One more day until the 23rd Annual Royal Rumble and if you haven’t heard, it’s going to be BIGGER than ever. 40 Superstars will enter, but only one will… wait a second. Enough with the generic cliché hype stuff. You want to know who the Top 20 Royal Rumble Contestants of All-Time are and I’m here to give them to you. There’s no sense in wasting your time with nonsensical drivel. You can get that at some other website. No, we’re here to nail down the people who deserve recognition for their efforts in making the Royal Rumble a highlight of everyone’s wrestling year. Here is a quick update as to who has already made the cut:
40. The Wiz-or-liz-ord
39. Random Japanese Guy from ‘93 & ‘94
38. That actor from “They Live”
37. Vinny Mac
36. Sheepherder Luke
35. Duggan (I got nothin’ creative for him)
34. Hercules Hernandez
33. 2x WWE Champion Bob Backlund
32. Taka “I Think I Broke My Face” Michinoku
31. Deacon Dave Batista
30. The Lex Express
29. The Godfather Kama Mustafa Shango
28. Cookie Monster Punk
27. Albeeeerto Delllll RRRRIIIOOOO
26. Jake “Beyond the Mat” Roberts
25. Ted Classic
24. “The Rated PG Superstar” Edge
23. Beth Phoenix & Chyna (Two very handsome women)
22. Rick Martel
21. Big John Studd (whose win took him to WRESTLEMANIA… as a referee)
I hope those names weren’t lost on anyone. For clarification and specifics on why they were placed where they were, be a good Little Smartbreaker and read my two previous columns. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes a jerk. Top 20 tiiiiime.
20. Chris Jericho (0 – 6) – He has held almost every honor WWE could possibly offer. He’s won the Intercontinental Championship more times than anyone. He was the FIRST EVER Undisputed Champion. He’s a multi-time Tag Team Champion. He has held the defunct European and Hardcore Titles and in 2008 was named WWE Superstar of the Year. The one thing that has eluded Chris Jericho is a Royal Rumble victory. However, he’s reached a point in his career where he doesn’t necessarily NEED a Royal Rumble victory. He is a master when it comes to enhancing a match win or lose. In the 2003 Royal Rumble, Shawn Michaels entered at #1 in an attempt to go Wire-to-Wire for a second time. Jericho, who was attempting to lure Shawn into a match at WrestleMania, eliminated HBK (not to be confused with me, SBK) in a matter of seconds. Y2J would last 38 minutes and 54 seconds that night, only to be eliminated by Test AND Shawn Michaels (who returned to the match to get some). In his Rumble debut (2000), he was eliminated by Chyna, who he defeated earlier in the night to become the only Intercontinental Champion. In the 2009 Rumble, he lasted 37 minutes and 17 seconds before being eliminated by The Undertaker. Just last year, he gave us a preview of his main event WrestleMania match with Edge when he was eliminated by his returning rival (one of the highlights of the match). Jericho is proof that you don’t always need to win to stand out in the Rumble.
19. John Cena (1 – 4) – Part of me wishes I could have ranked him higher, but in all actuality, his 2008 victory came after he drew the #30 card. Was it a surprise return at The Garden and one of the great moments in Rumble history? Of course it was. Did I jump around like I did when Hogan won the 1990 Rumble? Possibly. Did he eliminate Triple H for the win? Yes. Did he also technically win the 2005 Rumble over Batista if you go back and reeeaaally watch the tape closely? Sure. However, he has never chalked up the impressive Royal Rumble statistics of past winners such as the aforementioned Triple H and other names who you will see later in the countdown. However, I see John Cena as the favorite to win the 2011 Rumble. If he does that in impressive fashion (which I very well think he could, especially with the odds stacked against him with every member of The Nexus and The Corre being involved), his ranking could potentially jump from Top 20 to Top 10 on future lists.
