But man, we had no idea that the majority of the Rumble field was going to be essentially one offbeat entry after another, to the point where a regular midcard entry hit the ring, it was an underwhelming moment. There may have only been eight "novelty" entries in the match (three announcers, a manager, a women's a wrestler, two Attitude Era stars, and the first-ever televised Rumble winner), but it truly felt like more than that.
The 2012 Royal Rumble was kinda fun in the moment, but doesn't hold up with even a couple years hindsight, let alone seven. Aside from a very good WWE Championship match, it was kind of a "just there" show, with little else to prop it up.
10. Fifteen Feet Of Steel
Unless you're TNA Lockdown or an MMA event of some sort, it's a bit unconventional to start a pay-per-view with a steel cage match (not that cage matches haven't been diluted through overuse and such anyway). The 2012 Royal Rumble began with just such a bout, as Daniel Bryan defended his World Heavyweight title against a pair of monsters in Big Show and Mark Henry.
This would mark the first time that the Royal Rumble ever had a steel cage match on its card, taking until the 25th incarnation of the event before the enclosure made its Rumble debut. It would be the last of the Big Four events to feature a cage match, after WrestleMania (1986), SummerSlam (1990), and Survivor Series (2001).
9. Strong Pains
Bryan managed to escape the cage after a brief skirmish with Big Show at the top of the structure, retaining the World Heavyweight title. The match ran barely nine minutes before the finish, and saw minimal activity on the part of Henry, focusing mostly on the battle between Bryan and Show, especially in the final minutes.
The reason for Henry's lower participation, and general shortness, was due to the big man suffering through serious knee and groin issues. After working the match, Henry would be temporarily written out with a kayfabe suspension, though he would work a somewhat regular schedule through the spring months, including the 12-man tag at WrestleMania 28, before missing nine months (beginning in May) after a surgical procedure.
8. Bonus Content
At the time that the Rumble went on the air on that Sunday night, only four matches were known: the 30-person Rumble, the two World title matches, and John Cena vs. Kane (in his "smelly glove" phase). Nothing else had been announced to that point, but there would indeed be two more matches on the card: Brodus Clay vs. Drew McIntyre, and an eight-woman tag team match.
Neither match was advertised ahead of time, and it's not entirely clear why either was tossed in. One could surmise that with Henry's hampering injuries, the cage match was going to be shortened for time, and they had to fill some space (the two matches combined went about six-and-a-half minutes, minus entrances).
7. Early Octagon Foray
The CM Punk/Dolph Ziggler WWE Championship match rates as probably the best match of a middling Royal Rumble, and if Punk had his way, it wouldn't have been his only high profile appearance of the weekend. The champ had agreed to attend UFC's live broadcast on FOX the night before, walking to the cage with Chael Sonnen as part of his entourage. With nearly five million people tuning in, Punk and WWE would've been on quite a national platform.
According to Punk, it was Vince McMahon who nixed those plans, citing his belief that UFC was "barbaric". Punk would also note that Triple H was allowed to walk with Floyd Mayweather to the ring for a fight with Miguel Cotto that May, because boxing apparently isn't barbaric.
6. Can't See A Repeat
One year before winning the second Rumble match of his career, John Cena would not be vying for a World title match at WrestleMania 28. Instead, he would spend his Royal Rumble duking it out with Kane, during the very regrettable "Embrace the Hate"/crippled Zack Ryder/evil Eve Torres angle that did nothing except halt the momentum of some popular performers.
There was no need for Cena to be in the Rumble since he'd be facing The Rock at WrestleMania, but there were earlier plans that involved him and the Rumble. WWE at one point had considered having Cena win the 2012 Rumble match, only to have to choose between the title match and a match with Rock, before abdicating the former. This would have made the Rumble match look utterly meaningless, and one could only imagine the internet's reaction to that earlier idea, had it gone through.
5. Fireproofing The Rumble
Kane's match with Cena wasn't exactly terrible, although the angle in general would only serve to inflame further spite toward Cena, as well as WWE (for making Ryder look like such a helpless putz). A double count-out finish doesn't help matters either, especially since the eventual blowoff (an ambulance match three weeks later) isn't exactly looked at with nostalgic eyes.
Where this match is most significant, however, is preventing Kane from taking part in the Rumble match. Beginning in 1999, Kane would wrestle in 13 consecutive Royal Rumble matches, the longest streak in WWE history. Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler boast the longest active streaks as of the 2018 Rumble match (10 apiece), though Kane's 19 overall Rumble appearances (2016 being his most recent) might never be surpassed.
4. Way Of The Warrior
The Rumble match's heavier reliance on gag entries and guest spots resulted in more than a quarter of the spots being filled by non-regulars, and it may not have ended with just the eight offbeat contestants. A certain WWE Hall of Famer claims to have been offered a spot in the match, one with an interesting local connection.
Road Warrior Animal was reportedly in attendance at the show in St. Louis, where his son James Laurinaitis played linebacker for the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. According to the Wrestling Observer, Animal says he was offered a spot in the match fairly close to the date of the event, but the offer made wasn't enough to entice him to don the face paint and spikes for the occasion.
3. A Nice Last Day
One of the guest entrants in the Rumble match was three-time WWE Champion, and eventual Hall of Fame inductee, Mick Foley. Foley hit the ring from number seven spot, took part in three different eliminations, before being eliminated by eventual AEW impresario Cody Rhodes. Most memorable was probably the "Socko vs. Cobra" battle that he and Santino Marella squared off in.
Officially, this would be the last match of Foley's career. At 46, Foley was clearly not in the greatest shape, sticking to very basic spots during his time in the match. He was actually due to wrestle a pre-Shield Dean Ambrose later that year, but was unable to gain medical clearance, and has not wrestled since, save for a one-move "match" against Mickey Gambino at an OMEGA event in February 2015.
2. Kharma's Gonna Get You
A word of warning, as this is going to be a rather depressing entry. One year after signing with WWE, Kharma (Awesome Kong) finally wrestled her first match with the company, appearing for one minute inside the Rumble match. She stalked a horrified Michael Cole, and tossed Hunico over the top rope, before being dumped out by Dolph Ziggler.
This would be Kharma's only match with WWE. The reason for the long gap before her first wrestling appearance was due to her being out on maternity leave, and was reported to have given birth on New Year's Eve 2011. Unfortunately, it came out later that she had actually miscarried. In an interview with TMZ later that year, after being given a release from WWE, Kharma revealed that she fell into a deep depression after the miscarriage, and had fallen out of ring shape as a result. She would return to the ring at a SHINE event that November.
1. Backing A Pale Horse
When an eerily-muted Chris Jericho returned on the first Raw of 2012 (following weeks of disturbing vignettes promising something cataclysmic), he seemed to be the obvious choice for a Rumble winner. His momentum was so high, his angle so fresh, that it was difficult to imagine anyone else earning the Rumble victory. And when Sheamus won by Brogue Kicking Jericho off the apron, shock ran rampant.
The predictability of Jericho winning played a big part in Sheamus' victory - Jericho didn't *need* the win, thanks to his intriguing character and direction, whereas Sheamus could've used a win of that magnitude to boost his own profile. Simply put, WWE just felt Sheamus needed it more, and were correct in that regard. Of course, having him crush Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28 didn't exactly endear him to the crowd.