When it comes to the WWE Royal Rumble, statistics matter. From the total number of eliminations in a single match to the cumulative time that a wrestler has spent in Rumbles throughout history, this is one event where stats are the most interesting. When it comes to numbers that can be described as historic, one immediately springs to mind: 27. In the 30-year-plus history of the Royal Rumble, four men that entered at number 27 outlasted them all.
Historically, number 27 has been considered the luckiest to draw heading into the Royal Rumble. While it may not have the practical advantage of entering last at 30, it’s 27 that has yielded the best results over the years. In fact, if you were to watch any of the recent Rumble pay-per-views, smart money is on you hearing them express the importance of entering at this number. As stated earlier, four competitors entered the Royal Rumble at 27, going on to win the entire match. Here are those four.
Big John Studd (1989)
In 1989, it became apparent that the Royal Rumble wasn’t a one-off attraction. During this year, the World Wrestling Federation held its second event under his name, hyping a show bigger than the first. The preliminary matches included Haku taking on Harley Race for possession of the King of the Ring crown and cape. The Royal Rumble match was the main attraction and the man that stamped his name as the second-ever victor was Big John Studd.
Studd, who had recently turned face by going against The Bobby Heenan Family, entered the 1989 Royal Rumble at 27. It’s important to note that, in the WWF, the role of a fan favorite was new for Studd. For years, fans witnessed him working alongside Heenan. Studd’s most notable feud was against Andre the Giant, a colossal giant that was a cultural figure even outside of wrestling. Furthermore, as Hulkamania was starting to take shape, Studd challenged World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan, albeit unsuccessfully.
In the 1989 Royal Rumble, Studd was an aging powerhouse that could still go. The former multi-time NWA titleholder dominantly eliminated Akeem and Ted DiBiase. Furthermore, Studd would win a match after almost twelve and a half minutes of in-ring competition. This was, by far, the biggest accolade Studd achieved during his WWF career. By June of that year, he departed the company before ultimately retiring in 1990.
In the early-to-mid 90s, few were as imposing as “The Mighty” Yokozuna. He debuted for the World Wrestling Federation the year prior. Yokozuna went on to commit such heinous acts as crushing the beloved “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Along the way, Yokozuna was managed by Mr. Fuji, who took great delight in seeing his monster’s foes demolished at each turn. It could be argued that Yokozuna’s true path of destruction began in the 1993 Royal Rumble match. It was here where he not only made his Rumble debut but became the last man standing.
Yokozuna entered the 1993 Royal Rumble at number 27; this gave the future two-time World Heavyweight Champion a greater edge. He went on nothing short of a tear, eliminating the likes of Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, who spent over an hour in the match, and fellow powerhouse Earthquake. Yokozuna won by last eliminating “Macho Man” Randy Savage. In doing so, he punched his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania IX.
Yokozuna’s run as a two-time world champion was brief, in retrospect, but he made the most of this time in the sun. For starters, he bested Hogan to kick off his second title reign. From there, Yokozuna faced off against many legendary opponents, even besting The Undertaker in a Casket Match at the 1994 Royal Rumble event. Speaking of which, the next entry on this list would go on to encounter Yokozuna on multiple occasions.
Bret Hart (1994)
In a rare instance, the 1994 Royal Rumble would be won by two individuals. Earlier in the show, Bret Hart teamed with his brother, Owen, to battle The Quebecers, Jacques and Pierre, for the WWF Tag Team Championship. This match ended due to referee stoppage when Bret suffered a leg injury due to The Quebecers’ onslaught. Irate, Owen attacked his older brother, focusing on his already weakened leg. Keep in mind that Bret was scheduled to wrestle in the Rumble match later on; would “The Hitman” be able to go the distance? In short, yes, but not without an asterisk.
At 27, Bret Hart entered the aforementioned Royal Rumble match, bum leg and all. Despite this, “The Hitman” pushed through, ultimately standing alone with the All-American blonde of the company, Lex Luger, who entered at number 23. The match would conclude when Bret and Luger, engaged in a tussle, went over the top rope together. This resulted in confusion among the officials, who couldn’t determine a clear winner. Thus, the 1994 Royal Rumble became the first, and only, where the victory was co-owned.
Surprisingly, the act of Bret and Luger being co-winners was by design. This was done to help the company determine who would become the next World Heavyweight Champion. They gauged the crowd’s reaction to each announced winner. While Luger enjoyed popularity during this time, based on audience response, it was clear that “The Hitman” would be the one to ultimately dethrone Yokozuna at WrestleMania X the following March.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (2001)
By 2001, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was nothing short of an established star. Heading into the 2001 Royal Rumble match, Austin held the WWF World Heavyweight Championship on four separate occasions. Just as importantly, Austin won the Royal Rumble match in 1997 and 1998; this made him the third man in history to win in back-to-back years. 2001 would prove to be an interesting year for “The Texas Rattlesnake” as his character would take a drastic shift, starting with a history-making Rumble performance.
Earlier in the night, Austin cost Triple H, the man who orchestrated his assault the year prior, his WWF Championship match against Kurt Angle. In retaliation, Triple H attacked Austin, who drew number 27, as he made his way to the ring for the Rumble. This left the foul-mouthed “Rattlesnake” a bloody mess on the outside. Despite this, a gritty Austin made his way to the ring, fighting his way through multiple competitors. Finally, with the help of a steel chair and multiple Stone Cold Stunners, Austin last eliminated Kane to win his record-setting third Royal Rumble match.
From there, Austin made his way into WrestleMania X-Seven, where he challenged WWF Champion The Rock. The result of the match was controversial, to say the least. Fans were stunned when Vince McMahon assisted Austin, the same man he spent years embroiled in a blood feud with. The night ended with McMahon and Austin, now a five-time world champion, shaking hands in the middle of the ring. While many wrestling fans argued this was the wrong creative decision, in hindsight, it made for one of the most remembered moments in the company and the industry at large.
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