The Royal Rumble: 30 Regal Years. Part Two of Two.
Ever since its inception, the Royal Rumble has been one of the most consistently entertaining WWE PPV’s. While you can’t always count on the undercard, you can usually count on the Rumble to deliver. Whether it’s surprise entries, surprise returns, or surprise finishes, the Royal Rumble has truly made for some of wrestling’s greatest moments. Here are a few of my favorites:
Two Wrestlers Win the Rumble (1994): Knowing that only one wrestler can win the Rumble, how is this even possible? In 1994, Lex Lugar and Bret “The Hitman” Hart were the last two wrestlers remaining. Then, in incredible fashion, both men were sent over the top rope, their feet apparently hitting the floor simultaneously. As a result, WWF President Jack Tunney ordered that both men would receive a WWF title shot at WrestlMania X. This Rumble is noteworthy for Diesel’s incredible elimination of seven wrestlers during the match. Unfortunately, it also has the dubious distinction of featuring the Casket Match between Yokozuna and the Undertaker in which the Undertaker (kayfabe) died and ascended somewhere. Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior showdown at the Royal Rumble (1990): It’s difficult to build up a match between two babyfaces without an inevitable heel turn. Here, the Warrior’s pre-match interview sent shivers down the fans’ spines when he talked of the one opponent that could pose a challenge to him -Hulk Hogan. When Hogan and the Warrior ultimately (no pun intended) met in the Rumble, the fans knew they were in for a treat. Knowing that the Rumble is every man for himself, the Hulkster took advantage of an opportune moment, eliminating the Warrior from the match, and went on to win his first of two consecutive Royal Rumble victories.
John Cena returns at the Royal Rumble (2008): After suffering a torn pectoral in October 2007, Cena surprised the wrestling world when he returned as the thirtieth entrant in the match, far ahead of his predicted return from injury. Cena’s return was all the sweeter, as he won the Rumble, earning a WWE Championship shot against the champion, Randy Orton. Cena decided to skip the wait for WrestleMania, challenging Orton for the WWE Championship at the No Way Out PPV. Orton would lose by disqualification, leading to a chain of events where Cena earned a rematch, and squared off against Triple H and WWE champion Randy Orton in a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XXIV, with Orton retaining the title. Mr. McMahon Wins the Royal Rumble (1999): The ongoing war between WWF owner Vince McMahon and his arch-nemesis, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, saw McMahon try to weasel his way into being the 30th (and last) entrant. Unfortunately for McMahon, his plans failed and he faced the number one entrant, Austin. In true McMahon fashion, he stacked the deck against Austin, offering a $100,000.00 bounty to whoever eliminated Austin from the match. McMahon took advantage of the situation when he was sent out of the ring under a rope (as opposed to over the top rope, which the rules require), and stayed outside the ring for the majority of the match. In the end, Austin threw McMahon into the ring, and looked to have the match well in hand. This changed when WWF champion, The Rock, distracted Austin, allowing Mr. McMahon to scoop him out of the ring, winning the Rumble in the process. This Rumble is also significant because it saw the first female entrant (Chyna) in the Rumble.
Rey Mysterio Wins the Rumble (2006) : Rey Mysterio was arguably the best cruiserweight in wrestling at this time. However, Mysterio wasn’t satisfied with that, wanting to show that while he might not have the size, he had the heart, of a heavyweight champion. Mysterio also wanted to honor his recently deceased friend, Eddie Guerrero. Despite coming in as the second entrant, Mysterio persevered, eliminating Triple H (who was the first entrant) and Randy Orton to win the match. After Randy Orton insulted Eddie Guerrero, Rey would put up his title shot at No Way Out, and lose after underhanded tactics by Orton. However, SmackDown! General Manager Teddy Long would add Rey to the World Championship Match at WrestleMania XXII between champion Kurt Angle and Randy Orton. Rey would go on to win the belt, proving that he not only had what it takes to excel as a cruiserweight, but to excel at any level.
Ric Flair wins the WWF Championship in the Royal Rumble (1992): For the first and only time, the WWF Championship was decided at the Royal Rumble. In a true nail-biter, Flair entered the Rumble at number three, and outlasted twenty-nine opponents to win the match (with a spoil sport Hulk Hogan giving Flair an unwanted assist). The match is fantastic but the color commentary by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan makes it even more entertaining. Throw in a hilarious after-match interview with Flair, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “Mr. Perfect”; and you have the greatest Royal Rumble of all time.