The brainchild of Pat Patterson, the Royal Rumble is among the most beloved gimmick matches in wrestling. Aside from WrestleMania, perhaps no other pay-per-view generates excitement like the Rumble. It's ambitious and full of possibilities. Its one-by-one pacing helps to prevent the excessive chaos so often seen in Battle Royals. The luck of the draw can add adversity or fortune to a Superstar's journey. It's a springboard to headlining 'Mania. Oh, and during the promos, it's fun to count how many times they say "29 other men" and "over the top rope."
What's not to love about the Rumble? Well, fan favorites oftentimes come up short--and worse, the one chosen to win might be drowned by boos in a sold-out arena. Second-guessing is part of the fun, though, and disagreements can spark compelling conversations. Our purpose here is to rank all the winners of the Rumble--like them or not--and debate whether or not fans had the right to call shenanigans. And though their hands were never raised in victory, entries 24-30 are recognized for feats like the total number of wrestlers they eliminated, their career-time accumulated in the match, and how long they lasted to achieve Iron Man status in a given year. OK. We're ready to rumble.
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30 Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston's acrobatic stunts to stave elimination are legendary. They're like watching a skills competition of a slam dunk contest or a home run derby within the game or match itself, and even though he never gets especially close to victory at the Rumble, his athleticism and use of props to avoid stepping on the mat are worthy of highlight-reel compilations. Kofi at the Rumble is like watching a kid pretending the floor is lava, jumping from one piece of furniture to the next, using his willpower and imagination to solve problems.
He was once dropped onto the announce table, where he demanded a swivel chair, which he employed as a makeshift pogo stick to gradually hop closer to the ring so that he could reenter. Kingston has been deposited onto the crowd barrier, on which he stood up, balanced himself, took a running start, and leaped onto the apron to continue his quest to be the last man standing. In what has become a great suplot and tradition of the Rumble, Kingston probably won't win the match, but when he performs a near-elimination spot, he's sure to get a pop from the crowd and another video on YouTube.
29 Chris Jericho
Despite never being the last man standing, Chris Jericho has been fantastic at the Rumble since joining the WWE in 1999. Astoundingly, he ranks second all-time in cumulative time spent in Rumbles with three hours, 55 minutes, and 59 seconds of performing at the highest level. He trails Triple H by less than four minutes, which means that after the 2017 extravaganza, Jericho could hold the record. His name appears twice on the top-20 list of superstars who've lasted the longest time in a single Rumble, and his nine appearances are fewer than just six other men.
Due to his consistency, stamina, and ability to still excel at his craft at 46, it's not insane to say Jericho might at long last prevail at the 2017 Rumble. In the present, he's still capable of competing in great matches with the likes of A.J. Styles and Seth Rollins. In the past, Jericho has proven he's a premier wrestler in three different decades. His prowess at the January pay-per-view reveals only a fraction of his superb career. Crazy as it may sound, at least one writer for TheSportster is giving the relentless smartass a 5% chance of winning the upcoming Rumble.
Rikishi's Royal Rumble legacy is strengthened by his number of appearances and his prowess in the 2000 pay-per-view offering. In his career, with three different personas (including The Sultan and Fatu, briefly), he appeared in 10 Rumbles from 1993-2004, and no one looked forward to inducing a hernia by trying to eliminate the 425-pounder. In the new millennium's first 30-Superstar event, at the height of his popularity as a member of the boy band dance troop/wrestling stable Too Cool, Rikishi tossed out seven opponents. And it took a conspiracy of six heels to dump him over the top rope.
That year he lasted 16:23, which is about as much as one could expect from a wrestler of his robust size. A member of wrestling's iconic Anoa'i family, Rikishi showed more athleticism and endurance than his fellow big man and cousin Yokozuna (real name Rodney). For a superstar with a sumo physique, Rikishi stayed relevant and in great shape in order to become one of the ultimate large-and-in-charge legends in Rumble history.
27 Bob Backlund
It seemed like Bob Backlund had emerged from a time capsule to grapple at the '93 Rumble. His career in the WWE peaked before the rise of Hulkamania. He was pale, weird, and old school. Regardless, he endured in the match for one hour, one minute, and 10 seconds--which set the Iron Man record for over a decade, when it was finally broken by Benoit ('04), then Mysterio ('06). For a man who was 43 at the time, it was quite an accomplishment.
The suspenders-loving redhead met his demise that night at the hands of Yokozuna, who won the match. The perpetrator of the Crossface Chickenwing went on to turn heel and shock everybody by defeating The Hitman for the title at the Survivor Series in 1994. His reign lasted three days, which was significantly shorter than his first reign as champ a decade prior, which is cited as a mind-blowing 2,135 days. As segues would have it, the next wrestler on our Rumble countdown fell a mere 1,701 days shy of that mark.
26 CM Punk
His title reign of 434 days came to an end when he dropped the belt to The Rock in the main event of the 2013 Rumble, but in the Rumble matches themselves, CM Punk's performances were great while they lasted, even if he was never the last man standing. In his final match in the WWE, Seth Rollins and Punk opened the Rumble, and Punk battled for almost 50 minutes, showcasing cool spots like the neckbreaker-to-one-guy/DDT to-the-other-guy combo. That particular 49:11 score on the Iron Man test of endurance ranks 16th all-time.
The Best in World raised hell at the 2011 Rumble. Pegged as an underdog again, this time he and Daniel Bryan opened the match. Punk cleared the ring of seven foes in 35:21, until Cena took him out. His mark in that 40-man event was also the longest time anyone spent in the match, making him a two-time Iron Man in only six tries. He also eliminated a total of 17 men, and averaged about 28 minutes per appearance. Punk has griped about not being in the main event at a WrestleMania. A Rumble win would've been that launching pad. He remains one of the best to have never won it.
25 Big Show
The case could be made that Big Show was the rightful winner of the 2000 Rumble, but we'll get to that when we cover the Superstar who beat him heads-up: The Rock. On one hand, Show still got booked into a crowded main event at WrestleMania, but on the other, he's left without a Rumble victory on his resume--and should he finally prevail in 2017 over the likes of Finn, Seth, or Dean, expect a riot at the Alamodome. Regardless, his Rumble legacy is impressive.
Show inflicted a lot more damage than he received. All told, he has cleared the ring of 31 others in the 11 Rumbles he's been a part of. Those 31 eliminations rank sixth all-time, between Triple H and Hogan, and his 11 appearances tie him for third. If he gets one more Rumble payday, he'll tie HBK for second all-time. Billed at 7'0" and 450 lbs, the wrestler formerly known as The Giant has always posed a challenge to the superstars trying to eliminate him. He's still an athletic force of nature and future Hall of Famer who always makes us wonder how the hell someone is going to knock him over that top rope.
The Big Red Machine holds the Rumble record for most Superstars eliminated all-time, yet he's never won the match--and at this stage, he's got about the same odds of surprising us as Val Venis. In all likelihood, Kane's window of opportunity has closed, but his total of 44 eliminations makes him the most prolific performer in Rumble history to have spilled over the top rope each and every time. If the Rumble was the Super Bowl, Kane would be like the Buffalo Bills.
He was a nasty eradicator in 2001 when he disposed of 11 superstars. Kane endured for an impressive 53:46 as the sixth entrant. He made it all the way to a one-on-one showdown with The Rattlesnake, but Stone Cold prevailed--because Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven was the main event everyone wanted. 'Taker's demonic little brother still put on a helluva show in defeat. Before he was Kane, Glenn Jacobs gained Rumble experience as Isaac Yankem and fake Diesel to pad his Rumble stats. (His 19 total appearances are the most.) As Kane, Jacobs found his true persona and was awarded numerous belts and accolades--just not that elusive victory at the Rumble.
23 Big John Studd
This guy. There's no reason Big John Studd should have been the last man standing in the 1989 Royal Rumble. The company had no greater plans for him in the future. The storyline they'd established that night involved The Million Dollar Man bribing another evildoer so that DiBiase, a top heel at the time, could become entrant #30. The Mega Powers, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, had been sacked long before the match's end in a way that furthered their tale of mounting dissension. The obvious finish to the narrative was to score one for the bad guys and put DiBiase over to intensify his heat. It didn't happen.
Instead, Big John Studd rallied in front of a nonplussed crowd to eliminate heels Akeem and DiBiase. As the lumbering Studd displayed his pleasure with no visible trace of charisma, kids asked their parents, "Who is that?" That's pretty much how the night ended. Studd's next gig was as a guest referee in the Andre the Giant vs. Jake Roberts match at Wrestlemania V. No one has any clue why. Studd's triumph in '89 is a reminder from the past that sometimes the bookers are going to find a way to botch it.
22 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
Winner of the inaugural Rumble in 1988, Hacksaw only had to outlast 19 other Superstars. The historic, first entrant was Bret Hart, who endured for 25:42 to become the initial Iron Man of the spectacle. Hacksaw drew #13 and made it lucky, overcoming a double-team effort by Dino Bravo and One Man Gang for the finish to claim what was perhaps the highlight of his career.
There was no catapult in place to launch Duggan into the WrestleMania main event at the time. (Although if he was catapulted, we'd certainly laugh at him flying through the air screaming, "Hoooooooooo!") In the early days, the epic gimmick match was more of a one-off tangent than a key part of developing feuds and storylines. The Rumble was a work in progress. Nothing states that clearer selecting "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan as the original champ.
21 Lex Luger
Along with body-slamming Yokozuna on a battleship because, dammit, the man loved America, co-winning a Royal Rumble was among the highlights Luger enjoyed as a babyface in the WWE. In the '94 Rumble, at the peak of his "Made in the USA" gimmick, Luger eliminated six competitors--good for second-most that year, just one behind Diesel's total--before ultimately falling outside the ring entangled with Bret Hart.
The tie led to some convoluted storytelling, as both Luger and Hart were granted title matches with Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X. Luger lost via disqualification, whereas Hart prevailed. From Luger's point of view, it wasn't a great climax to his feud with the foreign sumo wrestler he'd body-slammed on a battleship. Also worth noting in retrospect: The Hitman is Canadian. Ouch. So much for patriotism! Luger defected back to WCW in mid-'95 having never won a strap in the old Federation.
20 Bret "The Hitman" Hart
Like life, the Royal Rumble isn't fair. Just ask Bret Hart. He's credited as the co-winner of the event in 1994. Granted, his tumbling over the ropes in tandem with Luger and landing in synchronicity must have been a tough spot to perform, and having two victors was an unprecedented swerve, but in hindsight, Hart probably should've been put over as the sole winner. Post-Hulkamania/Pre-Attitude, he was the face of the company.
The Excellence of Execution almost prevailed in 1997, but the ascendant Steve Austin stole the show. Hart spent much of his 20-plus minutes in the ring battling Austin before finally heaving Stone Cold over the top rope late in the match. But the bumbling refs didn't see it happen; they were distracted by a Mankind/Terry Funk brawl outside the ring. Opportunistically, The Rattlesnake slithered back in and ambushed the prematurely celebrating Hitman. The refs were looking when Stone Cold eliminated The Hitman. It was a brilliant way to fuel a feud and reinforce Austin as a rising star. But Bret probably deserved a Rumble victory all to himself.
19 Alberto Del Rio
Winner of the only Rumble to feature 40 Superstars, the 2011 event, Alberto Del Rio benefited from drawing No. 38. He had to last a mere 9:33 and rid the ring of just two competitors to go over. That is so heel. The finish came as a surprise and the match garnered positive reviews, but the excessive field of 40 has yet to be revisited. As for the aftermath, the smarmy Del Rio went on to lose to Edge in a match that would've made him the World Heavyweight Champ at 'Mania XXVII. Afterwards, Edge smashed his opponents' Rolls Royce with a crowbar. It was a rough night for The Essence of Excellence.
In his career, Del Rio barely made a dent in other Rumbles. Last year, he was in the match for only seven minutes before he got ousted by Roman Reigns. In 2014, he lasted a paltry three minutes before Batista introduced him to the mat surrounding the ring. Regarding cumulative time and total eliminations, he's basically at the level of a Rumble jobber. But at the opposite end of the spectrum, Del Rio is part of a Rumble club so exclusive he's the sole member. Call it destiny.
The Dublin-born stalwart went over at a Rumble that received mixed reviews in 2012. The deep runs of The Miz (45:39) and Cody Rhodes (41:55) went for naught, and Jerichoholics began to mourn the moment he was booted off the apron by Sheamus to seal the victory. The seven-minute showdown with the two exchanging near-eliminations offered some thrills, even if most fans would rather forget that Sheamus' Rumble win culminated at 'Mania in an 18-second squashing of Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship. (Still worth it to get a kiss from AJ Lee, if you ask me.)
The Irish Curse has figured prominently into other Rumbles. With his blend of size, endurance, and athleticism, coupled with some star power, he's found himself among the four or five remaining survivors of the match a handful of times. In 2013, Sheamus lasted for 37:23, racked up five eliminations, and got cleared out by Ryback just before the latter went heads-up with Cena. A win at the 2017 Rumble seems unlikely since he's not at the main event level now, but we'll grant him 2% odds. Luck of the Irish?
17 Mr. McMahon
The 1999 Rumble occurred during the peak of the Attitude Era, and while it was maddening to watch the evil boss raise his hand in victory, that was exactly the point. Fans would have loved to have seen another Stone Cold triumph, but the shocking finish intensified the heat of the top heel in the company. It's fitting that McMahon's anthem "No Chance in Hell" debuted at this pay-per-view.
His win was brilliantly crafted. McMahon and Austin started the epic match. The CEO took a beating but escaped under the bottom rope--thus establishing a trend of McMahon running away (through the crowd and into a public restroom at one point), entrapping Stone Cold in a Corporate ambush, and avoiding in-ring combat by commentating behind the announcer's desk. For the finish, the cowardly McMahon eliminated his lone competitor, Austin, thanks to a distraction perpetrated by the trash-talking, title-brandishing Rock at ringside. Fans were aghast, but they were sure to come back for more. With his uncanny knack for villainy, Vince invited nuclear heat on himself in the domain he created.
The immovable object of mid-'90s WWE, Yokozuna was enormous and reviled, and he posed a sketchy matchup for The Hitman. Hart's offensive arsenal was reduced to nothing but punches and kicks against the behemoth, and even the Sharp Shooter seemed like a crime against nature as Bret tussled with legs that looked like fatty logs. Yoko's victory at the Rumble set the stage for his title match against Hart at WrestleMania IX (which the heel won, only to drop the belt to Hogan a few minutes later).
As draw #27, Yoko disposed of seven wrestlers during his 14 minutes, 53 seconds in the melee. A win by the Macho Man was teased, but after Savage nailed an elbow drop from the top rope, he went for the cover--which wasn't smart. His back to the mat, the mighty Yokozuna shoved him off and Savage sold like a champ, soaring over the top rope to the outside to meet his defeat. Hypothetically, had they put Macho over, then turned him heel before 'Mania, a showdown for the title between Hart and Savage would've been decidedly more awesome--but hey, hindsight in wrestling is 20/20, brother.
15 Chris Benoit
The greatest wrestler to be excluded from the Hall of Fame because of the senseless and tragic way his life ended, Chris Benoit put his superb conditioning on display to win the 2004 Royal Rumble. He was the first entrant. The former Horseman posted the second-best Iron Man time in the event, lasting one hour, one minute, and 31 seconds. He eliminated six competitors, including the gargantuan Big Show, to seal the win.
Benoit parlayed his triumph at the Rumble into a triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, in which he prevailed over legends Triple H and Shawn Michaels. He stood atop the wrestling world in 2004. By 2007, his life ended under the most horrific circumstances. It's hard to forget about Benoit's prowess in the ring, but it's impossible to overlook the monstrous acts he committed. His memory haunts like a ghost from wrestling's past.
14 Brock Lesnar
Of the active Superstars on this countdown, The Beast Incarnate stands the best chance of prevailing at the upcoming Rumble. He's still a mammoth pay-per-view draw, he's won the match before, and the case could be made that he belongs on the short list of wrestlers who've conquered the Rumble multiple times. With his main event pedigree, he could headline WrestleMania 33 against the likes of A.J. Styles or maybe even Goldberg. Surprisingly, he doesn't rank all that high on the all-time list of eliminations, but he'll have at least one more chance to boost those career totals.
In the 2003 Rumble, Lesnar capitalized on drawing No. 29, lasted 8:59, and rid the ring of four wrestlers to become the last man standing. Years before he broke The Streak, Lesnar eliminated 'Taker heads-up for the victory. The beast with a buzzcut furthered his legacy at last year's Rumble by disposing of four opponents, which tied with Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman for most eliminations in that particular match. Expect more out of the man who built Suplex City this year. The Universe can't wait to see Lesnar in the same ring as Goldberg on January 29th.
13 The Rock
While The Brahma Bull did become the WWE Champion at the '99 Rumble with a win over Mankind in a brutal "I Quit" match, when it came to the actual 30-man brouhaha, he didn't enjoy as much success as Stone Cold, Triple H, or Shawn Michaels. In fact, his sole Rumble victory in 2000 was tainted by a replay that revealed Big Show should have won the match. After the fact, upon further review of the Luger/ Hart-like finish, it turns out The Rock's feet hit the floor first. (And for the ten-billionth time, a wrestling ref was quoted as saying, "Oops!")
As draw No. 24, The Rock rid the ring of four competitors en route to a Rumble *win. Due to the circumstances of that asterisk, the WrestleMania 2000 main event was re-booked as a four-way elimination match between The People's Champ, Big Show, Mankind, and Triple H (the dastardly winner). The Rock's best performance in a Rumble arguably came in 1998, when he lasted 51:32--good for 11th all-time--but lost to Austin when they were the only two men left. Like Bird and Magic, they would meet again.
12 The Undertaker
In stark contrast to its predecessor, when the first two draws both endured for an hour, the 2007 Rumble was the first in which the 30th entrant prevailed. At least The Heartbreak Kid was there in the end to make sure it wouldn't be too easy for 'Taker. HBK rallied to dispose of heels Edge and Randy Orton, thus cutting the final four in half, and for the finish, the crowd at the AT&T Center in San Antonio was treated to a showdown between two legends who were poised to tear the roof off the building.
It was a thrilling renewal of a rivalry that flourished a decade prior, when the duo put on showstoppers such as the first-ever Hell in a Cell and the casket match in which Michaels injured his back. 'Taker exacted revenge for those defeats by going over in Shawn's hometown. The rivalry began trending toward the Dead Man's side that night. The Undertaker parlayed his first victorious Rumble into WrestleMania 23, where he extended The Streak to 15-0 by pinning Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship. Remarkably, fans will be treated to the Dead Man's 11th appearance in the match at the 30th Royal Rumble.
11 Randy Orton
During his partnership with the spoiled kids of Ted DiBiase and Dusty Rhodes in The Legacy, Orton was one of the best heels in the business, and the heat he generated made him a wise choice to prevail at the 2009 Rumble. The Legend Killer was so reviled at the time that having Triple H play the part of the babyface was not an issue. The eighth man to get into the donnybrook, Orton's three eliminations were a bit low, but he battled in the match for 48:27, which ranks in the top 20 all-time.
With Evolution a faction of the past, former stablemates Orton and The Game wrestled for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXV. Though the RKO so often came "from out of nowhere," the feud between the pair was thoroughly detailed and telegraphed. Tensions escalated with Orton's attacks on the McMahon family. Orton/ Triple H was the main event, but a problem developed late: Shawn and 'Taker had just stolen the show in the penultimate match. There was no air left in the building when Orton failed to punctuate his Rumble win with a victory at 'Mania.
The 2010 Rumble was notable for the relatively short length of the match (49:24). The last man standing, Edge, entered at No. 29 and only competed for 7:19. He was returning from a torn Achilles, however, and so his late and surprising appearance at the pay-per-view was perfectly timed to maximize the pop he got from the crowd. Though he only rid the ring of two superstars, he sure made them count: Edge dumped out Jericho to establish their feud and then outfoxed a charging Cena to close the match.
Edge pursued a title shot for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVI against his archenemy Jericho, but Jericho retained his strap in the battle of blond Canadians. The Rated-R Superstar achieved Iron Man status in 2007, when he lasted a shade over 44 minutes as the fifth entrant. He tossed out five men and whacked skulls with a steel chair alongside of Randy Orton, but their nights were ended by HBK. Multiple-winners of the Rumble are a rare breed and Edge is not among them, but his talent and charisma made him one of the favorites every year.
9 Roman Reigns
Understatement of the year so far: Fans were not on-board with the decision to put Roman Reigns over at the 2015 Royal Rumble. The pulse of the Universe was throbbing in favor of Daniel Bryan, who lasted a mere 10:36 as the 10th entrant. From there, the nuclear heat of the fans in attendance became the main storyline of the match at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. Reigns' win as a "babyface" was disdainfully rejected. It stands as the one of the most misguided decisions the company has made in recent memory, and the magnitude of the mistake has festered.
Still, Reigns has become a premier performer at the Rumble, by the numbers, at a young age. Like it or not--and the Universe has certainly trended toward an emphatic not--Reigns is on a pace to break some records. Hell, he already owns one: Most wrestlers ousted in a Rumble--12!--set in 2012, when he barely came up short. His total of 23 eliminations already ranks him in the top 10. He's achieved marks like these in just three Rumbles, and he's only 31. To make another understatement: He's not terrible. But he should probably never main event at a pay-per-view as a face ever again.
8 Ric Flair
The fifth Rumble signified a huge leap forward for the pay-per-view. It conveyed a sense of purpose that had been lacking. Whereas prior matches had either put over middling talent that didn't belong in a main event or glorified a star who'd already been extensively glorified, 1992's show was fresh and unexpected. Plus, it really meant something: The victor won the vacated title belt. The third entrant was a cocky heel who'd found fame in other organizations. He beat the odds and lasted an hour to follow through on his promise of winning the match and the strap, and he didn't even cheat. January 19th, 1992 was a great night for fans who loved to shout, "Wooooooooo!"
With a tongue-in-cheek delivery, The Nature Boy was one to boast about his prowess as a "60 minute man," and in the old Fed, he relished the opportunity to prove his endurance. Flair was in tremendous shape. Remarkably, the one hour and two seconds he spent competing in a Rumble still ranks fifth all-time. A quarter-century ago, Flair set the bar high for Iron Man status in a Rumble. He also carried his heat and his Championship belt into WrestleMania VIII, where he dropped the title to his bitter rival Randy Savage.
7 Rey Mysterio
The 2006 Rumble remains a sentimental favorite for fans of the babyface underdog. The company's most diminutive World Heavyweight Champ, listed at 5'6", 175 lbs, Mysterio began the match as the second entrant. For almost the entire match, he had to battle the boss's nasty son-in-law, who drew #1. Triple H lasted an impressive 1:00:15, which ranks fourth in history. But Mysterio endured for even longer: One hour, two minutes, and 12 seconds to earn the all-time record, the Rumble victory, and a successful title shot at WrestleMania 22.
Credit Triple H this time for setting his ego aside to tell a compelling story and put over a superstar who'd earned his moment in the spotlight. For the finish, Mysterio was outnumbered by Hunter and Randy Orton. The pint-sized superstar showcased his endurance, resolve, and knack for countering moves, delivering a double-DDT as well as a double-619. In the span of a few minutes, he disposed of both men over the top rope with slick hurricanrana reversals. The match touted as a tribute to the late Eddie Guerrero was pure wrestling magic.
His 2014 victory was like a not-as-intense precursor to the Reigns debacle that was to come the next year. The Universe responded to the returning star's win with a reaction that was, at best, tepid and mixed. Punk or Rollins seemed like preferred choices, but instead, Batista benefited from an outcome that made some fans question if their voices were being heard. Batista threw out four competitors in the 14 minutes, 34 seconds he put into winning the match.
The Animal's 2005 triumph told a more compelling story, when Batista spilled over the ropes in tandem with Cena, after Batista seemingly misfired on a powerbomb. Chairman Vince got riled up about the confounding tie. He power-walked down the aisle and, upon entering the ring to berate his talent, he tore both his quadriceps and had to sit down. It was awkward, yet riveting. The heads-up battle was restarted and, following a wicked spine buster, the Guardian of the Galaxy eliminated The Marine. Batista's mojo at the Rumble catapulted him into a main event at WresteMania 21 for the World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H. The Animal beat The Game.
5 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan deserves much of the credit for the surge in popularity the WWE enjoyed in the '80s, and he was inclined to indulge in that fact. He took plenty of victory laps, so to speak. In a more literal sense, The Hulkster was all about choreographing his post-match celebrations with poses and hand gestures to the crowd. It was cheesy, yet awesome, and no one did it better. The Rumbles that he won back-to-back to start the '90s seemed to reinforce the notion that babyface Hogan was always happy to take a victory lap or two.
Hulk was great (without being a great technical wrestler), but his Rumble wins never signaled that an exciting change was to come in the WWE. A passionate showman with decent in-ring skills, it seemed like he hogged the spotlight at every pay-per-view, but he made the company a staggering amount of money, and he's a pop-culture icon (that we now know way too much about). His career total of 27 eliminations in the Rumble is good for seventh all-time, but Reigns and Cena could soon surpass him. They're nipping at the heels of his yellow boots. Say your prayers, Hulkster.
