The Royal Rumble is the best pay-per-view the WWE does. Hands down. Period. There’s a reason why it has run annually since its inception in 1988. It’s a battle royal with the excitement cranked up to 11. One of the things that makes it the most exciting is the sheer amount of wrestlers in each event. On every occasion but two, the Rumble has consisted of 30 men entering the ring every 90 seconds (or so), each vying for the win. Throughout the years and years that this match has been held, there have been over 300 individuals to participate. Out of those 300-plus competitors, only 23 have gone on to be the last man standing.
That being said, it’s totally okay if you don’t remember every superstar who waited their 90 seconds, sprinted to the ring, and tried and dump some jabroni over the top rope. Sure, some of the biggest names like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Goldberg, and Roman Reigns have taken part in the multiple Rumbles (three of them have even won the whole thing). We all can track their careers and see what they’re up to today (some of them are doing better than others). But what about the one-offs, the forgotten entrants, the surprises, or wrestlers who were unable to make a splash in such a crowded pool? Where are they now?
Let’s take a look at 15 forgotten Royal Rumble match participants, what got them to the match, and what they’re up to today.
15 Ricardo Rodríguez
Comedy in wrestling is hard. There are few people that could be legitimately hilarious without it coming off as corny, pandering, or annoying. Ricardo Rodriguez had a gift. Perfectly cast as Alberto Del Rio’s personal ring announcer, Rodriguez was able to bring some much needed humor to Del Rio’s snobby Mexican aristocrat gimmick. Ricardo’s entrance into the 2012 Royal Rumble match was the pinnacle of his comedic chops within the squared circle. He mocked his employer’s entrance by subbing out an expensive sports car for something that looked like it came free on CraigsList, and ditching Del Rio’s embroidered trunks for some good old-fashioned tighty whities.
It was a pitch perfect parody. Once in the ring, he has a surprisingly good showing for himself, teaming with Mick Foley to eliminate Justin Gabriel before being thrown out by fellow comedic wrestler Santino Marella. After bouncing around for promotions like AAA in Mexico and WWC in Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rodriguez announced his retirement from wrestling in 2017 to focus on announcing for a Mexican MMA company.
14 Dan Severn
Had Severn been born 15 years earlier, he would have had an incredible professional wrestling career. A hard-nosed, no-nonsense grappler who could back up everything he did would have fit nicely along with the Bruno Sammartinos and Bob Backlunds of the 1970s. Despite being a multi-time UFC champion and, along with Ken Shamrock, an incredibly important character in the early story of MMA, Severn’s talents went largely unnoticed in the WWE. Upon entry in the 1999 Rumble, Severn began assaulting “The Lethal Weapon” Steve Blackman, whom he was feuding with at the time. Severn’s involvement in the match was mostly missed, as the camera was often cutting to the back to get a glimpse of Austin and McMahon brawling outside of the ring. This was deemed more important than the action inside of it. The Beast is still wrestling to this day and looks great. His recent match against former UFC fighter and up-and-coming pro-wrestler Matt Riddle gained a lot of attention this past spring.
If you’re half man and half minotaur, does that make you three-quarters man and one-quarter bull? Does this mean you need to have at least 75% human DNA to legally be a professional wrestler? This is the type of question that keeps me up at night. I’ve mentioned before my love for most big fat mid-card heels, so Mantaur was right up my alley. Looking like a knockoff Vader by way of Crete, the only thing that would have made this literal man-beast better is if he would have joined WCW’s Dungeon of Doom. Maybe it’s because he was a pretty terrible wrestler, but ol’ Manny’s only appearance wrestling at a pay-per-view was at the 1995 Royal Rumble. There, he was thrown over the top rope by Lex Luger before eliminating anyone.
Currently wrestling under the amazingly Indie name “The Turkish Terror Madd Mustafa," Mantaur has managed to win a lot of low level gold during his career. Most importantly, he recently had what I would call the most important match of his career when he once again put on the horns to take on “El Matador” Tito Santana.
12 Mil Mascaras
Emanating from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, the 1997 edition of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view was pretty interesting. Trying to drum up some addition eyes to the product, WWE partnered with Mexico’s AAA wrestling promotion. This led to them getting some of Mexico’s biggest wrestlers on their show, and in Mexico, there’s no bigger wrestler than Mil Mascaras – just ask him! Mascaras had been wrestling since the 1960s and was a cultural phenomenon, appearing not just in wrestling, but 20 filmed as well. During the match, Mascaras eliminated both Cibernetico and Pierroth Jr., two other Mexican stars before leaping over the top rope to continue his assault.
It has been debated as to whether or not Mascaras legitimately forgot the rules of the match and eliminated himself on accident, or if he leapt over the top rope so he could avoid looking weak by being eliminated by another wrestler. With his career still going today, Mil was induced into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 by his nephew, Alberto Del Rio.
