Doctor’s Orders presents: Half Luck, Half Skul – January Madness – The Greatest Royal Rumble Match (R1, Part 1)

Doc’s Note – Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to a presentation that I have absolutely loved participating in but did not conceptualize. This is the brainchild of Skulduggery of the LOP Columns Forum and it is awesome, so I’d like to share it with you. Enjoy!

Skul: Tis the season! Yeah, Christmas and all that, but more importantly – tis the season for another March Madness-stylized bracket tournament to determine the greatest match in a WWE PPV’s history! This time around, we are looking at the Royal Rumble. A PPV with such a grand history that it’s actually older than I am (a statement which gets more and more impressive the greyer my hair gets…), the Royal Rumble has played host to some of the greatest matches in WWE history. We are looking at both the Royal Rumble matches themselves as well as non-Rumble encounters at the January classic. For further clarification, we are only looking at the January classic PPV – so no Greatest Royal Rumble, no Corporate Rumble, etc.

Those of you familiar with previous Madness installments are well in the know at this point. I have once again been fortunate enough to have six elite columnists join me. We look at 64 matches from Royal Rumble history (seeded based on star rating, overall fan reception, and general rankings, and then split randomly into four brackets), and upon each match-up, we vote as to which of the two is the greater match. We continue to halve the field, eventually getting down to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and then the final match-up. In previous Madness tournaments, the following matches have been crowned the greatest in their event’s history:

Backlash: Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack (’04)
Survivor Series: Team Bischoff vs. Team Austin (’03)
WrestleMania: Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (’97)
SummerSlam: Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (’13)

Which match in WWE lore will join these? The journey to find the greatest match in Royal Rumble history starts today! I am lucky to be joined by the all time leader in Columnist of the Month victories, mizfan, as well as one of the very few in CF history to be a 2-time tournament winner, Oliver, both for the fifth consecutive Madness tournament. Also returning are CSI ’18 tournament winner and 4-time Columnist of the Month, Mazza, and 6-time Columnist of the Month, Prime Time. Returning from the WrestleMania edition is author of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die and 6-time Columnist of the Month, Samuel ‘Plan. And finally, making his Madness debut, one of the greatest Main Page writers ever and author of The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era, The Doc.

Fancy introductions are over, format is more or less laid out, let’s get to the fun stuff. Let the Madness begin!

Bracket A

(1) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (’03) vs. (16) Big Boss Man vs. The Barbarian (’91)

Samuel ‘Plan: There’s not much to say about this inaugural pairing, surely to goodness. On the one hand you have a fairly ordinary mid card match indicative of the habits of its time. On the other you have an all-time great. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit for the WWE Championship at Royal Rumble 2003 is naturally destined to be forgotten by fans because of one half of its line-up. That doesn’t detract from the simple fact it remains a classic built out of competitive fire.

Mazza: Nice easy one to start off with. Cheers Skul. Angle and Benoit. Next.

Skulduggery: This is actually the first time I’ve seen Angle/Benoit from the Rumble. Not unlike the bundle of other matches they had together, it’s an absolute blast. Seamless back-and-forth between the two pitbulls and a strong tapout victory for the heel champion going into Mania. Not a second thought towards Bossman/Barbarian, sorry lads.

mizfan: This one was a bit tougher for me that you might expect, because I’m a big fan of Bossman/Barbarian, and I’m really glad it made the brackets at the last minute. It’s got no chance here, but I encourage people to go back and give it a look anyway, because it’s very fun and a nice highlight of two underrated guys. On rewatching Angle/Benoit I wasn’t quite as high on it as I was in the past, to be honest, but it will still skate by easily here. I wonder if it’ll do as well as the #1 seeding suggests though.

Prime Time: I don’t recall an awful lot fondly of Boss Man as a singles wrestler in the WWF and am struggling to even remember this effort with the Barbarian. Once we get through to a smaller field I’ll probably start to rewatch things a bit more to get more of a sense. But I’m going on the record and saying that if my instinct is to favour the more modern match, then that match probably deserves it.

