Every Royal Rumble in WWE History Ranked

With WWE Royal Rumble 2020 almost upon us, we look at every match and see the best and worst of what they had to offer.

In 2003, a rapping John Cena said it best. “Besides open mics, one thing that gets me boiled is an old school 30-man battle royal.” Actually, he didn’t say that best at all! What was I thinking quoting him?

What I mean to say is that the Royal Rumble match is one of the best things WWE has had going for them since the ’80s. Pat Patterson’s brainchild has given us well over a day’s worth of footage and a lifetime of great memories. WWE may act like the Royal Rumble is the appetizer to WrestleMania’s main course, but as far as I’m concerned, the Rumble is the main course and Mania is just a lengthy dessert.

As a huge fan of the big who’s who lottery brawl, I decided to rewatch all of the Rumbles for the sake of ranking them from worst to best. I’m only counting the matches themselves and not the events. So just because Razor Ramon had a kickass title defense on the undercard means nothing here. I’m also only going with the Royal Rumble matches that happened at the Royal Rumble events. The Corporate Rumble, the SmackDown 15-man Royal Rumble from 2004, and Hornswoggle’s mini Royal Rumble don’t count. I’m only talking about the main ones…and Greatest Royal Rumble, I guess.

Now, then. Let us see which Rumble drew…NUMBER THIRTY-FIVE!

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ROYAL RUMBLE 2015

35. ROYAL RUMBLE 2015

The one where they had Daniel Bryan lose early on because they incorrectly figured the crowd wouldn’t hate Roman Reigns as much later.

It had to be this one. I was considering putting ’88 as the dirt worst because it’s better to be interestingly bad than boring, but man…this one is just so bad.

Let’s even forget about the Daniel Bryan part. Let’s throw that off the table. I’ll even concede that Roman Reigns should have won this. Yes, Bryan vs. Lesnar would have been off the chain (as proven years later) and “Yes Movement” Bryan deserved a respectable run as champion, but in theory, this should be Reigns’ Rumble to win.

WWE’s attempts at getting Reigns over through this match is like watching Jerry Lewis constantly tripping over himself. It’s a match where nobody looks good. In the 2014 match, they were able to make Reigns look like a badass by having him tear through most of the roster. Here, he gets a couple eliminations, then lays down for the rest of it. They do have he and Ambrose try to break the record for quickest elimination ever against Titus O’Neil, but they can’t even get that right.

read more: Everything You Need to Know About WWE Royal Rumble 2020

The plan to get Reigns over is to cannibalize everyone else. Popular acts either get to hang out too briefly to matter (I’m looking at you, Damien Mizdow) or they’re overtaken by Kane and Big Show. The idea is that the two of them will snuff out all the popular acts, as well as the earlier-dominant Bray Wyatt, and leave only Reigns. Because Reigns will be the only choice left, everyone will HAVE to love him! Only that doesn’t work at all because he’s done absolutely nothing to endear us to him and it’s transparent as hell.

He doesn’t even look cool taking them out. They take an exact spot from nine years earlier – also with Kane and Big Show – and replace Triple H with Roman, making him look sneaky instead of powerful. Then even the Rock gets booed just for associating himself with his family member and the crowd cheer on final threat Rusev for the very same reason they cheered on Reigns over Batista a year earlier.

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It’s not all bad, I suppose. Even the first half has promise until the elimination that breaks the arena happens. Everything after simply sucks up and destroys any and all good will.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1988

34. ROYAL RUMBLE 1988

The first one.

The original Royal Rumble match is revolutionary and all, but it’s also really boring. The 20-man match features a bunch of midcard names and not much in terms of story or even entertainment. Sure, there is some basic psychology in the first ten minutes or so of faces vs. heels and the numbers game, but once the ring fills up, it’s nothing but generic brawling and eliminations that have no drama to them. Guys simply fall out of the ring. Even when the Ultimate Warrior rushes out, he simply hangs around for a bit, does nothing of note, and gets easily tossed.

read more: The Wrestlers Who Started the Royal Rumble Match

The only notable bit in there is a ho-hum segment where Nikolai Volkoff runs out two minutes early in hopes of helping out his partner and is forced to stand on the outside instead. Otherwise, it’s lots of fans chanting for the DDT while Jake Roberts fails to land it every single time. People joke about how wrestlers always have to get their shit in, but outside of Hacksaw eliminating Danny Davis with a Three Point Stance, nobody gets to do any of that kind of thing and the match suffers.

The ending of Hacksaw Jim Duggan against One Man Gang and Dino Bravo is pretty well done despite Vince McMahon outright spoiling the final elimination via his commentary, but otherwise it’s only worth watching for the historical value. It’s a big pile of nothing.

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GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE 2018

33. GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE 2018

The one from that sketchy propaganda show.

2018 was when WWE started accepting tons of money from foreign governments to do what were essentially house shows on PPV that were equal parts high-profile and soulless. Like, Greatest Royal Rumble opens up with Triple H vs. John Cena for zero reason with no storyline or ramifications at all. The show itself was named after a major 50-man Royal Rumble and while that was indeed a big thing on paper, it was also empty and mostly forgettable.

Even getting past the prize being just a trophy and a trophy belt, there is no actual drama to be found here. It’s just filler, featuring a filler roster. A 50-man Royal Rumble is cool if you’re doing it in a video game and can have the likes of Randy Savage, Steve Austin, and Skeletor, but here it means bringing in the Ascension, Mike Kanellis, and Primo Colon. God, how sad is it that Zack Ryder still can’t get a spot?

read more: The Top 100 Royal Rumble Moments in WWE History

Outside of Titus O’Neil causing genuine cackling from Corey Graves, there just isn’t anything keeping this one afloat. While Braun is entertaining enough and fitting as the winner, the final moments are uninspired and feature a runner-up who would be gone very shortly after the event.

Can’t believe they wasted the records for longest Rumble tenure and most eliminations on this turkey.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1994

32. ROYAL RUMBLE 1994

The one with two winners.

On paper, the ’94 Rumble has a great story. Lex Luger HAS to win the Rumble and there are hired goons out there for the sake of keeping him from winning. Meanwhile, Bret Hart just got his leg destroyed earlier in the night when his brother Owen turned on him. Luger is the obvious winner and even the idea of Bret competing is in question. Bret makes for a better underdog story, but again, Luger needs to win this. The ending is original and despite not having enough Bret vs. Luger brawling (especially since they would never get a singles match afterwards), it’s a cool twist that puts WrestleMania’s outcome in question.

