Big Show, Brock Lesnar and the Best Big Men in Royal Rumble History
While today's WWE may feature a smaller, more athletic breed of Superstars, the Royal Rumble match has always been the one bout every year where big men, the giants of the industry, can still thrive and deliver performances that keep the audiences absolutely enthralled.
Throughout the 26-year history of the popular gimmick match, some of the largest Superstars in wrestling history have made their marks in the 30-man Royal Rumble. Some have won the bout outright while others have tossed their fellow competitors over the top rope at will, leading to dominant performances that are remembered as some of the best in event history to this day.
With a big match between Big Show and Brock Lesnar scheduled for this year's Rumble show, as well as Batista's return to the match he won back in 2005, here is a look back at the best big men in the history of the Royal Rumble match.
Andre the Giant
The Eighth Wonder of the World is one of the greatest Battle Royal competitors in professional wrestling history. For years, he went undefeated in the popular gimmick match, including a win in the big WWE vs. NFL Battle Royal match at WrestleMania 2.
His success in Royal Rumble matches was less spectacular, however, as he entered only the 1989 and '90 matches and failed to make much of an impact in either one.
He entered the '89 match at No. 3 and lasted for just under 15 minutes. His elimination came when Jake Roberts unleashed Damien in the middle of the match, causing Andre to eliminate himself and rush to the back. In essence his stint in the match served one purpose and one purpose only: to set up his WrestleMania V match against Jake Roberts.
A year later, he would be in the ring for even less time than the year before. After only 10 minutes of action, Andre was dumped over the top rope by Ax and Smash of Demolition, who would ultimately go on to WrestleMania VI and defeat Andre and partner Haku for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
Though his Rumble resume is anything but sparkling, Andre is a legendary performer whose mere presence in those two early Rumble bouts helped add legitimacy to the blossoming gimmick match.
His reputation meant he was a favorite to win either of them, regardless of his spot on the card.
More importantly, just being who he was and competing in the Rumble earned him a spot on this list.
Big John Studd
In 1989, Big John Studd returned to World Wrestling Entertainment and was poised to play a big role at WrestleMania V.
To help get him over with fans who may not have been watching when he last appeared for the company, he was entered into the Royal Rumble match. His formidable size ensured that he would be looked at as a favorite to win the match, and the closing portion of the match, in which he refused a payoff from Ted DiBiase, only helped to endear him to the fans.
His win may have been somewhat questionable given the fact that he would only be around for a few months before leaving the company again, but it did serve its purpose in that Studd became a big deal in the eyes of the fans.
Fifteen years after his monumental Rumble win, which was among the big man's greatest WWE moments, he was inducted into WWE's Hall of Fame.
The greatest phenom in World Wrestling Entertainment history entered his first Royal Rumble in January of 1991, just two months removed from his iconic debut at the 1990 Survivor Series.
His performances in his early Rumble appearances were largely unimpressive. He was regularly presented as a force of nature, but he never won and never even made it into the final four. In 1993, he had potential to dominate the competition but the debuting Giant Gonzalez put an end to that by assaulting him mid-match and ending his run.
He would enter the Rumble again in 1997, 2002 and 2003 but would experience great disappointment each year.
Then came the 2007 event.
Entering at No. 30, he became the first man to ever win the match from that spot. The final minutes of the match are among the best in Royal Rumble history. Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the two remaining Superstars, both among the greatest Superstars of all time, delivered a dramatic conclusion to an exciting and unpredictable Rumble match.
The Dead Man would appear in both the 2008 and 2009 Rumble matches before leaving WWE as a full-time performer.
The Big Red Monster has appeared in 15 Royal Rumble events, 13 of them under the Kane moniker. During that time, he has compiled 38 Rumble eliminations, just one shy of the record held by WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels.
His stints in Rumble matches have ranged anywhere from meaninglessly short to all-time classic.
In 2001, he entered the bout at No. 6 and proceeded to last over 53 minutes. There had been Superstars that had lasted longer, but none had eliminated as many as he did during that span. Kane's 11 eliminations are, to this day, a Royal Rumble record.
Few could have ever expected that someone of Kane's size would be able to go nearly an hour, nor did they think he was a strong enough performer to keep fans invested throughout his run. Thanks to strong booking, the former WWE champion did just that and at the same time became responsible for one of the greatest individual performances in match history.
By the time his Hall of Fame-worthy career comes to an end, Kane will likely go down in history as the best Rumble competitor to never win the match.
The 2004 Royal Rumble may have been Chris Benoit's night, but Big Show played a much bigger role in that year's 30-man war than most thought he would.
Entering at No. 24, Show tore through the competition. For the first time in years, he was booked like the serious, legitimate monster he was. He eliminated Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and John Cena, tossing each around the ring as if they were rag dolls.
After dumping those future Hall of Famers, he turned his attention to the only other Superstar remaining in the match: Benoit.
He punished the exhausted Benoit and attempted to dump him over the top rope. Benoit held on, however, and applied a front choke, pulling Show over the top and to the arena floor for the win.
It was the second time in Show's career that he was the runner-up in a Rumble match.
In 2000, he lost in controversial fashion to The Rock. The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment was named the winner, but thanks to video evidence provided later, presented by Show to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, it was revealed that Rock's feet hit the ground before the giant-sized Superstar's did.
While the record books were never changed, Show does have a claim to winning the 2000 match.
In many ways, the former WWE and World Heavyweight champion has become to today's Rumble matches what Andre the Giant could have been to the early bouts had his health held up better than it did. He is a dominant force who uses his size is to his advantage each and every year that he enters the 30-man Rumble.
This year, he will meet Brock Lesnar one-on-one, essentially ending his shot at competing in the over-the-top-rope Battle Royal.
The man once known as the Next Big Thing competed in only one Royal Rumble match, but in that match, he etched his name in the history books and earned a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIX.
Lesnar first defeated the man he will meet on January 26 at the 2014 Royal Rumble, the Big Show, to earn his spot in the Rumble match. Then he set out to tear through the competition en route to his first Rumble match victory.
It would not be easy. Lesnar entered 29th and tossed Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, but it would be the final four competitors in the match that would pose the biggest challenge.
With a shot at regaining the title he never should have lost in the first place on the line, Lesnar would be tasked with surviving an onslaught from The Undertaker, Kane and the up-and-coming Batista.
He did just that.
While Undertaker would eliminate both Batista and Kane, Lesnar would outlast the Dead Man and F5 his way to victory.
The Animal's 2005 Royal Rumble win catapulted him into the main event stratosphere and, ultimately, to the World Heavyweight Championship.
In that match, he outlasted fellow future champions Edge, Rey Mysterio and John Cena to claim victory, but it was his appearance in the 2008 match that really stands out as the best of his career.
That year, he lasted nearly 40 minutes in a match that was among the most star-studded in WWE history. He made it to the final three competitors before finally being ousted by former mentor, and that year's runner-up, Triple H.
He would enter the 2010 match as well, but after only five minutes of action, he was eliminated by Cena.
This year, Batista makes his return to World Wrestling Entertainment after a four-year absence, and his first match back will be the prestigious Rumble. Where will he enter, and, more importantly, will he be able to shake off the ring rust in time to win the second Royal Rumble of his career?
We will find out on January 26.