There can only be one. We all know what is at stake in the Royal Rumble match.
What would you do for a mere chance to dance with immortality? A chance to define an era? A chance to stand in the center of history in the making?
The Royal Rumble. For many men it is their only opprotunity at becoming the WWE Champion. One chance at main eventing the most historically significant show in wrestling history.
A single second can be the difference from changing a career. But, only for one man. It’s the short cut to WrestleMania, and a one way ticket to everlasting life. But to get there you have to cross through one of the most challenging matches the WWE has ever created.
Only one man can win, and how strange it is that the winner of the greatest Royal Rumble match of all time – is not a man at all…
While so much is at stake in the Royal Rumble match, for the fans, it is the most pure form of sports entertainment the WWE has.
Since the dawn of the modern wrestling era the Battle Royal has been the quintessential special attraction match. All the way back to the days of Haystacks Calhoun and the legendary Andre the Giant.
The Royal Rumble is a modern callback to those carnival attractions of old.
The Royal Rumble is not so much an example of skill and pacing as it is a showcase of entertainment and grandeur. It is over the top “sports entertainment” at it finest. It should never win a “Match of the Year” Slammy Award, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most important nights of WWE’s year. Because it is.
Its plain and simple fun. So for a Royal Rumble match to be considered the greatest of all time it has to be, above all else, a fun showcase of everything the WWE is about and be able to tell multiple engaging stories without confusion.
In 1992, 1995, 2004, and 2006 we saw greats like Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, and Rey Mysterio go border-to-border and win it all.
In 2002, 2008, and 2010 we saw the legends of tomorrow like Triple H, John Cena, and Edge return and lay claim to their ticket to the main event.
In 2011, Alberto Del Rio went through 39, not 29, other men to win the biggest Royal Rumble in the events history.
But in 2007 a perfect storm of talent and entertainment came to the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas and became the benchmark of what a Royal Rumble match should be.
It’s the modern equivalent of what the 1992 Royal Rumble became.
The talent in the 20th ever Royal Rumble is absolutely unmistakable.
It an example of some of the greatest modern stars and the hold outs left over from the days of the Monday Night War.
The expose began with 16-Time World Champion, and 1992 Royal Rumble winner, Ric Flair and 20+ year veteran Fit Finlay.
This also marked the first time ECW was represented in the Royal Rumble as WWE’s third brand.
The likes of Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Sabu, CM Punk, and even Rob Van Dam all got to showplace their hardcore version of entertainment in the match.
Talent including Finlay, Edge, Shelton Benjamin, CM Punk, Randy Orton, and Shawn Michaels would all spend over 20 minutes or more in the match and really got to tell their stories well and provide a lot of action and excitement.
And how could we forget, the man who entered last. The Undertaker. For 20 years no man successfully won the Royal Rumble from the final position. It was almost as #30 was cursed.
However, it would seem that curse was finally broken by the “Demon from Death Valley.”
Even after mentioning all of those names there were also impressive showings from Chris Benoit, Kane, King Booker, Jeff Hardy, Johnny Nitro, MVP, The Great Khali, and Carlito.
There was such a wealth of talent here, and while not all of them spent long amounts of time in the contest they really helped sell this matches entertainment factor with the spots and sequences they were all involved in.
This was billed as “The Most Star Studded Royal Rumble of All Time” and while that claim might be a bit of a stretch when you look at the men in this match it is hard to say that it isn’t “The Most Talented Royal Rumble of All Time.”
This is a Royal Rumble full of WWE Hall of Fame talent. Unmistakably.
Finlay and Flair started this match out strong, and the Irishman would go on to have a very impressive showing, but his time in the Rumble would be out shined by a couple of young and brash thugs from Monday Night Raw.
Rated RKO, Randy Orton and Edge, deserve a lot of credit for being the pace-setters of this contest and the story of their dissolving partnership was really a gem among all the other stories being told in this match.
They dominated much of the action especially Edge, who at almost 45 minutes, was easily the longest lasted competitor in 2007’s match.
The action here was a lot of what we had grown accustomed to in the Royal Rumble, but the WWE found new ways to surprise us.
ECW’s Sabu was eliminated by Kane via a Chockslam through a wooden table and The Sandman entered the ring with a Kendo Stick and took a good whack at everything in sight until being quickly thrown out.
While this match lacked the attraction of featuring many surprise entrants like the more modern Rumble’s do it still had impressive and consistent action. Once Shawn Michaels entered the fray things really got interesting.
