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    May 2018

    Half Luck, Half Skul: January Madness - The Greatest Royal Rumble Match (Sweet 16)

    Back at it again! After saying goodbye to a swath of lower-seeded matches in Round 2 (though many not without a fight), we have a relatively stacked Sweet 16 in matches battling it out to be labelled the greatest match in Royal Rumble history. Proving to be particularly divisive so far are Lesnar/Cena/Rollins from 2015, Bret/Diesel from 1995, and the 2004 Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, the 2001 Royal Rumble and Triple H/Cactus Jack from 2000 are breezing through, having picked up every single possible vote so far. Which will batter their way through even steeper competition and make their way to the Elite 8? Madness rolls on!

    I once again am honored to be joined by mizfan, Oliver, Mazza, Prime Time, Samuel 'Plan, and The Doc. Here we go!

    Bracket A

    (1) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit ('03) vs. (5) The Rock vs. Mankind ('99)

    Oliver: This is probably the hardest choice so far, and given it starts the round Iíd envisage weíve got something else tricky coming up in the rest of this thatíll give it a run for itís money. The weird thing here is that neither match is really perfect, despite Angle vs Benoit holding the number one seed for the bracket, and thatís for different reasons in both cases.

    Angle vs Benoit works as a technical match, but the first quarter or so is a little bit leaden when compared to the rest of the bout. Thereís a point in it where Angle goes for an Angle slam and Benoit turns it into a sharpshooter which is where it really starts to get over, and with the exception of a little bit of chinlock work in the middle thatís where the pace really kicks in and the crowd gets into it a bit (after, as Iíve said, being killed stone cold by Steiner vs HHH beforehand Ė even when a match isnít his, HHH can still bury people. Or try to, at least). With the crowd behind them and the two really clicking up the gears, the match finally delivers on itís on paper promise and that last couple of thirds is spectacular.

    Against that, youíve got The Rock vs Mankind. This is probably the match that I first thought really took things too far Ė and given I was 12 at the time, that feeling has only really increased over time. Itís incredible as a brawl, and The Rock gets to do a bunch of fun microphone things that reinforce the reason why he became so loved as a heel. And yetÖit just goes too far come the end, you know? Itís almost impossible to watch now. I feel like the right ending to this one was when Rock threw Foley through the electrical stuff a bit before the end of the match. But hey, thatís kind of the point of the match I suppose Ė Foley will never say ĎI Quití, The Rock knows Foley will never say ĎI Quití, so he never feels like the level of beating he gives is enough to get to the point where he would. So certainly, itís a tough watch, but it almost has to be to make you realise how much Foley will refuse to crumple and the depths The Rock will have to go to Ė and is willing to go to Ė in order to win.

    Ultimately, I think this one is going to be a tricky one to call for all my fellow columnists, but Iím going to side on the seeded underdog here and throw the win at Rock vs Mankind. Iím not sure which way this will go, but for me I just got a little more from it in terms of a story on this viewing.

    The Doc: This is one of those Sweet Sixteen matches that should go the distance, especially if you feel as I do that the violence exhibited in Rock vs. Mankind is to be more than just a cautionary tale in hindsight, and really should be celebrated considering what Foley was willing to go through to go down as one of the most legendary wrestlers of the most celebrated and competitive era in WWE history. It was uncomfortable and brought out emotions that sports entertainment has rarely been able to draw from its audience, and while there is some inherent issue that we can take with being OK with the method to the madness, the achievement by Foley as Mankind is still substantial. You know who clearly appreciated nights like that and what Foley was willing to do to his body? The Rock. The Rock knows and understands what that night meant, and we should take nothing away from what he achieved at Rumble '99 either. "Next level" would be an adequate way to describe the entertainment value that he brought to that match; no match in his body of work better married together his communication skills with his ability between the ropes. I think the "I Quit" is one of the greatest matches of all-time that too few talk about in that context.

    That said, Benoit vs. Angle is one of the two utter masterpieces of the non-titular battle royal part of Rumble lore, and to defeat it would take a match that really suffers very little hindsight backlash. Benoit was involved, so there is some inherent backlash involved with Angle-Benoit as well, but I feel like history has been reasonably kind to it by comparison to other performances in the Benoit pantheon-erased. Just in case an unexpected upset happens, allow me to say this about Benoit-Angle crystal-clearly: no match since I joined the "know" has ever equaled this one's marvelous act of taking an outcome that I 100% knew to be coming (Angle over Benoit to get to Angle vs. Lesnar at Mania 19) and made me question it to the extent that I questioned it when Benoit nearly defeated Our Olympic Hero on so many occasions.

    Mazza: One of these is a throwaway title bout. The other is historically huge. The throwaway bout however is one of the greatest examples of in ring action you will ever see. As a wrestling fan, the wider story is often a much bigger deal for me. A great 20 minute bout is awesome and all that, however when you are watching week to week, you invest so much more into a match before and after. The Rock and Mankind feud definitely brought that to the table at the back end of 1998 and start of 1999. In this kind of setting though itís a different beast. We arenít revisiting 4 months, we are looking back on one match. And match vs match here, despite the importance of the I Quit, itís not really close. Angle and Benoit to advance.

    Skulduggery: These two matches represent about as big a dichotomy in style as you will get in high-caliber WWE Championship matches, and yet theyíre both phenomenal. One would not be inaccurate if you called Angle/Benoit the "sports" and Rock/Mankind the "entertainment" halves of "sports entertainment".

    With Angle/Benoit, you have a game of wrestling chess and quite possibly the two very best to engage in such a game. Skill levels virtually equal, they grapple artfully, each constantly looking for the definitive advantage. The two demonstrate a level of fluidity and chemistry that pour their way into every exchange. Tremendous to watch.

    With Rock/Foley, you have something completely different. Watched as a psychological thriller, this bout is far less about two incredible athletes looking to gain a wrestling advantage, and far more about two men who go to scary lengths to test one anotherís psychological makeup. Viewers are asked a chilling question when Mankind is handcuffed, and itís how a man as unshakeable, as determined, as Mick Foley can possibly surrenderÖbut, given his situation, how on earth can he not? The Rock plays a merciless role in determining that limit, and what others have found a cheap finish, I find extremely creative. Neither The Rockís sadism nor Foleyís stubbornness will give, so the heel challenger finds another way to exact his victory.

    After a lot of hemming and hawing, I thinly vote for the I Quit match. Itís frightening but masterful storytelling. Listening to Foley barely gurgle the words, ďGo to Hell, RockĒ, followed by his opponentís response, ďWell, The Rock may go to HellÖbut your candy ass firstĒ - having The Rock basically admit he'll pay for his sins, but he's happy to do so afterward, because he's got a job to do first. Ominous.

    mizfan: For godís sake, can we please dump the parade of concussions already? Hopefully this is where the road for that match ends. Iíll take Angle/Benoit all the way here.

    Prime Time: This is the moment that discomfort probably puts the Rock/Foley match out. More to the point, though, that match only really has the added stakes and heat of attitude to recommend it. If we're talking about which is the better match and all things being equal, Angle and Benoit top it pretty much anytime they met.

