WWE Royal Rumble 2014: 5 Greatest Individual Performances in Event's History
The Royal Rumble isn't always about winning, as sometimes it is about the performance itself. Several superstars in WWE history were able to launch and/or build their WWE careers on strong individual performances.
Whether it be eliminations, length of stay or style points in victory, the list of great Royal Rumble performances can easily be confused with a mini WWE Hall of Fame.
Individual efforts will be judged based on key statistics and how dominant they were historically. These statistics include eliminations, time spent in the Royal Rumble, dramatic effect and of course how the Rumble in question was won.
One will be hard-pressed to find many flukes who can lay claim to the honor of standing out at the Rumble. That honor is often reserved for WWE Superstars who the office can trust to deliver on what is arguably wrestling's second-biggest stage.
5. Shawn Michaels (1995)
Although similar to that of Chris Benoit, but in far less time, Shawn Michaels' memorable Royal Rumble performance benefits from legacy.
Seven years into the Royal Rumble's then-brief history, no man had ever won after entering first. Shawn Michaels would do just that by night's end after a controversial elimination of the British Bulldog.
It's easy to be romanced by the time that has passed by since this victory. Given the evolution of the Royal Rumble, however, this can only be considered one of the greatest performances, not the greatest.
Michaels only lasted 38 minutes, and his win was not given a strong backstory to add meaning. Michaels went on to uneventfully lose to Diesel at WrestleMania XI in a main event that was outshined by Lawrence Taylor's tilt against Bam Bam Bigelow.
Wade Keller of The PWTorch dismissed the '95 Royal Rumble, saying, "The Rumble this year lacked any continuity as a result of the quick entrances. Before anything could really be established, the crowd's attention turned to who was coming to the ring next." He went on to add, "The competition also seemed to be below past years."
4. Kane (2001)
Kane came up short in the 2001 Royal Rumble, which hurt his standing here, but the match had never seen a competitor pile up as many eliminations as he did.
To this day, it still hasn't.
Not only was Kane's body count remarkable, it was entertaining at points. Kane's stay in the Royal Rumble included an elimination of The Honky Tonk Man and a brief showdown with Drew Carey.
His stint was not all comedy, however. Kane would stave off a barrage of weapons as the event degenerated into a Hardcore free-for-all.
Hardcore specialists Raven, Steve Blackman, Al Snow and Perry Saturn were just a few of Kane's victims.
In addition to his staggering 11 eliminations, Kane lasted for 55 minutes. It's not everyday that a man of his stature can keep up in WWE's Battle Royal marathon.
It can easily be argued that Kane's performance in the 2001 Royal Rumble was the greatest ever by a Superstar who failed to win. It's even easier to submit that Kane is the greatest Royal Rumble performer never to win.
3. Chris Benoit (2004)
Christ Benoit's 2004 Royal Rumble victory will always be noteworthy, as he was the second man ever to win at entry No. 1.
Benoit achieved rarefied air by lasting over one hour, eliminating six. Both Benoit's length of stay and eliminations were the highest of any other competitor that year.
On this night, the centerpiece of wrestling's most notorious tragedy found glory as he was entering the end of a career defined by "never winning the big one."
Benoit did score a forgettable WCW World Heavyweight Championship win prior to leaving for WWE, but his journey to WrestleMania was still told as a story of "finally" winning a major championship. The narrative was perfect for the drama of his Royal Rumble win.
Benoit would go on to capture his first and only World Heavyweight Championship in WWE at WrestleMania XX.
As Benoit celebrated, Jim Ross exclaimed, "Benoit has done it! Benoit is living his dream! Finally! Finally! By God finally! Chris Benoit has become the heavyweight champion of this world!"
2. Rey Mysterio (2006)
The record for longest stay in the Royal Rumble is far more impressive than the record for most eliminations. The latter stat is a bit overrated in that it can be padded with a flurry of eliminations despite limited effort.
In 1994, Diesel fanned seven but only lasted just over 17 minutes. In 2006, Mysterio's total eliminations did not surpass that of Diesel's, but his 62 minutes in the Rumble is a testament to his conditioning and perseverance.
From a storyline standpoint, entering No. 2 meant Mysterio was able to fend off all 29 other entrants. The same cannot be said about Diesel's loaded performance that eventually resulted in his own elimination.
The final sequence featured the most decorated back-to-back exits in recent memory with both Triple H and Randy Orton stunned by the career underdog.
Mysterio's victory came in the wake of longtime friend Eddie Guerrero's death, which added emotion to his against-the-odds storybook ending.
Almost eight years later, nobody has surpassed Mysterio's record of longest time spent in the Royal Rumble, even when the event expanded to 40 participants in 2011.
For a superstar as injury-prone as Mysterio, he was nothing short of an iron man on this night.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin (2001)
Steve Austin's 2001 Royal Rumble win was not statistically impressive. In fact, Austin only eliminated three entrants, his lowest total in any of his Royal Rumble triumphs.
But the way in which Austin won a record third Royal Rumble was among the most dramatic of all time. This is a nod to the performance element, launching his 2001 effort to No. 1.
After costing Triple H the WWE Championship earlier in the night, Austin was jumped from behind by The Game while making his way to the ring as entrant No. 27. The prolonged beatdown by Triple H left Austin a bloody mess, seemingly unable to compete.
Austin was left for dead as the announcers—including his longtime friend and part-time cheerleader Jim Ross—primarily focused on the action in the ring. Jim Ross hopelessly admitted "Austin's chances of going to WrestleMania aren't worth a damn right now."
Not to be denied, Austin dragged himself back into the match, eliminating Haku and Billy Gunn. All that was standing in his way was a Big Red Machine fresh off of eliminating the most entrants ever.
Austin's ability to overcome Kane's historical dominance and make history of his own made his final Royal Rumble win a landmark moment.