Although the Royal Rumble match has only been around since 1988, the overarching concept of the match has been in existence much longer in the form of battle royals. The battle royal has been a professional wrestling fixture since the 1970s, and there have been countless great ones over the years.
Former Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson wanted to take the idea of a battle royal and expand upon it, and that is precisely what he did with the Royal Rumble, as a new superstar enters the fray in 90-second intervals rather than having every participant start in the ring.
I'm a huge fan of the Royal Rumble and consider it to be the best battle royal format, but there have been countless traditional battle royals that don't receive enough attention. In an effort to highlight the greatest battle royals to never take place at the Royal Rumble event, here are the 10 best non-Rumble battle royals in WWE history.
Most of them are traditional battle royals, while a couple follow the Royal Rumble format. Any type of battle royal was eligible for the list, though, as long as it wasn't an official Royal Rumble match. Without further ado, here is the countdown.
It isn't often that a title is put on the line in a battle royal, and it's even more rare when the World Heavyweight Championship is the prize that the combatants are battling for.
In the summer of 2007, Edge was forced to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship due to injury, so a 20-man battle royal was staged in order to determine who would be the new champion.
The battle royal wasn't exactly star-studded, as it featured a lot of mid-card talent, but the element of surprise certainly came into play. Nobody knew for sure who would come out on top, but Batista was the odds-on favorite, as he had already won the title before. He would have to get through the likes of Kane, Rey Mysterio and The Great Khali to do it, however.
The field eventually whittled down until only Batista, Kane and Khali remained. The Animal and The Big Red Monster battled near the ropes, and it looked as if Batista was about to eliminate Kane, but The Punjabi Nightmare came up from behind and dumped both men over the top rope to win his first and only World Heavyweight Championship.
Khali's world title run would be failure, but the manner in which he won it was certainly memorable.
It was fairly rare for the WWE to venture outside the United States and Canada prior to the past decade or so, but Vince McMahon put a lot of resources into expanding his product to Great Britain in the early 1990s.
The most memorable instance of that was SummerSlam 1992 being held in Wembley Stadium, but the WWE also held a special event at Royal Albert Hall in Westminster, London, England in late 1991.
The main event of that card was a 20-man battle royal, with the winner being presented a trophy. Although there wasn't a ton of star power in this particular battle royal, it did feature the likes of Ric Flair, The Undertaker, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Shawn Michaels.
The crowd favorite was unquestionably The British Bulldog, and it should come as no surprise that he was one of the final participants remaining in the match.
The odds were stacked against Davey Boy Smith, as he was left up against The Mountie and Typhoon, each of whom was managed by Jimmy Hart. The heels double-teamed Bulldog, but a miscommunication caused Typhoon to accidentally eliminate The Mountie. This gave Smith new life, as he took out Typhoon and won the match.
Typhoon and Earthquake attacked Bulldog after the match, but Andre the Giant made the save in one of his final WWE appearances.
A 1993 episode of Raw featured a very unique type of battle royal, with a shot at the Intercontinental Championship on the line. The title had been vacated by Shawn Michaels, as he was serving a suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Rather than simply having the winner of the battle royal win the title outright, it was decided that the final two superstars remaining would have a traditional match for the title at a later date.
Even though 1993 was a time of transition for the WWE, there was a lot of good talent in this battle royal, including a mix of veterans and rising stars. Among the top names competing were Randy "Macho Man' Savage, Mr. Perfect, Diesel, Razor Ramon, Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, Jimmy Snuka, Bam Bam Bigelow and "The Model" Rick Martel.
Also, M.V.P. deserves an honorable mention for being the biggest jobber in the bout. He was portrayed by Steve Lombardi, who is, of course, best known as The Brooklyn Brawler.
This was a really exciting battle royal, especially since a lot of the favorites were eliminated in the middle stages.
It eventually came down to Ramon, Martel and The Quebecers, who were the Tag Team Champions at the time. Jacques and Pierre worked with Martel, and the three of them beat down Razor. Ramon was eventually able to squirm free and take out the Quebecers, though, meaning he and Martel were co-winners.
