Posted in: The Eternal Optimist
The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#30)
By Dave Fenichel
Nov 23, 2017 - 4:51:54 AM

Hi kids.

It’s been a few weeks, but I’m excited to be back. Today is the first in my 30 part column series where I rank the Royal Rumble Main Events. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy writing about the current product. However, there’s something about taking a historical look back at events of the past that really gets my juices flowing.

Ranking the Royal Rumbles was a more difficult task than either of my previous column series on Wrestlemania and Summerslam for a couple of reasons.

First, my level of love for the various Wrestlemania and Summerslam main events is all over the map. It was easy to drop the matches into one of three buckets – matches I loved, matches I hated and matches that fell somewhere in between. I couldn’t do that with the Royal Rumbles. Truth be told, I love almost all of them. The Rumble is my favorite match of the year. The sheer spectacle of it always intrigues me and sends me home satisfied. Ranking the Royal Rumbles was more of an exercise of choosing between children.

Second, the previous criteria that I used for my countdowns simply doesn’t work for a Royal Rumble analysis. I couldn’t just evaluate the build, match and impact. The Royal Rumble match itself represents the allure and the draw of the build rather than any storylines leading into it with very few exceptions. As I previously mentioned, almost all of the Rumbles delivered in some way shape or form. Lastly, because The Royal Rumble has been linked to the Wrestlemania main event, just about all of the Rumbles have had significant historical impact.

Instead, I’ve developed a group of “factors” that I evaluated for every match. These are the aspects that I felt had the most impact on my overall enjoyment. Here they are:

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 before we get started.

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 Caleb Baldwin – a buddy of mine and the host of The SMC Wrestling Podcast – found on the Social Suplex Podcast Network.

Question of the Day: What is YOUR least favorite Royal Rumble and why?

Without further ado, here’s the Royal Rumble that ranked DEAD LAST on my countdown:

Royal Rumble 2009.

The Roster.

Rey Mysterio
John Morrison
The Great Khali
Vladimir Kozlov
Triple H
Randy Orton
Ted DiBiase Jr.
Chris Jericho
Mike Knox
The Miz
Cody Rhodes
The Undertaker
CM Punk
Mark Henry
Shelton Benjamin
William Regal
Kofi Kingston
RVD (surprise)
Brian Kendrick
Dolph Ziggler
Santino Marella
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (surprise)
The Big Show

The star power of this Rumble wasn’t terrible. Triple H, Randy Orton and The Undertaker were all established main event players at the time. Chris Jericho was red-hot in 2009 and a legitimate threat to win this going in. Even though he was a surprise entrant, Rob Van Dam still had tremendous appeal at the time. The star power was clearly not the problem.

The problem is the rest of the roster. Guys like Rey Mysterio, The Miz, R Truth, Kane and The Big Show were far from their peak popularity in 2009. We were supposed to view Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase Jr. as stars, but they were nothing but underling jobbers riding the coattails of Randy Orton during their Legacy run. Dolph Ziggler was brand new at the time and a complete non-factor. CM Punk became a megastar, but he wasn’t that in early 2009. His first Money in the Bank Win at Wrestlemania 24 and subsequent title reign felt more mid-card than anything else, and it wasn’t until later in that year where he caught fire and ended up headlining Summerslam against Jeff Hardy.

The biggest issue of all was the fact that this Rumble took place during the infamous “WWECW” era. At this time, the WWE tried to capitalize on ECW’s popularity and created a third brand. Unfortunately, it completely bombed. Gone was the hardcore action that we were used to seeing. Instead, the WWE used it as a vehicle to put wrestlers we didn’t care about in main event positions. It didn’t work. This impacted the 2009 Royal Rumble roster tremendously. The WWE chose to do 10 wrestlers from each brand. Because of the ECW inclusion, this Rumble was filled with jobbers and guys that just weren’t over.

Overall – this was one of the weakest Royal Rumble rosters ever.

Storylines and Flow.

Come on. I ranked this list. You know that I’m not going to have many positive thoughts here.

The start was absolutely dreadful. It didn’t hook me or get me invested. The WWE chose to book Vladimir Kozlov, a big generic foreign dude who couldn’t wrestle and didn’t have any charisma, like a monster early in the match. When the highlight of the first 10-12 minutes is Kozlov eliminating an equally useless Great Khali, you know that you’re in trouble. Even worse, why bother to build him up as a legitimate and credible threat only for Triple H to easily squash him upon his entrance? It just didn’t make any sense.

One of the lone interesting aspects of the match was that the two biggest players came in back to back incredibly early on in the match. Triple H and Randy Orton coming in at #7 and #8 was surprising. You’d think that the flow of the Rumble would have benefitted from having the top two guys in so early, but it didn’t. In fact, it took a lot of the drama out of the match. Just about everyone who came in after them felt like an also ran that was just fodder. It didn’t lead to quality television for me.

This was a Rumble that lacked storylines. Cryme Tyme using a double-headed coin to determine which member would be the Royal Rumble entrant was the kind of thing that was not suitable for the match. It’s the kind of segment that would have worked well backstage earlier in the show, but it completely bombed in front of the live crowd. I normally wouldn’t even bother to mention this when discussing my analysis, but it was only one of two “happenings” during the match. All in all, despite the presence of Triple H and Orton, the first 10 entrants of the 2009 Rumble were as dull as any in history.

