15 Greatest Moments in Royal Rumble History
Photo courtesy of WWE
Through all the fans I've talked with over the years, I feel confident in saying that next to WrestleMania, the January classic Royal Rumble is the favorite WWE pay-per-view each year.
The excitement of which 30 guys will come out at which point in a battle royal match to decide who goes to the main event of WrestleMania is a great concept.
Every year, there are classic moments either in the Rumble match or somewhere on the card.
I went back in history and compiled a list of what I think are the 15 greatest moments in Royal Rumble history.
Let me know what you think.
15. Giant Gonzalez Attacks The Undertaker in 1993
The countdown begins at number 15, as this was a first. A debut during the Royal Rumble match by someone, or something, that wasn't even in the match.
The over 7' star was a sight to see when he came walking down the aisle, unannounced. With the body suit that had hair coming out of it, he dominated The Undertaker like we had never seen up to that point.
This feud didn't go far that year but it still remains a top moment in Royal Rumble history.
14. Jake "The Snake" Roberts Returns to WWE in 1996
The buzzer went off for the seventh entrant in the Rumble match, and out came Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Other than the vest he wore on his upper body and the color of his snake, everything else was the same. The walk, the look in his eyes, the moves and the interest of the crowd.
After being gone for four years, Roberts returned to WWE with as much fan interest as before and with a sober lifestyle.
Roberts was one of the most popular stars ever in WWE to never win a world title. In fact, looking at his entire career, he didn't win much in the way of world titles but still has left a powerful legacy.
Sadly, Roberts wouldn't stay around for the entire calendar year as his personal life came in and bit him.
13. Surprise Return of Diesel to WWE in 2011
When Kevin Nash walked out in Boston dressed once again as Diesel, the reaction from the crowd and the wrestlers' and announcers' faces was a moment to remember.
The Diesel character hadn't been played by Nash in 15 years. Even more of a surprise, Nash had just been under contract with TNA, and most of the wrestling world was unaware of the fact that this was no longer the case.
The reaction for Diesel was terrific, and I am amazed by it, because so much buzz had been created that weekend. Nash and I conducted a video in the Boston airport where we talked and teased him about being at Royal Rumble. I joked with him about his hair being black all of a sudden since we had seen him sporting grey for years in TNA. The internet world was buzzing with speculation for the weekend.
No. 13 in Royal Rumble moments: the sound of the Diesel truck starting up, the entrance music, and the TD Garden crowd in Boston exploding with excitement.
12. 3 Faces of Foley Enter Royal Rumble in 1998
Photo courtesy of WWE
In a brilliant move, Mick Foley was seen three different times in the Royal Rumble match as he entered as Cactus Jack at No. 1. He was eliminated and came back as Mankind at No. 16. He got eliminated again and popped the crowd when Dude Love was the 28th entrant.
Foley got eliminated again. Never before had someone in WWE been recognized and played three different characters in the same year on television and then use all three in the same Royal Rumble match.
The shock, creativity and entertainment of this puts it in the No. 12 spot of Royal Rumble moments.
11. Jerry "The King" Lawler Hides Under the Ring in 1996
Photo courtesy of WWE
While Mick Foley used three different characters to try and win Royal Rumble, Jerry Lawler's idea two years earlier was even better.
Lawler realized he could leave the ring. As long as he didn't go over the top rope, he wouldn't be eliminated by Royal Rumble rules. Lawler left the ring and went under it. He was able to disappear without notice, and then a camera kept catching him peaking out from under the ring.
The live audience probably didn't enjoy this as much, as it's hard to say if they realized it was happening. At home on television, it was a great element of comedy in the match.
Finally, Shawn Michaels pulled Lawler out of the ring and officially eliminated him by tossing him over the top rope.
Lawler might have not won the match or have ever won a world title in WWE, but this classic moment comes in at No. 11 on the greatest Royal Rumble moments ever.
10. Tazz Makes WWE Debut at MSG in 2000
A sold out Madison Square Garden stood chanting for Tazz. Kurt Angle was scheduled to face a mystery opponent, and the power of the smart New York City crowd was already aware that the “Human Suplex” machine was no longer in ECW and was about to make his WWE debut.
When he did, the crowd got even louder.
In the middle of his hometown and where so much ECW history was, Tazz walking in to WWE and beating Kurt Angle is a top 10 moment.
9. Drew Carey Eliminates Himself in 2001
For the first time ever, an actor entered in the Royal Rumble match.
Comedian Drew Carey thought it would be a good idea to break new ground and try to secure his title spot at WrestleMania.
Unfortunately for him, the next entrant was Kane. Carey realized it would probably be best to just leave, so he comically eliminated himself from the match.
The originality of this was a moment to remember and makes it No. 9.
8. Vince McMahon Wins Royal Rumble in 1999
To think he was the announcer for many Royal Rumbles of the past. The WWE owner Vince McMahon won his own Royal Rumble match in the midst of one of the greatest feuds ever with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The entire night was very dramatic as Austin entered at No. 1 and McMahon at No. 2.
