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Ranking All 32 WWE Royal Rumble Matches

We all love a Royal Rumble, but which ones? And how much? And in what order?

I watched a lot of Royal Rumble matches for this list, and I can say for certain that I learned the following things:

Some were way better than I remembered.

Some were way worse than I remembered.

Pretty much all of them were fun, purely because Royal Rumbles are so engaging even when they're terrible - like a bad James Bond movie.

Goldust has legitimately been in about 10 Rumbles, and his entrance still pops me every single time.

As you can see, I learned some pretty important lessons. At a certain point, just like when I wrote that big Survivor Series piece, I seemed to enter Rumble nirvana. I was one with the Rumbles, and the Rumbles were one with me. I prayed 30 times a day to the Rumble gods, and I slowly lost my mind. This time, however, there was a key difference.

Researching Survivor Series made me feel genuinely knowledgeable about one of WWE's more underappreciated pay per views. I felt like a student of physical geography or wildlife, slowly morphing into an expert in my chosen field through many months in the wilderness.

Researching Royal Rumble matches just turned me into a snob. Let me explain.

The inconsistencies of Rumble history are genuinely infuriating to pathetic stat-nerds like me and (presumably) you. So before we dive in, let's get a few things straight:

  • The perfect number of Royal Rumble entrants is 30. 1988 and 2011 can't be overlooked, of course, but they are bastard children as far as I'm concerned.

  • You can eliminate yourself, and you can be eliminated by an already eliminated opponent (or non-competitor).

  • You must enter the ring before the next entrant, otherwise, you are eliminated.

  • Non-eliminations are total bull. If Vince McMahon (1999) and Roman Reigns (2016) can take lengthy backstage breaks before returning to compete in the final stages of the match, why is Hornswoggle (2008) eliminated once Finlay carries him to the back?

  • There should only ever be one winner. 1994 got it wrong; 2005 got it right.


Now that we've ironed out my pet peeves, it's time to delve in. I proudly (read: exhaustedly) present my ranking of all 32 Royal Rumble matches.

[I apologise in advance for my low ranking of one in particular. You'll know the one I mean when you get to it. Also, there's no GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE in this list because quite frankly, that wasn't a bonafide Royal Rumble - no matter what WWE may say.]

32. 2015


WWE


Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What: Some Royal Rumbles feel like they were rushed; others try to pull something off which doesn't quite go as planned. Those crimes are forgivable. This Rumble, however, seemed like a deliberate attempt to provoke and dissatisfy a passionate fanbase.

The Good: It's hard to really examine the positive parts of this match because each one came to nothing in the end. Bray Wyatt's stretch was quite entertaining, as were the brave efforts of Dean Ambrose - but both newer stars were dumped out by Kane and Big Show in crushingly inevitable fashion. It felt like a deliberate slap in the face. (And was.)

The Bad: I've already mentioned Big Show and Kane transforming the final stages into a funeral march, but the biggest negative here involved Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. Just about everyone wanted Bryan to win this match, no question. So to have him enter at no. 10 and be dumped out 10 minutes later boggles the mind. In Philadelphia, too! Predictably, the fans turned on Roman Reigns - who was already in firm scapegoat territory beforehand - and essentially shut down the whole match as a spectacle. Even The Rock couldn't save the day. Even The actual Rock.

Star of the Show: Bray Wyatt. Roman was WWE's appointed star of the show, and he tried to make the best of a truly impossible situation, but the real winner was Bray. He entered at no. 5, lasted over 45 minutes, and dumped six fools to the outside - including The Boogeyman!

31. 1995


WWE


Where: USF Sun Dome - Tampa, Florida

What: A teenager speedrunning their homework an hour before class, but in Rumble form. This was the first Royal Rumble to feature a no. 1 entrant winning it all, which should naturally have been an epic occurrence. Instead, we got the shortest Rumble to this day - a match watched by poor Pamela Anderson at ringside, looking like a blonde porcelain rabbit in the headlights. We didn't understand either, Pam.

The Good: If you're going to finally pull the trigger on a no. 1 entrant winning the Royal Rumble, you'd better make sure they can wrestle. WWE at least made sure of that in '95. Although hardly out there for very long compared to other winners like Flair, Austin, or Mysterio, Michaels' sheer talent helped make the match downright tolerable (for very short bursts).

The Bad: Look, I feel unfair saying this, but 1995's bout had a pretty weak lineup. Still, we've seen Rumbles with less-than-stellar casts exceed expectations thanks to keen storytelling and cool spots. HBK aside, there was almost none of that here - just a conveyer belt of lower-mid card guys running in and getting quickly tossed. Here comes Mantaur, away he goes; here comes a Harris twin, see you later.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. Credit to the British Bulldog for hanging with him all the way, but this couldn't be anybody apart from HBK. The first man to win the Rumble from no. 1, and the subject of a truly unique Rumble finish. He also eliminated eight guys, including Duke Droese, a Harris twin, and both Bushwhackers. Bonus points for that, surely.

30. 1999


WWE


Where: Arrowhead Pond - Anaheim, California

What: This one felt like it was written by a 15-year-old on his favourite fantasy booking forum, just absolutely wired on Red Bull and angst. Much of it took place backstage, the Ministry of Darkness abducted Viscera, Austin hijacked an ambulance, and Vince McMahon won the bloody thing.

The Good: Before researching this list more fully, 1999 was my instinctive choice for last place. But hey, WWE tried something here, and even though it didn't pay off, at least they showed some goddamn ambition. I'm talking to you, '95 Rumble. The $100,000 bounty on Austin's head made for an intriguing set-up, even if the backstage shenanigans meant it wasn't really exploited to its full potential.

