Full Disclosure: I am absolutely crazy about the Royal Rumble. It’s been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid, and has evolved into a near obsession of mine as I have grown older. I’ve done statistical analyses of each Rumble in my spare time. I’ve watched and re-watched the most memorable ones until my eyes go bleary. It’s one of the biggest reasons that I am a fan of pro wrestling, because it offers everything that the WWE has built in the past year. Since it is such a fixation of mine, and because getting to talk about it makes me somewhat giddy, I’ve decided to write a series of articles on the event in preparation for the big showdown on the 27th in Phoenix. Like (almost) all of its past incarnations, this year’s match looks like it shouldn’t disappoint, with the mid-card the strongest it’s been in years and a new class of superstars making their move into main event territory to challenge established veterans.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Rumble, the match begins when two superstars enter the ring. From that point, another superstar enters the match every sixty to one hundred and twenty seconds until all thirty superstars (or twenty, or hopefully never again forty) have entered the ring. Elimination occurs when an opponent goes over the top rope and both feet touch the floor (remember, as Kofi Kingston showed us last year, hands don’t count). Each superstar enters the match with one goal on their mind: to become the last man in the ring when the bell sounds, and to disembark on their path to guaranteed title shot at Wrestlemania, the spoils of the victor.
Every single year, the Rumble provides the WWE with all the glory, heartbreak, villainy, controversy, and surprises that one could ever hope for in the world of sports-entertainment. Though the match often exceeds an hour, it’s still over too soon, and its electricity is the catalyst for the WWE’s momentum going into the most important two months of their year. This year marks the event’s 26th occurance, but has quite a prodigious history to follow. In particular, seven Rumbles stand out for their ingenuity, storytelling, and the fire with which notable competitors have endured the odds to stand victorious.
7. 2000 – The Rock and The Big Show
On a night when Triple H and Cactus Jack stole the show with perhaps the greatest Street Fight in WWE history, it is easy to forget that the evening produced one of the more fun Rumbles in the event’s history. The match started conventionally enough, with D’Lo Brown and Grand Master Sexay providing some solid in-ring work, but no eliminations. That all changed when Rikishi’s number came up at 5, and he proceeded to turn into an elimination machine. While initially clearing the ring so he and his Too Cool counterparts could show off some moves to Madison Square Garden, Rikishi even tossed out his stablemates. The Samoan dominated the early going to the tune of seven eliminations, even tossing the enormous oddity that is Viscera by himself. The Big Boss Man, the Rumble’s #9 entrant, saw the havoc Rikishi was dealing and wisely took his time getting into the ring, allowing for Test to join the proceedings before entering, thereby neutralizing Rikishi’s ability to focus on one superstar. Eventually, Rikishi met his end in the match when Boss Man, Test, Edge, Gangrel, the Bulldog, and the immortal Bob Backlund (then running for Senate) teamed up to toss out the 400-lb Samoan.
The middle of the match was a fight for control between a rogue’s gallery of the Attitude Era. Chris Jericho entered at #15, dispatching the would-be Senator Backlund before Chyna exacted her revenge for her Intercontinental Title match with Y2J earlier in the evening, tossing the Sexy Beast out of the match after less than four minutes. Big Boss Man savvily picked his spots, lurking in the corners until an opportunity to grab an elimination presented itself, tossing out Chyna and Farooq in this manner. Road Dogg entered at #19 and embraced the bottom rope for close to ten minutes, holding on as though clutching a lover. And then there were Kaientai, who continued to rush the ring, appalled that they were no longer in the Rumble, only to be tossed out on numerous occasions, with Taka Michinoku’s night ending with his head smacking his head on the floor in what would be the most replayed moment of the Rumble.
Nobody could gain a real advantage until The People Champ raced to the ring at #24. The Rock made his presence felt immediately, dispatching Big Boss Man and Crash Holly in quick succession. The Rock could only hold his advantage for a few minutes however, as The Big Show lumbered to the ring at #26, chucking Test and Gangrel over the top rope with ease. The next few minutes would be dominated by giants, as Big Show and Kane (entrant #28) would eliminate Val Venis, Albert, The New Age Outlaws, and The Godfather, with The Rock chipping in to end Al Snow’s night. The match would come down to Kane, X-Pac, The Big Show, and The Rock. After X-Pac’s sneaky elimination of Kane and his Bronco Busting of Big Show, the giant was angered enough to pick up the DX alumnus and toss him over the rope in a feat of pure strength. With The Rock and Big Show left to duke it out, it seemed less and less like the People’s Champ would be able to surmount the odds before him. Just as all hope seemed lost, with Big Show hoisting Rocky onto his shoulder, The Rock used the giant’s momentum against him, sending him careening over the top rope while Rock grasped at the top rope a la Shawn Michaels to pick up the victory.
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