Doctor’s Orders presents: Half Luck, Half Skul – January Madness – The Greatest Royal Rumble Match (Round of 32, Part 2)

Doctor’s Orders presents: Half Luck, Half Skul – January Madness – The Greatest Royal Rumble Match (Round of 32, Part 2)

Doc’s Note – Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to a presentation that I have absolutely loved participating in but did not conceptualize. This is the brainchild of Skulduggery of the LOP Columns Forum and it is awesome, so I’d like to continue sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Bracket C

(1) Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (’00) vs. (9) Jeff Jarrett vs. Razor Ramon (’95)

mizfan: Another massive stomping, please. Cactus/Foley should annihilate in this round!

Skulduggery: Lamb, meet slaughter. The Intercontinental Championship match is solid but looks downright pedestrian when consumed by the monstrous shadow pitched by the Street Fight. Everything about this match is spectacular and feels like a massive deal. The pre-match promo is amongst the best you’ll see – with the champion handily decimating Mankind, causing the latter to bring about Cactus Jack. Triple H’s change from smugness to fear instantly sells the threat. Even the referrals to the big stage on which they are competing – “You want me at the Garden? You want me at the Rumble?”, “Mick Foley, your blood will stain New York City, I promise you that!”, and especially JR’s “And for a man that has wrestled on nails, in barbed wire, this’ll be a day at Central Park!” – contribute to giving this one a big fight feel. And then, of course, the match clobbers the already sky-high expectations.

Samuel ‘Plan: With a kinder draw, Jarrett vs. Ramon might have fared well. It’s a sleeper hit for sure, but a hit nonetheless, and one of Ramon’s trilogy of great Intercontinental title defences on Rumble cards during the New Generation Era. Sadly, here it finds itself against one of the true all-time greats, and a nostalgic favourite of mine too. Jack and The Game get my vote.

The Doc: Fair thee well, Razor vs. Double J. As underrated Rumble hits go, few are better than the ’95 IC Title bout and if you have anything other than fond memories of it, then I encourage you to give it a rewatch. It is not going to be mistaken for a tremendous match of that 4-star or greater quality that so many of us have become obsessed with in the modern age, but it was not tasked with being one, you must remember. Razor vs. Jarrett was a show-maker by trade, not a show-stealer. It was the kind of match that set the tone for headliners, giving them a rock solid baseline achievement to top. That said, HHH vs. Cactus is amazing and there is no reason why it shouldn’t advance. The first challenge it should face ought to be in the Sweet 16 against Bryan vs. Wyatt; that’s a sexy round 3 match-up.

Oliver: Never vote for Double J, ever. Trips vs Cactus for the win.

Mazza: Come on now, easy peasy one even without my New Gen bias. Street Fight to move on.

Prime Time: I don’t dislike the matches Hall had with Jarrett at all but it’s going to take more than this to take down the legendary streetfight.

(1) Triple H vs. Cactus Jack (’00) wins 7-0

(4) Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan (’14) vs. (12) CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler (’12)

Oliver: Sadly I can’t vote for People Power again here, because Punk and Ziggler’s effort is completely outgunned by Wyatt vs Bryan.

The Doc: If this is not a sweep, then I look forward to the reasons why not. Bryan vs. Wyatt is a fringe contender for the one of the greatest matches of all-time and no doubt will find itself right smack dab in the middle of the hunt for greatest mid-card match when Maverick and I get that far on our countdown. I was trying to think of characters whose arcs peaked at the Royal Rumble even if they ended up having more famous matches at WrestleMania, and Wyatt along with Goldust (in ’96) struck me as two of the best examples. Wyatt was so good in the cult leader role before WWE lost interest in further developing him beyond his peak and it was the effectiveness of his persona combined with the overwhelming might of the Yes! Movement that allowed Bryan’s brief run as a “Family” member to end so gloriously in that Cage Match on Raw, leading into this bonafide mid-card classic at the Rumble. I have so few treasured WWE memories since that ‘Mania Season, and Bryan turning on Wyatt to the thunderous ovation of the audience, unified in their support of him and his journey, is right near the top of my 2014-to-present day list. It has been a long time since I felt as bummed for a wrestler as I did that night in January 2014, not just because Bryan was not in the Rumble, but because he lost to Wyatt as well. This match was modern WWE at close to its finest.