The Bad: Disjointed is the word of the day here, folks. Although it featured a unique premise, the '99 Royal Rumble was also badly hamstrung by it. With all the attention elsewhere, the actual in-ring action was pretty lacklustre. A potential highlight would have been Kane, but a gang of orderlies came to take him away, and he decided a WrestleMania title shot wasn't as important as eliminating himself and chasing them off. Chyna made history as the first woman ever to enter the match, but lasted a mere 35 seconds. Also - as if it needed to be pointed out - Vince is clearly the most dubious Royal Rumble winner of all time.

Star of the Show: Steve Austin. At the very least, this Rumble provided a classic Stone Cold moment, as Austin commandeered the ambulance taking him to hospital and drove it back to the venue. However questionable the booking of this match, the parts featuring the Rattlesnake were characteristically intense.

29. 1993


WWE


Where: ARCO Arena - Sacramento, California

What: Potentially the wackiest Rumble of all time, you guys. The tone was set with an opening speech given by Julius Caesar himself (a hell of a shock return, to be honest), and carried on all the way through to Yokozuna's infamous final elimination of Randy Savage. That's the one where Macho Man forgot the rules of the Royal Rumble and went for a pinfall, only for the "Japanese" behemoth to press him clean over the top rope.

The Good: This match was full of great wrestlers, although their antics were sadly overshadowed by the portion of the bout we'll discuss in a second. Mr. Perfect's dispatching of Lawler - and Jerry's subsequent revenge elimination - were both very well executed. Ric Flair and Bob Backlund made for one of the best Rumble-opening pairs ever, and Backlund's subsequent ironman performance is still fondly remembered today. Also, Skinner avoided elimination at one stage by skinning the cat. I just found that quite funny.

The Bad: Okay, here we go. Giant Frickin' Gonzalez. Undertaker was gradually building momentum with four eliminations to his name, only to be taken out by the debuting Gonzalez (who wasn't actually in the match). The giant's interference was predictably sloppy and ground the entire Rumble to a halt. It led, of course, to their clash at WrestleMania IX - the worst bout in 'Taker's legendary streak. Additionally, Savage was made to look like a total chump by the finish. Even Gorilla Monsoon sounded disappointed as he made his famous "pinfalls don't count!" call.

Star of the Show: Mr. Perfect. Bob Backlund may have lasted over an hour, and Yokozuna may have had seven eliminations, but Hennig was the boy in his short time here. He was one of those wrestlers who never looked lost or out of place, even in a match as chaotic as a Rumble. A special mention, also, to Flair, who was his usual brilliant self.

28. 1991


WWE


Where: Miami Arena - Miami, Florida

What: The first backward step in Rumble history. The first three Royal Rumble matches felt like a natural progression, with each a little better and more nuanced than the last. Then 1991 happened and the wheels fell off. The match featured a few memorable moments, including Bushwhacker Luke's memorable four-second stint, and Bobby Heenan casually catching Mr. Perfect's towel during their entrance - but in terms of true quality, the bout has to be considered a letdown.

The Good: While the match didn't feature anything catastrophically bad, it didn't really feature anything of much note at all. I understand that Hulk Hogan clearing house was the most exciting thing in the world for many years, but this was his second successive Rumble victory. When a match has only taken place four times, the same guy shouldn't be winning two in a row.

The Bad: Despite Roddy Piper's constant excitement on commentary, this was the first Rumble that could fairly be described as boring. There was a lot of time-wasting and rope-leaning, and the drama felt quite manufactured throughout. That's a ridiculously obvious thing to say about professional wrestling, I know - but hopefully you get what I mean.

Star of the Show: Hulk Hogan. This was a tricky choice. Rick Martel delivered a classic ironman performance, sticking around for upwards of 50 minutes. Perfect and Heenan's antics were entertaining, but never took centre stage. The man of the moment was unquestionably Hogan - and he did the whole Hogan thing as well as we've come to expect - but happening for the second year in a row, this felt like a bit of a drag.

27. 2013


WWE


Where: US Airways Center - Phoenix, Arizona

What: John Cena's march to victory. I'm not one for blind Cena-rage, but sometimes his big wins have seemed way too obvious. The 2013 Rumble is a prime example, as everybody knew the show was leading to Rock vs. Cena II at WrestleMania 29 - and then it went down exactly like that anyway. It's worth also noting that this match wasn't the main event, and that it was followed by The Rock crushing CM Punk to become champion. And then the internet exploded with fury.

The Good: This Rumble was carried by a small team of workhorses, including no. 1 entrant Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, and surprise entrant Chris Jericho. They provided some enjoyable moments, including Kofi's pogo-chair escape from elimination - surely the Hufflepuff of his various Rumble spots. We also saw the memorable antics of Team Hell No, as heel Daniel Bryan eliminated Kane from behind - only to be immediately knocked from the apron into his partner's arms. Kane considered his options before dropping Bryan to the floor, and everybody was sad (but in a good way, because this was fun).

The Bad: Even before Cena made his entrance at no. 19, it was far too apparent who was winning the match. WWE tried to disguise it by only giving him a moderate four eliminations - and one of those was Heath Slater - but when it came down to Big Match John and Big Big Ryback, they might as well have played 'My Time is Now' and ushered everybody home.

Star of the Show: Cody Rhodes. Now that he's the (deliberately) polarising Cena figure of the independent scene, it's easy to forget that Cody was an effective heel in WWE too. He was in full bad guy mode here, eliminating brother Goldust and annual escape artist Kofi to huge heat. Jericho was also a highlight, even if he promised everyone on social media that he wouldn't be returning. You lied to us, Chris.

