The WWE Royal Rumble is the biggest spectacle in wrestling. 30 men (or women) compete in an elimination, over the top rope, staggered entrance battle royal, aiming to be added to the impressive list of names to win the match and go on to win the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania.
Top stars in the company mix with up-and-comers, surprise entrances and returning legends to put on one of the most entertaining shows of the year. Legends like Roddy Piper and DDP have made their long-awaited returns in the match, while main eventers like Edge and John Cena have come back from injury and won the whole thing (twice for Edge, in 2010 and 2021).
The 2023 Royal Rumble should be one of the most exciting yet, with Triple H now in charge of the WWE and with a penchant for bringing back old faces, like Bray Wyatt and Tegan Nox, that the fans cannot help but love. This years match is up in the air, with anyone being able to win (although the bookies do have their favourites).
But lets go back to 1988 for the first ever Royal Rumble. You may think that you know what happened back then, but the winner of the first ever Royal Rumble match in WWE may surprise you.
First Royal Rumble Winner
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan won the first ever Royal Rumble match. He won the 1988 Royal Rumble, which was the inaugural event in the near 40-year run for the show. However, it was not on pay per view, and instead aired as a television special on the USA Network.
Of course, the main focus of the event was the titular Royal Rumble match. The modified battle royal match contained some huge WWE stars in it, like Bret Hart, Jake Roberts, Ultimate Warrior and Harley Race, and was one of the most star-studded matches in WWE history.
Jim Duggan won the first Royal Rumble by entering at number 13, lasting 14 minutes and eliminating three other WWE Superstars. He tossed out Danny Davis, Nikolai Volkoff and runner up One Man Gang en route to his victory, although he did not win a shot at any title with his victory – that prize did not come into effect until 1993.
However, this was not the first Royal Rumble match ever – just the first one to be televised. WWE have put on a number of non-televised Rumble matches over the years, with the first one taking place before the titular pay per view ever took place.
The first ever Royal Rumble match was won by One Man Gang and took place in St Louis, Missouri on Oct. 4, 1987. This was three months before the first ever “Royal Rumble” event, and was a test to see if the match type would work as a new match type for the promotion. While most rumble matches last for over an hour, this one went only 12 minutes and saw One Man Gang throw out Junkyard Dog for the win. The pair also wrestling in singles action that night, with the same man winning that match.
While he didn’t win a title match at Wrestlemania, it was said that One Man Gang did win the right to face the World Champion the next time the WWF made it’s way back to St Louis. However, it is unknown if that match ever happened.
Since then, the Royal Rumble has happened once a year (with women’s matches added in 2018 and carried on since). In 1992 and 2016, the winner gained the coveted WWE Championship, whilst from 1993 onwards a Wrestlemania championship has been up for grabs for the last man standing.
What did you think about the first Royal Rumble? Let us know in the comments or click below to read about how Kurt Angle vs John Cena at Wrestlemania nearly happened
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.