Alright, time for a big task.
While I could’ve just ranked all of the Rumble matches themselves and been done with it, I personally think ranking the winners is much more interesting.
There’s so much to consider when it comes to putting all of the competitors in a ranked list like this: How did they perform in the match? What were their stories going into the match? What did they do following their win? Not to mention outside factors surrounding the match and its winner.
So what am I ranking these men (and woman) based on? The main things I’ll be taking into account are their performance in the Rumble match (Entry Number, Eliminations, How did they actually win?) and what they did in the months following their Rumble victory, paying special attention to their title opportunity at the following Wrestlemania.
Finally, for people who won multiple Rumbles, I’m grouping their wins together and taking an average, so it doesn’t clog up the list.
26 – Vince Mcmahon – 1999
The owner of the WWE booked himself to win the Royal Rumble. Does any more really need to be said? Well, let’s say it anyway.
The ’99 Rumble was a pretty underwhelming one anyway, with the focus being taken away from the action in the ring far too often to see whatever Stone Cold and Vince Mcmahon were getting up to backstage. Which meant we couldn’t get a lot of the staples that make a Royal Rumble so much fun to watch.
At face value, Vince’s stats are quite impressive, he entered at Number 2, which is essentially the same as Number 1, and lasted over 56 minutes before winning the match. However, when you see what actually happened, it gets significantly more underwhelming. For one, Mcmahon was only in the match to eliminate Stone Cold, that was all he wanted to do, he didn’t care about winning the damn thing. He also spent most of the match sitting around on commentary or in the bowels of the arena beating up Stone Cold, and he was only able to succeed with an awful lot of help from just about everyone.
As for what he did afterwards, he forfeited his title shot because – and I can’t stress this enough – he never wanted to win the match, however in doing so, the title shot defaulted to the runner-up of the match which was, you guessed it, Stone Cold, COMPLETELY defeating the point of Mcmahon even entering the match in the first place.
It seemed like a really roundabout way to get Austin into the main event of Wrestlemania 15, and they really should’ve just given Stone Cold his third consecutive Rumble win.
25 – “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan – 1988
“First the worst” as they say…
I get that since it was the first ever Rumble match, WWE hadn’t quite worked out exactly what they wanted to do with it just yet, but this whole thing was just so underwhelming.
For a start, there were only 20 men in this match instead of the 30 that would be in from ’89 onwards and, after entering at number 13, Jim eliminated a measly 3 men before being declared the winner. Nevertheless, that’s all fine as long as he can use the momentum that something like winning the first ever Royal Rumble would give you, so what did he do two months later and Wrestlemania 3? Well…..ummm ran in and caused his enemies, The Iron Shiek and Nikolai Volkov to win their match via disqualification…..right.
Unfortunately the first ever Rumble match isn’t quite the amazing spectacle it would soon become, but everything’s gotta start somewhere.
24 – Roman Reigns – 2015
I really wanted to put Roman higher than this, but I just couldn’t do it.
It’s hard to describe the 2015 Rumble as anything other than a disaster. I felt like WWE were actively trying to piss off its fanbase by choosing to do the exact opposite of what we wanted to see at every opportunity, with things like Daniel Bryan being eliminated super early, and the Big Show and Kane boringly dropping everyone out of the ring like they were moving furniture.
It was all ok though because a conquering hero that we all loved was going to come and put a stop to it! A hero called……Roman Reigns……oh. Roman Reigns has perhaps never been hated more than he was on this night (and that includes when he “retired” The Undertaker in 2017) and it’s not hard to see why.
Roman had been booked terribly since the breakup of the Shield, to the point where any momentum he would’ve had coming out of that was long dead. It’s been said many times, but you have to fuck up HARD to get a crowd to boo The Rock in 2015, but Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble did just that.
23 – Big John Studd – 1989
“Second the best”, well, not quite.
While the match itself saw a whole host of vast improvements from its progenitor the previous year, the same cannot be said for the treatment of the winner.
Before the stipulation where the winner gets a world championship match at Wrestlemania was added, the whole thing seemed to feel rather purposeless; while it was still full of the fun things we expect from a Rumble, there didn’t feel like there were any real stakes.
As for Studd’s performance in the match, it was a fairly standard performance from a Rumble winner, entering at the ever-so-popular 27 and lasting a little over 12 minutes, with a tad underwhelming 2 eliminations. However, once again it’s what happened to him in the aftermath of his victory that drops him down this far. While I’m aware of what a big deal Studd was in his day, at Wrestlemania 4, all he was just a special referee for Andre vs Jake Roberts.
Imagine if that’s what became of this year’s Rumble winner, we’d all be fuming, and as such, I can’t bring myself to place it any higher.
22 – Yokozuna – 1993
Honestly, I’m surprised that this one got as high as it did.
Yokozuna’s performance in the ’93 Rumble was actually fairly impressive, lasting for just under 15 minutes and eliminating 7 men on his way to victory. Admittedly, his win was slightly undercut by the fact he won by throwing Randy Savage out after Savage stupidly tried to go for a pinfall…in the Royal Rumble.
Once again though, Yokozuna falls this far down this list thanks to what happened following his victory. At Wrestlemania 9, Yokozuna fought Bret Hart for the title and won, becoming the WWF Champion! That’s great! Well hold up for a second, we’re not done. For one, it wasn’t a clean win, since Bret was blinded by salt being thrown in his eyes. Secondly, the match was awful, thanks to Yokozuna skipping a large portion of the planned match due to being gassed. Finally, after Yokozuna’s victory, who should come out but Hulk Hogan.
Oh cool, are they going to staredown and set up a future confrontation? Are they going to restart the match so Bret can reclaim his title?
Instead, Mr Fugi challenged Hogan to a match right there and then and Hogan beat Yokozuna in short fashion. Oh.
21 – Randy Orton – 2009 & 2017
I’m not still salty about it, honestly, I’m not.
You’d think a multiple time winner of the Royal Rumble shouldn’t be this low down on the list, but let’s break this down.
First up, 2009, and it’s not a good sign when I had to look up who won this match because I genuinely couldn’t remember (it was the only one I couldn’t remember too.) In addition to this, such a large portion of the match was dedicated to Triple H vs Legacy it shoved a lot of other cool stuff out of the way in the match. Orton actually lasted an impressive 48 minutes after entering at number 8, however thanks to Legacy doing a lot of the work for him, he only got 3 eliminations.
He then went on to fight Triple H for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 25 in one of the biggest anti-climaxes ever. The build to the match was brilliant, with wife-kissing, Mcmahon punting and home invasions galore, and then the match happened and it was perhaps one of the most boring matches I’ve ever seen. Oh, and Randy lost, so that sucks.
So now we look to 2017 for some redemption an- Oh God the memories are returning, so much pain, so much pain.
I try my best to avoid checking the betting odds in the week before a wrestling event for fear of spoilers, but in 2017 it was rather hard to avoid because they were just so odd. Not only did no-one in the IWC really have any clue who was going to win, but the betting odds were fluctuating by the day, until suddenly out of absolutely nowhere, Randy Orton shoots up to the top with 7/2 odds of winning; and we all got very worried.
Then, following the worst number 30 entrance in history (thank you Roman) our fears were realised as Randy Orton claimed his second Royal Rumble victory.
His performance was nothing special this time around, lasting 20 minutes and ending up with only a single elimination. Granted, he did win the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania, but he would just as quickly lose it to Jinder Mahal, and I don’t want to talk about that right now because the pain just won’t stop.
20 – Sheamus – 2012
If you read these lists of mine often, then you might think I have it out for Sheamus a bit, and you’d be right.
While I think he’s been brilliant since teaming up with Cesaro, but I entirely hated pretty much everything he did before that; Case in point, the 2012 Royal Rumble and what followed it.
