Cathy Kelley gives the WWE Universe a sneak peek inside the Alamodome ahead of Royal Rumble 2017, previewing the weekend ahead, including NXT TakeOver: San Antonio and the Royal Rumble Match itself.01/28/2017 - 16:30
WWE.com's All-Time Royal Rumble Match
The Royal Rumble Match: a melee of maddening proportions, a frenetic free-for-all where only the strongest survive and legends are forged in the quest for a World Championship Match at WrestleMania. First established 25 years ago, the rules of the iconic fray are simple: Two Superstars begin, one-on-one in the ring. At timed intervals, a new competitor is loosed from the locker room and the match grows and grows, snowballing into chaos until one Superstar is left standing. Pinfalls and submissions have no bearing in the Royal Rumble Match. An elimination can only occur by tossing an opponent over the top rope, with both of his feet touching the arena floor. To the victor goes the ultimate spoil: an opportunity at a World Title of his choosing at that year’s WrestleMania.
The fracas has included anywhere from 20 to 40 Superstars in its quarter-century history, and the cast of hundreds who have re-emerged from retirement for a chance at victory numbers far and wide. But who would win in an all-time Royal Rumble Match? Well, WWE.com scoured the record books, poured over the stats and assembled this list of 30 winners, losers and unmitigated monsters who have dominated in the past and would raise hell in the future. Without further ado, here’s our entrants for an all-time Royal Rumble Match. May the best man (or woman) win.
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
HOOOOO!!!! Who better to tussle in an all-time Royal Rumble Match than the inaugural victor of the epic battle royal? WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan holds the distinction of being the first man to survive the Royal Rumble, triumphing over 19 other Superstars in the 1998 contest. And while Duggan’s WWE title history (he never won any) suggests over-the-top-rope victory did not translate into traditional wrestling success, trust us when we say the win was far from a fluke. “Hacksaw” expelled future Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff en route to Royal Rumble Match victory, and the man he eliminated to clinch glory — The One Man Gang — had the most eliminations to his name in the ’88 bout with six. Sadly, Duggan never managed to replicate the feat despite numerous other forays into the Rumble bout (most recently last year’s, where he was quickly eliminated by Cody Rhodes), but persistence and pedigree give him the spot. One more time for good measure: HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Big John Studd
This WWE Hall of Famer battles his way onto the all-time list courtesy of his victory in the 1989 Royal Rumble Match. Big John Studd only logged 12 minutes and two eliminations in the bout, but there was more to his victory than the numbers suggest: Entering at No. 27, Studd stood tall in a contest that featured the likes of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan, and eliminated WWE Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase to achieve victory. He also holds the distinction of winning the first 30-man contest in WWE history, a then–unheard of feat that cemented his status as one of the most powerful and durable Superstars in WWE.
The Hulkster easily powers his way onto this list as the first Superstar to achieve back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991. The WWE Hall of Famer also holds the third-most eliminations in a single Royal Rumble Match, running wild with nine tosses in the 1989 bout (his performance in the ’91 free-for-all — seven eliminations — also ties him for fifth on that list). This six-time WWE Champion was a holy terror in each of his forays, and the idea of adding him to a dream Royal Rumble Match alongside the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker is too good to pass up. The only question for any potential competitors, as always, is: Whatcha gonna do, brother?
“Woooo!” As a legendary former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Champion, WCW World Heavyweight Champion and the sole two-time WWE Hall of Famer, Ric Flair boasts the illustrious in-ring credentials to match his world famous charisma.
Entering the 1992 Royal Rumble Match at No. 3, “The Nature Boy” endured throughout the brutal and taxing contest, lasted nearly 60 minutes — a record at the time — and eliminated Sid Justice last to capture the vacant WWE Championship. It was the first and only time the WWE or World Heavyweight Title was on the line in the over-the-top-rope classic, guaranteeing a uniquely ferocious free-for-all for the greatest prize in sports-entertainment.
