The Eternal Optimist Presents: Ranking The Royal Rumbles (#7)

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Which Royal Rumble do you believe is the most overrated in history?


Hi kids.

Welcome back to another edition in my Royal Rumble column series.

In today’s column, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at 8th place on my countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:

The Participants – The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.

The Storylines and Flow of the Match – The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.

The Final Four – Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.

The Winner – I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.

A couple additional disclaimers:

First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.

Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.

Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.

This week’s rebuttal once again comes from our very own Sir Sam.

Here is where the countdown currently stands – links to the previous columns are embedded:

Without further ado, here’s the Royal Rumble that came in at #7 on the countdown:


#07:  The 1992 Royal Rumble:

The Roster:

  1. The British Bulldog
  2. Ted Dibiase
  3. Ric Flair
  4. Jerry Sags
  5. Haku
  6. Shawn Michaels
  7. Tito Santana
  8. The Barbarian
  9. The Texas Tornado
  10. Repo Man
  11. Greg Valentine
  12. Nikolai Volkoff
  13. Big Boss Man
  14. Hercules
  15. Roddy Piper
  16. Jake Roberts
  17. Jim Duggan
  18. Irwin R. Schyster
  19. Jimmy Snuka
  20. The Undertaker
  21. Randy Savage
  22. The Berzerker
  23. Virgil
  24. Col. Mustafa
  25. Rick Martel
  26. Hulk Hogan
  27. Skinner
  28. Sgt. Slaughter
  29. Sid Justice
  30. The Warlord

From a star power standpoint, this is the best roster of any Royal Rumble and I’m not sure that it’s really all that much of a debate.  Depending on where you rank Savage, five of the ten best wrestlers to ever live were in this match.  There were sixteen Hall of Famers in this Rumble and several others who absolutely deserve to be there.  

You can’t find a wrestler in this Rumble that either wasn’t over at the time.  The 1992 Royal Rumble roster is such an anomaly that it is unlikely to ever be matched.

The Storylines & Flow:

I simply cannot discuss the 1992 Royal Rumble in the same manner that I have discussed every other Rumble on the countdown.  It’s without question the most well-known Rumble in the history of the event.  Everyone reading this knows exactly what happened at every point in the match.  

The 1992 Royal Rumble is undoubtedly great.  It features the single best individual performance in the history of the event.  Ric Flair’s run from #3 until the end was arguably the best story ever told in any Royal Rumble. 

Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan absolutely crush it as commentators.  In fact, Bobby Heenan’s call of the 1992 Rumble was the finest hour that any commentator has ever had.  He was firmly in the Ric Flair camp and to see him go from elation to devastation and back to elation over and over again added to the incredible drama that was unfolding in the ring.  I still have “THAT’S NOT FAIR TO FLAIR” etched in my brain.

The ending of the match is undoubtedly everything that anyone could ever ask for – more on that a bit later under “The Final Four” section of the piece.

With all that said – I think that many get lost in the moment when they rank this as the greatest Royal Rumble of all time, so I believe that I need to spend a little bit of time to tell you why it wasn’t.

Simply put – not enough happened.  Ric Flair was just tremendous from beginning to end, but the actual in-ring action during this match was horrendously bad.  The 1992 match was an hour of Ric Flair getting punched and kicked while whoever wasn’t beating on him laid against the ropes and pretended to look busy.

While there were a lot of stars in the match, it wasn’t exactly filled with workers.  The WWE played to their strengths and hid their weaknesses, but it doesn’t hold up well in hindsight.

In addition, with all of the star power that the roster had, the WWE chose to tell one story rather than branch off and make for a more complete Royal Rumble match.  That’s fine – the one story they told was the best they’ve EVER told within a Royal Rumble match, but it loses points when being evaluated against the matches that are still yet to come.

There were two “hot” feuds coming into the 1992 Rumble – Randy Savage v Jake Roberts and Hulk Hogan v The Undertaker.  Neither were particularly well executed here.  Savage actually eliminated himself when attacking Roberts – only to show back up in the ring because he factored into the finish.  Not good.  Additionally, what should have been a feud culminating in a Wrestlemania match was cut off shortly thereafter so that the WWE could slot Savage into the title match.  

As for Hogan v Taker – having Hogan eliminate The Undertaker right away made him look like an afterthought.  I understand that the WWE was moving Hogan in a different direction, but I felt that the payoff to what was a very strong program was unsatisfying.

So yes – Ric Flair’s in ring performance and Bobby Heenan’s commentary are every bit as great as you remember them to be.  However, the rest of the action and story simply doesn’t match the effort and quality that they put out.

