The 2018 Royal Rumble is less than three weeks away, and fans are just holding their breath that this year’s winner won’t be somebody so undeserving and disliked. Unfortunately, that’s happened aplenty in the past.
Though fans were thrilled when guys like John Cena (2008), Edge (2010), and The Undertaker (2007), won it, some of the superstars got heavily booed and criticized for winning the 30-man battle royal. The problem was, these wrestlers were actually quite deserving in their victories.
But for one reason or another, the fans refused to accept them as the king of the ring. Here are five wrestlers who deserved their Royal Rumble victories, but were nonetheless hated by the fans.
5. Sheamus (2012)
The Celtic Warrior received a major and unexpected push once he joined the WWE’s main roster in late 2009, and became the WWE Champion after shocking John Cena in a TLC match. By early 2012, he was an established wrestler who showed his ability to put on top-notch matches.
So it was fair for Sheamus to be crowned the 2012 Royal Rumble winner. The problem is that even though he was a babyface at the time, fans were more into the likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and others. Sheamus was far from the most beloved superstar on the roster when he had won it.
WWE then wasted Sheamus’ victory by having him defeat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXVIII in 18 seconds to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. Indeed, Sheamus was a hard worker and talented superstar who earned that Royal Rumble win. But the fans didn’t seem to care for it, and the disaster at ‘Mania was the dagger. A complete waste.
4. Alberto Del Rio (2011)
Alberto Del Rio played the heel character perfectly, with his snobbish, arrogant and egocentric persona. And because he came off as so anti-American, Del Rio was despised by the fans. Mission accomplished on his end.
But when Del Rio was winner of the 2011 Royal Rumble, he and the creative team faced plenty of backlash. But Del Rio was already one of the top main event performers on the roster, and hadn’t yet won a major championship. So really, the man really deserved to win the Royal Rumble, and it completely turned his career around.
Del Rio then put on a match for the ages against Edge at WrestleMania XXVII, though the Rated R Superstar retained his World Heavyweight Championship. Nonetheless, it was arguably the best match Del Rio ever put on.
Love him or hate him, Del Rio was deserving in winning this Royal Rumble. The creative team nailed it perfectly, and the build-up to WrestleMania was near-perfect.
3. Randy Orton (2009)
Because he was in the midst of an epic heel run, Randy Orton wasn’t the least bit cheered when he becamee 2009 Royal Rumble winner. Fans were hoping a casual favorite like Triple H, John Cena or Undertaker would win this one, or that an unexpected winner looking for a breakthrough in their careers would take it.
Orton predictably won the match, getting help from his Legacy alliance members. He lasted eliminated Triple H, and controversially was crowned the winner. But let’s be honest, Orton had more than deserved this one.
The Viper had already proven himself as one of the company’s elite wrestlers. He had already headlined many pay-per-views, and already had multiple WWE and World Heavyweight Championship reigns. There were not many suitable names to win it over Orton, so WWE made the right call in giving this one to him.
2. Batista (2014)
Much of the WWE Universe was thrilled to see Batista return in early 2014. But just six days after his return, The Animal won his second Royal Rumble in the blink of an eye. And despite returning as a face, Batista was pelted with boos and mocking chants from fans.
Batista snapped, flipping off the crowd, threatening a fan by saying he would “snap him in half,” then proceeded to mock Daniel Bryan’s “YES” chant. The fans were choked and shocked that Bryan wasn’t the final entry of the Royal Rumble, booing Rey Mysterio as he entered. All told, the event was quite a disaster.
But in a way, Batista was very deserving of winning it. He had worked hard for them, and became a main event draw in the Ruthless Aggression Era. He had left the company under bitter circumstances in 2010, so it was fair for them to repay The Animal with a victory.
And don’t worry fans, you got your wish. The creative team turned Batista heel and had him lose to Bryan at WrestleMania XXX, allowing him to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
1. Roman Reigns (2015)
Daniel Bryan was nearing the end of his in-ring career. John Cena was boring. Simply put, the WWE needed to start pushing its new face of the company. That was supposed to happen when Roman Reigns won the 2015 Royal Rumble.
At this time, Reigns was still a babyface. When he last eliminated Kane, Big Show and Rusev, fans were supposed to give him a loud ovation. Heck, The Rock even came out to congratulate his real-life cousin. It was supposed to be a defining moment for the WWE.
But nope. The fans heavily booed Reigns after winning the match, and his controversial rise as the star of WWE began. Three years later, virtually nothing has changed at all. Reigns deserved to win that match, because there wasn’t really anyone else suitable. They had to find their new star.
The fans wouldn’t accept it, and here we are today. Reigns is still the face of WWE, even though fans continue to reject him.
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