Sheamus’ performance was the definition of a “standard” Royal Rumble performance: entering at 23, lasting about 20 minutes and eliminating 3 men of little consequence along the way. With this Rumble, however, you have to factor in the fact that Jericho was originally planned to win this match, but when that got leaked online, WWE panicked and changed it for the sake of changing it. I understand the need for intrigue and mystery, but switching Chris Jericho for Sheamus? Come on.
Then what happened after. I really don’t want to talk about it, so I’ll just say 18 seconds and leave it at that. Let us shed a small tear and move on.
19 – The Rock – 2000
While I want to just sit here and type “The Rock didn’t win the 2000 Royal Rumble” over and over again, let’s look past it.
Generally, the 2000 Royal Rumble was a tad overshadowed by what came before it, with Triple H and Mick Foley putting on a brilliant match for the WWF championship. Not to mention, this was in an era where all of the big names were either out with injury, or just building themselves up, so it’s not a very star-studded match.
Rocky eliminated 4 men on his way to “victory” in this match. With the thing I will never stop mentioning, where both of The Rock’s feet touched the floor before Big Show’s meaning – and say it with me boys and girls – The Rock didn’t win the 2000 Royal Rumble. I don’t care if they used it in a future storyline, I’m still upset about it.
Speaking of future storylines though, The Rock ended up being on the losing end of his Wrestlemania 16 match, in yet another main event that became all about the Mcmahon’s stupid infighting.
18 – Batista – 2005 & 2014
Batista’s Rumble wins are both incredibly memorable ones, although not exactly for the best of reasons.
Everything was going rather well for Batista in the 2005 Rumble, he had a great storyline lined up for him and was being able to put on a fairly dominant display on his way to a Rumble win, but it all went wrong at the last possible second.
The story is well known, but let’s recap it again because it’s hilarious.
So Batista lifts Cena up for the Batista bomb for what is presumably the finish, but physics decides it’s having none of that. Instead, the force Batista lifts Cena up with causes Cena to over-rotate and it all ends up with both Cena and Batista falling out of the ring at the exact same time. Seriously, watch it back, there was no way to tell who hit first.
Unlike 1994, this wasn’t supposed to happen, so now we have mass confusion, with the referees stalling for time until they get some word from backstage as to what the fuck they’re supposed to do. At which point a furious Vince Mcmahon storms down to the ring (which is always funny), and upon launching himself into the ring, tears BOTH HIS QUADS. I thought Kevin Nash tearing one by walking was bad, but both of them, simultaneously, by simply getting into the ring.
Eventually, the match is restarted and Batista gets rid of Cena in short order, but his win will forever be overshadowed by the chaos that came before it.
Oh God, we’re still not done. Now we must turn our attention to 2014 and see what horrors it holds within.
Things went wrong here long before the Rumble even started, as Batista’s return was intended to be a surprise, but WHOOPS the internet got involved again and it leaked. Which meant instead of the big adrenaline high you get from seeing a huge return in the middle of the Rumble, we got a very slow and very boring promo on Raw to mark his return.
The main story of the 2014 Royal Rumble was about a little man who wasn’t even in the match, by the name of Daniel Bryan, you might’ve heard of him. Fans were so desperate to see Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, that any winner not named Daniel Bryan was going to get booed out of the building. Enter Batista.
I could tell you his stats, but it really doesn’t matter, the moment Batista eliminated Roman Reigns to win the match, all that would ever be remembered are the boos, the never-ending boos.
Batista would eventually lose his title match at Wrestlemania 30 after the aforementioned little man inserted himself in the match for one of the best Wrestlemania endings ever. Just a shame Batista was a complete non-factor in all of it.
17 – Lex Luger – 1994
So we’ve talked about the Rumble that accidentally ended in a draw, now let’s talk about the one that was supposed to.
Luger actually had the better performance of the two winners in the ’94 Rumble, with 6 eliminations in a little over 20 minutes. Normally I’d take how exactly they won into account, but the fact that both Luger and Bret Hart eliminated each other simultaneously makes it quite hard for me to place.
