Before you read this selection of what I termed the 15 Crappiest Moments in Royal Rumble Match History, I’d like to remind all of you that this is merely a light-hearted piece, in spite of my harshness toward certain individuals. If I offend you by criticizing a wrestler or personality that you like, let it go. It’s all for entertainment value.
And if you’re wondering, the incident where Vince McMahon blew out his quads while storming the ring at the 2005 Royal Rumble is not on the list for one simple reason: it’s the GREATEST moment in Royal Rumble match history. Seriously, the humor value of the whole incident appreciates over time like wine and fine art. It’s literally 20% funnier every year.
So away we go.
15. Puder Abused (2005)
Tough Enough IV was to the Tough Enough series what Children of the Corn VII was the rest of that franchise: it sucked, even when compared to previous sucky incarnations.
Daniel Puder would be the last man standing from the ill-conceived fourth incarnation, having survived a gauntlet that included seducing Hardcore Holly, and boxing with oversized gloves. Puder, who held a legitmiate background in kickboxing and mixed martial arts, outlasted future WWE stars such as The Miz and Ryan “Ryback” Reeves to win a million dollar contract.
And then, just like that, Puder was jobbed out.
On the road to winning the Tough Enough competition, Puder had embarrassed Kurt Angle during a Smackdown taping three months prior to the Rumble. As part of an unscripted segment, Angle (whose amateur credentials need no explaining) jostled with Puder, who ended up hooking Angle in a kimura lock. If not for the referee hastily counting Puder down for an emergency three count, Angle would have had his arm certainly broken.
Some believe that what happened to Puder in the Rumble match was a payback for humiliating one of WWE’s top stars, while some refer to it as simple, old-fashioned rookie hazing.
Whatever the case, Puder, the number three entry, was beaten and chopped into oblivion by Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and the following entrant, Hardcore Holly (whose dislike of rookies is well known). After not getting in a single offensive move, and asborbing heaps of punishment, Puder was eliminated in short order.
The Tough Enough IV winner never appeared on WWE programming again, having been released in September 2005.
Maybe it was payback after all?
Nobody will ever question the intensity of the late, great Randy Savage. His promos were full of whisky-soaked intonations that didn’t make sense to any set of ears, but still sounded cool. To listen to Savage was to listen to Blake “Farmer Fran” Clark do a spoken-word of Jim Morrison’s poetry, while tossing in a few idle threats here and there.
In the ring, that tightly-wound attitude was matched by his, well, savagery. The Macho Man would fly around the ring like a neon-clad Tasmanian Devil, hitting everything that moved. There was nothing methodical about his approach.
It’s because of this breakneck speed, and display of raw aggression, that Savage would sometimes forget the context of what was going on around him.
In 1992, Savage was embroiled in a blood feud with Jake Roberts. You know, because Jake attacked Savage was an actual cobra, and also slapped Savage’s wife, Miss Elizabeth.
In the Rumble that year, Savage hit the ring in a blind fury, beelining for Roberts. After sufficiently mauling “The Snake”, Savage eliminated him and then….jumped over the top rope to attack him further.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan made a hasty ret-con to say that, because nobody threw Savage out, he was permitted re-entry into the match. This despite Andre the Giant’s self-elimination 3 years earlier.
While that faux pas by Savage may have been fueled by the heat of the moment, in 1993, Savage was among the final two entrants with the 500+ pound Yokozuna. Macho Man was indeed the last hope that somebody could toss the gargantuan sumo wrestler over the top rope.
After taking a beating from his larger foe, Savage mounted a furious comeback, and managed to knock the big man off his feet. To the top Savage went, where he delivered his patented Flying Elbow Smash. And then he….tried to pin Yokozuna?
Yoko simply bench pressed Savage over the top rope to win.
Whether it was Savage’s on-the-fly idea to make that the finish, or somebody like Vince decided to go with that as the ending, either way, it didn’t make a strong case for Macho’s mental faculties.
This one is cheating a tad, since what made this moment crappy didn’t hit the fan for another six months or so. But it’s my list, and if I want to use the ‘butterfly-effect’ as the basis for my disdain, I will.
