The Royal Rumble match is one of the greatest creations by WWE. It took a concept that was already a popular one and added more drama to the proceedings. Having wrestlers entering at timed increments increases the excitement from the crowd, as it can be just about anyone who could come through the curtain.
Now, the Rumble has been a great gimmick match and one of the golden gooses of WWE, but that doesn’t mean it is the only gimmick to shine at the January PLE. Besides the rumble match itself, there have been some great gimmick matches that have taken place. Some even rival the modified battle royale as the best gimmick match on the card. Below are some of these matches.
Triple H v Cactus Jack (Street Fight for the WWE Championship; Royal Rumble 2000)
Triple H and Mick Foley engaged in one of the best feuds of the Attitude Era. From 1998 until 2000, they battled in just about every gimmick match you could imagine. Each one increased in its brutality until their penultimate bought, at the Royal Rumble, set the standard.
Fans of WWE had never seen a street fight like this one. Its creativity with violence was fantastic as both men used everything not tied down to beat one another. It was a war of attrition that only ended after an amazing finish that saw Foley pedigreed on thumbtacks. The match nearly overshadowed the Royal Rumble and established Triple H as a main-event guy.
John Cena vs. Umaga (Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship; Royal Rumble 2007)
Last Man Standing matches always seem to enter the Royal Rumble. The history of the PLE has been littered with these matches, and the quality ranges from poor to mediocre for most of them. Luckily, WWE was able to hit gold on three gi occasions, with one coming between John Cena and Umaga.
John was in his Super Cena phase at the time, and Umaga was the next monster on his list. It was a testament to just how good this match was, though, that many in the audience believed that Umaga could pull out the win. Cena tried everything he could to put the monster down, but he just kept coming. This was how a Last Man Standing match should be produced.
The Hardy Boys v The Dudley Boys (Tables Match; Royal Rumble 2000)
The tag team division was white hot in the early 90’s. It was deep and was made up of some of the best tandems in company history, and they compiled some fantastic gimmick matches, starting with a banger at the Royal Rumble.
The tables match gimmick had not been used in WWE, and this was a great time to bust it out. Both teams were known for their extreme nature, and they dialed it up to 11 for this match. The spots were entertaining and creative and everything that we had come to expect out of the four men. Also, the insane spot to end the match was incredible and a perfect exclamation point on the contest.
Shawn Michaels v The Undertaker (Casket Match for the WWE Championship; Royal Rumble 1998)
The match between HBK and The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble is remembered for many things. Michael injuring his back and Kane’s fiery finish are the main visuals of the match, but what isn’t recognized is how great the match was.
HBK and The Undertaker had put on classics anytime they stepped in the ring, and this wasn’t any different. HBK working as the heel was hilarious as The Undertaker relentlessly stalked him around the ring. It was a great dynamic that made the match one of the more entertaining of their resume. It was a shame the career-threatening injury to HBK was the lasting impression of the contest.
The Fiend v Daniel Bryan (Strap Match for the Universal Championship; Royal Rumble 2020)
The Fiend was not a character that caught on as much as many had hoped. A large part of this is because of suspect booking. Outside of that, Bray Wyatt was great in the role and was part of some great matches, this one against Daniel Bryan being one of them.
Sure, any match with Bryan is going to be good, but that doesn’t mean The Fiend didn’t do his part. The Fiend dominated Bryan for most of the match, making the American Dragon work his championship opportunity.
In the history of strap matches, this is probably the only WWE entry that is worth watching. Bryan and The Fiend worked the stipulation perfectly, using the strap in every move they could think of. It was a great match and one that should be watched.
Dean Ambrose v Kevin Owens (Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship; Royal Rumble 2016)
The rivalry between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose was one of the more intense ones that WWE produced in 2015/16. They engaged in some fiercely personal battles that had every fan believing that the two men genuinely hated one another. It was this hatred that led to their absolutely fantastic opener at the Royal Rumble.
As mentioned before, this rivalry was intensely personal, and it bled into every part of the match. The usual violence that follows every Last Man Standing match was great, but it was the acting job of both men that set the match apart. The hatred both men had for one another was apparent, and it created a great aura around the contest. It was a match that overshadowed the other matches on the card.
Mankind v The Rock (I Quit Match for the WWE Championship; Royal Rumble 1999)
Oh boy, this match was one of the hardest to watch in company history. The Rock and Mankind have battled in just about every gimmick match imaginable in WWE, but it was this one that would leave a lasting memory of their feud.
This match was never going to be a wrestling match, but the savagery with which they tore each other apart was sickening. They fought one another in every corner of the arena with the stiffest shots that one can dole out. It started great but became hard to watch, especially when The Rock pummelled Mankind with unprotected chair shots to the head. It will forever be a match that is on the Mount Rushmore of either man’s career.
Triple H v Shawn Michaels (Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship; Royal Rumble 2004)
Rounding out our Last Man Standing entries is The Game taking on The Heartbreak Kid. Since his return, Michaels had made it his obsession to take everything from Triple H. They had been intertwined with each other since 2002, and this match was supposed to be HBK’s best chance.
With the talent in the ring, there was no doubt that this match was going to be great. Michaels sold his desperation to get over HHH throughout the match finally. It was the overarching theme and one that added that little extra to the contest.
The double countdown finish was slightly expected, but not one that ruined the match. It was one of the few times when neither of the men answering the count made sense and set up a great triple threat at Wrestlemania.
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