The Royal Rumble event has always been about more than just the Rumble itself, with some real gems to be found on quite a few of the undercards. Because there have been so many Rumble events, I decided to split the Non-Rumble matches into three different segments, 1988-1998, 1999-2008 and 2009-2018.
As always, these are just my own personal picks. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion, then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.
So without further to do, let’s get to it!
Royal Rumble 2010
The Undertaker Vs Rey Mysterio
Prior to really going off the deep physically in recent years, Undertaker entered 2010 in great shape and enjoying a prolonged run with the World Title. He had been supposed to enjoy a similar reign in 2007, but injuries put paid to that. Mysterio had been feuding on and off with former friend Batista leading up to this and had actually beaten Batista in a cage as part of the build-up. The match is fought at a quick clip, coming in at just under 12 minutes, with the benefit being that there is no wasted motion.
The story of the match focuses around Undertaker using his size to control Mysterio, whilst Mysterio tries to use his speed and ring smarts to stun Undertaker long enough to pick up the win. The benefit of this is that Mysterio can buzz around Undertaker, whilst Undertaker can focus on being a base and conserving his energy. Undertaker actually sells quite a bit for Mysterio throughout the match, and even gets caught with an errant shot in the process to bloody his nose/mouth hard way.
The styles of both men complement each other well and a good Big Vs Little story is told throughout the bout. I really enjoy watching this match and it doesn’t feel like it needs to be any longer either. They get in, tell the story they want to tell, and then take it home without overstaying their welcome. Undertaker selling for Mysterio and making him look like an equal is what really makes the match. He could have just swatted Mysterio aside here and gotten away with it, but he gives him plenty of offence and the match is much better for it.
Royal Rumble 2014
Bray Wyatt Vs Daniel Bryan
The 2014 and 2015 Rumble Matches are mostly known for the audiences anger that Daniel Bryan doesn’t win them, either by getting eliminated early (2015) or not even entering at all (2014). Even though Bryan doesn’t get to enter the actual Rumble Match itself in 2014, he does get to have one heck of a match with Bray Wyatt on the undercard. This was a payoff to Bryan supposedly joining The Wyatt Family, only for him to leave it again a mere couple of weeks later when WWE came to their senses and realised that they made their most popular wrestler JOIN THE CHUFFING WYATT FAMILY!!!
Sadly for Bryan, giving Wyatt a kicking on an episode of Raw was the closest he got to a win, as Wyatt was bound for a feud with John Cena at WrestleMania XXX, whilst Bryan was slotted for a match with Sheamus (That would all change of course) and was considered the more expendable of the two. Thus, Bryan does yet another J-O-B on the P-P-V here, but he at least carries Wyatt to possibly the best match of “The Eater Of Worlds” career before looking at the lights.
Seeing how over Bryan is with the crowd here makes it all the more baffling that their best plans for Mania were to stick him in a nothing match on the under card. I can only imagine how much of a disaster Mania XXX would have been if they’d fed the crowd a one-two punch of Brock Lesnar ending the streak and an Orton Vs Batista match that no one wanted to see. Daniel Bryan really did rescue that show. He’s incredibly over on this show and the fans are just so desperate to see him get a push. You can just feel the air go out of them the minute Wyatt picks up the pin fall. Despite that, it still makes the list due to Bryan doing such a good job in making Wyatt look like a big star.
Royal Rumble 2015
No DQ, No Count Out
Brock Lesnar Vs Seth Rollins Vs John Cena
Lesnar suplexing James Gibson and Joey Matthews right onto their heads at the start of this match is a mere taste of the insanity that takes place within it. The term “organised chaos” would be a good description of this one, as Lesnar flings men around at will, Rollins leaps from high places and Cena shows off ridiculous feats of strength. It really should be an utter mess, but everything is done with such panache that it all comes together and ends up being a fantastically entertaining showcase. It’s so good it almost rescues a completely mediocre Rumble event.