In 2011, WWE instituted the first (and only, to date) 40-Man Royal Rumble. To jazz things up a bit, as is modern custom, the company brought back some ‘classic’ names to fill out the list of combatents.
Commentator Matt Striker matched the fans’ collective glee when Booker T made his entrance, as the Bookerman returned after three years away.
Roughly 20 minutes later, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel emerged, and the Boston fans lost their beans over this Kevin Nash sighting.
So well-received was the nWo cornerstone that he was shoehorned into a terrible storyline with CM Punk and Triple H that summer. In the angle, Nash stumbled over his lines, beat up Punk multiple times (with Punk never getting his revenge), and lost to Triple H in a TLC match that December, which was about as good as two near-cripples climbing a ladder could be.
If the fans in Boston had booed “Big Sexy” out of the building, perhaps Punk doesn’t get detoured by a much slower-moving Diesel truck.
Stupid Boston fans.
It’s fair to say that WWE had hit a rough patch in the mid-1990s. Shortly before Stone Cold Steve Austin drove his pick-up truck over WWE’s hackneyed formula of booking and presentation, the company was in a tailspin in more ways than one.
Outside of great main events featuring the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Razor Ramon, and others, much of the remainder of the cards were loaded up with has-beens, stale characters, and terrible, cartoony gimmicks (many of which this site celebrates!).
There’s a reason why pretty much every match on a WWE DVD that took place between 1994 and 1996 features Bret and/or Shawn. Well, at least 90% of them.
But WWE was bleeding money, thanks to live attendance being down, loss of sponsorship, as well as legal costs from Vince McMahon’s steroid trial (which affected the first two examples). As a result, the lower tiers of cards were filled with lower-paid, mostly-unimpressive workers, while many talents were just simply axed altogether.
From 1995 to 1997, there were some head-scratching selections made for Royal Rumble participants, many of the entrants not even working for the company at the time.
In 1995, both Rick Martel and Crush were brought in from the unemployment line as entrants (Crush came in third). Even Dick Murdoch wrestled for no reason. Sure, they were all has-beens, but they were more interesting than Well Dunn and Mantaur, I’ll say that.
1996 saw one-time appearances from the likes of Dory Funk Jr, Takao Omori (from AJPW), Doug “I hate you Jerry Lawler” Gilbert, and The Squat Team (former ECW/IWA duo The Headhunters), none of whom made it past that night.
In 1997, with the show being in San Antonio, WWE went mucha lucha, bringing in Hall of Famer/reputed pain-in-the-ass Mil Mascaras, as well as Latin Lover, and semi-pushed luchadores Pierroth and Cibernetico.
Nowadays, some fans worry about certain midcarders getting excluded. In 1995, they would have counted among the 23 available guys among the main roster, and been guaranteed a spot.
In this one, I’ll be speaking ill of a man who has since passed on. I do so not to insult him as a person, but rather to point out the stubbornness of the powers that be.
One of the great subplots of the 2003 Rumble match was the fact that Shawn Michaels, in an act of bravado, voluntarily chose to enter at number one, while Chris Jericho, jealous at being upstaged by a man he envied, decided to take the second entry for himself. Surely, a game of one-upsmanship was in play.
Oh, Jericho one-upped him alright. Y2J had enlisted his running buddy Christian to pose as him during his entrace, so Jericho could sneak in the backdoor and jump Michaels before the bell. After a chairshot bloodied HBK, Jericho proudly tossed him out, having gotten the upper hand in their raging war.
Jericho survived through 20-something more entries, as fans in their hearts just knew Michaels would come back and cost Jericho the match. He’d gone nearly 40 minutes, and something told us that Michaels wasn’t going to allow him to get away with his chicanery unscathed.
Sure enough, Michaels, bandaged up like the Spirit of ’76, hit the ring late in the match, and gave Jericho his return beating.
And then Test threw Jericho out.
Now, I don’t begrudge Jericho getting tossed. It added more fire to his battle with Michaels, but Test?
At the time, Test was four years into his WWE run, and he hadn’t been all that much over with the crowd in the last three. But because he was a friend of the McMahons and had a TV-friendly look, they tried pushing him over and over and over again, with no success.
