On Sunday, January 28th, WWE's Royal Rumble will take place at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia. The annual question is who will walk away as the winner and how the event will ultimately turn out. Every year, this question plagues members of the WWE Universe. Over the company's history, there have been winners and losers, and countless decisions that left fans either pleased or disappointed, whether that be over whom walked away victorious or who was eliminated, from the matchup. Some stars have gone on to accomplish even greater things, while others have never been able to rise to that level of success again. Where these Royal Rumblers take their careers can be quite surprising in many cases.
A number of past winners may have seen highs and lows in their careers, but on a particular evening, they were standing on top of the wrestling world as the Royal Rumble winner. For some, this night was just the beginning. For others, it was an accomplishment that would never be matched in their careers ever again, no matter how hard they tried. Past winners included everyone from Roman Reigns to The Undertaker. Winners include a wide variety of wrestlers with a wide variety of skills. Who were some of the performers who walked away as the Royal Rumble winner, and where are they today? We may be surprised to see what happened to these wrestlers. Here are fifteen former WWE Royal Rumble winners and where they are now.
15 Hacksaw Jim Duggan
For years, this proud American waved Old Glory overhead while proudly shouting, "USA! USA!" As time passed during his WWE tenure, Hacksaw Jim Duggan's popularity grew and he became more and more endearing to the fans watching him. Whether it was during his legendary battles with the Iron Sheik or Nikolai Volkoff or Andre the Giant, Duggan always proved to be a "tough guy" in and out of the ring. There was never a fight that he backed down from, regardless of whom his opposition was.
In 1988, Duggan won the inaugural Royal Rumble, which took place in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. The match was a prominent event since it was the first time so many of the promotion's most notable names came together in one ring. Today, Duggan's wrestling career consists primarily of appearing at fan conventions, still showing his gratitude for their continued support.
14 Big John Studd
One of the largest individuals to set foot in the ring, Big John Studd was a mountain of a man. Through the majority of his career, he was managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. His career had its share of confrontations and rivalries, but none were as big as his long-standing feud with Andre the Giant. He even did the unthinkable and cut Andre's hair while the 7-foot giant was helplessly tied in the ropes unable to free himself. Andre would eventually get his revenge, as he slammed Studd to win the $10,000 body slam challenge at the inaugural Wrestlemania.
In 1989, Studd won the second Royal Rumble in Houston, Texas. After leaving WWE later that year, Studd competed on occasion, outside the promotion, retiring by the end of that same year. Unfortunately, Studd passed away in 1995 of Hodgkin's disease and liver cancer. He is survived by his wife Donna and son, John Jr.
13 Hulk Hogan
He said his prayers, ate his vitamins, and was one of the first ever winners of the Royal Rumble. As a symbol of WWE for years, Hulk Hogan was known for standing for everything America believed in. He was the symbol of never giving up and never surrendering, the embodiment of having a belief and standing by it. His matches against Randy Savage, Andre the Giant and the Ultimate Warrior mean so much more to fans than wins and losses. Fans were always invested as the immortal one captured, lost or retained championships against his adversaries.
In 1990, he won the Royal Rumble in Orlando, Florida, before losing his WWE championship to the Ultimate Warrior a few months later. He went on to win the Rumble the following year as well. Today, Hogan is retired from the ring, but still viewed as a pop culture icon. His introduction into the greater entertainment world was due to WWE's growing popularity among the mainstream sports and entertainment world.
12 Ric Flair
A sixteen-time world champion, Flair has essentially seen it all and done it all. Often referred to as the dirtiest player in the game, Flair would do anything and everything needed to walk away with a win. However, he is often referred to by his contemporaries as an inspirational talent after seeing his share of tragedies throughout his career, along with his triumphs. His feuds with the likes of Ricky Steamboat and Sting demonstrated the caliber of worker he was At Wrestlemania XIV. Flair faced Shawn Michaels in a retirement match, bringing to an end the Nature Boy's legendary career.
Flair entered the 1993 Royal Rumble at number three and lasted over sixty minutes, not only winning the Rumble but capturing the WWE championship in the process. Flair is still actively involved in a number of events, either independently or with ties to WWE.
