WWE’s Royal Rumble returns this weekend as one of the showpiece events on the wrestling calendar that starts the foundation that builds towards Wrestlemania.
Since it’s inception in 1988, the WWE over-the-top-rope PPV has created a number of historic moments and every fan from every era has their own nostalgic moment from the 30-man extravaganza.
talkSPORT.com have been on hand to take you back in time as we rank the top five greatest ever Royal Rumbles.
1. 2001 Royal Rumble
The year that followed the Millennium will go down as probably the greatest rumble in the company’s history.
A stacked roster, with some of the biggest stars in the business, won by its biggest name.
Now in its fourteenth edition, the 2001 Royal Rumble occurred at a time when a number of the superstars were in their prime, while there was a host of rising stars, thus creating huge anticipation for the event.
The storyline centred on whether Stone Cold Steve Austin would complete his comeback after a year out with neck surgery and win a record-breaking third Rumble.
The Rumble itself will always be best remembered for the performance of Kane, who entered as the sixth man and had a hilarious encounter with actor Drew Carey, while knocking the Honkey Tonk Man senseless with his trusty guitar.
Booked as a monster throughout much of his run, he was utterly dominant here and set an elimination record of 11, which has since been broken by Roman Reigns.
Big Show made a shock return to a huge ovation, before being eliminated by The Rock and he would make up the final three with Kane and Austin – who was attacked by Triple H before even reaching the ring.
Bloodied and battered, the Texas rattlesnake would hit the stunner on Kane before unleashing three massive chair shots to send New Orleans Arena into a frenzy.
2. 1992 Royal Rumble
Take a look at the star power in this lineup and you will be hard pressed to beat it.
British Bulldog, Ted Dibiase, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Big Boss Man, Ric Flair, Jake Roberts, Sgt. Slaugher and Sid Justice.
It was the first Royal Rumble in which the WWE championship was on the line for the winner, with the unique stakes not seen again since Triple H’s 2016 triumph.
Much of the Golden Generation in WWE had been dominated by Hogan and having won the 1990 and 1991 versions; many believed the ‘Hulkster’ would make it a customary third. However, Flair, who went for an incredible 59 minutes in this, upset the odds to win and his famous speech after, signed off with a trademark ‘WOOO’ still lives on to this day.
“When you walk around in this world and you tell everybody you’re number one, the only way to stay number one is to be number one.
“And this is the only title in the wrestling world makes you number one. When you are the king of the WWF, you rule the world! “With a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life.”
Well said Ric!
3. 1998 Royal Rumble
Depending on how you remember it, the Attitude Era either began in 1997 or at the start of the following year. For the benefit of this piece, we will go with the latter.
WWE was seeking to regain viewership control over rivals WCW and took a significant step to do just that.
A memorable poster for the match is one of the best WWE has ever made, Austin’s famous bald head covered in nails and highlighted he was on his way to becoming the main man in the business.
A dominant 50+ minute performance from The Rock and Mick Foley entering as all three of his personas (Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love) are highlights, as former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson watched on, setting the wheels in motion for his classic confrontation with Austin and his later inclusion as enforcer at Wrestlemania XIV.
Looking back years later, Austin was destined to win, despite still returning to full fitness following a horror neck break at SummerSlam the year before.
When he dispatched The Rock to win his second consecutive Rumble, WWE and Austin never looked back.
4. 2002 Royal Rumble
The first Rumble following the ‘death’ of WCW.
It was also the last to feature the old WWF name before the company had to drop Federation and become Entertainment following a legal battle with the World Wildlife Fund in May 2002.
A bloody street fight between Vince McMahon and Flair, followed by Chris Jericho vs The Rock were solid prequels to the main show.
Despite a stacked roster due to the new acquisitions, the company had lost a bit of the spark that had made it so hugely popular. It was still packed with the usual big names Austin, Kurt Angle, Big Show and Kane, while Undertaker was shockingly eliminated by Tough Enough winner Maven.
Triple H returned a few weeks before after eight months out with a torn quadriceps muscle and delivered on his billing as heavy favourite by winning when he eliminated Angle.
The event was also notable, not at the time of course, for being the last Rumble ever in which Austin would take part in, as he retired following persistent neck and knee injuries the following year.
5. 2007 Royal Rumble
While a lack of star power means the 2007 Rumble slips somewhat under the radar, it is the ending of the match that allows this to be considered a success.
The final four participants were The Undertaker, Randy Orton, Edge and Shawn Michaels.
Four became two and it was left to the Deadman and the Heartbreak Kid to put on a 10-minute classic, both living legends displaying a tremendous show of athletic ability, with no one in attendance sure of who would come out on top.
After a series of near misses, Michaels failed to connect with his patented Sweet Chin Music and was thrown over the top rope.
The victory meant ‘Taker became the first man to enter at number 30 and leave with a win, his first in this match stipulation 16 years after his maiden appearance.