Flair’s colossal Royal Rumble Match victory was not only a highlight of his celebrated career, but also a showcase for his renowned showmanship, grappling skills and endurance. “The Dirtiest Player in the Game” was built to excel in such a grueling contest and any Superstar who disagrees could quickly find himself on the business end of a Figure-Four Leglock.
As a celebrated sumo champion, Yokozuna came to WWE already possessing the skill set to excel in the Royal Rumble Match. Since the objectives of sumo wrestling and over-the-top-rope wrestling matches are so similar, the Japanese import was immediately an odds-on favorite in the 1993 contest.
Well, that and he was a barreling, brawling 600-pound behemoth who could lay waste to everything and everyone unlucky enough to be in his path. In the 1993 Royal Rumble Match — which was the first-ever with the stipulation that the winner received a WWE Title Match at WrestleMania — there were 29 hungry Superstars standing in Yokozuna’s path. But none was as hungry as Yokozuna, who entered the match at No. 27 and steamrolled his competition. Despite his opponents teaming up against him, the unstoppable giant outlasted them all and pushed Randy Savage over the top rope to pick up one of the signature wins of his career.
Massive, powerful and packing a nasty mean streak, Yokozuna is one Superstar others would like to avoid in a Royal Rumble Match. “Banzai!”
Sometimes called The Showstopper, The Icon or The Main Event, Shawn Michaels is also quite possibly the greatest performer in Royal Rumble Match history. The winner of back-to-back contests in 1995 and 1996, HBK competed in the over-the-top-rope classic 12 times, racking up incredible numbers, including the record for most eliminations all-time with 40. His incredible two wins place him in esteemed company, as Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin are the only other Superstars in WWE history to be multi-time winners of the iconic contest.
Widely accepted as the most talented in-ring performer in WWE history, Michaels’ ability to do it all in the squared circle and his incomparable credentials speak for themselves. Any discussion about all-time greats or fantasy Royal Rumble Matches has to start — and could quite possible end — with The Heartbreak Kid.
Lex Luger’s greatest Royal Rumble Match achievement comes with a bit of an asterisk, as in 1994, he became the only Superstar to ever be named a co-winner of the mad melee. But The Total Package’s performance in the contest was a thing of beauty. Luger tallied seven eliminations — tying Diesel for the most in that particular bout — and managed to dismiss the ’94 match’s longest-lasting contestant, Bam Bam Bigelow, in the process. That Luger didn’t win alone is something of a cryin’ shame, but it’s not everybody who can say they fought Bret Hart to a dead heat in a do-or-die situation.
Bret "Hit Man" Hart
“Hit Man’s” accolades number far and wide, but among the five-time WWE Champion’s greatest victories — if also his most dubious — was splitting the 1994 Royal Rumble Match victory alongside Lex Luger. The Excellence of Execution’s influence, though, lies strewn across Royal Rumble history all the same: Hart holds the distinction of being the very first entrant in WWE history and he also notched the longest time in that same inaugural over-the-top-rope contest. In addition to tying for the win in ’94, he was also the last Superstar eliminated in the 1997 bout that was eventually won by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And while Hart never got the chance to become the lone victor of a Royal Rumble Match, we’re sure he wouldn’t mind lacing up his boots and mixing it up with some of the greats for one more go at the crown.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Three wins isn’t The Texas Rattlesnake’s only impressive feat in the over-the-top-rope clash. In 1997, Austin tied Hulk Hogan at 10 for the second-most eliminations in a single contest, second only to Kane’s 11 eliminations in 2001. Furthermore, in 1999, The Bionic Redneck tied Shawn Michaels’ 1996 Royal Rumble performance for the third-most eliminations at eight. Austin’s impressive resume in the annual contest not only puts him in the all-time Royal Rumble Match, but also makes him a clear favorite to win it all.
