If you think about it, the Royal Rumble match has to be the one of the hardest and most complicated matches to execute properly. First of all, there are 30 superstars to whom you have to designate positions, a certain time for them to be eliminated, if they're going to get any offense, will there a special spot, will they eliminate anybody themselves, etc... You can see how this would be a nightmare to book. There are plenty of instances where a Royal Rumble match goes horribly wrong, to the point where the entire audience is confused or even worse, bored. In case anybody fell asleep during last year's Rumble (your night was better than mine), you would know that it was one of the worst Royal Rumbles in history. The surprise entrants sucked, the pacing was incredibly uneven and the hottest star in the company Daniel Bryan wasn't even in it! And Batista won. In the words of Chris Jericho, what a bunch of assclowns.
To wash away the awful taste of last year's Rumble, I got to thinking about the best Royal Rumble matches in history and what made them so good. The most memorable Royal Rumbles aren't the ones with a million different high spots and every legend imaginable coming back for 15 seconds of glory. No, the best Royal Rumbles are the ones that pace out the drama correctly. They're the ones that utilize shock factors well, but not to the point of over saturation. They're the ones that have significant story lines not only going into the match, but also ones that develop within the match itself. It seems the WWE has had trouble finding that formula in recent years. The 2011 Rumble's 40-man match was too overbooked, the 2012 edition was too gimmicky, the 2013 tilt was too predictable and last year's was simply just a catastrophe. With all those factors in mind, I present the top 10 greatest Royal Rumble matches of all time.
10 Royal Rumble 1994
As was the status quo in North American pro wrestling of the mid-90s, this Rumble is featured with performers straddled with horrendous gimmicks. Men On A Mission (WWE's attempt at being hip), Kwang The Ninja and a babyface, aka. boring Doink the Clown were all a part of this Rumble but through some divine will, it ended up being a good Rumble. Rising star Diesel was made to look dominant through his long appearance and seven eliminations while his "employer" Shawn Michaels lasted nearly half an hour in the match.
Leading into the match, Bret Hart suffered a knee injury at the hands of his brother Owen earlier in the evening, but Bret pushed forward and lasted until the very end, becoming the first ever co-winner of the Royal Rumble along with Lex Luger. The innovative finish pushes the match from decent to good and into the top 10. It also gave the fans a choice of who their guy was. Judging by the reactions to each, it became quite evident that the Hitman was the more beloved babyface of the two and likely became a factor in how WrestleMania X was booked.
9 Royal Rumble 2000
It's been argued that the year 2000 was the best year in WWE history. The feud between The Rock and Triple H was a must see, the tag team division was at its peak, and Divas like Lita and Trish Stratus were beginning their careers. Having said that, the 2000 Rumble wasn't quite the best. Despite the loaded roster, men like the Hardys and Dudley Boyz, Kurt Angle and the debuting Tazz were left out of the match. There were still memorable moments like the Too Cool dance off and the EVIL KAIENTAI unofficially entering the match only to get thrown over the top rope twice. The Rock won the Rumble in a great finish, but he was the obvious choice of who would win the match. Despite The Rock's concerns before the match (look up his pre-match promo), it's not like Crash Holly of Headbanger Mosh were going to face Triple H at WrestleMania. Still a solid Rumble.
8 Royal Rumble 2003
If you're going to watch this event, I'd advise you to avoid the Triple H vs. Scott Steiner match like the plague. This Royal Rumble match itself began with the best opening in Rumble history as Shawn Michaels, who was competing in his first Rumble since his 1996 victory, was eliminated quickly after a sneak attack from Chris Jericho. Michaels would eventually return to ring and exact revenge on Y2J by aiding Test in Jericho's elimination. The match is also notable for being the first Rumble as part of the brand extension years. In somewhat of a clustermuck of an ending, WWE's dominant rookie Brock Lesnar eliminated The Undertaker after the American Badass hammered Batista with a chairshot. Damn, even in the Royal Rumble, The Undertaker can't defeat Lesnar.
7 Royal Rumble 2004
The very next year, WWE outdid themselves with their 2004 outing. From the no.1 spot, Chris Benoit lasted the entire match to win by finally eliminating Big Show single handily! The 2004 Rumble also successfully set up three big time matches at WrestleMania XX, Undertaker vs Kane (decent), Rock and Sock Connection vs Evolution (good) and Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg (horrendous). The continuity which spawned from this Rumble is wonderful to see from the usually short sighted WWE. In of the best displays of Big Show's power, he managed to shrug off five men who were all trying to eliminate the giant. The plethora (fun word) of storylines at play in the match makes it one of the best.
6 Royal Rumble 2006
Before continuing on, I should note that I'm a huge Rey Mysterio mark. Growing up through Mysterio's rise to the top on SmackDown was awesome and he among my top three favourite wrestlers ever. Now on to the Rumble match. While the exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death left a sour taste in a lot of fans' mouths, at this point it was fine as Mysterio would dedicate his performance to his fallen friend, even joking that Eddie was ribbing him due to his no.2 spot.
