We made it—the Top 10 Moments in Royal Rumble History. I know you've been anxiously awaiting this trip down memory lane as we gear up for another epic pay-per-view event, but if this is your first rodeo, I suggest you brush up on the basics.
Got it all? Good. Without any further ado, here they are—the top moments in Royal Rumble History.
10. Hogan and Warrior Face Off: 1990
Ask any wrestling fan not born in the TV-PG Era and they’ll tell you. Ask any WrestleMania purist and they’ll tell you. What was singularly one of the best feuds of all-time? Well that’d have to be Hulk Hogan vs. the Ultimate Warrior, and in 1990 wrestling fans were given the Ultimate Challenge almost by fluke.
With Vince McMahon, you often get a grandiose plan months in advance for WrestleMania. His plan for WrestleMania VI in the SkyDome was to have the World Wrestling Federation Champion, Hulk Hogan, defend the title in his first real one-on-one showdown with Hogan’s costar from the previous year’s film, No Holds Barred, Zeus.
But when Zeus’ ring appearances throughout the end of the 80’s produced little more than sarcastic cheers from a crowd that saw right through the actor-turned-wrestler’s appeal, the human wrecking ball was replaced with the up-and-coming Intercontinental Champion, the Ultimate Warrior.
At the 1990 Royal Rumble, Warrior was a house of fire, taking down as many different competitors as he could before Hogan hit the ring, doing much of the same. With entrants still pending, Hogan and Warrior cleared the ring for a showdown that brought the fans to their feet. It was short lived, but thanks to men like the Barbarian and Rick Rude, this time Hogan would get the upper hand by eliminating Warrior, albeit by accident, minutes later.
Warrior would return the favor by taking his first and only WWF Championship at WrestleMania VI.
9. Ted DiBiase Buys No. 30: 1989
Back in the infancy of the Royal Rumble, it was not uncommon for the WWF to broadcast many of the entrants drawing their numbers at random for the main event.
We all know how important the luck of the draw is, so in 1989, Ted DiBiase appeared less than thrilled with his pick.
DiBiase, however, a master of his craft and the affectionately known “Million Dollar Man,” consulted the “Doctor of Style” Slick about his boys, the Twin Towers, in the Royal Rumble Match.
After Slick made it apparent that he was very happy with their numbers, DiBiase negotiated one of the most devious and nefarious plots in the history of wrestling—he bought No. 30, thus securing himself a major advantage in the Royal Rumble match.
The switch would prove to be a double dose of trouble for the Rumble competitors that year.
DiBiase not only worked out a deal to come out last, but he also managed to negotiate that the Twin Towers, Akeem and Big Boss Man, would enter consecutively during the contest!
The heat was on when the Towers took out Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, helping to effectively end the bond of the Mega Powers, and while they themselves wouldn’t conquer the bout, DiBiase’s purchase saw him enter the ring as one of the last seven men to compete.
He quickly cut that field in half, eliminated fatigued men like the Red Rooster, Brutus Beefcake, and Hercules. But as fate would have it, Ted’s run to the top would hit a major roadblock in Big John Studd, who was on the comeback trail and determined to win the whole thing himself.
DiBiase, giving up around 100 pounds to the massive Studd, was no match. Studd won the contest, eliminating DiBiase last and proving that everyone has a price, except Big John Studd.
Promising increased security measures the following year, Ted DiBiase wouldn’t be able to buy himself out of his draw in 1990—the No. 1 spot.
8. The Improbable Rey Mysterio: 2006
In the last five to 10 years of the Royal Rumble, the WWE has made a conscious effort to focus on telling a story throughout the match. In 2006 we had seen pretty much anything they could throw at us.
We had already seen No. 1 go coast-to-coast (twice), we had seen a plethora of mystery entrants change the landscape of the match, and we even had some undeniable underdogs go home as unlikely winners.
That said, there was no bigger underdog than Rey Mysterio, a lifetime cruiserweight wrestler who weighs slightly more than Hornswoggle.
Mysterio was the emotional favorite for the Royal Rumble, dedicating the match to his recently deceased friend and beloved wrestler, Eddie Guerrero.
Mysterio would have a tall mountain to climb given his small stature as compared to the titans of the WWE, but matters were complicated when he drew No. 2 to begin the contest along with the No. 1 entrant, Triple H.
When it came down to it, Mysterio managed to outlast the fray with his buddy Rob Van Dam, while on the other side, Triple H remained strong, as did the No. 30 entrant, Randy Orton. Then something incredible happened.
