Just as good as the event itself.
WWE’s annual Royal Rumble event has long been considered the beginning of WrestleMania season. In the 30 years since the event debuted, the chaotic over-the-top staggered battle royal has produced a number of history-making moments, catapulting Superstar after Superstar to the main event of WWE’s annual celebration of professional wrestling, WrestleMania. In BOOM!’s fourth one-shot WWE event comic, some of the greatest stories from the history of the Royal Rumble are told. No matter which era of WWE you might love, the book has something for everyone.
After reading WWE Survivor Series #1, I was skeptical going into this issue. The comic based around November’s annual event was hit and miss, swaying between reality and wrestling fakery (kayfabe). To my delight, WWE Royal Rumble was a pleasant surprise. There are four stories told in the issue, beginning with the 1992 Rumble match where newcomer to WWE, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, won the match and the vacant then-WWF championship. The comic covers the end of the match and the following iconic Flair promo in a style reminiscent of comics from a bygone era. Keeping in kayfabe, the comic continues with Flair, Mr. Perfect, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan debating who might be man enough to step up to the new champ. Writer Lan Pitts and artist Rodrigo Lorenzo nailed this one. The dialogue feels like it fell out of the mouths of three of the best talkers in wrestling history. The cameos by wrestling legends The Undertaker and Macho Man Randy Savage just top off a great chapter.
One of the things that surprised me was seeing wrestler AJ Styles’ name on the cover of the issue. Styles, current WWE Champion (and AiPT!’s 2017 wrestler of the year), penned the story of his own debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble with Michael Kingston co-writing and Daniel Bayliss illustrating. For those not in the know, Styles is considered to be one of the top wrestlers in the world today in every respect. I guess adding “writer” to his resume wasn’t difficult for the multi-time champ. Save for an interaction with 16-time WWE Champion John Cena and a merch argument with some backstage flunkies, the story focuses on Styles’ 17-year journey and finally stepping on to the biggest stage in the wrestling business. In being disrespected backstage by Cena, Styles contacts two Good Brothers from his time back in Japan, enjoining them to come to WWE and utters the phrase that catapulted him to main event status within only a few months: “Beat up John Cena.” The final few pages, including a tremendous splash page of Styles’ entrance, cover the last few moments behind the curtain before he shocked the world. This chapter is truly phenomenal.
The middle stories are a lot of fun. “Mr. Royal Rumble” is a flashback to superstar Kofi Kingston’s many acrobatic escapes from elimination at the Rumble. When a Superstar is thrown over the top rope, both of his feet must touch the floor before he is eliminated. With his brothers in The New Day, Kofi relives walking on his hands, using various Superstars as landing pads, surfing around the ring on the backs of a bunch of partying weirdos, and even using an office chair as a pogo stick. In “Randy Savage: Not Show King,” the villainous Macho King Randy Savage runs from the incensed Ultimate Warrior after costing the man from Parts Unknown his WWF Championship. Savage infamously missed his number in the Rumble match and was nowhere to be found. According to the comic, he escaped the arena, persued by the foaming-at-the-mouth Warrior and stole a rambling Jake “The Snake” Roberts’s station wagon. I would watch this sitcom.
Such a huge improvement over the inconsistency of WWE Survivor Series, WWE Royal Rumble is as good as the event itself. Don’t wait for the bell, run in and pick up this phenomenal tribute.