It’s arguably the most important match in WWE — and every single year the “Royal Rumble” battle royale — to win a chance to main event “WrestleMania” — always manages to pack in the surprises. As we approach the 30th “Royal Rumble,” and the road to “WrestleMania 33” begins, Screener is looking back through professional wrestling history to find our absolute best “Rumble” moments.
The 2017 “Royal Rumble” airs Sunday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on the WWE Network and pay per view.
1. Triple H makes his long-awaited return (2002)
In 2001, Triple H was taken out of competition with a torn quad muscle. There was some discussion of whether he’d ever be able to return to action after such an injury — yet as 2001 came to a close, he returned, and declared his intention to enter the “Royal Rumble.” In his first match back, Triple H outlasted everyone else in the “Rumble” and won his return ticket to “WrestleMania.”
2. AJ Styles makes his WWE debut (2016)
It seemed like it would never happen. After all, AJ Styles is one of the biggest names TNA ever built — would WWE give him the proper treatment? Yet in 2016 it came to pass. AJ Styles made his WWE debut on the “Royal Rumble” and went on to have one of the best first years of all time.
3. Shawn Michaels wins after entering at No. 1 (1995)
If ever there was going to be someone who entered the “Rumble” at number 1 and end up winning the entire thing, who else would it be but Shawn Michaels? The Showstopper has done many things throughout his illustrious career, but being the “Rumble’s” iron man should be high up on the list.
4. The beginning of a new generation (2005)
With the Attitude Era on its way out, along with Steve Austin and The Rock, it was time for WWE to crown new franchise players. That came to pass in 2005 when two rookies named Batista and John Cena became the final two men in the “Rumble.” Batista won but both went on to win championships at “WrestleMania.” The new generation had arrived.
5. Edge returns for revenge on Chris Jericho (2010)
An Achilles tendon injury is no laughing matter and it took Edge out of action for nearly six moths, during which time his former friend Chris Jericho made him a target of mockery. When Edge returned at the 2010 “Rumble,” quickly dispatching Jericho, it was exactly what was deserved. In the end, he won the match and went on to face Jericho at “WrestleMania.”
6. All three faces of Foley compete (1998)
Usually a guy only gets one slot in the “Rumble.” Then again, there’s nothing usual about Mick Foley. In 1998 he appeared as all three of his personas — Cactus Jack, Mankind and Dude Love. An impressive feat, but Foley was still unable to walk away with a win.
7. John Cena’s surprise return (2008)
He was out with a torn pectoral muscle and not expected to be anywhere near a WWE ring. And yet at the 2008 “Royal Rumble,” John Cena was a surprise entrant as the 30th man in the match and went on to win it all much to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd.
8. CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society takes over (2010)
CM Punk loves to talk. In 2010 he was the leader of the Straight Edge Society and when he wasn’t tossing people from the ring, he was trying to convince the crowd to give themselves over to a straight edge lifestyle. Mid-match promos are so different from what people expect from the “Rumble” and there’s no better person to do it than Punk.
9. Ric Flair wins the WWE Championship (1992)
Arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time, Flair came to WWE after spending so much of his career as the face of the NWA and WCW. He entered a special “Royal Rumble” match for the WWF Championship and walked away with the gold. Flair would eventually leave the company — and come back again — but this will go down as one of the biggest “Rumble” moments of all time.
10. Maven eliminates The Undertaker (2002)
How can you not include Maven’s illustrious dropkick that banished The Undertaker from the 2002 “Royal Rumble”? It’s arguably the only real highlight of Maven’s time in WWE and is one of the funniest clips of all time. Plus, it helped The Undertaker rediscover his mean streak…