The inaugural Royal Rumble match took place in 1988 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The event was not featured on Pay-Per-View and the match itself consisted of just twenty participants. Needless to say, the Rumble has come a long way and is now one of the premier events in WWE.
During its infancy, the Rumble was simply a match with no particular prize awarded to the winner. This of course would eventually change as the Rumble winner is now granted a championship opportunity on the “grandest stage of them all,” WrestleMania.
The Rumble match now features thirty WWE superstars – except for 2011 when WWE put on the biggest Rumble match in history, featuring forty competitors. Perhaps the most historic Rumble match of all time came in 1992 when the vacant WWE Championship was to be awarded to the winner.
Over the years, the Rumble has made careers and served as a launching platform for the winners to become instant superstars. Many of these men have gone on to become WWE or World Heavyweight Champion but such is not always the case.
The winner of the Rumble is not necessarily guaranteed a championship as many men have fallen short in their quest of gaining the championship. Winning the Rumble is only step one, it is the second step that proves the most difficult.
If you tuned into WrestleMania this year then you witnessed a man fall short on his second step towards WWE supremacy. Obviously, this was not disappointing to the fans who have refused to support the winner of the 2015 Rumble match.
The Rumble has been surrounded with controversy over the past two years as the overwhelming fan favorite was not chosen to win on both occasions and in one case, not even entered into the match. The outcry has been loud but it is all part of the spectacle.
The following article will take a look at the past Rumble winners who were unable to achieve that next step and grab the gold. These are the top 10 Royal Rumble winners who failed to capture the championship.
10 Alberto Del Rio
The 2011 Royal Rumble match featured an additional ten participants – making it the largest Rumble in history as forty competitors would compete for a championship opportunity. The man who emerged victorious that night: Alberto Del Rio.
Alberto Del Rio would move on to WrestleMania XXVII where he would challenge Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship; falling short and losing to the Rated-R Superstar. Unbeknownst to those watching, this bout was to be the final match in Edge's career.
Following this victory, Adam Copeland would deliver his passionate farewell addressees on both Raw and SmackDown before relinquishing the World Heavyweight Championship and riding off into the sunset.
9 Roman Reigns
This past January in Philadelphia, the Royal Rumble match was won by Roman Reigns; which resulted in a chorus of boos echoing throughout the arena. Not even an appearance from The Rock could help get Reigns over with the heated crowd.
However, it was on to WrestleMania for the (as Paul Heyman would say) Samoan Badass, where he would face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. There was much speculation regarding this match as the contract status of Lesnar was still uncertain and the fan support for Reigns was almost non-existent.
The outcome of the main event was certainly a shocker when Seth Rollins decided to cash-in his Money in the Bank briefcase, pinning Roman Reigns in the process and walking out of Levi's Stadium as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
8 Lex Luger
The finish of the 1994 Royal Rumble would see Bret Hart and Lex Luger simultaneously eliminate one another as both participants hit the floor at the same time; resulting in the first ever co-winners of the Rumble match.
This would lead to both men being awarded a WWE Championship opportunity at WrestleMania X. The champion at the time, Yokozuna, would first face Lex Luger who was unsuccessful at defeating the big man thus coming up short of championship glory.
Later that same night, Bret Hart would have better luck as he would defeat Yokozuna and leave Madison Square Garden as the new WWE Champion.
Much like the 2015 Royal Rumble, the winner of the 2014 Royal Rumble was greeted with extreme backlash and negativity from fans. Batista had only been back in WWE for a few weeks but would still go over during the Rumble.
Thus began the “Yes Movement.” The battle cry of the Daniel Bryan army could not be ignored as eventually the main event of WrestleMania XXX was altered to a Triple-Threat match between Daniel Bryan, Batista, and the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Randy Orton.
Batista would not capture the championship that night but would instead tap-out to Daniel Bryan as the unsung hero of the WWE Universe would emerge as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
6 Randy Orton
Prior to 2009, Randy Orton had already compiled a long list of WWE accomplishments. However, winning the Royal Rumble match was not on said list. Of course, that all changed when Orton was victorious at the twenty-second annual event.
This would all lead to an intense confrontation with Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXV. Orton was relentless in the lead up to this match, having taken out each member of the McMahon family along the way.
However, it was Triple H who would have the final word when Randy Orton was unable to defeat The Game at the twenty-fifth anniversary of WrestleMania.
The 2010 Royal Rumble match would see Edge, who entered at #29 and had been out of action for seven months due to injury, pick up the unexpected victory. The Rated-R Superstar was back and ready to regain the World Heavyweight Championship.
The title match at WrestleMania XXVI would feature Edge challenging Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship in a match that was sure to deliver, which it did as Edge and Jericho are two of the best in-ring performers in WWE history.
However, riding the adrenaline from his triumphant return was simply not enough to succeed that night, as Chris Jericho would retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
4 John Cena
The biggest shock of the 2008 Royal Rumble match came when John Cena, who was supposed to be sidelined for a significant amount of time, made a surprise return at #30. eventually winning his first ever Rumble match.
The twist that followed this victory was that John Cena opted not to challenge for the championship at WrestleMania but instead face Randy Orton at No Way Out, a match which saw Cena pick up the victory via disqualification. That same night, Triple H would win an Elimination Chamber match to determine the #1 contender for the WWE Championship.
Subsequently, this all lead to a Triple-Threat match for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXIV where John Cena failed to capture the championship and Randy Orton retained his gold.
3 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Austin is the only superstar in WWE history to have won three Royal Rumble matches. In 1998 and 2001, Stone Cold would go on to WrestleMania and capture the WWE Championship. In 1997, when Austin won the Rumble it was not without controversy.
Stone Cold was technically eliminated from the match but without any official witness to the elimination. Therefore, Austin would re-enter the ring and eliminate Bret Hart who should have been declared the official Rumble winner. However, Stone Cold was recognized at the victor.
This would set up, In Your House 13: Final Four where Austin, Hart, Undertaker, and Vader would battle over the vacated WWE Championship. When Brat Hart emerged victorious, Stone Cold would cost Hart his newly won title the following night on Raw, thus setting up the epic Submission match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13.
2 The Rock
The 2000 Royal Rumble match would see another controversial finish when The Rock last eliminated Big Show with his feet on the floor. Despite this circumstance, The Rock was awarded the victory and Big Show was irate.
Eventually, Show would convince Triple H (who was “in power” on-screen) to allow him an opportunity to gain a championship match. Therefore, at No Way Out, The Rock vs. Big Show ended when Shane McMahon screwed over The People's Champion.
In the midst of all the Rumble controversy, Triple H and Mick Foley were entangled in a feud of their own which would eventually merge with The Rock and Big show feud setting up a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match at WrestleMania 2000 where each competitor would be accompanied to the ring by a member of the McMahon family. The end result saw Triple H retaining the WWE Championship.
1 Shawn Michaels
The 1995 Royal Rumble match saw what many believe to be the greatest Rumble performance of all time when Shawn Michaels entered at #1 and lasted through every superstar that followed, becoming the first man to win the match from the primary position.
Then came WrestleMania XI where Shawn Michaels would challenge his real life friend Diesel for the WWE Championship. Mr. WrestleMania gave it everything he had but could not overcome Big Daddy Cool as HBK would fail to capture the WWE Championship.
The following year, Michaels was at it again – winning his second consecutive Royal Rumble match and headlining WrestleMania XII with Bret Hart where HBK would secure the gold in a classic Iron Man match and achieve redemption.