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Wrestling

Mauro Ranallo: Voice Of A Wrestling Generation

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It cannot be stated enough how important a good commentator is to a wrestling show. Their voices come through over the action, guiding fans through matches and more. A great announcer provides context and hypes what’s happening on screen. They can help make a mediocre match great with a few simple words. The reality is that Mauro Ranallo is the best commentator in the game today.

Mauro Ranallo’s Backstory

If you’re not familiar with Ranallo, he has been a commentator and announcer for pro wrestling, MMA, kickboxing, and boxing. This currently includes companies like Bellator, Showtime, and WWE. He is notorious in the best possible way for his highly energetic style and for peppering in his wide vocabulary and pop culture references.

Mauro Ranallo on commentary
Mauro Ranallo’s positive energy shines through.

Unfortunately, Mauro Ranallo suffers from some serious mental health issues which he has taken in stride whenever possible. He has been open with his struggles and has become a prominent mental health advocate.

Mauro started with the WWE in 2016 as their lead commentator on SmackDown. Unfortunately, he shared the desk with former wrestler, champion, and a reputedly notorious bully, John “Bradshaw” Layfield. Mauro missed several dates in 2017 due to his mental health issues. Many believed that this was due to JBL bullying him, but Mauro later said it was primarily the schedule that contributed to his breakdown.

Mauro Ranallo with JBL
Mauro Ranallo with JBL on commentary.

A short time after that, Ranallo and WWE came to terms on a deal that would bring him to NXT. He continues to call for Bellator but also works every NXT and TakeOver, which fans around the world love.

The Voice Of NXT

Alongside Beth Phoenix and Nigel McGuinness, Mauro Ranallo has become the voice of NXT and is more closely associated with the brand than anyone else. His talent at the announcer’s desk pairs perfectly with the talent in the NXT ring. Additionally, he, Beth, and Nigel are a distinct and impressive team.

The NXT commentary team
The NXT commentary team behind the desk.

What makes Mauro Ranallo stand out is the energy he brings to every event. His enthusiasm is infectious, but not just because he’s loud and acerbic on the mic. When all you bring to the announcer’s desk is volume, snark, and tattoos, you don’t really bring anything of substance.

Mauro Ranallo is capable of making you feel every bump in the ring with a few words. He draws you into the moment. His reactions become your reactions. Mauro Ranallo is part of the story he’s telling, whether he intends to be or not.

Truly great wrestling matches are all about the narrative they build. A great commentator is a key part of that.

In the makeup of an announcing team, you have a lead announcer, a color commentator, and someone who empathizes with the heel. It’s not always three people but those roles need to be filled. The NXT commentator team does that with Mauro, Beth, and Nigel respectively filling those roles.

Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuinness feed off each other.

Nigel is the perfect foil to Mauro Ranallo. He brings a similar energy level but directs his focus to the heels and what they’re doing. He and Mauro play off of each other beautifully. Beth Phoenix is still quite new to announcing but she’s progressing quickly in the role of color commentator.

Maybe she’ll pick up a second WWE Hall of Fame ring for her work behind the desk.

An Announcer Pedigree Continues

During the Attitude Era, it was Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler who were the voices of wrestling. The called a litany of iconic matches and moments that make up the history of that time. Good Ol’ J.R. is now lending his incredible talent to AEW while Lawler is back calling Raw and is better than ever. Mauro Ranallo and company are their modern equivalents.

Bobby Heenan. Gorilla Monsoon. Vince McMahon. Taz. Some incredibly talented people have sat behind the announcer’s desk in the WWE. Mauro Ranallo is a continuation of that tradition with an argument to be made that he’s the best of all time.

Like many pay-per-views, Survivor Series had a rotating group of announcers depending on the wrestling of each brand. Ranallo was noticeable due to his absence. The company line was that he injured his vocal chords calling NXT TakeOver: WarGames the night before but something worse may be at play.

Reputedly, Mauro Ranallo’s mental health issues may have reared their ugly heads once more thanks to some nasty tweets from Corey Graves. This has not been confirmed and Graves seemed to take issue with the accusation while deleting the offending tweets. Mauro has deleted his entire Twitter account.

Regardless of why he wasn’t there, Survivor Series was a largely lackluster affair that could have used a healthy dose of Mauro Ranallo’s energy.

