From the first event broadcast on the USA Network to Jan. 27's upcoming pay-per-view event, the Royal Rumble has become a hotbed of the unexpected. With a title shot as the prize for winning the contest, anything can happen.
From one moment to the next, the entire vibe of the match can change. Depending on who walks out of the curtain, there can be a brawl or scientific display of technical wrestling.
Commenting on the Rumble’s popularity on WWE.com, Jake “The Snake” Roberts said, “at the Rumble, every fan picks who they want to win and they ride that roller coaster every time someone new comes out.”
In the 26 years since the first Rumble, different events have shocked the WWE and changed the organization.
The 10 moments listed here are the most significant.
They are ranked by their level of unexpectedness and historical significance. Some are game changing events in the history of the WWE.
A few others are just damn jaw-dropping.
For the sake of simplicity, the initials WWE are used throughout, regardless of time period.
At the 2012 Rumble, the Miz tossed Kofi Kingston over the top rope. Instead of dropping to the floor, Kingston held on.
Another push by Miz left Kingston on his hands, but his feet still on the apron.
Then the shocking moment came.
Miz grabbed Kingston's legs and pushed. Kingston should have hit the floor and been done. Instead he balanced himself in a handstand before walking on his hands back to the steel steps.
It was a spontaneous show of acrobatics that would eventually win Kingston a Slammy award.
In 1999, the same year that Vince McMahon won the Royal Rumble, Chyna shocked the world by becoming the first woman to ever compete in the pay-per-view event.
When Chyna entered the bout, she targeted Mark Henry and eliminated the world’s strongest man.
Moments later Steve Austin eliminated the Rumble’s first woman.
The 2011 Royal Rumble event was already special in that it was the first and only edition to feature 40 wrestlers.
But at the same event Kevin Nash made his return to the WWE as Big Daddy Cool Diesel.
The crowd jumped to their feet when Nash strolled out in his classic back and white attire. The noise grew as he placed his single back glove on before raising his hand in the air.
Nash took over control of the match, pounding Wade Barrett, Rey Mysterio and Kofi Kingston, among others.
Barrett eventually eliminated him.
This was the first time Nash had gone by Diesel since 1996.
After the 1992 Royal Rumble, the winner of the Royal Rumble would get the opportunity to compete for the WWE championship at WrestleMania. In 1994, that champion was the behemoth Yokozuna.
As the ’94 event wound down, only Bret Hart and Lex Luger were left in the ring. The two men went over the top rope at the same time and landed on the floor at the same time as well.
Chaos ensued thereafter as both wrestlers and even multiple referees argued over who won.
Finally, then-WWE President Jack Tunney declared that both men had won the Rumble.
Both men went on to face Yokozuna at WrestleMania X. Luger would go one to lose to Yokozuna. Hart would lose his first match to his brother but go on to defeat Yokozuna for the title.
This was the first and only time that two men officially won the Rumble.
In 2005, John Cena and Batista would also suffer a double elimination. But in that match, Vince McMahon ordered the bout restarted and Batista would win.
In 1999, the feud between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin had reached a fever pitch. To make things even better, the two men started off the event. Austin was entrant No. 1 and McMahon No. 2.
Austin had already won the past two Royal Rumbles and was on his way to winning another. McMahon had slinked out to do doing commentary instead of wrestling. He legally stepped out of the match by not going over the top rope.
Left in the ring, D-Lo Brown was tossed out and then Austin delivered a stunner to the Boss Man. The crowd erupted as Stone Cold sent the former corrections officer over the ropes to the floor.
McMahon couldn’t hide his terror as Austin left the ring and pounded him at the announcers’ desk. The Rattlesnake seemed to take pleasure roughing up the WWE Chairman, before taking the action back inside the ring.
Just as Austin set things up for the win, WWE champion The Rock came down to distract him.
On the ring apron, the two fought. McMahon slithered in from behind, tossed out his long-time foe and claimed the victory.
This marked the first and only time the WWE chairman won the Rumble.
Maven Huffman won the first season of the WWE reality series, Tough Enough. The show, designed to find new wrestlers for the organization, awarded him a one-year contract.
He debuted in 2001, in a match against his former trainer, Tazz.
In the 2002 Royal Rumble, Undertaker was the eighth entrant in the event. He quickly took over the match, eliminating all four of the men in the ring. The Hardy Boyz were the next two men in the ring and the Dead Man got rid of both of them too.
When Maven, the 11th participant, made his way to the ring, the Phenom looked amused.
But Maven took advantage of Undertaker being distracted by the Hardy’s and dropkicked the legend from behind and out of the ring.
The crowd erupted. Undertaker was a cross between shocked and thoroughly pissed off.
At the time, Jim Ross called it the biggest shocker he had ever seen at the Royal Rumble.
Undertaker would climb back in the ring and beat Maven senseless.
This was the rare moment when experience didn’t always pay off and showed why the Rumble is completely unpredictable.
In 2007 John Cena suffered a major injury when he tore his pectoral muscle during a match. He had been expected to be out of action for nearly a year recuperating.
At the 2008 event held in Madison Square Garden, Cena was the surprise entry at No. 30. His return took Triple H by surprise, who held court inside the ring.
According to WWE.com, Cena shouted, "You and me, it's go time!" to Triple H.
Cena was on fire as he entered the ring. He eliminated three men in less than 25 seconds.
The crowd exploded when Cena tossed the Cerebral Assassin over the top rope less than nine minutes later.
Cena’s quick return was a testament to physical capabilities. The fans hugely embraced him and he showed his dominance as a competitor.
Both men were huge superstars at this point in their careers. At the 1989 Royal Rumble, the cracks in their team began to emerge.
As Savage tussled with Bad New Brown, Hogan eliminated The Warlord. He then turned at tossed both Brown and Savage unceremoniously to the floor.
Savage bounced back in to the ring and roughly shoved Hogan from behind before getting in the WWE legend’s face.
The two men appeared to be coming close to blows as Hogan knocked Savage’s hand away and Savage shoved him once again.
The argument only ended after Miss Elizabeth came to the ring and made peace between the two.
The two embraced, but the damage was done.
Less than a month later the team had split and the two wrestled in the main event at WrestleMania V.
In 1992 Ric Flair participated in his first WWE Royal Rumble match.
Several months before, the former NWA and WCW world champion had arrived on scene and targeted Hulk Hogan.
What made the 1992 Rumble different from the others was the winner of the match would also win the vacant world title.
Flair drew early, no. 3, much to the dismay of Bobby Heenan, who cried in the announcers’ booth as Flair made his way down to ringside.
But, as the bout wore on, Flair was never eliminated.
After wrestling for an hour, he dumped Sid justice over the rope to win his first title world title in the WWE.
It was a major step by Vince McMahon. Flair was a huge star, created in another organization, and the WWE recognized it.
The 1995 edition of the Royal Rumble was the first Rumble win for Shawn Michaels.
He and Davey Boy Smith entered the bout at Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. With superstars entering the bout every 60 seconds instead of every two minutes, the entire bout lasted less than 40 minutes.
With the shortened time frame, the bout was quick paced. The final four men in the ring were Lex Luger, Crush, and Michaels and Smith.
The crowd erupted in cheers after Michaels knocked Luger off Crush and out of the ring. The same thing happened when Smith clotheslined Crush out of the bout a few minutes later.
With Luger and Crush eliminated, the first two men in the Rumble became the last two men.
Smith was able to throw Michaels over the top rope, but only one foot touched the ground. At first Smith appeared to be the winner, but it was decided that since both his feet did not touch the ground, Michaels was still in the match.
The Heartbreak Kid re-entered the match and eliminated Smith. Michaels made history in this bout. Not only was the one-foot rule set, but also this marked the first time a wrestler entered as No. 1 and went on to win the match.