The Doc: (1) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (’03). I could not tell you a single thing in hindsight about the 16th seed opponent for what I’ll flat out tell you in advance is in my opinion one of the two best Royal Rumble bouts in history, but a text from God would not change my mind that anything less than a Final Four run for this match would be massively disappointing. I’ll save my key points for later rounds.

Oliver: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Boss Man vs Barbarian until now. It’s actually pretty decent – far better than it looks on paper. But hey, it’s up against my early favourite for this whole thing, even with the Benoit-ness of it all – a match made all the more remarkable by the fact they had to reengage a crowd that had died about thirty seconds into HHH vs Steiner. Angle vs Benoit for the win.

(1) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit (’03) wins 7-0

(8) Royal Rumble Match (’10) vs. (9) Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon (’93)

mizfan: Another slightly tough choice here, perhaps more understandably. I’m a big sucker for Rumbles so I think I will narrowly go with 2010 here, there’s a lot of good stuff going on in that Rumble. Bret/Razor is pretty great as well though.

Mazza: This is more like it. I think the key to this whole thing will be on how we all compare a rumble match to a regular match. It’s really not easy. I don’t think personally there will be pattern and I will just take it on a case by case basis. Like here for example, I really wasn’t a big fan of the 2010 rumble match. The thing is, it’s still a rumble match and as such there will be a lot more to enjoy about it than most regular matches. In this case, I think the rumble match takes it.

Samuel ‘Plan: The entire 1993 Royal Rumble event – like its New Generation Era siblings – deserves greater love than it receives, and the World title bout between the Hitman and the Bad Guy is a strong piece of evidence as to why – as fiercely intelligent a World title encounter at a Rumble as you’re likely to find. On the other hand, the Royal Rumble Match of 2010 is a strangely disjointed beast. Clear fault lines in the overarching narrative are awkwardly, obviously identifiable, both between acts – Act 1 belonging to Punk, Act 2 to Triple H and Act 3 largely to Shawn Michaels – and between also set pieces. Bright ideas fail to get tacked together with engaging action between them, meaning it stutters along, unbalanced, to its woefully premature conclusion.

Oliver: This is tough – the 2010 Rumble is a masterpiece of storytelling, although only for one man in HBK. Meanwhile the Hart vs Ramon bout is really technically and psychologically sound. I like them both – I’m giving the slight edge to Hart vs Ramon for being a little bit less melodramatic in its execution than the Rumble, but either going forward won’t have complaints from me.

Prime Time: Not really a fan of what the Royal Rumble match has become in recent years and 2010 might be seen as the start of that. By contrast, Bret and Razor is a low-key classic. Easy choice for the Hitman and the Bad Guy.

Skulduggery: Razor throwing his toothpick at the kid who received the Hitman’s sunglasses is tremendous, and Hart continues to show his ability to throw on a Sharpshooter from any position, but I’ll take the CM Punk sermon and the emotionally charged return of Edge any day. 2010 is such a refreshing Rumble in that it features a heavy turnover rate, never allowing the ring to get too cluttered. 8 of the 30 entrants last for less than a minute, and only 10 wrestlers last for more than six minutes. Polar in comparison to the year before it.

The Doc: I really enjoyed the 2010 Rumble and it is a match that somewhat unsuspectingly manages to find its way onto my yearly January Classic playlist more often than not. It has a shorter run-time, but I find that quality rather endearing given the way that the match details are booked. CM Punk gets the star treatment, HBK does some fine character acting, and Edge pulls the Cena with a comeback Rumble win, plus there is plenty that entertains in between. That said, Bret vs. Razor is under-seeded as a nine, like a 21 win college basketball team with victories head-to-head over higher seeds in the tournament that for whatever reason found itself with a really tough draw. The fluidity of the performance should allow it to cruise to round 2, where it will be soundly defeated by a much better match, but had it gotten a six or a seven seed, I think it could have been one of those surprise Elite Eight or better matches.

(9) Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon (’93) wins 4-3

(5) The Rock vs. Mankind (’99) vs. (12) Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch (’16)

Samuel ‘Plan: It’s important to recognise the achievements of Charlotte and Becky’s first title encounter a couple of years ago. At the time it went down there was plenty of chatter throughout the IWC that the whole ‘Women’s Revolution’ was on the verge of failing thanks to an absence of top quality matches capable of rivalling those seen in NXT the two years prior. Charlotte and Lynch had something to prove that night, and proved it solidly with the best main roster women’s match in years. Unfortunately, it’s up against one of the all-time greats, of its genre, of the Rumble pay-per-view and, quite honestly, just in general. I have to plump for Rock and Mankind – but not without an immense tip of the hat to the two Horsewomen.

The Doc: In fairness to Charlotte and Becky, who I could see getting some upset-minded love here on account of a recency bias toward their 2018 feud, the Rock-Mankind “I Quit” Match is surprisingly underrated, despite being the pinnacle achievement of the Attitude Era’s first truly outstanding main-event rivalry. I find the hindsight hype sorely lacking in certain circles, Dave Meltzer for instance not even considering it on the four-star level. Personally, I have it rated as the 1999 Match of the Year, ahead of the vaunted tag team Ladder Match at No Mercy. Exceptionally brutal, it is a far more aesthetically engaging performance than Mankind’s Hell in a Cell with Undertaker in 1998, but seems to get 25% of the appreciation on replay. I just don’t see how a rock solid 11-minute Becky-Charlotte match can compare to it, and I’ll be curious to see how the field of judges explains their feelings on the “I Quit,” because it’s not inconceivable to me that it catches Benoit-Angle 4-3 on a day when everyone is feeling a little contrarian.

mizfan: So this is an interesting one. If you just took the first three quarters of the Rock/Mankind match, I think it would win my vote pretty easily here. It’s an awesome brawl featuring two guys at their best. However, the final stretch of the match is almost unwatchable for me now, knowing what we do about concussions and the health problems Foley has had. The ending is pretty cheap too. Charlotte/Becky is an excellent match in it’s own right, and I think it was underrated at the time because people complained about Ric’s involvement. While I get that to an extent, I thought it was executed well overall and I’m actually going to give it my vote here.

Prime Time: I don’t especially like The Rock going into business for himself on Mick, and I think it’s a massively problematic match for that very reason. But I’m not sure Charlotte and Becky, in 2016, could compete with the overall aura that the title match had in 1999. Chairshots to advance, for now at least.

Mazza: Can we just pretend that any Charlotte vs Becky match before 2018 didn’t count? The I Quit match is an awkward watch. Maybe more so than any WWE match. I mean it was amazing at the time but being older and wiser, those chair shots make you absolutely cringe. But still a very important match in WWE history so Rock and Sock get my vote here.

Skulduggery: Though the recent set of incredible battles between Becky and Charlotte have made their Rumble match three years previous look pedestrian, the match in question was still very solid. Some had issues with Ric’s interference, but I call that excellent heel work. Spotlight was still deservedly on the ladies. That said, the shock and sadism of the “I Quit” match puts it firmly in the camp of thrilling uncomfortability as far as I am concerned. It’s squeamish for the expected reasons (and I’m glad they’ve learned from the realities of things like that), but in terms of entertainment, it is harrowing storytelling at its best. I expect Rocky’s assault on Foley to be a divisive topic in this project, but I’m giving it the nod here.

Oliver: Oh man, so THAT match is going to get a lot of chat during this, I guess. It’s hard to see it falling early, but I think all the chair shot stuff will find it struggling later on. It’s better than Flair vs Lynch here, though, which was being nicely worked until we got to the end of it.

(5) The Rock vs. Mankind (’99) wins 6-1

(4) Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty (’93) vs. (13) Undertaker vs. Rey Mysterio (’10)

Mazza: Shawn makes Marty the Jannetty of the Rockers. Poor Marty should have seen the writing on the wall with that last name. Seems a tad over seeded for me, but is the type of match that a lot of people will like. It certainly sees off a throwaway January title match in Rey and Taker pretty easily. So yeah, the battle of the former Rockers.

