Editors’ Choice: What’s the coolest Royal Rumble Match?

Editors’ Choice: What’s the coolest Royal Rumble Match?

As this year’s Royal Rumble draws near, it’s a good time to take a look back at what has become one of WWE’s premier events. Although every Rumble match has been filled with over-the-top action, thrilling climaxes and wild surprises, there are several that stand out from the pack for the jaw-dropping thrills they provided the WWE Universe.

So, WWE.com’s editors got together to answer this question: What’s the coolest Royal Rumble Match of all time? Our answers are below. What’s yours?

2001

The Undertaker and Kane have a royal reunion: Royal Rumble 2001

Can anyone overcome the Brothers of Destruction in the 2001 Royal Rumble?

The pinnacle of the Attitude Era and its top icons colliding, one of the most dominant Rumble performances ever — and even a guest appearance by Drew Carey — the 2001 Royal Rumble Match had it all.

Star power was in no short supply with the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker in the 30-man field, but it was Kane shining brightest with perhaps the greatest showing of his career. Blazing a path of destruction with a then-record 11 eliminations while lasting more than 53 minutes, The Big Red Machine nearly went the distance after entering at No. 7 before being the last man ousted by The Rattlesnake.

The issue between “Stone Cold” and Triple H also reached a new level of animosity when The Game – who wasn’t even in the match --  attacked his bitter rival in an attempt to cost him his dream of recapturing the WWE Championship. Austin still found a way to prevail and seize a title opportunity against The Rock at WrestleMania X-7, and the two titans traded haymakers here in a preview of that eventual showdown.

Come for the beginning of the road to one of the greatest WrestleManias ever, stay for The Honky Tonk Man’s musical performance. — JORDAN GARRETSON

1998

The three faces of Foley enter the 1998 Royal Rumble Match

In 1998, Mick Foley entered the Royal Rumble Match three times as three different personalities - Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love.

“The Austin Era has begun!” That’s Jim Ross’ legendary call from WrestleMania 14, but those words would never have been uttered if not for The Rattlesnake’s incredible performance in the 1998 over-the-top-rope extravaganza. If you want to see Austin raising absolute hell at the height of his incredible popularity, then crack open a few Steveweisers, kick back and bask in the pure 90s awesomeness that is the 1998 Royal Rumble Match.

Everyone was gunning for “Stone Cold”: Martial artists, a boxer, bikers and pig farmers. It didn’t matter. Austin eliminated seven Superstars, briefly reunited with former tag team partner Dude Love, and outlasted fellow budding megastar The Rock in the match’s pulse-pounding final moments.

Want a few surprises? You’re covered. The Honky Tonk Man, Mankind and Dude Love all unexpectedly joined the fray. Wait, what? Mick Foley entered twice? Three times, actually. Cactus Jack was announced prior to the bout, but Foley’s other two alter egos also lurked and sauntered to the squared circle, respectively (and the “trio” combined for four eliminations!).

And how much fun was it to watch The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, The Rock, Mark Henry, D’Lo Brown and Kama Mustafa) on the brink of total implosion? They probably could have had their own separate Royal Rumble. You might think that such a powerful group would join forces, but months of dissension resulted in all five members trading blows and deliberately targeting one another.

Plus, this is the only Rumble to date that included a chainsaw! — JON CHIK

1992

Ric Flair wins the 1992 Royal Rumble Match and the WWE Championship

With an assist from Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair eliminates Sid Justice to win the Royal Rumble Match and become the undisputed WWE Champion on January 19, 1992.

The ’92 Royal Rumble Match featured one of the most stacked lineups ever. More than half the Superstars — 16, to be exact — have since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. But what makes this match endlessly rewatchable are the antics of the man who won it, Ric Flair, and his adviser, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who served as that evening’s color commentator.

Entering at No. 3, Flair had to resort to every trick in the book to go the distance. He forged alliances with imposing bruisers like The Barbarian, only to betray them the next second, often to hilarious results. Given Flair’s stature in the industry and his knack for making enemies, he became an instant target for practically every new entrant, from Shawn Michaels to Roddy Piper. Naitch somehow staved off elimination as the ring swelled and contracted, but each close call pushed Heenan closer to the brink of a conniption.

Despite the long odds and competition from the likes of Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker (did I mention it’s a loaded lineup?), Flair prevailed, winning the WWE Title in a Royal Rumble Match first. No need to mince words. This match is essential viewing. — JOHN CLAPP

2000

The Rock wins the Royal Rumble Match: Royal Rumble 2000

The Rock defeats Big Show to win the Royal Rumble Match.

Ah, January 2000. The Nintendo 64 was at its zenith, Pokémon cards were becoming contraband in most academic establishments and The Rock was sizzling as The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment. En route to the WWE Championship, held at the time by the sinister Triple H, The Great One had to lay the smack down on 29 jabronies in the Royal Rumble Match, emanating from Madison Square Garden.

The Rock’s title aspirations aside, the 2000 Royal Rumble Match is an utter smorgasbord of Attitude Era silliness that’s a joy to behold. Non-participants Kaientai were perennial human lawn darts throughout the bout, Too Cool & Rikishi had a feel-good dance break (before the big man unceremoniously hurled Scotty 2 Hotty & Grandmaster Sexay over the top rope) and The Mean Street Posse, well, they were there too.

