AN OVER THE TOP TRADITION
In the electrifying world of WWE, nothing compares to the heart-pounding excitement of the Royal Rumble. A spectacle of strength, strategy, and sheer unpredictability, this iconic event has carved its unique niche in the hearts of wrestling enthusiasts around the globe. As we gear up for another year of breathtaking moments and stunning upsets, let’s take a nostalgic journey through the annals of WWE history. In this article, we dive into the top 10 fan-favorite Royal Rumble matches that have left an indelible mark on the WWE universe.
From the unexpected debuts to the dramatic last-man-standing showdowns, each Royal Rumble match tells a story of triumph, tenacity, and the unyielding spirit of WWE Superstars. These matches are not just about winning; they are about the glory, the suspense, and the raw emotions that grip both the wrestlers and the fans alike. Whether it’s the roar of the crowd as a surprise entrant makes their way to the ring, or the edge-of-your-seat tension of the final few minutes, the Royal Rumble never fails to deliver a spectacle.
Join us as we count down these unforgettable matches, revisiting the most jaw-dropping eliminations, the longest-lasting warriors, and the underdog stories that have become the stuff of legends. From the groundbreaking early rumbles of the ’90s to the high-octane showdowns of the modern era, each match on our list has earned its place in the annals of WWE lore. So, without further ado, let’s step into the ring and relive the top 10 fan-favorite WWE Royal Rumble matches of all time.
RUTHLESS AGGRESSION RUMBLE
WINNER: BROCK LESNAR
LONGEST LASTING: CHRIS JERICHO (39M)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: CHRIS JERICHO (6)
In a groundbreaking moment for WWE, the 2003 Royal Rumble match brought an unprecedented format, featuring an equal split of 15 wrestlers each from Raw and SmackDown. This event marked the first time such a division was implemented under the Royal Rumble banner. The match witnessed a dramatic twist right from the outset, as Chris Jericho cunningly eliminated Shawn Michaels, the very first entrant, by stealthily attacking him from behind.
Jericho’s performance was nothing short of spectacular, enduring a formidable 39 minutes in the ring and achieving six eliminations. This Royal Rumble also served as the debut stage for future WWE icons like Batista and John Cena, adding to the match’s historic significance. As the battle intensified, the final showdown narrowed down to four formidable contenders: Kane, The Undertaker, Batista, and Brock Lesnar. In a climactic end, it came down to a face-off between Lesnar and The Undertaker. Demonstrating the vigor of youth triumphing over experience, Lesnar emerged victorious in his first-ever Royal Rumble appearance, securing a memorable win in this landmark match.
NO TIES ALLOWED
LONGEST LASTING: CHRIS BENOIT (47M 26S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: BATISTA (6)
The 2005 Royal Rumble stands as a pivotal event in WWE’s storied history, distinguished by its exceptional array of talent. Wrestling greats such as Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Batista, John Cena, and Booker T were among the competitors, adding a layer of star-studded excitement to the match.
This Royal Rumble was notably marked by Eddie Guerrero’s final appearance in such an event, entering the ring first, a position he shared with his good friend, Chris Benoit. The climax of the match was a dramatic and unexpected twist involving the two rising stars of the company, Batista and Cena. In an unplanned moment, both wrestlers went over the top rope simultaneously, leading to an unforeseen pause in the action. Vince McMahon, deciding on the spot, ordered the match to be restarted. Amidst this chaos, McMahon suffered a severe injury, tearing both quads as he angrily leapt into the ring. However, the match continued, and in the end, Batista triumphed over Cena, securing his place at WrestleMania 21 in a memorable finish to a historic Royal Rumble.
WINNER: RANDY ORTON
LONGEST LASTING: TRIPLE H (50M)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: TRIPLE H & BIG SHOW (6)
The 2009 Royal Rumble was a showcase for Randy Orton and his cohorts, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, collectively known as Legacy. Orton, who entered as the eighth participant, frequently found himself in precarious situations, only to be rescued by Rhodes and DiBiase.
The event was also marked by the return of Rob Van Dam, who made a one-off appearance in WWE after a near two-year hiatus. Another highlight was The Undertaker’s performance, where he demonstrated his enduring prowess by lasting over 30 minutes in the ring. Nonetheless, the central narrative revolved around the rivalry between Triple H and Orton. In a climactic turn of events, it was Orton who ultimately outmaneuvered Triple H, claiming his first Royal Rumble victory and solidifying his status in WWE history.
AN UNEXPECTED ENDING
WINNER: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
LONGEST LASTING: FINN BALOR (57M 38S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: ROMAN REIGNS & FINN BALOR (4)
The 2018 Royal Rumble event was a landmark in WWE history, not only featuring the traditional men’s Royal Rumble match but also introducing the inaugural women’s Royal Rumble, which was the highlight of the evening. Despite the historic women’s match, the men’s Royal Rumble match stood out as a spectacular event, widely regarded as one of the best of the decade.
Roman Reigns entered the match as the favorite, poised to secure his second Royal Rumble victory. However, the match took an unexpected turn. Prominent superstars like Randy Orton and John Cena were key players in the final moments, but it was Shinsuke Nakamura who stole the spotlight. In a stunning debut Rumble performance, Nakamura triumphed by eliminating Reigns, securing a surprising and memorable victory.
A RETURN WE DIDN’T SEE COMING
WINNER: JOHN CENA
LONGEST LASTING: BATISTA (37M 46S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: TRIPLE H (6)
The 2008 Royal Rumble match is remembered as one of the more remarkable events in WWE history. Setting the stage with intensity, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the winner and runner-up from the previous year’s Rumble, kicked off the match. They exerted a strong presence in the early stages, though they were not major factors in the climactic moments.