The Doc: A call for the upset here! Marty vs. Shawn is a blast and this is not an easy call by any means, but Taker vs. Mysterio is perhaps the pinnacle example of how a cruiserweight, especially of Rey’s stature, should be booked against a giant by comparison in Taker. I thought that they expertly executed this match and I always have a lot of fun revisiting it. It may end up 1-6 in the voting here, but I wanted to take this rare opportunity to give that match its due.

Skulduggery: I love the unique aspect of planting the Deadman against Mysterio. This match starts incredibly, with Mysterio bumping his ass off for the much larger World Champion. It does tend to slow a bit, though, while the Rockers’ collision simply revs more and more into gear as the match elapses. Having only watched the second half of HBK’s career in real time, it’s always an especially big treat for me to watch heel Michaels in action.

Oliver: I’m going with Taker vs Rey here, to be the first real upset of this bracket. It’s a lot of fun, and while I like the fourth seed a lot watching Taker vs Rey now I think it probably edges it. And hey, that thing is worked at pace. It’s got a real HBK/Taker feel to it, and with a decent finishing sequence would have been incredible. Even the sudden ending doesn’t hurt it too much.

mizfan: I actually think these two matches are pretty even. Taker/Mysterio is two beat up vets making the absolute most they can of a short match, and makes me wish we saw this pairing more often when both guys were healthier. This iteration of Michaels/Jannetty is actually my favorite of the feud, possibly due to Sherri’s involvement. There’s no match that can’t be made better by having more Sherri around! Ultimately I don’t think the feud ever fully lived up to it’s potential, but the former Rockers will narrowly get my vote here for a very fun match.

Samuel ‘Plan: I’m praying and hoping I won’t be in a minority here. The Intercontinental Championship encounter between the two Rockers would prove to be their highest profile match, plays out as good as any of their more famous matches and has the added cerebral intrigue of a conflicted Sherri Martel at ringside. As I stated in mine and Doc’s New Generation’s Top 50 Matches series, had it happened at WrestleMania IX instead, it’d likely be considered a classic. Opposing it here is a relatively generic World title bout staged with an Undertaker entering the twilight of his career (eight years ago…!) that, while novel for pitting two stars we hadn’t see wrestle on a big stage before against one another, ultimately demonstrates its relative weightlessness. The Rockers more than deserve a win here, for their meatier, more substantive and, arguably, simply superior effort.

Prime Time: There’s a part of me that feels like I’d want to look at ‘Taker and Mysterio again. I’m sure I’ve seen it before but my return to watching WWE was still very much in it’s infancy, and it’s hazy in my memory. I do remember thinking Jannetty had a hell of a 1993 though, and without the liberty to go back and rewatch until we’re dealing with fewer matches, I’ll have to take that one.

(4) Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty (’93) wins 5-2

(3) Royal Rumble Match (’01) vs. (14) The New Day vs. The Usos (’16)

The Doc: It may well be a voting formula for me to, when in doubt, always pick the Rumble Match during this process. However, that will not be necessary right now, as 2001‘s Rumble is far and away the obvious choice here.

Oliver: The 2001 Rumble is masterful. In fact, the only sad thing is that Meng didn’t win it. Meng is bad ass. There are far too many ex-WCW undercard wrestlers I want to see do incredibly well. Can we have L.A. Park turn up and chair shot Brock Lesnar to death to win the Universal Championship one week? Anyway, 2001 Rumble for the win.

Prime Time: I like this Rumble, though much of that can probably be attributed to nostalgia. Rumble matches before a certain point in time are probably going to do quite well with me for this month.

Samuel ‘Plan: There are three issues facing the pre-eminent teams of the contemporary tag division here. First, and to the surprise of nobody, the two teams would go on to have considerably superior matches much later down the line, that benefit from greater character depth, developed history and elevated status. Secondly, they’ve wrestled so many matches opposite one another that, outside of the peaks of their work, it’s next to impossible to distinguish one from another without extensively revisiting them all. Third, and in this case most importantly, here they run up against one of the best versions of one of WWE’s best ideas of all-time. Against the ’01 Rumble itself, as good as New Day are, as good as the Usos are, and more importantly as good as they would go on to be, this is a no contest from the get-go. Rumble ’01. NEXT!

