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WWE Royal Rumble 2013: Ranking Every Royal Rumble Match Ever

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

WWE Royal Rumble 2013: Ranking Every Royal Rumble Match Ever

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    The Royal Rumble match is unquestionably one of the most iconic matches in WWE history. The 2013 edition of the Rumble will mark the 26th installment and it figures to bring some memorable moments with it. With the Rumble approaching, many fans enjoy taking a look back to Rumbles from years past.

    As is the case with everything in wrestling, there have been a few great Rumbles, a few bad ones and plenty more in between. No matter what, I'll always have a special place in my heart for every Rumble as it is my favorite match in professional wrestling. Even the Rumbles that don't live up to expectations manage to leave a lasting impression in some way.

    Over the past 25 years, there have been 750 entrants into the Royal Rumble, plenty of incredible spots and iconic winners to boot. Everyone has different personal preferences when it comes to Rumble matches as some things stick out to us more than others, but there are definitely some Rumbles that stand out above the rest.

    It wasn't easy and it's far from an exact science, but here is every Royal Rumble match in WWE history ranked from worst to best.

25. Royal Rumble 1988

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    The first ever Royal Rumble took place in 1988 and it remains the only one that aired on network television rather than on pay-per-view. Vince McMahon decided to make the idea of the Rumble match, which was first thought of by adviser Pat Patterson, a reality. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan was victorious and the rest is history.

    Although this particular Rumble has to be given a lot of credit since it was the first one and it set the tone for the 24 that would come after it, the match itself wasn't great. There were only 20 competitors in this trial run, and that alone makes it pale in comparison to other Rumbles. The WWE was obviously just trying to gauge what did and didn't work, and the fans responded well enough to make the Rumble an annual event.

    In the interest of fairness, I have to grade every Rumble equally regardless of extenuating circumstances, and the inaugural one is on the bottom of the heap. With only 20 entrants, a low-level winner in Duggan and nothing of note on the line, the 1988 Royal Rumble set a bar that future Rumbles were able to surpass.

24. Royal Rumble 1996

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    As a huge fan of Shawn Michaels, I hold the Royal Rumbles that he won in high regard, but the 1996 Rumble simply wasn't very good. There wasn't much star power aside from Michaels as only he, Diesel, The British Bulldog and Owen Hart could have realistically won the match. Aside from those guys, much of the match was filled with low-card guys and random entrants.

    The WWE obviously searched far and wide for entrants in order to compensate for a lack of roster depth and that resulted in the likes of Dory Funk Jr., Takao Ōmori, Doug Gilbert and The Squat Team taking part in the match. Also, there were several jobbers such as Barry Horowitz, Aldo Montoya and Hakushi in the fray. Many affectionately refer to the 1996 Royal Rumble as the "Jobber Rumble."

    With that said, the ending was cool as Michaels eliminated his long-time friend Diesel to win for the second consecutive year. It looked like Diesel might decimate Michaels afterwards, but they shared a high five and Michaels celebrated. That alone wasn't enough to save a Rumble that lacked top contenders, though.

23. Royal Rumble 1999

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    If nothing else, the 1999 Royal Rumble is certainly one of the most unique in WWE history. After winning the Rumble in both 1997 and 1998, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was the odds-on favorite to become the first wrestler to win it in three consecutive years. He was forced to enter first by Vince McMahon, but Vince had to enter No. 2 in his own right, so Austin figured to have a field day.

    McMahon escaped the ring early in the match and that resulted in Austin stalking him throughout the arena. McMahon eventually lured Austin into the bathroom and Austin was met by a group attack at the hands of The Corporation. McMahon returned to ringside, but he opted to join the commentary team instead.

    Austin eventually came back, as well, as he drove an ambulance to the arena. Austin went after McMahon, but The Corporation foiled him once again. It eventually got to the point where Austin was the final entrant, so he brought McMahon back into the ring and was about to eliminate him, but The Rock distracted Austin and allowed Vince to eliminate him for the win. It was definitely a creative finish, but there was little star power and McMahon winning isn't looked upon too favorably, in retrospect.

