The Royal Rumble is one of the premiere events in the WWE. Held annually in January, thirty participants battle it out for the right to face the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the main event of the biggest PPV of the year, Wrestlemania. Two men start it off in the ring while a new participant joins them every 60 to 90 seconds. The only way to eliminate the opponents is to shoot them over the top ropes, with both their feet hitting the ground.
The upcoming 2015 edition in Philadelphia this month will be the 28th Rumble in history. From “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to Batista, the event has catapulted wrestlers into the highest echelon of professional wrestling. Over 730 competitors have entered the illustrious Rumble in its 28-year history, only to be eliminated by someone who wanted it more. Factoring in eliminations, time spent in the ring and most importantly, the number of Royal Rumble wins, this list provides the best of the best to ever step into the Royal ring.
The first European- and Irish-born wrestler to win the Royal Rumble, Sheamus has become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to this massive battle royal.
With over an hour of total ring time in the Rumble, the Celtic Warrior has eliminated 10 other competitors and was in the final 3 three times in his 4 Royal Rumble appearances. His best performance was obviously his win in 2012, finally eliminating Chris Jericho with his Brogue Kick.
14. Bret Hart
The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be – that’s Bret Hart. If you’re going to go around calling yourself that, you darn well better win big matches such as the Royal Rumble. And win he did, in 1994, when he and Lex Luger were crowned co-winners when they both eliminated each other at the same time.
Bret always gets the bigger nod, though, because he went on to win the title at Wrestlemania X. A second win could’ve been his if it wasn’t for that sneaky Rattlesnake, Steve Austin, screwing him over in the 1997 edition of the PPV.
13. The Rock
The Rock is only at #13?
With only 4 Rumble appearances, it’s hard to justify putting him any higher despite his win in 2000. He has the distinction of being 1st, 2nd and 3rd in different Rumbles, facing off against his rival Stone Cold in the finals of the 1998 edition of the Rumble and finding himself in the final 3 with Kane in 2001.
Johnson’s big win came in 2000, last eliminating the Big Show. With a little under two hours of total ring time and less than 10 eliminations, the unpopular call had to be made to leave the Great One at #13.
The surprise entrant at #29 and the record holder for the shortest time spent in the ring for a winner at 7 minutes and 19 seconds, Edge roared his way into the 2010 Royal Rumble and attacked his nemesis Chris Jericho, eliminating Jericho and John Cena to become the last man standing.
The Rated R Superstar has participated in 6 Royal Rumbles, finishing in the final 3 the last three times he entered the event. With 17 eliminations and over 2 hours of total ring time, Edge is one of the few superstars who has improved in standing with each of his appearances, getting closer and closer to his goal – culminating with the Edge’s win in 2010.
11. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit always evokes mixed emotions among wrestling fans, but it’s possible to separate the wrestler from the man. The Rabid Wolverine was a significant part of wrestling history, with his Rumble win and Wrestlemania victory cementing his in-ring legacy.
Benoit made the most of his 4 Rumble appearances, but none were greater than his 2004 win. He became the second person to win it all at #1, overcoming insurmountable odds by last eliminating the Big Show. His incredible performance was also the second longest in Rumble history, clocking in at 61 minutes and 30 seconds.
10. Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio holds the record for the longest time spent in the Royal Rumble at 62 minutes and 12 seconds. He won the 2006 edition by last eliminating Randy Orton.
Although his victory will always be criticised because of best friend Eddie Guerrero’s death leading to the feel-good, emotional win, Rey has had some incredible showings in his 6 Rumble appearances that justify his ranking. Not only is he the shortest Royal Rumble winner at 5’7, he is also the only masked wrestler to win.
9. Randy Orton
After some near misses in 2006 and 2007, Randy Orton won the Rumble in 2009 with the help of Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase Jr., last eliminating Triple H. Many would agree that the Legend Killer has the best shot of making it much higher on this list before his career ends.
Only 34 and a perennial main eventer, he’s eliminated 18 other people and has lasted close to two and a half hours. Always a name to watch out for, Orton has reached the final 4 a full four times in his career, as well as the final 3 and the final 2 twice.