Mazza: While I love me some New Day vs Usos, Kane’s streak of utter domination is one of the finest performances in WWE history (not just Rumble match history). Not the greatest rumble outside that but that alone will be enough to drag it through this round and maybe a couple more. Rumble 01 for the win.

Skulduggery: Earlier I spoke of Lynch/Flair having a good Rumble match precede a far better series of matches years later once there was hatred involved. Same concept with the New Day and the Usos here. Don’t let their tremendous wars in 2017 spoil a still very solid Rumble match in 2016. But “very solid” isn’t about to usurp the carnage of Kane and the venomous determination of Stone Cold in the climax of the Attitude Era. Stone Cold’s third Rumble win has to go through here.

mizfan: One of the lesser New Day/Usos matches here, though not without it’s charms. Definitely going with the ’01 Rumble here though, one of my favorites and one I hope will go reasonably deep in this tournament.

(3) Royal Rumble Match (’01) wins 7-0

(6) Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (’98) vs. (11) Royal Rumble Match (’06)

Mazza: I despise the 06 rumble match. I was living in Mauritius at the time and used to pick up PPVs from a shop on VCDs (anyone remember those) the Friday after. I got home, put in disc 3 (because obviously I was dying to watch the rumble match itself) and it started with Rey celebrating victory. Not only did fate hit me with a bitch of a spoiler after avoiding LOP for a week, when I did watch it all I saw was Mysterio doing a Road Dogg for an hour while Hunter did all the work. I don’t have a great deal of love for the casket match but I don’t hate it!

Prime Time: Both matches that I don’t have a lot of affection for, to be honest, and I’ll bet they probably both get a bit more love here than I am likely to give them. I guess I’ll take the Rumble match but it’s far from a favourite.

mizfan: I like the ’06 Rumble, but I don’t think it’s necessarily one of the best of the bunch (which is a high bar to clear, in my opinion). I didn’t think much of Taker/Michaels the last time I watched it, but for some reason watching it this time I was very taken with it. Michaels really doesn’t show much sign of his nasty injury and performs admirably, and there are a number of really nicely framed moments. I always thought this was one of the lesser Taker/Michaels bouts but looking at it now, I think I like it more than their 2010 encounter, and I’m giving the casket match my vote here!

The Doc: For me, it is hard to turn off the “in the know” part of my brain when it comes to the Taker-HBK Casket Match. I spend the entire time waiting for the casket bump that proved the catalyst for HBK’s lengthy hiatus from the ring when he was at the peak of his powers and rounding into a perfect Attitude Era villain. Plus, I just never found that gimmick overly entertaining. Combine those elements with Rumble ’06 being an iteration of the gimmick that I quite enjoyed and an upset special this became. The stretch of Royal Rumble bouts between 2001 and 2010 is just incredible, in my opinion, and Skul backed that up with his rankings including every one of them among the Top 64. 2006 is one of the weaker of that pantheon-level group, but there is a clear booking discrepancy working in its favor opposite most of what came before it and almost everything that has come since 2010.

Oliver: Oh, Michaels vs Taker. I’m not even going to talk about Rey’s miraculous corner cowering win.

Samuel ‘Plan: This is a difficult one to call for me – I’ve no real great love for either match. I find the 2006 Rumble to be massively indicative of the transitional period WWE were entering into and, while it has some neat ideas and a couple of fun set-pieces, it remains forever weighed down by the uncomfortable subtext of the Rey Mysterio push, in turn made worse by Mysterio’s lethargic and undeserving performance. On the other hand, the Casket Match, while historically crucial, watches as a severe underachievement considering the two performers involved, perhaps demonstrating that the gimmick itself is next to impossible to get a good match out of and best reserved for over-the-top theatrics opposite leviathan monsters. Given that Rumble Matches are inherently enjoyable to a certain extent even when they could be considered poor in their own terms, I’ll have to cast a vote for the breezier Rumble Match here.

