The 411 Wrestling Top 5 1.23.13: Week 204 – Top 5 Royal Rumble Memories
Posted by Larry Csonka on 01.23.2013
From the Ultimate Warrior coming face to face with Hulk Hogan in 1990 and Triple H vs. Mick Foley in 2000 to Vince McMahon blowing out his quads, John Cena’s surprise return and more, the 411 staff counts down their top 5 Royal Rumble memories!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling's Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, on to this week's topic…
TOP 5 ROYAL RUMBLE MEMORIES
5. Morrison and Kofi, 2011, 2012 Technically two but they're linked in my mind due to the amazing work involved. John Morrison is famed for his parkour skills but it was still something at the 2011 Rumble when he was knocked off the apron and managed to hold onto the guardrail by the fans. He then walked over it to hop back onto the steel steps to a standing ovation. You'd think that would be the best spot ever but Kofi Kingston topped it in 2012 by being pushed out but landing on his hands and then proceeded to walk on his hands ten feet to the steps. Two stunning examples of agility to keep yourself in and show how desperate guys are to stay in this.
4. Demolition kicks it off, 1989 When the Rumble began as a PPV in 1989, most still weren't sure of the "every man for himself" mentality. But WWF proved that with the second card as, to the shock of everyone, numbers 1 and 2 were Ax and Smash, then the tag team champions Demolition. Instead of using the first two minutes to rest and talk strategy, they threw themselves at each other, pounding and each coming close to tossing the other one out. Their animosity vanished when #3 was Andre the Giant and they worked together but we got a brief look at how the Rumble could set even trusted partners against each other and what made it unique.
3. Cena's Royal Return, 2008 The whole "surprise return" thing may be common now but in 2008, it wasn't. That Rumble saw some returns from Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Mick Foley as the battle raged on, most thinking HHH would win it after coming in at #29. Then the final number hit, that familiar theme music echoed and you got to see 20,000 people do a collective "WHAT THE HELL?!" Out came John Cena, who most thought would be out for at least another few months, charging to the ring to throw out a few guys en route to winning. This was just huge, a true surprise WWE managed to keep under wraps to an astonishing degree and added to Cena's accolades with a fantastic comeback win.
2. "This is not fair to Flair!" 1992 God, I miss Bobby Heenan's commentary. The Brain was a genius on the mic, always ready with a quip and yet also good analysis of a match. With the 1992 Royal Rumble, Heenan was bragging over betting his money on Ric Flair to win the match and the WWF title. So when Flair came out at #3, Heenan went nuts and we were treated to utter and complete magic. For the next hour, Heenan would run wild as Flair fought everyone else in the bout, screaming and moaning at every near-elimination and every new entry, begging for a win and screaming at Flair to hang in there. This is why the match still stands out, hearing Bobby go from confident to worried to pessimistic to outright suicidal and his exultation when Flair won was just beautiful. Still worth listening to if you want to hear what wrestling commentary is meant to be.
1. Hogan and Warrior face off, 1990 For today's fans, words can't describe how huge this was. Hulk Hogan, the WWF champion, the man on top for so long, his place and icon status proven. The Ultimate Warrior, Intercontinental champion, wild and on fire with fans and rising to the top. The idea of a showdown was there but the fact both were faces seemed to prevent that. So when they found themselves alone in the ring late in the Rumble, the whole damn arena were on their feet watching and going nuts. They exchanged shoves, shoulder blocks and then knocked each other down and twenty-three years later, I still get chills watching it. Hogan won the match but the showdown was what everyone remembered, setting up one of the biggest Mania matches ever and helped make the Rumble so damn memorable.
5. Beth Phoenix Eliminates the Great Khali (2010) - Let me just start off by saying that I could have gone for the biggest moments in Rumble history ones I have watched by going back over old tapes, but instead I wanted to list my favourite moments watching the Rumble as a fan, which started in about 2001. So while moments like Beth Phoenix eliminating Khali aren't exactly the biggest in Rumble history it certainly was a surprise and it proved that while several men couldn't eliminate the Punjabi Playboy, one woman could with a simple kiss.
4. Maven Eliminates Undertaker (2002) - In a similarly shocking elimination, although one done with a dropkick rather than a lip-lock, the winner of the first Tough Enough managed to take out the then demon-biker Dead Man. This would lead to a world of hurt for the young rookie, but at the time it was a great moment for the guy and something that he tried to repeat the next year, without the same success.
