Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#28)
By Dave Fenichel
Nov 29, 2017 - 11:07:50 PM

Hi kids.

I’m back with part 3 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #28 on the countdown. As a reminder, here are the criteria that I used to analyze the matches:

The Participants - The easiest way to create a Royal Rumble is to have a compelling roster that people want to see participate. I’ll take a look at the level star power, the level of “overness” of the other players, and whether or not there were an unnecessary amount of jobbers and/or non-factors in the match.

The Storylines and Flow of the Match - The storylines are without question the most important part of a Royal Rumble match. I’ll look at whether or not the storylines presented enhanced the match. I’ll also look at the surprise entrants and evaluate whether or not they added value. Lastly, I’ll look at whether or not the match had a solid flow or if it dragged at times. This is by far the most important category, and it will be the category in which I spend the majority of each column discussing.

The Final Four - Every Rumble inevitably comes down to a “show down” between the final four competitors. Here, I’ll look at whether the WWE chose a strong group to represent the final four, and whether or not the end game to the Rumble was compelling.

The Winner - I’ll evaluate three things relating to the winner of each Rumble. First, was the winner a surprise? I have a strong appreciation for Rumble winners that weren’t necessarily expected to win. Second, was the winner satisfying? Just because the winner wasn’t someone I expected doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the outcome. On the other hand, just because the winner was a foregone conclusion doesn’t mean that I didn’t love every minute of it. Lastly, how did winning the Royal Rumble impact this wrestler at Wrestlemania and beyond? The overall success of the subsequent push impacts how I view many of the Rumbles and their winner.

A couple additional disclaimers:

First – lengthy Royal Rumble runs rarely move me. Sure, you might love Rick Martel lasting 53 minutes in 1991. I didn’t. He, as well as almost everyone else that goes coast to coast, spent the majority of the match sitting in the corner getting kicked. For me, a single wrestler’s longevity is the most overrated factor in evaluating the strength of a Royal Rumble.

Second – these factors aren’t weighted evenly. They are merely talking points. My overall impression of the Rumble is what ultimately mattered when I made my rankings.

Last, but certainly not least – I’ve added a new wrinkle to this column series. As you already know, my thought process on wrestling seems to wildly differ from the majority of the fans in our community. Many have taken me to task in other forums over where my rankings ultimately landed. I’ve decided to incorporate that into this column series. As such, every entry will end with a guest “rebuttal” telling me exactly why I’m an idiot for ranking that particular Rumble where I did. The guests range from my fellow columnists, both on the main page and the Forums, to real life friends, to buddies I frequently interact with on social media. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think you’ll enjoy the alternative takes.

Today’s rebuttal comes from Rich Latta – author of “Latta’s Lariat” on LOP, and my partner in crime on The Doc Says.

Here is where the countdown currently stands:

#30. The 2009 Royal Rumble.
#29. The 1991 Royal Rumble.

Question of the Day: Was a 40 man Royal Rumble an idea that should have never seen the light of day, or could it work with a better plan?

#28. The 2011 Royal Rumble.

The Roster.

1. CM Punk
2. Daniel Bryan
3. Justin Gabriel
4. Zack Ryder
5. William Regal
6. Ted Dibiase
7. John Morrison
8. Yoshi Tatsu
9. Husky Harris
10. Chavo Guerrero
11. Mark Henry
12. JTG
13. Michael McGuillicutty
14. Chris Masters
15. David Otunga
16. Tyler Reks
17. Kozlov
18. R Truth
19. Great Khali
20. Mason Ryan
21. Booker T
22. John Cena
23. Hornswoggle
24. Tyson Kidd
25. Health Slater
26. Kofi Kingston
27. Jack Swagger
28. Sheamus
29. Rey Mysterio
30. Wade Barrett
31. Dolph Ziggler
32. Diesel
33. Drew McIntyre
34. Alex Riley
35. Big Show
36. Ezekiel Jackson
37. Santina Marella
38. Alberto Del Rio
39. Orton
40. Kane

The roster was plenty strong for a traditional 30 man Royal Rumble. John Cena, Randy Orton and Sheamus were legitimate superstars at the time. Rey Mysterio was still a popular act. Alberto Del Rio was on his way to becoming a major player. Mark Henry was in the middle of the biggest push of his career. While Kane and The Big Show weren’t at their respective peaks, they are always treated like big deals come Rumble time. Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston were mid-card champions on the rise. Although CM Punk was completely lost in the midst of a terrible storyline between the New Nexus and the Corre, he was still an impact player.

There’s no point beating around the bush. The bump from 30 to 40 wrestlers caused all of the problems here. Why? It’s simple. The WWE didn’t use the extra ten spots wisely. Instead, they loaded the field with every jobber on the roster. The WWE took what could have been a fantastic idea and heaped garbage upon it. There isn’t anything else that needs to be said.

The Storylines and Flow.

With the increase in entrants, the WWE had more time to fill and a much more difficult task to keep the match moving at a nice pace. They failed miserably.

It was a complete dud to have the two Nexus factions brawl at the start of the Rumble. No one cared about the New Nexus and The Corre because John Cena had single handedly killed them dead five months earlier at Summerslam. This was not the way to start the match as it cooled off the crowd immediately.

You might think that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan being the first two wrestlers in the ring would be an amazing and unforgettable moment. It wasn’t. Neither guy was nearly as over as they would become later in the year, and as a result this was a run of the mill way to begin a Rumble.

The first twenty entrants were absolutely dreadful. In addition to the pathetic underlings of the two previously mentioned factions, you had Yoshi Tatsu, Chavo Guerrero, Zack Ryder, Ted Dibiase Jr., JTG, Kozlov, Chris Masters and Tyler Reks. Brutal.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my cap to John Morrison and his amazing elimination save. He jumped off the apron and clung onto the barrier, only to scale across and leap back onto the ring apron. It was an unbelievable feat of athleticism. He was Kofi Kingston before Kofi was Kofi, yet doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Outside of that incredible spot, I don’t have anything positive to say about the first half of the match. I get what the WWE was trying to do. They wanted the New Nexus to look strong and draw heel heat by eliminating Daniel Bryan, John Morrison and Mark Henry. Unfortunately, all it did was clear the way of compelling superstars for a parade of losers to unsuccessfully unseat them.

The entire story of the first half of the match was Punk’s New Nexus dominating the ring. I understand what they were going for, but it didn’t work for me. This occurred too early in the match for them to be taken seriously as a credible threat. Instead, it came off as a way to kill time in an entirely too long Rumble until the real players showed up.

I was completely bored for approximately half an hour. Even when they tried to mix things up, it didn’t work. I didn’t understand why they took the time to have The Great Khali eliminate a Nexus member only for Mason Ryan to immediately show up, eliminate him, and leave us in the same exact position that we were in prior to Khali – 4 Nexus Members dominating the ring.

The second half of the match started off well enough. Although short lived – Booker T was a nice surprise. I understand that the WWE needed the ring to be clear for what was about to happen and Booker’s time was cut short as a result, but better planning could have avoided this. You could have easily had Booker come in earlier in the match in place of the unrelenting band of misfits. It would have helped the flow tremendously.

I am really torn on the John Cena/New Nexus portion of the match. On one hand, Cena is a megastar. The pop when he showed up was huge, and the explosion from the fans when he eliminated Punk was one of the high points of the match. On the other hand, this was a missed opportunity. This would have been a perfect spot to elevate someone new by having that person be the man who knocked Punk and the New Nexus off of their high horse.

Hornswoggle was the unquestioned star of the match. His FU on Tyson Kidd was amusing. His teaming with Cena and then later Kofi was entertaining. His constant checking of his watch while waiting for wrestlers a la Steve Austin, his shaking of the ropes like The Ultimate Warrior and his Sweet Shin Music were all funny nostalgia-based comedic moments.

Once Hornswoggle was eliminated, the match quickly fell off a cliff. Once again, too many jobbers and not nearly enough action. Diesel as a surprise entrant was awesome. One of my favorite surprises ever. Unfortunately, he became an afterthought immediately after his entrance. It was a precipitous decline from there.

It was a good idea to have Ezekiel Jackson eliminate the Big Show. He had size and a marketable look. It should have been a good way to position him as the new monster in the eyes of the fans. Perhaps it was because he was part of the terrible stable warfare that was plaguing this entire match, or perhaps it was because he just didn’t have it. Either way, this didn’t work. The crowd didn’t care about him or his elimination of The Big Show in any way, shape or form.

Even worse, Alberto Del Rio’s entrance didn’t pop the crowd at all. I was surprised on re-watch. I remember thinking that he was already getting big reactions by the time this Rumble came around. This should have been an omen for how his eventual run would work out, but I guess I couldn’t see the forest through the trees at the time.

There were a few other positives. The Orton/Cena stare down where they both looked up at the Wrestlemania sign was a nice red herring. They were the two biggest stars in the match by far, and I couldn’t help but feel like this moment was foreshadowing them to be the final two wrestlers in the match. Instead, we were treated to the ONLY great storyline of the match – The Miz’s elimination of John Cena. The Miz was the champion at the time and was on commentary. He didn’t want to face Cena at Wrestlemania, so it made a ton of sense for him to sneak in at the opportune time and eliminate him. It was a clever way to use the Royal Rumble to kick start the Wrestlemania Main Event feud without being involved in the actual finish to the match.

The match once again fell into an abyss once Cena was eliminated. The ending sequence was slow, plodding and completely uninspiring. The final 8 was treated like the final four, and it was one of the weaker closing arcs in any Rumble.

The Final Four.

The entire closing sequence was a mess. Alberto Del Rio, Santino Marella, Randy Orton and Wade Barrett were one of the weaker final fours ever. As I previously mentioned, Del Rio wasn’t over enough to justify his push. Santino was a comedy act and no one even realized that he was still in the match. Randy Orton never worked for me as a face and Wade Barrett was on the ass-end of the WWE screwing up his push.

The rapid fire eliminations of Orton and Barrett led you to believe that the match was over and Del Rio had won. Santino returning was memorable but not particularly well done. First, he was nowhere near a big enough act to convince ANYONE that he would really win. Second, having Del Rio eliminate him right away was a complete buzzkill. This would have come off much better if he was allowed to get some offense in and tease a Del Rio elimination. Instead, it came off as anti-climactic.

This final four and end of the match was one of my least favorite in Rumble history.

The Winner.

Alberto Del Rio winning the Rumble was mildly surprising. Neither Cena nor Orton were positioned to be a likely winner, and there wasn’t an obvious choice as a result. Nonetheless, it didn’t feel like Del Rio’s time had come yet. Not since Brock Lesnar had the WWE pushed someone to a Royal Rumble win so quickly upon their debut, and only Yokozuna before that was pushed in the way ADR was.

I didn’t find Alberto’s win to be satisfying at the time, and I stand by that now. Ultimately, Alberto Del Rio was a guy that looked the part and had some talent. He was a guy that Vince McMahon and the WWE wanted us to believe was a superstar, but he was just a “good piece”.

Luckily for us, the WWE realized this and nixed him winning the title at Wrestlemania. They temporarily de-railed his mega-push and he lost to Edge in the opening match of the show. This ended up being Edge’s last match, but that’s another story for another day. Needless to say – unlike the previous wrestlers that won a Royal Rumble incredibly early in their careers, this win didn’t catapult ADR to tremendous success.


A 40 man Rumble could work, but this one didn’t. There were far too many jobbers, not enough storylines, almost none of the storylines that occurred were any good, and the ending was as flat as any in Rumble history. There is a reason that this Rumble ranks amongst the worst of all time. Unexpectedly good performances from John Morrison and especially Hornswoggle are the only things keeping the 2011 Royal Rumble out of the basement on the countdown.

The Rebuttal – by Rich Latta

Rich Latta: It’s not like 2011 was the greatest Royal Rumble or anything, but my buddy Dave has found a rumble he could spin to be unexciting enough to somehow put it under The Great Disaster of 2015. That Rumble is a manual on how to ruin your next big star, murder your current one and infuriate the world. Here’s the deal with the 2011 Rumble. Folks have killed the 40 man field and said it was just way too much. Without actually watching it, sure you could say that. What actually happened was they cut the intervals back to 1995’s 90 seconds, and it flowed like any other rumble. This was mainly done to give space to the Nexus and Corre guys. It’s interesting to see so many guys that had potential at the time and how they ended up being used.

There were two nostalgia spots that actually blew the roof off the place in Booker T & Diesel. We got CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan for at least 20 minutes with extended Punk/Regal and Bryan/Regal action mixed in. There was attention given to closing the Nexus chapter while foreshadowing later Punk/Cena showdowns. John Morrison went full parkour, and we got a purely fun ending with Santino making the crowd come unglued at the end. Alberto Del Rio was in his early days on the roster and got solidified as a guy who would be a player much of the next 4 years. The Hornswoggle stuff was atrocious, Matt Striker on commentary never does anything but cause stone face glares, and Michael Cole was approaching the height of his intolerable heel lead announcer role. However, this rumble gets crapped on for the number “40” and it having to compensate for the top stars like Taker, Shawn, HHH, Batista, and Edge not being in it. I’d probably put this in the middle of the pack and nothing more, but Dave is trolling you all to keep 2015 out of the basement.

That’s a wrap kids. Tune in next time to find out what Rumble ranks #27 on the countdown. Agree or disagree thus far? Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague