Since its debut in 1988 Royal Rumble has become one of the most popular events in all of WWE.
For some fans it is the event of the year. With the 29th annual Royal Rumble just around the corner (Jan. 24 on WWE Network), where Roman Reigns will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in one of the biggest “Royal Rumble” matches ever, Throwback Thursday on WrestlingDVDNetwork.com looks back at the spectacular’s best matches and moments.
The Royal Rumble is the closest WWE event that resembles “legitimate” combat sports PPVs like boxing and MMA in that the Royal Rumble is built around one match (the Rumble) with a limited, or perhaps forgotten, undercard. With that in mind this week’s TBT will focus not only on five of the best “Royal Rumbles” but five of the best non-Rumble matches as well.
Non-“Royal Rumble” Matches:
— “Submission Match” (WATCH)
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine w/Jimmy Hart vs. “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin
WWF Royal Rumble 1990 • January 21, 1990
An old-school southern “‘rasslin” match, this is one of the stiffest matches in Rumble history. After a lengthy feud Valentine “retired” Garvin on the April 29, 1989 Superstars, after which Garvin began refereeing. When referee Garvin cost “The Hammer” a match versus Jimmy Snuka at July’s Saturday Night’s Main Event XXII Valentine demanded Garvin’s reinstatement. By January ’90, with the feud still unsettled, this match was signed.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH)
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jennetty) vs. The New Orient Express (Pat Tanaka & Kato) w/Mr. Fuji
WWF Royal Rumble 1991 • January 19, 1991
Tag team wrestling was as integral a part of the Royal Rumble in the early years as the Rumble itself, and this may be the best tag team match in Royal Rumble history. Behind the gimmick The New Orient Express were actually Badd Company, who won the AWA Tag titles from The Midnight Rockers on March 19, 1988, the last match between these teams until this night. At near twenty minutes this is as good as tag team wrestling gets both in terms of action and psychology.
— WWF World Tag Team Championship (WATCH)
Bret Hart & Owen Hart vs. The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre)(c) w/Johnny Polo
WWF Royal Rumble 1994 • January 22, 1994
After nearly splitting up at the 1993 Survivor Series the brothers Hart made nice over the Christmas holiday and united to challenge the Quebecers for the tag team titles. The second act of one of WWE’s most famous feuds, this is one of the most memorable matches in Royal Rumble history. And besides, Owen’s “leg out of your leg” flub never gets old.
— WWE Championship (WATCH – 1:10:06)
Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle(c)
WWE Royal Rumble 2003 • January 19, 2003
Not much needs to be said about this one. A match many dreamed would headline WrestleMania XIX produced not just the single greatest WWE title match in Royal Rumble history but one of the greatest WWE title matches ever.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH)
Bray Wyatt w/Luke Harper & Erick Rowan vs. Daniel Bryan
WWE Royal Rumble 2014 • January 26, 2014
After weeks of teasing a turn to the Wyatt Family Daniel Bryan got the better of Bray Wyatt after a tag team “Steel Cage Match” on the January 13, 2014 edition of RAW, setting the stage for this instant classic. A plodding start gives way to furious action and thrilling finish that left those in the arena and those watching on Pay-Per-View breathless.
“Royal Rumble” Matches:
— “1989 30-Man Royal Rumble” (WATCH)
WWF Royal Rumble 1989 • January 15, 1989
An instant classic, the first PPV “Royal Rumble” is one of the most unpredictable and realistically booked Rumbles yet and established the event as must-see for fans around the world. After a two-year hiatus, match winner the late Big John Studd was set for a significant push. Poor health, however, derailed the push almost from the start. Studd would quit for good the afternoon of June 6, 1989 in Madison, Wisconsin before passing away at the age of 47 on March 20, 1995 from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This win is seen by many as the highlight of Studd’s Hall of Fame career.
— “1992 30-Man Royal Rumble Match for the Vacant WWF World Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH)
WWF Royal Rumble 1992 • January 19, 1992
To many this is the single greatest “Royal Rumble” ever. The first Rumble to decide the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the ’92 offering was destined from the start to make history. From the stellar roster to the unparalleled storytelling to the coronation of the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the ’92 Rumble is as good as “Royal Rumble” action gets. After 24 years the ’92 classic is as fresh today as it was the night it happened.
— “1998 30-Man Royal Rumble Match” (WATCH)
WWF Royal Rumble 1998 • January 18, 1998
While the 1998 “Royal Rumble” is best remembered for the “three faces of Foley” this is one of the more fun and unpredictable Rumbles in history. Notable for being the unofficial kick-off of the “Austin Era” this Rumble is full of star power and surprises that has made it a fan favorite; the only highlight (besides the poster) of an otherwise forgettable 1998 Royal Rumble.
— “2006 30-Man Royal Rumble Match” (WATCH – 44:40)
WWE Royal Rumble 2006 • January 29, 2006
After the sudden passing of Eddie Guerrero on Nov. 13, 2005 the entire wrestling world was in a state of mourning. With Eddie’s death still fresh in everyone’s minds the WWE turned the Rumble into a living tribute to Guerrero. Rey Mysterio set the record for longest time in the match (1:02:12) and became only the second superstar to win from the #2 position (Mr. McMahon, 1999).
— “2009 30-Man Royal Rumble Match” (WATCH)
WWE Royal Rumble 2009 • January 25, 2009
One of the most competitive Rumbles to date the 2009 edition is one of the most psychologically thrilling ever. While recent years featured a limited number of wrestlers in the ring at any one time, eliminations were hard to come by in the 2009 edition with half the field in the ring at various points in the match, including when #30, The Big Show, entered the ring.
These ten matches are only the tip of the iceberg in the history of the Royal Rumble. After nearly 30 years the Royal Rumble has become as important to fans worldwide as WrestleMania itself, becoming one of the most beloved, most watched, most anticipated events of the calendar year and the official first stop on the “Road to WrestleMania“. Unlike the “King of the Ring” nearly every Rumble winner has carved a place for themselves in wrestling history. From Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart, Ric Flair to Batista, Big John Studd to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the Rumble has played a significant part in the careers of some the greatest WWE superstars of all-time.
Who will etch their name in history this year?
That’s all for this week’s TBT – thanks again for reading! Are you a WWE Network subscriber yet? If so, check out the matches, see them for yourself, and let us know what you think. And don’t forget to tune into the WWE Network on January 24, 2016 at 8pm EST for the 2016 Royal Rumble .
Until next week, see ya at ringside!
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