18. Randy Orton (1 – 3) – One of the things I hate doing is comparing the careers of John Cena and Randy Orton. There is the school of thought that Orton is the better Superstar while Cena is merely the “company guy”. Cena is a 1 time Rumble Winner as is Orton. Cena is a 7 time WWE Champion, Orton is a 6 time WWE Champion. Cena has held the World Heavyweight Championship twice while Orton has held it once. Orton studied under the tutelage of Triple H and Ric Flair while Cena did it from the ground up. I’m one of the believers that when it is all said and done, both will be Hall of Famers, but it will be Cena who is regarded as the “Hulk Hogan” of this era. So when it came down to deciding who the better Royal Rumble participant is, it came right down to numbers. Randy has a 1 and 3 record in the Rumble and in his 2009 victory he entered at #8 and lasted 48 minutes and 27 seconds before eliminating Triple H for the “W”. He also made it to the Final Four in 2007 with Edge, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. In 2006 he came within an inch of winning, but was ousted by Rey Mysterio. Orton still managed to find his way into the title match at WrestleMania 22 anyway. He was also the #2 entrant in the 2004 Rumble and lasted over a half hour before Mick Foley took him out. Back to the Cena/Orton debate, Randy has amassed a total Rumble time of 2 hours, 2 minutes, 28 seconds vs. Cena’s 1 hour, 13 minutes, 10 seconds. Cena has 11 career eliminations. Orton has 12. This was simply a numbers decision.
17. Diesel (0 – 2) – One of my biggest Royal Rumble fantasies is to see a monstrous competitor eliminate almost every person who enters the match one by one. It would be epic. In 1994 it looked like that fantasy was going to become a reality thanks to Big Daddy Cool. At #7 he entered, stepping over the top rope and setting his sights on the competition. Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard got a little piece of everyone before grabbing hold of Bart Gunn and sending him over the top. Scott Steiner was the next to go, followed by Owen Hart and Kwang. And there he stood alone… waiting for his next victim. Bob Backlund was out next. He lasted over an hour in the Rumble the year before. He looked like he could eliminate the 7 footer, but before he knew it, he was gone. Alone again. Billy Gunn came next. I like to believe that he jumped ahead in the order to get even for his brother’s elimination. Unfortunately for Billy, he met the same fate. Virgil #10 and Diesel made short work of him like the others. Who else wants to give it a shot? Former World Wrestling Federation Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage! It actually took one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time to finally slow the big man down long enough for others to enter and seemingly even the odds. It took Bob Holly, Crush, Bam Bam Bigelow and Mable (with a little extra push from Shawn Michaels) to get Diesel out of the match. His only other Rumble appearance was two years later where he put up another 5 eliminations and made it to the Final Two before being shortchanged AGAIN by his friend Shawn Michaels. With 12 eliminations in 2 Royal Rumbles, ::Spoiler Alert:: Let’s see how many he can add to that tally tomorrow night.
16. Rikishi (0 – 10) – Very few guys can say they’ve participated in double digit Royal Rumbles. It’s an exclusive club and Rikishi is a member. He managed to do so under three different personas. Competing in 1993 through 1996 as Headshrinker Fatu, he managed to make it to the Final Four in ‘94. In 1997 he switched it up and became The Sultan. It wasn’t necessarily his greatest performance, but it was a performance nonetheless. His greatest contribution would come at the 2000 Royal Rumble where he was hitting his stride as Rikishi. Like Diesel before him, Rikishi sent 7 wrestlers packing (standing alone at several points). The icing on the cake for this performance came when Too Cool members Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay managed to calm the big man down long enough to dance in the center of the ring at Madison Square Garden. Once the dancing ended, it was back to work for Rikishi as he eliminated both of his friends. He would go on to compete in 4 more consecutive Rumbles to take his appearances to 10 and his eliminations to 12.
15. Brock Lesnar (1 – 0) – One of the fiercest competitors in WWE history entered the 2003 Royal Rumble at #29 and eliminated Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Matt Hardy and ummm… THE UNDERTAKER before winning and going to WrestleMania 19. You’re probably thinking, “But SBK, you docked both Cena and Batista for having late numbers and winning the Rumble. What gives?” Welp, John Cena and Batista didn’t have to go through what Brock had to go through earlier in the night before his victory. In Part 1 of this series, I talked about how some wrestlers train specifically for this match all year with hopes of winning. As of bell time that Sunday night, Brock Lesnar wasn’t even guaranteed a spot in the Rumble yet. What did he have to do to earn it? He had to beat THE BIG SHOW! Who does that?! It’s hard enough to win the Royal Rumble. Now you have to beat THE BIG SHOW in the same night to get there?! Get real! This would also be Lesnar’s only Rumble appearance and he took full advantage of it. He would later go on to knock himself into Queersville while attempting a Shooting Star Press against Kurt Angle in the main event of WrestleMania. However, “The Next Big Thing” went on autopilot and F-5’ed his way to a WWE Championship victory.
