Everyone has one.
The first Pay Per View they were allowed to get.
Even though I started watching wrestling in 1987, I had never seen a live PPV until January of 1993. You see, I was born in January (23rd to be exact) and every year my parents found it hard to find me presents. It was less then a month after Christmas and Hasbro couldn’t put out WWF figures fast enough to complete my collection. So in ’93 my parents got creative. After hours and hours of fulfilling my familial obligations, I was finally able to open the huge wrapped box with my name on it. Inside of that box was… another smaller box. And then another. And another. After 7 boxes I finally opened a small ring box to reveal this:
To say I was excited would be a VAST understatement. Finally I would be able to see the Royal Rumble as it happened just a day after my birthday and thus a love for the Rumble was born.
The Royal Rumble is my WrestleMania. The surprises, the nostalgia and the most important prize in wrestling: a main event spot at WrestleMania. To win the Royal Rumble is arguably more prestigious than winning the WWE championship right now. As there have only been 19 winners, a victory in the Rumble match can almost ensure your status as WWE’s elite. 9 of these winners already reside in the Hall of Fame with 8 others whom are assuredly future inductees. I look forward to the Rumble all year-long so having to put together this list was probably the easiest assignment I’ve ever had.
10. Mr. Perfect returns to WWE & stands toe to toe with Austin, Angle & HHH
- “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was a mainstay in the upper mid-card in the 80s and early-90s WWF. 2002 saw the re-emergence of many wrestlers who had left for the “greener” pastures of WCW in the mid-90s and the Royal Rumble was a perfect event for their re-debut. Perfect entered the Rumble at #25 to a HUGE ovation and eventually ended up in the final three before being eliminated by the winner, Triple H. This was pretty much the last hurrah for Mr. Perfect before his untimely death in 2003.
9. Jerry Lawler hides under the ring for almost 40 mins
- Jerry Lawler wasn’t always the wise-cracking sidekick to Jim Ross or Michael Cole. When “The King” entered the WWF in 1992, he was just starting with the USWA and came to the WWF mainly as a heel announcer. That changed though as he quickly entered into a feud with the ENTIRE Hart family. But Lawler was always a comedy character in the WWF and that was never more evident than at the 1996 Royal Rumble when he actually hid underneath the ring for a whopping 36 minutes before being eliminated by the eventual winner Shawn Michaels.
8. John Morrison’s “Spiderman” leap to the barricade
- There’s not much to say about this as the video speaks for itself. One of the most incredibly athletic things seen on a WWE event.
7. Bret Hart & Lex Luger are co-winners
- 1994 was only the second year that the stipulation of “Whomever wins the Royal Rumble gets a WWF Title shot at WrestleMania” and things were about to get interesting. Yokozuna had dominated the WWF as Heavyweight Champion since June of 1993. He fended off challenges from Lex Luger, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Undertaker, whom he defeated earlier in the Rumble PPV. Luger and Hart were both heavy favorites coming into the Rumble match as Luger defeated Yokozuna by count-out 6 months earlier at Summerslam and it was Hart who Yokozuna defeated for his first WWF title at the previous year’s WrestleMania. No one knew who was going to win the Rumble but all were positive it was going to be one of their favorites, either Bret Hart or Lex Luger. No one thought BOTH would win! For the first and only time in history, there were TWO winners of the Royal Rumble and both men were set to face the dreaded Yokozuna at WrestleMania 10.
6. Diesel stands tall waiting for more opponents
- In the very same Rumble, a new superstar exploded onto the radar of every WWF fan. At the time, Diesel was nothing more than Shawn Michaels’ goon with very few WWF matches under his belt. By the time he was eliminated by five men he had eliminated 7 on his own, literally waiting for new opponents to enter the match just so he could toss them right out. Before the year was out, Diesel had won the Intercontinental, Tag Team and World Heavyweight Championships. And it all started at the Royal Rumble.
5. Undertaker & HBK have an epic Royal Rumble finale
- Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker’s paths hadn’t crossed since HBK returned from his mid-career retirement in 2002. But everyone remembered their epic matches from the late 90s and when the two legends found themselves as the last two men in the 2007 Rumble, the excitement in the arena was palpable. HBK and Taker didn’t disappoint giving us a thrilling 10 minutes of dramatic action concluding with The Undertaker winning his first Royal Rumble.
4. John Cena returns MONTHS before his expected return & wins in the Garden
- John Cena was recovering from a torn pectoral by the time the 2008 Royal Rumble rolled around. His shocking return and victory surprised even the most jaded of fans and set off a trend of “surprise” returns that has almost become a staple of more recent matches.
3. CM Punk tries to “save” Superstars before eliminating 5
- CM Punk is the “en vogue” superstar right now. People appreciate his in-ring talent, his ability to talk and his apparent fearlessness with his own career. And while he was somewhat popular before the 2010 Royal Rumble, his mid-match promos attempting to convert fellow superstars to his Straight Edge Society not only solidified him as a star to watch but it also made for a Rumble moment that will surely stand the test of time.
2. Ric Flair wins his first WWF title
- For the first and only time in WWF/E history, the World Title was to be awarded to whomever won the 1992 Royal Rumble match. While he had been claiming to be the “real World’s champion”, Ric Flair hadn’t really accomplished anything in the WWF by the time the ’92 Rumble came around. And when it was revealed that the “Nature Boy” had drawn #3 out of #30, not a single person thought we’d be seeing Flair with the gold when the night was over. Bobby Heenan practically had an aneurysm all night while on commentary! But “with a tear in his eye” Ric Flair outlasted 29 other men to reign supreme for his first of two WWF World Title reigns.
1. Shawn Michaels goes the distance
- Royal Rumble 1995 was the birth of a legend. At the end of 1994, Shawn Michaels was a former tag team competitor and Intercontinental championship who seemed to have a good upside. His potential appeared limitless after his WrestleMania 10 ladder match but many still looked at him as the “pretty boy” who wouldn’t reach the levels of his former bodyguard Diesel who had already won the WWF title within one year of being with the company. Michaels was good but not many believed he was THIS good. The ’95 Rumble was the unveiling of our era’s Ric Flair as Shawn Michaels entered at number one and proceeded to flip, flop and fly around the ring until he emerged as the winner, along with the added bonus of having Pamela Anderson on his arm. Shawn Michaels took this victory and ran all the way into the Hall of Fame.
The Royal Rumble is arguably the most unpredictable match on the WWE calendar. But that’s exactly what’s so fun about making these predictions.
- Goldust will make a surprise appearance and eliminate Cody Rhodes (They’ve been teasing this for awhile with Cody wanting more competition and claiming to be “the last hope for the Rhodes name”).
- A former World Champion will win the Rumble (I’m looking at you Miz, Jericho or Orton).
- Sheamus will dominate & have the most eliminations of the night (Look for a Diesel-esque performance).
- Rey Mysterio will be the token injury return.
- The losers of the WWE & World Title matches will enter the Rumble (except for maybe the injured Mark Henry).
One way or another, we’ll have A LOT to talk about on Monday as we all start to get ready for WrestleMania!
Tags: Bret Hart, chris jericho, cm punk, john cena, John Morrison, monday night raw, Previews, randy orton, Raw, rey mysterio, Ric Flair, royal rumble, shawn michaels, sheamus, Smackdown, The Miz, triple h, undertaker, wrestlemania, WWE, WWE RAW