Top 5 Most Memorable Royal Rumble Moments
The Royal Rumble encompasses what professional wrestling is about, more so than any other event. The spectacle of 29 men running into the ring only to go back out again, along with all the smaller feuds and narratives that form during the match make for a memorable experience that draws in even the most novice of fans.
The Rumble is what started my own love of wrestling, when I saw Shawn Michaels win the event in 1995 while at a birthday party for a friend. I had never seen wrestling before that point and wasn’t excited about the prospect of sitting around while a bunch of old dudes hit each other, yet I found myself unable to ignore the sheer majesty of pro wrestling that only the Royal Rumble provides.
Since that day I’ve looked forward to every Rumble, waiting for the unexpected to happen and for the surprise and wonder, I had as a kid to come forth. In many ways the Rumble is professional wrestling’s version of Santa Claus: Sure, we know it’s fake, but it doesn’t mean that for one night that fans can’t pretend that some magic and unpredictability isn’t waiting in the wings.
Some of these unpredictable moments are now etched in wrestling history, while others are hidden and waiting for discovery from new fans. Regardless if you’re a newbie Rumble viewer or a grizzled veteran, here’s five moments in Royal Rumble history that stand out among the pack.
AJ Styles comes to WWE; Roman looks confused
Hot off an amazing performance at Wrestle Kingdom against current NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles joining the WWE seemed like a fever dream drawn straight from some teenaged edgelord’s crappy fantasy booking.
Yet, the Phenomenal One appeared in the number 3 position of last year’s Royal Rumble. The crowd reaction was incredible, and AJ’s first opponent in a WWE ring would be no other than the guy with the wettest hair, Roman Reigns.
This moment deserves a higher ranking on the list, but I simply cannot rank it higher for a few reasons. Michael Cole’s call on this moment -- as with most of his calls -- is terrible, as he squeaks out an “Oh, my!” like a southern plantation owner clutching her pearls as she faints.
The bad commentary only compounded Roman’s ridiculous facial expression that the camera centered on, instead of AJ’s entrance. The video above is not the footage from the live event, and it’s a shame since this unused footage gives the moment the space and gravity it deserves.
Many surprise entrants have happened in the Royal Rumble, but none stand out as much as AJ Styles, even if they don’t want none.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens let out their feelings
Sami Zayn’s road to the WWE main roster was one of amazing crowd reactions and terrible setbacks, making many wonder if the fan favorite would ever get his deserved debut reaction.
This magical moment from last year’s Rumble is the emotional apex of a story with Kevin Owens dating back to 2014 and back and forth sniping between the two, with Owens absolutely losing his mind at the sight of his arch rival taking the stage.
The Owens and Zayn feud from last year was one of the few long-term programs that didn’t disappoint, and this moment more than stands out as a prime example of how a feud can go to the next level.
I guess he wasn’t…. Tough Enough?
This moment takes some explanation, so refer to the video above as we step back to November of 2004. Daniel Puder was part of the 4th Tough Enough competition, which involved the contestants being on WWE television on a regular basis. On this particular night, Kurt Angle challenged contestant Chris Nawrocki to a shoot match, with Angle injuring the young performer and pinning him in moments.
As the story goes, Puder took offense with Kurt’s shellacking of the rookies and took it upon himself to teach Angle a lesson. Daniel immediately took control of Angle in what has been confirmed as a legit fight, with Puder locking in an actual key lock and forcing referee Jimmy Korderas to count the pin and get the two separated.
Angle was furious afterwards, and Puder would go on for years gloating about how he could have snapped Angle’s arm on national television if he had wanted to.
Mistakes were made. That said, Puder would pay in the worst way. Fast-forward to the 2005 Royal Rumble, as Daniel Puder enters the ring with Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Hardcore Holly.
While people have claimed otherwise, the video is shows clear evidence that this was Puder’s just desserts for trying to show up a wrestling legend. The three veterans light up Puder in a very real way, with Hardcore Holly dropping Puder on his head and wheelbarrow low-blowing him.
In-ring justice has never been so clear, or hard to watch.
Shawn Michaels runs the table
The legacy of Shawn Michaels began at the 1995 Royal Rumble, as did my own love of pro wrestling. This was the first time the number one entrant also won the event, and HBK worked his ass off in one of the most memorable Royal Rumble matches of all time.
This match also marked the first use of the fake victory gimmick, where Shawn held onto the ropes after being thrown over by the British Bulldog, only to flip himself back into the ring and shove Davey over the ropes to win the match.
#In which no quad is safe
Other, more important moments exist in Royal Rumble history, but when I think of dumb, amazing things to show new wrestling fans I always go with this clip. What’s the story behind Vince running to the ring like a maniac, only to sit down and scream like a baby?
The 2005 Royal Rumble was Batista’s year to shine, even if the former enforcer for Evolution was relatively green. The original finish to the match was Dave tossing John Cena over the top ropes; no muss, no fuss. Of course, things went wrong: Dave held on, both men went tumbling to the ground at the same time, and everyone suddenly had no idea what to do.
Enter the Geriatric Jackhammer.
Vince storms the ring, only to blow out a quadriceps in the process of getting in the ring, causing him to fall to the mat. All the while, he continues to angrily dictate to the referee that the match was to start over and the exact same finish as before would occur, only this time without Batista messing up.
So, of course, Vince blows out his other quadricep in the process.
This moment stands out for it’s weird blurring of the lines that exist in professional wrestling. Never before have I seen an instance of everyone not knowing what to do, enraging Vince enough to hit the ring with a little bit too much gusto.
This may not be the most important Royal Rumble moment, but it’s certainly the most memorable.