I’m back with part 14 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #16 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 came from none other than The Implications, our resident NJPW expert here on LOP.
Here is where the countdown currently stands:
#30. The 2009 Royal Rumble.
#29. The 1991 Royal Rumble.
#28. The 2011 Royal Rumble.
#27. The 1998 Royal Rumble.
#26. The 2000 Royal Rumble.
#25. The 1995 Royal Rumble.
#24. The 2015 Royal Rumble.
#23. The 1993 Royal Rumble.
#22. The 1988 Royal Rumble.
#21. The 2006 Royal Rumble.
#20. The 2014 Royal Rumble.
#19. The 2002 Royal Rumble.
#18. The 1999 Royal Rumble.
#17. The 2012 Royal Rumble.
Question of the Day: Do you prefer a Royal Rumble with terrible action but a fantastic and memorable ending over a Royal Rumble that is solid but unspectacular throughout?
The Great Khali
Wow. People talk about this era and how poor the product was. They aren’t wrong, but it sure wasn’t the result of a lack of talent in the WWE. The 2007 Royal Rumble was absolutely loaded. There were big time main eventers in The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Orton, Edge, King Booker and Kane. There were former main eventers and still outstanding wrestlers in Chris Benoit, RVD and Ric Flair. There were a tremendous amount of rising stars in the match, whether it be CM Punk, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Johnny Nitro, MVP or The Miz. Even though WWECW was a terrible idea, they provided an avenue for popular outsiders such as Tommy Dreamer, Sabu and The Sandman to participate in the Rumble. There were almost no wasted spots in 2007. This roster is as good as any on paper.
The Storylines and Flow.
It’s important to separate the ending sequence of the 2007 Royal Rumble from the remainder of the match. While the finish was every bit as good as people remember it to be, the rest of the 2007 Rumble was akin to a virgin with a twelve inch c*ck – a complete waste of talent.
Finlay is a hindsight wrestling hipster pick for a popular mid card act, but that simply wasn’t ever the case. He was tough as nails and has been an invaluable asset behind the scenes, but he was always a boring persona on screen. With all of the talent involved, why would the WWE choose Finlay to be one of the iron men of the match? Ric Flair only got five minutes, Jeff Hardy only three, yet freaking Fit Finlay gets half an hour to bore the heck out of everyone? I just didn’t understand the point.
If you Wiki’d the match times of this Royal Rumble and saw that Matt Hardy, CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, RVD and Chris Benoit were all in there for over fifteen minutes, you’d think that the action must have been spectacular. It was anything but. When I say that nothing happened, NOTHING HAPPENED. We were treated to bland and uninspiring action for almost the entire duration of the match, which is crazy considering the level of talent involved.
There was literally ONE storyline throughout the entire match prior to the ending, and it a laughable one involving Kane and Booker T. After Kane eliminated Booker T, Booker snuck back in and did the dirty to the Big Red Machine. Standard fare and normally acceptable as a mini-angle to keep the match moving. I would have no issue with this if it had led to a solid upper mid-card match at Wrestlemania between the two. Instead, nothing came of it. Booker T ended up in the Money in the Bank match and Kane was the victim of a Great Khali squash. Again, I didn’t understand the point. If the WWE was only going to do one storyline for the entire match, it needed to be a lot strong than this one.
On top of a lack of storylines, there weren’t any surprises in the 2007 Rumble either. Being the first Royal Rumble to include all three brands, each brand had 10 representatives. Because of this, there wasn’t any room for any nostalgia entrants. While it’s not a requirement to score well on my countdown, the inclusion of nostalgia could have covered up for the lack of meaningful action that was happening throughout.
There were a couple of noteworthy moments. First, the record for most wrestlers to eliminate someone was broken when it took eight men to toss Viscera. Ironically enough, Viscera was the wrestler in the question for the previous record of 7 men all the way back in 1994. Wait a minute, Viscera was Mabel? Finkle was Einhorn! Second, the Great Khali had arguably his best night ever. He came in at #28 and completely wrecked shop. He eliminated seven wrestlers in a span of roughly four minutes, including popular baby-face acts in Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam and CM Punk. When The Undertaker showed up at #30 and he and Khali squared off, it felt like a big deal. The pop when The Undertaker eliminated him was massive. Take note – this is exactly how you should book a monster in a Royal Rumble match.
When the best I can do for the first 45 minutes of a Royal Rumble match is praise short spurts involving Viscera and The Great Khali, that’s not a good sign for the overall quality of The Royal Rumble. Onto the good stuff.
The Final Four.
To say that the final four delivered is the understatement of the century. I don’t even know where to start. First off, the WWE picked the right four wrestlers to be there at the end. While the 2007 Royal Rumble had a loaded roster, The Undertaker, HBK, Edge and Randy Orton were the only conceivable winners.
I loved the dynamics of these four being the last remaining. On one side, you had two iconic good guys in The Undertaker and HBK. On the other, you had two hated heels that were currently a team. I thought the psychology between Edge and Orton towards the end of the match was nuanced and excellent. They teased the type of tension which would have normally led you to believe that one would have turned on the other and caused their demise. Instead, they ultimately chose to work together and became a formidable threat to HBK and Taker.
HBK’s rapid fire eliminations of Orton and Edge to get us down to the final two was killer. Once Edge and Orton joined forces, I felt that they’d eliminate either HBK or The Undertaker to lead to a traditional two heels v one face finishing sequence. Instead, we were left with a Hogan/Warrior type showdown between two of our heroes.
What could I possibly say about the showdown between HBK and The Undertaker that you don’t already know? The entire final ten minute sequence is as good as it’s ever been in the Royal Rumble. This was the beginning of a magical 2 ½ year arc between the two men, an ever-arching story that is amongst the best that has ever been told. Needless to say, the final four for the 2007 Royal Rumble gets an A+ from me.
The Undertaker was not as obvious of a winner as one would think in hindsight. Going into the match, I believe that most people viewed the 2007 Royal Rumble as being wide open. As I mentioned above, one of the strengths of the final four was that all four men were conceivable winners. While the Undertaker was one of the people that I thought could emerge victorious going into the match, it was not a foregone conclusion that he would do so.
The Undertaker was an extremely satisfying winner. He had always been a headline level act but was usually in the secondary headlining match rather than the focal point that an entire major show was built around. Winning the 2007 Royal Rumble positioned him in a different light, and that was incredibly important.
I’m even willing to argue that this match catapulted him to even greater heights than he had achieved prior. This win put The Undertaker in one of the two world title matches at Wrestlemania. Although The Undertaker v Batista wasn’t given the main event slot, it was the match that absolutely had the most hype behind it going into Wrestlemania 23. It delivered in a huge way. At the time, it felt like the WWE still wasn’t quite convinced that Taker was the “last match at Wrestlemania” type. This match went a long way to dispelling that notion. In fact, the WWE made up for their mistake by giving The Undertaker the main event slot at Wrestlemania the following year over the 2013 Royal Rumble winner, John Cena. The rest is history.
How do you rank a Royal Rumble that is completely uninspiring for the first 45 minutes but has perhaps the best final ten minutes of any in history? It was a struggle for me, but I really felt like I found solid middle ground with the #16 slot. This Rumble is one of the worst ever if you take away the final ten minutes, and one of the best ever if the WWE did ANYTHING reasonably decent with the meat and potatoes of the match. Where the 2007 Rumble ranks on your personal countdown ultimately hinges on which side of my QOTD you ultimately land on. Good luck sorting that out.
The Rebuttal – by The Implications.
IMP: First off, I’m going to be always biased for the 2007 Royal Rumble. This was the first WWE event I watched live on Pay Per View, so thanks to nostalgia this show will always be near the top of my favourites. So with that said, this should be much higher Mr Fenichel! Billed as, “The most star studded Royal Rumble in history!” the promotion for the show was all about the incredible amount of talent in this match. I mean, come on, the thing STARTED with Ric Flair at number 1! Yes, started!
The roster for this Rumble was packed full of WWE’s biggest stars: The Undertaker, Edge, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Booker T (sorry, ‘King Booker’) and Kane. Also the WWECW Era gave them the ability to pad out the match with ECW legends such as Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Sabu & Sandman. One of whom got eliminated through a table! Fans loves tables! On top of that we can’t forget future World Champions in Jeff Hardy and CM Punk.
Of course, to many 2007’s Rumble outing will be remembered for two things, the first ever winner to enter at number 30 and the incredible ending contest between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Aka arguably the greatest battle between the final two Rumble combatants ever! Seriously, only two Rumbles come anywhere close and they’re each regarded as two of the best, 2001 and 2002. 2007’s ending was mini classic match between two of WWE’s best ever in ring performers. A small foreshadowing of what was to come two years later at WrestleMania 25.
Arguably the greatest final two surely deserves a high ranking, right? Even if Khali did eliminate all your favourites that year, surely Shawn Michales vs The Undertaker makes this Rumble a classic.
That’s a wrap kids. As a reminder, it’s a PPV week. That means that my next installment in the countdown won’t be until a week from Friday, as I will be posting my review of The Elimination Chamber early in the week. Agree or disagree with the placement of the 2007 Rumble? Sound off below!
Facebook: David Fenichel