At this time, he’d been given Stacy Keibler as a valet, and even she was unable to transfer all those hoots and whistles from the fans to cheers for her charge.
But WWE was gung ho on pushing Test, who lost a one-sided mini feud with Jericho over the next month, turned heel, and was canned while rehabbing a neck injury.
It wouldn’t be the last time WWE would back the wrong horse, but trying to push Test after he became heat-resistent was a prolonged losing battle.
Today, World Wrestling Entertainment would have you believe that they’re a haven of tolerance, understanding, and perpetually seeking commonality with their fellow man.
Long time fans know better.
If we were to do a list of the fifty most racist moments/characters in WWE history, the only thing harder than ranking them would be paring the list down to just fifty! Saba Simba? The Nation? The Mexicools?
Maybe “racist” is a strong word here; perhaps “prone to broad stereotyping” conveys it better. WWE tries to reach a vast audience, and often the lowest common denominator, by painting certain characters with strokes recognizable to even the yokeliest yokel in the cheap seats.
Take Muhammad Hassan, for instance. When Hassan and associate Khosrow Daivari were introduced in 2004, they had a unique introduction. Instead of being some ‘camel-jockey’ villain who hated America for nationalist reasons, Hassan instead complained that post-9/11 America was judging him based on the color of his skin, since the attacks understandably reduced folks to skittish, if unfair, base assumptions.
Now THAT’S a unique idea: a villain who may not actually be a villain, and can slowly become a hero by teaching the audience about tolerance and understanding. He’s not a terrorist, he’s you or me. And if a heroic character like Shawn Michaels or Eddie Guerrero or Big Show said to him, “I want to be your friend; I accept you and respect you,” then Hassan could have been the face of tolerant brotherhood.
But no, he pretty much became a coherent Iron Sheik clone within weeks.
And this was evident in the 2005 Rumble, when Jim Ross and Tazz buried him upon his entrance. Everyone in the ring (Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Booker T, and others) banded together and threw him out, because they hated him THAT MUCH.
No wonder he formed a terror cell and tried to decapitate Undertaker months later.
No wrestling promotion can touch WWE’s immaculate production values. Every event these days looks important, even if it’s not. Even WCW, with Ted Turner’s pursestrings behind them, never could match the glitz and regalia of WWE programming.
But like any television outfit, WWE is sometimes forced to deal with production errors, like a missed camera cue, or a microphone that doesn’t work. Stories have surfaced of Vince McMahon getting (understandably) angry over these faux pas’, but who wouldn’t be? The company sets the bar high for itself, and a man like Vince who expects greatness will surely be miffed at mistakes.
I wonder, then, how Vinnie Mac felt sitting ringside at the 1997 Rumble at the Alamodome?
As numbers 1 and 2, Crush and Ahmed Johnson, duked it out in the ring, the visual switched to the entrance way with no countdown, no buzzer, and no entrance music. Instead, the impostor Razor Ramon ambled his way out to a lukewarm reaction as the number 3 entrant.
The next few entrants, Phineas Godwinn and Stone Cold Steve Austin, didn’t get countdowns either, but at least received music. The clock was finally fixed for #6, Bart Gunn.
This may seem more silly than actual crap, but I like the possibility of a raspy, throaty, angry Vince firing a Casio clock.
Man, Alex Riley sure has faded from the scene, hasn’t he? Two years ago, he was the sidekick to The Miz, then-WWE Champion, and then he found himself on the fast track to a big push after he and Miz had a falling out.
He has a good look, a natural energy, and was gifted with an infectious screamo-metal theme song (SAY IT TO MAH FAAAAAYCEEEE) as he moved up WWE’s ladder.
But Riley’s been detoured, thanks to injuries, as well as an alleged confrontation with John Cena after a rib-gone-awry.
Speaking of Cena, he and Riley, along with Kofi Kingston, were involved in a botch that nearly threw a wrench into the Rumble’s plans.
Toward the end of the grueling 40-man contest, Cena and Kofi were dangling Riley over the top rope for what was supposed to be merely a tease. Instead, Riley ended up falling to the floor for the elimination.
