Top 5 Greatest Royal Rumble Matches Ever
The Royal Rumble is one of the most major highlights of the year for WWE fans. Whether it's the rumble match itself—a high-tempo, high-stakes multi-man brawl that's sure to feature most of the current roster as well as a few surprises—or the fact that the event marks the start of the WrestleMania season, the Royal Rumble rarely disappoints.
As such, the event has provide some classic matches over the years. Here are five of the best—as well as a few that didn't quite make the cut but are still worth watching to hyping yourself up for the 2014 Rumble on January 26.
Narrowly missing out on the list is the 2010 Royal Rumble, where CM Punk delivered a memorable performance shortly before he became one of the top players in the WWE.
Dominating much of the early going of the match, Punk had his Straight Edge Society cronies Serena and Luke Gallows hand him a microphone in the downtime between him eliminating one competitor and the timer running down for the next wrestler to hit the ring.
Punk's contribution did a lot for the Rumble and a lot for him—until he was eliminated by Triple H. Perhaps the two will cross paths again this year?
Speaking of Triple H, his encounter with Shawn Michaels at the 2004 Royal Rumble was a worthy installment in their series of hard-hitting brawls that began at SummerSlam in 2002.
Triple H and Michaels rarely disappointed in their frequent matches after Michaels returned from a four-year hiatus in 2002, and this Last Man Standing match was no exception. It ended in a draw—but a memorable draw at that.
Royal Rumble 2007: John Cena vs. Umaga
As a bout that frequently appears on apocryphal lists of good John Cena matches, this Last Man Standing encounter with Umaga is one of the more brutal of Cena's back catalogue.
A great deal of moving parts thanks to the Last Man Standing gimmick and the presence of Umaga's manager Armando Estrada meant that this match had a lot to offer.
Title matches at the Royal Rumble can sometimes be a non-event since they come just before a 30-man brawl, but when the competitors are willing to provide a spectacle to stand out from the rumble, they can yield great results.
Cena managed to defend his title successfully, but a neat spot partway through the match when he collapsed after an attempted FU added some peril. There was a lot more to this one than a typical Cena match.
Royal Rumble 1996
An important night in the now-legendary career of Shawn Michaels, the 1996 event saw "The Heartbreak Kid" return from a leave of absence to win his second consecutive Royal Rumble.
It was he first step on a road that would take him to the main event of WrestleMania XII, where he and Bret Hart would compete in an hour-long Iron Man match and Michaels would take home his first world title. The '96 Rumble was a major chapter in the boyhood dream of Michaels, and this was truly a historic match.
Admittedly, your mileage may vary with this particular Rumble if you're not on board with watching Michaels dominate—it was certainly the theme of the match.
That said, there were other things bubbling away, like a memorable encounter between Vader and Yokozuna and a continuation of the rivalry between Razor Ramon and the 1-2-3 Kid that was one of the most fondly remembered storylines of the New Generation era.
Royal Rumble 2000: Cactus Jack vs. Triple H
Even better than the previously mentioned encounter with Shawn Michaels in 2004, Triple H's brutal Street Fight with Cactus Jack at the 2000 Rumble event is a classic.
Featuring a range of classic Mick Foley spots (including the mandatory barb-wire 2x4 and a stomach-churning Pedigree onto thumbtacks) this is another example of a match throwing everything at the wall to get a reaction out of fans who were waiting for the Rumble. But again, this match is frequently talked about in hushed tones as one of the best matches of either man's career.
It's perhaps up for discussion whether this or the rematch in a Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out a month later was the better bout, but for my money, this match is a nose ahead just for introducing a couple of spots.
Royal Rumble 2001
The definitive Rumble match of the Attitude Era for many, the 2001 incarnation was ultimately won by Stone Cold Steve Austin—despite the attempts of Triple H, who viciously attacked him as he made his entrance.
However, Kane was the real MVP of this Rumble, lasting for 54 minutes and eliminating 11 other competitors—a Royal Rumble record that lasts to this day.
Perhaps the best night of Kane's career, it delivered a variety of memorable moments for the Big Red Machine, including a humorous run-in with celebrity entrant Drew Carey and a guitar over the head for the Honky Tonk Man.
Another great appeal of the 2001 Rumble match was the who's who of Attitude Era midcarders who made up the majority of the 30 participants. Later in 2001, Vince McMahon purchased WCW and took on much of its roster, so some stars of the then-WWF would have a reduced role from here on out. The 2001 Rumble was one of the last pure WWF events.
Royal Rumble 1992
An outlier in Royal Rumble history since it was for the title rather than just a shot at the belt at WrestleMania, the 1992 Royal Rumble was the Ric Flair show through and through.
Entering at the far-from-coveted No. 3 position, Flair took a hell of a beating throughout the match in signature Nature Boy style.
If the 2001 Rumble was a showcase for the Attitude Era's midcard, then the 1992 event was a summing up of just about every big name in the company in the years preceding it. Names like Jake Roberts, The Undertaker, Jimmy Snuka and Randy Savage were just a fraction of the era-defining list of talent who participated.
The best Royal Rumble matches and events often differ from one fan to another—typically, strong performances of a favourite wrestler dictate which Rumble is someone's favourite. With that being said, what's your favourite Rumble match? Whether it's the Rumble itself or something in the undercard, make your opinion known in the comments below.