The Rock’s achievements in the Royal Rumble Match number almost as high as the dollar price of his signature electrifying shirts. The Great One was the first winner of the new millennium, last eliminating Big Show in 2000 (in Madison Square Garden, no less) to earn himself a WWE Title Match at WrestleMania 2000. The Brahma Bull also racked up the longest time in the 1998 contest, where he was also the final Superstar eliminated by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Rock’s all-time elimination count is deceptively low with nine, as The People’s Champion has benefitted from good draws (No. 24 in 2000 and No. 13 in 2001) in the iconic contest and from wisely picking his spots in the pursuit of victory. Since returning to WWE, The Great One has looked better than ever, so tossing him in a ring with some of the Royal Rumble Match’s greatest stalwarts – including his hated rival John Cena – would make for thrilling possibilities indeed.
The King of Kings may also very well be “The King of the Royal Rumble Match.”
Winner of the 2002 edition of the over-the-top-rope classic and runner-up in both 2008 and 2009, The Cerebral Assassin has been a dominant force in the iconic battle royal through the years. From entering in the first slot in 1996, to returning impressively in 2010, Triple H has put out many remarkable showings and put up some incredible stats. He is not only tied for fifth on the all-time list with eight appearances, but he’s also in sixth place with 26 total eliminations, numbers that place him alongside Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Kane as all-time great “rumblers.”
With incredible endurance — he lasted more than 48 minutes in 1996, 60 minutes in 2006 and 49 minutes in 2009 — and raw power to spare, the 13-time World Champion is undoubtedly one of the most impressive Superstars ever to enter a Royal Rumble Match. It’s time to play The Game!
Although he entered the match as the 29th entrant, he managed to eliminate four other Superstars, including the final entrant, The Undertaker. Competing in the Royal Rumble Match no matter your entry number is a daunting challenge on its own, but to battle a fully-charged Phenom — and eliminate him — is a jaw-dropping feat. Nevertheless, Lesnar later won the WWE Title at WrestleMania and is certainly a favorite in the all-time Royal Rumble Match.
Batista won the Royal Rumble Match by last eliminating John Cena and subsequently chose to battle his former Evolution-cohort Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. The determination to set himself apart from The Game is what ultimately gave The Animal the drive to pave his Road to WrestleMania and win the 2005 over-the-top-rope classic.
Whether he’s battling Superstars twice his size or fearlessly leaping from the tops of steel cages, Rey Mysterio is a competitor who’s accustomed to defying the odds, and The Ultimate Underdog never lived up to his nickname more than he did in the 2006 Royal Rumble Match.
Entering the contest second (which is just as unlucky as entering first), Mysterio found himself one-on-one with Triple H. Amazingly, he didn’t only outlast The Game, but he outlasted all 29 other Superstars, enduring in the grueling match for more than 62 minutes. After recovering from an attack from Triple H, he eliminated Randy Orton last to become the smallest — and perhaps least likely — Royal Rumble Match winner in WWE history.
Mysterio proved it was no fluke when he participated in the 2009 Royal Rumble Match. Entering first and lasting for nearly 50 minutes in the match, he proved once again that he’s one Superstar you shouldn’t bet against. With high-flying athleticism and consummate skill in the ring, The Ultimate Underdog is actually a good bet to come out on top in a Royal Rumble Match.
The Undertaker’s incredible WrestleMania winning streak, currently at an astounding 20-0, is the one achievement of The Deadman’s legendary career that stands above the rest. Over the past 20-plus years, however, Undertaker has left his mark in nearly every event and aspect of WWE, including the Royal Rumble Match.
A 10-time entrant in the iconic contest, The Phenom competed against Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Greg Valentine in 1991 and against Randy Orton and CM Punk in 2009. That incredible staying power and success over time have helped make Undertaker one of the greatest all-time participants in the contest. Holding 35 eliminations, which is good for fourth best all-time, The Deadman was the winner of the 2007 Royal Rumble Match, as the first Superstar to enter the event last and win. The physical dominance he showed in that match — and that he has shown throughout his legendary career, in fact — is enough to make other Superstars think twice about entering.
