The road to WrestleMania officially kicks off at the Royal Rumble this Sunday night.

This year's event will mark the 33rd annual WWE extravaganza where 30 participants enter the ring at timed intervals with only one winner.

The only way to win is to stay in the ring until all other opponents are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and both feet touching the floor.

The key to the Royal Rumble's longevity is both its simplicity and its potential for gripping moments.

And, since the winner is usually granted a world title shot at WrestleMania, the contest is of great significance to WWE storylines and upcoming matches.

In 2018, a women’s Rumble match was finally added as a regular part of the card, meaning there will be two such showdowns to enjoy this weekend.

That was the same year Daniel Bryan broke the record for the longest time spent in a Rumble match, lasting just over one hour and 16 minutes.

The dubious award of the fastest elimination is held by Santino Marella, who in 2012 was ousted in under two seconds !

There have been countless shocks, laughs, and surprises in the history of the Royal Rumble - here, Mirror Sport's Scott Felstead picks his five biggest moments.

Kofi Kingston walks on his hands to avoid elimination

Kofi Kingston finally won his first WWE Championship last year at WrestleMania 35, but it could be said that the seeds for superstardom were first sown at the 2012 Royal Rumble, when Kofi avoided elimination in a manner that would make the highlight reel for years to come and garner unwavering respect from fans.

Failing to pull The Miz over the top rope with his feet, the Ghanaian soon found himself hurtling upside down over the top rope to certain elimination, but he instead saved himself by way of some serious athleticism.

The New Day star landed outside the ring, on his hands, and managed to complete an impressive handstand walk all the way back to the steps, where he was legally granted access back into the ring.

Of course, this incident would set the stage for many years of personal one-upmanship, where Kofi would need to come up with ever more ingenious ways to stave off an elimination year after year, but it all started in 2012.

John Cena becomes a franchise player

John Cena and Triple H square off at the Royal Rumble

Those that have followed John Cena's career understand that the 'You Can't See Me' star has withstood a mixed reaction from pro wrestling fans, but in 2008, the arrival of 'Big Match John' in the Royal Rumble cemented him as a next level competitor.

Entering the competition at number 30, fans were shocked to see Super Cena in New York, since he had been expected to sit out the Rumble thanks to a torn pectoral muscle.

This surprise entry garnered an overwhelmingly positive reaction, no mean feat in New York's vociferous Madison Square Garden, and while Cena's victory still holds the record for the shortest time taken to win (at eight minutes and 29 seconds) he was able to eliminate four competitors along the way.

The achievement propelled him to the main event of WrestleMania 24 and put him at the top of the card for more than a decade to come. Cena had already been a world champion prior to winning his first Royal Rumble, but this moment helped to create a franchise player.

WWE's women steal the show

Torrie Wilson takes on Sasha Banks in the first Women's Royal Rumble Match

While many fans had been clamouring for a women's Royal Rumble match for years, the truth is that had one been sanctioned during WWE's Attitude Era, it would probably have been fought in an inflatable ring full of mud.

By 2018, the company's female roster was being taken more seriously, and never was the 'Women's Evolution' in WWE more apparent that when more than 52,000 fans packed the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, to see pro wrestling history made.

Officials were concerned about women being eliminated over the top rope and considered having the girls go through the second rope instead. And while Alisha Fox missed the Royal Rumble after falling badly from the top rope in a rehearsal, the decision was taken that both the men's and women's Rumble’s should be contested under the same rules.

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There were so many great scenes from the first women's edition, from Mickie James clashing with her old rival Trish Stratus, all the way through to relative newcomer, Asuka, claiming victory.

Although the match itself was undoubtedly history making, the reason it ranks so high in the archives of best ever Rumble moments is because the women truly stole the show. The storytelling, and inclusion of new and old faces kept fans on the edge of their seat for over an hour, and then, to put the icing on the cake, Ronda Rousey made her first WWE pay-per-view appearance.

Ric Flair draws number three and wins the WWE Championship

After jumping from WCW to WWE in 1991, Ric Flair's initial few months with the leader in sports entertainment had failed to create the heat that many critics expected from the 'Real World Champion'. Despite wrestling Hulk Hogan on house shows up and down North America, their TV feud never really got off the starting blocks and by January of 1992, Flair's position as a main event superstar was beginning to flounder.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan had claimed victory in the very first Rumble in 1988 after drawing number 13. In the years that followed, Big John Studd and Hulk Hogan won matches having drawn higher than the 20th position. So, when Ric Flair entered the Rumble at number three in 1992, his chances of success looked slim to non-existent.

Still, with the vacant WWE Championship up for grabs, the Nature Boy gave it his all. Flair survived the onslaught of the match for a whopping one hour and two minutes, setting a record at the time, before an ensuing spat between Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice allowed Slick Ric to pull off one of the biggest upsets in WWE history, as he was the last man standing.

As if the epic win was not enough, Flair closed the show with an iconic promo, proclaiming "with a tear in my eye", that this moment was the greatest of his life.

Hulk Hogan clashes with the Ultimate Warrior

Hulk Hogan collides with Ultimate Warrior
Hulk Hogan collides with Ultimate Warrior

The Royal Rumble had already shown that some unpredictable alliances and fallouts could occur during the course of the participant entries and subsequent eliminations. Perhaps the most significant and well-remembered example of this remains the incident in 1990, when WWE's two most popular stars finally collided and provided a flash-point for the road to WrestleMania.

During the action, the sold-out crowd in Orlando, Florida erupted as WWE Champion, the Immortal Hulk Hogan, looked across the ring at the hungry young Ultimate Warrior.

With no one else in the ring at that time, the two behemoths criss-crossed the ropes before finally blasting each other with a thunderous double clothesline.

The young upstart Warrior was later eliminated following a clothesline from Hogan, leaving fans drooling for what would become the Ultimate Challenge, and one of the biggest main events of all-time at WrestleMania 6.