WWE Royal Rumble 2017: 5 Most Underrated Matches in Event's History
Royal Rumble is traditionally one of WWE's most significant extravaganzas, and as such, it has been home to some extraordinary contests.
From the namesake battle to championship clashes, the show has bred memorable performances and historic occurrences. Anytime that is the case, strong or impressive matches elsewhere on the card are underrated or go underappreciated.
Over the 29 years in which the Rumble has been a staple of WWE's pay-per-view schedule, there have been a handful of matches whose value has gone unrecognized by historians and fans alike.
As the company gears up for the 2017 edition on Jan. 29, enjoy this stroll down memory lane with these five most underrated matches in Royal Rumble history.
5. Women's Championship Match: Melina vs. Beth Phoenix (2009)
When it comes to memorable women's matches, Royal Rumble is not exactly what one would call a breeding ground. Too often, the focus is on major male acts and the build to WrestleMania, not the female talent.
That has changed in recent years, but in 2009, Melina and Beth Phoenix were granted the opportunity to compete in a one-on-one contest for the top prize in women's wrestling.
With only six minutes to work with, the women packed an incredible amount into a short time frame, including a spot that saw Phoenix bend Melina backwards in a sickening submission attempt.
Melina fought through the pain and upset her physically imposing opponent, scoring the win and title via pinfall.
The match, a modern gem, still holds up and is a testament to the talent of both Melina and Phoenix, who starred for a division stuck in an era when in-ring production was not of the utmost importance to management.
4. WWE Championship Match: Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon (1993)
Royal Rumble 1993 represented a shift in philosophies for WWE. Gone was Hulk Hogan, and on his way out was Ric Flair, and in their places were talented and hungry Superstars, including heavyweight champion Bret Hart.
In just his second pay-per-view title defense, Hart battled Razor Ramon, a cocky and arrogant newcomer who had brutally assaulted The Hitman's younger brother, Owen, in the locker room the prior weekend.
Hart was resilient against the oppressive offense of Ramon and beat the brute the way he knew best: by outthinking him. Rather than focus too heavily on setting The Bad Guy up for the Sharpshooter, Hart rolled him up and scored the victory via pinfall, flabbergasting his top contender.
Though not up to the level of more recent championship bouts like Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler, the match was a simple and effective realization of the age-old "outsmarting the brute" formula that has existed as long as storytelling in professional wrestling.
3. Submission Match: Ronnie Garvin vs. Greg Valentine (1990)
There was nothing explosive or exciting about Greg Valentine or Ronnie Garvin. In many ways, they were exact opposites of what Vince McMahon was looking for when he made the concentrated effort to expand his product internationally by using some of the most vivid and over-the-top Superstars of all time.
They were bruisers—grapplers from the territory days. Both men had found success in Jim Crockett Promotions, but neither had the outward personality of a main event star in WWE, which made their yearlong rivalry in 1989-90 even more interesting.
In January of '90, the Superstars sought to settle their differences once and for all. With each star touting his own crippling hold, a Submission match was booked for the Royal Rumble extravaganza.
Garvin and Valentine beat the hell out of each other, their strikes painful to watch, let alone absorb. They traded submission attempts, including an old-school Indian Deathlock, before Valentine tried for his vaunted Figure Four Leglock.
Psychology, as well as the use of knee and shin pads, featured heavily in the match's story, and in the end, it was Garvin who utilized a Sharpshooter to secure the win and finally end his differences with Valentine.
It was a display of sheer physical brutality.
2. Women's Tag Team Title Match: Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Glamour Girls (1988)
The Jumping Bomb Angels made their debut at Survivor Series 1987 and instantly took the wrestling world by storm.
Never before had fans seen female competitors do the things Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki did. They were quick, agile, soared through the air and executed suplexes that even the men were not utilizing to that point.
Two months after their monumental debut, they battled Leilani Kai and Judy Martin, The Glamour Girls, in a 2-out-of-3-Falls match for the short-lived WWE Women's Tag Team Championships.
The dynamic babyfaces found themselves down 1-0 after the first fall but refused to give up. They came back and won the next two, capturing the titles and earning a huge pop while doing so.
The Angels captivated fans, and veterans Kai and Martin were the perfect foils, grounding and pounding them. Together, the teams concocted a match that featured powerbombs before they were ever introduced to the audience and spots that were faster and more athletic than audiences used to 20-minute borefests between Pete Doherty and Mike Sharpe had seen before.
A dramatic and explosive match, it was the best on the 1988 card and one of the best in Royal Rumble history.
1. The Rockers vs. The Orient Express (1991)
If you were a wrestling fan between 1990 and '91 and attended any house show during that span, odds are you witnessed The Rockers square off with The Orient Express at some point.
Prior to Royal Rumble, their highest-profile bout was a disappointing WrestleMania VI contest that ended via count-out.
Almost one full year later, the teams would square off one more time, and The Rockers would have a shot at redemption.
Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty would be forced to fight from underneath, overcoming the force of Kato and Pat Tanaka, a different combination than they had previously competed against. The heels, known as Bad Company in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, showed expert chemistry as they picked apart the isolated Michaels.
The hot tag, the flurry of offense and the red-hot finish popped the crowd and made for a joy of a match, won by the babyfaces.
At the time, the match was properly praised as one of the best in Royal Rumble history. Over the years that followed, its undeniable quality and superb demonstration of tag team artistry has been forgotten and underrated.