One half of D-Generation X entered the Royal Rumble at 23 and eliminated Finlay. He then deviled Sweet Chin Music to Viscera who was painfully tossed out by eight other men! A record that eclipsed the previous record Viscera held as “Mabel” almost 10 years earlier.
It was apparent Shawn Michaels had come to his home town to stop the show, and the entire match shifted into a higher gear when he arrived.
The match, as we all know, really ascended to another realm when the contest entered its final moments and two revered WWE superstars came face-to-face for the first time in nearly a decade…
Rarely, can the finish of a match do so much for it’s legacy after the fact.
The finish of this match really came about with the entrance of the 28th man, The Great Khali. The monster from Punjab quickly eliminated seven Royal Rumble competitors; among them the likes of CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, The Miz, and several others.
The ring began to empty and it looked like the road to WrestleMania had been cleared by Khali. 3-2-1…
The 30th man to enter the Royal Rumble was no man at all. Through smoke and fire The Undertaker emerged as the final man and the AT&T Center exploded. The “Conscience of the WWE” made quick work of Khali and MVP and we were left with only Undertaker, Randy Orton, Edge, and Shawn Michaels.
A whose-who of WWE at the time, and probably the most decorated “Final Four” of any Royal Rumble – ever.
Rated RKO used their alliance to dominated the two other legends, but their inability to communicate effectively left them vulnerable as the attempted to finish off “The Deadman.” The “Heartbreak Kid” sneaked behind them and quickly eliminated the two dastardly heels.
Shawn had to quickly collapse to regain his composure and we were left with the two Texan veterans laying side-by-side in the ring. The crowd knew exactly what that meant and erupted before the two legends even moved.
The conclusion to this Royal Rumble is absolutely iconic and far and away the most well produced conclusion to any Royal Rumble match ever. The Undertaker. Shawn Michaels. Two bonafide pillars of the WWE left laying in the ring with only one another standing in their way at a chance to dance in the light of WreslteMania’s main event once again.
The Undertaker sits up. Shawn Michaels nips up. The two battle worn legends stare across from one another and know what they have to do to win.
This was perhaps one of the most original sights we had ever seen. Both men were downed and the crowd exploded before they even moved, and when the two men got up electricity was in the air.
“These two legends are face-to-face. One of them is going to headline WrestleMania!” -Michael Cole
What followed was a preview of the absolute classic matches these two would have at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, and WrestleMania XXVI.
The two native Texans fought tooth and nail going for all their big moves in an attempt to go back to the main event of the most important show to ever exist.
It was an ending filled with passion and 20 years of WWE history, and it opened the door to the possibility that we had not yet seen the last of the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels story.
“How many times do you get to see two legends, two cornerstones of this company, go at it with everything possible on the line?” -JBL
After both men fought off elimination several times, Shawn Michaels targeted down for one final kick, Sweet Chin Music.
The cagey veteran, Undertaker, had it scouted and dumped out his fellow longest tenured WWE superstar to win the 20th ever Royal Rumble and solidify his spot at WrestleMania.
Shawn Michaels sat at the base of the entrance ramp as he internalized the possibility that he would not make it to WrestleMania. The two icons shared a glance. One of pure respect.
It would, thankfully, be far from the last time they did so.
The Undertaker would go to WrestleMania 23 and face World Heavyweight Champion, Batista, and Shawn Michaels would go to WrestleMania 23 and face the WWE Champion, John Cena.
The two, easily, had the best matches of the night.
The end of the 2007 Royal Rumble would indirectly give birth to what would go on to become the beginning of the end for Shawn Michaels’ illustrious career.
The two legends would begin the 2008 Royal Rumble, and the following year Shawn Michaels would finally challenge The Undertaker to a match at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania.
That match is now considered to be the culmination of over 100 years of sports entertainment and one of the greatest matches ever wrestled.
The following year, in Phoenix, Arizona at WrestleMania XXVI, Shawn Michaels would finish his story – for good. He made one last attempt at “The Streak,” but to get it he had to put his career on the line.
He stood across the ring from The Undertaker and wrestled his final match. For The Undertaker, it was his 18th consecutive WrestleMania victory.
The two men who were brought into the WWE during “Hulkamania,” fought in the trenches against WCW, and enjoyed over a decade of prosperity thereafter shook hands one final time.
There is possibly no two other men in the wrestling world who are more respected for what they have done in the ring than these two.
I think that, above all else, is what made the 2007 Royal Rumble so special.