Prime Time: I sort of remember them both as being OK but I don’t recall feeling more fond of one than the other. It’s another coin flip but this time tails leads us to Punk and Ziggler.

Mazza: Punk vs Bryan. The eternal smark battle for supremacy. Bryan won out in the SummerSlam version of this, and he wins out in this particular section of the rumble one. I have a lot of love for the match between Bryan and Wyatt even if the quality does sometimes get forgotten in the controversy of the night.

Samuel ‘Plan: Of all the matches remaining in this tournament, these two probably evoke the most lukewarm reaction from me. I know the Bryan / Wyatt match is a deserved cult favourite, and I adored it on the night, but for a multitude of reasons it’s lost a lot of its charm for me since it happened. Punk vs. Ziggler, though, is an outright flop, and I remember being awfully disappointed with it on the night. I’ll go for the 2014 curtain jerker I guess, but not with much conviction.

Skulduggery: Ziggler’s seemingly annual peak at the Rumble before grounding come Mania was a fun one in 2012, as he tangled with a CM Punk at the absolute top of his game. But the Cinderella pumpkin wheels derail here, at the hands of a chillingly dangerous Bray Wyatt and a game Daniel Bryan.

mizfan: It was fun to relive some super hot CM Punk, but all that farting around with Laurinaitis was a drag. Give me Bray and Bryan tearing down the house with ease here.

(4) Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan (’14) wins 6-1

(3) Diesel vs. Bret Hart (’95) vs. (11) Women’s Royal Rumble Match (’18)

Skulduggery: I needed yet another rewatch of both matches in order to pick a winner here. I find both matches have an absolute bulk of positives that nevertheless surround some worms, like a delicious cobbler with just that one burnt corner. When considering Diesel/Bret, you have the straight wrestling action between the two, a cerebral toss-up between the scary power of the champion and the lethal execution of the challenger, marred by the absolute train of interference. With the Women’s Royal Rumble, you have a stream of excitement in the names and the terrific action, plucked by the far too frequent unknowing of the match status – there are so many times when active competitors have gone to the floor via bottom-rope escape. It’s tough to keep track of who’s in the match.

In the end, I think I barely side with the Women’s Rumble, as it provides more overall excitement. It does slow down toward the end, particularly with the likes of the Bellas and Nia Jax, but its spark up until that point is considerable. I wouldn’t hesitate to call Kevin Nash and the Hitman the smarter match, but doing a Sudoku puzzle doesn’t always carry the same thrill as a low-brow Mario Kart race between friends. Remove the doggy pile of extra-curriculars, and I’m likely casting a vote for the 1995 match. Lots of the time, the logical string sewn through a match also provides the electric current I seek, but in this case, there’s just a little too many worms in the bulk of positivity of Bret/Nash.

Side rant: Would you believe that a WWE crowd roundly booed Becky Lynch in 2018? It happened when she eliminated Lita in this match. Shortly before, a good chunk of the crowd chanted one of my least favorite chants – “You still got it” – to a wrestler that performed a couple of half-assed DDTs and scored, scarily, the least air on a moonsault I’ve ever seen. I shit you not, Evan Bourne regularly got more air on his moonsault from the mat than Lita got on that one from the top rope. Crowd: There were so many wrestlers in this Royal Rumble match that showed up for the first time in years and wrestled really well. Beth Phoenix. Michelle McCool. Trish Stratus. Lita was NOT one of them. Bite your fucking tongue on the “You still got it” chants. Christ. The one or two times a year it’s actually warranted, it is swallowed up into nothingness because it gets broken out when Lita hits a couple of half-assed moves or when Shane McMahon dances. Yeesh.

Samuel ‘Plan: Shall I prepare myself for disappointment, or hope for another 2008 Rumble Match-like upset? I hope my pick of Diesel vs. Hart succeeds here. I know that the Women’s Rumble has historic achievement, and to be fair not a complete lack of quality either, both on its side, but that 1995 World title bout is a ferociously infectious piece of work. I know there’s aspects to it some will find off-putting, but I absolutely love it, and vote again for it here. I genuinely believe it’s the better match anyway.