14. The Big Show (0 – 7*) – I put an asterisk simply for the fact that in the weeks after his 2000 Royal Rumble loss to The Rock, it was determined via video evidence that The Rock’s feet touched the floor first and Big Show should have been declared the winner of that Rumble. While a decision such as winning the Royal Rumble can’t be erased from the record books, certain things do deserve to be pointed out. What a lot of people don’t realize is that in WCW, The Big Show (then known as The Giant for those of you scoring at home) was involved in the 1996 World War 3 Battle Royal which spanned 3 wrestling rings and had 60 participants. That’s just ludicrous. While that has nothing to do with his ranking here, it’s worth mentioning. Whenever The Big Show enters a Royal Rumble, he becomes a game changer. Everyone seems to stop and focus on him. They have to. It’s nearly impossible for one man to take him out. They try everything in their arsenal, but eliminating a living, breathing giant is hard. The Big Show was the focal point of the 2004 Royal Rumble, but shrugged his competition off like they were flies. He made it to the Final Two and seemingly had it won, until Chris Benoit locked him in a front chokehold and pulled him over the top rope to win the match. If I’m a WWE Superstar, the last person I want to deal with in the Royal Rumble is The Big Show.
13. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (0 – 6) – Whenever I go back and watch old Royal Rumble matches, The British Bulldog always stands out as someone who should have had a legitimate shot at winning. He works over the bad guys and always gets a huge reaction. He seems like a force to be reckoned with. Just go back and watch Royal Rumbles 1992 and 1995 for proof. In those Rumbles he would manhandle Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels respectively. In fact, in the 1995 Rumble he entered at #2 with Shawn at #1. They both outlasted the rest of the competition and Bulldog sent HBK over the top for what he thought was his first Royal Rumble victory. It was so close that they even played his music throughout the arena. It wasn’t until Michaels ambushed Bulldog mid-celebration that we learned what actually happened. He lasted 38 minutes and 41 seconds that night (besting his 36:41 time from ‘91). In 1996 he had a change of attitude and still made it to the Final Four before being eliminated by Michaels a second year in a row. In his Rumble career, he amassed a total time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, 2 seconds and crushed the WrestleMania hopes of 13 other Superstars.
12. Bret “The Hitman” Hart (1 – 4) – In reality, Bret Hart is a 2 time Rumble Winner. Unfortunately the Excellence of Execution was excellently executed by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the 1997 Royal Rumble (see what I did there?) when the referees weren’t looking. As for his legitimate Rumble performances, he managed to become the Co-Winner of the 1994 with Lex Luger with a bad leg. Earlier that night he and his brother Owen lost a hard-fought match against The Quebecers. Bret’s knee was so badly damaged during the match that the referee declared Bret unable to continue and gave the victory to the reigning Tag Team Champions. To add insult to injury, Bret’s frustrated baby brother Owen snapped and kicked the injured knee out from under him after the match. How was Bret supposed to compete later that night in the Rumble?! He somehow dug deep and pulled it off (even if he did have to share the win with Luger). He would go on to pull double duty at WrestleMania 10 (losing to Owen at the opening of the show) and win the title for a second time after defeating the unbeatable Yokozuna at Madison Square Garden. As I mentioned earlier, Bret also should have won the 1997 Royal Rumble, last eliminating “Diesel”, but with the referees distracted, he fell victim to the Texas Rattlesnake. All in all, Bret’s lone Rumble win is still ranked as one of the all-time greats.
11. Yokozuna (1 – 1) – How many guys can say they won the Royal Rumble at their second pay-per-view appearance in the “Big Four” pay-per-view era of wrestling? I’m gonna go with “none”. Yoko just went out there and did it. His low center of gravity in his 600 pound, 6’5” tall frame offered him a major advantage in the match. He HAD to win! And win he did. Capitalizing off a “Macho Man” Randy Savage brain-fart, Yokozuna launched him over the top rope from a pinning position to win the 1993 Rumble. He was the second man to win after drawing #27, but even with that late number he STILL managed to eliminate 7 competitors! It would mark the beginning of the Year of Yoko as he went on win defeat Bret Hart at WrestleMania 9 in Las Vegas to capture the World Wrestling Federation Championship. The exhausted sumo wrestler would lose the title to Hulk Hogan two minutes later, but regain it at the King of the Ring pay-per-view after hitting a leg drop and “killing” Hulkamania in the World Wrestling Federation. He held the title all the way to WrestleMania 10 before losing it back to Bret Hart. The Royal Rumble was the beginning of a legendary career for Yokozuna which didn’t last nearly long enough.
That’s 10 down with 10 more to go! Tomorrow, January 30th, 2011, I will reveal the Top 10 Greatest Royal Rumble Competitors of All-Time just a few short hours before the 2011 Royal Rumble kicks off! Don’t miss it!