In a celebration of the event, we’ve put together thirty names who have defined the Royal Rumble since it’s inception in 1988. That means past winners, record-breakers and a bit of fun thrown-in too. So, apologies to legendary names like Kurt Angle, Ultimate Warrior and Andre The Giant, but your Rumble pedigree meant you didn’t quite make the cut. But these Superstars did…
Kicking off our Royal Rumble in style is The Heartbreak Kid. Shawn Michaels is a two-time Royal Rumble winner, having won back-to-back matches in 1995 and 1996 – the first of which came by entering at number one. The iconic image of Michael’s clinging on to the ropes to avoid elimination has inspired hundreds of ‘near miss’r exits from the rumble over the years.
WWE’s biggest-ever little man enters our Rumble at number two, the very number he won the event from in 2006. That emotional win was dedicated to his late friend Eddie Guerrero, and it inspired Rey to go on to WrestleMania and win his first World Heavyweight Championship.
Who else could it be at number three, than the winner of arguably the best Royal Rumble of all time. The Nature Boy entered the match at number three and with the WWE Championship on the line, outlasted the star-studded field to memorably win the match. With a tear in my eye….
The Royal Rumble match is always full of surprises, but perhaps none more so than the arrival of The Phenomenal One. Styles shocked the WWE Universe by making his debut in the 2016 event, entering at number three and kicking-off what’s been a grand slam run in WWE.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The last man to win back-to-back Royal Rumble matches was The Rattlesnake, who also holds the record for most Royal Rumble wins, too. His maiden victory came in 1997 – made famous by his time ticking stance in the corner of the ring – and further wins came in 1998 and then finally in 2001.
Possibly the only thing missing from Y2J’s illustrious career is a Royal Rumble victory. However, Jericho does have a big place in this history of the event. No Superstar has spent more cumulative time in rumble matches than Jericho’s four hours and fifty-nine minutes.
The 1999 Royal Rumble is often referred to as one of the best-booked events in WWE history, even if it did end in this controversial winner. At the height of McMahon’s legendry rivalry with Stone Cold Steve Austin, came an unlikely Rumble win for the chairman of the board.
Randy has spent nearly five hours in Royal Rumble matches in his long WWE career, resulting in two wins for The Viper. Orton was victorious in 2009 and 2017, however, it unfortunately led to two underwhelming WrestleMania main events.
Yes, you read that right, but no rumble is complete without its comedic moments. And they don’t come more farcical than Santino’s rumble ‘appearance’ in 2009. Marella’s exit at the hands of Kane is the shortest stint in rumble history, lasting just 0:00:01.9 seconds. Just think, it could have been The Warlord or Bushwhacker Luke.
In 2019 Seth went from King Slayer to ‘The Rumble Slayer’ as he won his first Royal Rumble match, entering at the number ten spot. Eliminating Braun Strowman to book his WrestleMania date with Brock Lesnar and add a rumble win to his already impressive WWE CV.
Although never a winner of the event, Kane has been an entrant in a record twenty Royal Rumble matches. The Big Red Machine also holds the record for most career eliminations with forty-six Superstars thrown over the top rope by the Mayor of Knox County over the years.
Bryan’s most famous Royal Rumble moment came in a rumble match he wasn’t even in. In 2014 he was the fan’s chosen winner of the match, but he failed to ever make it into the final thirty. Leaving winner – and unfortunate 30th entrant Rey Mysterio – to bask in a chorus of boos from the Pittsburgh crowd. Bryan does hold one record though, the longest time spent in one rumble. Lasting one hour and sixteen minutes at 2018’s Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Going back to where it all began, we have reserved a place for the first-ever winner of the Royal Rumble match, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Back in 1988 it was a TV special rather than a premium live event, and it was Hacksaw who eliminated One Man Gang to kick-off an annual WWE January tradition.
2018 was a very different time for Shinsuke Nakamura. The Japanese sensation was on a red-hot run on SmackDown and it saw him became the first Asian winner of the rumble match. Unfortunately, the follow up and his highly anticipated WrestleMania clash with AJ Styles, failed to live up to expectations.