26. 2017


WWE


Where: Alamodome - San Antonio, Texas

What: A decent Rumble in theory, but one with an over-reliance on huge names. There were fun moments here for sure - including the ecstatically-received entrance of Tye Dillinger at no. 10 - but the lasting memory is a negative one, thanks to Roman Reigns coming in at no. 30. It will also be remembered as the Rumble with an incredibly long entrance ramp, forcing the use of motorised carts to transport some of the larger, slower wrestlers to the ring.

The Good: The 2017 Rumble at least did a decent job of putting over WWE's present generation of Superstars (in the first half of the match, anyway). Braun Strowman eliminated seven men, including Big Show and Mark Henry. Baron Corbin was then given a rub by ending Strowman's night. Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose, and Bray Wyatt all lasted a decent amount of time too.

The Bad: Once Undertaker, Lesnar, Goldberg, and Reigns were in the ring, the whole dynamic of this Rumble changed. Survivors from the earlier stages like Miz, Jericho, Zayn, and Ambrose were eliminated with barely a whimper by one of the match's four behemoths - who then proceeded to run through one another in very short order. Randy Orton, while a pretty unpredictable winner, certainly wasn't the most exciting option.

Star of the Show: Braun Strowman. If anybody benefitted from this match, it was the big man - who really should have been allowed to last longer than he did.

25. 2014


WWE


Where: Consol Energy Center - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What: A match which gets a slightly bad rap, in my opinion - although the decision to put over an ageing, recently-returned Batista was obviously a poor one. The action itself was consistently exciting, but it still must be remembered as one of the weaker Rumbles in history due to the deliberate omission of Daniel Bryan. The fans noticed. In a big way.

The Good: Buried amongst the negativity associated with this Rumble, there's some pretty good stuff. CM Punk - in what would turn out to be his last WWE match - turned in a strong ironman performance from no. 1, while no. 2 entrant Seth Rollins gave a very good account of himself too. There were fun moments such as Goldust accidentally eliminating brother Cody, and the foreshadowing of an eventual Shield breakup.

The Bad: As soon as poor old Rey Mysterio bounced out at no. 30, the Pittsburgh crowd soured immediately. Daniel Bryan was at the very peak of his popularity here, with fans absolutely baying for him to main event WrestleMania. WWE had other plans (which they eventually went back on), and Batista's triumph was one of the most unpopular Royal Rumble victories of all time.

Star of the Show: Roman Reigns. This match occurred before The Shield's powerhouse was pushed to the moon and beyond, and therefore before fans turned against him en masse. Still, he was made to look incredibly strong here, breaking Kane's famous record for eliminations in a single Rumble. He made the final two, and although we may be reluctant to remember it, everybody was molten hot at the possibility of him eliminating Batista.

24. 1996


WWE


Where: Selland Arena - Fresno, California

What: The Rumble where Shawn Michaels morphed into a combination of Steve Austin and Kane, eliminating opponents double his size with relative ease. Speaking of Stone Cold and the Big Red Machine, they were both present as The Ringmaster and Isaac Yankem, DDS. This was also the match where Austin accidentally eliminated himself early, slipping out of the ring despite being booked to make the final four.

The Good: Jerry Lawler was an absolute delight in this match, hiding under the ring for the vast majority of his stint, before being discovered and eliminated by HBK. Another cool moment saw Jake Roberts scare everybody out of the ring with his snake (easy now, everybody). Michaels wasn't the only person booked to look like a beast, as the hulking Vader reacted very badly to his elimination - returning to the ring and hurling everybody over the top rope. They weren't counted as official eliminations - a slightly annoying historical inconsistency - but we were treated to the rare sight of Monsoon entering the ring to stare him down. It's easy to forget how imposing the beloved Gorilla was.

The Bad: The '95 Rumble felt like a sideshow without officially being one, but this one actually was - becoming the first Royal Rumble match not to main event its own pay per view since the inaugural edition. The now-babyface Michaels steamrolling his way to victory was very strange indeed. HBK never wrestled like a destroyer, usually winning multi-man matches via resilience and instinct. Here he was curiously deliberate and immensely powerful, at one stage tipping out Vader and Yokozuna at the same time.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. There's no other choice really. Although he didn't enter until no. 18, from that moment on this match felt specifically engineered to put HBK over as hard as possible. Thankfully, he put in a good performance to somewhat justify the booking, and his final elimination of Diesel was a nice conclusion at the very least.

23. 2012


WWE


Where: Scottrade Center - St. Louis, Missouri

What: Am I the only person who thinks the 2012 Royal Rumble was a little drunk? Despite always being one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the year, this bout didn't seem to take itself seriously at all. I understand that comedy has a place in the Rumble, but the balance of this match was off. All three announcers were surprise entrants, we saw a prolonged sock duel between Mick Foley and Santino Marella, and Ricardo Rodriguez decided to show up in a broken down old banger. Could we take our pretend fighting a little more seriously, please? 

The Good: Despite all the prior shenanigans, the match at least featured one of the best ending sequences in Rumble history. Chris Jericho and Sheamus went all-out to keep us guessing, teasing multiple finishes and flattering the bout with a stronger ending than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, though, we all knew that Y2J was going to win.

