Over the Rope: Top 5 Best Royal Rumble Matches

As the Road to WrestleMania is beginning to build its annual momentum or as it is called in the wrestling business, “heat”, the first stop is the Royal Rumble. This is a 30-(wo)man, over-the-top-rope, battle royal. The match begins with two men in the ring and one new (wo)man coming in every 90 seconds. Once both a competitor’s feet touches the floor after being thrown over the top rope, they are eliminated. Ultimately, the last performer standing wins the match. The winner of the Royal Rumble receives a main event, world championship match at that year’s WrestleMania. The rumble has given us some extremely memorable moments from unpredictable finishes to unpredictable returns. Let’s take a look at five of the best Royal Rumble matches of its 31 year history:

  • 2008- Cena’s Return

On January 27, 2008 (exactly eleven years ago to the day of the 2019 event) Madison Square Garden witnessed one of the greatest Royal Rumble returns of all-time. John Cena, who had been out of action for about three months since tearing his pectoral muscle on an episode of Raw in October of 2007. Cena was supposed to take seven months off to rehabilitate his injury but triumphantly returned for the 2008 Royal Rumble match. He entered the match at the final spot, number 30. He eliminated four competitors including Triple H, whom he eliminated last to win the match. Cena’s return alone is the reason that the 2008 match was memorable because he had sped his recovery time up by four months. He eventually lost his WrestleMania match opportunity when he fought WWE Champion, Randy Orton at No Way Out and lost. He would eventually take on Randy Orton at WrestleMania but in a Triple Threat match which saw Orton defeating Cena and Triple H (2008 Raw Elimination Chamber winner) to retain his WWE Championship.

  • 1999- McMahon Wins

The events that cause this Rumble to be so memorable didn’t even occur in the ring for the most part. Stone Cold Steve Austin and his rival of a boss, Mr. McMahon, both began the match as the #1 and #2 spots. Austin had been laying a beatdown on McMahon until the #3 entrant, Golga, entered the match and allowed McMahon to flee by exiting the ring under the bottom rope so he would not be eliminated. Golga was eliminated by Austin in fifteen seconds. Immediately after Golga was eliminated, Austin went after McMahon but found himself in a trap set up by The Corporation (McMahon’s stable) in the public bathroom in the arena. McMahon’s henchmen left Austin knocked out on the floor and McMahon eventually ended up at the commentary table for a little bit.

  • 1995- HBK’s First and First

On January 22, 1995, Shawn Michaels had one of the toughest paths on his way to win the Royal Rumble. The end of the match saw Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog as the final two competitors. The two men started as the #1 and #2 spots respectively. At the end of the match, the Bulldog had thrown HBK over the top rope and began celebrating although only one of Michaels’ foot had touched the floor. Michael’s returned to the ring and threw the Bulldog over the top rope as he was celebrating on the turnbuckle. This was one of the most impressive performances in rumble history as Michaels was the first competitor to enter the Royal Rumble at the #1 spot and win the match. This was also the first Rumble win for Michaels as he went on to win the next year’s Rumble too and be the first superstar to win back-to-back Royal Rumble matches until Stone Cold Steve Austin.

  • 1992- Flair is Here to Stay

Arguably the best Royal Rumble match to date, there was no doubt that the 1992 Rumble match would make this list. First off, Flair won this Rumble match after entering at the #3 spot and lasted a little over an hour which had broken the record for longest time in a Royal Rumble match. Secondly, the Rumble match itself set up the main event of that year’s WrestleMania VIII with Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice. Hogan had been eliminated by Sid Justice which planted the seed for Justice’s eventual heel turn during a tag team match that saw Justice abandon Hogan during their match with Ric Flair and The Undertaker. And lastly, this Royal Rumble match was special as the winner would be crowned WWE Champion, but that wasn’t all. Since Flair had joined WWE a few months prior, he had been saying that he was the “Real World Champion”, throwing shade at WCW, the company he had left on bad terms. And as a final shot at WCW, after Flair won the Rumble, he went on to say, “And this is the ONLY.. title.. in the wrestling world that makes you number one. When you are the king of the W… WF, you rule the world…” Overall, when Flair does what Flair does, you know it’s gonna be legendary.

  • 2018- The Women Are Ready to Rumble

The 2018 Royal Rumble was one of the most historic Royal Rumble events in recent memory. Despite the first appearance of Ronda Rousey in WWE, the 2018 Royal Rumble stood out because it featured the first Women’s Royal Rumble. This was so monumental that the Women’s Royal Rumble match main evented the show over the Men’s Royal Rumble. The Rumble itself saw women from the past, present and future of the WWE compete for a Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. As the the two then-Women’s Champions, Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Women’s Champion) and Alexa Bliss (Raw Women’s Champion) looked on, they watched as Asuka locked Nikki Bella in a headscissor and pulled her over the top rope to win the match and go on to headline WrestleMania. Although, nothing made that night more iconic than Ronda Rousey appearing, interrupting Asuka’s celebration and pointing at the WrestleMania sign. Asuka ultimately lost her first match to “The Queen”, Charlotte Flair, at WrestleMania with the SmackDown Women’s Championship on the line.

With the Road to WrestleMania getting crazier by the minute, the 2019 Royal Rumble winners, Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, have already chosen their opponent for the “Show of Shows”. Rollins chose the Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar and Becky Lynch chose the Raw Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey. At WrestleMania, Royal Rumble winners are 14-11 (W-L) in their championship bouts. Rollins and Lynch are looking to make that record 16-11 this year at WrestleMania 35.

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