The Royal Rumble Pay-Per-Views were some of my favorites to come from the WWE. The true precursor to Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble match hosted 30 WWE superstars (20 in the case of the first) going against one another in a lottery-themed over-the-top battle royal, with the final remaining man in the ring winning a title match at that year’s Wrestlemania. It always garnished positive energy from the crowd and made for some memorable moments, as well as some interesting statistics. It also made a lot of new stars and even had some great singles matches mixed in.
WWE has finally released an anthology of every single Royal Rumble in its entirety in a 20-disc collector’s set. The appropriately-named Royal Rumble: The Complete Anthology spans two complete decades of World Wrestling Entertainment’s third-biggest yearly PPV (Summer Slam is a close 2nd) for those who are willing to shell out between $180-$260 in the stores for this mammoth boxed-set. For what you’re getting, however, it’s definitely well worth the price tag.
Only a handful of Royal Rumbles have U.S. releases to DVD, while the rest can be found on VHS, that is, if you’re willing to pay a pretty penny on Amazon or Ebay. This is the first time you’ll find most of these Rumbles on DVD, which would be reason alone to own this collection. If that’s not enough, the packaging of this set is AWESOME (although some people have made complaints about it being flimsy and delicate, it really just depends on how you handle opening and closing it). Every detail to the packaging is so well-done I still find myself scared to get my fingerprints on it. The box itself is a pristine white and opens with two gold ribbons. Inside the box are four smaller boxes that contain the discs, much like the Wrestlemania boxed sets. Every disc is complemented with a cardboard enclosure of statistics, including match listings and entry numbers for each superstar involved in the Rumble match itself. You also get four collector’s photo cards of classic moments from the Rumble matches, such as Ric Flair’s legendary 1992 victory and the infamous 1995 Rumble ending involving Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog. In terms of what you’re buying, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
The Royal Rumble PPV’s themselves range from apocalyptic to stellar. After re-watching it I can’t believe how awful the very first Royal Rumble was (especially the unending Dino Bravo weight-lifting segment). Although it receives a lot of praise from fans and historians alike, I’ve always felt that the 1995 Rumble match was like a roll-call of horrible gimmick wrestlers and jobbers, despite great performances by Bulldog and Michaels, as well as a **** title match between Diesel and Bret Hart. The 2003 Royal Rumble is host to one of the best title matches (Angle vs. Benoit) and one of the worst (HHH vs. Scott Steiner) of this decade.
The arguably best Royal Rumble matches already have U.S. DVD releases, but are still a treat to watch again in this collection. The 1992 Royal Rumble match already saw release on the awesome 3-disc Ric Flair collection, and is probably the most well-known match in Rumble history. Bobby Heenan’s color commentary throughout is laugh-out-loud comical, and complemented with a ***** performance by Flair makes this a mandatory viewing.
The 2004 Rumble match is my personal favorite and perhaps the most inspirational, seeing Chris Benoit overcome the odds of coming in as the #1 entry and making it to the very end. Everything about this Rumble is meticulously crafted into a ***** show, especially during the last ten minutes when the final 5 competitors gang up on The Big Show with their finishers. Benoit’s performance is emotional and is only outshone by his winning the title at Wrestlemania XX.
Another Royal Rumble that perhaps didn’t get the attention it deserved would be the 1993 PPV. The Shawn Michaels/Marty Jannetty match for the Intercontinental Title is easily **** and one of my personal favorite feuds to come from the early 90’s. The Rumble match, despite having a most ridiculous ending, gave us some really cool moments, such as the Yokozuna/Earthquake match-up, as well as the pop Bob Backlund gets as one of the three remaining men at the end.
Beyond the aforementioned instances, most of the footage on the anthology is hit/miss with viewers. The back-to-back title matches involving Mick Foley (1999 and 2000) are exceptional, while the casket match from 1994 between Undertaker and Yokozuna is an abortion to this business. The latest Royal Rumble (2007) had an average card, but an intense, well-done finish between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
Much like the Wrestlemania collection, the Royal Rumbles have their share of duds. When you buy Royal Rumble: The Complete Anthology you’re buying some of the best and worst of WWE history. This will probably be your only chance to own all of the Royal Rumble PPVs for a long time, so it will prove to be a mandatory purchase for fans of this unique stipulation-themed show. The high price tag is bound to scare most casual fans away, though.