There’s nothing more exciting in wrestling than seeing 30 wrestlers battle it out in one ring. This January, as is tradition every year, fans will get to see the Royal Rumble, the match that decides who will go to the main event of WrestleMania.
- It started in 1989
- Every year gives us a memorable moment
- It’s the best place for surprise comebacks and debuts
Throughout the decades since its inception, wrestling fans have been able to feel awe, shock, and delight at the many moments that have occurred in the Royal Rumble ring. This year is sure to bring another set of memorable moments that will definitely go down in history.
In preparation for that day, here’s a list of the greatest Royal Rumble moments that have ever transpired in the ring:
1. Ric Flair wins the Royal Rumble in 1992: Ric Flair had only just debuted in the WWE after a long run in the NWA/WCW. At the time, the WWE Championship title was vacant, so the winner of the 30 man match would also take the title. After battling it out with Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and the Undertaker for almost an hour, Flair took the title.
2. Shawn Michaels wins Royal Rumble for the second time in a row (1995, 1996): In 1995, Michaels avoided touching the ground with his feet by dangling on the top rope, and thanks to that feat of flexibility, he was able to take his first ever Rumble win. The following year, he returned to the Rumble at number 18, and not only did he win the Rumble, he also won his first WWE Championship.
3. John Cena’s surprise return in 2008: The best part about this is that John Cena was not advertised for the 2008 Royal Rumble due to a pectoral injury he had sustained the year before. Fans expected he would be recovering from surgery, but instead he entered the Rumble as the 30th entrant, drawing a massive applause from the audience.
4. Stone Cold cheats and wins his first ever Royal Rumble, 1997: In keeping with his smarmy character, Steve Austin would ignore the referees when they declared he had been eliminated. In one such occasion, he returned to the 1997 Royal Rumble ring and eliminated Bret Hart, becoming the ultimate winner of the match.
5. Jim Duggan wins his first Royal Rumble: A list of significant Royal Rumble moments has to include the very first event by that name. It was a USA Network special that aired in 1988 where Hackshaw Jim Duggan eliminated One Man Gang in a 20-man match. The historic event also featured legends such as Bret Hart, Harley Race, Tito Santana and Jake Roberts. After 14 minutes of an intense showdown against the 450 lb One Man Gang, Duggan took the victory, making him the first wrestler to ever win the Royal Rumble.
6. Bret Hart and Lex Luger tie to win in 1994: In the list of firsts for the Royal Rumble, this is one of the more surprising ones. This Rumble saw the first time that two wrestles eliminated each other at the same time. They both touched the floor with two feet at the same time, and the referee declared them both winners because of the tie. The two would go on to WrestleMania to battle it out for the WWE Championship belt.
8. Vince McMahon wins Royal Rumble, 1999: Back in the day, McMahon used to be one of the announcers for many a Royal Rumble. As a part of his feud against Stone Cold Steve Austin, he got a chance to battle against the wrestler, and won the 1999 Royal Rumble.
9. Drew Carey eliminates himself in 2001: Another first for the Royal Rumble, this time featuring one of America’s most beloved comedians. This was the first time an actor entered a Royal Rumble match, although this was a comedic attempt by Carey at securing his place in WrestleMania. His opponent was Kane, and when Carey realized the real gravity of the situation, he eliminated himself from the match.
10. Tazz makes his WWE debut in 2000: At the time, Kurt Angle was one of the undefeated wrestles in the WWF and Tazz was making his debut. When the two wrestlers met at the Royal Rumble, everyone was surprised to see Tazz dominate Angle with a flurry of suplexes.
12. Mick Foley enters the Royal Rumble as 3 different people, 1998: The first time, he entered as Cactus Jack at number 1, then he was eliminated and came back as Mankind at number 16. Finally, after he was eliminated a second time, the crowd popped when Dude Love entered at number 28. Foley didn’t make it, but his gimmick was unique: no one in the WWE had ever entered the same Royal Rumble match as three different personas.
13. Diesel returns to the WWE, 2011: Proving how much the WWE loves to surprise its fans with throwbacks to the past, they decided to bring back Kevin Nash for a Royal Rumble match. Not only that, they did it using his Diesel persona, a name he hadn’t used since 1996. He was eventually defeated by Wade Barrett, but this didn’t deter fans from feeling the excitement of seeing a WWE veteran return for another run, and a Hall of Fame inclusion.
14. Jake Roberts returns to the WWF in 1996: After a 4 year hiatus, Roberts came back to the WWF at the Royal Rumble as a bible preacher. To go along with his new gimmick, he named his Albino Burmese Python “Revelations.” The gimmick wasn’t too far from reality: Roberts had recently become a born-again Christian and had been preaching around the country. In spite of his new persona, fans were more than delighted to see him competing again.
16. Randy Savage is eliminated by Hulk Hogan, 1989: During the match, Hogan accidentally made Savage touch the ground when he was aiming for Bad News Feud (the man Savage had a feud with). The moment felt like a betrayal, since the two wrestlers were fueling a story where their friendship was the central element. Savage was clearly upset after the event even though it was ultimately won by Big John Studd.