The Royal Rumble has always been my favorite pay-per-view event that the WWE puts on. It is a part of their ‘Big Four’ which also includes SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and of course WrestleMania. Growing up I didn’t get to see very many PPVs due to the cost but I always made sure to rent or buy the VHS or DVD once it was released.
As good as the Royal Rumble PPV as a whole can be, the actual Rumble match itself is what has always drawn me in. In the early years, I loved to watch Stone Cold Steve Austin run wild during the Rumble and open a can of you know what on 29 other superstars.
Then later when surprise entrants began to become a tradition and the anticipation of who may be making a comeback or a debut would be so much fun to watch. Even though recent Royal Rumble victors have been debated and complained about by the WWE Universe, the match is still always exciting.
Since the Royal Rumble is quickly approaching let’s take a look back at the best Royal Rumble matches of all time. Here is our top ten list of the best Rumble matches in WWE history.
10. 1995 Royal Rumble Match
I had to put this match on my list as it was groundbreaking and provided one of the most talked about and re-lived moments in Royal Rumble history. Shawn Michaels entered the match as the first participant and went on to win it. The first time for a #1 entrant to win the entire match.
Michaels performance and the finish of this match is what sets it apart. The late Davey Boy Smith, better known as The British Bulldog, appeared to have won the match after sending HBK over the top rope, his music even began playing. However, as the Bulldog celebrated on the second rope, Michaels rushed back into the ring and shoved him over the top rope.
Legendary ring announcer Howard Finkel would clear up the confusion in the now infamous explanation. “The referee has informed me, that only ONE of Shawn Michaels feet hit the floor”. In every Royal Rumble since 1995, the “Shawn Michaels Rule” was referred to every time a superstar was nearly eliminated and ensured that fans knew a wrestler had to go over the top rope and have both feet hit the floor in order for an elimination to occur.
9. 1992 Royal Rumble Match
Two of the biggest professional wrestlers during the late 80s and early 90s were both in the World Wrestling Federation at the same time and both competed in the 1992 Royal Rumble. Hulk Hogan, the winner of the 1990 and 1991 Royal Rumble matches, and Ric Flair who had recently left WCW.
The ’92 Rumble was for the vacated Heavyweight Championship and the winner of the match would be the new champion which was a first. Ric Flair entered the match as the third entrant and would last the entirety of the match as he would go on to win the Royal Rumble and be crowned the champion. At the time, Flair set the record for longest time spent in the match with a time of one hour and two seconds.
Many had high hopes that this would lead to an epic WrestleMania showdown between Hogan and Flair but it would not come to be as Flair would lose the title to Randy Savage at Mania.
8. 2000 Royal Rumble Match
For the first time since 1995, the Royal Rumble match would not feature Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was recovering from neck surgery. The Rattlesnake had been the biggest attraction in the Rumble since 1997 so the company needed to deliver, and they did.
Stars like Kane, Big Show, and the eventual winner The Rock picked up the slack and put on a very entertaining match. Even though none of those guys entered until 24th or later, it was never boring. Rikishi and his buddies Too Cool had a fun moment when they showed off their patented dance moves in the middle of the match before Rikishi eliminated both Grand Master Sexay and Scotty Too Hotty.
The Rock and Big Show were the final two in the Royal Rumble and it looked as though Big Show had it won as he hoisted Rocky over his shoulder but as he went to throw the ‘Great One’ out, Rock grabbed a hold of the top rope and used Big Show’s own momentum against him. The Rock would be announced the winner.
Controversy would surround the ending as it would become evident that The Rock’s feet had hit the floor as Big Show flew out. This would ultimately result in the main event of WrestleMania being a four-way elimination match with both The Rock and Big Show along with Mick Foley and champion Triple H.
7. 2003 Royal Rumble Match
The 2003 Rumble was the first since the inaugural brand split between Raw and Smackdown. 15 superstars from each brand would enter the match and the winner would earn a shot at their respective brand’s world championship. The match featured 8 future world champions such as John Cena, Batista, Edge, and Eddie Guerrero to name a few.
The rivalry between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels was built up even more as Jericho would eliminate HBK after a distraction from tag team partner Christian. This would set up their match for that year’s WrestleMania. This was also Michaels first Rumble match since winning it all in 1996.
In the final moments, the last four participants were Batista, Kane, Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar who had defeated Big Show earlier in the night to earn his spot in the match. Lesnar would last eliminate Undertaker to win the match and he went on to face Kurt Angle at Mania where he would win the WWE championship.