McMahon ended up winning titles and has had many matches since 1999, but at the time, this was very unprecedented and was a historical Royal Rumble moment.
7. The Rock vs. Mankind in an "I Quit" Match in 1999
Only the second moment not associated with the 30 man Rumble match to make the countdown is a famous “I Quit” match between The Rock and Mankind.
This match was a huge point for both men and their careers. In addition to the directions and speed their characters were launched from this point on, the documentation of the match has to be acknowledged.
The famous documentary Beyond The Mat was being filmed and got all access at this event. Not only the significance of this match for Foley's career but how it tied into his personal life makes it No. 7 on the all-time Royal Rumble moments list.
6. Bret Hart and Lex Luger Tie to Win in 1994
Another first for Royal Rumble. The final two men in the match get eliminated at the same time.
Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminated each other and their feet simultaneously touched the floor. They were both declared the winners and would both go to WrestleMania to have an opportunity at the WWE Championship.
WWE wasn't yet doing Triple Threat matches so both got seperate matches against the champion Yokozuna.
Eventually Bret Hart would end WrestleMania 10 as WWE Champion.
The first and only tie for the Rumble winner makes this the No. 6 moment on the list.
5. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan Wins First Ever Royal Rumble
There is always significance to the first.
While Royal Rumble has grown leaps and bounds from what it was in its inaugural year, we must recognize “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan the first ever to win the match.
Though the Rumble match was only 20 wrestlers rather than 30, Duggan still goes down as the first winner, and that allows him to break the top five of Royal Rumble moments.
4. Stone Cold Cheats to Win His First Ever Royal Rumble in 1997
Fitting to his character, Stone Cold Steve Austin would sneak back in the ring when referees didn't see he actually should have been declared eliminated, and he eliminated Bret “The Hitman” Hart to become the announced winner of the Royal Rumble.
The finish of the match was unique and set up the famous WrestleMania match between Hart and Austin. This match was the start of the two characters' face and heel turns at the same time.
It also can be viewed as the match that got ultimately put Austin on the map both in the storylines and in WWE history.
Everyone has seen the classic image of Austin's face dripping in blood while in the Sharpshooter refusing to give up.
None of this would have happened without the creative ending of Austin sneaking back in the ring to eliminate Hart in 1997.
3. John Cena Makes Surprise Return at No. 30 in 2008
In 2008, Madison Square Garden went nuts when the doors opened and John Cena stood in the entrance way as No. 30.
Cena was expected to be injured well past WrestleMania.
He made a surprise, quick recovery and shocked the world. I can recall that Royal Rumble because 29 men had entered, and I was thinking, “Who is left?”
John Cena's shocking return in 2008 is No. 3 on the list.
2. Shawn Michaels Back to Back Royal Rumble Wins in 1995 and 1996
A Royal Rumble moment so big, it spans two years.
In 1995, in an incredible display of athletic ability, Michaels avoided both feet touching the ground as he dangled over the top rope. This is after he had been in the match already for an hour as he entered No. 1.
The first ever to enter the Rumble first and win.
As the top heel in the company, he went on to main event his first WrestleMania but lost to Diesel.
The next year, Michaels returned at the 1996 Royal Rumble from injury and now as a fan favorite. He entered at No. 18 but would win with the full support of the crowd and went on to win his first WWE Championship in the first ever 60 minute Iron Man Match in WWE against Bret Hart.
The back-to-back wins and all that surrounds them for Shawn Michaels makes this the second biggest Royal Rumble moment ever.
1. Ric Flair Wins WWE Championship and Royal Rumble in 1992
Ric Flair's 1992 Royal Rumble win is the greatest Royal Rumble moment ever.
What makes this moment the greatest is the context in which it happened.
The WWE Championship was vacant and would be given to the winner of the 30 man Royal Rumble. Ric Flair was the poster boy for the territories of the National Wrestling Alliance and then what would become WCW.
In all the talent around the country that Vince McMahon and WWE had acquired, Flair remained the big star for the NWA and WCW to have in competition with McMahon.
In late 1991, Flair joined WWE.
Just a few months later, he entered the Rumble at number three. At this point in history, nobody entering that early ever won the Rumble match.
Flair lasted over an hour and won the WWE Championship over the likes of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Sid Justice, The Undertaker and Sgt. Slaughter.
In a matter of months, the NWA guy had come to “New York” as WWE was referred to in the business and had done the unprecedented and won the WWE title. After the match, his celebration promo was just as significant. He held up the WWE Championship and declared it was the only belt in the wrestling world that mattered and truly made him No. 1.
If you've never gotten to see this match, watch the full thing. It's an entertaining Rumble match and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's commentary with Gorilla Monsoon is spectacular.
Ric Flair walking in to the WWE and winning the 1992 Royal Rumble to become champion is the top moment in Royal Rumble history. WOOOOO!