It’s difficult to pin down what exactly makes a great Royal Rumble competitor. Some Superstars have had more success than others, but when you look over the 25+ year history of the Royal Rumble match, it’s clear that success comes in many forms. There’ve been competitors who lasted well over 30 or 40 minutes, but who failed to get the job done and win that coveted title shot and the main event of WrestleMania. There have been winners from all sorts of entry spots, and yet a few have won from the #1 spot.
In other words, it’s almost fruitless to come up with a list of the best Rumble competitors, but I’m here to do it anyways because it’s fun to analyze the numbers and see what we can find. Looking over the history of the Rumble, I believe these are the best competitors, the ones I’d want on my “team” if I was looking to bet on a winner.
Despite only appearing in six Rumbles in his 15 years with WWE—largely because he was involved in other title matches during the Road to WrestleMania—Edge made his mark. He won a massive victory in 2010 when nobody expected him to come back, and he lasted an impressive 44:02 in 2007. More than the numbers though, Edge is one of those guys that was simply a threat every time he was in the match. His presence alone makes him one of the all-time great participants.
The dude was an absolute monster in a lot of these matches. Like the man in our #10 spot, I think Batista’s underrated when it comes to his place amongst the all-time great Royal Rumble participants. He’s thrown out 13 men in four appearances, and he’s got two Rumble wins—in 2005 and 2014—to his name. Not the most decorated of all time, but certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Simply one of the most dominant, prolific eliminators in the history of the match. Kane’s record for most eliminations in a single Rumble stood for
7. CM Punk
CM Punk, perhaps more than Kane, is the epitome of a Royal Rumble powerhouse whose numbers look better than his no-win record suggests. He’s simply delivered some of the best performances in his six Rumble appearances He had that incredible “Sermon on the Mount” in 2010, where he spent the first third of the match quickly tossing out opponents and then sermonizing to the crowd about his straightedge beliefs. He also eliminated an admirable seven men in the 2011 match, and he lasted almost 50 minutes in 2014 when he was forced to enter at #1, making it all the way to the Final Four.
6. Roman Reigns
“The Big Dog” still has a lot to prove in the Rumble matches, but in his still young career, he’s made quite the mark. He was the first to beat out Kane’s single match elimination record, throwing out 12 men in 2014 in a losing effort. He bounced back the next year and won the whole thing, going on to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, only to have his dreams of a championship thwarted by Seth Rollins and the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in of all time. The number that’s truly staggering though is this: He has 30 cumulative eliminations across just five Rumble matches. That’s incredible. To put that number in perspective, Randy Orton has 25 across 10 Rumbles, and Reigns is close to passing Big Show, who’s got 31 eliminations through 12 Rumble appearances. Once he’s healthy again, there’s little doubt that Reigns will be working his way into the Royal Rumble history books.
5. John Cena
John Cena’s greatest Rumble moment doesn’t even happen in the match itself. Rather, his surprise return from injury at the 2008 Royal Rumble remains one of the greatest—and loudest—moments of the man’s stellar career. While that entrance is a truly memorable moment, Cena’s also got the numbers to back up the hype and make him one of the all-time best. He won that 2008 Rumble, and then he captured another victory in 2013. You have to think his numbers would be even better if he wasn’t so consistently involved in championship matches at the pay-per-view event.
4. Ric Flair
Ric Flair deserves this spot for his accomplishment at the 1992 Royal Rumble alone. He lasted over an hour, snagging the victory in one of the best (and dirtiest) performances of all time. Flair may not have the best numbers of all time—mostly due to how the Rumble changed over the years and Flair’s time spent in WCW—but you can’t ignore the fact that he has perhaps the most memorable win ever. When you ask a WWE fan about their favorite Rumble matches, you’ll undoubtedly hear about 1992 and Ric Flair.
3. Chris Jericho
Y2J never, ever won a Rumble match, and for some that might mean he doesn’t deserve to sit in this #3 spot. But Chris Jericho is a case of being so consistently good for so long that he’s impossible to deny. He’s a legend in the business in general, but it’s hard to argue against him being the guy who delivered at the Rumble for the longest period of time. Nobody has spent more time in the Rumble than Jericho. He’s competed in the match for a total of 5:01:30. Triple H is in second place, and he’s still a full hour behind. That’s just ridiculous.
2. Shawn Michaels
Look, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels could easily slot into the top spot. He’s got two Rumble victories to his name, and he was the first man to ever win after entering the match at #1. He’s tied for second place with The Undertaker at 40 total eliminations, having competed in the match 12 times. His eight eliminations in both 1995 and 1996 rank him up there for most in a single match, and he’s batting .500 for winning the championship after earning a title shot with his Rumble wins. More than that though, Michaels was just the Rumble performer, a man who commanded the match every time he was in it.
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Nobody did it better, it’s as simple as that. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the only person to have won the Rumble three times. He’s won two WWE Championships following Rumble wins. His name populates the list of most eliminations in a single match: 10 in 1997, eight in 1999, and seven in both 1998 and 2002. He has 36 total eliminations across just six Rumble appearances, an efficiency like no one else from his generation. Add in the iconic image of “The Rattlesnake” sitting on the top rope, tapping his wrist as if there’s a watch there, just waiting for his next opponent to appear at the 1997 event, and you have the greatest Royal Rumble competitor of all time. I think we can all cheers to that.
You can watch every Royal Rumble pay-per-view on the WWE Network.