Oliver: I’m erring towards voting for the women’s bout here, but I think Bret getting something watchable out of Diesel is a far bigger achievement than having a good Rumble with a bunch of talented women in it, so I’ll throw it a bone.

mizfan: Really hoping people make the right decision here. Nash/Bret is overlong, overbooked, and overrated, a pale companion to their legitimately great Survivor Series match later that year. The women’s Rumble overachieved by a mile and was a tremendously fun experience, masterfully blending old and new and telling a layered story of the whole modern history of women’s wrestling in the WWE. Do the right thing, put the women through here!

Mazza: A lot of big New Gen fans involved in this, so I am not holding out much hope of a seeding upset. Give me a decent rumble over a match I care little for every time. I very much enjoyed the first women’s rumble. It was nostalgia heavy for sure but still a very good showcase for today’s ladies and that is enough for it to win out for me.

Prime Time: I’d like to give another vote for the women’s rumble which I really liked and think it does deserve to outlast some other matches which I think will go through, but I’d be lying if I said that Big Daddy Cool and Bret wasn’t obviously better. There are very few matches in this thing that it isn’t clearly head and shoulders better than, if we’re being truthful about it.

The Doc: The 2-3 combo in this bracket are on upset alert if you ask me. The Women’s Rumble has present time consciousness-fueled energy behind it, enough to knock off one of the most underrated title bouts in January Classic lore. Diesel vs. Bret is also one of the most underrated title bouts in Rumble history, so it’s going to be interesting to me to see if the same kind of reasons that favored the Women’s Rumble over Edge-Hardy work against Diesel-Bret. It was decisive in Round 1 for the Asuka-won battle royal and there is certainly part of me that understands it; I’ve seen it like 15 times since my daughter loves it so much at the tender age of six and there is a lot to like about it as a dude in his mid-30s even though it is far from perfect or even far from anywhere near the quality of its male counterpart from the same show. That said, Bret vs. Diesel is – like the New Generation itself – one of those types of performances that so far outshines its reputation. I don’t know about you, but I love matches that challenge previously held thought processes and flip them on their heads. Diesel-Bret is a head-flipper, the kind of match that surprises you with its quality from the word “go.” I’d like the chance to test it against some of the generally regarded best of the best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was it for it.

(3) Diesel vs. Bret Hart (’95) wins 4-3

(2) John Cena vs. AJ Styles (’17) vs. (7) Royal Rumble Match (’09)

Mazza: This is exactly the type of headache matchup that is going to be key to crowning a winner in this thing. An elite singles match against an elite rumble match. It’s quite early to be having this dilemma. AJ and Cena put on one hell of a show. 2009 seems seriously underseeded to me. We are talking a top 3 rumble match going up against a top 3 January title match here. I’ve got to go purely on mood and that tells me to go with ‘09 right now.

The Doc: I had to think about this one. I remain adamant that the Cena-Styles Rumble bout was the best of their series, and I absolutely take stock of the fact that it was heralded as one of the all-time great series in WWE history by a lot of critical thinkers. That said, if we think critically about it and start comparing it to its top-tier peers, I think it struggles in a way that, frankly, HBK vs. Taker at Mania 25 has started to struggle in recent times. What makes it so much better than the rest of the matches that are like it? Because, let’s face it, there are now a lot of matches wrestled in that, as ‘Plan and I dubbed it, “EPIC” style. I guess that depends in part on how you feel about the history and how much that history is able to resonate with you from viewing to viewing, for to wrestle an epic there has to be something pretty epic backing it up in story. For some, Styles was the ultimate indy guy, so his arc connects with them in a comparable if not grander way than did Cena’s matches with Punk and Bryan. Not for me, though, with all due respect; it came in a distant third on my list of Cena vs. the indy guys.

Styles vs. Cena, as a sequel to its Summerslam predecessor, is just pretty good, but where it shines is in its attempt to avoid classic tropes; I think that a match that good staying in the ring for its entirety is a very impressive achievement. Essentially, it was the main-event of WrestleMania wrestled in front of a WrestleMania type crowd that just didn’t actually happen at WrestleMania. Rumble ’09 tells a very good story and has many of the qualities that I endorse in a good to great version of the gimmick, but to me it’s a fringe Top 10 Rumble Match competing against a fringe Top 10 all-time match at the Rumble.