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The Rumble is also remembered for Diesel – basically the only viable heel in this match except maybe Michaels – completely dominating the ring for a while and tossing out new entrant after new entrant. Diesel’s run here is completely awesome, especially the way everyone teams up to toss him out with Michaels either failing to save him or being the final nudge in getting him over the top. The crowd understandably cheers for Diesel’s performance…and then this Rumble begins to suck hard.

read more: The Worst Royal Rumble Moments in WWE History

Sure, we get some rivalries played up briefly (Savage/Crush, Doink/Bam Bam Bigelow, Michaels/Jannetty) and it’s cool that this is the first year where wrestlers can be in the Rumble despite competing on the undercard, but after the fantastic Diesel section, nothing happens. Luger is “beat up” from a backstage attack and Bret is barely standing. The ring fills up to 13 wrestlers by the end and it doesn’t lead to anything interesting. Just a handful of flat eliminations happening over the course of like ten minutes.

The ending and the Diesel part make it sound like a fun Rumble, but it’s honestly a big snoozer.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1999

31. ROYAL RUMBLE 1999

The one that Vince Russo booked.

The first two-thirds of this match are really dumb. Really, really dumb. The ring gets cleared various times and not in ways that make anyone look good. I mean, Kane clears the ring, fights off some guys carrying straightjackets, and runs off on his own volition. Mabel’s fate isn’t all that different. It’s rather pointless and trivializes the entire Rumble gimmick.

’99 gets a lot of crap and rightfully so, but honestly, the final 15-20 minutes are rather good. Once McMahon returns and does commentary, it’s very watchable. Austin shows up again and it becomes a battle over who’s going to eliminate him. Hell, the match has McMahon and Austin screw themselves over based on their own personal flaws. McMahon just had to offer $100,000 to anyone who eliminates Austin, meaning that even attacking Austin is a competition. Normally, teaming up against the favorite is a smart idea, but D’Lo Brown and Big Boss Man aren’t going to do that when a gigantic payday is on the line.

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read more: A History of Women in the Royal Rumble

Then there’s Austin losing because of his own bloodlust. If he threw out McMahon when he had the chance (and there were several chances), he would have won. Instead, he keeps punishing McMahon more and more, allowing the Rock to distract him. A half-dead McMahon chucks him out from behind and Austin has nobody to blame but himself. Gimmicky as it is, I’ve grown to really like McMahon squeaking out a win.

Plus there are some fun moments sprinkled throughout. Gillberg’s time in the match, the guys in the front row dancing to Gangrel’s theme song, and the way Vince on commentary suddenly becomes his old over-the-top commentator self when Chyna eliminates Mark Henry.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2012

30. ROYAL RUMBLE 2012

The one with all the announcers entering.

The 2012 Rumble is a shallow one. It’s mainly remembered for two things. One, the ending where Sheamus and Chris Jericho work their asses off for several minutes with a bunch of near-eliminations until Sheamus finally sends Jericho to the outside with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus’ win is supposedly a last-minute decision by WWE because of how obvious they made Jericho as the winner, only doing so kind of ruins Jericho and makes him look like a total goof for all that wacky “end of the world as you know it” build-up.

The other thing it’s remembered for is the excessive use of surprise entrants, mostly for the sake of comedy. Usually that’s fine, but they really overdo it by having the likes of Mick Foley, Ricardo Rodriguez, the three commentators, Kharma, Jim Duggan, and Road Dogg. Cole lampshades this by saying that they’re stealing spots from more deserving wrestlers, but the sad thing is that he’s sort of wrong. Outside of only one Uso brother getting a spot, we aren’t missing out on much. 2012 WWE is in such a sorry state that the roster quality is seriously scant.

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Then once you take away the distractions of the commentators stepping into the ring to get quickly eliminated or the other comedy bits, you’re left with nothing. Sure, Kofi Kingston has that cool handstand moment, but in terms of in-ring action, there is nothing worth talking about until the final two.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1991

29. ROYAL RUMBLE 1991

The one Hogan dedicated to the US military.

This one holds some nostalgia for me because it’s the very first PPV I ever watched, but revisiting it, 1991 doesn’t have much going for it. Randy Savage – one of the few possible winners – no-shows as part of a storyline, Hulk Hogan completely buries what’s left of Earthquake’s main event run, and there’s very little in terms of memorable spots.

Two things keep this one afloat. First, Gorilla Monsoon and Roddy Piper are perfect commentators for the Rumble. To them, it’s the most exciting shit ever and they can’t help but gush over how long Greg Valentine and Rick Martel have been in the ring.

Second, this is the Royal Rumble match where the whole “every man for himself” gimmick seems to ring true more than any other early Rumble. Despite the commentators talking about it relentlessly, it’s usually ignored because of strategy and logic. If the ring is made up of two heels and one face, they’re going to stomp on the face for a while, usually until another face arrives to make it two-on-two. The aligned wrestlers don’t attack each other unless they’re the only ones in the ring or if one’s stabbing the other in the back.

read more: Royal Rumble Battles From Outside WWE

Here, outside of tag-teams and stablemates, everyone mostly goes after whoever. Greg Valentine (just turned face) beats on both Dino Bravo (heel) and Bret Hart (face) equally. Rick Martel (heel) and Paul Roma (heel) go at it, briefly team up, then go back to fighting each other. Mr. Perfect (heel) feels the need to slap Earthquake (heel) in the face for no reason! Even Hulk Hogan and Tugboat, who are best friends, try to eliminate each other without any subtext about betrayal. It’s really kind of refreshing.

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WWE ROYAL RUMBLE 2019 (WOMEN'S)

28. ROYAL RUMBLE 2019 (WOMEN’S)

The one where Zelina Vega is dressed like Shadaloo’s Vega.

The first two women’s Royal Rumble matches are like the two modern Muppets movies. The first one, while of better quality, also rides on nostalgia and its own self-importance. The second one isn’t allowed to do the same and has to walk on its own legs. Unfortunately, it’s not that great, mainly because of how sloppy much of it is. Entering at #1, this is supposed to be Lacey Evans’ big coming out party on a high-profile show, but it’s very apparent that she isn’t ready when she and Natalya attempt some indie stand-offs and she keeps falling over.

That just sets the stage as Lacey isn’t the only problem. To make up for the lack of classic Divas, they bring in a bunch of NXT talent and chunks of the match just don’t mesh well. Of course, the final fourth of the match is when it hits its stride because that’s when the experienced women are in the ring and everyone seems to know what they’re doing.

Another reason the ending redeems the match is because of Becky Lynch finagling her way into it. In a way, the women’s Rumble feels pointless without Becky in it for this installment and at best, we’re getting the uninteresting winner in Charlotte. Becky showing up allows the match and its story to kick into gear the way it’s really meant to be.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2014

27. ROYAL RUMBLE 2014

The one where everyone hated Rey Mysterio for not being Daniel Bryan.

