With the famous Royal Rumble match upon us, The Inner Sanctum‘s wrestling team has taken a look back at some of its favourite moments from the 30-man battle royal.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved wrestling.
It all comes together at the end of January, for the Royal Rumble match. 30 men and 30 women. Endless possibilities.
Even as a sometimes casual viewer, the Rumble always makes it around here.
Because you never know who might show up, who might win, and who might give you a moment you never forget.
For me, the return of the Rated-R Superstar, Edge, holds two of the greatest rumble moments ever, almost exactly 10 years apart, was my Rumble moment.
His return in last year’s event that made an audience feel like a kid again. And I was no exception.
Edge was the most dastardly heel of a lot of wrestling fans’ childhoods and yet was still the most popular all at the same time.
He made it cool to be bad, and that’s how he remains one of the most popular wrestlers to have ever been in the WWE.
After a forced retirement at the age of 38, Edge would make casual appearances, but fans conceded they’d never see the master of the TLC match in the ring again.
Fast forward to 2020, and the Royal Rumble is in full swing.
With then-WWE champion Brock Lesnar eliminated after tearing his way through the first half of the entrants, it’s anyone’s game.
The countdown is almost done, and it’s time for number 21 to come out.
“You think you know me.”
When those five words come through the speaker, the crowd erupts.
As Alter Bridge plays throughout the area, the crowd is going crazy, the commentators are taken aback, and all they see is the return of an icon, a return they thought would never happen.
Edge walks down the ramp like he’d never left and picks up right where he left off.
Spear to Karl Anderson. Spear to Drew McIntyre.
Then he stops, and takes a minute to soak up the crowd.
A crowd that has not stopped cheering since he walked out onto the stage.
He then proceeds to eliminate AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and after making it to the final four, his ex-tag team partner Randy Orton.
With the other half of Rated-RKO eliminated, a storyline is primed to explode leading into WrestleMania.
Edge is then eliminated by Roman Reigns, setting up the finish.
But Edge, after no matches for nine years, has lasted 20 minutes in the rumble, eliminated three people and made an audience feel young again.
The Royal Rumble is my favourite event of the year, the match never fails to disappoint, and every year continues to interest me.
My favourite element of the match is always the surprises, whether that is NXT superstars, debuts, returns, or legends making an appearance, they’re always highlights for me.
My favourite Royal Rumble moment is one of these surprises.
For weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble in 2016, it had been rumoured that AJ Styles was heading to WWE.
For me who followed AJ for years prior, it was an incredibly exciting thought.
But in the back of my mind, there was that uncertainty about if it would happen or not.
So, the match arrives, Roman Reigns enters at number one defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship and quickly dispatches of Rusev who came in at number two.
I was watching on a small laptop at my grandparents’ house, eager to see what would happen.
As the clock counted down to zero as it always does and the buzzer sounded, Roman’s faced paired with that now-iconic theme song spelled the debut of the Phenomenal One.
I absolutely erupted with excitement as AJ Styles walked out, my family, who aren’t big wrestling fans were puzzled as to why I was so pumped over this, and although I tried to explain the sheer importance of this entry, their cluelessness didn’t matter to me, AJ was finally in WWE.
AJ Styles debuting at number three in the 2016 Royal Rumble is my favourite Royal Rumble moment.
When you start watching a new sport for the first time, it is only natural to cling to a team or player that excites you and encourages you to continue watching.
This is the main reason for ‘bandwagon supporters’ to pop up, seemingly out of nowhere.
When I began watching WWE, any wrestler that gained a roar from the crowd upon entrance also gained my attention and affection.
It also helped if they had a signature move I could practice on my siblings at the beach on a summers’ day, or if they won plenty of belts.
Wrestlers like The Undertaker, Kane, Batista, Triple H and John Cena were some of my absolute favourites.
So when John Cena tore his pectoral muscle in October 2007, I was devastated as a fan.
That sort of injury would rule out a fighter for an extended period of time.
The Royal Rumble was always the event of the year, with the winner punching their ticket to WrestleMania.
With my favourite wrestler, Cena, not expected to make an appearance, all my hopes were on The Undertaker.
