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(WARNING – cliché late January WWE pun about to be made)
Well, it’s finally time take the on-ramp and start on the road to WrestleMania!!!!!
(pause for audible groan from the audience)
Perhaps a more modern tag line would be that it is just about time for everyone to point at the WrestleMania sign!
All joking aside, this is the start of the best part of the WWE year and my personal favorite event – the Royal Rumble!
Thinking of a way to look at one of WWE’s longest standing traditions, we have to do something more than just ranking the best matches or the most exciting moment, etc. So I give to you … (drum roll please) … THE ULTIMATE RUMBLE!!!!
I went through and looked at the order that everyone entered every Royal Rumble match and decided who was the best #1, the best #2, the best #3 etc. Only rule is that everyone could only be entered once (Stone Cold can’t be entered at #5 <1997> AND #24 <1998>, two of the three years he won the Rumble).
So, channeling my inner-Howard Finkel, let’s all find out…who drew…number 1!
#1 – Two men have entered the Rumble at the number one spot and went on to win it. However, the first time it was done, it was in the shortest and possibly most unentertaining Rumble in history (plus the winner had a better performance that we’lll see later in the Rumble). AAAAAAAAAND the second decided that a strong legacy and great career were second to the thought of a double-murder/suicide decision…so…yeah he won’t be in this Rumble. So with several other options to look at, the Ultimate Rumble will start with the swan song of CM Punk in 2014. Punk hung around for nearly 50 minutes before being eliminated by the already eliminated Kane. The elimination started a great storyline that took us to WrestleMania 30. That story was centered around Daniel Bryan and the genesis of the Yes Movement since Punk didn’t come to work the next day, but a great story nonetheless.
#2 – Mr. McMahon won from this spot in ’99, but he did so by spending most of his time out of the ring. In contrast, Rey Mysterio set the record that still stands today by being in the Rumble for over 62 minutes en route to winning the 2006 match.
#3 – The 1992 Royal Rumble is arguably the most star-studded Rumble in history. More than HALF of the participants in this match are in the Hall of Fame! And that number should be growing once The Undertaker is inducted (going out on a limb on that one) It takes a big name to come out on top of this one and it doesn’t get much bigger than the Nature Boy Ric Flair. Flair was in the match for over an hour to win the WWF Title the first time the title was up for grabs in the match.
#4 – In one of the first dominant performances in his career, The Rock entered the 1998 Rumble at the #4 spot and stayed until the end when he was the last one eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. He didn’t win, but he definitely showed that he can hang in there for the long run. Rock would win his first WWF title less than a year later.
#5 – While I have just an unlimited amount of respect for Drew Carey and his performance in 2001, I’m going to have to go in a different direction. Just like The Rock started a strong 1998 with his Rumble performance, Stone Cold Steve Austin did the same the year before. Eliminating The Undertaker, Vader and Bret Hart to win in a controversial fashion, Austin would use 1997 to launch his career en route to becoming one of the biggest stars in history.
#6 – Rick “The Model” Martel set the record in 1991 by staying in the match for about 52 minutes (though the record would only last one year). While this was an impressive performance, Kane gets the nod here for his dominance in 2001. The Big Red Monster would be the last man eliminated after eliminating 11 superstars himself – a record that would stand for 13 years.
#7 – The 1994 Rumble was the first, and only, to give us two winners. Neither of the winners were nearly as dominating as Diesel was that year though. Big Daddy Cool, who was still sporting a fantastic mullet, eliminated seven men before he was eliminated by a joint effort of five men. This was the first of many impactful performances for Kevin Nash as the big man would start one of the longest title reigns of the modern era later in 1994.
#8 – Randy Orton punted the owner of the company in the head. Less than a week later, he won the 2009 Royal Rumble match. Something to think about, folks. (Legal disclaimer – I am not suggesting you punt your boss in the head)
#9 – This is not exactly the most exciting number in the Rumble’s history – some big names, but no real memorable performances. So we’ll put Hall of Famer Yokozuna’s time in the 1996 match here. At least he had a confrontation with the debuting Vader which still makes me wonder why Vince didn’t have a massive monster vs monster match at WrestleMania that year!
#10 – The 1993 Rumble was the first to give the winner the championship match at WrestleMania. Though the match itself was a bit ho-hum, the crowd went crazy when Mr. Perfect came down. Perfect had a short stay in the match but did manage to eliminate the hated Ric Flair from the Rumble…and then from the WWF all together the next night in the memorable Career Ending match on Raw.
#11 – While I would have loved to have put Mil Mascaras jumping from the top rope to the outside which eliminated himself from the match, we’ll put one of the most memorable eliminations (not on themselves) here instead. In 2002, The Undertaker had eliminated both Hardy Boyz who were still distracting the American Bad Ass outside of the ring. Jumping on the situation, Tough Enough champion Maven hit The Undertaker in the back with a dropkick knocking him out. Taker would head back into the ring, eliminate Maven, take him to the concourse area and throw him through the window of a popcorn machine…but that’s beside the point.
#12 – What’s a Royal Rumble without surprise entrants? In 2001, the Honky Tonk Man made a surprise appearance. It was good to see Honky and hear him sing again…and then pretty entertaining to see Kane grab the Honky Tonk Man’s guitar and smash it over his head before eliminating the legend. Thanks for coming!
#13 – Everything starts somewhere! It may not have been that exciting compared to what the Rumble is now, but Hacksaw Jim Duggan was the first Royal Rumble winner back in 1988. Can’t take that away from him!
