Pro Wrestling

10 Best Matches At The Royal Rumble Source:

The Royal Rumble match is traditionally always the centerpiece of the annual Pay Per View, due to its importance and the number of high-profile stars that might appear. As a result, the other matches on the card tend to be thrown-together affairs, booked at the last minute or as transitional affairs designed to kill time until they can be featured on the next Pay Per View. Occasionally, though, the performers get it in their head to try and steal the spotlight away from the Rumble match, and whether they manage it or not, the result has been some incredible classics that often get forgotten or passed over due to happening in the shadow of a much bigger event. We thought we’d give some of these under-appreciated matches some time to shine, so here’s the best non-Rumble matches to take place at the Royal Rumble Pay Per View.

10. The Harts vs The Quebecers – WWE Tag Team Titles – 1994

Bret Hart has put on some spectacular performances at the Rumble Pay Per View, but we thought we’d highlight the match that kicked off one of the biggest feuds of his career. Despite issues bubbling under the surface, Bret would team with his younger brother Owen in an attempt to win the Tag Team Championships from The Quebecers. During the match, Bret was isolated by the champions, who spent a long time working over his knee. After being punished for nearly the entire match, Hart finally found an opening, but rather than tag his brother, he attempted to end the match by applying a Sharpshooter. Unfortunately, the damage to Bret’s knee caused him to collapse, and the referee stopped the match, awarding the win to the Quebecers. An incensed Owen then turned on his brother, kicking off a legendary family feud that would last for years. The match itself is tag team wrestling at its best, with Bret gaining loads of sympathy by getting beaten up for ridiculous amounts of time, and the crowd literally salivating for a hot tag that never comes. Source:

9. The Rock vs Chris Jericho – WWE Undisputed Title – 2002

This match often gets forgotten, as it happened in that brief period between Jericho’s shocking Undisputed Championship win and when WWE basically gave up on him and booked him like an incompetent who accidentally runs over Triple H’s dog. Jericho and Rock had actually been having a really good feud as the WCW/ECW Invasion angle wound down, centered around Jericho’s insecurities about never being able to become a World Champion. Then, when Jericho finally did win, The Rock was right there as his first challenger (and as a big Jericho supporter in real life, ready to put him over as much as possible). This match was actually the culmination of several other great matches Rock and Jericho had over the WCW World Title in the fall of 2001, and was quite good in its own right, as the now fully-heel Jericho was able to utilize the depths of his bag of tricks against a clearly superior opponent. In the end, The Rock accomplished his task and made Jericho look like a big star, just in time for Triple H to make him look like a complete loser. But we’re not bitter about that at all. Source:

8. Vince McMahon vs Ric Flair – Street Fight – 2002

As always, if there’s one thing you can’t fault Vince McMahon for, it’s that when the time comes, he is always willing to get his ass kicked for the cause of putting over the good guys. In this case, it’s his storyline co-owner of WWE, Ric Flair, who had been at odds with Vince since revealing himself after Survivor Series. Flair, while definitely past his prime, was still in fighting shape, and Vince McMahon plays one of the greatest heels in wrestling history and can take a brutal beating better than some full time wrestlers. The end result is a surprisingly great fight, with the respected Flair getting the crowd behind him early in the match while McMahon dominates, then making a defiant comeback with his trademark offense. There’s also few things more cathartic than watching Vince McMahon get what’s coming to him, which is another reason why he was one of the best characters in WWE history. Source:

7. Dudley Boyz vs Hardy Boyz – Tables Match – 2000

It’s hard to believe that there’s a time where Tables Matches weren’t actually a thing in WWE, but this is the very first one. The newness of the gimmick does show here, as the announcers tend to get confused by the rough and ill-defined rules, but what this match lacks in clarity, it makes up for in crazy action, as bodies and furniture fly everywhere, the match spills out into the crowd, and the entire chaotic mess ends with Jeff Hardy hitting a Swanton Bomb off an entrance tunnel and through a table to win the match for his team. This wild brawl set the stage for WrestleMania 2000 and the first Triangle Ladder Match, which eventually begat the TLC Match, so if you want to see more of that, just without Edge and Christian involved, this match is the place to go. Source:

6. Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit – Ladder Match – WWE Intercontinental Title – 2001

This match was Jericho and Benoit in their element, as great wrestlers who knew each other very well and have forgotten more about wrestling than most people will ever know. In an era where multi-man car crash ladder matches were quickly becoming the norm, the two Canadians brought back memories of the original one-on-one affairs between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, which were less about setting up complicated highspots and more about two men trying desperately to disable each other with punishing moves and creative ladder usage in order to be able to climb the ladder unmolested. Knowing what we know now, some of the spots will almost certainly make you cringe, but the wrestling in this match is top-notch, making it probably one of the top ten Ladder matches in WWE history. Source:

5. The Undertaker vs Rey Mysterio – World Heavyweight Title – 2010

It’s safe to say that nobody saw this match coming. The Undertaker, at this point, was well on his way to becoming an extremely part-time performer (in fact, this was his last title reign before moving to a schedule where he only appeared a handful of times a year), although he was still capable of great things with the right opponent. Meanwhile, Mysterio was also slowing down due to wear and tear on his knees and was no longer the youthful high-flier he’d been in younger days. But both men were cagey veterans, and on this night they went out and put on a textbook “David vs Goliath” match, with the smaller Mysterio using his agility and evasiveness to try and avoid the punishing power moves of the larger Undertaker. The styles meshed incredibly well, and what had been set up as a throwaway match nearly ended up stealing the entire show. Source:

4. John Cena vs Umaga – Last Man Standing – WWE Title – 2007

People laughed about Umaga for a long time after his debut. Sure, he was technically a scary monster heel who nobody could beat, but the entire concept was just so goofy and straight out of the 80’s that it was really hard to take him fully seriously. Plus, he wasn’t exactly having great matches, so he was quickly labelled as a big, slow, slug of a wrestler who would never amount to much in WWE. But then WWE decided to put him up against John Cena, who was WWE Champion and about to enter a year where he would show off his ability to have great matches with unexpected opponents. And the first reveal of his skills would be Umaga. After a match at New Year’s Revolution where Umaga absolutely dominated Cena, who survived by the skin of his teeth, opinions about the Samoan Bulldozer began to shift, and all eyes were on their Last Man Standing re-match at the Royal Rumble. Shockingly, Umaga rose to the challenge on the big stage, and worked incredibly well with Cena, resulting in a surprisingly great match where Cena threw everything and the kitchen sink at Umaga, who responded with brutal power moves that floored the champion. Cena would survive to get the win, but in the process, Umaga was instantly elevated into a main event-level threat. Source:

3. Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit – WWE Title – 2003

Tasked with following an absolutely horrendous Triple H vs Scott Steiner match that had actively turned the crowd against the entire show, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit went out and worked their asses off in a pure wrestling match that essentially saved the Pay Per View. Angle amateur style combined with Benoit’s encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling combined into a near-perfect display of the very best technical wrestling ever see on WWE programming. Not only did the match solidify Kurt Angle as a certified wrestling prodigy and elevate him to new heights in time for his planned WrestleMania feud with Brock Lesnar, but it turned Chris Benoit into a massive fan favorite, with the crowd giving him a standing ovation in defeat following the match, which was almost certainly a factor in his Rumble and WrestleMania title wins a year later. Source:

2. Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins – WWE World Heavyweight Title – 2015

We called this match one of the absolute best matches of 2015, so it’s probably not a surprise to see it show up here, as well. This was the ultimate combination of three very different styles: Rollins the high-flier, Lesnar the power guy, and Cena the crafty veteran. Ultimately, it was two guys trying desperately to put Lesnar down for long enough that they could try and focus on each other, and the lengths they went to in order to knock Lesnar out of the match even momentarily were impressive. The match itself is basically a fully-charged shot of adrenaline that lasts fifteen minutes or so, and skips the slow build and goes right into three wrestlers hitting each other with their biggest moves in order to try and make someone, anyone, stay down. By winning this match, Lesnar firmly established himself as the near-unstoppable force of WWE, which perfectly set him up to be dethroned at WrestleMania by the winner of the Royal Rumble. Well, it was a good plan, anyway. Source:

1. Cactus Jack vs Triple H – Street Fight – WWE Title – 2000

This was the match that turned Triple H into the real deal. Before this match, he was being pushed as a main event guy, but not really accepted by the fans. Enter Mick Foley, who morphed from the lovable underdog Mankind into the hardcore maniac Cactus Jack (in a moment that was an absolute triumph in terms of how it played out on TV) for the purpose of putting Triple H through the wringer and having him come out the other end as someone the fans would respect. The match itself is one of the most brutal brawls you will ever see in WWE, as both men threw everything they had at each other. They call back to the previous year’s Rumble and the “I Quit” match that saw Foley’s hands cuffed behind his back, only without quite as many sickening chair shots. They bring out all manner of weaponry, including thumbtacks and a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire. At one point, a shard of wood from a prop in the entranceway leaves a puncture wound in Triple H’s thigh and just bathes his leg in blood. The sheer intensity of this match is incredible, and the atmosphere of a packed Madison Square Garden at the height of the Attitude Era is unmatched. This is, without a doubt, not just one of the best Rumble matches, but one of the best WWE matches of all time. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.