4 John Cena
The face of the company didn't have to work especially hard to go over at the 2008 Royal Rumble. He was the last entrant of the match, and while he did throw out a respectable total of four men, here's some perspective on how long he had to endure: Cena lasted 8:28. Post-Attitude Mark Henry, Hardcore Holly, and Mick Foley all worked longer shifts that night. Still, Cena has proven himself as a top draw at the 'Manias that follow the Rumbles. His name is rising in the record books of the Rumble, too.
With 22 career eliminations, Cena ranks in the top 10. At the 2011 event, he and his rival Punk tied for the most eliminations in the only 40-man Rumble. (Looking back: Why Del Rio? Don't overthink it. That year belonged to Punk vs. Cena.) The Marine also went over at the January classic in 2013. He had to work harder the second time around, persevering for 26:39 as draw No. 19 to become the last man standing on the same night Punk's title reign was ended by The Rock. Of the two-time champs, Cena has the best chance of someday tying the record of three Rumble victories.
3 Triple H
From 1996-present, the boss' son-in-law has spent almost four hours (3:59:37) performing in Royal Rumbles. In that regard, Triple H is superlative. He can also claim three of the top 20 longest stints in a given Rumble. He's the reigning champ of the event, lest we forget, and even though many in The Universe were cheering for younger talents like A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens, the pay-per-view garnered mostly positive reviews. The Game lasted 9:03 as the final entrant and cleared the ring of four competitors, including Reigns heads-up to win the title.
His victory at the 2002 event came in his prime, when he was among the three or four best pure wrestlers in the company. As the 22nd draw, he eliminated four men and amassed 23:14 in the match. He prevailed over legends in a field that included Kane, Big Show, Stone Cold, and Kurt Angle. The Cerebral Assassin followed through on his feat as the last man standing to main event at WrestleMania, where he pinned Chris Jericho for the Undisputed WWE Championship. It was a contrast to his Rumble aftermath 14 years later, when he dropped the title to Reigns at 'Mania 32 in a main event that was booed for almost half an hour.
2 Shawn Michaels
After he returned from a career hiatus during which he missed much of the Attitude Era, The Heartbreak Kid started to show his knack for excellence even in defeat. It was a gift he put on display at Rumbles. In 2007, for instance, HBK battled 'Taker heads-up to highlight and finish the match. It felt like a main event had been stripped down to a main event that was arguably better. The Dead Man beat him, though. In 2010, The Showstopper, Batista, Cena, and Edge composed a fantastic final four. Following a sick Sweet Chin Music delivered on the apron, Michaels was knocked out by Batista. The dejection Michaels sold as he left ringside was a great portrayal of a heartbroken perfectionist.
On a happier note, HBK won the Rumble back-to-back in '95 and '96. In his first Rumble win, he prevailed as the first entrant in an accelerated match that took less than 40 minutes. Michaels eliminated eight opponents both times he went over at the Rumble. With a boss who was crazy about oversized, hulking physiques, Michaels was the only superstar of his size and stature who could've accomplished that. He was just that damn good, and Vince knew it. HBK's appearances at the pay-per-view spanned from 1989-2010, and his total of 39 career eliminations is second only to Kane (a zero-time winner). There's only one superstar who out-performed Shawn at the Rumble.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Here's a source of bragging rights for The Rattlesnake over The Undertaker that could soon undergo a reversal: Austin racked up 36 total eliminations, one more than 'Taker's mark. Chances are, Stone Cold will drop to fourth on the all-time list as The Dead Man rises to third. But Austin's name is secure in the record books. He eliminated 10 wrestlers during his 1997 triumph, eight in '99, and seven in both '98 and '02. The toughest S.O.B. in the history of the company only competed in six Rumbles, which means he averaged six eliminations per match. His win in '98 constituted a repeat, and it took the CEO himself to ensure that Austin was to barely fall short of a three-peat the next year.
Stone Cold wasn't done winning Rumbles, though. In the next one he competed in, 2001's January spectacular, The Rattlesnake opened up a can of whoop ass and raised his hands in victory for the third time in five years. That might very well be the single-most impressive stat in Rumble history. During his prime, the Hall of Famer either won or finished second in every Rumble he was a part of. From a heel fans started to love to the anti-hero face of the Attitude era to a heel fans hated to cheer against to capping off his career with 'Mania classics against The Rock, Austin's run was booked, managed, and executed brilliantly. Are you ready for the 2017 Royal Rumble? Give me a hell yeah.
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