The Hitman deserves his place on this list given the night he had at the 1994 Royal Rumble. His night began with a WWE Tag Team title defeat to The Quebecers, after the referee deemed Hart unable to continue. That resulted in brother Owen attacking Bret to kick-off their troubles and that was even before the rumble match had even started. Later, Bret did appear for the match but had to share the spoils with Lex Luger. They were declared co-winners after they eliminated each other and hit the floor at the same time.
The first and only British winner of the Royal Rumble match, Drew’s victory in 2020 was made all the better as it came in one most entertaining variants of the bout in years. McIntyre’s elimination of Brock Lesnar and the subsequent victory was the crowning of a new superstar in WWE and redemption for the Scotsman.
One of the highlights of recent Royal Rumble matches has been Kofi’s ridiculous ways of avoiding eliminations, so much so, it’s like he’s made it an art from. Over the years Kingston has used his New Day pals, walked on his hands, and even hopped on chair to avoid being eliminated from the match.
Insert nostalgia act here
No Royal Rumble match would be complete without it’s now customary Superstar from yesteryear. Over the year’s we’ve seen names such as Diesel, The Hurricane and Tatanka make a surprise comeback to WWE, and it’s become part of the rumble fun. Give me Adam Bomb this year please WWE.
Before there was a Tribal Chief there was a Big Dog and he made the Royal Rumble his yard. At the 2014 show he chalked-up twelve eliminations in one match, before going on to win the event a year later – much to the chagrin of the crowd in Philadelphia, where not even The Rock could do Reigns any favours.
In 2007 The Deadman became the first competitor to win the rumble from the number thirty spot and it’s often referenced in his story arc with Shawn Michaels. The two Texas natives battled it out in San Antonio as the final two standing, but it was Taker who would best his long-term advisory on route to a WrestleMania meeting with Batista.
As a two-time winner, Edge’s place secure on this list from the off. However, the stonewall guarantee came down to him being responsible for one of the most emotional moments in WWE history. His shocking return in 2020 from retirement and expression at the top the entrance way is a sight of goosebump proportion.
The 2012 match saw The Celtic Warrior become the first European winner of the Royal Rumble, eliminating Chris Jericho for victory in St Louis. It was a win that spurned the famous eighteen-second win over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXVIII to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
Before the days of having a separate women’s Royal Rumble, Chyna became a trailblazer for the match by becoming the first women to compete in a Royal Rumble. She made two appearances (1999 and 2000) and led the way for Beth Phoenix, Kharma and Nia Jax to all follow in her footsteps.
Finally, The Rock has made out list, because no big WWE event in history would be right without The Great One. Surprisingly there was only one actual Rumble win for the Braham Bull, coming in 2000 at the peak of his crowd-pleasing prowess. Just don’t mention the unplanned finish that was played into the story.
During the early Royal Rumble events of the late eighties and early nineties the sound of The Hulkster’s ‘Real American’ theme was the most anticipated moment of the match. Hogan won back-to-back events in 1990 and 1991 and was a major part in the exceptional story told in the famous 1992 bout.
The Royal Rumble was all about The Game in 2002, who returned from his long-term quadricep injury to win the event and go on to beat Christ Jericho at WrestleMania. Fourteen years later, Trips repeated the victory in a match where he’d put Roman Reigns’ WWE Title on the line, and tasted championship gold for a fourteenth time.
The Royal Rumble has a long legacy of ‘big men’ dominating the match but very few have actually won the event, apart from Yokozuna in 1993. Entering at number twenty-seven, Yoko eliminated seven Superstars before winning the match, and for the first time that year, a guaranteed a title shot at WrestleMania.
His 2005 win is infamous for the dodgy finish and two torn quads from Vince McMahon, but it was the prelude to his iconic thumbs down gesture in Evolution’s demise. Nine years later, and after a four-year break from WWE, Batista returned in 2014 and beat off all the competition (apart from the clamour for Daniel Bryan) to get his second Royal Rumble win.
Back in 2003 Brock was still known as ‘The Next Big Thing’ and kept up that steam train of success by becoming the youngest-ever winner of the match, aged twenty-five. Fast forward to 2020, and Brock broke another record, by getting rid of a record-breaking thirteen Superstars during the match.
Few Royal Rumble wins have been as shocking as John Cena’s miraculous return in 2008. Cena defied medical science by recovering from a torn pectoral muscle to enter at number thirty in Madison Square Garden and go on to win the match. It was the first of two rumble victories for Cena, notching up his second in 2013.