Sometimes it is fun to challenge yourself when writing a column. That is what I did with this piece.
On my old site I used to do pieces where I would put together the “Best Wrestlemania” or “Best SummerSlam” possible. The rules were always that you could only use a wrestler once, a title once, and only pick one match from each year.
Well I decided to do something similar, but with the Royal Rumble match.
This is my attempt to put together the best Royal Rumble match possible. You may think this sounds easy, but it is far from it when you dive into it.
My goal was to find wrestlers at their peak, or at their best performances in the Rumble. But some sacrifices had to be made.
The rules are the same as stated above:
- Every Rumble slot from 1-30 must be filled with a wrestler who actually drew that number from the year they drew it
- Wrestlers can only be used once, AND each Rumble match can only feature once (for example, you can not use Bret Hart AND Lex Luger from 1994)
What follows is my attempt to put together the best Rumble possible given those rules. I will admit, there are some “sacrifice” picks in there. Those are basically where I got to a point that I needed to put someone weaker in that spot in order to get someone better in another spot.
I’ll give you my pick from the spot. I’ll then give you the runners up for each spot right below my pick.
To start, three Rumbles are left out. Those Rumbles are the 1999, 2008, and 2011. I consider 1999 one of the worst Rumbles ever so there was no way I was using it.
1. 1995: Shawn Michaels
Runners Up: Chris Benoit (2004), Brock Lesnar (2020)
A fairly obvious start here. HBK is the iconic #1 draw in the Royal Rumble. I wanted to avoid the other man to win the match from #1, and Brock’s run last year was awesome but not quite as big as this.
2. 2006: Rey Mysterio
Runners Up: Chris Jericho (2003), Randy Orton (2004)
I thought this was the best opening two possible given the options. I could have done Benoit vs Rey, but again I really wanted to avoid using Benoit if possible. Plus 2020 Brock vs 2006 Rey would just not be good. Also imagine if we had 95 HBK against this version of Rey, it would be amazing.
3. 1992: Ric Flair
There was no runner up for this one. When I had this idea I was locked into this pick. I’ve said it a million times: the 92 Rumble match is the greatest Rumble match ever. It is also one of my favourite wrestling matches of all time. So this was a lock. Sorry AJ Styles!
4. 1998: The Rock
Runner Up: Jake Roberts (1990)
Not a whole lot of options at the number four spot. The Rock was already on the rise at this point but I think his performance here solidified him as a major player going forward. There is a reason I didn’t pick The Rock from the spot he won at, and you will see why when I get to it.
5. 2000: Rikishi
Runners Up: Randy Savage (1990), Steve Austin (1997), Edge (2007)
A handful of good options at the number five spot. I might have went with the weakest one of the bunch, but Rikishi had a strong breakout performance in 2000, just like the Rock in 1998. I am really not a fan of this Rumble match but I needed this spot filled with someone other than the three runners up and I landed on Rikishi.
6. 1990: Roddy Piper
Runner Up: Kane (2001)
I really wanted to use Kane here. I really did. But at this point I am guessing you know who I used for the year 2001. Kane had one of the best non-winning Rumble performances ever but I had to leave him out. I put Piper in the spot as he was the next best option here.
7. 1994: Diesel
Runners Up: Edge (2005), Triple H (2009)
When you talk about breakout performances in the Royal Rumble, this is immediately one that comes to mind. Diesel held the elimination record for one Rumble after his showing here. He would also become WWF Champion by the end of 1994 and his performance here helped launch him into that spot. Diesel got a round of applause after being eliminated. The crowd appreciated someone being booked like a huge deal.
8. 2009: Randy Orton
Runner Up: Batista (2008)
I would say this performance is better than his win in 2017. Plus 2017 led to one of my least favorite WWE title matches of all time. He was also the best option for the number. There weren’t too many other options but the best option in Orton was able to slide right in.
9. 1993: Genichiro Tenryu
Runner Up: Jake Roberts (1991)
If you do Royal Rumble pools with your friends, you might as well just give up when you get this spot. There is no one worth picking here. It is a bad spot. At least Tenryu is a star in Japan, so we can have that going for us here. I mean seriously, after Jake Roberts the next best option was 2017 Big Show.
10. 2019: Seth Rollins
Runner Up: Mr. Perfect (1993)
A pretty easy pick after looking at all the entrants. Seth Rollins is the only winner from this spot. Rollins went through a bit of a slump in 2018 and his win here launched him back to the top in 2019.
11. 2004: Booker T
Runners Up: Andre the Giant (1990), Randy Savage (1994), Chris Jericho (2009)
Remember how I talked about “sacrifice picks” in my intro? This is the first of those. As you can see the three people I listed as runners up are all better (in my opinion). But in order to get this to work and use the guys I 100% wanted to use, I had to make some small sacrifices. Booker T was coming off a 2003 title match at Wrestlemania and had not become a total joke yet.
12. 2003: Rob Van Dam
Runner Up: CM Punk (2008)
Did you remember that RVD lasted to the final five in this Rumble? Because I certainly forgot when doing my research. And he has the best showing of anyone at this number in Rumble history so he gets the slot.
13. 1996: Vader
Runner Up: The Rock (2001)
Vader is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. There was no way he was getting left out here. I really hate how he was eliminated in this match. But he came out of it looking like a monster after destroying everyone after it. And of The Rock’s three main Rumble appearances once it became obvious he was going to be a star, this is the weakest.
14. 2018: Shinsuke Nakamura
No real strong option here after Nakamura. The best performance from the 14 spot and also quite possibly the best performance from Nakamura on the main roster in the WWE until recently. Who would have thought that would be the case after his win here?