The Bad: Y2J didn't actually win! I know I've criticised some of the lowest Rumbles on this for being too predictable, but this was one of those years where the obvious choice would surely have made sense. Jericho returned to WWE promising the bring about the end of the world - and if his idea of apocalyptic power is losing to Sheamus, call me the grim reaper. It was very cool to see Kharma finally make her debut (as only the third woman to enter a Royal Rumble, no less), but she lasted one minute. I know she managed to scare the living daylights out of Michael Cole and eliminate Hunico, but come on now.

Star of the Show: Chris Jericho. I can't reiterate enough how much Y2J should have won this match. He caused the biggest stir here by far, despite entering as late as no. 29 - and although he didn't actually cause the end of the world, he proved once again that he is the undisputed master of the big WWE return.

22. 1988


WWE


Where: Copps Coliseum - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

What: An understandably limited introduction, but the first tentative steps of a concept that has captured our imaginations for the past three decades. It hasn't aged too well, but I think that's beside the point. There's no overstating the importance of this match.

The Good: There were only 20 entrants in the original Rumble, but it still managed to feel like something larger than a glorified battle royal. Much of this was down to the climactic finish, which saw Hacksaw Jim Duggan outwit One Man Gang with the first low bridge elimination in Rumble history. Despite being the first of its kind, it remains one of the most satisfying finishes to any Royal Rumble.

The Bad: I mean, yes, it's a little bit of a slog. There's a lot of leaning on ropes, and there's a lot of guys wandering around aimlessly looking for an opponent to punch. It's clear that this idea was still very much in its infancy, and that it would take a little while for its potential to be properly realised. Also, on commentary, Vince totally predicted the low bridge finish to make himself look clever. It annoyed me a lot more than it probably should have.

Star of the Show: Bret Hart. It's clear that a lot of the entrants in this match were given minimal instruction beyond 'kill time until x enters, then eliminate y' - but Bret's an all-time great, and therefore good enough to seem purposeful under such circumstances.

21. 2000


WWE


Where: Madison Square Garden - New York City, New York

What: A Rumble tasked with following the epic Triple H vs. Cactus Jack street fight. Predictably, it wasn't able to. To be brutally honest, this match would have felt a little lightweight even if it didn't come after such a bloodbath - which is especially surprising, given the fact that it came in the midst of a historic peak for WWE.

The Good: Rikishi was a boss in the early stages of this match, and his little spell of domination led to that famous moment where he danced with his Too Cool stablemates (before heartlessly eliminating them with their backs turned). The Rock carried the latter stages, firing up the crowd as only he can. X-Pac tried to pull a '97 Austin and sneak back in after elimination, but just got thrown out a second time - which is a delightfully X-Pac sequence of events, to be honest. Bonus points for the match taking place at MSG, naturally.

The Bad: The Rock's feet hit the floor before Big Show's! He shouldn't have won! Now, as infuriating as this moment was for obsessive rule-sticklers like myself, it was at least worked into a subsequent storyline and rematch between the pair. More disappointing was the fact that this Rumble really lacked a particular moment; nothing reached into our guts and forced a reaction the way the best Royal Rumbles do. Also, Jerry Lawler was a little too happy about Taka Michinoku's sickening faceplant on the outside. Like, maybe in a little bit of a racist way.

Star of the Show: The Rock. I was struggling the pick between Rocky and Rikishi in this one - but without Rikishi, the match would still have had a strong ending courtesy of big Dwayne. Without the People's Champ, it may well have lacked any oomph whatsoever.

20. 2006


WWE


Where: American Airlines Arena - Miami, Florida

What: A cluttered, constipated Royal Rumble - but one thankfully saved by the most emotionally triumphant finish of all 30 matches. Triple H and Rey Mysterio were the first two entrants, and pretty much lasted the whole way - with victor Rey setting a new record for the longest time spent in a single Rumble match. Unfortunately, despite an exciting end, much of this bout was overcrowded and slow-moving.

The Good: The unquestionable high point of this match was Rey Mysterio's emotional win, dedicated in advance to the late Eddie Guerrero. The masked luchador made his entrance in a low-rider, wore an armband emblazoned with Eddie's initials, and outlasted Triple H and Randy Orton in a thrilling conclusion. The heart of Rey was emphasised even further when The Game unfairly dragged him out of the ring after being eliminated, slammed him into the steps, and delivered him to Orton on a platter.

The Bad: I'm not suggesting that a Rumble should simply be a constant stream of eliminations - look at how badly-received '95 was, for example - but '06 went too far in the opposite direction. Much of the match had too many Superstars in the ring at one time, dampening the impact of certain moments. On the plus side, we had a great view of Viscera simulating sexual intercourse with a prone Matt Hardy.

Star of the Show: Triple H. Just as his theme proclaims, this match really was all about The Game. Okay, the centrepiece was Mysterio's underdog story - but Triple H seemed the far more active of the match's two marathon men. He also sold wonderfully and consistently throughout.

19. 1994




Where: Providence Civic Center - Providence, Rhode Island

What: I mentioned that the 1993 Rumble was perhaps the wackiest of all - but this one was straight bizarre, without ever truly being self-aware about it. If '93 was a drunken frat boy keg-standing to impress his friends, '94 was the guy silently playing with a lighter in the corner. This match opened with babyface Scott Steiner and Samu - and the latter almost snapped his own neck in one of the freakiest eliminations you'll ever see. We also saw the in-ring debut of Kwang, who decided to just immediately mist Rick Steiner in the face. Kamala was supposed to enter at no. 10, but was replaced by Virgil - which sounds like it was written by a random Rumble storyline generator. The match had two winners! Do you see how strange it was yet?

