For a brief moment in December 2015, WWE had found a winning path with their generally-maligned choice of superhero, Roman Reigns. His swath of destruction at the end of TLC, followed by his heart-stopping performance the next night in winning the WWE Championship, had fans in Boston and Philadelphia (the same Philly that coarsely booed him at the Royal Rumble earlier that year) losing their minds. Finally, WWE must have thought.
If Reigns was going to channel the unfettered fury of Stone Cold Steve Austin, to promising returns, then the 2016 Royal Rumble would continue to mine that formula, as the new champion would have the deck stacked against him by an evil corporate empire. And so Reigns, as champ, would have to defend the belt inside the 30-man Royal Rumble, running the gauntlet from beginning to end in order to preserve his place at the top of the mountain.
By the time the Rumble came to be, all of the excited goodwill that Reigns had gathered would dissipate, and it was back to loudly booing the McMahon-approved chosen one. But fickle (FICKLE) crowd sentiment aside, the 2016 Royal Rumble was easily the best event bearing its name in years, with a great opener, three quality mid-show matches, and a tremendous Rumble match at the end.
10. Gridiron Clash
Traditionally, the Royal Rumble takes place during the one-week layoff between the NFL Championship games and the Super Bowl. In years where there was no one-week gap between those weekends, WWE would either hold the Rumble on a Saturday night (1991, 1994) or bite the bullet and face the second of the two Championship games head-to-head (2003).
Although there was a normal “playoff layoff” in the 2015-16 playoffs, WWE decided to schedule the Rumble against the NFL playoffs anyway, holding the show on 24 January (instead of the open 31 January date, which was how they did it in 2010). The most commonly-held theory for why they did this involves WWE Network, as if they had chosen 31 January for the date, the Rumble would’ve been seen early on 1 February in the UK, and January’s Network subscription numbers would’ve potentially benefited less from that setup. For what it’s worth, the Rumble opposed an utter blowout, as the Carolina Panthers mauled the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15.