Tonight is the night! The Royal Rumble is HERE! My excitement has gone completely through the roof after learning that one of my favorite wrestlers of all-time is making his return to Rumble glory tonight! Want to know who that is? Welp, I ranked him at #17 on this very list. You can go back and read the full list (which you should) or just keep reading as I recap numbers 40 through 11 below. The important thing to understand is the fact that we’re getting into the Top 10 Greatest Rumble Participants of ALL-TIME. This is an exclusive list! If you include The Big Show (which you should), only 21 different men can say they won The Royal Rumble. When you consider how many have tried and how many attempts have been made versus how many professional wrestlers there are on the planet, it’s pretty hard to narrow it down to just 10. It had to be done though. Let’s take a second to reflect on the men (and women) who comprised the first ¾’s of the list:
40. The Warlord
39. Genichiro Tenryu
38. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
37. Vince McMahon
36. Bushwacker Luke
35. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
33. Bob Backlund
32. Taka Michinoku
30. Lex Luger
29. The Godfather
28. CM Punk
27. Alberto Del Rio
26. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
25. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
23. Chyna & Beth Phoenix
22. Rick “The Model” Martel
21. Big John Studd
20. Chris Jericho
19. John Cena
18. Randy Orton
15. Brock Lesnar
14. The Big Show
13. The British Bulldog
12. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
If you feel any of those picks aren’t warranted, well… you’re wrong. Go back and read the logic behind them and you’ll understand why. Now that I have you hating me a little, I present to you the Top 10 Greatest Royal Rumble Participants of All-Time.
10. The Rock (1 – 3) – The most electrifying man in the history of Sports Entertainment kicks off the list and there shouldn’t be any surprise as to why. In 3 of his 4 Rumble appearances, The Great One managed to have an impact on the entire match. His rookie Rumble was in 1997 as Rocky Maivia where he lasted a hair over 13 minutes before being eliminated by Mankind. Not the greatest of first outings, but not the worst. In 1998 he would turn around and say, “It doesn’t matter that I had an average rookie performance!” The Rock entered at #4 and made it to the Final Two. He lasted 51 minutes and 32 seconds before being eliminated by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. What’s even more impressive about that is the fact that he successfully defended the Intercontinental Title earlier that night against “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock! He would outdo himself at his next Rumble performance in 2000. He would overcome the obstacles of Crash Holly and Headbanger Mosh (One of the best promos ever) and win the match by last eliminating The Big Show at Madison Square Garden. Granted, that decision was successfully disputed by The Big Show, but it took me pointing it out for any of you to remember that fact! Alright, probably not but I like taking credit for things that I didn’t do. The WWE acknowledges The Rock as the winner and that’s what matters at this point. The following year would be his final Rumble appearance and Rocky would make it to the Final Four after 38 minutes and 42 seconds of battle. He fell victim to Kane, who was on a tear that night. Nobody was safe. The fact of the matter is The Rock’s name is in the history books and he has electrified the Royal Rumble like nobody else… if ya smell what The Smartbreak Kid is cookin’.
9. The Undertaker (1 – 9) – Having participated in 10 Royal Rumble’s, The Undertaker is like The Big Show in that everything STOPS when he enters the match. Even dating back to his Rumble debut in 1991, he has struck fear into everyone who steps in his path. The Undertaker is arguably one of the most experienced Rumble competitors of all-time. He has shared the Rumble ring with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Kane, The Big Show, John Cena and Randy Orton. Only a select few can say they have that kind of pedigree. Over the course of his 10 Rumbles, The Undertaker has eliminated a staggering 34 opponents. He was the favorite to win the 1993 Royal Rumble, but was taken out by the debuting Giant Gonzalez. By being one of the last participants in the 1997 Rumble, Taker was given a later opportunity to main event WrestleMania 13 due to the controversial fashion of the Rumble finish. What’s amazing about Taker is the fact that he didn’t hit his Rumble stride until later in his career. In 2002 he threw 7 opponents from the ring and was the Runner-Up in the 2003 Rumble. He wouldn’t compete in the Rumble Match again until 2007 where he entered at #30 and won by last eliminating Shawn Michaels. While winning at #30 isn’t the most impressive feat in the world, wrestling Shawn Michaels for 7 minutes one on one, eliminating The Great Khali by himself and weathering the storm of Rated RKO is impressive. In 2008 he would enter at #1 against Shawn Michaels, who entered at #2. The Dead Man lasted over 30 minutes that year and posted almost an identical time in 2009 (32:35 and 32:29). He’s ridiculous. Fun Fact: The Undertaker has drawn the #30 three times in his career.
