Since the event’s inception in 1988, the Royal Rumble pay-per-view has seen its fair share of legendary encounters. But, for every AJ Styles vs John Cena, there’s an equally memorable match for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, the efforts of some WWE superstars have failed to connect in the expected way, leaving us with some shoddy performances and matches that have fallen apart at the seams.
In this list, we’re going to run down the best of the worst of Royal Rumble undercard matches, those that were supposed to support the main events, but instead left us longing for the show to end before the marquee match had even started.
Make sure you leave your own least favourite Rumble undercards in the comments below.
10. Kurt Angle vs Mark Henry | Royal Rumble 2006
A strange match indeed, one that somehow managed to succeed the Rumble match itself to close the show. Whether because of the triumphant return of ‘The Deadman’, or the understated WWE debut of Jon Moxley as one of Taker’s druids, it still baffles me that Rey Mysterio’s emotional Rumble win was considered to be less deserving of the closing moments than the slog of a match between former Olympians, Kurt Angle and Mark Henry.
This World Heavyweight Championship match was put together off the bat of Mark Henry’s big return to WWE. Having put Undertaker on the shelf and giving Batista a run for his money, Henry was given his first World title shot in the main event of the show. You’d think that Kurt Angle, of all people, would manage to get a decent match out of the big man, but things just didn’t click between them.
A lot of rest holds and a worn out crowd makes this one of the Royal Rumble’s worst undercard matches, if you can even call it an undercard match.
9. The Ascension vs The New Age Outlaws | Royal Rumble 2015
Remember The Ascension? Yeah they were pretty cool upon their debut, rocking the Mad Max gimmick and freshening up the stale Tag division. Unfortunately, one of the two must have ticked off the wrong guy backstage as within a month they were being laid out by the likes of the A.P.A, The NWO and their Royal Rumble opponents, The New Age Outlaws.
Fans struggled to find any semblance of faith in them after a bunch of old timers left them with no credibility. Even though Konnor and Viktor were able to pick up the win over Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, they never quite recovered from the debacle and slipped down the card into obscurity.
This was undoubtedly one of WWE’s biggest mistakes when calling up NXT talent, I will personally never forgive them for ruining my Wasteland boys.
8. The Boogeyman vs JBL | Royal Rumble 2006
Another hot mess from the Roman-themed Royal Rumble, when former WWE Champion, JBL, stepped into the ring against one of WWE’s strangest anomalies, The Boogeyman. Now, I find it hard to critique superstars that are out there not to put on 5 star classics, but to just live their gimmick. In the world of pro wrestling, you can forgive the likes of Boogeyman for not matching Bret Hart hold-for-hold, but sometimes it’s about a time and a place.
Boogeyman should not have made it to pay-per-view matches such as this, instead he should have been saved for a Rumble spot where he freaked some jobbers out with worms and proceeded to be promptly eliminated. Instead, we see the aforementioned WWE Champion eating a pin within minutes of the opening bell, a far cry from the status JBL had earned two years prior.
And then there was Jillian Hall. The less said about her the better.
7. Brock Lesnar vs Hardcore Holly | Royal Rumble 2004
Brock Lesnar once broke Hardcore Holly’s neck, and apparently that was enough to warrant someone a shot at the WWE Championship in 2004. There are some superstars that just haven’t done enough to be seen as a threat to superstars like Brock Lesnar, who even then was performing like he was unstoppable.
Hardcore Holly may have put in the miles and paid his dues to the industry ten times over, but that still shouldn’t mean he should be featured in the main event scene over the likes of some of SmackDown’s talent at the time.
The match, unsurprisingly, lasted around 10 minutes and featured a lot of Brock Lesnar stomping all over Bob Holly. The match ultimately set up the WrestleMania confrontation between Lesnar and Goldberg, but that could have been achieved all the same whilst putting on an exciting WWE title match.
6. Undertaker vs Heidenreich | Royal Rumble 2005
I almost feel bad putting this match on the list — watching it back today is actually a lot of fun. It’s a rare appearance for the Casket stipulation, where Undertaker aims to seal his opponent in a casket, something which his rival Heidenreich feared the most.