I’m not sure if I’d call 2014 a bad match. It’s more…foolish?

It has two major things working against it. First is the uncomfortable iron man performance by CM Punk in his final wrestling match. For the first half of it, you can see he is in intense pain, especially when he does a DDT and has a look on his face like, “Yup, just landed hard on the gross growth on my lower back!” Then he takes a triple powerbomb from the Shield (which isn’t even on camera) and gets concussed. He only has one in-ring spot after that where he messes with El Torito and he definitely looks out of it.

Then there’s the tone-deaf ending where not only does a completely gassed Batista win, but Daniel Bryan – the guy who by all means should be making the trek to WrestleMania for his big storyline payoff – isn’t even in the match to begin with. It’s like if you watched the Nolan Batman trilogy and instead of Batman returning from Bane’s pit to save Gotham, Superman shows up to save the day and Batman’s never heard from again.

Once Mysterio arrives at #30, it’s non-stop booing and it’s glorious. Well-deserved and glorious.

Thing is, outside of all that, it’s really kind of a good match. Mainly because it’s centered around the Shield and no matter how you slice it, the Shield is one of the best things WWE’s given us in the last decade. Roman looks unstoppable and the trio are just plain great at having each other’s backs until it all goes wrong.

read more: Royal Rumble – The One-Timers Club

Also of note is the main roster debut of Rusev, who looks like a million bucks. He helps Kofi Kingston perform his sense-defying leap from the barrier to the ring.

Really, if Punk took an early dive and Bryan was in it and won, this would likely be in the top five. Maybe I’m alone in that, but that’s how I see it.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2011

26. ROYAL RUMBLE 2011

The one with 40 guys in it.

The 40-man Royal Rumble is a colossal mixed bag. The format actually works, but not enough to revisit it annually, so it’s a good thing they went back to 30-man matches afterwards. They had too many ideas for a 30-man match and the whole New Nexus/Corre window dressing needed more time to breathe. Not only do we have the whole New Nexus domination stretch, but then the follow-up where John Cena and Hornswoggle work together for a few minutes.

After that, the bad parts start piling up. Michael Cole is in full-on heel mode and it’s excruciating, especially once Miz arrives to join the commentary booth. Alex Riley – who is supposed to be instrumental in Cena’s elimination – screws the pooch by getting himself eliminated by accident to the point that nobody on commentary notices it for like five minutes.

read more: Ranking Every Royal Rumble Winner in WWE History

Then there’s Del Rio’s victory, which is completely heatless outside of an admittedly wonderful hope spot where Santino almost wins. Unlike all the other heel victors in Royal Rumble history, Del Rio’s win doesn’t feel earned in any way. He shows up towards the end, fades into the background, and then just wins.

It basically shows off one of the major problems of modern-day WWE where the achievement itself is more important than the context. It doesn’t matter that Del Rio did nothing memorable and went on to lose in the opening match of WrestleMania. He’s a Royal Rumble winner and that is supposed to make him important by default.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2006

25. ROYAL RUMBLE 2006

The one where the guy wins because Eddie Guerrero died.

The basic idea of 2006 works. Triple H and Rey Mysterio start it off and end the match along with #30 Randy Orton. Mysterio goes against the odds and defeats the two top heels to win the match. While it’s a little icky for happening due to Eddie Guerrero’s death, I love the concept of a Rey Mysterio Royal Rumble win. It’s still somewhat surprising in light of dedicating it to Eddie and in a perfect world, it would have springboarded Mysterio into a longer run on top.

read more: The Wrestlers Who Have Never Won a WWE Royal Rumble

The opening third of it is really fantastic. The stuff with Psichosis, Ric Flair, Big Show, Kane, and Bobby Lashley works really well. But the moment Carlito arrives at #11, the Rumble loses steam. It’s just a bunch of bodies gradually entering the ring and nothing special or exciting happening in the interim. Triple H occasionally springs to life, but Mysterio spends 90% of it just chilling out in the corner, acting too hurt to do anything.

After seeing the 2015 match, it’s kind of funny that there’s a Rumble that loses its mojo the moment Big Show and Kane are gone.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1995

24. ROYAL RUMBLE 1995

The one where Pamela Anderson couldn’t even pretend to be interested.

On one hand, this match is way too short due to only having one-minute intervals. On the other hand, thank God because if any Rumble needs to fly by, it’s this one. It’s filled to the brim with ridiculous midcarder drones who are there for the sake of filling the 30 slots. Many of them don’t even have storylines or anything to hang a coat on other than lame gimmicks. I’m talking guys like Mantaur, Well Dunn, the Heavenly Bodies, Kwang, Aldo Montoya, the Bushwackers, and the shocking realization that Rick Martel is still on the payroll.

In fact, to better illustrate this match’s spot on the list, let’s look at the seven big names in there.

Owen Hart: Gets attacked by Bret on the way to the ring. By the time he enters, he’s out in three seconds.

King Kong Bundy: Despite being a kayfabe favorite due to his size and potential push, Bundy is gone in three minutes, being eliminated in the most underwhelming way possible. I’m almost certain his elimination was a botch and they wanted Lex Luger to throw both he and Mabel out at the same time.

Mabel: I’m being generous to consider him a big name, but due to his size and incoming King of the Ring/SummerSlam push, I might as well throw him a bone. He gets rid of Bundy, but spends less than two minutes in the ring before Luger chucks him.

Lex Luger: Does really well for himself, but his star has faded by this point and he’ll be an afterthought soon enough. This is really his last gasp of relevance.

Bob Backlund: Same situation as Owen, only he’s gone in 16 seconds.

Then you have Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog, who carry this on their backs. Especially Michaels, who spends the 38 minutes selling for everyone while constantly holding on for dear life. You can roll your eyes at him going coast-to-coast in the shortest Rumble ever, but he makes it count and that’s the main thing that redeems it. Add to that the iconic, game-changing ending where he just barely hangs on and wins because Bulldog jumps the gun.

Still, while Michaels, Bulldog, and Luger do a great job, they still throw several top contenders under the bus while Eli Blu lasts an entire ten minutes for some reason.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2000

23. ROYAL RUMBLE 2000

The one where Taka Michinoku gets his face smashed in.

The best way to describe this match is “rough around the edges,” which is a shame, since the show itself has a solid undercard. It has some great tools, but doesn’t mold itself into something worth fawning over. I think a big part of it comes from being centered around the Rock, Big Show, and Kane with none of them really sticking out. I mean, Big Show can be in any given Rumble for two minutes and the commentators will shit themselves over how unbeatable and unstoppable this giant is. Here, he makes it to the end, but he still mostly comes off as just another guy.

