The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series - Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#18)

The Eternal Optimist Presents a 30 Part Column Series – Ranking the Royal Rumbles (#18)

Hi kids.

I’m back with part 12 of my 30 part column series, “Ranking the Royal Rumble Matches”. Today, I’ll discuss the Royal Rumble that came in at #18 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 Rance Morris, aka Rey Ca$h from the forums. He’s one of my favorite people don’t there, and glad to see that he chose to partake in my madness.

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.

Question of the Day: Did Vince McMahon winning the Rumble cheapen the event for you?

#18. The 1999 Royal Rumble.

The Roster.

Steve Austin
Vince McMahon
Steve Blackman
Dan Severn
Tiger Ali Singh
The Blue Meanie
Road Dogg
Al Snow
The Godfather
Ken Shamrock
Billy Gunn
Big Boss Man
Triple H
Val Venis
Mark Henry
Jeff Jarrett
D’Lo Brown
Owen Hart

The roster for the 1999 Rumble was solid but unspectacular. While everyone rightfully remembers this Rumble being all about Austin and Vince, there were plenty of other acts that were over. DX was an incredibly popular baby-face act at the time, and all four members were in the match. Kane had also turned face recently and was in the midst of a great run. Ken Shamrock, The Big Bossman and Test were all hated henchmen of Vince’s. Mark Henry was in the middle of the Sexual Chocolate Gimmick. Chyna was as popular as ever. Even Jeff Jarrett and Debra were a pairing that had gotten over in a big way.

The problem with the roster was that outside of those ten or eleven guys, there wasn’t that much going on. Lack of depth during 1999 presented a unique challenge that the Rumble match had to overcome.

The Storylines and Flow.

If you’re looking for a Royal Rumble that provided a great in-ring product, this one should rank last on your list. Nothing that was going on in the ring was remotely compelling until the very end. However, if you’re looking for a Royal Rumble with fantastic storytelling that took you on a journey from beginning to end, 1999 is right down your alley.

This Rumble was all about Austin and Vince. In fact, I’d argue that this took place during the prime of the Austin/McMahon feud. Vince put a bounty on Austin’s head of one hundred thousand dollars. They were the first two in the match and the last two left standing. Not much that happened outside of the action between the two was particularly compelling, but that’s ok. Their story was more than good enough.

One of the things that made this Rumble so unique was that just about all of the noteworthy action took place outside of the ring. It had to be brutal for the crowd in the arena. I would imagine it was akin to the fans at the Manhattan Center during Raw25. However, for me as a TV viewer, it was fantastic.
Austin and McMahon’s brawl through the arena and into the back was legendary. I loved the injury angle that saw McMahon lure Austin into a bathroom only for his goons to attack and leave him laying. Austin and Vince were never going to “wrestle” for the entire match, so this was a perfect way to bridge the gap.

Along with the overarching story, the WWE filled the first twenty entrants with all sorts of shenanigans. It was shenanigans here and shenanigans there. It was shenanigans everywhere. I swear to god, I will pistol whip the next person that says shenanigans. Don’t come at me with the delicious mozzarella sticks or the goofy $hit on the wall either.

The sacrifice of Mabel to the Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness was completely insane. Taker’s version of the Heaven’s Gate Cult basically dragged him out of the ring, said a few prayers and turned him into a goat. This ultimately led to Mabel becoming a member of the MoD because hey, #AttitudeEra. Regardless, this was nuts and an underrated Royal Rumble angle.

Another wacko storyline was Kane’s involvement. Now that he was a face, it only made sense that he’d be on the opposite side of the table as Vince. His run in the Rumble was short lived. He came in, cleaned house and eliminated himself to chase after Vince’s “white coats”. Why were there white coats present you ask? Because Kane was crazy, that’s why! He was unfit to be in society, as opposed to the guys making human sacrifices earlier in the match, right?

As I mentioned, the Rumble roster only went about ten or so deep. The WWE did a brilliant job of hiding the endless parade of losers amongst all of the craziness. Eliminations were fast and furious. If they didn’t have the roster to make a traditional Rumble match work, it made sense to keep it moving as quickly as possible.

Vince coming back to the ring at entrant 19 while the ring was empty was smart. He brought importance back to the match. I liked that he stayed on commentary. Realistically, he would have never survived if he was in the ring. Someone unimportant would have surely thrown him out. Instead, you got solid entertainment from him at the desk while keeping him around for the finish.

The WWE continued to use cutaways to mask the lack of action going on in the ring. One particularly effective one saw the APA and Mideon loading Mabel into the Undertaker’s hearse. While that was going on, Austin showed back up driving the ambulance that he was loaded into. I loved this. It wasn’t for everyone, but it sure worked for me.

Backloading the talent made for a strong final third of the match. We were treated to a historic moment, as Chyna became the first woman ever to enter the Rumble at #30. Her elimination of Henry and subsequent elimination by Austin were highlights of the match.

All in all, the WWE did an amazing job of hiding the weaknesses of the Rumble roster with all sorts of wackiness and tremendous storytelling. While the in-ring action is the weakest of any Rumble, all of the mayhem surrounding it make the 1999 Rumble one of the most re-watchable from a storyline and flow standpoint.

The Final Four.

D’Lo Brown had no business being one of the last four men remaining, but the interaction between Austin, The Big Boss Man and Vince worked for me. The Boss Man played the role of a henchmen to perfection. He tried to do Vince’s dirty work but it was scuttled. I liked the rapid fire eliminations of D’Lo and The Boss Man. Austin/Vince was THE story and there was no point in beating around the bush.

I thought this was one of the better closing sequences to a Rumble. The Rock showing up after Austin laid a legendary beat down on McMahon was expected. What wasn’t expected was The Rock actually being successful in helping eliminate Austin. No one saw that coming and it remains etched in my mind to this day.

The Winner.

Vince winning the 1999 Royal Rumble was as surprising as it gets. Everyone and their mother expected Austin to win and challenge The Rock for the title at Wrestlemania XV. Absolutely no one saw this coming.

One would think that the idea of a non-wrestler winning the Rumble would make my skin crawl. The opposite was the case. I found Vince’s victory to be incredibly satisfying. Another Austin win would have felt like more of the same. There weren’t any other good options to still get the WWE where they wanted to be, so Vince made perfect sense.

This led to an incredible build to Wrestlemania that saw Austin and Vince’s first ever one on one match at St Valentine’s Day Massacre. I felt like we were given two Wrestlemania main event quality matches in consecutive months. Absolutely no complaints here.


The 1999 Royal Rumble isn’t for everyone. The in-ring was overshadowed by the outside. I enjoyed it though. The Austin and Vince storyline was compelling throughout, and I can watch this one on repeat without getting bored. Not one of the best, but not one of the worst.

The Rebuttal – by Rey Ca$h.

Rey Ca$h: So Dave, I really don’t understand why the 1999 Royal Rumble is ranked so low. Number 18??? Really?!

Last time I checked, fans want their Rumbles to have a cohesive story. This one had it (Austin and the $100,000 bounty). I thought fans wanted memorable moments, which this one had (Austin being jumped in the women’s bathroom by the corporation, Mabel being attacked by the Ministry, Kane being attacked by the psych ward guys). I also thought fans wanted a bit of history in their Rumbles, which this one definitely had (Chyna being the first woman in a Rumble and eliminating Mark Henry). So what’s the problem?

I’m not saying that it’s a perfect Royal Rumble. Far from it. There was too big of a lull in between Austin being laid out and put on a stretcher and him coming back into the match. I also understand the issue with Vince, a non-wrestler, winning the whole thing. But this Rumble, in my opinion, has one of the best overall stories of any Royal Rumble they’ve ever done. Austin and Vince were the hottest feud in wrestling history, and having Vince use everything in his power to try and screw Austin was gripping television. Also, having The Rock come back out after his I Quit match with Mankind and help distract Austin to have Vince win, was a fitting end and perfect foreshadowing for what would end up being the first of quite possibly the best trilogy in WWE history.

So yeah, you’re dead wrong here man. This is a top 5 Royal Rumble. Easily. Your list is subsequently flawed.

That’s a wrap kids. Agree or disagree? Sound off below!

Facebook: David Fenichel

Twitter: @FFFightLeague

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