WWE Royal Rumble 2014: Best Title Changes in Event's History
When it comes to the Royal Rumble, the immediate talk is always about the 30-man extravaganza that usually headlines the event.
However, it is often forgotten that there have been some brilliant title matches in the previous 26 years of the Royal Rumble.
As well as the actual matches, there have been some that have seen some stunning title changes. Title switches that have launched careers or even buried them in some instances.
Let's take a look at the finest title changes in the history of the Royal Rumble.
7. William Regal vs. Edge (2001)
We start with the 2001 Royal Rumble and the Intercontinental Championship match between William Regal and Edge.
This makes the list because, let's be honest, no list should be considered complete without William Regal. The Englishman always told a story magnificently and was technically excellent in the ring.
Defending champion Edge was given the advantage early on when the referee found brass knuckles in the tights of Regal and confiscated them.
The two went back and forth for a good solid match considering it was only the second match of the night—and it was Regal who took the belt when he used another set of brass knuckles to lay Edge out.
A good match, but certainly not the best on the list.
6. Jeff Jarrett vs. Razor Ramon (1995)
It was the opening match of the 1995 Royal Rumble, and Jeff Jarrett and Razor Ramon had a good battle for the Intercontinental Championship throughout late 1994 and early 1995.
At the Royal Rumble that night, Jarrett and Ramon opened the show, with The Roadie playing a huge part in Jarrett winning the belt.
After Ramon had hit his knee badly when he flew out of the ring, The Roadie struck Ramon with a cheap shot, which caused Ramon to be counted out.
Jarrett challenged Ramon to restart the match since the belt could not change hands on a count-out. Ramon agreed.
With Ramon's knee clearly weakened, he buckled under the Razor's Edge, leaving Jarrett to pin him and take the belt.
It was a feud that went all the way through to WrestleMania 11, and it was a great rivalry.
5. Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (1997)
The feud between Shawn Michaels and Sycho Sid was one that had been ongoing for almost two years, dating all the way back to when Sid's failure to ensure Michaels retained the WWF Championship gave birth to a whole new rivalry.
That feud went back and forth a fair few times, with WWE stalling it on several occasions. However, when Sid returned to the WWF in July 1996, it began once more. Sid won the WWF Championship at Survivor Series from Michaels that year, using a TV camera on the champion to help get the victory.
The rematch was a cracking affair, in all fairness—despite it being less than 14 minutes long. It featured the classic double-referee moment, as Earl Hebner was taken out accidentally by Michaels.
As Sid attacked the second referee for failing to count the three, Michaels brought back memories of Survivor Series by hitting Sid with the camera to win the strap.
It isn't the best title change in Royal Rumble history, but it was a superb feud.
4. Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (2009)
Remember the good old days when Edge had Chavo Guerrero in his corner? Well, that's exactly what happened at the 2009 Royal Rumble, when he won the WWE Championship from Jeff Hardy.
Of course, he didn't win it clean, which is why the match makes it on the list as high as No. 4. It was a 20-minute no-disqualification encounter, and a pretty good one at that.
It was Vickie Guerrero who made the stipulation, and she stopped the referee from nailing a three-count on Edge when Hardy was going for the win.
That caused Matt Hardy to come out and seemingly aid his brother—but nobody saw the switch coming. Matt laid his brother out rather than Edge with a steel chair, leaving Edge to become the new WWE champion.
3. The Rock vs. CM Punk (2013)
It makes the list because it was the end of an era. It had to happen at some point, and plenty thought it would have been at the Royal Rumble.
The Rock picked up the WWE Championship at the show earlier this year, putting an end to the 434-day reign of CM Punk, a phenomenal feat.
The rivalry went all the way back to the previous July at Raw 1000, when Punk turned heel after attacking The Rock at the end of the show.
Fast forward to the Royal Rumble, and how The Shield's continuous interferences in Punk's matches led Vince McMahon to declare that he would strip Punk of the belt should the trio do so at the Rumble.
When the lights went out and The Rock was laid out, Punk's victory was deemed unsatisfactory by McMahon, and the match was restarted. The inevitable occurred, and Punk's historic reign was ended.
Not quite at the top due to the significance of the matches to follow, but a pivotal moment in Rumble history.
2. The Rock vs. Mankind (1999)
Second on the list takes us to the peak of the Attitude Era and an absolutely fantastic clash between The Rock and Mankind.
The two had been feuding since Survivor Series the previous year, when The Rock became the chosen "Corporate" champion after aligning with the McMahons.
Mankind actually made The Rock submit at an In Your House show via rendering him unconscious to the Mandible Claw, but Vince McMahon deemed that the champion had not technically submitted, setting up the "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble.
It was a horrifically brutal match, with some destructive spots throughout. The two went at it all over Anaheim’s Arrowhead Pond arena in vicious fashion. The most notorious moment of the match is perhaps when Foley—handcuffed and incapacitated—took some brutal chair shots to the head unprotected.
What makes this match stick firmly in the memory is the clever ending. On Raw the previous week, Mankind had said "I Quit" during a promo, and The Rock had that played to give the impression that Foley had indeed given in.
The 1999 Royal Rumble was a stunning show—culminating in this main event and Vince McMahon's staggering Rumble victory—and this match was one of the finest and most brutal of its time.
1. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho (2001)
It seems bizarre that a match could possibly topple that epic from The Rock and Mankind, but just two years later, two of the most technically superb wrestlers of their generation put on a staggering show.
Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit had been feuding since WrestleMania the following year, and they would battle for Benoit's Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match for the ages at the Royal Rumble of 2001.
Almost 19 minutes long, it featured some absolutely stunning spots that brought the crowd to their feet. The most notable of those has to be Benoit flying through the ropes headfirst, before Jericho met him with a steel chair.
Jericho applying the Walls of Jericho to Benoit at the top of the ladder is another brilliant moment in a stunning match, before Jericho finally claimed the title when he slung Benoit from the top of the ladder.
Why does it make the top of the list as best title change at the Royal Rumble? It was the culmination of a magnificent rivalry between two of the best Superstars of their time, and it was an amazing match to sit and watch.
Nos. 2 and 1 are close, but this one just pips it.