Even the Rock refuses to be memorable here and it’s his only Rumble win!

But it has its charm. The whole segment where Rikishi dominates the match – including the musical interlude with his Too Cool chums – is completely golden. His showdown with Viscera is badass and Big Boss Man putting an end to the streak of eliminations by just waiting it out like an asshole is smart.

Then there’s the whole subplot about the Mean Street Posse and Kaientai getting booted from the match because they decided to give their spots to guys who wrestled on the undercard. The Posse try to get revenge on the Acolytes specifically while Kaientai just keep running into the ring at random intervals and get swatted to the outside like they’re nothing.

It’s a wonderful diversion. Then again, I just realized now that the math doesn’t work. Those are five guys who got removed. Seven of the Rumble competitors were in undercard matches. I wonder who else got snubbed.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2013

22. ROYAL RUMBLE 2013

The one where John Cena cut a promo about Cesaro’s nipples for some reason.

It’s okay, but just completely unremarkable. Kofi’s pogo chair stunt is cute and there are some well-executed near-eliminations, but this one feels like a starter Rumble. A decent outing that’s entertaining enough to watch, but good luck on remembering the details after the fact.

The ending is a bit of a paradox because John Cena needs to win the Rumble, but man, he really does not need to win the Rumble. Ever since he lost against the Rock at WrestleMania XVIII, they had just about solidified the story path. There would be a rematch at the following WrestleMania and Cena would win. It’s necessary, if not overly predictable. Not only does Cena have to win this Rumble, but Rock has to beat CM Punk for the title so the WrestleMania match makes sense. Whether it would be the right time to have Punk drop the title otherwise is up for debate.

With Cena’s Rumble win so necessary, it throws Ryback off into the cold. Ryback’s been shoved into the main event a little too fast, especially since they aren’t in any position to pull the trigger due to the plan to have Cena vs. Rock II. This Rumble match is the very last chance to legitimize him and he loses to a man who has been legitimate for eight years by this point. Ryback would never recover.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1998

21. ROYAL RUMBLE 1998

The one where Mike Tyson and Shane McMahon hung out.

I’d consider this to be the perfect Royal Rumble to put on in the background as you’re doing other stuff. Maybe it’s the talent involved. Maybe it’s the fact that over 2/3 of the roster is wearing black because the Attitude Era has kicked in. Maybe it’s because Steve Austin winning is such a definite end point that there’s no drama to it (the fact that he never seems to be in danger doesn’t help). Either way, this one does nothing wrong, but it’s just sort of average.

When you look at the performances in there, it really lets you know what the next couple years are going to be like. Austin is unbeatable, but has enough charisma and intensity to keep you from jeering. The Rock looks like a million dollars and works his ass off, coming in at #5 and lasting to the finals, all after an undercard match against Ken Shamrock. Triple H…stops by to remind us he exists. Mick Foley gets over through a mix of goofiness, hardcore brawling, and embracing the novelty of his various gimmicks.

Then again, while cute, having Foley enter three times as Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love is one of those ideas that crumbles and raises a ton of questions the moment you give it more than three seconds thought.

At the same time, it’s kind of a sad look at Attitude Era failures Ahmed Johnson and Vader. For the previous two years they were built as major threats who could potentially carry the company into the future. Now they’re just done away with little effort and they’re both gone months later. Man, I wish Ahmed Johnson wasn’t such an injury-prone hothead. Dude was killer.

Anyway, if anything, this Rumble does have one of the better final fours with Austin, Dude Love, Rock, and Farooq. It’s brief, but the actions and decisions really hit the right notes for everyone and it ends with a nice Stunner exclamation point.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1989

20. ROYAL RUMBLE 1989

The one where the Mega Powers’ fuse is lit.

This is the one where they finally figured out the format. There’s honestly more drama in the first three minutes than the entirety of the 1988 match. Of the early shows, this is the one that’s helped the most by not being related to the title picture because there’s a really, really good storyline built into it that helps make it great. Ted Dibiase has been spreading money around to set up his own win for the sake of bragging rights, both by securing himself with the #30 spot and by finagling it so Big Boss Man and Akeem the African Dream would come out consecutively.

Unlike 1988, there’s a fairly stacked roster in there, but over the course of the hour, the likes of Hogan, Savage, Andre, Bad News Brown, and so on get eliminated one way or another. It ends up being Big John Studd, kind of a dark horse in the booking sense, who gets to stand up to Ted Dibiase and Akeem. It’s a great gold watch reward for his career while a perfect comeuppance for Dibiase.

The drawback of this match is that everything in-between Andre’s elimination and Hogan’s entrance is uneventful and forgettable.

I do like how when Demolition’s Ax and Smash are the first two entrants, Ventura brings up the possibility that this very match could ruin such a close tag-team relationship and Gorilla Monsoon agrees. Then a half hour later, such a thing happens between Hogan and Savage, causing a huge crack in the Mega Powers and setting up their big WrestleMania V match.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2018 (WOMEN'S)

19. ROYAL RUMBLE 2018 (WOMEN’S)

The first women’s Royal Rumble.

The past few years has been about women’s wrestling firsts, such as PPV main events, gimmick matches, and even a full-on women’s PPV, and if there’s one thing to be learned, it’s that you really need to pull off something competent the first time around. The last thing they needed was repeating Money in the Bank and having James Ellsworth win it somehow.

Thankfully, while this isn’t as good as the men’s match from the same show, the first women’s Royal Rumble is most definitely a success. It’s entertaining, albeit not an all-time best. The worst thing about it is the reminder that Kelly Kelly exists and she’s still terrible. And that Tamina is also still terrible. Otherwise, the only major negative is that Ronda Rousey’s surprise appearance kind of takes away from Asuka’s important win.

Before #30 arrives, everything is entirely watchable without standing out. Once Trish Stratus appears, things kick into gear and the final ten minutes or so are handled really well. Nia Jax gets the monster treatment, Trish and Mickie James reignite their old rivalry, Trish puts Sasha over, and we get a final four where everyone is so busy stabbing each other in the back that the winner is the one who succeeds by being a straight-up asskicker.

Thumbs up for Stephanie McMahon being an asset on commentary and not making the whole thing about herself.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2009

18. ROYAL RUMBLE 2009

The one with Santino’s one second of endurance.