8. Chris Benoit (1 – 3) – While the WWE is cautious about using his name and his legacy is tarnished for his unspeakable acts, I can’t leave him off the list. I attended the 2004 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia where Benoit became not only the second man to go Wire-to-Wire, but he also set the new time record and joined the One Hour Club (1:01:30). His performance was nothing short of remarkable. He started the match against Randy Orton and finished by eliminating The Big Show by himself! His strength of opponent that year was unbelievable as well. The star-studded Rumble included Orton, The Big Show, Rob Van Dam, John Cena, Kurt Angle, Goldberg, Mark Henry, Scott Steiner, Booker T, Kane, Rikishi, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho. He would go on to WrestleMania 20 (which I also attended) to become World Heavyweight Champion. At the 2005 Rumble, The Canadian Crippler drew #2 and started with his friend Eddie Guerrero. Benoit would compete for 47 minutes, 26 seconds before being eliminated by Ric Flair. In 2006 he would clear the half hour mark by 31 seconds, which would help him clock 2 hours of Rumble time in 3 years, making him a true Royal Rumble Iron Man.
7. Triple H (1 – 7) – What can you say about Triple H? He’s done it all in the business and when it comes to The Royal Rumble he is in a league of his own. He currently holds the record for most cumulative time in Rumble history with 3 hours, 51 minutes, 33 seconds. That’s an average of 29 minutes per Rumble. It all started with his debut in 1996. He drew #1 and went for 48 minutes! After spending 8 months on the shelf because of a quad injury, he made his WWE return at Madison Square Garden to announce his entry into the 2002 Rumble. He made the most of his return by lasting over 23 minutes and winning the whole thing by last eliminating Kurt Angle (He would go on to defeat Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8 for the Undisputed WWE Championship to cap off the comeback). He wouldn’t compete in another Rumble until 2006 where he ousted 5 competitors and joined the One Hour Club (just making it by 9 seconds). He entered at #1 that year and made it to the Final Four with Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and RVD. In 2008 he would become the Runner-Up to John Cena and in 2009 he was the Runner-Up to Randy Orton (Trips lasted 49 minutes, 55 seconds that year). To top off all of his Rumble accomplishments he has 24 eliminations to his credit.
6. Rey Mysterio (1 – 3) – If you don’t count Hornswoggle, Rey Mysterio is the smallest competitor in Rumble history (Spike Dudley is billed as taller than Rey at 5’8”). Rey Rey didn’t let that get in the way (way). Instead he went on to set the Time Record at the 2006 Rumble and winning after 1 hour, 2 minutes, 12 seconds which still stands today. Had he been a regular-sized guy, it might not have been as big a deal. Since Rey is miniature, it means more. The luck of the draw has never been on Rey’s side either. In his four appearances he has never drawn a double digit number (coming it at #’s 4, 8, 2 and 1). In the 2009 Rumble he posted a time of 49:24 and back in 2005 he lasted 38:25. In all actuality, he should be on of the easiest guys to eliminate, but instead has found ways to stand strong with the odds against him. In 4 Rumbles his total time is 2 hours, 35 minutes, 56 seconds. It’ll be interesting to see what he will be able to do in a Rumble consisting of 40 participants. If I know anything about Rey, he’ll make the most of it and put on yet another memorable performance.
5. Kane (0 – 14) – We go from one of the smallest to the biggest competitors in Rumble history. I like to refer to Kane as the Dan Marino of The Royal Rumble. He’s the greatest participant to never walk away with a win. He holds the record for most eliminations in a single Rumble at 11 in 2001. Grandmaster Sexay took a garbage can to the head from the Big Red Machine for the first elimination. Steve Blackman was next. He tried to hang on, but a garbage can lid to the head broke his grip. Al Snow and Raven were launched next. Perry Saturn said goodbye soon after. Kane stood alone like Rikishi and Diesel before him. The Honky Tonk Man sang his way to the ring and sang his way out after a vicious guitar shot. Tazz was next up to bat. He battled Kane briefly, but was knocked to the outside from the top rope. Kane was trying to run the train. The ring eventually filled back up, but Crash Holly met his fate at the hands of Kane. Albert was gone next. Kane, with the help of his brother The Undertaker, also took out Scotty 2 Hotty. The 11th, and final victim that night, was none other than The People’s Champ, The Rock! He would come up short after being eliminated by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but his performance is what everyone remembers from that night. Kane lasted 53 minutes, 46 seconds at the 2001 Rumble, which is unheard of for a man his size. He also holds the record for most Rumble appearances at 14 (12 of which were consecutive). He is also responsible for the Fastest Elimination of All-Time at the 2009 Rumble after sending Santino Marella home after 1 second. He was in the Final Four in 2000, 2003 and 2008. He has also wrestled in the Rumble under 3 different personas (Isaac Yankem, “Diesel” and Kane). I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to break his own eliminations record this year with more bodies in the ring than ever before. Nobody is more deserving of this spot than Kane.
4. Ric Flair (1 – 4) – “The Nature Boy” made his Royal Rumble debut 1992 in what is often regarded as the Greatest Royal Rumble Match of All-Time. Not only did he make his debut that year, but he won the whole shebang. The reward for Flair that night was greater than any other Rumble in history. With a vacant World Wrestling Federation Championship hanging in the balance, the competitors were hungrier than ever before. He became Champion after a grueling 59 minutes, 26 seconds of action. When Flair entered at #3, his manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan almost blew a gasket on commentary. His hopes of Flair winning were seemingly shot, but as the Rumble went on, Flair still stood. The strength of opponents in this Rumble was at an all-time high with a perennial “who’s who” of WWE Legends. While some have been in Rumbles with big names, but not faced them, Flair felt the brunt of them all. The British Bulldog, Ted DiBiase, Haku, Shawn Michaels, Tito Santana, Kerry Von Erich, Greg Valentine, Roddy Piper, Jake “The Snake”, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Jimmy Snuka, The Undertaker, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Iron Sheik, Rick Martel, Sergeant Slaughter, Sid and HULK HOGAN! While his other performances may be somewhat forgettable (with the exception of the ‘93 Rumble), it was this night that Naitch made history and became World Champion. This was the night that may have changed the Royal Rumble forever and this was the night that the WORLD understood that Ric Flair was the real deal.
3. Shawn Michaels (2 – 10) – What, what, what?! HBK at number 3?! I should probably tell you guys that I’m probably one of the biggest Shawn Michaels fans of all-time (in case you couldn’t figure that out by my name “The Smartbreak Kid”). I inadvertently met Shawn outside of a hotel in Newark, NJ while I was there for business and WWE was in town for Raw. At that point in my life I had already met Britney Spears, hung out with one of my favorite bands (Reel Big Fish), been backstage at Smackdown, interviewed John Cena and Rey Mysterio and spoken to Ric Flair on the phone. Yet I was never star struck. When I turned to my left and saw Shawn Michaels standing there, I could barely formulate a sentence. I don’t know what it was. There was my childhood wrestling idol standing right there. I shook his hand and mumbled some words that I can’t remember to this day, but I got to meet him. My life was complete. With all that in mind, you can imagine how hard it was for me to rank Shawn Michaels at #3. The man has back-to-back Royal Rumble victories and when he is in the match, he makes sure you remember it. HBK started making a name for himself at the ‘92 Rumble where he lasted 15 minutes, 46 seconds and coming up with exciting ways to tease his elimination. Just when you thought Shawn was going to hit the floor, he found a way to hang on. In 1995, he entered at #1 and became the first wrestler to ever go Wire-to-Wire and win the match. It looked like he had it lost, but with only one foot touching the floor, Shawn skinned the cat and sent The British Bulldog packing. Critics will argue that it wasn’t as impressive due to the short time of the Rumble (with a time of 38:41), but my response to that is that there were still 30 guys. Shawn would go on to become a fan favorite and in 1996 he would make his return from injury and win yet again. One of the most impressive feats of that Rumble was his ability to eliminate both Vader AND Yokozuna at the same time. It would come down to HBK and his best friend Diesel, but after a quick Superkick, Shawn set the wheels in motion of fulfilling his boyhood dream of becoming World Wrestling Federation Champion. He would do just that and defeat Bret Hart in an Ironman Match at WrestleMania 12 (which I regard as the Greatest Match of All-Time). He wouldn’t compete in another Rumble until 2003 after returning from what was thought to be a career-ending back injury. That year he was shortchanged by Chris Jericho, but he would go on to deliver memorable moments in the Royal Rumble for years to come. He almost won the 2007 Rumble after battling The Undertaker in what came off as a one-on-one match and a preview of their historic matches from WrestleMania’s 25 & 26. HBK also holds the record from most eliminations in Rumble history at 39 and is #2 on the list of Most Time Spent in the Rumble with 3 hours, 42 minutes, 32 seconds. Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels developed a pattern of drawing numbers 18, 1, 18 and 1 (two of those were the Back-to-Back wins). He is also responsible for eliminating Shelton Benjamin from the Rumble three times.
2. Hulk Hogan (2 – 2) – While Shawn Michaels is #2 on the list of Back-to-Back Winners, the first man to do it is none other than “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. The Babe Ruth of professional wrestling has a .500 record in The Rumble. Only two other guys who have competed in multiple Rumbles can say that. He tore the house down in both the ‘90 and ‘91 Rumbles. What’s even more impressive was the fact that Hogan was willing to enter the 1990 Royal Rumble as World Champion. He had nothing to gain, but he won it anyway. In 1991, he earned a shot at Sgt. Slaughter by eliminating the 468 pound Earthquake. He was also a member of the Final Four in 1992. It’s no secret that Hulk Hogan is the biggest name of all-time, but I feel like his Royal Rumble accomplishments are often overlooked. In just 4 Royal Rumbles, he eliminated 27 wrestlers. So if you took 120 guys and put them in a ring (you couldn’t, but for me to illustrate my point, just go with it), Hulk Hogan would have been responsible for eliminating almost ¼ of them. Come on now! A bulk of those eliminations came in 1989 when he took out 10 guys (One Third of the competition for those of you scoring at home). That record stood until Steve Austin tied it in 1997 and Kane broke it in 2001. I remember being a little kid in 1991 and seeing Hogan win his second Rumble. I was at my aunt’s house, which was literally two blocks from my house. My uncle carried me home on his shoulders and at the second I saw my dad I started yelling, “Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble! Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble!” I probably woke half the neighborhood, but I didn’t care. I just witnessed something special and the world had to know. That’s one of my favorite wrestling memories and Hulk Hogan is the man to thank. When it came down to comparing Hogan and Shawn (as they are the only two guys who have won it twice), I had to narrow it down to time. Hogan only competed in four Royal Rumbles and he won half of them. Shawn competed in twelve and won two. It makes me wonder what kind of records Hogan would hold if he had been in twelve himself.
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (3 – 3) – There’s really no argument here. He’s the ONLY man to win 3 Royal Rumbles! I know I keep going back to it, but it’s HARD to win the Royal Rumble. He’s done it 3 times. If Kane is the Dan Marino of Royal Rumbles, Austin is the Joe Montana (granted, Montana won 4 Super Bowls, but you get the idea). Like Hogan and Yoko, “Stone Cold” has a .500 winning percentage and almost had almost won 4 total. His Rumble debut was in 1996 as The Ringmaster where he hung out for almost 11 minutes. The transformation into “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was capped off at the 1997 Royal Rumble where he last eliminated Bret Hart to gain his first victory in only his second Rumble. Now was it a fair win? No. I can’t say it was. Did the referees see Austin get eliminated by Bret? No. I can’t say they did. Since I’m a heel, I like to abide by the philosophy that if the refs didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Besides, he was dominant that year. He stood alone at several points and took a breather. He got over that night and ousted 10 opponents (tying Hogan’s record). I’d go into detail about those eliminations, but we have more to talk about when it comes to Austin. While he wasn’t awarded a World Title match at WrestleMania 13 due to his Rumble shenanigans, he made up for it at the 1998 Royal Rumble where he became the third (and last) man to go Back-to-Back. He entered at #24 that year and still eliminated 7 competitors before tossing The Rock for the victory. In 1999, Austin was poised to Three-peat and was smack dab in the middle of a feud with Vince McMahon. To stack the odds against Austin, he was forced to enter at #1… and offering a $100,000 bounty to anyone who could eliminate him. Vince himself entered the Rumble, but was forced into the #2 position by then commissioner Shawn Michaels. Austin and Vince brawled throughout the Rumble and when the dust cleared, they were the final two in the ring. Out of nowhere, WWE Champion The Rock came to McMahon’s rescue and distracted “The Rattlesnake”. McMahon prevented the third win in a row after 56 minutes, 38 seconds (Austin eliminated 8 guys that year). Austin missed the 2000 Rumble, but was able to make the most of the 2001 contest, entering at lucky #27 and winning an unprecedented THIRD Royal Rumble. This would be his last Rumble win, however he managed to make it to the Final Four of the ‘02 match. To put it all in perspective, Austin won three Royal Rumbles in only six attempts. Up until last year, Austin shared the record for Most Eliminations with Kane at 36 (it was broken by Shawn Michaels last year in his 12th Rumble. Austin did it in half has many). He also has a Total Rumble Time 2 hours, 45 minutes, 9 seconds. There is no question in anyone’s mind that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the Greatest Royal Rumble Competitor of All-Time. Give it up!
I hope you all enjoyed The Royal Rumble Top 40 and it got you even more pumped for tonight than you already are. Please feel free to share your thoughts and ask any questions about the list. I’ll be more than happy to answer them. As I said before, my official prediction for tonight’s Royal Rumble is John Cena. However, I hope Alberto Del Rio and “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel have impressive showings. This is The Smartbreak Kid saying thanks for reading.