Now, this shouldn’t be TOO big of a deal, since Riley wasn’t going to win. But A-Ry was supposed to be the catalyst for Cena getting eliminated later on. With Miz at ringside (scouting a possible WrestleMania opponent), Cena was supposed to dump Riley, who would somehow leave Cena vulnerable for Miz to run in and dump him out.
In fact, nobody in the booth called his elimination, and were later asking where Riley was, since Miz was waiting on his cue.
With Riley gone, an improvisation was required. Fortunately, they made up for the blunder by having Riley run back to the ring and distract Cena, so that Miz could cost him the match.
Fans have had many years to get used to Triple H receiving special treatment, due to both his cozying up with the “Kliq”, and his integration into the McMahon family. While I won’t begrudge his work ethic, and his body of great matches, I do have to roll my eyes every time he’s treated as more ‘special’ than anyone else.
Great as he can be, he’s never been a star on the level of Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, or Undertaker, despite his delusions. He’s a tier below that pantheon, but that hasn’t stopped him from forcefully trying to present himself as belonging.
I mean, who else gets extended vignettes of their rehabilitation prior to their return from injury? What other heels have been allowed to look as strong as he had for so long, without being reduced to moronic comedy/job fodder? How many other icons put themselves in big match after big match, even if the fans don’t always buy them as icons? (See him walking out of SummerSlam 2012 as the fans chanted “YOU TAPPED OUT”, when he was the ‘hero’).
Hey, special rules for the high and mighty.
Such was the case at the 2002 Royal Rumble, Hunter’s first PPV match in 8 months. He and Stone Cold were the two favorites to win and, wouldn’t ya know it, Austin had just cleaned house before #22 came out.
Once Motorhead kicked up, the fans knew they were in for a showdown.
But it, uh, took a little time to take place.
A little research shows that, from the time the buzzer sounded for HHH, to the time the buzzer sounded for the following entrant (The Hurricane), 3 minutes and 11 seconds elapsed. That’s because HHH slooooowly made his dramatic entrance, complete with slow, “my quad could pop like a water balloon” saunter to the ring.
Keep in mind there were two-minute intervals, and HHH went over that by 50%, just to get his special moment in. He even gets to bend the supposedly well-enforced rules of time intervals to his liking!
Say what you will about John Cena, but when he made his grand return at the 2008 Rumble, he at least hit the ring in a timely, non-drag-ass fashion.
As explained in the ninth entry, production mishaps are relatively rare, but they’re at least worth a chuckle when they do occur.
At the 2006 event, Chris Masters was making his entrance from the #26 position, and he was arguably at his peak in the company. He was three weeks removed from competing for the WWE Title at New Year’s Revolution, and was regularly working with the likes of John Cena and Shawn Michaels. For a 23-year-old, that shows quite a bit of faith from the office.
He even had a solid gimmick, wherein “The Masterpiece” would declare his physical superiority by challenging anyone to break his “Master Lock” full nelson, which nobody could do up to that point.
Adding to his gimmick was a spectacular entrance. Masters would appear before the masses, bedecked in a flowing cape, while a dramatic classical score would herald his arrival. Masters would then toss the covering aside and flex proudly, while pyrotechnics behind him illuminated his flawless form.
Flawless as his body may have been, sometimes the light show wouldn’t be as pristine.
In a humorous visual, Masters made his Rumble entrance, stopping to begin his posing routine. But behind him, instead of the equivalent of a supernova exploding in the background, a lone spark shot diagonally upward, looking like the world’s lamest Chinese New Year.
Perhaps it had a trickle effect on Masters, who, to my recollection, lost every single match he had for the next five and a half years.
Today’s self-appointed wrestling scholars will condemn John Cena, whom WWE presents as a hero for children of all ages and backgrounds. While Cena does visit sick children, and serves as spokesman for the company’s anti-bullying crusade, his “character” undoes much of that goodwill, by insulting opponents for their weight (Vickie Guerrero), or because they fit his physical definition of a homosexual (Justin Gabriel).
Factor in the character’s predisposition for being a hypocrite (the Ryback/Punk angle, his screwing over of AJ, and various other examples), it goes to show that WWE has had difficulties presenting their version of Superman as a man of conviction and morals.
This isn’t a new problem for the company.