I’m just going to have to go on what happened to him following his Rumble win and well…let’s just say Bret was the real winner. After some confusion, it was announced that both Hart and Luger would wrestle two matches at Wrestlemania 10 and Luger won the right to fight the champion (Yokozuna) first. That match ended when Mr Perfect (the special referee) disqualified Luger.
Luger had pretty much every advantage going into Wrestlemania 10 and he couldn’t put it away, not to mention how his WWF Championship match was just used to further a separate storyline, not really anything worthy of a Royal Rumble winner.
16 – Alberto Del Rio – 2011
There are a number of reasons why Del Rio placed this low. First of all, Del Rio very nearly didn’t win the Royal Rumble, because none other than Santino Marella had rolled out of the ring earlier in the match and nearly won by blind-siding Del Rio after he believed he had won.
Although, when he finally did win the match, things didn’t really go much better for him, as his World Heavyweight Championship match opened Wrestlemania 27, and he lost to Edge, who then proceeded to damage Del Rio’s car. Even though Edge would retire very shortly after, Del Rio was once again denied the championship thanks to Christian beating him for it the very next month.
While Del Rio would enjoy a brief run with the WWE Championship later in 2011 thanks to the Money in the Bank briefcase and Kevin Nash, his Royal Rumble win was most definitely a failure.
15 – Braun Strowman – 2018
(Greatest Royal Rumble Event)
You’d think the winner of the “Greatest Royal Rumble” would be a bit higher than this wouldn’t you?
Well, for one thing, this Royal Rumble was the “greatest” in size alone, with a record 50 entrants. Although at face value, Braun had an extraordinary showing – lasting 22 minutes and eliminating a record 13 men – ultimately I can’t bring myself to place him any higher simply because the match didn’t mean anything.
This was the very first of WWE’s event in Saudi Arabia, which meant nothing of real consequence was ever going to come from it. All Braun got for winning was a trophy which was destroyed in a couple of weeks and an ugly looking championship belt which we never saw again. Braun would win the Money in the Bank briefcase following his Rumble win but that ended in disaster too.
If we get a second GRR event in 2019, I certainly hope something better comes out of it than 2018’s.
14 – Shawn Michaels – 1995 & 1996
Again, someone who feels like they should probably be a little higher on the list, but the heartbreak kid’s Royal Rumble accomplishments really aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Shawn Michaels is often touted as being the first man to win the Royal Rumble from the number 1 spot, but that achievement becomes a whole lot less impressive when you actually watch the 1995 Royal Rumble. First off, entrants were coming in at a lightning pace, seemingly at 30-second intervals instead of the usual 90. This significantly decreased the run time of the match, with a match that usually lasts over an hour being decreased to a mere 38 minutes.
In addition to this, the list of participants in the match where a who’s who of absolutely no-one in WWF at the time. HBK, British Bulldog and Owen Hart were the only people of note in the match, so while Michaels’ 8 eliminations sound impressive, there wasn’t exactly anyone else in there to stand up to him.
Then he went to Wrestlemania 11 and lost to Deisel in boring fashion thanks to Sid being an idiot.
So why’s he in the middle of the list and not lower down? Well, his consecutive victory in 1996 was significantly more impressive than his first.
The field was full of legitimate competitors this time around, so when Michaels’ scored 8 eliminations this time around it seemed like a proper achievement. In addition to this, HBK won by eliminating Diesel, who had thwarted his attempts at the WWF Championship a year earlier.
Then following his win the ’96 Rumble, Shawn Michaels would go onto defeat Bret Hart in the classic 60 minute Iron Man match at Wrestlemania 12 to claim the WWF Championship and fulfil the boy-hood dream we keep hearing about.
So that’s part 1! Thank you very much for reading this far, part 2 will be coming your way on Monday, so make sure you follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo to see it as soon as it comes out. Until then, please share this around on social media and I’ll see you soon!