Ranking EVERY WWE Royal Rumble's Biggest Surprise 1988-2022

What were the most shocking moments from WWE's most beloved match?

Edge Royal Rumble

Thank god for the Royal Rumble.

Or, really, thank the late Pat Patterson. Because Vince McMahon wasn't exactly cock-a-hoop about the whole thing until he saw it in action at a house show pilot, and needed 1988's television special to convince him that it was worthy of supersizing and bringing to pay-per-view the following year.

Three and a half decades later and it's become a still point in WWE's turning world. Apart from an appalling 2010s slide that was thankfully arrested before the end of the decade, the annual golden ticket battle royal provides a crucial tonic to a product that - far too often - feels a little irrelevant.

Title shots fall out of the sky, generally. Anyone with dodgy win/loss records can attack Champions and get rewarded with matches at Premium Live Events just because it's an accepted trope from the monopoly years. And Money In The Bank - the one new addition from that accursed period that was worthy of its own show - has been bastardised beyond reproach of late.

The Rumble is the closest thing WWE has to a magic power and a reminder in 2022 specifically that a creative power shift was desperately needed. McMahon's grim return in the first week of 2023 has brought the mood down somewhat, but yet again The Rumble's timeless quality will hopefully endure. Triple H's first WrestleMania season is still upon us, and setting the tone for that card's biggest matches remains part of its unique prestige.

Prestige that was well-earned...

40. 1988 - Duggan Gets It Done

Edge Royal Rumble

More of a screen test for the bolder and (literally) bigger versions that were yet to come, 1988's television debut for the Royal Rumble featured 20 wrestlers and several theoretically bigger stars than Jim Duggan.

An Ultimate Warrior on a rapid ascendancy, Hulk Hogan house show opponent (and runner up) One Man Gang and megastar face Jake Roberts were all safer bets than 'Hacksaw', but the wood-wielding patriot got it done. After a false start the prior year - Duggan was set for a big push before an arrest alongside on-screen rival The Iron Sheik earned him a release - this seemed proof positive that the company were still keen to go with the All-American everyman.


We Need To Talk About Kevin (Nash). Michael can be found in articles or on podcasts extolling the virtues of New Generation WWF, new AEW storylines or the new WWE push they definitely definitely won’t ruin this time.