Ahh, the WWE‘s Royal Rumble! Every January, there is at least one thing all wrestling fans can agree on: we love us some Rumble. 30 men and 30 women (sometimes 40!) come to the ring in timed intervals one at a time for the ultimate shot at immortality: main eventing the granddaddy of them all, WrestleMania. Started in 1988 to try and build buzz around the yearly spectacle, the match has become the non-Mania highlight of many fans WWE calendar year. Sunday will see the 2019 version of the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble match emanate from Chase Field in Phoenix so to help celebrate, we decided to rank each and every Rumble match.
Now, we will be clustering these until the top 10, with each match in the grouping also ranked. This will only take into account the Rumble match itself, nothing else that happened on the PPV. Of course, this is our opinion as well, you may (and will) disagree, but that is what makes wrestling fans great, no? Also: the 2004 edition of the match will be discussed–which was won by Chris Benoit. With that said, Bleeding Cool‘s views on his performance in that match should not be seen–in any way, shape, or form–to be any kind of endorsement of the events that took place in his life outside of the squared circle. Additionally, last year’s Greatest Royal Rumble is not included on this list.
With all that out of the way, let’s get ready for the Royal Rumble!
32-Royal Rumble 2014 (Winner: Batista)
31- Royal Rumble 1990 (Winner: Hulk Hogan)
30-Royal Rumble 1989 (Winner: Big John Studd)
29-Royal Rumble 1991 (Winner: Hulk Hogan)
28- Royal Rumble 2003 (Winner: Brock Lesnar)
This first grouping includes three of the first four Rumble matches, and that is mostly due to the feeling out process the first few had. It only took them two years to give Hogan two wins in a row, which for back then shows some real restraint form them. Brock’s win in 2003 was telegraphed completely going into the match, and while there is some solid action it feels like a slog to his coronation. As far as the worst, it would be tough to argue against 2014. Batista winning and flipping off the fans as they boo, the crowd hijacking the match trying to will Daniel Bryan into winning even though he wasn’t in the match. It was a disaster.
27- Royal Rumble 2009 (Winner: Randy Orton)
26- Royal Rumble 2012 (Winner: Sheamus)
25- Royal Rumble 2013 (Winner: John Cena)
24- Royal Rumble 2017 (Winner: Randy Orton)
23- Royal Rumble 2015 (Winner: Roman Reigns)
Randy Orton’s two wins fall into the next group, as we have nothing but modern Rumbles here. Randy’s first win was a boring slog, while his second was plagued by pacing issues and weird booking decisions. John Cena’s second win setting up the “Once in a Lifetime…again” match with The Rock was inevitable, but with him winning before the main event it took all the intrigue out of it. Sheamus’ win was so forgettable a year that when compiling this list I forgot it existed. Sadly, a lot of the modern era Rumbles lack some of the suspense going in because it had been obvious for weeks who was going to win.
22- Royal Rumble 1999 (Winner: Mr. McMahon)
21- Royal Rumble 2016 (Winner: Triple H)
20- Royal Rumble 1994 (Winners: Bret Hart and Lex Luger)
19- Royal Rumble 2002 (Winner: Triple H)
18- Royal Rumble 2000 (Winner: The Rock)
Starting to get to some well-booked matches here. Well, almost. The 2016 Rumble was more fun than anyone thought it would be and saw the debut of AJ Styles, so it will always have historical significance. While it was genius having Vince McMahon win a Rumble match, it was such a horrible, sloppy mess that it can’t be put higher. The 1994 match was the only tie in Rumble history and told a great story right up until the end. They timed the double elimination perfectly, to this day I am still not sure who the hell touched first. 2000 and 2002 were about quality ring work, and the right person won each year. The Rock winning at MSG made perfect sense, while Triple H returning to the ring from his gruesome quad injury was the only possible outcome in 2002.
17- Royal Rumble 1993 (Winner: Yokozuna)
16- Royal Rumble 2005 (Winner: Batista)
15- Royal Rumble 2007 (Winner: The Undertaker)
14- Royal Rumble 2004 (Winner: Chris Benoit)
13- Royal Rumble 1996 (Winner: Shawn Michaels)
12- Royal Rumble 1997 (Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin)
11- Royal Rumble 2018 Men’s Match (Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura)
All of these were well-booked matches. Yokozuna winning in 1993 was the first truly dominant performance in Rumble history. The 2005 Rumble was good throughout, and then the controversy at the end and hilarious moment with Vince makes it a classic. 2007 felt like anyone could win, and the ending with Michaels and Taker might be the best ending to a Rumble match period. 2004 and Benoit going wire to wire from #1 to winning was a great achievement, even if he wasn’t the first to do it. 1996 was Michaels second win, and the stuff with Shawn and Diesel made it memorable. Stone Cold’s first win felt dastardly and cemented his cool heel status. And at the time of his winning last year, it felt like Shinsuke Nakamura was on the path to superstardom. Plus: he eliminated Roman Reigns last.
