I’d like you all to do me a favor. Close your eyes. . . And take a deep breath.
. . .
. . .
You can smell it, can’t you?
No, I’m not talking about what The Rock is cooking - It’s The Road to Wrestlemania, and it’s getting closer.
In fact, for my money, the first stop on the Road is the best one… Yes, my friends, I’m a Royal Rumble junkie.
I’ve written about the Rumble in the past, so for today’s NAIstalgic look back, I wanted to talk about my personal favorite Rumble match, and why I think it is likely the best one ever.
Step aboard the DC Time Machine, my friends, and let’s take a trip back to the glorious year of 1992. I submit half a dozen reasons why this battle royal was the greatest one of all.
1. In this Rumble, the winner didn’t earn the typical title match at Wrestlemania. Thanks to some fishy officiating (thanks to those crazy Hebner boys), the WWF title was vacant, and so the winner of the Rumble would become champion. This is the only time in history that has happened, which simply by definition sets it apart.
2. Each year, the Royal Rumble is a “Who’s Who” of current roster talent at the time, with a couple surprises mixed in just to keep things interesting. The 1992 Rumble is special simply because looking at some of these entrants is essentially reading off a Hall of Fame list.
Among the competitors:
Kerry Von Erich (as Texas Tornado)
Big Boss Man
Iron Shiek (as Col. Mustafa)
3. In addition, the ‘92 Rumble features some of the all-time bad gimmicks, which to me, are almost as good as the genius ones.
Our original Throwback Thursday, Mr. Barry Darsow himself, this time as Repo Man!
Irwin R. Schyster (poor Mike Rotunda)
The Warlord AND The Barbarian (aka, The Ascension)
Think back to your favorite Royal Rumbles in history. I venture your mind immediately goes to one that either had a memorable single superstar performance OR some sort of unusual ending. This one had both.
4. The 1992 Royal Rumble was, to me, the introduction of Ric Flair to the mainstream WWF audience. He had been part of the company since August of that year, but this was the first time people got to see what The Nature Boy could do. Entering 3rd in the Rumble, Flair became the first competitor in history to last over an hour, an incredible feat that had only ever really been sniffed at by the aforementioned Rick Martel the year previously.
In fact, going a step further, up until ‘92, the winners of the Royal Rumble (Duggan, Big John Studd and Hogan twice) had only ever been in the ring between 10-20 minutes before claiming victory. Flair did three times that. While others have lasted even longer in future Rumbles, Flair, as always, was the originator.
5. When I asked you to harken back to a Rumble memory, perhaps you thought of Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminating each other right before Wrestlemania X, or the way Chris Benoit eliminated Big Show to win back in 2004. These moments tend to sear themselves into our brains far more than just a “standard” elimination.
In 1992, the final four combatants were Flair, Hogan, Savage and Sid “Not-Yet-Vicious” Justice. Justice eliminated Savage, and then ‘snuck up’ on his storyline-ally Hogan and tossed him out as well. Upset at the backstabbing, Hogan grabbed Justice’s arm, allowing Flair to take advantage of the situation and eliminate Sid, winning the Rumble.
Again, this is the first time (I think) that any sort of chicanery was involved in the ending of the event. We may well see something like this again next month if Dolph Ziggler winds up eliminating Cena, who somehow harnesses the power of #KidsAndTroops to worm his way in after his main event match with Lesnar.
(Also, much like the 92 Rumble, the crowd would go bananas for it if it happened. Unlike 92, I doubt WWE would dub over the crowd reaction, as they did when the New York fans were applauding Hogan’s elimination.)
Finally, the ultimate reason this Rumble beats all others.
6. Bobby Heenan
If you asked me to pick the best wrestling announcer performances in history, Heenan’s mastery of the ‘92 Royal Rumble is right at the top along with JR’s calling of “The Cell”. ‘The Brain’, one of two Flair allies at the time, spends the entire time riding a roller coaster of emotions as Flair fights, claws, begs, pleads and hides his way through the Rumble.
Seriously, go watch that match. By the end, Heenan sounds legitimately exhausted, as if he had been the one to compete for 60 minutes in that very ring. It’s a level of genius I have still yet to see duplicated.
So there you have it. My favorite Royal Rumble in history.
What are YOUR favorite Rumbles of all time? Or are you more of a World War III type? (Kidding, of course, nobody liked those.)
Discuss. Be heard. Get ready for The Road to Wrestlemania