The Road to WrestleMania.
That phrase is repeated ad-nauseum come January in the world of WWE, and won’t be retired until the broadcast of the main event of WM 37 fades out. Yet, as manufactured as the tagline is, it is still enough to evoke excitement in wrestling fans. Say what you will about the quality of WWE programing, whether you’re an advocate or detractor, but this is the calendar period where everyone has their eyes glued to RAW, Smackdown, and every other show under Vince McMahon’s umbrella to see how things will unfold in the leadup to the Grandest Stage of Them All.
I’m probably not alone in my personal opinion, but undoubtedly my favourite part of the Leadup to The Road to WrestleMania is the Royal Rumble. Hell, The Royal Rumble is probably my favourite annual PPV, most of the time exceeding my excitement for WM!
While WWE can make as many comparisons to the Superbowl as they want, it’s the Royal Rumble that I feel is more akin to a major sporting event. Statistics are acknowledged and brought up every year. Glimpses of fantasy matchups are on display. And truly emotional returns, surprises, and moments are abundant.
To me, that is the key to the longevity and endearment of the Rumble: moments.
When it comes to the Rumble, every wrestling fan has a favourite one. It could be a memorable winner. It could be a debut or return. It could even be something unplanned. sporadic, or a blunder that drives home the magic and unpredictability of live TV! As the newest member of Snap Mayors, I wanted to use the Royal Rumble as an excuse to break the ice with my fellow writers, by reaching out and seeing what moments stand the test of time, lasting in their memories far beyond when the final bell rang:
Cena’s Return: Royal Rumble 2008
“There’s been plenty of big returns from injury in Rumbles, but none more shocking than John Cena’s in 2008. He went down to injury in October and was predicted to be out for close to a year- but Cena is a real life Superman. It was so shocking, that the MSG crowd forgot to be pricks and lost their minds at his appearance. I wasn’t part of the “Cena Sux” crowd so I loved this. Incredible moment.” – Mick Robson
Austin Dominates: Royal Rumble 1997
“The whole booking of Austin was awesome. The stretch where he eliminates people one by one effectively showing how far he had come with his rivals was so well done. Bart Gunn? Out. Savio Vega? Out. Jake The Snake Roberts. Out.
Then as he awaits for the next entrant, and Bret Hart’s music hits. Austin facial reaction when he hears the Hitman’s music was fantastic, and really elevated Austin. Beautifully done. Then the false finish leading to Austin winning, and Bret Hart acting LIGITIMATE pissed just capped it off. The booking in that rumble for Austin was stunning.” – Andy Coyne
Kaentai and THAT Elimination: Royal Rumble 2000
” I love Kaentai not knowing the rules of the rumble and getting thrown out multiple times” – Sean Prien
“That Taka elimination looked PAINFUL. Also, if you look carefully, you can see blood shoot out of his nose. Grim” – Andy Coyne
“Yeah the Taka botch was brutal. In general, I feel like that Rumble encapsulates the best of the Attitude Era” – Sean Prien
“Yeah, but I’m still pissed because Big Show was the real winner dammit!” – Andy Coyne
A Phenomenal Debut: Royal Rumble 2016
“To me, AJ Styles making his debut in the Royal Rumble match as the third entrant is hands down my favourite moment in any Rumble match ever. Completely unexpected, the perfect entrant spot, and capitalizing on the strengths of Styles as a performer, it was a home run in every aspect.
My only gripe is that the best part of the entire thing wasn’t captured in the official broadcast, but in a viral video uploaded by a fan on YouTube. Hearing the countdown buzzer, leading into the chords of a then-mystery entrance theme, and the Titantron pausing on the phrase ‘I Am” before revealing ‘Phenomenal’ to a MASSIVE pop give me goosebumps no matter how many times I watch it. – Chris Small
You Know Him: Royal Rumble 2020
“None more shocking than Cena, I said? I don’t know, seeing the Rated R Superstar back in there after 9 years away was pretty amazing. The reaction of the crowd! The emotion of Edge! Add to the fact that it was already an incredible Rumble match, the addition of Edge pushed it over the top to make it my favourite Rumble of all time.” – Mick Robson
“Agreed. All time favourite wrestler and biggest mark out moment in recent memory.” – Sean Prien
Prelude To The Boyhood Dream: Royal Rumble 1996
“It was my first Rumble, but watching Michaels eliminate the near indestructible Yokozuna and Vader at the same time because they were too busy knocking ten bells out of each other got a good reaction out of my younger self.” – Andy Coyne
The Big Red Machine Makes History: Royal Rumble 2001
“This one goes back to my love of real statistics in a make-believe sport. The 2001 Royal Rumble is overall my favourite Rumble of all time, solely due to Kane’s performance. Kane was the Iron Man of this match, lasting 53m 46s and setting a record 11 eliminations!
His performance was so good that there were audible boos when Austin eliminated him last to win his third Rumble. This record would last for 13 years until Roman Reigns eliminated 12 in 2014. Still, Kane still holds the overall elimination record, and that makes me truly happy” – Chris Small