So here we are... Just DAYS before the Royal Rumble. What I had hoped was to write a series of Royal Rumble themed columns during the month of January for you to enjoy. Much like my Wrestlemania tribute series. Just GOOGLE "Blog is Tito Wrestlemania" and you'll find a whole treasure chest of tribute columns that I worked on for 2 months heading into Wrestlemania 27. But, that didn't happen for Royal Rumble.
Sorry... For one, time is becoming a luxury I do not have and I'm eduring some burnout lately. Unlike Wrestlemania, I'm just not brainstorming any good TOP 10 lists or themed columns for Royal Rumble. Secondly, I'll have to admit that I don't recall Royal Rumbles from my deep vault of my memory bank as I do Wrestlemania. Maybe it's because I owned the Wrestlemania VHS Box Set when I was younger, as I watched Wrestlemanias 1-14 repeatedly. NERD ALERT to me, but for about 5 years through my college days of undergraduate and graduate schools, I would would entire Wrestlemania series at least ONCE a year. Like I said, GOOGLE "Blog is Tito Wrestlemania" and you'll see that impressive Wrestlemania memory on display!
But I don't recall Royal Rumbles as well... It's not that I don't like the Royal Rumble events, but I just didn't inhale those events like I did Wrestlemania. That, and the Battle Royal events blend together too much whereas I remember the BIG singles matches from Wrestlemania quite well. THUS, for today's column, I'm just going to write on my FAVORITE ROYAL RUMBLE Moments and I'll use Wikipedia's greatness to help jar my memory on a few things.
My biggest memory is Royal Rumble 2000, by far. GREAT Rumble and is easily on the "Best Pay Per Views" ever list. It was a STACKED card and it was also live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. First of all, you had Tazz's peak career moment when he debuted and choked Kurt Angle out. Amazing to watch their career tragectories after that match... Then, you had a superb Tag Match battle between Hardy Boys vs. Dudley Boyz in which both the Hardys and Dudleys gave you a preview of great battles for years to come. I still remember Jeff Hardy's leap off the top of the car decorations... And then, the 2000 MATCH OF THE YEAR between Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (Mick Foley). Considering the CRAZY workrate of 2000, to say that Triple H vs. Jack during the first month of 2000 was "Match of the Year" is quite an honor. The Rumble match itself was pretty good, although overbooked to allow for the lovely 4 way at the not-so-good Wrestlemania 16.
Of course, this was an upgrade from Royal Rumble 1999 when Vince McMahon won the Rumble. At the very least, though, it gave us the NO CHANCE IN HELL theme that Vince McMahon enjoys to this day. He was fighting against Steve Austin winning another Royal Rumble and stated that he had "no chance in hell" of winning. McMahon had a theme made for that kind of statement and it stuck as Vince's theme... It's perfect!
Speaking of Steve Austin, he had a fun back-to-back run at 1997 and 1998's Royal Rumbles. 1998 saw Austin finishing the Rock to win the match, which I believe was properly staged to set up Rock vs. Austin for the next year. Austin winning in 1998 allowed him to go onto Shawn Michaels for Wrestlemania 14. The year before, however, Steve Austin was awesome for the 1997 Royal Rumble. Nobody saw Steve Austin get eliminated earlier in the Rumble match, so he later re-entered the Rumble and eliminated Bret Hart. Hart was pissed off and it began the angst his character would have for the rest of 1997 that allowed for Steve Austin to surge upwards as the eventual #1 babyface. When I write this paragraph, it AMAZES me how well planned the WWE used to be...
1996, well, Shawn Michaels won that Rumble and he would be set up to wrestle again for the WWE title at Wrestlemana 12. But what I remember was the awesome Bret Hart vs. Undertaker match from that show. What I always remember about the 1996 Royal Rumble was watching the show with High School friends and all us were thinking that Vader would win the Rumble and receive a MEGA push that year. Wow, were we wrong...