Conjuring up every last ounce of courage and strength he had, Mysterio eliminated all three men en route to his first-ever Royal Rumble victory.
Not only did he win the Rumble, but he also set the record for the longest time in the ring of any superstar ever, at 62:12.
Needless to say, he went to WrestleMania 22 and won the World Heavyweight Championship.
7. The Legend of Rick Martel: 1991
As we reach the top of the countdown, it becomes increasingly difficult to select certain moments that stand the test of time. So classify this one under "Y" for “Yes, I am a Model.”
Rick Martel was your average, everyday WWF mid-card wrestler in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He made his living as a tag team champion with Tito Santana as a member of Strike Force, but once the team disbanded, he was simply the Model.
He exuded arrogance wherever he went. Every January, Rick Martel was a mainstay of the Royal Rumble Match, and come hell or high water, he would be one of the final participants each and every year.
How did he do it? Let’s take a look.
In his Rumble debut in 1989, Martel drew No. 29, giving him a great chance at victory. He was in the final four. In 1990, Martel again found himself with a great draw, No. 22, enabling him to last to the final seven.
In 1991, Martel made himself a Royal Rumble legend.
Drawing No. 6, Martel was doomed to fight his then-nemesis Jake “the Snake” Roberts at some point during the match. When the two clashed, Martel eliminate Jake, which was an accomplishment by itself.
Then he went the distance, lasting 52 minutes (a record at that time) before being eliminated by Davey Boy Smith as part of the final five.
In 1992, Martel draws No. 25 and is part of the final six. In 1993, Martel draws No. 26, and is part of the final four again. In 1994, Martel again draws No. 26, but is eliminated after only 11 minutes of competition.
Still, as he had in each of the previous Rumbles, he lasted long enough so that all competitors had entered the match. No WWF/WWE wrestler in history can claim that they had this kind of success for six straight Royal Rumble matches.
He disappeared for over six months following WrestleMania X, until reemerging as a surprise entrant to the 1995 Royal Rumble.
Sadly the mystique wore off and Martel’s record was shattered after he was eliminated in less than three minutes. To this day no superstar can match the incredible streak, be it through sheer skill or sheer dumb luck of “the Model” Rick Martel.
6. Kane Dominates: 2001
When talking about impressive records in the history of the Royal Rumble, you can never pass up a chance to mention the incredible efforts of the Big Red Machine in January of 2001.
Kane was participating in his third consecutive Rumble (2010 will be his 12th) and had gotten the basic idea of how the match worked.
In 2001 he drew No. 6, and with little more than Drew Carey standing in his way, he had his work cut out for him. If ever you’ve questioned the ability of Glen Jacobs, the man who performers as Kane the wrestler, I implore you to watch Kane in the 2001 Royal Rumble.
In a span of 54 minutes following his ring entrance, the huge 300-pounder proceeded to eliminate an untouchable, unprecedented record of 11 men.
Names like Grand Master Sexay, Steve Blackman, Al Snow, Raven, Perry Saturn, the Honky Tonk Man, Tazz, Crash Holly, Albert, Scotty 2 Hotty, and the Rock—all gone, courtesy of Kane.
He did the hardcore wrestling with the WWF’s hardcore division and succeeded. He did the comedic bits with the Honky Tonk Man and looked like a million bucks in the process. Face it, it was almost disappointing when Kane had to be eliminated, last mind you, by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
If he never does anything else in the wrestling business worth noting, at least Kane will always have the accomplishment of the 2001 Royal Rumble and a record that should never ever be duplicated or beaten.
5. Three Faces of Foley: 1998
Call it a hat trick if you will. Mick Foley’s 1998 Royal Rumble one was certainly one of the most memorable in WWF history and all he had to do was embrace his inner personas…all of them.
Foley entered the Rumble No. 1 overall as Cactus Jack and proceeded to brawl in a hardcore war with Chainsaw Charlie, also known as Terry Funk. Cactus didn’t last too long in the ring, as he was eliminated by Charlie just a few minutes later.
Foley would have his revenge, however, when he unexpectedly returned to the Rumble as Mankind at No. 16.
He eliminated Chainsaw in quick fashion, but Mankind’s luck was the same as that of Cactus. Foley soon found himself on the outside again.
As the Rumble wound down, Foley hit the triple, appearing at No. 28 as Dude Love. The Dudester did well, but he too, would be eliminated, this time by eventual winner Stone Cold Steve Austin.
