Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Best of Times…The Worst of Times // Royal Rumble

The brainchild of Pat Paterson and everyone’s favourite PPV: as the Rumble hits 30, I look at the best and worst of the show’s history.

Best Rumble Match // 1992

I lose points for originality here but 1992 is the default pick for the vast majority of wrestling fans for good reason: it featured arguably the last great performance of Ric Flair’s career (complete with classic post-match promo); allowed Bobby Heenan to channel his comedic talents to great effect; featured possibly the greatest cast of WWF characters ever assembled in one match; and was the best example of babyface icon Hulk Hogan getting away with being a bit of a dick (why you gotta play Sid like that, Hulkster?) This was probably the night the Royal Rumble truly established itself as appointment viewing on the WWF calendar: now more than just a novelty battle royal, this match, with its drama, unpredictability and moments of consequence and significance, overtook SummerSlam and Survivor Series to become the number 2 show for Vince and the boys.

Honourable Mention: 2007

Worst Rumble Match // 2000

WWF was red hot in 2000 so bringing its greatest gimmick to its home arena of MSG should have been a sure-fire hit, Whilst the undercard was superb, the Rumble match flattered to deceive. In fact, it remains the dullest Rumble match in history, its one fun spot an impromptu dance off between Rikishi and Too Cool for which the crowd came unglued (I remain steadfast that most wrestling fans secretly favour dancing over workrate). All this match is really known for is Road Dogg hanging onto the bottom rope for an eternity and Rocky and Big Show botching the finish. Avoid.

Honourable Mention: 1991

Best Title Match at a Rumble PPV // John Cena vs Umaga (WWE Championship, 2007)

I struggled with this category: I really enjoy the Triple H and Cactus Jack's street fight at 2000 and Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit at 2003 is a wrestling classic. But fans expected those matches to be great: this title bout from San Antonio, contested under Last Man Standing Rules, vastly exceeded expectations. Featuring an innovative spot in which Umaga charged across the announce desks, a mighty juice job from Cena and a frankly mental finish in which the champ used the ring ropes to render his foe unconscious, this match had a bit of everything. It also secured the late Umaga his spot in the huge Battle of the Billionaires match at ‘Mania 23. A true classic and one that doesn’t always get the props it deserves.

Honourable Mention: Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit (2003)

Worst Title Match at a Rumble PPV // Kurt Angle vs Mark Henry (World Title, 2006)

To be honest, the worst title match in Rumble history is probably Triple H vs Scott Steiner from 2003  but as I literally wrote about that last month, I feel I should vary things up. And Angle and Henry sucked so it’s fair game here.  This match, positioned last on the card, therefore going on after the Rumble and a worthier Cena vs Edge encounter, secured said slot simply because the show closing visual was to be Undertaker interrupting the pedestrian action so that he could destroy the ring. That this odd angle led to a belter between Taker and Angle is some consolation but on that fateful night in 2006, this was not Rumble worthy.

Honourable Mention: Triple H vs Scott Steiner (2003)

Best Rumble PPV // 2002

This show featured one of the best Rumble matches ever: Tripe H was a popular winner; Steve Austin had a blast delivering Stone Cold’s greatest hits; Mr Perfect returned and Maven eliminating Undertaker feels even more shocking years later than it was then. The show also had a great undercard: Jericho and The Rock tore it up in the Undisputed Title match and Vince McMahon and Ric Flair had a surprisingly solid street fight. The opening tag is innocuous fun if you watch it now on the Network but I have a soft spot for it based on the DVD release: for some reason, Taz and Spike Dudley delivered commentary on their match and seized the opportunity to mock Stacey Keibler for blowing her slapping spot; as Taz noted, the slap she sent his way would only have connected if he’d been a couple of feet taller.

Honourable Mention: 2007

Worst Rumble PPV: 2006

I’ve already buried the title match but the rest of the show wasn’t up to much either… The undercard featured JBL vs The Boogey Man which was as bad as it sounds and the Rumble itself was uninspiring. Triple H and Rey Mysterio tried to repeat Shawn Michael’s and Davey Boy’s gimmick of surviving the field from the 1 and 2 spot. 11 years may have passed but it still felt too soon to repeat this scenario; about half way through the match it became too clear this was the direction they were going in and the contest suffered accordingly. The pop for Rey after his win probably wasn’t as passionate as expected; sadly, things would only get worse in this regard…

Honourable Mention: 1991

Article by Sean Taylor-Richardson

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