The Best Matches in Royal Rumble History: Volume 4

Best Matches in Royal Rumble
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The Royal Rumble is drawing nearer and nearer as we reach the end of the month. 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. This year’s Royal Rumble is certainly looking interesting in regard to matches as well. Brock Lesnar vs Bobby Lashley is a dream match for many fans and is one of the last truly special matches the company has left in its arsenal. Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins will also be writing a new chapter in their rivalry when they compete for the Universal Championship. Becky Lynch vs Doudrop, while maybe not the most logical match, definitely has the potential to be very good, and the mixed tag between Edge and Beth Phoenix against The Miz and Maryse will certainly be… a match.

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. Over the next couple of articles, we’ll be going over the best matches on each Rumble show going back to the first one in 1988. 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 4

Pretty Much Everything: 2001

WrestleMania 17 is pretty much the perfect WrestleMania, but people may forget that the weeks leading into it were just as exciting. The Rumble was no exception. With the exception of Chyna vs Ivory (which is minutes long and doesn’t overstay its welcome at least), everything on this show is solid or good. Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho is one of the unheralded ladder matches of all time, Edge and Christian have a short but sweet tag bout with The Dudley Boyz, the title match between Triple H and Kurt Angle is chaotic fun and the Rumble match is probably the best besides ’92. This whole show is well worth the watch.

Ric Flair vs Vince McMahon, The Rock vs Chris Jericho, Royal Rumble Match: 2002

2002 was a big year for WWF/E. Changing the company name, the debuts of future stars like John Cena, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar, and the first brand split are among some of the big changes the year brought. Another one was the return of the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who immediately entered a feud for control of the WWF with Vince McMahon. Two of the biggest, most notorious villains in pro wrestling history, duking it out in a street fight for all the marbles. It’s a fun, old-school brawl, with no finesse but tons of drama.

Additionally, The Rock and Chris Jericho also have a very fun championship match. Overbooked and full of shenanigans to be sure, but a lot of fun. The story was certainly engaging, with Jericho sick of being overlooked by everyone and looking to prove something by beating the Rock. It ends in the usual Attitude Era kerfuffle, with referee bumps and false finishes, but in the end, “Y2J” retains the Undisputed WWF Championship, defeating The Rock through a myriad of illegal maneuvers including a low blow, a headshot to an exposed turnbuckle, and a rope-assisted roll-up.

Finally, the Rumble match from this show is damn good. This was the first Rumble where surprise entrants were a core of the match, with the late great Mr. Perfect and Big Boss Man respectively. As far as Rumbles go it’s a lot of fun and has one of the best Rumble spots of all time when Maven eliminates The Undertaker to a raucous reaction from the live audience, and Triple H winning after a long hiatus from injury to send the people home happy is just a nice cherry on top.

Kurt Angle vs Chris Benoit: 2003

WWE in 2003 was almost unrecognizable in a lot of ways to how it was just a year before. Several of the World Championship Wrestling stars had either gone from the company or not come in yet, or were just completely lost in the shuffle, and of course the rebranding from WWF to WWE. Also consider the brand split, which allowed for many different stars new opportunities to be on TV, some old and familiar, and some fresh and new. 2 such stars who found themselves in such a situation in late 2002 was Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, who found themselves entwined in a feud that involved them fighting each other, teaming with each other, and finally feuding for the WWE Championship by the Rumble, in January of 2003.

The match is absolutely incredible. If not for obvious reasons, it would be well within reason to call this one of the best WWE Championship matches ever, let alone Royal Rumble history. It’s probably the best match the two have ever had, trading suplexes and submissions holds with the chemistry of old dance partners, and incorporating past matches into the false finishes. Finally, it comes to an end when Angle latches himself onto Benoit’s ankle and grapevines it, forcing him to tap after a hard-fought contest. One of the best Royal Rumble matches ever, easily.

HHH vs Shawn Michaels, Royal Rumble Match: 2004

While definitely too long, as is the case with most of their matches, the Last Man Standing Match between Shawn Michaels and Triple H is definitely the best match on the 2004 card with the exception of the Rumble match. The other championship match on the show is a bust, and Chavo Guerrero vs Eddie Guerrero failed to be what it should’ve been, so instead, this is the best match on the show. To be fair, it isn’t terrible, just far too long. Still, if you have the time, it definitely succeeds at feeling like a slow, hateful brawl between two people who don’t like each other. One thing that these two men always could do, even when they couldn’t have good matches, was make it seem like they hated each other.

As for the Rumble match, it is once again very fun stuff. The Rumble matches around this era start to really get good, arguably their best, having perfected the structure and formula of the match. Highlights of the match are Mick Foley and Randy Orton being constantly at each other’s throats, to the point where they both cost each other the match, and of course, Chris Benoit entering at number one and winning the match, one of only four such wrestlers to do such a thing. (Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Rey Mysterio who technically entered at 2, which is essentially the same thing.)

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