The Good: My favourite thing about this match was Ted DiBiase bragging on commentary about how Diesel is almost as big as him 'if I'm standing on my wallet'. That aside, the action was largely good (if a little frantic). Big Daddy Cool dominated the middle portion in terrifying fashion, while Bret Hart wrestled with his usual excellence - even remember to sell an earlier attack on his leg from brother Owen.

The Bad: There were so many tonal shifts here, from comedy to drama and back again, with little time to adjust. Diesel's monster run was temporarily derailed by Doink the Clown squirting water into his eyes, to give you some sort of idea. Also, this is just personal preference, but I hate the two winners scenario. I understand that Vince probably wanted to see the shredded Lex Luger win, and popular demand forced his hand with Bret - but the Royal Rumble should have one survivor! The Canadian ultimately won big at 'Mania anyway; couldn't he have done the same here?

Star of the Show: Diesel. More recent Rumbles have seen huge monsters dominate in far cleaner fashion, but the ruggedness of Nash's seven eliminations just made him seem all the more legitimate and terrifying. It looked as though guys were genuinely struggling to avoid being thrown out, only for Diesel to use his brute strength and dump them anyway.

18. 2005


WWE


Where: Save Mart Center - Fresno, California

What: An immensely talent-filled lineup which just didn't seem to have its priorities right. This Rumble really should have been one of the greatest, but wasted too much time with goofy spots like Daniel Puder's chop gauntlet and the rather sinister gang-elimination of Muhammad Hassan. The ending was stronger, in fairness.

The Good: There was a lot going on here, even if the general intensity was lacking. We saw Snitsky's famous decapitation of Paul London, HBK and Kurt Angle eliminating one another to set up their WrestleMania classic, and Batista destroying fools. The ending probably divides opinion, but I enjoyed the decision to hold an overtime period - even if the sight of an injured Vince McMahon sitting in the ring gave everything a surreal overtone.

The Bad: I've already mentioned the Puder and Hassan nonsense, but honestly, the most damaging part of this Rumble was the commentary. This was the year when brand warfare was rammed down our throats, and barely 30 seconds would pass without Tazz loudly plugging SmackDown. I'm not sure if the Royal Rumble is really the right place for Raw vs. SmackDown shenanigans - especially with Survivor Series a far more natural fit.

Star of the Show: Edge. Both Batista and Cena played their key roles well, but my main man here was Edge. He was one of the match's ironmen, along with Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio, and was perfect as the lurking heel attempting to steal a win towards the end. This bout suited his opportunistic persona to a tee.

17. 2011


WWE


Where: TD Garden - Boston, Massachusetts

What: A match that felt as though it could have been better, but was still pretty good regardless. The only 40-man Royal Rumble in history, the 2011 edition was certainly full of things. We witnessed the internet wet dream of an opening pair in the form of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, only for their showdown to be delayed by The Corre (hey, remember The Corre!?). Then we had the New Nexus' period of dominance, Matt Striker 'marking out, bro', Super Cena being very super indeed, the return of Diesel, and the inventive finish involving Alberto Del Rio and Santino Marella.

The Good: The story of CM Punk and his henchmen was an awesome take on Royal Rumble strategy, which I'll talk about in a sec. This Rumble also provided us with the famous John Morrison spot, where he avoided elimination by clinging onto the crowd barrier and tightroping across it, before leaping back over to the ring steps. I like the finish too, even if the thought of Santino winning a Royal Rumble is faintly ridiculous in hindsight.

The Bad: Why undo all that good booking involving the New Nexus, only to have Cena come in and clear house anyway? We've seen John overcome the odds countless times before; did he really have to run through everybody here too? Also, 40 men is too much - although the match wasn't as bloated as it could have been.

Star of the Show: CM Punk. Having Punk hide behind his stablemates for pretty much the entire first half of the match worked wonders, especially thanks to the Chicagoan's wide-ranging charisma. He went through a whole range of emotions, from cocky to desperate, composed to panicked.

16. 2016


WWE


Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida

What: A truly strange Rumble, not just because of the booking itself, but because of our general reaction towards it. Most of the time, Triple H returning at no. 30 to eliminate a couple of younger stars and win would be utterly scorned. Here it worked - simply because the widespread opposition to Roman Reigns' push had reached absolute fever pitch. Also some guy named AJ Styles debuted at no. 3.

The Good: The premise of this Rumble threatened to telegraph the entire thing, as sticking Reigns in at no. 1 basically guaranteed a long match. This could have put everything in jeopardy, especially given the way the crowd sabotaged both 2014 and 2015's bouts. Thankfully, there was enough exciting action to counteract this - from the debut of Styles to the shock appearance of Sami Zayn, who went straight for arch-nemesis Kevin Owens. Dean Ambrose also did very well as the nearly-man and looked a million dollars for standing up to Triple H.

The Bad: WWE's plan to generate sympathy for Reigns really backfired here. Forcing him to enter first and putting his title on the line made sense in theory, but having him attacked by the League of Nations and carted backstage for a break was a bizarre decision. Also - and this is a minor gripe - but why focus on his reaction when AJ Goddamn Styles is finally making his WWE debut!?

Star of the Show: AJ Styles. Although Styles' departure from New Japan was hardly the most closely-guarded secret in wrestling, the thought of him entering the Royal Rumble still seemed like fantasy booking. It was a genuinely amazing moment and caused one of the most intense, genuine pops in recent WWE history.

15. 2009


WWE


Where: Joe Louis Arena - Detroit, Michigan

What: A dark sequel to the immensely fun 2008 Rumble (which we'll talk about later). The action was a little bland at times, but everything kicked into a higher gear once we got down to the final four (or, rather, final six - but Legacy were all on the same page, so you see what I mean). Randy Orton's victory should have carried him through to a big title win in the main event of WrestleMania, but Triple H had other ideas.

