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 3 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.
Best Matches in Royal Rumble History: Volume 3
Royal Rumble Match: 1997
1997 was going to be a year of transformation for the WWF, though they may not have known the gravity of it at the time of this show. Steve Austin had already become the company’s fastest rising star in popularity and was engaged in a red hot feud with Bret Hart at the time. Both of them unknowingly bound for a WrestleMania match together. While it’s unfortunate that things turned out the way they did, and this Rumble match ended up being somewhat inconsequential by the time Mania rolled around, it’s still a pretty good Rumble match. It’s interesting to see Austin’s first Rumble win knowing what was to come.
Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock / Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels: 1998
There are a thousand reasons why the Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker match would’ve been better off never having happened. First off, with the gift of hindsight, we know this is the match in which Shawn broke his back. This was also months after Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had a big blow-off to their feud in the first Hell in a Cell match in October of 1997. Still, as far as mistakes go, it’s still a pretty good match. The weakest Michaels vs Taker match to be sure, but that’s still a pretty high bar.
Additionally, we have The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock. These two had a pretty entertaining mid-card feud over the Intercontinental Championship in late 1997-early 1998. One that did a lot to help raise the stock of one young Dwayne Johnson. The match in structure is fairly simplistic, a back-and-forth brawl comprised of mostly punches and kicks, but it has a nice ebb and flow to it that can only come to those with intense chemistry together. The Dusty finish at the end is perfect as well, making the match even better. It’s not even that long either, at just under 11 minutes. Well worth your time.
The Rock vs. Mankind: 1999
This one is admittedly somewhat problematic, but quality-wise it’s easily the best and most dramatic match on the card. The I Quit match between Rock and Mankind is not an easy watch for some, and with good reason. Watching a man get hit in the head while his hands are cuffed behind his back, rendering him completely defenseless to traumatic brain injury (against his will as well as in front of his family) is upsetting, to say the very least. But unfortunately, that is what happened. Everything before that though, is really good stuff, classic Attitude Era stuff. Brawling around the arena like it’s Memphis in the ’80s, Mick Foley taking insane bumps off of balconies, and the microphone gave both men a chance to trash talk each other whilst beating the hell out of each other. As upsetting as it is, it’s still the best thing on the show.
Tazz vs. Kurt Angle / Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz / HHH vs. Cactus Jack: 2000
Before his first quad-tear, HHH was indeed actually quite the talented performer. No Shawn Michaels to be sure, but very very good. And with a perfectly, already built-in feud with The Rock, it just made sense to throw the title on him and let the two go at it. They needed a road-stop before then though, and who better than the man who has described himself before as the perennial supporting character, Mick Foley, coincidentally another man with history between himself and HHH. At the Royal Rumble, they had one of the greatest street fights in WWF history. It starts off as any Attitude Era brawl does, but as it progresses, it gets more and more violent, as well as psychological.
While a great match though, most people have probably seen it before. One thing that people may not have seen yet, is the WWF debut of Tazz. After an open challenge issued by Kurt Angle, Tazz arrives and lays waste to the Olympic Gold Medalist in less than 5 minutes, suplexing him multiple times before choking him out completely. Unfortunately due to injury and lack of size, Tazz never went anywhere in WWF after this. But it’s still a fun watch for fans of his.
Finally, the tag team table match between The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz is a surprisingly fun bout for a table match and is also recommended. It may not be the most technically wrestled tag team match, but it’s a fun precursor to their match with Edge and Christian at WrestleMania that same year.
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