Oliver: Probably the toughest vote to decide in this bracket, for me. The Rumble from 2009 is, I think, the best Rumble match since the early 2000s, and if not before. I love it from start to finish, and think it gets a bit of a bad rep for some reason. The 2014 version, I think, pushed it close but didn’t quite get there – otherwise it’s definitely on top of recent years. But opposite it is Styles vs Cena, which is ridonkers. Like, stuff that shit into the Wrestle Kingdom 13 card and nobody would blink an eye. Meltzer would line up his stars and we’d have months of conversations about how it wouldn’t have got five stars in America or some shit. But that thing is great.

In the end, though, I’m going to be sentimental – give the nod to the Rumble match from 2009. I strongly suspect my fellow columnists won’t agree, but I’d make them wrong.

Prime Time: The 2009 Rumble match – the last one you could watch with your brain engaged – surely needs to go a long, long way in this thing.

Samuel ‘Plan: Had the Cena / Styles match eventuated in the intriguing character development Cena’s portrayal hinted at during bell time and not just kick-started arguably the single most inexplicably bizarre year in the long history of the WWE Championship, maybe I could be tempted into considering it more. Not here though. Not against the single greatest Rumble Match to have ever been put together. I go 2009, every time.

mizfan: Well this is a no brainer for me, and hopefully for everyone else involved! Cena/Styles did their best dance in 2017 but they never came together like many fans hoped they would. The ’09 Rumble is one of the very best and is ludicrously underseeded, so I hope it pounds it’s way through here and gets the recognition that it deserves!

Skulduggery: Even though I voted for it in the first round, I said Cena/Styles was not getting much love from me this tournament. And as early as Round 2, the blood flow from my stingy heart has rapidly dried up for John and AJ. There are some impressive sequences, but it just seems like they’re throwing moves back and forth until getting to the completely unsurprising number of finisher-kickouts. Others have applauded the fact that this match takes place completely within the ring. I guess I shrug at that praise? I don’t see the use of ringside as a crutch. If it makes the match better, why limit yourself? I mean, it’s fine that Cena and Styles keep it between the ropes – I’m sure there are many matches that I love that do the same thing – but I’ve never thought of it as a point of hurrah.

I may not find Orton’s first Rumble win as captivating as some of the other voters, but it still has enough strengths to comfortably dethrone Cena’s Flair-tying championship triumph, Santino’s quick elimination being one of them. It’s not only the mere 1 second which he lasted, it’s his afterward determination that he’ll be able to convince the referee to legitimately give him a second chance. “No, I wasn’t ready!”

Still a bit bummed about the landslide defeat of Triple H/Shawn Michaels, but there are far worse opponents to which it could have lost!

(7) Royal Rumble Match (’09) wins 6-1

Bracket D

(1) Royal Rumble Match (’92) vs. (8) Edge vs. Dolph Ziggler (’11)

Oliver: Going to stick with the short and sweet verdict on 1992 that was established in the first round. A clear winner.

mizfan: Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. ’92.

Prime Time: The 1992 Royal Rumble is tremendous, though perhaps not quite so tremendous as it was made into by the WWE’s own lore in the 1990s. But it’s hard to see anything knocking it out this early.

Mazza: 92 will get more words once it gets at least a little competition.

The Doc: Edge vs. Ziggler is a sneaky good match. Dolph’s work with my third favorite of all-time really was what made me jump on the Ziggler bandwagon and champion him as a Top 5 guy for the future. Though that upper-echelon status never came, the Rumble bout with Edge remains one of those matches on Ziggler’s resume that cannot be denied, in terms of its importance to his strong career and “what-if” credentials. That said, it’s up against the ’92 Rumble, which overwhelms you with star power and the unbelievably entertaining duo of Flair and Heenan, plus gives you moments like Randy Savage flying out from the back to an awesome pop to go after Jake Roberts. I think it’s a contest here, but Rumble ’92 is just too strong.

Skulduggery: I’m going to guess that this will be a 7-0 decision for the 1992 Rumble. And if I’m right, I’m fairly confident that I’ll have the slimmest gulf by how much Flair’s win defeats Edge/Ziggler. I’m a BIG fan of the 2011 match. Edge did for Ziggler nearly the same favor that Angle did for Edge in their series of 2002 matches – an established main eventer believably having a back-and-forth match with a midcarder that allowed the two to look like equals without ever suggesting that the main eventer moved whatsoever from that top tier. So this decision is not a blowout on my voting card by any means. That said, you can’t look past the incredible assortment of talent in the 1992 Rumble. Heenan’s commentary provides a perfect undercurrent for the barrel of fun going on between the ropes. Like ‘Plan, I don’t view this Rumble as the all-time best, but it is still very strong.

