In just eight days, we will witness the 25th edition of the Royal Rumble match.
It's widely remembered for the unique style, the incredible athleticism and the unforgettable moments. From epic encounters to random returns, the Royal Rumble match can give you anything and everything. The Rumble match also gives you one thing you won't hear about in the history books—controversy.
In the 24 previous Royal Rumbles, almost every single year's match has had at least one controversial elimination. From someone who was eliminated by someone no longer in the match, someone who was never actually in the match or never made it to the ring at all. There have been some unique and just plain weird ways for people to be eliminated from the Royal Rumble.
In many cases, it happened to someone who likely would never have won a Royal Rumble match anyway. However, there have been some contenders knocked out for odd reasons, almost tainting some of the most memorable victories in history.
Here are those who, even in storyline, have seemed to have been snubbed over the years.
Yes, even in the original Royal Rumble was there a snub. Back in 1988, when the idea was first performed, there were only 20 superstars in the match and no WrestleMania world championship match on the line. This was just for bragging rights. It was "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan who would laugh last, winning the match, but Don Muraco might have a gripe, at least for today's standards.
The first-ever King of the Ring was one of the final four men in the match when he was thrown over the top rope by Dino Bravo and The One Man Gang. Muraco landed on the ring, sitting on the side and not hitting the floor. It was seconds later that he took himself off the ring and put his feet on the floor.
What give, you might ask? In the original incarnation of the match, going over the top rope was reason enough to be eliminated. Under today's standards, Muraco would have stayed safely in the match and still be eligible to win. Instead, he was the only man eliminated that night in that fashion. It seems interesting that the rule was altered after this night.
The first-ever self-elimination would come in 1989, when Andre the Giant would eliminate himself to get away from Jake Roberts and Damien, his pet snake. Roberts had been eliminated by Andre earlier in the match, but had an existing storyline with the legendary giant. Apparently, the man who showed no weaknesses and was unstoppable was deathly afraid of snakes.
Conveniently, after Roberts was eliminated, Roberts would return to the ring and unleash the snake, leading to Andre having the desire to head for the hills. Andre was just the fifth man eliminated in the match at that point. Counting himself, Andre had eliminated four men that night. Although, technically, the elimination does belong to Damien.
So there you have it, folks. The first reptile to ever eliminate someone in Royal Rumble history.
While Andre's self-elimination was unique, Big Boss Man's shocking elimination was the most controversial of all-time at that point. Angered that he had been eliminated by The Twin Towers, Hulk Hogan proceeded to go back after Akeem and Big Boss Man. Hogan managed to get Big Boss Man and remove him from the ring over the top rope, counting in his elimination.
We have seen this tactic of anger from being eliminated and eliminating someone else in retaliation. But never would you believe that it was a face, much less a huge fan favorite like Hulk Hogan, that would do such a thing. Hulkamania was all about good morals and doing the right thing. On this night in 1989, however, it just seemed like crying over spilled milk.
It's difficult to fathom, but in Roddy Piper's illustrious career, this was one of his only Royal Rumble appearances on the active roles until a random appearance nearly two decades later as a special alumni.
In 1990, Piper's legendary attitude had Bad News Brown in the crosshairs. Starting from No. 6, Piper was doing well until Brown, who had just been eliminated by Piper, pulled the Hot Rod out of the ring, leading to a brawl on the outside.
Piper finished with the 11th best time of any competitors that night despite being just the seventh man eliminated. Who knows what could have happened with Piper had that not happened to him.
What did happen to him, however, was a WrestleMania VI match with Brown, which included Piper painting half of his body black. It's still one of the most uneasy things I have ever seen in WWE history.
The first-ever no-show in Rumble history happened in 1991, when the Macho King did not come out to compete. Savage was out there earlier in the night, attacking The Ultimate Warrior in his WWF Championship defense. The distraction allowed Sgt. Slaughter the opening needed to win the match and the championship.
Listed as the 18th entrant, Savage never came out to the match. It was later conjured up by Gorilla Monsoon that Savage was chased out of the arena by Warrior, making him unable to compete in this match.
Sometimes, the most controversial eliminations are the ones that are never considered actual eliminations.
For the second straight year, Randy Savage has his Royal Rumble spot in question. Coming out at No. 21, Savage went straight for Jake Roberts. After eliminating The Snake, the Macho Man launched himself over the top rope to continue his fight with Roberts.
In any other Royal Rumble, this was a self-elimination. This time around, it wasn't. Savage was allowed back into the match for some reason.
Not only would Savage return to the match, but he would eliminate Col. Mustafa and would be one of the final four men involved in the match. Keep in mind that this was the Royal Rumble match where the WWF Championship was awarded to the winner. If Savage had been brought back into the match after such a bad mistake and been booked to win the match, it would likely be remembered as one of the most controversial world championship victories in WWE history.
Instead, we got the next slide.
Hulk Hogan strikes yet again.
In the final three of the 1992 Royal Rumble, Hogan is eliminated by Sid Justice and has such a problem with it that he actually grabs the arm of Justice and eliminates him from the match, awarding the match and the championship to Ric Flair.
Now, with 16 world championships, it would be difficult to believe that Flair wouldn't have at least one controversial title win. But yet again, for such a heel tactic to be used by such a babyface is so unusual to see.
Mr. Perfect was having a great showing at the 1993 Royal Rumble. Perfect had eliminated three men in a row, with the first being last year's winner, Ric Flair. The last of those three was Jerry "The King" Lawler. Ted DiBiase and Koko B. Ware then attempted at eliminating Perfect and Lawler with assists from the outside.
What makes this different than any other elimination from someone already eliminated is the fact that the referees are not only prying Lawler off Perfect, but also positioning themselves to keep Perfect in the match. It makes you wonder if the referees wanted Perfect to remain in the match at that point.
We know this one by now.
A rolling Undertaker has to come face to face with a debuting Giant Gonzalez. Gonzalez is not entered in the match, but goes after The Deadman, eliminates him and manhandles him outside of the ring. That was how the infamous stint of Giant Gonzalez and his awkward attire began in WWE.
The awful gimmick of Bastion Booger has never competed in a Royal Rumble match, so why is he on this list? In 1994, he was supposed to. Booger was slotted in at the 25th position in the match, but never showed up. The explanation given was that the slob had felt sick from something that he ate.
This would be your typical no-show, except for the fact that there were announced alternates earlier in the match. Why was Booger not alternated for, yet other superstars were? Moreover, why not just throw Booger out there and have him eliminated early?
This is perhaps the most controversial elimination in Royal Rumble history. Two men, Bret Hart and Lex Luger, are the only two left in the 1994 Royal Rumble. The two men get tangled up and fall to the outside, where both are eventually declared victors. The explanation at the time was that both men had both feet hit the ground at the exact same time.
This would be the only instance of co-winners in Rumble history, even though there was another situation 11 years later. We will get to that one later.
1996 was the year that Shawn Michaels won the Royal Rumble. It would also be the year that he was eliminated by Vader.
How can both be true? Let's explain.
Shawn Michaels entered the match at No. 18 and eliminated both Yokozuna and Vader in what is one of the more unbelievable feats of strength seen in a wrestling ring. While Yokozuna was bummed and ready to return backstage, Vader was very upset. He would return to the ring and clean house, even picking up Michaels and throwing him out of the ring.
This would be an elimination, correct? Wrong.
Not only was Michaels allowed back into the match, but he would eliminate six more men and win the Royal Rumble match that night. How is it that Hulk Hogan can do what Vader apparently cannot? This is a tainted victory if I have ever seen one.
Without hesitation, Ahmed Johnson eliminated himself to chase Faarooq during the 1997 Royal Rumble.
I could make more out of it, but that's about it. There's not much to speak of with Ahmed Johnson to get too enraged about this decision.
Mil Mascaras will join the WWE Hall of Fame in late March, based mostly on his appearance in this match. Entering 11th in 1997, Mascaras appeared to eliminate himself in the match as he splashed to the outside of the ring. Mascaras actually traveled through the ropes to the outside before jumping off the top rope. Technically not going from the ring over the top rope, Mascaras should not have been eliminated.
The reason that men are eliminated from the top rope is because they were either thrown over the top rope first or they went from the ring itself to the turnbuckle. Because he had established his feet outside of the ring, Mascaras would not be eligible for elimination until he re-enters the ring.
Perhaps the Hall of Fame induction is a way to mend the mistake made 15 years earlier by those referees.
Stone Cold Steve Austin did not really win the 1997 Royal Rumble. It was a fact of referee error that he stayed in the match to win it. After a brawl broke out outside the ring between Terry Funk and Mankind, Austin was eliminated by Bret Hart. Austin, seeing that he had not been declared out by an official, made it back into the ring and ended up the winner. The referees running over to assist in breaking up the brawl led to Austin's second chance at winning that Rumble.
Austin would go on to win two other Royal Rumbles, including the following year, but the first one occurred under controversial tactics. In today's WWE, when referees seem to know all, this likely would not have taken place.
Owen Hart was like a man possessed during the 1998 Royal Rumble. Hart drew No. 9, but was attacked on the way to the ring by Jeff Jarrett. After making it into the ring, Hart eliminated Jarrett. Hart looked good and seemed poised to eliminate The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust when the unthinkable happened. There was one weakness for Hart that night, and it was one of Triple H's crutches.
Chyna would reach up with one crutch, attempting to hit Hart. Blocking it, Hart held onto the crutch and was pulled out of the ring by that same crutch. Fans accussed Hart of using his brother, Bret, as a kind of crutch in his career, but it was a literal crutch that did Owen Hart in that night.
Mabel had an eventful night at the Royal Rumble in 1999. The former King of the Ring was not entered into the match, but took out Headbanger Most backstage, essentially taking his spot away. Mabel had his hands on five eliminated superstars within the first 90 seconds, but was attacked by The Ministry of Darkness.
After being chased up to the stage, The Undertaker stood there and seemed to speak in tongues to Mabel. Not only did Mabel understand those feelings, but became a member of Undertaker's faction that night. That was the night that Viscera was officially born.
It still baffles me that this happened. Drawing Nos. 1 and 2, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon had a very toxic relationship. In the 1999 Rumble, Austin had multiple chances to eliminate McMahon, but wanted to punish his boss. After a brawl that went through the crowd and the rest of the arena, Austin made it back to the ring as McMahon rested at the commentary booth. Eventually, it was just the two of them remaining.
The Rock, the champion at the time and an ally of McMahon, distracted Austin enough to have McMahon sneak behind the Texas Rattlesnake. The Corporate Champion also did enough to help Austin over the ropes, leading to the chairman of the company to win the Royal Rumble.
Earlier that night, Kane appeared in the Rumble match and was cleaning house like he has classically done. Kane was defiant of The Corporation leading up to this time, becoming a fan favorite for the first time in his career. When he stood alone in the ring, men with white coats appeared. Michael Cole on commentary stated that these were men from an insane asylum coming to capture Kane.
Kane fought off some before going over the ropes to chase the rest through the crowd. I know that it was a safe way to keep Kane strong and eliminate him, but when your winner ends up as Mr. McMahon, any elimination like this, especially to a superstar as powerful and popular as Kane was then, is just inexcusable.
2000's Royal Rumble is the one that Big Show won, but didn't win. Let me explain.
Both Big Show and The Rock were remaining in the match at Madison Square Garden. The Rock would eliminate Big Show and hold onto the ropes to stay in and win the match. Big Show came out immediately and complained that he had won. After weeks of being chased around by Triple H to get more and more proof, Big Show revealed this camera shot, which was missing from the original broadcast.
The angle does show two feet touching from The Rock while Big Show's two feet are still touching the top rope. Whether this was done for storyline purposes or it was just a botched finish, Big Show was never officially recognized as the winner of that match. He did, however, get a world championship match at WrestleMania 2000.
After pulling off one of the most shocking eliminations in Royal Rumble history, Tough Enough champion Maven was thrown around by The Undertaker. Sure, there was some distraction to help Maven eliminate The Undertaker, but The Phenom made his way back into the ring to manhandle the rookie. He then threw him outside through the ropes to get destroyed with weapons.
Maven actually was thrown over the ropes a minute later by The Undertaker, but it still ends up as one of those unusual moments. Maven and The Undertaker never really had that much of a rivalry from this. Outside of another spot the year later, there was rarely any history that came from it. All that it did was give The Undertaker some more heat, which is a little bit crazy. Maven could have been eliminated a minute later by someone else in a legal way, only to be destroyed by Undertaker later. Why waste a controversial elimination on a rookie?
In no way does this imply that Spike Dudley would even have stood a chance in 2004's Rumble. However, to have Kane lay him out on the ramp and never officially enter is a bit sketchy. Kane was distracted by the darkness, a sign believed to come from The Undertaker, who he would compete against at WrestleMania XX. In sheer anger, Kane attacked Dudley, who actually came out after the lights had turned back on. It wasn't anything done by Spike himself, but he sure paid the price for it.
Test is one of those unsung guys in Royal Rumble history. He always had the size to win it and had good showings on a consistent basis. That's all the more reason for it to be odd for Test to be laid out backstage before coming out to the Rumble match.
Angered by the events taking place, Stone Cold Steve Austin alerted Mick Foley to appear in place of Test. Foley went after Randy Orton, eliminating The Legend Killer and himself at once.
It is implied that Foley actually took out Test just to get into that match, begging the question of how it can be explained that Foley could sneak up on, let alone destroy, a guy like Test.
Poor Scotty 2 Hotty. In 2005's Royal Rumble match, Muhammad Hassan made his first and only appearance in the match. After being eliminated by the entire ring full of superstars, Hassan was livid. He took it all out on Scotty, who was coming to the ring to be the next contestant.
Instead, he became the next victim of Hassan. Scotty never made it into the ring. And while Scotty likely would not have been the victor, he did always have decent showings. On this night, he wouldn't even show.
Shawn Michaels was given an unfair elimination in 2005's Rumble match. All that The Heartbreak Kid did was give Kurt Angle his shortest stint in the Royal Rumble match in the Olympic gold medalist's history. Angle took exception to it and eliminated Michaels from the match in frustration. The brawl got so serious that people had to come from the back to separate the two of them. It led to a great match between the two at WrestleMania, so it wasn't all for nothing.
Eleven years after Lex Luger and Bret Hart were deemed co-winners, John Cena and Batista were the final two men in the 2005 Royal Rumble. The two went over the top rope, and it was uncertain who was the winner. Instead of calling them both winners, just like the precedent that was set, that could not stand.
Mr. McMahon marched out to the ring in frustration and actually injured himself getting into the ring. The match was restarted and Batista won the match. If you look at the video, Cena's feet did not hit until after Batista's did, meaning that the restart was the only way for Batista to win individually.
Cena also had a world title match at that WrestleMania, defeating JBL to become WWE Champion. Due to that, it makes it almost pointless to not let them both be winners of that match.
Lost in the shuffle of Rey Mysterio winning the Royal Rumble in 2006 was Shawn Michaels attempting to win yet another Rumble match. Michaels entered the match at No. 25, but was in the crosshairs of Mr. McMahon. Once Shelton Benjamin, who promised to eliminate Michaels, got thrown out by The Heartbreak Kid, McMahon came out to distract Michaels. As Michaels was distracted, Shane McMahon came into the ring and threw Michaels out of the match.
Kane had three of the first 10 eliminations in the 2007 Royal Rumble. That's a pretty pedestrian outing for Kane, who has been a fixture of the match for years now. The third elimination for Kane was King Booker, who was looking to earn a world title match to earn his championship back. Booker actually had a legitimate gripe to have a title match already, but he needed a Rumble victory to truly earn one.
Frustrated from being eliminated in less than 10 minutes, Booker came back into the ring and threw Kane out as well. Honestly, Booker never has really lasted long in Rumble matches historically. I'm rather certain that his 2007 showing makes up for the majority of the time he has ever spent in a Royal Rumble match.
Hornswoggle was entered in the 2008 Royal Rumble, but did not want to be too involved. While he did assist in the elimination of The Miz, Hornswoggle was eventually pulled into the match. Looking to be dismantled by Mark Henry and Big Daddy V, Finlay came out to help his storyline son.
Finlay was actually the next entrant, but apparently was disqualified for "jumping the gun" in coming out. Hornswoggle, for what it's worth, was taken out through the ropes and was never officially eliminated. He simply just never returned to the ring.
There were six men left in the 2009 Royal Rumble. Big Show and The Undertaker were the two biggest, but they went after one another. Both men stood on the outside of the ropes, where just one slip would eliminate either of them. Big Show was pushed off the ring and out of the match.
While DiBiase and Rhodes were trying to also eliminate The Undertaker, Big Show put his hand on the leg of The Undertaker and helped pull him out of the ring. This would leave Triple H with the three members of Legacy, eventually leading to Randy Orton's Rumble victory.
2011 had the biggest Rumble in history. There were 40 men, as opposed to the 30 seen in most versions of the match. Entering at 22, Cena eliminated seven men and was one of the final five men. Afraid of facing Cena at WrestleMania, WWE Champion The Miz entered the ring and threw Cena out.
Cena would still make it to WrestleMania, winning an Elimination Chamber match to face The Miz in the main event.