The Royal Rumble is one of the most important matches each year for WWE. This entertaining battle royale has the biggest prize on the line, with the winner getting to challenge for a world championship at WrestleMania. The winners of the Royal Rumble are often meant to become bigger stars after getting the victory. If the performer is not already a main event act, this is their chance to move into such a top spot and hold it down moving forward.
Rumble winners range from massive success stories who used it to become WWE icons to the disappointing ones that could not succeed in the main event picture. We will look at both sides to see exactly went right or wrong for each performer involved.
10 Mega-star: Ric Flair
The WWE run of Ric Flair in the early 90s had its fair share of ups and downs. Flair struggled to break out at the elite level due to WWE’s booking in the early months. However, one major win at the Royal Rumble made his short WWE run a massive success.
Flair won the vacated title in the 1992 Royal Rumble match, often considered the greatest Rumble match in WWE history. The title win cemented Flair as a top star for the first time in WWE. Without it, his WWE tenure would have been viewed as a disappointment, which could have hurt his legacy.
9 Flopped: Shinsuke Nakamura
Fans were ecstatic when Shinsuke Nakamura won the men’s Royal Rumble match in 2018. The dream match of Nakamura vs A.J. Styles for the WWE Championship would take place at WrestleMania 34, a few years after their New Japan classic at Wrestle Kingdom.
Unfortunately, the highly anticipated match disappointed, with the crowd not having much love for it at the show or at home. Nakamura turned heel and continued to have a lackluster slate of matches against Styles. WWE still values Nakamura as a mid-carder, but the disappointment after the Rumble win ended his chances at a main event push.
8 Mega-star: Rey Mysterio
The 2006 Royal Rumble win of Rey Mysterio put him on the top level for WWE for the first time in his career. Mysterio had many great matches and secondary feuds, but the long stint in the Rumble before pulling off the upset presented him as an equal to the likes of Triple H and Randy Orton.
WWE did a weak job with Mysterio’s World Championship reign after winning his title shot, but the success was already achieved. Mysterio proved he could fit in the main event scene. The rest of Rey’s career would see him shine as a legend still going strong today, all beginning with that Rumble win.
7 Flopped: Sheamus
The 2012 Royal Rumble match came down to the returning Chris Jericho and Sheamus. Fans were upset when Sheamus was the one to win the match, but WWE wanted to try to build him as a bigger star and Jericho was already an established top name.
The Rumble win, unfortunately, did nothing for Sheamus. Daniel Bryan lost the World Championship to him within seconds, in embarrassing moment. It once again created more backlash against Sheamus as fans wanted to see Bryan at least compete. Sheamus’ face run was a huge disaster, with everything going wrong after the Rumble.
6 Mega-star: Steve Austin
Steve Austin’s ascension to the top of WWE featured a few big moments along the way. The heel character of Austin was picking up major steam in 1997 and would get to the next level in the Royal Rumble match via a shady victory.
Following an elimination by Bret Hart, Austin snuck back into the ring to eliminate the others and win the match. The controversial finish would see the title shot reset, but Austin still gained huge momentum with the win. Another Rumble win the following year as a face put him in a title match against Shawn Michaels to officially start his run as the face of WWE.
5 Flopped: Alberto Del Rio
WWE believed Alberto Del Rio would become one of their top heels for the next decade when giving him a huge push in 2011. The momentum of Del Rio would see him win the first 40-person Royal Rumble match to earn a WrestleMania XXVII match against Edge for the World Championship.
Del Rio took the loss to Edge and their feud ended early, with Edge’s injury forcing him into retirement. WWE completely bailed on the plans to have Alberto win the World Championship and tried moving him to the Raw side, where his career would go downhill.
4 Mega-star: Shawn Michaels
The start of Shawn Michaels’ push to the top of WWE started in 1995, when he won the Royal Rumble match. Michaels had another star-making performance: he was the first entrant and lasted until the end to win it. The WrestleMania XI title shot would see Michaels lose in his title shot to Diesel.
Michaels made more history, winning the Rumble for a second year in a row in 1996. The WrestleMania XII main event would see him win the WWE Championship this time, defeating Bret Hart. Michaels was a made man from that day and never looked back.
3 Flopped: Asuka
The historic first women’s Royal Rumble match in 2018 provided great entertainment, with the past, present and future of the women’s division involved. Asuka scored a massive victory to continue her undefeated streak and land a title shot against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34.
The undefeated streak of Asuka ended in the title shot, and she lost most of her momentum. WWE would lose faith in Asuka, with Carmella scoring multiple wins over her in the aftermath. Things fell apart for Asuka shortly after winning the Rumble and things have continued trending in that direction since.
2 Mega-star: Batista
Batista is one of the major examples of a wrestler benefiting from a Royal Rumble win. Fans started to naturally like Batista as his time in the Evolution faction was coming to an end and bigger singles matches began. The controversial finish with John Cena would see the match reset between them, with Batista winning.
Fans viewed him as a beloved top star, thanks to the Rumble win putting him at that level. Batista turned face against Triple H and defeated him to win the World Championship at WrestleMania 21. It made Batista one of the faces of the company during an important chapter of his legendary career.
1 Flopped: Lex Luger
WWE went with co-winners in the 1994 Royal Rumble, not knowing which wrestler they wanted to earn the WrestleMania X title shot. Lex Luger was the original plan, but fans were consistently cheering Bret Hart more than Luger leading up to the show.
Both wrestlers would eliminate each other at the same time to become co-winners. Luger’s momentum continued to fall apart with the comparisons to Hart. WWE would give up on Luger on the road to WrestleMania, making Hart the choice to defeat Yokozuna for the WWE Championship. Luger moved lower down the card before leaving for WCW.