The Royal Rumble match is one of the most exciting concepts the WWE has ever brought to the wrestling business. From the most diehard fan to the occasional casual viewer, everyone can appreciate the unpredictable nature of thirty men all trying to eliminate each other over the top rope in a battle royal format. Factor in the surprise factor of a new entrant coming to the ring every minute and the prize of a title shot in the main event of WrestleMania on the line, and you can understand how the Rumble is a foolproof match today.
Most of the wrestlers to get the honor of winning the Rumble would have strong careers considering the importance associated with winning the match. The history of the Royal Rumble looks like a Hall of Fame class for the majority of names. However, some of the wrestlers went on to have mediocre careers following the big win, due to not being ready for such a high profile spot. Everyone has a different story specific to their paths following the big moment of the Rumble victory. We’ll look at the twenty-three winners of the prestigious Royal Rumble match along with what each of them are doing today.
23. 1988: Jim Duggan
The trivia answer regarding the first winner of the Royal Rumble match will always be Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Pat Patterson pitched the idea of the Rumble, delivering the first PPV in 1988 with a twenty man battle royal before the WWE upgraded it to thirty competitors. Duggan won the first ever Rumble to always have the accomplishment associated with his name. The WWE Championship eluded him as the first Rumble didn’t come with a title shot, but the Rumble win is almost as noteworthy in wrestling history.
Duggan would have a legendary career with runs in WWE and WCW. Wrestling fans adored Duggan for his fun-loving personality. The 63 year old is still going, wrestling matches on independent shows across the country. Duggan obviously is limited by the aging process but still loves performing in front of crowds that appreciate his past work.
22. 1989: Big John Studd
Big John Studd won the second Royal Rumble event and the first to feature thirty men. Studd won the match as a testament to his size as a near seven foot tall monster. This was one of the few Rumble matches before the WWE made the change to add the WrestleMania title shot on the line. It worked out for the better as Studd chose to leave the company just a few months later due to not being happy with his pay.
Studd unfortunately passed away in 1995 from a combination of liver cancer and Hodgkin’s disease. WWE inducted him into the Hall of Fame class of 2004. Studd’s legacy is remembered for his style as a powerful wrestler. Studd winning the Royal Rumble is always one of the major accomplishments associated with his career.
21. 1990 and 1991: Hulk Hogan
The late 1980s and early 1990s were dominated by the presence of Hulk Hogan. WWE made Hogan the face of the company with his star power helping to bring the company to new heights. Hogan winning two Royal Rumble matches seems a bit low for his career, but that was due to him holding the WWE Championship and not being a part of the match.
The two wins for Hogan came in 1990 and 1991 with back-to-back wins. Hogan accomplished just about every major achievement in his WWE prime, including two impressive Rumble victories. WWE and Hogan had a rocky relationship with many reunions and falling outs. They’re currently on the rocks due to Hogan’s racist tirade being leaked in a sex tape. Hogan managed to win millions of dollars in a lawsuit over it and is hoping to return to the WWE one more time.
20. 1992: Ric Flair
Another legendary name to win the Royal Rumble was Ric Flair in 1992. Many consider this the greatest Rumble match of all-time due to the vacant WWE Championship being on the line. Flair had a short run in the WWE during the early 90s in-between his WCW stints. The outstanding match would see Flair pull off the upset to win the WWE Championship in impressive fashion.
Flair quickly went back to WCW shortly after realizing the WWE wasn’t the right place for him at the time. Another run of excellence in WCW added to his legacy before the company went out of business and he moved back to the WWE. Flair went on to become the only two-time inductee into WWE’s Hall of Fame. The company treats him like a legend with occasional appearances and his legacy lives on through his daughter, Charlotte Flair.
19. 1993: Yokozuna
The WWE started to push Yokozuna as their top monster heel around the time of the 1993 Royal Rumble. Yokozuna won the Rumble to earn the right to main event WrestleMania IX against Bret Hart. The win truly put him on the map as a top level heel to take note of. WWE gave Yokozuna a strong one year run as an elite villain.
Following back-to-back WrestleMania main events, Yokozuna saw his career take a hit with his increasing weight that made it difficult to work matches. The legend died at the young age of 34 from pulmonary edema. WWE has celebrated Yokozuna’s legacy through the years, culminating with his induction into the 2012 Hall of Fame class. Yokozuna will always be remembered for having a great career.