Whether it’s the Royal Rumble Match or the main event of The Show of Shows, one this is certain: When Superstars hear the menacing toll of the Undertaker’s ghostly bell, they are rightfully afraid.
You simply cannot have a dream Royal Rumble Match without including the 10-time WWE Champion and 2008 Royal Rumble winner. The Cenation leader made his surprise return from injury at No. 30 in the ’08 contest, tossing Triple H and punching his ticket to WrestleMania XXIV, where he battled Randy Orton and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match. But the Cenation leader’s pedigree extends far beyond ’08. He has 18 all-time eliminations, logged the most time in 2010 and made it to the final two in 2005 and 2010. He also tied CM Punk for the most eliminations in the biggest Royal Rumble Match ever — 2011’s 40-man melee — in which the two Superstars each tallied seven tosses. But could Cena hold his own among the true giants of the iconic free-for-all? Only one way to find out.
One of the more impressive Royal Rumble Match triumphs belongs to The Apex Predator, who stood tall in the 2009 Rumble after entering at No. 8. With 18 all-time eliminations under his belt, The Viper stands as one of the Rumble’s deadliest veterans. Orton was a force to be reckoned with from the second he set foot in a Rumble, eliminating five Superstars in his first go-round (Rikishi and Booker T among them). But of all The Viper’s performances, that 2009 bout was indisputably his finest hour in WWE’s signature melee. Orton logged 48 minutes in the ring en route to victory, and his three eliminations were Big Show, Kane and Triple H. The Viper sat out the 2010 Royal Rumble Match and his showings in 2011 and 2012 were nowhere near as flashy as ’09 (he did, however, dispatch Wade Barrett and Big Show in the 2012 match, which is no small feat), but he still earns his place into the dream contest on the strength of that mammoth achievement.
In a career full of surprises, one of the greatest Edge ever gave the WWE Universe was when he shockingly returned from injury to enter the 2010 Royal Rumble Match. The Rated-R Superstar entered the match 29th and outlasted — and speared — Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Batista and John Cena to seal the massive win.
It was the sixth and final of Edge’s Royal Rumble Matches. Although he finally won in 2010, he was nearly as impressive in the 2005 and 2007 contests. In each matchup, the seven-time World Heavyweight Champion lasted more than 40 minutes and eliminated five Superstars. It was apparent that the frenzy of the Royal Rumble Match suited the chaotic nature of The Ultimate Opportunist.
As a King of the Ring winner, the first-ever Money in the Bank Ladder Match winner and a Superstar who has held nearly every title in WWE, Edge proved time and time again that he can never be counted out of any match.
Alberto Del Rio
With 40 Superstars, the 2011 Royal Rumble Match was the largest in the history of the over-the-top-rope classic. The packed field featured returning favorites like Booker T and Diesel, in addition to the biggest Superstars currently on the WWE roster, with everyone from CM Punk to John Cena, Big Show to Randy Orton.
Emerging from the melee, Alberto Del Rio — who had only been on the WWE roster for seven months when he competed in the legendary match — picked up the biggest victory of his burgeoning WWE career and guaranteed himself a title match at WrestleMania XXVII.
The massive win put the Mexican Superstar on a trajectory that he has followed to become a two-time WWE Champion, 2011 Mr. Money in the Bank and the current World Heavyweight Champion. With legendary bloodlines, top notch grappling abilities and supreme self-confidence, Del Rio is the right kind of opportunistic competitor to make a run in any battle royal. The fact that he’s a perfect one-for-one in Royal Rumble Matches doesn’t hurt, either.
If scientists in some clandestine lab engineered a Superstar to excel in the Royal Rumble Match, they might come up with something like Sheamus. Powerfully built and physically dominant, The Celtic Warrior is always game for a brawl. With a versatile set of moves and surprising athleticism, the big Irishman has the fiery spirit to match his shock of red hair.