15. 1989: Randy Savage
Runners Up: Roddy Piper (1992), Roman Reigns (2014)
Pretty good options here. Savage is the WWF Champion in 1989 and I like using him here in this spot. Reigns’ breakout performance in this spot in 2014 was tough to pass up. I really liked it. But I wanted to get Savage in the Rumble and this was the best opportunity for me to get him in, especially where I think he is at his peak.
16. 2020: Drew McIntyre
Runners Up: Randy Orton (2007), Undertaker (2009)
Another one where I think Drew McIntyre was the best option, even with some serious star power in there like Randy Orton and the Undertaker. Both of those guys had better performances in other Rumbles, and Drew McIntyre was made a star last year with his Rumble win.
17. 2016: Braun Strowman
Runners Up: Chris Benoit (2007), Big E (2017)
Similar to #9, if you get this number in your Royal Rumble pool, thank you for your donation. This was just an awful spot. And again, to avoid using Chris Benoit, I decided to go with Braun in this spot.
18. 1988: Ultimate Warrior
Runners Up: Hulk Hogan (1989), Shawn Michaels (1994/1996/2010), AJ Styles (2020)
Shawn Michaels really likes this spot huh? Some good star power here but the 1988 Royal Rumble isn’t really filled with star power, and I wanted to sneak the Warrior into this match. So lets get him in while he is still young and not full of himself yet.
19. 2013: John Cena
Runners Up: Lex Luger (1995), Steve Austin (2002), Kurt Angle (2004), John Cena (2010), Roman Reigns (2015)
Right around here is where the choices get really tough to make. I didn’t have that issue at 18 because I already knew I would use Hogan and HBK in other spots. I thought about Roman here. But in the end I went with John Cena’s win in the 2013 Rumble.
20. 2005: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle didn’t really have a strong showing here. I will say this is when we started to get bad ass Angle that the crowd loved so much they had to cheer him. So I went with Angle here because all of the other options were from years where I had locks that I wanted to use.
21. 1997: Bret Hart
Runners Up: Ultimate Warrior (1990), Randy Savage (1992), Edge (2020)
This performance from Bret Hart here launched his great year of 1997. It lead to the great USA vs Canada rivalry that turned Bret heel. I love the reaction of Austin here as well during Bret’s entrance. Bret was involved in title matches in 1993, 1995 and 1996 so his peak performance time of being in a Rumble is limited.
22. 2002: Triple H
Runner Up: Sheamus (2012)
This was peak Triple H. He had just come back from his quad injury. The crowd wanted to see him back and wanted to see him win here. It might have been the last time the crowd wanted to see him win anything. So of course I had to get him into the Rumble here in this spot.
23. 2010: Mark Henry
Runners Up: Mr. Perfect (1991), Lex Luger (1994), Shawn Michaels (2007), Brock Lesnar (2016), Randy Orton (2017)
The ultimate sacrifice pick. When I was getting down to the end when I tried this multiple times, I would normally get hung up at this spot. I didn’t want to use HBK, I used him at 1. Orton had a better performance in 2009. Brock had better performances. I thought about Perfect but I needed 1991 for someone else. So I was kind of left here with this. Not a lot to say, just kind of where I was left.
24. 1991: Hulk Hogan
Runners Up: Steve Austin (1998), The Rock (2000)
Look at those picks. This was easily the hardest decision for me. As you know, I really liked The Rock’s performance in the 1998 Rumble so I chose that. So it came down to Austin vs Hogan. There was really no difference in the performances of Hogan in 1990 or 1991. But there was another win for Austin down the pipe that was just as good as his 1998 performance. So I saved another Austin appearance and went with Hogan here in this spot.
25. 2015: Dean Ambrose
Runners Up: Hulk Hogan (1990), John Cena (2005), HBK (2006)
Simple process of elimination here. All three of the guys I listed as runners up had better performances lined up. So that left me with my “next best option” and I went with Dean Ambrose.
26. 2017: Brock Lesnar
Runners Up: Hulk Hogan (1992), Kurt Angle (2002)
I wanted to use 2003 Brock. But I just couldn’t get it to work. So instead I went with the version of Brock getting ready to fight Goldberg at Wrestlemania. I thought Brock started to regain some steam in 2017 so this is the start of it.
27. 2001: Steve Austin
Runners Up: Yokozuna (1993), Bret Hart (1994)
So this is why I did not use 1998 Stone Cold. I think Austin’s win in 2001 was just as good. Austin pretty much started the year making it known that he needed to win back the WWF Championship. And the Rumble win started a great program with the Rock leading to one of the best Wrestlemania main events of all time.
28. 2014: Batista
Runners Up: Batista (2005), Goldberg (2017)
Batista was getting this spot. It was just a matter of whether it was going to be 2014 or 2005. And while everyone knows Batista shouldn’t have won here, I went with it because it slotted in perfectly and gave us some decent heel Batista for a few months.
29. 2012: Chris Jericho
Runners Up: Brock Lesnar (2003), Edge (2010)
I missed out on two good ones in Lesnar and Edge. But if we are being honest Jericho should have won the 2012 Rumble. But because it was too obvious they switched and went with Sheamus. I really liked Jericho’s program with Punk in 2012.
30. 2007: The Undertaker
Runners Up: John Cena (2008), Triple H (2016)
Three winners at 30 to choose from here. I went with Taker because it was his only win from this spot. Plus the ending to the 2007 Rumble with Taker and HBK was really good.
This is a lot harder than it looked. If you can do it, I would love to see what you came up with!