Razor would go on to defeat Martel in a match to win his first IC title as well.
Although the breakthrough battle royal on a November 2009 edition of Raw only featured eight superstars, it certainly deserves a spot on this list.
The premise of the match was quite simple. It would feature wrestlers who had never before won the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship, and the winner of the battle royal would then challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at the TLC pay-per-view.
The participants were Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, Ted DiBiase, Cody Rhodes, MVP, R-Truth and Randy Orton. Although Orton had won world titles previously in the WWE, he attacked Primo before a qualifying match, and guest host Jess "The Body" Ventura allowed him to enter the match. Ventura was also on commentary with Vince McMahon, which enhanced an already-entertaining match.
Orton and Kofi were feuding at the time, so it was natural that they would have some interactions within the match.
It came down to Orton, Kofi and Sheamus, but Kofi surprisingly eliminated Orton with a head scissors maneuver. This allowed Sheamus to cash in on a big opportunity, as he dumped Kofi over the ropes as well.
Sheamus had only been on the main roster for a few months, so his win was a surprise. An even bigger surprise, however, was his WWE Championship win over Cena in a tables match at TLC.
One interesting wrinkle that is added to a battle royal on occasion is making it a tag-team affair. In a tag-team battle royal, a number of different teams compete, and when one member of a team is eliminated, that team is out.
The most famous tag-team battle royal was likely the one that took place at WrestleMania XIV, but I would argue that the best one took place on a 1991 edition of WWF Superstars of Wrestling.
The stipulation was that the winner would earn a Tag Team Championship match against The Hart Foundation at WrestleMania VII.
This particular period in wrestling was my favorite in terms of tag teams, and this match showcased the depth of the division. There were just seven teams in the battle royal, but all of them brought something to the table.
The Legion of Doom, Demolition, The Rockers, The Nasty Boys, Power & Glory, The Bushwhackers and The Orient Express were the teams contending for a title shot, and it made for a great match.
Although the battle royal didn't last very long, there was plenty of action and a lot of star power involved. Things came to a head late with just The Legion of Doom and The Nasty Boys remaining. LOD went for a Doomsday Device, but Paul Roma, who had just been eliminated, pulled Hawk off the ropes and to the floor.
The Nasty Boys picked up the win, and they beat The Hart Foundation for the titles at WrestleMania.
WrestleMania X-7 is among my favorite events of the Attitude Era, and it is remembered mostly for matches like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock, The Undertaker vs. Triple H and the highly-touted TLC match between Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz.
The one match that I may have enjoyed more than any of those, however, was the gimmick battle royal, which featured several blasts from the past.
The gimmick battle royal concept was pretty simple, but it was fantastic.
Wrestling fans are nothing if not nostalgic, so the WWE decided to have a match that featured a handful of legitimate legends, as well as a bunch of off-the-wall gimmicks from years past. Some of the notable participants included Repo Man, Tugboat, Kamala, The Goon, and, of course, my favorite, The Gobbledy Gooker.
On top of that, there were some legitimate stars involved as well, such as Earthquake, Sgt. Slaughter, The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Sheik last eliminated Hillbilly Jim to win, and I can only assume that Sheik won because he was incapable of being thrown over the top rope any longer. Also, it made for a great spot after the match as Slaughter put him in the Cobra Clutch.
There was absolutely no quality to the wrestling in this battle royal, but it was fun to see some of the old guys return, and we got Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on commentary. I'd love to see another one of these at WrestleMania in the near future.
There have been a couple special occasions over the years where a Royal Rumble-style match has taken place outside the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. One of the best was unquestionably the 2004 SmackDown Royal Rumble.
Chris Benoit, who was a SmackDown superstar, won the actual Rumble, but he decided to jump ship to Raw by challenging Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. This left a whole on the blue brand roster and Vince McMahon was none too happy.
Paul Heyman, who was running SmackDown at the time, decided to rectify the situation by having a 15-man SmackDown Rumble to determine the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship. It featured the SmackDown stars who were in the actual Rumble match, with Hardcore Holly replacing Matt Morgan due to injury and Eddie Guerrero stepping in for Benoit. This match operated like a normal Royal Rumble, but it simply had half the participants.
The match was pretty deep, as it featured several past and future world champions, including Kurt Angle, Bradshaw, Big Show, John Cena and Guerrero.
Angle entered the match first, but he managed to last until the end alongside Guerrero. Latino Heat had been attacked and injured earlier in the night, but he came back and was able to compete. Angle and Guerrero, who are two of the all-time greats in terms of in-ring work, went back and forth until Guerrero came out on top. Eddie then went on to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out.
As already mentioned, there was a battle royal to determine a new World Heavyweight Champion on an episode of SmackDown back in 2007. There just so happened to be one in 2006 as well after Batista was forced to vacate the title.
The 2006 edition of the battle royal was far superior, partially because someone lame like The Great Khali didn't win and partially because there were actually a few great stories told over the course of the bout.
Kurt Angle was a surprise entrant into the battle royal, as he was a Raw superstar at the time, and the SmackDown roster was none too happy about it. JBL went after him first, but Angle surprisingly eliminated him right away.
This led to the rest of the participants going after Angle until Mark Henry took matters into his own hands. Henry tossed Angle through the ropes and put him through the announce table before reentering the match.
It all boiled down to Henry and Rey Mysterio, as Mysterio did everything within his power to eliminate The World's Strongest Man. He couldn't do it, though, and Henry tossed out the masked superstar.
As this happened, Angle emerged from the crumbled announce table and got back into the ring. He and Henry went at it, and Henry had him teetering on the ropes. Angle locked in head scissors, however, and pulled Henry over the top rope. Angle ended up hitting the floor as well, but Henry hit first, so Angle was the new World Heavyweight Champion.
In 1999, Vince McMahon was trying to do everything possible to prevent "Stone Cold" Steve Austin from winning the Royal Rumble. As part of his scheme, he set up the Corporate Royal Rumble. This was a special match on Raw that used Royal Rumble rules with superstars entering in intervals, but it involved only Corporation and D-Generation X members.
The final two participants in the match were seemingly Triple H and Big Boss Man, but McMahon walked down the aisle and entered the match as well. With Triple H and Boss Man battling near the ropes, McMahon came from behind and dumped them both over the top rope. This meant that Vince would be the No. 30 entrant in the Rumble.
The buzzer sounded once again during his celebration, however, and Chyna emerged from backstage. Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco tried to stop her from entering the match, at which point Austin came out and distracted Vince.
Chyna then sneaked up from behind and tossed McMahon out, meaning that she would be the No. 30 entrant and the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble. Vince was forced into being the No. 2 entrant, with Austin entering first.
The boss ended up getting the last laugh, though, as he eliminated Austin with help from The Rock to win the 1999 Royal Rumble. Even so, Austin regained his title shot and won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
The best and perhaps most famous battle royal of all time is the one that was staged at WrestleMania II.
WrestleMania II is famous for taking place at three different venues simultaneously, but this match happened at the Rosemont Horizon outside Chicago. It was notable not only for the fact that it was showcased on the WrestleMania stage and featured some of the era's top wrestlers, but it also involved NFL players as an added attraction.
William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Harvey Martin, Jimbo Covert, Ernie Holmes, Bill Fralic and Russ Francis all took part, in addition to superstars such as Andre the Giant, Pedro Morales, The Iron Sheik, Big John Studd, Bruno Sammartino and Bret Hart.
It was unique because of the involvement of professional athletes from another sport, yet it also had some of the most successful wrestlers in WWE history competing as well.
Not surprisingly, Andre was among the final participants, as he was then known as the master of the battle royal. He had a tough task in front of him, though, as The Hart Foundation remained and was intent on double teaming him.
Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart were having some success against Andre, but he was able to turn the tables and eliminate both of them to win the first WrestleMania battle royal.
Perhaps it wasn't the most important battle royal ever, but it was unique, and it is one that will certainly never be forgotten.