Skulduggery: This is a wildly difficult decision. I think both of these matches have something of a sparkle in their name – that is, HBK/Taker in general is known as a classic and most given Rumble Matches are generally considered good. And yet…I don’t know that either, though great on their own merits, live up to the nomenclature. You have the Casket Match, which perfectly portrays a dominant Phenom against a big match Michaels, without really denting the aura of either, until the onslaught against Taker seems cartoonish. And then you have the Rumble. Enter HHH and Mysterio. It’s easy to forget that, entering this Rumble Match, Triple H had won every Rumble that he had been entered in in the current millennium. And to this day, there is only one Rumble (’10) in this millennium in which Hunter had participated and not finished Top 3. You put his most marathon effort against the caterpillar-turned-butterfly magic of Mysterio, and it kind of takes a microscope to look at the other 28 in the match. Incredible for both The Game and Rey Rey. Not so incredible for the entire field.

Gut-wrenching decision. I’ve been on record calling 2006 my favorite year in WWE history, and yet I think I fall, by a hair, to the 1998 Casket match.

(6) Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (’98) wins 4-3

(7) Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens (’16) vs. (10) Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy (’08)

Skulduggery: Now is where things start to get tricky! Big fan of both of these matches. Owens and Ambrose is a really fun car crash, bursting with creativity and violence. You look at a spot like KO reversing Dean’s superplex and twisting around into a superplex of his own, throwing Ambrose through the table earmarked for Kev himself – that’s just an organic looking, dangerous and excellent spot. You also have to give a lot of credit to the presentation of this match – early on, Owens sets up the double tables which eventually become his match-concluding downfall. But the pace of the match and the fact that the cameras tend to stay away from that structure make me temporarily forget about its existence, and when Ambrose finally throws his opponent from the top rope through the tables, it comes as a genuine shock.

On the other hand, Orton/Hardy is, for my money, one of the more underrated Rumble undercard matches around. The two craft an incredible pre-match buildup, highlighting the polarity between the scrappy, unconventional underdog with dyed hair and painted nails, who grew up wrestling in his backyard, and the textbook, thoroughbred, born-into-the-business champion. Randy and Jeff, despite portraying characters on different sides of the world, are wrestlers who could hardly have more in-ring chemistry. This match is a beautiful demonstration of that, with every scoop slam being simultaneously fluid yet unexpected, every counter dropkick landing an effective mark, every Whisper in the Wind connecting realistically. Orton’s selling in this match is particularly on point. The finish is something of wonder, too, as Hardy’s last couple of months are represented poetically in the ring – a man on a red-hot roll, looking to barrel his momentum into victory. But one beautifully simplistic RKO out of nowhere quells the entire run Hardy had been on, proving that pure, unadulterated skill can often extinguish passion and effort with a snap of the fingers. Tremendous heel victory for Orton here, and I think the Viper’s triumph is just barely going to snare my vote over the also excellent Last Man Standing match.

Prime Time: Meh, could care less about either of these. Ambrose and Owens, I suppose.

mizfan: Orton/Jeff was reasonably good but seemed to lack a next gear, perhaps because the crowd so clearly wanted more for their favorite Jeff. Ambrose/Owens had it’s flaws but ultimately I think they got farther with their garbage brawl, so I’ll give it my vote here.

Samuel ‘Plan: The Rumble event has a long history of bravely experimenting with hot upcoming talents in World title matches, and I struggle to think of any examples of that trend I enjoy quite as much as the Charismatic Enigma’s WWE title challenge against the Viper. Hardy was searing hot at the time and Orton was inching ever-closer to the career form he would find the following year. Their match is short, some might even call unremarkable, but I find there to be a lot to like about it – it’s simple, brief and clean. Alas, it can’t hold up against what I believe may be the only instance of the Intercontinental Championship being defended in a Last Man Standing Match wrestled like a main event. I have to go for the men who kick-started the IC resurgence, Ambrose and Owens.

The Doc: Hardy vs. Orton had one of the best build-ups of any match in this tournament, but the payoff was just “good.” The Doc’s Law: never give me good when you made me expect great. In the moment and in the history books, it will always work against any match that fails to meet the expectations that its hype suggested was warranted. Ambrose vs. KO, on the other hand, got horribly under-seeded in my opinion. As Last Man Standing matches go, you will find few in the modern era that move through their run-times so swiftly. Also, I view their series as the unofficial beginning of the Intercontinental Championship’s renaissance. Think about that for a moment – the IC title has been one of the best things in WWE since Owens and Ambrose started feuding over it. Historical accolades plus rewatchable in-ring greatness equates to a powerhouse performance. Rumble ’07 better watch out; I smell a huge upset brewing in Round 2.

Oliver: I like that Orton vs Jeff match, probably more than most do, but Ambrose vs Owens might – just might – be the best Rumble opening match of all the times.

Mazza: Third time lucky for the 2016 undercard. KO and Ambrose’s feud over the IC title really helped raise the prestige of the championship which so often falls off. Their last man standing match was a fantastic watch. Orton and Jeff was decent but again it is one of those throwaway title bouts which ultimately doesn’t mean much. I was about to say that it’s a bit mental that they are still feuding a decade later but then realised that one of the matches above is still going on two decades later.

(7) Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens (’16) wins 6-1

(2) Royal Rumble Match (’07) vs. (15) Royal Rumble Match (’94)

Samuel ‘Plan: I don’t think there’s any combination in this first round that I’m dreading the result of more than this. What we have here, folks, is a battle of two myths. I don’t believe the 2007 Rumble is anywhere near as good as people claim, just as I believe the 1994 Rumble is considerably better than people realise or remember. ’07 demonstrates a complete lack of imagination for its terribly generic run-time until the final two. On the other hand, ’94 makes a great deal out of the parts it has, watching as ‘How to book a good Rumble.’ It also takes the time to actively innovate with its conclusion. I guess I just need to prepare myself for the overriding memory of five minutes of that indulgent Michaels / Undertaker conclusion to oust a far superior match – but I’ll still vote 1994!

Mazza: Screw you, Plan, you’re not getting 94 through (hopefully). 2007 isn’t the greatest rumble of all time but it could well be the greatest finish for one. Final 2 was amazing and set the tone for those two huge Taker vs Shawn Mania bouts (it wasn’t even a decade later at this point). Edge and Randy Orton also played a fantastic part and made it a tip top final four as well. 2007 with the comfortable win for me.

The Doc: I was one of the members of the selection committee that wanted the ’94 Rumble to make the field and, minute by minute, there are definitely stretches like Diesel’s dominance and the triumphant comeback from Bret’s “leg out of his leg” kick-induced injury to co-win with Lex Luger that allow ’94 to give ’07 a real run for its money, but no Royal Rumble in history has a better climax than 2007‘s; and, truthfully, it is that HBK vs. Taker mini-match within the Rumble Match that gives ’07 a puncher’s chance to going deep into the tournament. The Final Four also involving Edge and Orton is also quite strong.

Skulduggery: I oscillate almost annually between which of two editions is my favorite Royal Rumble match, and 2007 is one of the two that tags in and out. Edge delivers a great ironman run. Kane eliminates the fuck out of Sabu. Undertaker shows up and decides to just Final Boss the otherwise dominant Khali. And hardly a more picture-perfect Final 4 exists, in my books, than Rated RKO, HBK and Taker. The Final 2 showdown is often, and rightfully, praised, but I think the Final 4 is slept on! Bret and Luger’s draw doesn’t compete, I’m afraid.

mizfan: You know, I like the 2007 Rumble but I’ve never seen it as one of the best ever as some people seem to. The ’94 edition has it’s flaws but I actually found it more fun than I expected on the rewatch. I doubt I will get much traction in this round but I will throw in for the ’94 iteration on this one.

Prime Time: Both good instances of the Royal Rumble match, but I have to give the nod to 1994. You watch both of these back and I think you’ll see that the match does as much, if not more, with a lot less at its disposal. It’s a bit of a minor masterclass in that regard.

Oliver: Do you think we’d have got the two Taker/HBK matches without the end of the Rumble 2007? It’s a fine closing sequence to an excellent match, and trumps the 1994 match handily.

(2) Royal Rumble Match (’07) wins 4-3

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: Was there a match-up(s) that you thought should have gone another way?

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