Monday, January 23, 2012

The Top 10 Moments in Royal Rumble History

We are less than one week away from the 2012 Royal Rumble. The Rumble itself used to be my favorite PPV of the year. Most of the time it is because it usually happens around my birthday, which happens to be on the 29th. But also because the Rumble match is one of my favorite matches of the year. This year, however, I think the WWE has done a poor job of building up to the Rumble.

There are many reasons for that. One is that the Rumble winner will arguably be in the third most important match on the card. This year they fall behind Rock/Cena and the Undertaker match in terms of importance. You could argue that in the last three years the Undertaker's match has been more important than any of the WWE or World Title matches. There's also this little nugget: The last wrestler to win the Rumble match and actually win the WWE or World Title at Wrestlemania was The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 23. It almost seems like that the new "Rumble Winner" is whoever wins the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches at that PPV, since they have had a 100% success rate when cashing in. That might be part of the reason the Rumble match hasn't been booked as strongly in recent years. Hell, last year Alberto del Rio was in the first match of Wrestlemania after winning the Rumble!

Despite the lack of success the Rumble winner has had in recent years, it has still produced some great moments over its history. The Rumble match is usually always entertaining. Pat Patterson, the man who usually oversees the Rumble booking, is a master at it and always delivers something surprising every year. So with all of that being said, lets look at the Top 10 moments in Rumble history.

10. 2005: Muhammad Hassan Gets the Boot
Whenever people ask me what are some of the biggest letdowns in WWE History, Muhammad Hassan is always one of the first things I bring up. I thought the Hassan character itself was great. A "Muslim" man complaining about being treated unfairly in America. (I put Muslim in quotes because the man that played the Hassan character, Mark Copani, was actually Italian-American. Hassan would have been a perfect heel had the WWE not crossed the line and played the terrorist card with him. Of course it was the result of some unfortunate timing, but it was a step they did not need to take at all.

When Hassan entered the ring in the 2005 Royal Rumble, all of the action came to a halt. All eight men just stopped and watched Hassan enter, faces and heel alike. Hassan soon recognized this, and before he could escape, all the men hoisted Hassan over their shoulders and dumped him to the floor. It was one of those unique Rumble moments where everyone stops to work together and eliminate someone they hate, and it wasn't a 400 or 500 pound giant. I put it on the list because it got a great response from the crowd, and at least to me, was much more entertaining than Santino being in the Rumble for 1 second.

9. 2002: Mr. Perfect Returns
Going into the 2002 Rumble, it was pretty evident to everyone who was going to win it. Weeks earlier, Triple H made his triumphant return to the WWE in Madison Square Garden after being out of action for 7 months. He was going to win the Rumble, easily. But 2002 still gave us a couple of outstanding moments. One of which was the return of the legendary Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig. Mr. Perfect didn't eliminate anybody, but he lasted 15 minutes in the match and showed that he still had something left in the tank. The crowd also recognized this and got behind Hennig during the match. He was awarded a full time contract, but was released five months later after a confrontation with Brock Lesnar on the "Plane Ride from Hell."

8. 2004: Chris Benoit Wins the Royal Rumble
Some would argue this should be higher. Some would argue that this should not be on here at all. Chris Benoit will always be an interesting debate when it comes to wrestling fans. Some, like the WWE, want to completely erase Benoit from wrestling history and pretend that he never existed. Others, like myself, try to separate Benoit and his demise from his wrestling history. That is what I am going for here.

Chris Benoit entered the 2004 Rumble as the #1 entrant and many thought he would just end up being the guy that lasted a long time. But as the Rumble went on, and Benoit remained in the ring, fans actually started to get behind Benoit and realize that he may actually pull off the victory. When it got down to the final two of Benoit and Big Show, it became pretty obvious who would wind up on top. Benoit went from being a solid mid-card worker to winning over the Philadelphia crowd with a great Rumble performance and then main evented Wrestlemania. No matter what you think of Benoit now, the Rumble was a great story told and a great way to build someone up as a Wrestlemania main eventer.

7. 2010: C.M. Punk's Promo During the Rumble
Everyone knew the potential C.M. Punk had when he came to the WWE. The problem was, the WWE had pretty much not seen the breed of wrestler C.M. Punk was before. A guy not afraid to speak his mind on the mic and can work his way around the ring. Punk didn't have the standout look Vince likes in is top stars, but he always had the possibility to break out.

By 2010, Punk had already been a multiple time World Champion, but he was starting to get lost back in the shuffle. But Punk stood out big time in the 2010 Rumble. He was alone in the ring, cutting a promo every couple minutes talking about how he could save the WWE and all of the WWE Universe, how he was better then all of them. I thought it was great and a clear standout moment in Rumble history. A couple things of note: the man who stopped Punk? HHH. Also, Zack Ryder came out while Punk was in the ring. Punk told Ryder that he had potential. Guess Punk believed in Ryder all along!

6. 2002: Maven Eliminates The Undertaker
This may be the most famous elimination in Royal Rumble history. In 2002, Undertaker was doing his biker "respect me" gimmick. Undertaker was bullying people around and had just taken care of the Hardys. Undertaker was waiting for the next entrant, and it just so happened to be the winner from the first season of Tough Enough, Maven. Taker laughed Maven off as he entered the ring. After a big boot, Taker was ready to dump Maven but Lita distracted him. The Hardys then went to work on Taker, but Taker shrugged them off. Then, out of nowhere, Maven drop-kicked Taker in the back which caused Taker to go over the top. The crowd popped huge for it. Undertaker pulled Maven under the ropes and beat on him throughout the arena. Maven was never officially eliminated. Someday, Maven will get revenge!

