5 Best Royal Rumble Winners

Stone Cold Steve Austin at Royal Rumble 1998
Image Credit: WWE

The Royal Rumble has been one of WWE’s marquee events for a long time. Since its creation in 1988, the Rumble has been a major catalyst in a superstar’s bid to main event WrestleMania.

Most superstars who have won the Royal Rumble match have also headlined the Biggest Show of the Year. Some have even won back-to-back rumble matches in the past. Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin have won the high-stakes match on multiple occasions.

But are these superstars among the best Royal Rumble winners? For my rankings, I’ve factored in their success in the business, fan reception, as well as their performance in the match(es). So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it:

Ric Flair made history at the 1992 Royal Rumble

Considered by many to be one of the best in the business, Ric Flair arrived in WWE following a monetary dispute with WCW in 1991. The Nature Boy brought the prestigious “Big Gold Belt” with him and declared himself the “Real” World’s Champion, forcing his former promotion to debut a new championship belt.

Flair would spend the following months solidifying himself as a threat to Hulk Hogan. He would enter the 1992 Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship. The Man would survive for a grueling 60 minutes before eliminating Sid Vicious to win the match and the title. Flair’s performance in the match is considered to be one of the greatest individual performances in a rumble match.

He would ultimately drop the title to “Macho Man” Randy Savage in their critically acclaimed match at WrestleMania VIII. While Flair won’t ever win another Royal Rumble in his career, he would become an officially recognized 16-time World Champion between 1992 and 2000.

And speaking of 16-time World Champion…

John Cena’s Rumble record is stacked

John Cena’s reception at the 2008 Royal Rumble is one of the loudest recorded pops in WWE history. The Cenation leader came back from injury to witness the whole Madison Square Garden erupt with shock and excitement. Cena would immediately put himself to work by eliminating a handful of superstars before winning the whole match.

His second and final Royal Rumble win would come five years later in Phoenix, Arizona. While not as exciting as his first Rumble match, this win is important, nonetheless, as it guaranteed him his rematch against The Rock at WrestleMania 29. The Champ would go over the Great One in the main event of the show.

Cena’s greatest individual performance, arguably, would come at the 2017 Royal Rumble. The superstar would beat AJ Styles for his 16th World Championship in one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.

Greatest, you read?

Roman Reigns had a great showing at Royal Rumble 2014

Roman Reigns set a new record when he eliminated 12 men at the 2014 Royal Rumble. The Big Dog dominated his opponents for more than 30 minutes. Fans were loud for The Shield star that night, but he wouldn’t win the match until the following year.

By the time Royal Rumble 2015 came, a lot had changed for the WWE Universe. CM Punk had walked out on the company. The Shield had imploded. Daniel Bryan had headlined his first WrestleMania.

The crowd was legitimately angry to witness the Bearded Goat tossed out of the ring by Bray Wyatt at the 2015 Rumble pay-per-view event. Philly fans would spend the next few hours booing superstars to the top of their lungs. The only time they popped was when The Rock made a surprise return to help Roman Reigns, but that enthusiasm died with the former Shield star’s win.

The 2024 Royal Rumble will mark the Tribal Chief’s fourth consecutive title defense at the event. He retained his title against Kevin Owens in 2021 and 2023 and against Seth Rollins in 2022. Who knows, we may see The Bloodline star extend his title reign past the man who ran wild on back-to-back Royal Rumbles.

Hulk Hogan

Many came before him, but none had the charisma and the ability to control the crowd like Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster gave pro wrestling its first boom period with a convincing win over The Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden in 1984. Six years later, he won his first Royal Rumble match.

His impressive performance at the event was only bolstered by his popularity with the crowd. Plus, his multi-year title reign remains untouchable to this day.

Hogan would become the first superstar in WWE history to win back-to-back Royal Rumble events. In 1991, he last eliminated Earthquake to immortalize himself as the event’s crown jewel. That was until Shawn Michaels tied the record in 1996.

However, neither of these men managed to pull off three wins at the event like the Rattlesnake.

Steve Austin is the only three-time winner in Rumble history

One of the most popular superstars to this day, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, has many accolades to his name. He’s a former King of the Ring winner, multi-time world champion, and the only three-time Royal Rumble winner.

Austin’s first win at the marquee event came in 1997. Though he didn’t headline WrestleMania that night, he and Bret Hart stole the show with one of the greatest matches in the history of this business.

The Rattlesnake would join Hogan and Michaels as multi-time Royal Rumble winners by winning the Royal Rumble match in 1998. He’d make history in 2001 by becoming the first person to win three Rumble matches.

Honorable Mentions

  • Bret Hart

  • The Rock

  • Randy Orton

  • Shawn Michaels

  • Brock Lesnar

Also read: 5 Best Options For 2024 Women’s Royal Rumble Winner

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