WWE Royal Rumble 2013: Ranking the Best World Title Matches in Rumble History
Photo courtesy of WWE.com
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view has long been one of the best on the WWE calendar, and that is usually due to the Rumble match itself. Every Royal Rumble has had an undercard, though, and many of those matches have gone unnoticed or been overshadowed over the years.
World titles are almost always defended on the Rumble card as well whether it's in the form of the WWE Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, Undisputed Championship or other related titles. Many of the world titles have been used as placeholders to keep the belt on the incumbent champion, but a lot of them have ended up being spectacular bouts in their own right.
There have even been a few occasions where the world-title match has main-evented the pay-per-view rather than the Rumble match. Most fans aren't a big fan of that, but there have definitely been some world-title matches at the Royal Rumble worthy of top billing.
With CM Punk set to defend his WWE Championship against The Rock at the Royal Rumble, another classic title match will soon be added to the already-long list.
Here are the 10 best world-title contests to ever take place at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
10. Undertaker vs. Yokozuna (1994)
There is no question that the casket match between Undertaker and Yokozuna at Royal Rumble 1994 is among the most memorable matches in Royal Rumble history. Yokozuna had been a dominant and nearly unstoppable force to that point, but it seemed as though Taker might be able to unseat him for the title in his signature matchup.
It was an entertaining affair as both men were excellent workers for their size, and it seemed like Undertaker was in control. Yokozuna's manager, Mr. Fuji, had hired several wrestlers to interfere on Yoko's behalf, however.
Genichiro Tenryu, Great Kabuki, Bam Bam Bigelow, Crush, Adam Bomb, Diesel, Jeff Jarrett and The Headshrinkers all attacked Undertaker and were eventually able to get him in the casket and close the lid.
The biggest part of the match came after its conclusion as the heels were wheeling the casket up the ramp. Smoke began to emanate from it, and Undertaker appeared on the Jumbotron. It appeared to depict him in the casket, and that eventually led to a figure, who was supposed to be Undertaker, rising to the ceiling of the arena.
Although the match itself lacked a lot of technical mastery and had a sloppy ending, it was highly entertaining and furthered the mystique of Undertaker.
9. Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler (2011)
Edge and Dolph Ziggler engaged in an intriguing feud in early 2011, and it led to a World Heavyweight Championship match at the Royal Rumble. Since Ziggler was being managed by Vickie Guerrero, Edge's past with Vickie, who had previously been his storyline wife, was played up and used as one of the primary reasons for the rivalry.
Vickie had managerial powers at the time and managed to get Edge's signature move, The Spear, banned from the match. Had Edge speared Ziggler, then he would have had to vacate the title.
Even though Ziggler wasn't considered to be a serious contender for the title by most, he certainly brought his "A" game and had great chemistry with Edge. From an in-ring perspective, it was definitely one of the better world-title matches in Rumble history.
Edge ultimately came out on top as expected, but Ziggler's performance definitely helped put him on the fast track to stardom. Edge did use The Spear when the referee was incapacitated. That eventually led to Ziggler possessing the title for just a few minutes, but it is recognized as an official reign.
If nothing else, this was probably Edge's final great match, as he would be forced to retire soon after WrestleMania due to a neck injury.
8. Diesel vs. Bret Hart (1995)
There are definitely differing opinions on the WWE Championship match between Diesel and Bret Hart at the 1995 Royal Rumble, but I have always thought of it as a well-wrestled match that doesn't get as much credit as it deserves. Diesel entered the match as champion and proceeded to go at it with Hart in a back-and-forth affair that lasted for nearly a half hour.
Diesel came into the bout with an injured knee, so it should come as no surprise that the Excellence of Execution focused his attention on it. Hart placed Diesel in the Figure Four Leg Lock a couple times and even bound Diesel to the ring post so he could work over his legs.
Diesel obviously got his licks in as well as he was the bigger and stronger competitor. Diesel hit Hart with his signature Jackknife Powerbomb at one point, but Shawn Michaels interfered and prevented Diesel from picking up the win.
Despite that, the match continued. Owen Hart then interfered when Bret had Diesel in the Sharpshooter. Once again, the match continued. Things eventually became unruly when Michaels, Owen, Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie all got involved.