Unfortunately, he was the first fighter of 30 in the ring, completely diminishing his chances of securing the win.
As a 12-year-old, I sat by and watched ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels join The Undertaker in the ring to begin the Royal Rumble after being the final two fighters left in the ring the year before.
The pair continued to fight each other whilst also fighting new combatants.
When The Undertaker was eliminated shortly after the 24th contestant entered the ring, I suddenly had no backup to barrack for.
Triple H entered the ring at 29, which convinced me that he’d be the one winning the Rumble.
Entering the ring as late as possible gives you the best chance of winning, but a wrestler of that calibre entering at #29 is almost unfair on the rest of the competition.
However, when the countdown clock hit zero, and “My Time Is Now” started playing, I leapt up from my beanbag.
John Cena appeared from behind the doors, arms crossed with a smirk on his face. All wrestlers in the ring stopped and stared.
Suddenly, Triple H wasn’t the favourite anymore.
Cena hadn’t fought for 117 days, but he looked to be in great condition and ready to fight.
Cena slid under the bottom rope and began dismantling the remaining contestants.
Within 30 seconds, he had tossed three of the seven fighters out of the ring. Cena and Triple H then stood eye-to-eye, stared down, and started trading blows.
Batista joined in on the fracas and eliminated three, leaving himself, Triple H and Cena.
Whilst all three were some of my favourite wrestlers, I found myself cheering for John Cena.
I didn’t expect to see him fight, so when he appeared I couldn’t help myself but barrack him home.
Batista began to take control of the fight, but after Cena performed a reversal on a Batista Bomb, Triple H threw him over the ropes, leaving Cena and himself alone as the last two.
They squared off. I was on my feet, already late for cricket but not caring. When Cena floored Triple H, he raised his hand. I raised mine too, for I knew what came next.
“YOU CAN’T SEE ME!” I screamed, as Cena buried the Five Knuckle Shuffle into Triple H.
They continued to brawl, whilst I threw fists at imaginary opponents, sidestepping out of the way of would-be counters.
Cena finally had Triple H on his shoulders, right where he, and I, wanted him.
I shouted in triumph as Triple H was launched over the top rope, ending the Royal Rumble and sending John Cena to WrestleMania.
It was the fact that it was so unexpected that made Cena’s victory that day even sweeter.
Not only did he return from a significant injury, he did so with no signs of vulnerability.
The Royal Rumble victory helped cement his legacy amongst the greats of the WWE.
The Royal Rumble is known as the match “where anything can happen”, but it almost had its most extraordinary moment in 2011.
In the historic 40-man Rumble, Alberto Del Rio seemingly won it after he eliminated Randy Orton.
But Santino Marella then came back into the ring, having never been eliminated after rolling underneath the bottom rope when he took a big boot from Sheamus.
While Del Rio protested with the referee, Marella wound up and struck with the Cobra.
He celebrated as the crowd went crazy, bearing witness to biggest the upset in Rumble history.
But when he went to throw Del Rio over the top rope, “the pride of Mexico” reversed it crushing Marella’s WrestleMania dreams as he hit the floor.
Marella’s championship record shows that he was not to be taken lightly despite his comedic and silly nature, but he did not have the best history in Rumble matches.
He still holds the unenviable honour of shortest time spent in a Rumble match at one second, no one expected him to make it down to the final two that day.
While it ultimately didn’t come off, Santino Marella’s near-victory will forever be remembered because it encapsulates everything the Royal Rumble is all about.
Underdog stories don’t come any bigger than the 2006 Royal Rumble match.
Rey Mysterio entered the Royal Rumble at number two, with a lowrider in a tribute to the late, great Eddie Guerrero.
The story was there, but how on earth would Mysterio be able to make it that long?
Especially since he was starting alongside Triple H.
An hour had passed, with it being both Mysterio and Triple H as well as Randy Orton as the final three.
The latter two would team up, re-uniting temporarily from their days in Evolution, to try and eliminate Mysterio.
Yet a double 619 would see Triple H over the top rope, and Orton not too far behind.
The ultimate tribute to a close mate in Eddie Guerrero and a story fans from the 2000s era will remember forever.