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The Royal Rumble is less than 3 weeks away and the WWE Universe is already salivating at the prospect of another eventful evening marking the beginning of the Road to WrestleMania! While we’ve looked at some of the wildest Rumble eliminations, now it’s time to discuss the unforgettable moments in Royal Rumble history. Although throwing your opponents over the top rope is the name of the game, there are some performances and moments that transcend eliminations.
Here are the moments that will stand the test of time. Here are the five Royal Rumble moments that will never, ever be topped:
Ric Flair Goes The Distance, 1992
There’s a reason why the 1992 Royal Rumble match is widely considered the best Royal Rumble of all time. It’s not because of the star power in the match — although, it reads as a who’s-who’s of the very best in the wrestling industry at the time. It’s not because it had a large amount of “oh my God” moments. No, it’s considered the best Rumble in history because from beginning to end, it told a cohesive story: The story of Ric Flair going the distance after jumping from WWE to WCW and winning the entire match, cementing himself as a major Superstar in the eyes of WWE fans.
Not only did Flair win the Rumble, but he also won the WWE Championship in the process, which had been vacated weeks before the Rumble due to chicanery during Hulk Hogan’s title matches against the Undertaker — so not only would the 1992 Rumble have bragging rights, they would also hold the most prestigious prize in the wrestling world.
Ric Flair did exactly what he came to WWE to do: To win over WWE audiences who may have been unfamiliar with his reputation and his body of work in the NWA, WCW, and smaller regional promotions. For one glorious night, Ric Flair was undisputedly on top of the wrestling world thanks to his performance in this Rumble. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to ride that wave of success throughout his WWE career, as we reported during our documentary coverage last month. Nevertheless, wrestling fans and historians unite in the sentiment that Flair’s 1992 Royal Rumble performance was nothing less than legendary.
The Three Faces Of Foley, 1998
In an industry where storylines are often recycled over time and gravity-defying maneuvers that at one time seemed unbelievable soon become commonplace, sometimes it’s hard to give fans wholly new and authentic moments.
But against all odds, WWE Hall-of-Famer Mick Foley delivered just that during the 1998 Royal Rumble. During the late '90s and early 2000s, Foley memorably alternated between three distinct WWE personas: Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love. Mankind was the boiler room-dwelling enigma-turned-loveable goof, Cactus Jack was hardcore wrestling personified, and Dude Love was a man trapped in the '70s, convinced that he was God’s gift to women.
At various points in his WWE career, Mick Foley took advantage of each of his different counterparts, known collectively as the “Faces of Foley.” And it never mattered in the end which persona Foley used — he still won over the hearts of the WWE Universe while capturing a multitude of championship gold.
What makes Foley’s appearance in the 1998 Royal Rumble a moment that will never be topped is, well, because it was actually three moments! Although he didn’t ultimately win the Rumble, all three versions of the “Faces of Foley” competed in the match as Foley became the first Superstar ever to compete in the Royal Rumble three times in one match.
John Cena's Superhuman Return From Injury, 2008
“John Cena participated in the 2008 Royal Rumble as the 30th and final entrant” seems like an innocuous sentence at first glance — until you know the backstory.
During a Monday Night RAW match in early October 2017, Cena suffered a serious injury, a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle. If that injury sounds familiar, you’re not wrong — it was essentially the same injury that Cody Rhodes famously suffered in 2022 that derailed the American Nightmare’s WWE comeback. Cena’s injury timeline was slated to be in the 9-12 month range, and let us tell you right now that there wasn’t a single wrestling fan on earth who predicted a shock John Cena Royal Rumble appearance in 2008.
Much to the chagrin of Superstars in the ring — including Triple H — John Cena’s shock return at the Rumble whipped the fans in Madison Square Garden that night into a delirious frenzy. The crowd reaction says it all: slight confusion followed by excited murmurs leading into all-out pandemonium. It was one of the best moments in Royal Rumble history just because it made no sense — it shouldn’t have been possible.
That was one of the first times John Cena proved he was a real-life superhero, as he clearly possessed Wolverine-like healing abilities. Cena sweetened the pot by going on to win the Rumble as well, capping off one of the most memorable moments of his career.
Shawn Michaels' Utter Heartbreak, 2010
Although technically this particular moment is an elimination, it has transcended that status and its historical significance — and general heartbreak — moves it up into the pantheon of all-time greatest Royal Rumble moments.
Leading up to the Rumble, Shawn Michaels had one goal in mind: go toe-to-toe with the Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania after a failed attempt at defeating the Dead Man one year earlier. In order to achieve this goal, HBK’s plan was simple: Win the Royal Rumble at all costs.
The result was a Royal Rumble performance for the ages — every attempt by a fellow Superstar to eliminate Shawn Michaels was met with audible gasps from the sold-out crowd in attendance. It was clear that the WWE Universe was 100 percent behind Michaels in his quest to dethrone the Undertaker ...
... Which made it all the more heartbreaking when Batista was the one to finally eliminate him.
Attempts by Michaels to hang on for dear life proved futile, and he landed outside the ring with a sickening thud. The WWE Universe — and Michaels himself — was devastated. It was one of the most emotional moments in WWE history, and the look on HBK’s face said it all. The match continued on, eventually crowning Edge as the winner, as Michaels was faced with the inalienable truth that he did not have a path to WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns' Coronation Does Not Go Well, 2015
There’s no arguing the fact that Roman Reigns is sitting alone at the top of the professional wrestling world. Yes, he has his Bloodline family behind him, but Reigns is enjoying a run at the top of the WWE unlike any other Superstar that has come before him — that fact is undisputed.
But it wasn’t always like that for Reigns. He’s always had the skill set, the athleticism, the passion — but the WWE Universe took a long time to finally accept him as the unquestioned “top dog” of WWE.
That’s why the 2015 Royal Rumble is one of the craziest moments in WWE history that will never, ever be topped.
Reigns won the Rumble match, but that’s not the crazy part. It was an impressive performance, as Reigns outlasted 29 other Superstars to earn his shot at the title at WrestleMania. The problem was that Reigns had next to no fan support at the time. You see, back in 2015, the WWE Universe had gotten fully behind Daniel Bryan and collectively decided that anybody other than Bryan winning the Rumble would be soundly booed. That’s exactly what happened through most of the match, as it became increasingly clear that Daniel Bryan would not be winning the Rumble after all.
Fan unrest came to a head as soon as Reigns won the match, when the Rock — his real-life cousin — came down to the ring to raise his hand in victory. Suffice to say, the Rock was a little taken back by the fans’ reaction to the Great One’s endorsement; just look at the confused look on the Rock’s face for proof. Clearly, it wasn’t the victory celebration Reigns — or WWE management — had in mind.
It’s rare when unrest within the WWE Universe comes to a boiling point, but on that fateful night in 2015, it did. That’s why we’re never going to forget the fans viciously booing the supposed fan-favorite Roman Reigns immediately after he won the Rumble.
Although these Royal Rumble moments may never be topped, there’s always room on the list for more — and the 2023 edition of the event holds all the possibilities in the world! Don’t forget, it all goes down on Saturday, Jan. 28 — only on Peacock!
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