This week on The Right Side of the Pond (TRSOTP), exclusively available on Lords of Pain Radio every Friday, Maverick and I, in Mazza’s absence, decide to take a different sort of look at our collective favourite show of the year as we each pick three of our all-time favourite individual performances in individual Rumble matches ever. We discuss what single men did in single Rumble matches and why we feel those performances on those nights deserve recognition!
That’s in a couple of hours, of course, and I don’t want to go spoiling anything for you kind folks getting ready to tune in tonight. What I do want to do, though, is quickly drop some honourable mentions in my preview here that I don’t get time to discuss on the show later. After all, when I was deciding who to pick for the show tonight my shortlist wasn’t really all that short! So here are just a few of the individual Royal Rumble Match performances I didn’t get a chance to raise on this week’s TRSOTP.
1. Bob Backlund, Royal Rumble 1993
If you follow my columns and TRSOTP you will know I am a massive fan of the New Generation Era, so it should come as little surprise that I’m sneaking a New Gen performance into my honourable mentions; not least of all because the Era is conspicuous in its absence when it comes to my picks on tonight’s show!
The 1993 version of the Royal Rumble gets very little love. It’s not hard to see why. With Yokozuna winning in odd fashion, and being tethered to the unenviable legacy of WrestleMania IX, I’m unsurprised few are willing to humour it. If you do humour it, though, you discover a quietly accomplished take on the concept with plenty of highlights and more than a little infectious fun.
Bob Backlund’s performance is presented in only subtle fashion as a story, but it is, in its own right, nonetheless captivating. Entering in second position and lasting until the final three, Backlund breaks Flair’s longevity record from the preceding year, remains in the thick of the action for the majority and fashions an air-punching comeback story that would propel him back into prominence on the permanent roster come 1994.
All of his curious idiosyncrasies remain, and some might find them off putting. It’s hard, though, not to get behind the man as he turns, sweat drenched, tired and wild-eyed, to heroically face down the monolithic Yokozuna in the final three; all the while, Bobby Heenan clamouring at the impossible achievement of this 40 year old would-be retiree.
It’s simple and unassuming, characterful and unexpectedly charismatic, and most of all it’s extremely effective inside of the confines of its own match. I’m a huge fan of Backlund’s story 25 years ago. I ask only that you give it a try!
2. Chris Jericho, Royal Rumble 2003
Initially slated to be one of my picks discussed on the show this evening, I substituted it at the last minute for a more nostalgic pick – tune in later to find out what! It was difficult to make that substitution, though, because Chris Jericho’s stint in 2003 is usually one of the first individual Rumble performances to spring to the forefront of my mind should the topic ever arise.
Not unlike its predecessor ten years earlier, 2003’s Rumble is easy to dismiss because of its odd roll call of names. Once you get past that initial judgement, however, you unlock a charming effort with a number of upsides. Jericho’s one-man show is primary among those.
If ever there was a time to claim one man carried an entire Rumble match, then 2003 would be that time. Fuelled by his fetid jealousy of Shawn Michaels’ legacy, Jericho kicks the bout off with some galling underhanded trickery to remove HBK from the equation. So begins his tear through the roster. His close calls each recall the famous ending in 1995 in turn, sometimes daring to cut it even closer than the iconic moment they riff off of. His encounter with a kendo stick wielding Tommy Dreamer is eye-wateringly brutal. His conditioning and athleticism are out in force. Even his eventual comeuppance when HBK returns to the fray is a beautifully told piece of storytelling that would set up possibly the greatest WrestleMania match of all time.
As far as I’m concerned, you can keep their more famous 2008 feud. It is because of their sublime work at the WrestleMania that would follow, but also Chris Jericho’s career best night in the Rumble in 2003, that I would much sooner revisit their earlier work any day!
3. Shawn Michaels, Royal Rumble 2010
My frequent partner in crime and co-host later tonight, Maverick, has little time for second career Shawn Michaels and for epic Streak matches, so I was never going to mention this on the show with him! Nonetheless, even though I’m far from the biggest Shawn Michaels fan in the world, I would be remiss not to acknowledge my enjoyment of his final outing in a Royal Rumble.
It’s the character-driven nature and story-driven subtext of his performance in 2010’s otherwise overly-short and generally undercooked take on the Rumble match that I adore so much. Michaels wasn’t in there to win a title match; he was in there to get to The Undertaker. The depths of that obsession and the desperation that fuelled it don’t hammer you over the head garishly like they normally would, but are found in the shockingly uncharacteristic cut throat performance of a Michaels who had otherwise long since replaced his old school edge with new school vulnerability.
Entering like a house of fire, not flinching in eliminating his friend Triple H and even refusing to accept his own elimination ala Stone Cold Steve Austin in 2002, Michaels in 2010 compiled an exhilarating performance built on unexpected actions and genuinely original thinking. That such a showing kicked off the very last go-around of his twenty years old career was remarkable. While others will always speak of CM Punk when it comes to 2010, I will never forget the duplicitously desperate Shawn Michaels.
And that wraps up my honourable mentions ladies and gents! The question remains, then, which three individual Rumble performances have I picked for the show later tonight? Well you’ll have to check out the show later tonight to know that, and to know my colleague Maverick’s picks too!
You can, of course, hear all of this on the next instalment of The Right Side of the Pond, airing only on Lords of Pain Radio to kick your weekend off right! The Right Side of the Pond airs only on LOP Radio every Friday night, 9pm GMT / 5pm EST, or can be listened to on demand at any time via BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes, so be sure to check it out!
Finally, do be sure to let me know which individual performances in individual Rumble matches are among some of your favourites, and why, in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums, where TRSOTP and every other LOP Radio show has its very own discussion thread for you to throw some responses our way without the limitations of Twitter or Facebook; just click here to sign up!