Regarded by many as the greatest Royal Rumble match in WWE history, Ric Flair outlasted 29 other superstars on Jan. 19, 1992, to win the Rumble and claim the WWE Championship.
Coming into the event, the 1992 Royal Rumble had an extra significance as the winner would become the undisputed WWE Champion. After a series of controversial title changes between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker that saw Flair get involved in each encounter, the championship was declared vacant by then-WWE President Jack Tunney. Tunney determined that the 30-man extravaganza would crown a new champion.
The match began with the British Bulldog and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who drew numbers one and two, respectively. In under two minutes, the Bulldog eliminated DiBiase to stand alone before the next entrant was revealed. When the buzzer rang off and it was time for the third participant to enter the fray, fans inside the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, NY, gasped when they saw Flair emerge from the curtain.
Bobby Heenan, an associate of Flair’s who was calling the match with Gorilla Monsoon, shouted, “No! Damn it!”
Making matters worse for Heenan was Monsoon’s historical proclamation that no one who had entered previous Rumbles between numbers one through five had ever made it to the end. The commentary that ensued over the next hour is considered Heenan’s most entertaining ever, as he audibly goes through a rollercoaster of emotions based on how Flair was doing at a given moment.
Before coming to WWE in 1991, Flair had won the world title multiple times in the National Wrestling Alliance and World Championship Wrestling. After a falling out with WCW that year, Flair debuted in WWE, calling himself the real World Champion. Flair, who was still in possession of WCW’s title when he left the company, flaunted the belt several times on WWE programming to the absolute shock of wrestling fans everywhere.
During his time as world champion for the rival promotions, Flair often boasted about being a 60-minute man — in and out of the ring. To win the ‘92 Rumble, that’s what Flair had to be.
And he was.
For the next hour, Flair mixed it up with a host of former world champions and future Hall of Famers before emerging victorious. However, Flair had some help, courtesy of his rival, Hulk Hogan. Moments before, Hogan was tossed out of the match fair and square by Sid Justice. Upset, a pouting Hulkster began tugging on Justice’s arm, allowing Flair to scoop Justice up by the legs, as the unlikely duo of Hogan and Flair eliminated Justice from the bout.
Later, beloved longtime announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewed Flair. The Nature Boy’s emotional celebration and his famous post-match promo became as iconic as his Rumble performance, as Flair declared, “With a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life!”
In addition to Flair’s captivating victory, the 1992 Royal Rumble stands as arguably the greatest collection of talent gathered into one match. More than 15 performers went on to enter the WWE Hall of Fame, including Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, and Shawn Michaels. The ‘92 Rumble also featured several former world champions from various promotions, such as Randy Savage (WWE, and later WCW), Rick Martel (AWA), and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich (NWA).
But in the end, it was Flair who stood head and shoulders above the rest as he delivered a performance that has stood the test of time and solidified his position as one of the all-time greats in wrestling history.