The ’09 Rumble appears to pride itself on the fact that it fills up the ring more than any other Royal Rumble. It’s hard to count everyone in the ring at a glance, but I’m pretty sure they hit 14 bodies once or twice. That’s a bit of a knock against it because while bigger sounds like better, it means that little is capable of happening because the battleground is too cluttered. There’s a reason why WCW’s World War 3 never caught on.

That said, there’s plenty to love here. Mainly that it takes one of the Rumble tropes to its natural conclusion. Up until here, we never get to see long-term team-ups last. Sure, tag teams and stable-mates would work together a bunch, but never enough to make a difference. Or they would turn on each other as soon as possible because “WrestleMania main event!” They’re too invested in that being the be-all, end-all that it’s really refreshing to see an angle where the team gets to succeed for being a team.

Randy Orton has Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase flanking him. They aren’t specifically out to get themselves WrestleMania title shots because they are – get this – loyal. In these early days of Legacy, Orton treats his henchmen well and in return, they act as extensions of him. Orton ultimately ends up winning precisely because of this because he should. Even though they botch it down the road, Cody or Dibiase turning on Orton should mean more than, “Sorry, man. I really wanted that title shot.”

The way Orton destroys Goldust, offers him to Cody for an easy elimination, then shakes his hand before they rush off to save Dibiase is such an amazing character moment. “Every man for himself” is just a guideline.

Also of note is Rey Mysterio’s performance. As #1 in the match, he makes it to after #30’s entrance and lasts only ten minutes less than he did in 2006. While he was resting for much of ’06, here he puts on one hell of a performance, showcasing some top-notch acrobatics and stunts to save himself. Putting him up against John Morrison in the beginning certainly makes it more entertaining.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1997

17. ROYAL RUMBLE 1997

The one where they have a do-over a month later.

It’s 45 minutes of watching a master work his craft and become a star.

Really, I don’t think anyone in Royal Rumble history has had a better performance than Steve Austin in ’97. As a heel who draws early and cheats to win in the end, he doesn’t simply exist as a punching bag for forever until it’s time to come out on top. Austin spends his time in the ring as an ass-kicking machine who just wants to fight whoever’s dumb enough to get in his way. People mainly remember him sitting on the turnbuckle while glaring at his nonexistent watch because he cleared the ring for the umpteenth time. For me, what really sticks out is how he’d clear the ring, collapse to the mat for a sec, but use his free arm to wave over at the entrance, as if demanding they send out more opponents.

The problem is that it’s only Austin. He carries this match so much that when you look past him, you see nothing. Well, except that brilliant Jerry Lawler bit where he enters and leaves in seconds, then is too concussed to realize he was ever in the match. Other than that, they’re all just bodies going about their business. Bret Hart, Vader, Undertaker, Mankind, Fake Diesel, and so on don’t bring anything memorable or exciting to the table other than giving us a clusterfuck of an ending.

Then there’s the excess of luchador guest wrestlers. None of them add much other than Mil Mascaras eliminating himself because he’d rather be seen as an idiot than give the rub to another wrestler.

I talked about how ’91 really felt like “every man for himself” over the others, but I guess I’ll have to retract that statement. I don’t recall seeing a single long-term team-up this entire match. Everyone simply wanted a piece of everyone else.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2005

16. ROYAL RUMBLE 2005

The one where Vince McMahon’s quads randomly explode.

2005’s Rumble is a very clear sign of times changing and eras shifting. The first two entrants are Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, the two men who stood tall as the champions in the previous WrestleMania. Now they get their lip service, but they’re ultimately afterthoughts because now it’s all about having Batista and John Cena as the finalists. Shockingly, those two don’t get the same Guerrero/Benoit treatment in 2006. Or 2007. Or especially 2008.

As we’re knee-deep in the Raw/SmackDown roster split, they really go out of their way to act like the show rivalry is something anyone cares about. Like the idea that faces and heels will align themselves because they happen to work the same night. Then of course everyone puts their differences aside to beat up Muhammad Hassan, which is one of the more eye-rolling moments.

But it remains another entry in a streak of really good Rumbles due to some solid talent*. After all, we do get Paul London in there for the sake of taking the nastiest clothesline elimination. The main thing everyone remembers is the finale, where Batista and Cena accidentally fall out of the ring at the same time (which was not planned) which is both a hilarious mess of a situation and an impressive bit of improvisation from the competitors and referees as they’re able to figure out a new ending without having to revisit the Luger/Bret decision from ’94.

*note: Mostly. The Coach is in this match. I have no idea why.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2002

15. ROYAL RUMBLE 2002

The one with the only reason anyone remembers Maven.

Wrestling’s all about suspension of disbelief, but this Rumble really stretches it a bit too thin at times. Having two tag partners or rivals come out consecutively is a coincidence I can accept. Having Undertaker come out followed immediately after by his then-enemies Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy? Now we’re getting silly. There’s a good variety of main event names due to this being right after the WCW Invasion, but do we really need five of them being shoved into the final five spots? “Random draws” my ass.

Then there’s Triple H getting a self-indulgent Undertaker-at-WrestleMania entrance where several wrestlers should have probably run out and lapped him by the time he walks through the ropes.

Regardless, it’s still a strong match. The big spots like Maven eliminating the Undertaker out of nowhere and the war between Austin and Triple H (poor Hurricane) make this worth seeing.

What I love the most about this year’s is how important the guest wrestler gimmick is. There’s no mystery to who shows up. They flat out tell us ahead of time that Goldust, Val Venis, Godfather, and Mr. Perfect are coming back, at least for the Rumble. It isn’t about the nostalgia shock, so we see them being actual fixtures in this match. Godfather less so, but whatever.

The returning Mr. Perfect gets to not only stand up to Austin and Triple H by himself, but he outlasts Austin and finishes at third place. I really don’t understand how they allowed this to happen, but I’m not the guy who’s going to complain about it!

ROYAL RUMBLE 2016

14. ROYAL RUMBLE 2016

The one where Roman Reigns comes in at #1, but leaves for most of the match anyway.

One thing that tends to annoy me about Royal Rumbles is when they make it about “one vs. all.” The Royal Rumble is supposed to be about every man for himself and the myriad of possibilities that comes with that, so having the narrative be about one mega-face and 29 opponents sours that. I didn’t like it much when they did it with Austin (twice!) and I didn’t like it either with Roman Reigns, especially when everyone and their mother knew that Triple H coming in at #30 to win and be crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion was absolutely going to happen.

As predictable as that was, the 2016 Rumble is actually fantastic. And let me tell you, after following up on 2015, “fantastic” feels like eating a delicious steak on an empty stomach. The roster is mostly on point, the pacing makes the hour fly by, and to make up for Triple H’s unsurprising surprise, we have actual surprising surprises with AJ Styles and Sami Zayn.

