Forget about WrestleMania, and who even cares about SummerSlam — to many pro wrestling fans, the biggest WWE show of the year is and always will be the Royal Rumble. For one night only, in one match only, every top superstar will compete to prove they’re truly the best in the world. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, fans also get at least five or six other great matches with extremely high profile competitors to preface the big one.
Of course, given the unfortunately hit or miss nature of sports entertainment, not every Royal Rumble has been created equally. Both in reference to the match itself and the overall event, the Rumble has produced some serious duds over the years. In all fairness, the good usually outweighs the bad, and there are countless fantastic Royal Rumble memories for WWE fans to focus on and remember rather than dwell on the few times Vince McMahon and company used it to push some terrible mistakes. On the other hand, some of the things to have happened at Royal Rumble in the past were so outrageously bad it’s almost impossible for people who witnessed them to ignore the fact they existed.
Younger fans probably don’t know about these examples of pure wrestle crap, though, nor do any older WWE audience members who just recently got on board with sports entertainment. Obviously, the company doesn’t like promoting their all time worst programming, but because plenty of people do indeed enjoy revealing what a fool Vince McMahon has been at times, we’re more than happy to remind you all about it. Keep reading to remember 15 Royal Rumble moments Vince McMahon wants you to forget.
15. Randy Savage Doesn’t Know The Rules
Happening only once per year, it’s reasonable that wrestlers without much experience wouldn’t immediately understand the unique rules of the Royal Rumble. However, those who have been in the game for a while should at least be able to realize it’s a battle royal, and thus like all battle royals, ends with an elimination over the top rope. As one of the preeminent legends of wrestling history, “Macho Man” Randy Savage most certainly knew this before the Royal Rumble match even existed, yet he still managed to mess it up two years in a row. In 1992, he got things wrong by jumping over the top rope to attack Jake Roberts on the outside, inadvertently eliminating himself way before he was supposed to. That time, WWE officials quickly changed the rules to adapt to his mistake, but the very next year, Savage goofed again, and there was no covering this one. In the final moments of the match, the Macho Man hit Yokozuna with an Elbow Drop and then, went for a pin fall. Obviously, pin falls don’t matter in Royal Rumbles, so Yoko chucked him out of the ring for the ring.
14. WWE Fans Reject Hulkamania For The First Time
WWE likes to pretend its fans write the programming, claiming crowd reactions and popular opinions are ultimately what dictate who appears in the main event scene. Of course, those who have been watching wrestling for some time know this isn’t quite the case, as Vince McMahon likes to pre-ordain select individuals as his cash cows and refuses to look back. Recently, this problem has been out of control with Roman Reigns, but one of the first times Vince had to deal with it was back in 1992. At that point, Hulk Hogan was still hero number one, a status he held almost a decade, but at this point, fans were bored at his red and yellow antics. This came to a head at the Royal Rumble, when Hogan was eliminated from the match by Sid Justice and helped Ric Flair win. Rather than make Justice a villain and Hogan a hero, the crowd booed the Hulkster for the first time. Rather than capitalize on this by turning Hogan heel, McMahon edited the reaction out of most re-broadcasts, pretending it never happened and maintaining his status quo. Though it happened a long time ago, Vince still doesn’t like being wrong, so he wishes it never happened.
13. Bigger Isn’t Always Better…
There has been plenty of experimentation with the Royal Rumble to try and tweak it into something even better than it already is, yet few of these “innovations” have been all that successful. In particular, every time WWE attempts to mess with the general format, either by changing the length or number of competitors, fans immediately know that Rumble won’t be as good as others. The 2011 version was a master class in why that is, giving everyone a living example of how there can be too much of a good thing. For the first and only time every, this Rumble featured 40 competitors and lasted a solid ten minutes longer than the average. Unfortunately, many of those extra wrestlers were forgettable, and the time was mostly spent on filler and questionable jokes that didn’t quite land. Throw in the fact Alberto Del Rio was the winner, and six years later holds a serious grudge with WWE, and Vince would probably prefer we ignore the event altogether rather than boast about how it was “the biggest ever.”
12. …And Shorter Just Doesn’t Do It
Bad as it was when WWE unnaturally elongated the Royal Rumble in 2011, a full 16 years earlier, they did something significantly worse by cutting the match in half. Rather than use the usual 90 seconds to 2 minutes in between entrants, the ’95 version waited only 1 minute, barely giving enough time for any two wrestlers to stand out before the next one walked in. The reason for this was Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith both going from coast to coast in the bout, yet odds are that at least HBK could have easily done that for a full hour, not needing these restraints and limitations. The fact he only had to go a little over 30 minutes greatly cheapened the accomplishment, as plenty of past Royal Rumble entrants had survived much longer without even winning. All this did was make Michaels look like less of a performer in comparison to all other Rumble winners, which had to be the exact opposite of what Vince wanted. WWE still reminds fans HBK once entered at number 1 and won, but they’ll never admit he did so in record time.
11. Splitting The Winner In Half Makes Everyone Look Weak
From the very beginning, the Royal Rumble format promised that one wrestler would reign supreme over the entire roster—that’s the entire appeal of the darn thing. Of course, Vince McMahon’s motto for years was that anything could happen in the WWE Universe, so it was hardly a surprise he would try and change that as soon as he realized how it was possible. That time came in 1994, when Bret Hart and Lex Luger were declared “co-winners,” having forced one another over the top rope and out of the ring simultaneously. Truth be told, the crowd reacted just fine, and things went reasonably well from there, with both men earning WrestleMania X title shots. However, critics argued this made the Royal Rumble less special, and that neither Luger nor Hart looked like strong contenders to the gold. Vince must have agreed on some level, generally ignoring the unique experiment as soon as it was over, and claiming it would never happen again the very next year.
10. The End And Ascension Of The Undertaker
The titular match of the 1994 Royal Rumble was flawed in its own right, but on the plus side, it was nowhere near the worst bout of that particular event. Without any question, said distinction belongs to the WWE Championship encounter between Yokozuna and challenger The Undertaker. The two monsters could have had a hard-hitting, power based contest, but instead Vince McMahon decided to go a different route with things. Apparently feeling every match deserved a plethora of competitors that evening, McMahon sent a solid half of his roster down to the ring to help Yoko beat the Dead Man. After a dozen heels locked Undertaker in a casket and made Yoko the winner, things only got worse, as Undertaker’s “soul” rose from the coffin in a puff of green smoke. There was also a weird, implausible “coffin camera,” from which Undertaker promised he would not rest in peace. The whole thing was absolutely ridiculous, leaving many fans wondering what the heck they were watching, momentarily making The Undertaker and the WWE Championship a joke all at once.
9. Rey Mysterio Gets A Bad Break
WWE fans have been complaining they haven’t gotten what they wanted from the company for the past several years now, and this reputation largely began at the 2014 Royal Rumble. Just about everyone in the wrestling world desperately wanted Daniel Bryan to win the match and go on to WrestleMania XXX, but Vince McMahon and company were dead set on giving the honor to a returning Batista. Bryan wouldn’t even appear in the match at all, absolutely infuriating fans who chanted his name all night long. No matter what happened, if Daniel Bryan’s music didn’t hit, they just got madder and madder, booing every single thing that happened as loud as they could. The fury reached an absolute fever pitch when Rey Mysterio entered the match at number 30, giving the usually popular superstar the most negative reaction of his entire career. Granted, Vince McMahon probably doesn’t care all that much about how people treated Mysterio, but he doesn’t want anyone remembering how blatantly he ignored their desires throughout the entire match.
8. Roman Gets Booed Out Of The Building
Rather than learn their lesson from the 2014 Royal Rumble, WWE decided to double down on blatantly trolling their audience the next year, naturally earning even more visceral negative reactions all night long. Once again, fans wanted Daniel Bryan to win the match, or at least put in a lengthy performance, chanting his name from the second it began. Unfortunately, Bryan entered and got eliminated relatively quickly, leaving audiences a mixture of furious and bored for the rest of the match. By the time presumed winner Roman Reigns hit the ring, they had focused their disinterest into sheer anger, booing Vince McMahon’s pre-ordained next big hero into oblivion. The boos only raised in volume as Roman dominated the match and then won, and not even an appearance from The Rock could calm fans down. Unlike last year, WWE wouldn’t even make it right by later inserting Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania main event scene, leaving fans resentful towards Reigns and his undeserved fame to this day.
7. John Cena And Batista Mess Up So Bad It Breaks Vince’s Legs
Back in 1994, the Royal Rumble crowned two winners in Bret Hart and Lex Luger. As this list already covered, the results were so unpopular that Vince McMahon himself promised it would never happened again. Well, not on purpose, anyway. 11 years later, John Cena and Batista ended the Rumble essentially the exact same way, toppling over the ropes and eliminating one another at the same time. However, WWE knew better than to announce them as co-winners, waiting for a genuinely furious Vince to run down the ramp, slide into the ring, and…sit in the corner like a pouting child. In all fairness, it’s a little hard to blame Vince for this moment, as he apparently tore both quadriceps muscles during his entrance, and could no longer stand. Overcoming what must have been extreme pain, he gave directions to the referees and wrestlers on how to re-finish the match. Everything went off without a hitch, but there’s no way Vince wants audiences seeing him that vulnerable, nor did he like the mistake that made it happen.
6. The Rock Intentionally Gives Mankind A Concussion (Or 11)
By nature, pro wrestling is a violent and dangerous sport where plenty of people genuinely do get seriously injured in the middle of a match. The catch is that no wrestler actually wants their opponent to get hurt, and would do whatever they can to prevent a tragedy from happening. Unfortunately, during the Attitude Era, some wrestlers kinda forgot about this, wantonly whacking the hell out of one another with steel chairs, not thinking about the consequences. Perhaps the most flagrant example of a WWE superstar showing absolutely no concern for his opponent’s well being came at the 1999 Royal Rumble, when The Rock handcuffed Mankind’s arms behind his back and hit him square in the head with a steel chair, hard, 11 times in a row. These actions unsurprisingly gave Mankind a concussion and caused him to completely lose consciousness, and remains one of the most dangerous stunts in WWE history to this day. Especially knowing what we do now about how brain injuries can pretty much destroy a person, Vince McMahon definitely doesn’t want us to remember he signed off on the whole thing.
5. Jerry Lawler Can’t Stop Being Racist
WWE announcers, and sports announcers in general, are given a little bit of flak for the occasionally weird things they say due to the nature of live entertainment. They have to talk for hours at a time, and not all of it is going to be Shakespeare. However, a line needs to be drawn when commentary gets particularly offensive, an issue Jerry Lawler has been criticized for more times than we could possibly list here. One of his lowest moments came at the 2000 Royal Rumble, when he repeatedly went to the racism well when mocking and insulting the elimination of Taka Michinoku. Lawler was almost always a racist jerk when discussing Asian wrestlers, but he was especially out of control that night, randomly asking producers to cut to “the Chinese guy getting hurt” over and over, with no rhyme or reason. Of course, Taka is Japanese, but they happily granted his request. In any other setting, Taka’s actions that night would actually have been really gutsy and impressive, deserving praise for his dedication to the sport. Unfortunately, Lawler’s racism just insulted him instead.
4. Chyna Fakes A Broken Neck
Injuries are all too common in professional wrestling, and as a match with more participants than most others, the Royal Rumble has seen plenty of mishaps where superstars got seriously hurt. The same potential for severe accidents exists in every single match WWE holds, which is why it would be so outrageously offensive for them to completely fake the idea a wrestler may have come close to losing their life in the ring. Less than two years after the tragedies that paralyzed Droz and killed Owen Hart, WWE decided to ignore all of this by running a high profile fake injury at the 2001 Royal Rumble. Shortly after returning from a legitimate injury, Chyna was on a warpath, challenging Ivory for the Women’s Championship. Just when it looked like she had the belt won, Chyna attempted a springboard back elbow that caused her to “collapse.” Jerry Lawler rushed to the ring to check on her as Jim Ross spoke in somber tones about what happened—mimicking and trivializing their behavior when Hart passed away. Of course, that’s exactly what Vince McMahon wanted them to do, leading to severe backlash from Hart fans who thought it was in horrible taste.
3. Mae Young Takes It All Off
All right, so WWE pushed the whole T&A angle a little hard during the Attitude Era, basically treating female wrestlers like pin-up models, and this doesn’t at all jive with the PG Era or sensibilities of many modern fans. However, the fact remains it sold very well, and Vince McMahon probably doesn’t regret most of it. Quite frankly, we’re not sure Vince himself regrets this one either, but virtually every fan watching the 2000 Royal Rumble certainly had second thoughts about purchasing the event. It’s hard to imagine a “Miss Rumble” swimsuit contest would involve such a visceral reaction from the audience, until you learn 76-year-old Mae Young was not only a contestant, but the winner. Worst of all, the woman older than the average grandmother won because she went topless. Look, we’re not trying to body shame here, but there’s a certain age where a person shouldn’t be getting naked on television, and Young was significantly past that point. Also, many audiences just don’t want to see nudity on television regardless of whom it’s coming from. Vince may not be one of them, but he’s not going to remind fans about that fact anytime soon.
2. Erasing History Due To A Tragedy
In all fairness to WWE, it’s kinda hard to argue with this one. In 2004, Chris Benoit became one of only two wrestlers to enter the Royal Rumble at number 1 and still manage to win the match. Only Shawn Michaels has matched this accomplishment, but the Rumble was much shorter the year HBK did it, making Benoit’s feat all the more impressive. Tragically, less than four years after Benoit pulled this off, he strangled his wife and child before taking his own life for reasons the civilized world will never understand. It should go without saying that WWE will never again promote Benoit or any of his past achievements in the business, no matter how iconic or fun to watch they may have been at the time. Although this means WWE can no longer acknowledge one of the best performances in Royal Rumble history, they really have no other choice in the matter.
1. Vince Reigning Supreme Over His Entire Roster In 1999
Like the Royal Rumble event and match itself, some winners of the 30-man over the top battle royal are going to be better than others. Fans can debate for hours over who the best winner was, yet almost everyone is in agreement when it comes to the absolute worst of all. In 1999, rather than turn another hard working wrestler into a superstar, Vince McMahon decided the Royal Rumble winner should be…Vince McMahon. Despite having never been officially trained as a wrestler, it was always Vince’s dream to be one, something that was starting to come true as he feuded “Stone Cold” Steve Austin starting in late 1997. It was that same feud which allowed Vince to win the Rumble, as he and “Stone Cold” entered at number 1 and 2. Though they disappeared into the backstage early on and had almost no bearing on most of the match, Austin and McMahon rematerialized in the final moments along with The Rock, who helped his boss win. Audiences were outraged at this blatant display of ego, especially in the height of the Attitude Era, when WWE was otherwise firing on all cylinders.
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