22. Royal Rumble 2012

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    Wrestling fans often consider things that are fresh in their minds to be better or worse than they actually are, but the 2012 Royal Rumble match wasn't particularly satisfying. This Rumble was billed as a match in which anything could happen and anyone could enter. The WWE did live up to that tagline, but most of the surprise entrants were underwhelming.

    The only true surprise legends were "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and Road Dogg, and while it was cool to see them, they didn't really register on the radar. The WWE then tried to get cute by having announcers Jerry "The King" Lawler, Booker T and Michael Cole compete. The only real mark-out moment was Kharma's shocking appearance, but she was eliminated quickly and wasn't a big part of the match.

    One thing that I did enjoy was the unpredictability of the match, as there were several candidates to win. Chris Jericho was the favorite and he did manage to make it to the final two, but Sheamus ultimately eliminated him to win. The two of them had a great back-and-forth battle at the end, as it almost developed into a regular one-on-one match. The 2012 Rumble as a whole didn't deliver, though.

21. Royal Rumble 2009

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    The 2009 Royal Rumble is one that suffered from predictability and a lack of big moments. It was blatantly obvious that things would come down to Triple H and Randy Orton, and that is precisely what happened. The final four featured Orton, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes teaming up on Triple H. The Game managed to eliminate the junior members of Legacy, but The Viper struck from behind and tossed Triple H over the top rope to win.

    This Rumble isn't a total loss as there were some unique things done in terms of pacing. Most of the guys who entered the Rumble late were eliminated quickly, while earlier participants generally lasted a long time. In fact, Rey Mysterio, Triple H, Orton, DiBiase, Chris Jericho, Mike Knox, Finlay, Rhodes and The Undertaker were all in the Rumble for at least a half hour. Also, the fact that Triple H and Orton made it to the end from No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, was a change of pace.

    Even so, the 2009 Rumble match just isn't remembered as a special one. Things pretty much went according to what the fans expected and it didn't leave a lasting impact. The in-ring action wasn't bad at all and it's a Royal Rumble that is worth watching; however, it will never be mentioned among the all-time greats.

20. Royal Rumble 1993

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    It's safe to say that the 1993 Royal Rumble is a forgotten one, and while it holds a special place in my heart since I enjoy the era in which it took place, the match itself wasn't groundbreaking. This match marked the beginning of Yokozuna's monster push as he last eliminated Randy "Macho Man" Savage to win and he went on to defeat Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

    Rumble wins were always given to established stars previously, so having Yokozuna come out on top was a chance in philosophy and it was probably a change for the better. There isn't a lot worth noting other than Yoko's victory, but I did enjoy some of the colorful characters that took part in the match such as Max Moon, The Berzerker, Damien Demento and Repo Man. All of them were jobbers with no hope of winning, but they all had hilarious gimmicks that are fun to look back on.

    In addition to that, Bob Backlund entered the match second and set the longevity mark in a Rumble match with a time of one hour, one minute and 10 seconds. He broke the record that was set by Ric Flair the previous year and is still third on that list, behind Rey Mysterio and Chris Benoit. The 1993 Rumble was also the first to award the winner a title shot at WrestleMania, so it does deserve some credit for that.

19. Royal Rumble 2011

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    The 2011 Royal Rumble was billed as the biggest of all time with 40 entrants rather than the customary 30, and although it delivered on that promise in terms of volume, bigger wasn't necessarily better. The WWE used the match as a platform to elevate Alberto Del Rio to main-event status as he won the match, but he ultimately fell flat in the long run and didn't recover until now.

    There is no question that the extra 10 entrants made for a lot more action, but the two biggest takeaways for me from this Rumble were the surprise entrances of Booker T and Diesel. Both men had been away from the WWE for quite some time and dabbled in TNA, so it came as a shock to see them back in a WWE ring. Neither man lasted long, but they both got massive pops and are among the best surprise entrants ever.

    One memorable moment that people have mixed feelings on was the fact that Santino Marella was the final superstar to be eliminated. Most thought Del Rio won when he eliminated Randy Orton, but Santino had been incapacitated outside the ring and was never eliminated. He emerged and was about to take out Del Rio, but The Mexican Aristocrat evaded his attack and threw him out. It wasn't a conventional finish, but it's definitely one that will always stick with me.

18. Royal Rumble 2005

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    The 2005 Royal Rumble is one that will always be remembered for its ending, but probably not much else. Batista and John Cena ended up being the final two participants, but as Batista attempted to eliminate Cena, both men tumbled over the top rope and hit the floor at the same time. There was plenty of confusion and it prompted Vince McMahon to race down to the ring in order to sort things out.

    Hilariously, and unfortunately, Vince tore both his quads while power walking to the ring and had to take a seat in the ring while Batista and Cena looked on in shock. Vince declared that the match would be restarted between Batista and Cena. Batista would soon hit Cena with a spinebuster and toss him over the top rope in order to win his first and only Royal Rumble.

    Much of the mystique surrounding this match stems from the fact that many believe Batista and Cena accidentally went over the top rope together. This is based on the way McMahon stormed to the ring. I don't necessarily see it that way since the referees seemed to know what they were doing with some declaring Batista the winner and others saying Cena won. If not for the fact that Bret Hart and Lex Luger executed the same ending in 1994, this Rumble might have been a little higher on the list. There wasn't enough action throughout to justify it, though.

17. Royal Rumble 1994

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    While the 1994 Royal Rumble is one that had many highlights, the one that fans will always remember is the finish between Lex Luger and Bret Hart. After simultaneously eliminating Fatu and Shawn Michaels, Luger and Hart went at it to determine the winner of the match. Luger attempted to toss Hart over the top rope, but Hart reversed momentum and both men hit the floor at the exact same time, which resulted in the first and only draw in Rumble history.

    Such a finish had never been seen before and the fans were shocked by the entire scene. Jack Tunney rushed to the ring and decided that Luger and Hart would be declared co-winners. This meant that they both went on to WrestleMania and received a title shot against Yokozuna. Luger was disqualified in his match against Yoko, while Hart defeated him for the title in the main event.

    In addition to the wild ending, the 1994 Rumble is famous for Diesel's dominance. Before Kane's decimation of the Rumble field in 2001, Diesel was viewed as the gold standard in terms of taking over a Rumble. He went on a tear early in the match and eliminated seven men before a large contingent took him out. That marked the beginning of his major push, so the '94 Rumble certainly had its moments.

16. Royal Rumble 2003

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    The 2003 Royal Rumble is a middle-of-the-road match and its ranking reflects that, but I personally enjoyed it because of the way the stars were effectively sprinkled throughout. Also, Brock Lesnar picked up the victory and that helped catapult him to new heights. The final two of Lesnar and The Undertaker was fantastic and it could very well foreshadow a match between them at WrestleMania XXIX.

    This Rumble got off to a rousing start as Shawn Michaels entered first and Chris Jericho entered second in an effort to one-up The Showstopper. Jericho executed a ruse, however, as Christian entered as a decoy and Jericho attacked Michaels from behind. He would go on to eliminate Michaels from the match, but Jericho would also fall short. Rey Mysterio and Edge entered early as well, Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero, Jeff Hardy and John Cena entered in the middle stages and guys like Lesnar, Batista and Taker came in late.

    There was never really a dull moment in the Rumble because there was always somebody relevant in the ring. The lack of huge moments is what prevents the 2003 Royal Rumble from being held in higher regard, but there are plenty of aspects that make it worth checking out.

15. Royal Rumble 1995

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    As a whole, the 1995 Royal Rumble was likely among the worst in terms of star power and the fact that there was only a minute between entrants made it the second-shortest Rumble ever as well, but the story the match told is enough to overcome much of that. Shawn Michaels entered the match No. 1, which was pretty much viewed as a death sentence in the match back then, but he managed to outlast 29 other superstars and earn a title shot at WrestleMania.

    Equally as impressive was the performance of The British Bulldog as he entered second and went wire to wire just like Michaels. The Rumble ended just as it started with Michaels and Davey Boy Smith in the ring together. Both men were tired, but Bulldog managed to clothesline HBK over the top rope and it appeared as though he won. Smith's music even hit and he celebrated on the ropes.