The big guy was unfortunately still very new to the business, and competing against a superstar with the calibre of ‘The Deadman’ was a test taken too soon. Fans just weren’t invested in the monstrous Heidenreich, who only months prior was kidnapping commentators and reciting poetry to them. The match was a real snooze-fest, kept alive only by the sporadic appearances of Kane and Gene Snitsky.
Regardless, if you enjoy the sort of wrestling that takes the action out of the ring and all over the arena, then maybe give this one a go, just make sure you’re going in with an open mind.
5. The Bushwhackers vs The Beverly Brothers | Royal Rumble 1992
Yeesh, this one was a real disaster. The Royal Rumble undercard has often seen some fantastic Tag bouts, but this was far from it. Much like The Boogeyman, The Bushwhackers were not made for pay-per-view competition, their matches were mostly filled with nonsensical spots that kept the casual audiences happy, but brought the ire of the real ‘rasslin community.
The Beverleys weren’t exactly a very talented duo either, and fell on tough times having to carry the Kiwis through a 15 minute contest that never clicked with fans and only served to bring down the pace of the entire show. Just to make things worse, WWE embraced some rather drab stereotypes for the sake of some maligned humour halfway through the match. Certainly a portion of the show that deserves to be stricken from the Network.
Luckily, the Rumble match wasn’t far away and managed to pull things back in time for WrestleMania season.
4. Roman Reigns vs King Corbin | Royal Rumble 2020
The feud between King Corbin and Roman Reigns dragged on forever. It’s a shame to look back on the conclusive bout between them at last year’s Royal Rumble to be one of the last matches that actually featured a live audience. Even though the two hosses spilled out into the crowd as per their Falls Count Anywhere ruling, it barely managed to sustain any momentum and the match was a true snooze-fest.
Royal Rumble openers should aim to be as exciting as the main event itself, just slapping a marquee name like Roman Reigns in the first match doesn’t achieve that alone. Corbin has improved over the years, but this feud really demonstrated how much he still has to learn about executing exciting matches, especially at a big show like the Royal Rumble.
Give this one a miss.
3. Sable vs Luna Vachon | Royal Rumble 1999
I try not to get too hung up on this era of women’s wrestling, because let’s face it, we knew what to expect and that’s precisely what we got. It’s hard to argue that Sable was one of WWE’s biggest female attractions in the late 90s, but that doesn’t mean that she deserved to be actively featured on any wrestling show, full stop.
Even though Luna Vachon was given the ‘veteran’ status heading into this strap match, even she struggled to bump well enough to make Sable look like a genuine threat to a pro wrestler. It was straight up bad and is leagues apart from the wrestling we see today from a very talented women’s roster.
Whenever someone tries to push one of the ‘divas’ as a pioneer of some sort, remember this match.
2. Undertaker vs Yokozuna | Royal Rumble 1994
This WWE Championship match joins Taker/Heidenreich as one of WWE’s most bizarre undercard matches. The Casket stipulation was once again brought in to give ‘The Deadman’ an advantage over his rival, who was absolutely terrified of the casket. Yokozuna and Undertaker were two wrestlers who failed to develop any chemistry together, despite being good pals outside of the ring.
I think it’s time we start acknowledging that Undertaker struggled in matches against fellow big men. Aside from the occasional bout with Kane, Big Show or Kevin Nash, Undertaker’s slow and methodical style just never meshed with other giants. This match stands to prove that point.
A plethora of heel superstars joined the match to aid Yokozuna and it soon devolved into supernatural hijinks that reeks of 90s wrestling. A bit of fun if you get a buzz from Undertaker’s old-school antics, but not if you’re here for peak competition.
1. Triple H vs Scott Steiner | Royal Rumble 2003
A World Heavyweight Championship match that has gone down in history as one of the worst of all time, and it so happened to be featured on a pretty decent Royal Rumble event. The 2003 Rumble is best remembered for its stellar WWE Championship match between Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, and equally for Triple H and Scott Steiner’s mess.
Steiner was pitched as the guy to dethrone ‘The Game’ during the height of his dominance, yet we should have known better than to trust Vince McMahon when booking a former WCW guy. Steiner did go on to win this particular match via disqualification, but before that the two men sleepwalked their way through rest holds, botches and belly-to-belly suplexes — so many suplexes.
This was abysmal, the crowd hated it, I think even Ric Flair was struggling to watch from ringside. Do yourself a favour and steer clear of this one.
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