The Good: As mentioned, the closing stages of this match were excellent, as Legacy attempted to hold the fort against Triple H, Undertaker, and Big Show. In the end, Big Show gifted Randy victory - vengefully screwing 'Taker after being eliminated. A fully babyface Triple H fought bravely, eliminating both Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes - but it was Orton who triumphed in the end. Earlier on, we were also treated to the surprise return of Rob Van Dam, and Santino Marella's record-setting one-second stint in the match.

The Bad: As far as predictable winners go, 2009 was about as clear-cut as you can get. Orton was on an absolute tear as the top heel in WWE, tormenting Triple H and the McMahon family in twisted fashion. This match was also a little slow to get going - but it's probably worth sitting through just for the well-executed closing stages.

Star of the Show: Randy Orton. Who else? Rarely has a Rumble been built so specifically around one particular Superstar - and even if that may have been a little obvious, he still turned in a good enough performance to justify it.

14. 1989


WWE


Where: The Summit - Houston, Texas

What: A huge improvement over the very basic inaugural Rumble, incorporating long-term storylines and more inventive spots. We also saw the first instance of somebody skinning the cat to avoid elimination - I think. Unsurprisingly, it was Shawn Michaels.

The Good: From the moment tag partners Ax and Smash decided to kick things off with an almighty brawl, this Rumble was noticeably more high-octane than its predecessor. I very much enjoyed Andre eliminating himself because he was so scared of Damien, Jake Roberts' pet snake - and the foreshadowing of a Hogan/Savage breakup was absolutely on point. Warlord's historically quick elimination showed that WWE were realising the possibilities of the stipulation even this early.

The Bad: Everything seemed to deflate once Hogan was eliminated by the Twin Towers, a testament to his incredible popularity at the time, but also a weak point for this Rumble. It was also strange to see Big John Studd come out on top, which isn't a knock on the guy; he just seems a weird choice given the involvement of stars like Hogan, Savage, Andre, DiBiase, and so on.

Star of the Show: Hulk Hogan. Hulkamania was still very much in effect at this stage, and it showed. His tossing of Savage was the perfect extra ingredient to fuel their impending breakup, and his nine eliminations made for the first truly dominant Rumble performance.

13. 1998


WWE


Where: San Jose Arena - San Jose, California

What: The 1997 Rumble's more casual, younger sibling - and also the first Rumble with a bonafide 'this is the Attitude Era' feel. Although not as intense as its immediate predecessor, this match was every bit as chaotic and fun as you'd expect from a late-'90s Royal Rumble. It's probably best remembered for the second straight victory of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and also for Mick Foley entering as each of his three personas - but there's a lot more to this one beyond the obvious.

The Good: Although by no means the most neatly-booked Rumble in history, this was a brutal war from the start, as Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie (or Mick Foley and Terry Funk) decided to turn the traditional opening into a hardcore match. Another special moment saw the entire ring stop and face the entrance upon hearing Stone Cold's theme music - only for Austin to sneakily enter from the back and throw himself into the fray.

The Bad: There were some messy moments, for sure. The in-fighting between various Nation of Domination members was confusing and never properly explained, and also diluted The Rock's eventual betrayal of leader Faarooq. The bout was also quite overcrowded at times, especially when Savio Vega brought his entire Los Boricuas stable with him to jump Austin.

Star of the Show: The Rock. The Brahma Bull's chemistry with Stone Cold was more than evident, even at this early stage. He lasted a long time in the match, and played a key role in the closing sequence - foolishly eliminating stablemate Faarooq, only to lose when matched one-on-one against the Texas Rattlesnake.

12. 2018 (Women's)


WWE


Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What: A truly innovative match in WWE history, and a bout that surpassed expectations admit fears of a thing women's roster. This bout featured all the hallmarks of a good Rumble, from iron(wo)man performances to surprise returns, a good finishing sequence, and a popular winner. Then, of course, Ronda Rousey made her debut and threatened to overshadow it all.

The Good: It was especially great to see the stand-out members of today's women's roster mix it up with older legends. Sasha Banks and Trish Stratus demonstrated particular chemistry, a stand-off which sadly never materialised into a singles match. The closing sequence was another highlight, as Sasha eliminated best friend Bayley, only for the returning Bellas to dump an exhausted Banks to the outside. Asuka was left to pick up the pieces, eliminating both heels en route to a historic victory.

The Bad: One could argue that the fact the Bellas dominated the closing stages of the Rumble was a disservice to the hard-working regulars. Then again, it set up an unpopular pair of villains for Asuka to knock down. Michelle McCool looked surprisingly excellent, but again probably shouldn't have been set up as the match's chief destructive force. Nobody matched her 5 eliminations, even the natural choice of Nia Jax. Then, of course, Ronda Rousey arguably overshadowed the entire thing, marching out and taking a sizeable chunk out of Asuka's moment.

Star of the Show: Sasha Banks. She may not have been constantly in the thick of the action, but the Boss put in a Herculean effort, as worthy an ironman performance as most of her male counterparts through the years. Her elimination of Bayley (and subsequent demise at the hands of Nikki and Brie) acted as the Rumble's chief emotional set-pieces.

11. 2007


WWE


Where: AT&T Center - San Antonio, Texas

What: A real mixed bag of a Royal Rumble, which I suspect would be remembered far less kindly if it wasn't for the excellence of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. It had a distinctly ECW feel, thanks to the inclusion of WWE's short-lived third brand, and while there were fun moments like Kane's table elimination of Sabu and the uneasy alliance of Edge and Randy Orton, the general quality was dragged down by an entrant I'll get to shortly.

The Good: HBK and 'Taker put on unquestionably the greatest final Rumble showdown of all time. Although Jericho and Sheamus would try to replicate it five years later, it'll be hard for any future edition to improve upon this bout's finish. The pair basically held a mini-match in its own right, providing a sneak preview of their future WrestleMania epics.

The Bad: The Great Khali, guys. The Great Khali. The Punjabi giant entered at no. 25 and proceeded to chop down everyone - to pretty much dead silence. His period of dominance was a massive momentum-killer and saw him easily toss crowd favourites like Rob Van Dam and CM Punk. He was mercifully eliminated by Undertaker before too long, but this stint prevented a good Rumble from becoming an all-time great.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. HBK was almost eliminated so many times during that ending, and still managed to convince the hometown crowd that he was equally likely to win. Sadly, he didn't - but this performance was characteristically brilliant throughout.

10. 1997


WWE


Where: Alamodome - San Antonio, Texas

What: The Stone Cold Steve Austin show. This was the Rumble that caught Austin just before his initial, industry-shifting surge of popularity. He wasn't quite a megastar yet, but this was mere months before his landmark match with Bret Hart. It's hard to define this match without mentioning Stone Cold, to be honest. It was the one with a handful of AAA luchadors involved, I guess. Mil Mascaras eliminated himself and JBL would reference it on commentary forevermore.

The Good: The obvious high point of this match was Austin's solo run, waiting in the ring, checking his imaginary watch, and quickly dispatching the next man to enter. His charisma here was off the charts, from sinking to his knees in mock prayer during Jake Roberts' entrance, to his famous reaction to Bret Hart's music. In one moment, he conveyed panic, composure, and incredible intensity.

The Bad: As mentioned, without Austin I'm not sure this match would have had its own sense of identity. The no. 1 entrant was Crush: Nation of Domination edition, I guess. I feel harsh criticising a strong Rumble for putting over the right guy strong from an early number, but there wasn't too much else to the match. Lawler's hilarious four-second stint from commentary did also stand out, admittedly. 'It takes a king...'

Star of the Show: Steve Austin. The Rattlesnake lasted a long time and maintained an incredible sense of charisma and intensity throughout. The manner in which he won was also perfect, taking advantage of a referee distraction to sneak back into the ring after being eliminated.

9. 2008


WWE


Where: Madison Square Garden - New York City, New York

What: Just a big, happy Royal Rumble. This was like a New Year's Eve party of a match - a total celebration with an intoxicatingly positive vibe, so much so that even John Cena was cheered when he entered at no. 30! (It helped that he was supposedly on the shelf for several more months, meaning that his entrance was maybe the biggest surprise in Rumble history).

The Good: 2007 ended with 'Taker and Shawn in an epic contest, so whoever decided to start 2008's match with the same men is a genius. From that moment on, this match was full of great stuff. Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper may not have been the most mobile of returning legends, but they certainly contributed a presence. Seeing Triple H and Mick Foley tee off on each other in Madison Square Garden - eight years on from their legendary street fight at the 2000 event - is maybe my favourite underrated Royal Rumble moment. Finally, Cena's return was, of course, tremendously exciting.

The Bad: Not a lot, really. I guess you could argue that once Cena entered, the whole result was a foregone conclusion - but he did have to go through Batista and Triple H in the final three. I wasn't personally a fan of the Hornswoggle stuff - not because I don't believe comedy has a place in the Royal Rumble, but because when Finlay rescued him he was never officially eliminated! Aghh, the rules! It was also sad rooting for CM Punk to do well and impress WWE management, only for him to immediately pop Shawn Michaels' nose open with an errant knee.

Star of the Show: John Cena. I was surprised re-watching this Rumble, because in my head Cena's entrance was met with total goodwill. It didn't quite go down like that; yes, everybody popped for his theme music, but by the time he eliminated Triple H, there was more than a smattering of boos around MSG. Importantly, it didn't matter. Cena's return was one of the most ambitious Rumble bookings ever, and he was certainly the man for the occasion.

8. 1992


WWE


Where: Knickerbocker Arena - Albany, New York

What: Okay, hear me out. Please don't hurt me. I know the 1992 Royal Rumble is generally considered one of the greatest of all time, and I understand why. For me, though, I just can't get behind it as fully as most other people. I'll try to explain. Once again, I'm very sorry. (Unless you're one of those people who hasn't ever actually watched the match, but you're still planning to go on Twitter and tell me how brilliant it is, and how wrong I am.)

The Good: Ric Flair's performance is obviously great, and a very important moment in the history of the Royal Rumble. He was the first heel winner, and the first to win from a truly low number. The enormity of his triumph was emphasised by the excellent commentary of Bobby Heenan, whose work here has gone down in Rumble folklore as much as the in-ring action itself. There was also a really cool moment where Flair was squaring off with Roddy Piper, only for Jake Roberts to enter next - and suddenly you've got three no-good bastards double-crossing each other at every turn.

The Bad: Watch this match back, okay. Aren't there quite a lot of stretches that are a little bit (whisper it) boring? I get that this was an early Rumble, and therefore wasn't as polished and structured as the bouts we're used to today - but this honestly wasn't as consistently exciting as many would have you believe. The finish also really gets my goat. Revisionist history has painted it as a wonderful shades-of-grey moment for Hogan, acting a little bit heelish for the first time. I am convinced that WWE meant the very opposite and that Hogan screwing Sid was actually supposed to make Sid look like the bad guy. Who was the heel in their WrestleMania VIII match? See? See!?