Because of this, the bout was ruled a draw, and Diesel retained. It may have been a disappointing result at the time, but both men put in a great effort and wrestled an excellent, old-school match.
7. Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (2009)
The history between Edge and Matt Hardy is well-documented as they were involved in a real-life love triangle with Lita, but The Rated-R Superstar also had a great feud with Matt's brother, Jeff.
Edge faced Hardy at the 2009 Royal Rumble in a WWE Championship match. Jeff entered the match as the champion and a last-minute stipulation was instituted as Vickie Guerrero made it a no-disqualification match.
There was plenty of see-saw action in the bout, and one of the best spots saw Hardy take out Chavo Guerrero. Chavo was attempting to interfere on Edge's behalf as a member of La Familia, but Hardy placed him on the announce table and dove off a ladder on top of him.
Hardy eventually hit Edge with a Swanton and seemed poised to pick up the win, but Vickie prevented the referee from making the count.
This prompted Matt to show up, presumably to help his brother retain his title against his mortal enemy. Instead, Matt hit his Jeff with a chair, though, and Edge became the new WWE champion. Not only was the match itself great to watch, but the ending provided an unexpected twist that led to a feud between Matt and Jeff.
6. John Cena vs. Umaga (2007)
John Cena doesn't receive enough credit for some of the great matches he has participated in and one that often goes unnoticed is the Last Man Standing match against Umaga at the 2007 Royal Rumble.
Cena was the incumbent champion, but Umaga posed a very serious threat and gave Cena everything he could handle. Cena ultimately came out on top and stood tall, but Umaga was made to look like his equal throughout the match.
In fact, Umaga dominated most of the match and had Cena on the ropes on many occasions. The Samoan Bulldozer focused on Cena's injured ribs and hit him with all of his signature maneuvers, but Cena continued to answer the 10 count.
Umaga busted Cena open at one point, and the match turned into a big-time slobberknocker. Umaga's manager Armando Alejandro Estrada eventually loosened a turnbuckle, and Umaga attempted to use it on Cena.
Cena countered Umaga and hit him with an FU before slapping on his STFU submission. Rather than a typical STF, however, Cena used the loose ring rope to choke out his savage foe.
Umaga was unable to get up by the count of 10, and Cena was victorious. Most probably expected Cena to win all along, but Umaga acquitted himself well and came away looking like a main-event player.
5. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (2003)
Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were arguably the two best in-ring workers of the post-Invasion era in the WWE, and that was certainly on display at the 2003 Royal Rumble.
Angle defended his WWE Championship against Benoit in what was truly the start of Benoit's main-event push. The Crippler would win the Royal Rumble match one year later in spectacular fashion, but this particular match was arguably an even finer performance on his part.
There were counters galore, as both men were submission specialists with Angle utilizing the Ankle Lock and Benoit using the Crippler Crossface. There were several times during the match where one of them had their signature hold locked in only for the other to counter it or to somehow get to the ropes.
One spot that I immensely enjoyed was Angle's Angle Slam off the top rope on Benoit, but it resulted in only a two count.
Things reached a fever pitch late when Benoit once again applied the Crippler Crossface, but Angle rolled it into an Ankle Lock. Benoit broke out temporarily a couple times, but Angle was able to lock it back in.
Angle eventually managed to drag Benoit into the middle of the ring and put everything he had into the hold. At that point, Benoit had no choice but to submit. Fans usually go into the Rumble expecting to see an awesome battle royal, but in 2003, they were also treated to a WrestleMania-caliber singles match.
4. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (2004)
As a huge fan of both Shawn Michaels and Triple H, their Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Royal Rumble 2004 will always hold a special place in my heart.
Michaels and Triple H have wrestled each other many times and had tons of memorable encounters, but this one was my favorite because of the manner in which both men left everything they had in the middle of the ring.
It was a brutal and bloody battle that left both men busted open, and while I'm not someone who is constantly calling for blood in wrestling, it definitely enhanced this match.
Michaels and Triple H have long been trying to one-up each other in the ring, and this match was a great example of that as they continually upped the ante in an effort to incapacitate one another. Triple H hit Michaels with a low blow and then a Pedigree late in the match, but HBK answered.
With Triple H in shock due to the fact that his longtime friend was somehow able to recover, Michaels cracked Triple H in the jaw with Sweet Chin Music. The move put Triple H down for the count of 10, but HBK didn't win the match.
