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
The 30 best Royal Rumblers ever!
When a Superstar pulls the ping pong ball with their entry number on it from the Rumble tumbler, a guidebook doesn’t come with it. Maybe that’s why navigating the chaos of the Royal Rumble Match has been such a troubling task for the majority of the 300-plus competitors who have entered the fray. Still, there’s a select group of Superstars who seem to just know how to rumble.
With this year’s brawl fast approaching, we wanted to figure out which competitors have been the best in the Royal Rumble Match. We examined a wealth of statistics and did something vaguely resembling math to determine who thrived in the madness. Total eliminations mattered, as did time spent in the ring. Victories, of course, trumped everything. Style counted a little bit, too, because this is sports-entertainment after all.
So, now that that's out of the way, who's ready to rumble?
He's become a reliable suprise entrant in the Royal Rumble Match in recent years, but Diesel was at his most potent during his mid-90s prime where he lit up the Rumble whenever he entered it. The big man's best year came in 1994 when he eliminated seven Superstars in short order, including WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund and both Smoking Gunns. He never did win a Royal Rumble Match, but whenever Big Daddy's Cool resounding truck horn blared out across the arena, WWE fans knew they were about to see someone go flying over the top rope.
Mick Foley never won a Royal Rumble Match, but he created a unique bit of history in 1998 when he entered the contest an unprecedented three times. That year, Foley — under the manic guise of Cactus Jack — was the first entrant into the contest. Although he was the second Superstar eliminated, Foley reentered the match halfway through the battle — this time as the lovably demented Mankind. Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy lasted nearly three minutes before being eliminated by Goldust. The 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 pulled off something that may never be duplicated.
Big John Studd
This WWE Hall of Famer battles his way onto the 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 and Hulk Hogan, and eliminated WWE Hall of Famer The Million Dollar Man to achieve victory. He also holds the distinction of winning the first 30-man contest in WWE history, a feat that cemented his status as one of the most powerful and durable Superstars in WWE.
Kofi Kingston’s Royal Rumble Match stats aren’t exactly groundbreaking. He’s tossed five Superstars in six Rumble appearances. Not bad, but not exactly Triple H numbers. Still, there can’t be more than a few Superstars who have been as entertaining as Kingston in the annual brawl. Repeatedly finding unique ways to survive, the former Intercontinental Champion once borrowed JBL’s announce chair to avoid elimination, and — in what was truly one of the Rumble’s great moments — walked on his hands on the outside of the ring to keep his feet from touching the floor.
By the time the 2003 Royal Rumble came around, Brock Lesnar had already been the youngest WWE Champion ever and was vying for another opportunity. That night, Lesnar defeated Big Show to qualify for the Royal Rumble Match. Although he entered the bout at 29, 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. But what else would you expect from The Anomaly?
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan holds the distinction of being the first man to survive the Royal Rumble Match, triumphing over 19 other Superstars to win the inaugural 1988 contest. The former football pro expelled burly Russian expat Nikolai Volkoff and One Man Gang — two individuals who cannot ride comfortably in a compact car — to make history that night. Duggan never replicated this feat despite numerous other forays into the Rumble bout (most recently in 2012, where he was quickly eliminated by Cody Rhodes), but persistence and reputation give him the spot on our list.
A veteran of six melees, CM Punk is a constant on overall Royal Rumble Match stats lists, including being tied for seventh place for most eliminations in a single bout with seven. The former WWE Champion earned his place on this ranking through numbers alone, but he’s made Rumble history in other ways — particularly in 2010 when he preached a straight edge sermon in-between chucking challengers out of the ring.
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 — where he entered at 22 and last eliminated Chris Jericho — and to the final four of the following year’s brawl.
It only took 33 minutes for Roman Reigns to earn his place in Royal Rumble Match history when he chucked a record 12 Superstars over the top rope during his domination of the bout. Entering the fray in the 15 spot, the commanding Superstars proceeded to eliminate everyone from El Torito to his own Shield comrades, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose. Reigns made it all the way to the final two before he was ultimately dismissed by the winner, Batista, but his impact in the match announced him as a Superstar to watch
As a celebrated sumo champion, Yokozuna came to WWE already possessing the skill set to excel in the Royal Rumble Match. 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 contest — 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.
Lex Luger’s greatest Royal Rumble Match achievement comes with a bit of an asterisk, as in 1994, he became one of only two Superstars (alongside Bret Hart) 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 The Excellence of Execution to a dead heat in a do-or-die situation.
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 the final Superstar eliminated by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock’s all-time elimination count is deceptively low with nine, but 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.
Chris Jericho has quietly made his mark as a Royal Rumble Match standout, which is surprising, because Chris Jericho doesn’t do anything quietly. Over the course of eight appearances in the melee, Y2J has dumped 15 challengers and spent nearly three hours total in the ring. Jericho’s survival instincts — blended with his natural cunning and veteran knowhow — have made him a perennial threat, while his unassuming size has kept the target off his back. More than that, when Jericho made his surprise return at the 2013 Royal Rumble, he received the biggest reaction of his career.
Rikishi is remembered as a fun-loving big man, but his dominance in-between the ropes — particularly at the Rumble — is often overlooked. A Royal Rumble Match mainstay, the former Intercontinental Champion competed in nine battles, racking up 12 eliminations along the way. Much of that damage was done in the 2000 Rumble, a landmark event that saw Rikishi toss seven Superstars — including the 500-pound Viscera — and even temporarily halt the bout in order to break into a dance party with his Too Cool cohorts.
The Million Dollar Man
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was the consummate Royal Rumble Match participant. Cut from the same cloth as Rumble greats like Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair, DiBiase had the benefits of a bottomless gas tank (did the guy ever get tired?) and the will to win at any cost. Most of all, he was a survivor — the type of Rumbler who’d get launched into the cheap seats, but somehow still grab hold of the top rope and hang on for dear life. The closest Dibiase ever came to winning the brawl was in 1989 when he was the final man eliminated by winner Big John Studd. But his best performance came the following year when he drew No. 1 and stayed in the ring for nearly 45 minutes.
The British Bulldog
The British Bulldog never won a Royal Rumble Match, which is unfortunate because the mighty Superstar was so damn good at them. An influential presence in six of the brawls, the former Intercontinental Champion survived for 126 total minutes while chalking up 10 eliminations. The Bulldog made it to the Rumble’s vaunted final four on three separate occasions, but his closest brush with greatness was in 1995 when he came within a toenail of getting rid of Shawn Michaels.
Entering the 1992 Royal Rumble Match at No. 3, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair lasted nearly 60 minutes in the brutal and taxing contest — 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 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.
Bret "Hit Man" Hart
Bret “Hit Man” Hart’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.
Is it any shock that The World’s Largest Athlete has made an impact in the Royal Rumble Match? With 10 appearances in the 30-man melee, Big Show has made it to the final four on three separate occasions and tossed out a staggering 25 Superstars, which puts him at seven on the all-time eliminations list. The big man has never won a Rumble, but he did come agonizingly close in 2000 when he went over the top rope as the same time as The Rock with Show’s supersized feet hitting the floor first. Being a giant really does have its disadvantages.
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 joined the fray at No. 29 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.
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), Rey 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. Last eliminating Randy Orton, Rey became the smallest — and perhaps least likely — Royal Rumble Match winner in WWE history. He proved it was no fluke when he was the first entrant in the 2009 Royal Rumble Match and lasted for nearly 50 minutes.
Randy 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 in WWE’s signature scuffle, the 2009 bout was indisputably his finest hour. 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 recent showings 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). All told, Orton has tossed 19 Superstars, putting him at nine on the all-time list.
The Undertaker has been in 10 Royal Rumble Matches across two decades, which means The Phenom tangled with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Greg Valentine in 1991 and with Randy Orton and CM Punk in 2009. That incredible staying power and success over time has 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, making him the first Superstar to enter the event last and win.
No match type suits Batista as well as the Royal Rumble Match. The Animal is too big to toss out, and too powerful to deny should he decide to send you on your way. Big Dave won the melee in 2005 and 2014, and eliminated 17 total Superstars along the way. Still, Batista’s most telling accomplishment is that he’s made it to the final four in every single Rumble he competed in. No other Superstar can make the same claim.
One of the great moments of John Cena’s career went down in the 2008 Royal Rumble Match when he made a surprise return from injury before a stunned Madison Square Garden crowd. After receiving what may have been the loudest response of his career, Cena went on to eliminated Triple H to win the brawl. But the former WWE Champion’s pedigree extends far beyond ’08. He joined the elite fraternity of two-peat winners when he survived the 2013 Royal Rumble Match. Cena can also claim 22 all-time eliminations — No. 8 overall — and trips to the final two in 2005 and 2010.
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, he’s amassed several records over his storied career and left 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 stood for more than a decade before Roman Reigns came on the scene. 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 the record for most Rumble appearances and has eliminated 38 total Superstars. Kane stands a good chance of setting the all-time record should he return to his personal playground.
The Hulkster easily powers his way onto this list as the first Superstar to achieve back-to-back wins in 1990 and ’91. The Immortal One 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 four forays, leaving his challengers to wonder, "Whatcha gonna do?"
The 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 Royal Rumble Match 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 fifth place with 28 total eliminations, numbers that place him alongside Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Kane as a Royal Rumble Match ace.
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 undoubtedly earns his spot on this list.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s wins in the 1997, 1998 and 2001 Royal Rumble Matches make him the most successful Rumbler ever. Two of the victories also led to Austin capturing the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. Three wins isn’t The Texas Rattlesnake’s only impressive feat in the over-the-top-rope clash. In ’97, Austin tied Hulk Hogan for the second-most eliminations in a single contest with 10, trailing only Kane’s 11 eliminations in 2001. Then, in ’99, The Bionic Redneck tied Shawn Michaels’ 1996 Royal Rumble Match performance for the third-most eliminations at eight. Austin’s 165 total minutes spent in the battle put him in the four spot overall.
Yes, Shawn Michaels is Mr. WrestleMania, but he’s also the greatest performer in Royal Rumble Match history. The winner of back-to-back contests in 1995 and ’96, HBK competed in the over-the-top-rope classic 12 times, racking up the record for most eliminations of all-time with 39. His incredible two wins place him in esteemed company, as Hulk Hogan, John Cena and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin are the only other Superstars in WWE history to be multi-time winners of the iconic contest. Any discussion about Royal Rumble Match greats starts — and ends — with The Showstopper.