The Future Of Wrestling

It’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but the voice of Mauro Ranallo is the future of wrestling.

No one sells what’s going on in the ring quite like him. One of the worst things that could happen to NXT during the Wednesday Night Wars would be losing Mauro Ranallo. If whatever is going on with Graves is even remotely true, it needs to be squared away quickly.

Mauro Ranallo with the godfather of NXT, Triple H.

When his career is over, Mauro Ranallo will be remembered as the voice of a wrestling generation. Hopefully, WWE gets that and protects that resource.

Ian is a freelance writer based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who writes about pop culture. That includes movies, TV series, comic books, and wrestling. He has a day job at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, sleeps way too little, and buys way too many toys.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

One Versus All

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

WrestleMania may be regarded as the Super Bowl of the WWE but of the other three major pay-per-view events, The Royal Rumble has often given us better matches over the years. Yes, the Survivor Series and King of the Ring have had their fair share of moments, but the Royal Rumble is without a doubt the second-biggest wrestling PPV on the planet.

What makes the Royal Rumble so exciting is how it sets up the most prominent storylines on the programming for the remainder of the year. The Royal Rumble is simply put, the start of playoff season and a steppingstone for WWE superstars to prepare for their big moment at WrestleMania. It really is a seminal event on the WWE calendar and has often launched the wrestlers to superstar’s status.

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

A Brief History of the Royal Rumble

Credit for the Royal Rumble can be given to Pat Patterson who came up with the original idea when brainstorming an event that would be bigger and better than the Battle Royale. The concept was simple really; unlike the Battle Royale which begins with all twenty participants in the ring, the Royal Rumble would instead start with only two superstars and have the remaining participants join the match every two minutes thereafter. And to up the ante, instead of having only twenty wrestlers, the Royal Rumble includes thirty superstars who battle it out for a title shot in the main event of WrestleMania (except for in 1992, when Ric Flair won the WWE Championship by winning the titular match ).

If you had to choose just one reason as to why the Royal Rumble is one of the most anticipated pay-per-view events, it would be because you never really know what to expect. Aside from anticipating who’ll come out next during the main event— and guessing who will eliminate who— we’re also left wondering who’ll make a long-overdue comeback after being away from the WWE for months – sometimes years.

We’ve seen big men like Kane eliminate eleven opponents in a row, and a superstar like Shawn Michaels become the first wrestler to win the Rumble after entering first. We watched Undertaker get locked in a casket and set on fire and we witnessed The Rock and Mankind battle it out in an “I Quit” match that temporarily led to a power failure and left the entire arena in the dark. There’s just no shortage of over the top moments at the Royal Rumble such as Kofi Kingston’s creative ways to avoid elimination or the surprise entrance by AJ Styles. The Royal Rumble is where dreams are made, careers are ended, and over the years, fans have witnessed some of the most intense rivalries take shape at the event.

History of the Royal Rumble

The Royal Rumble is without question, an important PPV and has been a part of a tradition dating all the way back to 1988. We’ve seen many of the most iconic wrestlers win the multi-man brawl, including Hulk Hogan (1990, 1991), Ric Flair (1992), Bret Hart (1994), Shawn Michaels (1995, 1996) Steve Austin (1997, 1998, 2001), The Rock (2000), Triple H (2002), The Undertaker (2007), and John Cena (2008), to name a few. And we’ve seen plenty more superstars come close, but ultimately getting eliminated at the very last minute. Yes, it’s a simple concept but the Royal Rumble is also incredibly exciting to watch.

Apart from the titular main event, WWE’s annual January extravaganza has also given us some incredible matches in the undercard. From surprising sleeper hits to fast-paced tag team action to hardcore matches and strange gimmick matches— the Royal Rumble has time and time again, blessed wrestling fans with the perfect blend of great storytelling and in-ring action. As such, the event has given fans some classic matches over the years and many have stood the test of time.

Whether it’s the rumble itself or a high-tempo singles match, the list of great matches that took place during the Royal Rumble is rather long. Below is a list of the greatest Royal Rumble matches to date, with links to the full review of each match.

Simply click on the links below to read about whichever match interests you most and let us know in the comments, what you think is the greatest Royal Rumble match of all time.

Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series. You can find all the articles here.