All totaled, Foley spent a little more than 20 minutes in the match, eliminating three men (one as each character).
While Mick didn’t come away with a first class trip to WrestleMania, he came away as one of the most entertaining performers to ever be in a Royal Rumble Match.
4. Maven Eliminates the Undertaker: 2002
The 2002 Royal Rumble was ripe with story heading in—Triple H’s comeback, the return of previous WWF Stars, Kurt Angle’s guarantees, the Rattlesnake’s dominance, and the Undertaker’s vengeance. Little did anyone know just how topsy-turvy Taker’s night would be when he entered at No. 8.
A clear-cut favorite to win, Undertaker decimated what little competition was in the ring, before taking on both Matt and Jeff Hardy on back-to-back entries. After eliminating both brothers, Taker’ s next opponent was less than formidable—the Tough Enough Champion Maven.
A rookie getting his first shot at the big time, Maven was in for a world of hurt. But it would be temporarily delayed when the Undertaker had to again take out the Hardy Boyz after they chose not to leave the ring area.
As the Undertaker leaned over the ropes to send a message to the former tag team champions, the most unlikely event in the history of the Royal Rumble occurred—Maven delivered a perfectly timed dropkick to send the Undertaker over the top rope and to the floor.
Maven. MAVEN eliminated the Undertaker. Not Stone Cold, Triple H, Kane, Big Show, Kurt Angle, or any of the other major competitors. It was Maven. He would pay for his move with blood, as the Undertaker beat every last ounce of energy out of the rookie, effectively eliminating him from the match.
While Maven would get the better of the Deadman a number of times in the calendar year (including taking his WWF Hardcore Championship), the end result would see Taker return even stronger.
In the 2003 Rumble, Maven attempted to make lightning strike twice, but this time the Undertaker would have none of it, taking out his former nemesis with ease. Still, there is no more unlikely elimination in Royal Rumble history.
3. Stone Cold Steals the Rumble: 1997
WWE never wants to let us forget who has the greatest Royal Rumble track record—Stone Cold Steve Austin.
He’s taken out 36 competitors (37 by my count, but hey, I also recognize that Cody Rhodes was in the 2008 Royal Rumble and Michael Cole does not), won three Rumbles, and is just about the best brawler in the ring when it comes to the art of the battle royal.
It all had to start somewhere, and after a less than impressive 1996 outing as the Ringmaster, Stone Cold was back to win it all in 1997, by any means necessary.
Austin entered the ring fifth and took out the only man in his way, Phineas Godwinn. Then he went toe-to-toe with the southpaw Bart Gunn and Jake Roberts, getting both of them out of the way.
Then something weird happened—he kept hanging around, drawing one-on-one confrontations, and he kept coming out on top.
Austin racked up six eliminations in just under 30 minutes before Bret Hart, his biggest rival, entered the Rumble match. Hart was hell-bent on making Austin pay, and when the numbers expired, he did just that.
Bret took advantage of a golden opportunity and tossed the Rattlesnake over the top rope to a thunderous applause.
But then, we were graced with a shocking turn of events, when it appeared as if both referees officiating the match were too preoccupied with a brawl on the floor between Terry Funk and Mankind to notice Austin’s departure.
Acting quickly, Stone Cold reentered the ring, eliminated the off-balance Undertaker and Vader, and with his last bits of energy, Bret Hart. It all happened so quickly that the WWF fans were left in more bewilderment than anybody, save for the Hitman.
Since the referees had no account for Austin’s initial elimination and the WWF doesn’t subscribe to the instant replay rule. They had no choice but to award Stone Cold his first Royal Rumble victory.
This all set up a huge confrontation between Bret and Austin, and easily, the rise of one of the biggest superstars the wrestling industry has ever seen.
2. A Flair for the Gold: 1992
Realistically speaking, no Royal Rumble has ever been as important as the 1992 Royal Rumble.
After controversy erupted from both the 1991 Survivor Series and Tuesday in Texas pay-per-views, WWF President Jack Tunney was at wits’ end trying to determine what to do with his World Wrestling Federation Championship Belt.
Creating an all-new stipulation, Tunney determined that the title would be vacated, and that neither competitor from those controversies, Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, would be the champion.
Instead, Tunney instituted that the winner of the Royal Rumble Match would instantly become the WWF champion, a first for the title. We had tournaments in the past, but never something like this.
