots from that Rock/Mankind I Quit Match isn’t going to be on here.
20. THE GODFATHER’S ENTRANCE Royal Rumble 2002
2002 was the year where they played up the returns of four big names from the past in Goldust, Mr. Perfect, Val Venis and the Godfather. The latter two weren’t all that big a deal, considering they had only been gone for several months, but since the WCW inVasion seemed like three years, it’s understandable. The Godfather showed up at the Rumble and like his usual entrances, he’d be accompanied by his ladies. Only he then ran away to bring out more ladies. Then MORE ladies.
This entrance went on during the entire interval process, meaning that this match that people at home looked forward to was ignored for the sake of watching a guy eventually walk to the ring. I was a pretty big fan of Diamond Dallas Page and his goofball, smiling motivational speaker gimmick, so his elimination being off-camera and glossed over never sat well with me.
The one saving grace was Jim Ross catching Jerry Lawler off-guard. Lawler made a big deal about how the Godfather had started up his own escort service and Ross dryly joked about being given a coupon. Lawler was so used to Ross playing bemused straight man to Lawler’s horny antics that he completely lost it.
19. TOO MANY GUEST ENTRANTS Royal Rumble 2012
It’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. Look no further than the 2012 Rumble where they padded the match with far too many guest entries. Having a mystery wrestler in there is necessary just about any year, but you shouldn’t really go more than three. 2012 was swimming in guest appearances to the point that it really overstayed its welcome.
You had Mick Foley, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jerry Lawler, Booker T, Michael Cole, Kharma, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and Road Dogg. A few of them led to some great moments, but overkill is overkill. On the other side of this, you had the tag champs Primo and Epico being jobbed out like they were nothing and only one of the Usos was allowed to be in the match. A year earlier, they did a 40-man Royal Rumble because they had too many guys on the roster. Here, they might as well have done a 20-man Rumble.
Still, the implication that Booker T was doing commentary with no pants on the entire night and nobody else noticed will never not be funny.
18. VISCERA HAS HIS WAY WITH MATT HARDY Royal Rumble 2006
For a while, Viscera had a gimmick of being “the World’s Largest Love Machine,” which was amusing on the surface. He was still this horrifying demon of a giant with white eyes and Mohawk, but he played it up like he was a super sexual ladies man to offset it. That would have been fine if not for the fact that his trademark move was to rape his opponent.
No, I’m not kidding. That was literally his move. He would pin the guy to the ground facedown, position himself over him and then start humping, simulating butt sex. In terms of damage, the idea was that by flopping up and down, Viscera was crushing his opponent, but really, the point of it was to make us laugh at and root for rape. In Rumble ’06, Matt Hardy was the victim of this move and Michael Cole could only remark that it was, “interesting.” At least he didn’t give us that fake laugh.
17. CURTAIN JERKING Royal Rumble 2011/2012
When WWE did the roster split and later gave us two top titles, it gave the Royal Rumble some extra wiggle room. Someone could win their way to WrestleMania without having to be able to carry the main event on name alone. That meant that just about anyone could win. If the company was really high on, say, Carlito, they could have had him win and face the World Heavyweight Champion and it didn’t hurt things too much because Cena would be competing for the other belt anyway. Exhibit A: Rey Mysterio.
Then they got lazy about it. Alberto Del Rio won the ’11 Rumble and while “main eventing WrestleMania” can be stretched to be in the middle of the card or towards the end, he instead got the opening match of the show. Where he lost. And was humiliated. After two months of losing cleanly and being humiliated. What was even the point?
A year later, Sheamus won the Rumble and went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship in a joke of a match that also took place at the start of the card. Things like this are why I wasn’t crying any tears when they decided to unify the titles.
There are some Royal Rumble matches, especially in the first ten years, that suffer because of the roster. When you had the champion and number one contender fighting it out in a separate match, you needed all the other big names in the Rumble and you didn’t always have too much to play with. The ’91 Rumble suffered from this as while it had Hogan as the only viable face to win, Earthquake’s status as a monster was dwindling and Undertaker was still being built up as a threat. At least they had Randy Savage in there… right?
The storyline of that night was that during an interview, WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior was confronted by Queen Sherri, who tried seducing Warrior into giving Savage a title match. Even though it made no sense to refuse and his title run was a huge financial failure due to lack of compelling heel challengers anyway, Warrior still screamed, “nnnnNNNnnNNNNnnOOOOOoOOOOOOOO!!” into her face. Naturally, Savage appeared during Warrior’s title defense against Sgt. Slaughter and cost him the match and the belt.
When it came time for Savage to enter the Rumble, nothing happened. He never came out. The idea was that Warrior scared him out of the building and he wouldn’t even compete in the match. I get why they did it, but it wasn’t the best idea. The match really needed Savage’s star power and there were all sorts of ways they could have hyped up their budding rivalry by having them both in the arena. Imagine if Warrior had to push himself through a wave of referees and officials and got in hot water because he started tossing them around like ragdolls when trying to get his hands on Savage. That would have been nuts!