Kharma will go down in history as one of WWE’s biggest “what ifs.” While wrestling in TNA as Awesome Kong, Kharma was one of the most impressive women the wrestling world has ever seen. She was a big brawler who not only kicked ass, but made smaller opponents, like Gail Kim, look like a million bucks. Her rivalry with Kim was often one of the most talked-about features of TNA in the mid-2000s. When she was set to join WWE, fans couldn’t be more excited. She was all set to run roughshod over the model-based competition fans had been accustomed to. A pregnancy stopped her from making her official in-ring debut in 2011, and she wouldn’t wrestle in an actual match until 2012 when she entered that year’s Royal Rumble. After Chyna and Beth Phoenix, Kharma became the third woman to ever enter a Rumble. This would turn out to be her final appearance for the company.
She would continue to wrestle for promotions like Shine and TNA up until 2016. Nowadays, folks outside of the wrestling world know her better as Tammé “the Welfare Queen” Dawson, one of the breakout stars of Netflix’s hit show GLOW.
10 Dory Funk Jr.
By the time Dory Funk Jr. had returned to the WWE at the 1996 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, he was less than a month away from his 55th birthday. The Amarillo, Texas-based legend began wrestling in 1963 and had a storied career, not only did he win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1969, but he also held onto it for 1,563 days. He was already aging when he first got to WWE in 1986 as Hoss Funk and teamed with his brother Terry. His rumble return was not well received, the confused California crowd was not impressed by the veteran’s return. He did manage to last almost 11 minutes before being eliminated by Savio Vega. This would be the last time he was seen in the WWE until he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with Terry in 2009. Despite wrestling a retirement match in 2008, a stipulation that means nothing to the Funks, Dory returned to wrestling in 2013 and continues to grapple, terrifying everyone who is worried about the 76-year-old’s health
9 The Blue Meanie
As I previously mentioned, the 1999 Royal Rumble match was held almost entirely to showcase the ever-growing feud between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. The hatred between the everyman redneck and his boss from hell was so red-hot that they didn’t need to stack the rest of the entries and could settle for some lesser-known talent. One of those lesser known wrestlers just so happened to be the lovable Yellow Submarine-inspired jobber, The Blue Meanie. Staying true to his J.O.B. Squad mantra of “Pin Me, Pay Me,” the ECW original lasted less than three minutes before being eliminated off-camera by the returning Mabel. Although Meanie’s WWE career wasn’t as successful as his ECW run, the man from Pepperland would continue to have a notable career on the Independent circuit. Today, he is a trainer at the legendary Monster Factory wrestling school in Paulsboro, New Jersey.
8 The Squat Team
The Squat Team (or The Headhunters, if you’re nasty) are what you get if you clone Abdullah the Butcher and split his already thin wrestling abilities in half. They’re just two massively obese men who stumble around the ring, head butting everything in sight. Of course, this made them a perfect addition to the ECW roster. Somehow, their abysmal wrestling skills and godawful look got them signed to the WWE. They made their first (of few) appearances in the 1996 Royal Rumble, where they entered at numbers eight and nine. Neither one of them lasted more than 90 seconds, with both of them being eliminated by two much better big men, Vader and Yokozuna.
The duo would return in 1997 as the Arabian Butchers and were managed by Jim Cornette where they had zero impact. The twins still work to this day, for Juggalo Championship Wrestling (where their skills must fit in nicely) and Mexican Promtotions like AAA.
7 Tom Brandi
Who? Would it help if I called him Salvatore Sincere? No? Oh well. At the dawn of the Attitude Era, Tom Brandi was a pretty strange experiment in worked shoots. First debuting as Salvatore Sincere, an Italian stereotype who wasn’t as “sincere” as he claimed, he found himself feuding with Marc Mero over Sable. After Mero “broke kayfabe” and told the world that he wasn’t actually “Sal Sincere,” but was a jobber named *GASP* Tom Brandi, he would only last a few seconds in the 1998 Royal Rumble, when he was eliminated by Cactus Jack and Terry Funk. He would be gone from the WWE in a matter of months. Brandi’s post-WWE career is a lot more interesting.
Currently, he wrestles for independent promotions all across the country as The Patriot. Yes, that Patriot. He wears the eagle mask, signs autographs, and really plays up the heroic character. The only problem is Brandi doesn’t own the rights, he has been using the gimmick without the permission of the real Patriot, Del Wilkes. Wilkes claims he hasn’t even spoken to Brandi in over 20 years.
6 Bubba Ray Dudley
There was no better venue for Bubba Ray Dudley to return to the WWE in 2015 than Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. The hardcore hero had been absent from the company for a decade but had managed to stay busy, not only winning tag team gold in NJPW and TNA, but the TNA World Heavyweight Championship as well. When his music hit and Bubba entered the Rumble, the crowd absolutely lost their minds for the former ECW wrestler. Brother Devon was unable to make the show, forcing R-Truth to fill in for spots like the 3-D and Wassssup? diving headbutt. It didn’t matter, Bubba Ray Dudley was back in the city that made him famous. Following a fun nostalgia run with Devon that saw them take on the likes of the Wyatt Family and the New Day, Bubba found his way to Ring of Honor where he seems to be ready to finish up his 26-year-long career with a feud against the Briscoe Brothers.
Whether you know him as Meng or Haku, there is one thing that is certain, Tonga Ffita is one tough dude. Stories of him biting off people’s noses are the stuff of legend within wrestling locker rooms. He has a successful run in WWE in the 1980s, winning the tag team championship with Andre the giant, before jumping ship to WCW. There, he was a competent mid-card heel who worked matched with the likes of Sting, Lex Luger, and Bret Hart. His surprise return to WWE in the 2001 Royal Rumble is more significant than it sounds as Haku was WCW’s reigning Hardcore Champion at the time. Since leaving WWE later that year, Haku has continued to wrestler for various independent promotions like World Extreme Wrestling and Chikara. Recently, he has popped in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where his impact can be seen through the work of his sons, Tama Tonga, Tonga Roa, and Leo Tonga. Although he may not be the “father” of Bullet Club, he is the father of three of the members of wrestling’s hottest stable.
4 Genichiro Tenryu
Genichiro Tenryu is an incredible wrestler who succeeded just about everywhere he went, winning championship gold in All Japan Pro Wrestling, HUSTLE, New Japan, and for the NWA. He also holds four coveted 5-star matches from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter to his name. His global achievements led to the much deserved nickname “Mr. Puroresu (Mr. Pro Wrestling). In addition to all of these appearances, Tenryu would wrestle for the WWE a total of three times throughout his career. The first was a shocking WrestleMania VII win with Koji Kitao over Demolition. The other two were back-to-back Royal Rumbles in 1993 and 1994. Despite averaging around 15 minutes, he would never score a single elimination. After 39 years of wrestling, Tenryu finally decided to retire in 2015. His final match was named 2015’s Match of the Year by Tokyo Sports. His opponent? The longest reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada.
3 Drew Carey
Remember this? Ricky Steamboat never competed in a Royal Rumble. Scott Hall never competed in a Royal Rumble. But Drew Carey? The host of The Price is Right? Oh yeah, that dude got to be in a Rumble. After being scared by Kane’s pyro, the portly comedian tried to bribe the Devil’s Favorite Demon with money. When that didn’t work, Carey skedaddled over the top rope, eliminating himself. After The Drew Carey show ended in 2004, Drew would host a number of improv television shows. He took over as The Price is Right host from Bob Barker in 2007 and continues to run the game show to this very day. However, his greatest wrestling accomplishment would come in 2011, when Carey was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.
2 Great Kabuki
Although he may not be the most famous wrestler to spray poisoned mist from his mouth (that distinction arguably goes to his kayfabe son, the Great Muta), the Great Kabuki was the first person to do it. Before making his WWE debut at the 1994 Royal Rumble by helping a cabal of villains lead by Yokozuna bury the Undertaker in a casket, Kabuki was a feared face painted foreigner who was managed by the legendary Gary Hart in World Class Championship Wrestling. In the Rumble itself, Kabuki lasted less than three minutes before being eliminated by Lex Luger, effectively ending his one-night WWE run. Much like Dory Funk Jr., at one point Kabuki announced his retirement from wrestling.
However, after years of inactivity, the mysterious wrestler has made sporadic returns to in-ring combat for promotions like Genichiro Tenryu’s Tenryu Projecct, Nigata Pro, and FTO. In recent years, he has become a staple of the New Japan Rumbles that take place at NJPW’s annual Wrestle Kingdom, though his last two appearances have ended in disqualification due to him misting his opponents. Classic Kabuki.
When it comes to surprise returns in Royal Rumble matches, it’s usually former mid-carders like the Godfather or the Boogeyman who are making one night only appearances. It’s not often a former world champion puts on their gear to return for the largest match of the year. In 2011, WWE held a 40-man Royal Rumble, the largest they had ever done. Surprisingly, there were only two entrants who weren’t on the Raw or Smackdown rosters, they were legends Booker T and Kevin Nash. Booker had been in WWE a few years earlier, but it had been close to eight years since Nash had been seen by the WWE Universe. Deciding to go back to his Diesel persona, Nash shocked the audience (and everyone in the ring) when his theme song hit. Sure, the rest of his return that saw him beat up CM Punk, text himself, and wrestler Triple H in a sledgehammer ladder match was a total waste, but for that one night in January of 2011, Big Daddy Cool was back.
Since his last WWE comeback, Nash has kept busy, acting in blockbuster movies like John Wick and both Magic Mikes. This year, he had a hilarious turn in Comedy Central’s underrated Detroiters and is co-starring in the British sitcom Living the Dream.
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