There have been two exceptions in the 30-year history of the event — two instances in which the WWE championship was on the line in the Royal Rumble match, raising the stakes even higher. The first instance came in 1992, with newcomer Ric Flair winning a wide-open race.
Prior to the event, the title was stripped from Hulk Hogan by WWE President Jack Tunney due to a pair of controversial decisions in matches between him and The Undertaker. This gave the Royal Rumble its highest stakes to date; 30 participants each had the opportunity to claim victory and head into WrestleMania 8 as the champion — Hogan and Undertaker included.
The 1992 Rumble was considered one of the greatest Royal Rumble matches of all time, and it featured one of the best individual performances ever witnessed.
Flair, the definition of a legend in the wrestling business at that point, had arrived in the WWE just five months earlier after storied NWA and WCW stints. Given the setup of this particular Royal Rumble, Flair had the opportunity to jump to the top of the WWE food chain in just one match.
Entering the match as the third participant, Ric Flair would be required to deliver the performance of a lifetime as he pushed his endurance to the limit — and that’s exactly what he did. The two-time Hall of Famer ultimately stayed in the ring for over an hour, combating the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Sid Justice as the match dwindled down to the final four.
After Randy Savage was tossed over the top rope, Sid abruptly eliminated Hogan, who held onto Sid’s arm and allowed Flair to hurl the giant out of the ring to win the match and the then-WWF championship.
Almost as iconic as the match itself was the Nature Boy’s promo afterwards, in which he famously proclaimed, “I’m gonna’ tell you all, with a tear in my eye: This is the greatest moment in my life.”