Santino Marella Breaks A Record (Royal Rumble 2009)
You can’t talk about memorable Royal Rumble moments without Santino’s second-and-a-half masterpiece in 2009. So his elimination itself is hilarious, from his sprint to his immediate elimination, to his declaration that he wasn’t ready. What makes it even better is the reaction in the crowd as the giant SANTINO sign is quickly discarded and (if you’re watching on the WWE Network), you can see a lone fan in a Santino shirt quickly have their dreams dashed.
Shawn Michaels’ Last Stand (Royal Rumble 2010)
Even though there was little doubt that Shawn Michaels would have a WrestleMania rematch with The Undertaker, the WWE told a pretty good story to get the two back in each other’s sights in the early months of 2010. Since The Undertaker was champion at the time, Shawn Michaels’ direct path to redemption was winning the Royal Rumble. He did pretty well for himself, but had a heartbreaking end as HBK and Batista both scrambled at the ropes for a madcap elimination far different than most Rumble oustings.
John Morrison Starts the Miracle Save Tradition (Royal Rumble 2011)
While Kofi Kingston may have cemented himself as The Royal Rumble’s premiere escape artist, parkour practitioner John Morrison kicked off this decade’s miracle saves with a Spider-Man-like move that had Morrison cling to the barricade wall before making a long-distance jump to get back in the ring. Bonus points for kicking William Regal in the head before getting back into the ring.
Kofi Grandstands With A Handstand (Royal Rumble 2012)
Out of all of Kofi’s Royal Rumble saves, his first may be the most imaginative. Kingston was in a weird position early on in the 2012 Rumble, hands-first on the outside with his feet dangling in the ring. After his feet were flung outside, too, Kingston showed insane core strength by walking the length of the apron outside and draping his feet on the corner stairs, avoiding the “feet landing on the floor” method of elimination.
Team Hell No Cooperation (Royal Rumble 2013)
While the next two Royal Rumbles would be full of heartbreak for Daniel Bryan fans, the American Dragon was able to have some fun with his 2013 Rumble run. Even though the duo were long-reigning tag champions in 2013, the dysfunction between Daniel Bryan and his partner Kane came to a boil as D-Bry sneakily threw out his partner, only to depend on Kane as his Rumble savior when knocked into Kane’s arms. It did not work out well.
Kofi Kingston’s Leap of Faith (Royal Rumble 2014)
Kofi’s last great Rumble save (here’s hoping for a return to form after 2015 and 2016’s underwhelming escapes) came with a bit of awkwardness, as a premiering Rusev caught a tossed-out Kingston and beat him up on the barricade while awkwardly avoiding putting Kofi anywhere on the floor. Fortunately, it’s made up for by Kingston’s return to the ring, which required a running leap WITHOUT a set of ring stairs to make up for the distance. Making a leap like that without falling short or awkwardly slipping is a minor miracle, so we’ll forgive the chair jumping and crowd surfing we’ve seen in other years.
El Torito Runs Wild (Royal Rumble 2014)
With all of the Batista rage, Daniel Bryan angst, and the retrospective sadness of CM Punk’s last match, the 2014 Royal Rumble needs all the levity it can handle. Normally, a mascot character would be met with derision (see every Royal Rumble entrance by Hornswoggle), but El Torito made the most of his entrance, getting the most of CM Punk and Seth Rollins during brief interactions and actually eliminating the hapless Fandango.
Axelmania Begins (Royal Rumble 2015)
The 2015 Royal Rumble is decent for its first twenty minutes; Daniel Bryan still has a shot, and we get surprise returns like Bubba Dudley and The Boogeyman. We also get the best lemonande-out-of-lemons moment in Royal Rumble history as Curtis Axel is clobbered by Erick Rowan before he has a chance to join the Rumble. It led to a decent faceoff between the broken-up Wyatt Family, and Axel rode his non-particpation into a popular gimmick that was only derailed because Hulk Hogan said racist stuff on a fucktape.
AJ Styles Debuts (Royal Rumble 2016)
Even if the moment was marred by some bad live camera work (fixed with a WWE YouTube video above that showed more of the momentous entrance), AJ Styles’ Royal Rumble debut was pretty phenomenal. He stood toe-to-toe with WWE’s golden boy Roman Reigns for quite some time, but more importantly, he popped the crowd big time with his surprise entrance. Royal Rumble surprise entries are usually for returns, so seeing a top-level star debut during the match was a nice change of pace. However, now we have *that* expectation for future Rumbles.
Sami’s Surprise Entry (Royal Rumble 2016)
Even though he’s one of the match’s biggest underdogs and seems a few years away from a one-on-one WrestleMania main-event title match, it’s nice that Sami Zayn will once again be part of the Royal Rumble match in 2017. That’s because his first Rumble entry was so memorable. Not long after a cocky Kevin Owens tossed out fan favorite debuting star AJ Styles, Zayn came out and gave his eternal enemy Kevin Owens some comeuppance. Here’s hoping Zayn has some more great Rumble memories like that in his future to make up for all the times Daniel Bryan never got to master WWE’s most exciting match.
Sound off with your favorite Royal Rumble memories in the comments below! If you’re looking for more Royal Rumble insanity, watch us pit ALL 30 previous Royal Rumble winners against each other in a single simulated match!