    Samuel 'Plan: As violent as the infamous ďI Quit!Ē Match is, the 2003 exchange between Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit is a brutal match in its own right, if for different reasons. It is their physically balletic technical masterpiece that wins out over an outrageously affecting hardcore encounter from the Attitude Era here. It achieves something just as gritty, just as vicious and disquieting as its opponent here, but does so with significantly less at its disposal while remaining safely within a realm of greater realism and believability. That it throws out the rule book of the typical WWE style makes it even more impressive. Angle and Benoit take it!

    (1) Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit ('03) wins 5-2

    (2) Royal Rumble Match ('07) vs. (3) Royal Rumble Match ('01)

    Skulduggery: Damn, the decisions are not getting any easier here in Bracket A! I said at the start of the tournament that 2007 was one of my two favorites, but re-watching 2001 has seen it climb my rankings. The entry order is a little formulaic, with the midcard fodder entering early and the bulk of the big names coming in late, but itís still a very well executed formula. Kane eats virtually the entire midcard, and still hangs tough after a long run when the rest of the heavyweights arrive. But I think what captivates me the most is Austinís journey. He still has scores to settle Ė one of which he did in part earlier in the evening against Triple H Ė so of course his nemesis evens things up by making the Rattlesnakeís Rumble win even trickier. I wasnít watching from í97 to í99, so I donít know if there was any underlying frustration with Austinís 2001 win (effectively making it 3 wins in 4 goes for him), but I find it immensely satisfying. Kane put on one of the greatest non-winning efforts of all time, and it still took Austin (who entered more than 20 spots later) chair shot after chair shot to eliminate the Big Red Machine, so I, even as a big Kane fan, had no qualms with him coming this close rather than winning.

    With 2007, Iíve paid luxurious tribute to the Final 4, and I maintain that. Taker and Michaels both rip apart the competition in their individual entrances, and other than Khali to HBK, neither are offered tremendous heel resistance Ė until the Final 4. Edge and Orton do a tremendous job presenting a united front that provides just enough thorns for the two home-state Texans to get obstructed byÖalthough ultimately one had to think that your eventual winner was going to be Shawn or Taker.

    Both are tremendous Rumbles, and Iím really happy they made it to this point. Ultimately, I think Iíll stick with my original guns and go for 2007, but anything that goes through here is great by me!

    Samuel 'Plan: This one is easy for me, and those who have kept up with the series should know why by now. I have said it before and I will again Ė an enticing conclusion is not enough in my mind to mark a Royal Rumble Match out as being great. When you have a cast of thirty and a minimum average run-time of fifty minutes you better damn well do something with it before the final five or ten. 2001 does, and to great extent. Kane's performance, the hardcore passage, the moment when all the top stars of the Era are interacting in an explosive couple of minutes, the amazing final three Ė there's a reason it's rightly considered as one of, if not the best ever. It does a damn sight more than 2007 and it does it better too, emphasising the stars of the moment rather than the stars augmented by nostalgia (which, amazingly, they were even eleven years ago!). So yeah, it's 2001 for me, and several times over to emphasise the point.

    The Doc: In a recent edition of Dave Fenichel's epic Rumble countdown, I made clear that I was not a huge fan of the '01 Rumble, though I do not dispute that it is a very good one and a strong candidate for the Top 10 of the gimmick's history. That said, the '07 version has its weaknesses too. Like in '01, the field in '07 largely just takes up space, so both of them lack a group of wrestlers from the mid-card who seem to relish the opportunity afforded them to do something special, like so many did in '03 for example. Analytically, where I give '07 the nod is obviously the climax, the criticism for which baffles me - HBK and Taker, two of the greats of all-time, were coming head to head for the first time since that fateful night nine years prior and tested themselves against one another whilst trying to win (what's confusing about it?) - combined with what I felt were well above average Rumble performances from Edge and Randy Orton. The '01 Rumble is the Kane and Rock show, with a nice supporting Steve Austin performance; the '07 Rumble peaks gloriously and is defined by Taker and HBK, then Rated RKO.

    What I want to bring to the table with '07, though, is what I feel to be an important aspect of a comparison between two Rumble matches, and that is how exhilarating they are in the moment. I have talked about rewatchability as a key trait in match analysis, but given their run-time, the Royal Rumble Match is probably the best WWE example of a performance best appreciated by the single rather than the repeated viewing. As such, in the moment, the '07 Rumble is absolutely exhilarating because of its climax; that approach was completely novel back then, at least to the extent to which it took place, and it boosted the profile of the match to such critical heights that only two Rumbles in the gimmick's long and storied history have equaled it in terms of the Dave Meltzer star ratings. Meltzer is famous for basing his rating system on the first watch, like a sporting event; many others have followed his lead. Just throwing that out there for consideration.

    mizfan: Ah, Rumble vs. Rumble! Always a hard decision. 2007 is well thought of and not without reason, but I admit I find it somewhat overrated. 2001 never fails to thrill me though, the legendary run of Kane is just a pure pleasure to watch, and the combination of the white hot crowd and huge stars going to war left and right is a big win for me. Itís the ultimate chaotic success in the field of Rumbles, and I actually hope it wins the whole bracket!

    Oliver: The trouble here is that both matches arenít great matches, and especially not great Rumble matches. People have already spoken about 2007 having a great ending sequence between HBK and Taker and not much else, which is a little bit harsh I think Ė thereís some good fun going on within the body of the match, and the Flair opening especially is really entertaining. But there are just those moments where it all gets a bit too much. It really only takes off once Khali gets in, and I appreciate that a Rumble canít go at one hundred percent for the full hour but it needs to have something more than just fifteen/twenty minutes of action going for it.

    I think 2001 is in a similar boat. It opens really, really well, and starts in on some interesting and crowd popping hardcore stuff before Kane clears the ring. Then The Rock turns up and slowly but surely the ring just gets stuffed up with bodies that mean absolutely nothing in the run of the match itself. That middle bit of a Rumble is always prone to doing that, sadly, but here itís particularly frustrating given how well it started off. Itís probably the only problem with Rumbleís themselves, really, as opposed to something specific to the 2001 version, but here itís kind of notable because of the hot start itself. At least we get Kane continuing to wreck shop, plus Meng showing up. Meng is great. All worship Meng.

    I think thatís what gives the 2001 match the edge, actually. If 2007 had more Meng, it would get my vote, but nope Ė 2001 wins out on the Meng tiebreaker.

    Mazza: I canít tell you how much of a headache this one is to me. You have two rumbles that are loved for one epic reason. Neither is the most rounded addition of the match but they warrant their seedings purely for their main events. In 2007 it was the fantastic ending pitting The Undertaker against Shawn Michaels. It was the catalyst for one of my very first columns in the CF where I questioned the quality of ďThe StreakĒ and said that it desperately needed a rerun of this cameo to give it some substance (which is happily did and them some). 2001 is all about Kane and probably the greatest performance in rumble history. So is it the match at the end of the match, or is it the most dominant ironman run. Flip a coin on this but mood is telling me THATíS GOTTA BE.... THATíS GOTTA BE KANE!

    Prime Time: I recently gave 2007 a quick rewatch and didn't like it as much as I have done in the past. So it took itself out of the running. 2001 for me.

    (3) Royal Rumble Match ('01) wins 5-2

    Bracket B

    (1) Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins ('15) vs. (4) The Rockers vs. The Orient Express ('91)

    mizfan: So weíve still got THAT triple threat to contend with, do we? I canít deny itís a very good match, but I just canít bring myself to love it the way some can. When Lesnar takes a nap at ringside, I canít help but roll my eyes, and Cena and Rollins working a large portion of the match alone just doesnít do much for me. The Rockers tag in í91 is nothing but a pleasure by comparison, as fun and exciting a tag match as you might hope to see highlighted, and Iím happy to give it my vote here in hopes of an upset.

    Mazza: As a young wrestling fan, I was taught that a good little guy never beat a good big guy. I am converting that logic to this match-up. A great main event shouldnít beat a great tag team filler. I love The Rockers vs The Orient Express a lot. It is still a fantastic watch. However the fact that triple threat is also an excellent example of pro-wrestling AND is for the WWE title gives it the edge here for me.

    Prime Time: My thoughts on triple threat matches are well documented by this point. I will cast my vote for the tag match.

    Samuel 'Plan: Easy. The Triple Threat. It's awesome. The tag team match, I loathe. I swear to the good lord, if it wins out here....

    Skulduggery: As far as Sweet 16 match-ups go, this is a fairly easy decision for me, even though I have a lot of love for the Rockers and the Orient Express. The greatest qualities of the tag team match are duplicated or enhanced when comparing to the triple threat Ė both are innovative as hell, but the tag team match sparks with fun while the triple threat is nothing short of explosive. The 2015 bout allows each combatant to show off his strengths Ė Lesnarís brutal combination of power and speed, Rollinsí high-flying, situational brilliance and opportunity capitalization, and Cenaís bullish determination. Brock looks like a near invincible beast, but one that could fathomably lose due to the sheer combined effort of his two opponents. Seth shows the world why he is a bona fide superstar with a performance that firmly entrenches him in the main event. And John, as Iíve called him before, is the straight man that allows these conditions to occur. Without him, youíve simply got Battleground 2015.

    One thing I really want to key in is the Lesnar-less part. Prior to that, the explosiveness exhibited by both him and Rollins spikes the pulse of the match to a thrilling level Ė be it the double suplex to J&J Security or Rollinsí breakup of the Kimura with a flying knee. But when Lesnar is taken out with a spectacular flying elbow through the announce table, youíre left with Rollins and Cena. The skeletal setup is not that far out of the playbook for triple threats Ė one guy is laid out, the other two go to battle. What I love about this is the pace and the atmosphere it creates. Even with Brock waylaid, Cena and Rollins begin to wrestle each other with an urgency that evokes the sense that both know the Beast is not likely to be out long despite the massive crash. Both are keen on picking up the victory quickly, because even a collapsed Lesnar is a ticking time bomb; the Sword of Damocles that could easily fall on their heads if they tempt it with too much time. It speaks so much to the character of all three Ė Sethís opportunism, Lesnarís aura, and even Cena, who has learned from his past battles with Lesnar that he is a different breed of monster. As they battle at a high pace, John and Seth floor each other with a series of moves, allowing them to gradually slow to a standard pace, out of nothing but the emptying of gas tanks. Itís eventual, itís organic, but the pace does trickle down back to normal, which sets the stage for a blitzing Lesnar to rev up the energy upon his comeback, and he puts the competition away in short notice. Seriously great stuff. As much as I love the Rockers and Orient Express, the triple threat canít fall yet.

    The Doc: I went back and watched the triple threat one more time, taking into account of the kind things said about it, and while I still maintain that it's outright great, I think it fits better as part of the over-arching Brock Lesnar Conqueror story than it does as a standalone performance. I, thus, feel as comfortable voting against it, if from no other standpoint than "which would I rather watch," now than I was before. Nevertheless, now that we are here, I have to strongly consider it advancing. Aesthetically, it's no contest, and going back to the gymnastics score analogy from last round, Rockers vs. OE wins. However, in terms of storytelling, it's no contest in the other direction; what makes Lesnar-Rollins-Cena great is the story told. And shouldn't we consider it, historically, the breakout main-event singles performance of Seth's career? Counter to that, from the tag match's side, is that their match with the Orient Express was the best PPV match in The Rockers' library and a wonderful example of what made that team special.

    All in all, I think in a situation like this tournament, you're kind of playing favorites unless the answer is clear and obvious, as would be the case for this tag match against the other #1 seeds. I'm picking The Rockers vs. Orient Express, siding with aesthetics in this case over storytelling.

    Oliver: I love that Triple Threat, as Iíve already expounded on Ė from Rollins being a jerky jerk who can just jump in to view from nowhere, to Cena having infinite specials, to Brock being a gamma radiated farmhand who can throw people into the sun if he wants to. I said that all in the last entry, too, but itís worth noting that the three characters in this one are well defined and really work together to create something fairly special. Itís just a really well balanced, sensibly worked match, and the most important thing is that it doesnít piss around. It doesnít have this long feeling out process or anything, they just get in there and bring their shit. Itís beautiful.

    ButÖI think I prefer The Rockers vs The Orient Express? At least, right now? That thing fucking rocks from start to finish, the pace is frenetic, and it feels like these two teams are perfectly in sync. Really, this should be the blueprint everyone in a tag team was sticking to for years to come, a Steamboat/Savage for the tag team division. Unfortunately, as we know, Triple H, NXT, The Revival and DIY only just invented tag team wrestling, so nobody could really follow a template for a type of wrestling that didnít exist. Isnít that a shame.

    Anyway, yes, give the win to The Rockers and The Orient Express.

    (4) The Rockers vs. The Orient Express ('91) wins 4-3

    (2) Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit ('01) vs. (3) John Cena vs. Umaga ('07)

    Samuel 'Plan: This is a tricky one. In a way, it's like comparing apples to oranges, so different are the genres and what fans expect from them. I think I'll go for the Last Man Standing Match, with the winning factor being its greater character depth. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit had an incredibly rivalry, and the way the Ladder Match is promoted as being something of a conclusion to it is great. It's also an excellent example of its more psychological styling Ė a Ladder Match as it should be, in my mind at least. It just doesn't have the same sense of vibrant colour that the albeit simple character intonations of the Last Man Standing Match has. The fighting hero against the primal monster may be as old a wrestling trope as you get, but there's a reason it continues to resurge: it works. And it works excellently in the case of one of both Cena and Umaga's best. Both play their roles with perfect pitch, the stand-out moment being the finish in all honesty. The aesthetic helps too. Cena vs. Umaga wins my vote, by a narrow margin let it be known.

    mizfan: Not an easy decision here, both of these matches work on a deep level. Jericho and Benoit draw on their hunger and experience to tear the house down, and Cena digs deep to deliver a classic in the heart of his mixed popularity against an Umaga working overtime to show he belongs in a top spot. I donít think you can really go wrong here, but Iím throwing my vote towards Cena/Umaga in this one. Thereís something more visceral about that match, the story it tells is simple yet told so well that even a Cena cynic such as myself canít help get sucked into the action. The babyface comeback works better when they strike a balance between the vicious heel beatdown while still allowing the hero just enough room to fight back and win, and I think this is one of the best modern iterations of the formula.

    Skulduggery: I want to have the first half of this write-up dedicated to describing why Cena/Umaga is so damn great. The Samoan Bulldozer went into this match a dangerous monster, having a nearly flawless win-loss record punctured only by a roll-up defeat the PPV before. Cena went into this baby as the gritty, fight at all costs babyface champion with a mountain to climb. And both emerge looking even better. Umaga is so dominant that Cena has to empty his entire arsenal just to put dents into the monsterís armor Ė absolutely launching the steel steps clear into Umagaís face, swinging a TV monitor into the prone head of his challenger so violently that dust billows, and narrowly escaping a splash through an announce table Ė all of this just to stand a chance against this beast. Umaga responds with vicious Samoan Drops, athletic Spinning Heel Kicks, cerebral targets to Cenaís injured ribs, and a brutal counter out of an FU that drops Cenaís head onto the steel steps.

    The conclusion is nothing short of iconic. Capitalizing on the undone top rope by a cunning Estrada, Cena harnesses the rope and turns it into a shockingly lethal noose. Cena chokes Umaga, pulling on the rope with all of his might, blood spattered across his face. Itís hauntingly primal Ė this fighting champion has come across a monster so mighty that he has had no choice but to abandon any shred of remorse, to cross any line possible. Cenaís screaming as he pulls gives the impression of somebody leaving absolutely everything he has in the ring more than anything I can think of in all of WWE history. When he releases, sure of his victory, and the monster still stirs, how quickly he goes right back to it screams volumes about Cenaís urgency, near fright. Finally, to the incredible Jim Ross call Ė ďEven a monsterís gotta breathe!Ē Ė Umaga runs out of air, barely defeated by a man who poured his blood out and fought with every tool available to him. Sapped of everything, Cena escapes the monster and lives Ė marginally Ė to fight another day. Just an incredibly guttural and unforgettable finish to the match.

    Now, for the second half, I would typically give to the other match in the battle, but since I wasnít done gushing about the 2005 Rumble last round before it was unceremoniously eliminated at the hands of Jericho/Benoit, Iím going to pettily forgo the discussion of the ladder match and keep talking about my beloved 2005 Rumble! Even though itís gone from this tournament, it remains one of my absolute favorites. I covered the intro and middle sections in Rounds 1 and 2, so time to talk about the conclusion. First of all, entrant # 30 in Ric Flair is a treat in this match. How great is it that the Dirtiest Player in the Game nearly got out-dirtied by Latino Heat pre-Rumble, only to have to be saved by the rule-abiding administration? Naitch quickly tries to make up for his embarrassing time on the good side of the law and order, albeit unintentional, by eliminating a series of wrestlers after theyíve been wiped out by a Batista Spinebuster. Flair, no doubt on the advice of a secretly threatened HHH, even tries to blindside his Evolution mate Batista, though the execution is hilariously feeble. The methods of elimination are pretty exciting in the close of this match, too, from Paul London terrifyingly being spiked by a Snitsky clothesline to Cenaís FU of Kane to the floor or Batista gorilla press slamming Christian through Tomko.

    Then you get to the Final 4. One of the greatest and freshest in Rumble history. At the time, none of them had been World Champion in WWE, and in the last 20 years, í05 is the only Rumble to have been that daring. Obviously, Mysterio, Edge, Batista and Cena would go on to absolutely dominate the next number of years, and this close to the Rumble is a fantastic prelude to that. Edge clears the field of the big guys in Cena and Batista, then demonstrates that ubiquitous chemistry with Rey Mysterio. Once it gets down to Cena and the Animal, the crowd is electric. The double elimination, be it accidental or not, is pure magic thanks to some insane timing. And then youíve got Vince McMahonís appearance, which is the stuff of wonder. I feel bad for the guy getting such an injury like that, but, man, the Chairman sitting on his ass in the ring with a pissed off look on his face never fails to put a grin on mine.

    I know itís petulant to spend so much time lauding a match that bit the dust a round ago (and thank you for indulging me while I kicked rocks about its disposal), but so be it! Obviously, Iím not voting for the ladder match that took it out. I mean, Iíd vote Cena/Umaga over the Canadiansí brawl in any scenario, but it feels good to mix some spite in the justification for that vote. I'll now put on my big boy pants, and promise I'm done talking about the '05 Rumble.

    Oliver: That 2007 match was probably the real start of ĎNever Give Upí Cena, and him going to incredible lengths just to survive matches with his championship. It remains a shame that they spent time building Umaga up pretty much just to kill him off against Cena via a fluke roll up in one match and then by choking in another one, but itís pretty much the pattern for Cena during this period so it is what it is. And it remains an incredible viewing experience even now, although slight flaws do creep through when you look at Cenaís inconsistent selling and a slightly generic and bland opening stretch. Realistically, the match hinges on Cena getting split open, and when that comes in it really does lift the match up by a handful of levels. It is, also, a hardcore match and suffers with the normal pitfalls of that genre, with spot set ups and so on absorbing momentum from it all.

    And against it here is one of the best ladder matches, and best Intercontinental Championship matches, that WWE has ever put together. Itís a real crime that between 2000 when Benoit and Jericho were fighting for this title, and then this match, WWE decided to crap on the title by putting it on Val Venis and Billy Gunn Ė the latter is a talent void, for sure. But hey, here it is back being rightfully recuperated by two masterful wrestlers, delivering the type of ladder match that doesnít depend on the titular weapon and instead focuses on the technical aspects of wearing an opponent down before climbing. I love it, you love it, and it gets the vote.

    Mazza: See my logic from the last matchup? Scratch that. I have criticisms of the ladder match others donít. I have a lot of love for the Last Man Standing. However seeing them matched up against each other, it is clear to me that I have to give my vote to the Canadians.

    Prime Time: Given that my vote in the last round for Cena and Umaga was a coin toss it won't surprise anyone that I am going with Jericho and Benoit.

    The Doc: Here's the deal. The research process for my latest book was extremely meticulous. I went through and ranked all the greatest matches by year, then by gimmick, then by event, and then head-to-head against each other. This was an actual head-to-head battle in the process, as well as a part of the overall Royal Rumble event rankings, and Cena vs. Umaga came out on top. The Last Man Standing from the '07 Rumble is not a particularly strong contender for the Top 50 matches ever, but it is also comfortably better than most of the back half of the Top 100. Benoit vs. Jericho is tremendous, but when you go through and you watch all of these matches in a big giant group, then it stands out as something a tad lesser than its higher end opponents in discussions like these, with all due respect to it. As the crescendo of a great rivalry, Jericho and Benoit's Ladder Match is excellent and praiseworthy and 4+ stars and all that jazz, but Cena vs. Umaga is just something else, a brutal brawl that joined the pantheon of physical wars the night it happened and has never been challenged by hindsight for its place among the classics. Personally, give me Umaga's struggle in the rope-assisted STF over Jericho trapping Benoit in an awkward Walls any day, and give me the Last Man Standing to advance!

    (3) John Cena vs. Umaga ('07) wins 4-3

    Bracket C

    (1) Triple H vs. Cactus Jack ('00) vs. (4) Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan ('14)

    Prime Time: If the more recent match puts this out I will need to go back to it and take another look. But it will have to win the day without my vote, which is going to Hunter and Mick.

    Mazza: The Street Fight is on a steam rolling mission right now. I adore the Wyatt vs Bryan match. However it comes nowhere near testing Paul and Mick. Iím a smark so I call them Paul and Mick. Paul and Mick FTW.

    Oliver: (Opening sidebar: Remember how fucking cool Roman Reigns was in the 2014 Royal Rumble? Remember how much people disliked him, like, 12 months later? Poor guy.)

