Throwback Thursday: Best of The ‘Royal Rumble’, As Seen on WWE Network

January 21, 2016 by Brock Allen

WWE Network Throwback Thursday - Logo

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 looks back at the spectacular’s best matches and moments.

WWE Royal Rumble - Classic Logo

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 1990January 21, 1990

WWE Network - Greg Valentine vs. Ronnie Garvin, Royal Rumble 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 1991January 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 1994January 22, 1994

WWE Network - Bret & Owen Hart Tag Team, Royal Rumble 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 2003January 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 2014January 26, 2014

WWE - The Wyatt Family Attacking Daniel Bryan

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 1989January 15, 1989

WWE Network - Big John Studd, Royal Rumble 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 1992January 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 1998January 18, 1998

WWE Network - Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Rock, Royal Rumble 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 2006January 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 2009January 25, 2009

WWE Network - Big Show Entrance, Royal Rumble 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.

Final Thoughts

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?

WWE - Shawn Michaels Sweet Chin Music to Triple H in Royal Rumble Match

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!

WWE Network - Royal Rumble 2015

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  1. Anan says:

    P.S. I hope to see a review of this year’s Royal Rumble show along with a review of the new WWE 24 episode that focuses on Wrestlemania 31.

    I’m gonna say something about some of my Rumble favorites, some of which are on the list and some of which are not just so they get a mention:
    1991 – Rockers vs Orient Express, could not think of a better opening at that particular time with that roster. Of the entire undercard, this was it for me. Warrior vs Savage, there were things I didn’t like leading into this. But it was one of Warrior’s better matches. The Royal Rumble match was good. One of the highlights of it for me was Taker’s dominant showing prior to being eliminated by both LOD members. He took, but no sold hit after hit after hit, although he kinda staggered or stumbled a bit when he was hit wit ha double axe handle while being put in a sleeper. All 30 guys put in their share of hard work in this match, not relying on career ending stuff you see commonly today.

    1992 – The Rockers break-up was great for HBK as was Bret Hart breaking out on his own. But the prospect of a Rockers vs Hart Foundation match to kick off this show makes me wish they held off on both of those singles runs starting till after the Royal Rumble or even during it. The New Hart Foundation (Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) vs Orient Express was a good match, but Rockers/Orient Express was better. Nothing against Jim Neidhart, but would’ve liked to see a Hart Foundation combination of Bret and Owen vs Orient Express or Rockers or a 3-Way. Kudos to Piper for pulling double duty. He won the IC Title and still had a great Rumble match showing. I LOVED the pre-match promo for this year. Comments from Savage, Sid Justice, Jake Roberts, Repo Man, Perfect/Flair, Bulldog, Hogan and the classic one liner from Taker all stick out in my mind. I’m long over it now. But at the time it bothered me how Hogan got 2 World Title rematches (Tuesday In TX and The Royal Rumble) while Taker who got screwed at Tuesday In TX only had the Royal Rumble as his rematch. On top, he entered before Hogan and Hogan eliminates him. Taker’s Survivor Series World Title match really should have happened at Summerslam. He was there, but wasn’t used and considering he was a young talent with monster heel dominance and momentum, it as a big mistake to leave him off one of WWE’s top PPV’s. Also didn’t like the ending. Those minors aside, it was a great Rumble. Savage sprinting to the ring to go after Jake, who was hiding under as Savage was running was a highlight. Taker’s dominance, again was a highlight. Unlike recent years, at this Rumble, you had to be eliminated to be out. Savage went over the top to go after Jake, but was allowed back in as he was not outed by someone.

    1993 – Only highlight year was Bret Hart vs Razor Ramon. They worked well together though I enjoyed their KOTR 1993 match a little bit more.

    1994 – The post-match stuff of Taker vs Yokozuna was a highlight, but I liked the match. No it wasn’t a classic. But it was vintage Taker and that’s good enough for me. Harts vs Quebecers, I’ve never seen a bad Bret Hart match. But here, I cared more about the drama and the hope of The Harts winning than the actual match. The Royal Rumble match, one of the best of my lifetime. Yeah it was predictable that either Luger or Bret Hart would win due to them being attacked prior to their participation, but that’s why I loved the double elimination. It added unpredictability to it. I didn’t like what it resulted in though. WM10 should have been (after Bret vs Owen) Bret vs Yokozuna or a 3-Way involving Luger or even Bret vs Luger with the winner of the coin toss getting a title shot prior to WM with the winner defending the Title at WM against whoever didn’t win the coin toss.

    1995 – Bret Hart was one of Diesel’s best WWF matches. The Tag Team Title match was fun for me. Royal Rumble match, Bulldog and especially HBK is all I have to say about that.

    1996 – Goldust vs Razor was good. In that time peiod, this was Goldust’s best time in terms of his character. Royal Rumble match highlights: Vader’s debut and face off with Yokozuna, Jake Roberts scaring everyone out of the ring with his snake, which he put on Lawler. Aside from the ending whih was done to setup Taker vs Diesel at WM, Taker vs Bret was a classic.

    1998 – Loved the whole event including the free for all. Each match had at least one, if not more highlights. Vader vs Goldust saw Vader hit the Vader Bomb with Luna on his back. The tag team match that Sunny refereed was full of high flying. Rock vs Shamrock always clicked and here was no exception. LOD vs The Outlaws, I really loved the intense pre-match LOD interview. Animal was very intense. Hawk was his usual self. Animal held his own pretty well for a guy who was told by doctors not to compete due to a bad back. Royal Rumble match, one of the best. Didn’t like Owen being taken out by the same guy who a yea later would be his Tag partner and enjoy some Tag Title runs with him in Jeff Jarrett. Kurrgan had a pretty good showing, really loved that Interrogator character and wish it lasted longer. Loved JR’s commentary about Kurrgan. Foley’s 3 personas all having its own Rumble entry was nice. Rock was the 3rd man in, but was the last man out, won by Austin who knew everyone would be waiting for him so when his entrance music hit and the action stopped, he came from behind, hit the ring and stomped more than one mudholes. The Casket match was a great follow-up to the HIAC. Taker got screwed once again like he was in 94, same match, except it was 6, then the 7th in Kane as opposed to 94 where it was 10 + Yokozuna. But prior to the screwing, we saw great wrestling, HBK elbow drop into the casket, Taker’s Tombstone into the casket, Taker’s skull hit the steps (sick cringe making cracking sound)…what didn’t that match have?

    1999 – I Quit match, disturbing. Rumble match, only highlight was King’s commentary and the camera on Austin’s face as Vince is announced as the winner. X-pAc vs Gangrel was a good match too.

    2001 – Kane was THE highlight of the Rumble match.

    2003 – Great Rumble match here.

    Okay this is getting long so I’m gonna stop here LOL.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello again, Anan. First thing first, the hardest part of this article was choosing 5 truly great Rumble matches. There are a lot of okay ones and good ones, but great? Not so much. While I agree with what you wrote about the matches, angles, promos, and presentations, I disagree on the 1995 Rumble. To me it reeks of laziness with it being 30-second intervals (HBK’s laziness there) and tag teams coming out, for instance, 9 & 10, 12 & 13, 20 & 21. The booking was just as lazy as HBK not wanting to go the hour. That being said, I still watch it and love the booking of HBK & Bulldog. It saves the match, in my opinion. I loved 1999 from start to finish and I loved 2000 even more. Being an ECW fan I thought 2000s was the best of the best. In fact, as I told a friend today, this years event was the most complete card, including a classic Rumble match, since 2000. I may take heat for that, but I don’t care. What we saw was a truly classic night of WWE action.

      But, no Rumble match will ever be as good as 1992. I don’t know why or for what reason but that Rumble still holds up like it was yesterday. And it featured my favorite elimination ever: Sgt. Slaughter going airborne. I love Gorilla’s call in that moment as well. I can’t add anything to what you wrote as I think you captured it pretty well. Thanks as always for reading and commenting. Take care!

      • Anan says:

        I found 2000 to be an ok Rumble. There were entrants in the match that really didn’t belong there. The roster was deeper in 2000 so for me, it was wasted. Things picked up when Kane, X-Pac, Rock and Big Show came in though. I hated how Kane was “eliminated” by someone who re-entered, X-Pac who was eliminated by Kane. But the idiot refs didn’t see it. That was 1997 all over again. Lazy, unoriginal booking.

        1999 was a real screwed up Rumble as opposed to an actual Rumble match. And the focus was taken off of the whole point of the Rumble match, WM and put on Austin/Mcmahon, even going so far as to place a $100,000 bounty on Austin. Getting a WM Title shot is enough of a reward. I mean, seriously. Then Kane eliminating himself. People complain about Kane’s character now. But in 1999, ring cleared, he eliminated himself because while the destructive monster could take out 4-5 athletes on his own, he can’t handle the orderlies.

        • Anan says:

          1992….yeah greatest Rumble till the end. If that Rumble took place after the early lean year 90’s, would’ve been way better. Considering when it happened, yeah it was the greatest. I would tie 1992, 1994 and 2003 as the best of all time. Can’t pick one of two out of the three. All greatest, maybe just for different reasons.

          I appreciate your feedback, as always 🙂

  2. Andrew says:

    Check your facts: the first rumble was in 1988, not 1989. Hacksaw Jim Duggan was the winner.

    • Brock Allen says:

      With all due respect, Andrew, please read the article. I stated in the very first line that the debut was in 1988. Secondly, I never said 1989 was the first Rumble, I said it was the first PPV Rumble, which is true as the 1988 edition was on USA Network, not PPV, as a counter to JCP’s Bunkhouse Stampede PPV. Thanks for reading.

  3. CrimeDawg says:

    I always enjoyed the 2007 Rumble with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at the end, and of course the 2004 one too.

  4. Nicolas Hébert says:

    My favorite event of the year of all time!!! Can’t wait to December for the DVD/Blu-Ray on the History of the Royal Rumble!

  5. Ruthless.Attitude.Eras.4Life says:

    This has always been my favorite event, even think its superior to WM. But the last 2 years – 2014 and 2015 – were somewhat of disappointments, 2015 for me not even had any of the undercard-matches that worked for me.

    The 1989 and 2008 rumbles have my favorite no. 1+2 entrances: it’s so cool to watch Demolition go on against each others…and the 2 last remaining competitors from the 2007 match starting the 2008 Rumble… From the days where WWF/E knew how to book, so I get hook’ed. 🙂

    As a whole event, I think the 2004 is my favorite: the opening line from the speaker: “Life…no one really knows, where it will take us”, is such a thrill and a prime example of how WWE’s Ruthless Agression era worked so damn well, with 4 main events that ranked from very good to great, and a few undercard mathces, that was’nt bad at all.

    • Brock Allen says:

      I agree, Ruthless.Attitude.Eras.4Life, the Rumble has been my favorite event since the very first PPV edition. I agree with 2004 though I think 2003 was good from start to finish as well. Personally, give me any of the first 5 PPV Rumbles and I’m a happy man. I love those early Rumble PPVs. I still flinch when I see Savage cream Warrior with the scepter.

      I also agree with the last 2 being disappointing events. I do think the writing was on the wall however with the less than great 2012 and ’13 editions. Hopefully this year’s delivers in spades. All the ingredients are there for a truly memorable event and match. Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Take care.

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