Welcome to Seven Things, a list that will run weekly and consist of very eclectic topics. These are of my opinions and doesn’t express the views of others on WrestlingOnEarth.
This week, we have the excitement building for the Royal Rumble on Sunday. Every wrestling fan loves the Royal Rumble match but the Royal Rumble PPV as a whole tends to be among the best events most years. I decided to look through the history of the event and re-watch some of my personal favorite matches. Considering I write a column listing things, why not bring out the time relevant Seven Things?
Reminder: If you have any suggestions for future lists, feel free to share them in the comments or send them to me on Twitter: @typicalROHfan.
7. Yokozuna vs. The Undertaker Casket Match (Royal Rumble 1994)
My childhood jackpot was getting to record PPV’s onto VHS tapes so I could keep them forever and have the ability to watch them whenever I felt the need to as opposed to the usual renting of whatever shows the local video place would have available. The Royal Rumble 1994 VHS lasted the longest into the new millennium and this is the match that stands out most to me.
Still in my memory bank are the emotions of anger and sadness caused by this match! It was a basic casket match until the entire heel roster came out to beat up The Undertaker, steal his urn and all put him into the casket. Guys like Adam Bomb, The Great Kabuki, Jeff Jarrett and Bam Bam Bigelow came out each time ‘Taker would make his comeback before the urn was stolen and the group got the better of him.
This match perfectly captures what wrestling was to me as a kid and how much I lived with every twist and turn. The sillier and more convoluted content that the 1990’s offered, the more I would care. P.S. Jeff Jarrett was a little too excited helping another person win a match. Relax, J-E-Double F.
6. Gregory Helms vs. Kid Kash vs. Funaki vs. Jamie Noble vs. Nunzio vs. Paul London (Royal Rumble 2006)
As you’d expect with these guys, this was a really awesome exhibition. At the time, WWE would do specific PPV’s for both RAW and Smackdown and this was one of the rare events with both rosters on it. The cruiserweight division would only get showcased on the Smackdown shows as it was exclusive to SD so this match was very surprising at the time. You’d imagine there was a heavier pressure on the talent to deliver on their biggest stage and they sure did.
Gregory Helms, Jamie Noble and Wrestling On Earth perennial favorite Paul London put out their best effort and showcased just how talented they were. Funaki, Nunzio and Kid Kash all did great, especially in regards to their roles, but the other three were just on another level that night. There were a few great matches and moments but this match had to be my personal favorite footnote in the less than memorable history of the WWE Cruiserweight title.
5. Edge vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (Royal Rumble 2008)
A great Royal Rumble event that featured John Cena’s surprise return and one of Jeff Hardy’s first WWE Title shots, this match is often slept on but it’s one of my favorites. Edge was doing some of his best heel work and Rey Mysterio Jr. was still putting out consistently very good matches.
The event was in Madison Square Garden and the often snarky New York crowd lived up to reputation as they booed the snot out of Rey Rey and decided to cheer Edge all match. Despite the Cena Era making it less rare, I always have a soft spot for matches where the fans flip the switch and cheer for the heel/boo the face. It usually adds a spark to a match that may not have a huge story or relevance behind it like this one.
Both guys did their best as the finish came with Rey getting speared mid-air. Matches like these that may not be the most memorable on the classic match scale but are still very good and fun to watch will show the little facets a wrestler can give and it rings true for Mysterio. After seeing this, I understood why guys like Edge, Chris Jericho, CM Punk and many others say Rey Mysterio Jr. is the best opponent they’ve faced or their favorite.
4. Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon (Royal Rumble 1993)
As discussed in the Yokozuna vs. Undertaker match that took place one year later, the early to mid 1990’s was an interesting time in pro wrestling. While the bizarre world of characters had its place, the simplicity of storytelling and athleticism did as well and this match was a perfect example of that.
Bret Hart was champion at the time and putting on an absolute clinic in the ring every time out with great in ring performances. Razor Ramon was making a name for himself and standing out so naturally he got a chance to show just how good he is on a big PPV getting a title shot vs. The Hitman.