Hulk Hogan is another individual presented as a larger-than-life comic book hero, one who has had problems abiding by the rules, and the concept of sportsmanship.
Take the second annual Rumble, when Hogan, the #18 entrant, methodically cleaned house of everyone, including his best friend, WWE Champion Randy Savage. Savage was pissed, but hey, it’s every man for themselves, right?
After Savage was bounced from the contest, Hogan faced a double whammy in the form of the next 2 entrants: Big Bossman and Akeem, the duo known as the Twin Towers. While some chicanery was afoot (Akeem switched numbers with Ted Dibiase), Hogan was summarily dumped out by the half-ton duo.
But Hogan was steaming mad, and kept going after Bossman, even after his (legal) elimination, and refused to leave ringside. After Brutus Beefcake entered, Bossman ran off the ropes to attack, and Hogan pulled down the top strand, eliminating the prison guard. He then attacked him with weapons at ringside to punctuate his disdain.
I include this because Jesse Ventura, rightly, criticized Hogan’s unbecoming acts, while poor Gorilla Monsoon had to take up for Hulk, as usual. I kinda wish this was the commentary team in the Attitude Era:
Jesse: “Gorilla, you’re telling me that Stone Cold is allowed to kidnap McMahon with numerous deadly weapons at his disposal?!?”
Monsoon: “I love it!”
Jesse: “Kidnapping is a felony, Monsoon! Where are the police?!?”
Monsoon: “Well…..maybe they want to see McMahon get his comeuppance!”
Jesse (under his breath): “Hurry up Election Day….”
We’ve already established that the WWE roster, by 1995, was in shambles. We already know that the company had to turn to has-beens like Rick Martel, Dick Murdoch, and Crush to bring the match roster to 30 entrants.
To be fair, a past-his-prime Martel was a much more viable contestant than most of the participants.
To my way of thinking, there are only five men in the match that Martel or Crush ranked beneath in terms of star power: Shawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Lex Luger, and Bob Backlund.
In fact, 13 of the 30 entrants were inducted into WrestleCrap for the personas they had in the match: Men on a Mission, Well Dunn, The Blu Twins, Aldo Montoya, Adam Bomb, Henry Godwinn, Mantaur, Rick Martel (as The Model), Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, and Kwang.
When half of your entrants are undisputably part of wrestling’s foremost Hall of Shame, that doesn’t bode well for your biggest gimmick match.
So, what’s a company to do when you have only 5 realistic winners, and a whole lot of garbage gimmicks in the fray?
You set the time intervals to one minute, that’s what you do.
Indeed, with two of the three best workers in the match, Michaels and Bulldog, starting, bodies would fly at the ring every 60 seconds.
And to keep fans from getting bogged down by too much crap, bodies went over the ropes in equally record time.
7 entrants lasted under one minute, while a couple others were gone in under 2 minutes. Michaels and Bulldog lasted the duration of match, guaranteed at least 2 quality stars would be in the ring at all times.
Michaels would win the match with a dramatic one-foot-touch finish, and he would stand tall….above a pile of the jobbiest jobbers to ever populate a Royal Rumble.
But hey, “has-beens” have been a staple of recent Rumbles. After all, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned nostalgia pop for a past superstar, from a collective fanbase that appreciates the history of the biz.
Some would argue that a returning fogey the likes of Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, or Diesel takes away a spot meant for the roster members that work hard all year. Others counter by noting how little identity WWE gives to their mid-level stars, and that bringing them in for the big dance means they’re just going to be chum for the main guys anyway.
So while the novelty acts add some due smiles and humor to the Rumble, in 2012, things went a little too far.
It was announced prior to last year’s event that “anyone is eligible enter the Rumble match.” Seemed like odd phrasing, but WWE was adamant in pushing that tagline hard in the weeks before the event.
And then we saw what they meant, and boy was it silly.
The 30 participants included a horribly out-of-shape Mick Foley, Road Dogg, Ricardo Rodriguez (doing a VERY poor man’s Alberto Del Rio homage), Hacskaw Jim Duggan, Kharma (in her only WWE match), and the three man commentary team of Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, and Booker T.
Remember, ANYONE was eligible to enter.
