With the WWE approaching the 30th iteration of the excitement-filled Royal Rumble, we’ve scoured every single previous instance of the timed battle royal to pick out the 30 best eliminations, surprises, and other assorted insanity!
Much like the internet at large, the Royal Rumble has a place in the heart of Laser Time. It’s where the non-Dave and Hank hosts rediscovered their love of the squared circle, and it’s the basis for a majority of Laser Time’s Fantasy Fights, where mysterious new pop-culture figures come out every two minutes. The Royal Rumble match itself is like pizza; even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good, but when the Rumble is truly unpredictable and action-packed, it’s some of the most entertaining wrestling you’ll watch all year.
Having scoured every single Royal Rumble on the WWE Network an ungodly amount of times, we’ve picked out 30 moments that span (almost) every single Royal Rumble, from the late 80s up to last year’s event. Unlike the Royal Rumble itself, there are no lackluster entries here; all 30 moments listed here are main-event worthy!
Warlord Is Eliminated in Two Seconds (Royal Rumble 1989)
Warlord (one half of the monster tag team The Powers of Pain) was a weird choice to be the first record-setter for Royal Rumble mediocrity, but at least he got to pull off a badass pose before being summarily dumped!
Bushwhacker Luke’s March (Royal Rumble 1991)
Now HERE is a prime candidate for Rumble futility. Even when in the ring with Bushwhacker Butch, Luke was hardly a threatening presence. However, he could always be entertaining, so why stop the fun when losing the Rumble in five seconds? Just keep smiling and keep marching, Luke!
Ric Flair Wins (Royal Rumble 1992)
For the first Royal Rumble that really mattered (previous Rumble matches had no title implications), the 1992 told a great story. Ric Flair, the WCW icon who had just defected to WWE, pulled a bad number (3), and outlasted an all-star Rumble filled with future Hall of Famers. The feather on the cap is that the two biggest favorites (Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice) were so preoccupied with each other that Ric was able to sneak a win in as the two quarrelled.
Randy Savage Doesn’t Know How To Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 1993)
Randy Savage was never the smartest competitor in the Royal Rumble match. In 1991 he skipped the match to avoid the wrath of The Ultimate Warrior. In 1992, he accidentally jumped over the top rope to chase Jake “The Snake” Roberts. How to close out the trilogy of fail? Randy Savage knocked down the imposing Yokozuna and hit the mammoth sumo star with his finishing move. For some reason (likely that the spot didn’t *quite* put Macho in the right spot) Savage went for a cover. Those don’t count in the Royal Rumble, so Yokozuna simply bench pressed Savage out of the ring. Ooooh no!
Bret Hart and Lex Luger’s Crossover Eliminations (Royal Rumble 1994)
The co-winner ending of the 1994 Royal Rumble may have been disappointing, but the final moments before the awkward double elimination were pretty great. Before the final two faced each other with a neat face-off, the duo employed the final two runners-up (Shawn Michaels and a pre-Rikishi Fatu) to perform a neat spot where the two heels avoid a mid-ring collision only to be simultaneously eliminated.
Mo Goes Quick (Royal Rumble 1995)
Forever the “other” guy in the tag team with a 500-pound giant, Mo never really got to shine on his own, but the egg-shaped partner of Mabel did carve his own niche for Royal Rumble futility as he dashed through the ring for a super-quick elimination. The kicker? His partner was the next entrant, so it made his eagerness look extra-stupid.
Shawn Michaels Skins The Cat (Royal Rumble 1995)
The first few Royal Rumbles that had championship implications had somewhat convoluted endings, as shown above with Bret Hart, Lex Luger, and Randy Savage. Royal Rumble 1995 fell into the same bucket with The British Bulldog’s music even playing to suggest Davey Boy Smith had won (shouldn’t there be a rule about playing music at the end of a match?). It’s made up for the fact that Shawn Michaels’ acrobatics to avoid placing both feet on the ground was pretty neat.
Shawn Superkicks A Win (Royal Rumble 1996)
Most Royal Rumbles stretch out the final two showdown to highlight the competitiveness of their stars, but once in a while, the quick approach works better. In this case, to lay the ground work for their mid-year feud, Shawn Michaels pulled out a flash superkick to instantly eliminate his friend Diesel after Big Daddy Cool had just eliminated someone else. That way, it sows the seeds of anger for Diesel, but kept him on an even plane for when the good friends would become better enemies later in the year.
Jerry Lawler: King of Embarrassing Eliminations (Royal Rumble 1997)
As far as comedy eliminations go, Jerry Lawler had a dozen years of dominance with this gem. Firstly, there’s the fact that his tenure is so short that he’s able to finish a sentence on commentary immediately after his elimination, but the better gag is that Lawler’s “woaaaaah” upon being knocked out managed to still project pretty well in the massive confines of the Alamo Dome.
Steve Austin Hams It Up (Royal Rumble 1997)
As mentioned before, the 1997 Royal Rumble took place in the huge Alamo Dome, a venue far bigger than the arenas that housed previous Rumbles. To that end, the wrestlers had to be even more expressive than usual to play to the cheapest of seats in the 65,000-seat facility. As the iron man of the 1997 Rumble, Stone Cold Steve Austin filled the spots in between eliminations with charming pantomimes like push-ups, watch-checking, and complete exasperation when Bret “The Hitman” Hart finally arrived.
The craziest Royal Rumble moments of the late 90s and 2000s follow on the next page!