Samuel ‘Plan: I’m going to be the controversial one here, as I expect this will otherwise be 6 votes for the 1992 coming of age of the Rumble. 1992’s Rumble is vitally important in the event’s history and it’s a really fun watch even now. Is it as good as people say it is? I’m not so sure. Outside of some big names, there’s little about it you won’t find executed better elsewhere other than Heenan’s commentary track, and that’s not going to win any votes for me in a tourney about matches. On the other hand, Edge vs. Ziggler is better than it gets given credit for and is massively deserving of far greater infamy. There have been few World title bouts on Rumble cards quite so exhilarating or elevating. I’ll vote for the Rated R Superstar and the Show Off for that reason.

(1) Royal Rumble Match (’92) wins 6-1

(5) The Rock vs. CM Punk (’13) vs. (13) Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Glamour Girls (’88)

The Doc: Ladies and gentlemen, you have in Chad Matthews an ardent defender of the Rock vs. Punk match. If you never have, check out ‘Plan’s book and in particular his write-up on this match, which I think did a great job of championing the bout for what it was rather than what many hoped it might have been. Six years is plenty of time to allow the sting of Punk’s loss to wear off and, respectfully to an incredibly fun women’s tag match, it’s time to give Punk-Rock the credit its due historically. I hope very much to see it advance.

mizfan: My problems with Rock/Punk are almost too many to name. For every good thing that happens (and there are some, to be sure), I can name at least 2 bad things. The never explained pure nonsense of the finish is enough to make me choke. The women of ’88 kicked ass and absolutely deserve to go on here.

Prime Time: I was really glad the JBA’s got through the first round but they are probably going to fall at this stage. I don’t know that this [The Rock vs. CM Punk] is the most critically acclaimed match of all time but I don’t doubt it’s got enough to pull off the victory here.

Oliver: I’m sticking with my first round opinion – Jumping Bomb Angels vs Glamour Girls over everything. There’s a hell of a lot they do right in that match, the workrate is superb and speedy, and didn’t really overwork it’s audience. The crowd reacts to everything with purity, McMahon loses his mind about it all on commentary (even though he can’t determine which Bomb Angle is which), and everything about it is atypical for the era it’s in. I love it.

Skulduggery: This is actually a really tricky one for me. I praised the Angels/Glamour match in the first round and dumped on the Rock/Punk bout. Truth be told, there is an element of expectations playing into both assessments. CM Punk was sheer fire in early 2013, and so I had massive hopes for his championship defense on Day 434, but I was a little underwhelmed with a decent match. On the other hand, the first time I watched the tag team match from 1988, I went into it expecting very little, and was pleasantly surprised with how fun it turned out to be. But putting both matches on the same shelf, and comparing them without expectations, I have to begrudgingly admit that Rocky and Punk is a narrowly better watch overall.

Samuel ‘Plan: Not much to say here. I am absolutely delighted that the overhyped 2008 Rumble Match got voted out of the first round, but this pairing really shouldn’t be much of a contest. The women’s tag is fun enough, but has a lot of flaws. I guess you could say the same for Rock and Punk, but they earn my vote because I love the entire 2013 Rumble pay-per-view, I love the emotive line Rocky draws under the match (which really plumps up the subtext) and I just love the way the match plays out.

Mazza: So we have a new underdog story. I am not sure I get quite what is going on here but it is tradition in these things. I mean the Jumping Bomb Angels cameos in the WWE were extremely exciting at the time but I think the seeding is just about spot on. Which means it shouldn’t really be beating higher end matches. This is no exception. Phil and Dwayne FTW.

(5) The Rock vs. CM Punk (’13) wins 5-2

(3) Royal Rumble Match (’04) vs. (6) Royal Rumble Match (’02)

Mazza: Here we go. This is where I swear blind that 2002 is the better rumble but nobody believes me. I just think it is a fantastically rounded rumble. We have the Taker stuff early on with the Hardys and then Maven being a huge first half highlight. The second half has one of Austin’s last big moments as he dominates before being confronted with a returning Triple H. There is prime rumble comedy as the former 2 Man Power Trip take on The Hurricane. And of course there is Mr Perfect’s final awesome cameo for the company. It doesn’t hurt that Hunter won too of course. I’d take that every time over a rumble I don’t think has much going on outside a popular ironman winner. 2002.

