Ranking the 10 Best WWE Royal Rumble Matches Ever

With Royal Rumble 2020 around the corner, we're taking a look at all the best Royal Rumble matches in WWE History.

Best Royal Rumbles

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Best Royal Rumbles

Every year, WWE holds its Royal Rumble, a 30-man brawl, where you can only be eliminated by going over the top rope of the ring, with both feet touching the floor on the outside. The winner of this match goes on to glory; he or she gets to fight for the world championship in the main event at WrestleMania.


Done properly, the Rumble is one of the most thrilling, dynamic WWE matches of the year—one of the few instances where fans, both young and old, can suspend their belief and forget it's predetermined. Done wrongly, it can be an interminable slog, slow and indistinguishable from one minute to the next. Over the past three decades, WWE fans have witnessed the gamut of quality.


What makes a classic Rumble match? First, it needs to have starpower. Fans want a main event; if midcarders and enhancement talent take up all the spots, it's a bad sign. Second, it needs to have surprises. What legends or Hall of Famers will make unexpected appearances? And third, it needs to have ingenuity. How can the wrestlers manipulate the rules? How can they keep fans at the edge of their seats with near eliminations?


Here, for your debating pleasure, are the Top 10 Royal Rumble matches in WWE history.

10. 1999 Royal Rumble

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Winner: Vince McMahon

Every hero has his foil. And for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, the beer-swilling, bird-flipping, working class antihero of the Attitude Era, that foil was Vince McMahon. Employee vs. Boss. Working stiff versus billionaire. The narrative nearly wrote itself.


A Royal Rumble typically has multiple story threads. But in 1999, it had one overarching plotline; Vince wanted to stop Austin from winning the Rumble, and main eventing WrestleMania, at all costs. To do this, he put a bounty on Austin's head: the man who eliminated Austin from the Rumble would receive $100,000.


Austin and Vince started the Rumble as the #1 and #2 entrants, respectively. And Vince colluded with members of his Corporation stable to send the Texas Rattlesnake to the hospital. With his mission accomplished, Vince took a seat behind the commentary desk to enjoy the rest of the show--that is, until he saw Austin, driving an ambulance, pulling up to the arena. 


Thanks to a distraction by The Rock, Austin actually lost the Rumble, and Vince McMahon inexplicably won. But we knew that his victory was temporary; Vince always gets his comeuppance in the end.

9. 1995 Royal Rumble

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Winner: Shawn Michaels

1995 was a lean year for WWE; most of the top-drawer talent had left the company for WCW, and the final four entrants in that year's Royal Rumble were Dick Murdoch, Adam Bomb, Fatu, and Crush.  But 1995 was also the year that Shawn Michaels entered at #1 and outlasted all 29 competitors to win a WrestleMania title shot.


The false finish between the British Bulldog and Shawn Michaels is the stuff that classic matches are made of. The British Bulldog dumped Shawn over the top rope, and began celebrating a little too early. Shawn had grabbed the rope at the last second; his feet dangled barely above the floor, which meant he was still in the match. And after getting back in the ring, Michaels caught the Bulldog off guard to emerge victorious. 


The 1995 Royal Rumble match was the tipping point for Michaels' singles push; a little over a year later, he would be crowned at WrestleMania XII as WWE Champion for the first time in his career.

8. 2005 Royal Rumble

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Winner: Batista

This match was a tale of two moments, and both of them, ironically, were more real than predetermined.


The first took place at the beginning of the match, when Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Hardcore Holly chopped Daniel Puder's chest to hell. Puder, who won WWE's reality competition Tough Enough the prior year, near broken Kurt Angle's arm during a televised shoot fight. Benoit, Guerrero, and Holly took it upon themselves to teach the rookie a real-life lesson.


The second moment occurred at the very end of the match, when Cena and Batista both went over the top rope and hit the floor at the same time. Unbeknownst to the audience, it was a botch; Batista was supposed to win the match, and the referees stalled for time.


Finally, with the PPV about to go off the air, Vince McMahon himself came down to ringside to restart the match. And, in a bit of unintended hilarity, he managed to tear both quads as he slid into the ring. If you watch the match back, you can see Vince sitting on the mat, immobile, while everyone around him pretended like everything was normal.

7. 1990 Royal Rumble

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Winner: Hulk Hogan

The 1990 Royal Rumble featured a career highlight performance by "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase, who lasted nearly 45 minutes to set a new longevity record. But it also featured a murderer's row of talent: Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, and Rick Rude, to name a few—even an ailing Andre the Giant made his last Rumble appearance in 1990, eliminating two competitors.


But the night undoubtedly belonged to the Ultimate Warrior, who WWE was pushing as the next Hulk Hogan, and Hulk Hogan himself, who "hulked" out of Mr. Perfect's Perfect-plex to win the whole thing. 


Hogan and Warrior teased a showdown at the Rumble. They finally followed through at at WrestleMania VII, where Warrior emerged victorious as WWE Champion.

6. 2007 Royal Rumble

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Winner: The Undertaker

The 2007 Rumble gets bonus points for consistency. Most Rumble matches have a couple of spots that get botched, or a comedic bit that doesn't work, or an elimination that feels unearned. But the first three-fourths of the 2007 Rumble played out seriously and competitively. When the Great Khali came in and cleaned house, and it seemed like he would be the winner by default. Who would have the strength to toss him out?


Then the gong sounded. The eventual winner, the Undertaker, hit the ring and punched the giant over the top rope. The match concluded with an extended 1-on-1 faceoff between the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. And of course, it was magic; HBK and Taker complemented each other perfectly. Two years later, they would have what many consider to be the greatest match in WWE history at WrestleMania 25.

5. 2000 Royal Rumble

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Winner: The Rock

There was a two-year stretch in the early aughts where Rikishi was massively over as a babyface. A member of 2 Cool, Rikishi would later turn heel (he was identified as the driver who hit Austin with a car) and vye for the WWE Championship against The Rock and The Undertaker. 


At the 2000 Royal Rumble, Rikishi made his first significant mark, eliminating seven men before being eliminated himself; it took the combined efforts of five men to do the deed. From there, the Rumble's narrative shifted to the Big Boss Man, Test, and Chyna, who entered the Rumble and eliminated Chris Jericho. 


In the end, the 2000 Rumble winner was The Rock, who eliminated The Big Show to guarantee his spot at WrestleMania. With Austin out from surgery and Foley winding down his career, it was The Rock's year to take the spotlight and carry the company.

4. 2008 Royal Rumble

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Winner: John Cena

In 2008, Madison Square Garden hosted the Royal Rumble. Long-considered the spiritual "home" of WWE, the Garden had a particularly loud crowd that night, which reacted enthusiastically to everything it witnessed. Umaga cleaned house. Roddy Piper made an emotional return, after nearly succumbing to Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2007. 


And then, just when it seemed that either Triple H or Batista would predictably win the whole thing, John Cena's music hit, and the audience gasped. Cena had suffered a torn pectoral muscle in October; most fans doubted that he'd be back in time for WrestleMania, let alone for the Rumble. His surprise entry and subsequent victory has gone down as one of the greatest, most shocking moments in Rumble history.

3. 1998 Royal Rumble

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Winner: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

The 1998 Royal Rumble was an exercise in contrast. The Attitude Era was eclipsing the New Generation Era. The pieces were falling into place for a wrestling revolution. 


"Chainsaw Charlie" Terry Funk and "Cactus Jack" Mick Foley started things off with some painful hardcore spots. The Nation of Domination was in a prime position to dominate the 1998 Rumble; they had five entrants that year. But, unfortunately they couldn't stop attacking each other long enough to get a strategy together. Still, The Rock managed to last 51 minutes, after which he was stunned by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and tossed over the top rope. Austin would go on to defeat Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV, officially kicking off an era of uncontested dominance.


The 1998 Rumble is also famous for its "three faces of Foley." Mick Foley entered the Rumble three times under three different personas. First as Cactus Jack. Then as Mankind. And lastly, as the groovy Dude Love.

2. 2001 Royal Rumble

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Winner: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

The 2001 Royal Rumble is Kane's crowning achievement. In the space of 53 minutes, the Big Red Machine eliminated 11 different competitors. He nearly won the entire thing, and would have were it not for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who won the Rumble an unprecedented third time.


The best quality of the 2001 Rumble is the way it broke down into a three-act structure. The first act was dominated by the enhancement and lower card talent, and it featured the hardcore use of weapons like trash cans and fire extinguishers. Then came the middle act, which began with two comedy bits—Drew Carey's entrance and self-elimination, and a cameo by the Honky Tonk Man—and ended with some midcard competition. And last but not least, Kane and Undertaker stood tall to open the final act, and the main event players (and Billy Gunn) were all in the ring at once, vying for sole supremacy. 


In January 2001, the WWE roster was stacked, more than it had been at any time since the late '80s and early '90s. The Rumble never got better than this.

1. 1992 Royal Rumble

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Winner: Ric Flair

"I'm gonna tell you all, with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life!"


In 2016, the prize for winning the Rumble was not a title shot; it was the WWE Championship itself. It struck many people as an odd stipulation, but it had precedent. The 1992 Royal Rumble was also contested for the world title title, and the winner that year was "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.


It's important to remember that even though Flair was an NWA/WCW legend, he had only been with WWE for four months. Casual fans were still getting to know him. Flair earned the crowd's respect by surviving for an hour, and he did it the only way he knew how; by hugging people's legs, turning good guys against good guys, and heeling it up for the crowd. And when he dumped Sid Justice over the top rope to clinch the world title, the crowd cheered his opportunism. That's the charisma that comes with being The Man. WOOOOOOOOOO!

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