1. The first Royal Rumble match didn’t take place on January 24, 1988 in Hamilton, Ontario’s Copps Coliseum. In fact, it’s not quite certain when the first one actually occurred. Dave Meltzer at the Wrestling Observer says it was at a house show in St. Louis, Missouri in 1986 (which Junkyard Dog supposedly won). This guy says it was at a much earlier WWWF house show in Bangor, Maine on July 21, 1976 (which Stan Hansen reportedly won). 18 men ultimately participated in that match. (It’s not clear how many appeared in the St. Louis Rumble, if it actually happened.) But Graham Cawthon, over at The History Of WWE website (on there, the 1976 Maine match is simply listed in the WWE ring results section as a battle royal), believes the first Rumble match happened at a different St. Louis house show on October 4, 1987. The One Man Gang got the push in front of less than 2000 fans.
Interestingly, the winner of the match was guaranteed a world title shot at the next St. Louis house show on November 7. Unfortunately, during the intermission (and before the Rumble had actually taken place in the main event that night) it was already announced that OMG was to face WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan at the November show. As you can imagine, spoiling a brand new gimmick match well before it happened didn’t sit too well with the audience that night. Sadly, as far as I know, no footage of the match, nor any of the non-official ones I listed, exists. And for the record, Hogan pinned OMG in their St. Louis title match on November 7.
2. Speaking of the WWF Championship it wasn’t defended until the fourth Royal Rumble show in 1991. Sgt. Slaughter defeated The Ultimate Warrior to win his first and only WWF title.
3. Hulk Hogan is the only man to win the Royal Rumble while being a reigning World Champion. That happened in 1990, the first time he won it.
4. Rowdy Roddy Piper won his only singles title, the InterContinental Championship, at the 1992 Rumble show. Bret Hart had been the title holder since SummerSlam 1991 but by early January, just two days before the fifth annual Rumble event, he had to drop the title to The Mountie during a house show because of a real-life issue with his contract. (The kayfabe reason for the title change was Hart’s health. His character worked the match with a high fever.) While Hart and the WWF sorted out their issues Piper was given his long overdue push at the Rumble. He would hold the title until WrestleMania 8 when he put over Hart in a then-rare babyface vs. babyface championship match.
5. Hulk Hogan’s Rumble win in 1991 marked the first time the winner went on to become the number one contender for the WWF title even though that didn’t become an official and permanent stipulation until 1993. (Between 2003 & 2013, Rumble winners could go for the WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship. (Since the unification of those titles at the end of 2013, you can only challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship today.) In the second half of the Aughts they also had the option of challenging for the ECW belt but no one ever did.) Hogan went on to beat Slaughter in the main event of WrestleMania 7 that same year to win his third world championship, a company first.
6. Chris Jericho, Kane, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Kurt Angle, Rowdy Roddy Piper, CM Punk, Mr. Perfect, Mick Foley and The Big Show are the biggest WWE Superstars never to have won the Royal Rumble match during the annual pay-per-view.
7. Big John Studd is the only Rumble winner not to get some kind of a championship push (at WrestleMania or at any other event) after his victory. Although Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the winner of the Hamilton, Ontario Rumble, was never pushed for an actual title himself he did become the King of the WWF after beating King Haku in the Spring of 1989. Even WWE Chairman Vince McMahon Jr. became World Champion many months after winning the 1999 Rumble match.
Speaking of Studd and McMahon, they’re the only performers not to wrestle at WrestleMania in the same year they won the Rumble. Studd had to settle for officiating the Jake Roberts/Andre The Giant match at WrestleMania V and McMahon, despite being rejected as the special guest referee in The Rock/Steve Austin title match by Commissioner Shawn Michaels, made his presence known anyway by interfering just near the end of that battle on behalf of The Corporate Champion. (It was all for naught. Austin won his second WWF Championship.)
8. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels are the only wrestlers to win the Rumble match as both babyfaces and heels. Austin was a fan fave when he won in 1998 and 2001 and a villain when he was pushed in 1997. Michaels was booed when he survived the end in 1995 and cheered when he was put over in 1996.
9. The InterContinental Championship and the Tag Team titles were both defended for the first time at the 1992 Rumble event.
10. Since the establishment of Rumble winners receiving a world title shot in the main event at WrestleMania became a permanent stipulation in 1993 there have been nine times where the number one contender didn’t wrestle in the final match of the Showcase Of The Immortals. 1995 winner Shawn Michaels wrestled the second-to-last match at WrestleMania 11. 1997 winner Stone Cold Steve Austin was booked for the fifth of seven matches at WrestleMania 13. Furthermore, his submission match with Bret Hart wasn’t for the WWF title. (Sycho Sid defended the belt against The Undertaker instead and lost.)