AJ Styles showing up is such a wonderful “oh my God they’re really doing this!” moment. If only we got to see his entrance better instead of a lengthy shot of Roman’s confused face.

Triple H’s appearance at the end feels better than it should and tosses in some interesting moments like his showdown with Bray Wyatt and his final battle with Dean Ambrose. At the time, the whole thing felt too safe and predictable, but watching it after the fact makes the whole match seem like one of the better installments.

Too bad it’s eternally marred for having Michael Cole excitedly call Ambrose’s rebound clothesline, “THE WACKY LINE!”

ROYAL RUMBLE 2008

13. ROYAL RUMBLE 2008

The one where they get to the last entrant—AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!!

This one’s like a joke with a perfect setup. We’re given a Royal Rumble that comes in the middle of a time when WWE lacks a really defined direction. The undercard has title matches of Orton defending his world title against Jeff Hardy while Edge defends his against Mysterio. That frees up all the real star power for the main match, but there doesn’t seem to be any definite WrestleMania path, so it’s almost anyone’s game.

Almost.

See, for the most part, the roster has the right mix of main eventers (Undertaker, Michaels, Batista, Umaga) and a bunch of guys with potential to rise up the ranks, whether they will succeed eventually or not (John Morrison, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Miz, yellow teeth Snitsky, Mr. Kennedy). The upstarts get to last a good while and the main eventers mostly get early or spread-out draws. But Triple H? He’s has #29. He is the only one who seems to have an inkling of a storyline to head to WrestleMania’s main event, especially since he has the biggest push going.

After all, Cena’s injured and won’t be back for months.

You have a great Madison Square Garden Rumble (the hard camera shot is so cool) despite the fact that the ring doesn’t stop filling up until the end. Outside of having to deal with the Hornswoggle/Finlay garbage, it’s a neat party of wrestling up until Triple H comes in at #29 and cleans house, hurting the match with its obviousness. I remember being in the crowd of this show, thinking to myself that I didn’t know who was going to be #30, but it had to be better than Triple H.

Then John Cena shocks the arena as the ultimate monkey paw, showing up unannounced, months before people expected him to return. He helps whittle down the ring until we have Cena vs. Triple H vs. Batista. It’s the three top stars of the time in a sweet brawl that ends with Cena as the surprise winner.

Just think about that. They put together a Royal Rumble where John Cena entering at #30 is the genuine surprise winner. That’s art is what it is.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2017

12. ROYAL RUMBLE 2017

The one with Goldberg vs. Undertaker

This Rumble’s setup is a bit tricky, but I feel that it all worked out. On the surface, the roster is made up of top players or guys who will become top players. But then you have the big selling point that despite all the former and future champions in the mix, this free-for-all features three God Tier warriors in Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Bill Goldberg. They do overshadow the others, but they do add to the chaotic nature of the match.

There are some flaws in there, like how Brock Lesnar chooses to kill time suplexing people instead of doing eliminations and how the big three are clustered in four consecutive spots. Then there’s Undertaker and Goldberg being too old and limited while Lesnar’s limited by complacency. Luckily, none of them win and the victory goes to Randy Orton. On one hand, it feels refreshing because Orton isn’t a favorite despite being a multiple-time champion and his storyline with Wyatt is in a good spot at that point. On the other hand, Orton feels a little forced and comparatively uninteresting in such a stacked match.

Qualms aside, this is easily the most fun Rumble in years and they do such a good job playing with continuity and wrestler relationships. Dean Ambrose screws over James Ellsworth, Sami Zayn gets one over on Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt spooks Xavier Woods, and so on. It’s so entertaining that it actually slows down once we get to the hyped Undertaker/Lesnar/Goldberg portion.

Plus using Roman Reigns as a heat magnet after the previous years of treating him as a beloved focal point is so brilliant.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2019 (MEN'S)

11. ROYAL RUMBLE 2019 (MEN’S)

The one where Jeff Jarrett shows up, looking old and ridiculous.

As someone who has been watching wrestling since 1991, I’d like to think that maybe it means something to someone when I say that 2019 was creatively the worst year for WWE in total. Just an awful year of boring bullshit, bad decisions, and a complete lack of direction. Oddly enough, the confusion leads to a Royal Rumble that absolutely works.

It’s a unique time for WWE. Roman Reigns is off due to battling cancer. They don’t seem to have a concrete plan for the future to the extent that Kofi Kingston – who will be champion in a few months – is treated as just another guy here. NXT’s cream of the crop haven’t been completely ruined by schmoozing with the main roster yet. Dean Ambrose is treated as a major heel, but we’re a day or so away from realizing that he’s on his way out and he’s going to get buried for it. Ali is being pushed. They’re playing with the idea of Nia Jax doing intergender wrestling, which will be forgotten about in a week.

So we see Aleister Black eliminate Ambrose. We see Ali get the better of Samoa Joe. Johnny Gargano absolutely clowns Jinder Mahal. It’s just pure chaos in a match that is built on chaos. The Royal Rumble SHOULD be random. The fact that the roster for it is so solid (other than Jeff Jarrett) helps it flow so well that you’re in the mid-20s before you know it.

It’s an anomaly of a match that doesn’t tell the greatest story ever, but it’s an easy and unpredictable watch.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1993

10. ROYAL RUMBLE 1993

The one where Undertaker is beaten up by a tall, naked man.

Despite having a mostly weak roster and some really dull stretches, I feel this Rumble is pretty underrated. It’s really unique in how it’s ultimately Yokozuna’s playground and there’s a weird sense of dread to it all. Mr. Perfect comes in blazing and takes out his rival Ric Flair. This is during the height of Perfect’s face run. He gets eliminated unfairly.

That’s okay, because Undertaker’s here to reign supreme. He clears most of the ring, then a massive sasquatch of a man shows up to murder him. Giant Gonzalez might be the worst wrestler in WWE history, but the way he appears and destroys Undertaker is still a wonderful WTF spot to watch, mainly because it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Undertaker get manhandled in such a way and the size difference makes it believable.

Then Yokozuna shows up late in the game, but Earthquake is big enough to stand up against him! Not so much, as Yokozuna suplexes him out of the ring.

Okay, fine, but maybe if everyone teams up against Yokozuna? No? What about Bob Backlund, who’s won the crowd over by lasting an hour? Dumped out like he was nothing. But what about Randy Savage? Stupidly tries to pin Yokozuna and gets tossed out.

Yokozuna doesn’t need to be a cowardly and durable opportunist to win. He’s just a monster and he dominates to rightfully earn his spot as #1 contender.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2010

9. ROYAL RUMBLE 2010

The one where CM Punk simply won’t shut up.