These qualities carried Sheamus to victory in the 2012 Royal Rumble Match. Entering the contest 22nd and last eliminating Chris Jericho, he earned a main event championship match at WrestleMania XXVIII. Now, the former World Heavyweight Champion would like to get back on The Grandest Stage of Them All, and he already knows the quickest route.
On the Jan. 4 edition on SmackDown, Sheamus became the third Superstar to announce he will compete in the 2013 Royal Rumble Match on Jan. 27. If The Celtic Warrior can repeat his victory from one year ago, he will not only again headline WrestleMania, but he will also join Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan as the only repeat winners of the over-the-top-rope classic.
Woe unto the poor Superstar who finds himself facing The Devil’s Favorite Demon in a Royal Rumble Match. Though The Undertaker’s younger brother has never won a Rumble bout, he’s still managed to become something of a master when it comes to this particular contest, amassing several records over his storied career and leaving no shortage of decimated Superstars in his wake. In 2001, Kane set the all-time record for eliminations in a single Royal Rumble Match with 11, a benchmark that still stands 12 years later (and lest the WWE Universe think Kane simply laid waste to journeymen en route to the record, The Rock was one of the Superstars he tossed). The Big Red Machine lasted the longest of any Superstar in that Rumble and made it to the final two before being eliminated by victor “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He also holds 37 all-time eliminations, a mark second only to WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels’ 40. And while Kane was absent from the 2012 Rumble Match, he stands a good chance of topping The Showstopper’s tally in 2013 should he return to his personal playground. We don’t know if he’d be able to win an all-time Royal Rumble Match, but we’re sure that — pardon the expression — he’d give his opponents hell in the attempt.
Kevin Nash participated in the Royal Rumble Match in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2011. In 1995, he entered the Royal Rumble event as WWE Champion and battled Bret “Hit Man” Hart to a draw.
In his first Royal Rumble Match in 1994, Nash eliminated seven competitors before it took the combined efforts of Bam Bam Bigelow, Mabel, Spark Plugg, Shawn Michaels and Crush to eliminate him. In 1996, Nash was eliminated by Shawn Michaels — that year’s winner. In 1997, Nash was eliminated by Bret Hart — who was responsible for eliminating that year’s winner “Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (The Rattlesnake’s elimination wasn’t seen by WWE officials). In 1998, Nash outlasted 59 other competitors to win WCW’s final World War 3 and earned a championship opportunity against the undefeated Goldberg — a match Big Sexy would win.
Although he was not successful in winning a Royal Rumble Match, his impressive statistics in the contest — as well as a victory in WCW’s 60-man battle royal, World War 3 — makes him the perfect candidate for an all-time contest.
Also playing in Big Show’s favor is his experience in WCW’s 60-man over-the-top-rope battle royal, World War 3. In 1996, The World’s Largest Athlete outlasted some of WCW’s finest to earn an opportunity for the WCW Championship. Having won World War 3 and participating in 10 Royal Rumble Matches, Big Show understands the stakes and has the experience to compete in the all-time Royal Rumble Match.
William Regal has only participated in three Royal Rumble Matches — 2001, 2009 and 2011 — making his inclusion in an all-time Royal Rumble Match seem suspect. As a former Intercontinental Champion — a title he once captured at the Royal Rumble event — and a former King of the Ring, though, Regal’s resilience and abilities cannot be discounted. The British grappler’s years of in-ring experience certainly plays in his favor, but a little known fact about Regal is what secures him a spot in the all-time Royal Rumble Match.
In 1996, Regal was one of the final competitors in WCW’s 60-man battle royal, World War 3. Staring down The New World Order, Regal and Lex Luger were the final two competitors representing WCW in the battle. With Luger reeling, the British brawler stood up to the nefarious faction and enjoyed support from the anti-nWo crowd. Although he was outnumbered and eventually eliminated, it took the combined efforts of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and The Giant to eliminated Regal.
