Guys, the Royal Rumble isn’t just about the Royal Rumble.
Okay, it is, at least in the hearts of most fans, but let’s pretend that WWE’s annual January extravaganza isn’t entirely based around our favourite stipulation. Despite usually being a show constructed around the Rumble itself, these pay per views have occasionally thrown a bonafide classic in our direction.
Part of the reason could be because the pressure is off. Non-Rumble matches on the card usually have a slightly filler feel, which may sound bad initially, but often means that the wrestlers can truly cut loose and show us what they can do.
This has resulted in some surprising sleeper hits, from brilliant one-on-one encounters with a slightly exhibition feel, to fast-paced tag team classics.
Of course, as this list will prove, not every one of these matches came out of nowhere. Some were backed by a lot of hype, proving to be crucial chapters along the road to WrestleMania – although none of the bouts on this list actually eclipsed the Rumble itself in terms of card placement. That’s right, spoiler alert everybody! CM Punk vs. The Rock is not on this list. That’s probably for the best, given the utter smark fury caused by its outcome.
What you will find here, however, is a nice mix of drama, skill, storytelling, and occasional outright violence. All of which was probably eclipsed by our intense, childlike love of the Rumble – naturally.
10. Dean Ambrose Vs. Kevin Owens – 2016
It may be a tad recent, but Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens’ 2016 war deserves to be here on merit. The main reason, I think, is because Last Man Standing matches are often a tricky proposition. Too many have been easily bogged down by the stop-start nature of the stipulation – but there was no such problem here.
Ambrose and Owens are both great at the little intangible things that make wrestling entertaining. Yes. the set pieces in this match are executed well enough, but the real strength lies in the structure and tension of the match.
When KO sets up those two tables on the outside, you know somebody’s going to go through them – but enough happens to distract us from the finish until it actually happens. Bonus points for both men entering the Rumble match itself later in the night, dragging themselves painfully to the ring as a reminder of the prior carnage.