Michaels collapsed as well when he hit the move due to exhaustion, and neither man was able to continue. The match was ruled a draw, and they would go on to participate in a triple-threat match against Chris Benoit at WrestleMania that same year.
3. The Rock vs. Mankind (1999)
Nobody will ever confuse the WWE Championship "I Quit" match between The Rock and Mankind at the 1999 Royal Rumble with a technical marvel like Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in 2003, but it remains one of my favorite matches of all time.
The Rock and Mankind were embroiled in an extremely heated feud heading into the match, and it only got hotter once the bout came to a close.
The Rock had aligned himself with Vince McMahon in late 1998 and became the "Corporate Champion." This resulted in McMahon screwing over Mankind, which made Mankind a fan favorite.
After years of trying to reach the pinnacle of professional wrestling, Mankind finally did it on an early-January edition of Raw in 1999. Wanting his title back, The Rock begged for a rematch, and Mankind gave it to him under the "I Quit" conditions.
For almost the entire match, The Rock took it to Mankind. He even involved some of his signature humor as he put on a headset and insulted Mankind in the middle of the match.
The Rock threw Mankind into some electrical equipment at one point, causing it to spark and also causing the lights to flicker. Mankind refused to give up on multiple occasions, so The Rock hit him with a People's Elbow with a chair across his chest.
Mankind once again would not give up, so The Rock handcuffed him and hit him with a steel chair repeatedly. Mankind eventually passed out on the ramp and seemed to yell "I quit," but it was later found that The Rock had played a recording of him saying those words in a promo beforehand. Nevertheless, The Rock won and was the new WWE champion.
2. 1992 Royal Rumble Match
This could potentially be viewed as cheating, but since the 1992 Royal Rumble match was for the WWE Championship, I couldn't bring myself to leave it off the list.
The '92 Rumble is my favorite of all time, and I firmly believe that it's the best as well. Not only was the match star-studded beyond belief with Hall of Famers and top wrestlers at that time and future ones as well, but it featured one of the greatest Rumble performances ever.
Ric Flair entered the match third, and it seemed as though he had no real hope to win. Nobody in the previous four Rumbles had won from a spot as disadvantageous as that, and announcer Bobby "The Brain" Heenan acted as if the world was ending.
Flair did manage to remain in the match, despite a number of close calls, though, and he was eventually part of the final three. Sid Justice eliminated Hulk Hogan, but a furious Hogan grabbed onto Justice's arm from outside the ring.
This allowed Flair to sneak up from behind and dump Justice over the top rope for the victory. Heenan, who had lamented Flair's terrible luck throughout the match, exalted when he finally won and said that he knew he could do it all along. Flair was awarded the WWE Championship backstage and celebrated alongside Heenan and Mr. Perfect.
Flair proclaimed that it was the greatest moment of his life, which is fitting, considering the 1992 Rumble match was the greatest in WWE history.
1. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (2000)
As much as I loved the 1992 Royal Rumble match, I decided to stick with a traditional title match at No. 1 in order to maintain the integrity of the list. It wasn't easy settling on one, but the street fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack at Royal Rumble 2000 takes the cake.
Triple H and Mick Foley were engaged in a bitter feud that led to Foley being "fired" from the WWE, but he returned and assumed his dangerous Cactus Jack persona in anticipation of his match with Triple H.
Much of the match took place outside the ring, and it showcased the WWE's hardcore style in a major way. Cactus Jack introduced his signature barbed-wire two-by-four into the match, and both men used it throughout.
Triple H was eventually able to handcuff Cactus Jack just as The Rock had done to him the year before. The Rock was Foley's ally at this point, though, and he ran out and hit Triple H with a chair.
A police officer freed Jack from the handcuffs, and he was able to gain control of the matchup. Cactus Jack spilled a bag of tacks into the ring and intended to use them on Triple H, but Triple H hit Jack with a back body drop on the tacks.
He then hit a Pedigree, following by a second Pedigree on the tacks for the win. This match was an all-out brawl with little technical wrestling to speak of, but both men put on a show.
Foley proved that he was the king of hardcore wrestling, but Triple H showed that he could take it and dish it out in that environment as well. Add in the fact that the match took place in front of the Madison Square Garden faithful, and it's truly impossible to top.