So with 30 hungry competitors in place to fight for the right to be champion, it would be the self-proclaimed “Real World’s Champion” who would finally earn the distinction he had been promoting.
Ric Flair, entering at No. 3, was mathematically one of the longest shots to win the contest, yet he managed to make it through the bulk of the competition through clever ducking, dodging, and deduction.
While Hogan and the Undertaker were both guaranteed top draws thanks to their previous title reigns (and subsequent vacancies), Flair would have to make due from the start to the finish. He didn’t disappoint.
Midway through the match he showed signs of promise as the only man in the ring until former rival Roddy Piper came to make him pay.
In the end, however, it would come down to the fan favorite Hulk Hogan, Flair, and the rebellious Sid Justice. In a move not soon forgotten, Hogan attempted to put an end to Flair’s run when he was surprisingly ousted by Justice.
Shocked and appalled, Hogan extended his hand to a devilish Sid as a show of “no hard feelings” but it was, in fact, a trick.
Hogan pulled on Sid’s arm in an attempt to cost him the match, and Flair, realizing his chance, aided Hogan in eliminating the 7'0" Justice from the contest. Ric Flair had lasted over 55 minutes and beat the odds en route to his first WWF Championship reign.
While a feud between Hogan and Justice may have been brewing, the biggest news to come out of this night was Ric Flair’s everlasting fulfillment of one of the greatest single performances in Royal Rumble history.
I’d be a fool not to mention the diligent commentary of the greatest twosome in the history of professional wrestling, Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan, the whole way.
1. Only One Foot: 1995
On paper, it was one of the weakest cards with the least star power in the middle of the biggest drought for professional wrestling.
Face it—the 1995 Royal Rumble didn’t look too promising from the opening vignette, in which various “stars” of the WWF like Mabel, Duke “the Dumpster” Droese, Henry Godwinn, Doink and Dink were awaiting the arrival of Pamela Anderson.
The WWF even made the completely foolish decision to reduce the time of their main event from one hour to thirty minutes, effectively killing the proper execution of a methodically paced battle royal.
Yet, with any number of outside variables working against it, the 1995 Royal Rumble Match produced what is easily the most memorable moment in Royal Rumble history.
Much like Flair in 1992, Shawn Michaels fell quickly out of favor when he drew the No. 1 spot for the contest. The No. 2 entry, the British Bulldog, was just as unlikely to win the contest.
After several entrants came and went, these two were the only ones in the ring at the midway point of the match. Fast-forward to the end, and the final two were the two men who started it all.
While both had eluded elimination several times in the last 30 minutes, neither was quite prepared for the way it would all go down. Bulldog, with his incredible strength advantage, launched the Heartbreak Kid from pillar to post until he was on the ropes, clinging to them by a moment.
Bulldog ran full steam at HBK, sending him barreling over the top rope in a move that signaled the end of the contest.
As Bulldog’s music blared over the speakers in the arena, it was clear that Davey Boy was ready to celebrate his victory and potential future match against the WWF Champion Diesel at WrestleMania XI.
When Bulldog ascended to the middle rope of the turnbuckle to salute the fans, it happened. Shawn Michaels delivered a double-axe handle from behind, plummeting Bulldog over the ropes and to the floor.
Referee Earl Hebner hit the ring to raise Shawn’s hand as the winner of the 1995 Royal Rumble Match.
What just happened? In one of the most confusing, controversial, and incredible endings in history, ring announcer Howard Finkel explained the situation. “Only one of Shawn Michaels’ feet touched the floor.” The slow-motion replays captured by the WWF’s camera crew validated the whole thing.
HBK appeared dead to rights, and the clothesline fooled everybody in attendance and everyone at home watching on PPV. Yet, through official technicality, he hadn’t been eliminated. He won, fair and square.
From then on out, the WWF and later WWE made it a point when explaining the rules of the match to put extra emphasis that both feet must touch the floor in order for elimination to occur.
Aftermath? Well, last I checked, while he was unsuccessful in his first bid for the belt, Shawn Michaels went on to win the 1996 Royal Rumble match and created a Hall of Fame legacy in the 15 years that followed.
The British Bulldog? Well, let’s face it, he didn’t—all because of one foot. If that doesn't convince you that this was the biggest moment in Royal Rumble history, then nothing will.
Thanks for reading, it has been a fun journey and I hope this sparks the debate heading into the 2010 Royal Rumble!