Pro Wrestling

The 10 Worst Royal Rumble Matches Of All Time Source:

The Royal Rumble match is one of the biggest spectacles in professional wrestling, and one of the best gimmick matches ever created. There have even been Rumble matches that contended for the best match of the year on some occasions. But that doesn’t mean that every single Rumble match has been great. In fact, there have been quite a few Rumble matches that were mediocre, disappointing, or just plain bad, and because we thought you might want to know, we went out and assembled a list of the absolute worst Rumble matches that have taken place over the history of the event.

10. 2008 – A Surprise Ending, But Nothing Else

We’re probably going to take some heat for this one, as this Rumble match is mostly well-regarded thanks to the shocking ending of John Cena making his unexpected return from a serious injury that was supposed to keep him out for far longer, and winning the whole thing. That’s a great moment, of course, and the match taking place in WWE’s backyard of MSG gave it an even better atmosphere. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that up until Cena entered at #30, the match was generally terrible, featuring walking fossils Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper hobbling their way into the match, Hornswoggle spending most of the match under the ring and not ever getting officially eliminated (though his protector Finlay, was apparently DQ’d for bringing his shillelagh into the match to protect Hornswoggle, taking them both out of the match), Mick Foley at his most out-of-wrestling-shape, and the death of WWE pretending that the ECW Title was a “World” title, with the current champion, Chavo Guerrero, entering the Rumble. Also, up until Cena’s entrance, fans were pretty much resigned to an inevitable Triple H victory, which was largely met with apathy. Watching it again, the entire match is literally just waiting around for Cena to surprise everyone, and in the end, it’s a pretty bad match. Source:

9. 2014 – Poor Rey Mysterio

It wasn’t Rey Mysterio’s fault that he was the thirtieth entry into the Royal Rumble, and not, as many fans had hoped, Daniel Bryan. But the instant that buzzer sounded and everyone realized that WWE was going to be content to squander Bryan’s incredible popularity in service of their chosen main event of Randy Orton facing a returning Batista, Rey Mysterio became one of the biggest heels in the company. Boos rained down from the live audience, growing louder as potential alternatives were eliminated. The final two would come down to Batista and Shield member Roman Reigns, and the discontented fans made it clear that they would gladly take the heel Reigns (who at that point had not even shown indications of a singles run) over WWE’s chosen winner, the ostensibly face Batista. They would regret that choice a year later, but at this point, they were in full revolt. It may be that from a wrestling perspective that this Rumble match wasn’t terrible, but nobody can remember anything beyond the final minutes of the match, as WWE was forced to realize how badly they’d miscalculated the fans’ love of Daniel Bryan. Source:

8. 1988 – It Had To Start Somewhere

It’s tempting to cut the very first Royal Rumble a break, because they were treading into unknown territory and as a result, the match is nowhere closed to the polished presentation it would become, and instead basically turns into a battle royal that slowly added more participants. There are things to like from a nostalgic perspective, but we’re deep in the age of big, slow moving giants in WWE, and the result is a very slow, fairly boring match that only gets exciting when another entrant is revealed. However, it’s that part of the match which probably ensured its future, while the match itself slowly evolved into some exquisitely choreographed events that raised the quality of the Rumble match enormously. In the beginning, though, there’s just not much to watch, the biggest stars in the company are mostly absent, and the ending is fairly anticlimactic. To be fair, at that point WWE had no idea how big a deal the Rumble would become, and was just experimenting with a new idea. Source:

7. 1993 – the Stipulation That Changed Everything

This was the first Royal Rumble where the stipulation of the winner receiving a WWE Title shot at WrestleMania was created, a practice which continues to this day. Unfortunately, this Rumble is also incredibly lacking in actual potential winners who could main event WrestleMania, and it showed. The entire match was basically full of bodies, with just enough “name” Superstars to give the win some sort of credibility, as WWE was all in on creating their next big monster heel for someone to topple in the form of Yokozuna. Of course, as a big, fat heel, Yokozuna wasn’t exactly the best wrestler, which meant that this Rumble definitely did not impress from a technical perspective. Probably because of that fact, Yokozuna didn’t even enter the match until quite late, making most of the match an exercise in killing time until he showed up to throw a bunch of people out and win. The fact that Randy Savage put on a pretty good performance to get the crowd behind him, only to be summarily tossed as the final elimination to rip the hearts out of the audience, probably didn’t help this match’s reception on the stage of history. Source:

6. 1996 – Shawn Michaels vs A Bunch of Losers

This was the year where Vince McMahon decided that Shawn Michaels was going to be his biggest star going forward, a decision which would end up changing the wrestling world in so many ways. So, on the back of the sympathy created for Michaels after being beaten up by a group of Marines (which happened in real life, and was actually entirely Michaels’ fault), WWE ran an angle where Michaels “came back too early” from his injuries and passed out after getting kicked in the head in a match against Owen Hart. The Rumble was his triumphant return to action, and it was pretty clear from the beginning that Shawn and nobody else was winning this match. The fact that WWE’s talent roster was still razor-thin didn’t help matters, and resulted in things like Jake Roberts and Dory Funk Jr being pulled out of semi-retirement, random little-known Japanese wrestler Takao Omori getting a Rumble spot, and the debut of the Squat Team, two large masked wrestlers who were never seen in WWE afterwards. Oh, and Vader also made his WWE debut on this show and looked suitably dominant, but was unceremoniously eliminated by Michaels well before the end of the match. Toss in the fact that the timer was super-accelerated yet again, leading to another sub-sixty minute Rumble. This was also the first time since its debut that the Rumble match did not close the show, probably because it was so predictable and lacking in star power compared to the main event of Bret Hart defending the WWE Title against The Undertaker. Source:

5. 2012 – Funny How That Went…

To say this Rumble was light on talent would be putting it mildly, but thanks to John Cena, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan all being involved in singles matches and not pulling double duty, there were no true obvious contenders heading into the match. There was some potential interest in Chris Jericho winning, due to the intriguing and mysterious act he was pulling during his latest return, where he would make a huge entrance, say absolutely nothing, and then leave, but even that was more out of curiosity over what he was doing than anything else. As a result of the thin roster, we saw extended comedy segments, retired wrestler Mick Foley, non-wrestling sidekick Ricardo Rodriguez, all three members of the announce team (yes, including Michael Cole), and the third-ever female entrant in the form of Kharma (in what would end up being her last appearance for WWE). Ultimately, Sheamus took the victory almost by default, and while not the worst choice at the time, it’s what happened at WrestleMania when he received his title shot that was truly interesting, as he would defeat World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds, a fairly unpopular decision with the fans in attendance. The rest, as they say, was history. Source:

4. 1995 – Gone In 60 Seconds

In WWE’s darkest days, when their talent pool was at an all-time low, they had the brilliant idea to deal with the fact that the Rumble was set to consist of Shawn Michaels, Lex Luger, The British Bulldog, Crush, and 26 guys who might as well have been listed as “Participant”. Namely, they cut the time between entrants to 60 seconds, down from the original two minutes. Then they had Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith both start and finish the match, which wasn’t so unbelievable, because the match barely lasted 45 minutes and featured a number of Superstars barely spending any time in the ring. There was no real chance to tell any stories with the accelerated pace, which didn’t really matter because most of the participants were the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of notable names. Shawn Michaels may be one of only two people to enter at #1 and win the Royal Rumble, but thanks to the adjustments made in order to get the damned thing over with, he did so by posting a time that was shorter than some people who didn’t even come close to winning other Rumble matches! Source:

3. 2011 – The Biggest And Dullest Rumble Ever

You may have heard about the one time when WWE expanded the number of Rumble participants from thirty to forty, and wondered why they haven’t done it again. Well, if you were really curious, you should watch the match where it took place, and you finally might understand. The 40-entrant Royal Rumble is incredibly long, incredibly boring, and features more deadwood than a beachfront bonfire. Literally a full third of the match features CM Punk’s New Nexus assembling through completely convenient entry numbers, eliminating everyone else, then standing around waiting for more entrants for a good ten minutes. When one person does something similar, it’s impressive and badass, but when six or seven people do it, it’s endlessly dull. It didn’t help that going in, everyone was pretty sure that this was Alberto Del Rio’s match to lose, back when WWE was certain that he was going to be the next big star of the company, even though he wasn’t really doing anything impressive enough to justify that belief. And after winning a match that felt like it took fifteen hours to complete, and spending a whole lot of time talking about his “destiny”, Del Rio ended up losing the title match at WrestleMania anyway. Source:

2. 2015 – They Booed The Rock!

Honestly, the fact that Roman Reigns won the Rumble wasn’t the absolute worst part of the match, although it was certainly a terrible decision and extremely poorly booked, as he basically lay in a corner for most of the time and then popped up to win at the last second (a far cry from the year before, where he was ridiculously dominant and actually got massive crowd support as a result). That was basically the cherry on top of an overall horrible match, which saw most fan favorites thoroughly dominated by the aging and largely unwanted duo of Kane and The Big Show, at times casually eliminating wrestlers who fans were begging to see put on a good show. As a result, the match was insanely dull and plodding, with most of the talented wrestlers squashed into oblivion. Oh, and let’s not forget that WWE had Daniel Bryan make his triumphant return after being forced to forfeit the WWE World Heavyweight Title due to injury, put him in the Rumble match early, and then had him quickly eliminated. It was at that point that the fans in attendance completely turned on the match, creating one of the worst atmospheres ever seen at a major professional wrestling event. Frankly,even without Bryan, there were multiple opportunities for WWE to change plans and actually save this match, but for whatever reason, they chose not to, and the result was one of the worst matches ever. Source:

1. 1999 – The Legacy of Vince Russo

It’s very clear that there was a vision for this particular Rumble, a huge story intended to play out over the course of the match, as eternal enemies Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin both started and ended the match. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon almost certainly wasn’t physically capable of wrestling the entire match, and Austin’s neck and back issues (which would lead to him having career-altering surgery before the end of that year) made that an iffy proposition. So, rather than do something sane like change their plans, they simply had Austin baited out of the match (without being eliminated) and then beaten down and taken to hospital, while Vince lounged on commentary at ringside while still technically being in the match. Meanwhile, the match itself was plagued with long periods where nothing happened, due to the Vince-Austin shenanigans, as well as segments such as the one where Kane entered and eliminated everyone, then eliminated himself before anyone else could come out. And then Austin and Vince returned to the match after almost everyone else was eliminated, and Vince won the Rumble due to a distraction finish. Yep. Oh, and Austin ended up with the title shot at WrestleMania anyway, because Vince refused to fight The Rock, and Commissioner Shawn Michaels revealed that apparently the Rumble title shot goes to the runner-up in that case. This is why the official slogan of the The Attitude Era should have been “None Of This Makes Sense If You Think About It For a Few Seconds”. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.