Skulduggery: Reading Mazza’s thoughts in the last round about a possible ’04 vs. ’02 match-up had me smiling, because I’m of the same mind. 2004 is a good Rumble, but there must be something I’m missing for it to be lauded so highly in terms of its depth and storytelling. Goldberg is explosive for the time he’s in it, and Foley’s duration is riveting as well – but both guys’ stays are brief. Sure, you’ve got the Benoit iron man thing, but appearances of the likes of Jericho and Angle, what ought to be game changers, seem just a bit too standard. Riddle this with the minor timing/setup things I mentioned last time, and you’ve still got a good Rumble, but by my money, not a great one.

In the other corner we have 2002. Take Stone Cold Steve Austin, for instance. He won three of these things and was a massive player in 1999, so in strict terms of kayfabe success, this is like his 5th best Rumble. But what an outing! He obliterates a field of midcarders, reverts back to his watch-checking days of ’97, and isn’t satisfied with the time. What to do to stave off boredom? Gather the discarded jetsam, throw them back into the ring, and eliminate them all over again! Add his post-elimination temper tantrum, and it’s about a perfect character match for the Rattlesnake. Plus, Undertaker disposing of a pile of curtain jerkers in his own right, having a match within the match with the Hardys, all to get eliminated by a Tough Enough kid? Picture-perfect use of unpredictability that lies comfortably within the window of plausibility. Strong performances from Triple H, Angle, and Kane help conclude the match well. ’02 is just a bundle of fun, capitalizes on multiple unique advantages this structure of match has to offer, and has to advance here.

Prime Time: Battle of two Rumble’s, close apart. The 2002 Rumble is a real test of taste – that is, if you like it, you don’t really have any! OK, so that’s a little harsh – but the whole thing is basically a confidence trick, and a fairly fucking transparent one at that. It’s the Nigerian Prince of Rumble matches. There’s really not much that’s any good in the entire second half of the match and it relies almost completely on star-power and spectacle. It’s a junk food match. There is at the very least a lot of steak in the 2004 event, rather than being mere sizzle.

mizfan: There’s very little I would vote as better than the ’04 Rumble, which was a triumph of storytelling, interlacing plots, and engaging actions. ’02 is fun but it’s just too bloody long to reach the top echelon. Give me ’04 all the way!

The Doc: This is not tough for me because I think 2004 was the best Royal Rumble Match ever, but I can see how it might be tough for some. The ’02 Rumble is another personal favorite, but 2004 is superior in every way. 2004 is the most swiftly paced Rumble ever; something just clicked that night which allowed the entire run-time to fly by like never before from sequence to sequence and from entrant to entrant and, thus, is the Rumble that historically featured the least amount of downtime. I mentioned in the Round 1 voting process how the set-up for WrestleMania from this Rumble was the best ever (all of the Top 7 matches were hyped through the Rumble), and I’ll add that the climax was just unbelievably stacked, creating a wonderful dichotomy among the talents involved – hell, even their gear created an aesthetic palate unmatched in the gimmick’s rich history (you’ve got Angle’s red, white, and blue, Jericho’s eye-popping garb, RVD’s air-brushed mastery). I love everything about that match.

Oliver: A Rumble battle here between two of the better early 2000s versions, and for me 2004 gets the nod. It’s a bit less melodramatic than the 2002 version of the titular match. And unlike with Rey’s coast to coast work in 2006, Benoit is front and centre for all of it, the star of the match.

Samuel ‘Plan: My opinion on the 2002 Rumble Match has a tendency to fly around a little like a squash ball. I go back and forth on it a lot. I think its conclusion is oddly structured and the match itself lasts far too long. But I love the powerful sense of character that drives it, I love some of its set-pieces and I love the Austin / Helmsley stare down. 2004, however, is structured a lot more effectively, has just as many – if not more – fun set-pieces and signs off with an emotional victory for a powerhouse performance. I have to go for 2004.

