THE Royal Rumble is the most exciting WWE event of year thanks to its big shock moments – surprise entrants, eliminations, returns, debuts, and winners.
And with the iconic pay-per-view just days away – taking place this Sunday – fans are looking forward to be a whole new load of shocks.
SunSport counts down the seven biggest – and sometimes most controversial – surprise moments from Royal Rumble's history.
Hulk Hogan Eliminates Macho Man – 1989
In early 1989, the Mega Powers – the team of WWE Champion Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan – were the most powerful force in the industry.
But the cracks in the friendship began to show when Hogan “accidentally” eliminated the Macho Man in the Rumble match.
It was no surprise to anyone but Savage – Hogan has a long history of muscling his mates out of the way to hog the spotlight for himself.
The intensely-jealous Savage jumped back in the ring to confront his supposed pal before Miss Elizabeth ran out to separate them.
But it was the moment that lit the fuse for the “Mega Powers Explode” showdown at WrestleMania V, where Hogan defeated Macho for the WWE Championship.
Flair Becomes WWE Champion – 1992
In late 1991, Ric Flair stunned wrestling fans when he arrived in WWE with the WCW title belt and proclaimed himself the “Real World’s Champion”.
He shocked us all again when he won the Royal Rumble – entering at No. 3 and lasting an hour – to become the legitimate WWE champ.
The title had been vacated and put up for grabs in the Rumble after repeated interference from Flair in Hulk Hogan’s matches.
Hogan or Sid Justice – the man who was tipped as “the next Hogan” – were favourites to win it. But Flair put on a sensational performance to claim the championship.
It was a shocker for fans at the time that Flair – synonymous with the rival company WCW – could outsmart and outwrestle WWE’s mightiest superstars.
Mr McMahon Wins It – 1999
In the 1997 Royal Rumble, Stone Cold Steve Austin screwed Bret Hart – he sneaked back in after being eliminated (which the referees didn’t see) and threw out Bret for a crafty win.
But two years later, it was Austin who got screwed when WWE boss tossed out “The Rattlesnake” in one of the Rumble’s all-time great twist endings.
Stone Cold and McMahon entered at Nos 1 and 2 and McMahon took a hellacious beating.
McMahon used every trick in the book to escape “The Rattlesnake” but it still came down to just Austin and McMahon again in the final minutes.
After another beating, The Rock came out to distract Austin, which allowed McMahon to dump Stone Cold over the top rope for the win.
Cena Returns – 2008
Cena tore his pectoral muscle clean off the bone in October 2007 and was expected to be out of action for up to a year.
So when he returned as a surprise No. 30 entrant in the Royal Rumble just months later, the fan reaction was explosive.
It was the moment that proved whether fans loved him or hated him, Cena was the biggest superstar in the company.
He eliminated four other behemoths – including longtime rival Triple H – to win the Rumble and punch his ticket to WrestleMania.
Bryan Doesn’t Enter – 2014
In January 2014, the “Yes Movement” was in full force. Bryan was the fans’ chosen hero and they wanted to see him – and no one else – become WWE Champion at WrestleMania.
So when Bryan lost a singles match to Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble, fans still expected him to enter the Rumble match and win.
But the No 30 entrant was revealed to be Rey Mysterio instead of Bryan – an anti-Rumble surprise that killed the atmosphere – and fans turned on the match.
They mercilessly booed returning part-timer Batista, who eliminated Roman Reigns to win the match.
The controversial moment led to fans hijacking WWE shows until Bryan was inserted into the Mania main event.
AJ Styles Debuts – 2016
There was a time when it was inconceivable that Styles – who made his name in TNA and Japan – would join WWE.
But after leaving NJPW in January 2016, Styles became the hottest free agent in wrestling and made his surprise debut as the No. 3 entry in Royal Rumble.
Facing off against none other than champ Roman Reigns, the “Phenomenal One” got a thunderous reaction from fans.
It was arguably the best surprise debut in WWE since Chris Jericho’s iconic arrival in 1999.
Four years later, AJ Styles is a two-time champion and still one of the top, most reliable stars in the entire company.
The Man Comes Around – 2019
At last year’s event, Asuka defeated Becky Lynch in singles action and it looked like Becky’s journey back to the title was over.
But later on the show, “The Man” talked her way into the women’s Rumble match as a replacement for the injured Lana.
Pleading her case in the aisle next to the hobbling Lana, Becky was given the go-ahead by fellow Irishman Finlay to a spine-tingling crowd reaction.
“The Man” eliminated then Nia Jax and Charlotte Flair to win the match and earn herself a place in the main event of WrestleMania.
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