It’s the Royal Rumble tomorrow! Yes, not only are thirty sweaty men going to battle for the right to main event WrestleMania, but thirty sweaty women are also going to battle for the right to face the Women’s Champion at WrestleMania (but their chance of main eventing WrestleMania is a 3,750 to 1). But I’m not here to talk about the Rumble match itself. I’m here to talk about the non-Rumble Royal Rumble matches. More specifically, my Top 10 non-Rumble Royal Rumble matches! Sometimes, an undercard match overshadows the Rumble match itself. Here are ten instances where that is most definitely the case!
10. Chris Benoit (c) v Chris Jericho (Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship, Royal Rumble 2001)
If this had happened any other year, it would be remembered as one of the beat Ladder matches in company history. However, it took place in 2001, where TLC matches were all the rage. However, this match doesn’t rely on insane spots. It’s more of a wrestling match that happens to have a ladder involved. So you may not get the high spots you’re used to nowadays, but instead of that you are given high drama. These two beat each other silly and it’s glorious to watch..
9. Chris Jericho (c) vs The Rock (WWF Undisputed Championship, Royal Rumble 2002)
It’s safe to say that this was the best match of Y2J’s Undisputed Championship reign. The Rock and Y2J had great chemistry in the ring. Y2J tended to botch a lot less when The Rock was opposing him. There aren’t gimmicks here, just two wrestlers wrestling for a World title. And they put on a fantastic performance. It must rank as one of the best matches from either competitor.
8. Shawn Michaels (c) vs The Undertaker (Casket Match for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 1998)
Put Taker and HBK together and they rarely have a decent match…they always have very good/great matches. This match is often over-shadowed by their Hell in a Cell match the previous year, but this is almost as brilliant as that festival of brutality. It might not be saying much, but this is the best Casket match in company history. HBK bounced around as usual and Taker looked like a man possessed as he beats fifty shades of grey out of HBK. Of course, this match will be forever known as the match where HBK broke his back (try and spot the spot where he breaks it!), but it deserves to be known for more than that.
7. The Undertaker (c) v Rey Mysterio (World Heavyweight Championship, Royal Rumble 2010)
Could these two work together? Would the size difference hinder them? The answer is: no. They worked the David/Goliath angle to perfection. Mysterio looked as if he had the power to defeat Taker. Taker looked strong, but showed just enough weakness to keep you second-guessing about the outcome. He managed to keep up with the fast-but-deteriorating Mysterio (whose knees were already knackered by this point, but they would get even worse) in this blinding thriller.
6. Mankind (c) v The Rock (Last Man Standing Match for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 1999)
Mankind and The Rock had a length feud in late 1998 and early 1999. But this was the cream of the crop as far as their matches were concerned. The problem with I Quit matches can be the stop/start nature of them, but this match had plenty of high spots and brutality to gloss over the stop/start problem. Combine that with a hard-to-watch final few minutes as The Rock bashes Mankind over the head with a steel chair repeatedly (and without Foley putting his hands up to protect his head…as he is handcuffed!) and you have something great
5. The Hardy Boyz (c) vs The Dudley Boyz (Tables Match for the WWF Tag Team Championship, Royal Rumble 2000)
Yes, these two teams may be more famous for their TLC wars with Edge and Christian, but this inaugural tag team tables match was still something to behold. There’s plenty of high spots, including an awesome Swanton bomb off a balcony! It’s still a unique match, as a tag team tables match is something we rarely see (I can’t remember the last one we saw…). There are chairs in the mix as well. It’s a pity this one isn’t well-remembered, as it’s as full of innovation and high spots as their first tag team ladder match involving the Hardyz and Edge and Christian.
4. Brock Lesnar (c) vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship, Royal Rumble 2015)
This is one of the greatest triple threat matches in WWE history. You knew that Rollins was added to the match so that Cena wouldn’t have to take the pin, but that didn’t matter. Rollins put on an incredible performance, evening dropping a top rope elbow onto a prone Lesnar on the announce table. Of course, Cena and Lesnar looked impressive as well. It’s one of the rare times Lesnar looked bothered enough to wrestle! It was one of the best matches of 2015.
3. Daniel Bryan v Bray Wyatt (Royal Rumble 2014)
One of the best opening matches in WWE PPV history? I think so! Bryan had joined the Wyatt family, and then turned on them (in one of the hottest angles in Raw history). It lead to this match, which stands as Wyatt’s best singles match to date. They overshadowed everything else on the PPV, including the Rumble (where Daniel Bryan became the crowd’s hero…even though he wasn’t involved in it!). Bryan puts on a great show (as always). Wyatt almost manages to equal Bryan’s performance.
2. Triple H (c) vs Cactus Jack (Street Fight for the WWF Championship, Royal Rumble 2000)
Yet another Royal Rumble title match where Mick Foley takes a beating! As far as I’m concerned, this was a star making match for HHH. Sure, he’d had very good matches before, but this was better than anything he’d done. You had the requisite amount of ultra-violence, including barbed wire bats and (later on in the match) thumb tacks. You had a brawl into the crowd. Foley took a lot of punishment, but HHH took almost an equal amount. It’s bloody, brutal and brilliant!
(Click here for my full review of this match!)
1. Kurt Angle (c) v Chris Benoit (WWE Championship Match, Royal Rumble 2003)
In my humble opinion, this is one of the best matches in WWE history. It may be consigned to oblivion because of the Benoit tragedy but any lover of wrestling should watch this match. It came after the awful match between HHH and Scott Steiner, so Benoit and Angle could have had a dance-off and that would have been better than the HHH Steiner atrocity. Angle and Benoit had shown great chemistry in the ring before, but at the Royal Rumble 2003 they put on a pure wrestling match for the ages. Words cannot do it justice. Just watch it!
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?