The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#17)

The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series – Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#17)

Hi kids.

I’m back with part 13 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #17 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 Caleb Baldwin – his second appearance on the countdown.

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.

Question of the Day: Which Royal Rumble do you think outperformed its talent level the most?

#17. The 2012 Royal Rumble.

The Roster.

The Miz
Alex Riley
R Truth
Cody Rhodes
Justin Gabriel
Ricardo Rodriguez
Santino Marella
Kofi Kingston
Jerry Lawler
Ezekiel Jackson
Jinder Mahal
The Great Khali
Booker T
Dolph Ziggler
Hacksaw jim Duggan
Michael Cole
Road Dog
Jey Uso
Jack Swagger
Wade Barrett
David Otunga
Randy Orton
Chris Jericho
Big Show

Woof, this roster was ROUGH. Only Randy Orton and Chris Jericho were true main eventers. Dolph Ziggler was a world title challenger from earlier in the night, but he was far from the star he was a year earlier. This Rumble was a prime example of the Nexus hangover effect. Guys like Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger and The Miz were pushed aside to strap the rocket ship on the Nexus storyline. After the Nexus failed, the WWE was left with a roster devoid of over superstars. There’s a reason that over 20% of the Rumble roster consisted of surprises and nostalgia acts. This rumble was littered with guys that people thought could be something but weren’t used right. From a star power standpoint, this was one of the weakest Rumbles ever.

The Storylines and Flow.

This Rumble had no business being good, yet it was. I enjoyed the mid-card storyline between the Miz and R Truth. The Miz eliminating R Truth only for Truth to pull him out of the ring and hit him with a flat liner wasn’t the kind of storyline that defines a Rumble, but it definitely helped keep the action moving.

I thought the stretch in the match between Mick Foley, Ricardo Rodriguez and Santino Marella was comedic gold and memorable. I always felt bad for Ricardo Rodriguez. You could tell that he had all of the in-ring and personality skills to be a huge superstar, but it was just never going to be in the cards for someone who looked like him. This was as close to a shining moment as he ever received. The showdown between Foley’s Mr. Socko and Santino’s Cobra was classic. Speaking of Foley, he was the first of many nostalgic acts that worked to perfection in 2012.

Speaking of nostalgia, this Rumble was DOMINATED by it. I already discussed Foley, but there was so much more than he. This was the Rumble where all three commentators (Lawler, Cole and Booker T) participated straight from the announcer’s table. They were all eliminated quickly and returned to their respective positions as if nothing happened. It was cheesy but fun. I enjoyed it and it definitely helped with the flow of the match. I’m all about uniqueness and Team Announce Table was exactly that. Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s inclusion was more or less useless but The Road Dogg was an amazing and unexpected surprise. Perhaps the best of all the surprises was Kharma. She came in and absolutely dominated. It brought back memories of Chyna many years prior. All in all, the WWE did a tremendous job of using acts from the past to mask the obvious flaws of the current roster.

Perhaps the most memorable portion of the Rumble was the first ever Kofi Kingston elimination spot. This was the famous handstand walk. It was shocking and I’d never seen anything like it before. It popped the crowd in a massive way and scored major points on the countdown. It’s a perfect example of how even the smallest angles and/or storylines can have a massive impact on the quality of a Royal Rumble.

2012 certainly turned lemons into lemonade, and I haven’t even gotten to the part that outkicked expectations the most – the finish.

The Final Four.

On paper, the grouping of Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and a 2012 version of The Big Show was one of the weakest in Rumble history. Fitting with the underlying theme of this Rumble, the final four vastly outperformed expectations.

I thought the psychology was very strong. It made sense for the other three wrestlers to go after The Big Show because of his size. I would have preferred that Show put up more of a fight than he did, but it was logical and worked for me.

I normally don’t like rapid fire eliminations, but having Randy Orton get dumped immediately after The Big Show elimination was effective. Orton was by far the biggest star in the final grouping. The Rumble took place in his hometown. His elimination out of nowhere was surprising as he had to be considered the favorite to win. This allowed the WWE to set up a traditional face v heel dynamic to close the Rumble, without having to worry about the shadow of Orton looming.

The Sheamus v Jericho finish was fantastic. It was lengthy and the wrestling was excellent. At no point did the WWE telegraph who was going to win. There were many false finishes and they had the crowd on the edge of their proverbial seats.

All in all, this final four was booked perfectly and add a tremendous amount of value to the 2012 Royal Rumble.

The Winner.

Sheamus winning the Rumble was a major shocker. Going into the Rumble, only Jericho and Orton seemed like they were plausible victors. Randy Orton was the big star and the Rumble was in his hometown. Chris Jericho had just made his return and a monster push seemed like it was in order. When it came down to the final three, I was convinced Orton was going to conquer. When Orton was eliminated, I was certain that Y2J was finally going to get his Rumble victory. Instead, the WWE took a leap of faith on Sheamus. I didn’t believe it would happen until it actually did. That’s as surprisingly as it gets.

I’m on the fence as to whether or not Sheamus was a satisfying winner. On one hand, I’ve never been huge on him and long term, his main event push just didn’t work. However, he was reasonably over at the time and it definitely felt “fresh” when it happened.

This Rumble definitely catapulted Sheamus into a new tier. He had been champ before, but it’s different to win a Royal Rumble and go onto win the title at Wrestlemania. Even though it led to a thirty second curtain jerker against Daniel Bryan, it still counts.


The WWE did an amazing job with a Rumble that on paper, had absolutely no hope of being successful. They kept the action moving through surprises and non-wrestler nostalgia type comedic acts. 2012 is far from the best Rumble, but it looked like it should be bottom of the barrel based on the roster at the time. Instead, it far outkicked its coverage.

The Rebuttal – by Caleb Baldwin.

Caleb: Dave, when you originally told me the 2009 Royal Rumble was ranked dead last in your poll I was shocked. I could think of several in my mind that it was better than, including the 2012 edition of the battle royal.

Admittedly I was excited by the prospect of The Miz being the iron man in this Rumble match, that was a very good move. However, considering the match started off with entrants like Alex Riley, PJ Black, Ricardo in a comedy spot, Santino, and a washed Mick Foley I knew this would be a very questionable Royal Rumble.

Throw in that 3 more spots were essentially wasted on the commentary team, and a very blasé run up until the Final 4 I would say this is ranked way too high at 17. However I must admit that the final faceoff between Chris Jericho and Sheamus was a very enjoyable one.

That’s a wrap kids. Agree or disagree with 2012’s placement on the countdown? Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel
Twitter: @FFFightLeague

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