This past Sunday’s Royal Rumble match treated fans to some fun over the top rope eliminations. One elimination, in particular, saw Braun Strowman hurl the ill-suited James Ellsworth out of the ring with a chokeslam that sent him crashing to the floor, hip first.
Seeing this hip-crushing ejection got me thinking of some of the memorable Rumble match eliminations over the years that have stuck with me. Some made for great moments while others served as the kick-off to a bitter feud. Then there are those that are just plain terrible.
Undertaker isn’t Tough Enough:
The 2002 Royal Rumble served as a reboot of sorts back to the status quo after the dreadful Invasion angle occupied WWE the prior year. The Undertaker was in the midst of a heel incarnation of his biker gimmick and ran roughshod over the competition.
Along came the young upstart Maven, winner of the inaugural season of WWE’s reality show, Tough Enough. Maven was green as grass, but he had one hell of a dropkick. In fact, it was so good that he used it to eliminate an unsuspecting Undertaker while his back was turned.
The enormity of the moment was sold beautifully by both men. The look on Maven’s face went from extreme shock and joy over his accomplishment to sheer terror as the Undertaker stared him down with evil intentions. Undertaker stormed back into the ring, eliminated Maven and proceeded to take him on an ass whipping tour all throughout the Phillips Arena.
Taker’s elimination at the hands of the rookie upstart served as a great dividend for those who invested their time in watching Tough Enough. Diehard fans who scour the internet for every piece of inside information were legitimately shocked that a “curtain jerker” in Maven got one over on a main eventer.
Shawn Michaels is Superman:
Shawn Michaels made his triumphant in the 1996 Royal Rumble after suffering the effects of post-concussion stress syndrome as a result of a legitimate beating at the hands of several Marines outside of a Syracuse nightclub.
WWE hyped HBK’s comeback story to such a nauseating degree, that it was obvious to anyone watching at the time Michaels was the new chosen one. Michaels entered the match at # 18, had the most eliminations that year, and won the Royal Rumble.
From a booking perspective, it’s normal to put the proverbial Superman cape on the top babyface to shine them up. However, Michaels was bestowed the strength of ten Supermen as he eliminated Yokozuna and Vader, with one hand each, at the same time.
Yup…the two biggest men in the match were heaved over the top rope in the blink of an eye by one of the smallest wrestlers in the match. This is where I remind myself that its all a work. Still, this moment completely took me out of the match and I never found my way back in.
– Paul London Takes Flight:
Paul London and Gene Snitsky were far from betting favorites to win the 2005 Royal Rumble. That didn’t stop them from creating what is arguably the most spectacular elimination in Rumble history.
Snitsky tossed London off his back, placing him over the top rope and onto the apron. Trying desperately to avoid elimination, London ducked one huge clothesline from Snitsky, but wasn’t so lucky the second time as he got turned upside down and crashed to the floor.
Absolute shock captivated the crowd inside the Save Mart Center in Fresno, CA. London’s highlight reel elimination was shown on repeat for the next couple of weeks. The pairing and outcome made sense considering it was the towering Snitsky walloping the much smaller London.
Over the years, Paul London has stated that he received heat from WWE management for trying to put too much of the spotlight on himself. That’s a shame considering it’s a moment that fans still marvel over twelve years later.
– Double Elimination:
Bret Hart and Lex Luger were WWE’s marquee stars in 1994. They were also the final two in the Royal Rumble that year as both men eliminated one other at the exact same time. This brought things to an impasse that left fans arguing over whose feet hit the floor first. Hart and Luger were announced as co-winners of the Rumble and each received a title shot at WrestleMania 10.
Legend has it that this finish was booked to determine which wrestler was more popular with Vince McMaahon planning on Luger to be the company’s undisputed star. However, McMahon realized at the eleventh hour that it was the ‘Hitman’ who was cast to walk out of WrestleMania as champion.
When looking back at Rumble match finishes, this was the most innovative. Every longtime fan distinctly remembers how it all ended in 1994, whether they liked or didn’t like the conclusion. Regardless of opinion, Hart and Luger deserve major props for pulling this off.
– Owen Hart tosses Jeff Jarett:
In 1998, the only guarantees in life were death, taxes, and Stone Cold Steve Austin winning the Royal Rumble in a crucial step to becoming the biggest star in the history of wrestling. That didn’t stop Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett from creating a little moment of their own.
Jarrett jumped Owen in the aisle as he made his entrance into the Rumble. Much to the surprise of Jarrett, Owen returned and sent his foe flying with a crazy flip bump over the top rope. Holy &%$@ was my instant reaction to an underrated but pretty cool Rumble elimination.