If "The Philly Special" was Philadelphia's sporting zenith for this decade, then this maddening edition of the Royal Rumble is perhaps the nadir (partially because nobody remembers Battleground 2017). An underwhelming and totally forgettable undercard gave way to an excellent WWE title match pitting Brock Lesnar against John Cena and Seth Rollins, arguably WWE's best main roster match in 2015. Then the Rumble followed, robbing any and all headlines that the acclaimed triple threat would have otherwise earned.
Reigns was guilty of not being Daniel Bryan, a crime that many fans would deem to have capital implications. His rocket-push had been met with resistance, but nothing like the unfiltered fury dispensed on this night. And fans wouldn't exactly warm to Reigns over the ensuing years, at least not the vocal ones anyway. In all, the 2015 Royal Rumble marked a seminal moment in the relationship between WWE and its most vociferous customers.
10. Fight A Different Day
Trombones, pancakes, cereal, questionable-looking unicorn horns, irreverent humour, and clever parodies - these are the hallmarks that would boost Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods, The New Day, into pro wrestling academia as bonafide stars. Their unexpected, but wholly welcome, breakout in the summer of 2015, however, was preceded by fans reacting negatively to the artificial peppiness that defined their first foray under the New Day name.
The then-unpopular trio was set to wrestle Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Adam Rose in six-man action on the Rumble Kickoff show, but the match would be changed to just Cesaro and Kidd against Big E and Kingston. The reason for the change was because Woods was still on the mend with an ankle injury. The other five individuals (Rose included) would later all take part in the Royal Rumble match at night's end.
9. A Rare Conquering
Focusing on the lone overall bright spot of the Rumble event (unless you were unhappy with the choice of winner), the Lesnar/Cena/Rollins WWE title match was an inspired mish-mash of Attitude Era-style carnage and mayhem, along with modern frenetic-paced spottiness. The 23-minute flurry is the closest thing you might get to arcade-like wildness in a WWE Championship match in this day and age.
When Lesnar caught Rollins' Curb Stomp attempt and landed the fateful F5, it marked the only pinfall victory for Lesnar in his seven months as defending champion. Of course, there were only three defenses of the belt, but you could've estimated that. This match is sandwiched between Lesnar taking a DQ loss to Cena at Night of Champions 2014, and dropping the belt to Rollins (via Reigns) at WrestleMania 31.
8. Ask The Alpha
WWE likes loading up their Rumble match with some colourful and crowd-pleasing surprise entrants, and 2015 was probably going to need a few. When you're flying in The Rock for a "totally coincidental" run-in to try and swing fans Roman's way at the end, it means you're anticipating the backlash before it officially starts. The 2015 Rumble match had the requisite guest entries, but one wrestler that was asked would turn them down.
That wrestler was Chris Jericho. At the time, Jericho was somewhat loosely tethered to WWE, working occasionally in house show matches and on international tours, while eschewing the week-to-week TV product. This was done on his part to make his eventual return as a regular performer mean more, and turned down the Rumble match due to this ongoing MO.
7. Groundhog Day
The number one entrant in the 2015 Rumble match was The Miz, and he wouldn't exactly replicate the deep run he made when he was the number one entrant in 2012. In fact, this time The Miz would be the first man eliminated, at the hands of the man who entered number three (whom we'll get to).
Miz being number one in 2012 and 2015 is part of this most unusual stat. Dolph Ziggler was number one in 2010 and 2013, and CM Punk was number one in 2011 and 2014. So, in order, the number one entries from 2010 through 2015 go Ziggler, Punk, Miz, Ziggler, Punk, Miz. How's that for a coincidence? Roman Reigns would break the chain the following year by entering first in 2016, which is another thing Reigns-haters can lament about, surely.
6. Death Drop Debut
That number three entrant that cast Miz out of the fray was none other than Bubba Ray Dudley, making a guest appearance some months before he and D-Von would rejoin the WWE roster. One of the few highlights of a criticized Rumble match, Bubba only lasted five minutes in the brawl, but warmed the hearts of the Philly faithful whose mothers he used verbally slander for a living.