15. HORNSWOGGLE AND FINLAY Royal Rumble 2008
The whole Hornswoggle storyline in 2008 was a pain to sit through, excluding the parts when Finlay would mercilessly beat Great Khali with a shillelagh because that was hilarious. Hornswoggle was entered into the Rumble by his “father” Vince McMahon and for the most part, it wasn’t too offensive. He’d hide under the ring and would only come out to drag someone over the top rope to the outside (like how he eliminated the Miz). This got him in trouble when he tried it on Mark Henry and Henry instead pulled him into the ring. With Hornswoggle cornered by Henry, Viscera and Chavo, his protector Finlay decided to make the save.
All well and good, except for how confusing it got right after. Finlay attacked them with his shillelagh and walked off with Hornswoggle. The commentators (all six of them) weren’t sure what to make of it. At first they said he was disqualified for using a weapon. Then they said he was disqualified for coming out too early. Meanwhile, Hornswoggle was never eliminated and just plain never came back. They could have at least come up with some kind of elimination for the two that made more sense. I was there at that show and nobody in the crowd was too sure what was going on, especially when they skipped a number.
The one thing almost every Rumble had going for it was the fact that the winners made sense. Even in ’99 when Vince McMahon won, I can’t fault why they had it happen. From Duggan to Cena, they all made sense in terms of booking, which is itself rather surprising.
Then 2012 happened. They spent a lot of time and effort building Jericho’s return via some really creepy and effective videos of a little boy giving an unnerving prophecy about the end of the world. It turned out to be hype for Jericho, who showed up and did… nothing! It was ridiculous! He’d smile, wear a sparkling light-up jacket and play to the crowd without doing a single goddamn thing. They were obviously building him towards a WrestleManiatitle shot against CM Punk and he really, really needed to win the Royal Rumble in order to make it work.
In pure modern-day WWE fashion, they decided that being unpredictable was more important than telling a good story. After a lengthy one-on-one battle at the end of the match, Jericho was kicked out of the ring by Sheamus. In one instant, the mystique and momentum of Jericho’s return was gone. The enigmatic smiling and “end of the world” hoopla had to be swept under the rug because the only way the match with Punk could make sense was if they suddenly made it into a blood feud and reverted Jericho to his usual self. As much as they tried, it never hit its potential and meanwhile, as mentioned a few entries earlier, Sheamus followed up his Rumble win by winning an eight-second match at the start of WrestleMania.
13. FAR FROM RANDOM ENTRANTS Royal Rumble 2002
Most Rumbles have the same pattern. The first half is dedicated to all the jobbers and midcarders with a couple big names thrown in there. Then as it gets later into match, more and more big names come out around the same time. Usually #30 is a wrestler who kayfabe has a chance to win, but really won’t, such as Big Show or Adam Bomb. When you notice this, it gets really annoying. Hell, it was annoying when they’d program guys like Cena and Triple H to constantly come out as #29 and #30 in some of the Smackdownvideo games.
2002 was the most blatant use of random draws that in no way came off as random. After a midcard parade, Undertaker came out at #8, followed immediately after by Jeff Hardy and then Matt Hardy, who he happened to have been feuding with. Even Lawler was pointing at the holes in this concept. The ring filled up again until Austin arrived at #19 and the match finally picked up and felt like it was going somewhere even though it was past the halfway point. Triple H came in at #22 and soon after that, it became a cavalcade of top names.
#25 was Mr. Perfect, who made the final three. Then after that you had, in order, Kurt Angle, Big Show, Kane, Rob Van Dam, and Booker T. At least try to spread it out, guys.
12. ALEX RILEY ACCIDENTALLY ELIMINATED Royal Rumble 2011
WWE Champion the Miz sat on commentary during this Rumble and commented that his protégé Alex Riley was being very, very smart. Normally, that would have been a nice and perhaps apt thing for him to say about Riley, but Miz nor any of the other commentators realized that Riley was eliminated about five minutes earlier. For good reason because he wasn’t supposed to be!
Early in his time in the ring, Riley was shoved over to the apron by John Cena and Kofi Kingston. This was your usual time-killer spot to keep people busy. Riley would hold onto the ropes, get back into the ring and they’d keep it going until they had to do something important. Unfortunately, Riley slipped and fell out of the ring. Nobody noticed this at all except for Kofi and Cena, who seemed really distressed and nervous because Riley was instrumental in how Cena was planned to be eliminated later on.
They improvised something for later with Riley returning to distract Cena so Miz could toss him out, but seeing such a wrench tossed into the plans was pretty funny.
