The WWE Royal Rumble has become such a successful tradition, its memories are dominated by the immortal. Timeless performances, long stays, future world champions at WrestleMania—they're all part of the once-foolproof star-making process that WWE boasted.
Even flashes of incompetence are looked upon fondly by wrestling fans as entertaining spots. Who can forget Bushwhacker Luke marching that famous Bushwhacker march down to the ring only to get tossed out yet continue to march? His full performance from the 1991 Royal Rumble is available on YouTube.
The video is one minute long.
The Warlord's record of two seconds in the Royal Rumble was something of legend. To this day, it is featured year after year in WWE's "numbers" promo, which makes mention of Santino Marella's record-breaking one-second exit in 2009.
Given the rose-colored glasses used to examine the Rumble's history, overstating the impact of these memories is bound to happen. Overrated efforts are created when the stats, match psychology or eventual WrestleMania payoff didn't quite sync up with the level of the memory.
The Royal Rumble has been around for almost three glorious decades. They can't all be winners.
One would think a Royal Rumble victory by one of the all-time great WWE Superstars in Madison Square Garden would be a product of a great match.
In one of the more lackluster Royal Rumbles, The Rock needed just over 14 minutes to eliminate just four entrants en route to his Royal Rumble win.
The win would be soiled, as Big Show (correctly) insisted that Rock's feet touched the floor, leading to the first and only Fatal 4-Way WrestleMania main event with a McMahon in every corner.
Rather than the road to WrestleMania focus on two elite stars in a big-money showdown, several unnecessary twists and turns were thrown in to manufacture a crowded main event. The Rock would go on to fail to capture the WWE title.
The forgettable nature of this match is why it leads off this list at No. 5. A match so forgettable can only be so overrated.
But given the star power of both its winner and venue, as well as a strong overall pay-per-view (the PWTorch staff gave the event an average score of 7.5 out of 10), the 2000 Royal Rumble can easily be confused as a strong match.
The following year, Hogan only logged four solo eliminations, staying just under 13 minutes of the hour-long Royal Rumble match.
This was the first of two wins, so it's easy to look back on Hogan's Royal Rumble career and marvel. Hogan is one of only four multiple-time Royal Rumble winners in the event's 26-year history. But it was the Royal Rumble that Hogan didn't win, in 1989, where the Hulkster was most dominant.
Hogan's staggering statistics from 1989 suggest more of a performance for the ages. But since he didn't win that year and his elimination record no longer stands, it is often swept under the rug.
Mind you, this was the era before Royal Rumbles guaranteed the winner a WWE title. In fact, Hogan himself was the WWE champion at the time of the victory. WrestleMania that year would culminate in a tournament that Hogan would fail to win, further taking the shine off Hogan's first Royal Rumble win.
No wrestling fan worth his or her beans will ever forget Hacksaw Duggan won the very first Royal Rumble. But they probably forgot the match.
This was the first and only Royal Rumble to host 20 competitors. The longest-lasting entrant, Bret Hart, lasted a mere 25 minutes and change, a number current record holder Rey Mysterio Jr. more than doubled.
If you decided to watch the 1988 Royal Rumble, you could be at the mall just 37 minutes later.
There was no rhyme or reason for the Royal Rumble, and it showed. The match was devoid of strong storytelling and came off like more of a poorly choreographed punch fest. Fans weren't even cued up to count down prior to each entrant.
Duggan's win did not figure into the WrestleMania main event plans—not even close. He was bounced out of the first round of the WWE title tournament that March at WrestleMania IV. And while winning the Royal Rumble could be seen as a career highlight on paper, it was a win that left much to be desired.
Ric Flair's Royal Rumble victory in 1992 will always be famous for what it meant more than his individual effort.
This was the first and only time the Royal Rumble was competed for the WWE Championship. It was the first time any WWE Superstar entered at Nos. 1 through 5 and won.
At the time of the victory, Flair was the longest-lasting competitor in Rumble history. Such gaudy statistics should establish this performance as one of the more dominant Royal Rumble efforts without question.
But what would analysis be without questions?
Flair deserves credit for putting his own exclamation point on the night. During the post-match promo, he famously exclaimed "I'm gonna tell you all, with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life." But even that promo was awkward and clunky, aside from one memorable line, as Bobby Heenan, Mr. Perfect and Flair all struggled to coordinate "woo" and "I told you so."
The fashion in which Flair won the Rumble was also clunky, with Hulk Hogan remaining in the spotlight to assist him in eliminating Sid Justice. It was a heel maneuver and poor sportsmanship that only an icon like Hogan could easily shake during that time.
By no means was Flair dominant, either, as he merely survived the Rumble with just three solo eliminations—tied for the second-lowest of any competitor who spent more than 50 minutes in a Rumble.
Flair's legend shone through with a great line in an awkward promo and deceptive statistics in a marathon match. Such is the legend of the Nature Boy to make moments, titles, matches and wrestlers look better than they truly were.
Don't be fooled by the historical significance of Shawn Michaels becoming the first WWE Superstar to enter the Royal Rumble at No. 1 and win.
When viewed objectively, the match itself competes among the WWE's worst. Wade Keller of PWTorch noted continuity issues that somehow did not come to define the match:
The Rumble [in 1995] 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. Some of the elimination sequences went too quickly to comprehend. Such oddities as Luger aiding Michaels late in the match after trying to eliminate him earlier never really played out.
In all its flaws, the legacy of the 1995 Royal Rumble is that Shawn Michaels won from the No. 1 spot in controversial fashion. It was the bad movie that was elevated by a good ending.
Michaels would compete in a similarly underwhelming WWE title match at WrestleMania XI, only to be upstaged by Lawrence Taylor and the late Bam Bam Bigelow, who closed the show.