Rollin’s is in his element here as the devious heel letting the two bigger men demolish one another, with his goal being to steal a pin fall when an opportunity presents itself. Lesnar smashes everything and everyone stupid enough to get in his way, playing neither face nor heel, whilst Cena is his usual gutsy self who is willing to tackle the odds at every turn. It really is a perfect collection of characters and wrestling styles, with the relaxed rules allowing everyone to really cut loose.
At times this feels like an Attitude Era main event, with table bumps, weapon shots, men coming back from supposedly match ending injuries and a plethora of big near falls. This feature was the first time I’d gone back to watch this one again and I’m really glad I did, as it’s an absolute belter. If you’ve never seen this one before then I strongly suggest you give it a go. It’s a non-stop thrill ride with some fantastic big moments and some solid story telling as well.
Royal Rumble 2016
Last Man Standing
Dean Ambrose Vs Kevin Owens
This is a fantastically wild brawl between two men who are at their absolute best in that environment. I’ve always felt like the ring style and characters of these two men mesh well, mainly because they are different sides of the same coin. Ambrose is what Owens could be like if he wasn’t riddled with insecurity and bitterness, whilst Owens is what Ambrose could be if he got too far into his head and started indulging his darker instincts. Both men are brawlers who can take large amounts of damage from their opponents, so a Last Man Standing Match is almost the perfect stipulation they could compete in, outside of an I Quit match.
Both men waste no time tearing the arena apart, with Owens getting flung over the announce table onto a hapless Michael Cole. What follows is a spree of constant chair attacks, brutal falls on the floor and just downright over the top violence as both men try and keep their rival down for that illusive count of ten. As a general rule I’ve never been a huge fan of the Last Man Standing stipulation, but doing the lists for non-Rumble matches has shown me that I can enjoy it if it’s done right. It turns out that “doing it right” involves not letting it drag with the count out teases and upping the ante violence wise as the match progresses, whilst still telling a story.
As the match rolls on, the violence escalates, but the story is all about both men being insanely tough and resourceful, which builds on the idea that there are clear similarities amongst the two. Ambrose shows he isn’t afraid to get sadistic like Owens, but Owens shows that he has almost as much guts as Ambrose by pulling himself back up to his feet on numerous occasions, before using his brain to get around one count out tease by rolling outside of the ring so he can put his feet on the ground to break the count. This is so great because it shows that Owens is tough but also that, with his back against the wall, he’ll be prepared to take a cheap way out whilst Ambrose will throw everything out there and let the cards land where they may. It’s the core difference that separates them.
At one point Owens literally yells “I Hate You!” to which Ambrose replies “I Hate You Too!” You get a feeling that it isn’t just hate Owens feels for Ambrose, but almost a sense of jealousy. It’s almost like Ambrose is what Owens would like to be, but he knows he’ll never be able to overcome his own inhibitions to get there, so he decides he wants to destroy him instead. I love how the finish comes from Owens getting so frustrated that he sets Ambrose up for a big moonsault onto a stack of chairs, only for Ambrose to shove him off through a double stack of tables that Owens himself set up. After all the intricate ways Owens tries to destroy Ambrose, Ambrose ends up winning by not over thinking things and shoving Owens through his own contraption. I kind of love that.
Royal Rumble 2017
Chris Jericho locked in a cage
Kevin Owens Vs Roman Reigns
This is yet another good brawl featuring Owens, as he and Roman clobber each other in a very enjoyable match. Jericho being in the cage means that he isn’t able to help Owens like he had in previous matches, but it ends up being for naught thanks to a surprise run in from Braun Strowman to set up his long running feud with Reigns. One of the highlights of the match is Owens setting up a terrifying contraption of amassed steel chairs, only for them to sit outside the ring for a large chunk of the match without being used.