11. THE YEAR OF EMPTY RINGS Royal Rumble 1999
I suppose I should probably mention something about 1999, what with it being the least popular of Rumbles. It was the Rumble where there was too much going on, yet at the same time, nothing going on. After eliminating Golga at #3, Steve Austin chased Vince McMahon around the arena with neither eliminated. This meant that the ring was completely empty and the crowd had to wait until the next two guys showed up for there to be any action. That was fine the first time around because we got to watch Austin smack around McMahon until the Corporation caught up to him backstage.
The ring filled up again until Mabel showed up and cleared it of everyone but a hurt Road Dogg. Then the Ministry of Darkness popped in to abduct him. Kind of sucks that he’d be taken out without anyone in the match being made to look good in any way, but whatever. Road Dogg waited it out for the next guy.
Then later on, Kane showed up and cleared the ring AGAIN. This time, he was followed by men in white coats meant to bring him to the asylum, which was his storyline at the time. Kane proceeded to manhandle his would-be captors and then eliminated himself and ran off for no reason. It’s like if Spider-Man beat up a room full of criminals and webbed them up before thinking, “Oh, crap! I gotta get out of here!” and cheesed it.
Eventually, Ken Shamrock appeared and hung out with a returning Vince McMahon until Billy Gunn limped out from the back. The ring had been cleared out three times and they were only 2/3 done with the match.
10. RANDY SAVAGE ELIMINATES HIMSELF… OR DOES HE?! Royal Rumble 1992
In 1989, Andre the Giant was so scared when Jake Roberts threw his snake Damien into the ring that he stepped over the ropes and high-tailed it. That counted as an elimination and precedent was set.
Three years later, Randy Savage threw Jake Roberts out of the ring and was so furious that he kept attacking him. He was so in the moment that he leapt over the top rope to climb out. He probably wasn’t supposed to do that as the commentators didn’t know what to do. They knew he wasn’t supposed to be eliminated, but he just went over the top. Monsoon and Heenan went over it for a moment until Monsoon pulled the explanation out of his ass that Savage wasn’t eliminated because he left on his own accord.
Oddly enough, there was really no reason for him to return to the match. Even though he got fourth place, he didn’t do a single thing of note.
9. NO DDTS EVER Various
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, one of the best finishers was Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ DDT. Even when it became a move that every wrestler did, few could ever do it on the level of Jake. That made it all that much more frustrating that he was constantly foiled in the Royal Rumble whenever he tried to do it.
He tried to give it to Danny Davis? Davis would grab the nearby ropes and slip away. He tried it on Ted Dibiase? Randy Savage would run over and clothesline Jake over the top rope. Year after year, Jake would show up, be a house of fire and hint at the DDT. Even at the first Rumble, the crowd was chanting, “DDT!” before chants were even much of a thing! Every single time, somebody would evade it and live to fight another minute.
Then he showed up at the 1996 Royal Rumble during his last major run with the company. He got in there, mixed it up with Savio Vega, put Vega’s head underneath Jake’s armpit and…
THE CAMERA SHOT CHANGED AND WE DIDN’T GET TO SEE IT! GOD! Oh, sure, we could hear it, but the one time Jake actually hit the damn move, only the live crowd got to enjoy it.
8. MARK HENRY: WORST ELIMINATION EVER Royal Rumble 1998
Sometimes one of the taller or bulkier wrestlers has a hard time selling his loss in the Rumble match. Goldust is a good example. Sometimes he’d have to act like a hit was strong enough to propel himself over the top rope and he’d perform that act in the fakest way possible. In the end, nobody has ever had a more laughable elimination than Mark Henry.
Reaching the end of the match, Farooq picked up fellow Nation member Mark Henry and placed him over the top rope. He didn’t throw him. He just lifted him up and set him back down on the apron. Henry stood there for a moment until realizing that Farooq wasn’t even looking at him and wasn’t going to finish the spot. He stepped through the ropes, Farooq turned around, punched him and Henry took a step back out the ropes and stepped down to the floor.
All the while, Lawler tried his damnedest to sound excited about it.
7. THE NEW NEXUS VS. THE CORRE Royal Rumble 2011
Ah, man. If there was ever a condensed look at what was wrong with WWE in 2011, it’s the 2011 Rumble, especially the beginning. CM Punk was the leader of the New Nexus and they were sort of at war with Nexus splinter group the Corre. Punk came out at #1 and was followed soon after by the Corre, out to start a fight. The rest of the New Nexus came out and we had a big brawl.
Then the Anonymous Raw GM summoned Michael Cole, who obnoxiously shouted at them to stop and break it up. Everyone but Punk got sent to the back and that’s the end of the whole feud. There was no blow-off and that’s partially understandable because they were both heel groups and Punk had other stuff going on, but if that’s the case, don’t act like you’re building up to something if you aren’t. Besides, a feud with the New Nexus probably would have been better than anything else they did with the Corre.