1995 Royal Rumble... Meh, Michaels won that... 1994 Rumble... OHHHH, two people hit the ground at once! That set up the goofy Lex Luger/Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna scenario at Wrestlemania 10, but that did give us the 5-star classic between Bret Hart and his brother Owen Hart. I struggle to even tell you if the 1993 Royal Rumble even occurred. Seriously!
But I fondly remember Royal Rumble 1992. The undercard was ass, but the Royal Rumble match itself was STACKED with a who's who of pro wrestling for 1992. WWE stacked their roster during 1991 after Wrestlemania 7. It was nice to see personal favorites from WCW or World Class joining the WWF back then, as Ric Flair, Sid Eudy (Justice that year), and Kerry Von Erich were NICE editions. Out of those 3, though, the night belonged to Ric Flair. The WWE Title was vacant after the Hulk Hogan vs. Undertaker feud from Survivor Series 1991/Tuesday in Texas shows. Ric Flair was the #3 entrant at the time and had to survive that THICK talent roster. It's worth going out of your way to obtain the white cover Ric Flair DVD just to get that Rumble match, among other awesome matches in Ric's career.
I mostly remember the 1991 Royal Rumble for ONE THING... "Macho Man" Randy Savage drilling the WWF Champion, the Ultimate Warrior, with a scepter (as Savage was the "Macho King" then) to cost Warrior the title to Sgt. Slaughter. Randy Savage was paranoid that the Warrior was refusing to offer him a title shot, so after calling the Warrior out for weeks, Savage decided to act. Ohhhhhh yeah!
I have to admit a lack of remembering Royal Rumbles 1989 and 1990...
Let's jump forward... 2001 Royal Rumble was pretty good... Steve Austin won another to set him up for Wrestlemania 17. Worth checking out the Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho Ladder Match if you want to see a more psychological battle on the ladder. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle is a pretty solid match from then.
2002 Royal Rumble was Triple H's return from the Quad injury and he won the Rumble match. I enjoyed the Vince McMahon vs. Ric Flair Street Fight match, as it was nice to see Flair wrestling in a WWE ring again. This show felt weird to me, though, as the WWE was still a bit hungover from the WCW/WCW Invasions... And then the New World Order (Hogan/Hall/Nash) would debut the next year and then we had the RAW/Smackdown brand extension to change things for the better in 2002.
I remember the 2003 Royal Rumble for the AWESOME 5-star classic between Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle, which I believe was my 2003 MATCH OF THE YEAR. It's awesome and Kurt Angle worked the match that made you believe that Chris Benoit could win the match. And it showed, as the fans gave the losing Chris Benoit a standing ovation after the match. And of course, it gave the WWE the confidence to allow Chris Benoit to win the 2004 Royal Rumble and then allow him to win the World Title at Wrestlemania 20.
In all honestly, I remember the 2005 Royal Rumble promos more than I do the show...
Undertaker winning the 2007 Royal Rumble match was nice to see... My memory is terrible for 2008, 2009, and 2010 which covers my self-imposed "blackout" period where I didn't watch wrestling or write as Mr. Tito, but I have watched many of the matches looking back on YouTube. I remember the 2010 show's card, but nothing special sticks out. I thought 2011 Royal Rumble was somewhat of a letdown... Somewhat of a light undercard with the very green Miz defending his title against Randy Orton. The Rumble match itself was fun with the Nexus factions on the attack, but I wasn't expecting Alberto Del Rio to throw out Santino Marella to end the Rumble to determine who receives a World Title shot of their choosing at Wrestlemania 27.
It feels pretty obvious to me that the Royal Rumble has diminished over the years. It used to be a HUGE deal, but in recent times, the WWE has many other Pay Per Views watering it down and I really don't like how the Elimination Chamber determines the other World Title shot at Wrestlemania. To me, that takes away from the Royal Rumble being special. That, and the booking surrounding the undercard could use more work. The 2012 Royal Rumble only had 1 match, for example, booked on the card with just 2 weeks away.
But we'll see this Sunday and I hope to see how awesome the Rumble looks in High Definition (HD)!