As one of the toughest Superstars ever to set foot in the squared circle, Regal’s experience in both the Royal Rumble Match and World War 3 makes him a formidable candidate to win the all-time Royal Rumble Match.
Behind the devastating Cobra Strike and the sometimes outlandish antics of Santino Marella lies an accomplished WWE Superstar — one who shocked the world by winning the Intercontinental Championship in his debut. If there is one word to describe Santino Marella, it would be “unpredictable.” This trait earns his entry into the all-time Royal Rumble Match — including two past performances so vastly different, there is no telling what Santino can accomplish in the 30-man battle royal.
Of course, Santino holds the distinction and record of the shortest time in the Royal Rumble Match at 1.9 seconds. In 2009, The Italian Stallion was eliminated just quickly as he entered the ring. Fast forward two years, however, and Santino Marella nearly paved his Road to WrestleMania by almost winning the first — and only — 40-man Royal Rumble Match. Granted “almost” doesn’t count, and the former United States Champion legitimately thought he won before it was revealed the Alberto Del Rio’s feet never touched the ground outside the ring.
Although he ultimately found retribution for his 1.9 second 2009 elimination, when he minds his surroundings, Santino is a true force to be reckoned with. Agile and competitive, Santino’s unpredictability helps his chances in the all-time Royal Rumble Match.
Andre the Giant
The prime example of Andre’s dominance in a battle royal setting is WrestleMania 2. The WWE Hall of Famer outlasted 19 other Superstars and NFL players to secure victory. With that in mind, giving Andre the Giant a spot in the Royal Rumble Match during his prime is a no-brainer.
Mick Foley has overcome a great deal of adversity throughout his hall of fame career, becoming a three-time WWE Champion. The Hardcore Legend never successfully won the Royal Rumble Match, but he would have the opportunity to win it up to four times in the same bout. Look no further than the 1998 Rumble Match when Foley — as Cactus Jack — was the first entrant into the contest. Although he was the second Superstar eliminated, halfway through the battle, Foley reentered the match — this time as Mankind. Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy lasted nearly three minutes before being eliminated by Goldust.
The 2013 WWE Hall of Famer was still not finished, however, as the 28th entrant into the match was his Dude Love persona. While he was still unable to secure the win, The Hardcore Legend drastically increased his chances of victory. Potentially entering the all-time Royal Rumble Match as himself, Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind undoubtedly gives Foley an edge toward victory.
It’s tough to cast an all-time dream Royal Rumble Match without The Best in the World himself, because current WWE Champion CM Punk has certainly lived up to his self-imposed moniker when it comes to the Royal Rumble Match. He holds 15 all-time eliminations and tied John Cena for the most eliminations in the super-sized 2011 edition with seven after entering at No. 1. The Voice of the Voiceless hasn’t won in the legendary contest, but having held the WWE Title for more than 400 days spread across three calendar years, his presence in a match featuring the all-time greats is a given if there ever was one.
During the 2010 Royal Rumble Match, Beth Phoenix proved the over-the-top-rope classic isn’t just for Superstars, but Divas, too. Becoming only the second female to enter the contest, The Glamazon wasn’t there simply to make an appearance or enjoy the experience. She was ready to rumble.
The dangerous Diva entered the match and came face to face with The Great Khali, but she was able to get the super-sized Superstar to lower his guard by planting a smooch on his lips! Pulling the distracted giant over the top rope, Phoenix shocked the WWE Universe, as the smallest entrant had just eliminated the largest. Setting her sights on CM Punk next, the “pin-up strong” Diva electrified Atlanta’s Philips Arena. It appeared for a moment that The Glamazon might make a long run in the match, but Punk was able to turn the tables on her.
Despite the disappointing elimination, Phoenix showed that she can hang with the Superstars and she is a legitimate contender against either gender.