    Thereís a funny thing happening to me as I watch Wyatt vs Bryan this time around Ė for the longest time, Iíd effectively categorised the match as a dominant Wyatt victory, with Bryan playing into the underdog character that had served him so well during this period of time. But watching it now it seems ot be a much more even bout than I had in my head for the longest time. Bryan comes out of the gate hot as a pancake on Shrove Tuesday, gunning for Wyatt, and then the match settles into a much more to and fro bout than I had in my mindís eye. I really, really love it, and this was the first time on the main roster that Bray really clicked into the gear that he was in when becoming a star on NXT.

    Plus, here that motherfucker LEANED INTO HIS SHIT. Sweet Jesus, some of this looked utterly brutal. Bryan took an absolute beating, which is de rigeur (yeah, I can use fancy words too, ĎPlan, how do you like them apples and oranges?) for him anyway, but Bray damn well gave it to him as well. That fuckerís out here decapitating Bryan with clotheslines and squashing his whole chest concave with crossbodies and Bryan is taking it like a man. And holy shit, that Sister Abigail counter to the suicide dive.

    A star making performance for Bray, orchestrated by Bryan. And possibly only ever bettered, if memory serves, by itís opponent here for delivering on making a star.

    Because make no mistake about it, in the piss and gore soaked Attitude Era, Triple H wasnít The Man (ģ Becky Lynch, 2018) at the turn of the Millenium. I mean, he looked like what youíd get if JBL sat down in front of WWE 2K19 and was told to build a superstar from the ground up. Jeez, I can already hear him jacking it somewhere to Triple H looking like this. But itís a valid point Ė he looks like a professional wrestler. He just didnít feel like someone you could hang the company around the neck of. This is the night that changed, and itís all down to Daniel Bryanís father, Mick Foley.

    And Foley here is actually God Ė this is the best level of Foley I think we ever got in WWE, and I know that he talks about his bout with Michaels from Mind Games being his best in terms of shape and so on, but this, for me, is when he was truly at his best. And he was Cactus Fucking Jack, man. Not the parody of Cactus he ended up being, but proper, actual Cactus Jack, half an ear and all. We didnít get him for very long in WWE, but here we definitely did.

    I mean, this kind of almost does the Rock/Mankind thing from a year before again and become too grim to watch, especially when Triple H gets spiked with some wood or whatever and has a hole in his leg BUT it all works in context. I think in the context of Rock/Mankind they could have done less and been effective. Here, Mankind had been so beaten and bloodied by Triple H and his douchey douche friends that he had to go hardcore and bring out Cactus Jack, and you knew in that moment this shit was going to get real. And boy, did that shit get real. I love this for being that brutal and main eventing a WWE show in Madison Square Garden. I love it for making Triple H a star and giving us an incredible Cactus Jack moment that everyone can go and see. I love it for being interesting, innovative, fun, and taking everything good about this period of WWE and distilling it into one match.

    But I donít quite love it as much as Bryan vs Wyatt. So that has to have my vote here.

    mizfan: A great match against one of the best matches WWE has ever put on. Wyatt and Bryan did a wonderful job but Foleyís all time great performance catapulted Triple H to where the WWE always wanted him to be, or as close as possible, and the Game gives one of his best ever showings to boot. Thereís really no competition here, itís the street fight for the ages all the way.

    Skulduggery: This is actually a really close battle; I would happily take both to the Elite Eight in favor of the other two matches in Bracket C if it were possible. Alas Ė making tough decisions is part of the territory with these tournaments! Letís dissect Wyatt/Bryan first. Given the setting in which it occurred, I get a bit of an old-school feel from this one. The crowd is decidedly behind Daniel Bryan, roundly booing Bray Wyatt at every chance. Wyattís early hits, like flooring Bryan with an elbow, are met with a collective ďOh!Ē of disappointment. I love that, even though their united support for Bryan later becomes childish and tantrum-esque during the Rumble match. Ah well Ė Iíll stick to the Wyatt match! Crowd is fantastic here.

    I adore that this match is wrestled accordingly to the size difference. The smaller and quicker Bryan lands several blows to stagger Wyatt, but one landed shot from the cult leader equalizes things Ė be it the chop that sends a top-rope seated Bryan to the floor or a wicked clothesline that tumbles Bryan as though in a dryer. Seriously, when you have JBL, who threw some of the best clotheslines in WWE history, praising your lariat up and down, thatís something. Add in spots such as Bryanís running tornado DDT to the outside and Brayís Sister Abigail to the security wall, character moments like Bray subtly reinforcing the Wyatt Family hierarchy when speaking only to Harper (ďI donít need you to fight this war for meĒ), and the brilliant fact that the Eater of Worlds won cleanly, and you have a fantastic match start to close.

    Compare that with the blood-stained Street Fight of 2000. Cactus shows how insane he truly is when HHH has the chair in the ring and invites an unarmed challenger in to one-sided battle. Trips shows how cold and ruthless he is by cleaning the clock of a charging Foley without a shred of hesitation or remorse. Then you have the handcuffs Ė a wink back to Foleyís 1999 Rumble match that is on its way to becoming equally as harrowing before The Rock himself steps in and prevents Hunter from straight up maiming his opponent. I get what the presentation was with Rocky doing a 360 from a year prior, and saving his Rock n Sock buddy, but it turned the wink into a shove in the face. Past that minor quibble, the conclusion of the match is downright phenomenal, with The Game delivering a sadistic Pedigree to Foley on thumbtacks. Mick took that one cleanly, the sick bastard.

    I think, when one puts on very sharp nitpicking glasses, that Wyatt/Bryan has a bit of a better pace than the Street Fight, with the latter possibly being a touch plodding at times. But the peaks of HHH/Cactus Jack are viciously superior, despite a great fight from the 2014 opener. I think you have to go with the Street Fight, though itís pretty close.

    The Doc: Bryan vs. Wyatt is quite an achievement, and I think if the seven of us were polled individually about our top 16 matches in Rumble lore, it would probably make the composite list, but as good as it was and as enjoyable as it remains on replay as one of the seminal parts of the entire Daniel Bryan saga between Summerslam '13 and WrestleMania XXX, it is not Cactus vs. Trips, which even if it were 25% lesser as an in-ring product would carry far too much historical weight to be upended at this stage of the tournament. When you take into account what his victory over Foley in Foley's character's hardcore environment in the arena in which Foley's love for pro wrestling was built meant to Triple H's career, and not just that he won but HOW he won (clean as a whistle), then what was accomplished in 2000 was still so titanic in scope that it would still advance past most of the field. I haven't really felt the need to deep-dive this one yet because it has yet to face any sort of challenge in my opinion; another no-brainer win for the Street Fight!

    Samuel 'Plan: In a previous round I wrote about how the 2014 curtain jerk has lost a lot of its charm for me since the event took place five years ago. Why that is I'm not 100% certain, and frankly I don't need to be. The part that matters most on this occasion is that, by comparison, every time I've ever gone back to revisit the Street Fight nine years ago I've only ever fell more in love with it than I was before. So to compare is simple: one sees my admiration erode, the other sees it strengthen. No matter the details, that's the reaction I always have and that's why I will vote, with remarkable ease I have to say, for the Street Fight between The Game and Cactus Jack.

    (1) Triple H vs. Cactus Jack ('00) wins 6-1

    (3) Diesel vs. Bret Hart ('95) vs. (7) Royal Rumble Match ('09)

    The Doc: Though I feel the '09 Rumble might have the greatest chance of any remaining lower seeded Rumble to end up in the Final Four, I just don't want to vote for it over Bret vs. Diesel. I love the Bret vs. Diesel series, thinking it similar to the New Gen what Rock-Mankind was to Attitude and what Cena-Orton was to the late 2000s and what Bryan vs. Cena was to the Reality Era - perhaps not THE defining rivalry of its era, but certainly one of the defining rivalries of its era. There's all kinds of crap going on at the end that leaves a lot to be desired, but what we get during the Bret vs. Diesel run-time is Kevin Nash showing us the best version of his in-ring self and Bret tightrope walking the fine line between not turning heel and still keeping Diesel a babyface. The '09 Rumble, if we're nitpicking, can be rather laborious to sit through at times; it probably was a little bit underseeded, looking back, but at the same time there was a reason it wasn't seeded higher - you have to think long and hard about why it would be considered great because the reason doesn't jump out and slap you in the face. I'm all for a thinking person's wrestling match, but I'd rather get that from a 25-minute headlining singles match than an hour long Rumble. I have never questioned the greatness in the Diesel-Bret match, but I had to reconsider over and over again the '09 Rumble to fully appreciate it.

    I don't know; call it rebelling against the notion that it's some sort of masterpiece, but the '09 Rumble's Cinderella run should come to an end at the Sweet 16.

    Skulduggery: Somehow, I just keep voting for the 2009 Rumble even though I keep saying I donít dig it quite to the extent that others have said they do. Itís a good version of the January classic, unquestionably. But my previously mentioned minor qualms with it Ė a combination of ďfresh man dominatesĒ too much and that it can get bloated at times Ė prevent me from calling it a top 5 Rumble. But I canít ignore its strengths, either, and it has plenty of those. So does Hart/Diesel, another match that I like but canít sit here and say truthfully that I unabashedly love. Speaking of loving both of these matches, I canít wait to see ĎPlan have to pick between these.

    Samuel 'Plan: One of my favourite matches of all-time against...another one of my favourite matches of all-time?! This is a brutal turn up for the books for me. Not only are both among my favourite matches ever I'd also contend they're among the best versions of their type of matches in Rumble lore too Ė one of the best World title undercard bouts and, in my opinion, the greatest Rumble bout of all-time bar none. I suppose that's the key point really. As much as I adore Diesel's first pay-per-view title defence Ė yes, mizfan, even including the interference! - the 2009 Rumble is just a masterpiece composition to my mind. More iron man runs than you can shake a stick at, each one of them with the appearance of being effortless, combined with far more complex action throughout than is normal for the match type, combined with a wonderfully character-infused final six showdown, combined with a sensible and relevant victor, combined with incredible, breath-taking near eliminations occurring with relentless frequency Ė just everything about it is masterful! And this is about the greatest match in Royal Rumble history. I guess I don't have a choice after all. I vote for the '09 Rumble!

    mizfan: I canít fathom how Nash and Bret got this far. Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett, Road Dogg, and Bob Backlund interfere freely in front of the referee, yet the match continues for nearly half an hour until finally a DQ is called seemingly at a whim. I credit Bret Hart with the fact that despite this itís still a good match when separated from the nonsense, but this is a poor comparison for their Survivor Series classic later in the same year. On the other hand, the underseeded í09 Rumble is one of the best there is, telling a fantasticly coherent story over the course of an hour and proving itself decisively as one of the smarter and more layered Rumbles in history. Pulling very strongly for this #7 seed to make it at least one more round.

    Prime Time: Enjoy both of these and it's a shame they are against each other. I'll vote for Bret and Diesel, though I can't say I expect it to win the day given the jury and previous votes.

    Oliver: Iíve got a real soft spot for that 2009 Rumble, and love that finally a team of people worked their way through the whole match without turning on each other. Itís another of those Rumbles where thereís only really one story going on, and yet the story is told really well and the ending delivers on it. Thereís also a lot of nice interactions going on through the match, with Regal and Punk throwing hands at each other for a time, Cody and Goldust going at it again, like they do every year at this time, and a good bit of enjoyment to be had from the interactions Jericho, RVD, and Undertaker all had together. Itís not perfect, but itís a personal fave.

    I would probably say the opposite was true of Diesel vs Bret Hart Ė and perfect might be overstretching it. Itís not a match that I particularly have in mind if I ever want to just sit and watch some wrestling, nor is it one Iím going to pull off the shelf unless someone prompts me too. Itís just another match to me, and certainly itís good and almost great.

    Iím ultimately lumping in on the personal feelings I have for the 2009 Rumble, over the technically better 1995 match. Sometimes youíve just got to go with your heart, you know? Not a Hart. Unless itís Owen, of course. Then you should go with both your heart and a Hart.

    Mazza: Get this New Gen nonsense out of here. It may have snuck through last round but 2009 showed it was massively underseeded but blowing an excellent bout between Cena and Styles clean out of the water. It should absolutely do the same thing again here.

    (7) Royal Rumble Match ('09) wins 5-2

    Bracket D

    (1) Royal Rumble Match ('92) vs. (5) The Rock vs. CM Punk ('13)

    Oliver: Am I going to vote against Rock vs Punk just because it knocked out the Bomb Angels in the last round? Probably.

    Thing is, I thought Rock vs Punk was actually a really, really good match. Punk tries his best to keep a decent pace going throughout the match, even when Rockís cardio isnít quite as good as it perhaps once was Ė all that sushi and woo-sabi, I suspect Ė but largely speaking they worked well together. They probably did better work a month later at Elimination Chamber, in all honesty. Not to spit on this one, though, which is fun. That said, itís up against a Rumble thatís so good, so brilliantly booked from start to finish, and so impressively called by Monsoon and Heenan, that I canít vote for it here. The 1992 Rumble dominates itís opponent and moves on.

    Skulduggery: I think Rocky and Punk have benefited a little bit from luck of the bracket, not unlike Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam did in the SummerSlam tournament. Hereís a true test against a juggernaut, though! And I think itís one thatís too massive to overcome. With Rock/Punk, you have two wrestlers who each had a library of brilliant wrestling matches, but largely in different eras and in different veins. CM Punk was a mat wizard, employed wonderful psychology, could turn anything into a submission, and against opponents like Daniel Bryan and John Cena, wrestled bigger than he was without ever appearing implausible about it. The Rock shined on electricity, pace, fluidity, and the ability to find the fifth gear with admirable ease. In other words, Punk was about a picture-perfect wrestler for the circa 2012 era of WWE; Rocky was about a picture-perfect wrestler for the circa 2000 era of WWE. Both would likely score an A in any era of wrestling, but maybe not an A+. I think these different styles, while overall meshing well, experienced just a bit of stumble when the two mega-stars met. For instance, take the end of the match Ė after a year and a half of kicking out of nearly every Cena AA thrown at him, it does feel a bit off that Punk was pinned after a Peopleís Elbow. I point to that as a big difference in eras. That was CM Punk in a circa 2000 Rock match. Donít get me wrong, the two still did a nice job Ė but disappointing and underwhelming given the A+ expectations.

    With Ric Flairís ironman performance, you have a match that is often pointed to as the greatest of its genre. Iím not quite that generous with it, but itís still a fantastic match. Based not only on his duration, but on the wonderful commentary track and how the match is structured, this is Flairís Rumble start to finish. The question of ďWho will win?Ē is not as overtly asked as is the question ďCan Flair win or not?Ē. Itís not a formula that you want to repeat very often, but in this setting, and the way things were executed, itís a brilliantly refreshing theme to this one, and gets strong raving from me. Again, donít count me among those who label this the greatest Rumble ever, but itís up in that echelon, and it skunks the 2013 title bout handily.

    Samuel 'Plan: I'm going to vote for Punk and Rocky here actually. I swear I don't keep voting against the '92 Rumble to be a hipster. I have a lot of love for it like most do, though I do think its achievements as a match are quite excessively over-hyped. I like it, I admire it, I just don't love it. And I have to say that I've sort of come to love the 2013 WWE Championship match.... I love Rocky imbuing it with weighty personal stakes and a powerful and affecting theme in his pre-match promo, both of which help reaffirm the imperious scope of CM Punk's villainy in continuing on as champion. I think the action is actually pretty darn great; simple, sure, but effective. I like that it still puts something of a spotlight (though by no means literally!) on The Shield and I think the atmosphere of pandemonium as the match gets restarted is pretty infectious. It expresses this wonderful sneer towards the tropes of the Attitude Era while at the same time utilising some of those same tropes to great effect. As a piece of performance art I think it's quite remarkable. So, yeah, it's going to get my vote on this one!

    The Doc: I've said some nice things about Rock vs. Punk and I stand by them, but the '92 Rumble's combo of Heenan and Flair along with compliments paid previously to the match at large make this a landslide, "no need to think about it" sort of scenario for me.

    mizfan: So I guess itís a credit to the Rock and Punk that people still like their match despite showcasing one of the dirt-worst finishes to a major title match in recent memory, but please, please letís dump that match decisively in favor of the greatest Rumble all time. If you donít vote í92, youíre not being fair to Flair!

    Mazza: No contest. 1992 to advance.

    Prime Time: One of the heaviest hitters getting a gentle ride so far. 1992.

    (1) Royal Rumble Match ('92) wins 6-1

    (2) Chris Jericho vs. The Rock ('02) vs. (3) Royal Rumble Match ('04)

    Mazza: I have got this horrible horrible feeling that more than half of this panel will try and force 2004 through against 1992. I may have to bust some heads if that happens. In the meantime, it is pretty well matched up here. Iíd say that both these matches are a tad overseeded. I am going to go for Rock and Jericho however, just because I feel I need to even out the 2004 love.

    Prime Time: I'm going to round this out with another vote for the Rumble match concept and for 2004.

    The Doc: Jericho vs. Rock pulled one out in the last round, and I can appreciate why, but I truly do not believe that it should advance again. The '04 Rumble is the best in gimmick lore and I would love to see a rumble between Rumbles in the Elite Eight next round. It's going to be a close one, in my opinion, and it wouldn't surprise me if it came all the way down to the wire, 4-3 either way, but here's my stance on picking the '04 Rumble: Jericho vs. Rock, separated from the over-arching rivalry, is just a great match and a marvelous standalone example of in-ring chemistry, but the '04 Rumble is one of the pinnacle achievements in the 31 year history of the Royal Rumble Match. Maybe you feel like it was tarnished because Benoit's seminal moment was tainted a decade ago, and that is fine, but there is not another Rumble Match like '04, and that deserves to be celebrated for at least another round. Recognize that, at no point until the climax does the ring fill up like we customarily expect it to; it instead moves swiftly through the bit players, giving them a solid spotlight while maintaining primary focus on the major stars whose angles connected into WrestleMania XX's top matches. When the ring does fill up, it is with Angle, Cena, Show, Goldberg, Jericho, Christian, and Benoit - a dazzling collection of talent, each a World Champion at some point in his career. It may not overwhelm from start to finish with star power, but the utilization of its roster is spectacular. If it advances, then it sets up a very unique dichotomy in Rumble formatting philosophy against presumably the '92 Rumble in the Elite Eight.

    Oliver: Itís still kind of remarkable that Jericho was the champion in 2002, isnít it? How did he get out of Vengeance with those two belts? Still, here he is, the champions, and doing the best heel work since he was in WCW in 1998 but actually getting appreciation for it. And hey, even here, with the blatant anti-Canadian bias from Earl Hebner and the outrageous flaunting of the rules by The Rock, still he retains the titles with a good, clean, and moral victory. Just a shame for The Rock that Nick Patrick canít remember what comes after 1, I guess. Before that, though, we had a great display of the chemistry between the two which was always there but has never been really talked about in terms of in ring greatness. A shame, truly a shame.

    On the flip side here, the 2004 Rumble is an truly terrific effort but really only about one man. In fact, it was only ever about one man. WWE had this weird run of making the Rumbles only really about one person and then that person winning in the end, and they all seemed to run during this sort of timeframe. But it worked, and with Benoit having been front and centre for the build he was then front and centre in the match. The first 20 minutes or so is a little on the dull side, but once they get Orton eliminating folk as well as Benoit stitching basically the whole match together Ė somewhere around Albert and Shelton Benjamin turning up Ė it really kicks up a gear and has a lot of fun going on.

    Ultimately though, Iím leaning to the better in ring pairing of The Rock vs Chris Jericho. Thereís something that just drags the 2004 Rumble match down a bit when watching it now, and I canít put my finger on what exactly. Itís possibly a little formulaic, I suppose, in terms of having a big guy come out and nail a bunch of moves then get thrown out. Close, but no cigar.

    mizfan: I remain baffled at the staggeringly high seeding for Jericho/Rock here. Itís a perfectly good match but under-delivers considering the talent involved. The í04 Rumble, by contrast, tells one of the best underdog stories ever and features the greatest coast to coast performance of any Rumble, while at the same time informing or escalating just about every major match on the Wrestlemania card in a way no other Rumble can boast. If í04 falls here, yíall are just nuts!

    Skulduggery: I loved Docís Round 2 analysis of the color visual of 2004ís Rumble. Thatís something I probably appreciated subtly, but something I definitely never put a finger on why. Makes me appreciate it that little bit more now that he pointed it out! That said, that incremental leap isnít enough for me to vote for 2004 over the liquid match between Y2J and The Rock. The pair completely engages the crowd from the word Go, peaking with a beautiful Rock Bottom through the announce table. The Rockís nearly unmatched natural athleticism is on display here, complemented nicely by the smaller but equally as fluid Chris Jericho. Iíll take that over an above average Rumble all day.

    Samuel 'Plan: Another tough one! The chemistry in the Undisputed Championship Match is off the chain. They compete and perform at such a pace you can practically see smoke rising from the canvas as they set it alight with their relentless pacing and vast degree of content. The shenanigans come thick and fast but somehow never manage to overshadow the athleticism at the heart of the contest. The theme is a pretty compelling one too, with Jericho fighting to prove he isn't a joke, but so desperate in the fight he threatens to prove exactly that. He cheats in every which way imaginable but still comes up short! But sadly, despite all of this, it comes up here against another strong contender to be named greatest Rumble ever Ė Benoit's underdog story, Randy Orton's star-making performance, Foley's story, the construction of the final six and the design of the conclusion, Goldberg's explosive cameo, the brief spurts of anxiety-busting humour, it's practically Rumble perfection. So 2004 gets my vote.