It was such a shocking moment to see Maven, a fourth month rookie, eliminate a seasoned veteran like Undertaker. It was disappointing the WWE never really capitalized on it. Maven had a lot of charisma and was decent in the ring, but he was stuck with the "Tough Enough Winner" character and could never develop his own character outside of that. But this elimination definitely falls under "best elimination ever" and deserves a spot this high in the rankings.

5. 2001: Kane Cleans House
There has never been a more dominating performance in Rumble history then the one Kane put up in 2001. Kane was kind of just there in early 2001. He really didn't have anything going for him, but he made it known that he was still a presence in the WWE with his Rumble performance. Kane eliminated 11 men in the 2001 Rumble. Most of them were just mid-carders in the Hardcore Division, but it was still an impressive feat to pull off. It is something that the WWE again, failed to capitalize on. Kane ended up being in the Hardcore Title match at that year's Wrestlemania. He lasted until the final two before being eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Kane's dominating performance deserves a high spot because just like Maven's elimination of The Undertaker, this stands out in Rumble history.

4. 1990: Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior Showdown
This was really the first big moment in Royal Rumble history. It gave the idea that big things can happen at the Rumble. It also showed that the Rumble could be used as a building block to Wrestlemania. Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior ended up being in the same ring at the same time in 1990. They had no interaction initially, but both men ended up clearing the ring and were the last two left for the time being.

The crowd recognized this and immediately came to their feet and cheered. Both men refused to go down before a double clothesline took both of them down. Later in the match, Hogan eliminated Warrior when he clotheslined Rick Rude and Barbarian in the back while they were attempting to eliminate Warrior. All of this was a test to see if a Hulk Hogan/Ultimate Warrior match would work at Wrestlemania, and it showed that it did. In the years ahead, the Rumble would be used as the building block for feuds to culminate at Wrestlemania. The Hogan/Warrior Showdown was also the first big moment to happen at the Royal Rumble. Having the top two faces in the WWE go at it was unheard of at that time as well, which makes the moment even more unique.

3. 2008: John Cena Returns And Wins the Royal Rumble
If some of you don't know by now, I'm not the biggest John Cena fan there is. I hate his character, I've hated it for years now. There has been pretty much one good thing Cena has done in the last few years that was all because of him, and this was it.

I remember watching the 2008 Royal Rumble with some friends. As the Rumble was down to its last handful of entrants I made an off-hand remark, "Watch one of the last entrants be John Cena and ruin our day." Sure enough, as the buzzer rang for entrant #30, John Cena' music hit. We all sat there in shock and dismay, not knowing what to think. Even though Cena ended up winning, a couple of us thought about it after and said, "You know what, that was pretty shocking." Literally NO ONE knew that Cena was coming back. He had been on the shelf since October with an injury. There was no talk of him returning headed into the Rumble. The Madison Square Garden crowd popped huge for Cena's return. Even the Cena haters.

Of course the WWE ruined it the next night with Cena cashing in his Rumble opportunity at No Way Out instead of Wrestlemania. But this was the one time in the last 5 years that I actually thought Cena winning something made some sense and actually shocked and surprised me.

2. 1992: Ric Flair Wins the WWE Championship by Winning the Royal Rumble
I debated for awhile between my number one and number two spots on this list. This was clearly the Rumble that had the most on the line. WWE President Jack Tunney had held up the WWE Title after a controversial finish to the Hulk Hogan/Undertaker match at the Tuesday in Texas PPV. Tunney decided to make the Rumble match for the WWE Championship.

Ric Flair entered the Rumble at #3. Bobby Heenan's commentary helped make Flair's win even better. Flair had just came into the WWE a few months earlier. He had been claiming that he was the "Real World's Champion," even going as far as to bring the NWA World Title with him to the WWE. Flair didn't need that anymore after winning the Rumble. Flair was fun in the match as well, doing multiple "Flair Flops" as well, and reacting perfectly to attacks and entrances. While his reign only lasted for a few months, winning the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble officially made Flair the man in the WWE.

1. 1995: Shawn Michaels Wins the 1995 Royal Rumble from the #1 Spot
There is always some debate when it comes to the #1 spot on people's greatest moments of all time list. And that goes for anything. There might be people that put Ric Flair winning up here. Some might put John Cena returning and winning here. But for me, Shawn Michaels winning the 1995 Royal Rumble gets this spot. And there is one reason for that: Winning the 1995 Royal Rumble helped launch Shawn Michaels into stardom.

By 1995, Shawn Michaels had already been putting on top matches in the Intercontinental Title division. He had a great Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 10. It was clear that the Heartbreak Kid was destined to be WWE Champion someday, but he needed something to put him over on the next level. He needed something to help him stand out from the rest and make people believe he belongs at the top. When HBK entered the 95 Rumble at the #1 spot, I highly doubt anybody saw him winning it. Most people didn't think he did win it after the British Bulldog dumped HBK over the top, but Shawn hung on to the rope, pulled himself up, and knocked Bulldog over the top rope to win the Royal Rumble.

The win gave Shawn Michaels a WWF Championship match against Diesel at Wrestlemania 11. While Shawn lost, he definitely stole the show. He was turned into a face the next night. A year later, Shawn would win the Rumble again and this time win the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 12. But it all started back in 1995 with Shawn Michaels winning the Royal Rumble. Had it not been for that win, the Heartbreak Kid would not have won it again in 1996.

So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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