This Rumble also featured past winners Triple H and Batista, both of whom were eager to add another Royal Rumble victory to their accolades. Yet, the most memorable moment of this Rumble was the unexpected return of John Cena. Making a surprise comeback as the 30th entrant, Cena’s early return from injury electrified the crowd. In a dramatic finale, Cena performed the Attitude Adjustment on Triple H, clinching his first-ever Royal Rumble victory in a truly unforgettable moment.
EDGE OF MY SEAT
WINNER: DREW MCINTYRE
LONGEST LASTING: DREW MCINTYRE (34M 11S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: BROCK LESNAR (13)
The 2020 men’s Royal Rumble match was a standout event, showcasing WWE at its most thrilling. In an unusual twist, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar entered the fray as the first participant and swiftly took control of the first half of the match.
Lesnar, known as “The Beast Incarnate,” displayed his dominance by eliminating an impressive 13 contenders. However, the momentum shifted dramatically when Drew McIntyre stepped in, receiving an overwhelming reaction from the crowd as he put an end to Lesnar’s reign of terror. Adding to the excitement, Edge made a sensational return to WWE after a nine-year absence, sending the crowd at Minute Maid Park into a frenzy. Edge’s comeback journey saw him reach the final four, only to be eliminated by Roman Reigns. The climax of the night, however, was reserved for McIntyre, who triumphed in this extraordinary Royal Rumble match, securing his victory over the “Big Dog.”
FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP
WINNER: CHRIS BENOIT
LONGEST LASTING: CHRIS BENOIT (1H 1M 35S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: CHRIS BENOIT (6)
This match marked only the second instance in WWE history where a wrestler triumphed in the Royal Rumble after starting from the challenging number one spot. However, this historic achievement wasn’t the only highlight of the match, as there were several other notable moments.
Randy Orton, the Intercontinental Champion at the time, put on an impressive performance. Adding to the drama, his adversary Mick Foley made a surprise move by taking Test’s place in the match, leading to the simultaneous elimination of both Orton and himself. Additionally, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar delivered a stunning F5 to Goldberg, a moment that left the audience in awe. Capitalizing on this, Kurt Angle swiftly eliminated Goldberg from the match. The event was packed with action, making it a memorable match. However, given the winner, this is a difficult match for many to revisit, and one WWE hardly acknowledges anymore, understandably.
ATTITUDE ERA’S FINAL RUMBLE
WINNER: STEVE AUSTIN
LONGEST LASTING: KANE (53M 46S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: KANE (11)
The 2001 Royal Rumble is often hailed as one of the finest in WWE’s history, part of a trio of strong pay-per-view events that kicked off the year. In this match, Kane emerged as the standout performer, delivering what many consider to be one of the greatest performances of his Hall of Fame career.
Entering as the sixth participant, Kane showcased his dominance by eliminating 11 wrestlers, setting a record that remained unbeaten for 13 years. He faced formidable competition from other top-tier talents like The Rock, The Undertaker, and Steve Austin. The final showdown saw Austin and Kane vying for the win. In a decisive moment, Austin’s use of several brutal chair shots tipped the scales in his favor, enabling him to become the first and only wrestler to win three Royal Rumble matches.
A CLASSIC FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
WINNER: RIC FLAIR
LONGEST LASTING: RIC FLAIR (1H 2S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: SID JUSTICE (6)
The 1992 Royal Rumble match holds a unique place in WWE history, as it wasn’t just a battle for a title shot at WrestleMania, but rather a fierce competition for the then-vacant WWE Championship. This event is often regarded as one of the greatest Royal Rumble matches ever.
The lineup was a who’s who of wrestling legends, featuring former WWE Champions like The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage. Additionally, stars such as Ric Flair and Roddy Piper added to the match’s star power. The spotlight, however, was on Ric Flair, who entered as the third contestant. Demonstrating remarkable endurance, Flair lasted an hour in the ring. His crowning moment came when he eliminated Sid, clinching a hard-fought victory to win the WWE Championship, marking a memorable highlight in his illustrious career.
THE TEXAS TWOSOME
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
LONGEST LASTING: EDGE (44M 2S)
MOST ELIMINATIONS: GREAT KHALI (7)
The 2007 Royal Rumble was a landmark event in WWE history, as it was the first to feature superstars from Raw, SmackDown, and ECW together. The match was executed with precision, keeping fans on the edge of their seats with its unpredictability.
The ring was graced with some of the biggest names in wrestling, including Edge, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Kane, and The Undertaker. For a significant part of the match, Rated-RKO (Edge and Orton) showcased their teamwork, until they were both eliminated by Shawn Michaels (HBK). The final moments of the match were particularly spellbinding, with Michaels and The Undertaker delivering a spectacular performance, complete with The Undertaker donning the proverbial “crimson mask.” In a historic finish, The Undertaker, entering as the 30th contestant, achieved a first in Royal Rumble history by winning from this position, triumphing over his fellow Texan, Shawn Michaels.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP
As we wrap up our journey through the top 10 fan-favorite Royal Rumble matches, we’re reminded of the unique thrill and drama these events have brought to the WWE universe. Each match, a blend of athleticism, surprise, and pure spectacle, captures the essence of WWE’s storied legacy.
The Royal Rumble isn’t just a match; it’s a celebration of the unexpected and a testament to the wrestlers’ enduring spirit. These top 10 matches highlight the pinnacle of WWE storytelling, filled with unforgettable moments and legendary performances.
Looking ahead to future Rumbles, we carry the excitement and memories of these iconic events. They remind us why we’re drawn to this sport: the adrenaline, the anticipation, and the remarkable feats of strength and resilience. The legacy of these Royal Rumbles will forever resonate, setting the stage for new legends, new stories, and unforgettable moments in the years to come. Until then, we’ll keep reliving these monumental matches, where the spirit of WWE shines the brightest.