(3) Royal Rumble Match (’04) wins 5-2

(2) Chris Jericho vs. The Rock (’02) vs. (7) Men’s Royal Rumble Match (’18)

mizfan: I thought the ’18 men’s Rumble was good, albeit a little contrived towards the end, but still I’m going to hold all the way down the line to my pattern and vote for it over a non-Rumble match, as I thought Jericho/Rock was grossly overrated when I rewatched it for this series. I’ll take those ’18 boys for the upset!

Mazza: I might as well complete the set here, right? Title match from 2002 to go along with the rumble match. We will not be mentioning the feud that came of them however.

Samuel ‘Plan: While not quite as tough as Bracket B’s opener, this one is a toughie for me too. The chemistry between Jericho and Rocky was always remarkable to see and it is out in full force during their high-octane, bristling Undisputed Championship Match more so than in perhaps any other example they offered up. But this year’s Rumble…. I have revisited twice recently, once for this series, once for Match(es) of the Year purposes and it continues to blow me away. I may need to write a full Performance Art Review of it because it really does need considering as one of the all-time best versions of the genre. I’ll vote for the 2018 Rumble I guess.

Skulduggery: The Undisputed Championship match is prime Rocky. Sure, broken down mechanically, it doesn’t do a ton in terms of innovative maneuvers or “work rate”, but stuff it. This match crackles with electricity, has a vilely hated heel and a babyface that has the crowd solidly behind him, and mixes the chemistry between the two to whip up an excellent show of Attitude Era-esque fun. The 2018 Rumble has a lot of great stuff, but some stinky parts, too. The Class of 2002 vs. Balor/Shinsuke/Roman was cool, but I think they went to the well a time too often when they reframed it as indy geeks vs. WWE golden geese only 2 eliminations later. Plus, I can’t put aside my bias of my favorites – Bray Wyatt and the New Day – getting ensnared in the awfulness of Matt Hardy and Jinder Mahal. Rock and Y2J, comfortably.

Prime Time: This wasn’t my favourite spell of Jericho’s career but I have very little good to say about this year’s men’s Rumble, so Jericho and Rock can easily progress here as far as I’m concerned.

The Doc: The Rock vs. Chris Jericho at the ’02 Rumble was the match that essentially earned the Rock-Y2J rivalry a spot in the Top 100 that shaped my new book, but after giving it a lot of thought, the 2018 men’s Rumble should go down as one of the Top 5 editions in gimmick lore and, as mentioned earlier in the process, I go with the Rumble Match when push comes to shove. The seeding was so important here, because I don’t believe that there’s much question that Rock vs. Jericho is one of the 16 greatest efforts in Royal Rumble lore, but to face what might end up being a 3-seed or higher a half decade down the road puts the ’02 classic at a distinct disadvantage. Chemistry is so important to the pro wrestling performance and, though Rock vs. Y2J is in-ring chemistry exemplified, the ’18 Rumble tells such an emotionally engaging story that goes beyond visuals. Whenever emotions are involved – whenever a match resonates on a deeper psychological level – it’s hard for that match not to get the nod in a tournament so long as the quality of the action is not significantly lesser; the quality on display in the 2018 Rumble is fantastic, frankly, so combine that with the higher-powered resonance and I honestly feel like we could be looking at this tournament’s Cinderella story.

Oliver: Jericho and Rock have always struck me as being an underrated in ring pairing, and I think they deliver here far more than the 2018 Rumble does, even though I think the latter is pretty strong. Sticking with the 2002 title bout.

(2) Chris Jericho vs. The Rock (’02) wins 4-3


You know how sometimes WWE pulls a swerve by not pulling a swerve? A match ripe for hijinks goes about its way cleanly, and that stuns the audience? That’s what I feel we have here with nary an upset! The 2009 Royal Rumble is the only match left that has a seed higher than 5, and I’ve been told by a few people how under-seeded it is! Nothing wrong with the fact that we don’t really have any Cinderellas left this tournament – just means we have monsters battling it out in the Sweet 16 and beyond.

5 Royal Rumble matches and 11 non-Rumble matches comprise the Sweet 16. 2001 and 2007 are the only years that still boast multiple matches surviving – and with their respective Royal Rumbles going head-to-head in one of my most anticipated Round 3 match-ups, that will definitively change! Speaking of the ’01 Rumble, only it and HHH/Foley went through the first two rounds at a perfect 14-0. Can anything make a dent in those next round?

More Madness, still to come!

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