With the exception of the inaugural Royal Rumble Match in 1988, we have grown used to the concept of 30 Superstars vying for their chance at immortality. It’s not the easiest of tasks. Think about it: You need to outlast 29 other guys and in order to do that, you have to avoid being thrown over the top rope and having both feet touch the floor. 29 other guys! That’s a lot of dudes! Let me put it into perspective because I don’t think you’re quite grasping this: Kane… one of the most dominant Superstars in WWE history has participated in 14 Royal Rumble’s… and never won.
Now that you understand the degree of difficulty involved in winning this special match, just imagine if they made it ever HARDER. Imagine being a professional wrestler hoping for your opportunity to main event WrestleMania. You train and train to win the Royal Rumble all year. You watch tape. You study techniques on how to throw other wrestlers over the top rope. You increase your lower and upper body strength. You do everything in your power to prepare to eliminate ALL 29 of your opponents if necessary. Then… three weeks before the match is set to happen… you find out that there will not be 30 participants in this year’s Rumble… but 40! You’re totally screwed.
Who wins in this scenario? The fans do. We already love the Rumble as it is. Now you’re giving us 10 more possibilities? Don’t mind if I do. Since I’m so excited about this Sunday’s event, I wanted to bring you a little something special this week. Each day leading up to the Royal Rumble, I will reveal the Top 40 Royal Rumble Superstars of All Time. 10 each day with the Top 10 being revealed this Sunday. You’re welcome.
Now in order to perform such a task, I spent hours compiling statistics. I analyzed every Rumble match since 1988. I made time calculations and added up eliminations. I even discovered some interesting trends and facts along the way. Now what I find missing from a lot of “Top Whatever” Lists on the internet is a defined criteria. So let’s take a look at what determined the outcome of this particular list:
– Win/Loss Record
– Time Lasted in the Ring as a whole and individually
– Strength of Opponents/Degree of Difficulty
– Memorable Moments
Some of your favorites might have made the list while some haven’t. You might even see a pick and say, “Why on God’s green earth is Timothy Well ranked at #17?”. He’s not, but you get the idea. I stuck to my criteria and I consider this to be one of the most complete lists of all-time. Yeah. It’s that good.
Now that the Royal Rumble as we know it is dead and gone, let’s usher in the 40-man Rumble era with a celebration of the match’s best with some fun facts along the way.
40. The Warlord (0 – 4) – Standing at 6’5” tall and weighing in at 323 lbs (320 of which is muscle), The Warlord is arguably the WORST contestant in Royal Rumble history. With four appearances, zero victories, zero eliminations and a grand total of 11 minutes and 36 seconds between four Rumbles, The Warlord might as well not even have been there. Now I’m sure you’re wondering how he made the Top 40 when other wrestlers have faired better who didn’t make the list. Welp, The Warlord is responsible for one of the most memorable eliminations in the matches 23 year history. Entering at #21 in 1989, The Warlord had a tremendous shot at walking out the victor. Instead, he set the record for Fastest Elimination Ever at a staggering 2 seconds after being taken out by Hulk Hogan. That record would stand untouched for 20 years, only to be broken by Santino Marella at the 2009 Rumble, who was dumped in only 1 second (which I’d still like to dispute). Record broken or not, The Warlord left his mark on the Royal Rumble.
39. Genichiro Tenryu (0 – 2) – Who? One of my favorite things about the earlier Royal Rumbles is the fact that you’d get random entrants like Dory Funk Jr. and Carlos Colon. Did they have a legitimate shot at winning the Rumble? No, but they were still familiar names to wrestling fans who knew a little more than the average Joe. Tenryu, on the other hand, was a virtual unknown. Could you imagine if he won?! Bret Hart vs. Tenryu for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 9? How about Yokozuna vs. Tenryu at Wrestlemania 10? The opportunities were there. Between both of his Royal Rumble showings, he managed to last a whopping 30 minutes and 38 seconds. That’s more than double The Warlord’s timestamp. While Tenryu may have been “Mr. Irrelevant” in the ‘93 and ‘94 Rumbles, he’ll always have a special place in my heart.
38. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (0 – 3) – In his prime, “Hot Rod” only participated in two Rumble Matches (‘90 and ‘92). He would make a memorable return at Madison Square Garden for the 2008 Rumble, which would mark the 2nd longest gap between Royal Rumble appearances by a Superstar in WWE history at 16 years. His 34 minute outing at the 1992 Rumble is stamped with a memorable confrontation with his rival Ric Flair. Piper would come up short that night, but there’s no denying he added an undeniable energy to a match that was already firing on all cylinders.
37. Vince McMahon (1 – 0) – The first Royal Rumble winner of our countdown is none other than the Chairman himself. When compiling data for this list, part of it included ranking the winners of match (as they all deserve to be included). Vince was at the bottom of the pile for several reasons. His actual participation in the match was limited to brawling throughout the arena with Steve Austin and serving as an extra man on the commentary team. While his time of 56 minutes and 38 seconds (having entered at #2) is among the all-time best, he didn’t take on the challenge of actually being IN the match. His ONLY elimination was for the victory and it came with a little help from then WWE Champion The Rock. The term “cheap victory” certainly applies here and that leaves Vince at our #37 spot.
36. Bushwhacker Luke (0 – 3) – Like The Warlord, Luke will forever be remembered for his own elimination. He Bushwhacked his way in and out in both the 1991 Royal Rumble AND the 1995 Royal Rumble for a combined 16 seconds. The reason for ranking Luke higher than The Warlord is for the fact that he lasted slightly longer, but wasn’t expected to do very well by anyone’s standards. His antics will also forever be a part of Royal Rumble lore.
35. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (1 – 3) – Hoooooo! He was the winner of the inaugural Royal Rumble. He is also the man who outdid Roddy Piper by making a return to the Rumble in 2009 after a 17 year absence. However, his 1988 victory should almost be noted with an asterisk as there were only 20 competitors as opposed to the traditional 30. Had there been 10 more guys, who knows if Hacksaw would have made it to the end. He chalked up 3 eliminations that night (taking out Danny Davis, Nikolai Volkoff and finally, One Man Gang). Between the ’91 and ’92 Rumbles (both 30-man contests), he only accumulated 1 elimination.
34. Hercules (0 – 4) – The late chain-clad Superstar was always one of my favorite Rumble contestants. He just seemed like he could do some damage. Definitely a dangerous dude. When I sat down and looked at his stats, they were very similar to Roddy Piper, but slightly better. He was a part of the Final 4 in 1990 with Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude and Hulk Hogan. In 1991, he would last 37 minutes and 36 seconds against an impressive group of opponents. He earned his spot.
33. Bob Backlund (0 – 5) – After nearly an 8 year absence from wrestling, the former Champion came back with a vengeance. He became the first member of the One Hour Club in 1993, lasting an amazing 1 hour, 1 minute and 10 seconds and making it to the Final 4 before being eliminated by Yokozuna (who would go on to win). For a guy who people seemingly forgot about, he made a statement. The reason for his low ranking is his subsequent Rumble performances. He went on to participate in 4 more Rumbles, but only amassed an additional 15 minutes and 20 seconds to his record-setting Rumble debut. Luckily for Bob, his return would result in him becoming World Wrestling Federation Champion for a second time in 1994 after defeating Bret Hart at the Survivor Series.
32. Taka Michinoku (Ummm…) – While Taka wasn’t technically a participant in the 2000 Royal Rumble, how could anyone forget his excruciatingly painful toss over the top rope at the hands of The Big Bossman and Gangrel? Here you have a grown man (granted, he was only 5’8” and 150 lbs soaking wet with change in his pocket) who sailed oooooover the top rope and did a 450 splash to the outside… landing face-first on the protective mat. Unfortunately for Taka, the mat only protected him so much. Fortunately for us, we got an image that we’ll never forget. In fact, it’s SO memorable that when you start typing Taka’s name into Google or YouTube, it automatically generates “Taka Michinoku Royal Rumble” as a popular search result. Thank you, Taka.
31. Batista (1 – 3) – Big Dave is one of the most popular Superstars in the modern era of professional wrestling. In 4 appearances, he racked up 12 eliminations and won the 2005 Rumble by last eliminating one of his biggest rivals, John Cena. He also managed to be a part of the Final 4 in the only 3 Rumbles he lost (posting a time of 37:42 in ‘08). His 2005 victory set up an opportunity to face Triple H at Wrestlemania 21 for the World Heavyweight Championship, which he systematically won. What hurts Batista in the ranking of Rumble Winners is the fact that he had the luck of the draw on his side and didn‘t always capitalize. In ‘03 he entered at #28. For his win in ‘05, he again entered at #28. In 2010, he was able to draw #30. He lost. If the massive Batista lived up to his potential, he could be a 4 time Rumble winner and the most dominant participant of all-time. Instead, he sits at #31.
Well there you have the first 10 of my countdown. This is shaping up rather nicely. Check back in tomorrow for #’s 30-21!