6. 2007 Royal Rumble Match
The 2007 edition of the Royal Rumble Match was the first to feature three brands opposed to the normal two, being Raw and Smackdown. Superstars from Raw and Smackdown were joined by superstars from the newly formed ECW brand. Ten superstars from each would represent their respective brand.
Having ECW in the mix added a hardcore feel as proven by one of the better spots in the match. Kane choke slammed ECW Original Sabu from the ring apron through a table that Sabu himself had set up, thus eliminating Sabu. A young CM Punk also made his Royal Rumble debut in 2007 and would last almost 30 minutes.
The Undertaker is arguably the greatest WWE superstar of all time but he had yet to win a Royal Rumble during his tenure. That changed in 2007 when he entered the match at #30 and last eliminated Shawn Michaels to earn his one and only Royal Rumble victory. He would go on to that year’s WrestleMania and win his fifth heavyweight title.
5. 2006 Royal Rumble Match
Rey Mysterio entered the 2006 Royal Rumble at #2 after Triple H entered at #1. Mysterio and Triple H started the match out as the first two participants and the two worked surprisingly well together in the ring. They would last all the way to the end of the night.
What makes this Royal Rumble memorable was Rey’s vow to win the match in memory of his late friend Eddie Guerrero. The whole night felt special while chants of “EDDIE! EDDIE!” echoed throughout American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Rey made good on his promise and eliminated Randy Orton to earn the victory and a world championship match at WrestleMania.
To add even more emotion to the night, Rey broke the record for longest time spent in the Royal Rumble with a time of 1:02:15.
4. 2004 Royal Rumble Match
It is well documented the tragedy that surrounds the name of Chris Benoit but that can’t change the fact that the 2004 Royal Rumble was a historic one. Benoit was receiving a huge push during that period of time and he entered the match as the first entrant. He would go on to last over one hour and eliminate Big Show to become only the second man to ever win the match from the #1 spot.
The 2004 Rumble was also the foundation for the original Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg match. The Beast Incarnate would cause Goldberg, who entered at #30, to get eliminated by Kurt Angle. This set up their match at WrestleMania, which was infamously unpopular due to both wrestlers leaving the company.
3. 1998 Royal Rumble Match
Throughout late 1997 and early 1998 Stone Cold Steve Austin was climbing the ranks of professional wrestling and his momentum could not be stopped. This match would also allow a young stud known as The Rock to put his talents on display as he would enter at #4 and go on to be the last man eliminated.
All three of Mick Foley’s personas were entrants into the match. Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love would enter #1, #16, and #28 respectively. Some thought this was a little silly but I enjoyed it and found it entertaining with just the right bit of humor.
Stone Cold would eliminate The Rock to win his second consecutive Royal Rumble much to the delight of Mike Tyson, who was in attendance. Austin would defeat Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania for the heavyweight championship, officially starting the Austin Era.
2. 2002 Royal Rumble Match
Following the WCW / ECW Invasion storyline of 2001, new feuds and new angles were being pursued. A number of superstars were returning from hiatus or returning to characters that had made them very popular. For instance, Goldust, Big Boss Man, and Mr. Perfect returned to the WWE while Godfather and Val Venis were repackaged as their original fan favorite characters.
One of the more memorable moments of the ’02 Rumble was rookie Maven dropkicking Undertaker from behind causing him to go over the top rope. Taker would proceed to attack the young Tough Enough winner, taking him out of the Rumble match.
However, the biggest moment was the return of Triple H who had been out of action for over seven months. He entered the match at #22 and faced off with Stone Cold who had been dominating the match since entering at #19. The two would battle each other until more superstars filled the ring.
Triple H and Kurt Angle would be the last two with Trips eliminating Angle to win the 2002 Royal Rumble. He would go on to defeat Chris Jericho WrestleMania to win the heavyweight championship.
1. 2001 Royal Rumble Match
This is hands down and without a doubt the best match in Royal Rumble history. The amount of big-name talent in this match was remarkable. Kane, The Rock, Undertaker, Big Show, and Stone Cold Steve Austin were all a part of the 2001 Royal Rumble.
Hollywood’s Drew Carey also made an appearance in the match only to wisely eliminate himself when being stared down by the Big Red Machine Kane which made for a fun moment. It was also fun watching Kane take the match over and break the record for most eliminations in one Rumble, eliminating 11 superstars.
Stone Cold would be the one to end Kane’s dominance and in doing so became the first three-time winner of the Royal Rumble, a record that still stands. Randy Orton and John Cena are the only legitimate contenders to tie that record in 2018.