Even though ’95 had the 1-minute intervals, 2010 feels like the fastest Rumble. It moves so smoothly that by the time you realize they’re in the mid-20s for entries, you’re surprised the match is almost over.

This one feels like a sequel to the ’08 Rumble, for better or for worse. For better because of how well it spreads the top names across the hour while not going with the obvious winner (in this case, Shawn Michaels, whose loss is far more compelling than if he were to win). While ’08 has the ring fill up, ’10 rarely allows it and keeps it lean. By the time Batista arrives at #30, he is already in the final four.

For worse because they go with the same shock ending with diminishing returns. Edge returns early from an injury to come out at #29 and win. You know, a lot like what they just did two years ago. Except he doesn’t look to be in the best shape. He’s been rushed back to the ring and he very much looks it. Then again, it’s still nice to see him win one of these.

One thing that makes this Rumble feel so fresh is how none of the top guys last too long. It feels more like a relay race where there’s always a big name involved, but never for too long, and they switch off. CM Punk dominates the early goings, but he’s only there for ten minutes. Triple H takes over, but he’s only there for less than twenty. By the end of it, John Cena is the iron man with only 22 minutes.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1996

8. ROYAL RUMBLE 1996

The one where we’re allowed to take Vader seriously.

This year’s match is a bit bizarre. It isn’t like the year before where they just filled it with the crappy, immaterial midcard. Sure, they have Barry Horowitz for whatever reason, but the roster is pretty solid here. Even though it’s imperative that they pull the trigger on Shawn Michaels now more than ever, there are so many top acts in there that it casts more than enough doubt, especially the debuting Vader, the sudden-shot-in-the-arm Diesel, and to a lesser extent Yokozuna.

The midcard involved is a trip to look at. You have The Ringmaster, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, “Make a Difference” Fatu, Kama the Supreme Fighting Machine, 1-2-3 Kid, and Isaac Yankem. All these guys who will be super important to the Attitude Era in the coming years, all decked out as prototypes of their popular selves.

Then you have the surprise entrants. Dory Funk Jr. (who looks like Mr. Burns in a speedo), Takao Omori, Doug Gilbert, and the identical twins from Samoan Squat Team. They’re all unimportant and fail to make any lasting impact, but it doesn’t matter because they’re so out there that I genuinely love the air of randomness that they add to this ensemble match. There’s such a variety in them unlike the luchadors in ’97.

With that strong roster you get a strong Rumble. It’s not this groundbreaking match and the bit where Vader – already eliminated – takes his frustrations out by tossing Michaels into the distance and they decide, “Eh, that elimination didn’t count,” is kind of dumb, but there’s nothing really wrong with it. It even does a great job building up Michaels’ future by giving him a parade of eventual foes outside of the WrestleMania main event he’s preparing for.

Plus there’s something overall crisp about the eliminations. They’re really smooth and rarely take you out of the match. Especially Diesel flat-out flinging Helmsley to the floor out of frustration.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2003

7. ROYAL RUMBLE 2003

The one where Chris Nowinksi’s head explodes.

This is the first Rumble to take place after the brand split, which at the time made the winner more unpredictable. There were two main titles that were roughly equal in importance (which sadly wouldn’t last after a couple years) and that complicated the question of what direction they were going in. Then again, it was still a pretty good bet that Brock Lesnar was going to take it, especially since he had a match earlier in the night to qualify.

Coincidentally, the fact that he had already wrestled made it easier to accept him winning with a #29 draw and it not coming off as cheap for a face win.

This match starts big with a brilliant bit based on Shawn Michaels and a very jealous Chris Jericho being established as #1 and #2. Rather than prove himself by beating Michaels on his own, Jericho uses some inspired, underhanded tactics to ambush Michaels, bloody him up, and dump him out like he was nothing. This bites Jericho in the ass much later on, which leads to one of the more underutilized Rumble tropes where a midcarder – in this case Test – takes out someone above his pay grade. It’s like when Fatu got rid of the Ringmaster in ’96 or R-Truth took out both Big Show and Mark Henry in ’10.

Otherwise, Royal Rumble 2003 is your run-of-the-mill Rumble that happens to be a great watch because of the massive quality of the roster. It’s the right mix of post-Attitude and pre-Cena Era, even granting us with the first Rumble appearances of Cena and Batista. Lesnar is an obvious win, but so many of the wrestlers come off as anything but pushovers.

Well, except for Maven. Sorry, Maven.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2018 (MEN’S)

6. ROYAL RUMBLE 2018 (MEN’S)

The one where Big E force-fed a dead Heath Slater crotch pancakes.

2018 was a bad year for WWE as a whole. It hit the level of, “The main reason I’m watching this is because it’s my job.” Despite all the problems throughout the year, Royal Rumble was the show where they got their shit together and seemed to have a handle on how to use their massive and talented roster. Even if there aren’t a ton of highlights, it still has a solid roster that’s used exceptionally well with the only major drawback being a non-payoff to Dolph Ziggler’s idiotic storyline at the time.

The ending of this Rumble is one of the best and could be argued as the absolute best. The final six tells the story of the veterans vs. the new blood while the final four turn it into the company-backed supermen vs. the smark favorites. Finally, it becomes Shinsuke Nakamura taking out John Cena and Roman Reigns by himself, which is such a crazy and definitive way of being crowned Royal Rumble winner.

It just sucks that instead of this leading to his day in the sun, his day in the sun is simply this win.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2004

5. ROYAL RUMBLE 2004

The one that’s…um…uncomfortable to watch.

So you know how WWE would do that “by the numbers” Royal Rumble commercial and mention how there were just as many winners at #30 as there were at #1…yet show an odd number of people? Well, that’s because of 2004, won by one Chris Benoit.

You know, the brain-damaged murderer. If you can separate the person from the performer for an hour, by all means, give this one a watch because it really is great.

Despite being #1 and lasting to the end, Benoit’s run isn’t the most exciting. Unlike iron man performances like Flair, Michaels, Austin, and even Kane, Benoit spends too much of it faded in the background. He isn’t even sleeping through it or anything. He’s still on his feet, grappling. It’s just that all of his interesting stuff happens in the beginning and the very end with the only fun bit in-between is when he angrily tears off a man’s afro wig.

Randy Orton at #2 does a better job and it’s awesome how they lay the seeds for the Benoit/Orton SummerSlam main event while Orton is still knee-deep in his heated rivalry with Mick Foley. Foley’s return/redemption is easily one of the best surprise entries in Rumble history.

