It’s Royal Rumble season, which means it’s almost WrestleMania season. Thanks to the WWE Network, you can go back and watch all the old Royal Rumble pay per views and matches, and in that spirit, I decided to rank the winners. I’ll be ranking the winners every day until the we reach #1, and if you’re interested in checking out who’s already on the list, use the tricky magnifying glass at the top of the screen and search ‘Royal Rumble winners’ or scroll through the blog. Now, onto the rankings!
7. Shawn Michaels – 1995 & 1996 Royal Rumbles
Mid 90’s Shawn Michaels is arguably the greatest performer of all time. He was unmatched in the ring, solid on the microphone and his overall attitude and personality ushered in a new and exciting era for WWE fans. Michaels is the second multi time winner on this list (Batista) and the first wrestler we’ve featured who won back to back Royal Rumbles. In ’95, Michaels entered 1st overall and lasted the entire match, eliminating The British Bulldog, who entered second, to win the match. HBK had a more modest showing in ’96 entering at #18, but he still lasted 26 minutes and eliminated 8 other superstars.
The Good: healthy HBK was the best in the business. During his first run, from 1992 to early 1998, he did it all. He won every major championship in the WWE and participated in the first great ladder match and the first overall Hell in a Cell match. Along with HHH, he created Degeneration X, a major factor in the birth of the Attitude Era. Michaels retired in 1998 and wouldn’t return until to in ring competition until 2002. While four years away from the ring would affect most people, HBK came back better than ever. He would go on to wrestle consistently until his retirement in 2010. During his hall of fame career, Michaels earned the nickname ‘Mr. WrestleMania’, and it’s easy to see why. Razor Ramon at WrestleMania 10, Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12, Jericho at WrestleMania 19, Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21, Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24, The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 & 26; pick any Shawn Michaels match from any WrestleMania and I guarantee you it was one of it not the best match of the night.
The Not So Good: chronic back injuries forced Michaels to semi retire in 1998, and he missed four years of his prime. While he might have been a handful to deal with backstage early in his career, Michaels always performed in front of the camera. That he is only at #7 on this list goes to show you how many top tier talents have won the Royal Rumble.
WrestleMania XXX is only 5 days away, so there’s really no other topic to dedicate this week’s monster blog too. Over the last 29 WrestleMania’s, hundreds of matches have been on the card, but only 29 have been the main event, and even fewer “stole the show”. Here are our picks for our favorite WrestleMania match of all-time.
Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle – WrestleMania 21
The cool thing about WrestleMania is that a lot of times the match that sticks with people the most isn’t the main event. Steamboat/Savage, Undertaker/HBK I, and my personal favorite, HBK vs. Kurt Angle. No title was on the line here. Just two guys having one hell of a wrestling match. It’s no coincidence that at 27:25, this was the longest match of the night: Angle was in his wrestling prime, and Shawn Michaels kinds of defies logic because he never got out of his prime. A lot of people rank HBK/Undertaker I as the best WrestleMania match ever, and I’m not here to dispute that, but I always enjoyed HBK’s matches with smaller guys more than the Undertakers of the wrestling world. He matched up well with everyone, but people of similar stature, especially submission specialists, always brought out the best in HBK, who was an underrated mat worker. After HBK’s slap this match gets moving and never slows down, pretty much taking the air out of the crowd for the remaining two title matches. You can virtually insert HBK vs. anyone onto this list, but I’m going with the Olympic gold medalist here. It’s true. Its’ DAMN true.
The Rock vs. Stone Cold – WrestleMania 17
First, how awesome was this promo? Probably the best of all time. Kudos to Limp Bizkit for the killer track that will forever be related to this match and promo. Legend…….wait for it…….
Heyman says it best: “This is the match that both men need to win, and neither man can afford to lose” and that pretty much sums it up doesn’t it? Two of the biggest superstars of their generation, in their prime, going head to head in their second of three Wrestlemania matches. This was one of those good old fashion brawl matches. Both guys were absolutely out for blood and it show with every punch, suplex, and bell shot. Bonus alert: who doesn’t love a match where Vince interferes.