Known to his family as Rodney Anoa'i, Yokozuna made quite the impression as part of WWE in the early 1990s, when he was billed from Tokyo, Japan and managed by Mr. Fuji. Yokozuna was a former WWE champion, defeating Bret "the Hitman" Hart during his run and in the process cementing his career as one of the company's greatest ever. Yokozuna was listed at over six hundred pounds, which was without question a massive advantage when he stepped into the ring. His battles with Lex Luger and Vader were among his most successful feuds.
In 1993, Yokozuna won the Royal Rumble, outlasting every other man and eliminating several as well. Yokozuna departed the company in 1996 after being unable to lose enough weight to please the WWE administration. Unfortunately, four years after his departure, Yokozuna passed away from a pulmonary edema, his weight ultimately contributing to this.
10 Lex Luger
As the total package, Lex Luger would run over everyone and anyone in his path during his time in WCW. When he joined WWE, Luger was initially known as the Narcissist, a character that believed he was better (and better looking) than everyone else. He would flex and show off just how built he was while standing in front of a mirror. After this character didn't resonate as they hoped, Luger was repackaged as being American-made and was the one to slam Yokozuna on the USS Intrepid as a show of his pride in his country.
In 1994, Luger and Bret Hart were named co-winners of the Royal Rumble, each man earning the right to face Yokozuna for the WWE championship. Luger departed the company in 1995, returning to WCW and staying there until the promotion was purchased by WWE. Today, due to a spinal infection, he is unable to walk and is wheelchair-bound because of it. He remains very active in charity and church work, however.
9 Shawn Michaels
He thought he was cool, he knew he was sexy, and former WWE champion the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels was able to not only talk a big game but backed it up every single step of the way. During a career of more than two decades, Michaels had rivalries with the likes of Bret Hart, The Undertaker and even his best friend off-screen, Triple H. His matches are considered some of the greatest of all time, and the nickname "The Showstopper" wasn't something he gave himself, but something he truly lived up to each time he stepped into the ring.
However, before capturing the WWE championship against Bret Hart for the first time, he won the Royal Rumble in back-to-back years, with his win in 1995 being the most significant. Michaels entered the ring as the first entrant in the Rumble, defeated everyone else and won the match in the end. It was a remarkable feat by Michaels, who then won the following year. Today, Michaels aids developing talent in NXT and at the Performance Centre.
8 Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Texas Rattlesnake has continued to be as relevant in the wrestling world as he ever has. On his weekly podcast, Austin shares his insights on wrestling and interviews people from within and outside the wrestling world. When Austin became "Stone Cold," the wrestling world was put on its ear. The foul-mouthed Texan wasn't afraid to say what he thought and put everyone and anyone in his path on notice, whether it was Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels, or his longstanding adversary, WWE owner Mr. McMahon. A former WWE champion, Austin faced every threat to his title head on.
It didn't matter if it was The Rock, Triple H or Kurt Angle; Steve Austin would stomp a mudhole in his opposition and walk it dry. In 1997, Austin was actually thrown over the top rope and eliminated, but the referees didn't see it and he was able to come back in and eliminate Bret Hart, ultimately winning that year's Rumble. That was the first of three Rumbles that Austin won.
7 Vince McMahon
He is the son of the late Vince McMahon Sr., and the owner of WWE. Vince McMahon has created quite an empire for himself and his family with his dedication to the wrestling business and its ever-changing model. However, there was a time when McMahon put his money where his mouth was and stepped into the ring after he was challenged by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. McMahon and Austin were engaged in what would turn into a nearly two-year long feud, and McMahon has always been presented as someone that wouldn't ask his talent to do anything he himself wouldn't do.
Between 1997 and 1999, Austin and McMahon engaged in the match after match, seeing the owner often bloodied. He frequently got revenge with the help of his Corporation, a faction of villainous wrestlers. At the 1998 Royal Rumble, with the help of his Corporation, McMahon won the event much to the dismay of those in attendance and watching at home. Today, McMahon occasionally appears on camera, but mainly runs things behind the scenes.
6 The Rock
He is a third-generation athlete that competed with the bulk of his WWE career occurring between 1995 and 2003. A multiple-time world champion, The Rock feuded with the likes of Triple H and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, going back and forth with them, often with championships on the line. One of his most notable moments was during the last man standing match against Mick Foley, where he delivered no less than fifteen chair shots to the head of his opponent. However, one of the most notable accomplishments of The Rock was that he also won the Royal Rumble.
