The Royal Rumble is one of the most unique matches that the WWE offers. It kicks off not only the new calendar year but also the Road To WrestleMania. When you have several wrestlers in the ring at the same time, anything can truly happen whether it is planned or unplanned. With the level of unpredictability and uncertainty that the Rumble provides, it also provides the opportunity for some great still shots that can live forever to capture the moment.
Since 1988, nearly a thousand total competitors have battled it out to become the last man standing. Since 1993, the match has become even more important because the winner gets to compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event at WrestleMania. Though, as the numbers prove, it is not a guarantee at glory as the Rumble winner has 13 wins to 9 losses all-time in the title match at WrestleMania.
This article covers various situations, and most of them are from the Royal Rumble match itself with the exception of one. It encompasses photos of the first elimination in Royal Rumble history, the aftermath of one of the most surprising eliminations ever, a colossal screw-up of an ending, a surprise return, and some amazing feats of athleticism to avoid elimination.
Take a look at these 15 pictures and let us know in the comments which are your favorites, and, if there are pictures that aren’t listed, let us know your own favorite photos from the Royal Rumble.
15. The First Man Ever Thrown Over The Top Rope
The very first Royal Rumble took place in 1988, and as many WWE fans know, the winner of that Rumble was “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Unlike most Royal Rumble matches, there were only 20 superstars in the event. If you want to impress your friends with a trivia question, you can ask them who was the first guy to record an elimination in Royal Rumble history? The answer is WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts who eliminated Butch Reed.
14. Kofi Defies Physics – Part I
As the title suggests, this is not the first entry regarding the athleticism, ingenuity, and creativity of current New Day member Kofi Kingston. While Kofi was on the apron, he would be knocked off and end up on the back of Tensai who was on the outside eliminated. Tensai dumped Kofi onto the Spanish announcer’s table, meaning Kingston’s feet had not touched the floor yet. He would borrow JBL’s chair and pogo his way back to the ring in what would be one of the best ways to avoid elimination ever.
13. From One Generation To Another
One of the great aspects of the Royal Rumble is that it can be a platform for a surprising return or a legendary cameo to be an entrant in the match. The big surprise in 2015 was the return of Bubba Ray Dudley, but a surprise legendary cameo came with entrant #14 Diamond Dallas Page. While Page is currently 59 years old, he is in tremendous shape thanks to his highly successful DDP Yoga program. As you see here, he was able to get his finisher the Diamond Cutter on Bray Wyatt, but he didn’t last too long as he was tossed out by Roman Reigns shortly after.
12. Before The Streak Ended…
Long before Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania 30, they were the final two competitors in the Royal Rumble match in 2003. They entered the match at #29 and #30 and proceeded to clean the ring of the rest of the competition, eliminating nearly one-third of the competition with nine eliminations combined. After the smoked cleared it was down to these two future WWE Hall Of Famers, and we would get this great picture of a staredown before Lesnar would finally win the match.
11. The Exact Moment Of Victory
The beauty of photography is the fact that you can capture a defining moment with just one snap of the camera. Unfortunately for Chris Jericho, this particular photo puts an exclamation point on the end of the 2012 Royal Rumble as he would eat a Brouge Kick from Sheamus to end the match. Sheamus would take this Rumble win to WrestleMania to make history as he would defeat Daniel Bryan in only 18 seconds to win the World Championship.
10. That Wasn’t Planned
The ending of the 2005 Royal Rumble was quite the mess. The match came down to Batista and John Cena as the final two participants. Both men tumbled over the top rope and landed on the floor at the same time. Word is Batista was supposed to hold onto the ropes. An enraged Vince McMahon came out to straighten it out, but he would end up tearing both quads entering the ring. The match would finally be restarted and then Batista would promptly throw Cena over the top rope to win.