Which is why rising/hardly used stars like Tyson Kidd, Mason Ryan, Heath Slater, Brodus Clay, Drew McIntyre, among others, couldn’t be bothered to draw a number before Cole or Duggan or Foley did
Maybe they meant “anyone that we don’t have to significantly add a backstory or persona to is eligible for the Rumble match.”
But that wouldn’t explain how Epico and Primo got in.
There has been many a moment where someone has debuted or returned in the Royal Rumble match, or at least made a grand entrance that turned heads.
You might think of Hogan hitting the ring in 1990, while fans buzzed about the inevitable first-ever clash with the Ultimate Warrior. Or maybe you think about Stone Cold running through the crowd in 1998, while everyone in the ring waited to get their hands on him for his random acts of violence.
As far as big returns, Cena in 2008 and Edge in 2010 pin the surprise meter at their maximum point.
And for debuts, the best may have been Vader killing everything in sight in 1996.
But for worst debuts, well, you’d have to go back 20 years ago, and it involves a man who wasn’t even a Royal Rumble entrant.
The Undertaker was in the process of dismantling the likes of Ted Dibiase, Samu, and others en route to a possible Rumble victory.
Then, Harvey Wippleman led a near eight-foot-tall beastman toward the ring. The man in question wore a body suit airbrushed with muscular features, and was covered in faux fur, making him look like a guy on stilts wearing a poorly-made Sasquatch Halloween costume.
The man was, as you may have figured out, Giant Gonzalez, previously known for his horrid run in WCW as El Gigante.
Not only did he manhandle Undertaker, and cause his elimination, but he would spend the next 7 months having one of the most boring, dreadful feuds of all time with him.
Lesson learned: if you’re going to give someone that kind of spectacular, all-eyes-on-him moment in the Rumble, especially with The Undertaker, make sure he can give you your money’s worth.
And now we come to the creme de la crap.
The Rumbles from 1995-97 were pretty bad due to lack of star power and too many unheralded outsiders. Matches like 1993, 1998, and 2008 were fairly dull, though not terrible.
But 1999’s event, coming in an era of such prosperity and growth for WWE, is the worst of the quarter-century lot.
After Vince Russo’s booking style influenced the incredibly slick Survivor Series 1998, he followed up with this clunker, which would be like if Brian De Palma immediately followed Scarface with Bonfire of the Vanities.
The main theme of the match is that Vince McMahon was going to do everything in his vested power to ensure that Steve Austin did not win. That included 1) entering the match himself, 2) forcing Austin to enter at the #1 spot, and 3) putting a $100,000 bounty on Austin’s head, with the money going to the man who tosses Stone Cold out.
Commissioner Shawn Michaels, however, forced Vince to enter at #2, and now we had ourselves a promising story.
The following things happened:
-Austin and Vince left the ring before the #4 entrant came out, and Austin was attacked in an ambush by the Corporation. He was taken via ambulance to the hosp–er, medical facility.
-#3-17 were all jobbers except for Road Dogg. The lowest of the low included Gillberg, Tiger Ali Singh, and members of the Human Oddities (RIP John Tenta, no disrespect meant, please don’t hurt me, RD).
-#18-30 were all respectably pushed, credible names except for Jeff Jarrett.
-The previous two examples leads me to believe there was some real laziness and attention deficit in booking this match.
-Kane eliminated himself just to beat up orderlies from the mental home, who weren’t allowed to apprehend him until he made his Rumble match entrance.
-Viscera was abducted during the match by the Ministry of Darkness, and nobody called the police.
-Austin hijacked the ambulance and drove it back to the arena, and nobody called the police.
-Vince did commentary from #19 onward, until Austin eliminated everyone else, making he and Vince the final pair.
-At no time did more than 3 or so people gang up on Austin, in spite of him having no friends, and $100,000 on his bald head.
-Austin murdered Vince and hit him with a Stunner, but chose not to eliminate him. Instead, he wanted to inflict more punishment.
-The Rock came out and distracted an uncharacteristically stupid Austin long enough for Vince to eliminate him, and win the Rumble.
And THAT, my friends, is the crappiest Royal Rumble match of all time.
(Follow Justin on Twitter!)