In 2000, after being one of the last participants in the match, he walked out as the Rumble winner. He currently has a very active film career, and is considered one of the most popular leading men in Hollywood today. Today, fans don't have to go very far to see what The People's Champion is doing.
The Animal first made his mark in WWE when he joined the ranks of Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Triple H as part of Evolution. He definitely had a presence about him, even when he initially debuted as the Deacon Batista alongside Reverend D-Von. Batista won the Royal Rumble on not one but two separate occasions. He won the Royal Rumble in 2005, and afterward his ally Triple H concocted a plan to ensure that Batista didn't challenge him for the World championship, but rather the WWE champion JBL.
The second time Batista won, it wasn't met with a favorable response, as fans would have preferred Daniel Bryan or Roman Reigns to walk away as the winner of the 2014 Rumble. Today, much like The Rock, Batista is actively working in Hollywood in various co-starring roles, including Guardians of the Galaxy and Blade Runner 2049. Batista currently has a number of films slated for release over the next few years, as he has kept quite busy.
4 Rey Mysterio
One of the greatest wrestlers to begin his career in Mexico, there really isn't anything Mysterio hasn't been able to do. Just five foot, six inches tall and weighing 175 pounds, for Mysterio to be as successful as he has been for as long as he has certainly said something about his competitive spirit. He was a multiple time champion, and regularly faced challengers that were bigger than him. However, in 2006, the smallest dog in the fight proved he could outlast twenty-nine other competitors and walked away the winner.
His win wasn't an easy one by any stretch, as he was the second entrant in the event and competed for well over an hour before walking away the winner. It was a great story that was told, and the stamina to compete for over an hour against twenty-nine other men is a task in and of itself. Mysterio has been an active member of the Lucha Underground television program, as well as performing for independent promotions around the world.
3 Triple H
It's all about the game and how you play it, and as he has often said, Triple H hasn't just played the game, he is the game. A former fourteen-time WWE champion, Triple H has had feuds with the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Rock and Shawn Michaels, fighting the best that WWE had to offer. Whether it was as a heel or a face, he always managed to show how talented he was in the ring. Often claiming to be a student of the business, Triple H never shied away from not only offering ideas for stories but also different options in order to tell the best possible story for all involved.
He won the Royal Rumble on two separate occasions, the first being in 2002 and the second being fourteen years later in 2016 when he outlasted twenty-nine other men to capture the WWE championship for his most recent reign. Today, Triple H can be seen on-screen and is also very involved behind the scenes producing the weekly programs, particularly NXT.
When Edge first came into WWE, many weren't sure what to make of this enigmatic character. As time passed, Edge grew and developed from his original brooding character to a fun and outspoken Rated R Superstar. As Edge's career took off as a singles competitor, he achieved more and more success. He captured multiple championships and was a Royal Rumble winner as well. In 2010, Edge returned after suffering an injury and was the twenty-ninth entrant, ultimately winning the event.
A year after winning the Rumble, the then champion relinquished his title as he was forced to retire due to spinal stenosis, which put him at risk of paralysis if he continued to compete. Today, Edge enjoys life with his wife, former WWE superstar Beth Phoenix. He is also an actor, appearing in several television programs and various WWE film projects. Edge and friend Jay Reso (Christian) still maintain their budding bromance, hosting a weekly podcast.
1 Alberto Del Rio
As a second-generation wrestler, Del Rio managed to make himself the most notable talent today to come out of Mexico in recent years. During his early years in WWE, Del Rio was accompanied to the ring by his personal ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez. He faced the biggest and the best WWE had to offer, including Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, and CM Punk. He switched from heel to face and back again during his tenure, mainly because fans weren't buying into his status as face.
In 2011, Del Rio won the biggest Royal Rumble ever, featuring 40 competitors. He then turned that Rumble win into a world championship reign. Del Rio made a short return to the company a couple of years ago, and captured the United States championship from John Cena in his first match back. Today, Del Rio is known as Alberto El Patron as part of Impact Wrestling, and has had feuds with various top talent including former WWE superstar John Morrison, who is known in the promotion as Johnny Impact.