The Royal Rumble match doesn’t just provide a WrestleMania card with a credible main-eventer, but it also produces a freshly-made megastar for the upcoming year. Wrestlers old and new have all dreamt of walking into the historic 30-person battle royal and outlasting all 29 other competitors to be the one person that the entire wrestling world is talking about for weeks to come.
It’s safe to say that the majority of pro-wrestling’s Mount Rushmore have a Royal Rumble victory to their credit, but who truly stands the test of time as one of the all-time greatest Royal Rumble winners? Who will go down as Mr. Royal Rumble in years to come? Who inspires the likes of Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Drew McIntyre as they all step into the next instalment of the iconic event this Sunday in Houston?
We have those five superstars. Make sure you share your own personal Rumble G.O.A.Ts in the comments section.
1. Ric Flair – 1992
‘The Nature Boy’ is indeed synonymous with all things wrestling, including the Royal Rumble. In 1992, Flair made his first big splash in the then-WWF, entering his first Rumble match at number 3 (an early spot for such a massive star) and went the distance to win the whole thing and capture his first WWE Championship to boot. Flair’s victory will forever go down in history as one of the first to truly shake up the main event scene.
In the early 90s, fans were used to seeing the likes of Hulk Hogan (who had won the previous two Rumble matches), Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage dominate the championship picture, so not only was it refreshing for WWF fans but also a huge moment for those that were dipping their toes into WCW and other territorial promotions liked to Ric Flair.
Naitch last elimianted Sid, with the help of ‘The Hulkster’ himself after battling through some of the biggest names on the WWF roster, proving to the world that Flair was indeed as big of a star as he claimed he was. Flair then went on to battle ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage at WrestleMania 8, leaving a pretty impressive legacy behind during the early stages of his mainstream career.
2. Asuka – 2018
‘The Empress’ will forever be in the history books for becoming the first ever female superstar to win a Royal Rumble match. WWE introduced an all-female Rumble as part of the Women’s Evolution, allowing the inaugural edition to main event the 2018 Rumble event. Perhaps most of the WWE Universe will look back on the match and remember Ronda Rousey’s titanic debut in the closing moments of the show, but I personally reflect on the match’s winner: Asuka.
The former NXT Women’s Champion was poised to head into WrestleMania as a huge threat to either brands Women’s Champion, so naturally she dominated in the Rumble match itself, eliminating several high-profile superstars from various generations.
WWE might not have capitalised on her Rumble victory with the win over Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania, but they at least gave her enough credibility to her name to be considered one of the top female performers on the roster today.
3. Edge – 2010
‘The Rated R Superstar’ shocked the world at the 2010 Royal Rumble, making a surprise return as the 29th entrant. The crowd were sent into a frenzy after hearing Alter Bridge blare throughout the arena for the first time in months. Edge was sidelined with a torn ACL in the Spring of 2009, which was meant to keep him away from the ring for the best part of a year. Although Edge had a mission to WWE in time for that year’s WrestleMania, which of course, he nailed.
Edge was one of the few names not thrown into the mix of winning that years Rumble. Shawn Michaels was one of the favourites, along with John Cena and Chris Jericho. Chances are if it were to happen these days, we’d be clued in by the rumour mill, but luckily the majority of wrestling fans were still living in blissful ignorance and were overjoyed to see Edge in action once again.
Edge went on to challenge his former partner Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship at ‘Mania 26. Edge failed to win on that particular night, but eventually found himself clutching onto the big gold belt in the not too distant future. Edge’s return will forever be one of my favourite Rumble moments, along with another certain someone who made a stunning return in the closing moments of a Rumble match.
4. John Cena – 2008
John Cena was in a very similar situation to Edge in the run-up to the 2008 Royal Rumble. Having been put on the injury reserve list for around 6 months, the New York crowd were never expecting to see Cena make a triumphant return so early into his recovery. But as we all know, Cena is one of the most motivated performers to ever step inside the squared circle, and delivered one heck of a surprise when he entered the Rumble match at number 30.
Cena’s entrance sent the wrestling world into disarray when he hit the ring and started eliminating folks left, right and centre. In a matter of seconds, the WWE Universe were fully behind the leader of the Cenation. The biggest star in the WWE had yet to win a Royal Rumble, so it made sense for him to take home the win in the world’s most famous arena. Cena last eliminated Triple H, which was just the cherry on top of a fantastic return worthy of Cena’s career highlight reel.
Cena went on to challenge Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 24, Triple H also managed to find his way into the affair to make it a triple threat title match. Orton retained but Cena naturally went on to have an incredible year following his big return at the Royal Rumble.
5. Shawn Michaels – 1995 & 1996
There’s no other name that rings through everyone’s minds when they think of the Royal Rumble match. ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ won back-to-back Royal Rumbles in the mid-nineties, fighting tooth and nail to make it from the number 1 spot all the way through to the final two. It was the first time a superstar achieved such a feat, which was pretty much unfathomable when the match was first put together. HBK personified the challenge that awaits superstars in the Rumble match, and the crowd ate it all up both years on the trot.
Michaels produced one of the most iconic Rumble moments in his first win; dangling over the top rope, barely holding his one foot off the mat so he could skim the cat and jump back in to eliminate The British Bulldog. Michaels then went on to battle for the WWF Championship at both WrestleMania 11 and 12, facing good pal Kevin Nash and then Bret Hart in the broadway Ironman match.
So if we’d ever want to put the moniker of Mr. Royal Rumble on any one superstar, then it would have to be HB Shizzle. Shawn isn’t the only superstar to win more than one Rumble match, but he was the first, and if you want to consider those ‘Rumble moments’ that are played on repeat around this time of year, then you can rest assured that Michaels will be heavily featured.
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