The Royal Rumble is supposed to be one of the easiest things in wrestling to write about, especially when you consider the show is nearly 35 years old. That’s nearly three and a half decades to choose from, and even if you separate it up as we have done here at Sports Obsessive, there should be enough moments on offer that you aren’t struggling to put a list together. I can tell you now dear reader, that that theory is a load of Vince McMahon Bull-Honky.
After our Lord and Master – he who shall not be named – Sir Grevas of The Bengals brought you his Royal Rumble Moments: The First Decade and Jumpin’ Joel Kananen gave you his take on the Royal Rumble – and used numbers instead of calling it the third decade, cause he is street – your friendly neighborhood wrestling writer was tasked with filling in the gap in the middle.
Truth be told, I was supposed to have done this before the latter one went out, but hey, I’m a busy guy, and my jet-set lifestyle sometimes means that s*it doesn’t get done when it’s supposed to. That, and I can be bloody lazy when the mood takes me.
All that aside, I thought that this would be a breeze, a walk in the park, a simple case of rewatching the Royal Rumbles from this period and picking the best ten moments from them. After all, these shows would be littered with classic matches and stand-out performances, right? Yeah. Not so much. It appears the second decade of The Royal Rumble was quite the wasteland of top quality, “Oh My God, he’s been broken in half!” out of the seat popping like an overfilled balloon moments, and more “Oh Christ, I forgot that The Boogeyman and JBL fought because of Jillian’s mole” head in the hands why did I agree to do this one’s instead.
But I am nothing if not a trooper, and I’ve managed to find at least a few Royal Rumble moments from the second decade that didn’t have me vomiting blood out of my eyes, and here they are in no particular order.
I Quit Match: The Rock vs. Mankind
It doesn’t matter that this was for the then WWF Championship, or that it was quite an entertaining match for what it was. Nor does it matter that Mankind was screwed out of the win, or that the entire Royal Rumble card from 1999 was terrible until this match happened. What matters is the fact that The Rock got a little carried away with the planned ending and instead of the two shots he was supposed to land on Mick Foley with a chair, proceeded to batter him around the head like he was a try-out for the New York Yankees.
Even now – 20 plus years later – it’s difficult to watch and this is coming from someone who is a confessed Death Match/Hardcore fanatic. The reason is that Mick Foley can do absolutely nothing to defend himself as he’s handcuffed while all this is going on and no matter what you think about Death Match/ Hardcore wrestling when it’s done properly, it’s done to keep those involved as safe as possible.
This was not safe. At all. But it’s almost impossible not to watch.
Inaugural Tables Match: The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz
This was insane. One of the most brutal and violent high-flying matches you’re ever liable to see as The Hadry Boyz and the Dudley Boyz proceed to beat the hell out of each other and throw themselves off of every single structure in the area, just for our entertainment. At the time, there had never been anything quite like the inaugural ladder match in the WWE and it still stands up to scrutiny even now, but it has been overshadowed somewhat by what it led to.
Along with Edge and Christian, The Hardyz and The Dudleyz would go on to have some classic barnstormers, as the tables would soon be joined by ladders and chairs, but the very first of these career shortening bouts should have a special place in any wrestling fan’s heart and is always worth a re-watch to remind you where the whole thing kicked off.
Street Fight: Triple H vs. Cactus Jack
A ring bell, chair shots, trash cans, a barbed-wire two-by-four, Cactus Jack being handcuffed, more chair shots, thumbtacks, two pedigree’s, and an irate and defeated Cactus Jack wheeling Triple H back into the arena on a goddamn stretcher so he can beat him around with the barbed-wire tow-by-four after the match was over.
What’s not to like?
Royal Rumble 2001: Kane Eliminates Everyone
When Kane entered The Royal Rumble in 2001, nobody could’ve predicted that he would go on to eliminate everyone and their grandma, making it into the final pairing before himself being defeated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well, nobody except the agents who booked the match. And those that were told they were going to be eliminated by The Big Red Machine. And Kane. And Stone Cold. Fine! When Kane entered The Royal Rumble in 2001, nobody outside of the WWE could’ve predicted that he would go on to eliminate everyone and their grandma, making it into the final pairing before himself being defeated by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Happy?
It was an amazing feat. Kane threw 11 other wrestlers over the top rope in a performance that would only ever be bettered by Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. And no I don’t count Braun Strowman’s count at the Greatest Royal Rumble because A) That show was s*it and not a proper Rumble B) There were about a million wrestlers in that ring and C) F*ck Braun Strowman, the entitled jackass who had every opportunity handed to him and still got his ass fired. Hope you enjoy the independent scene cause the independent scene sure remembers you and what you said about it.
Kane was a proper Monster, Strowman was just a Monster Asshole.
Last Man Standing: Triple H vs Shawn Michaels
After 2002 and 2003 was a total bust in my eyes – sorry – it would take a Broadway Last Man Standing Match between Triple H and Shawn Michaels to reaffirm that not everything from The Royal Rumble’s second decade was complete and utter bust.
When HBK had defeated The Game cleanly on a random episode of RAW the previous December, only for Eric Bischoff to overturn the ruling by claiming both men’s shoulders were down, Stone Cold who was Sheriff of those RAW parts at the time, would book the match for The Royal Rumble and it was as you would expect, top quality.
I’m not sure if it could be considered a forgotten classic, but you don’t hear it talked about anywhere nearly as much as you do the others in this rivalry and that’s a shame. If you’re going to go Broadway with a match then you have to do it right and the Last Man Standing Match at the 2004 Royal Rumble is a perfect example of how it should be done.
Royal Rumble 2005: Vince McMahon Tears Both Of His Quads
I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh as that must’ve hurt worse than catching yourself in your zipper, but I dare anyone not to look at that photo while knowing what happened at not at least raise a small titter.
How tightly wound must Vincent Kennedy McMahon have been to come storming to the ring after the original ending was so badly botched by Batista and John Cena, jump up onto the ring apron and pop both his quads, Again, not a laughing matter in of itself, but for him to then sit in the ring because he can’t move and demand the match be restarted made him look like a drunk who has had one too many and his mates are arguing about how they’re gonna get him home.
No, not funny at all…
Bonus Content: The Undertaker Eliminates Shawn Michaels
When I was first putting this list together, I mentioned to The Boss that I was struggling to find anything worth going into it and he reminded me of this moment between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. He said the whole taker/Michaels being the last two men thing was good, and I thought “Yeah, he’s right, it was”. And then I went back and watched it.
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with Shawn and Taker being the final competitors in the 2007 Royal Rumble, it’s just that with this – and a whole lot of other past WWE moments – the haze of rose-tinted glasses helps. Yes, it’s a good moment. Yes, it’s one of few during a very bleak Royal Rumble period. But is it as iconic as their showdowns only a few years later? No, I don’t think so.
But then, having gone back through nearly every episode of The Attitude Era, I think that’s highly overrated as well, so what do I know?