3. Daniel Puder is decimated (2005) - Again probably not something people remember all that well, hell many people probably don't even remember who Daniel Puder is, but I do. He is the guy who beat out the Miz for the 1 million dollar Tough Enough contract and more importantly the man who tried to shoot on Kurt Angle during a segment on Smackdown. To me that whole thing was really unprofessional on the part of Puder, a guy who was competing to be part of a company while trying to injure and 'expose' one of its biggest stars and what's more a legitimate athlete. As a result we had this, where Puder, after winning his contract, came out and declared that he would win the Rumble and that we were seeing history in the making. However all that occurred was Puder getting a massively stiff beat down by Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Hardcore Holly, then being ceremoniously dumped on his arse and out of the match. What can I say, I didn't like the guy and it was great to see him get what was coming to him.
2. Angle vs. Benoit (2003) - Ten years ago these were my two absolute favourite professional wrestlers, watching them perform was what got me into watching wrestling in the first place. So seeing the two go at it during what I would say was Kurt Angle's best title run was a real treat. While the event as a whole wasn't much to write home about, this match really saved things as a fan in my eyes and both men left the ring looking like winners.
1. Chris Benoit Goes From #1 to Win the Rumble (2004) - Again I'll say that I was always a massive fan of Benoit and I am firmly in the camp of those who believe that the tragic circumstances surrounding his death should not mar our fond memories of his career. That being said to me this was my most memorable Rumble victory, and probably the biggest underdog story in Rumble history. It all started when Paul Heyman placed Benoit at number one in the match and Benoit damn near broke his finger while talking about the sacrifices he had made for the business. Then he outlasted 29 other men to finally eliminate the Big Show, going on to Wrestlemania to compete in a fantastic triple threat match for the World title against Shawn Michaels and Triple H, which would end in the Wrestlemania moment of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit standing in the middle of the ring with the world and WWE titles, it was a true feel good moment, regardless of future events and hindsight, and it all started here.
5. Who's The Winner: Batista or Cena - This is one of those moments that I think slips under the radar but was hugely influential to the business long term. For years people were complaining about the stale main event that revolved largely around HHH and fans and critics alike were screaming for new blood. After the failed push of Randy Orton it soon become clear that the WWE needed to look elsewhere and at the end of the Royal Rumble 2005 match we glimpsed the future. While Batista was hand picked by HHH to be a main eventer and was slowly being groomed for a top spot, John Cena was almost released before he rapped his way to public attention and started a slow climb to the main event. It was unclear who the WWE would get behind and as luck would have it (or maybe closer to dumb luck) that these two were the final entrants and the mistakenly both eliminated themselves.
Out marches Vince McMahon, blows two quad muscles getting in the ring and what ensues was history. Cena and Batista went searching for crowd approval while Vince sat and listened. He restarts the match and Dave quickly dispatches Cena for the win and what would eventually be the main event slot at WM21 and the World Heavyweight Title. Cena still earned himself a WWE Heavyweight Championship match against JBL which he promptly won and went on to become one of the biggest wrestlers of the modern era.
While I think the double elimination was a botch, I think Vince took this mistake and booked the end on the fly based on what the crowd reaction was. While ultimately Cena would gain the ultimate approval for one night, we the crowd got to decide a WM main event.
4. Who's The Winner Part 2: Luger or Hart - While similar to my first pick the context behind this was entirely different. The booking of this match always had Lex Luger and Bret Hart touching at the same time leading to a double main event at WM10. Lex for his part was always going to get the big belt but his ego and poor crowd reaction fated the title to Bret Hart.
Why was Bret the go to man this night? Likely because Vince could trust him to make the finish work instead of getting botched. Luckily for Bret being the go to guy likely earned him The WWE Championship at WM.
3. John Cena's Entrance In 2011 - For all the crap the IWC gives "Super" Cena, he can still pop a crowd huge. One of my favourite wrestling moments of the past five years came in 2011 thanks to some great booking and a well timed entrance. In 2011 C.M Punk was the first man in and managed to survive long enough to get some back-up form his cohorts in The Nexus. One-by-one they picked off every wrestler that entered inside the allotted two minutes between entrants. After 34 minutes,21 guys into the draw and only the four members of the Nexus still in the ring the crowd was getting pissed. Suddenly Cena's entrance music hits and the crowd goes ape shit. In comes Cena a house of fire and absolutely dismantles his opponents and eliminates three of the four in seconds flat and not long after Punk is history. The crowd was eating it up like a spoon until they realize that it was John Cena and that he has to be booed and the crowd turned. For a brief few minutes however, we got to see the power of a great heel, some good booking and what a strong babyface can do in a match.
2. The Booking of the 2001 Royal Rumble Match - The 2001 Royal Rumble match is hands down the best Rumble match from start to finish.
It starts out with the Hardy Boyz facing off for the first time and eliminating each other by the time Drew Carey of all people shows up as entrant #5. This brings out Kane as #6 thus giving us our comedy moment of the night when Carey tries to bribe his opponent and almost eats a chokeslam from Kane only to be saved by Raven.