Star of the Show: Ric Flair. Obviously. This was the first Royal Rumble victory of its kind in so many ways, and also resulted in Flair becoming WWF Champion. It's a true shame we never got to see Hogan vs. Flair at WrestleMania.

7. 1990


WWE


Where: Orlando Arena - Orlando, Florida

What: A massive leap forward in Royal Rumble chronology, introducing several cool innovations and devices we take for granted these days. This is perhaps the most ahead-of-its-time Rumble ever, and my favourite of the early matches.

The Good: This was the first Rumble that really felt like a big deal. '88 was a special attraction, '89 saw the megastars chucked out halfway through, but '90 was important. Immediately, we were treated to more inventive eliminations than in previous years, with Marty Jannetty diving clean over the ropes to the floor. It also featured the first monumental Rumble staredown, as Hogan and Warrior tore the place apart by simply looking at one another.

The Bad: Let's mention the circumstances surrounding the finish of this match. Apparently, throughout all of the build-up leading to this Rumble, the planned winner was Mr. Perfect. That would have been huge, propelling one of the most talented workers on the roster up the card, and providing the match with the first winner of Perfect's kind - a smaller, more technical heel, rather than a brawny face. Instead, Hogan is alleged to have flexed his political muscles, leading to the victory of yet another brawny face: himself.

Star of the Show: Ted DiBiase. The Million Dollar Man gave the first true ironman performance in Rumble history. Having bought the no. 30 spot the previous year, he came out first in 1990 - a truly delightful moment of a heel getting their comeuppance. He still managed to cling on for 44 dastardly minutes, though.

6. 2018 (Men's)


WWE


Where: Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What: Potentially the best Rumble of the current era, a huge breath of fresh air after a succession of matches overshadowed by booking issues. This was a real all-rounder of a Royal Rumble, featuring comedy, returns, and the inclusion of two popular NXT Superstars in the form of Adam Cole and Andrade 'Cien' Almas. Things built nicely to a fever pitch, resulting in one hell of a conclusion.

The Good: As mentioned, this Rumble's true strength was the way it ramped up in intensity down the final stretch. A clash of generations saw Reigns, Nakamura, and Balor square off against Cena, Orton, and the returning Rey Mysterio. Things eventually boiled down to Nakamura, Cena, and Reigns - and WWE redeemed themselves for their transgressions of three years prior, treating the Philly crowd to a popular win for the former New Japan star.

The Bad: Any gripe with this Rumble are minor, given its consistency from start to finish. Really, the biggest let-down came afterwards, as Nakamura's victory led to a slightly disappointing 'Mania title match against AJ Styles - and a subsequent decline on the SmackDown roster. Hopefully this victory doesn't remain the high point of his WWE career. Time will tell.

Star of the Show: Finn Balor. Balor lasted almost an hour from no. 2, and looked as sharp towards the end of the match as he did at the beginning. (That's not a knock on his selling, by the way, which was excellent throughout). He made the final four, and until his elimination, it seemed like a real possibility that the Irishman could go all the way.

5. 2002


WWE


Where: Phillips Arena - Atlanta, Georgia

What: A real junk food Royal Rumble, with an overload of fun, entertaining moments, and relatively little in the way of substance. Despite that, the 2002 edition remains one of the easiest Rumbles to watch in terms of pure enjoyment. It was also Triple H's return party, having come back from a potentially career-ending injury to enter the match. Yes, he won. It's all about the game; haven't you heard?

The Good: Where to begin? There was Maven's famous elimination of The Undertaker (and 'Taker's subsequent demolition of the Tough Enough winner); there was the sight of Austin rolling back the years and clearing house, like it was 1997 all over again; there was Hurricane attempting to double-chokeslam both Stone Cold and Triple H; there was Mr. Perfect, yo; and there was the final triumph of Triple H, doing his best Shawn Michaels impersonation to save himself from elimination and defeat an arrogant Kurt Angle.

The Bad: If you like your Rumbles to be more nuanced and purposeful, there are probably others that float your boat more than 2002. Yes, this match boasted fun moment after fun moment after fun moment, but it wasn't the most groundbreaking in terms of an overarching direction. Also - and your mileage may vary here - but I'd actually have preferred to see Angle win in hindsight. I can't argue too heavily against putting Triple H over, though, considering his big return from a serious injury.

Star of the Show: Steve Austin. Once again, Stone Cold was the focal point - although not as severely as in 1997. He still drove this match forwards, sparking it into life whenever it looked like stalling. His furious reaction to being eliminated in the final four should go down as an all-time great Rumble tantrum.

4. 2004


WWE


Where: Wachovia Center - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What: An obviously uncomfortable match to watch in hindsight, given that it features Chris Benoit winning from no. 1. Also, this seems to be the serious person's favourite Rumble or the thinking fan's favourite Rumble. It was certainly a lot grittier than most others, focusing on the story of intelligence and guts over the typical Royal Rumble dramatics. Benoit was smaller than most of his foes and therefore had to think of other ways to beat them - typified by his unique, agonisingly slow final elimination of Big Show.

The Good: This is like if the 1995 Rumble was done properly. Rather than blitz the no. 1 entrant through the match just to say they did it, WWE actually set this up properly, stacking the odds against Benoit without ever having him come across like a superhero. There were also occasional big, exciting moments amo

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10 Things We Learned From WWE Royal Rumble 2018

10 Things We Learned From WWE Royal Rumble 2019

Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]