WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering the 2002 Royal Rumble Class

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WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering the 2002 Royal Rumble Class
WWE.com

An impressive collection of stars assembled for the 2002 Royal Rumble 2002, resulting in a WWE classic.

Many of the elements from that match, including a memorable upset, an incendiary rivalry catching fire and a Superstar's dominance made this one of the best Rumbles in event history. When WWE puts together its plan for the 2014 Royal Rumble, it would be wise to review clips of this stellar bout.

Triple H punctuated his return from injury with a Rumble win in 2002.

His win was no shocker, but came at a time when his popularity soared. That Rumble match is remembered for far more than Triple H's triumphs, though. Even with its slow spots, it rode dramatic clashes and big names to success.

The list of entrants included three men now in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame: Steve Austin, Kurt Angle and The Undertaker. It also boasted three current members from the WWE Hall of Fame in Austin, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and Booker T.

Some of the other marquee names battling that night included the following:

  • Big Show 
  • Kane 
  • Rob Van Dam
  • The Hardy Boyz
  • Goldust 
  • Christian
  • Triple H 

In what proved to be Austin's last Rumble, he made the event a stage to display his toughness and supremacy at the event. He was both the Rumble's "Iron Man," lasting over 26 minutes and tied for the most eliminations in the match.

He and Undertaker both tossed seven men over the top rope.

Undertaker became the center of one of the biggest Rumble surprises ever, but it was Rikishi and Goldust who entered the fray first.

Al Snow and Billy were among the Superstars to follow them. All four of those men wouldn't be around by the time the Rumble winner entered at No. 22. Undertaker saw to that.

After stepping off his motorcycle and sliding between the ropes, Undertaker went on a rampage.

He stalked the ring for prey and devoured Snow, Goldust and eventually both Hardy brothers. Matt and Jeff drew the ninth and 10th spots, but even teaming up against "Big Evil" wasn't enough to topple him.

Undertaker eliminated the former tag team champions and looked like he would charge uncontested to the final four.

That's when the shocker came. Maven, fresh off a stint on the Tough Enough reality show, stepped up to the ring looking like he'd be next in Undertaker's growing line of victims. He gave up nine inches and over 70 pounds to his foe.

Maven took advantage of Undertaker being briefly distracted and dropkicked him out of the ring. Undertaker responded by mauling the kid.

It was Austin who went on the next tear.

"The Texas Rattlesnake" took care of the midcarders that populated the middle of the Rumble match including Chuck, Test and Perry Saturn. He eventually ran into an old foe and the Rumble benefited from the resulting explosion.

Triple H and Austin had spent the last few years looking to destroy each other, including a Three Stages of Hell match in 2001. The best Rumbles conveniently have longtime rivals collide at some point, and 2002 did that extremely well. Their clash enthralled. 

The Hurricane's entry made him a third wheel, and he thought he might make a career-defining moment by taking out both Austin and Triple H.

The best laid plans often go astray, though, as Hurricane soon found out.

After this point, intensity escalated and eliminations became more difficult to acquire. For a few moments, Hennig, Big Show, Kane, Angle, Austin and Triple H were all in the ring together.

Aside from Hennig, who had just returned to the company and was in his early 40s at the time, everyone there seemed capable of winning the whole thing. Uncertainty powered this collision of former champions.

Kane managed to lift Big Show and toss him out, but was soon crashing to the outside himself.

Farooq, Rob Van Dam and Booker T's time in the match evaporated not long after their entrances. This night was not theirs; it was Triple H's. He was the one to send the seemingly unstoppable Austin to the locker room.

He was the one who ended Hennig's Cinderella run and clotheslined Angle over the top rope to become the last man standing.

The win propelled "The Game" to the main event of WrestleMania X8 for a showdown with Chris Jericho.

It was a match that made full use of Austin and Triple H's hatred, that sold Undertaker and Austin as battering rams tearing through wood and mixed WWE's past, present and future to create Rumble magic.

Can 2014 match 2002 in terms of drama and big names? The entry list thus far features a returning Batista, CM Punk, the Rhodes brothers, Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio.

That's not comparable with 2002's list, but Daniel Bryan is sure to be added to the mix, and Rob Van Dam is reportedly set to return at the event, per PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, which will amp up the Rumble's energy.

Sheamus is expected back from injury then as well. Those additions will add to this year's Rumble giving off the proverbial big-fight feel.

Should WWE find a way to shock us as it did when Maven eliminated Undertaker, showcase Superstars the way it with Austin and Undertaker and have titans collide at the end, 2014 has a real shot of competing with 2002 as one of the best Rumbles ever.

 

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