Despite countless detours, we do finally get to the firework factory, but it ends up being Owens who takes the tumble through the chair contraption of doom, just as he ended up going through the stable stack the previous year against Ambrose. Basically, if you ever see Kevin Owens putting together an outrageous stack of weaponry in a match, it would be safe to bet that he’s going to end up going through it himself. He doesn’t have a good track record on that front.
Not unlike Snake dropping Raiden ammo from the Kasatka during the Harrier fight in MGS2, Jericho tries dropping brass knuckles down to Owens during the match, but Reigns manages to kick out from a brass assisted Owens punch. Aside from that, Jericho is mainly reduced to rattling the bars of the cage and looking worried. I know there’s a movement online to suggest that Roman Reigns isn’t an especially good wrestler, but I think matches like this go a long way to show that such a theory is bunkum. Reigns is a pretty darn good worker, and he carries his end of things here admirably.
Watching Owens take so many gnarly bumps on the floor and through chairs kind of makes a mockery of the idea that WWE is so much safer to work than other wrestling companies as well. Guys take plenty of big scary bumps in WWE all the time. I’m personally amazed that it took Owens until 2018 to be out for a prolonged period of time due to injury. He’s an absolute bump machine here. Reigns takes a hard choke slam onto a commentary table as well, before getting powerslammed through a table in the corner, so he takes his licks too before everything is said and done. I remember I watched this match in a bar and people were going nuts for the near falls at the end, and the roof almost came off the place when Owens went through all the chairs. What an utterly nutso spot that was!
Royal Rumble 2017
John Cena Vs AJ Styles
I love the build up to this match, with a possibly washed up Cena wanting to prove he can do it one more time against the supremely confident Styles. It’s a story as old as time and the huge crowd are invested in the match right from the off. What follows is a match for the ages, the sort of epic stadium match that lives in the memory. This is a match that WWE could put up against any other company and know it would compare favourably. Styles is fantastic as a cocky jerk, whilst Cena is excellent in his role as the veteran who can still get it done, even if his best days may be behind him.
My abiding feeling from this match is how happy I was for both men, for different reasons. I was happy for Styles because his showing here was so impressive, and I was happy for Cena because he showed he could still get in there with one of the best wrestlers in the world and carry his end of things in a great match. I’m not sure Cena is ever going to have another match that can touch this one, and it’s telling that he hasn’t really been a regular on the roster since this happened. In some ways this was Cena’s swansong before moving into semi-retirement, and it was one heck of a bout to close on.
This match really has everything you’d want from a big match. There’s the stadium setting, great wrestling action and a strong emotional story to hold it all together. It’s the sort of match that rams home the reality that Cena is far better in the ring than his detractors would like you to believe, as well as being the sort of match that really highlights just how good AJ Styles is as worker. Styles, even in defeat, came out of this match a bigger star once it was over, and he’s been a pushed commodity in WWE ever since. Had this match not been as good as it was, Styles could have gone down to the mid card following it and stayed there. However, he showed what he was all about here and it didn’t go unnoticed.
Jack Swagger Vs Matt Hardy (Royal Rumble 2009), Edge Vs Jeff Hardy (Royal Rumble 2009), Edge Vs Dolph Ziggler (Royal Rumble 2011), CM Punk Vs Dolph Ziggler (Royal Rumble 2012), Alberto Del Rio Vs Big Show (Royal Rumble 2013), The Rock Vs CM Punk (Royal Rumble 2013), Kalisto Vs Alberto Del Rio (Royal Rumble 2016), Charlotte Flair Vs Becky Lynch (Royal Rumble 2016), Charlotte Flair Vs Bayley (Royal Rumble 2017), Adrian Neville Vs Rich Swann (Royal Rumble 2017)
Well that’s the Rumble list completed! I hope you’ve all enjoyed these. I’ll be doing the same when I get to WrestleMania and Summer Slam as well
I’ve been toying with doing a list for ECW Guilty As Charged, but I’m not sure there’s enough good matches there to justify a list. If you think you’d like to see me have a bash at it, then say so in the comments.
Thanks for reading and take care till next time!