#14 – Previous versions of The Ultimate Rumble had The Berzerker’s 1993 performance in the #14 spot…which pretty much sums up how exciting #14 has been in Rumble history. That was until last year when the Royal Rumble was introduced to Strong Style! After eliminating perennial WrestleMania main eventers John Cena and Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura won his Royal Rumble debut in what was one of the more dramatic finishes in recent Rumble memory.
#15 – 11 eliminations was impressive for Kane – but as they say in the wrestling world, 12 is a bigger number than 11. Roman Reigns set the new record in 2014 and laid the ground work for what has been an impressive career. Possibly the biggest takeaway from this is that the crowd was going crazy FOR Reigns when it came down to him and Batista as the final two entrants. That’s right, you were CHEERING for Reigns! Something to think about.
#16 – So in 1996, Squat Team #2 was on his way down to the ring as the recently eliminated Squat Team #1 was walking to the back. The two identical twins decided that since no one could tell them apart they would both just go back in the ring! How smart was that?!?!? So what if their gear looked obviously different and the face paint was a little off on one, just look past that! Also look past that they were eliminated very shortly after coming back to the ring. Yeah…#16 is historically a pretty boring number.
#17 – A year after making history as the first woman in the Rumble, Chyna entered the 2000 Rumble and became the first woman, and only since, to appear in the Rumble twice. Her Hall of Fame induction status is a topic of debate nowadays, this performance was a nod to getting an extra vote or two.
#18 – Playing off an injury return angle, Shawn Michaels went into the 1996 Rumble as the clear fan favorite. After single handedly eliminating 1,100 pounds of Vader and Yokozuna and a Superkick to knock his best friend, Diesel, out to win, ol’ HBK went on to win one of the most memorable WrestleMania matches in history against Bret Hart and had a pretty good career thereafter.
#19 – In 2012, The Rock and John Cena had a match that was billed as “Once in a Lifetime” at WrestleMania 28. In 2013, Cena won the Rumble and started the story for the rematch against The Rock. You know – “Twice in a Lifetime.”
#20 – Kurt Angle snuck his way into the 2005 Rumble by stealing Nunzio’s number after losing the WWE Title match that night. Angle came in and made a big impact including eliminating Shawn Michaels – which began the program for their five-star WrestleMania match that year.
#21 – One of the earliest “big moments” in the Rumbles history came in 1990 when fans got the first face to face confrontation of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. The moment was quick, but laid the foundation for one of the biggest WrestleMania matches in history.
#22 – Sheamus won the 2012 Rumble after entering at #22…but that Rumble was horrible. I mean just God awful! It included a battle between Mr. Socko and the Cobra…not Mick Foley and Santino Marella, an actual lock-up of the two different colored socks. A much better Rumble was the first after the WCW merger in 2002 in which Triple H came back from his first career threatening quad injury to win the match.
#23 –Randy Orton topped a stacked field in the 2017 Rumble, but he has already entered. Lex Luger is the only other person to win a Rumble (1994 co-winner with Bret Hart) entering at #23 so he gets to be here.
#24 – Stone Cold won from #24 in ’98…but he’s already in. Rock won from #24 in 2000…but he’s already in. Both were more impressive than Hulk Hogan was with his win in 1991. But, process of elimination, Hulk gets the spot here.
#25 – In another surprise entrant spot, Rob Van Dam made a surprise one night appearance in the 2009 Rumble and received a HUGE ovation. He didn’t really have that impressive of a showing – but neither did anyone else that came out at #25.
#26 – Please don’t be fooled by multiple people from the 2000 Rumble being on the list, it wasn’t that good. But Big Show had a dominant run and was the last one eliminated so he gets a spot here.
#27 – This has been regarded as the ‘magic number’ of the Rumble as a record four men have won from this spot – Big John Studd in ’89, Yokozuna in ’93, Stone Cold in ’01 and our #27 man Bret Hart in 1994. Hart had his leg taken out by his brother Owen in a match earlier in the night but managed to still make it to the Rumble and was the co-winner as he and Lex Luger both hit the floor at the same time.
#28 – It would be fun to have Dude Love in ’98 here (the third Face of Foley in the match that year) or even Santino Marella in ’09 (eliminated in a record :01). But it’s hard to pass up the fact the Batista won the Rumble match from the #28 spot TWICE – once in 2005 and again in 2014. Since Batista winning in 2014 really did not make too much sense creatively, we’re going to go with 2005 for The Ultimate Rumble.
#29 – Brock Lesnar won from this spot in 2003 but a surprise return from an ACL tear to win the 2010 match gives Edge the spot here. Plus, he eliminated John Cena last, so that gets him some extra points.
#30 – I consider 2007 to have the most exciting ending to a Rumble match when we were given several minutes and false finishes from two of the industries greats – Shawn Michaels and the winner and our #30 entrant, The Undertaker. Pretty hard to come up with anything wrestling related that doesn’t include The Dead Man.
#31 – #40 – In 2011, the Rumble expanded to 40 people. Instead of putting those last 10 entrants in by default, we’ll just put Alberto Del Rio in since he won that year after entering at #38.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHO GETS YOUR VOTE AS THE WINNER OF THE ULTIMATE RUMBLE? WAS THERE SOMEONE THAT WASN’T INCLUDED THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN? LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @FROM_THETOPROPE AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!