The Final Four:

Putting aside the incomplete nature of the majority of the match, the final four was spectacular and memorable.  A lineup of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice & Randy Savage was as good as any in the history of the event.

Savage was more or less an also ran but the final three was absolute fire.  You could feel that the WWE was building Sid up for something massive.  He was allowed to pose with Hogan to close the prior Summerslam on his debut and he was positioned as an unstoppable superhero up to the Rumble match.  

Nonetheless, it was shocking to see him dump Hulk Hogan over the top, and even more shocking when Hogan used heel tactics to screw Sid out of the match and allow Flair to win.  

I can replay the entire final four from second to second in my head.  That’s a sure sign that the WWE put together something memorable.

The Winner:

Ric Flair winning was an absolute shock to the system.  Heels just didn’t win matches like this during The Hulk Hogan era.  In fact, no one other than Hogan won these matches.  He was a two time defending Royal Rumble winner for a reason.  Furthermore, all of the prior Rumble winners were late entries.  The idea that Flair could go coast to coast seemed preposterous until it wasn’t.  He was absolutely one of the most surprising winners in the history of the event.

In addition, his victory was incredibly satisfying – especially in hindsight.  Having a heel win was so fresh and the WWE had everything that they needed in order to set up one of the most memorable Wrestlemania main events ever.

Yet they didn’t.  This should have been an event that catapulted Ric Flair into becoming one of the biggest stars in WWE history.  We should have been given Hulk Hogan v Ric Flair at Wrestlemania VIII – a class between the two best wrestlers of all time.  Instead, for reasons that vary depending on who you ask, we ended up with Hogan v Sid and Flair v Savage.

Granted, Flair v Savage was an excellent match and underrated story line, but it ended up in the mid-card of Wrestlemania VIII for a reason.  As it came to be, the 1992 Rumble marked the apex of Flair’s WWE career.  It was a steady slide from there and by the time the fall of 1992 came around, it was clear that the two sides needed to party ways.

I’d like to go off on a tangent and down a rabbit hole for a minute.  Can you imagine if Hogan v Flair actually did happen?  Sure, it would have been epic, but the downstream effects would have been disastrous.  If Hogan and Flair happens, the WWE would have moved forward with Savage v Roberts as well.  The rumored plan for the third major match on the show was to have Sid face The Undertaker.

So what would have happened?  Sid would have won that match without question.  He was the big star that the WWE wanted to make into the next Hogan.  Taker was just a scary big man at the time who was finishing his run against The Hulkster.  The track record for those guys wasn’t good.  Not only would we never have gotten “The Streak” and all of the intrigue that came with that over the years, but it’s entirely possible that Taker ends up fading away in short order thereafter.  Yeesh.

Overall:

I felt the need to talk about the 1992 Rumble in a critical way because of the overwhelming and undeserving love that it receives from the masses.  That said, it’s still a great Royal Rumble with a singularly all-time great story.  It’s just that the shortfalls that aren’t as obvious to others as they are to me keep it from overtaking any of the Rumbles that are yet to come.

The Rebuttal – By Sir Sam.

Let’s get it out at the start, this is a good rumble but it is a good rumble that has been elevated well beyond where it should really sit.

When you are working out where something fits historically all the moving parts need to be analysed and the problem with the 1992 Royal Rumble is that if you remove Flair and the voice of Heenan on commentary you are left with very little to sink your teeth into.

Don’t get me wrong Flair is amazing, potentially the greatest of all time and his performance on the night was incredible but when you have a line up as strong as this one it is absolutely criminal that everything is so centered around that one man. When the second most valuable player of the night is a commentator and when you have names like Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Ted DiBiase, The Freakin’ Undertaker and even Hulk Hogan being confined to bit-part players you have created something that is just plainly out of balance. Flair could have still won this and Heenan could have still gone mental on commentary but the whole rumble is just far too centered around Heenan’s despair and elation at what happens to Flair.

To me though the ending is the ultimate kick in the guts, after the whole rumble is built around Flair it is Hogan who pulls Sid Justice over the top rope. If you are going to make something all about one dude, at least do what they did with Roman in 2015 and actually commit to making him strong come hell or high water. That is not even to mention that the match this is meant to setup, Hogan V Flair at Wrestlemania, NEVER HAPPENED.

The people who say this is the best ever are out of their minds and frankly Dave I expected more you. In putting this at 8 even you have bowed to the opinion of the marks. Is this good? Of course, but is this unbalanced and ultimately unfulfilling piece of wrestling worthy of the top 10 rumbles of all time? Not a chance.

That’s a wrap kids.  Who knew that Sir Sam would take an even STRONGER stance against 1992 than I did?  Agree or disagree with either of our assessments?  SOUND OFF BELOW!

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