Sunday, 28 January 2018

Opinion // The Greatest Royal Rumble Performances

It's that time of the year again on Sunday night, as the Royal Rumble comes to us for the 30th time from Philadelphia.

As we all know well, the main attraction of the event is the 30 man Royal Rumble match and this year we have two to look forward to, with the women joining the men for the first time in another bit of history.

Over the years, there have been some great individual performances in the Royal Rumble that everyone remembers. But which have those have been best?

Whether it be for kick-starting a career, setting a benchmark or creating history, here are my top Rumble performances.

8 // Roman Reigns // 2014

Entered // #15

Time Lasted // 33:51

Eliminations // Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Nash, The Great Khali, Goldust, El Torito, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Luke Harper, Antonio Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, seth Rollins, Sheamus

Oh, how things change. In 2014, Reigns was in the position that WWE so wish he was in four years later. Fans were pulling for him, or in fact anybody, to win the Rumble instead of the returning Batista that year.

That didn't happen, but what Reigns did was cement his place as the future with a dominant performance where he eliminated 12 men and set a new record. 

Although we now know, Batista's win helped result in us get the amazing moment with Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX, from a WWE perspective, they may wish they pulled the trigger here instead.   

7 // The Rock // 1998

Entered // #4

Time Lasted // 51:32

Eliminated // Ken Shamrock, Faarooq

A star making performance usually happens in the Royal Rumble, and in 1998, it was The Rock's time to shine.

A solid midcarder and Intercontinental Champion at the time, The Rock set the tone for the rest of the year by lasting over 51 minutes before being eliminated by the eventual winner, Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

By the end of 1998, he was the WWE Champion and the biggest heel in the company, so it was certainly a sign of things to come.

6 // Diesel // 1994

Entered // #7

Time Lasted // 17:41

Eliminated // Bart Gunn, Scott Steiner, Owen Hart, Kwang, Bob Backlund, Billy Gunn, Virgil

This is on the list because it cemented Diesel's status in the company at the time, and was the beginning of what led to his not so fondly remembered year long title reign the following year. 

In the 1994 Rumble, a man that was simply Shawn Michaels' bodyguard at the time came into his first real match and dominated, eliminating seven men in the process before being dumped out of the ring by several competitors.

5 // Shawn Michaels // 1995

Entered // #1 

Time Lasted // 38:41 

Eliminated // Duke Droese, Tom Prichard, Bushwacker Luke, Jacob Blu, Bushwacker Butch, Aldo Montoya, Lex Luger, The British Bulldog

An iconic moment as Michaels became the first ever man to win the Rumble from number one, and although this wasn't one of the longest Rumble matches ever, it was again the making of the person involved. 

In this case, Michaels went from being a midcard act to a main event player and although they botched his push slightly and had to rebuild him again the following year, this was the beginning of HBK being the go-to guy.

The visual of Michaels clinging onto the ropes with one foot touching the floor to stop himself from being eliminated has been used for the Rumble ever since, and he remains one of only two men to have been the first to enter and the last to leave.

4 // Chris Benoit // 2004

Entered // #1

Time Lasted // 1:01:35

Eliminated // Bradshaw, Mark Henry, Rhyno, Matt Morgan, A-Train, The Big Show

Up next is the other one of those, back in 2004. It was a time of feel good moments in WWE back then as they used the story of Chris Benoit not being a fashionable WWE main eventer to tell a terrific underdog tale.

After being forced by Smackdown GM Paul Heyman to enter the Rumble first in an attempt to stop him from winning, Benoit fought the odds and came out on top by eliminating The Big Show. 

He would eventually go on to Wrestlemania XX to famously win the World Heavyweight Championship, and despite the taint future events put on these moments, it is important to remember how celebrated they were at the time.

3 // Stone Cold Steve Austin // 1997 

Entered // #5

Time Lasted // 35:07 

Eliminated // Phineas I. Godwin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, Marc Mero, Owen Hart, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Vader, The Undertaker, Bret Hart

This was another star making performance, as Stone Cold Steve Austin began his rise to the top with victory in 1997.

The Rumble itself was all about Austin's performance, with there being very little star power on the roster at the time and he delivered tenfold, providing many memorable moments during his time in the ring.

This was the one Rumble that was won in controversial fashion with Austin being eliminated by Bret Hart only to sneak back in and win the thing. He wouldn't go on to face the champion at that year's WrestleMania but would continue the feud with Bret that continued here. The rest, as they say, is history.

2 // Kane // 2001

Entered // #6

Time Lasted // 53:46

Eliminated // Grand Master Sexay, Steve Blackman, Al Snow, Raven, Perry Saturn, The Honky Tonk Man, Tazz, Crash Holly, Albert, Scotty 2 Hotty, The Rock

By 2001, the mystique of the original Kane character had worn off a tad. He was still always portrayed as a threat, as he is now and will in fact be involved in the Universal Championship match on Sunday, but for one night only, he was a star again.

Entering towards the beginning of the match, he eliminated a then record of 11 men, including comedian Drew Carey and The Honky Tonk Man.

He was eventually eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin and didn't do too much of note again for a couple of years, but this showed what a great character he has always been.   

1 // Ric Flair // 1992

Entered // #3

Time Lasted // 1:00:02  

Eliminated // The British Bulldog, The Texas Tornado, The Big Boss Man, Randy Savage, Sid Justice

The number one performance in Rumble history goes to Ric Flair, who won the WWE Championship after it was on the line for the first time in 1992. 

Flair showed what an iron man performance in a Rumble can truly be like and perfectly sold the idea of a heel trying to stay in a match for close to an hour at all costs.

The Nature Boy was a constantly close to the action and sold being close to elimination only to somehow stay in beautifully. It's a performance that would be used as a template for years to come and was the standout moment in Flair's first WWE tenure.

Article by Andy Phillips // @AndyP_GY

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