The story was so simple. Razor was a jerk so he attacked Owen Hart to send a message to Bret that he was going to do whatever it takes to get that title. Bret in his heroic nature would get revenge in the ring. The match was very good but nothing crazy or memorable happened aside from some small moments standing out such as Ramon throwing his toothpick at the kid that Bret gave his Hitman shades to. The finish was just glorious as Bret did a cool reverse on the mat into the sharpshooter. On point timing from both performers made it work so well.
3. Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (Royal Rumble 1997)
If you know me at all, you know I have a bizarre affection for watching Sid matches. I loved him in WCW and ECW as well but his mid 90’s run in WWE/WWF is by far my favorite time frame of his. His feud with Shawn Michaels to be exact. When he defeated HBK at Survivor Series 1996, it still is one of my favorite moments in wrestling history. Aside from Sid just winning the belt at the Survivor Series, the crowd of “smart” New York fans at Madison Square Garden cheered the tall guy who did very few moves and BOOED the work rate God that was Shawn Michaels! Sid even caused Shawn’s elderly trainer Jose Lothario to have a (kayfabe) heart attack and the crowd still fist bumped him after the match.
This was the rematch. Royal Rumble 1997 took place in Shawn’s home state of Texas and had the crowd fully behind him this time. The match was similar to the style of their Survivor Series encounter as they did the big man vs. little man storytelling. A cool spot in the match was Sid powerbombing Michaels outside of the ring. Things like that were few and far between at the time so the crowd’s gasps made it that much sweeter.
The finish was particularly something I look back on and absolutely love as Michaels tuned up the band and delivered a Sweet Chin Music Superkick for the win. Very minor rant incoming! In his 2000’s run, something I loathed about Shawn Michaels matches was that everyone would either duck the kick on first attempt or if hit, it would be a false finish. This has always peeved me. Perhaps I missed the 90’s before people started missing the 90’s.
2. John Cena vs. Umaga (Royal Rumble 2007)
Going into this match, I had a different (dumber) perspective on both of these guys. I was one of the Cena haters in denial who thought that Cena indeed sucked and Umaga was just another big stiff WWE wanted to get behind. This match totally changed my outlook on both. On a more lasting relevant note, it made me realize just how good a performer John Cena was.
Umaga wasn’t a “great worker” like Chris Jericho, Christian, Kurt Angle, Edge or some of the wrestlers I viewed as being above John Cena and for lack of a better term, wrestlers I believed who could “carry” him. It was a dude that was in 3 Minute Warning and they had one of the best final bloody brawls before the “PG Era” really took off in this Last Man Standing Match. Twenty-three minutes strong, they put on an exceptional fight for the ages.
After this, Umaga would go on to have a string of interesting feuds and good matches. Before he would win relative and non relative squash matches but this was his coming out party of sorts. I’ll never forget the imagery of John Cena choking Umaga out with a loose ring rope and then standing over him clad with a crimson mask.
1. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (Royal Rumble 2000)
When compiling these lists, I often try to maneuver myself into picking a nontraditional choice as my #1 as I tend to have a skewed view of certain matches, moments, eras and just about anything wrestling related, especially pertaining to the past history of it. This match stopped any chance I had of doing so with the number 1 spot on this list.
Triple H was in his prime and Mick Foley as Cactus Jack was on his last legs as a full time WWE wrestler. It was Foley’s third to last PPV match before he announced his first retirement from pro wrestling. A stacked show in 2000, Foley and Triple H had to follow a show that featured a red hot “OMG moment,” as WWE would call it these days with Tazz debuting to defeat Kurt Angle and a stunningly great Tables Match between the Hardys and the Dudleys. The pressure was on and they managed to deliver and steal the show.
A really great throwback was Triple H handcuffing Foley leaving him defenseless like The Rock did to Mick at the prior Rumble before Rock came out and saved Mick for the time being. A variety of weapons were used with the stand out being thumbtacks that Triple H Pedigree’d Foley onto for the finish. At the time, this was my favorite match and for good reason as the storytelling of a great villain vs. a loveable baby face was on display more than ever in the war between these two in a red hot Madison Square Garden.