1999 winner Vince McMahon lost his title shot opportunity altogether when Austin beat him for it in a steel cage at the In Your House: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view before WrestleMania 15. 2006 winner Rey Mysterio won his first world title during the ninth of eleventh matches at WrestleMania 22. 2007 winner The Undertaker wrestled fourth on an eight-match card at WrestleMania 23. 2008 winner John Cena fought in the ninth match of the eleven-match WrestleMania 24.
2010 winner Edge was in the seventh match of ten scheduled for WrestleMania 26. Both 2011 winner Alberto Del Rio and 2012 winner Sheamus had World Heavyweight Championship matches that actually opened WrestleMania 27 and 28, respectively. To sum all of this up, only 55% of all Rumble winners since 1993 have actually been booked for the main event of WrestleMania.
11. The Jumping Bomb Angels’ historic defeat of The Glamour Girls for the Womens’ tag team titles at the 1988 Rumble event marks the one and only time a title has changed hands in a best two-out-of-three-falls match during this annual supercard. (In fact, this was the only time the stipulation was used at this event.) It was also the only championship defended at that first official Rumble show. Not long after The Glamour Girls won back their belts at a live event in June 1988, the titles were discontinued.
12. Speaking of that first show, the 20-man Royal Rumble match was actually called a Rumble Royale (keeping with the tradition of a Battle Royale), a name that would never be used again.
13. The first Rumble event has been the only one held in Canada and the only one televised live for free on cable TV in the United States. For almost 20 years, it was also the only Rumble show not available on home video. All the other events have been pay-per-views that took place in American arenas.
14. According to The History Of WWE website, Demolition were supposed to face The Killer Bees at that 1988 show but the match was cancelled. Also, Gorilla Monsoon was going to do the play-by-play with longtime broadcasting partner Jesse Ventura but suffered a heart attack not long before the event. Vince McMahon replaced him at the broadcast booth.
15. The short-lived European Championship was only defended once at the 1999 Rumble event. X-Pac of Degeneration X retained against Edge & Christian’s former blood-guzzling cornerman, Gangrel. Ditto the United States Championship at the 2010 show (The Miz successfully defended against former champion MVP) and the Divas Championship in 2011 (Eve Torres won a Fatal 4-Way to win the title). (JANUARY 24, 2016 UPDATE: The Divas title and the US title will be up for grabs at the 2016 Royal Rumble.)
16. The briefly revived ECW Championship never changed hands at a Rumble show.
17. The InterContinental title hasn’t been defended at the Rumble since the 2002 event when William Regal won the title from Edge. (JANUARY 24, 2016 UPDATE: It will be defended at the 2016 Rumble event.)
18. The WWE Champion has never lost his belt when booked in a casket match.
19. Since the introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship in 2002 no number one contender has ever been able to win it at the Rumble.
20. The upcoming Hell No/Rhodes Scholars tag team title match will mark the first time in nine years those belts will be put up for grabs at this annual supercard.
21. Triple H has never dropped a title at a Rumble show be it the IC belt, the WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship. Furthermore, he’s only lost one championship encounter as a challenger. In 2001, WWE Champion Kurt Angle beat him to retain his title.
22. Virgil was the first villain to turn ‘face at this event after attacking his former boss Ted Dibiase who constantly berated him following their loss to Dustin & Dusty Rhodes in a tag match at the 1991 Rumble.
23. Curiously, the Royal Rumble hasn’t always been the final match of the annual show. On five different occasions (1988, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2013), it was the second-to-last match on the card. And in 2006, it was the fourth match of six.
24. The Dudley Boyz are the only wrestlers to win more than one title at the event. They became tag team champions in both 2001 and 2003.
25. Every member of Evolution has won the Royal Rumble match: Ric Flair in 1992 (he won the vacant WWF title as a result), Triple H in 2002 & 2016 (his second victory meant the dethroning of then-WWE Champion Roman Reigns who failed to defend the title despite a valiant effort), Batista in 2005 & 2014 and Randy Orton in 2009 & 2017.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
UPDATE: Because Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble match, that fact has been added to number 25.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
UPDATE 2: An astute commenter notes that I neglected to mention the sixth time the Royal Rumble match wasn’t the main event. In 2013, after John Cena outlasted 29 other superstars in that year’s Rumble match, The Rock defeated CM Punk for the WWE Championship in the main event. This piece was written four days before it took place which is why it wasn’t mentioned. Thanks to CactusHam for the helpful reminder. Number 23 has now been revised to acknowledge this information.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 30, 2014
UPDATE 3: The bracketed section of number five has been updated and revised from the original text.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 26, 2014
UPDATE 4: Triple H & Randy Orton have now won the Royal Rumble match twice which has been added to number 25.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 7, 2017