The Royal Rumble is one of the longest running events held in World Wrestling Entertainment and is one of the most anticipated each year. Since the first time it has was held in 1988, the main attraction of the event has and always will be the Royal Rumble match. This match, which typically features 30 men (or women), or in the case of the 2011 match 40 participants, usually features big returns from injury, retirement, as well as other surprises that have left fans going home with a huge smile on their face.
I was in attendance at the TD Garden in 2011 when the WWE raised the number of participants to 40 and can remember the buildup leading up to the event and reading about Booker T and Diesel making their return to a WWE ring. The Garden exploded when each legend’s music hit that night and while their appearances were memorable, they weren’t shocking. It is the shocking moments that fans remember vividly when it comes to a WWE event and over the course of the Royal Rumble’s rich history, there have been many shocking moments to talk about.
These shocking moments feature eliminations of future WWE Hall of Fame inductees by relative unknowns, women taking on the boys and having some success, one brother turning on another, and the unlikeliest of winners in the big match. Most of these shocking moments occurred in the over the top rope Royal Rumble match, but there is one memorable moment that occurred in a regular match that shocked the world. It is the most anticipated match of the year, so any shock that occurs is magnified for the fans. Will we see anything this year that comes close to these?
10 Beth Phoenix Eliminates The Great Khali and Chyna Eliminates Mark Henry
The Royal Rumble isn’t just for the boys. Over the years, we have seen some female competitors enter the match and have some success. Yes, in 2012 Kharma eliminated Hunico, but 9 of 10 wrestling fans probably can’t even remember what he looks like, and once Kharma entered the match, you figured she could take Hunico, so her success isn't included here. In 1999, Chyna, the most dominant female in wrestling history, competed in the Royal Rumble match and eliminated Mark Henry. Eleven years later, “The Glamazon” Beth Phoenix entered the match and eliminated The Great Khali. Neither female lasted much longer following the elimination, but they still account for some of the most shocking moments in the history of the Royal Rumble.
9 Santino Marella’s 1-Second Elimination
Santino Marella is one of the most popular performers in WWE today. He may not be considered an elite in-ring performer, but he has charisma and of course, the Cobra. He is a former WWE Intercontinental Champion, WWE United States Champion, and Tag Team Champion, and has turned into one of the latest actors with a wrestling pedigree. Unfortunately for Marella, one thing he is remembered for is holding the Royal Rumble record for the shortest entry into the Royal Rumble match, lasting just a single second before being eliminated by Kane.
8 Sid Justice Eliminates Hulk Hogan in 1992
In 1992, it was pretty rare to see the main guy in the company go down in a big match. At this time, the main guy was Hulk Hogan and in the previous two Royal Rumble matches, the “Hulkster” had walked out with his hands raised. Heading into the 1992 match, it was expected that he would reign supreme again and reclaim the vacant WWE Championship, but he was eliminated by his ally Sid Justice. Hogan would then help eliminate the 7-foot monster, helping Ric Flair win the match and become the new WWE Champion.
7 Chris Jericho Makes Return in 2013
The professional wrestling industry has become better for the fans over the past 20 years because of the work Chris Jericho has put into his craft. He has come a long way since competing in Extreme Championship Wrestling and being, “Lionheart.” He persevered and fought his way to the top of the wrestling business. He has put on some of the best matches in the history of the sport and has one of the most shocking moments in Royal Rumble history, entering the over the top rope battle royal in 2013 as the second entrant of the match. He would survive more than 47 minutes and didn’t appear to miss a single step in his time away from the sport.
6 Lex Luger/Bret Hart Co-Winners of 1994 Royal Rumble Match
In the history of the Royal Rumble match, we have seen Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Yokozuna, Chris Benoit, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, John Cena, The Undertaker walk away as the winner. In most of these cases, the winner went on to win the world championship and in the case of Flair, he won the vacant WWE Championship.
Being the lone survivor of the match has often led to big things for winner, but in 1994, there were two winners; Lex Luger and Bret Hart. It was determined that both men had their feet hit the ground at the exact same time, making them co-winners of the match. They each earned a solo shot at Yokozuna and the WWE Championship at WrestleMania that year with Hart earning the world title win after Luger was unsuccessful earlier in the show.
5 Matt Hardy Turns on Jeff Hardy
In 2009, Jeff Hardy was looking to successfully defend the WWE Championship against Edge. Hardy had the upper hand in their no disqualification match and was about to get the win, but the referee was pulled out of the ring by Vicki Guerrero. Matt Hardy ran down to the ring with a steel chair, threw Guerrero into the ring and gave a chair to his brother. He then stopped him from hitting Edge and went outside the ring to get another chair for the famous “Conchairto.” As Jeff set up the chair beneath the head of Edge, Matt wound up and clocked his brother over the head, allowing Edge to win the WWE Championship.
4 Vince McMahon Wins Royal Rumble Match in 1999
There have been countless instances in professional wrestling history where fans have been left to wonder what the writers were thinking. Several of those moments involve Vincent Kennedy McMahon. The man behind the success of WWE has won the world title and in 1999, won the Royal Rumble match. He entered the match as the No.2 entrant, which would normally make it difficult for more established performers to win, let alone a man who normally wears a suit. The fact that the man who entered first was Stone Cold Steve Austin, his arch-nemesis, made the fact that he won the match even more shocking.
3 John Cena’s Return From Injury in 2008
When the 2008 Royal Rumble was being held, John Cena was still reportedly months away from returning from a torn pectoral muscle. When the timer was counting down for the 30th entrant of the Royal Rumble match, nobody expected to hear Cena’s music played, but it did and the fans at Madison Square Garden went nuts. At that time, there were still numerous other competitors remaining in the match, but less than 10 minutes later, Cena had eliminated four competitors including the final man left in the ring with him, Triple H.
2 Shawn Michaels Hangs on to Shock British Bulldog in 1995
The 1995 Royal Rumble will go down as one of the most exciting in the history of the event. Not only was the Royal Rumble match itself was exciting, the entire card was filled with hard-fought matches, but it will be remembered for the finish of the Rumble match itself. Shawn Michaels was the first entrant of the match and was followed by the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Both men lasted until the end and Bulldog seemed to have gotten the victory after knocking Michaels over the top rope. Instead, only one of HBK’s feet hit the ground, he re-entered the ring and threw Bulldog out of the ring for the win. The near-elimination was also innovative, as countless superstars have tried to escape elimination in the most impressive way possible.
1 Maven Eliminates The Undertaker
The Undertaker is one of the biggest legends in the history of the industry. The former multi-time world champion has always evoked fear in his opponents and has made many men regret entering the same ring. In 2002, The Undertaker, as the American Badass hit his Last Ride maneuver on Matt Hardy, sent him over the top rope, and had to wait for the next entrant, who happened to be the first winner of Tough Enough, Maven.
Taker had already eliminated seven of the first nine entrants in the match and was supposed to knock out his eighth. That didn’t happen and Maven – as frightened as he appeared when entering the ring – knocked him over the top rope when he was distracted by The Hardy Boys and Lita. Taker didn’t take it without a fight, as he entered the ring and went on to inflict great damage on Maven, who was never officially eliminated from the match. This remains the most shocking moment in the Royal Rumble's history. Perhaps the only thing that could surpass it would be if El Torito were to eliminate John Cena.
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