The last 10-15 minutes are where everything really comes together. Goldberg goes on a brief rampage and we realize that the only reason Nunzio has entered and has lasted so long is so he can be ripped to shreds via the spear. Big Show is booked as the biggest threat ever in the final moments where the combined might of Benoit, Angle, Cena, RVD, and Chris Jericho aren’t enough to hinder him. That makes the very end all the much (bitter)sweeter.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1992

4. ROYAL RUMBLE 1992

The one that isn’t fair to Flair!

After two years of using the Rumble as a way to get Hulk Hogan over some more on the road to WrestleMania, WWF finally decided, “What if we made this match important and gave it stakes?” Due to some chicanery involving Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, the WWF Championship is up for grabs, meaning everyone from Randy Savage to Jerry Sags has a shot to be champ. This one appears on the top of most Rumble lists and there’s good reason. Firstly, it has a great setup with half a dozen possible winners. Between Hogan, Flair, Undertaker, Sid, Savage, and Roddy Piper (and maybe Jake Roberts), there is no clean cut winner. They also try to make Sgt. Slaughter seem like a possibility, but he is deep into the midcard by then.

This one is famous for Flair coming in at #3 and coming out the winner, not only becoming the first heel to win the Rumble, but the first guy to win from an early number. His performance is great as is, but Bobby Heenan on commentary desperately ranting for an hour makes it that much better. No matter how underhanded he would be in any match following this PPV, Flair would still be known as the guy who went through 28 wrestlers (Dibiase was gone before he entered) and remained the last man standing.

The only reason I can’t bring myself to call it the best Rumble match of all time is because I hate the ending. I hate, hate, HATE the ending so much. I have a pet peeve of when a squeaky clean face does something shitty and underhanded and the commentators refuse to call them out on it. Even the heel ones. I call it the Cena-Mysterio Effect. If Hogan and Sid switched places, maybe it would make more sense, but Flair essentially wins because Hogan was a big crybaby and it irks me.

Meanwhile, this match has maybe the best elimination ever when Sid Justice throws Sgt. Slaughter fast enough to break the sound barrier into the corner post and he bounces out of the ring like a skipped stone. I could watch that forever.

ROYAL RUMBLE 1990

3. ROYAL RUMBLE 1990

The one with the clash of Hogan and Warrior.

The ’90 Rumble is so much goddamn fun and never lets up. Looking at the roster, there’s barely any dead weight in there. Maybe Koko B. Ware, but he’s out within two minutes of the match beginning and he’s still entertaining. Everyone else is just this huge party of people who made that era work (sadly, Hacksaw and Boss Man had a match on the undercard and couldn’t be included). It’s not all that gimmicky, but there’s so much energy from the crowd and the competitors that there’s rarely a dull moment.

Not only do we get our first “everyone teams up to throw out the big man” spot with Earthquake, but the home stretch of the match gives us the epic face vs. face showdown between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. The explosion of cheers that erupt when the arena realizes that these two giants HAVE to fight is one of the greatest pops in wrestling history and never gets old for me.

The ending has the champion win the Royal Rumble, which would seem so silly and unnecessary, but the booking of the final ten minutes is so solid that it doesn’t matter and it properly builds towards WrestleMania VI.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2007

2. ROYAL RUMBLE 2007

The one where Undertaker and Shawn Michaels fight forever.

I feel like 2007’s Rumble is based on the writers getting together and saying, “What’s some stuff that would look really cool? Let’s write a Rumble around that.” The choreography and visuals here are completely off the chain, making it one of the most exciting Rumbles to watch.

Stuff like Kane chokeslamming Sabu through a table to eliminate him. That whole sequence where Michaels defeats Finlay while at the same time everyone struggles against Viscera. Sandman lasting mere seconds, but still going ham with a kendo stick. Great Khali standing over a mountain of beaten bodies and then effortlessly tossing them out one at a time.

And of course, there’s the spot where Undertaker and Michaels are the only ones left and they’re both beaten into oblivion. Before they even go up against each other, they lay silently for what seems like an eternity before Undertaker sits up and Michaels kips up.

Undertaker is the first Rumble winner to come out at #30 and since he’s a face and that’s a really advantageous number, they had to figure out a way to make his win impressive. Having him survive a bloody and vicious attack by Rated RKO and then struggle against Michaels one-on-one for a lengthy stalemate of a battle? Yeah, that’ll do it.

ROYAL RUMBLE 2001

1. ROYAL RUMBLE 2001

The one where everything’s predetermined and the points don’t matter.

People always hold the Attitude Era in such high regard and revisiting it, it’s definitely something seen with rose-tinted glasses. Hell, look at how low years ’98-’00 have ranked on this list. The WrestleManias weren’t so hot either. But that final year was pretty magical. At the very least, the last few months. WWF was at a creative high point with possibly the best talent they’ve ever had while WCW and ECW were laid out in a hospice. WrestleMania X-7 is celebrated as the big finale to the Attitude Era that hits the landing, but the Royal Rumble match that leads into it is just as wonderful.

This one isn’t a one-man show like Flair in ’92 or Austin in ’97. Kane does get the early draw and lasts 53 minutes in total, working like a boss and solidifying himself as a monster, but despite being the MVP, this isn’t all about him. So many people pull their weight here. Not just Austin and the Rock, but lots of people get to shine and it really feels like a big ensemble fight gimmick match that hits its full potential. Even the silly stuff like Drew Carey and Honky Tonk Man entering are done to perfection without hurting the product.

I guess one of the contributing factors is that it’s broken up into sections. It kind of evolves from segment to segment without ever overstaying its welcome. For instance, there’s several minutes of Kane brawling with hardcore wrestlers and just before it can get tiresome, Kane grabs a garbage can and destroys everyone, ending with him clearing the ring.

The final three are Kane, Austin, and Rock and it’s a perfect setup. In a few months they’ll be giving WrestleMania X-7 an Austin vs. Rock main event, so this is the preview, but it isn’t an obvious storyline so it really feels like any of those three can win. Meanwhile, all three of them have been through complete Hell (Kane’s endurance plus how he’s been teamed up on a bunch, Rock was put through a table by Big Show, and Austin was bloodied by a Triple H ambush), so they’re all on equal footing. Then it ends with a final elimination that is completely badass and makes Kane look like a champ despite losing.

Not only the best Royal Rumble match, but one of my favorite matches ever period.

What do you think? Did I totally screw up the ranking? Is my porridge just right? Let me know in the comments.

Gavin Jasper wants to remind you that although it’s not on the list, the 2004 SmackDown Royal Rumble is totally worth tracking down and watching. Read more of his articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L

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