It didn’t get much better from there. Chris Jericho was treated as just another guy in the 2009 Royal Rumble. As I mentioned above, he was red-hot at the time. While I generally don’t have the same kind of appreciation for lengthy stays in Royal Rumbles as others do, Chris Jericho’s consistently great performances are an exception. 2009’s Rumble stay was not one of his better runs, and it was a Rumble that sorely needed it.

It wasn’t all bad. I really enjoyed the sequence of spots where Orton dropped everyone with an RKO, Triple H hit him with a pedigree, and Mysterio avoiding elimination by stepping on eliminated superstars to climb back into the ring. This was a highlight of the match.

Much like the case with Chris Jericho, the Undertaker was made to look like an afterthought two minutes after he joined the fray. One of the biggest problems of this match was that Orton, Dibiase and Cody Rhodes just completely dominated as a stable. I guess this would have been enjoyable for the Randy Orton fans out there, but it was horrific for the rest of us.

The match dragged terribly from about #12 through #30. Eliminations were not frequent enough. There were just too many wrestlers in the ring for a large portion of the match. Jim Ross said it best when, clearly exasperated, he said: “folks, we apologize. It’s really hard to keep up with the action in the ring”. He was right. Whenever the ring fills up like that, it’s incredibly hard to follow. Seriously, there were 14 guys in the ring when #30 hit. It was completely ridiculous and borderline unwatchable.

The surprises were just ok. Although technically a “surprise”, the return of Rob Van Dam was expected. This was during the stretch of Royal Rumbles where the WWE really went all out to have a surprise return that impacted the match tremendously. While RVD was still wildly popular, he didn’t have the impact on the match that the WWE would have hoped for. Hacksaw Jim Duggan was a complete waste as a surprise here. He received a nostalgia pop but was eliminated in thirty seconds. What was the point?

The match FINALLY got interesting around the final 8 participants. Rapid fire eliminations of RVD, Jericho and Kane really woke the crowd up. They treated the final six (Legacy, HHH, Taker and Big Show) like they usually treat the final four.

The closest thing we got to a storyline was The Big Show eliminating Taker after he had been eliminated. They brawled on the outside. I don’t get this one at all. The Big Show wasn’t a main event player at the time. It didn’t make sense to have him eliminate The Undertaker. It wasn’t a Wrestlemania-worthy match in 2009. The WWE quickly realized the error they made and paired The Undertaker off with HBK instead. When the #1 storyline in the Rumble is a dud that gets nixed prior to Wrestlemania, it’s hard to give the storylines a grade of anything other than an F. This was a weak transition into our final four.

The Final Four.

I’ll keep this short and sweet. The Final Four consisted of Randy Orton, Triple H, Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton. The WWE fell into the same problem that they did so many times during the 2000s. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE was interested in seeing a face Triple H overcome the odds. As such, pitting all three members of Legacy against him to close the Rumble was not compelling.

The action was mailed in as well. Triple H dumped Rhodes and Dibiase like the jobbers that they were, only for Orton to sneak up behind him and land a sneaky elimination for the victory. This completely missed the mark on all levels.

The Winner.

Randy Orton winning wasn’t at all surprising. You could have argued that this could have been Chris Jericho or The Undertaker’s year, but Triple H and Orton were the obvious favorites going in. His victory was not at all satisfying either. I’m biased. Randy Orton has never done it for me. This was arguably the best stretch of his career, but I wasn’t clamoring for him to headline Wrestlemania.

This Rumble catapulted him in the sense that it led to his first Wrestlemania main event and a surprisingly good feud with Triple H. However, the fact that he got completely squashed in one of the worst Wrestlemania main events ever sours me on his win and this Rumble even more so than all of the terrible aspects of the match had already had.


There are very few Rumbles that I absolutely abhor, and this is one of them. A complete lack of storylines, slow action, too many wrestlers in the ring and a final four that wasn’t at all compelling was a recipe for disaster. The Royal Rumble 2009 was an easy choice for worst ever.

The Rebuttal – by Caleb Baldwin.

Caleb Baldwin: Dave, you put the 2009 Royal Rumble at the VERY bottom?! What's wrong pal? Did Randy Orton shit in your bag? This match was amazing and to be at the end of this list is an absolute disgrace. We've seen Royal Rumble matches like the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, AND 2015 match and this still ranks last? This is an absolute travesty of justice that requires intervention from Walker, Texas Ranger.

The running story of Randy Orton being saved by Legacy was entertaining. Cody even eliminated Goldust, which isn't the last time we would see this happen in a Royal Rumble. Big Show had a run of dominance in this match which wasn't completely boring unlike one that would come six years after this. You had a VERY memorable spot of Santino actually breaking The Warlord's fastest elimination record.

No crowd favorites were left out of this match, much less any that were considered a favorite to win the whole thing. This is a top 12 Royal Rumble match that was for some reason put towards the VERY bottom of said list. I don't get you, Dave.

That’s a wrap kids. I’ll be back in a couple of days with #29 on the countdown. Sound off below!

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Twitter: @FFFightLeague