9. The Ultimate In Survival
In the 2006 Royal Rumble, Rey Mysterio entered the match at #2 with a heavy heart as his long-time friend Eddie Guerrero had passed away two months prior. In the end it was Rey against “The Viper” Randy Orton, and as both tumbled over the ropes, Rey held on, but Orton couldn’t and Mysterio was the winner. He was the Iron-man of that Rumble at 62 minutes and 12 seconds, a record that still stands today. It was a great tribute to a fallen friend.
8. Two All-Time Greats Battling With A Third Looking On
The following picture is a great one from the 1992 Royal Rumble where you can see a future Hall Of Famer in The Undertaker looking on at two current WWE Hall Of Famers in Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Before the 2016 Royal Rumble, this was the first and only time that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was on the line. Flair would last over an hour to win the match and capture the title. This would be the first of two reigns Flair would have with WWE’s top prize.
7. Even The Boss’ Son In Law Was In The Dark
The final entry of the 2008 Royal Rumble could arguably be the most shocking on ever as well. John Cena was out of action since October with a torn pectoral muscle, and many people were questioning if he would be able to make it to WrestleMania 24. The return of Cena as the #30 entrant was a complete shock to everyone. The WWE did a great job of keeping it a secret. Even Vince’s son-in-law Triple H was left in the dark as you can tell from his great expression here.
6. Kofi Defies Physics – Part II
Here is the second entry of the great saves that Kofi Kingston has made in his career at the Royal Rumble. In actuality, he’s had a great save each year since 2012, so the 2014 Royal Rumble was his third great save in a row. CM Punk would knock him off the apron and he’d land in the arms of an eliminated Rusev who laid him on the barrier and attacked him. Kofi would recover and make an AMAZING leap from the barrier to the ring to stay in the match.
5. Hope The Cameraman Has An Umbrella
Though this isn’t in the Royal Rumble match, it was a great shot of Triple H making his entrance at the 2005 event. He has one of the most unique entrances in WWE history- it’s very intimidating and exciting. For this particular photo, we hope that the guy who took this picture was wearing a tarp or had an umbrella, because if not, he is going to get himself a nice misting of bottled water out of Triple H’s mouth.
4. Aftermath Of The Most Shocking Elimination In History
Heading into the 2002 Royal Rumble pay per view, The Undertaker was feuding with the Hardy’s and Lita. Coincidentally enough, all three men would be in the ring at the same time. After ‘Taker eliminated Matt and Jeff, the Hardy’s along with Lita would attack the Undertaker. The distraction would help Tough Enough rookie Maven eliminate Undertaker in the most shocking elimination in history. Taker would make him pay for it though by completely destroying him all around the arena after.
3. The Boss Wins The Battle
In the 1999 Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon was so desperate to prevent Steve Austin from winning the WWF Championship ever again, he rigged the drawing to make Austin come in at #1. Then Commissioner Shawn Michaels would force Vince to enter at #2 and would hide most of the match. When The Rock came out to distract Austin, that was all that was needed for Vince to pick up Austin and throw him over the top rope making the Boss the winner.
2. Skinning The Cat
Shawn Michaels is definitely one of the greatest athletes of his era in the WWE, and when it came down to himself and the British Bulldog in the 1995 Royal Rumble, he performed a feat that was rarely ever seen at the time in the WWE. Bulldog threw Michaels over the top rope and turned around acting like he won, but Michaels held on to the top rope and only one foot touched the floor. He would pull himself back up and eliminate the British Bulldog for his first of two wins in a row.
1. Kofi Defies Physics – Part III
The third of three entries for Kofi Kingston in this article takes a look at the first time he defied physics and skated past elimination in the 2012 Royal Rumble. Kofi was tossed over the top rope by The Miz, but held on. Miz would dropkick Kofi, who would slide out of the ring and land on his hands. Miz would push Kofi’s leg out and Kofi ended up doing a handstand! Amazingly he would walk with his hands over to the steel steps to avoid elimination in one of the greatest moments in Royal Rumble history.