Incredibly, the match marked the first time that Bubba had ever been in a Rumble match. The only Dudley representative that had been a Rumble entrant was ill-fated Spike in 2004 (also in Philadelphia). The fact that D-Von Dudley was held out of the 2018 Rumble (again, in Philadelphia) leaves a potential trifecta of awesomeness sadly unfulfilled.
5. Everything Old Is Old
Usually you can define a Rumble by looking at which wrestlers were competing in their very first one. Each Rumble tends to boast between five and ten newcomers, and to see such a list kind of give you a feel for that era. It's much harder to do for the 2015 Rumble, because that list of first-timers is one of the strangest.
Only three men were making their Rumble match debut in 2015, and two of them were guest entries - Bubba Ray Dudley and The Boogeyman. The only full-time main roster regular competing in his first Rumble match was Adam Rose, who was ejected from the match in a mere eight seconds. Somehow, this stat seems to fit the 2015 version of the match perfectly, making it a clustermess on multiple counts.
4. Worldwide Flop
With his menacing theme music (sounds like "Lean Back" with a horror movie vibe), Titus O'Neil sauntered his way toward the ring at the number 26 spot, taking his sweet time. O'Neil was firmly a heel at this stage of the game, one who would usually end up getting dunked on in humorous fashion by the babyfaces. That was intended to happen here as well.
O'Neil was eliminated in just four seconds by Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, but he was supposed to be gone even faster. The idea, according to The Wrestling Observer, was to eliminate O'Neil in one second, tying Santino Marella's ignominious mark from the 2009 match. However, O'Neil was too far from the ropes, and the throw attempt wasn't clean, so they had to get him out on second-effort. The Observer notes that Vince was angry about the botch, so fear not - the fans' nights weren't the only ones ruined.
3. Demon In Slacks
The idea late in the match was to have Big Show and Kane slowly and casually dump out all of the unconscious crowd favourites one by one, leaving the crowd with nobody to cheer for except heroic Roman Reigns. Good idea in theory, except the crowd chose to instead throw their support behind Rusev, covertly hiding outside the ring.
For Kane, the match marked two Rumble milestones for him. For one, he set the new high mark for most eliminations all time, scoring four in this match to bring his total to 43 (he'd extend his record with a 44th elimination the following year). The other milestone is that Kane became the first Rumble entrant in history to reach six final fours (1997 as fake Diesel, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, and 2015). How many other mayors can say that?
2. The Real Main Event
The city of Philadelphia has earned a bit of a rep as having some ill-behaved sports fans, with the mistreatment of a man dressed as Santa Claus at a 1968 Eagles game the most cited example. Not sure how the events listed here rank alongside that bit of history, as irate fans began causing a scene outside the Wells Fargo Center - and directly to some of the wrestlers.
If you can believe it, reports emerged after the show that a number of fans were blocking the wrestlers' exit as a misguided form of protest. As reports stated, one fan slammed a souvenir chair against a car carrying The Usos, prompting one of the brothers to get out and chase the moron off. Others set up a mini chair-blockade in front of exiting vehicles, with both Fandango and JBL among those targeted. Other reports indicated that some, like Paige, Ryback, and Cody Rhodes, were amused by the antics, and cheerfully acknowledged the gathered fans.
1. Crash And Burn
What was the more telling sight: The Rock's confused expression as he held up Roman Reigns' arm, or the fact that #cancelwwenetwork ascended the list of top Twitter trends in near-record time? Ill feelings filled the air, both in the arena, and in households the world over, as fans saw the 2015 Royal Rumble (in the moment) as a cruel joke. As for that hashtag, there appeared to be many who heeded it that night.
In the hours following the Rumble's conclusion, the online cancellation page for WWE Network legitimately crashed, due to the torrential flood of angry fans trying to hit WWE where it could possibly hurt. WWE put out a press release shortly after that touted the Network reaching one million subscribers, a bit of damage control that may not necessarily have taken into account the de-subscribers.