What makes this Rumble great are the performances from both Triple H and Rey Mysterio. HHH was great at his role of a dastardly heel and Mysterio was fantastic as the babyface in peril, staving off elimination countless times. The final four is also very well done as Triple H attacks Mysterio after he is eliminated, but Mysterio still manages to win after countering Randy Orton's attempt to eliminate Rey for the win. There's a lot pointless midcarders in the match, but the strong performances from key players propel the match into the top 10.
5 Royal Rumble 2001
The year 2001 was the swan song of the Attitude Era and this Royal Rumble is an awesome tribute to its legacy. Four faces of the Attitude Era, Undertaker, Kane, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock all turned in great performances but Kane was by far the most impressive. In a record that was held for 13 years, Kane eliminated 11 superstars only to finally be eliminated after three chair shots from Stone Cold. From the hardcore spots to Stone Cold securing his record breaking Royal Rumble win, this Rumble captured all the best aspects of the Attitude Era and squeezed them into one battle royal. Hell, even Drew Carrey was entertaining!
4 Royal Rumble 2007
Whoever was booking the Royal Rumble matches throughout the mid 2000s needs a high six because they created some awesome memories. The greatness in this match to me is primarily predicated on two factors. The first one being how well tag teams were utilized in the match. The Hardy Boyz and Rated RKO used their tag team expertise to great effect and showcased teamwork not often seen in a Royal Rumble match.
The big reason though as to why this Rumble is incredible is because of the final four. Quite simply, this is the best closing ten minutes in any Rumble match. Rated RKO demolished two legends in Undertaker and Shawn Michaels while teasing turns on each other at the same time. In an unexpected turn of events, both members of Rated RKO were eliminated by HBK. This left Undertaker and Shawn Michaels as the final two and what followed was a preview of their classic WrestleMania encounters a few years later. After several close calls, Undertaker became the first man from the number 30 spot to win the Rumble. The best Rumble ending to a classic match.
3 Royal Rumble 2002
If 2001 was the Attitude Era's swan song, then 2002 was the bridging of the gap from Attitude to Ruthless Aggression. It made the transition in style though, as far as this match goes anyway. This Rumble had a little something in it for everybody's tastes. You want legends returning? Mr. Perfect came out at no.25 to a nice reaction from the Atlanta crowd and showed that even at 42, he still had it. You want dominating performances? Stone Cold would set out to win his fourth Rumble by eliminating seven competitors and lasting nearly a half hour before being eliminated by Kurt Angle. You want shocking moments? How about Maven, FREAKING MAVEN, eliminating the iconic Undertaker with a picture perfect dropkick from behind? In the best ending possible, the returning Triple H eliminated Kurt Angle to secure a shot at Chris Jericho's Undisputed Title at WrestleMania 18 and while the feud sucked, it had potential to be great at the time of the Rumble.
2 Royal Rumble 1992
Let's be honest here; nobody gave a damn about the early Royal Rumbles. Not only were they boring and unimaginative, but the winner of the match received nothing, making the whole struggle meaningless. It was only in 1992 that the WWE decided that something should be on the line in the Royal Rumble. The vacant WWE Championship would be up for grabs and it added a great amount of drama to the match. In terms of legends, this is a contender for the most star studded in history, featuring icons like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Undertaker and oouuuu yeeaaahhh, Randy Savage.
The drama of Flair almost being eliminated at several points but staying in the match would set the precedent for years to come. Lots of people have entitled this as the best Rumble ever and perhaps it's my lack of nostalgia for this match, but I don't consider it the best. Fantastic? Absolutely, especially with Bobby Hennan being a commentary God with his shameless bias for Flair, "it's not fair to Flair!" But the best? I don't think so.
1 Royal Rumble 2010
I really don't get why this match isn't held in a higher regard. Seriously, this Rumble is full of great moments and awesome drama that I could barely contain myself while watching. This Rumble managed to distribute the spotlight among a lot of superstars yet kept the focus on HBK's struggle to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI. Heading into the match, everyone was fairly certain that Michaels would win but he still added layers of drama by eliminating his DX brother Triple H and channeling the HBK Royal Rumble greatness time after time with six eliminations.
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention how CM Punk handled the first 10 minutes of the match expertly by eliminating men quickly and cutting promos in between entries like a boss. Nobody lasted very long in the Rumble like other years, but this did help the match have a quicker pace than many other ones. When Michaels was eliminated by Batista in the final four, it was genuinely one of the most heartbreaking moments in WWE history, as Michaels sold his mental struggle like only he could by snapping at referees and damn near crying.
Chris Jericho seemed to be in good shape in the match, until his former tag team partner Edge returned from a torn Achilles tendon to toss him over the top rope. Urgh, but of course they're going to have John Cena beat Edge like usual, right? NO! Edge threw Cena over the top rope to secure a World Championship match at WrestleMania. The twists and turns, the shockers (Beth Phoenix eliminates the Great Khali... yeah) and the rapid pace of this Rumble pushes it into the number one spot. And now all the older fans hate me.