The WWE’s Royal Rumble is one of the brand’s most exciting events of the year and arguably one of the most consistently surprising. The event’s given fans some shocking moments throughout the years, and definitely some that have made fans say “WTF.”
In this context, “WTF” is far from a bad thing. The following is some of the most unbelievable moments from the Royal Rumble and why those moments continue to be regarded as so unbelievable to this day. Let’s dive in and collectively hope this year’s event as just as entertaining as the rest!
AJ Styles’ WWE Debut
WWE’s 2016 Royal Rumble was an exciting event for many reasons, but one rumored moment stood above the rest as the most exciting part of the night. AJ Styles, one of the biggest wrestlers in the industry who worked in major promotions like TNA, was finally a free agent, and there were rumblings he’d finally make the jump to the WWE. Sure enough, Styles appeared and put on an impressive performance that those familiar with his work knew he was capable of. We take for granted this moment now that Styles has been with the WWE for years and won multiple titles, but his debut after 17 years working elsewhere was such a massive surprise that even the multiple rumors felt hard to believe until he appeared on the ramp.
John Cena And Batista Go Over The Rope At The Same Time
John Cena and Batista’s showdown during the 2005 Royal Rumble is one for the record books, and nothing quite so strange has happened since. Both men went over the rope at the same time and also hit the ground at the exact same time. The moment, which seemed like an unplanned event, led officials from backstage to enter the ring and try to figure out what happened. The whole thing was very “WTF” worthy, though Vince McMahon entering the ring and immediately tearing both of his quads absolutely took the cake. A seated and in-pain McMahon demanded the match restart, which Batista promptly won.
CM Punk’s Final Royal Rumble
CM Punk was one of the WWE’s top guys going into the 2014 Royal Rumble, but in hindsight, it was a night that would change the course of the company as they knew it. Punk performed deep into the Men’s Royal Rumble, only to be eliminated after outside interference from Kane. Punk’s elimination, while seemingly normal by WWE standards, became a WTF-worthy moment when it became the last match he ever wrestled for the WWE. CM Punk didn’t show up the following night for Monday Night Raw and began a 7-year hiatus from wrestling that didn’t end until he joined AEW in 2021 (despite some hopes he’d return to WWE). Re-watching this one, knowing what comes after, certainly makes this a “WTF” worthy moment in WWE history just because of how normal it seemed.
Kofi Kingston’s Handstand Save
The WWE’s Royal Rumble is an event steeped in tradition, and while many things like surprise entrants and celebrity guests are baked into the event, Kofi Kingston has the honor of his own little Royal Rumble tradition. Kingston is known for his agility and dexterity and a handful of times has found ways to bypass being eliminated by having his feet touch the floor outside the ring. One specific save that comes to mind was his 2012 Royal Rumble appearance where Kingston was almost eliminated but somehow found his way back to the ring by doing a handstand walk back to the ring apron. It took a lot of balance to pull that off, and to this day, I’m not sure how he pulled it off without something going wrong.
Vince McMahon Eliminates Stone Cold For The Win
Vince McMahon (the eccentric owner of the WWE) sporadically appears on TV for the organization these days, but in the '90s, he was more or less a regular presence. He even competed in the ring a handful of times, and few times are as memorable as his appearance in the 1999 Royal Rumble. In a match that seemed to be Stone Cold Steve Austin’s for the taking, the wrestler got distracted by The Rock just long enough for McMahon to make his way into the ring. McMahon pushed Austin from the ring, and in a WTF moment, somehow knocked himself out. The bell rang, and it was announced McMahon won the Rumble. That’s definitely something we wouldn’t see these days, though it’s hard to rule anything out when it comes to the Royal Rumble.
Ronda Rousey’s Big Wrestling Debut
The WWE’s women’s Royal Rumble match hasn’t been around for too long, but it’s already gained some “wtf” moments in its run. Perhaps the biggest, in my opinion, was the arrival of former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, who arrived just after the conclusion of the match to confront the winner, Alexa Bliss. Rousey’s arrival came with the announcement of her full-time WWE contract, which meant the organization scored one of the most in-demand women in the sporting world. Rumor is Rousey will return for the 2022 Royal Rumble, though we can only wait and see if that happens.
Drew Carey Eliminates Himself From The Royal Rumble
Drew Carey is more known for his work on The Drew Carey Show, and The Price is Right, but I’d argue folks should know him for his role in the 2001 Royal Rumble. Carey entered the competition as a celebrity entrant and might’ve had a shot at winning if he had any pro-wrestling experience. His appearance in the match was WTF-worthy enough, but the fact that he self-eliminated before Kane could chokeslam him through the ring was also a pretty WTF moment. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be choke slammed by Kane either, but at least let him send you out of the ring! Johnny Knoxville is slated to perform in the 2022 Royal Rumble, and I’d like to think he’ll take a lump or two before his elimination.
Shawn Michaels Wins At Number One
Winning the Royal Rumble can be very easy or very hard depending on what spot you enter. It’s obviously easiest to win as entrant 30, while being the first person in the ring is generally seen as the hardest position to win. Despite that, five men have done so in the company’s history, and Shawn Michaels’ win in 1996 is among the best and most WTF-worthy. The “WTF” of the win came in the final moments when it appeared the British Bulldog would run through the vastly undersized and exhausted Michaels. Bulldog thought he tossed Michaels over the rope and began to celebrate his hard-fought win. Michaels managed to keep himself attached to the rope, however, and pulled himself back into the ring. Michaels pushed Bulldog from behind and miraculously eked out a win.
Mick Foley Enters The Royal Rumble Three Times
Mick Foley may not be someone as regarded as highly as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or Brock Lesnar, but wrestling fans know few superstars shared the passion and commitment he brought to the ring. Foley found success with many different gimmicks, and during the 1998 Royal Rumble, fans got a chance to see all of them. In a true WTF and hilarious moment, Mick Foley entered the match at three different points as Cactus Jack, then Mankind, and finally Dude Love. It’s definitely a career highlight when people think of Foley and a WTF cool moment where the WWE didn’t take itself quite so seriously.
The WWE’s 2022 Royal Rumble streams over at Peacock on Saturday, January 29th at 8:00 p.m. ET for anyone with a Peacock premium subscription. Be sure to read up on the full match lineup, and be ready for a night of surprises and awesome wrestling action.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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