The WrestleMania sign literally burst into flames at the conclusion of not one, but both Royal Rumble matches this year. There’s no punchline for this, the jokes have been writing themselves ever since.
Aside from the fact that these phenomena are the perfect visual metaphor for the current trajectory of WWE’s biggest show of the year, long-time fans are keenly aware that WWE have made disappointing Royal Rumble outcomes a regular occurrence, particularly in the last decade. Since the inception of the ‘Winner Main Events WrestleMania’ rule in 1993, the Rumble has been fairly consistent in setting the tone for WWE’s calendar year, depending on who is left standing at the end.
Unfortunately, despite a number of successful outings over the years, stubbornness, incognizance, sheer spite, or a combination of all three have been known to doom the company into making the objectively wrong choice during their January pillar.
The following is a review of some of the times where a new king, queen or both could have enhanced WWE’s “Big Dance”.
10. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (1993)
In fairness, WWE can’t really be faulted for tagging Yokozuna as the winner of the inaugural Royal Rumble contested under the ‘WrestleMania Rule’. Nevertheless, a more significant and arguably more fulfilling WrestleMania IX opponent for Bret Hart was consigned to the announcer’s table that afternoon.
On paper, Mr. Fuji’s 500-plus pound charge was the perfect foil for ‘The Hitman’. He fulfilled the ‘foreign menace’ trope that WWE still occasionally utilizes and was literally the largest obstacle WWE could set in front of the defending champion. By 1993, however, the company was amidst a transition from its ‘Golden Era’ to a ‘New Generation’ of talent. It only stands to reason that such a shift would be accompanied by a passing of the torch.
With the Ultimate Warrior out of the picture and Hulk Hogan refusing a backseat to the smaller Hart, only one conceivable Golden Era name remained to pass said torch. The runner-up to Yokozuna in the 1993 Rumble, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage could have easily lit up the Caesar’s Palace marquee alongside ‘The Excellence of Execution’. Unfortunately, management’s misguided views on the outgoing generation shelved watershed rivalries with the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels while increasingly chaining Savage to the desk. A frustrated ‘Macho Man’ would depart for WCW in November 1994 and prove he still had plenty in the tank.
Who knows? Maybe instead of a WrestleMania frequently discussed as the worst ever, a main event for the ages could have been on the books.