The Royal Rumble is widely considered to be one of the biggest events of WWE’s entire year. It is the event that truly begins the Road to WrestleMania because the biggest match of the night unveils the person who will be in the main event of WWE’s showcase in April.
While The Royal Rumble match itself is always the main event of the night, there are also many other matches on the card that allow the fans to get a feel of the atmosphere ahead of one of the biggest matches of the year.
The Rumble match itself will always steal the headlines because that’s the match that the event is named after, but that doesn’t mean the other matches on the card were not some of the best as well. There has been 29 Royal Rumble pay-per-views and one Royal Rumble event over the past 30 years and there have been some absolutely incredible matches that have been overlooked.
The following are the 15 most memorable matches that have taken place at WWE’s first event of the year and deserve to be remembered for as long as physically possible.
15. Sgt Slaughter vs. The Ultimate Warrior (1991)
It was the controversial heel turn by Sgt Slaughter that took place the year before that allowed this push to be such a successful one, so when Slaughter faced The Ultimate Warrior at the 1991 Royal Rumble match, no one expected him to walk out as champion.
It was interference from Macho Man Randy Savage that ultimately helped Slaughter to lift the WWE Championship, after Warrior chased him into the back room, but it is still considered to be one of the most iconic moments from the past 30 years of the Royal Rumble event. This win then allowed Slaughter to walk into WrestleMania as the champion for the very first time.
14. Undertaker Vs. Rey Mysterio (2010)
The build up to this match saw former friends Batista and Rey Mysterio collide as Batista snapped on his former friend after he cost him the World Championship in a match against The Undertaker. This then led to a personal rivalry between Batista and Rey that came down to a steel cage number one contenders match that Rey somehow survived. Rey put up a decent fight in the match, but it was never going to be enough against The Deadman, who managed to defeat him and retain his title after 11 minutes.
13. Dean Ambrose Vs. Kevin Owens (2016)
It was the best way for WWE to kick off their pay-per-view calendar for 2016 as Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens collided in a brutal Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship.
There was no love lost between these two, and it was shown as they threw everything including kendo sticks and chairs at each other in an attempt to keep the other man down for a 10 count. It took Ambrose finally pushing Kevin Owens through two tables to keep him down for a 10 count and allow the Lunatic Fringe to retain his Championship.
12. John Cena Vs. AJ Styles (2017)
John Cena walked into the 2017 Royal Rumble with a point to prove to AJ Styles. The former TNA Legend had managed to defeat Cena back at SummerSlam in 2015 and had been running the SmackDown roster ever since, but Cena had returned to take back his title.
It was a masterclass in reverse submissions and untimely finishing maneuvers that ended when Cena hit an AA followed by another AA after an incredible roll through. This marked Cena’s 16th Championship win and allowed him to make history as he equalled Ric Flair‘s record and also became the first person to win 16 world titles under the WWE banner.
11. Kurt Angle Vs. Chris Benoit (2003)
Chris Benoit became the challenger for Kurt Angle‘s WWE Championship back in 2003 and given the incredible technical ability between these two superstars, this one needed to make the list. The submission reversals and the absolute talent between these two stars made this match a stand out that night.
It was 19 minutes of pure pleasure when it comes to technical wrestling and the crowd completely agreed with this, as they gave the match a standing ovation after Angle did finally get the win after the Ankle Lock. This was an outstanding match and should be remembered as that and not tainted due to the actions of one of the wrestlers who was part of it.
10. Diesel Vs. Bret Hart (1995)
The main event calibre match from the 1995 Royal Rumble saw new WWE Champion Diesel defend against WWE Legend and former Champion Bret Hart. This was your quintessential face vs. face match where Bret Hart was chosen as the heel of the night.
Bret looked to be taking advantage of his inexperienced opponent and it became a great match before run-ins from many different stars resulted in the match ending as a Double DQ. It turned into an absolute mess of a match in the end and it seemed overbooked, but before the run-ins, this was a fantastic match between two of the company’s biggest stars at the time.
9. The Rockers Vs. Orient Express (1991)
One of the only matches on this list that wasn’t a championship match, The Rockers took on Orient Express in an opening Tag Team match that completely stole the show. The match ran for almost 20 minutes, which would never happen in WWE today, but this just showed how good Shawn Michaels was in his early days.
This was on the night where the Royal Rumble match itself was won by Hulk Hogan, it was a standout Royal Rumble event, but that night it was one of the standout matches and saw Michaels truly show his potential.
8. Triple H Vs. Cactus Jack (2000)
The 2000 Royal Rumble was an absolutely fantastic event and even though the Rumble match itself was won by The Rock after he last eliminated The Big Show. The semi-main event of this show saw Mick Foley under the guise of Cactus Jack up against Triple H in a street fight.
This match saw the violent and deranged Cactus Jack push the new champion to new levels in his quest to retain the title, and this was at a time when violence was actually allowed on WWE TV. There was blood and lots of it in this match and it was one that really established Triple H as Champion. The match saw Jack take a Pedigree on thumb tacks and incredibly ran for around 27 minutes.
7. The Hardy Boyz Vs Dudley Boyz (2000)
The first ever Tables match between these two tag teams was always going to be a standout affair. Back in the 1990s, Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, and Christian and Edge controlled the Tag Team Division and this match only further proved the potential in the division.
It was a match that was full of death defying spots and it was at such an incredible pace that it definitely set the tone for the entire night. The match ended with perhaps the craziest and biggest spot of the night as Jeff Hardy performed a Swanton Bomb off the entrance way and onto Bubba Ray who then went through two tables.
6. Bret Hart vs Razor Ramon (1993)
The 1993 Royal Rumble was the first one in WWE history where the winner would go on to main event WrestleMania. The problem was, there was a lack of top stars that year, which is why one of the stand-out matches of the event was Bret Hart’s title defense against Razor Ramon.
It was one of the matches that showed the psychology of wrestling as Bret and Razor told a story of a bully versus hero in a superior fashion. Bret retained his Championship after forcing Razor to tap to the Sharpshooter. But don’t take anything away from Razor, he pushed Bret to the limits to take that Championship.
5. Chris Benoit Vs. Chris Jericho (2001)
When you think about ladder matches, you probably wouldn’t put Chris Benoit on the list of guys that you think would pull out an incredible performance. Benoit became famous for his technical ability in the ring but at the Royal Rumble back in 2001, he proved a lot of people wrong.
Benoit and Chris Jericho were longtime friends and it showed throughout their match for the Intercontinental Championship. There were some incredible spots as well as an easy to follow storyline throughout, making it easily one of the best ladder matches at a Royal Rumble event.
4. Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker (1998)
The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels have been natural enemies for many years, mostly because they disliked each other outside of WWE for most of the 90s as well. This means that it comes as no surprise that their casket match back at the 1998 Royal Rumble completely stole the show.
It was this match that saw that career-altering bump that Michaels took on the casket, that ended up causing him many problems going forward. It was one of the best casket matches at the show, and truly showed WWE the talent that they had at their fingertips with Michaels and Undertaker.
3. The Rock Vs. Mankind (1999)
This match has become one of the most famous matches in WWE’s history, it was an I Quit match between WWE Champion Mick Foley and his challenger The Rock. The brutality in this match has been called into question ever since, after Mick Foley took chair shot after chair shot to the head, something that is now banned on WWE TV.
The end of the match saw a bloodied Foley hit over and over with a chair in front of his friends and family who were watching from ringside until he finally uttered the words “I Quit.” The Rock was able to reclaim the WWE Championship in the most brutal fashion that night, and its something that WWE Universe will never forget.
2. Brock Lesnar Vs. Seth Rollins Vs. John Cena (2015)
Brock Lesnar walked into the 2015 Royal Rumble as the WWE Champion and was forced to defend his Championship against both John Cena and Seth Rollins after The Authority placed Rollins into the match because he was their favorite star.
This actually proved to be one of the highlights of a Royal Rumble that was won by Roman Reigns, who was then booed out of the building. Lesnar retained his WWE Championship after pinning Seth Rollins and took it into WrestleMania to face Roman Reigns, but it was Rollins who would cash in his Money in The Bank contract after that match to capture the WWE Championship for the first time.
1. Undertaker Vs. Yokozuna (1994)
The Undertaker is without a doubt one of the biggest stars that WWE has ever had and back in the early 1990s, The Deadman was truly proving his worth. Undertaker challenged Yokozuna to a Casket Match for the WWE Championship at The Royal Rumble back in 1994.
The match wasn’t one of the best, but it was the events that followed that make it one of the most memorable in WWE history. Undertaker was trapped inside the casket following the match after he was beaten by 10 other superstars, He was then wheeled into the back and delivered an incredible promo before he was then shown rising from the screen and into the heavens. Undertaker then missed WrestleMania that year and returned at SummerSlam as a newly crafted character.