  • Ricky D

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

1) Royal Rumble 2003: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

2) Royal Rumble 1992: The Royal Rumble Match

3) Royal Rumble 2000: The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (Tables Match)

4) Royal Rumble 2000: Triple H and Cactus Jack Street Fight

5) Royal Rumble 2001: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (Ladder Match)

6) Royal Rumble 2007: The Royal Rumble Match

7) Royal Rumble 2015: Brock Lesnar Vs. John Cena Vs. Seth Rollins

8) Royal Rumble 1995: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

9) Royal Rumble 1998: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (Casket Match)

10) Royal Rumble 1999: The Rock vs.Mankind (“I Quit” Match)

11) Royal Rumble 2009: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge

12) Royal Rumble 2004: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels

13) Royal Rumble 1994: Yokozuna vs. The Undertaker (Casket Match)

14) Royal Rumble 1991: Sgt. Slaughter vs. the Ultimate Warrior

15) Royal Rumble 1991: The Rockers vs. The Orient Express

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

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Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Royal Rumble 1995

“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

World Wrestling Federation Championship

The 1995 Royal Rumble was the eighth installment of the annual pay-per-view. It took place on January 22, in the USF Sun Dome located in Tampa, Florida and is remembered most for two things: Pamela Anderson’s one and only appearance in the WWE ring and Shawn Michaels becoming the first wrestler to win the Royal Rumble after entering first. But aside from that the iconic, game-changing ending in which Shawn Michaels dangled on the ropes, barely hanging on, before pulling himself over and eliminating the British Bulldog— there was another great match that is often overlooked.

It was the first WWE Championship defense of Diesel and it came against the face of the company, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.

The storyline behind the WWF World Heavyweight Championship match began in 1994, when Bob Backlund with the help of Owen Hart, beat Bret Hart for the championship at Survivor Series. Three days later, Bob Backlund was scheduled to defend the title against Bret Hart at Madison Square Garden only on the eleventh-hour, Hart was replaced by Diesel. Despite spending most of the evening protesting the last-minute change in the card, Backlund was forced to square off against Big Daddy Cool who defeated Backlund in a nine-second match to win the World Title.

With Bret Hart looking to recapture the title, a match with Diesel was then scheduled at the Royal Rumble. It was a rare instance of two babyfaces assigned to compete against each other with the audience having to choose sides.

Unfortunately, the match ended in controversial fashion, but not without its share of drama and plenty of highlights.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Diesel’s match with Bret Hart was a pivotal moment in his career. Not only was it the first time he had to defend the WWE Title on a PPV, but for someone who was often criticized as being over-rated, this match proved that with the right competition, Diesel could put on a great match while also telling a great story.  

It was a face vs. face, but Hart played the de facto heel for much of the match, going so far as slamming a chair on Diesel’s back and taking advantage of his injured knee by applying the figure-four leglock twice. The match itself lasted a good 28 minutes with plenty of finishers including Diesel’s Jackknife powerbomb and of course, Bret Hart’s signature Sharpshooter. It was physical; it was exciting, and it was an example of great storytelling thanks to the ongoing interference.

First, Shawn Michaels came out and attacked Diesel. After being thrown out of the ring, fans anticipated the referee would disqualify Bret Hart and end the match — only instead, the ref ordered it to continue. After a back and forth brawl, Hart hit the Sharpshooter on Diesel’s injured leg but before Big Daddy Cool could tap out, Owen Hart ran in and attacked Bret from behind. And just like before, the referee cleared Owen out of the ring and ordered that the match continue, causing the fans in the arena to explode in cheers.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

While the match isn’t as notable as the Survivor Series fight between Diesel and Bret Hart, it’s still a genuine classic and one of the best matches of Kevin Nash’s career. With the help of Bret Hart, Kevin Nash had risen again and delivered a performance for the ages.

The match, however, would end in disappointing fashion. After the referee was knocked unconscious, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie, Owen Hart and Bob Backlund all came out to attack Bret Hart and Diesel. Realizing he had lost full control of the match and could no longer officiate due to the constant interference; the referee officially ended the match and rang the bell. In the end, it was ruled a draw and Diesel retained his championship.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Despite the interference, the match itself lasted a good half hour and featured two stellar performances by Bret Hart and yes, Kevin Nash. It was just another example of how with the right opponent, Kevin Nash could really work the ring and whatever mistakes and turmoil led Kevin Nash to the WCW, whatever demons that plagued him – you can’t forget that at one point in time, the man was at the top of the WWE.