The conclusion of the match saw The Rock and Big Show go over the top rope at the same time, and although The People’s Champ was awarded the win, The World’s Largest Athlete claimed that Rock’s feet technically touched the floor first, ultimately turning WrestleMania 2000’s main event into a Fatal 4-Way Match. Controversy, chaos and a dash of comedy? Sounds like The Attitude Era. — JAMES WORTMAN

2018 (Women’s)

Trish Stratus returns to action in the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble Match: Royal Rumble 2018 (WWE Network Exclusive)

WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus eliminates Mickie James in her surprise return in the first-ever Women's Royal Rumble Match: Courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

Yes, yes, technically every Royal Rumble Match “makes history,” but it’s always in an additive sense. The chiseling of another name onto the side of the Stanley Cup, a new level added to a tower, or another line etched in a book. It’s a rare occasion that you see history unfold in the literal sense of the word like it did in 2018 when the Women’s division got its first, long-awaited Royal Rumble Match.

That would be cool in and of itself, but the match was a blast, with present-day competitors, Hall of Famers and Legends past and present all throwing their hats into the ring for a match that was half trailblazing and half celebration. Yes, Asuka etched her name in history with her Royal Rumble Match victory, but the match itself was something far more special: the collective writing of a new story altogether. — ANTHONY BENIGNO

2008

John Cena returns from injury to win the Royal Rumble Match - Royal Rumble 2008

John Cena returns from injury to win the Royal Rumble Match - Royal Rumble 2008

There are very few things better than a six-man booth. Fitting then, that the 2008 Royal Rumble, aka the greatest Royal Rumble Match of all time, featured a massive all-star announce team to call the even more massive all-star melee emanating from The World’s Most Famous Arena.

The booth, highlighted by the likes of Joey Styles and Michael Cole, were on the call for a match featuring the likes of The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Batista.

OH, AND THE SURPRISE RETURN OF JOHN CENA!

Cena prevailed, creating an instantaneous immortal WWE moment, but the match, somehow, was still so much more than even that. Roddy Piper and Mick Foley (among others) made surprise cameos, Shelton Benjamin proved to be an athlete AND A HALF before an untimely elimination, and Michael Buffer introduced Michaels and Undertaker with an intensity previously unseen by humankind.

There are very few things better than a six-man booth... but yes, the 2008 Royal Rumble was definitely one of them. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

2006

Rey Mysterio enters the Royal Rumble at No. 2 and wins it all - Royal Rumble 2006

Rey Mysterio enters the Royal Rumble at No. 2 and wins it all - Royal Rumble 2006

It’s admittedly difficult to narrow down the coolest Royal Rumble Matches, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one more historic, inspiring, star-studded and record-setting than 2006. The fact of the matter is that the 2006 Rumble’s appeal boils down to one Superstar – Rey Mysterio. The Ultimate Underdog was the No. 2 entrant in the contest and stood toe-to-toe with Triple H. From there, Mysterio outlasted 29 other Superstars and punched his ticket to WrestleMania where he defeated Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to claim the World Heavyweight Championship.

The victory wasn’t achieved easily as the battle came down to Mysterio, Triple H and Randy Orton. After surviving an assault from The Game and The Viper, Mysterio eliminated Triple H, but he was subject to a retaliatory attack on the steel steps. Although The Cerebral Assassin seemingly set up Orton for the victory, Mysterio countered and won the match.

As if that feat wasn’t enough, The Master of the 619 also broke the record for lasting the longest in a Royal Rumble Match at 62:12, which stood untouched for more than a decade. Additionally, Mysterio became only the second competitor behind Mr. McMahon to win the match after entering from the No. 2 spot. And of course, the win became much more meaningful as Mysterio dedicated it to his late friend, Eddie Guerrero. — KEVIN POWERS

2017

2017 Royal Rumble Match: Royal Rumble 2017 (Full Match)

Titans like Goldberg, Roman Reigns, The Undertaker and Braun Strowman battle in WWE’s annual 30-Superstar over-the-top-rope classic: Courtesy of WWE Network.

The 2017 Royal Rumble quite possibly had it all. A raucous Alamodome crowd in San Antonio gathered to watch a field of 30 Superstars battle it out for a main event opportunity at WrestleMania.

They were not disappointed, as they got one of the most action-packed Royal Rumble Matches in history. Braun Strowman went on an absolute rampage, tossing seven Superstars out of the fray in a matter of minutes, including titans like Big Show and Mark Henry. Chris Jericho once again proved to be one of the most cunning Rumblers in history, lasting for over an hour.

But one of the most thrilling stretches in Royal Rumble history came toward the end of the melee. Brock Lesnar was in the middle of turning San Antonio into Suplex City when the next entrant in the Rumble turned out to be one of the biggest thorns in his side: Goldberg. The former WCW Champion once again proved to have Lesnar’s number, as he dumped The Beast out of the ring after a thunderous Spear. If that wasn’t a big enough moment, the WWE Universe soon got their first taste of a long-awaited dream match, as The Undertaker arrived and eliminated Goldberg.

The 2017 Royal Rumble came down to Roman Reigns and Randy Orton. Though The Big Dog fought off a plethora of Superstars to make it to the final two, The Viper struck and tossed Reigns, picking up his second Rumble win and cementing his legacy. — BOBBY MELOK

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