The Royal Rumble is the most anticipated match of the WWE calendar. 30 men from accross the world of professional wrestling to put together an exciting and action-packed match that is unlike anything else in wrestling (although AEW have attempted to make their own version of the match).
It features 30 wrestlers, entering one-by-one every 90 seconds, each trying to throw each other over the top rope and out of the ring. Wrestlers can only be eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and both of their feet hitting the floor – a distinction that has let to some incredible elimination escapes over the years.
As the entrances are staggered, it would make logical sense that the later entrants have a much better chance of winning the match. However, three men have won the Royal Rumble match from entering number one, and their incredible victories will be noted in the rest of this article below.
Shawn Michaels (1995)
The first time a wrestler managed to last from number one and win the entire Royal Rumble match was when Shawn Michaels entered first in the 1995 Royal Rumble. His iron-man status was cemented in this match by doing something that nobody else had managed in the entire history of the match.
Eliminating eight men it was also one of the most dominant performances in rumble history and helped to elevate Michaels into the main event scene in the WWE. Vince McMahon had long thought that the Heartbreak Kid would never work as a babyface in the WWE, but he proved everyone wrong with a gutsy performance in 1995.
He started the match with British Bulldog at 1 and 2 respectively. Both were two of the best workers in the company and showed a clear switch from the big-man style of wrestling that saw Hulk Hogan reach the top of the company and reinvented the style of wrestling usually seen in the WWE. Both men impressed as they lasted all the way to the end of the match after 38 gruelling minutes of wrestling.
This may seem like a short Royal Rumble, and you are right. The 1995 edition staggered the entrances to every 60 seconds, as opposed to the regular 90 seconds. This makes Shawn Michaels’ winning from number one slightly less impressive, although it is still one of the greatest Royal Rumble victories.
The ending is also iconic. Bulldog threw Michaels over the top rope, who dangled over the side as he landed with one foot on the floor. As the Englishman celebrated, Michaels snuck back into the ring and threw him over the top rope to win the match and book his match with Diesel at Wrestlemania XI.
Chris Benoit (2004)
The 2004 Royal Rumble winner is one that is not mentioned by the WWE anymore, but that doesn’t make the victory by Chris Benoit any less impressive. Known as a workhorse his entire career, he was never truly considered as a main event star up until this point. However, 2004 was the time when Vince McMahon finally decide to get behind the Canadian Crippler with a huge performance in the Royal Rumble match.
Benoit’s rumble victory was a perfect tale of the underdog clawing his way to the top of the mountain. He entered first in the match and faced a huge mountain to climb if he was to outlast 29 other superstars, especially given his comparative lack of size compared to the likes of Kane or The Big Show.
However, he put on a spirited performance that wowed fans and launched him into the main event of Wrestlemania. Spending over an hour in the match, he chopped and German Suplexed anyone who came close to him and hung on for dear life to last until the final two, where it would be a straight shoot between Chris Benoit and The Big Show.
He pulled off a miracle by locking in a guillotine choke on Big Show and slowly and slowly easing him over the top rope. Eventually, after what felt like a lifetime of struggle and determination, he managed to make the giant tumble over the top rope on to floor and secure his victory from number one in the 2004 Royal Rumble match. He lasted one hour, one minute and 30 seconds in what was the record time spent in a match at the time (although it was since overtaken by Rey Mysterio in 2006) and he eliminated six wrestlers en route to victory. These WWE stars Chris Benoit eliminated in 2004 were;
- Mark Henry
- Matt Morgan
- Big Show
The latest man to win the Royal Rumble match after entering at number 1 is WWE Hall of Famer Edge. The Rated R Superstar won the 2021 Royal Rumble match in extraordinary circumstances that should really have never happened, much to the delight of the millions of WWE fans around the world.
He was forced to retire in 2011 after a neck injury threatened not only his career, but also his life. One bad bump was said by doctors to potentially kill him, which abruptly ended one of the greatest careers ever.
However, 9 years later he made a shocking return at the 2020 Royal Rumble. It was an emotional moment and one of the greatest Royal Rumble returns of all time. Fans and wrestlers alike were in tears as the Canadian star made his emotional return, hitting spear after spear before soaking in the adulation from the fans.
He would not win that match after entering at number 27, and would suffer an injury not long after which would keep him out for the majority of the year. Luckily, Edge was back in time for the 2021 Royal Rumble where he entered at number one and lasted all the way to end and won the whole thing. This would book a match with Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania, which he would be unsuccessful.
With this victory, be became one of just a few men to win multiple Royal Rumble matches. This was his second victory, with the first taking place in 2010.