The 8 Best and 7 Worst Wrestlers Ever to Win the Royal Rumble
If WrestleMania is the “Grandaddy of them all” in WWE then the Royal Rumble is the younger, but much more popular uncle. Easily the fan-favorite pay-per-view, the Rumble is must see event every year and appropriately starts the Road to WrestleMania for WWE. With that being said, not all Royal Rumbles, and certainly not all Royal Rumble winners are created equally. As such, this article will list the 8 Best and 7 Worst Royal Rumble Winners.
Ranging from the first Rumble in 1988 to last year’s battle royal won by Triple H, this is meant as a fairly comprehensive look at the Rumble as an annual phenomenon. In grading what’s good and bad we will look at the strength of the winner as a performer, other possible winners who were available, how the winner figured into relevant WWE storylines, and the level of surprise in regards to the winner. All facts and dates featured in this article are from WWE.com.
All facts and dates featured in this article are from WWE.com.
- Best: Chris Benoit (2004)
It’s a pretty bold choice nowadays to start off any list with Chris Benoit, however, I decided not to ignore the “Rabid Wolverine’s” monumental 2004 Royal Rumble win the way that WWE has largely done. Prior to 04, Benoit was a longtime worker in WWE (and for other wrestling organizations) but had not yet had that one shining moment atop the WWE mountaintop. The Rumble that year, therefore, would serve to be Benoit’s coming out party as a legitimate main event player in WWE. Not only would Benoit serve as the underdog for most of the match, he would make the final two with the colossal Big Show. By eliminating the near 500 pounder, and following it up with a defeat of two all-time greats (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) at WrestleMania, Benoit would pave the way for other undersized superstars like Daniel Bryan.
- Worst: Rey Mysterio (2006)
Rey Mysterio serves on this list as the perfect foil to the good Royal Rumble winner of Chris Benoit (#15). WWE would, for the second time, try to catch lightning in a bottle by placing Mysterio in the ultimate underdog role with his win at the 2006 Rumble. WWE would, in fact, go so all in with this strategy by not only having Mysterio win from the #2 spot, but he would also remain in the Rumble for a record amount of time. In the process, he would break the previous record held by Benoit in an effort to erase him from the history books following his controversial death.
The difference between the two was that Mysterio was simply not up to the task. Leading up to WrestleMania, and afterward as World Heavyweight Champion, it became obvious that the master of the 619 was not up to the task of his new main event stature.
- Best: The Rock (2000)
A fatal flaw in the WWE organization is their unwillingness to move on. Whether this is unsuccessful storylines or aging superstars, the professional wrestling industry is heavily reliant on a changing culture and philosophy to maintain its fan base. One instance where WWE did show this willingness to change was with the 2000 Royal Rumble. Prior to this, Stone Cold Steve Austin had won three recent Rumbles on his way to becoming the top face in WWE.
The issue, however, was an injury that had sidelined Austin for much of the past year. Thus, it was admirable of WWE to pull the trigger on the Rock winning the 2000 Rumble. Not only is The Rock one of the hardest working guys in the history of the business, but the decision also cemented his status as the new top guy in WWE. Good for #13 on our list.
- Worst: Jim Duggan (1988)
It saddens me to place the very first Royal Rumble winner, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, on our list of bad Rumble winners. Duggan won the inaugural battle royal in 1988, but it was very different from the Rumble spectacular that we know today. The simple fact is that the event was an experiment for WWE (WWF at the time) and they simply had no idea where it was going to go. While this is an interesting bit of history to go with the Rumble, these facts showed with their selection of Duggan as the winner. Though often a fan favorite, he certainly was not a top star in the company. Should WWE have chosen someone more prominent to win the first Rumble, it would have received much faster recognition. As it stood with Duggan as the winner, it would be quite a few years before the Rumble would begin to amount the acclaim that it receives today.
- Best: Edge (2010)
It’s always nice to see a longtime veteran be chosen to win the Rumble match. While the Rumble is often (and I think effectively) used as a coming out party for new superstars, I think that it can also be used to validate the career or main event status of an established star. I think the best example of this is when Edge won the Rumble in 2010. Not only did Edge have the surprise factor on his side when he returned at the Rumble from a career threatening injury, but it also served to validate his status as a top-tier main event talent with WWE at the time. Since winning his first world title at the 2006 Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Edge had been treated as a second class main eventer. Therefore, I think the choice of Edge in this Rumble was a nod to him as a legitimate top guy and that is enough for him to make the good part of our list at #11.
- Worst: Alberto Del Rio (2011)
If you want to talk about great Royal Rumble wins, you should probably include the largest Rumble of all time, the 2011 forty man Royal Rumble. The issue with this Rumble, however, was that it was in many ways wasted as an attempt to prop up Alberto Del Rio. At the time, the choice of Del Rio to win the Rumble was a well informed choice. He was a skilled in-ring performer, and he was bolstered by his status as a Hispanic performer. For those unaware, the WWE has a large Hispanic fan base both inside and outside the U.S. so the company tries very hard to push through Hispanic superstars. However, over the next few years in the main event is was revealed that Del Rio wasn’t at quite the status of other young wrestlers. Then backstage issues would lead to his suspension and eventual release, meaning there is no way we could leave him off our list here of bad Royal Rumble winners.