All in all, the Championship match was well choreographed; perfectly scripted and packed with non-stop action from beginning to end.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches Casket Match

Royal Rumble 1998

WWF World Heavyweight Championship

The 1998 Royal Rumble was the eleventh entry in the annual pay-per-view event. It took place on January 18, 1998, at the San Jose Arena and is remembered best for two things: Stone Cold Steve Austin winning his second Royal Rumble by eliminating The Rock– and the thrilling Casket Match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Unfortunately, it is also remembered as the match that temporarily ended the career of Shawn Michaels.

It was ‘The Last Outlaw’ Undertaker versus Mr. WrestleMania a.k.a. The Main Event a.k.a. The Heartbreak Kid a.k.a. The Showstopper. After costing him the Championship in a match against Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart at Summerslam 1997, The Undertaker was out for revenge.

Shawn Michaels was the champion heading into the match, and he was also the favourite thanks to ample support from his fellow Degeneration X members Triple H and Chyna standing ringside.

Undertaker and Michaels had previously met in an outstanding match at Ground Zero: In Your House before going on to star in the first Hell in a Cell where Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn, only to lose in the end no thanks to Kane interfering. This time around, however, Kane and Undertaker were now on good terms— or so we thought.

Needless to say, expectations were high for this one!

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

Despite his age, Shawn Michaels was in the prime of his career, and every one of his matches with The Undertaker during this era became legendary. Unlike many other rivalries in WWE history, every time these two men went toe-to-toe in the center of the squared circle; fans knew they were in for something special.

The match itself isn’t necessarily their best work but it’s arguably the best Casket Match ever and it culminated with a truly unforgettable ending that had many fans glued to their seats.

The Undertaker controlled most of the match despite the constant interference from Triple H and Chyna, which in retrospect makes sense since early in the match, Shawn Michaels herniated two disks in his back and completely crushed another after receiving a back body drop on the side of the casket. Being the champ that he was, Michaels continued to wrestle, and Undertaker eventually began to lose his dominance as things moved outside of the ring with Michaels delivering a piledriver on top of the steel steps. Following a high-flying elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music, Shawn Michaels seemed to have the match finally in his control but as all good heels do, he blew the opportunity to seal the deal and instead chose to taunt his opponent, giving Taker enough time to recuperate.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The rest of the match saw the two men go back and forth, rolling in and out of the casket and delivering their respected finishers. Eventually, the two men made it back to the ring where Undertaker gave Shawn Michaels a chokeslam before dragging him to the edge of the ring and hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver into the casket. The match looked to be over but before Undertaker could close it, the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas ran in and collectively pummeled Undertaker until the lights went out in the arena. Kane’s music played and the Big Red Machine made his way to the ring to save the day.

Only he didn’t…

Kane instead turned on Undertaker, and choke slammed his own flesh and blood into the casket thus allowing Triple H and Chyna to shut the lid, and end the match.

Royal Rumble 1998 Casket Match HBK Undertaker

As mentioned above, the match itself isn’t the best match we would see from HBK and The Phenom but in my eyes, they are two of the ten greatest superstars in WWE history and even their worst match is still far better than 90% of the other matches the WWE offers. But what really made the night memorable was the ending!

With the Undertaker trapped inside, Paul Bearer came to the ringside carrying giant padlocks and with the help of Kane, they locked the Undertaker inside the casket and proceeded to roll it to the top of the entrance ramp where Kane took an axe and began to dispatch the coffin before dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. And the entire time, Undertaker was supposedly inside.

If you were a young fan watching at the time, the ending of this match might have given you nightmares. It was like something straight out of a horror movie and it was an ending everyone was talking about for months.

As we watched various emergency officials extinguish the fire, Commissioner Slaughter and others desperately tried to break open the casket to free Undertaker. And when the casket was finally wedged opened, Undertaker was nowhere to be seen.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The match itself is historically significant for many reasons. It was the match that forced Michaels to take an extended hiatus due to a legitimate back injury and it also marked the last time Undertaker wrestled Shawn Michaels before their historic WrestleMania XIV match. Meanwhile, Kane’s interference set up an ongoing rivalry between the brothers of destruction. In the end, the 1998 Royal Rumble Championship Match delivered a great story complete with stellar performances from everyone involved.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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