The 2022 Royal Rumble is drawing nearer and nearer. Every year the event marks sort of a beginning for WWE. The start of the stories that will make up the companies biggest show of the year, WrestleMania. While there are no clear-cut winners for either Rumble match, that doesn’t mean the show itself will be awful. The Royal Rumble is recognizable for its match of the same name, but it also boasts several of the best matches in WWE history, Rumble match or not. Welcome to volume 2 of the best matches in Royal Rumble history.
Note: I am not narrowing down every show to one match. There will be some years that have multiple matches on them, but every show must have at least one match.
The Best Matches in Royal Rumble History: Volume 2
Steiner Brothers vs. Beverly Brothers / Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon: 1993
Starting us off is a short but fun tag team bout between two sets of brothers. The Steiners’ and Beverlys’ matches together from around this time are very solid and this one is no different. All four men clearly have wonderful chemistry together, putting together a match almost effortlessly it seems. It’s not very long either, clocking in at just under 11 minutes, and is exactly what it needs to be. The Steiners are their typical Steiner selves, throwing the Beverlys around with ease and displaying athleticism that had never been seen in the WWF at the time, especially from men of their size and builds. The Beverly Brothers aren’t slouching in this match either, clearly having a special synergy with the Steiners that few teams had.
Additionally, the WWF Championship match between then-champion Bret Hart and first-time challenger Razor Ramon is a forgotten classic. This was during Bret’s first championship run and was his first big defense since winning it from Ric Flair in October. On top of that, it was Razor’s first time challenging for the World Title. Both men had a strong incentive to show out. The match itself is very enjoyable, easily one of the best of Scott Hall’s career. Bret plays the smart wrestler, taking the fight to Ramon’s leg in the first few seconds of the match, and keeping on it through its entirety. In the end, despite injured ribs of his own, it allows for Bret to lock in the Sharpshooter on Ramon’s injured legs and get the submission. Easily the best match of Bret’s first title run, and the best match on the show.
Bret and Owen Hart vs. The Quebecers: 1994
The rivalry between Bret and Owen Hart that ran from late 1993 into 1994 is probably some of the most nuanced and well-written stuff WWE/F has ever done. It was the perfect slow-burn story, with the conclusion becoming more and more inevitable as the weeks went by. After weeks of arguing, including Owen challenging Bret to a singles match and Bret declining, the two decided to put their efforts toward something as a team; the Tag Team Championships. At the Rumble, they were scheduled to face then-champions, fellow Canadian team the Quebecers for the titles.
All four work in a very similar style and compliment each other well. The first three-quarters of the match is something you’d expect from an old Stampede show. A beautiful mix of grappling and high-speed, dynamic action. Bret and Owen blend about as well as a team as you’d expect, it’s almost a shame they didn’t get a longer run as a tag team. Unfortunately, Bret falls victim to interference from Johnny Polo, falling to the floor and injuring his leg in the process.
From here on out, every offensive move the Quebecers hit is on Bret’s leg. Despite trying to warn the referee of it, Owen only distracts him further, allowing the Quebecers to hit Bret’s leg with a chair as well as Johnny Polo’s cane, injuring it even further. Eventually, Owen takes matters into his own hands and throws Bret back into the ring himself, but it’s too little too late. The damage is done and the referee stops the match after only a few minutes. The post-match angle is incredible as well, with Owen finally turning on Bret out of frustration, and cutting a scathing promo on him as he’s stretchered to the back. All of it is well worth the watch.
Bret Hart vs. Diesel: 1995
1995 was going to be a very hard year for WWF. They may not have known, or at least not known how hard it would be, but nevertheless, it was. “Diesel-Power” failed to take off as a second Hulkamania as Vince had envisioned. With many of their most recognizable stars now working for the competition in WCW, on another channel directly opposed to them no less, things weren’t looking good. Still, there were a few gems here and there, as there always are. Among them, Bret Hard and Diesel’s matches at the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, the former of which we are looking at here.
Diesel’s limitations being what they are, he boasted a few very good matches during his tenure in WWF, mostly against Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Bret always brought out the best of his opponents, a master of evaluation and playing off of someone’s strengths. Much like the Razor Ramon match two years prior, he opts to work the bigger man’s leg, eliminating the size advantage. The interesting thing about this match though, is how far Bret will go to win the championship. WWF rarely did babyface vs babyface matches, making this a special case. Bret had been in a few of them himself, this one included, and usually would end up going a little bit heel in order. He does so in this match, regularly stretching the referee’s patience by not breaking on five counts, and even using a chair to hit Diesel’s injured leg at one point.
Unfortunately, the match falls off a bit with overbooked interferences from Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, and company. The match ended with an indecisive finish. But still, it’s the best match on the show by a long shot and is well worth the watch.
Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker: 1996
The 1996 Royal Rumble PPV is lackluster. It’s not altogether a bad show, but it’s certainly forgettable. While their match at SummerSlam later that same year was definitely better, Bret Hart and The Undertaker do have a fairly entertaining match here. It takes a while to really get going – Undertaker for some reason insists on using chokes for the first five minutes of the match, which really bogs things down. Once things get going it ends up turning into a pretty fun match. Bret Hart takes it to the Undertaker by working the leg (again) trying to chop the Deadman down through the entirety of the match and set him up for the Sharpshooter. Unfortunately, it ends in chicanery due to interference from Diesel to set him up for future matches against both men, the point of the Rumble is to set up the “Road to WrestleMania” after all.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network and Peacock.