    Michaels reentered the ring, however, and eliminated Bulldog. Michaels' music then hit and he was declared the winner. It turns out that Michaels hung on to the top rope and only one of his feet touched the floor, so he was never actually eliminated. This marked the first instance of somebody "skinning the cat" to avoid elimination and it was the first ever win from the No. 1 position as well.

14. Royal Rumble 1989

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    The 1989 Royal Rumble was the second ever and the first to employ the 30-man concept that we have all come to know and love. This Rumble often gets overlooked and I have to believe that it is because Big John Studd was the winner. If not for his poor health, Studd would have been in for a fairly significant push after the Rumble and that likely would have made it a lot more memorable in the eyes of the fans.

    With that said, if someone were to go back and watch every Royal Rumble without knowing the end result, Studd's victory would probably be the most surprising due to the fact that he was on the downside of his career in 1989 and top stars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Randy "Macho Man" Savage were involved. That alone makes the 1989 Rumble worth watching because it's something different from what we're accustomed to seeing.

    The circumstances surrounding the Rumble were also entertaining as Ted DiBiase bought the No. 30 spot from Slick. It almost worked as he made it to the final two, but Studd eliminated him to win. Hogan also eliminated Savage from the match when Savage was doing battle with Bad News Brown. Macho Man went crazy and this signaled the beginning of the end to the Mega Powers. All of that made the first traditional Rumble a solid one.

13. Royal Rumble 2006

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    Fans seem to have conflicting opinions when it comes to the overall quality of the 2006 Royal Rumble, but it produced what was probably the greatest feel-good moment in the match's history, so I rank it a bit higher than most. In the wake of the tragic death of his good friend Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio entered the match No. 2 and managed to go the distance. He last eliminated Randy Orton and surprisingly won the Rumble.

    Mysterio had been getting a great push prior to the Rumble, but he was never really viewed as a main-event star. He had always competed as a cruiserweight in WCW and ECW, and most figured that would be his role for good. The Rumble win started a new chapter in Mysterio's career, though, as he would win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania and become one of the WWE's top stars.

    There were some dead spots in the match, but I enjoyed the way it was set up. Not only did Mysterio last for a long time, but Triple H entered number one and was the second-to-last person eliminated. It came down to Triple H and Randy Orton reforming their Evolution alliance in an effort to take out Mysterio. The diminutive, masked man outfoxed both of them and won the match, however. Mysterio's 62 minutes and 12 seconds in the match is also a record that still stands today.

12. Royal Rumble 2008

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    The 2008 Royal Rumble was excellent for many reasons, including top stars sprinkled throughout, a pair of returning legends and the fact that it happened at Madison Square Garden, but it is best known as the Rumble that featured the most-shocking surprise entrant ever. With just one person left to enter it seemed as though Triple H would cruise to victory, but John Cena's music hit and the leader of the Cenation cleaned house to win his first Rumble.

    Cena had suffered a torn pectoral muscle four months earlier and it forced him to forfeit the WWE Championship, which he had held for over a year. The recovery timetable was no less than seven months and perhaps as much as a year, so it didn't seem like there was any chance of Cena competing in the Rumble match. He made an appearance at Tribute to the Troops a month earlier, bit his arm was still in a sling and there was absolutely no indication that he would be cleared to compete any time soon.

    When Cena came through the curtain, the MSG faithful came unglued and went absolutely nuts. Cena posed on the stage and had a stare-down with Triple H before bolting to the ring. Whether you love Cena or hate him, it was definitely a special moment. Also, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, who were the final two participants the year before, were the first two entrants in 2008, so the tone was set from the start. A great beginning and memorable ending made the 2008 Rumble a winner.

11. Royal Rumble 1991

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    In terms of overall impact, the 1991 Royal Rumble match didn't mean much. There was no guaranteed title shot on the line and there weren't any huge spots, but it was well-constructed and had a great field of superstars. Hulk Hogan won the match just as he did the year before and he did it by last eliminating Earthquake. Hogan was still as popular as ever at that point and seeing him celebrate in the middle of the ring while waving the American flag was a cool sight, especially in the middle of the Persian Gulf War.

    I also enjoyed the strong performances from some of the mid-card guys in the match. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Rick Martel, Hercules, Tito Santana and Davey Boy Smith all lasted in excess of 30 minutes. In fact, Martel's mark of 52 minutes and 17 seconds was a record at the time. It has been surpassed many times since then, but it was quite impressive back then.

    The inclusion of a forgotten character like Saba Simba was interesting as was the participation of a young Shane Douglas. Perhaps most memorable was the absence of "Macho King" Randy Savage. Earlier in the night, Savage attacked The Ultimate Warrior during his WWE Championship match and it resulted in Sgt. Slaughter winning the title. Savage presumably left the building and never entered the match, although the curtain can be seen moving when his turn comes up. That remains one of the great mysteries in Royal Rumble history.

10. Royal Rumble 2010

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    Although the main surprise return in the 2010 Royal Rumble may not have been quite as impactful as John Cena's in 2008, the Rumble itself was superior. The biggest moment of the night came when Edge shockingly made his return to the ring as entrant No. 29. Edge had torn his Achilles several months earlier and wasn't slated to return for another few months, but he managed to heal quickly enough to compete in and win the match.

    During Edge's absence, Chris Jericho was very critical of him. The tandem had won the Tag Team Championships prior to Edge's injury, but Jericho was forced to move on when Edge went on the shelf. Because of this, Edge immediately targeted Jericho when he entered the match. This would foreshadow their match at WrestleMania as Jericho went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber and Edge chose to face him on the grandest stage of them all.

    The other big storyline in the match was Shawn Michaels attempting to win in order to get another shot at The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Taker was world champion at the time and HBK wanted to avenge his 'Mania loss from the previous year. Michaels was eliminated by Batista in the latter stages of the match and tried to reenter, but he was stopped. Michaels would get his rematch with The Undertaker, but it would also lead to his retirement.

9. Royal Rumble 1997

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    If nothing else, the 1997 Royal Rumble is memorable for the fact that it launched the career of one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling history. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was making a lot of headway leading into the match and had already won the 1996 King of the Ring. Austin still needed something else to put him over the top and his Rumble victory set him up for an incredible amount of success.

    Austin entered the match fifth and put on a great display had several eliminations throughout the match and lasted until the end. The latter portion of the match was particularly good with the likes of Austin, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Mankind and Vader still in the ring. Hart eliminated Austin from the match, but the officials didn't see it due to a brawl between Mankind and Terry Funk. This allowed Austin to sneak back in and eliminate Hart from behind to win the match.

    Such an ending had never been done before and it hasn't been done since. It did a lot to get Austin heel heat, but it made him even more popular at the same time. In a lot of ways, it set the stage for the double turn between Austin and Hart at WrestleMania. The 1997 Rumble is fun to look back on because guys like Austin, Rocky Maivia, Triple H and others who became a staple during the Attitude Era competed before they reached their full potential.

8. Royal Rumble 1998

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    The 1998 Royal Rumble was a perfect representation of the Attitude Era and that is what made it such an entertaining match. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin won the Rumble for the second consecutive year even though all the odds seemed to be stacked against him. There was essentially a bounty placed on Austin's head, but the 29 other superstars competing in the match couldn't stop him as he went on to beat Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

    Austin's participation in the Rumble was uncertain as Los Boricuas appeared to attack him beforehand. It would be revealed that they had mistaken Skull for Austin, however, so they took out the wrong guy. Austin's music hitting at No. 24 caused a standstill in the action, but Stone Cold entered from behind and immediately eliminated a few superstars before wreaking havoc on everyone else.

    My favorite part of the match was Mick Foley's involvement. He entered No. 1 as Cactus Jack and engaged in a hardcore battle with Chainsaw Charlie before being eliminated. He later came back as Mankind and was eliminated again. Foley finally entered the match as Dude Love and made it to the final four before being eliminated for a third and final time. It was a unique idea and it really helped to make the '98 Rumble special.

7. Royal Rumble 2002

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    After missing several months with a torn quad, Triple H made his triumphant return to the ring just a couple weeks before the 2002 Royal Rumble. He announced his candidacy for the match and he didn't disappoint as he came out on top and won the only Rumble of his illustrious career. Some might argue that Triple H winning was obvious due to the manner in which he came back, but there were several stars who had a legitimate shot to win.

    Triple H's biggest rivals were "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was looking for his fourth Rumble win in six years, as well as Kurt Angle. Not surprisingly, they were three of the final four men remaining. Austin and Triple H had an exciting showdown when Triple H entered at No. 22 and it made for some awesome moments. I also loved the fact that Mr. Perfect competed in the Rumble and was the second-to-last person eliminated. My only regret is that he didn't have a better WWE run afterward.

    Also, who can forget the interaction between The Undertaker and Maven? Taker was dominating the Rumble, but as he was barking at the Hardys, Maven dropkicked him from behind and Taker was sent over the top rope. This prompted The Undertaker to destroy Maven and to take him to the concourse where he drove his head into a popcorn cart. If there is one thing that this Rumble wasn't short on, it was action.

6. Royal Rumble 2007

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    The simple fact that The Undertaker prevailed in the 2007 Royal Rumble makes it one that everybody should see, but the star power at the end of the match truly makes it one of the best ever. The Undertaker had participated in many Rumbles prior to 2007 and had come close to winning on numerous occasions, but he was finally given the victory in 2007 and it made for a fantastic moment that Taker fans and wrestling fans in general will never forget.

    Taker's time as a full-time competitor was already starting to wind down in 2007 and the WWE had started to give Rumble wins to up-and-coming stars, so most probably figured that he wasn't a good bet. The Undertaker also entered No. 30, which is a position that had surprisingly never produced a winner previously. The Phenom bucked that trend, though, and stood tall at the end. The final four superstars remaining in this match were Edge, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels and Taker, and that foursome can easily be put up against any that came before or after it.

    Michaels and Taker were the final two wrestlers and they went on to have one of the best back-and-forths in Rumble history. The Undertaker hit Michaels with a chokeslam and Michaels responded with Sweet Chin Music. HBK got a bit greedy, though, as a second Sweet Chin Music went begging and allowed Taker to dump him over the ropes. Two years later, The Undertaker and Michaels would meet at WrestleMania in one of the best matches of all time, so this certainly seemed to set the stage.

5. Royal Rumble 2000

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    When it comes to top-level talent, the 2000 Royal Rumble may not seem like one of the best Rumbles on the surface, but there was tons of good action, a great ending and the Madison Square Garden crowd made it special as always. The Rock was a huge star at the time, but he had never won a Rumble. A severe neck injury that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was rehabilitating left the door open for The Rock, though, and he took advantage by kicking it down.

    The match came down to The Rock and Big Show, who is probably the most snake-bitten superstar of all time when it comes to the Royal Rumble. He has been one of the final men remaining on numerous occasions, but has always come up short, and that was again the case in 2000. Big Show was poised to toss The Rock over the top rope as he had The Great One on his shoulder, but The Rock managed to hang onto the top rope as Big Show went spilling out to the floor.

    Another great spot was the dance number by Too Cool early in the Rumble. Rikishi was about to eliminate Grand Master Sexay, but Scotty Too Hotty came to the ring and stopped him. They proceeded to dance around before Rikishi dumped both of them over the top rope. Also, Kaientai attempted to interfere in the match on numerous occasions, but they were foiled each time. There was a lot of comedy in this Rumble, but it all landed and things were organized quite well. 

4. Royal Rumble 2004

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    Many consider the 2004 Royal Rumble to be the greatest of all time, and it's tough to blame them. There were plenty of big stars involved and it had a storybook ending. Chris Benoit entered the match as the No. 1 entrant and he managed to last for 61 minutes and 30 seconds as he came away victorious. Some of the prestige has been taken away since Benoit killed himself and his family, but in a vacuum, this was a fantastic match.

    Benoit and Randy Orton started the match and the hits just kept coming throughout. Kane, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Big Show, Chris Jericho, John Cena, Rob Van Dam and Goldberg were all participants and most of them seemed like they had a legitimate chance to win. Prior to the 2004 Rumble, Benoit had always exhibited incredible wrestling skills, but he was never really given the opportunity to perform in the main event due to a perceived lack of charisma.

    All of the changed when Benoit last eliminated Big Show to win the match. Big Show once again seemed to have the advantage, but The Crippler put him in a front-face choke from the apron and used the top rope to pull him over and to the floor. The crowd went wild for Benoit and it was truly a special moment at the time as a guy who had paid his dues was finally getting his big break. Benoit went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania and that made his Rumble victory even more important.

3. Royal Rumble 1990

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    It may seem like somewhat of a dark horse on this list, but I immensely enjoyed the 1990 Royal Rumble and rate it extremely highly. This was just the third-ever Rumble and there was nothing on the line, but there was an insane amount of talent throughout the match and it ended in Hulk Hogan winning his very first Royal Rumble match. It was a great time period for wrestling and the '90 Rumble showcased the biggest stars of the time.

    Among those involved in the match were Ted DiBiase, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Hogan, a young Shawn Michaels and many more. It truly was a who's who of Hall-of-Fame-caliber stars and it made for an exciting matchup. There were plenty of great moments in the match, but my favorite was definitely the showdown between Hogan and Warrior.

    In what remains one of the most iconic moments in Royal Rumble and WWE history, Hogan and Warrior had cleaned house and they were the only two remaining. The had never really had any conflict or physical contact before, so the fans were getting a treat as they were the top two guys in the company. They both pumped up the crowd a little bit, exchanged power moves and eventually clotheslined each other. It was a very brief encounter, but it set up their huge match at WrestleMania and it was a truly awesome sight.

2. Royal Rumble 2001

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    Each and every Royal Rumble has its ups and downs, but few were as entertaining throughout as the 2001 Rumble. While 2001 may have been the beginning of the end to the Attitude Era, this particular Royal Rumble exemplified that time period. The ending was great for the fans as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin won the Rumble match for an unprecedented third time, but it was Kane who ultimately stole the show from start to finish.

    The Big Red Monster entered the match at No. 6 and he took complete control. He eliminated every superstar who entered seventh through 13th and would toss out a record 11 participants in all. The Rumble turned into a hardcore affair for a time as Raven brought in a kendo stick and other weapons were incorporated as well. Kane used them to his advantage and he even busted a guitar over the head of surprise entrant The Honky Tonk Man.

    Among the final entrants in the match were Austin, Kane, The Rock, Rikishi, The Undertaker and Billy Gunn. Things boiled down to Austin and Kane as Kane attempted to eliminate both Austin and The Rock at the same time. The Rock hit the floor, but Stone Cold managed to save himself. Kane attempted to use a chair on Austin, but Stone Cold seized control of it and used it on The Big Red Machine. A bloodied Austin finally vanquished Kane and won a Rumble that truly featured nonstop action.

1. Royal Rumble 1992

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    Of the 25 Royal Rumbles that have taken place over the years, all of them have been great in some way. One Rumble continues to remain a cut above the rest, however, and that is the 1992 edition of the most-exciting match in wrestling. This match had an advantage over all the others from the very start as it was the only one in which the WWE Championship was on the line. Due to controversial finishes in matches between Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, the WWE title was vacated and the top 30 superstars in the company had a crack at it.

    One of the favorites to win was Ric Flair as he had recently jumped ship from WCW and was still the NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time of his dismissal. Flair referred to himself as the "real world champion" and was eager to prove that he was the best in the business. Flair was at an obvious disadvantage, though, as he entered the ring at No. 3. At the time, nobody had ever come close to winning the Rumble from such an early number, so it seemed like he had no chance.

    Flair somehow managed to avoid disaster on numerous occasions even as the biggest stars in wrestling continued to enter. In fact, Flair managed to last until the final three and at that point, Sid Justice eliminated Hogan. An upset Hogan grabbed onto Sid's arm and Flair eliminated him from behind to become the new WWE Champion.

    The Nature Boy set a new iron-man mark in the process by lasting an incredible 59 minutes and 26 seconds. If Flair's performance and the unbelievable field of combatants wasn't enough, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan put a bow on things with a masterful job at the announce table. He made no bones about his bias toward Flair and when Flair won the match it was as if Heenan had just won the lottery.

    Everything about the 1992 Royal Rumble was absolutely perfect.

     

     

    Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter and listen to him on Ring Rust Radio.

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