8. The Undertaker
The Phenom has participated in 10 Royal Rumbles and has only won one in 2007, in perhaps the best final 2 showdown with Shawn Michaels. With 35 eliminations, the Undertaker has always been a force to be reckoned with, whether it was as the Dead Man or the American Badass.
Being one of two people to win the whole thing at #30, the Undertaker was also in the final two with Brock Lesnar in 2003. An unbelievable Royal Rumble moment involved the Undertaker and Maven, the latter being a rookie from Tough Enough who eliminated the WWE’s most respected performer.
7. Triple H
It’s always time to play The Game when Rumble season arrives. Triple H boasts an impressive Royal Rumble resume, most notably winning it in 2002 and for holding the record for longest cumulative time spent in the match, lasting for a combined total of 221 minutes.
With 27 eliminations and 2 runner-up performances, The Game is a seasoned veteran who puts on a show in the Rumble, even when he doesn’t win it. He made the wins by Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio much more memorable.
Batista joined the ranks of legends when he became the latest 2-time Royal Rumble winner at last year’s event. With 17 eliminations to his credit in 5 Rumbles, the Animal makes it this high on our list because he’s made the final 4 in all of his appearances.
Batista’s other win came at the 2005 edition, when he and John Cena eliminated each other. Vince McMahon himself came out and restarted the final 2, with Batista finally getting the win. With limited in-ring time, however, it’s hard to justify putting him any higher.
5. Hulk Hogan
Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild at the Rumble? The first back to back and two time winner, the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan is a phenomenal Royal Rumble performer that would most likely be at #1 had he stayed in the WWE past 1993.
With only 4 events under his belt, Hogan batted a .500 average in term of wins while eliminating 27 other competitors: that’s almost 7 wrestlers per Rumble! The Hulkster even made it to the final 3 of the 1992 Royal Rumble with Ric Flair and Sid Justice.
4. John Cena
With 2 wins and 2 runner-up performances, John Cena has cemented himself as a Royal Rumble guru. Through 7 Rumbles, he’s eliminated 22 other participants and has lasted a combined total of over 2 hours.
Besides his win in 2013 when he last eliminated Ryback, John Cena’s crowning Rumble achievement is his 2008 surprise return to the ring in Madison Square Garden. Cena and Triple H had a fantastic back and forth final 2 bout, with Cena coming out on top to the crowd’s delight. He accomplished this by entering at #30, the second man to do so.
One of the most dominant Royal Rumble competitors, Kane is also the only entry on our list to have never won the big event. So why is he so high up on our list? The Big Red Machine has numerous final four appearances, close to 3 hours of cumulative in-ring time, and a WWE-leading total of 17 Royal Rumble appearances, 13 of those consecutive from 1999 to 2011.
Kane also possessed the record for most eliminations in a single Rumble at 11 in 2001 for 13 years until Roman Reigns beat that record last year. He technically also co-holds the record for most eliminations at 39, although one of his eliminations came after he himself was eliminated from the Rumble.
2. Shawn Michaels
The Icon. The Showstopper. The Main Event. Mr. Wrestlemania himself was also Mr. Royal Rumble, apparently. Shawn Michaels comes in at #2 with a fantastic case for top honors. Winning the Rumble back to back in 1995 and 1996, he holds the record for most eliminations at 39, an honor he shares with Kane.
The Heartbreak Kid has appeared in 12 Royal Rumbles and trails only his best buddy Triple H in total in-ring time at 3 hours and 42 minutes. As if all that wasn’t enough, he has the distinction of being the first man to ever win the Royal Rumble at #1.
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
The only person with 3 wins at the big event, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is our number one Royal Rumble competitor. Although he might not have the longest cumulative in-ring time or most eliminations – he’s pretty darn close at 36, though – the Rattlesnake is cold, calculating and efficient, as his nickname suggests.
With 4 Rumbles in which he had at least 7 eliminations, Stone Cold was ruthless, throwing people over the top ropes at will. Back to back wins in 1997 and 1998 were accentuated when he became the only wrestler to win 3 in 2001. He was also the central focus in the 1999 Royal Rumble, entering at #1 and lasting all the way to the end only to lose to the #2 entrant, Vince McMahon.