(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31345295?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=royal_rumble&contentId=67733236&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )
I’ve never enjoyed the Royal Rumble as a match. It’s all about the excitement of who comes next, the surprise entrants, and who will win. Yes, there may be a few memorable moments (the past few years, for example, have seen Kofi Kingston avoid elimination by innovative means). The final five minutes are always tense (unless Roman Reigns is involved…). But much of the match involves wrestlers attempting to lift other wrestlers over the top rope in unconvincing ways. I can only name a few Royal Rumble matches that I’d watch more than once. The Royal Rumble 2001 is one of them. #22, Royal Rumble 1992, is now another one. But does that mean it should be in the Best 100…List?
At the Royal Rumble 1992, the WWF Championship was the prize for the single remaining wrestler. It relies a little on star power for memorability. It’s a cornucopia of WWE legends: The British Bulldog and Ted Dibiase are entries one and two respectively. Shawn Michaels, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, The Undertaker, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Greg Valentine, The Texas Tornado, Psycho Sid, The Warlord…oh wait, scratch that last one. Yes, there may be the typical non-entries to make up the numbers, but the big entries are extremely well paced. In recent years, the Rumble has had a tendency to run large stretches without big name entries. The bookers could learn a lot from watching this match, even on the simple topic on pacing.
However, among all those WWF greats, there is only one standout: Ric Flair. Entering at number three, Ric Flair a few seconds short of an hour. That set a record at the time. And he makes sure that he’s the focal point throughout. Whether it’s over-selling, fleeing a babyface, getting in some cheeky offence, or wooing, he rises above the plentiful amount of stories that are colliding in the ring. There’s the rivalry between Jake Roberts and Macho Man, the friendship between Hogan and Sid, the fall of the Soviet Union…It’s a Rumble where some stories end, and some stories begin (and end at ‘Mania…like they should do!). But the story you’ll be left with is Flair’s best performance in the WWF/E. We saw his second best performance at #24 against Savage (click here for my review). But this towers among his first and second runs in the WWF/E. It’s not as if he relies on physical dominance or number of eliminations (I think he only eliminated four people). He relies on his character to outshine everyone else. And he does.
(One other fantastic aspect of the match is the commentary. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan chews up the microphone with his support for Flair. Gorilla Monsoon plays the perfect foil for Heenan).
I’d have to watch the Rumble 2001 match again to compare the two, but right now, if there was one Rumble match to put in the Best 100…List, it would be this one. Yes, it may feature the same old spots where wrestlers unconvincingly try to lift each other over the top rope. But it also features a stacked roster, an award-winning performance from Flair, a twist ending, great commentary, and rivalries colliding and beginning in the centre of the ring. It should be the blueprint for all Rumble matches. Some stories end, some stories begin. WrestleMania is clearly at the forefront of the bookers’ mind, which it bloody well should be at the Rumble. Nowadays, it seems the WrestleMania is merely a twinkle in the booker’s minds when it comes to the Royal Rumble.
VERDICT: 9/10. The best Royal Rumble match ever? Quite possibly. Rumble 2001 one is a strong contender, but 1992 is elevated by the one man show that is Ric Flair and an entry list that is full to the brim with WWE legends.
Click here for my review of #23 The Undertaker vs. Triple H (No Holds Barred, WWE Wrestlemania XXVII)