While WrestleMania is the granddaddy of them all and SummerSlam is the biggest party of the summer, for many diehard wrestling fans the Royal Rumble is their most anticipated match every year. The thing about expectations, however, is that they are made to be dashed and over the years the WWE has proven that they can be pretty skilled at letting us fans down.
An incredible feat of planning that has so many participants and so much pressure, the fact that this match ever comes off well is actually pretty difficult to believe. Ruined matches in our eyes for a wide variety of reasons, join us as we walk down memory lane. Hopefully, we put these demons of Rumbles past to rest before once again believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the next one will be great.
10 2004 – Benoit
At the time of this event, it was heralded as a success largely due to the efforts of The Canadian Crippler which served as proof to many that he was ready for a much bigger spotlight. A potentially controversial choice for our list, it isn’t the in-ring action that took place that earned it a spot here, instead, it is the horrible deeds of its winner three years later that did so.
Starting out the match as the first entrant, Chris went on to compete at the highest level for more than an hour and many people understandably saw this it as a glorious match. Unfortunately for us, we just can’t enjoy watching the work of the man, the way we used to, based on the way he left this world and the people he took with him. If you still enjoy watching this singularly impressive effort unfold, we envy you but since we can’t any longer we’ve included it here.
9 2012 – Celtic Rumble
On a yearly basis, in the build-up to the beginning of WrestleMania season, fans worldwide love to speculate which star is going to advance to the main event. In 2012, the thirty men included largely seemed like Sophie’s Choice for many loyal viewers. When the most viable choices include former champs The Miz, Randy Orton, and The Big Show, all of whom the majority of fans had no interest in headlining the card, things aren’t great.
Chris Jericho, who’d recently returned, had created a lot of intrigue in his character by coming out for several weeks without saying a single word. Hugely popular with both the internet crowd and casual fans, Y2J seemed to be a predictable but intriguing winner. Opting to go in another direction, Sheamus ended the night pointing to the Mania sign in victory. A decent if unexciting choice, he went on to defeat Daniel Bryan in an eighteen-second bout, in the first hour of WrestleMania which hugely decreased the prestige of the Rumble match itself.
8 1988 – Humble Beginnings
Televised on the USA network, the debut Royal Rumble match set the table for the tradition we’ve come to know and love. Conceived by WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, a man who is renowned for his creative mind, this match took the traditional Battle Royale and turned it on his head. Remembered best for being the first of its kind, it is actually somewhat amazing that this boring bout didn’t mark the end for the concept.
Featuring twenty competitors, the smallest amount ever, none of the company’s top tier of stars took part. With absolutely nothing more than bragging rights up for grabs, men like Jim Brunzell, Butch Reed, Sam Houston, Danny Davis, and Boris Zhukov seemed to be sleepwalking throughout. Perennial fan favorite Jim Duggan gained bragging rights as the first winner, that went on to mean something based strictly on the later, better matches. We guess that is good for something.
7 1993 – Horrible Debuts and Finishes
Giant González, an Argentine grappler who owes his short time in wrestling to his massive height, billed at eight feet tall, made his debut in the midst of this over the top battle. If that isn’t enough reason for making our list alone, then the horrifically horrible conclusion has to win you over to our train of thought.
After a long lasting, merciless beat down on Randy Savage, a hugely popular performer, the star mounts a short-lived comeback which ends when the Macho Man inexplicably attempts to pin Yokozuna. A completely moronic move as only sending your opponent over the top rope can win the day, his stupidity is rewarded with swift defeat. Eliminated by a man who is prone on his back, we can’t think of a more humiliating defeat for an absolute legend.
6 2014 - Bootista
When Batista left the company in 2010, he was arguably the best he has ever been. An egotistical bad guy who seemed to relish embracing the hatred of fans, his departure disappointed many. When he was set to return, it should have been to a rousing response but there was one problem, he’s not Daniel Bryan.
After years sacrificing his body and performing as well as anyone in the business, fans wanted Daniel to get the position they felt he deserved. After months of perceived disrespect and taking the backseat to returning stars, a very vocal section of the audience decided they’d accept no substitutes. He wasn’t even included in the match and when the audience realized he wasn’t coming out, they voiced their displeasure loudly. Rey Mysterio, a truly beloved man who entered the match last, was even booed because his entrance made it clear the Daniel wasn’t coming out. What were they thinking?
5 2011 - Ten Men Too Many
Bigger is not always better. It stands to reason that taking a hugely successful formula and making it even larger should be a good idea. You get to promote the match as the biggest ever and even you get additional time to tell more of the stories that make wrestling great. Then you see it actually executed and the inherent problem becomes crystal clear. With that many people involved either we’ll get the cliché story of someone going the distance or the beginning of the match is going to have no bearing on the outcome.
Alberto Del Rio, the thirty-eighth entrant won and the WWE didn’t bother making the first two-thirds matter. We were lucky enough to see both The Great Khali and Hornswoggle in the same match as men like John Cena and CM Punk. At least, we have that going for us. Who could have predicted that the most entertaining element of a major WWE event would turn out to be the hilarious story of TNA star, Kevin Nash, being given their releases to take part? Contractually obligated, he reportedly went to his boss and TNA president, Dixie Carter and asked to be released and despite the move helping her competition and industry leader she agreed. We guess WWE doesn’t need to try very hard when that is their biggest competition which makes the poor quality this list is comprised of make more sense.
4 1996 – Who is That Again?
One of two times HBK reigned supreme against some pretty awful competition, there is just not much to enjoy here. Sure, he got to eliminate Isaac Yankem, DDS, which had to be a career highlight but this production wasn’t even bad enough to be entertaining.
When we tell you the competition was pretty awful, we fear that you aren’t getting just how bad it was. Men like The Squat Team, two overweight brothers who lumbered around the ring or Takao Omori a talented but unheralded wrestler were brought in, to fill thirty people threshold. With a winner whose triumph was telegraphed a mile away, this effort lacked any tension, interest and frankly the actual moves themselves are mostly pedestrian. Our advice to you is to not bother watching this since we doubt there is much of anything to be gained from it.
3 1999 - Vince Wins
At one time, the entire WWE seemed to revolve around the never ending feud between the badass, Steve Austin and the boss, Vince McMahon. You’d think even The McMahon’s had to realize at a certain point we deserved and desired a break, right? Apparently not, as they turned this event’s namesake match into nothing more than a twist in their tale.
Bookending the match as the first and second entrants and final two combatants, the two men managed to render a star-studded roster inconsequential. After battling one another all over the arena, something that really ruins the core principal of the match, McMahon’s cronies dispatched Stone Cold. Staying away from one another until the end, when with the help of a distraction by The Rock, then 54-year-old Vince sent the company’s biggest star over the top rope. That’s right, at the height of the company’s popularity they booked a pay per view to end on a distraction finish. Terrible!
2 2015 – Fool Me Twice
Another year, another winner shoved down the throat of a displeased audience. Roman Reigns is a charismatic man who became a star as one-third of The Shield. Obviously chosen by the powers that be as the next number one star in The WWE, many felt that he hadn’t earned the role that he was enjoying and resented having him shoved down their throat.
Taking place in front of a crowd who clearly had no interest in having the Samoan wrestler win, the booking of the match seemed to add insult to injury. Daniel Bryan, the audience’s choice for their preferred winner was eliminated and a sense of anger amongst the crowd that was strengthened again and again began. Men who could have been well received as winners like Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose entered the match only to have little impact and be eliminated. Coming down to Roman and men who’d been built to be hated, The Big Show and Kane, the rabid audience was left with nobody to cheer for and booed relentlessly. Even an appearance by Roman’s relative, box office behemoth and future Hall of Famer, The Rock did nothing to send them home happy.
1 1995 – Patience be Damned
What do legendary laughingstocks like Mantaur, Aldo Montoya, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese and The Godwinns have in common with long since forgotten talents like Timothy Well and Jimmy Del Ray? They, along with other underwhelming talents, make up a large portion of the participants in what we believe is the worst Royal Rumble Match ever.
For fans of wrestling, one of the best parts of this match is anticipating the next entrant’s entrance and the resulting chaos, the new blood can bring with them. For some reason in 1995, somebody decided that they’d take away any resulting excitement and replace it with a seemingly never-ending dump of mediocrity. Entrants were billed to be coming out a minute apart from one another, in some cases, it feels like far less time took place between them. Before long you go from excitement at the prospect of fresh talent to wishing they’d let a moment breathe for once.