Is it too early to talk about the Royal Rumble? I sure hope not! And yes, I may be overlooking Survivor Series, where a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion will be crowned, but so what. With Seth Rollins sidelined, John Cena on sabbatical, and Daniel Bryan not yet cleared (or whatever the case is there), there’s a certain air of uncertainty about in WWE and I for one like it. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly miss those three (two of whom are virtually tied for superstar of the year), but can’t you appreciate the idea of being pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised from time to time?
The Royal Rumble from here also looks a little fuzzy. Last year, Reigns had won the match before all thirty men hit the ring and we all knew it. This upcoming Royal Rumble is a big question mark, for me anyway. Do they greenlight Daniel Bryan and finally give him the Rumble victory to once again return him to the bright lights of the main event at WrestleMania? Could this finally be Cesaro’s time? I’m sure his section would like to think so. Could a Bray Wyatt victory in the Royal Rumble cement his status as a major title contender? So many questions, so few answers, except to keep watching.
I’m not totally discounting the Survivor Series, though. Even with a new champion being crowned, you still have to remember that Money In The Bank briefcase holder Sheamus may have something to say before night’s end. It’ll also be interesting to see if the winner of the tournament holds on to the belt through the Rumble and on to WrestleMania. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the uncertainty is pretty exciting. No matter which way the narrative turns, there’s sure to be folks who are happy, angry or just “meh” about it.
Since I’m in the mood to talk Rumble, I’ll talk about the reasons why the 1992 Royal Rumble was and is my all time favorite. This was a special Rumble, not only because for the first time ever, the winner would be crowned WWE Champion, but also because of the performance of eventual winner Ric Flair.
There’s no shortage of pro wrestlers who will tell you that Ric Flair’s conditioning in the ring is the stuff of legends. He didn’t earn the nickname “60 Minute Man” by applying rest holds for 45 minutes along with fifteen minutes of bumps and high spots. The Royal Rumble isn’t exactly conducive to hiding or using rest holds to regain wind, and Flair was at his best from start to finish.
He began as the third entrant behind Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, who also spent a great amount of time in the ring. After eliminating DiBiase, he would face off with Flair and he pretty much kept The Nature Boy on the run for a while.
But I digress from giving you the play-by-play to tell you what really made Flair’s performance brilliant. Out of the thirty men that entered the ring, he mixed it up with 24 of them. He didn’t just sneak attack a few here and there and fade away, he was often the first superstar to dish it out to new entrants. When he wasn’t waiting for new superstars to enter the ring, they were looking for him when they hit the ring.
What’s impressive about that is the fact that for over an hour, for every two minutes, Flair was facing off with fresh superstars with fresh legs. I think that’s much tougher than facing off against a solitary opponent for sixty minutes, because at least both are the same levels of fatigued. In the Rumble setting, a superstar loses his edge the longer he’s been in the match, especially when matched up against later participants.
Flair had the entire repertoire going too; from the front face flop, to the over-the-turnbuckle flip, he even took several high back body drops. But again, Flair had to set himself apart and after being in the match for more than 55 minutes, he went to floor with some guy named Hulk Hogan (ever heard of him?) and took a suplex on the padded concrete.
The icing on the cake was the commentary of the Late Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Before WWE was overly concerned with Royal Rumble advanced analytics, Monsoon would just continue to hammer home the fact that no one in the history of WWE who drew numbers one through five was there in the end; by end I assumed the final two or four participants. Heenan kept me dying between telling Flair to “take a walk” to save himself then turning around and claiming he was “too much of a competitor” to take it easy. My favorite line though was, “This isn’t fair to Flair!” which “The Brain” shouted nearly every time a good guy would come through the curtain. Monsoon was the ultimate straight man to Heenan’s antics and played his role to a tee. Those two on commentary always made for magic.
Finally, the list of names that competed in that 1992 Royal Rumble were some of wrestling’s biggest stars and several future Hall of Famers. Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, The Undertaker, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Shawn Michaels were just a few of the other superstars in the annual event.
So when you mix WWE’s Royal Rumble with a virtuoso performance by Ric Flair, the supreme commentary team of Bobby Heenan with Gorilla Monsoon and the star studded lineup in that match, there’s no way you shouldn’t come up with the year 1992.