10- Royal Rumble 1988 (Winner: Hacksaw Jim Duggan)
The first Rumble match was only 20 superstars and had tons of action and it was anyone’s match. Really the only huge name in it was The Ultimate Warrior (who never won a Rumble match. Interesting). Just so much solid ring work and brutal brawling all over in this one. The first ever entrant into a Rumble match? Bret Hart, who set the standard for #1 being the workhorse lasting over 20 minutes. Also? Watch that match and tell me Hacksaw Jim Duggan was not as over as Hogan and such back then. Go ahead, I will wait.
9- Royal Rumble 2011 (Winner: Alberto Del Rio)
This one is the weird 40-man-year. Having CM Punk rule the middle of the match with Nexus was genius and introduced a different kind of strategy and psychology to the match. Of course, John Cena came in and decimated them. But before that, it was bold and important. All kinds of great ring action. In the end, Santino Marella almost winning a spot at the end was perfect, and Alberto came out with mega-heat on the win. Perfect.
8- Royal Rumble Women’s Match 2018 (Winner: Asuka)
What a great first women’s Rumble match. Sasha Banks going 55 minutes. All of the returning female superstars getting to participate in that moment. Genuine intrigue over who would win. Asuka winning was fantastic, squashing all worry that the main roster would chew her up (at that time anyway). Just a great, well-paced match. I can’t wait to see what Sunday’s match brings.
7- Royal Rumble 1995 (Winner: Shawn Michaels)
Shawn going wire to wire was one of the most impressive things this fan had ever seen at the time. The visual of him hanging onto the top rope and frantically trying not to let both his feet touch the floor is one of the great Rumble moments of all-time. That the British Bulldog also lasting to the end from number 2 gets overshadowed, and it shouldn’t. This was Shawn’s show however, and to this day it is the second greatest Rumble performance ever.
6- Royal Rumble 2006 (Winner: Rey Mysterio)
After the death of Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio took it upon himself to let fans work through their grief through him. Nowhere was that more evident than in this Rumble match. Lasting for the most time in any Rumble match, at 1 hour, 2 minutes, he survived and dramatically eliminated both Randy Orton and Triple H for one of the most emotional victories in WWE history. Hard to hate on that.
5- Royal Rumble 1998 (Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin)
While not his first win, this was the one that cemented Austin. This was the faction era, and man were there a lot of factions running around back then. This is also the match where Mick Foley pulled triple duty, appearing as Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love all in the same match. Classic stuff here, as the final two were The Rock and Stone Cold, setting up many years of those two being the biggest stars in the business. Stone Cold etched his place in immortality on this night.
4- Royal Rumble 2010 (Winner: Edge)
From the awesome Beth Phoenix entry to the huge crowd pop when Edge surprised everyone and returned, top to bottom this was a perfectly told Rumble match. Shawn’s desperation at getting to The Undertaker. Huge star power in the middle of the match, tons of twists and turns. Chris Jericho‘s face when Edge’s music hit. It really felt like a return to the every-man-for-themselves ethos that was evident when the event was started.
3- Royal Rumble 2008 (Winner: John Cena)
One of the most fun aspects of the modern Rumble matches is the return of Legends to the match for one last pop from the crowd. This one took place at MSG, the unofficial home of the WWE. Besides the great ring work and storytelling from all of the performers in this match, the moment when Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka entered the match and everyone stopped while they hooked them up one last time was a moment to remember. Look no further than CM Punk’s face while it is happening. This felt like one of those matches where the outcome was inevitable, everyone thought this was Triple H’s match to lose. Then out of nowhere, John Cena shocked the world and entered at #30 and the roof blew off the Garden. A true swerve that nobody knew was coming, and there is nothing better than that.
2- Royal Rumble 2001 (Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin)
This is not the best technical match. This is also the one with Drew Carey in the match. But dammit, it is so much fun. Kane was the star of this one, as he went over 50 minutes and probably should have won. His moment with a returning Honky Tonk Man is classic WWE, and the match features some actual hilarious moments. Dynamite commentary from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler only make this even more of a classic. In the end, Stone Cold won, but so many people were elevated by this one that it felt important. In the end, this may be the most fun Rumble match of all-time.
1- Royal Rumble 1992 (Winner: Ric Flair)
You knew this was coming right? This could not have been a surprise. This is widely regarded as the best Rumble match, and with good reason. It was the first Rumble where the winner got the WWF Championship. It was the first time someone entered near the beginning of the match and won. Every big name of the era was here…including The Warlord! I kid, I kid. This match showcased all the huge stars, along with putting a great spotlight on the new crop of superstars waiting in the wings. But this night belonged to Ric Flair. After coming over from WCW in 1991, this was his coming out party in the company. The “Real World’s Champion” as he called himself then, he was the first person to go over an hour in a Rumble match, not taking many rest breaks and scrapping with everyone. He put over so many guys in that match, really watch what he is doing when you see it the next time. It also led to one of the best post-match promos of all-time (see below). It gets no better than this, and it might never be topped.
Which Rumble is your favorite? Agree with our rankings? Disagree? Let us know below, and enjoy this year’s WWE Royal Rumble, streaming live on the WWE Network on Sunday, January 27, beginning with a kick-off show at 5 p.m. ET.
While you’re waiting, here’s a look at five full-length Royal Rumble matches, courtesy of your friends at WWE: