WWE Royal Rumble 2012: 5 Superstars Who Benefited Most from a Royal Rumble Win
The Royal Rumble is absolutely one of the most important and significant of all of WWE's pay-per-views.
It is the first PPV of the year, setting the bar for all subsequent PPV events.
It marks the beginning of the Road to WrestleMania.
It has the power to launch careers.
The highlight of the Royal Rumble is, of course, the (usually) 30-man Royal Rumble elimination match. Traditionally, the victor of this match is granted a title shot of their choosing at WrestleMania. Because of this, to be the Royal Rumble winner is a highly coveted title.
To be the Royal Rumble winner is a chance to strap a rocket to your career.
In its 25-year history, the Royal Rumble has resulted in numerous pushes for numerous wrestlers; some lasted 15 minutes, while others lasted for the rest of their careers.
Here are the top five superstars who benefited most from a Royal Rumble victory.
Yokozuna perhaps has his Royal Rumble win to thank for his entire WWE career.
The massive Yokozuna signed with WWE in the fall of 1992 under the gimmick of a Japanese sumo wrestler. When he eliminated Randy Savage to win the 1993 Royal Rumble, it marked only his second pay-per-view appearance.
In his third PPV appearance, he defeated Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX to win the WWE Championship.
However, Yokozuna would lose the title to Hulk Hogan the very same night. But when he regained it just over a month later at the 1993 King of the Ring, his eight-month reign would establish him as one of the greatest foreign heel gimmicks in WWE history.
After dropping the WWE Title to Bret Hart at WrestleMania X, for a time Yokozuna enjoyed a high-profile feud against the Undertaker and later became a tag team champion alongside Owen Hart.
However, by this time he had ballooned to an unbelievable 700 pounds in an effort to become the largest wrestler in the world.
It was this desire to gain more and more weight that inevitably ended his career with WWE. Nevertheless, that career probably never would have happened had he not won the Royal Rumble.
Batista first made a name for himself as a member of one of WWE's last great stables, Evolution. However, it wasn't until he turned his back on his mentors that he really shot into the main event.
At the beginning of 2005, Triple H was the reigning World Heavyweight Champion—and he was more than a little paranoid that Batista might try to dethrone him. In an effort to keep that from happening, he attempted to convince Batista not to enter the Royal Rumble.
But he entered anyway—and won.
As is tradition, Batista then received a title match against the World Champion of his choosing at WrestleMania. Again fearing for the loss of his title, Triple H tried to convince Batista to face WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield rather than himself.
But after learning of a plot concocted by Evolution to injure him, Batista signed a contract to face Triple H, thus leaving the stable and turning face.
He went on to win his first World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21, and was named both the PWI Most Improved Wrestler of the Year and Wrestler of the Year in 2005.
Batista would win the World Heavyweight Championship three more times, as well as the WWE Championship twice. He remained a regular in the main event right up until he left WWE in 2010; and many fans are hoping that he will one day return.
When Ric Flair won the 1992 Royal Rumble, he was already a huge star in his own right.
But that win made him a huge star in the WWE.
In the summer of 1991, Flair was in his ninth reign as NWA World Heavyweight Champion. However, for all intents and purposes, that didn't mean all that much when he made the jump to WWE—especially considering that the reigning WWE Champion at the time was none other than Hulk Hogan.
Flair managed to become one of the most hated heels of the time, parading around with the Big Gold Belt and calling himself the "Real World Heavyweight Champion."
The stunt was more than a little risky, considering Flair had been stripped of the NWA Title after leaving for WWE, and WCW subsequently sued him in order to reclaim the belt.
However, Flair got the last laugh when he eliminated Sid Justice to win the '92 Royal Rumble and the vacant WWE Championship. The win made him only the second man in history to have held both the WWE and NWA titles—the first being Buddy Rogers.
Later totaling 16 World Title reigns, Ric Flair is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.
Like some of the others on this list, Shawn Michaels was already a dominant star within the WWE by the time he won his second Royal Rumble in 1996. But that win pushed his career into the stratosphere and transformed him into the Hall of Famer we all know and love.
After taking a brief hiatus and teasing his retirement to the fans, Michaels made a triumphant return at the 1996 Royal Rumble and won it all.
He then received a WWE Championship match against real life arch-nemesis Bret Hart, and managed to capture the title for the first time in a 60-minute iron man match at WrestleMania XII.
What followed were some of the most controversial occurrences in WWE history.
From the "Curtain Call" or the "MSG Incident" in which the members of the Kliq infamously broke kayfabe, to when Michaels vacated his second WWE Championship because he was allegedly unwilling to drop it to Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, to the Montreal Screwjob, controversy seemed to follow Michaels wherever he went.
But not only did all of those things help to make the Heartbreak Kid one of the greatest performers in WWE history, but they also helped WWE to evolve into the grittier product that incited its mainstream boom during the Attitude Era.
And it wouldn't have happened in quite the same way had Michaels not gotten that title shot after winning the Royal Rumble in 1996.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
By the time Stone Cold Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble—for the second year in a row—in 1998, he was already well on his way to superstardom.
But it was that win that helped to cement his spot as arguably the most popular and influential WWE superstar of all time.
At the beginning of 1998, Austin and Shawn Michaels were WWE's top dogs: Michaels was WWE Champion, and Austin was the Royal Rumble winner.
However, Austin didn't immediately set his sights on Michaels. Instead, he went after none other than Vince McMahon.
The night after winning the Royal Rumble, on the very first episode of Monday Night RAW to be broadcast from Madison Square Garden, Austin interrupted Mr. McMahon after taking objection to his calling special guest Mike Tyson "the baddest man on the planet."
Austin flipped Tyson the bird, which led to a scuffle between the two, which subsequently led Mr. McMahon to name Tyson as a special guest enforcer for Austin's WWE Title match at WrestleMania XIV, thinking he would take Michaels' side and prevent Austin from winning.
Well, as we all know, Tyson turned on Michaels and gave Austin the win and his first WWE Title.
This win is credited by many for ushering in the beloved Attitude Era... and the rest is history.
The Royal Rumble Is a Game Changer
As demonstrated by these five superstars, the Royal Rumble is quite possibly one of the biggest, if not the absolute biggest, opportunities for a wrestler in the WWE to advance their career.
With a guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania as the prize, it's no wonder everyone wants to be the last wrestler standing inside that ring.
It could mean the difference between a Hall of Fame career and a rather forgettable one.
As always, thanks for reading. Please leave any thoughts in the comments section below, and be sure to look out for this article's companion piece on the top five superstars today who could benefit most from a Royal Rumble win.
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