    (3) Royal Rumble Match ('04) wins 4-3

    And with that, we are down to eight. An octet of Rumble matches remain in the quest to determine which is the greatest ever in the January classic. Boy, I can't wait to hear what 'Plan has to say about the Rockers and Orient knocking out Rollins' star-making performance... (Although I'm not one to talk - I spent several paragraphs bemoaning the fact that the '05 Rumble got ditched in the second round!)

    The Rock took a particularly notable tumble here in the Sweet 16, as three of his singles matches all bade farewell. Pretty damn impressive that he had three singles bouts to make it that far, but his lone existence in the Elite 8 is in a 3rd place position at Rumble '01. Benoit still has some strong presence, with his Rumble win and '03 classic with Angle still alive; ditto Triple H for his Street Fight and a dominant performance in the '09 Rumble moving forward. In terms of eras, the noughties are crushing it - 6 matches in the Elite 8 occurred between 2000 and 2009. Only two remain from the '88 - '99 stretch, and everything from '10 - '18 has bitten the dust.

    On the other hand, both matches that had been perfect in terms of voting received some X's this round, meaning there are no sacred cows left that have been unmarred (...though both were lightly marred). Additionally, we have exactly 4 and 4 in terms of Rumble matches and non-Rumble matches. Seeing as though the A/B side has 3-1, and the C/D side has 1-3, statistically, there's a decent chance of getting a Rumble vs. non-Rumble in the final match-up! But all of these matches are so strong that anything could still happen.

    Elite 8 is up next! More Madness incoming.

  2. #2
    Forgotten Ponder Super Hoody's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    *grabs cuppa and cracks knuckles*

    Bracket A

    Angle/Benoit - I've always been a submission/technical wrestling kinda guy but I do enjoy my hardcore stuff when it is deemed necessary. Rock is hilarious and the ending will always be remembered but it doesn't wet my whistle. Angle and Benoit are jacking off material to me and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

    Rumble '01 - Both Rumbles are known for two things, a dominant Kane in '01 and the HBK/Taker "match" in '07. I remember more that happened in the '01 Rumble than the '07 match so it gets the nod.

    Bracket B

    Lesnar/Rollins/Cena - Still clinging to the memories of the first and only time I watched it (live).

    Jericho/Benoit - This was a battle of different stipulations, so that played into the choice with ladders being my preferred match. The other factor was that I loved Umanga, so Cena beating him was another reason to hate him.

    Bracket C

    Jack/HHH - Two star making matches. Difference was, Wyatt went downhill from there while H went up.

    Rumble '09 - Still not happy with the Orton loss at Mania.

    Bracket D


    Rumble '04 - Benoit mark for life. The fact I'm gonna have to choose between this and '92 next round is gonna kill me.

    Pleasure reading as always, gents.

  3. #3
    The Brain
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Loving this, I think every one of my votes went through! Bravo to all who made the right choices!

    A few thoughts. First off, even though it's eliminated, I do want to say a last work on Mankind/Rock. I actually love most of the match, but I'm so glad it's gone. Even if you accept that Foley knew and accepted the risks (not a given, knowing the history of the match), any match that hinges on causing real, lasting harm to achieve it's goal has already failed in my eyes.

    Love Skul going to bat for the eliminated '05 Rumble. I clashed a bit with Plan on twitter about it, but the only criticism I couldn't turn back was the Muhammad Hassan bit, which is admittedly a black eye for the match. Still, overall it's a favorite and I was sad to see it go.

    Last comment, I do want to push back on Skul's analysis of the 2014 crowd reaction to Bryan's exclusion from the Rumble as "childish". I don't always go in for the sports analogies, but if any real team benched their top player for the big game, the fans would turn on them too, and if any TV show excluded the overwhelming audience favorite from the show's climax, fans would do worse, they'd stop watching. Any blame towards the fans on that night is ridiculous in my opinion, you can only reasonably put blame squarely on WWE's shoulders.

  4. #4
    Author of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die Samuel 'Plan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that I find it absolutely ridiculous that some spotty filler curtain jerking tag team match has gotten this far in a tourney about the greatest match in the history of a PPV loaded with considerably better matches than that waste of time with no follow-up, no consequence, no relevance and no stakes. Think I'm gonna have a mental breakdown by the time this is over!

    Credit to Oli for two of the best lines so far - Lesnar the "gamma radiated farmhand" and the "piss and gore soaked" Attitude Era. Lol. Tremendous.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2018
    See, that compliment is enough for me to not want to rub the Rockers/Express victory in your face.

    Great stuff, guys! I love that 'Plan pulled for Rocky vs Punk, because it's a match that I truly felt like voting for until I rewatched the 1992 Rumble and realised I was in love with it.

  6. #6

  7. #7
    The Brain
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Let's be honest, I love Martel but every version of the Model is little more than a Ric Flair imitation.

  8. #8

  9. #9
    The Brain
    Join Date
    May 2018
    You'll never see me knocking Martel's phenomenal Rumble performance! Really wish '91 had a better ending or I'd like it even more than I already do, which is a lot.

  10. #10
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Got to say, I thought all of these would be close so I was surprised to see some of the results.

    That said, as much as I loved it at the time I'm glad Rock/Mankind has gone. To be an all time best match, it has to remain rewatchable. Given what has been learned in the years that have followed, anyone who can still enjoy those chair shots has something wrong with them. That alone would have been enough for me to vote against it from day one, even if it had been up against a Khali match.

    FACT or FICTION: Ladies and Gentlemen, Elias.
    PM me to get involved.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Angle/Benoit and Foley/Rock is arguably the most unpredictable battle in this entire series since it's inception due to the fact that when you look at these matches in hindsight, all you can think about is the effect that concussions had on the industry and also the terrible deed that Benoit did. So this was an interesting match-up, to say the least. I think the right match won though as Benoit/Angle put on a clinic.

    Like I said in R2, Cena/Umaga is my dark horse to win this this whole tournament as I honestly believe that it is a bona fide classic. This match epitomizes how a babyface should be booked against an unstoppable monster. I will be rooting for this match all the way.

    I'm saddened that Bray/Wyatt got eliminated as I absolutely adore that match. However, I've never watched the street fight before so I cannot really compare, although the different styles of matches is incomparable in and of itself. I will say that Mick Foley made many a star. The Rock, HHH, Orton and Edge comes to mind immediately (and ironically all of those matches were of the hardcore variety). So because of the star-making factor that lessens the blow of having Wyatt/Bryan eliminated.

    Still loving this and can't wait for the Elite Eight. Bring it on!

  12. #12
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Always pleased to see the back of triple threat matches.

    Can see at least one nightmare of a decision coming up...

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Cheers once again for all the feedback!

    'Plan and miz, Ted DiBiase did the heel iron man run before either Martel or Flair, tsk tsk!

    I think I see things from a different viewpoint than some when it comes to stuff like Foley/Rock - the impact of the chair shots is not "all I can see". It's there, but it doesn't consume everything when I watch the match. Same thing as when I watch a Benoit match.

    LOL - I knew 'Plan was going to be irked (to put it lightly) about the Rockers and the Orient Express going past the triple threat. Hey, I voted for the Rollins match, my hands are clean!

    Don Franc, I would highly recommend watching the Foley/HHH match!

    Thanks again all.

  14. #14
    The Brain
    Join Date
    May 2018
    I can look past heavy shots to the head to a certain extent, especially anything before 2008 because there's a certain ignorance pre-Benoit, but you gotta admit that I Quit is a damned extreme example!

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