We morph into a hardcore portion of the Rumble as all the usual gang like Al Snow, Blackman and Bob Holly enter and the usual plunder make its way into the ring. Kane goes on a tear and eliminate 7 guys in a row (on his way to an overall 11) as THE HONKY TONK MAN shows up, sings and gets thrown.
Next in is The Rock as it settles down into a traditional Rumble match and the ring fills up with some geeks. The Big Show returns, throws out two guys and chokeslams about a million more but gets caught by the Rock and eliminated. Things settle once more as the guys in the ring realize that Kane is the danger man and just when he's about to be thrown out by the mob, The Undertaker shows up and confirms that in fact The Brothers of Destruction are riding together once more. They clear the ring except for The Rock who's playing dead on the outside. In comes an extremely nervous Scotty 2 Hotty who lasts about a nanosecond before being tossed.
Out comes Steve Austin who gets attacked by HHH on the way to the ring and gets busted open. Eventually he gets in as we whittle down to Rocky, Austin, Kane and Billy Gunn(????) as the final four. Gunn quickly finds the floor, Austin and Rock think they eliminate Kane and have the EPIC SHOWDOWN, but Kane in fact is still legal, dumps Rock and battles Austin but after 53 minutes and 11 eliminations he succumbs to the fresher Austin leaving the Rattlesnake the winner.
This rules. Go watch it now.
1. HHH vs. Cactus Jack: The Making of The Game - So much has been written about this match. The last great Foley match as a legit threat. The making of HHH. The start of one of the greatest hit streaks in wrestling leading up to an era defining WM17 in Houston. The simple matter is that this match is fucking awesome. Violent, hardcore, aggressive, intense, epic, bloody and about a million other adjective you want to throw at it. This match holds up so well today and you really don't even need to know about the back-story to get into it.
Politically this match has become an albatross to HHH who's sick of hearing how Foley made him and too be fair, HHH did most of the heavy lifting in this match, Foley was primarily a willing bleeder and the last big of name value that HHH needed to beat to cement his spot.
Historically you would be hard pressed to find a more perfect match in the past 20 years and it will forever be my favourite Royal Rumble moment.
5. Vince Blows Both Quads (2005) - In a WTF moment of epic proportions, Vince McMahon walked out at the end of the Royal Rumble in 2005, slid into the ring, apparently hit the ring a little too hard, and tore both quads. Seeing him sit in the ring and order a restart of the last two competitors, Cena and Batista, was just odd. Both had eliminated themselves, and urban legend states it wasn't supposed to be that way. Vince was carried to the back, and Batista eliminated Cena winning the 2005 Royal Rumble.
4. Main Event Trash, Main Event Classic(2003) - The very much hyped about Scott Steiner and HHH Championship match in 2003 turned out to be a disaster. While everyone expected something drastically different, it is safe to say that at the 2003 Royal Rumble Steiner and HHH failed to deliver. The icing on the cake though, was the Main Event from the "B" show. Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit went on to put on a wrestling clinic. One incredible match that thankfully made you forget what you had just seen.
3. Taka Michinoku Faceplant (2000) - Royal Rumble 2000 saw something a bit funny that turned to a bit of an awkward moment. Taka Michinoku and Funaki saw themselves eliminated, and they would try to go back in later in the Rumble match, only to immediately be eliminated again. The last time that occurred, Taka went into the ring, only for the Big Bossman to get a hold of him, toss him over the rope, and Taka landed facefirst, suffering a concussion.
2. Dibiase Buys #30 (1989) - Everyone has a price, so in the 1989 Royal Rumble, Ted Dibiase looked quite unhappy when he drew his number. Having seen Slick bragging about how pleased he was about the numbers the Twin Towers drew, Dibiase had a word with him. Not only did he buy himself the 30th entry in the Rumble, he arranged for the Twin Towers to come out back to back. They took care of the Mega Powers, unfortunately for the Million Dollar Man, Big John Studd stood in the way. He eliminated Dibiase, taking the victory.
1. 1 and 2 are the Last Two (1995) - It's as simple as this, Shawn Michaels drew #1, the British Bulldog drew #2. While it wasn't an impossibility for someone to win the Rumble at such a low pick, Ric Flair did it at #3, it was unheard of for both the first and second entry to be the last two at the end. With Davey Boy and Shawn Michaels left standing, Davey Boy tossed Shawn over the top rope and celebrated, Shawn famously "skinned the cat" came back and eliminated the Bulldog. Video footage would show Michaels dangling and only one foot touching the floor, Finkel on the mic stated only one foot touched the floor, giving rise to those famous words that are still spoken at every Royal Rumble since, "both feet must touch the floor."
YOUR TURN KNOW IT ALLS
List your Top Five for this week's topic in the comment section using the following format: