In a night with both the NCAA BCS Championship game and the opening night of the Bachelor, one of the shows that might have gotten lost in the mix was WWE Old School Raw. The episode of Monday Night Raw where, once a year, WWE drags out the stars from the 80’s and 90’s, hoping to teach youngsters that Sgt. Slaughter is some old guy who dances in the ring, and not the Iraqi fighting/USA turncoat/then again USA supporter. One of the few things non old school related that happened in the night is that “The Animal” Batista threw his name in the 27th annual Royal Rumble Match. The Royal Rumble, which is the greatest pro-wrestling event of the year, is coming up on January 26th. Over the upcoming weeks, leading to the 27th Annual Royal Rumble, I’ll take a look at some of the top moments, years, wrestlers, interesting statistics and we’ll have a contest for this year’s event (details on that in the coming weeks). Today, we take a look at Royal Rumbles 10-18.
If you need to catch up on Royal Rumbles 1-9, check out Part One of the Royal Rumble preview series.
1997 was the start of the first full year of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s dominance in the WWE. In 1995, Austin came into the WWE as the “protege” of Ted Dibiase, taking on the moniker of “The Ringmaster.” Austin didn’t get to showcase his mic skills until after the 1996 King of the Ring. After plowing through the competitors in the tournament, he looked at Jake Roberts, and gave one of the most memorable wrestling speeches of all-time. In the 1997 Rumble, Austin entered the event as the #4 entrant, and found himself in the ring, alone, early. The picture above is from when Austin was alone in the ring, waiting for the next competitor to come out, checking an imaginary watch waiting for the 90 seconds to elapse. Austin eliminated 10 competitors, including Bret Hart. Hart had earlier thrown Austin over the top rope to the floor, but the referees didn’t see it, so the elimination wasn’t acknowledged. Austin went on to fight Hart at Wrestlemania, but not for the title.
1998 was more of the same for Steve Austin as he won his second consecutive Royal Rumble match, joining the likes of Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan. Austin and The Rock were the last two men in the ring as a sign of what was to come over the next 4-5 years in the top two names in the company. The 1998 Royal Rumble is also memorable for a Rumble first. Mick Foley participated in the match as three different personas. He first came out as Cactus Jack, starting off against Chainsaw Charlie (Terry Funk). After being eliminated by Charlie, Foley came back as entrant #16 as Mankind to eliminate Charlie, only to be thrown out again two minutes later, this time by Goldust. Foley entered one more time as the #28 entrant, this time as Dude Love, spending another seven minutes in the ring. Another reason the Royal Rumble is an event full of surprises.
The 1999 rumble was a dark turn for the WWF as Vince McMahon was the winner of the Royal Rumble match. Austin and McMahon entered the match as #s 1 and 2, respectively. As Austin was distracted, McMahon went under the bottom rope and ran through the crowd and the halls of the arena, spending a good portion of the match outside of the ring. With a distraction from The Rock, Austin was eliminated by Vinnie Mac, giving VKM the title shot at Wrestlemania (which Austin won back from McMahon in a cage match, going on to defeat The Rock at Wrestlemania XV). Also in this PPV was a brutal “I Quit” match between The Rock and Mankind.
In a Royal Rumble that is probably more famous for the Street Fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack -OR- the bikini contest that Mae Young of all people won, The Rock picked up the victory in the Royal Rumble match. Only making four eliminations in the match, The Rock entered at #24 and only needed 14:47 to finish off the final people in the ring. The final moments came down to The Rock and The Big Show. Big Show tried to body slam Rock over the top rope, but ole’ Dwayne hung on to the rope and Big Show came tumbling after to the floor. Rock lost in a four-way elimination match at Wrestlemania for the WWF Championship.
Steve Austin picked up his third Royal Rumble victory in 2001, still the most by any person in WWE history. But you can’t talk about the 2001 Rumble with out some of the interesting notes. First, Drew Carey (yes, that Drew Carey) was a participant in the Royal Rumble. He entered the match as the #5 entrant, before Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy eliminated each other, leaving Carey in the ring all by himself. (Carey was promoting his Improv All-Stars PPV). Just moments after Carey entered, he was shocked that the next competitor was Kane. After trying to shake Kane’s hand, as well as bribe him with cash, Carey got put in a hold for a chokeslam, luckily the next entrant came out, giving Carey opportunity to eliminate himself from the match. Kane went on to eliminate 11 people in the match, a Royal Rumble record that holds to today.
Triple H picked up the victory in the 2002 rumble. HHH returned from an injury as the #22 entrant in the match, tossing out Kurt Angle to win the title shot at Wrestlemania and win the championship from Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania X8 (yep, that’s how they spelled it). Also notable entrants in the Royal Rumble this year were Mr. Perfect, who was one of the final four competitors in the match, and Maven, the Tough Enough winner. Maven won WWE’s reality show to earn a contract, but is mainly known for his elimination of The Undertaker in the 2002 Royal Rumble, seen here.
The 2003 Royal Rumble was the first Rumble with the “Brand Split” meaning 15 wrestlers came from Raw and 15 came from Smackdown. This match also notable for being the first Rumble in which John Cena participated. He came in at #18, and spent most of his 90 seconds rapping on his way to the ring. Brock Lesnar went on to win this match, entering at #29 and only having to spend 8:49 in the ring. Lots of mini feuds set up in this one, most famously the Shawn Michaels/Chris Jericho feud, which set up the best match at Wrestlemania XIX, in my opinion. Lesnar fought Kurt Angle in the main event of Wrestlemania, and lawn darted himself into the ring, yet still won.
In 2004, he who shall not be named picked up the victory in the Royal Rumble Match, eliminating the Big Show with a big headlock. Chris Benoit entered the Royal Rumble at #1 and outlasted all 29 entrants to win the match. This Rumble is oft-forgotten because of what Chris Benoit is now known for. Big win for him at the time, but this one is usually tucked away in the WWE vaults, never to rear its head again. This match also had two people who didn’t enter the match. First, Spike Dudley got chokeslammed on the entrance ramp by Kane after his elimination. Secondly, Test was supposed to enter, but Mick Foley took his place to get his hands on Randy Orton. Goldberg also made his Rumble debut, tossing out three guys, before getting taken out by Kurt Angle. Also: This.
Hmm, how does one explain the 2005 Royal Rumble? There’s just so much going on, it’s hard to explain, but I’ll give it a shot. So first, the PPV itself was themed after West Side Story, with a big overpass and NYC scene in the entrance way (the PPV was in Fresno, CA). With the 12th entrant in the match, there were four Raw guys and four Smackdown guys in the ring at the same time. They squared off from each other, West Side Story style, then just pummeled each other (to one of the loudest pops in Rumble history). However they settled their differences when the Arab American character, Muhammad Hassan, entered the ring, and six men picked him up at once and threw him over the top rope, to everyone’s delight. At the end of the Rumble, John Cena and Batista threw each other out of the ring at the same time, but unlike 1994, the refs couldn’t decide who won. So, McMahon swaggers down to the ring, tries to slide in, but tears his quad in the process. So he has to make his decision to restart the finish while sitting down. Batista goes on to throw out Cena to win the Rumble.
Whew, 18 down and only a few more to go, which will be chronicled in the next edition of the History of the Royal Rumble. For now, enjoy a video from WWE in the “Top 10 Surprise Royal Rumble Entrants.”